The trade market has been awfully, albeit also unsurprisingly, quiet since the season began, but we got a noteworthy one this week when the Montreal Canadiens acquired Ben Scrivens from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Zack Kassian.
This trade makes a lot of sense from Montreal's perspective, albeit for an unfortunate reason. We still don't know when Carey Price (lower body) will be able to return and the Canadiens have struggled mightily in his absence. As we talked about last week, Montreal's recent issues go deeper than its goaltending, but the Canadiens are certainly missing Price. Still, this is an opportunity for Scrivens, who was stuck in the minors prior to this trade. He's shown before that he's capable of thriving when provided with sufficient defensive support so moving away from the Edmonton Oilers' organization could be a turning point in his career.
Kassian is another player that could use a fresh start. He's a physical player and an agitator who might ideally provide some cover for the Oilers' fleet of skilled forwards. Beyond that, the former 13th overall pick might still have some untapped offensive upside at the age of 24. Off-ice issues have threatened to derail his career though and he just recently got out of the NHL's substance abuse program. With that done, he's been given a second chance and while he'll need to prove himself in the minors first, it wouldn't be surprising to see him playing for Edmonton in the near future.
Meanwhile, Edmonton is in the midst of another bad slump that's dropped them to 15-20-3 this season. It's not enough to sink their playoff aspirations as the Pacific Division remains a near graveyard beyond Los Angeles, but it's certainly a harsh dose of reality following their six-game winning streak from Dec. 2-14. Still, even if this season isn't the one where the Oilers put it all together, I can't help but feel optimism despite their long history of letting me down. Maybe I've developed a chronic problem when it comes to Edmonton, but amidst the hot-and-cold play is the rise of defenseman Darnell Nurse and forward Leon Draisaitl. It's definitely then watching Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, or Connor McDavid get thrown into the fire with mixed results. Draisaitl and Nurse we're first overall selections and were consequently given the opportunity to develop at a somewhat more conservative pace. Players like them could help round out the Oilers' large core of promising youngsters.
Speaking of that dreary Pacific Division, it's possible that it might not look quite so bad by the end of January. The Calgary Flames turned a corner this month with a 9-3-0 record, going into their final game of the year versus Los Angeles tonight. If the Flames can keep this up, then it might not be long before they not before they not only have the second seed in the division, but are running away with it. That wouldn't be such a shock either as the Flames were fairly well regarded going into this season, but limped out of the gate.
There's still a lot to like about them though as Johnny Gaudreau is having a great sophomore season with 17 goals and 39 points in 36 contests and their defense, which was a weakness despite the star power it contained, has seemed to come around as well. Mark Giordano in particular has gone from recording eight points and a minus-15 rating in 24 games over October and November to posting 11 points and a plus-four rating in 12 December contests.
Giordano's 19 points this season still isn't enough to even put him in the top-20 in the defensemen scoring race though. There's been some great blueliners from an offensive perspective so far this season. In 2014-15 we had 11 defensemen reach or cross the 50-point threshold, but we might actually top that this time around. We also had three defensemen record at least 60 points last season with Erik Karlsson leading the charge with 66. By contrast, six blueliners are on pace to reach that 60-point mark in 2015-16 (Roman Josi, John Carlson, Erik Karlsson, John Klingberg, Brent Burns, Justin Faulk) while Karlsson would lead the pack with 19 goals and 88 points in 82 contests if he maintains his current pace. Now of course there's still a lot of time for that to change and injuries or a prolonged slump could throw a wrench into any one of those player's campaign. Even still, this has been a great season for offensive defensemen thus far.