The Push

Jonathan Willis
November 13 2013 08:49AM

At this point, it seems all but certain that the 2013-14 season is done for the Oilers. The team is in a hole so deep in a conference so good that clawing back into a playoff spot is going to be an extremely difficult proposition. Given that, does it make sense to start the tank job and go for the best available pick?

Not on your life.

RE-BUILD

Rebuild has gotten to be an ugly word in Edmonton, but the idea is sound. The trouble is that the Oilers have only been able to execute one part of it.

Via dictionary.com:

"Withdrawal or backward motion" pretty much sums up the Edmonton Oilers post-Pronger. But that's only half the battle.

Again from dictionary.com:

Pick a definition; that's the plan now. The Oilers need to construct a better NHL team. They need to establish, increase and/or strengthen their ability to compete with other clubs. They need to mold or form young players into championship-calibre professionals. And on and on it goes.

The Edmonton Oilers are masters of “re-.” They’ve got “re-“ down cold. It’s the whole “build” part of the word that was always going to be much, much more difficult and seems to have the organization flummoxed.

Tossing The Season

That’s why it’s important that general manager Craig MacTavish not toss his hands in the air and say ‘forget it, we’ll move the vets at the deadline and take the pick.’ That portion of the rebuild needs to be over. That’s not to say that pending free agents that aren’t in the plans can’t be let go at the deadline – just that the focus has to be on building the team for next year.

Draft picks are a long-term investment that, if they pay off at all, pay off years down the road. This isn’t a team that needs more draft picks. This isn't a team that needs the highest possible first overall pick this summer.

The lone focus here, with this season already all but over, has to be on making the playoffs next season – and the best way to do that is to do everything possible to make and keep the team competitive this season. Even if that means picking 10th overall rather than in the top-five. 

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#52 sizzay
November 13 2013, 10:52AM
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DSF wrote:

Cam Cole ‏@rcamcole 4m

Now here's a stat to ponder: @mc79hockey The Oilers are the 29th worst defensive team in the NHL when Yakupov isn't on the ice.

Interesting. If you look up turnovers on NHL.com, Yakupov is far from the worst culprit.

His defensive positioning and understanding his assignments require leaps and bounds of work but I'm sure he will become average at best over the next several seasons. Just need to wake him up offensively and play him with someone to mask his defensive issues.

Why haven't we tried: Perron - Gordon - Yakupov. Tried everything else imagineable.

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#54 Rama Lama
November 13 2013, 10:56AM
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Let's not call it Re-build and call it Re-Deploy...........yea we need to re-deploy our assets to OKC, where they seem to shine and flourish.

Under Nelson, every player played better . We need to convince Yaks to go to OKC and play as many minutes so that he can gain his confidence. He has effectively traded himself, just how do you undo now what has to be a very contentious Coach/Player battle?

I have not seen many players say anything positive about Eakins..........I suspect every is holding back a little but this guy has made a real mess of things. Well at least he has nice hair.

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#55 tileguy
November 13 2013, 10:58AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

Will we ever know to end the speculation, or just let it fester. More Prep H over here.

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#56 DSF
November 13 2013, 10:58AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

He hired Tambellini and kept him in that position for 5 years while the franchise spiralled into disaster.

That's all on Lowe

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#57 DSF
November 13 2013, 10:59AM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Let's not call it Re-build and call it Re-Deploy...........yea we need to re-deploy our assets to OKC, where they seem to shine and flourish.

Under Nelson, every player played better . We need to convince Yaks to go to OKC and play as many minutes so that he can gain his confidence. He has effectively traded himself, just how do you undo now what has to be a very contentious Coach/Player battle?

I have not seen many players say anything positive about Eakins..........I suspect every is holding back a little but this guy has made a real mess of things. Well at least he has nice hair.

I think he would get more respect if he had a touch of grey.

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#58 Zarny
November 13 2013, 11:01AM
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Excellent article and 100% bang on.

People say "three #1 draft picks" like they come with magical pixie dust from a land of unicorns and rainbows.

Sorry but no. Hall, Ebs, Nuge, Yak and Schultz does not a rebuild make.

The Oilers are characterized by a complete and utter lack of depth. Squeaking into the playoffs in 7th or 8th was always best case scenario.

This year won't be best case but it is certainly not lost. It gives MacT an opportunity to move off of step 1 of the rebuild.

Forget about "bold moves" right now. Start with assembling a 4th line that isn't all AHL caliber players.

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#59 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:01AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

See, I think he is pulling strings. See how defensive the imbecile got when he got questioned after the Tambellini firing? He didn't say, I left everything up to Tambellini.

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#60 tileguy
November 13 2013, 11:10AM
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No no no, don't start with the 4th line, start by adding tough, gritty hard to play against top 9 a la Burke. That means we have to give up something to get something, "BOLD MOVES". Can you see this team playing playoff hockey when the intensity gets turned up?

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#61 Ray
November 13 2013, 11:10AM
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Ray wrote:

You want to build a team.

Trade for Kulemin this will help Yakupov's growth.

Trade Eberle for Sean Couturier

Begin the process of building a team.

People trash this suggestion because they have no idea how to build a team, All- Star teams don't work.

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#62 Zarny
November 13 2013, 11:11AM
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Roger in Vancouver wrote:

JIm,

My name is Roger from Vancouver. I need you to tell me if these proposals are crazy or if they are feasible. I sent you the proposal last year for Matt Duchene which you reasonably reasoned out…

Here are my proposals:

1. Trade to Philly - Hemsly, Gagner, N. Schultz, 2015 2nd and 3rd for Coburn, B. Schenn, Simmons

as well as

2. To Buffalo - Yakupov and J. Schultz, 2014 1st rd pick for Cody Hodgson and Tyler Meyers.

Lines: Hall RNH SImmons

Schenn Hodgson Ebs

Perron Gordon Joensuu

Smyth Arco Jones

Defense: Coburn Meyers

Ference Larsen

Petry Belov

The only reason i say J Schultz is we need a tougher D. Im liking Larsen and how he is jumping into the play a la J Schultz but still gets back on D.

The second line may relive the magic of the WJC….

Hallsie gets a guy that plays like him with the magician RNH that can feed those two…..

AM I CRAZY JIM???!

Please pass this to Mc T if you approve!

Your devoted and humble fan in Vancouver,

Yes, you are crazy.

Why on earth would Phi even consider your first offer?

And why on earth would the Oilers consider your second offer?

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#63 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
November 13 2013, 11:11AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

Even if Lowe isnt making the Oiler decisions (Although he travel with mact and mess on a scouting/trade mission so apparently he is heavily involved in the day to day) He is the man responsible for the Hockey operations and the Hockey operations have been a catastrophe. Tambo's sins were basically not being a friend of Katz

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#64 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:14AM
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Ray wrote:

People trash this suggestion because they have no idea how to build a team, All- Star teams don't work.

I actually think that is a good post.

Kulemin - 6'1 225lbs on the LW adding some scoring and size to our top 9. Plays 2 ways.

Couturier may not put up 80 points per year, but if he gets to 60 points and stops pucks from going in, sign me up.

I would attempt to acquire both.

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#66 Zarny
November 13 2013, 11:15AM
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Ray wrote:

You want to build a team.

Trade for Kulemin this will help Yakupov's growth.

Trade Eberle for Sean Couturier

Begin the process of building a team.

Doubtful Phi would trade Sean Couturier for Eberle straight up.

That's the neat part about trades. Both teams have to actually agree.

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#67 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:17AM
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Zarny wrote:

Doubtful Phi would trade Sean Couturier for Eberle straight up.

That's the neat part about trades. Both teams have to actually agree.

We need more than a top pairing Dman unfortunately. So it's still worth a call and an acquisition at the right price.

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#68 Towersofdub
November 13 2013, 11:18AM
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why do people come on here and make ridiculous trade suggestions, as if they believe that every other team in the league will go out of their way to make Edmonton better. Furthermore...what the hell has Tyler Myers accomplished since his rookie season? Honestly. Think about these things before you post them.

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#69 oilfan in yyc
November 13 2013, 11:19AM
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loweblows wrote:

really??? as I stated earlier the kids are now young men learning to play in a mans league-if you look at most teams they shelter and groom them in the ahl until they are 21-its sad that the majority of the posters agree that RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov are destroying the organization-trash me all you want but it is obvious that your anger outweighs logic, glad you guys aren't in charge

Most organizations don't shelter first overall picks in the AHL until they are 21, first overalls immediately make it to the NHL the majority of the time.

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#70 DSF
November 13 2013, 11:20AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

And that's a fair point.

I said it at the time and 100 times since: the Khabibulin signing alone should have been a fireable offence given what it said about management's approach.

Yes you did and there have been multiple decisions since then that only reinforce that sentiment.

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#72 Hockey Problems
November 13 2013, 11:21AM
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@Jonathan Willis

What is the best way to tell the team and it's fans that the recent history of the club is unacceptable ?. You punt the "reason" we're in this mess in the first place. If the kids on the team see the ship being run astray with no accountability at the top, how can anybody preach accountability to the players, it seems like lip service. The fact is that the team has been brutal for years and in this, the year we were to see an improvement, we see regression. Clear out the top and send the message that "incompetence" will NOT be tolerated. ANYMORE !!

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#74 6 ring circus
November 13 2013, 11:26AM
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In some organizations they don't allow you to keep making mistakes and have endless excuses,they just get rid of you, never to be heard from again.

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#75 Serious Gord
November 13 2013, 11:28AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

It is undeniable that Lowe has been involved:

Hired and kept tamby (no formal search)

Brought in MacT then fired tamby and replaced him with MacT (no formal search)

Was in the interview of Eakins. Obviously was okay with MacT abrogating the search process and firing Krueger.

All of the above plus became lightning rod with his six rings interview.

So stop hiding behind the equivocation and make a BOLD statement.

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#76 DSF
November 13 2013, 11:30AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'd be reasonably shocked if Philadelphia wasn't willing to part with Couturier+ for Eberle.

I'd be very shocked if Philly would be willing to take on Eberle's $6M cap hit given his production.

And beyond that, their RW depth is Voracek, Simmonds, Downie and Reed.

The Flyers already have a bigger, better version of Eberle in Voracek.

Voracek outscored Eberle 46-37 last season.

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#77 Old School G
November 13 2013, 11:30AM
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Since Buffalo's making changes MacT should be calling about Foligno, Ott, and Tallinder, just a few guys that would address team needs right now.

Maybe whoever the Sabres name as GM will forget all about the Vanek offer sheet and deal with us? Both teams badly need to make some changes, both fan bases would welcome it if the deal was fair I'm sure.

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#78 Serious Gord
November 13 2013, 11:31AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

And that's a fair point.

I said it at the time and 100 times since: the Khabibulin signing alone should have been a fireable offence given what it said about management's approach.

Even more egregious was not getting Niemi when they had the chance.

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#79 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:33AM
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DSF wrote:

I'd be very shocked if Philly would be willing to take on Eberle's $6M cap hit given his production.

And beyond that, their RW depth is Voracek, Simmonds, Downie and Reed.

The Flyers already have a bigger, better version of Eberle in Voracek.

Voracek outscored Eberle 46-37 last season.

Philly inquired on Eberle over the weekend. I believe Tim Pannachio (spelling) tweeted it.

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#80 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:34AM
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DSF wrote:

I'd be very shocked if Philly would be willing to take on Eberle's $6M cap hit given his production.

And beyond that, their RW depth is Voracek, Simmonds, Downie and Reed.

The Flyers already have a bigger, better version of Eberle in Voracek.

Voracek outscored Eberle 46-37 last season.

Also Eberle is outscoring Voracek this year.

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#81 DSF
November 13 2013, 11:36AM
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sizzay wrote:

Philly inquired on Eberle over the weekend. I believe Tim Pannachio (spelling) tweeted it.

If they could move one of their toxic contracts to the Oilers I guess they might consider it but $6M for a second line winger is pretty steep.

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#82 tileguy
November 13 2013, 11:36AM
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Simmonds and Subban, now the team would have teeth.

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#83 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 11:36AM
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Zarny wrote:

Hate to break it to you but Kevin Lowe was not the first President of Hockey Operations?

Not even close. The Oilers had no part in bringing that title into vogue.

I didn't say first. But tell us, who are the men with the title "president of hockey operations" who got that title prior to Lowe?

John Davidson maybe. I seem to remember he started out with the President title of the Blues. JD became P. of hockey with the Blue Jackets after Lowe.

Neely is President. Lou Lam is president. Robitaille is 'President of Business operations' (also ridiculous) while Lombardi is just President.

So explain to us how "the Oilers had no part in bringing that title into vogue."

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#84 Harlie
November 13 2013, 11:40AM
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DSF wrote:

I think he would get more respect if he had a touch of grey.

I see you've got your list out, say your peace and get out. Yes I get the gist of it, but it's all right Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say is... Every silver lining's got a touch of grey. I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive.

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#85 DSF
November 13 2013, 11:43AM
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sizzay wrote:

Also Eberle is outscoring Voracek this year.

Yep.

Small sample size though.

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#86 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 11:51AM
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JW,

Fedun's demotion in favour of Potter would also be consistent with Katz ordering management to reduce payroll. Fedun is oon a two way contract. Potter is on a one way NHL deal.

Seven hundred grand savings is nothing to sneeze at when you are talking about your own money.

Another year with no playoff revenue, I wouldn't blame Katz for cutting the budget. Spending to the cap sure didn't bring results.

Although choosing Smid to dump salary is still perplexing to me. Terrible trade.

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#87 Jed
November 13 2013, 11:55AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'd be reasonably shocked if Philadelphia wasn't willing to part with Couturier+ for Eberle.

Don't forget Scott Laughton in the philly organization who could replace Sean Couturier.

I think Philly would me more than interested

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#88 oilerjed
November 13 2013, 11:57AM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

I didn't say first. But tell us, who are the men with the title "president of hockey operations" who got that title prior to Lowe?

John Davidson maybe. I seem to remember he started out with the President title of the Blues. JD became P. of hockey with the Blue Jackets after Lowe.

Neely is President. Lou Lam is president. Robitaille is 'President of Business operations' (also ridiculous) while Lombardi is just President.

So explain to us how "the Oilers had no part in bringing that title into vogue."

Wasnt it Brian Burke who started the POHO when he went to Anaheim?

edit: oops that was in T.O.

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#89 The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building
November 13 2013, 11:57AM
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tileguy wrote:

Will we ever know to end the speculation, or just let it fester. More Prep H over here.

More like vaseline - let's just fast forward to April and get this rerun over with...'Team Toe Drag' is still no where near a playoff spot and will make minor trades at deadline, then go on minor winning streak to end season, get a top ten draft pick, and this time replace assistant coaches. The only way to break this cycle is to remove Kevin Lowe. ....and as a feel good move replace Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer.

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#90 madjam
November 13 2013, 12:06PM
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When you spend only 8% of budget on top two defence when $10% is minimum , and 5% on goaltending when 6% is minimum - your backend sucks slough water like our Oilers do . Can hardly expect forwards to make up for all of that over site , now can we . We need to trade for backend pronto , not other forwards which will do little to fix our major problems on back end . Results show exactly that, as goals against keep mounting inordinately.

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#91 DSF
November 13 2013, 12:10PM
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oilerjed wrote:

Wasnt it Brian Burke who started the POHO when he went to Anaheim?

edit: oops that was in T.O.

Actually, the position appears to have been created in Detroit although they call it Senior Vice President.

Jim Devellano was the first individual hired by owners Mike and Marian Ilitch after purchasing the Red Wings in June, 1982.

He was the team’s general manager for eight seasons before ascending to his current position as senior vice-president on July 13, 1990.

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#92 Cold Hard Truth
November 13 2013, 12:11PM
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@Jonathan Willis

So the only case you can envisage Lowe being fired is if it is somehow proved that he forced Tambellini to make poor moves?

Will Lowe ever be accountable for anything?

Here's a separate question for you Jonathan:

Do you think MacTavish would have been hired if he was not personally close with Kevin Lowe and Daryl Katz?

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#93 Fatbob24
November 13 2013, 12:11PM
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The Funky Chicken Has Left The Building wrote:

More like vaseline - let's just fast forward to April and get this rerun over with...'Team Toe Drag' is still no where near a playoff spot and will make minor trades at deadline, then go on minor winning streak to end season, get a top ten draft pick, and this time replace assistant coaches. The only way to break this cycle is to remove Kevin Lowe. ....and as a feel good move replace Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer.

Hey I like jack.

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#94 Cold Hard Truth
November 13 2013, 12:15PM
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Jonathan,

I'd also like to point out that the Oilers have gotten worse - not better - since Tambellini left. The decisions made under MacTavish have made this team worse, as the record indicates.

How exactly is that Tambellini's fault?

Tambellini is merely a convenient scapegoat for you.

I guarantee when Lowe & co. eventually leave (and it will happen eventually if they keep losing) you'll be harping on how it was Lowe's fault all along.

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#95 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 12:16PM
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oilerjed wrote:

Wasnt it Brian Burke who started the POHO when he went to Anaheim?

edit: oops that was in T.O.

Burke was the vp/GM from what I remember. My point is the head of hockey operations should be the GM.

Whether you want to call them GM/chairman of hockey, or GM/Grand Marshall of hockey operations, or whatever, doesn't really matter to me. But it is ridiculous to have a layer of management above GM WITHIN the hockey operations department.

If these teams were traded on an exchange, they would have market caps of around 200 million. They are small businesses. Having department 'presidents' is ridiculous. This isn't General Electric.

There is no need to have Lowe's position in the organization, other than Katz' desire to avoid firing his buddy when he removed him from the GM's job.

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#96 Moss for POHO
November 13 2013, 12:19PM
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@Jonathan Willis

JW

If Lowe hired Tambo to run things then turned a blind eye and allowed him to make terrible decisions with impunity for several seasons while the culture of losing got further and further ingrained into the organization, wouldn't that be far worse than making the bad decisions yourself? Such apathy from a senior executive would be absolutely intolerable in any business. Katz isn't stupid. He knows that. Of course Lowe was pulling the strings. His plan all along was to tank a few seasons and build TBOTB-2.0 and win a bunch of Cups all over again. After rejections from Pronger, Heatley, Vanek et. al., it isn't hard to see why it seemed like his only option to build a winner. Good plan, but it comes with serious risk of creating a losing culture, which it has (**in an early candidate for understatement of the century). If I was Katz, it would have also come with a time limit. From the outcry of the fans (both types), I would say that limit has been reached, if not exceeded.

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#97 mayorblaine
November 13 2013, 12:19PM
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i'm here for 2 things:

1. complain about Lowe all we want, until Katz understands culpability and/or cares about its definition, he goes nowhere.

2. what about Bob? any other home building projects?

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#98 DSF
November 13 2013, 12:20PM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

Burke was the vp/GM from what I remember. My point is the head of hockey operations should be the GM.

Whether you want to call them GM/chairman of hockey, or GM/Grand Marshall of hockey operations, or whatever, doesn't really matter to me. But it is ridiculous to have a layer of management above GM WITHIN the hockey operations department.

If these teams were traded on an exchange, they would have market caps of around 200 million. They are small businesses. Having department 'presidents' is ridiculous. This isn't General Electric.

There is no need to have Lowe's position in the organization, other than Katz' desire to avoid firing his buddy when he removed him from the GM's job.

In reality, any GM who operates under a President of Hockey Operations is in effect an assistant GM.

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#99 Citizen David
November 13 2013, 12:23PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'd be reasonably shocked if Philadelphia wasn't willing to part with Couturier+ for Eberle.

Couturier plus Scott Laugton?

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#100 Gaz
November 13 2013, 12:23PM
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DSF wrote:

Yep.

Small sample size though.

Couldn't we assume that a single truncated season is a small sample size?

Career stats:

Eberle - 3 seasons, 0.80 ppg, -15 +/- Voracek - 5 seasons, 0.61 ppg, +5 +/-

See what I did there? I provided two stats which tell a different story. Now I have no doubt you'll assert that plus/minus is the superior measure, because it supports your opinion, but I think most any team would trade Voracek for Eberle straight-up. Vice versa? I doubt it.

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