This is my first piece on the Oilers since the season began. A) that’ll change! B) it is really tough to write about a team who is middle of the pack! I mean, outside of drooling over Connor everyday (something I’m willing to do if you want to read about that), I’m happy to say that this team isn’t giving us much to discuss right now. What is there, the backup goaltender? I’ve seen guys not let this go, and while I’m with those guys in that the Gustavsson signing was awful, finding a backup goaltender is about as tough as finding a dude in a strip club. I could bitch about the Hall trade? Would that be the trade that made the New Jersey Devils 4 points WORSE than they were through 36 games last season? I would say people have been nitpicking considering how awful it’s been for the Oilers for such a long time.
So, I know this is weird for people, but seeing how we are now only 2 months away from the trade deadline, and the Oilers have a pretty nice cushion on a playoff spot, we have to actually start discussing what this team needs to add!
Before I get to that, maybe I’m bias, but I see this team as being pretty damn scary. Last night might have been the first sign of this team truly busting out. That was as invisible of a night as you’ll ever see Connor McDavid have, and yet the Oilers really controlled that game. Have yet to see any of the analytics from it, but from the eyeball test it felt like the Kings were lucky to be within a goal late in the game. I’m not a Jordan Eberle fan at all, but his shooting percentage won’t continue to be off the charts awful. Neither will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This team is good right now, and even without making moves they could make a jump in the next 2 months simply by more guys playing up to their potential.
But why depend on that?
I think we would all agree that there are 3 area’s where this team needs to upgrade: centre/right wing, right handed shot top 4 D-man, and backup netminder.
The first of those 3 I view as the most vital, and to me the better move is to get a centre. Most might say they need the right winger, and why would you need a centre when you have McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl and then have Letestu playing as good as he is? Well first of all, depth down the middle is never an issue. Injuries are a part of the game that a lot of fans love to overlook, but you have to be ready for them. As you all should know, you can put a centre on the wing, but you can’t put a winger in the middle. I personally want to see Todd McLellan have the luxury of putting Draisaitl wherever he needs to. So if you get a guy like say….Tyler Bozak….it would allow McLellan to do that. Bozak is the guy who really intrigues me. I don’t know how realistic it is with the Leafs playing well, but I have to think they’d be willing to move him. He isn’t a cheap cap hit at 4.2 mil for next season. But he is the ideal 3rd line centre for this hockey team. Right handed shot, great in the dot (57.2% on the season), has a lot speed, and quietly he’s actually having a nice season offensively with 20 points in 32 games.
To me he would be ideal, and there aren’t really any other possibilities right now. Martin Hanzal is about the only other obvious one, and I’m not a fan of someone possibly making this team slower as they already have shown they have more issues with faster teams. I’m sure more centres will become available, but as of December 30th, those look like the only 2 quality and realistic options for the Oilers at centre.
I didn’t really want to take too hard of a look at what Chiarelli might do on the right side, but one guy I think everyone should at least keep their eye on is….you think I’m going to say Iginla don’t you?! I did notice that very early on this season that Iginla will start to be discussed for this hockey club. It’s his hometown, there are a TON of connections in the organization to Jarome Iginla, the Oilers could use a right handed shot like his on the PP. But no, I wasn’t going to talk Iginla in this piece. Instead, I have another former Chiarelli pickup in mind. Brett Connolly.
And Brett Connolly has essentially been a bust in this league. But I look at what he brings to the table, and he can fire the puck, and he is a right handed shot, and he does have size, and he does skate pretty well. Connolly has only got into 20 games this season with the Caps, only 3 goals and 1 assist, so the chances of him working out are slim. But seeing how Chiarelli has acquired him before, and the fact that he checks off a lot of the boxes for what the Oilers need on the right side. For what he would cost, he might be worth the look (should he not end up on waivers…trust me, by no means am I saying he is a likely answer).
But we have the blueline, and things have changed a bit in the last few weeks. The big problem (and good problem) is that Matt Benning keeps taking some big steps. Last night might have been his best game thus far in the NHL. His confidence just keeps rising, much like we saw last season with Brandon Davidson. So while earlier in the season a guy like Michael Stone (impending UFA, likely to be one of the top defencemen available at this deadline) looked to be a great fit for the Oilers, now…would he be that much of an upgrade?
But this club does still really need some offensive punch from their blueline. The need hasn’t changed since the offseason. A right handed shooting D who can at least play on the top unit PP, if not run it. The Avs shit show of a season has possibly opened the door on Tyson Barrie yet again. But there are a lot of problem’s there. A) the Avs problems are largely on their blueline much like had been the case with the Oilers in the past, and B) he’s locked up for another 3 seasons. So I can’t see the Avs moving on from him, unless the package coming back is enormous. I could come up with 3 or 4 trade package ideas, but I try to avoid doing that these days.
Some fans will ask the question of should they or shouldn’t they go after Kevin Shattenkirk should the Blues move him before the deadline? I doubt they will, but if they did…no. For this season, making the playoffs is this teams Cup. For what Shattenkirk would cost and knowing he won’t re-sign in Edmonton, it’s just not worth it. Sucks, because he is the exact player the Oilers need on the blueline, but without re-signing here it would just be a total waste of assets.
Finally, the backup tendy. And again, I really don’t know what the thought process was behind signing Jonas Gustavsson. He’s a guy who has always had big time talent, but is extremely sloppy technically. Every once in a while a guy like Dominik Hasek or Tim Thomas comes along and thrives playing like that, in both cases not until they were well into their careers. But those guys are very much so the exception to the rule. But as I said off the top, this is not a difficult fix. Thomas Greiss is ideal. Keith Kinkaid is an impending UFA and just played out of his skull in Washington last night. It’s getting to the point in the season where they could fit Ondrej Pavelec under the cap. Those are 3 guys off the top of my head, all would be upgrades, none of them would cost a lot, those who have been freaking out about this need to chill. It is not a difficult fix.
But I get it. This organization isn’t giving you much to hate these days. Are they perfect? No. But are they night and day compared to the old regime? Absolutely. And they’re solid enough to get this organization to where they need to go. I’ve seen guys on Twitter start harping on the job Chiarelli did in Boston because Tim Thomas was so great, there for Chiarelli didn’t actually do a good job. Sure. If a GM isn’t good thanks to good goaltending, then I guess just about every GM is awful. Chiarelli took an organization that was in complete SHAMBLES in 2006, and made it a powerhouse. Top team in the East in 09, Cup in 2011, finals in 2013, President’s trophy in 2014, the guy deserves a little more trust than what a lot of Oilers fans seem to be giving the guy.
We should PROBABLY all enjoy this? The Oilers are 2nd in the Pacific, comfortably in a playoff spot, and it’s not October 30th, it’s December 30th.
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