Lose the Battle to Win the War
It is the type of deal that I’ve been trying to tell Oiler fans for a few years now that they would have to make, and most refused to believe it. When the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche needed to take a similar step, they moved Mats Sundin for Wendel Clark (who a season later became Claude Lemieux). The Nords/Avs lost that trade, but they desperately needed a veteran leader. They desperately needed a power forward. And they had an insane amount of top end talent, and with Sakic and Forsberg down the middle they could afford to do it. They lost a deal to make their team better, and that organization never looked back after doing that deal. Fast forward 22 years, and that is pretty similar to the Oilers situation.
This sucks right now, make no mistake about it. The Oilers lost a trade. And not just lost, but they got hammered. I had come to peace with the idea of a 3 for 1 deal. Get Hamonic or Larsson and add in a 1st round pick and a prospect, it frees you up to do something else for a Tyson Barrie or Matt Dumba, something along those lines without killing your system. But I won’t lie, I was a little sick when word came down that they were only getting Larsson for Hall. How do you not at least get a 2nd round pick that you can give to Boston as compensation for Chiarelli? And the Devils have an extra 2nd in next year’s draft (ironically, it’s the Bruins).
So initially it doesn’t make sense. But when you start breaking this all down, while the deal doesn’t become even, it does get a whole lot closer than most realize. I got six points that need to be stressed. And again, don’t get me wrong here. This isn’t to say that this will prove the Oilers win the deal, or even made out ok. But this should help you understand why the Oilers would do such a lopsided deal.
- You WANT wingers, you NEED defencemen.
The analytics community can point out his 5 on 5 points per 60 all they want, and even though I’m too dumb to understand some analytics, I’m not at all an anti-analytics type. But this is where I find there is a bit of a disconnect for some of the analytics community. Yes, Taylor Hall is one of the best 5 on 5 players in hockey. I loved Taylor Hall. I knew he was likely getting dealt for a defenceman, but I have loved the guy from day 1. Hell, I went to watch him get drafted! But this team is about to sign Milan Lucic. McDavid, Draisaitl, Puljujarvi, Eberle and for the time being still Nugent-Hopkins (I won’t be shocked if he’s moved next for a guy like Barrie). You don’t NEED Taylor Hall. It’s awesome to have him obviously, but you don’t need him. This team really badly NEEDS a guy like Larsson. You win building around defencemen, and the next time a team wins building around a winger will be the first time. The Columbus Blue Jackets never did anything with Rick Nash. Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t get the Atlanta Thrashers anywhere. Even Ovechkin hasn’t made it past the 2nd round with the Caps building around him. You may argue Patrick Kane has won, but he wouldn’t of without Keith, Toews or Seabrook.
2. The piece fit.
23 years old. Already a top pairing guy. Potential to be a true number 1 guy. Great contract (which I’ll get to). Mobile. Great puck mover. And finally can log big minutes, tough minutes. This is exactly the guy they need to pair with fellow Swede Oscar Klefbom to give the Oilers a very legitimate top pair on the blueline.
3. Sweetheart contract.
4.167 for another 5 seasons. The Oilers save nearly 2 million against the cap. Of course I’m expecting that to change once they sign Lucic, but would you rather Larsson on this deal, or Jason Demers for 5 x 5? Or more? No thank you.
4. Fit in the room.
Where there is smoke, there’s fire. I remember hearing about Hall being a bit of an issue in the room as far back as the 2010 World Junior’s in Saskatoon. I can’t recall the story word for word now, but it was something to do with a function at the Schenn household and people on the team not being a fan of Taylor. Since then, if you live in the Edmonton/Northern Alberta area, you’ve certainly heard rumours about this. Hell, I’ve heard national media personalities make mention of it lots. Although I can counterpoint this by pointing out that the media in Edmonton love the kid. So who knows. If I had to guess, it’s somewhere in the middle. Hall probably isn’t a bad kid at all, he just isn’t beloved by his teammates, maybe rubs some of them the wrong way. Meanwhile, at least initially, I’m hearing people rave about the kind of kid Adam Larsson is. Chemistry in the room might not seem like a big deal, but it is.
5. One team now has a hole, and it isn’t the Oilers.
Peter Chiarelli now has some work to do on Friday. Let’s say he signs Lucic and let’s say Tomas Vanek. Obviously it’s tough to say what the cap numbers will be on those guys, but let’s just say that for a minute. If not Lucic, maybe David Backes and Vanek (who prefers to play the left side). If not Backes, what about Eric Staal? Loui Eriksson? Andrew Ladd? And please don’t get this wrong, in NO FREAKING WAY am I saying any of these guys replace Hall’s production. But they are top 6 wingers. And of course this kind of circles back to the first point I made about want vs need. It’s relatively easy for the Oilers to address the hole left in their top 6. What about the Devils? Who do the Devils get to replace Larsson? Damon Severson? Severson isn’t ready for that role. Severson struggled last season playing on their 2nd pairing and some in the media at least are saying the Devils have soured on Severson. But that’s ok, they’ll go get a guy in free agency. Except they can’t and won’t. So while the Devils just improved their offence, they just really hurt their blueline.
Were you REALLY willing to wait another year? Were you REALLY willing to watch this team miss the playoffs AGAIN? Actually, scratch that. Were you really willing to watch this team be out of it by January AGAIN? You can’t keep waiting forever on guys. The Oilers did that with Sam Gagner, failed. Did that with Justin Schultz, failed. Are currently doing that with Nail Yakupov, is failing horribly. For some reason this organization and this fan base has been much more concerned with winning trades than winning games over the last 10 years. And again, I don’t know how in the hell the Oilers couldn’t have got another one or two good pieces in this deal, even make it like the Kane/Myers swap where the Jets made out great on the back end yet in the moment it looked as though the Sabres won the top end (at the time, not now, remember that Oiler fans). But they were desperate, and every GM knew it. Ray Shero was the benefactor of that.
So I know all that doesn’t make it a win, or a tie, or even a slight loss of a trade today. But I hope it at least paints a much more clear picture for you.
Personally, I think the Oilers are now a much better team, and Larsson has the upside to make this deal a win down the line. Only time will tell. Perhaps Larsson continues improving and becomes that elite number 1 most have expected him to become since he was 16. Or…perhaps he’ll never be more than a number 3/4 guy and it’ll go down as one of the worst deals in NHL history. But if it improves the team, what do you care? The GM’s job is to improve the team, not to win every deal to our approval.
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