Edmonton needs to add a centre to compete in 2014-15

Craig MacTavish2

The Edmonton Oilers need to add an NHL-caliber centre if they are serious about being competitive in 2014-15. That’s a lot easier to say than to do, but there’s just no way to get around it. The team has a surplus of talent on the wings and need down the middle, and at this point a trade from a position of strength to address a position of weakness just makes sense.

The Depth Chart


  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 14 games, 11 points, 48.4% in faceoffs, 20:56 average TOI
  • Mark Arcobello: 16 games, seven points, 51.2% in faceoffs, 15:59 average TOI
  • Boyd Gordon: 16 games, four points, 57.1% in faceoffs, 13:34 average TOI
  • Leon Draisaitl: 16 games, four points, 45.6% in faceoffs, 12:36 average TOI

It’s really interesting watching Dallas Eakins and his staff work with the centres, because it’s pretty obvious that they trust Arcobello more than Draisaitl but have a mandate to develop the young German. At home, Draisaitl plays one minute more per game than Arcobello, but on the road Arcobello averages eight (!) minutes more than Draisaitl. That’s a problem, because as much as I like Arcobello as an NHL player he’s not a guy who should be playing 18:40 per game on the road and taking on all matchups.

As I see it, the Oilers have two guys who would fit really well as the centre of a third scoring line. It’s a great spot for Draisaitl to learn his trade, and it’s a great place for Arcobello, who is really a fantastic fit for the role as a jack-of-all trades guy with scoring ability. Edmonton only has one spot on that line, though, which means the better of the two players has to play higher on the depth chart than he really should. Right now, the coaching staff clearly sees Arcobello as that guy.

Adding a Pivot


The solution is to add a centre who can be trusted in a tough role. Jeff Petry’s name is the one often suggested as trade bait to land that guy, but with the Oilers’ defence the mess that it is at the moment it would be folly to trade him unless he’s totally unwilling to re-sign with Edmonton.

That leaves the Oilers with one position of strength to draw on: their wingers. Wingers have less value than centres, so making that deal is going to hurt in that the guy coming back in trade probably isn’t going to have the same level of scoring ability as the player heading out of town.

A deal doesn’t necessarily need to be for a real difference-maker, just a guy with a range of skills who can be trusted if he ends up in a tough matchup in a road game. Kyle Brodziak is the player I use as a “for example” case, not because he’s a perfect fit but because he’s a serviceable NHL centre. There are plenty of others who fit the mold too, though of course it’s hard to know exactly which options Craig MacTavish has. If the Oilers can get a serviceable but overpaid centre for someone like Teddy Purcell, that’s something that should interest them. If they can get a really good centre for one of their better wingers (basically anyone other than Taylor Hall), that too needs to be considered.

Moving a winger out in such a deal comes with a bit of a bonus: the ability to transition Arcobello or Draisaitl to a spot on the wing. In those road games where the coaching staff clearly doesn’t trust Draisaitl enough to use him, he could move to the wing while Arcobello centres the third scoring line. At home, Arcobello could shuffle to the wing (perhaps taking faceoffs as well) while Draisaitl learns the ropes in an environment where Eakins and his staff control the matchups.

It’s also really not a bad idea to have a spare centre waiting in the wings (sorry) for when injury hits, which it inevitably will.


  • Spoils

    I submit that the a term like PT18 enter the lexicon. Peak Team 2018 – meaning that the poster is referencing a goal of peaking the team in 2018 for example when the core group includes two cohorts (Hall/Schultz/RNH/Ebs + Nurse/Klefbom/Draisaitl/1st_pick_2015) are all playing NHL level.

    PT18 does not need our top pick in 2016, 2017, 2018. and I would argue these are our best trade assets (although we probably aren’t best served using them all this year).

    PT18 needs #1D, #3C, #1G at least. PT18 needs size.

    I think the Center position is the biggest hole today, but that is open for debate.

    on the flip side is the idea that D take longer to develop so 1st pick 2015 may not be best served as a D pick…

    Also – drafting goalies strikes me as the riskiest.

    But I’d argue we go after a goalie with our top pick in 2017 – trading for someone with a real likelihood of handling the job. you want to wait for goalies because they can flame out.

  • The Future Never Comes

    Okay, since trades are yada yada hearsay, as well as firing management, its all been said numerous times. Im going to take another approach, maybe the managements philosphy scheme is seriously flawed. Advocating to the public, your players, and the hockey world, that your hockey team is only really comprised of four players, Nuge, Hall, Ebs, and Shultz is unwise. First of all, that puts an overwhelming amount of pressure on four individuals and also makes every other player on the team feel unimportant and expendable. This creates segmentation throughout the lineup. Either your one of the core four and feel expectations you cannot live up to, or your part of the extra’s category that doesn’t feel truly needed. What other management as openly came out and said this kind of thing, I know few have, but not very often. Most teams talk in terms of the culture they try to create, and make it all about the team as a unit, not four individuals and then the team. Look at Calgary, half of the fire power we have yet putting us to shame due to their team first culture. Everyone looks on board and it works.

    • Calgary will not make the playoffs this season, nor will they pick in the top 3, and without the real high end talent, they’ll be a middling 10 – 12 place team for the next decade that recycles marginal players over and over again. That doesn’t really shame the oilers.

      • smith

        You have got to be kidding. No high end talent? You do not consider Giodanno or Brodie high end? Bennet? Monahan? Gaudreau?

        Totally agree that they will not make the playoffs. I figure they finish in 5 or 6 last.

          • Randaman

            If you would put the kool-aid down for a second you would see that Gaudreau actually has more points than both Yak and Draisaitl combined. He is also a plus 9 compared to Yak and Draisaitl at a combined minus 10. It’s sad to admit but the stats speak for themselves. It’s getting tougher and tougher to be an oil fan. Trying to defend this team (or knock) any others when we have been turned into the joke of the league thanks to the most incompetent management team in the history of the NHL.

          • Serious Gord

            That’s a pretty small sample size there pal.

            I’m gonna go out on a limb (not really because this is obvious) and say that Flames would trade Gaudreau straight up for either of Draisaitl OR Yakupov.

            So is he really better or just having a hot start like that rest of that team.

        • yes, Giordano i consider an elite talent. The kind of elite talent Edmonton doesn’t have yet, but may very well have in one form or another in a year. Brodie, Bennet, Monahan and Gaudreau, I’ll reserve judgement on them, just like most people will on Nail Yakupov. I was quite incorrect to disregard Giordano, though, and I stand corrected. They don’t make the playoffs though.

          • Afc Wimbledon

            I think it’s more important to realize that being pathetic doesn’t mean your building a contender. You can just be perennially pathetic, year in and year out, adding top three draft picks regularly but never translating them into a balanced cohesive team.

          • Basshole39

            That can happen, but it certainly is not the norm. The majority of teams that suck for long periods and draft high end up being highly competitive for long periods of time!

            Edit; provided you don’t trade away the draft picks for magic beans (Garth Snow)

          • Eli Porter

            All teams suck some of the time, some teams suck all of the time.
            Teams that suck, then get a better GM, improve, it is the new management, not the sucking that causes the improvement.
            I wouldn’t argue a Nash, Heatley or an Ovechkin isn’t an asset in building a team, but it’s the supporting cast that makes a team successful, not the star, hence Nash Heatley and Ovechkin, to name but three ‘generational talents’ that have been wasted on badly run teams.

      • Eli Porter

        Why don’t you give your head a shake and talk about something of which you know. No one knows whether Calgary will either make the playoffs nor finish in the top 3. Its too early to tell and injuries or lack thereof can make a huge difference one way or another. As for high end talent, the Oilers are proof positive that that alone really doesn’t get you much. And finally, as far as shaming the Oilers I guess we only have to look at both last season and the start of this one to confirm that, especially since the Oilers have “so much talent” and the Flames are “terrible”. Once the Oilers show even a spark of a true turn-around perhaps they’ll be in a better place to talk down to teams looking down from above.

      • RMGS

        Ya. Because I’d much rather finish In or near last place year after year, pjck first overall and still stink the joint out. Oilers are proving that you can suck forever. High picks and clueless management equals no progress.

        Ha ha ha ha ha ha. . Can you here that? It’s the rest of the league laughing at us.

  • MorningOwl

    Get rid of the coach first and see what a true NHL coach can do with this team and than look at the trade. This was brought up the Edmonton Journal reporter is a sentiment that I feel is accurate.

  • Zarny

    Good article but none of this is new information. You could have recycled numerous articles from July, August or September and simply changed the tense.

    No one should be surprised that neither Draisaitl nor Arcobello are good enough to be a 2C in the NHL. This was expected. Once again, the Oilers’ chose to white-knuckle it on unproven players and hope for the best. And once again that strategy has failed.

    I fail to see what has changed from the start of October other than the critics of rolling the dice with Draisaitl and Arcobello have been proven right. The Oilers were universally predicted to finish 11th or 12th in the West. 6-9-1 pretty much aligns with that prediction. If you expected anything different from betting on Draisaitl and Arcobello you were suffering from delusions of grandeur.

    The options haven’t changed from August. Examples like Brodziak will be the easiest and cheapest to acquire. They are also the shortest term answers based on the assumption that Draisaitl will be much better next year. Well, this is Yakupov’s 3rd year and there is no guarantee Draisaitl will develop faster.

    So my opinion on the matter hasn’t changed from last year, this spring, July, August or September. Take Draisaitl out of the equation and target an option that is viable for 2-4 years. Look at the success Van and Cgy have had with Bonino and Colburne. 24-26 y/o who are ready NOW. Anders Lee in NYI fits the bill. Or go after Hanzal, Soderberg, Zajac etc.

    It’s fantastic that Arcobello is a jack-of-all trades. He is still a terrible fit against the behemoths that play C in the Western Conference. Go get an option that fits well as a 2/3C if/when Draisaitl is ready.

    • Kevwan

      I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, until this team makes the playoffs, you could probably recycle about 60% of the articles on here, year after year. I’m pretty sure the comments section goes round and round every day/week/year. Right now guys are saying trade Arco/Draisatl…I’m pretty sure they were saying the same crap about Gagner a year ago/2 years ago/3 years ago/etc.

    • Yea we understand that management should have gotten a real second line centre, but how would Brodziak be better than Arco.

      Arco is solid defensively, wins most of his face-offs, and has good hands in general.

      If we are going to get a big solid 2nd line centerman, then why not draft another one…….because that’s the only way we are going to find one of these.

      In my mind Arco is NOT the problem………there are far too many problems on defence and goaltending that we need to fix first.

  • ubermiguel

    Draisaitl for Soderberg, or Arcobello and some draft picks for Soderberg.

    Or Arcobello and some draft picks for Hanzal. Or maybe some package that includes a left shooting DMan we could afford to lose like Nikitin or Ference while swallowing some cap if needed.

    B.Schenn. Anisimov.

    Or take a chance on a struggling centre like Berglund or Jokinen for low cost.

    Or just target an actual 1B center. Everybody wants change but very very few are willing to give someone up like Draisaitl or Yakupov to get it done. Credit should be given to the Oilers PR/Kool-Aid team for that one. Selling from a position of weakness doesn’t fit the bill anymore with draft pedigree and current performance. Neither does selling off the future when we have lots of young players on the roster.

  • Serious Gord

    We’ve been talking about his topic since we got rid of Gagner. In fact, it’s probably been going on longer than that. The reality is we’re not getting a #2 centre. We’re not getting Shea Webber, or some other #1Dman either. I don’t care who you’re packaging for either of those types. We’re not getting one. Settle in for the long haul. When Draisatl takes a step up, we’ll have a #2C. When Nurse steps up, and then takes another step up from his rookie NHL year, we MAY have a #1D. That’s it. That’s the plan. I know you guys know this already, but why even waste your time arguing. Fire Lowe a million times, other GM’s or even Burke would have a tough time coming up with a better plan than that. Maybe we can make some trades, sure, but I don’t see us being a better team this year than they currently are. Brodziak or some other border line #3C/#4C who gets some offensive minutes will not get us into the playoffs. Sure, we’re better than last year, and next year I hope we’re better than this year. But that’s what we are, and that’s what we’re going to get.

  • Kevwan

    Willis what’s your definition of being competitive this year? I would define it as competing for a playoff spot.

    Basically 20% of the season gone and 6 points out of 8th in the west. Having to leap frog Minnesota, San Jose and Dallas to get to #8. A realist wouldn’t like our chances this year.

    There is no doubt that C and G are the weakest links in the Oilers organizational depth, so yes a trade makes sense. I’d rather see the trade target move to say Joakim Anderrson or Riley Sheahan than a Patrick Berglund type. While we’re at it, MacT should be looking for a 22 yr. and younger goalie that can help in a couple of years.

    It really makes little sense to give up any futures for shorter term help at this point.

  • cmandev77

    I have said this before. Edmonton should make a trade with L.A for the rights to Justin Azevedo. Fly him over from the KHL where he is currently leading his team in scoring and face off wins, not to mention 30 hits in 25 games for a small guy. This guy is 26, has tons of guts and can play both ends of the ice real well.

    He is a 1st team KHL All-Star, led SM Liiga in scoring his only year there, the only player to score in every game of a 7 game final for a cup (Last year in the KHL finals), was ranked one of the top 25 AHL players under 25 in 2012 http://thehockeywriters.com/the-ahls-top-25-scorers-under-25/.

    Not sure why we don’t take a gamble on a player like this. I know he is not the ideal size but he will give us 2-3 good years until Drai is ready.

    Here is a video of him after he got out of the penalty box from todays game. http://video.khl.ru/quotes/258425

      • cmandev77

        He will never play for L.A. I know that. But L.A. does not have a problem at Centre. If L.A. had not sent him a qualifying offer in 2012 he would of been a RFA. Obviously they see something in the kid. He will make it to the NHL I am sure. Just saying why don’t we offer L.A. something cheap (7th round pick) for his rights to get him under contract. If you have a better idea that is actually plausible, please tell us.

  • OilersDynasty

    Mike Richards Cap Hit is $5.75 million. Capgeek has Edmonton with ~$3 million in space.

    There are only six plaers who the Oilers can send back in trade who will balance the salaries: Ferrence, Gordon, Perron, Petry, Purcell and Schultz.

    Ferrence has a no-movement. Gordon, Petry and Schultz are pretty important and shouldn’t be moved without direct replacements.

    Purcell has minimal value. Perron is playing hurt. It is a tough deal to make. If LA likes Purcell enough we may be able to send picks/prospects and retain salary enough to get Richards. If Perron gets a bit healthier we may be able to do it straight across. Perron for Richards would only save LA ~$1.9 million, so I doubt they’d jump at the idea.

    I don’t think we can realistically offer LA enough to beat out teams with more Cap space.

    • Personally, I wouldn’t move either David Perron or Teddy Purcell straight across for Mike Richards because a) he’s a tremendously diminished player from what he once was and b) he’s signed at nearly $6.0 million per year until 2020.


      • pkam

        A 40-50 pt 2/3 centre at 29 with 5.75M left for 5 more years. Does it sound familiar?

        Some of the posters here really get me confused. They were so happy that MacT managed to get rid of Horcoff, they turn around and want a new one.

        In a year or 2, you beg they will be blaming MacT for the trade and want to get rid of Mike Richards for a bag of pucks.

  • OilersDynasty

    Apparently, a guy in LA named Mike Richards is available. Why not go after him? The Kings are up against the cap and need relief. It won’t take much to get him. Yes, he’s Gagner sized, but he’s more physical, he’s more sound defensively, he can play on both special teams. Seems like a very good fit to me. C’mon MacT, get’er done!!

    • you’re a bit late with the richards thing. Willis already pointed out the reasons for not acquiring…diminishing player, $6.0MM/yr until 2020, NTC clause that he won’t waive to come to edmonton. total non-starter. but..yeah, there are people out there who have little bromance fantasies about him.

  • 916oiler

    ” If the Oilers can get a serviceable but overpaid centre for someone like Teddy Purcell, that’s something that should interest them.”

    Maybe the Coyotes would send us Gagner? LOL just kidding…

    Why didn’t we sign Ribeiro???? G0d freaking d@mmit!!

  • Afc Wimbledon

    The Oil have needed to add a center or two at least from the day they traded Gagner. One might argue that thee also needed to add a center or two when they a still had Gagner.

    Either way MacT’s inability to do anything about this obvious and fatal flaw is a serious black mark on his tally sheet.

    • Serious Gord

      exactly, writing this article in november, it could have been written in august, when after they traded Gagner, they decide to once again, go into the season with Draisatal or Archibello as there guys after Hopkins, total failure on management to once again not address this problem. fix

    • I would go Perron & Petry for Jenner although unlikely CBJ goes for that, unless it’s a sign and trade.

      This give Eakins the option to move Draisaitl to wing for the remainder of the year occasionally moving him to Centre the same way MTL brought Galchenyuk along.

      Big Boone Jenner fan, still pissed we drafted Musil over this kid!

  • Burnward

    Couple thoughts.

    Philly did make the playoffs. Didn’t they can their coach after a bad start?

    JW, if you’d take Purcell over Richards…I really better just not say anything at all.

  • Burnward

    Play Dri with Hall and Purcell that line will make the rookie into a NHL centre quicker and improve his quickness.

    Let 67-93-14 play against the other teams top line
    Let 4-29-16 be a true Blackhawks second line
    Let 57-26-10 be energy and seconday scoring
    Let 23-27-6 do what they have been doing

  • PlayDirty

    Guys, guys, guys (and girls)…

    You heard it, no team has ever come back from being 5 pts back of a playoff spot. We should just quit.


    *Rehab is for quitters.

  • RMGS

    so Tampa dumps Purcell for what ended up being a draft pick, and now the Oil are supposed to get a seviceable nhl centre for him?

    He was already a salary dump, to the oilers!

  • RMGS

    Here is a great trade idea. Trade Larsson and a 6th(not a 7th) to Dallas for Horcoff. I know we would win that trade big time but do you think Dallas would do it?

  • Zarny

    There are 3 centers who are playing under where they should be: Hodgson, Berglund, O.Jokinen

    Could we trade Purcell for one of them (Jokinen would not even take Purcell)? See how they do for a couple games and then send Draisaitl down if they are at least equivilent so that he can play big minutes and in the world juniors?

    Berglund would be the most favourable given his current contract.

    We can fill the wing position with Pakarinen or a couple options from OKC no problem.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oiler aren’t going to ruin their shot at Connor McJesus by bringing in another center.

    The time to act was 3 months ago. Not after this seasons playoff hopes are long dead. MacTavish is a confirmed member of this Oilers smoke and mirrors debacle.