understand GM Craig MacTavish can’t just snap his fingers and conjure up the
finished product he hopes his Edmonton Oilers will be when this rebuild is done
and his team is actually contending for something other than a lottery pick
certainly didn’t expect it Wednesday at the trade deadline – it went pretty
much as I expected it would as MacT rid himself of Ales Hemsky and Nick Schultz
for draft picks after unloading Ilya Bryzgalov and acquiring Viktor Fasth – so
I’m not disappointed he didn’t re-shape the team in a major way.
work better left to, and more likely to happen, during the off-season when
there’s more time to look at the big picture, when MacTavish and his peers have
time to assess wants and needs, when 20 or so teams and their GMs aren’t
wrapped up in playoff pushes – remember those?
that said, I think it’s reasonable for fans to ask when MacTavish and his hockey-ops
people will finally collect the group of players, give or take a spare part or
two, they can move forward into contention with. When will they have the
makings of a team that can stay together and grow together? A timeline, please.
think that’s a fair question. While MacTavish has been busy since taking over the
GM’s chair and hasn’t suffered the paralysis of indecision that marked the
tenure of Steve Tambellini, how much better are the Oilers today than they were
two or three years ago? How much longer until fans have the bones and most of
the meat that will provide the payoff for eight straight years out of the
Running in Place?
the roster Dallas Eakins had in a 3-2 overtime win over New York Islanders
Thursday with the one Tambellini had to end the 2010-11 season – the first
“official” year of the rebuild – and there’s been plenty of turnover.
Only five players, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner, Ryan Jones and Jeff
Petry remain. Where the Oilers are today isn’t the product of inactivity by
MacTavish, to be sure. Is the team closer to contention?
many of the players here right now will be here next season and the season
after? How many of the players here now are keepers? How many more players must
be brought in to make the mix right, to form the group that will again make the
playoffs? Where will they come from and when will they arrive? Will the group
that starts next season be anything close to that?
about the top six forwards that faced the Islanders? With Hemsky gone, it’s
Eberle, Hall, Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Perron and Nail Yakupov.
Where’s the size and grit that can play top-six minutes? Where’s the big
centre? Still missing. Do the Oilers get some of that when they trade Gagner?
When might that happen?
about the defensive group, particularly the top-four? Still no bonafide first
pairing. Still no depth. Might Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom help fill out
that top pairing? Sure. When might that be? It won’t be next season. Can
MacTavish get his guy through trade or free agency? Maybe. Who? When?
about goal? I like what I’ve seen of Ben Scrivens and I like the two-year
“we’ll see” deal MacTavish signed him to. Fasth broke into the NHL
last season and stood the league on its ear. Not so much this season, mainly because
of injury. Are they a better tandem than Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera? Safe
to say, yes. Are they the tandem to backstop this group back to contention? We
don’t know yet.
Are We There Yet?
think it’s a stretch to think MacTavish will address all the questions and fill
all the holes this off-season. So, again I ask, if management has not been able
to assemble all the right pieces to start next season, then when? By the 2015
trade deadline? The following summer?
much longer until we see the group that provides the pay-off? When does the
turnover of the roster stop and the tweaking and fine-tuning – even Stanley Cup
champions and contenders make roster moves – begin? Another year out of the
playoffs? Two or three?
wonder how many of the players identified as the core group now will be here
when – and if – that happens. I’d like to think Hall and Eberle and RNH will
still be all-in then. We still refer to the core as kids, and in hockey terms
they are, but time keeps ticking on this rebuild. It’s only the fourth year,
it’s only the fifth year, it’s only . . .
to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason
Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.