After a solid outing in which Evan Bouchard scored a goal in a victory over the Vancouver Canucks, defenseman Evan Bouchard will sit. He got one game, after months off the ice to come in and show he could play. He not only showed he could keep up, but played more than 20 minutes. Still, Thursday’s lineup notes suggest he’s out.
As per Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear will play the third pair. Both William Lagesson and Bouchard are out.
While a bit surprising, it shouldn’t come as a total shock. It’s not as though either Jones or Bear played poorly before being scratched. That decision was about keeping everyone on the Oilers roster fresh after the team clinched a playoff spot in the Scotia North Division. Bear and Jones deserve to come back in.
Where this gets a bit surprising is that the Oilers need to find out if Bouchard can repeat his performances on a nightly basis.
Bouchard vs. Barrie
The Oilers have an important decision to make this offseason. Is Evan Bouchard ready to assume the role that Tyson Barrie is currently filling? Barrie has been a godsend for the Oilers this season on a team-friendly deal. But, the expectation is that he’s using this season to slingshot himself into home run contract. The Oilers would probably like to keep Barrie, but only at the right price.
Part of what will help the Oilers determine if Barrie is expandable and would give them leverage in negotiations is knowing they have Bouchard ready, able and willing to assume a top-four role on the right side of the Oilers blue line. One of the only ways to find that out is to play Bouchard.
This is the time to be playing a young prospect who could be forced to take on bigger responsibility next year. If the Oilers plans are to slot him in, would it not be nice to know he can handle the assignment? Playing him when there’s nothing to lose seems like the right way to find out if he can replace Barrie, should Barrie ask for too much. If you don’t give Bouchard the limited number of games left in this regular season, Ken Holland doesn’t entirely know what he has.
Tippett Unlikely to Rest Regulars
A couple of questionable decisions by head coach Dave Tippett doesn’t take away from what has been an incredible season and a job well done from behind the bench. And, it has to be assumed GM Ken Holland isn’t stepping on toes when it comes to who plays.
One would only hope that the conversation has been had. At some point, Holland might want to say, ‘Hey Tips. Now that we’ve got a playoff spot locked up, do me a favor and see if Bouchard can continually handle the load of playing regularly. That would help me out for next year.’
The good news is, for Edmonton, this is a great problem to have. This only becomes a potential issue if Barrie asks for more than what the Oilers want to pay and they aren’t 100% sure Bouchard can step right in.
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