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Rebel Without a Crease — big news on Oilers’ goaltending, coaching staff, pro scouting

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The Edmonton Oilers are contemplating a few roster changes these days. Not all of them are on the ice, though a key one is.

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A busy Thursday of Oilers news included pending changes in goal, on the coaching staff and in pro scouting. Let’s briefly dig into each.

Goaltending

Big news on the ice, where mike smith has reportedly reached his decision:

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Smith missed most of the first 4 months of the season with injury, then willed himself through the last 4 including a playoff run to the conference final. But once that last game came to a close, there were indications right away that it might have been the 40-year-old stopper’s last hurrah.

Smith still has a year to run on his contract but it sounds as though he has played his last NHL game of what turned out to be a pretty phenomenal career. 16 NHL seasons, 677 GP, career save percentage of .912 (and .924 in the playoffs), 1 win away from #300. Beyond the numbers, a fiery character with an eminently watchable game, albeit between clenched fingers at times. Whatever else one might say about Mike Smith, he was never boring.

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Now the talk turns to replacing him on the active roster, with pending UFAs Ville Husson and Jack Campbell the first names mentioned. I wonder if Ken Holland might also be inquiring as to who might be acquired by the trade route, especially if the Oilers are dangling names like Tyson Barrie and Jesse Puljujarvi on the market as has been rumored.

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Assistant coaches

More changes pending in the make-up of the assistant coaching staff. TSN‘s Darren Dreger reports:

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No formal announcements just yet, but Dreger tweets of an impending departure of Brian Wiseman as a accomplished fact. Perhaps most famous for scoring 413 goals in a single season to break Wayne Gretzky’s novice scoring record, Wiseman played and later coached at University of Michigan before joining Dave Tippett’s staff in Edmonton in 2019. No word yet as to who might replace him.

Meanwhile, the contract renewals of Dave Manson and Glen Gulutzan appear to be on track, even as the preocess is a little more protracted that one might have expected. Same could be said for the formal hire of Jay Woodcroft, of course, which took a week or so longer than some expected even as it always seemed inevitable. Same can be said about the primary assistants, especially Manson who has been Woodcroft’s right hand man for the past 4 seasons at Bakersfield and Edmonton, with the 2 men being promoted to the NHL club in tandem this past February.

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Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic updates:

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pro scouting

Another veteran hockey player has announced his retirement outright. Archie Henderson, Director of Pro Scouting will be stepping down after the upcoming NHL Draft next Thu-Fri July 07-08, as reported by Sportsnet‘s Mark Spector.

A friendly giant of a man listed at 6’6, 220 pounds, Henderson, 65, has spent a lifetime in the game. That includes an 11-year professional career that spanned 12 teams in 4 different leagues, the 1984-85 Nova Scotia Oilers among them. A feared enforcer, the Calgary-born Henderson accumulated 3,187 penalty minutes in 773 pro games. He consistently averaged 4 PiM per game across all leagues, as borne out by his 92 penalty minutes in 23 NHL contests spread out among Washington Capitals, Minnesota North Stars, and Hartford Whalers. Along the way he also managed to score 3 goals in a big league united. Fair to say he earned them the hard way.

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Henderson spent 5 seasons as a head coach in 4 more leagues before turning to scouting in the mid-90s. He joined Ken Holland’s staff in Detroit in 2015 and rejoined the GM in Edmonton in the Director of Pro Scouting role.

It’s never clear who is responsible for the various hits and misses that inevitably accrue to any scouting staff (or GM for that matter), and on Henderson’s watch the Oilers had plenty of both. Here’s a list of established pros acquired as free agents or via trade over those 3 seasons who actually suited up for the Oilers. Names only, I’ll leave it to the reader to establish your own opinions on these acquisitions and of the group as a whole.

  • mike smith
  • Gaetan Haas
  • Joakim Nygard
  • Markus Granlund
  • Tomás Jurco
  • James Neal
  • Josh Archibald
  • Riley Sheahan
  • Tyler Ennis
  • Andreas Athanasiou
  • Mike Green
  • Tyson Barrie
  • Seth Griffith
  • Slater Koekkoek
  • Dominik Kahun
  • Devin Shore
  • Kyle Turris
  • Dmitry Kulikov
  • Duncan Keith
  • Zach Hyman
  • Cody This
  • Warren Foegele
  • Derek Ryan
  • Brendan Perlini
  • Colton Sceviour
  • Evander Kane
  • Brett Kulak
  • Derick Brassard

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That’s 28 different players, nearly 10 per season who were new to the organization. Obviously there is a wide range of expectations from high-profile free agent signings to PTOs that made good.

No formal word as to who will step into Henderson’s role, even as Spector touts Brad Holland as one candidate. While that name will no doubt evoke groans of “nepotism” from some quarters, the son of the Oilers’ GM has some street cred of his own. Colleague Kurt Leavins provided this background a while back:

  • “[Brad] Holland played 3 years of NCAA hockey with the Division I Sacred Heart University Pioneers. A good, honest player.
    Holland’s college studies led him to the Fordham Law School and eventually a position at Goodman’s, a well-respected legal firm in Toronto. Highly educated as a critical thinker. Good traits to have as a pro scout. Holland then spent 2 years in the Toronto organization, where he was exposed to the Leaf’s analytics department as well as a young winger named Zach [Hyman] whom he formed an association with. He also put in 6+ years at the NHL video department.”

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Holland the Younger has been part of the club’s pro scouting department over the same 3 years as Henderson. The 41-year-old has been noted by several sources as bringing a modern, analytics-oriented approach, something the club is in sore need of in the opinion of this observer.

It’s not a sure thing by any means. As Spector reports:

  • Brad Holland is uber-qualified, but may be sought after by more than one team. Also, he has possibly reached the point in his career where setting out on his own would be more careful than continuing to work under his father.

Whichever way he decides, it sounds like an upward trajectory is in the cards.

Player rumors

Finally, this item gleaned from a radio hit by TSN‘s Chris Johnston:

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Hard to anticipate any traction for Evander Kane until his grievance with San Jose is resolved, either by arbitration or settlement. Sounds like Edmonton’s other significant UFA, Brett Kulakmay have options to weigh, even as the Oilers are the only team that can officially negotiate with him prior to July 13.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: Puljujarvi trade talk gaining steam

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