In Season Changes Pointless For Oilers
As is tradition, the Edmonton Oilers are in a hole.
5 points adrift at the bottom of the West; only Buffalo separates them from 30th place, as the Edmonton faithful endure a second multi game losing streak of a season that is just 21 games old.
Talk of ‘making tough decisions’, ‘over hauling the roster’ and ‘shaking things up’ have all come from the clubs management over the past 12 months – but thus far the only serious change involved trading Sam Gagner for Teddy Purcell and signing UFA Benoit Pouliot.
Now seemingly desperate to salvage another ailing season, GM Craig MacTavish is reportedly shopping winger Dave Perron in a bid to secure a top tier centre.
But with two elite centres available at the draft, you have to ask the question – why?
As painful as it may be for Oilers fans, if the club is set on shopping tangible assets like Perron – or someone like Nail Yakupov or Jordan Eberle – waiting may be the best option if the club really wants to turn its fortunes around.
It’s not hard to understand the frustration Oilers fans are feeling. The organisation has had numerous high draft picks and assembled an offence which, for the most part, is competitive as a result.
It may not be perfect, but Hall et al can at least find the net.
The defence on the other hand remains a colossal tyre fire – with both the blue line and goaltending proving problematic yet again this year.
So far this seasons, Edmonton has shipped a league high 71 goals – with Saturday’s 7-1 thumping at the hands of Chicago the clubs fourth straight defeat.
This is a team who are horrible in their own end season after season, with little to nothing changing from one year to the next, and fan anger is seemingly at an all time high, with things getting ‘ugly’ as the Oilers made their way back to the dressing room following Saturday’s loss:
But when your defence is as bad as the Oilers, what kind of results do you expect?
There were attempts to improve things over the summer, but UFA signing Nikita Nikitin was a healthy scratch just 19 games in to his 2-year, $9m deal, while Andrew Ference, Jeff Petry and Mark Fayne look more like depth defencemen suited to third pair roles rather than being the dependable, 20 minute per night players Edmonton really, really needs them to be.
Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom are solid prospects, but in no way ready to be dropped in to the current mess the Oilers find themselves in, leaving only Justin Schultz as a viable top 4 D man for the organisation.
The clubs decision to go with two netminders who had a combined 109 games prior to this season has also come under increasingly sharp scrutiny as the losses pile up. As likeable as Scrivens and Fasth may be, save percentages south of .900 simply don’t cut it.
For some unknown reason the Oilers brass chose to pass on Josh Harding and have put Perron on the block not to secure a serviceable, veteran netminder, or a legitimate top 4 D man, but a centre…
Perhaps it is the notion that you need to be strong down the middle to compete in the West that makes Perron deemed expendable.
With 2-1 year old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and 18-year old Leon Draisaitl there are reasons to be positive moving forward, but Mark Arcobello is hardly a veteran head from which the two youngster can learn and the feeling is Draisaitl, like Nugent-Hopkins before him, has been thrust in to a role he’s not ready for.
In this regard, you can understand MacTavish’s desire to add a proven top 6 centre.
But the elephant in the room remains the defence – and unless MacTavish lands someone he simple has no hope of landing (like Patrice Bergeron or Jonathan Toews) then no amount improvement down the middle is going to resurrect the clubs campaign – because they still won’t be able to keep the puck out of their own net.
So, as crazy as it might sound, why not stay the course? Embrace the awful and, yes, get another top pick.
It’s a deep draft, and grabbing Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel would add a player superior to any other they’ve drafted thus far – and even if they miss out on the big two; adding Dylan Strome, Mathew Barzal or Noah Hanifin wouldn’t exactly be a problem.
Waiting until the summer also present one other, far more important, opportunity to McTavish – a much stronger trade market.
General Managers have far greater freedom when it comes to massaging their cap over the summer, and offering up Yakupov, Eberle or Perron to a marketplace afforded such luxuries is far more likely to garner the defensive quality this organisation so sorely needs to bring in.
The Islanders added Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk for spare parts – that has to burn on Oilers fans a little (as does Jonas Hiller signing with rivals Calgary), but also provide hope. Opportunities to add proven players do present themselves, especially if Edmonton is finally willing to part with one of it’s ‘core’ players.
But right now, those opportunities to bolster the blue line simply aren’t there, and everyone knows it – so why pull the trigger on a deal that won’t really fix anything?
Stock up on Xanax Oilers fans, it’s going to be a long season – but for once, waiting that little bit longer might actually be worth it.
Because any move made *right now* would be akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.