Every now and then, someone will ask me to post my personal opinion about the Oilers and what they should do moving forward. The blog, as you know, is kind of driven by a combination of prevailing wisdom and trying to figure out what the hell this team is trying to do at any given time.
I don’t often prattle on about what I think for several reasons. First, I don’t have all of the information. Second, when I do make a suggestion (find balance, sign Demers, keep your powder dry) it never works that way so at some point it becomes a colossal waste of time. Too many options, plus I always remember the time Earl Weaver and Whitey Herzog won World Series in completely different ways.
I write mostly about possible options, and after that wait to see what the people in charge do to fix the problems. I hope one day to see the team achieve balance, that is one thing that has eluded the town team for a decade and a little bit. That said, here are 10 things I think Peter Chiarelli should do between now and the trade deadline.
- Improve the backup goalie situation. It is very dangerous to be exposed at such an important position. Edmonton has a chance at the playoffs, goalies are close to free, and Jonas Gustavsson does not have the confidence of the coach.
- Trade Kris Russell for a second-round pick. The coach is developing an attachment to him, and Chiarelli is actually doing a reasonable job of collecting defensemen (Larsson, Benning added to Sekera, Klefbom, Davidson, Nurse). In today’s NHL you need a pick every round just to keep pace, and PC has the dual job of improving the NHL team and building a prospect cupboard that is badly lacking. I believe he has the scouting staff, wise for him to invest in that group with a timely trade of Russell.
- Run the Nuge inside the top 6F for the rest of the season. Pretty clear, that for all of his offensive acumen, 93 is no longer focusing enough on that side of the game. Since checkers are easier to find, Chiarelli would be wise to find one—Hanzal if you can—and see what a top 6F of Maroon—McDavid—Leon, Lucic—Nuge—Eberle can do over the last 46 games.
- Recognize that the high risk trade is not working for him. He can recover from the Reinhart and Hall trades, but is burning daylight on this rebuild. If Chiarelli gets less than 100 cents on the dollar for Nuge or Klefbom—and those are his next available assets—he may not be around for the good times. No matter what the reputation (Stanleys have high value, and Chiarelli has one), you can’t keep bleeding out on the big trades.
- Push the coach to play Jesse Puljujarvi. I expect the decision has already been made, but honestly this kid can play right now. I have a growing suspicion we are dealing with a 25-25-50 winger instead of a 35-35-70, but his two-way acumen will be valuable all the same. I look at JP the same way Sather looked at the 1994 draft: Edmonton didn’t need to hit a home run there, just needed to make damn good and sure that the picks can play. Puljujarvi can play, let him do it.
- Send down Drake Caggiula. He is a little lost. No harm, no foul, I really like this young player. He is not helping, is all.
- Get creative on the RH shot for the power play. I would rather see Mr. Chiarelli acquire Brandon Montour than Dennis Wideman, and would further consider it reasonable for him to invest some of the future to get said player. Looking for a long-term solution is still the right thing to do for this building team.
- Keep the powder dry on rentals at the deadline. Dealing for a Montour makes sense, that player will hang around for a long time (potentially). I think it is unwise (goalie slot aside) to spend draft picks inside the top 100 for short-term improvements. Are we sure Jarome Iginla (who I love as a player, btw) will score more than Anton Slepyshev? Why risk making a move with low payoff now and later? One exception: Hanzal.
- Sell off all available UFA veterans as soon as possible. If the Oilers can send away Matt Hendricks now, they should do so, allowing Anton Lander and or Jujhar Khaira to stay here the rest of the year.
- Find the analytics guy who tells you what you don’t want to hear, not the one who agrees with you. I have no idea if PC listened to Tyler Dellow, but am sure as hell certain the analytics guy was giving strong readings on the tea leaves when in Edmonton’s employ. This isn’t some simple freaking task, some pretty smart people are wrong every damned day on this stuff and get exposed in the years that follow. This is damned serious, way more serious than some verbal spat over Corsi online. If you are wrong on a player, you are wrong forever. The most important thing about the analytics guy is that he is reading the data correctly. Seriously. That’s it. Peter Chiarelli’s recent quotes on Kris Russell should be making the sweat run down the crack of your ass 24-7 if you are an Oilers fan.
These are my opinions.