THE WAY I SEE IT: SUCCESS, PLEASE

Robin Brownlee
January 28 2014 06:03PM

The way I see it, the Edmonton Oilers will be far better served in the long run by having as much success as possible in their final 27 games of the season than they will by sucking so badly they get another crack at a first overall pick.

What the Oilers need now is for the core players they've assembled in previous seasons of ineptitude and suffering – Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov – to find out what it feels like to win rather than more filing off the ice game after game carrying yet more failure on their shoulders.

What the Oilers don't need is their fourth first overall draft pick in the last five years, even if the reward for being the worst team in the NHL this season is prized defenseman Aaron Ekblad. Another blue-chipper, no matter how good he is, who'll help the team three years down the road isn’t as important as having the group assembled now – not to mention fans who expected better this season – get a taste of how it feels to win.

The good news is that the Oilers, 17-32-6 for 40 points, can tear it up, relatively speaking, in these final 27 games and still get a crack at a top-three selection next June. They're buried so deep now, even winning 14-15 of their remaining games likely isn't going to move them above 28th place.

No Ekblad there? Too bad.

DOWN THE STRETCH

Not everybody agrees with my approach, of course. With playoffs out of the question for the eighth straight season, there is a segment of fans who'd like to see the Oilers "tank it" and finish last, getting the best possible pick. The hopeless Buffalo Sabres, with 35 points, sit 30th now.

The only team the Oilers have a realistic chance of overtaking is the 28th place Calgary Flames, who have 43 points (and three games in hand). Right now, the Florida Panthers occupy 27th with 49 points and they also have three games in hand. The Oilers won’t catch them even with 14-15 wins.

Playing at or near .500 in terms of available points the rest of the way isn't going to undue the struggles of the first 55 games in the eyes of fans, and that's understandable, but it could do wonders for the aforementioned likes of Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov. Winning is and has to be a part of development and there's been precious little of that around here.

No matter how this team finishes, it goes without saying there's still a helluva lot of work for GM Craig MacTavish to do before the Oilers get anywhere near a playoff spot. This much we know.

That said, I'd rather see Hall and the rest of the kids head into the off-season with something resembling confidence and feeling good about themselves in April after a modest run of success than have June roll around and hear, "With the first overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers select . . ."

WHILE I'M AT IT

. . . As good as Ekblad is, I'm not sure the Oilers could go far wrong if they were to hang on to the third overall pick and get a crack at either Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett, both centres.

. . . Sam Gagner is playing his best hockey of the season after a horrendous start and that's good news. Gagner is, far and away, the likeliest player to be dealt between now and training camp next season – assuming there's nothing big on the table that involves one of the core group – and he will strengthen MacTavish's hand with a solid finish.

. . . I've liked the way Jeff Petry has played over the last stretch a lot more than I liked him at the start of the season. He's been a lightning rod for criticism, some of it earned, mainly because he's been forced into top-pairing minutes by lack of depth. When Petry is playing second-pairing minutes, the Oilers will be a playoff team.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Rob...
January 29 2014, 12:02PM
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@Ivan Drago

Oh the irony...

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#52 ColourMeImpressed
January 28 2014, 06:25PM
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Undo, not undue.

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#53 Mikey
January 28 2014, 07:02PM
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Callahan is available. Eberle and gagner + for Callahan and Krieder +. What say you!

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#54 GVBlackhawk
January 28 2014, 08:04PM
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Actually Robin, it would be the fourth 1st overall pick in the last five years...sadly.

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#55 The Real Scuba Steve
January 28 2014, 08:47PM
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Pouzar99 wrote:

I am incapable of rooting for the Oilers to lose for ANY reason. When they do, at times like this, I take some comfort in that it may improve their draft position, but I still hate it. I believe management did some tanking in the early years of the rebuild and I think they underestimated the damage they were doing to the team culture. Of course since they have been totally incompetent in every other area, it would have been very odd for them to have gotten that right either. Yes, I badly want Ekblad, and don't feel it will take three years for him to start helping, but I will go on rooting for every possible Oiler win. Well said Robin.

Yep, they tanked on purpose to the bottom of the pit and now they can't find their way out no matter how many coaches they fire each season.

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#56 S cottV
January 28 2014, 09:04PM
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Very much agree that it's way more important to win as many games as possible to close out the year.

.500 would be quite an accomplishment under the circumstances and provide some momentum going into next year.

I don't see it happening but if so - maybe an indication that a glimmer of light has appeared at the end of the tunnel.

If Gagner can up his game, it will help the prospects of playing .500 hockey to close out the season, but he is not the 2c answer for an eventual playoff spot.

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#57 Reg Dunlop
January 29 2014, 01:18AM
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First off, the things that Ekblad does in jr. will not work in the pros. The only 160lb forwards he will be able to bully will be oiler teammates in practice. Where went the conventional wisdom about never drafting a defenceman 1st overall?

Secondly, if the oil had such a chub about Mcdavid they could pull a Sam Pollack and accumulate 1st rounders from other teams like Nashville and Florida in exchange for players like Yak and this year's 1st. This could be done while trying to win as many games as possible next year.

Thirdly and finally, I like coleslaw. It goes beyond a normal craving for the salad. Go oil and go Marincin, my new favorite player. He reminds me of a young Allan Stanley.

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#58 Ed in Edmonton
January 29 2014, 08:34AM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

First off, the things that Ekblad does in jr. will not work in the pros. The only 160lb forwards he will be able to bully will be oiler teammates in practice. Where went the conventional wisdom about never drafting a defenceman 1st overall?

Secondly, if the oil had such a chub about Mcdavid they could pull a Sam Pollack and accumulate 1st rounders from other teams like Nashville and Florida in exchange for players like Yak and this year's 1st. This could be done while trying to win as many games as possible next year.

Thirdly and finally, I like coleslaw. It goes beyond a normal craving for the salad. Go oil and go Marincin, my new favorite player. He reminds me of a young Allan Stanley.

A young Allan Stanley???

How old are you?

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#59 Gordie Wayne
January 29 2014, 09:17AM
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Bang on Brownlee, great article!

We need this team to start winning now!!!!

It just helps change the mood and culture of the team and maybe we can start the change from a losing mentality over to a winning mentality.

If we finish in the bottom 4 or 5 we are still going to get a blue chip prospect, Bennett and Reinhart both look great, and who knows, Ekblad could still be there at 3 or 4 anyway, defensemen always seem to fall down the charts on draft day.

GO OILERS!!!

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#60 Chambers
January 28 2014, 09:02PM
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Bushed wrote:

So a culture of winning will be established after a month of .500 hockey?

And free agents will suddenly want to play for a 29th place team because they upped their record to .500 for a month?

Winning is important, but let's keep it in context.

What the team does the rest of this season will matter far less than what MacT does between now and next season, I'm guessing.

"winning is important but let's keep it in context"....your kidding right? Look at the Oiler loss column the last 8 years. Then look at Eberle, RNH, RNH, TH, Schultz, Hemsky, Gagne etc..these high end top guys have never experienced winning in the NHL. DO you think it is in the Oilers best interest to install winning hockey rather than have a 17 year old Eckblad added to the disaster list of ruined young talent. Please give your head a shake!

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#61 Fresh Mess
January 28 2014, 09:36PM
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I agree. The notion of purposely losing to increase draft position is disgusting. I don't believe that was ever the Oilers intention. No sir, you can chalk up the last 8 years to good old fashioned managerial incompetence.

It's time to turn a corner. Long past the time actually.

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#62 Spydyr
January 29 2014, 06:37AM
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Harry wrote:

I cant imagine that you played sports at all in your life. Tanking is 100% cowardly loser talk

So you are calling the Oilers cowards the last seven years?

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#63 gravis_82
January 29 2014, 08:51AM
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The way I see it is this. 3 years from now Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Perron, Yak will all be in their prime. We may have guys like Moroz or Chase or Pitlick up by then playing supporting roles. Marincin looks like he is here to stay. Maybe one of Klefbom/Gernat/Musil/Simpson, and then Nurse and then Ekblad if we get him. Move forward three years from that and we still have everyone in their prime.

Its difficult because of all the terrible years we have been through to get here, but we may just have to wait longer. Keep looking forward and not back. We have our top 6 players, now we just have to wait for the rest of the team to come around. If I was to pick a year when the oilers are in the finals again, I would say 2019-2020. They just have to not draft horribly and not send out their core players in terrible deals. Rolls of the dice on supporting cast and players we know are not fitting in (i.e. Dubnyk for Hendricks) are fine with me.

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#64 Ivan Drago
January 29 2014, 11:38AM
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Spydyr wrote:

So you are calling the Oilers cowards the last seven years?

Your an idiot. The oilers didn't tank, they just suck. I'd like to do a two for one trade. You and serious Gord for DSF. At least he made intelligent points and comments.

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#65 JeffG
January 28 2014, 07:06PM
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Maybe the Oilers think outside of the box and become buyers istead of sellers this trade deadline. Identify players that are going to freeagency and pick them up. If the oil go on a good run for the final games it tells the team and players they could be good next yr. Then try to sign the players before freeagency starts.

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#66 Show me da Money
January 28 2014, 07:51PM
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It's better to tank the rest of the season and start rebuilding with a new core of draft picks like K-bom, Nurse, Ekblad, and hopefully McDavid.

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#67 **
January 28 2014, 09:09PM
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Chambers wrote:

Oiler fans are indeed in big trouble! The hundreds and hundreds of losses over the last 8 years has lost your perspective on sports! Be reminded losers sports is about winning it is not about draft day and drafting 1st overall in 4 consecutive years! Can't believe what I have been reading where you again actually think the Oilers should lose to gain optimal draft position. A lot of good that has done!! You currently have high level talent with shattered dreams and a chronic culture of losing! Do you really think a 17 year old like Ekblad is going to help immediately??? Unbelieveable !!

The point of the article is precisely that the team has to win and not chase another draft pick. Did you fall on your head when you were little?, or are you just naturally $tup!d?

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#68 WanderingMind81
January 29 2014, 05:52AM
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It's hard to decide how to feel about this team. On the one hand, I want them to get it together, to play like the team that has 3 #1 picks should be able to play. Then again, I also want them to tank, and hard, so that management sees that you cannot thrust the entire hopes of the team on the shoulders of several fairly young, extremely similar players. There's a reason the best corporate management teams are made up of diverse groups--everyone brings something a little different to the table. If you have everyone bringing the same thing, you'll do great at one thing, and probably pretty terrible at a bunch of others.

I don't want to break up the young studs group, but given how many strongly similar players we have there, I think it would honestly be in the best interest of the team to move at least one of them out, for an equal caliber player who brings a different skill set. Either a big power forward with skill, or a solid dman. Something we need, but don't have.

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#69 jr_christ
January 29 2014, 11:49AM
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Can we get an article on how crappy Cory Potter is?

That guy is a huge disaster in his own zone.

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#70 Dan
January 29 2014, 11:56AM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

The down side to the Oilers going on a mediocre-streak is that it will help convince the already slightly-dizzy management group that this team has "Turned The Corner".

Who needs bold moves? "This team has proven that they can get the job done, and are really starting to come together as a group."

The Oilers rode a mediocre streak last year all the way to the lofty heights of 23rd place, which had everyone on the bandwgon convinced that they had "finally turned the corner". Again.

A few wins down the stretch might be exactly what the boys on the ice need. And would keep the boys (and girls) in the stands happy. But as a Flames fan I recently saw an incompetent manager use a late-season winning streak to convince himself that the wheels had not in fact fallen off the bus, and that everything was fine, and keeping the team together for maybe another two years or so before making changes was a good idea.

A 7-game winning streak down the stretch might see Bryzgalov locked-in long term, and Smyth get another extension.

Completely agree. The last thing we need is any reason for Mac T and Lowe to help convince themselves that they are on track.

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#71 Mikey
January 28 2014, 07:04PM
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I probably should mention that obviously Callahan would have to want to sign here. That is a must, and very obvious.

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#72 Mikey
January 28 2014, 08:39PM
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So just trashes, with no response? Interesting, actually pretty boring.

I guess I should just say Fire Lowe or what/who ever we are blaming this week for the oilers failures. Instead of actual intelligent discussion.

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#73 Brian
January 28 2014, 09:05PM
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Why would the team not do anything but strive to win every game? "Play bad for Ekblad "? Please. These are professionals who must try to win every game. Finish as high as possible, then let the Suits figure out the next moves.

Although if would be kind of fun to see Harrison and his entourage of rocket surgeons make another #1 pick.

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#74 **
January 28 2014, 10:06PM
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Chambers wrote:

Actually I have one up on you...I am able to read! And what I read are various posts from Oiler fans promoting losses and draft position rather than winning culture. All that after 4 consecutive years of finishing in the sewer.

Naturally if you were able to read you would understand this.

So you're a natural then.

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#75 wergy
January 29 2014, 08:05AM
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** wrote:

So you're a natural then.

Why does he say "So you're a natural then"? I don't get that at all...

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#76 Tikkanese
January 29 2014, 11:12AM
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Rdubb wrote:

What has been the turn around in Petry's game this past 10-15 games? MM! Plain & simple... MM is and should be a top pairing for this team heading forward Peck

Petry's turn around? Am I missing something? He is still making a lot of terrible plays.

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#77 Bi-Curious Gord
January 29 2014, 04:10AM
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Crap the bed 4 Ekblad !

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#78 Rdubb
January 29 2014, 09:38AM
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What has been the turn around in Petry's game this past 10-15 games? MM! Plain & simple... MM is and should be a top pairing for this team heading forward Peck

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#79 The Soup Fascist
January 29 2014, 10:02AM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

A young Allan Stanley???

How old are you?

Geez. Reg Dunlop is - well, would have been - 88. What kind of hockey fan are you, Ed?

It says that right here in his obituary.

http://slapshot.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/27/hockey-mourns-the-passing-of-reggie-dunlap/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

I assume there must be a very good data plan in the "big hockey rink in the sky" - what with Reg being a regular here at ON, and all.

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#80 Rama Lama
January 29 2014, 10:42AM
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I have to agree with RB.......but man do I want Eakblad on this team. It's rare that a kid with hiw size, talent, and ability is available.......and fills the need we will never be able to get through other means.

A bold move would be for Mac T to wait and see and trade with the team most likely to land Ekblad!

Go Oil.

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#81 A-Mc
January 29 2014, 10:58AM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

I wouldn't want it any other way.

We can and should be civil (most of the time), but its important to remember to hate your rivals. It's part of what makes sports so great.

trashed for being a flames fan..

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#82 james_dean
January 29 2014, 12:16PM
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Ed in Edmonton wrote:

A young Allan Stanley???

How old are you?

What dentist do you go to?

Royal tyrell museum?

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#83 madjam
January 28 2014, 08:35PM
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Who is going to tank more after trade deadline with players going elsewhere ? Flames , Sabers and / or Oilers ? This years draft does not impress like others have . I can see us trading it away quite frankly unless we have NBR.1 again . With our type of mentality for speed and skill I have a feeling we might choose diminutive Joshua Ho-Sang if beyond second choice . Nothing wrong with his skill set , just not that big physically .

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#84 Tikkanese
January 29 2014, 11:18AM
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Rdubb wrote:

What has been the turn around in Petry's game this past 10-15 games? MM! Plain & simple... MM is and should be a top pairing for this team heading forward Peck

And let's not get too excited about Marincin just yet. Potter looked fantastic his first 10-15 games here as well. Marincin at least has some pedigree and shouldn't regress, but let's not plan the parade just yet.

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#85 Tikkanese
January 29 2014, 11:47AM
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Why you heff to be mad? We get Ekblad!

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#86 Zarny
January 29 2014, 03:48PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

I have to agree with RB.......but man do I want Eakblad on this team. It's rare that a kid with hiw size, talent, and ability is available.......and fills the need we will never be able to get through other means.

A bold move would be for Mac T to wait and see and trade with the team most likely to land Ekblad!

Go Oil.

Interesting you say that considering the scouting report is that Ekblad is more Brent Seabrook than Duncan Keith.

He certainly isn't talked about like Drew Doughty. He isn't a generational prospect.

I like Ekblad and if he's available the Oilers should draft him; but they shouldn't give up assets to move from 3rd to 1st to get him. The scouting report indicates he's simply not that good.

As much as the Oilers need top pairing D they also need a bona fide 2C. If Ekblad is off the board Bennett or Reinhart would more than suffice.

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#87 Time Travelling Sean
January 28 2014, 08:31PM
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Are there World Championships during an Olympic year? Or do they cancel them?

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#88 rickithebear
January 28 2014, 09:27PM
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A true measure of a goal scorer is not padded PP goals.that is dependent on the whim of the refs.

Eberle: 179gm 66G 88A 154pts 49 EVG 14th best P. Kane 183gm 70G 110A 180 pts 49EVG Bobby Ryan 180gm 61G 66A 127pts 48 EVG

Ryan Callahan 158gm 514g 51A 105P 27 EVG 124th Gagner 164gm 38G 69A 107Pts 27 EVG 124th

Gagner- Calahan Eberle ? krieder

I am looking at Eberle for Krieder?

Oh this is just a beauty!

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#89 K_Mart
January 28 2014, 09:44PM
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Show me da Money wrote:

It's better to tank the rest of the season and start rebuilding with a new core of draft picks like K-bom, Nurse, Ekblad, and hopefully McDavid.

While I don't see the benefit of tanking this year, I definitely see the benefit of doing so next year. McDavid is a generational talent a la Crosby, lemieux, gretz... We tanked for 7 years, what's 8.

Hall would be a great veteran to bring Mcdavid under his wing.

Katz should just forfeit all 82 Games before the season starts but not tell any of the oilers until the season is over lol. They can win all they want but hold on to that 30th ranking.

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#90 A-Mc
January 29 2014, 11:10AM
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All this banter about tanking or not... Just think of it this way:

If it were Shea Weber in Ekblad's spot, would you still hope for wins? Players like this dont come around very often. The Oilers have been losing for a very long time, are we really saying that tanking a handful of games is going to be far too detrimental to the team?

Once the Oilers start winning a few, they will forget the years of losing. I'm not so quick to think the players are that fragile. Get Ekblad at the draft, damn the statistics of the past, and be happy you just landed a big mofo defenseman that has skill!

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#91 CaptainLander
January 29 2014, 12:49PM
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jr_christ wrote:

Can we get an article on how crappy Cory Potter is?

That guy is a huge disaster in his own zone.

Agreed, based on Potter's play can we see Klefbom on a call up until Ference is back. Can he really be any worse?

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#92 BobbyCanuck
January 29 2014, 02:12PM
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" You can lose your job, but you can find another one, you can lose your friends, but you can make new ones, you can lose your woman, but you can find another. But brother, if you lose your dignity, you have lost everything" Dany Laferrière (writer)

This is why the Oilers need to play the rest of the season like thier collective lives depend on it.

I suspect due to the body language on the bench, some Oilers already feel like they have lost thier dignity

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#93 Zarny
January 29 2014, 03:42PM
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Chambers wrote:

Oiler fans are indeed in big trouble! The hundreds and hundreds of losses over the last 8 years has lost your perspective on sports! Be reminded losers sports is about winning it is not about draft day and drafting 1st overall in 4 consecutive years! Can't believe what I have been reading where you again actually think the Oilers should lose to gain optimal draft position. A lot of good that has done!! You currently have high level talent with shattered dreams and a chronic culture of losing! Do you really think a 17 year old like Ekblad is going to help immediately??? Unbelieveable !!

Congrats for proving you're too stupid to live. Not to mention your reading comprehension is sh*t.

The article is about the remaining 27 games. Not the last 8 years. The reality is if you don't make the playoffs the further down the standings you finish the better.

And spare everyone your drivel about shattered dreams and a chronic culture of losing. No athlete thinks that way. At least not ones good enough to make the NHL.

Sakic endured years of losing before making the playoffs and winning a Cup. Kopitar and Brown in LA...same thing.

The Blackhawks had drafted Keith in 2002, Seabrook in 2003, traded for Sharp and promptly finished near the bottom of the league to be able to draft Toews and Kane. Didn't dull their competitiveness one bit.

What your statement does is indicate how you think. You are clearly the type of weak-minded person who would be effected.

You have seem to have missed the memo where the young kids haven't actually endured 8 losing seasons. What happened before the kids arrived doesn't effect them. It really doesn't. Hall, Nuge and Yak don't care what happened in 2008. They weren't here.

Your stupidity is highlighted with your last line about an 18 y/o (since that is how old Ekblad would be if he actually played in the NHL next year)providing immediate help.

From the article..."Another blue-chipper, no matter how good he is, who'll help the team three years down the road isn’t as important as having the group assembled now".

Literally no one has said Ekblad would provide immediate help.

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#94 Harry
January 29 2014, 10:00AM
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Spydyr wrote:

So you are calling the Oilers cowards the last seven years?

Theres a huge difference between rebuilding personnel and losing on purpose. If the latter is your opinion then yes the Oilers have been cowards the last 7 seasons

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#95 Lochenzo
January 29 2014, 11:11AM
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I'm sure Buffalo would be happy to leverage the 1st overall pick, of course, assuming they win it. What do you think it would take for the Oilers to move from 3rd overall to 1st? Mind you, one of those centres does look very tempting for us, and Buffalo should be thinking the same way. I think Calgary would scoop up Ekblad if they had the chance to pick him.

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#96 Wigswag
January 29 2014, 11:31AM
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If the flames can beat chicago we should be able to beat anyone. Let's keep it going.

Use the trade deadline to get assets and use them in the summer. (that bold move)

I'm glad if it's Ekblad.

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#97 number99
January 29 2014, 12:09PM
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Rob... wrote:

Oh the irony...

A million props if I could

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#98 mk
January 29 2014, 05:10PM
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cheers

Another way to look at this: Is the upgrade of a #1/2 overall pick over a 4/5 pick significant enough that you can justify using up a whole year of contracts and playing time for EVERY OTHER young player on the team?

Each year tanking brings the Oilers 1 year closer to career declines for Hall/RNH/Eberle/etc. and/or some of them moving on to other teams via free agency or trades. Even the dynasty teams in the league don't retain every one of their top players forever.

Is a slightly better player worth losing a year of everyone else (plus as fans, its sucks to watch a losing team)?

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