Getty

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

20 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

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.

Previewing the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers

Leave a comment

(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or Worse: The Oilers have a new GM (Ken Holland) and a new head coach (Dave Tippett), but as far as personnel changes go, this was a very quiet offseason.

Considering some of the blunders of the Peter Chiarelli era, there might be a feeling of “no news is good news,” although try telling that to Connor McDavid, who didn’t get much of a bright side to look on beyond hoping that Mike Smith channels his solid playoff production, rather than Smith’s more troubling body of work.

The Oilers are almost the same team as last year, although James Neal could be a nice upgrade over Milan Lucic.

Strengths: McDavid! OK, thanks for coming!

Alright, the Oilers also have Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and maybe some help coming – eventually – with prospects such as Evan Bouchard.

And, hey, having the best player in the world is a pretty big strength.

Weaknesses: … And squandering McDavid’s talents almost takes talent in itself.

You know you’re weak on the wings when people are hoping that James Neal is a solution, and crossing their fingers that Alex Chiasson can approach last season’s numbers.

This team is weak on the wings, and that’s far from their only issue. Their defense doesn’t play the sort of modern game that you’d want to propel McDavid in transition, and lacks elite skill overall. Maybe Tippett can scheme this group to competence, but it’s unclear how much potential has been untapped after Ken Hitchcock and Todd McLellan tried their hands at the same.

Oh yeah, their goaltending duo of Smith and Mikko Koskinen is a bowl of “meh,” too.

[More: Under Pressure | Three Questions | X-Factor]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Consider this: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is about to enter his ninth season in the NHL, and Tippett will be his ninth head coach.

The Oilers have been the definition of dysfunctional for a distressingly long period of time, and while there’s the feeling that McDavid and others are far beyond the point of being tired of losing, it’s time for some stability. That’s what Tippett represents: a steadying presence, something that must appeal to the deliberate approach Holland also seems to prefer.

That said, Edmonton’s also subject to about-faces, as that seems to be their M.O. Let’s put Tippett at a three.

Three Most Fascinating Players: McDavid, Koskinen, Darnell Nurse

Number 97 would be a pick every year based on his captivating speed and skill alone. Maybe eyes are fixed on him a bit more now, though, as he’s shown signs of frustration, occasionally actually letting that be known in vague media comments. If the Oilers unravel again, will McDavid vent in an even bigger way?

Re-signing Koskinen tied a baffling bow around the Chiarelli era. Along with Smith, it’s tough to know what exactly we should expect from Koskinen. If Tippett’s system dumbs games down and makes it all a slog, that might actually set the stage for some redemption. (James Neal is another fascinating redemption story.)

The Oilers have precious few defensemen of merit, so it’s crucial for them to see Nurse take additional steps forward. Then again, he’s entering a contract year, so they also probably don’t want to break the bank for the RFA. That should make Nurse intriguing to watch.

Playoffs or Lottery: It’s tough to pick against McDavid, especially since Draisaitl and RNH give him some support. One can imagine a decent formula of McDavid + stingy defense and goaltending = grinding out wins.

Hockey teaches us time and time again that one superstar rarely is enough to mask a ton of blemishes, though. While a weak Pacific gives some hope for Edmonton sneaking in, I’d lean closer to the lottery than the playoffs with Edmonton.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Agent surprised Point, Lightning are so far apart ‘this late’

Getty Images
2 Comments

The thought was that Mitch Marner finally signing with the Maple Leafs would set off a flurry of other big RFA signings, but that appears to only be partially true.

Much like the Winnipeg Jets with Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, the Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be at an impasse with star forward Brayden Point. Point’s agent Gerry Johannson admitted as much to Sportsnet 650 on Thursday.

The interview is a mix of good and bad for anxious Lightning fans. The bad is that Johannson said more than once that the two sides aren’t very close to a new deal. On the other hand, Johannson didn’t seem to give the threat of an offer sheet much merit. He comments on both subjects around the three-minute mark, while Sportsnet’s Mike Johnston transcribed this key bit:

“We’ve been sort of ready to go since last July,” Johannson said. “It’s just I’m a little surprised we’re this far apart this late, but on the other hand every negotiation is a bit different and there’s different pressures and different circumstances and all sorts of different things.”

Johannson didn’t give much of an indication regarding whether Point preferred a longer-term contract like something Marner received, or a “bridge” deal like what Brock Boeser signed for with Vancouver.

Via Cap Friendly, the Lightning have about $8.477M in space as of this writing. That honestly feels a little bit low for a 23-year-old forward who generated 41 goals and 92 points in 79 regular-season games last season, even if you account for Point losing less money playing in a tax-friendly state like Florida.

Marner is younger, and Toronto doesn’t have that state tax edge, but you could make some very reasonable comparisons between the two players, especially since Point is a center while Marner is a winger. They’re both impact scorers, and Point may be a little bit more well-rounded, as you may believe when considering metrics such as Evolving Hockey’s RAPM even-strength comparison charts:

Of course, where the Maple Leafs have been paying premiums for Auston Matthews and John Tavares, multiple Lightning players are receiving AAVs below their perceived value, including Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman.

Combine that notion with the feeling that Point very much wants to stay with Tampa Bay – Johannson doesn’t deny that at all – and you can see why the Lightning might be almost brazen about nickel-and-diming Point.

Johannson is right in saying it’s fairly late, with less than two weeks remaining until the 2019-20 regular season starts. Yet Point’s agent himself said that a deal can get done if the will is there, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if Point and the Lightning hash something out soon. Maybe media appearances like these might even speed things up ever so slightly?

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Jaromir Jagr is still scoring goals at age 47

Kladno / Twitter
2 Comments

Jaromir Jagr can’t quit playing hockey, and we’re all better off for it.

After saying years ago he’d like to play beyond 50, Jagr can’t stay away from the ice. After returning to Rytiri Kladno, his hometown club that he owns, in 2018 after injuries ended his time with the Calgary Flames, the future Hall of Famer tried to get healthy but managed only 27 total games in a year as he helped the team get promoted from the Czech second division, which included a four-goal game.

An injury kept him out of the lineup early this season, Kladno’s first in the Czech Extraliga since 2014, but on Friday the 47-year-old (!) Jagr was back in action. Playing over 22 minutes, the fifth overall pick in the 1990 (!!) NHL Draft scored a goal during a 7-4 loss to HC Energie Karlovy Vary.

Kladno is winless through three games early in the season.

As for Jagr, the stories of his dedication to training are legendary, which makes the fact he’s playing so late in his 40s not entirely a surprise. Hockey is his life, as he told Sportnet’s Kristina Rutherford in 2015.

“The time between when I quit hockey and I die, I want it to be the shortest,” Jagr said. “It’s not going to be as exciting, that time. So as long as I can play, that’s what I’m doing. If I can play ’til I die, that’s what I will do. What else are you gonna do? Even if you retire, you will still have to go work out, and maybe harder than you do when you play hockey because you don’t want to look ugly and fat. At least I don’t want to.”

Stick-tap Derek O’Brien

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Previewing the 2019-20 Calgary Flames

Leave a comment

(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or Worse: This was an offseason of mostly lateral moves for the Flames, exemplified by Calgary bringing in an uncertain but slightly younger goalie (Cam Talbot) for an aging and all-over-the-place netminder (Mike Smith).

The Milan LucicJames Neal trade seems like a loss for the Flames, but then again, Neal just didn’t fit for Calgary, to the point that things bordered on awkward.

Let’s consider the Flames marginally worse. In all honesty, the biggest hits came in Round 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they were embarrassed by the Avalanche.

Strengths: When you look at the best of the best in Calgary, the Flames boast talent that can hang with just about anyone. Mark Giordano‘s been considered an uncrowned Norris Trophy defenseman for some time, and he finally sat on that throne after 2018-19. Johnny Gaudreau is one of the most sublimely gifted playmakers in the NHL, and thus helps his top line usually rank among the best in the league most seasons. Matthew Tkachuk isn’t just an antagonist; like Brad Marchand, he’s also a player who annoys opponents because he’s also really good.

Weaknesses: Unfortunately, the Flames are still a bit lacking when it comes to depth at both the forwards and defense positions. If Gaudreau’s line falters and Tkachuk’s trio cannot score, the Flames are in trouble — and there’s quite a bit of a drop from Giordano to other blueliners.

Goaltending remains a big question, too. Can Talbot form a strong tandem with David Rittich?

[MORE: Under Pressure: Treliving | 3 QuestionsTalbot the X-Factor]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): For the most part, Bill Peters’ first season in Calgary was a success, although the postseason was rough, and you wonder if some blame Peters for lacking answers as Colorado mopped the floor with his Flames.

Peters’ seat warms up in part because his “riverboat gambler” GM Brad Treliving has made a lot of big bets, and many some are wondering if Calgary should cash out. Coaches often get sent out with fired GMs, so that’s something to consider.

Overall, I’d put Peters at about a four.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Cam Talbot, Matthew Tkachuk, Milan Lucic.

Talbot went from being a fantastic backup with the Rangers to a workhorse early on for the Oilers — to the point that Edmonton wore him out like an NFL RB who saw far too many carries. Talbot’s stature in the league plummeted, yet at 32, he’s not so old that a rebound is totally out of the question.

Tkachuk stands with a handful of high-profile RFA stars who still need new contracts. He’ll be fascinating to watch as those negotiations play out, whether we’re debating the merits of a deal soon, or watching as things drag out into the season. Either way, he’ll draw attention, especially when he has that mouthpiece dangling obnoxiously out of his maw.

Every now and then, a “change of scenery” really does work out, at least if you keep expectations in check. The Flames may end up playing to Lucic’s strengths more effectively than the Oilers, or Lucic may simply have needed a reboot. Or he’s just washed. It could be that last one.

Playoffs or Lottery: Playoffs. It seemed like a few Flames played over their heads, and Giordano’s getting up there in age at 35, so there’s a risk that Calgary lags behind the Sharks and/or Golden Knights during the regular season. Still, with the Pacific being as weak as it is, it would be a surprise if the Flames missed the postseason altogether.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.