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.
(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).