The Edmonton Oilers tweaked their defence earlier today, sending down rookie Jeff Petry and recalling Taylor Chorney.
I was caught off-guard by the move, which makes no sense or makes perfect sense, depending on one’s perspective. From an NHL standpoint, the move makes very little sense: Jeff Petry’s been killing the scoring chances measure, has three points and a respectable minus-4 rating in 21 games, has been playing over 20:00 per night, including regular duty on both special teams, and hasn’t been at all a part of the problem. On the other hand, Taylor Chorney has managed a single assist and a minus-1 rating since being sent down to the farm after a mid-January recall.
However, the Edmonton Oilers have no chance of making the playoffs this season. There’s a slim chance they could overtake Ottawa for the 29th overall slot, although the team did their best to avoid that with a miserable showing against the Senators on Hockey Day in Canada, but that’s about as good as they could possibly be. At this point, there is no incentive for Oilers management to try and win.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL are having trouble of their own; as it stands they’re on the playoff bubble and need a nice run down the stretch if they wish to participate in the post-season. While ‘just missed the playoffs’ represents the high point for any of Edmonton’s recent farm teams, one assumes the Oilers would like to have a more successful season in their Oklahoma debut.
That’s the only way I can make sense of this move. It certainly isn’t a developmental decision; Petry’s played in every situation for the Oilers. The only alternative is that the Oilers were suddenly dissatisfied with Petry’s play, and that simply makes no sense. He’s been a top-four defenceman pretty much since being recalled, and last night saw his ice-time boosted rather than slashed in the third period. If that’s disappointment, the coaching staff has a funny way of expressing it.
It’s another indication, if we needed it, that Oilers management isn’t looking to win. It also shows that the team isn’t interested in giving out ice-time or NHL opportunities strictly on merit – a range of other considerations, including the ones listed above, come into the picture. That’s something to remember the next time someone says that Player X has earned a job and therefore must make the team.
A Different Take
Right after posting this, I noticed that David Staples over at Cult of Hockey has a rather different take. In his article, entitled "Oilers make right call in demoting Petry," Staples says:
Petry’s stint with the Oilers can be broken up in two sections, the first 13 games when he looked like he was in the NHL to stay with his poised play, and the last eight, where he became increasingly jittery with and without the puck. In the last three games, he’s made five primary goal-causing errors where he was the main culprit on the goal against.
Over the last eight games, Jeff Petry has gone +44/-42 via on-ice scoring chances. Over this last weekend, where the entire team looked lost, he went +11/-11. Those aren’t the numbers of a player who has lost his game. Besides which, if the last few games are all we’re considering, half the team wouldn’t be able to crack an NHL roster.
It’s been suggested in the comments that this artical is a critical take on Oilers management, but nothing could be further from the truth. While I do tend to view the Oilers’ front office as incompetent, as evidenced by their record and the impressive coach/player body count they’ve racked up, this particular move is precisely what a management group in their position should be doing.
Tanking may be inglorious, but at this point in the season there’s not much else to do. There’s absolutely no reason not to make a move that helps the Barons and hurts the 2010-11 Oilers, especially as long as it looks at least halfways reasonable.