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Bolstered by addition of Ekholm and rise of Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers lastly have a real high 4

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Edmonton Oilers 2023-24 preview:

If there was a single turning level to the Edmonton Oilers’ 2022-23 season, absolutely it was the large commerce days earlier than the deadline that landed left-shot defenceman Mattias Ekholm.

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After spending the higher a part of the prior three years making an attempt to patch the gaping gap left by the career-ending damage of Oscar Klefbom, Oilers GM Ken Holland went all in to land Ekholm, sending right-shot rearguard Tyson Barrie the opposite method in addition to his most up-to-date first-round draft choose, Reid Schaefer, and his subsequent one within the then-upcoming 2023 Draft. A key to the deal was the three years remaining on Ekholm’s contract… this was no rental.

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That’s a good bit of time period for a man who slots in because the second-oldest participant on the roster — solely utility ahead Derek Ryan is older. Coincidentally, Ekholm was born on 1990 Might 24, the very day the Oilers gained their fifth and most up-to-date Stanley Cup. Simply throwing that on the market for individuals who consider in portents.

His age was definitely not sufficient to discourage Holland, whose lengthy monitor document suggests he’s by no means met a veteran d-man he didn’t like. His best commerce in his 22 years in Detroit might properly have the acquisition of 37-year-old Chris Chelios in 1999. Ekholm will probably be youthful than that when his present pact expires in 2026.

Holland discovered a magnificence in Ekholm, who in coach Jay Woodcroft’s phrases “suits our workforce like a glove”. The bearded Viking proved to be a perfect associate for Evan Bouchard in a high 4 position, allowed Brett Kulak to maneuver again to the third pairing the place he excelled with nice shock Vincent Desharnais to his proper, and helped take among the warmth off the tough-minutes duo of Darnell Nurse and Cody “C.C.” Ceci.  Younger Philip Broberg was the odd man out, taking part in video games selecting up shifts on either side of the ice.

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That septet stays the favoured group to begin the 2023-24 season, although it stays to be seen how they are going to be deployed. Ekholm himself has missed the opening days of camp with a hip flexor situation, and isn’t anticipated to hit the ice till a while subsequent week. So the chatter that he may line up apart his fellow Swede Broberg on a revamped second pairing behind Nurse-Bouchard stays simply that, for now. An intriguing chance.

However… such a transfer would require a leap of religion by the teaching workers. So far, with one main exception late final season that we’ll dig into momentarily, the duo of Woodcroft and defensive assistant Dave Manson has very a lot shopped in Ken Holland’s most popular aisle of “belief your vets”.

Once in a while on this column I confer with the wonderful work being carried out by the nice (native!) of us working, most significantly in the important thing space often known as High quality of Competitors. Their technique includes figuring out the highest and backside forwards on any given opposing workforce and measuring who performs towards whom. Within the case of the Oilers, within the 120 video games since Woodman took over the D, there was a transparent hierarchy of who they depend on probably the most.

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Puck IQ D Woodcroft era

These are the d-men who performed not less than 160 minutes at 5v5 in both or each of the seasons whereas Woodcroft was on the helm. The pattern is proscribed to simply the 38 video games he coached in 2021-22, and all 82 in ’22-23.

The X axis (Harmful Fenwick, a tough equal to Anticipated Targets) is definitely vital, with the higher outcomes in direction of the suitable. For this put up, nonetheless, the Y axis representing deployment is the extra important dimension. The upper up the chart, the more durable the task, which is calculated by minutes performed vs. Elites minus these towards “Grit” (decrease tier opponents). Precisely two guys had been above the zero line in every season: Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci. Exceptionally so in 2021-22, the place the variations in techniques between Woodcroft/Manson and their quick predecessors Dave Tippett/Jim Playfair pretty jumped off the web page; I refer the reader to the final portion of this 2022 put up for a deeper dive into adjustments of defensive deployment that helped the Oilers flip the nook below the brand new regime.

Whereas the above chart compares Woodcroft/Manson to themselves in numerous seasons. We will see the dependence on Nurse/Ceci relaxed slightly bit in ’22-23, but there stays a large gulf between these two and everyone else. And on the very backside, we see the least skilled guys, together with Broberg in each seasons. He received method higher outcomes this previous season, however he remained closely sheltered within the course of. How probably is that to alter within the season to come back? It’s received to come back up some, absolutely. However all the best way as much as high 4 territory? I’m within the “present me” state.

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We do, nonetheless, have an instance within the quick previous the place the workers elevated a youthful d-man right into a function position. That was Evan Bouchard down the stretch in ’22-23, particularly within the remaining 21 video games following the Barrie-for-Ekholm commerce. The alternative handedness of these featured gamers led to some important adjustments.

PuckIQ D Games 41-61

This represents the 21 video games earlier than the commerce, the place Ceci and Nurse remained far above the second pair of Kulak and Barrie, with the younger trio of Desharnais, Broberg and Bouchard clustered on the backside. Fascinating to see the the diagonal movement right here; the simpler the minutes, the higher the flow-of-play outcomes. The Nurse-Ceci duo soaked up the hardest minutes offering a major diploma of shelter to all the d-corps. Much like ’21-22; whereas most groups D include a high 4 and a backside pairing, the Oilers had been just about the opposite method round. And the decrease, sheltered guys kicked butt whereas a section of the fan base predictably grumbled concerning the play of Nurse and Ceci. Go determine.

C.C. particularly noticed nothing however the toughs, whereas Nurse received occasional “further” shifts with the likes of Desharnais or Broberg on the numerous nights the Oil ran a seven-man unit. Not surprisingly, these tended to be extra sheltered minutes than he received with Ceci. In uncooked numbers, Darnell performed probably the most towards Elites, 148 minutes (7 minutes a recreation, which is lots) over this span. Ceci was proper there at 145, however an enormous dive from there to Kulak at 74 and Barrie at 68. Bouchard was at 41, Broberg 34, Desharnais 22 minutes towards the toughs. Fairly clear the coaches had a recreation plan, and it was centred on getting their extra skilled defenders the robust assignments. Particularly, that high pair.

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The Oilers rolled to an 11-4-6 = .667 document over this span, fairly good. Then the commerce occurred.

PuckIQ D Games 62-82

Hey lookit, there are Ceci and Nurse on the high, however nearly parallel to the brand new, definitive top-four pairing of Ekholm and Bouchard. Manner additional down,, the brand new, definitive third pairing of Kulak and Desharnais. And much under that, lonely Philip Broberg, instantly the fourth LHD and never the third, with no pure associate, simply noticed in right here and there in heavily-sheltered minutes. And never lots of them; the chart doesn’t account for GP or TOI, which might be discovered instantly below mentioned chart on the unique web site. Broberg performed simply 11 of the 21 video games, 98 minutes in all at 5v5 . By means of comparability, Nurse performed all 21 video games and a team-high 376 minutes.

However within the spirit of the brand new, True High 4, the distribution of minutes towards high degree opponents was evenly unfold out amongst them. Nurse performed 97 minutes towards high-level opponents, a minimize in his hardest minutes by a couple of third. Proper behind him had been Ekholm at 93 minutes, Ceci 90, Bouchard 88. All of them between 4 and 5 minutes an evening. Now that’s sharing the load. The newly balanced high 4 had been a key a part of the explanation Edmonton rolled to an NHL-best 18-2-1 = 881 document down the stretch.

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Additional down the web page, Kulak performed 41 minutes vs. Elites, Desharnais 36. Philip Broberg? 8 minutes.

Eight. Minutes. Do you see something there that implies younger Philip may be about to leap up the depth chart?

I really do, specifically the best way the workers elevated Bouchard below the suitable circumstances. The commerce of Barrie labored for the rising righty in each method possible. Moreover his celebrated promotion to the primary unit powerplay (not related to this put up), Bouch robotically elevated to #2 on the suitable facet depth chart, with a pleasant new associate within the hulking type of Ekholm, an achieved, skilled left shot d-man. Bouchard greater than doubled his precise minutes towards high opponents, and thrived.

Might the identical occur with Broberg in ’23-24? It’s potential, after all. He’s a proficient younger participant, and to his credit score the Oilers had been comfortably the higher workforce on the ice throughout his ice time, sheltered because it may be. If he was treading water in that position or worse, getting caved, I’d be extra pessimistic concerning the participant. He’s undoubtedly displaying progress.

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He does, nonetheless, have main boundaries above him on the roster, 3 veteran lefties with a mixed $18 million cap hit and three+ years to run on all of their contracts. That means Broberg’s street probably runs by the suitable (his “flawed”) facet, the place he gained’t be passing the upwardly-mobile Bouchard. By my learn of the deployment techniques above, he’s extremely unlikely to take over the position of Cody Ceci when the chips are down. In a best-case state of affairs he will get a trial run within the early going and kills it. In a lesser-case, somebody will get damage, a door opens, and he kills it. If neither occurs, he must carry on killing it additional down the line-up till additional discover. Relying how issues work out, he may get promoted after the deadline within the method of Bouchard final spring, or he may himself be a buying and selling chip..

Within the meantime the Oilers are in fairly good condition on the again finish. They enter the season with the identical group that had success down the stretch, and share the burn of the second-round defeat to the eventual champs. Classes had been realized, chemistry was discovered, a gaggle identification advanced. Dangerously assuming good well being, they need to be good to go proper from Recreation 1.

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Depth chart

  1. Darnell Nurse
  2. Mattias Ekholm
  3. Evan Bouchard
  4. Cody Ceci
  5. Brett Kulak
  6. Philip Broberg
  7. Vincent Desharnais

No rocket science right here, that is merely the septet so as of cap hit, one other time period for “expectations”. Precise wage numbers apart, which aren’t commensurate, to me the uncooked order just about has it proper.

Name-up record

  1. LD Markus Niemelainen
  2. RD Philip Kemp
  3. LD Ben Gleason
  4. LD Noel Hoefenmayer
  5. LD Cam Dineen
  6. RD Maximus Wanner

Markus Niemelainen stays on the primary call-up record, as he was final season when he wasn’t really known as up (23 GP). However issues took a flip when his right-handed döppelganger Desharnais — taken 120 picks later in the identical 2016 draft — changed him at mid-season and clearly had a larger affect in bottom-pairing octopus d-man position, at the same time as he didn’t play fairly such a bodily model.

With the trades of Barrie and Michael Kesselring on the deadline, Philip Kemp instantly discovered himself because the #4 right-shot D within the group. That’s not fairly “a heartbeat from the presidency” within the method of a backup goaltender however worthy of consideration within the occasion one other righty had been unavailable for some time. Even then he’d extra probably be the #7 versus the 3RD, however given Woodcroft’s predilection for a 7-man unit he nonetheless may get some video games.

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From this distance Ben Gleason, Noel Hoefenmayer and Cam Dineen may as properly be the identical participant: an skilled professional in his mid-20s who simply received a recent likelihood within the Oilers org inside this calendar yr. Dineen got here within the Kesselring/Nick Bjugstad commerce, Hoefenmayer and Gleason on the primary day of free company. All three lefties had been good scorers within the AHL a yr in the past, and I anticipate an attention-grabbing battle amongst them in Bakersfield for ice time and precedence on the call-up record. I listed Gleason first as a result of he received #6 in Oilers camp whereas the opposite two dudes received 81 and 85. (Notice to readers: don’t take these rankings to coronary heart, they’re educated guesses.)

Maximus Wanner probably has the very best upside of any of them, however this season is about transition to the professional ranks. Simply 20, he slides right into a d-corps the place all 5 guys listed above him listed below are both 24 or 25. Younger Maximus will probably be doing properly to carry his personal at this degree, that’ll take not less than half the season and sure all of it. Not inconceivable he may get a late look if the Oilers are locked in place, however how probably is Holland to decide on a 20-year-old over all the 24-25 y.o. bracket? He appears to love his vets, I’ve observed.

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