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Edmonton Oilers G.M. Ken Holland tries to balance winning with proper asset management: 9 Things – Edmonton Journal

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Ken Holland is kind of caught in between.

On one hand, his hockey club is near the top of its division and projects as a playoff team. One-half of his brain must he thinking about how he can shore things up. But the other half must be pre-occupied with his expiring UFA’s and how to properly manage those assets.

That and more in this week’s edition of…

9 Things

9. The Oilers over the 1st 30 games of the 2021 season have more wins (18) than in any year over the past 6.

8. Connor McDavid is the 1st player in the last 30 years to reach 50 points in fewer than 30 games in consecutive seasons. He hit 30 in 29 games this season. The only 2 other Oilers to do it are Jari Kurri (twice) and Wayne Gretzky (7 times, including in just 18 games in 1983-84).

7. Bakersfield’s Stuart Skinner leads AHL starters with a 1.56 GAA and is 3rd in SV% at .940. He was 3.31, .892 last season. What has changed? The Condors don’t even have as good of a Defence this year. Same player. Same Coach and Goalie Coach. Is it perhaps confidence, having started and won in his first NHL game?

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6. Speaking of goalies, Mike Smith’s win over Ottawa Friday was his 28th for this franchise. He is now 14th all time in Oilers wins, passing Ty Conklin. Smith is 2 back of Ron Low, 4 away from Matthieu Garon, 5 from Nikolai Khabibulin, and 7 behind the 10th place guardian, Jussi Markkanen.

5. I watched HNIC panellist Kevin Bieksa explain to the nation on Saturday night how “you have to take runs at (Connor McDavid)”, and “you have to get a piece of him wherever you can”. Then I watched 97 tackled in the O-zone in the 3rd Period and draw no call. Yes, that’s absolutely what the NHL needs more of. When did the NBA go “You know…it’d be better if Michael Jordan scored less”, or the PGA muse “fans would like us better if Tiger shot fewer Eagles”. Gimme a break.

4. The Winter radio ratings (Numeris R1/21) are in and Oilers Now on 630 CHED continues to attract the most listeners (2+) of any Sports Radio show in Edmonton. Bob Stauffer leads the 2nd place Jason Gregor Show and with 60% more audience than the 2nd place finisher. Gregor’s performance was a relatively bright light in a very challenging rating for TSN 1260, though. Oilers Now is in rarefied air in Canada. Its one of only 2 Sports Talk Radio shows in the entire country that finished Top 6 in their time slot. Mitch Melnick on TSN 690 Montreal was also 6th, but Stauffer edged him out in terms of total listeners.

3. Darnell Nurse has been one of the Oilers 3 best skaters so far this year. He, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. At this rate, he’ll be Top-5 for Norris consideration. Nurse is 5th in NHL TOI at 25:25, and at TOI (EV) at 20:57). He’s 9th in points (20, and only 4 of those were on the Power Play), 2nd in +/- (+15) and 2nd in Defensive Point Shares (2.6). He is going to get paid when his $5.6m deal expires after next season. Remember…Nurse has taken 2 bridges in a row. You can’t argue he hasn’t already given the Oilers a hometown discount. There’s no way Nurse’s next contract doesn’t start with at least a 7.

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2. The talk of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being an expiring UFA has really picked up. Ken Holland would like him back, at the right price. But what is that? When I compare Nugent-Hopkins’ production with others I find he played up to his $6m contract the last few seasons but didn’t exceed it. With the cap flat and revenues down, inflation in the NHL is negative. Maybe with expansion the Oilers calculate that his agent is over-asking and wait until he’s filed for free agency before trying to sign him. But that’s a risk, too. SportsNet’s Mark Spector put it well this week when he suggested that there might be other guys out there that can do all the things for you that The Nuge can. But do they cost any less, and do they even want to come here? Whereas Nugent-Hopkins has made it clear he’d like to stay.

1. Tyson Barrie might be the best offensive defenceman the Oilers have had since Paul Coffey. I had at least one person ask me if I was even alive in 2006? Yep, that would be the one year that Chris Pronger averaged .70 PPG in Edmonton. So far in 2021, Tyson Barrie is at .82 PPG. Paul Coffey was 1.14 PPG in 1986-87. The same guy suggested we dismiss Barrie’s numbers entirely because Pronger didn’t get to play with Draisaitl and McDavid. But he didn’t think we should ignore Coffey’s PPG because he played with Gretzky and Mark Messier. Sheldon Souray did go 0.85 once in 2008-09. Ryan Whitney averaged 0.77 in 2010-11 but played just 35 games. No other player in Oilers history is really that close. Although Darnell Nurse is at 0.69 so far this year. Yet I also have some people tell me that Nurse isn’t a top-pairing D-man.

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The other factor with Barrie is consistency. He has produced 0.63 PPG over his entire career, more than most Oilers D-men not named Paul Coffey could attain more than once in theirs. Yes, Tyson Barrie makes his share of mistakes. But home run hitters strike out and star Quarterbacks throw interceptions. Gifted offensive players see possibilities others don’t and have the skill to execute them. With that comes some misses, and you don’t get one without some of the other. Look…I admire great defensive players too. But most of them do that for a living because they can’t make the plays that a guy like Barrie can. He’s an elite offensive player.

It’s possible that Barrie and his agent ask for money that Ken Holland decides he doesn’t have or needs to spend elsewhere. I’m not saying you re-sign Barrie at all costs. One absolutely needs to be prudent. But after waiting 35 years for a D-man like Tyson Barrie, why would this franchise just let him walk?

I like Ethan Bear a lot, but he’s at 0.20 PPG in his NHL career and never hit 0.60 in the AHL. I think highly of Evan Bouchard, I think he has a chance to be a star. But he isn’t one yet, and didn’t achieve in the AHL what Barrie has in the NHL. Philip Broberg has yet to play an NHL game. You just don’t know.

With Tyson Barrie, the Oilers need to ask if a bird in the hand better than 2 in the bush?

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

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Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now

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The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.

The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.

The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.

The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.

Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.

The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.

Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.

Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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