Darkest Before Dawn
I used to call these “Deep Ice Horizon”, but I don’t think anyone ever got that. DeepWATER Horizon was the name of the offshore drilling rig which caused the BP oil spill in 2010. Oil. Disaster. Frozen water is known as ice. The OILers play on ice. It was brilliant. Well, perhaps brilliant is too strong of a word. Definitely amazing though. OBVIOUSLY.
A warning. I REALLY tried to make this one short, but I failed. You likely know me, and if you do then you know I never shut up. I can never get my point across in a few sentences. I don’t know why that is, but I can’t. Especially when it comes to the Oilers.
Things are shitty…YET. AGAIN. If you’re an Oiler fan, you’re asking yourself today if things are ever going to change. There have been so many times when it looked as though FINALLY there was a light at the end of the tunnel, only for things to go astray.
Before I go into what is to come, can I ask a favour of the media? Because there was a lot of Oiler talk today and it made me think of something. Could the media PLEASE not be so freaking stupid? Now the big cry is “we can’t let them get ANOTHER 1st overall pick, it can’t be allowed!!!” Please don’t talk if you’re saying that. You look like a dip shit. Save yourself the embarrassment.
First of all, the rules have changed…so pay attention, don’t be a schmuck. The Oilers can finish 30th this season and end up picking as low as 4th. They only finished 30th twice, and neither time did they tank. The lottery rules have been drastically altered in the last 2 years, and it is insane luck that they won it last season. If they won again this year, even from the 30th spot, it would be even more insane luck. And it isn’t as if they’re trying to pull a tank like the Sabres and Coyotes did last year, or the Leafs are trying to pull this season (and for the billionth time, players don’t tank, but management does).
As insanely pathetic as it is, they’ve been trying to ice a winning club I would say since 2012. I won’t give them 2011 because that season was all about just having a good room after the disaster 09 and 2010 were. Don’t think they were looking to tank, but weren’t looking to ice a playoff team. Point is they’ve been horribly run, but they haven’t been tanking at any point.
But what really is ridiculous about people ACTUALLY worrying about them getting the top pick again is…why? Has it made them great? No, in fact in a few cases (namely 2012) having the top pick hurt the organization, it didn’t help. It is nearly impossible to make a trade in the NHL now, and when you pick 1st overall there is a ridiculous amount of pressure to take the top guy and that top guy in 2010, 11, 12 and 15 was never a D-man. Hell, twice it was a winger. If they had such amazing luck, then 2010, 11 and 12 would have had Doughty, Hedman and MacKinnon as the top picks.
Be honest about it. You don’t want the Oilers to get the top pick again because either A) you have a routing interest and want “your team” to win it, or B) you’re worried that the Oilers will amass so many high end assets that they’ll essentially get to a point where they can get just about any player in the league they want if they choose to do so. You shouldn’t have that concern, but some people tend to overrate that top pick.
The truth about the top pick that never gets talked about is that it isn’t nearly the same every year. 2011, the top end of the draft was average compared to some years. Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t taken that next step to become elite, but none of those kids have. Landeskog, Huberdeau, Larsson, Strome, Zibanejad, Scheifele, Couturier, Hamilton, Brodin…I just listed off the top 10 picks, none of them are elite players. 2012, Murray, Galchenyuk, Reinhart, Rielly, Lindholm, Dumba, Pouliot, Trouba, Koekkoek. Some decent players in that list, better players than Yakupov, 3 D-men that I see who COULD be elite, but nobody who would make the Oilers much better right now then they are.
The Florida Panthers spun their wheels for a LONG time. Only now are they starting to come out of it, and it’s because the right players have come along in the draft. Funny how nobody talks about the Panthers rushing their kids into their lineup. Funny how the Oilers had Horcoff, Smyth, Hemsky, Tom Gilbert/Nick Schultz, Khabibulin, Ryan Whitney, Eric Belanger all on the roster in 2012 and 13…all those vets, yet the reason the Panthers are so good is because “they brought in vets and the Oilers never do”. The Panthers have finally worked because the right guys came along and the pieces fit. Quit trying to make it out to be something it’s not.
Then you have the narrative that the Oilers should trade their kids. Well…yes, they absolutely should. But what is coming back? Yesterday on Hockey Central at Noon Doug McLean talked about how the Bruins should go get Eberle. OK…and what are the Oilers getting? Never did say. It’s weird, because I was of the understanding that the Oilers would need to get something to trade a player of value, but apparently not. And it’s not just Doug McLean, I’ve harped on this for a few years now how it’s nice the Eastern media thinks they have it figured out and the Oilers and their fans don’t that the Oilers should just “trade the kids”. No no, everyone gets that. But everyone gets that if they are doing that, then they need to get pieces that will improve the team in weak areas. And you never get that answer except for the one time Darren Dreger answered it by suggesting they move Klefbom for Hamonic, so in other words they make their blueline slightly better for now. By the way, the Oilers have gone into the FREAKING TANK since Kelfbom went out, so do you now see what the Oilers see in Klefbom Dregs?
Add to this last one, all the media outside of Northern Alberta ever wants to tell us is how Edmonton is a dump and nobody wants to go there. Ok..3/4 of good-great players in the league have a NTC. So they’re supposed to bring in good UFA’s and trade for good players…yet nobody wants to play there and players can veto trades to Edmonton. I’m sure this is just me making excuses for them though because there are no such things as reasons in life, just excuses. Don’t get me wrong, that’s far from the only reason they are where they are, but until Connor McDavid, one of the most respected executives in hockey, proven GM and coach, and a new arena showed up why would anyone worth getting want to come? It’s definitely handcuffed them.
Which leads me into the injury issues this season. Is it an excuse to be 30th? Hell no. Is it why they aren’t in the playoff hunt? Probably, yeah. Their top D-man and 2nd best centre are gone. They have been AT LEAST a month this season without Eberle, McDavid, Klefbom and Nugent-Hopkins. No other team in the league has had that many key guys out for that length of time. “Excuses”. No, it’s a reason. Not for the last 6 years, but for this one season it has been the reason. The Habs REASON they’ve fallen out of it is because of the Carey Price injury. The Oilers main REASON they’re in 30th and not at least a little better is because of key injuries.
Here I said I wasn’t going to be long and I’m 1000 words in, still haven’t got to the main point. I’m not good at this…
That’s enough of my verbal beat down of how ridiculous the media can be in these siutations. Here is what it comes down to now for Peter Chiarelli and what it should for Oiler fans. This is the situation now, deal with it. They’re going to pick top 5 or 6, and the “old core” has to go. That is VERY clear now so you might as well get used to it. But the situation is actually great, it is just gone worse than expected THIS season.
First and foremost, the “old core”. Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov and Schultz. I’ll be shocked if 4 of those 5, if not all 5 aren’t gone by September. You have to make this Connor McDavid’s team. He will get the captaincy next season and that new core will consist of him, Nurse, Klefbom, and Draisaitl. I think the guys from the “old core” don’t really know how to deal with that and I believe one of the big problems in the room right now is that the “new core” is far better than the “old core” but the “old core” won’t follow. So they need to go, but as I just said you can’t move those pieces just to simply move them, you have to move them for the right return.
Let’s start with Schultz and Yakupov and this is pretty easy…just get them off the roster. Schultz without a doubt is gone, he isn’t being qualified if they don’t deal him by Monday. So that nightmare is over and he hurts the team more than he helps them. I believe he is a big part of the losing culture in Edmonton. Yakupov I don’t believe is, but he simply can’t play. He can score the odd goal, but his hockey sense is so non exsistent it’s not even funny. Intelligence is a skill, and I wonder when scouts will notice that, because everyone thought Yakupov was a slam dunk number 1 pick in 2012. Ironically the Oilers scouts didn’t but Katz or Lowe…depending who you talk to…demanded Yakupov be the pick. He won’t get much in a deal, but he needs to go. Both guys do nothing but hurt the team being in the lineup every night. Neither guy can be trusted and both are offensive guys who provide zero offence.
Then we have the big dogs. My target for Hall MIGHT be Montreal. We know they have a big problem in their room right now, and it seems to be 2 sides: Pacioretty and Subban. If I’m Peter Chiarelli, and the Habs don’t want to move Subban…what about Pacioretty? 3 years left, only a 4.5 million cap hit. The Oilers LIKELY lose that trade. But it gives the Oilers the type of guy they’re desperate for up front and in the room, and a guy who would fit better with Connor McDavid. If they could get a little something extra from Montreal in the deal, cool. But that would be something I would explore.
Jordan Eberle is being showcased for the Islanders in my opinion. The Islanders need to find a winger for John Tavares, although that is a need that gets overrated by fans and media. However, it’s still a need. Would Eberle fetch Hamonic? I don’t think so. But would the Oilers eating a million dollars of Eberle’s deal fetch Hamonic? That might work. Hamonic is still well worth a 4.7 mil cap hit. And if that still doesn’t do it, perhaps a 3rd team would need to get involved. But I do think Eberle is close to a good return for Hamonic. As much as I don’t like Eberle’s game, every team needs a guy like him. Perhaps Griffin Reinhart can be used. Obviously he wouldn’t go back to the Islanders, but could he be shipped elsewhere for a D-man more to their liking?
So just in those last 2 moves, that seem reasonable to me, the Oilers have gotten tougher and better in their own zone, and also freed up even more cap space. And that’s the other end to this is that with the cap going down possibly as much as 4 mil next season, the Oilers being a team that has a lot of cap space and the coin to use it. Add to this, as of February 24th this free agent class for once is looking elite.
The 1 guy left out of that big 5 group is Nugent-Hopkins. Do you trade him or keep him? He’s the one kid who I believe has all the intangibles you want to go with a high skill level, and he doesn’t come off as needing to be the alpha dog like maybe Hall does. But he’s limited as a player, and he’s expendable with McDavid and Draisaitl down the middle. I would want 2 things if Nugent-Hopkins is going. I would want a young, franchise type D-man like a Jacob Trouba coming back, AND I would need to have a 2nd/3rd line centre coming into help the 2 kids out like a Tyler Bozak, Lars Eller, someone along those lines. They don’t HAVE to move him, but I do believe 1 of him or Hall is on their way out.
But it could be that all 3 of the original 1st overall picks are gone come next season. But that wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened. The Nordiques/Avs traded Sundin, Nolan and Lindros. They also knew they had to lose a trade to make their team better in the summer of 94 when they moved Sundin to the Leafs for Wendel Clark. Sundin without a doubt was the better player moving forward. But that trade kick started that franchise. 1st in the East in 95, Cup in 96, President’s trophy in 97, game 7 of the West final in 99 and 2000, Cup in 01, game 7 of the West final in 02.
Back to Hall and RNH though. Do you maybe move both out to open it up for July 1st? Because let’s say they moved RNH for a package of picks and prospects alone. Seems dumb, but if it’s done to free up the 6 million and the roster spot for certain players, it isn’t that dumb. Stamkos, Eric Staal, Backes, Lucic, Ladd, Okposo, Loui Eriksson, Boedker, this UFA class is no joke and while the type of money they would get makes me sick, there is no doubt that 1 of those first 4 coupled with 1 of the second 4 would VASTLY improve this hockey club. And while we’ve always been told in Edmonton “now it’s different” for top end UFA’s and high end players with NTC’s, now it actually is different. A generational player coupled with a competent GM, top end head coach and a brand spanking new arena.
It’s funny, I’m not a guy who wants to sink 10-12 million a year into Steve Stamkos. But I’m wondering if his camp hasn’t targeted Edmonton, because it’s come up a few times this season, and it’s come up from the national media, not anyone in Edmonton. I wouldn’t do it, but I’d be lying if the Oiler fan in me wouldn’t be excited and try to justify the move should it happen. He would have to play the wing though and we all know that seems to be 1 of the issues in Tampa for him.
So are Eric Staal and David Backes, but they have played a lot of the wing as well. And here is why you sign these types is because if you run into injury problems, or need to matchup with a team down the middle, then you put them at centre. And if not, then they play the wing and provide experience, size and in Staal’s case speed. Backes is a bit of a spot picker, but he’s an intimidating guy and has been described by Ken Hitchcock as a “coaches dream”. Even though he’s 3.5 years older, Backes might make more sense than Lucic if you need to pick between the 2. Both would cost a TON though.
As for this years pick. I would be willing to move it for the right player, and I would be willing to move down. It isn’t what last year’s draft was, but this is a damn good draft. If they move out both Hall and Eberle, then I probably would keep it and pick in that spot, unless it’s the top pick. I would trade the right to take Matthews. A team would offer a high end player, or they would offer a boat load of picks and prospects. I think of the Coyotes and said this in my mock draft the other day. They wouldn’t offer Ekman-Larsson I’m sure. But they could offer their pick (will be a lottery pick), the Rangers 1st, their 2017 1st, and Dylan Strome. That would be my ask and I believe a price the Coyotes would have to think about paying. Matthews being the hometown kid would be massive for the Coyotes, and he’s a superstar talent. The Oilers have no need for Strome, but they could use Strome to shore up the blueline.
But assuming they don’t get the top pick, they can’t (and won’t) go into next season with a spot open for that pick. Laine and Puljujarvi can spend another year in Finland, or if they choose play in the AHL. Matt Tkachuk can afford to play another year in the OHL, as could Jakob Chychrun and Olli Juolevi. Matthews is really the only player in the draft who should be in the NHL next season. Not the only guy who could be or will be, but the only one that should be.
I believe the writing is on the wall, Chiarelli and the Oilers are done f***ing around. So while things are a total disaster on the ice right now, they have all the ammo they need to make this team a playoff team next season. Yes…next season. Chiarelli now has had a year to examine the team. I’ll be flat out STUNNED if this roster doesn’t look extremely different come October.
So I know it sucks Oiler fans, but chill. Things are going to get a whole lot better, and very soon. FINALLY.
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