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This just in from the Edmonton Oiles, news that the team has placed the following players on waivers:

Jujhar Khaira Jersey
Patrick Russell Jersey
・Joakim Nygard
Anton Forsberg Jersey
Alan Quine Jersey

My take
1. The Edmonton Oilers are balancing numerous interests in making this move, such as getting in under the salary cap to start the season and trying to determine which players they might lose by waiving them and how much that will impact their roster if that player is scooped up on waivers.

2. Khaira is a big tough fourth line forward who can help a team on the penalty kill. But he makes $1.2 million and there will likely be other players making less than will be more attractive to other teams if they’re looking for a forward. Unless a team is desperate for toughness, they’re unlikely to pick up Khaira on waivers.

3. Could the Vancouver Canucks have some interest in Khaira, who is from Surrey, B.C.? Again, I doubt it, as Vancouver is also struggling to get in under the cap.

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4. As for Joakim Nygard Jersey, I think he’s a solid two-way NHL bottom line winger, one with great speed and tenacity. But he’s unproven and had just three goals in 33 games last year. He was something of a prized signing for the Oilers out of the Swedish league in 2019, and perhaps one of the other teams that pursued him then will now be keen on him. It’s unlikely but Nygard would be a useful addition to many NHL teams.

5. The Oilers have Devin Shore, an experienced NHL forward, on a try-out contract at this short camp. If Khaira does get scooped up, Shore’s chances of getting a contract shoot up, especially as centre Gaetan Haas Jersey has yet to practice.

6. I don’t expect the Oilers to pick up any players off waivers, given the team’s camp constraints.

7. As for the other players waived, Forsberg, Quine and Russell, they’re all strong candidates for the Oil’s taxi squad.

Oscar Klefbom Jersey has been tormented by chronic shoulder pain his entire NHL career, accepting it as part of the deal as a professional athlete.

But now that it’s invaded his personal life, the 27-year-old defenceman has no choice but to step away from the game, unsure of when, or if, he will ever come back.

All he knows right now is his first priority is finding a medical procedure that can free him from the constant ache.

“It was getting to the point where I was not sleeping right and it was taking away a lot of the private life, it’s a tough way of living,” he said on a video conference from Sweden.

“It’s one thing to be on the ice and take some pain medication and anti-inflams and all that, play though it, but when you can’t sleep or put your clothes on properly, it comes to a point where your body says: ‘No, you should not do this anymore.’

“I don’t want to be on pain meds 24-7 and not really have a worthwhile private life.”

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So, the decision to sit out the season was no decision at all. As much as he wants to be around the boys on a team that plans on finally turning a corner, Klefbom can’t deal with the side effects any longer.

“It’s tough to tell the guys and the management that I need to (step away), but I love hockey and want to get back playing and this is a decision I had to do.

“It’s been bad for a while and I’ve been playing through a lot of pain. It’s one thing to have a lot of pain at the rink. You have a lot of adrenaline and you play through it. But once you get home and you have trouble getting the rest you need, and your mood and everyone around you is affected too, you need to listen to your body and be smart.”

The whole issue started on one play as a junior-aged player in Sweden and it’s been haunting him ever since. He had surgery as a young kid and only played more than 66 games once in his eight-year Oilers career as he battled an issue that refused to give him a break.

“It was one time when I played in Farjestads and I kind of separated my shoulder pretty badly,” he said. “What I’ve heard is there’s a risk for arthritis and other things when you have the kind of surgery that I had in my younger days. It’s been something that’s been going on for a while, obviously.”

So Klefbom and the medical staff will search for a solution, with every option on the table, even as dramatic as shoulder replacement surgery, in an effort to ease his daily pain, because this is no way for a guy to live.

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He also knows it might be an either-or situation: Yes, they can fix his shoulder, but no, he can’t play hockey again or he’ll be right back where he is right now.

“It’s different, for sure, when you start thinking about your future as a human outside the rink, having kids and not being able to lift your son up. It’s crazy. Life is bigger than hockey, obviously, so I want to get this fixed.”

Of course, he’s considered his career might be over, but he’s not there yet. Not by a long shot.

“I’m going to try and stay positive. I love the game of hockey and I want to get back playing. I don’t want to fold my cards. This isn’t how I want to live my life. I want to be in North America playing hockey. I want make this shoulder the best I can to get back playing.

“I am 100 per cent confident in the (medical staff). They’re doing everything they can to find the best solution for me. If that’s surgery or getting some kind of shoulder replacement, or some kind of treatments to make it better so I can get back playing, that’s up to the medical staff. I have 100 per cent trust in them.”

To complicate matters, the pandemic is stalling everything, making it difficult to see a specialist in Cleveland and chart out a course of action.

“I would like to get the surgery as soon as possible, but with travelling and going into different countries, it’s tough. It’s a crazy situation for everyone, including me.”

As he contemplates his future, Klefbom is reminded of what Ryan Smyth Jersey said before the final game of his career: “It’s really hard to get into the NHL, but it’s even harder to leave.”

If it’s over, it would be heartbreaking — just having to sit out a year is hard enough — but living in pain all this time also has him considering his long-term future away from the rink.

“I want to continue living my dream and playing hockey. But when the pain is making my private life really hard, you want to be smart.

“I’m hoping to have a long life with a wife and kids some day, so I’m trying to see it from a different angle, but the main focus is getting back and playing hockey again.”

8. Here are today’s lines at the Oilers practice:

RNH-McDavid-Kassian

Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto

Archibald-Turris-Puljujarvi

Ennis-McLeod-Chiasson

9. Ryan McLeod Jersey gets a chance in practice today. Is he ready for the NHL? He’s big and fast. The question is whether he can asset himself on defence, cover down low, and advance the puck out with the d-men. That’s a work in progress with him.

P.S. Edmonton media interviewed Oscar Klefbom today, and Reid Wilkens of CHED offered this summary on Twitter: Oscar Klefbom says, “The shoulder is getting better.” Says he’s still looking at options and surgery so he can feel better overall. Klefbom says he doesn’t want to be on pain meds 24/7 and have pain that affects his life away from hockey. Adds he misses playing hockey, says surgery, shoulder replacement could be options to fix the problem. Klefbom emphasizing pain has been really affecting his private life, including trouble sleeping. Says, “The main focus is getting back playing hockey again.” Klefbom says he’ll have a good discussions with the Oilers medical team to find a solution. He says ideally he’d like to see a doctor in Cleveland to get some answers. Says it’s a big decision to get the surgery done. Klefbom says his shoulder is better since he hasn’t been playing, but “this is not the life I want. I want to be back in North American playing hockey. I’m not in that shape right now.” Klefbom on when he needs to have surgery to be ready for Sept: “I don’t really see it that way right now with everything that’s going on. I would like to get the surgery done as soon as possible, but with travelling and going into different countries and all that and obviously getting surgery in the end, it’s tough to find a pretty good solution with COVID and everything.” Adds, “I don’t really put pressure on myself to get the surgery done. I still want to want to get it done in the end, but the way it looks right now in the world, I just see it from a different perspective, I guess.”

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Based on this interview, it doesn’t sound Klefbom is going to be with the Oilers any time soon, if ever. Good luck to him. He was a strong NHL player when he was more healthy in 2017. It sounds like he’s now dealing with chronic pain from that shoulder, so I have the greatest of sympathy for his situation and him taking time on the decision he must now make.

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That is the number of back-to-back games on the 2020-21 regular-season schedule for the Edmonton Oilers released on Wednesday, a number exceeded by only the San Jose Sharks out in the Pacific Division.

The Oilers, like most teams, were prepared for a high percentage of back-to-back games through a compressed National Hockey League schedule. But it is of particular interest to an Edmonton team that knows its core weakness is on the defensive side of the ice, and in particular between the pipes.

A high percentage of back-to-back games will put an increased burden on the Oilers’ goaltending tandem – a burden that isn’t exactly shared equally across the league. The New York Rangers, as one example, will play just six sets of back-to-back games this season:

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On one hand, the Oilers are a victim of circumstance. The closing of the U.S.-Canadian border, a highly compressed 56-game slate, and a degree of scheduling inflexibility the league hasn’t seen before created a difficult situation for all 31 franchises. But it comes at a dangerous time for the Oilers.

Compressed by the salary cap and with limited backup options available, the Oilers decided to run their goaltending tandem back for another season. Last year, Mikko Koskinen Jersey (.917 save percentage in 38 games) and Mike Smith Jersey (.902 save percentage in 39 games) were good enough to get the Oilers into the playoffs, but their performance – Smith’s in particular – predictably eroded over the second half of the season.

Making matters worse, Edmonton’s goaltending duo was abysmal in their qualifying-round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Oilers goalies stopped just 87.2 per cent of shots in the series, and gave up five goals more than expected based on the quality of shots faced.

If head coach Dave Tippett was hoping that the 38-year-old Smith would take a back seat this season – well, that’s no longer the case. Teams across the National Hockey League have opted to balance starters in back-to-back situations for years now, partially motivated by a desire to keep starting goaltenders fresh and healthy, and partially motivated by compelling data-driven arguments about performance degradation observed in goalies when forced to play two games in 24 hours. (Oh, and goaltender prospect Olivier Rodrigue will be spending this year playing overseas, so other internal options are quite limited.)

At any rate, it is safe to say that the pressure has been dialled up for an Edmonton goaltending duo that was already going to be under the microscope. Should they get off to a rocky start, expect general manager Ken Holland to be aggressive on the trade market.

A number of veteran goaltenders – including Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Antti Raanta, Devan Dubnyk, and James Reimer – see their contracts expire at the end of the year, and depending on how their respective regular seasons play out, may be available come the trade deadline.

The ’12 Days of Christmas’ is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.

Today is Dec. 21, meaning we have just four more days until Christmas. The number four relates to the Edmonton Oilers in a number of different ways. They were able to win four Stanley Cups in five years during the Gretzky era. Another example is a defenceman on those teams in Kevin Lowe Jersey, who wore the number four and was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Kevin Lowe Edmonton Oilers
Kevin Lowe, Edmonton Oilers, Nov. 24, 1990 (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
However, in more recent years of this team, the number four is very significant. It represents the number of first-overall picks the Oilers had during the 2010s. While they were a very bad team who had next to no luck on the ice for a large part of the past decade, their luck was at the complete opposite end of the scale when it came to draft lotteries. Three of those first-overall picks came in three straight years from 2010-2012, while the other came in 2015.

In all sports, the one positive of having a bad team is the high draft pick you will receive, as the top players in drafts are often players who can turn around a franchise. Unfortunately for the Oilers, they proved this is not always the case. Despite being able to select the talented players, teams need to be sure to add complementary pieces as well, something the organization struggled to do throughout most of this decade.

Thankfully, things seem to be heading in the right direction for this team, in large part due to the 2015 first-overall pick who will be discussed later on. Here are those four picks, starting from the earliest.

2010
Taylor Hall
The 2009-10 season was horrendous for the Oilers, as they finished with a league worst 27-47-8 record for just 62 points. While many in the hockey world soon became irritated with Edmonton receiving so many first-overall picks, everyone agreed at the time there was no team more deserving of the 2010 first selection. Though it was a tough year for the organization, fans were hopeful that losing games would land them Taylor Hall Jersey who they believed would turn their team around. As a result, they started using the phrase “Fall for Hall.”

Taylor Hall
Edmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall (4) during the NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC Arena.
Despite the majority of fans thinking the Oilers would select Hall, there were also rumors they could take now Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin. Of course, that never ended up being the case, as Hall went first and Seguin was taken immediately after by the Boston Bruins.

At the time, Hall was coming off of a fantastic season with the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in which he had 40 goals and 106 points in just 57 games. He also played in 19 playoff games that year, registering a ridiculous 17 goals and 35 points while also leading his team to their second Memorial Cup win in as many years. On top of his incredible skill, he was viewed at the time as a true winner.

Hall made the Oilers the very next season, and had a promising rookie season with 22 goals and 42 points in 65 games. From there on, his numbers continued to get better and better, and were capped off by his career high in an Oilers uniform with 27 goals and 80 points in 75 games during the 2013-14 season. Despite his impressive numbers every season, the team was not improving, and fair or not, Hall was being blamed by many. The same player who was viewed as a winner coming into the NHL was beginning to be labelled as selfish and a team cancer.

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The Edmonton Oilers organization has repeatedly squandered its talent, sometimes because it couldn’t afford that talent, sometimes because it couldn’t keep it happy here in Edmonton, but most recently because the organization lacked the managerial competence to hold on to the right players.

Today we’re going to deal with that last aspect of the sad tale of how Edmonton has let go of all too many OK-to-great NHL players, as we ponder the question: Will the Oilers finally get it right this time with its current talented group.

Broberg was a breakout performer along with Russian winger Vasily Podkolzin, who had eight goals and went to Vancouver 10th in 2019.

Swedish winger Lucas Raymond, who was only 16 then but on their No. 1 line, just went fourth overall to Detroit, and the multi-talented Alexis Lafreniere, went first overall to the New York Rangers in October.

Podkolzin and Raymond are back for this world juniors. Lafreniere is not.

Broberg won’t double-dip and stick around for Oilers training camp when the world juniors are over here Jan. 6. They want the teenager to concentrate on his game back home. They love Broberg’s upside but have a full complement of D — Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson and Frolunda’s Theodor Lennstrom, a veteran on a one-year contract who plays with more pace than Joel Persson — to battle for the seventh and eighth D slots.

“I talked to Philip a week ago and I told him he will go back to Skelleftea until the end of their season and then come back to Edmonton or Bakersfield once they’re done,” said Oilers GM Ken Holland.

“We had a long discussion about what was best for me and the future,” said Broberg. “I think I played really well for the training camp for the (August) playoffs and was looking for a spot on the team but I respect their (Oilers) decision and I’ll go back develop more and I’ll be ready for the NHL when I come back. We have a strong team. I believe we can win it all.”

Not only do the Oilers have high end NHL talent in Connor McDavid Jersey, Leon Draisaitl Jersey, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jersey and Darnell Nurse Jersey, they have in the last few years put together an impressive prospect base, both in terms of players who are already gaining ground in the NHL and with prospects soon to do so.

The team’s young NHLers include Kailer Yamamoto Jersey, Ethan Bear Jersey and Caleb Jones Jersey, with those with a decent chance of making the NHL in the next handful of years including Philip Broberg Jersey, Evan Bouchard Jersey, Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoie, Dmitri Samorukov, Ryan McLeod Jersey, Tyler Benson Jersey, William Lagesson Jersey, Carter Savoie and Michael Kesselring. Jesse Puljujarvi Jersey is also in the mix.

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It’s easily the most talented group of under-25 players in Edmonton since the early 1980. That famous group competed for Stanley Cups until then owner Peter Pocklington sold and traded them off, one by one, because he couldn’t afford them. This trading away off of veteran stars continued until the Collective Bargaining Agreement of 2005 and the city’s boom economy in that same era changed the economic formula here.

Yet, maddeningly, the franchise was still unable to hold on to top talent, largely because of managerial incompetence during the Decade of Darkness.

In previous deaces, a few buddings stars and vital role players slipped through Edmonton’s fingers, such as Walt Poddubny in 1981 and Shaun Van Allen, Martin Gelinas Jersey, Kirk Matlby, Niro Satan and Martin Rucinsky in the 1990s. But from 2008 to 2019, it seemed like every year the Oilers found a way to shed a useful young veteran player from the roster, often getting little back in return.

The Decade of Darkness commenced in February 2007 when the organization traded off its final big star over a money issue, with Ryan Smyth Jersey leaving for New York, a move that was arguably wise cap management in the moment but came back to haunt the team, as Smyth managed to continue to play well in the NHL.

After that came a series of iffy trades that meant for years Edmonton had a missing middle, a lack of useful vets in their NHL primes between the ages of 23 and 29.

June 2008
Oilers trade Matt Greene, 25, and Jarret Stoll Jersey, 26, for Lubo Visnovsky. Stoll and Greene would go on to play seven solid seasons in LA, winning two Cups. Stoll was a third line centre, Greene a bottom pairing d-man.

July 2008
Oilers trade Raffi Torres Jersey, 26, for Gilbert Brule. Torres would have four more productive NHL seasons as a third line winger.