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Smith shutting out McDavid, Oilers should give Flames hope

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When the Calgary Flames once again made wholesale changes to their goalie duo in the summer, focusing on bringing in Mike Smith, there were plenty of skeptics. (Myself included.)

On one hand, the 35-year-old boasts considerable puckhandling skills, and the sort of large frame NHL teams seek – sometimes demand – in a starting goalie. While his stats were up-and-down during his run with the Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes, Smith also showed the ability to stand on his head and stop a barrage of shots.

That said, consistency’s often been an issue for Smith, and that includes being healthy enough to consistently stay on the ice.

So far in 2017-18, both the Flames and their critics have been partially right. GM Brad Treliving targeted Smith, and looked smart in recalling his Coyotes days in doing so, as the big goalie’s been huge for Calgary, generating a .922 save percentage. That said, his latest injury cost him 13 games, leaving Calgary in a predicament where missing the playoffs is a very real fear.

Things didn’t look great in his first game back, as Smith and the Flames fell to the even-more-lost New York Islanders 5-2, with Smith allowing four goals. Luckily, he didn’t wait long to remind people why he’s been so badly missed, as Smith put on quite a performance against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, allowing Johnny Gaudreau‘s lone goal to stand up in a 1-0 win last night.

McDavid set up some great chances for Ryan Strome, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and himself, but Smith denied all of them, and the Flames really took it to the Oilers superstar physically:

The Flames still stand at a disadvantage in the West’s bubble races, but this was a reassuring win, especially in seeing Smith look so brilliant.

Take a look at some of the teams they’re chasing between the wild-card spots and the Pacific seeds within reasonable reach:

Pacific second and third (Vegas out of reach)
2. Sharks: 83 points in 69 games, 33 ROW
3. Kings: 82 points in 70 GP, 36 ROW

First WC- Avalanche: 82 points in 69 GP, 36 ROW
Second WC- Stars: 82 points in 70 GP, 34 ROW

Ducks: 80 points in 70 GP, 30 ROW
Flames: 80 points in 71 GP, 33 ROW
Blues: 79 points in 69 GP, 34 ROW

Again, just about all of those teams have some sort of edge on the Flames, yet they do have some agency in fighting back. They’ll face the Sharks twice, with the next match taking place on Friday in Calgary. The make-or-break stretch will likely come from March 21-26: a home game against the Ducks, then vs. the Kings in Los Angeles and the Sharks in San Jose.

No doubt, the odds are against them. Sports Club Stats, for instance, only gives Calgary a 22.2-percent chance to make the playoffs, and that’s with a 5.9-percent bump from blanking the Oilers.

It’s lot easier to believe in their chances with Smith back in the lineup and on the top of his game, however, so Tuesday had to renew some hope.

And, hey, they might also get some more balance in the forward groups with Kris Versteeg back:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Edmonton’s epic collapse; Nash’s Bruins debut

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Players of the Night:

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: Rinne turned aside all 27 shots he faced in Nashville’s shutout win over the St. Louis Blues (check out the highlights by clicking the video at the top of the page). The Preds goalie has just one regulation loss in his last 15 decisions (13-1-1).

Ryan Strome, Edmonton Oilers: Strome hasn’t had the best season, but he’s really upped his production of late. After scoring two goals in Sunday’s game against Anaheim, he’s now accumulated five goals in his last five games. Maybe the former fifth overall pick has finally figured it out.

Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks: Rakell found the back of the net three times in Sunday’s shootout loss to Edmonton, including two in the final 21 seconds to force overtime. Anaheim ended up losing the game in a shootout. Rakell has 25 goals and 51 points in 59 games this season.

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: As you can imagine, the Oilers-Ducks game was pretty wild. Not only did McDavid register three assists, he also netted the shootout winner for the Oilers on Sunday night. The 21-year-old is up 74 points in 62 games, which puts him on pace to score 98 points in 2017-18.

Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild: Spurgeon picked up two points in Sunday’s win over the Sharks, including the game-winning goal in the overtime period. The overtime tally proved to be the 200th point of his NHL career.

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks: Sedin scored Vancouver’s first two goals. The veteran has been hot of late, as he has nine points in his last seven games. He’s also put together three multi-point efforts in his last four outings.

Highlights of the Night: 

There was some late drama between Anaheim and Edmonton:

Martin Jones made sure his team went into the intermission with a lead:

Jimmy Howard flashes the leather:

Check out this spin-o-rama pass from Henrik Sedin:

Nash’s Debut:

Rick Nash made his Bruins debut on Sunday, but it didn’t go according to plan. Not only did Boston lose, Nash also failed to pick up a point. He finished the night with a minus-1 rating and five shots on goal in 17:27 of ice time.

Here’s a picture of Nash in his new colors:

Spooner’s Rangers debut:

Ryan Spooner, who was part of the package that went from Boston to New York for Nash, picked up a pair of assists in his first game with his new team. He helped set up goals by J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast.

Factoids of the Night: 

There were some pretty quick goals scored this weekend:

Preds GM David Poile has done quite a bit of winning during his career:

Ratelle’s special night:

The New York Rangers retired Jean Ratelle’s no. 19 on Sunday night:

Scores

Predators 4, Blues 0
Sabres 4, Bruins 1
Red Wings 3, Rangers 2 (OT)
Oilers 6, Ducks 5 (SO)
Wild 3, Sharks 2 (OT)
Canucks 3, Coyotes 1

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Oilers trade Brandon Davidson to Islanders

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Maybe the third time will be the charm for Peter Chiarelli.

The first two times he has made a trade with New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow he has, well, let us just say he has not done well.

There was the trade that sent two draft picks to the Islanders for Griffin Reinhart. Those two draft picks turned into Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. Reinhart is no longer in the Oilers organization and only played 29 games for the team.

Then this past summer he traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. So far this season Eberle has 21 goals and 44 total points  for the Islanders while Strome, who has topped 40 points in a season just once in his career, has just nine goals and 15 assists for the Oilers.

There is no way this trade can turn out to be that bad. Right? Right?!

Let us take a look at it.

The trade: The Edmonton Oilers traded defenseman Brandon Davidson to the New York Islanders in exchange for a 2019 third-round draft pick.

Why the Islanders are making this trade: Have you seen their defense? Have you seen the way they play defensively? They are DESPERATE. They have an offense that can score with the best teams in the NHL. They are getting amazing years out of John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle. They are fourth in the NHL in goals for. They are 31st in goals against. There are only 31 teams in the league. They need to find somebody — anybody! — that can help them prevent goals. Is Davidson a game-changer? Not at all. He is probably at best a bottom-pairing defenseman. But he is something.

The Islanders enter play on Saturday one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Why the Oilers are making this trade: They are going nowhere and looking to unload anyone they can. Davidson is in the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent this season and would probably get a bit of a raise over his $1.4 million salary cap hit this season. That is something the Oilers simply can not afford given their salary cap situation. A third-round draft pick in 2019 isn’t a huge score, but it is something.

Davidson was originally drafted by the Oilers in 2010 and remained with the organization until he was traded to Montreal in February of 2017 for David Desharnais.

He played with the Canadiens until a few weeks ago when he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Oilers.

Who won the trade? The Islanders are, again, desperate for defense and picked up a warm body for very little price. The Oilers got a draft pick for somebody that was not even on their roster a few weeks ago and did not cost anything for them to originally acquire.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Are you ready for the Oilers to win another draft lottery? It could happen

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There has been no greater disappointment in the NHL this season than the pathetic showing put forward by the Edmonton Oilers organization. It has been a collective effort from everybody involved, from the general manager that seems to thinks he is building a team in 2002, to the coach that has not figured out how to fix his team’s garbage special teams, to the owner that put all of these people in power, to the players on the ice.

They all own it.

This is a team that entered the season with the second-best odds to win the Stanley Cup. it is now positioned near the bottom of the standings and already has virtually no chance to make the playoffs with still a quarter of the season left to be played.

They may have been a little overrated at the start of the year, but there was almost nobody that saw this sort of season coming.

Following their loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon, their sixth loss in a row and eighth in the past 10 games, the Oilers now find themselves with the third-worst record in the NHL and are only six points ahead of the Coyotes when it comes to having the worst record in the league.

For a team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at the top of its lineup it is an inexcusable waste of young talent. In the case of McDavid, it is a waste of MVP talent. Generational talent.

Only three teams in the history of the league has ever missed the playoffs with the reigning league MVP on its roster.

The Edmonton Oilers are not only going to do join them, they are going to miss the playoffs by miles.

With an MVP that has a cap hit of less than a million dollars in a salary cap league.

[Related: Connor McDavid could author one of the NHL’s greatest wasted seasons]

What this raging dumpster fire of a season has done is put the Oilers in a great position to do the only type of winning they’ve become accustomed to over the past decade — the NHL Draft Lottery.

Entering play on Sunday the Oilers would have the third-best odds to land the No. 1 overall pick with a 10.5 percent chance winning. That would give them the opportunity to select Swedish phenom defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, a prospect that is pretty much the exact player they need.

Those odds are … somewhat favorable, and high enough to probably drive hockey fans that are tired of watching the Oilers waste these picks insane.

Let’s revisit this history, just in case you’ve forgotten:

Between 2010 and 2015 the Oilers picked first overall four times in six years, landing picks that brought them Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and McDavid. That includes a run between 2010 and 2012 where they picked first overall three consecutive years. In the years between 2012 and 2015 they picked seventh (Darnel Nurse) and third (Draisaitl). Four No. 1 picks in six years is a run unlike anything we had ever seen in the history of the NHL draft.

And they didn’t always need to finish with the worst record to get there. It was the perfect combination of being a lousy organization and getting some fantastic luck.

When they won the draft lottery in 2010 to get Hall the Oilers won it with the worst record in the league.

The next season (the Nugent-Hopkins pick) the Oilers again finished with the worst record in the league and were able to maintain that pick when the New Jersey Devils won the lottery and moved up four spots from No. 8 to No. 4 (this was when winning the draft lottery meant you could only move up four spots). The Devils winning that draft lottery would turn out to be significant for the Oilers down the line because the Devils used that pick to select defenseman Adam Larsson. In the summer of 2016 the Oilers traded Hall to the Devils in a one-for-one swap for … Adam Larsson.

The next year they won the draft lottery to move up from the second spot to the top pick where they selected Nail Yakupov.

In 2015, they finished with the third-worst record and won the Connor McDavid lottery.

So, in other words, it’s happened before. There is nothing stopping it from happening again.

The closest we ever came to a draft pick run like the Oilers have had was when the Quebec Nordiques picked first overall three years in a row between 1989 and 1991. That was before the draft lottery was put into place and the team with the worst record just simply picked first.

Even though none of the players the Nordiques picked first overall (Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan, Eric Lindros) won a championship with the team, those picks helped set the stage for what would become two Stanley Cup winning teams. Sundin was eventually traded for Wendel Clark, who was later traded for Claude Lemieux. Nolan was traded for Sandis Ozolinsh, one of the most productive defensemen in the league and a member of the 1996 Stanley Cup championship team. The Eric Lindros trade … well … that trade turned out to be historic.

The expansion Ottawa Senators had a run of three No. 1 overall picks in four years between 1993 and 1996 when they picked Alexandre Daigle, Bryan Berard and Chris Phillips. Daigle turned out to be a bust and Berard was traded (for a package that included Wade Redden, a long-time staple on the Senators’ blue line), but Phillips played more than 1,100 games in Ottawa over 17 seasons. Starting in 1996, the year of the third and final No. 1 pick, the Senators went on an 11-year run where they made the playoffs every year (with Redden and Phillips playing significant roles). It never resulted in a championship, but they made the Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Final once.

What’s so maddening about the Oilers, even as a completely neutral observer, is how they have completely wasted this draft pick bounty.

It’s certainly possible they could come back next season and be decent. When you have Connor McDavid that chance always exists. But he can’t do it alone, and we have to trust an organization that has made the playoffs three times in 16 years (and only once in 12 years) can figure out what the hell it is doing.

Especially when it has a proven track record of, again, wasting the talent it has been lucky enough to get.

Yakupov simply did not work out, not really anything anybody can do about that. Arguing that he was a bad pick would be 20/20 hindsight. Sometimes picks just don’t work out and there weren’t many people arguing against his selection at the time.

But after that it’s a story of waste.

Hall, one of the best left wingers in the league and a player that has a pretty compelling MVP argument this season (he won’t win, but there is an argument to be made), was traded for an okay-but-nothing-special defenseman.

Don’t be shocked if Nugent-Hopkins, another talented and productive player that probably gets underrated because he’s been stuck on a lousy team for his entire career, gets moved in a similar deal in the next year or two.

They traded another of their top forwards, Jordan Eberle, for a lesser player in Ryan Strome that will not ever come close to matching Eberle’s production.

They signed Milan Lucic and Kris Russell for a combined $10 million per season for at least the next … four years?!

They managed to get one playoff appearance out of McDavid’s entry level contract, and as I said a couple months ago, the front office that could not build a competitive team around him making the league minimum now has to figure out a way to build a competitive team around him while he is making $12 million per year (with Leon Draisaitl riding shotgun making $8 million per year).

At this point their reward for all of this incompetence could be anything from an 8.5 percent chance (fifth worst record) to an 18 percent chance (if they should happen to collapse enough to finish with the worst record — and I’m not betting against that) to land one of the best defense prospects to enter the NHL in years. Those odds are way too high. Those odds are too much in their favor. They do not deserve odds that high.

If their is some sort of just and loving draft lottery deity floating around in the hockey world it will not allow this to happen. It can not happen.

For the sake of Rasmus Dahlin’s career.

For the sake of hockey fans outside of Edmonton.

Heck, just for my own personal sanity, the Edmonton freaking Oilers can not be rewarded with another top draft pick. Especially one that could be this good at a position where they have a desperate need.

Somebody else — literally, anybody else — needs to get the chance to make something out of Rasmus Dahlin.

Anybody but the Edmonton Oilers.

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Trading Max Domi likely wouldn’t pay off for Coyotes

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It’s dangerous to speak in absolutes when it comes to trades in the NHL.

For example: while Dion Phaneuf‘s contract is onerous, that deal has been far from impossible to move. That monster’s been traded twice, and very well could be moved again before it runs out after 2020-21.

So, yes, there may be a scenario where trading Max Domi on or before Feb. 26 actually benefits the Arizona Coyotes enough to do it, but it would almost certainly be smarter to wait. You know, if he’s even worth trading at all.

(Note: The Coyotes shopping him – though not necessarily aggressively – has been reported by multiple outlets, including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman this past weekend.)

Let’s discuss why this is a terrible time to trade Domi.

Selling low

There’s no doubt that this has been a terrible season for Domi, and honestly, the past two seasons provide some reason for concern.

During a fabulous rookie season, Domi meshed well with Anthony Duclair, scoring 18 goals and 52 points in 81 games back in 2015-16. Since then, his shooting percentage has taken a terrifying nosedive:

2015-16: 18 goals on 156 shots on goal for an 11.5 shooting percentage.
2016-17: nine goals on 108 SOG in 59 games, 8.3 shooting percentage.
So far in 2017-18: four goals on 111 SOG in 57 games, 3.6 shooting percentage.

Recent history shows that teams may come to regret trading a promising young player on an unusual cold streak.

One prescient example is Jordan Eberle, and his struggles weren’t as extreme during his final season with the Edmonton Oilers. Eberle’s shooting percentage average overall with the Oilers was 13.4 percent, yet in 2016-17, it dipped to 9.6. The postseason was where things really plummeted: Eberle managed zero goals and two assists during that 13-game run, coming up empty on 22 SOG.

That’s a distressing run, especially for a $6 million player on a team that felt it was on the verge of contention like the Oilers.

Even if the Oilers wanted to trade Eberle in his normal form, they should have waited for a most likely return to his typical work. You don’t need to dig deep to see that Eberle has been fantastic for the Islanders, while Ryan Strome has been … well, Ryan Strome for the Oilers.

That’s the risk here with Domi. Maybe he’s a guy who will struggle to score at the NHL level, but do you really want to sell when his value couldn’t sink any lower? How much of a bummer would it be to see Arizona get a possibly squalid return after a middling Anthony Duclair trade? Getting very little for two promising forwards would be a real blow, especially since the Coyotes lack much in scoring punch beyond Clayton Keller and a few others beyond that.

Especially, you know, with Arizona’s own Strome (Dylan Strome) standing as something of a puzzle.

If that wasn’t enough …

There are some ancillary factors that make a panic trade even scarier.

At least in the case of the Oilers, Eberle was a pricey consideration for a team that would eventually need to make some cap decisions. The money concern actually could put a positive spin on Domi’s struggles.

Right now, Domi is a pending RFA whose rookie contract is about to expire. A budget team could really benefit from offering the 12th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft serious term in exchange for a deal with a low cap hit. In such a scenario, the Coyotes could conceivably either:

A) get a top-six forward at a bargain rate, with his numbers likely to rebound

or

B) retain a young player for a reasonable cap hit, so they can wait and trade him at a more optimal time even if they’re not sold on him.

There’s also the scenario in which the Coyotes hand Domi a shorter “bridge” contract, which would open the door for Domi to prove himself or at least drive his trade value back up.

Wasted development and time

Frankly, let’s also consider Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

If the Coyotes want to use the 2018-19 season to try to convince “OEL” to re-sign (seemingly a long shot now, but a year can make a big difference), then a resurgent Domi could help. Really, would Ekman-Larsson want to see Domi turn into not-yet-developed assets, which would be the most likely return?

Even beyond OEL, it’s clear from the Coyotes’ summer of moves that they’re growing tired of “rebuild mode.” Their aggressive moves didn’t work out, but how many times do you want to go back to the starting line?

A Domi extension, especially an affordable one, could be part of the solution in Arizona.

***

Again, there’s always a chance that a contending team believes in Domi enough to give up a robust offer.

It’s more realistic to imagine a team trying to take advantage of Domi’s cold streak, which would almost certainly make for a weak return. The Coyotes are justified in “selling” to some extent during the deadline, although they don’t exactly boast a lot of veterans to auction off. Even if they eventually decide to trade Domi, now is almost certainly not the best time to do so.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.