Rig Roundtable: 2021 Season Opener Edition

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With puck drop on the 2021 NHL season just hours away, we thought we’d share some predictions and possibilities from some of our writers. This isn’t like other previews, though, I promise.

Without further ado….

Will the Oilers consider dressing 7 D and 11 F if Bouchard blows the doors off?

Rex Libris: My guess is that the loss of Klefbom, compressed schedule, threat of injury/covid exposure will mean Tippett will defer to dressing more defensemen than forwards to cover off the loss of 77.

Alex Thomas: Last year? Yes. This year? No. The Oilers, thanks to Puljujarvi’s return and the addition of Kahun/Ennis, are deep on the wings. They aren’t going to dress three centers either. I think Bouchard could play 20-30 games this season, but it won’t be because Tippett is dressing seven defensemen. There will be injuries. Sadly, I don’t think Adam Larsson’s back can hold up, especially in a compressed season like this.

Steven Stauffer:  Why? What advantage does dressing 7D give you? He’s not taking Larsson’s defensive minutes, Bear’s top competition minutes, or Barrie’s powerplay time. So where would you play him?
Or, if by “blow the doors off” you mean, “he shows he can handle the above,” doesn’t that mean we should trade either Larsson or Barrie?
Yeah, yeah “find good players; keep good players” but we live in a cap world and if you have 4 strong RHD then you should move one. I expect they’re going to have to make this decision sooner than later. I like the Barrie contract but man Mighty Bouch looks ready.

AvrySports: I think it absolutely can be in play; in his loan with Sodertalje of Sweden’s HockeyAllsvenskan league he’s put up 17 points in 23 games. He’s added to the defensive log jam at camp and I think the odds of Tippett and Holland slotting him in are high. The jumps he’s made on the backend as a 21 year old have been fun to see. Would he STAY in the lineup consistently? We’ll see.

Megan Fowler: Maybe? They probably shouldn’t other than in exceptional circumstances, because if someone gets hurt up front and you’ve got 7D in the lineup plus Mike Smith in the net, that’s a recipe for trouble.


Who’s going to be the 5th player on PP1?

Rex Libris: There’s an old joke that the best 6-on-4 (goalie pulled) forward group in NHL history was Gretzky-Kurri-pylon-pylon-pylon-pylon. That may apply (to a far lesser extent) here too as Tippett may rotate people into that spot based on performance or situation (net-front presence or right-shooting one-timer, etc).

Alex Thomas: To start it will be Alex Chiasson. That said, I think James Neal will get a look when healthy.

Steven Stauffer: Well they’re trying Lube-City* on there, and maybe Turris gets a shot if they want to see what more “skill” adds, but Chiasson and Neal are excellent at the very specific things Edmonton’s top unit PP asks of them. I bet they go back to what was historically successful.

AvrySports: I think that 5th guy on the PP will be one of the new guys in the form of Tyson Barrie. Historically he’s been someone you want on the PP, in his Colorado days in 17-18, 31 of his 57 points came on the man advantage. In 18-19 he once again put up over 20 points with the advantage. Last year in Toronto clearly didn’t show us his best but I feel he can recapture that ability playing a man or two up with McDavid, RNH and Connor.

Megan Fowler: Honestly, I haven’t paid enough attention to what’s been happening in training camp to even pretend that I can speak to this.


What are the chances Klefbom pulls an Andrew Luck and bails completely?

Rex Libris: It’s the Oilers. With this team’s history I wouldn’t rule out McDavid getting a staph infection from a hangnail, the NHL screwing with the playoff cutoff again and the Oilers winning the 1st overall pick again. So will Klefbom walk away? There’s a chance, but I think he might be interested in seeing where things go under Tippett and Holland after the Chiarelli catastrophe.

Alex Thomas: I think higher than anyone realizes. Listen to him speak. This is clearly impacting his everyday life. Losing him for good would suck for the Oilers, but I can’t blame Klefbom. I’d say there is a 40% chance he has played his last game in the NHL.

Steven Stauffer: I dunno. 7.

AvrySports: As much as we heard the talk of the idea of him retiring, I don’t think he’d actually do it. Personally I think he’ll come back and show in 2021-22 that he’s able to play at an NHL level again but do I see him staying long term in the NHL? Maybe he’s not that guy that stays in North America until 36-37 and heads back to Sweden a little sooner than that.

Megan Fowler: I don’t know if I would call “retiring for the sake of ones health and future” bailing, but based on his recent interview and given the fact that he hasn’t had his surgery yet and won’t be available for the season makes me think that there’s at least a 50% chance he never plays again. I can’t say I blame him, and while it would be a big blow to the Oilers defence corps, I can’t begrudge a guy who chooses his health over his career (if that’s what it comes to). 


Why don’t they paint Seasons Greetings on the ice anymore and how has it affected the Oilers chance at winning a Stanley Cup?

Rex Libris: *puts on best Cliff Clavin impression* Well, you see, it’s a well known fact that the most common form of colour blindness in males is in the red/green spectrum so the added grey area in the middle of the ice held a tactical advantage for Oilers players over those opponents with said visual situation.  

Alex Thomas: Wait, when the hell did they paint that on the ice?

Steven Stauffer: It’s your fault. The ways in which you have betrayed and disappointed your friends and family have led to someone in Oilers’ management losing their faith in Christmas, which removed the phrase from the ice, which cursed the team, which led us here. Don’t be sorry, be better.

AvrySports: Clearly modern hockey feels that it is above saying we like the holidays on the ice. It’s wild to see. There’s a clear connection though for the Oilers, once they get back to this tradition they’ll win Cups again. Polite paint on the ice was the key cog to the five Cups, Gretzky, Messier, Coffey and Co were the sidekicks to it. 

Megan Fowler: Well, this year it wouldn’t have made much sense to do it. But in a larger sense, I think it has a lot to do with the organization not wanting anyone to have any fun or joy in the building unless there’s money to be made, and painting Seasons Greetings on the ice is an expenditure rather than a source of revenue. As for Stanley Cup chances? It wasn’t really working with the phrase painted on the ice, so I’ll call it a wash.


Who is Tyson Barrie?

Rex Libris: An uncredited drummer for Spinal Tap.   Honestly though, my expectation is that Barrie will be the defender that a modest fan might’ve hoped Justin Schultz to develop into – a top-4 offensive defender who can skate, pass, play 5-on-4 and rove the ice a little without being a complete disaster in his own end.   If he can hold the beat on an ascending bass line or electric guitar solo though, all the better. 

Alex Thomas: A player Oiler fans are going to love and hate. Barrie, to me, is a perfect fit for this team. He’s fast. pushes the puck up ice, is a weapon in the offensive zone and a powerplay demon. He’s also someone that will give up chances and goals against. On a team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, however, Barrie should be more positive than negative. There will, of course, be a faction of Oiler fans that doesn’t like his game because he isn’t “gritty” enough and doesn’t bring enough sandpaper. He’s a strong modern defenseman and the best puck mover 97 and 29 have played with. 

Steven Stauffer: Man, isn’t that just it? Is he a weak and pathetic defender who needs to be sheltered and swaddled like a newborn babe, still suckling at the teat (when he’s not scoring on the powerplay), someone who is gonna need more protection than Chris D’elia chaperoning a high school dance? Or is he a second pairing guy, who might get exposed by top competition but can contribute at evens? I don’t have an answer, but I’ll say this: you can survive a weak first pairing if you’ve got two good duos behind them. For that to happen, we’ll need the optimists to be right about Ty.

AvrySports: Been told he’s a human, not Mike Tyson, not Tyson Jost, not Mr Vain(or Mr. Raider), but some type of human.

Megan Fowler: Tyson Barrie is, allegedly, an NHL player. But I think that he’s also secretly a forest bather, given that his engagement photos feature him barefoot in the forest near Tofino. While a bunch of people thought it was weird, I appreciated his commitment to connecting with the earth.


There you have it. Tyson Barrie may or may not be an NHLer, but he’s definitely a forest bather. (Look it up; it’s not actually as weird as it sounds.)


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