Oilers shake-up may not be far away

The start of the year has not gone too well for the Oilers. 

Edmonton sits dead last in the league again, but is only one point behind Colorado and two behind Calgary in that regard. Losing phenom Connor McDavid after just 13 games hurt, but the team still needs to be doing better at this point. It’s the first year under the Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli regime, and the team still sits at an abysmal 3.13 goals against per game, second to last in the NHL. 

The Oilers weren’t going to re-become a playoff team overnight, but it is time for them to get out of the cellar. They’ve had four first overall picks in six years and still can’t seem to find the right combinations to get everything to click. 

Peter Chiarelli’s hand may be forced here. The defense has bright spots like Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, and Brandon Davidson but it still isn’t strong enough to move out a body back there. However, outside of players like Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl, how safe is the forward group? Jordan Eberle is the only one out of the big-five that wasn’t a first overall pick, and his name has come up in trade discussions before. Teddy Purcell is there, but he doesn’t hold much trade value. Nail Yakupov has found his game over the past few months, so it’s doubtful he moves. 

Defense is the issue, and as it stands right now, Jordan Eberle moving appears to be Chiarelli’s best bet. Travis Hamonic is a good fit, but more moving pieces are required. They could also take a flier on a young defenseman from New Jersey like Jon Merrill or Eric Gelinas but the Devils would likely have to add and may not want to try to fix what isn’t necessarily broken. 

The Oilers are going to have to make a move sooner or later. When the core continues to fail, changes need to be made. From this point forward, it becomes if they want to continue on the path of another top-three pick or try to improve their team at least a little bit. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Five players who haven’t lived up to early season expectations 

Thanksgiving has generally been the measuring stick for NHL teams on where they stand for their race to the playoffs, but this year may be different due to how close everyone is and how easily a spot can be stolen. However, the holiday is also a good spot to see where the players who make up your team stand. For some, this is a good sign. For many other players though, the time to turn it around is now. 

Jeff Skinner, Carolina

5 goals, 1 assist, -1 rating 

Skinner’s name has been surfaced in trade tumors over the past couple of years and his production has consistently dropped in that time. After an outstanding rookie year with 63 points, Skinner has only hit 50 points once in his three full seasons since. Albeit playing on a lackluster Hurricanes squad, the team still needs more out of their former seventh overall pick. Skinner is 23 and still could be moved before seasons end, and is currently on pace for 18 goals. 

Dougie Hamilton, Calgary

2 goals, 3 assists, -4 rating 

Many people were shocked when Boston traded the 22 year old defenseman to Calgary for a trio of picks this summer, but the transition hasn’t been smooth for Hamilton. An analytical atrocity last season, the Flames looked to shore up that issue in part with this acquisition, but not much has changed. Hamilton has struggled in both ends of the ice, and his offensive output simply hasn’t been on par with the .50 PPG pace he had last season. 

Michael Del Zotto, Philadelphia 

0 goals, 3 assists, -11 rating

After a resurgence in his career last season with 32 points, Michael Del Zotto has seemingly fallen back into regression, although he still has 3/4th of the season to make amends. The 20th overall pick in 2008 by the Rangers found his game with Philly last year after a stint in Nashville, but like most other Flyers defensemen he has been unable to keep up in both ends of the rink. The Flyers are dead last in the NHL for goals for and eighth in goals against, and they need contributions from their defense to get out of both of those slumps. 

Michael Raffl, Philadelphia 

1 goal, 2 assists, -3 rating 

After notching 21 goals last year, Raffl has flopped like most other Flyers forwards this year. Currently on pace for four goals on the year, the Austrian native needs to desperately pick his game up. 

Zegmus Girgensons, Buffalo

1 goal, 1 assist, -1 rating

Much like Raffl, Girgensons is only on track for four goals this year. Girgensons had 30 points last year, good enough to get voted into the all-star game by his Latvian countrymen. Not flashy numbers, but good for a defensively minded forward. Girgensons, like Hamilton and Skinner, is young (22 in January) and still has plenty of time to turn it around. 

This stretch at the beginning of the year is not the end all and be all for any of the players on this list or that could have made this list. With such close standings, many of the teams with players here can easily turn it around and make themselves into a contender. Three fourths of the season remain. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Quine and Pelech have slowly risen to top of Isles prospect system

It’s no secret that the Islanders have a very good prospect system, mainly due to the rebuild they went through between the years of 2007 and 2014. The likes of Michael Dal Colle, Matthew Barzal, Josh Ho-Sang, and Ryan Pulock are the premiere names, but over the years the Islanders have accumulated some solid players outside of the first round. Two of those players are Adam Pelech and Alan Quine. 

Pelech, a third round pick from 2012, made his NHL debut for the Islanders this past Friday night against Anaheim. He was a +1 and showed signs of being a solid bottom-four defenseman. His awareness and calmness are his best traits, and he did not look out of place on the ice like many rookie defensemen would in their first game. 

Pelech earned his call-up, due to his solid play in Bridgeport this year (2-2-4 in 14 games). Both head coach Brent Thompson and other analysts around the league renowned him as a solid, stay at home defensemen with little obvious flaws to his game. Pelech is similar to a player like Griffin Reinhart, who the Islanders traded this summer, despite his physical game not being as good. 

Pelech will likely be sent back down when Thomas Hickey comes back from injury, but if he keeps playing the way he’s playing he’ll be in good position for a roster spot soon. He will still have to battle his way through Hickey, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield for a roster spot next season. 

Alan Quine, much like Pelech, has impressed in Bridgeport this year. He currently has 16 points in 16 games and is second on the team only behind Joe Whitney. Quine also lead the team with 61 points in 75 games last year (excluding Dustin Jeffery who arrived in March). Originally a draft pick of Detroit in 2011 (third round), the Islanders snagged him in the sixth round two years later. Quine still is down in the pipeline behind Ryan Strome, Taylor Beck, and likely Joe Whitney to be called up, but he’s on a good track to possibly make the team in a couple of years. 

The Islanders have a lot of players to be excited for in the upcoming years, regardless if the players are “big name” prospects are not. Both Quine and Pelech are perfect examples of these types of players, and they, the Islanders management, and the fans have good reason to be excited for them to come up and play in the future. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Marleau has Backed the Sharks into a Terrible Situation

The San Jose Sharks season took an unexpected turn over the past 48 hours, with news leaking that Patrick Marleau could be seeking a trade. With a no trade clause in place, Marleau has all the control and the three teams on his list currently are Anaheim, Los Angeles, and the New York Rangers. The list is rumored to possibly expand to Nashville and Chicago per TSN, but regardless it Doug Wilson into a spot he does not want to be in. 

Trading a player who has been on your team for over 1300 games played is difficult enough to go through, but it is especially difficult when two-thirds of his trade list is rival teams. Shipping Marleau to Anaheim or Los Angeles might be too tough of a pill to swallow for the organization. 

This leaves Doug Wilson at the moment with one option if a trade were to happen – the New York Rangers. As previously stated, the list could expand as Wilson fishes around the league, but Marleau’s no trade clause will be a tough cookie to crack. Marleau’s contract has one more year on it after this year at 6.66 million salary and cap hit, which would be difficult for the Rangers or even the Blackhawks to take on without giving a bad contract back to San Jose. 

Outside of that issue, the Sharks also face the fact that they traded their first round pick this year to get Martin Jones. Losing Marleau certainly would not help with that situation. The pick is not lottery protected. 

The San Jose Sharks and Doug Wilson are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They need to decide between keeping Marleau and trying to be a playoff team this year or tearing it down, trading Marleau (and company) while their value is still high, and dealing with the pain of losing a good draft pick. The value of Maleau is still up in the air, but age and production put into play it is unlikely that he is worth a first round pick.

As the season progresses, we will get a clearer picture of what is going to happen. The Sharks started out hot under the stellar play of Martin Jones but have since faltered and fallen to 10th in the West and four points out of a wild card spot. As a streaky team, one stretch in the upcoming weeks could reveal the fate of their roster. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

McDavid’s Injury Opens Up Calder Race

The 2016 rookie class was always a good one, but things have changed dramatically in the Calder race during these past 24 hours. On Tuesday night playing Philadelphia, Connor McDavid crashed into the end boards after losing an edge and getting tied up with Michael Del Zotto. McDavid left the game and was later pronounced out ‘months’ with a broken left clavicle. Slated to be the next ‘Great One’, McDavid’s injury opens the door for other rookies to step in and seize the Calder. 

The obvious new pick is Jack Eichel. Eichel just turned 19 last week and was drafted one pick behind McDavid. Eichel’s size makes him a dominating presence although he only has four points (all goals) through his first twelve games. There’s plenty of time for him to turn it around and he’s already on a good path even if the scoresheet doesn’t show it. 

Max Domi has also made waves in his first season, keeping up with Connor McDavid and notching 11 points in 11 games for the Coyotes. The polar opposite of his dad, Max has shown signs of brilliance offensively and will combine with Anthony Duclair to be a lethal force for this season and beyond. He probably won’t continue at point-per-game numbers, but he’ll certainly be high up in the rankings for Calder votes. 

Forwards Oscar Lindberg (NYR) and Artemi Panarin (CHI) have also gotten off to solid starts. Each have played 12 games and Panarin has 11 points while Lindberg has 9. They’re both long shots, but they’ve put up solid numbers to start the year and who knows where they’ll end up if they keep up on that pace. 

Dylan Larkin has also been lighting up the scoresheet with 9 points in 12 games for Detroit. The 2014 draft pick was the first Red Wings teenager to score on his opening night since Steve Yzerman in 1983. He may see reduced ice time once Pavel Datsyuk which will hurt his statline. 

Colton Parayko, Nik Ehlers, Jared McCann and Ben Hutton all have also gotten off to good starts. 

McDavid could still easily come back and take it, but his injury opens the door for some of these young players to swoop in and take the prize. My guess from this point forward would be either Domi or McDavid. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Is Zidlicky Really Helping the Islanders?

Marek Zidlicky’s last go-a-round in the NHL hasn’t gotten off to the best start. The veteran of just under 800 games is turning 39 this February and the Islanders are his fifth team. Zidlicky needs to turn his game around soon to save himself from becoming an extra defenseman. 

Like many other players his age, Zidlicky has lost a step both speed wise and playing wise. He was brought in to be a powerplay specialist, but his five on five game hasn’t matched the Islanders run and gun offensive strategy. Zidlicky has been caught countless times being beaten to a puck or on a bad pinch. Sunday night against Buffalo, Sam Reinhart and David Legwand came in and scored the game winner on a two on one which was caused by a bad Zidlicky pinch. 

Although he does lead the team in CF%, his defensive game is as bad as advertised. Brought in to help the dismal powerplay, he only has one goal and that came during the first game of the season. He’s put more pucks (two) into his own net than he has on opponents. The Islanders powerplay has been relatively good this year as well, and they have enough talent to role out two solid groups without Zidlicky and even if they don’t bring up Ryan Pulock. Nick Leddy, Frans Nielsen, John Tavares and Ryan Strome are plenty to help with zone entries. 

Maybe the coaching staff doesn’t want to do it right now, but changes will need to be made if the slide continues. Thomas Hickey’s injury certainly hurts, but the team still needs to be able to rely on Zidlicky to get the job done on a nightly basis. Rookie mistakes would be better served being made by Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, or Scott Mayfield and not by a veteran on his last legs like Zidlicky. 

Out of the group above, Pelech has been the best so far in the minors, but Mayfield saw playoff time last year and Pulock is their best defensive prospect. None of them are a bad choice, but if the team is looking at the real problem (defense not offense), it’ll probably be Mayfield or Pelech. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Trade Winds: Defensive Addition 

It’s hard to find a solid, NHL defenseman on the trade market before the deadline, let alone this early in the year. However, some options are there. Teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Carolina Hurricanes are looking for help on the blueline amongst others. None of the names available are flashy, but they can get the job done for any team desperate for help. 

The “biggest” name on the market as of today is Dennis Wideman. The 32 year old can still put up points with 56 last season and 6 assists in 12 games this season, but his contract is scaring other teams off. His teammate Kris Russell has also been linked to trade talks. Russell lead the league in blocked shots last year and is on good pace to do so this year again. Whether that’s indicative to Calgary’s play or Russell’s individual play, nobody will know unless a trade happens. 

Bob McKenzie also reported the other day that the services of Luke Schenn, Roman Polak, and Matt Carle are available for the right price. Schenn and Polak could be moved later in the year, but Carle is an interesting name. He’s been brutal this year for the Lightning but they are still a win-now team so the price could fluctuate for a guy like him. It’ll be interesting to see how his storyline progresses over the year. Carle has two season left on his contract after this year at 5.5 million per, which will significantly decrease his value if he doesn’t pick up his game. 

The Jets also have an abundance of defensemen. Dustin Byfuglien won’t be traded until later this year, but players such as Paul Potsma and Grant Clitsome (although he is currently hurt) may be in play. Clitsome is entering into the final year of his deal and Potsma has one year remaining after this season at a reasonable price. Neither player has seen any in game action this year which could scare some teams off. If it comes down to it, the risk would be worth taking because they don’t have the contractual issues some other options do. 

As the season progresses, we’ll get a clearer look at the standings to see who needs help and who doesn’t. Although it might not be for a defenseman, also keep an eye out for Anaheim and Ottawa to be exploring on the trade market soon. 

-Kevin, @TheNHLFiles

Despite Consistent Fan Criticism, Bailey and Hickey Remain Key Pieces to Islanders

Typically if you peruse around an Islanders forum or comment section, you’ll find complaints about players. No matter if they win by eight or get shutout, they’ll be there. In respect, players have bad games, and sometimes those comments are warranted. But not many players take more criticism or trade demands from fans than Josh Bailey and Thomas Hickey. Both players have played exceptionally well so far this season — and probably have been playing that well for longer than what meets the eye.  Read the rest of this entry

Jackets Sit Struggling Bobrovsky Again vs. Islanders 

After starting 0-6-0, the Blue Jackets have started to weigh their options. There’s not much on the trade market and it still may be too soon to fire Todd Richards, so they’re turning to the root of the problem which has been goaltending. Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t been able to stop a beach ball, which largely could be due to the lackluster defense in front of him. Regardless, Curtis McElhinney will get his second straight start tonight.  Read the rest of this entry

Arizona Must Build on Early Season Success, Even if it Stops

Not many people expected the Arizona Coyotes to start out 3-0-0, and that includes myself. In my eyes at the start of the season, it would have been pretty good for them to have three wins midway through November. They’ve taken down some strong opponents in the process (Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Los Angeles), and have only allowed two goals in those games. It’s a very impressive all around scoreline.  Read the rest of this entry

Five Bold Predictions for the 2015-2016 NHL Season

The NHL season starts tonight, and each year something happens that makes all of us scratch our heads. Whether it’s a trade, firing, or odd standings movement, the league will look different than it did last year, just as last year looked different than two years ago. Some of the items on this list are much bolder than others – but here are five predictions for the upcoming hockey season.  Read the rest of this entry

NHL Hits Torres with Longest Ever Suspension

Raffi Torres set an NHL record today, but not the kind of record you want to be in the books on. The NHL laid down the hammer on Torres, suspending him for 41 games. Under the current conditions, Raffi Torres is considered a repeat offender and for good reason. The Sharks will have to try to sort something out before tomorrow’s 5 PM EST roster deadline or else Torres will be taking up space on the Sharks roster. Read the rest of this entry


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