January 16 2014 12:25PM
Instead of firing another head coach, Craig MacTavish has decided to move out some players who have been here for most of the losing. Ladislav Smid was traded earlier this year, and yesterday Devan Dubnyk was sent to Nashville for Matt Hendricks. MacTavish quickly replaced Dubnyk by acquiring netminder Ben Scrivens from Los Angeles.
Will these moves make the Oilers better?
I don't see Hendricks making a major impact, but I also don't expect 4th liners to be difference makers. His salary is too high for a 4th liner, but if he plays well, helps out on the PK and adds some energy then he could break even. The Oilers aren't in a massive cap crunch and I don't see anyone on the roster in line for a significant raise over the next two seasons, so I don't see his $1.85 million cap hit hampering them financially. You can critique Hendricks the player, and have reservations about his play, but his cap hit is not going to hinder the Oilers.
Scrivens has an opportunity of a lifetime. He's coming to a team that is desperate for adequate goaltending. He doesn't need to be great, he just needs to be better than Ilya Bryzgalov's .904 SV%, and if he can avoid allowing weak goals he'll be considered an improvement.
Let's make one thing abundantly clear, however, Dubnyk was not the main reason the Oilers are in 29th place.
He was brutal at the start of the season, but since November he has been no worse than the majority of the roster. I've heard and read suggestions that that his slow start ruined the Oilers season.
I'd say that is just a tad misleading.
No doubt he was brutal early on, especially against the Jets, Canadiens and Leafs. Had he played decent they win those games. However, when you look closer you realize that the Oilers winning % didn't go up when Dubnyk was out of the lineup, it went down.
In the 29 games Dubnyk started the Oilers won 11 of them.
The 20 games he didn't start they won 4.
The Oilers won 38% of the games he started, but only 20% of the games he didn't. In case you are wondering in his 11 wins he only allowed 20 goals, so you can't say the offence carried him.
I'm not giving Dubnyk a free pass. He didn't play well this year. He has to own that, but they Oilers need to realize that when he didn't play they won 4 of 20 games. FOUR. I'd say they have many other issues besides Dubnyk.
The goaltending needs to be better, but after speaking to a few scouts and goalie coaches I'm not sold that Scrivens is an automatic upgrade.
Dubnyk played much better last season; however, he hasn't been able to shed the "weak goal" label. Those goals were magnified on a losing team, and if he wants to be a starter somewhere else he'll need to limit the softies. Scrivens is a good backup, but he's yet to show he can be a starter. He'll get every opportunity to prove he can be over the next few months.
Dubnyk didn't look comfortable this year and to me it became clear the organization had lost faith in him, and I sense that Dubnyk's confidence was waning. Sometimes you just have to realize that both sides are better off without one another, and I think that was the case.
I won't be surprised if Dubnyk puts up decent numbers elsewhere, but I will be shocked if he re-signs in Nashville. With Pekka Rinne signed for another five seasons, I doubt Dubnyk wants to settle for a guaranteed backup role. I suspect he will sign with a team that doesn't have a clear cut starter.
He is a 4th liner who kills penalties, but he hasn't produced much offence since he tallied 25 points in 2011. He is competitive and will battle, but some won't be able to get past his $1.85 million salary for the next three seasons. If you expect him to produce a lot of points due to his salary, then you'll be disappointed. He won't bring much offence.
He's never been a regular centre, but he has won 53% of the 700+ faceoffs he's taken. I'd have him centre the 4th line the rest of the season. Smyth is better on the wall than he is down the middle.
At best he's a 4th liner who kills penalties and will add some energy and break even offensively. The latter will be his biggest challenge, and MacTavish has opened himself up for criticism if Hendricks can't be break even.
Starting Scrivens was the obvious decision. He'll want to make an impression right away and Bryzgalov wasn't very good in Dallas. The Oilers are 2-16-3 in their last 21 visits to Minnesota, so any new face in the lineup could be a welcomed addition.
Hemsky is back in Edmonton getting his swollen ankle looked at. If it is just bruised, I'd sit him out until it was 100%, not 80 or 90, but 100% before I'd put him back on the ice. The Oilers need him healthy and at his best to maximize his trade value. He won't re-sign to be a 3rd line RW next year, so they need to get something for him at the deadline.
Hendricks should play 4th line centre, mainly because Smyth is better on the wall, but Eakins suggested you might see him on the wing, possibly with Gordon. The Oilers like his energy, which is great, but he'll need to generate some offence if you play him on the third line.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers haven't had a lot of luck in the Twin Cities (inner Gene comes out) recently, but the new faces will give them a boost and they will skate away with a rare win in Minnesota. They get a break not having to face Niklas Backstrom -- he is 25-4-1 all-time vs. Edmonton, although the way he's playing maybe they would prefer to face him -- and they score three on Darcy Kuemper to win 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: You can change the coach and the players, but the Wild are still a boring hockey team. They are 26th in scoring, but have the 10th best GAA. This game is a reminder of how awful it was to have to watch the Wild six times a year. Thankfully we are only subjected to it three times a year now.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Most stats suggest Hendricks won't produce much offence, but he picks up a 2nd period assist and Oilersnation rejoices. Also, in a rare change of fortunes an Oiler scores against his former team when Nick Schultz scores his first of the season. Kyle Brodziak watches in disbelief. He was certain he would score tonight.