Tag:Edmonton Oilers
Posted on: September 21, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 12:11 pm

Step-back players: Can Columbus' Wiz keep it up?

By Brian Stubits

We see it over and over again in sports. Player has a career year, player gets a fat new contract with new team, said player fails to live up to the new deal.

After an offseason of numerous exorbitant contracts, this description will likely apply to plenty of players this upcoming year. That includes the guy who received the biggest bounty on the first day of free agency, James Wisniewski.

Signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets for a robust six-year, $33 million, Wisniewski is the second-highest paid player on an annual basis on a team that includes Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. That's a lot of coin for a player who has one season on his resume worthy of such. In his defense it was last season, so he picked a good time for his best season.

But surely you can see the red flags here. Wisniewski would appear to be a prime target for a step-back season. Now it's possible that last season was the Wiz actually stepping into his prime, after all he is 27 years old now, the magical age in all sports. But when a guy scores 21 more points in a season higher than his previous career high, it is only fair to wonder if it can be repeated. Such a jump indicates likelihood to regress to the mean a little bit.

Throw in the fact that Wisniewski is coming to a new environment, joining players he has never played with before and in an organization that has not had much success to talk about and you have the making for much quieter year.

What could help Wisniewski replicate his 51 points from a season ago with the Canadiens would be getting a lot of ice time, especially on the power play, with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. Depending on how quickly they jell up front could impact Wisniewski's play and numbers. He'll certainly share the ice with the two high- scoring forwards a bit, but the more (probably) the better.

Now is as good a time as any to explain the rationale here, because it always gets misunderstood. This is no way to say that Wisniewski or any of the other players below will have bad years. That isn't the object one bit. It's simply players who might see a regression. Think of it this way: If a player is great and he regresses, he can still be very good. That fit Alexander Ovechkin last season, despite still being one of the best players in the league, it can't be argued he didn't have as strong a season last year. Now, on to the ...

Step-back candidates

Michael Grabner/Taylor Hall/Logan Couture/Jeff Skinner/Tyler Seguin/Brad Marchand: We're just throwing all of last season's top rookies into one category and labeling this one the "sophomore slump" group. Chances are one of them won't continue to blossom or match their rookie outputs. If I had to pick one, it would be Grabner of the Islanders.

Teemu Selanne, Ducks: The guy is a wonder, recording more than a point per game last season with the Ducks at 40 years old. But his offseason knee surgery and subsequent wait to see if he'd be ready to go (and advanced age) would seem to indicate a player who doesn't seem likely to keep up his pace. Just playing the odds on this one. Then again, we are talking about Selanne here.

Danny Briere, Flyers: Somebody is likely going to suffer a setback in Philadelphia with the absence of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, and Briere would be my best guess. He posted 34 goals and 34 assists last season, his highest point total in since 2007-08 and he's no spring chicken any more as he will turn 34 years old on the Flyers' opening day.

Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres: He is coming off a season where he posted 14 goals and 36 assists along with a plus-19. That in and of itself is tough to repeat. My colleague Adam Gretz wrote about the prospect of replacing Ehrhoff in Vancouver, noting that he was a bit protected. Now he will still be surrounded by a very good team in Buffalo, but it's looking like he will be paired with Jordan Leopold, the second defensive pairing behind Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr. It's going to be very tough to replicate his excellent last two seasons.

Michal Neuvirth, Capitals: This is the gamble the Caps are taking by bringing in Tomas Vokoun. Neuvirth was very solid last season, posting a 27-12-4 record with a 2.45 GAA and .914 save percentage. They are risking him taking a step back in his growth as a player by relegating him to backup minutes, not to mention the possibility of a hit to the psyche of bringing in another goaltender and naming him the starter soon after the acquisition.

Sean Bergenheim, Panthers: He had the best season of his career with the Lightning a season ago, scoring 14 goals and 15 assists through 80 regular-season games. Where he drew plenty of attention for himself, though, was in the playoffs when he had nine goals for the Bolts. Coming up with the Islanders there had been plenty of hope and potential for Bergenheim, so perhaps he's just starting to break out. I'm expecting a point total in the low 20s, like his numbers in the days on the Island.

NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 9:51 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 11:53 am

Daily Skate: Realignment decision needed by Dec.

By Brian Stubits

PROGRESS IN MOVING: In addition to getting the OK to on changes to the net and a goal verification line yesterday, the Board of Governors also opened up the discussion on realignment for next season. In order to prepare the schedule, they will need to make a decision by December. "Obviously we have to make arrangements to move Winnipeg west, and we had an opportunity to explore the issues," Commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com. "No conclusions were reached, but it's something I'm hopeful we can resolve at the December meeting."

NOT SO SHARP GLASS: With Zdeno Chara's check of Max Pacioretty into the stanchion in Montreal as the impetus for change, the glass at the Bell Centre has a new look to it. Instead of the sharp, 90 degree angle it was at before, it instead is rounded off, hoping to avoid another ugly incident. (@habsinsideout1)

STARTING OVER: Things hardly went well for Sheldon Souray in Edmonton, flaming out at the end of his career with the Oilers. But this offseason saw him make his way to the Stars where he gets another chance. “It’s not about finding extra motivation to go out and prove other people wrong. It’s about proving myself right.” (Montreal Gazette)

SOCIAL STUDY: The reactions continue to come in from players about the new social media policy the NHL adopted earlier this month. Numerous players on the Predators don't have any problems with it, helping to prove it was more of just a formality than anything Earth-shattering. (Puck Scene)

IS REIMER READY? It's a fair question to ask. The Toronto Maple Leafs are handing the torch over to their young goaltender for the start of this season. Nicholas J. Cotsonika takes a look at whether or not James Reimer is the real deal in Toronto or not. (Yahoo)

NHL'S TRIBUTE: The NHL has put together a video tribute that is being played before some of the preseasgon games, paying homage to all of the former NHL players who died this summer, including Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and all of those in the KHL plane crash. (On the Forecheck)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 19, 2011 9:54 am

Daily Skate: Leafs, Sens jersey leak; Semin talks

By Brian Stubits

SWEATER SLIP: Thanks to an error by Reebok, the Buffalo Sabres unknowingly revealed the third jerseys for the Senators and Maple Leafs this season in their team shop and icethetics got ahold of them. So, what do you think of the alternates?

SEMIN RESPONDS: Alexander Semin took an offseason hit from former teammate and current Florida Panthers forward Matt Bradley that included the comment that Semin doesn't care. The Russian forward talked to Puck Daddy about the perceptions, shrugging them off.

ALWAYS TWEAKING: The Boston Bruins just won the Stanley Cup and return almost the entire team that earned it. You might think that would to a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude, but Claude Julien apparently prefers the "if you aren't getting better you're getting worse" school of thought. The idea? Getting the defenseman to close the gap with the forwards. Boston Globe.

LEARNING CURVE: Speaking of coaching systems, the Flyers are getting used to Peter Laviolette's in Philadelphia and Dave Isaac says they are picking it up fast. That's good, considering how little time there is to implement such a system, especially one foreign to a lot of the players.

DEEP THOUGHTS: When you look at the top two lines, the Toronto Maple Leafs don't have much problem competing with the top teams in the East. In fact, only the Flyers and Lightning had more goals from their top four forwards. But the Leafs are sorely lacking in the depth department. James Mirtle delves deeper in the Globe and Mail.

GETTING OVER THE HILLER: Jonas Hiller is anticipating returning to the ice this preseason after missing the second half of last season because of vertigo. Jon Rosen at Fox Sports West says the Ducks better hope Hiller comes back symptom free.

TRADE TALK: Cory Schneider will remain the most-discussed goaltender on the trade market until the day the Canucks either move him or Roberto Luongo. And they aren't moving Luongo any time soon. Andy Strickland looks at the ever persistent rumors for Schneider, which include Phoenix and Columbus.

BE THE THUNDER: The Tampa Bay Lightning began running with a new promotion last season and into the playoffs of "Be the bolt." Now they have added a theme song to go with it called Be the Thunder from the Florida Orchestra. Nothing says hockey quite like violins.

SALVADOR BACK: It has been almost 12 months since Bryce Salvador left a preseason game injured (inner-ear concussion), but on Friday he was cleared to practice and has been loving being back on the ice with his Devils teammates. Tom Gulitti at the Berger Record has mroe.

STARTING FRESH: Andrew Cogliano was a first-round talent, drafted by the Oilers in 2005. But only once in his seasons in Edmonton did he hit 40 points. But with an offseason trade to the Ducks, he is hopeful a fresh start will help him reach his potential as "a lot of it had to do with the mental side of the game" in Edmonton.

MIGRATING NORTH: The Washington Capitals are going to play the Nashville Predators in Baltimore for their first exhibition game of the preseason. CSN Baltimore talks about the re-emerging of hockey in Charm City.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 13, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 8:21 pm

Craig Smith and other prospect tournament news

By: Adam Gretz

By now you probably already know the story of the Nashville Predators and the way they have to construct their roster.

They don't have the funds at their disposal to acquire many big-name players in free agency or the trade market, and they may even struggle to keep the star players they draft and develop themselves (like defenseman Shea Weber, for example). The key to maintaining a competitive team on the ice is to have a steady pipeline of young, low-cost, homegrown talent flowing through the farm system.

In recent years they've done an admirable job putting together a playoff caliber team while playing in what is one of the toughest divisions in the NHL -- the Central Division -- going up against two Original Six power houses in Chicago and Detroit. They've qualified for the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons, and this past season advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

One of the prospects that has been gaining plenty of attention over the past year is their fourth-round pick from 2009, forward Craig Smith, who has spent the past two seasons playing at the University of Wisconsin. During the Predators prospects game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night, Smith managed to score four goals (highlight video shown above; Smith is wearing No. 15) in a 7-3 win, before adding two more goals against the Florida Panthers prospects on Tuesday.

That's six goals in two games, and perhaps the most impressive performance of any player in any of the ongoing prospect tournaments.

Earlier this summer Smith represented the United States at the World Hockey Championships in Slovakia, and despite being the only collegiate player on the roster, finished as one of the leading scorers on the team, scoring three goals to go with three assists in seven games. Prior to that, he was the second-leading scorer for Wisconsin with 19 goals and 24 assists in 41 games.

The step from rookie tournaments in early September to the NHL during the regular season is, obviously, a massive one, but Smith's performance at all levels over the past year is an encouraging sign for the Predators organization. He's taken advantage of every chance he's been given and established himself as a player that may have some sort of NHL future.

Here are a few other notable performances from the many tournaments that are currently taking place.

Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks: A year ago Brandon Saad was projected to be one of the first North American players off the board during the 2011 draft. His stock dropped a little during the season and he was eventually selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the middle of the second round. Saad was also left off the 2011 World Junior roster earlier this year, and is using that as a motivational tool as he described in an interview with Erin Nicks of NHL.com. The Blackhawks rookies are taking part in the Oshawa Rookie Tournament, and Saad, a power forward from the Pittsburgh area, has five points in his first two games. He has great size (already listed at 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds) and plenty of upside, and looked to be a nice find in the second-round right from the start. His early performance here has only reinforced that.

Here's what Ted Dent, the head coach of the Rockford Ice Dogs who is also coaching the Blackhawks rookies at the tournament, had to say about Saad's early performance, via NHL.com:
"I didn't know much about Brandon coming into the tournament this weekend, but I've been very impressed. He puts the puck hard to the net; he has good hockey sense, as well. He's been very good the past few games. I know a situation like missing out on the World Junior Championship would be a huge disappointment, but this is another chance for him to make an impression on those who see him. I think he'll continue to take advantage of that fact."
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: For the second year in a row the Edmonton Oilers had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and used it on playmaking center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He's making his Oilers debut at the Young Stars Tournament, and while his first appearance on Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks didn't result in the type of goal-scoring clinic that we saw from Smith or Saad, observers, including Ian Walker of the Vancouver Sun, came away extremely impressed with his playmaking ability, on-ice vision and awareness. He's still a little on the small side (not as big of an issue as it used to be in the NHL), and the debate as to whether or not he should open the season in the NHL continues to rage on in Edmonton and across the league. But the early returns, for what they are based on one game against other rookies, are promising.

The Winnipeg Jets: Finally, fans of the Winnipeg Jets have been able to get their first look at players wearing the new uniforms, the surest sign of all that hockey is officially back in Winnipeg. It may not be the NHL roster playing a real game, but it's a start. Their rookies made their debut on Monday night against the San Jose Sharks prospects and picked up a 4-0 win, with the first goal going to Levko Koper. Mark Scheifele, the Jets first-round pick this past season (No. 7 overall) added a shorthanded goal in the win. You can check out the highlights in this video from the Jets website.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 12, 2011 10:10 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 11:39 am

Daily Skate: Rookie highlights; State of Kings

By Brian Stubits

HOCKEY IS BACK: Yes, some real hockey talk! While teams aren't back in camp yet -- that happens this week -- the rookies have made their way to multiple sites across North America for rookie camps. First, check out highlights from the Panthers' battle with the Lightning (4-2 Florida) or watch the entirety of the beatdown the Oilers put on the Canucks (7-2). After that showing, the Vancouver Sun is having a hard time finding any positives. Perhaps knowing the team just came within one game of winning the Stanley Cup helps?

STATE OF THE KINGDOM: Kings GM Dean Lombardi did his annual "state of the franchise" Q&A at the team's Hockey Fest on Sunday, answering a slew of questions, and of course it began with Drew Doughty. Rich Hammond at L.A. Kings Insider has the recap of Lombardi's review, including a full post simply dedicated to the Doughty talk.

REMEMBERING 9/11: Adrian Dater of the Denver Post took the time to remember September 11 like most everybody else on Sunday. He recounts his memories from being in Sweden with the Avalanche, who were the only American sports franchise to play a game in the first few days after the tragic day.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 31, 2011 9:45 am

Dail Skate: Vancouver keeps searching for rioters

By Brian Stubits

STILL SEARCHING: I guess the Vancouver police were serious about wanting to bring all of the people responsible for the post-Stanley Cup riot to justice. Some of the offenders already came forward and admitted to their deeds after the Canucks lost Game 7 and the Cup. But plenty more have gone thus far unpunished. That's why the Vancouver police have set up this website with photos of some offenders asking the public for help identifying the people so they can face their punishment.

LENGTHY NEGOTIATIONS: The Kings are still trying to find common ground with defenseman Drew Doughty, so to do so, they are reportedly giving Doughty more options concerning the length of the prospective deal. Helene Elliott at the L.A. Times has the full story, including this take from Kings G.M. Dean Lombardi: "Everything's been amicable. We're waiting to hear back from them. They said they'd get back to us in a day or two." Maybe there's an end in sight after all?

FORMAL FILING: Also from Elliott at the L.A. Times in the same Doughty story, the Kings have filed their grievance with the with the NHL over the deal with the Oilers that had Colin Fraser going to L.A. in exchange for Ryan Smyth. “The Edmonton Oilers have a few days to respond. Commissioner Gary Bettman will then decide whether to hold a hearing, though Lombardi said the Kings can request one.” So it continues.

SPREAD THE LOVE: Yesterday's Daily Skate touched on the Devils considering retiring Scott Niedermayer's number. Now the O.C. Register is wondering if the Ducks shouldn't do the same thing? Niedermayer only played five seasons with the Ducks, but he was a big reason why Anaheim brought home the Stanley Cup.

PROSPECT WATCH: Wondering how the advancement of Rangers prospects is coming along? The New York Rangers blog has an update on defensemen Tim Erixon, who insists he has a true two-way game as he makes a push for the roster. Then there's a little nugget about Dylan McIlrath as well.

A LITTLE LOVE: Bryan Little isn't seeming to have any problems getting acclimated to life in Winnipeg. He is enjoying the passion and support the hyped-up Jets fan base is showing, with Go Jets Go! chants at every turn. From the Winnipeg Sun: “The province is so pumped about having a team back, and that just gets all of us, the players, just more excited to play,” Little said.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: August 24, 2011 5:04 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 10:35 pm

Is Dubnyk ready to start for Edmonton?


By: Adam Gretz

Preventing goals has been an issue for the Edmonton Oilers the past two seasons. Last year only two teams surrendered more goals than the Oilers 260, which was a slight improvement from the 278 they allowed during the 2009-10 season, which was the most in the NHL.

Many of those struggles can be attributed to the fact they've been a rebuilding team short on talent, especially on the blue line. Goaltending hasn't exactly been an area of strength, either, finishing 28th and 29th in save percentage the last two years. They're returning the same two goaltenders from last season, a duo that is made up of veteran Nikolai Khabibulin and former first-round Pick Devan Dubnyk, who will be entering his third season in the NHL.

To hear Oilers coach Tom Renney talk, it sounds as if Dubnyk will soon be Edmonton's No. 1 option in the crease after appearing in 35 games last season.

Renney spoke to Dan Tencer of CHED on Tuesday night (via David Staples of the Edmonton Journal) and said that he expects Dubynk to be a No. 1 starter in the NHL sooner rather than later, and also pointed out that he doesn't quite know what to expect from Khabibulin this season in terms of the number of of games he'll be able to start. Khabibulin, of course, just spent a couple of weeks serving some jail time (as well as time on house arrest) due to a DUI arrest in Arizona last season.

There's also the fact that he's going to turn 39 this season and is coming off what was one of the worst seasons of his 15-year career, recording a .890 save percentage in his 47 appearances, while also taking the loss in a league-leading 32. He probably shouldn't be counted on to be much better this season.

A couple of weeks ago the folks at The Copper and Blue looked at the performances of goaltenders in recent NHL history that played over the age of 38, and the results weren't exactly encouraging, with the majority of them posting a save percentage below the league average.

That leaves the 25-year-old Dubnyk. In the second half of last season he started most of Edmonton's games and seemed to play well, especially given the young team and sketchy defense that surrounded him. His .916 save percentage was not only a solid improvement from his debut during the 2009-10 season (it was also 17th out of the 43 qualified goaltenders in the NHL), but was also significantly better than what Khabibulin was able to do with the same team.

Given the way Dubnyk improved over the second half of the season, which followed the struggles of Khabibulin who will of course be another year older, why not plan on going with the younger Dubnyk for the bulk of the playing time? The Oilers are going to struggle to win games this season anyway, and they already know what they have in Khabibulin. So why not find out for sure what they have in a former first-round pick that's shown some some improvement from year one to year two? Yes, there will be some growing pains, especially playing behind a defense with some holes, but there is more long-term upside than what another year of Khabibulin in the No. 1 role to start the season would provide.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: August 24, 2011 10:22 am
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:04 pm

Daily Skate: National TV partners; remaining FAs

By Brian Stubits

MADE FOR TV GAMES: If you had one guess as to the most nationally televised matchup in the NHL since 1994, what would you pick? If you said Rangers-Flyers, you got it, and it's not even close. Puck The Media has compiled a list of the national broadcasts going back to 1994 and Rangers-Flyers takes the cake by eight games over Penguins-Flyers. Take a look at the whole list here. Notice a lot more mixtures containing the Rangers, Flyers and Red Wings. Earth shattering there, we know.

FREE AGENTS STILL FREE: Don't forget there are still some free agents floating out there looking for work. Guys like Bryan McCabe, Cory Stillman, Teemu Selanne and Chris Campoli haven't found contract offers as of yet. So Down Goes Brown helps the teams still shopping by providing a buyer's guide to the remaining players that is full of gems like this: Chris Campoli, the good: Is known as a puck-moving defenceman, which presumably makes him more valuable than a defenceman who insists on keeping the puck stationary at all times.

TOMAS THE TANK: The Panthers' rebuilding efforts were hardly met with universal praise across the hockey world. The majority of people outside of South Florida saw a bunch of overpriced, mediocre signings instead of impact spending. But Dale Tallon doesn't feel that way (of course not), especially about his most expensive forward addition, Tomas Fleischmann. Tallon told the Miami Herald that "[Fleischmann] hasn't reached his peak yet and numbers are just going to go up."

STILL LOOKING TO STRIKE OIL: The Oilers are still trying to work their way back up the Western Conference standings, and the best way to do that will be to get better in the defensive end. David Staples of the Edmonton Journal isn't exactly optimistic that will happen this season. Where he's holding out his hope is that the young defensemen will be better with another season because there isn't much else to inspire a feeling of blue line growth. He also has an injury update on the "lanky Yankee" Ryan Whitney.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com