Ramblings – Oilers taking off; most improved teams so far; more (July 4)

by Dobber on July 3, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings – Oilers taking off; most improved teams so far; more (July 4)

 

Rambling about the Oilers (ready to take off?); most improved teams so far; and much more …

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The Edmonton Oilers have arrived.

You’ll tell me that I say this every year, but that’s not actually the case. In the past I’ve used words like “could” and “should”.  This year I’m saying it, and I know I’m probably alone.

Last year the Oilers got 70 points. This year – and you can bookmark this – they will get between 87 and 93 points. Last year 88 was enough to get into the playoffs but usually you need 92. Edmonton will make it close: 87 to 93 points. You can accept it in advance and get ahead of the competition. Or you can wait until December and then start to react to it, probably too late. And the reasons for this are not exactly what you think. But I’ll be acting now, and I won’t be holding back. And in hindsight, I’m glad that they took three years longer than we all thought. Because those owners who built around the Oilers are loosening their grip on the players.

Here is my reasoning, in order:

1. Cam Talbot

Perhaps the No.1 (or at worst No.2) reason cited by the unbelievers (which is pretty much everybody) is Edmonton’s lack of goaltending. Luckily I’m here to set you straight. Talbot was among the league leaders in goaltending stats in the second half. He joined a brand new team that was young and very weak defensively. Excuse him for stumbling for the first nine weeks or so. Here are Cam Talbot’s statistics from December 14th onwards:

43 GP 18-19-4, 2.37 GAA, 0.924 SV%

Provided he’s healthy, the Oilers are a lock for the postseason. I’m putting myself out there by saying it, because I believe it. Again, you’re thinking: “Bah, Dobber’s said this before”. But no I honestly haven’t. Prior to this, I had always used words like “could” and “might”.

2. Forward Size

Let’s say that some of you are right and that Milan Lucic is a terrible skater and not worth the contract he was given. That does not take from the fact that he’s a top power forward in this league with Cup experience. He fills a need that you cannot doubt the Oilers had. Since last February, the Oilers have added the following big forwards:

Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Jesse Puljujarvi, Zack Kassian

That’s a 6-3 (or more), 215-pound (or more) forward added to each line. Puljujarvi is 203 pounds, but you get the point.

3. Forward Talent

The Oilers lost Taylor Hall and Oilers’ fans are nuts over it. Hall for Lucic? Terrible! But I got news for you. This is Hall for Puljujarvi – and you’ll see soon enough that it’s an even swap. Puljujarvi is better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He’s better than Jordan Eberle. He matches Hall. I’m not talking about potentially in five years. I’m talking about by midseason, after a couple of dozen pro games. Don’t fret, Oiler fans. You just change the name on the back of Hall’s jersey to Puljujarvi and add two inches and five pounds.

Then you add Lucic to that lineup. And then you add Connor McDavid for another 20 games (I’m going to assume that McDavid misses 15 games per year until he proves differently). That’s still gives him more than the 45 he played last year.

4. Better Defense

Take last year’s defense corps and add Victor Hedman of two years ago to it. That’s what you have in Adam Larsson (albeit three inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter). I haven’t seen a hockey fan give this kid a break this week, because after being drafted fourth overall in 2011 he has yet to do much. But over the last 18 months he has been fantastic – among the best in the league defensively and despite given almost no opportunity offensively he’s done well there too. Yes, the Oilers could have gotten more for Hall, but you need to move on from that and look at the player they added (because as I noted above, Hall has been replaced by Puljujarvi). If Larsson stays healthy he’ll do for this team in 2016-17 what Anton Stralman did for Tampa Bay and that’s just the start. There will be more to come.

5. Experience

Each year that passes, the Oilers kids gain a little more experience. And now Lucic and Larsson (who went to a Cup Final) add a lot more to that.

 

A lot of assumptions? Too many ifs? Only a couple of cautious ones but I’m comfortable enough to publicly put myself out there. Barring an injury to Talbot and assuming a McDavid injury costs him no more than 20 games, the Oilers will get 87-93 points this season. And don’t start chirping at me in November if they get off to a slow start. I want all the trash talk held in until February – my one request!

SO WHO’S WITH ME?

*crickets*

Nobody? Okay, I’ll stand on this island alone. I’ll wait for you to join me in April.

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One thing I noticed when reading what fans, journalists and bloggers had to say about last week’s trades is that not one of them properly valued cap space. Just days after witnessing the Blackhawks practically give a future star away to Carolina just to save them about $3 million, and while witnessing some teams buy out contracts that turn from a $3.5 million cap hit to a $1 million cap hit, people still don’t seem to understand. If your team frees up $2 million in cap space, that’s treated like gold in the NHL. It’s like adding a star player (because $2 million is the difference between average salary and star salary). It’s huge. That’s why PK Subban couldn’t be traded to most teams.

A GM will never admit that he had no interest in Subban, but the fact is – most didn’t. Not at $9 million. They can’t afford him, unless they can send $9 million in salary the other way. If you’re in a salary cap fantasy league you probably understand this concept a little bit. But in the real NHL, this is magnified. This is why Hall wasn’t used to get Subban – the Oilers couldn’t do that. They’d have to kiss Lucic goodbye and they’d have to get rid of Nugent-Hopkins for draft picks or prospects to make it happen. But they could get Larsson and chop $2 million off the cap. And as I said, $2 million in cap savings is gold. It’s worth a Teravainen!

Bottom line: if a deal confuses the hell out of you, it’s because you are under-valuing the cap implications.

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Teams that have improved the most so far this offseason, in my opinion (those last three words are key)…

1. Toronto Maple Leafs – Adding Auston Matthews is adding a superstar for nothing. Adding Frederik Andersen fills the most important position with who I think will be a Top five or six goalie in terms of pure talent (not fantasy – because of the lack of wins he’ll get this year). Matt Martin fills a key role. Yes he’s overpaid, but by what – $500K? Big deal. They need a fourth liner and they got one of the best fourth liners out there. In my opinion. Nikita Zaitsev and Kerby Rychel will also fill roles this season.

2. Edmonton Oilers – I explained all this above. Hall replaced by Puljujarvi; Lucic and Larsson added for nothing.

3. Buffalo Sabres – Add Kyle Okposo and Dmitry Kulikov. And if they sign Jimmy Vesey, which I doubt, then him too.

4. Florida Panthers – This is a young team already on the cusp of contention. Now they have added depth in goal, upgraded their defensemen and I think their forwards are upgraded as well with Jared McCann and Jonathan Marchessault (and Colton Sceviour will fill a depth role aptly) filling roles better than the square peg/round hole players Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell.

 

Runners up – Calgary, Carolina and Montreal. The Habs and the Oilers will be the most improved in terms of their record, but that’s because they each have a healthy superstar that they didn’t have for the full season last year.

Note: these were pretty much the worst teams in the league last year, other than Florida. They also have the most cap space. This is no coincidence (like I said – $2 million in cap savings is absolute gold). Parity! Some of these moves will fail. Some will succeed. The ones that succeed will help their team become contenders – that’s the cycle of sports team success. The ones that fail will possibly cause their team to rebuild for a second time (or third…or fourth, depending on the team we’re talking about).

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Speaking of Alexander Radulov (I know I wasn’t speaking of him, but you and I both know you were thinking it when you read ‘Montreal’ above), I acquired him on Saturday. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. In my Forecaster Keep 12 league I have 13 keepers singled out and Mikko Rantanen is not one of them. So when a guy offered me Radulov straight up for Rantanen I was quick to agree. Now Radulov slides into my 12th spot while Shea Theodore drops from 13 to 14 (I’ll try to trade him) and Andre Burakovsky moves from 12 to 13 (I’ll try to trade him too). Radulov is a keeper over those players. In case that helps you in any way. In terms of ranking, in the latest Top 300 list he ranks right around where Cam Atkinson is, due to the risk factor.

Here is Radulov, the good:

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And here is Radulov, the bad:

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Minor moves that could have some impact down the road, I’ll comment quickly:

Justin Peters signs with Arizona – could that hurt Louis Domingue getting some call-ups? Doubtful.

Jamie McBain, ARI – will have no relevance.

John-Michael Liles, BOS – No. Just…no.

Chad Johnson, CGY – Here is your dark horse. We all know Brian Elliott’s injury history.

Anders Nilsson, BUF – Here is your dark horse Part II. We all know Robin Lehner’s injury history. And if I were to choose, I would prefer Nilsson over Johnson for my No.4 goalie this year.

Carter Hutton, STL – Here is your dark horse Part III. We all know Jake Allen’s injury history. And if I were to choose, I would prefer Hutton over Nilsson or Johnson for my No.4 goalie this year. Though Hutton is the least talented of the three, the Blues are obviously a great team for goalie numbers.

Adam Clendening, NYR – If he didn’t break through with the Oilers, I doubt he will with the Rangers

Nathan Gerbe, NYR – I like him, always have. But he gets hurt too much to go any further in his development.

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I know this was planned in advance, but when the Devils decided not to qualify Beau Bennett and instead offer him a contract for less – the Penguins should have offered more, and then got him back. Just to be annoying. Get him and the third rounder they got for him. He got a nice, cheap $725,000 deal.

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The Panthers signed Vincent Trocheck to a six-year, $28.5 million, deal on Sunday. What has been holding him back for the last two years (yes, he’s been great but he’s actually been held back) is a lack of pedigree leading to a lack of respect. He’s not a first or second rounder on a team full of Golden Boys such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. So ice time has always started low. Linemates have always started at low quality. And Trocheck produced anyway, working his way up the depth chart the old-fashioned way: by producing even against the odds. Well, a six-year contract is pretty much pinning a ‘Golden Boy’ badge to his chest, so the leash is off. A great shot at breaking out this season…

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AND right after I type up the above, the Panthers announce that they’ve signed Reilly Smith to a five-year deal worth $25 million. That’s $5M AAV vs. Trocheck’s $4.75M. Even acknowledging that the Panthers bought three of Smith’s UFA years in there, to give him more than Trocheck (the superior player with far more upside IMO) doesn’t sit well. If Smith wanted to become a UFA, let him walk! The Panthers are acting as if they’ll desperately need him in three years. Meanwhile, if they signed him to a two-year deal worth $8 million, then they could trade him in the middle of 2017-18 and likely get a prospect and a pick for him and just shuffle him along his merry way. Instead, they chose to handcuff themselves and for what? A 50-point guy? I think Smith has peaked, barring chemistry with a star center.

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Under the radar prospect for you – Jake Guentzel (article here). An undersized forward in the Penguins’ system, he is considered one of the best in the organization in terms of hockey sense. He’s next in line for a promotion in terms of wingers (along with Dominik Simon). Worth watching in the two camps (development and main). Read more on Guentzel here.

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In case you missed this:

As long-time readers know, I’m a big fan of players choosing Switzerland if the NHL doesn’t work out. I hear nothing but good things, and many players end up staying there and settling down after their hockey career. But just in case you were hanging onto Kris Versteeg, that’s the latest rumor.

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I received a lot of positive comments about Demetri’s latest article. He’s really been churning out the quality lately and has quickly become a ‘must’ Sunday read. Check out his interesting and unique take on the Subban – Weber trade.

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A quick note regarding the sluggishness of the site in some areas due to video ads loading

This has been a problem across the Internet and is actually one reason why Hockey’s Future has decided to shut down. Ad networks allow thousands of new ads into their system every day, and a couple of those thousand are sluggish java-hogging videos that are annoying and pointless. They aren’t related to the websites they appear on and clicking them doesn’t lead anywhere that makes sense. They cause “shockwave” to crash on your tab, forcing you to reload. Finding these ads are hard for a website owner: we have to know about it (because it may just be in your area that it plays), then we have to figure out which of the four ad networks we use let that ad into the rotation, and then we have to find the actual ad on a list of several thousand based only on the url it points to.

This leads to many users getting ad-blocking apps – but that kills sites like Hockey’s Future because now they’re making 20% (or less) of the ad revenue that they should.

I’m okay. DobberHockey is okay. The revenue I make comes from the Fantasy Guides. The ad revenue supplements what I pass onto the writers and editors. But it has been going down even though traffic has been going up.

So what I’m going to do to combat this is turn off all video ads from three of my networks, leaving them on only through Google. So if there is a video that slows the site down, we can find it quickly instead of searching through a haystack for that needle. I ask that you go to your ad block icon and click it and select ‘Don’t run on pages on this domain’ (in the forum, too). By Wednesday, I hope that ads won’t be a problem.

I have ad blocker myself. I make a conscious effort to keep it off for websites that I enjoy, frequent, and want to support. If they start having a bad ad on there that crashes my tab, then I’ll turn on the ad blocker. But a week later I’ll disable it for that site again, hoping the issue is fixed (usually after a week, it is).

Thanks, and sorry for the problems that happen from time to time.

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To my American friends – Happy Independence Day, enjoy!