Are Oilers Management Spaced Out?
Despite a burgeoning crop of young forwards, the Edmonton Oilers still find themselves at the foot of the Western Conference.
With a new Coach and high powered offence, this season was supposed to mark the Oilers first major steps towards relevance.
Except they forgot all about defence, again, and have given up a league worst 66 goals.
How do Edmonton address this situation? By trading a D man….
Oh – and signing Ilya Bryzgalov!
Perhaps I should not be so flippant about Bryzgalov. He is, after all, an experienced NHL goalie who has back stopped an ‘unfashionable’ team to (relative) success before. His stock fell (unfairly) quickly in Philadelphia, but he remains a legitimate NHL goaltender.
He is also one of the most outspoken characters in hockey.
The Russian’s views on Edmonton have previously revolved around comparisons to the North Pole, whilst his feelings on the universe and a series of strained relationships saw his time in Philadelphia sink to lower and lower depths, culminating in the Flyers buying him out this summer.
It’s a gamble for the Oilers to take on a player with so much ‘baggage’. But given their disastrous play in their own end, a gamble some feel they had to take. The goalie market is thin, and with Ryan Miller nixing any trade to Alberta via his no trade clause, Oilers GM Craig MacTavish had few options.
As I alluded to before, Bryzgalov was an integral part of a Phoenix side that performed well ahead of expectations. He’s played the starter role before, and some seem to forget he was the only thing between Philadelphia and complete humiliation on several occasions last season. He has the ability to be a starting goaltender in the NHL, a role Edmonton have struggled to fill for some time now.
Even Philadelphia’s defence is/was better than Edmonton’s dumpster fire however. And as Mike Smith has shown, Phoenix play the kind of system that supports its goaltender as much as the goaltender supports it.
Bryzgalov will find no such ‘team defence’ in Edmonton. At least not right now, while Dallas Eakins continues to try and get his troops in to shape.
The clubs defensive issues may have also been further compounded trying to clear space for Bryzgalov.
Trading Ladislav Smid to Calgary seems to have been more about salaries and cap hits than actual on ice issues. Smid hasn’t had the best run for Edmonton recently (who has?) but was at least a component NHL D man (in theory at least).
Even with financial benefits of removing his $3.5m cap hit, it’s hard to see how losing a D man from an already fragile defence helps give Bryzgalov the support he’s going to need to right this ship?
The reality is, very few netminder a would be able to thrive behind the Edmonton Oilers right now. Bryzgalov is undoubtedly an upgrade on Dubnyk or LaBarbera, but he still gets his feet wet in the bath.
Edmonton needs to stop hoping for a miracle and start backing up that high powered offence with a defence that can get the job done. For too long now the Oilers defence, and the clubs management of it, haven’t cut the mustard.