As I see it, the Edmonton Oilers are boxed in and snowed under this morning. Although the team won a couple of points on the road trip, and played a good game in Nashville, the season is gone and we’re many miles from halfway home. It’s beyond Groundhog Day—the movie—this is now an historic march through the absolute nadir of a sports team. A generation of hockey players have been picked up, consumed and spit out. Another generation is on its way. The “Gagner era” was a miserable failure but the “Hall era” looks like more of the same.
This morning, the Oilers have very few options available to them in terms of appeasing the fanbase.
- Make a significant trade
- Fire the coach
- Fire the GM and the coach
- Have the owner write another apology letter
- Explain to the fanbase why losing another year is a good idea
- Ignore the fanbase
Some may say the fans have already been addressed via a Toronto radio talk show, but I don’t think that’s close to good enough. The Edmonton Oilers fan, heavily invested emotionally in this team, has a right to know what’s going on. And that means some action needs to take place, or someone from the organization (aside from Dallas Eakins) must step to the microphone and answer for this. Craig MacTavish told us in the fall things would be better, much better than a year ago. He also said they would roll with their center depth chart and address if needed. I think he needs to defend the status quo, address the situation, or make a public declaration that Connor McDavid is now the goal. I don’t see any reasonable alternative and saying nothing is unacceptable.
- Bob Nicholson: “We’re going to have to look at every part of this organization — how we scout, look at players, develop players. The only non-first-round Oilers draft pick since 2007 on the current roster is defenceman Martin Marincin. We need to get more out of those second, third, fourth-round players.” Source.
With respect, Oilers fans have heard this before. We peeled back the onion in 2008 and 2010 and 2013. WHY is this team afraid to ice a balanced team with veterans capable of helping? It’s a mystery. The Oilers and their fans are fretting over the defense, but for me there are five guys (Petry, Fayne, Ference, Aulie, Klefbom) playing well enough and another (Marincin) who should be in the lineup. If the Oilers have the courage of their convictions, then sitting Niki Nikitin and Justin Schultz is the only plan available. The goaltending is better, and the club has (imo) adequately covered for the loss of Benoit Pouliot.
They cannot find it in their DNA to acquire a useful center. Even though a true second scoring line would be a massive item to this team. They desperately need offense, but remain convinced that their skill wingers (Perron, Purcell, Yakupov) can make it go with young Leon Draisaitl and Mark Arcobello. So, once again, the Edmonton Oilers are going to kill a season because:
- Justin Schultz is part of their inner circle cluster no matter the results
- Niki Nikitin’s salary trumps his play
- The management has decided Leon Draisaitl can do this and that’s the end of the conversation
These are the hills the Edmonton Oilers will die on this season. And apparently they will do it without answering for it in public, because there’s no need to address the fans, there’s no need to make a trade, we’ll just have to wait it out.
Craig MacTavish must speak to the fans about the plan. If the plan is “we like our group, and believe in them, and the underlying numbers tell us that if we can get solid goaltending and a little better power play, we could rip off a 6-game winning streak” then he needs to stand in front of a microphone and say it. And he needs to tell us that not getting a center is right thing to do because the possession numbers will eventually result in goals (I don’t believe that btw, the Oilers have GREAT possession numbers relative to their record but can’t cash because they have one offensive center in Nuge).
The problem as I see it: The Edmonton Oilers can’t cobble together a second scoring line because they’ve invested in Leon and Leon is the one and that’s the end of the conversation. And they can’t bench Niki Nikitin for 10 games to see how it goes because they’ve invested in Niki and that’s the end of the conversation.
Craig MacTavish can’t fire his coach because the coach never had the horses. He can’t allow the owner to send out another apology letter because the owner chose him after the last one. I think he needs to tell the fans what he’s thinking.
One final item. We should discuss the possibility that Bob Nicholson may already be in charge. If that’s the case, then Bob Nicholson needs to tell the fans via media conference. In Edmonton.