Craig MacTavish has a massive kit bag of things to do this summer, and Oilers Nation waits for actual NHL players in droves. I’m wondering if it’s going to happen. In order for the Oilers to make real inroads into the Western Conference, they need real, veteran solutions:
- Center Mikhail Grabovski
- Left Wing Nikolai Kulemin
- Right Wing David Moss
- Defenseman Dion Phaneuf
Given that level of help, I think we could reasonably argue that the Edmonton Oilers could be heading in a good direction. Men like Sam Gagner, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones and Nick Schultz out, that gang of four in. Jonathan Willis has a brilliant article at Oilers Nation that frames the issue perfectly.
THE WILLIS SOLUTION
I like Jonathan’s solutions, save for keeping Draisaitl in the NHL. For me, strengthening center (Nuge, Grabovski, Gordon, Arcobello/Lander) and keeping teenagers out of the position are real positives. I’d also keep Boyd Gordon on the 3line, allowing the 4line to work in youngsters like Tyler Pitlick. If you take that group, and add a veteran defender like Phaneuf, then we’re talking about a team that can compete with Calgary, Vancouver and several other western teams. That team, as constructed by Jon, with Phaneuf on blue, might push all the way to 20th in the NHL, and maybe Oiler fans would have a deadline of addition.
It isn’t perfect, God knows, but it’s competitive.
I don’t believe it will happen. Why? It would mean a lot of ‘give’ from the development side. Phaneuf would cost you an asset plus a trip from #3 overall to #8, and adding Grabovski/Kulemin/Moss is a pretty penny, too. Remember, these guys come to Edmonton ONLY for mondo cash and an extra year or two tacked on to the back of the deal. That’s established.
Craig Button frames the issue in an interesting way, and I don’t agree that they are three or four years away from the playoffs, but the idea that the Oilers can make a couple of tweaks and bam! playoffs is not credible. A summer of adding (say) Dmitry Kulikov in the Phaneuf slot, Leon Draisaitl in the Grabovski position, and not addressing the two-way winger gap will mean another year of misery. I don’t think there’s much we can say in defense of a small summer, save for the fact that the rebuild won’t be compromised.
And maybe that’s enough. Maybe the Oilers are wise to trade Gagner for Kulikov, draft Leon Draisaitl, give Anton Lander and Mark Arcobello and Tyler Pitlick and Steve Pinizzotto a season to establish themselves. The fan base will develop more rage, we’ll bitch and moan about the arena, and I’ll write about Connor McDavid. McDavid’s NHLE is 82gp, 13-31-44—the point total is close to Hall’s (46) in his draft year. There is little doubt he’s a generational talent, and the Oilers must have a book on him. Is it worth one more year of suck?
If the Edmonton Oilers finish 28th again next season, and draft third overall, do they have the assets to move up from three to one? Maybe. It would depend on the team at number one, but at some point the current center of the cluster may give way to yet another. Incredible. Either way, the idea of hanging on for another season of suck is beyond noxious for you and me, but for the Edmonton Oilers it is a possibility. The Edmonton Oilers may be 12 months away from becoming Connor McDavid’s team. The actions of Craig MacTavish this summer will tell us how they feel about another winter of discontent.
There was a time when I would have balked at the idea of Craig MacTavish flushing a season. Acquisitions like Mark Fraser and his postseason presser give me pause. There is little to no evidence that this team turned north in the final 30 games, and the spin was clumsy—impossible from such a gifted orator, but it happened just the same. I entered last summer with hope and anticipation, but the postseason media conference and the late-season activity leave me ashen.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
- Kirk Luedeke, Red Line Report. The USHL is emerging as a real player in the entry draft, and the 2014 edition has some terrific prospects.
- Graham Fleming, Vimy Ridge. We’ll talk about the importance of including all student athletes in advanced programs, and major progression in short time frames can change a career.
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. We’ll have our weekly chat, this time about Oil Kings, changes over summer, and the draft.
- Jeff Krushell, Krush Performance. Baseball as we enter Memorial Day weekend, and a league that forces its players to negotiate over player safety.
10-1260 via text, and @Lowetide_ on twitter. See you on the radio!