Timeframe for landing a centre

Jonathan Willis
July 13 2014 07:00AM

Craig MacTavish10

There is a tone of increasing desperation in much of the commentary concerning the Edmonton Oilers’ ongoing quest for some help at centre.

Weighed against that rising emotion is the take general manager Craig MacTavish offered on July 1 when asked about the problem.

He Knows It’s a Problem

Draisaitl, Leon

“We didn’t address all of our needs today,” was the first thing out of MacTavish’s mouth when asked about the team’s depth chart up the middle. “We still feel ideally we’d be able to add a centreman.”

And no, he wasn’t banking on Leon Draisaitl riding in to save the day.

“The one thing I will say about centre is that Leon Draisaitl is an element that we did add in the draft that we think is going to fill that position for a long time,” he said. “We do have some depth there, but they’re young, developing players and any decision regarding Leon or any of those players will be strictly based on what the best situation is for the player and not what’s best for the team.”

In other words, however the depth chart looks at the moment MacTavish’s words indicate no desire to force feed him NHL minutes he isn’t ready for.

The Current Depth Chart

51-Lander-4

“Right now we have Mark Arcobello, we have Anton Lander, we’ve got Boyd Gordon and of course [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins in those positions now,” he said, summing up the depth chart that so many see as unacceptable.

“Now you can draw all your own conclusions based on what my strategy may be going forward, and we’re hopeful that we can do something and add a centre piece to what we’ve done already. These things aren’t always guaranteed, but we’ll be trying to do something in that regard.”

Asked whether the new centre would be primarily an offensive forward or more a stabilizing defensive force, MacTavish made it clear that the Oilers weren’t picky. “Both are really possible,” he said. “I think both are probable. We’ve talked about how we want to build our team going forward. We want three offensive lines and we want a line, probably centered by Boyd Gordon, that can start much like Chicago is built, that you have another line that you can start predominantly in the defensive zone. Then you’ve got three possession lines, or three lines that you can count on for offence… We’re not in such a need offensively up the middle that we have to get an offensive centreman. We feel that Nugent-Hopkins is going to fill that admirably, and also a more versatile centre would fit in that place too.”

Patience from an Impatient Guy

Craig MacTavish6

The most important comment MacTavish made, though, was probably his last on the subject.

“We’ve made a few calls,” he acknowledged. “But it’s hard to say whether it’s going to fit tomorrow, a week from now or in September/October.”

The level of concern in Edmonton is understandable; until a team actually does something there will always be skepticism that they recognize the problem and are actively looking for solutions.

In this case, though, it’s a pretty good bet that MacTavish is doing all that can be done. His record is open to interpretation, but he’s been an awfully active manager in his time at the helm; he’s not prone to the dithering that predecessor Steve Tambellini to be plagued by. He’s not unaware of the problem; on July 1 he made it abundantly clear that he saw the trouble and wanted to address it.

That’s means and motive; the question now is whether the right opportunity exists. The free agent options are not compelling, and even in situations where a case to sign one can be made the player’s willingness to come to Edmonton (recall Mike Ribeiro taking a buyout rather than accepting a trade to Calgary) and contract demands are unknowns. Also unknown to outsiders is the content of the calls MacTavish has made since; he has a much better idea of the players potentially available through that route than anyone not plugged into the team does.

If the 2014-15 season rolls around and the Oilers are running Arcobello/Draisaitl on lines two and three, we’ll probably look back ruefully at Derek Roy and wonder what could have been. But if MacTavish's public statements are anything to go by, it won't come to that.

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.
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#151 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
July 14 2014, 12:03AM
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Hello to all the obvious Oilers staffers working this site/topic today.

You're the busiest crew working in those offices it appears. Hang in there Gord.

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#152 Old time oil fan
July 14 2014, 12:20AM
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clyde wrote:

Apparently that won't be an issue.

I would suggest that big business in Calgary or the ownership will step up with financing. Unlike here where we the tax payers have to pay a large portion for a facility that will disproportionately benefit our billionaire owner. And if that's not enough the new Katz tower being built beside the arena is thanks largely to the city ( us tax payers again) committing long term as the anchor tenant! Mr Katz will you at least hand out free vaseline from your drugstores if you keep giving it to us up the backside?

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#153 Harry
July 14 2014, 01:19AM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Last season ended with the support of Dallas Eakins in question. If the players aren't behind Dallas, it could make a world of difference.

2013-2014 goaltending appears to be taking the blame.

2014-2015 If the players want Eakins gone, they'll continue to play that way.

MacTavish went as far as having to remind everyone Dallas wasn't going anywhere. If it takes another half season for the players to drive this point home. That's not the players fault if Craig can't admit hiring Dallas Eakins was a mistake.

What are you greasy trolls gonna do if the Oil finish top 10 in the west this year?

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#154 Silo
July 14 2014, 01:51AM
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@Harry

Why is he a troll for not unconditionally praising the team after watching them become the worst teams in the history of professional sport?

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#155 madjam
July 14 2014, 06:47AM
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In a bold move Oilers give up first round pick to Isles 2015 , conditional 2nd round pick 2016 , Yakupov , Klefbom and J.Petry for J.Tavares .

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#156 Basshole39
July 14 2014, 07:33AM
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Gret99zky wrote:

Most teams bring up their rookies slowly. Usually on the 3rd or 4th lines.

Not the Oilers. 1st and 2nd line minutes and when they start to struggle, look out!

Gagner, PRV, RNH, Yakupov all struggled because they were rushed into the league playing too many minutes.

Actually only one of those players struggled! PRV, the rest actually scored more points than the average NHL player in their rookie seasons. Sure they needed to round out their games alittle more, but how do you do that by competing againts boys? At some point you have to compete against men in the NHL and there will always be an adjustment period! Even Sid is a better player now than his rookie season! JUST to be clear I am only comparing him based on having to adjust to tougher competion, not talent or ability!!! When a player dominates the CHL there is no room for him to grow there anymore. Look at Huberdeau! did he benefit from 2 more years in the CHL? No, he had a sophmore slump as bad as Yak's!

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#157 Rickithebear
July 14 2014, 09:13AM
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Lets be realistic about last year. the east sucks:

Without 3 of top 8 fwds Hall; Perron; Gagner; Smyth; Eberle; Yak; Hemsky with at least one of top 3.

the oilers were. 1-9 .100%

Less than 2 of the top 8 out. 13-5-4 .682

Versus CGY; WPG; NSH all year 6-2-3 .682%

With Smid; N. schultz; Dubnyk; Labarbera. versus the best of the west.

oilers 1-20-2 .087%

With Scrivens Marincin; Klefbom; Fraser added they were 7-9 .438%

But were 6-3 .666% versus ANA; VCR; PHX; MIN

1-4 versus LAK; SJS; STL; COL Though our lineup was largely

Hall-RNH-Eberle

Perron-GAGNER-PITLICK

LANDER-SMYTH- JONES

Hendricks-Gordon-Gazdic/LARSEN

7 - 4th line and AHL Forwards

Marincin-Petry

Ference/BELOV-J. schultz

KLEFBOM - FRASER

4 3rd pairing D

Scrivens Fasth

MacT looked for players who performed consistent over 3-4 years.

Last 13 months he brought in

Perron 6'0" 200lb top20 pts; top 30 G LW

Purcell 6'3" 205lb top25 pt; top 35 G RW

Pouliot 6'3" 200lb top40 in PT & G LW

Hendricks 6'0" 211lb top 10 D ZS 54% FO FWD

Gordon 6'0" 202lb top 3 D ZS 58% FO Fwd

Gazdic 6'3" 240lb top 5 Enforcer

4 top 30 Box protection DMEN last 3-4 years

Ference 5'10" 190lb top 25 1st comp GA

Nikitin 6'4" 223lb #1 2nd comp GA

Fayne 6'3" 210lb #2 2nd comp GA

Aulie 6'6" 228lb top 15 1st comp GA the 2 years he faced 1st.

1.89 EVGA?60 Phanuef/Reimer

1.48 EVGA/60 Brewer/Bishop

top 5 SAVE% goal on chance/Box shots.

Scrivens #3

Next year I would expect.604 from the CGY; VCR; PHX; WPG; NSH; MIN games. 29pt

I would expect .429 from ANA; LAK; SJS; CHI; DAL; STL; COL. 24 PT

I would expect .609 From the east 39 pt which works to 92 pts.

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#158 oilers
July 14 2014, 09:32AM
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Harry wrote:

What are you greasy trolls gonna do if the Oil finish top 10 in the west this year?

Not as long as Lowe and Mac T are running the team.

They are worse off than ladt year.

My bet... bottom 4 in league.

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#159 oilers
July 14 2014, 09:38AM
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Cold Hard Truth wrote:

Sorry, Willis, but talk is cheap and good intentions mean little in a results oriented business. If the Oilers begin the season with the current roster, we can confidently declare the offseason a disappointment - even with very modest expectations. The two areas of weakness that were unianimously agreed upon by the end of last season were centre and defence. Centre depth is worse than last year (ignoring injuries), since Gagner is now gone. Defence is arguably the same as it was at the beginning of last season. We had depth guys like Nick Shultz, Smid, Belov and Grebeshkov who were expected to shore up the defence. The addition of Nikitin, Fayne and Aulie, who were all third line defenders on their respective teams last season, will bring more of the same.

Remember: you may look back and say "yeah, well those weren't very good players and these new defenceman will be different," but last August MacTavish said he was happy with the roster and didn't feel they needed to add more. He's saying the same thing now about the defence as he was last offseason.

MacTavish should be judged on what he accomplishes, not on what he wants to accomplish.

Finally, the facts are written by this poster and not agreeing with journalists who have been drinking Lowe and Mac T Koolaid.

By the way, that koolaid makes us the worst organization over the past 8 years.

I dont think the media will ever wake up in this town. It is rather pathetic.

Thx for the great post.

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#160 Zarny
July 14 2014, 09:51AM
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cccsberg wrote:

Zarny, Even if you accept the argument that the last 61 games pro-rated would have brought the Oilers all the way up to 77 pts, they would have still been in 28th, behind the Flames. Woohoo! But then again, if you want to cherry pick later parts of the season, the Flames could do the same (and others...) leaving the Oilers further behind.

I get it you're trying to find something positive to take out of the season. Hey, the Oilers sucked bad last year, bad start, sure, gave up way too many games, yes, home shut-outs...? Yes. They've made changes, hopefully they improve enough to pass the Flames...

When you consider a much longer stretch of games (61 to be exact) as a baseline over a much shorter stretch of games (21) it isn't cherry picking.

Especially when the first 21 games were characterized by the top 2 C being injured, half the roster being new, new coach, new systems, and most importantly the G letting in beach balls from the blue line.

Cherry picking would be looking at the much shorter stretch of 21 games with unique circumstances and arguing it is indicative of the longer term.

I wasn't attempting to find something positive about last season. My original comment was simply that the desperation and concern Mr. Willis refers to in the article is being realistic with expectations this year.

As I originally stated, I do like the moves MacT has made; but I think you have to be cautious about how many wins they will translate into.

I do think an additional 5 wins are easy gains this year since they are unlikely to start in a black hole. Beyond that though I think it becomes very difficult to move up the standings.

It's reasonable to expect a better year from Nuge with a full summer of training as well as from young players like Yak, Marincin, Schultz etc, but I think an additional 5-6 wins beyond the easy gains (87-89 pts) is a better case scenario for this season.

If that meets your expectations with the understanding that if injuries become a problem 77-80 pts is also very realistic you probably aren't that desperate or concerned.

If 87-89 pts as a better case scenario though doesn't meet your expectations the obvious need for additional depth of C is probably a concern. As is the obvious lack of a top pairing D. It really comes down to what your expectations are for this season.

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#161 KSC10032
July 14 2014, 10:00AM
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Concerning "Serious Gord" and his umpteen posts:

Its kind of like being in a National Park, where you are always advised to read the signs concerning safety, wildlife etc. In this case the sign reads:

DON'T FEED THE TROLL

Really folks, he lives for this stuff. He is a contrarian, plain and simple.

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#162 james_dean
July 14 2014, 10:20AM
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Not trying to troll but I could see bettman hand picking the flames for the lotto next year.

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#163 Will
July 14 2014, 10:23AM
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@Rickithebear

Well done. I might say all those teams mentioned also improved in the summer, some more than others. But for the most part I agree completely with this.

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#164 The Real Scuba Steve
July 14 2014, 10:36AM
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oilers wrote:

Finally, the facts are written by this poster and not agreeing with journalists who have been drinking Lowe and Mac T Koolaid.

By the way, that koolaid makes us the worst organization over the past 8 years.

I dont think the media will ever wake up in this town. It is rather pathetic.

Thx for the great post.

Yep, Lowe and Mac T Koolaid, I wonder if there they will have their new batch ready for training camp?

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#165 Geoff
July 14 2014, 10:37AM
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james_dean wrote:

Not trying to troll but I could see bettman hand picking the flames for the lotto next year.

If the flames got McDavid oh god lol.

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#166 Seanjohn667
July 14 2014, 10:37AM
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Oil fan in cow town wrote:

Worst rink in the league. Worst weather in the league (Winnipeg might be worse) high taxes. No mountains. No lakes. Want me to think of more?

Actually, near the lowest taxes. NY has the highest.

And the who the hell cares about mountains lakes? That's way down the list of reason to snub a place of employment.

1. Chance to win 2. Money. 3. How 'happening' is the city 4. Weather

Everything else can be rapped up and added to make up maybe 10% of the decision. If it's more, you're and idiot.

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#167 The Last Big Bear
July 14 2014, 11:11AM
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Zarny wrote:

When you consider a much longer stretch of games (61 to be exact) as a baseline over a much shorter stretch of games (21) it isn't cherry picking.

Especially when the first 21 games were characterized by the top 2 C being injured, half the roster being new, new coach, new systems, and most importantly the G letting in beach balls from the blue line.

Cherry picking would be looking at the much shorter stretch of 21 games with unique circumstances and arguing it is indicative of the longer term.

I wasn't attempting to find something positive about last season. My original comment was simply that the desperation and concern Mr. Willis refers to in the article is being realistic with expectations this year.

As I originally stated, I do like the moves MacT has made; but I think you have to be cautious about how many wins they will translate into.

I do think an additional 5 wins are easy gains this year since they are unlikely to start in a black hole. Beyond that though I think it becomes very difficult to move up the standings.

It's reasonable to expect a better year from Nuge with a full summer of training as well as from young players like Yak, Marincin, Schultz etc, but I think an additional 5-6 wins beyond the easy gains (87-89 pts) is a better case scenario for this season.

If that meets your expectations with the understanding that if injuries become a problem 77-80 pts is also very realistic you probably aren't that desperate or concerned.

If 87-89 pts as a better case scenario though doesn't meet your expectations the obvious need for additional depth of C is probably a concern. As is the obvious lack of a top pairing D. It really comes down to what your expectations are for this season.

Regarding expectations:

When I look at this roster, honest to god and cross my heart, I have no idea whether MacTavish is planning on making a playoff push, or tanking for McDavid.

Last year's team was intended to make a playoff push, but were the worst team in the conference. This year's team is looking like a modest upgrade on that. So what exactly are they aiming for?

My personal guess is that MacTavish is just trying to make incremental improvements where he can, and will let the chips fall where they may regarding the standings. Because its the only plan that really jives with what he's done.

But I think it's generally a bad sign when a team's roster is pretty much set, they are approaching the cap, and its not immediately clear whether they are trying to win or trying to lose.

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#168 mnm
July 14 2014, 11:25AM
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we will just trade petry and a second for crosby yak and klefbom a 6th for evander kane and a 1st. from there were in a playoff spot nuge wont get injured nor crosby. hall well take over as best player in nhl. we win lord stanley, and the 1st rounder that we got from the jets will win the lottery and we pick conner mcdavid.- what oiler fans think these days lol

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#169 Rickithebear
July 14 2014, 11:45AM
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@Silo

SILO:

Silo basing your Opinion of a team from results for the first half of year is Silly

We retained

Hall-RNH-Eberle

Perron-XXX-XXX

XXX-XXX-Yak

XXX-Gordon-XXX

Gazdic- Jeonsuu

Ference- Petry

XXX-XXX

XXX-J. schultz

XXX

XXX

XXX

So since 2nd half of season we have added

Hendricks; Arco; Purcell; Draisatl; Pouliot

Marincin; Nikitin; Fayne; Aulie

Scrivens; Fasth

yup good idea to look at our record.

seriosly guys!

Use your brains!

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#170 Vinotintazo
July 14 2014, 12:03PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Its just as cold in Ottawa and Montreal. Also, take away Calgarys two annual Chinooks and the weather isn't that different. [I once lived there for five yrs.]

Rinks: Check Oilers out in two years. Saddledome is a dump. Can't accommodate many rock shows because of the low roof.

One thing all other cities in Canada don't have to worry about is where they step...;no cowpies all over the place.

I'll give you the mountains, they are great back drop. You don't have the ocean , but I guess your floods are a close second.

ouch lol...

too soon for the floods thing.

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#171 Oiler Al
July 14 2014, 12:32PM
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W.T wrote:

I completely disagree. People move here for a ton of reasons. Money of course, but also a high standard of living, great communities, progressive, arts scene...the list goes on. In the past year I've met many people that moved here from Ontario (and they dnt work in oil&gas) because of the quality of life for them and their families.

Your tired old arguments are becoming less relevant all the time. Step aside for go-getters with the proper attitude.

By the way, Montreal as cold as hell in the winter. It has to do with the humidity but its brutal.

Come on now, Calgary has "art", they ride bulls and rope cows and have clowns getting horned by bulls.

That's art in Calgary.

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#172 Drunk Farmer
July 14 2014, 12:42PM
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I really hesitated to comment in the Edmonton and I guess Alberta bashing, including Calgary, as this is supposed to be a forum for hockey discussions, but I cannot listen to this nonsense any more. I have worked in Oil and Gas, as well as operate a farm in Northern Alberta for most of my life. While working on various Oil and Gas jobs (which have been plentiful since the 1970’s, save a bust or two) I have encountered many out of province folk from both east and west (Maritimes and BC primarily) who have no problems telling me how great it is at home, how the groceries are less expensive, real estate is cheaper and blah blah blah. We get it. The patch is rough, the mosquitos are horrible and s@#t is expensive. You don’t like. LEAVE. Go cheer for the Maple Leafs. We don’t want you anyways. Alberta has been built on the backs of many great immigrants both from within the borders of this country and from abroad and these are the people who make up the passionate fan base that will continue to support the Oilers and Flames .

I have met many wonderful people from out of province who still commute to wherever they are from or who have moved their families to Alberta. These people can see the beauty, prosperity and opportunity in this Province and help contribute to make it one of the best places in the world to live. And contrary to popular belief, Alberta isn’t all Oil and Gas, although it is the basis of our robust economy. The Agricultural Sector, both cattle and grain, is doing better than ever with spinoff industries like technology, logistics and other services supporting the economy as well as other technologies, service industries and manufacturing also help make the economy strong.

Edmonton does have its faults, be we are a mere four hours into the mountain parks. Northern Alberta has some of the most picturesque lakes, unbelievable fishing, excellent golf courses and any other outdoor activity you can imagine within a short drive of the city limits.

Oh ya…. We need a number 2 C.

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#173 Zarny
July 14 2014, 02:29PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

Regarding expectations:

When I look at this roster, honest to god and cross my heart, I have no idea whether MacTavish is planning on making a playoff push, or tanking for McDavid.

Last year's team was intended to make a playoff push, but were the worst team in the conference. This year's team is looking like a modest upgrade on that. So what exactly are they aiming for?

My personal guess is that MacTavish is just trying to make incremental improvements where he can, and will let the chips fall where they may regarding the standings. Because its the only plan that really jives with what he's done.

But I think it's generally a bad sign when a team's roster is pretty much set, they are approaching the cap, and its not immediately clear whether they are trying to win or trying to lose.

I agree with your sentiment that MacT is simply focused on improving obvious holes and making the team better. I don't think he has a specific spot in the standings in mind per se.

I think most predictions last year had the Oilers making a push for 19-24th ish. Somewhere between Van/Carolina (83 pts) and Nsh/NJ/Ott (88 pts). Not actually a playoff team yet but one of the better also-rans.

The first 21 games obviously guaranteed that wasn't going to happen; but even if you use the last 61 games as a baseline the Oilers were still just below that prediction.

My personal opinion is that the moves MacT has made gets them to where most thought they were last year. If you run next season as a Monte Carlo simulation the majority of the results probably put the Oilers between 81-89 pts.

Of course, there are always standard deviations from the mean which you alluded to with making a playoff push or tanking for McDavid.

If it all comes up roses for the Oilers this year - Yak has a big rebound, Nuge breaks out for 70-80 pts, Schultz and/or Marincin make big strides, Draisaitl plays like McKinnon, and/or Scrivens plays like a beast they could exceed expectations.

On the other hand, if Hall, Nuge and/or Scrivens get hurt for 40+ games, or the blueline, while better and finally all legit NHLers, is still overwhelmed against top lines they could under-perform expectations like last year.

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#174 Cold Hard Truth
July 14 2014, 06:35PM
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Zarny wrote:

I agree with your sentiment that MacT is simply focused on improving obvious holes and making the team better. I don't think he has a specific spot in the standings in mind per se.

I think most predictions last year had the Oilers making a push for 19-24th ish. Somewhere between Van/Carolina (83 pts) and Nsh/NJ/Ott (88 pts). Not actually a playoff team yet but one of the better also-rans.

The first 21 games obviously guaranteed that wasn't going to happen; but even if you use the last 61 games as a baseline the Oilers were still just below that prediction.

My personal opinion is that the moves MacT has made gets them to where most thought they were last year. If you run next season as a Monte Carlo simulation the majority of the results probably put the Oilers between 81-89 pts.

Of course, there are always standard deviations from the mean which you alluded to with making a playoff push or tanking for McDavid.

If it all comes up roses for the Oilers this year - Yak has a big rebound, Nuge breaks out for 70-80 pts, Schultz and/or Marincin make big strides, Draisaitl plays like McKinnon, and/or Scrivens plays like a beast they could exceed expectations.

On the other hand, if Hall, Nuge and/or Scrivens get hurt for 40+ games, or the blueline, while better and finally all legit NHLers, is still overwhelmed against top lines they could under-perform expectations like last year.

You can't isolate variables (i.e. players) and project how many wins/loses will result if you add or remove them because (1) it is a team sport and variables (i.e. players) are interdependent on other variables, and (2) many aspects of a team cannot be quantified (e.g. team morale).

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#175 Bigfan
July 14 2014, 07:28PM
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Oilerboy1112 wrote:

Edmonton isn't the $hittiest city the NHL, it's not even close.

Visits to Detroit and Buffalo would help someone see that there are worse NHL cities than Edmonton.

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