Well, it is what it is, against horrible defensive teams we’re fine, but if we’re against a team who has defense, our lack of defense shows up.
Our forward corps isn’t bad, but it lacks a few elements.
First, I’d try a Hall-Draisatl-Kassian first line, Purcell’s a skilled defensive veteran, but they need a net-crasher with physical play up there.
Second, Pouliot-McDavid-Eberle have a whopping 4 games together to build chemistry, let’s just give them time.
Third, I’d consider giving Korpikoski-Letestu-Pakarinen the third line spot at this point, the two Finns are playing well together.
Fourth, with Lander-Hendricks-Khaira, that would be a physical fourth line with a ton of faceoff ability and defensive skill. Minimal scoring, but hey.
Fifth, Yakupov really has no place in this lineup right now sadly, he doesn’t fit the needs on the top two lines better than other options, and he’s not a good Bottom-6 piece. The same would apply to using RNH as a Bottom-6 center, and, again, he’s not the right fit in the Top-6, which needs more aggression. And Purcell has value right now, time to make a deal.
However, if you have to keep a piece, you keep RNH, although he’s not a fit in the Top-6 (other than injuries), he IS an upgrade at 3C, if far too expensive in the spot. Korpikoski-RNH-Pakarinen would be an interesting 3rd line, and then Lander-Letestu-Hendricks would be a very skilled defensive 4th line (if lacking in point potential).
So, that leaves Yak, RNH and Purcell as pieces to deal to fix the D, with RNH the one you try to keep.
On the back-end, Klefbom, Sekera, Davidson and Nurse look like keepers. Gryba’s done well, but he’s worth dealing when he’s got good value. Fayne is a bad fit, Schultz needs a change of scenery, it is what it is. And Clendening looked ok in limited time, worth giving him that 3rd pairing.
So, if you put the pieces together we have:
Klefbom-xxx Sekera-Davidson Nurse-Clendening
We end up with Fayne, Schultz, Gryba, Purcell, Yakupov, Reinhart, and as a last resort RNH as the pieces we can deal to fix that top-pairing RHD spot.
Now, odds are no one gets picked up this season, going into next season, depending on who signs where, odds are Hamonic, Shattenkirk and Vatanen will be the options if any for now. Hamonic requires a quality RHD in a deal, or a good D-man and a RW, but the only way the Oilers get that deal done is a Schultz+Yakupov+1st round pick for Hamonic and a salary like Clutterbuck coming back, and I’d venture Schultz has played his way out of this being a realistic deal, nor that Chiarelli wants to give up that pick.
Shattenkirk, odds are they either go for Drouin or wait until the off-season.
So, that leaves us with Anaheim and Vatanen. Now, Anaheim’s a team desperate for scoring and they’ve shown they’re willing to take chances. If the Oilers were to offer Yakupov, Purcell (50% retained), and Gryba (50% retained), it’s possible Anaheim listens, especially if the Oilers will take back a more expensive forward, such as Chris Stewart. It might be that the Oilers need to throw in a 2nd round pick to get it done, but that’s the most likely option. It helps that Yakupov is a cheap contract at $2.5mil and Anaheim’s not a cap team, so that adds to his value, and since Vatanen’s on their 3rd pairing right now, a guy like Gryba (who’ll be a cheap re-signing) who plays with the classic Anaheim physical style, it might just be enough to play “Let’s make a deal”.
I can understand doubting it, but here’s how Anaheim looks after the deal.
Perron-Getlaf-Perry (Was Perron-Getzlaf-Stewart)
Purcell-Kesler-Yakupov (Was Maroon-Rakell-Perry)
Silfverberg – Rakell – Stewart (Was Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg)
Maroon-Cogliano-Santorelli, with Garbutt as 13th forward. (Was Garbutt-Thompson-Santorelli)
On the back-end, they have:
Despres-Gryba (Was Despres-Vatanen)
Overall, the scoring potential and depth at forward looks far stronger now, and with Purcell and Kesler, Yakupov won’t need to do anything defensive other than hammer the puck on the net to earn his pay cheque.
Now, for the Oilers, if you plug Vatanen into that D corps alongside Klefbom, suddenly it looks acceptable. Sure, it’s not ideal having Davidson play on his off-side, but the idea of Klefbom-Vatanen, Sekera-Davidson, Nurse-Clendening is a lot more respectable and has significantly higher puck moving abilities than before, which is what a fast-moving team like the Oilers needs to execute a breakout. Plus, the powerplay now has Klefbom-Vatanen as PP1, with Sekera-Clendening as PP2. That starts to look far more dangerous.
Now, this isn’t to say that it’s not worth pursuing a Shattenkirk or a Hamonic for the top pairing by any means, and it’s possible RNH is required at that point to obtain one, but both will likely be off-season deals, at which point Chiarelli has Fayne, Schultz, RNH and probably a guy like Davidson to use in order to obtain one.
As an additional point, Talbot’s numbers (regardless of the bad stretch) are consistent with a starting NHL goalie, if not a star goalie. Nilsson, on the other hand, has reverted to his previous NHL/AHL levels, but was a worthwhile experiment. However, there’s no real need to obtain some elite goalie. It may be that Brossoit is ready for next season, and if not, a veteran backup can be obtained in free agency. If you look at LA, NYI, PHI, they all obtained a standard backup in free agency who have been more than effective in their roles (Neuvirth, Greiss and Enroth), so this isn’t an area worth expending too much effort in and can be addressed easily enough. (Ramo, Khudobin, Stalock, Johnson, Enroth, Montoya, Raanta are all pending UFAs who would be solid backup options for next season if LB requires more seasoning).