Should the Oilers Trade for a Centre?

This article could also be titled "The Value of Discovering a Weakness".

The Oilogosphere is awash with concern over the centre depth of the Oilers right now.

With Horcoff and Belanger both out with injury, and Gagner, Nugent-Hopkins and Lander getting schooled in the faceoff circle the other night against the Canucks, some discomfort with the present is understandable.

So should the Oilers look at moving a draft pick or middling prospect for a veteran centre?

Jonathan Willis recently posted an article asking if the Oilers should look at claiming Alexandre Bolduc off waivers from Phoenix.

This wouldn’t be a bad idea, necessarily. But the point was made moot a short while later when the Oilers recalled Mark Arcobello. So I’ll include a brief aside on Arcobello and the recall as opposed to claiming Bolduc off waivers.


Remember a few years back when the banks went belly up and the U.S. Treasury became a shareholder in corporations like Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac? Part of the bailout package included an agreement to conduct a government controlled re-introduction of credit and liquidity into the financial system. It was called a stress-test to see if the banks were capable of handling the load and that the new procedures put into place were up to the task.

Steve Tambellini and company have been rebuilding the NHL capacity of the Edmonton Oilers for several years now. A year ago, had these injuries occurred it is fairly likely that the Oilers would have claimed Bolduc. They have done so in the past by claiming players like Ryan Stone and Ryan Jones, and earlier this season they took Niko Holvinen off the waiver wire from the Flyers.

The Oilers’ reluctance to claim Bolduc doesn’t, in my opinion, come from some deep-seated desire to get high draft picks, but instead could be a kind of stress-test of the Oilers’ system depth. They obviously feel that Arcobello presents a better long-term prospect for the team than Alex Bolduc. They might also believe that a minor move here can help to illustrate the needs of the team right now and test whether the Oilers have something in Arcobello. As a result of the pressure and ice-time that will likely be extended to others on the farm like Ryan Martindale, it might also help determine whether they have something worth pursuing in the rest of their center prospects.

To Trade or Not To Trade

So, back to our original debate about whether the Oilers should look at a trade to help deal with the current injuries.

The Oilers are a young team with a lot of bourgeoning talent and are crippled down the middle with injuries to veteran players. That is blood in the water to other GMs. Acquiring a good centre is almost always a steep price, and the Oilers would look like ripe for the picking by other GMs. The appropriate response to this is to remain calm, look for deals that play into the long-term, and avoid the car-salesmen calls from some of the NHL management brethren out to skin you.

The Red Queen’s Hypothesis

(thanks again to Jonathan for bringing this up in relation to the NHL)

All teams are constantly improving. Spending too much time trying to maintain the status quo (Calgary), or running wildly after a dream that has an ever-diminishing chance of occurring (um, again, Calgary), results in a net loss. The Red Queen’s Hypothesis is that, in a heavily compeitive environment, one has to constantly be improving in order just to try and stay competitive.

For the best teams in the league, the act of rebuilding never really stops. Pittsburgh has spent the entire length of Sydney Crosby’s still-young NHL career continually attempting to improve and address areas of organizational need, predominantly in defense. Sometimes they have subtracted from the roster to address need, such as trading Ryan Whitney for Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi, or Alex Goligoski for James Neal and Matt Niskanen. At the same time they have focused intently on drafting, rarely relinquishing draft picks for immediate roster help.

They tend not to trade draft picks, and instead prefer to continually collect good prospects, adding depth to a system that has the luxury of time afforded by a strong roster.

In my opinion, this is the state that this team needs to achieve, where needs are addressed without subtracting from the future of the team.

My recommendation is not to trade for short-term assets (players who will impact the team this year or next) when the cost is draft picks or prospects who appear to have the potential to address future needs (impact depth players and defensemen).

  • The Soup Fascist

    The Oilers have to decide whether to offer Arcobello a contract this summer. Might as well find out what he can do before looking elsewhere.

    He pretty much has passed every test in OKC. If the Oilers don’t give him a shot when they are desparate, he will likely sign with a team who will give him an NHL shot next summer on a two way deal, rather than sign a similar two way deal with the Oilers.

  • Absolutely not!

    ~Seth Jones looks perfect for the Oilers centre woes~

    Current guys can lose the draw…. he can retrieve it and all will be well. It fits all past fundamentals of a Tambo move. No brainer… IMO.

  • Word to the Bird

    Bolduc will always be available if Mark fails, and fails is not fair
    to him, it is a big step. Stranger things have happened.
    Would it not be sweet if he just had a chemistry with Hall and Ebs.
    Wishful thinking i know but……

    Sorry Mark, i should have said struggles or is overwhelmed.

    I am pulling for you buddy !

  • Word to the Bird

    For me the most interesting point is that Pittsburgh was willing to move both Whitney and Gologoski when they were still young and near peak value……that takes courage….it involves risk………and risk taking and courage are at the core of good management.

    Will we (Oilers brass) have the courage to move one of the 5 untouchables if the right deal comes along? Or, some of their highly ranked prospects for that matter?

    On a similar note, will they even have the courage to move ANY players when those players are healthy and playing at a high level ( like Hemmer and Gagner are doing now)?

    How much evaluation time is too much and at what point do we see the hard decisions get made?

  • eastcoastoil

    Big forward progress shown by Dubbie , Petry , Gagner and J.Schultz ( above expectations ) . The rest are struggling to show much progress . At center we are thinner than necessary to become a playoff team .

  • Reidja

    With regards to the bank stress tests, I think along the same lines as what Obi-wan said to the Stormtrooper, “this is not the metaphor you’re looking for.”

    I hope to god what the Oilers are doing is not the transparent propaganda exercise that was the stress tests. Otherwise things are a heckuva lot worse than anybody realizes.

    • RexLibris

      I think the analogy holds in that the Oilers have spent several years now trying to create system depth and are using this opportunity to test the real depth of that system.

      If they didn’t have any faith in internal options they would have picked up Bolduc, or signed Arnott or some other available centre.

      A stress-test, whether it be in an engineering or financial system, is essentially a run-through to determine the approximate loads that system is capable of handling.

      This current situation seems to fit that bill.

      This does make the team one heck of a young squad. I hope the team gets the kids’ meal discount when they eat on the road.

  • Reidja

    If everyone is panicing about losing our 3/4 centers, what does that say about our 1/2 centers?

    Trade for a #2 center, and get someone with size who can USE it.

  • Reidja

    Why not just sign jason arnott and give him a try?
    He once was an oiler you know. Plus he is a proven winner (having won stanley cups), and a great leader. Not a bade signing if you ask me, He can teach the young guns how to win. I mean he did play pretty decent with st louis, Imagine what a team like the oilers would bring out in this guy. One last cup perhaps????

      • RexLibris

        Yeah he did … But he barely failed it!!!
        And lets not forget, there was quite the lay off for a while there so a lot of players probably failed their physicals the first time around

        I just don’t see the big deal in offering up a 1 year deal at 1.5, Just to see what happens

  • ryanchett

    The problem is, we were weak down the middle before Shawn broke his knuckle.

    Nuge – …NUGE!
    Gagner – Weak defensively, slow skater, soft
    Horcoff – I believe everyone is aware of what Horcoff can and cannot do
    Belanger – Quite possibly one of the worst offensive players in the league.

    Now we look like this down the middle:

    Nuge – …NUGE!
    Gagner – Weak defensively, slow skater, soft
    Lander – Prospect/Callup
    Arcobello – Callup

    We need a center…. and a D to replace what we thought Whitney was.

    … and a backup tendy

  • 2004Z06


    Well, if you had used an engineering stress test as your metaphor, I would have been fully onboard the land speeder!

    However, the purpose of the Bank stress tests was not “a run-through to determine the approximate loads that system is capable of handling.”

    The purpose of the bank stress test was to produce sufficient propaganda to make banks, investors and the public believe that the banking system was solvent (it wasn’t and still isn’t). The stress tests that were applied were an utter joke, akin to testing the Verrezano Narrows bridge by placing apples on it. Several banks failed immediately after passing such “stress tests”! Some took a little longer.

    And, as it is slowly turning out, some banks hid their solvency issues even deeper, through complex derivatives, as is the case with the world’s oldest surviving bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena.

    My point was that I hope the Oil were using such a speculated stress test for the engineering reason, not the banking one… and if the latter was the case, the team is worse off than believed, as were the banks.

    By the way, the true stress tests of the banking system are:

    1) the interbank lending rates. There is no need for ZIRP policy from the central banks if the banking system is healthy

    2) central bank buying of sovereign debt. Again, there is no need for the central banks to allow their primary dealers to front run them for guaranteed profits in a healthy system. There is no need to repair bank balance sheets.

    Both 1 and 2 are ongoing today, despite the system passing the tests years ago now.

    Sorry Rex, bad metaphor.

  • RexLibris

    the oilers aren’t really in a need of getting a superstar. they have Jordan Eberle who will soon be on pace for a 40 goal season next year after this 48 games season is over. You have Taylor who is a future 35+ goal scorer and hopefully, its starting to look like Nail Yakupov will follow suit with Jordan Eberle. What the oilers need is a pair of two really good defensemen that can help Justin Schultz and Whitney or we can make a move for a goalie, but we will probably have to give up draft picks or give up Hopkins.