Daughters start kindness campaign to honour mother
How the pandemic has highlighted the wage gap
IN DEPTH: Covering a contentious lobster fishery
VIDEO: Cartoonists talk the Trump gold mine
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Daily fall forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19 today
When you get through the NHL Entry Draft, the trading and Free Agent Frenzy and into the off-season, even if it’s October instead of July, you have to ask one question:
Is your team better now than it was when you last saw them?
If your team is the Edmonton Oilers, the answer is “no.”
• The Oilers didn’t get a goalie upgrade to platoon with Mikko Koskinen.
• Edmonton looks to be losing their top defenceman Oscar Klefbom for the season heading to surgery and didn’t replace him with a warm body much less the top minute-muncher and quarterback of the power play.
• And their two signings, Kyle Turris and the return of Jesse Puljujarvi, are both massive question marks.
Combine that with the moves made by their regional rivals:
• The Calgary Flames made a major splash with the addition of goaltender Jacob Markstrom coming off back-to-back Vancouver Canucks team MVP years.
• The Canucks took care of the departure of Markstrom by acquiring Braden Holtby to join Thatcher Demko in goal.
• The Winnipeg Jets reacquired Paul Stastny.
The other three teams in Western Canada all appeared to improve. Not Edmonton. Not on paper.
The goaltending was the No.1 area the Oilers wanted to improve. But they were forced to declare themselves out on the bidding for Markstrom and others because of the price tags.
While they’ll remain in the scramble to acquire one, a lot of the eligible goaltenders available in free agency found new homes Friday.
Certainly there’s going to be no dramatic upgrade. They might even have to go back to Mike Smith.
The loss of Klefbom, likely for the entire season, was characterized by GM Ken Holland, as “a huge blow.”
Holland said Klefbom would be replaced by “someone more under the radar” meaning someone still available with a low price tag.
Basically the plan will be to give the talented but not yet developed depth at the position a chance to compete to claim the opportunity to play some of Klefbom’s minutes.
That may result in making the Oilers better in 2021-22. But for this coming compacted season, it’ll have to be a work in progress. And you’ll have to hope Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones avoid the sophomore jinx.
As for Turris and Puljujarvi, there will be a lot of wishing, hoping and probably praying involved.
If Turris finds his form from four years ago in Ottawa, terrific.
If Puljujarvi becomes the player the Oilers projected him to become when they picked him fourth overall in the draft, outstanding.
But if your third line hinges on Turris and Puljujarvi, you’re rolling the dice.
Turris play bordered on being pathetic for the Predators in the last three years and was bought out by Nashville.
At best, he’ll come to Edmonton as a huge question mark to fill the gaping hole as the third-line centre behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“Obviously he had a bit of a struggle in Nashville. He got bought out. But he was a key player in Ottawa,” said Holland.
The price is right for the salary cap at $1.65-million U.S. per year over two years. But Turris doesn’t kill penalties and as a third line centre, what might that mean for the team that ranked No. 2 on the penalty kill in the NHL?
Yes, he had four 50-point seasons earlier in his career. But in his three years in Nashville, Turris averaged fewer than 10 goals and 33 points per season.
Projecting Puljujarvi to that line magnifies the gamble.
There are those that, for some reason, think that the return of Puljujarvi makes the Oilers better because of the year he had after departing Edmonton for Finland in frustration.
Yes, he put up points in one of Europe’s lesser leagues that don’t feature the kind of hockey Puljuvarvi has to learn how to play to earn regular employment in the NHL. But that didn’t seem to me to be a particularly productive way for the Oilers fourth overall pick to spend a season. Where he needed to be was in the American Hockey League.
To me, Puljujarvi has done nothing to shake his reputation of being a million dollar talent with a 10-cent head.
The idea here is that Puljuharvi gets a reboot with a new coach and Turris gets a reboot by returning to play for his old coach in Phoenix at the front end of his career.
If this works out Dave Tippett will be up for the Adams Trophy as Coach of the Year.
I don’t think the Oilers locomotive has been derailed en route to it’s top of the league destination. But it sure looks like it’s been delayed.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020