The Oilers Centre Depth Chart

Jonathan Willis
May 17 2014 01:34PM

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins2

A year ago, the Edmonton Oilers entered the year with a centre depth chart featuring Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner (both injured) in the top two jobs, Mark Arcobello as a fill-in, Boyd Gordon in the third-line job and Will Acton on the fourth line.

The results weren’t pretty. Where do they go from here?

The Givens

93-RNH-11

The first-line job seems destined to remain with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’ve heard some complaint about that from Oilers fans – the consensus seems to be that he isn’t big enough – but this is what happens when a team does the kind of scorched-earth rebuild the Oilers have engaged in. Young players get pushed into hard jobs before they’re really ready for them.

Nugent-Hopkins is a special player; I think everyone realizes that. He’s a good bet to grow into the role and it’s difficult to see the Oilers finding someone better than him over the summer (Jason Spezza, to pick the obvious choice, would be a nice fit but he’ll be costly to acquire and he’s a year away from free agency). Barring something very unexpected, the Oilers’ best play is to leave Nugent-Hopkins in the top slot.

27-Gordon-1

Boyd Gordon did a nice job in a tough role last season, but in a perfect world he slots in on the fourth line next year. The Oilers need to get some offence from their third line, and that would be helped immensely if the fourth line can take a pile of defensive zone draws and take some of the ugly defensive work away from the top-nine. With Gordon and Matt Hendricks, that’s a real possibility.

Unresolved

89-Gagner-7

Sam Gagner has been traded on the internet countless times over the last couple of years, and this summer it seems a good bet that he’ll be traded for real. He’s a better player than he sometimes gets credit for, but he has significant issues and an injury at the start of last season helped highlight those.

In the unlikely event that Gagner stays, he’ll centre a protected scoring line. If he’s dealt, it will likely be to a team with a surplus of checkers and a need of some scoring. The names generally mentioned in rumour are guys like the Islanders’ Josh Bailey (6’1”, 194 pounds, career-high 38 points) or Nashville’s Colin Wilson (6’1”, 216 pounds, career-high 35 points).

The upshot is that the Oilers could end up with a second-line centre, a third-line centre, or something else entirely there.

26-Arcobello-5

Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander were both re-signed by Edmonton. Arcobello is a gifted offensive centre who showed a capacity to do a lot of different things last season, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if there was some hesitancy by the Oilers to pencil him into their top-nine. Lander is a gifted defensive centre who has struggled to convert his game to the NHL level; if he’s in the starting-12 it will likely be on the fourth line.

The Oilers also currently hold the third overall pick in the 2014 Draft, and the most likely selection is a centre. If the Oilers come away with any of Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett or Leon Draisaitl that player would likely be bumped immediately to the NHL as the centre of a protected scoring line – perhaps with Nail Yakupov on one wing and a veteran defensive winger on the other side.

So What Happens?

Craig MacTavish9

Edmonton won’t be able to finalize their plans until after this summer’s entry draft. If they add a centre, there really isn’t much room for Gagner, and trading him for a third-line pivot (and bumping Boyd Gordon down to the fourth line) makes great sense.

If, instead, the Oilers add a defenceman via the draft, things get more complicated. My guess is that they would still attempt to move Gagner for a third-line pivot and then try to find a replacement second-line centre via free agency.

The only certainty here is uncertainty. As Kevin Lowe might put it, expect the unexpected.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#101 andrewmk20
May 18 2014, 12:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@nuge2nail

Agreed on that statement. Brandon Prust is a 2.5m hit for 4 years and is basically the same type of player. A very hardworking 4th liner who kills penalties and can mix it up.

Avatar
#102 nuge2nail
May 18 2014, 12:38PM
Trash it!
5
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
Serious Gord wrote:

Had MacT been a better cap manager and used his buyout on hemsky, smid wouldn't have been traded mid-season.

Oiler Domination To Follow

You do realize we got Vikto Fasth for Hemsky dont you? Smid sucks. He averages under 10 points a season at close to 4 million a year.

Depending which ufa defenseman MacT spends Smids cap space on this off season will determine how good the trade actually was.

Jury is still out. Example:

Smid(3.5) + N Shultz(3.5)

For

Matt Niskanen(5.5), Horak, Broissot and a pick

Avatar
#103 nuge2nail
May 18 2014, 12:45PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers
Walter Sobchak wrote:

No they don't.

A warrior? Good grief.

The Oilers need a number 1 defensemen.

The Oilers COULD use a number 2 defensemen

The Oilers need a whole 3rd line.

The Oilers need a 2nd line center.

Your talking perpetual rebuild with adding overaged over priced talent.

28 million takes no time to get to.

The Oilers have massive holes filling them with middling over priced players is a disaster waiting.

Not to mention you have two big RFA's coming up.

When exactly do you want the Oilers to stop sucking?

Oiler Domination To Follow

So Hendricks extra 300k in salary is preventing us from being able to bring in a #1-#2 dman and a #2C?

I know those are our biggest concerns - they have been for the last 7 years...

In no way is Hendricks cap hit the issue here.

Horcoff, Hemsky were the reasons we were unable to balance the team and they are gone now.

Team toughness has been an issue for the last 7 years as well- I think Hendricks contributes to the solution.

Avatar
#104 nuge2nail
May 18 2014, 12:50PM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
Serious Gord wrote:

First Hendricks cap hit isn't in and of itself a huge concern, rather it is the habit of this team to overpay/under scout for this type of player.

As for the cap going up - it goes up for all teams thus it will end up being eaten by salary inflation - it is nowhere near the panacea that many make it out to be.

The real short to mid-term beneficiaries will be those teams that are near the cap now and have lots of good players tied up to long term contracts. Edmonton is not in that group.

Oiler Domination To Follow

Every team has contracts of players who are being overpaid.

Oilers actually aren't that bad when you look around the league.

MacTs actually don't a good job of clearing a ton of useless cap space left from the useless Tambellini era.

Dubnyk, Horcoff, Hemsky, Smid, N Shultz are some examples.

Thats over 20+ mil in cap space - which will hopefully be used this off season.

Avatar
#105 Manfly
May 18 2014, 12:52PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Serious Gord wrote:

Go look at how perennially successful teams handle their budding stars and get back to me.

NHL-ready does not necessarily mean that's what you want to do nor that it is the best interests of the player long-term (gagner is a poster boy for that).

This team needs PROVEN NHL 1/2 Line players - not prospects.

there's no way in hell you ever send a kid back to junior if he's appears ready to play in the NHL....no way!! and Gagner being a "poster boy" for what fans perceive to be not as successful an NHL career as they'd like seem to forget that 40 to 50 points is likely all that Sam is able to give at this level. sending him back to juniors at the time would have been the wrong decision in my opinion simply because he likely wouldn't have been any better than he is now, so it would have accomplished nothing.

Avatar
#106 nuge2nail
May 18 2014, 12:56PM
Trash it!
3
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
They're $hittie wrote:

It is never a bad thing to discuss good contract management in a capped league.

If all the oilers were paid on what they should than we could afford to overpay a little when we are a competitive team. When that finally happens we will not have cap space.

Eberle should be 5.4 not 6

Gagner should have been signed the year before for four years at 3.9 or 4.1

fair value for Gordon is about 2.4

ference should be around 2.5

look at how much we would save and think of the trade value these players would have if we didnt overpay them

it is never bad to talk about properly managing your assets.

p.s. get rid of that stupid oilers domination to follow crap. no one takes you serious because of it.

Oiler Domination To Follow

If we somehow became the only NHL team to not have a single poor value contract then we would have 33 million in cap space and not 28 million.

Than we would do what exactly?

Overpay and sign a bunch of poor value contracts when free agency hits?

I can't see us spending the 28 million let alone 33 million, there's only 5-6 star Ufa's and with the cap going up all the contendors have cap space.

We don't need value contracts we need value players and Hendricks is just that.

Avatar
#107 Sketchy
May 18 2014, 01:46PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Manfly wrote:

there's no way in hell you ever send a kid back to junior if he's appears ready to play in the NHL....no way!! and Gagner being a "poster boy" for what fans perceive to be not as successful an NHL career as they'd like seem to forget that 40 to 50 points is likely all that Sam is able to give at this level. sending him back to juniors at the time would have been the wrong decision in my opinion simply because he likely wouldn't have been any better than he is now, so it would have accomplished nothing.

I'd like to stay away from 18 year old that "appear ready" there is no question that putting a kid in too early can derail his career. On the other hand no one has ever been hurt by seasoning him in the juniors for an extra year

Avatar
#108 Serious Gord
May 18 2014, 04:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
admiralmark wrote:

3rd and 4th Line Players as they are currently lined up in the playoffs:

LA KINGS = 2.89 Million/ Player on average. They however have a cheaper 2nd line(1.33 mill/avg per player).

Chicago Blackhawks =1.79 Million/ Player on average.

NYR = 1.61 Million / Player on average.

Montreal = 2.85 Million/ Player on average.

Hate to burst your bubble but teams don't always stick to what you might think is a 3rd/4th line players. None of the remaining 4 teams in the playoffs come close to 1 mill on average. Either Scotty is getting old or this is an unrealistic # to go by.

Or I misquoted mr bowman... Wish I could remember who's show it was then I could find the podcast - it was an excellent discussion on pro-scouting and cap management focussing on 3/4 line issues.

Avatar
#109 admiralmark
May 18 2014, 04:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Serious Gord wrote:

Or I misquoted mr bowman... Wish I could remember who's show it was then I could find the podcast - it was an excellent discussion on pro-scouting and cap management focussing on 3/4 line issues.

It seems like the most successful teams pretty much roll their top 3 lines in which case the 3rd line players have to be a high enough caliber to handle that load. This would stand to reason they are reasonably paid. The 4th line for sure should average 1 million/player or less however. So if you have a 3rd line that averages 2 mill and a 4th line that averages 1 mill. Then the bottom 2 lines are in the $1.5 million range. That seems like a # to aim for.

Avatar
#110 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 18 2014, 05:45PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers

@Serious Gord

This team needs PROVEN NHL 1/2 Line players - not prospects.

______________________________________________________________________________

Don't think of them as prospects. Think of them as assets. What would the Oilers have for assets, if not for the last 4 entry drafts? There isn't near enough assets gathered here yet to address the issues of this hockey club.

The Oil are 3 yrs away from being a playoff team, correct/agreed?

Keep adding prospects and make decisions who's available and who you want to keep.

Avatar
#111 Serious Gord
May 18 2014, 06:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

This team needs PROVEN NHL 1/2 Line players - not prospects.

______________________________________________________________________________

Don't think of them as prospects. Think of them as assets. What would the Oilers have for assets, if not for the last 4 entry drafts? There isn't near enough assets gathered here yet to address the issues of this hockey club.

The Oil are 3 yrs away from being a playoff team, correct/agreed?

Keep adding prospects and make decisions who's available and who you want to keep.

Assets? Yes - unproven assets at the NHL level.

Very very few draftees make much of a solid impact in the first two to three years after they are drafted - including the likes of gordie Howe and joe Thornton etc. that period takes longer for Centres and d-men the two positions the oil are weakest in.

Granted the only assets the current oil has are drafted picks, but those could just as easily be veterans that those picks were traded for. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that they should have been)

what the oil needs to do now is to get Ready to go veterans at centre and defense to compliment those picks. And the price is this years pick and $$.

Avatar
#112 Serious Gord
May 18 2014, 06:59PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Serious Gord wrote:

Or I misquoted mr bowman... Wish I could remember who's show it was then I could find the podcast - it was an excellent discussion on pro-scouting and cap management focussing on 3/4 line issues.

I think my memory was flawed and that bowman said third line D and fourth line fwds should not average over 1 million per...

Avatar
#113 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 18 2014, 08:35PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

@Serious Gord

Have to believe the effort to bring in sufficient veteran help has been a constant the last couple yrs. Between over valuing outgoing players and clinging to hopes the new ones will pan out, they're against a brick wall.

I think they feel the only way to fix this is to grow/draft their own appreciable players from within. The fans seem to be in support of this.

You have to admit Gord, this is a rebuild unlike any other in the NHL before. Trying to accomplish all this in a B market has had its challenges, and perhaps shouldn't be measured against other markets/rebuilds.

2 or 3 more yrs should cover it Gord. You'll just have to ride a few more years of this out like the rest of us.

Avatar
#114 camdog
May 19 2014, 12:19PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
nuge2nail wrote:

Oiler Domination To Follow

You do realize we got Vikto Fasth for Hemsky dont you? Smid sucks. He averages under 10 points a season at close to 4 million a year.

Depending which ufa defenseman MacT spends Smids cap space on this off season will determine how good the trade actually was.

Jury is still out. Example:

Smid(3.5) + N Shultz(3.5)

For

Matt Niskanen(5.5), Horak, Broissot and a pick

Fasth was the number 4 goalie in Anaheim, Horak signed in the KHL, Oliver Roy was traded straight across for Broissot.

No matter how anyone shakes it the Smid deal was an awful trade for the Oilers organisation, not necesarily because Smid was good, but because the Oilers don't have anybody else better than him in the organisation and the young guys won't be better for 3-4 seasons, when his contract would be set to expire. And to top it off trading Smid exposed Petry's weakness'.

Comments are closed for this article.