Pump the Brakes

The Edmonton Oilers’ season is coming to a close and for the tenth season in a row we’re on the outside of the playoffs looking in. We’re studying up on the draft prospects like it’s the map to the g-spot and we’re talking about blowing this team up once and for all now that McDavid, Maroon, Reinhart, Talbot, and Oesterle are playing above average hockey down the stretch. I’ve been thinking about this for some time now and maybe the best course of action for Peter Chiarelli is to do as little as possible…

*Please forgive me if this post is a little discombobulated. I’ve had a quite a bit on the headbone recently and if it all doesn’t come off as smooth as expected, my apologies. Also, I wrote this before the Yakupov trade request news broke… So please take that into consideration when reading. – BLH*

Hendy's balls got rung vs. Dallas
Hendy’s balls got rung vs. Dallas

It’s no secret that this team’s performance has been heavily affected by the injuries to key personnel throughout the year.

  • Oscar Klefbom – 47 games lost and counting
  • Connor McDavid – 37 games lost
  • The Nuge – 25 games lost and counting
  • Benoit Pouliot – 22 games lost and counting
  • Eric Gryba – 20 games lost and counting
  • Nail Yakupov – 22 games lost
  • Jordan Eberle – 13 games lost
  • Brandon Davidson – 15 games lost and counting
  • Justin Schultz – 15 games (Not that we really missed him but…)

And so on. It’s a tad ridiculous right?

At least we’re not the Habs I say. Their whole relevance to the league at the moment is tied to Carey Price and old stories of Marc Bergevin’s locker room pranks.

NO team could survive losing it’s no.1 dman, it’s no.1 and no.2 centre, it’s no.1 and (arguably) no.2 right-wings and live to tell about it. Hence why the Oilers are sitting on prime Matthews real estate. With only four games remaining there’s a very solid chance the Oilers aren’t going to climb out of the bottom three even if they do win all four (which are vs. Anaheim, Vancouver x2, and Calgary). Toronto has 4 games in hand as does Vancouver. Calgary, Columbus, and Winnipeg all with three in hand.

The race to Matthews is going to be something.

Get the new #ASKBLH tee right now!!
Get the new #ASKBLH tee right now!!

So with that I say that Peter Chiarelli should wait until the draft and if a deal isn’t presented that knocks his socks off, head back to Edmonton with a sweet new elite forward or young franchise dman in tow. We don’t know what this team can do, we don’t. And that’s because we haven’t been able to see it as a whole.

Eberle and Maroon are flanking McDavid like champs right now and I know what you’ll say, “But anybody could do that!” and that may be true but anybody isn’t doing it. Big Rig and Ebs are and they’re doing it consistently. They’re winning the possession battles versus the best teams in the league and that is not something we’re entirely used to is it?

Hall, Draisaitl, and Yak are looking like something as well but can’t seem to get on the scoreboard on a regular basis. I love how Yakupov is providing that sandpaper and fiery forecheck for Hall and Leon is taking a couple of pages out of the Jaromir Jagr handbook of puck protection. When will Hall start to contribute?

So the top 6 is fine more or less. As much as I’d love to see a big shakeup, I don’t think they need it. It’s a good problem to have when you can send two lines over the boards and give the other team’s coach fits with his line match-ups.

The bottom six is where the team looks to be needing a tinker.

I liked the Kassian/Hendricks/Cracknell line vs. the Kings. It was a throwback to the energy lines that used to dominate the late 90’s. I doubt it’s effective possession-wise but as far as giving a team with young defensemen trouble or giving the team a little bit of an energy boost. I dig it.

Letestu/Pakarinen/Korpikoski looks to be a line that is lost. If I were to turf any of the lines it might be this one. Letestu provides a useful right-handed shot for special teams and late game surges. But Iiro and Lauri I’m failing to see where they provide quality to the lineup.

One player I haven’t spoken of yet much is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and you have to really be concerned about his future in Edmonton. Being left off of Team North America didn’t do this situation any good either. He’s had a tough year but it’s so hard to fault young players as they tend to have these sorts of years earlier in their careers and more often.

Click the pic and get your Better Call Hall shirt!!
Click the pic and get your Better Call Hall shirt!!

I was thinking though, what if he (RNH) was part of a package going to the Blues for Kevin Shattenkirk and the rights to Vladimir Sobotka? Yes, Nuge has some term left on his deal but the Blues are going to need more depth down the middle and Sobotka is a whiz on the faceoff dot. Not only that, the Czech is hella gritty for his size and Chia is familiar with him from his time in Boston. So the Oilers wouldn’t be without a 3C going into 2016 unless Sobotka chose to waive his right to buy-out his KHL contract this month because that is what this whole idea is hinging on. He owes the Blues one more year of service after skipping out on them and I can’t imagine St.Louis being all to happy about that.

You don’t want to thin out that centre group at all, the spine of a team is the most important thing of all but if you can hit two birds with one stone, why not either? Add a sweetener like Oesterle, Davidson, or Musil if the Blues would send a conditional first round draft pick that was dependent on Sobotka and/or Shattenkirk re-signing.

The defense is a wonder. With Reinhart and Oesterle playing so well and along with the emergence of Brandon Davidson, what do the Oilers do? Can those players re-create this level of contribution next season? I mean the Oilers would be stacked with stupendously valued contracts if just those three players picked it up. We haven’t even seen the Bakersfield Condors best defenceman yet. David Musil has been stuck on the AHL team all year even though he’s been given rave reviews from his coach on multiple occasions.

IF Chia sat and didn’t move anybody on the back end, this is what the D would look like (potentially):

Klefbom – Davidson
Sekera – Fayne
Reinhart – Oesterle

Scary. The hardest part about looking at those players is knowing that the ones we like the most (Davidson, Klefbom, Nurse) might be the ones that have to be moved.

Nurse is getting buried on nearly a nightly basis and should be in the AHL but won’t see a lick of action for the Condors going forward so we won’t see what he can be for another two or possibly three seasons. Had he been given at least one year (this year preferably), I think next year he would be an impact player for the Oilers.

If I had to choose which of the three to move, Davidson would be the guy. He is very much in the mold of Travis Hamonic, so maybe a deal is struck there. But then again Klefbom can’t stay healthy. It’s a really tough call and we’ll have to keep an eye on both Davidson and Klefbom this summer with regards to what kind of shape they’re in when training camp opens. IF they’re with the team that is.

In a cap world and with an expansion draft coming, should the Oilers be loading up on veterans or holding off until after an expansion draft and then going hard after some major targets?

Maybe the Oilers only make two moves this summer plus add a kid from the draft. Maybe the team waits 10 games into the 2016/17 season and barring any ridiculous injuries, makes some decisions about the roster then.

Would you rather see what this team can do as a whole before making sweeping changes or should Chiarelli roll up his sleeves and get to work? Let me know in the comments below!

Beer League Hero Written by:

I’m the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I’ve been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I’ll never leave my Oilers, no matter what!

They’re with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!