[Game Preview] Wild vs Oilers: Q&A With Ryan Batty From 'The Copper & Blue'

Nick Schultz and Cal Clutterbuck enjoying a happy reunion. - Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild meet the Oilers for the first time this season. Read on for 5 questions with an opposition blogger along with all the gameday information you need.

Ryan Batty writes about tonight's opponents, the Edmonton Oilers, over at The Copper & Blue and has agreed to answer a few questions about them to give us some idea of what's going on with that team and what the general mood is among fans and writers.


Q1) This has clearly been a very disappointing season for the Oilers so far, but have there been any positives to take away from it?

At this point the biggest positive is that there are only 33 games left before it's over. Really, disappointing only begins to describe this season. Last year things looked to me to be trending in the right direction for the Oilers, on top of that there were some positive moves and acquisitions in the offseason, there were a lot of reasons to think that this was going to be the year that the Oilers started doing something other than lose. It's amazing how wrong that was.

As the season has fallen apart search for positives is, once again, all we've got, and unfortunately there aren't many to find this season. I would put David Perron and Boyd Gord down as two of the positives though. In bringing Perron to Edmonton the Oilers actually won a trade, and in Gordon they appear to have found an unrestricted free agent worth the contract they gave him, both minor miracles in this town.


Q2) Before this season, I remember reading on Copper & Blue about how Taylor Hall's era-adjusted career comparables were pretty amazing. Is he still keeping pace with the likes of Kariya, Kovalchuk, Sakic and Kane?

I haven't run the numbers but I would suspect that he's close for sure. With 45 points in 42 games he's scoring at an 88 point pace over 82 games. When you adjust for era I doubt he gets to the high water mark set by Kariya, but he should be right around the rest of that group which gives you an idea of just how good of a player he is and how much offence he creates.

But while his counting numbers have been quite good the shot differential isn't where I'd like it to be, his Corsi% is actually downright terrible. And so far I don't think anyone has been able to come up with a good reason why that it. I don't know if the problem is a new system that Dallas Eakins is trying to play, or if his knee is still bothering him, whatever the reason he hasn't had as complete of a game this season as I saw out of him last year.

There have been a lot of questions about his play in the Oilers end of the rink this season - this is a big part of why he didn't make the Canadian Olympic team - but defensive breakdowns aside, he's still, to my eye, a player that creates a lot more than he gives up and I can't complain too much about that.


Q3) How do you feel about the trades that went down yesterday?

Any trade that doesn't send Ales Hemsky out of town can't be all bad, but as far as these go I don't really see the point. Matt Hendricks is a decent fourth line option for a team this season. Maybe next season too. The problem is that he's 32 years old and three years left on a contract that comes with a cap hit of $1.85M. Generally speaking I don't like to overpay with both with money and term are the bottom of the lineup for players who are 32, it's just not a smart use of money. Yes, Devan Dubnyk was going to be a free agent at the end of the year and he wasn't coming back, but in this case nothing would have been better than the something they got.

With Ben Scrivens we don't really know what we traded for. 51 games played and not even 1400 shots faced, he could be a legitimate number one goalie, he could be nothing more than an average backup. A third round pick is nothing more than a crap shoot anyways so this isn't a deal that really hurts the team, and it does give them a chance to see him play a lot of minutes before deciding if the want to try and re-sign him in July, so at least there's that. I'm not sure either deal is what I'd call a win for the Oilers, and they certainly don't make the team much better today, hopefully Scrivens pays off down the road.


Q4) Former Minnesota Wild player Nick Schultz is a UFA this Summer and could be dealt at the trade deadline. Can you give us an overall evaluation of his time in Edmonton?

One of my least favourite trades of the Steve Tambellini era. I thought we got hosed on that deal from minute one and nothing I've seen from Nick Schultz has made me change my mind. He was serviceable as the top four defender in 2012 following the trade, but in the shortend season last year and so far this season he's nothing more than a bottom pairing players, and even that's a role he struggles in a lot of the time.

Part of the problem could be that the Oilers defence as a whole is terrible and every pairing is over matched, when that happens it's hard for any player to look good. But there alittle things in Schultz' game that seem to be lack too. He struggles to make good passes out of the defensive zone and looks to be slowing down. If you can't move and you can't pass, you can't play. Someone will sign him to a deal this summer, I hope it's not the Oilers.


Q5) Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and head coach Mike Yeo have made a lot of noise this season and during the last offseason about the team incorporating analytics and moving towards a more puck possession focused game. Where do the Oilers brass stand on this topic?

They say some of the right things but the proof is in their actions and so far if they are using analytics they're not putting a lot of faith in the numbers. Luke Gazdic plays on the fourth line. Mike Brown played here this season. They just traded for Matt Hendricks. Mark Arcobello sat out for a week after being declared healthy enough to play. Even the decision to bring in Ilya Bryzgalov after Dubnyk had a terrible first month was suspect.

The Oilers and like most NHL teams in that they have a lot of ex-players in the front office, and for players I think making the jump from using your eyes to looking at numbers is difficult. I do think the Oilers want to use the information, they just don't know how to yet and there isn't a strong enough push from the top down to make them.


Thanks to Ryan for participating. You can check out some good articles by him here and here. Make sure to head on over to The Copper & Blue to check out their gameday coverage before puck-drop.


Gameday News & Notes

  • Mike Yeo announced on KFAN that Darcy Kuemper would be getting the nod in net.
  • Ben Scrivens gets the start for the Oilers. He didn't have to wait long for his debut anyway...
  • Koivu, Parise, Spurgeon and Harding are still out hurt. Joensuu, Potter and Larsen are injured for the Oilers.
  • Jon Blum is a healthy scratch tonight, with Keith Ballard drawing back in for the first time in 5 games. Unless the Wild figured out a way to go back in time and bring the 2008 version of Keith Ballard to the present, then this makes very little sense. Blum's played well, Ballard has been exactly as bad as he was for the last 3 years in Vancouver.
  • After an OT win in Pittsburgh on Friday, the Oilers lost on the road against Chicago and Dallas, conceding 5 goals in each game.


Expected Line-Ups

Minnesota Wild

Nino Niederreiter - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Dany Heatley - Charlie Coyle - Jason Zucker

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Stephane Veilleux - Erik Haula - Torrey Mitchell

*

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser

Clayton Stoner - Keith Ballard

*

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom


Edmonton Oilers

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Sam Gagner

Nail Yakupov - Mark Arcobello - Jordan Eberle

David Perron - Boyd Gordon - Ales Hemsky

Matt Hendricks - Ryan Smyth - Ryan Jones

*

Andrew Ference - Justin Schultz

Nick Schultz - Anton Belov

Jeff Petry - Martin Marincin

*

Ben Scrivens

Ilya Bryzgalov


Team Stats

Minnesota Wild

Edmonton Oilers

25-19-5

12th

Record/League Position

29th

15-29-5

2.29

27th

G/G

18th

2.57

2.41

10th

GA/G

30th

3.51

52.4%

4th

FO%

22nd

48.8%

37.2

26th

FF/60 (5v5 Close)

25th

37.3

38.3

8th

FA/60 (5v5 Close)

26th

45.5

49.3%

18th

FF% (5v5 Close)

28th

45.1%

6.9%

25th

Sh% (5v5)

7th

8.5%

93.1%

5th

Sv% (5v5)

29th

90.5%

100.0

14th

PDO

25th

98.9

19.1%

11th

PP%

18th

18.4%

79.2%

24th

PK%

21st

79.6%


Puck-drop is 7PM. Follow me on Twitter for more opinion and analysis.

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