It is simple to see what Craig Mactavish needs to do, but it will be difficult to achieve; Get Better Players.
We can spend hours breaking down Dallas Eakins’ system, goaltending, the powerplay or a plethora of other issues, but it always comes back to the same problem; a lineup lacking in NHL talent.
MacTavish didn’t build this roster, but he is the man in charge moving forward and he needs to start adding players, especially defenceman, instead of shipping them out for future prospects. The Oilers can’t afford to give away any more proven NHL players for another prospect or draft pick. They have enough young players, they need experience, size and most importantly some more talent on the blueline.
The harsh reality is that opposing forwards don’t fear anyone on the Oilers blueline. Andrew Ference is the only one who is hard to play against. None of the remaining D-men will make a forward pay the price in front of the net or in the corner. The Oilers can’t expect Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom or Darnell Nurse to be that type of D-man next season. If they do, then you can expect their playoff drought to extend to nine seasons.
The onus is on MacTavish to recognize this and do his best to rectify it. Find another trading partner like the St.Louis Blues, a team willing to part with an experienced veteran player for a younger, cheaper talent, and pull the trigger.
Everyone knows the Oilers aren’t making the playoffs, but they currently have over $7 million in cap space so they can afford to take on some salary to make a deal work. MacTavish has already stated he’d be willing to move the 2014 first round pick, so we know he understands the need to inject experience rather than youth into his organization.
A team looking to acquire that pick will likely wait until the season is over and they know exactly what draft spot they are getting. If you traded the Oilers a solid player today for that pick, the value of the pick would decrease by June. I don’t see that pick being moved until closer to the draft.
If MacTavish wants to improve his roster over the next few months, I see the following pieces as the most likely options to move:
Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky. They could move Jeff Petry, but they don’t have much depth on the backend, so he wouldn’t be my first choice.
Hemsky is a pending UFA, so he will garner the smallest return, however, he will have value at the deadline and his cap hit will be more manageable around the March 5th deadline.
Gagner needs to play better to increase his value. The Oilers and Gagner supposedly have an unofficial no-movement clause, however, this is a business and if a deal comes along that makes sense, I don’t see why MacTavish wouldn’t pull the trigger.
Yakupov will garner the most interest, and while there is some risk in moving a former #1 overall pick, there will also be significant interest in him because of his draft status. If you want a good player in return, you need to be willing to give up something.
I don’t see Yakupov being a foundation piece of the Oilers; they already have forwards who will be that guy. They need to use him to try and acquire a solid piece to their blueline.
Regardless of who or when MacTavish makes a move, it is apparent this group of players simply isn’t good enough to win.
- I’m glad James Neal got suspended. His knee on Brad Marchand was incredibly cheap, and he deserved five games. Kneeing a guy in the head is gutless, not to mention idiotic.
- Shawn Thornton has always been an honest player, prior to going after Orpik. What I found crazy about that play, is that we see guys punching one another with gloves on all the time and rarely do they get injured. It doesn’t excuse Thornton for what he did, he deserves to be suspended, likely at least ten games, but every NHL player I spoke with regarding the incident was surprised Orpik was injured that bad from that gloved punch.
- It is time Dallas Eakins sends a message to someone in his top-nine. The Oilers had way too many turnovers at the Flames blueline on Saturday, and many of them came from blind pass attempts, rather than putting the puck deep in the zone. The Oilers are entering game 32; the coach can’t allow those types of plays to continue without consequences.
- Martin Marincin has been good in his two games. He’s averaged over 15 minutes a game, got some PP time and he’s been sheltered properly. I’d play him again on Tuesday, but I’d be cautious of keeping him here all season. A small taste of the NHL should motivate him even more when he returns to the AHL, and especally during the off-season where he needs to work on getting stronger.
- Bryzgalov practiced today as did Richard Bachman. Bachman will head to OKC the minute he is cleared to play, and it sounds like Bryzgalov is close to being cleared to play. Both Bryzgalov and Dubnyk are UFAs at the end of the year, and their play in the final 50 games should decide if either, both or none of them will be re-signed.
- With three weeks remaining in the NFL season my Miami Dolphins are in the wild card mix. I’m surprised, considering their horrendous GM, but with games remaining against the Patriots, Bills and Jets, they have a very good chance of making it.
- Tyler Pitlick is heading back to OKC. He hasn’t played a game since October 26th. Once he gets back in game shape, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him recalled in January.
- The OKC Barons have had 41 different players in their lineup, including 7 different goalies, yet the Barons are only one point out of the playoffs. With Bachman and LaBarbera close to being sent down, along with Pitlick’s re-assignment today, the Barons should make a push for the playoffs over the next few months.
DAY SEVEN…MONTH OF GIVING...
On Friday we raised another $2,900 for our Derks Menswear package and the Oilers/Flames tickets. Thanks to Dan and Raja for their generous bids.
Today’s package… THE VIP Experience…
- Pair of Edmonton Rush season tickets. Gold seats, lower bowl.
- A behind the scenes tour during one home game. You’ll meet the coaches, players and the cheer team.
- You and a friend will go on a road trip with the Rush to Calgary for a regular season game. You will travel with the team, stay at the team hotel, go to the game and have dinner with team owner, Bruce Urban. You will be invited to the after party as well.
- You will get a meet and greet with UFC champion Georges St.Pierre on January 11th in Edmonton.
You can bid today between 2-6 p.m. by calling 780.444.1260 or 1.800.243.1945. All the proceeds will go towards Santas Anonymous.