Kris Russell is slowing, and with him the Oilers' second defence pairing

Jonathan Willis
November 03 2016 02:55PM

Kris Russell had a phenomenal debut with the Edmonton Oilers. Playing on his off-side along with Andrej Sekera on the second pairing, Russell’s strong play gave the Oilers two quality defence pairings through the first few games of the season, a luxury the team hasn’t had since Lubomir Visnovsky and Sheldon Souray were haphazardly discarded at the start of the rebuild.

Unfortunately for Edmonton, the honeymoon is now over. Russell’s play has fallen off, and those concerns about the second pairing are once again worth noting.

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Here's why the Flames are burning a year on Matthew Tkachuk

christian tiberi
November 03 2016 02:30PM

Matthew Tkachuk will play his 10th NHL game tonight, burning off the first year of his ELC, meaning his contract will expire a year earlier than it needs to. With four points in nine games, it's a bold move for the team. 

Tkachuk, from a points perspective, isn't producing enough to say he is a vital contributor to this team. Since he is not providing any additional wins through his points contribution, it would be good from a contract perspective to send him to London and bring up Hunter Shinkaruk and have him produce at a similar rate for no ELC loss.

On the other hand, Tkachuk is simply playing out of his mind, regardless of whether or not it shows up on the scoresheet. By looking at the possession numbers, you can certainly make the argument that Tkachuk playing in the NHL is the right spot. In fact among one of the strongest rookie classes in recent NHL memory, he is one of the best possession players.

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We Were Wrong About Bo Horvat

Jackson McDonald
November 03 2016 09:00AM

For a player that's been under the magnifying glass since the age of 16, Horvat remains somewhat of an enigma. His bull-rushes and inside-outside moves have enthralled Vancouverites over the past two years, as he's firmly planted himself in fan favourite territory, but there still seems to be little consensus on just what exactly the Canucks have in the young centreman.

It's pretty clear at this point that the Canucks landed an impact forward when they selected Horvat with their first-round pick in 2013, but over three years later there remains some debate about what his ceiling is, what role he's best suited for, and even what his strengths and weaknesses are. 

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It's time to make a decision on Matthew Tkachuk

Ari Yanover
November 02 2016 10:00AM

Well, there it is: Matthew Tkachuk has officially played nine NHL games. One more, and the first year of his entry-level contract is burnt.

What does he have to show for his professional career so far? 

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Fixing the Vancouver Canucks Power Play

J.D. Burke
November 02 2016 09:00AM


Photo Credit: Sergei Belsky - USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knew going into this season that the Canucks would be hard pressed to produce offence at even strength. Perhaps nobody knew more so than the Canucks themselves.

Combined with their general inability to generate positive shot differentials, Vancouver was always bound to a path less travelled if their destination was the post-season. That means playing to a tie at evens on most nights and putting the game away on special teams. There's a large element of luck involved therein, but such is life for the league's have-nots.

The Canucks penalty kill has, mostly, been a strength under Head Coach Willie Desjardins. His power play perhaps less so. Last season they finished 26th in the league in conversion rate. This season they're ranked 28th.

At this rate, USA TODAY's 65 point prediction is optimistic. If the Canucks can't fix their power play, that is.

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