October 18 2013 02:00PM
A 1-6-1 start for the Oilers doesn't inspire much confidence in Oilesnation. Why should it? Are the Oilers as bad as their record? I don't think so. Are they a playoff calibre team? I didn't think they were before the season, and they don't look like one now.
I recognize it is only eight games, but until Craig MacTavish makes a few more changes this team won't be a true contender. I don't expect him to be able to make all these moves instantly, but hopefully the Oilers recognize their deficiencies. This team isn't built to be a winner, and even if some fans or members or the team don't want to hear it, this team is still four of five key pieces away from being a legitimate contender.
I've said it for three years that this team isn't hard to play against, and four years later they still aren't hard to play against. They are getting better, mainly because Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle invoke fear in the opposition.
But you can't win with all young, skilled players who lack size.
MacTavish clearly won the David Perron for Magnus Paajarvi trade. Not just because Perron has more skill, but because he competes harder shift to shift. The Oilers need more of that. Perron is an upgrade over Paajarvi. You can't expect MacTavish to win every trade outright, however, so his next moves will need to be about making the overall makeup of his team better.
Last March I wrote,
The way I see it the Oilers will end up moving two, likely three players amongst Hemsky, Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi and Nail Yakupov in the next 18-14 months. You might not like that reality, but I don't see any other way this team will be able to improve and afford their lineup if they don't make those types of moves.
There is a good chance that the Oilers trade those guys and they put up decent numbers on another team, and likely more than the players coming to Edmonton, but that doesn't mean the Oilers will lose those trades. If they acquire a strong, steady top-pairing defenceman that should make them more competitive.
If they acquire a skilled forward who plays physical, scores, is a good puck retriever and goes to the net that will make them better. The Oilers will still have three very good skilled players remaining, in Hall, RNH and Eberle and one of 64, 89, 91 and 83.
Paajarvi has already been moved, and I honestly believe that deal was for two reasons. First off, because Perron is better, but also because he gives them another skilled-winger, and that would allow MacTavish to deal one of his skilled right wingers for either a solid D-man, or big, skilled forward.
All of you are emotionally invested in the Oilers. You watch every game, read as much info on the Oilers as you can, comment on this site and you call in or listen to TSN 1260 regularly. You are extremely passionate about the Oilers. The past four years you've watched the Oilers tank it, and the only hope you were given was that Hall, RNH, Yakupov and Eberle would eventually lead this team to the playoffs.
You believed it, and when someone mentions trading one of the young forwards, I completely understand the instinct to say, "shut the hell up."
How could the Oilers deal one of the key pieces, a player you've been told would help the Oilers return to the playoffs?
It's natural to not want to move them.
Most will say trade Hemsky or Gagner before moving any of the Fab Four. That makes sense, but neither of those two will garner the type of player the Oilers need to become a top contender.
The only way the Oilers can acquire a significant piece is to trade one of their key kids. It sucks, but I believe that is the reality that MacTavish faces.
NO NEED TO RUSH...
I'm not suggesting MacTavish make this move next week in an attempt to salvage this season. The last thing he should do is make a move from a position of weakness or from desperation. However, he has to recognize this type of trade is necessary if the Oilers ever plan on returning to the postseason.
The Oilers will start winning, maybe not as often as you'd hope, but I'd be willing to bet they don't go 1-6-1 during any other 8-game stretch this season.
This team has talent, but they have too much similar talent.
They need some reliable, veteran forwards who are skilled enough to play in their top-six. You can't expect the kids to learn from each other.
Boyd Gordon has been a solid addition. He plays hard and he knows his role. His offensive outburst has been a major bonus, but I don't expect him to score 20 goals this season, or next. He's never been that type of player. They need to find a reliable, cagey veteran like Gordon, but who has the skills to play top-six minutes.
The Oilers need a true top-pairing defender, a player who is 24-27 years of age with at least four years of NHL experience.
The Oilers can't expect Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom to jump into the NHL and be that guy. They need to have a guy who those two can learn from; a guy who can make their transition to the NHL easier. The only way I see the Oilers acquiring said player is by moving Yakupov or Eberle. I don't see them moving Hall or Nugent-Hopkins.
If I had to choose I'd move Yakupov.
He's a former first overall pick who has only played 54 NHL games. He's only 20 years of age. Of course there will be a risk in moving him, but he'd also garner a solid return. He very likely could become a 40-goal scorer on another team, but the Oilers don't need more offence. They need different types of offence. The Oilers skilled players are all similar, and they need to add a different element into their top-six.
They need more solid two-way players. They need a solid top-pairing defender. They need some skilled size in their top-six. Until they acquire that, I don't see them winning regularly.
The Oilers might eventually win with Hall, Eberle, Yakupov and Nugent-Hopkins as their four key forwards, but how long will it take to fill in the other key holes on the blueline and within the forward group? Two years, four years or five years?
MacTavish shouldn't rush into a trade, but I believe the organization has to look at the big picture and face reality that one of those four, likely a right winger, will need to be moved in order for this team to acquire the other key pieces that are lacking to achieve a winning formula.
- Mark Arcobello is making the most of his NHL opportunity. He has eight assists in eight games. The points are great, but I've been most impressed by his hockey sense. He makes a lot of smart plays with and without the puck. It is only eight games, so we'll need to see him play more to get an accurate assessment, but he's been very impressive.
- Sam Gagner got the green light to take part in contact drills. He joined the Oilers in Ottawa and could return to the lineup within a week. When he comes back, I'm curious to see what Eakins does with Arcobello. It is hard to imagine he'll come out of the lineup.
- The Corsi crowd has quieted down significantly. If I'm calculating this correctly, and I easily could not be, the Oilers as a team are around -30 in Corsi. (Updated correct number.) Only Eberle and Arcobello are above 50%. This team still has lots of work to do at ES. They are improving, but they have a ways to go.
- The Oilers might have won the game if their PP was able to convert on one of the three consecutive PP chances in the 2nd period. They had excellent puck movement, but couldn't finish. It's been that type of year so far for the Oilers. When PP is going, the goaltending struggles. Last night it was the opposite.
- Denis Grebeshkov has been recalled after playing three games in OKC. I suspect you will see him in the lineup tomorrow vs. the Sens. The Oilers have lost five in a row, and resting/sitting one of the D-men would make sense.
- Eakins will try Yakupov on the left wing and put Perron on the right side. His reasoning for moving Yakupov is that he'll get more pucks to the net instead of always having puck exposed to middle on his off wing, and I'm guessing it is the same for Perron. Both of them were playing on their off wings. So the top two lines for tomorrow will be:
- The Oilers PK continues to give up too many great chances. The Oilers have allowed a PP goal in every game this season. Their franchise record is 14 consecutive games set between November 20th to December18th, 2003. Thanks to Elias Sports Bureau for getting me that answer.