January 03 2017 07:00AM
The Oilers enter 2017 sitting in 3nd place in the Pacific Division, 5th in the Western Conference and tied for 10th in the NHL. They are finally making progress where it matters most, on the ice, and Oilersnation can once again realistically discuss the NHL playoffs.
I think we can all agree Connor McDavid is a better player than Taylor Hall. McDavid is on a different level than most players in the NHL, despite his young age. He’s a remarkable talent.
He is a big reason the Oilers are competitive, but he isn’t the only reason. I keep hearing from many how the Oilers management, mainly Chiarelli, and the team only look better due to #97. I don’t agree.
Of course he’s a huge part of their success, but hockey is the ultimate team game. McDavid is the best player, but he plays just over 1/3 of the game. He is on the bench for the other 39 minutes, and unless he has some magic potion, he doesn’t impact those minutes.
I’ve also heard many suggest Hall was the reason the Oilers lost for the past six seasons. Again, I disagree with this, and here are some numbers which illustrate why McDavid isn’t the only reason the Oilers are having success, and why Hall wasn’t the reason they had very little success when he was here.
McDavid has only been with the Oilers for a year and a half, but his first season he played 45 games and Hall also had a season where he played 45 games with the Oilers.
Here are Hall’s numbers from the 2013 lockout-shortened season, and McDavid’s from last year.
GP G A PTS EVP PPP TOI/G % TG %TEVG
Hall 45 16 34 50 36 14 18:37 42.7% 46.7%
McDavid 45 16 32 48 34 14 18:53 41.0% 38.6%
The 2013 Oilers were 18-21-6 with Hall, while the Oilers were 17-25-3 with McDavid. Neither team was overly successful. Hall was involved in more of the team’s total goals as well as the team’s even-strength goals.
The allowed 135 goals with McDavid in the lineup last year, and 122 with Hall in the lineup in 2013.
And here are Hall’s numbers from the 2013/2014 season, and McDavid’s so far this year.
GP G A PTS EVP PPP TOI/G % TG %EVG
Hall 75 27 53 80 62 17 20:00 43.2% 47.7%
McDavid 38 14 29 43 29 13 21:00 39.8% 40.8%
**If you prorate McDavid after game 38 to game 75 he would finish with 85 points.**
The Oilers were 27-40-8 games Hall played in 2013/2014, while this year the Oilers are 19-12-7 and would be on pace to have 88 points after 75 games. The team is having much better results, yet their best forward is not contributing as much to the overall offence as Hall did in 2014.
Again, we agree McDavid is a better player than Hall, and the obvious change isn't his departure, but instead the addition of quality NHL defenders.
In 2013/2014 the Oilers allowed 3.22 goal/game and this year they are allowing 2.58. Their overall team defence is much better. They scored fewer goals per game as well, 2.46 compared to 2.84 this year.
They are a better TEAM. They have much better defence, goaltending and overall depth.
The main difference is the blueline. The Oilers have competent defenders in every pairing this year.
I do not understand those who believe Hall was the main reason the Oilers were terrible, and that McDavid is the only reason this group is winning today.
HELP ME UNDERSTAND
I did not like the Hall for Larsson trade, but not because Hall is the better player. What irked me was how the organization made it seem like Hall was the reason the team was garbage for years. It was pathetic to blame one individual, because any sane, smart hockey fan could see Hall's on ice play was not the reason the Oilers were in the basement.
Maybe Hall wasn't the best leader. He is far from a perfect player. He had some flaws, no doubt, but few players are great leaders. However even if you are a great leader, you can't make chicken soup out of chicken shit. The Oilers defence was the arguably the worst D corps in the league during Hall's six seasons.
Suggesting a lack of leadership was the reason the Oilers ranked near the bottom or the standings is laughable to me. They were there because they simply did not have enough good NHL players. Lack of skill is much more of an issue than lack of leadership for any team in any sport.
I did however, understand Chiarelli had to improve his defence, and he was able to trade Hall because he still had McDavid, and because he felt Leon Draisaitl could become the other dominant forward the team needed. It was a risk to give up high-scoring forward for a defensive D-man, but the reality was the Oilers had a much bigger hole in the solid defender area, than they did for a high-scoring winger.
But it wasn't just McDavid and Draisaitl that allowed Chiarelli to move Hall, it was a combination of many other moves to ensure the Oilers were a more balanced team. Chiarelli, unlike the previous management groups in Edmonton, realized he needed some defencemen who could defend, to complement his skilled forwards. He also recognized the team needed a few different elements. They couldn't win too many of the same type of players.
Had Chiarelli dealt Hall for Larsson and not made the numerous other moves over the past 18 months, the Oilers would not be positioned where they are today.
Adding Cam Talbot, Andrej Sekera, Zack Kassian, Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic, Kris Russell, Matt Benning, Drake Caggiula, Eric Gryba and Jesse Puljujarvi has allowed the Oilers to become competitive.
Not sending Brandon Davidson to the minors, and subsequently on waivers, at the start of last season when many felt he should have turned out to be a brilliant move. Chiarelli knew what they had in Davidson before many of us.
The Oilers success with Chiarelli didn't happen overnight, no re-tooling does, and while winning the McDavid lottery was the most important factor, even his appearance on the ice could not guarantee the Oilers success.
In McDavid's rookie season, the Oilers picked up 37 points in the 45 games he played, but had a higher points % in the 37 games he didn't dress, amassing 33 points. I'm pretty sure none of us believe the Oilers were better off without him, but even his incredible talent couldn't improve this team.
The GM had to improve the defence and he has.
I can't comprehend how people keep saying the Oilers are only improved because of #97, and that Chiarelli's trade of Hall was brutal. I didn't like the organization allowing blame to be placed on one player, something we've seen unfold many times before, however, the trade itself wasn't brutal, It was a risk, but Chiarelli had a plan, and it has worked.
He added Larsson. A solid 2nd pairing defender. He isn't flashy. He isn't a top pairing defender right now, but he's improved the Oilers right defence a lot. He signed Russell to a great contract. A one-year deal at $3 million. Russell is also an upgrade over Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin and Justin Schultz in a second-pairing role. He's also has a cheaper contract than the three aforementioned defenders.
Matt Benning was also a great find.
His most lopsided acquisitions have been acquiring Talbot in exchange for two 2nd round picks and a swap of 7th rounders. Chiarelli then signed Talbot to an extension six months later, and it is a bargain contract at $4.16 million, 23rd highest among active NHL goalies.
At the 2016 trade deadline he acquired Maroon from the Anaheim Ducks for Martin Gernat and a 4th rounder. The Ducks also pay 25% of his salary. Maroon has scored 19 goals in 54 games. The Oilers gave up nothing for a guy who plays in their top-six and is only a $1.5 million cap hit. A massive steal.
Getting Kassian for Ben Scrivens has also worked out well.
The two trades many Oilers fans seem to loathe the most are Hall and Griffin Reinhart. Larsson has filled a major void, and while Chiarelli gave up the better player, he filled a deeper hole.
I didn't like giving up both picks to get Reinhart. I was leery of his footspeed and competitiveness, but the reality is this trade has had zero impact on the organization to date. The two picks he traded, #16 and #33, wouldn't be playing here now.
There is no denying the Reinhart deal doesn't look great right now, but it has had no bearing, thus far, on the on-ice product. I'd lean towards the future proving he lost the trade, but even if we say he lost it today, it hasn't hurt his team, and for me, his deals for Talbot, Maroon and Kassian, heavily outweigh the negative results of this deal.
No GM has a perfect track record.
I can't understand the venom spewed by many suggesting Chiarelli is brutal due to the Reinhart and Hall trade. I didn't like either at the time, but his other moves have made up for them. When he made the Reinhart deal, I wrote I could see his thought process. He believed Reinhart would have a better chance of helping the Oilers, he was three years ahead in his development, sooner than the other picks. I could see the theory, even though I disagreed with the price and was skeptical of the player.
So far this deal hasn't impacted the organization. You can state keeping the two picks would have given him more assets, that is fair, but none of us can say with certainty he would have been able to move them for something to help the team today.
Neither of those two picks are in the NHL, and while many are high on Barzal, putting up points in junior doesn't guarantee NHL success. Time will tell how good he or Mitchell Stephens, the 33rd pick, become.
I receive numerous texts to my show and tweets about the Oilers. It is great, but I will admit I'm perplexed by the amount of blame given to Hall, while others believe the OIlers are only good because of McDavid and that Chiarelli has not done a good job.
I don't agree with either premise. I actually think Chiarelli has done a great job, because he's been willing to make moves. I didn't agree with them all, nor do I expect you to either, but as 2017 begins I can say the risk he took in the Hall deal is looking like a good gamble, because he had a plan, and then he executed it by adding other key players after the trade.
There has not been one singular move that has turned the Oilers around.
Winning the lottery drastically altered their course, and gave them a leg up, but Chiarelli has made several good moves since, some risky, and some which might hurt in the future, but so far they have worked and the Oilers are finally competitive.
I give him an "A" for his first 19 months on the job.
His main priority was to build a competitive team and he has.
However, I think the next 28+ months will be his biggest challenge, because taking the final step from playoff contender to Stanley Cup contender is much more difficult. We have seen many teams get close, Washington, St.Louis to name a few, who have been very good for a long time, but have yet to find all the right parts to just make the Cup Final, never mind win it.
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