We’ve all read countless blogs and articles by journalists, bloggers, or fans alike detailing how to build a competitive and hopefully successful hockey team. The common theme amongst them is that you build down the middle, goalie-defence-center. Wingers are complimentary in most cases and they no matter how skilled they are, they rarely bring championships to teams alone. I think every team in the NHL would love to have drafted Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash, Alexander Ovechkin, or Taylor Hall but to build a team around them? Maybe no. Only Ovechkin’s Capitals and 11 years after being drafted no less, are coming to fruition. Kovalchuk, Gaborik, and Nash all seen post-season success with different teams and Taylor Hall has yet to get a sniff of the playoffs. Pat Kane seems to be the only winger that has seen consistent success but I imagine we could argue if that Chicago team was built around him or Toews, I’d say both but that’s just me.
This brings us to the Oilers who have built this team bass ackwards and if we just look briefly at their first rounders from the last say 10 years we’ll see the following:
2006 – No first round pick (Jeff Petry was first selection in 2nd round)
2007 – Sam Gagner (C), Alex Plante (D), Riley Nash (C)
2008 – Jordan Eberle (R)
2009 – Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (L)
2010 – Taylor Hall (L)
2011 – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C), Oscar Klefbom (D)
2012 – Nail Yakupov (R)
2013 – Darnell Nurse (D)
2014 – Leon Draisaitl (C)
2015 – Connor McDavid (C)
I suggest you go over to Lowetide’s page and sift through the plethora of articles on the Oilers’ past drafts. Mr.Mitchell has some of the best analysis an armchair GM could ever want with regards to the Oilers.
But if we’re to Coles Notes this mutha I’d say the Oilers slipped on a few banana peels from 2006-2010. One could argue that the Oilers could’ve taken defenseman John Carlson instead of Jordan Eberle in 2008, Ryan Ellis instead of Paajarvi in 2009, they could’ve taken a center in Tyler Seguin instead of Hall in 2010. Maybe the team could’ve found a way to select teenage captain Gabriel Landeskog in 2011 and highly-regarded blueliner Ryan Murray in 2012. It’s all conjecture though at this point isn’t it? But one fact being, if they didn’t make the picks they did, McDavid would be elsewhere.
I’ve said all along that I could see a day when the Edmonton Oilers are a team without Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. what seemed like a blessing at the time getting all those 1st overalls may have actually been a curse (except for 2015 of course). But never has an NHL team in my era won on skill alone AND built from the wings in.
I reckon starting with Darnell Nurse, the team has started on the right path. Oscar Klefbom was another great pick, I think that the jury is out on Sam Bennett vs. Leon Draisaitl. I would’ve been happy with either to be honest. I love that we have that big puck possessing center in Leon but I do enjoy Bennett’s game too. And Nobody was going to go wrong with McDavid.
One side note, in the last two drafts (2014 and 2015) the Oilers moved their all of their 2nd and 3rd round picks. They did so in trades which is fine because now we have Cam Talbot and Griffin Reinhart but it sure does leave the cupboard drafty. I put big value in the first three rounds of the draft and prefer my teams to keep those picks unless they’re moving up (see last year’s draft for Toronto) or acquiring bona fide NHL players.
If you were to ask Oilers fans which players are the core of this team last year they’d most likely have said Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Oscar Klefbom. The year before that they might’ve said Hall, RNH, Eberle, and Yak. I remember the PRV, Gagner, Eberle, Hall core at one point and If you asked those same fans today they’d probably tell us Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom, and Darnell Nurse.
Peter Chiarelli has had three-quarters of a season to look at this team and evaluate it. He’s built a competitive team before with Boston, a Stanley Cup winning team and when I look at those Bruins teams that went to the finals I see something that is VERY different from what the Oilers have today.
What did I see with those Chiarelli ran Boston teams? I seen commitment from the players not only to the game but to each other. I seen sacrifice and a willingness to compete for each other. A team that was dedicated to both ends of the ice. I seen a team that had swagger, a collective ego, no individuals on that team survived, be it big names like Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel, or Doug Hamilton.
The Edmonton Oilers in 2016 are not bereft of these qualities but they certainly do not bring them to work on a daily basis. I fear for the future of some of these young stars that make their living playing for the Oilers today. I’ve heard that some of the players that were once untouchable aren’t so anymore and that is sad because if they are indeed moved, then the team has more or less wasted a lot of time and money on their development for another team to enjoy.
I think you have to ask yourself when was the last time we seen an Oilers team that stuck up for themselves and each other. The Florida game where Hall was knocked on his ass and Hendricks decapitated Ekblad? How about instead of one game, think back to an entire season when they did it. When’s the last time the Oilers’ opponents didn’t look at the team as the easiest team to play in the league? When’s the last time you watched the Oilers lose a game and were happy because at least they took a pound of flesh from the other team? Do you remember the last time the fans at Rexall gave the Oilers penalty kill a standing ovation? Or just a standing ovation for their play on the ice for that matter?
Not all is lost for Oilers fans if the team decides to move on from Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, RNH, and/or Yak. This team is going to be built right under the guidance of Chiarelli and McLellan. The team is being constructed through the middle, as it should be, and I reckon there’s a new core…
- Connor McDavid (C) – No surprise here. The young superstar will be the face of the franchise moving forward. Hell! The face of hockey for the next 15 years!
- Leon Draisaitl (C) – This German Tank has absolutely blitzkrieged the NHL this year. Just recently has it looked like he’s hit a wall. No doubt about it, he’s got the size and skill to become one of the best players in the NHL.
- Oscar Klefbom (D) – We haven’t seen the Swede much this year but of what we have seen, he’s shown us he’s the best defender we’ve got. A large puck moving, intelligent defender who can break up the cycle. The way I see Klefbom is that he brings a slightly less aggressive style to the rink than Brent Seabrook but is comparable to the ‘Hawks defender in every other way.
- Darnell Nurse (D) – Mean MFer who can skate like the wind and has some offense. A lot of people have likened him to Chris Pronger but I wonder if he’s more along the lines of a better skating Jason Smith or Sheldon Souray. The blue-collar worker in Edmonton will surely respect Nurse’s game.
- Andrej Sekera (D) – He’s signed for 6 years so he’s in it for the long haul and after a tough first month we’re seeing what ‘Rej brings to the table. He’s a calming influence on the blue and he’s the most offensive defenseman the team has. I have to wonder if he’ll be what Sergei Gonchar was to the Penguins in the mid 2000s.
- Brandon Davidson (D) – Who was the defender on the ice in the dying minutes versus the Devils? Not Sekera or Nurse. Davidson was. This fella has been in the making for 3 years and is looking as studly as ever on the back-end. He’s getting big minutes and I can’t remember one game this season where we’ve shat all over his game. He’s been performing well consistently and the coaching staff are rewarding him for it. Can’t wait to see him signed this off-season.
I think you could argue Cam Talbot should be there but rarely do we see a goalie included in these “core” conversations.
No Hall. No Nuge. No Eberle. No Yak. No Surprises.
Don’t be shocked to wake up one day to the news that any or all of these four guys have been traded. Just embrace the change because it’s a sign that the new brass cares for this team. This is Peter Chiarelli’s team now, he puts major value on team toughness, as do I, and it’s a safe call that he probably isn’t seeing that with this squad in 2015/16. Most importantly, none of these boys are his.
So be prepared with ticker tape and champagne or pitchforks and torches because change is coming.