So much for the safety net

As Craig MacTavish and his staff attempt to fix the Edmonton Oilers woefully inadequate centre depth chart, they’ve had one luxury: a safety net. While talking trade with other managers and looking for the best possible fit, MacTavish and company could look out at free agency and see a pair of pretty good centres (whatever their warts) in Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy and know that if a deal couldn’t be made they could likely scoop one up for not much money later in the summer.

That’s no longer the case.

Nashville!

For basically the cost of Matt Hendricks, on Tuesday the Nashville Predators signed both proven NHL centres still on the market.

Sure, Ribeiro was blasted by the Arizona G.M. Don Maloney for off-ice issues. Sure, Roy is 5’9” and has gone from a 30-goal man down to just nine last season. But the Predators spent almost no money and went from a centre depth chart of Olli Jokinen and Paul Gaustad to one that stands a decent chance of a competent by-committee performance.

It was a big day for David Poile, and Nashville’s significantly better off for it.

Edmonton

Craig MacTavish9

This shouldn’t be a doom-and-gloom day for the Oilers. There are all kinds of reasons why Edmonton might prefer a trade to signing one of the bargain pivots still on the market. And if MacTavish is reasonably confident of adding a quality pivot that way he’s probably right to pass on those free agents.

But the fallback option of a Roy or Ribeiro is no longer there. The last remaining centre of any note still available in free agency (and no, Michal Handzus doesn’t count) is Andrei Loktioniov, the 24-year-old Russian who had 22 points in 68 NHL contests last season.

That’s a problem, because going into next season with the current centre depth chart simply can’t be an option; it isn’t good enough and there’s a real risk of undermining the positive steps the Oilers have made this off-season. Today’s signings leave MacTavish in the difficult position of needing to pull the trigger on a trade or failing in a significant way this offseason.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • camdog

    I like Arcobello, I think he’ll make a good number 5 centre or a good 3-4 th line winger. Maybe he can play 80 games at centre and not get worn down and beat up, and good on him if he can. From what I saw last season he lost quite a bit of his jump after 20 games. Maybe that was a coincidence as his ice time dropped as injured players came back and him minutes got reduced.

    That said as teams come to terms with their free agents and cap numbers are calculated I expect the Oilers will be able to find a centre or 2 for a 2-5th round draft pick. If they don’t I’ll be pissed off.

  • A-Mc

    Heading into next season i think its going to be a 3 way for the #2/3C positions between Draisaitl, Lander and Arco.

    I think LD will get his 9 games or so at the beginning, if he shows well, and i think Lander/Arco will take over the 3/2 spots respectively. IF one of those starts to fail, and/or gets injured, LD will be the first call up.

    At this point, if the main trade chip is Petry, then i wait and see how Arco and Lander do before i part ways with the defensive asset. There is a decent chance that they will function just fine with the decidedly respectable cast of wingers we have supporting our centers.

    We potentially have something resembling an NHL defense going into next season so i would be very hesitant to trade Jeff Petry at this point in time.

    I would rather play a rookie Centerman than a rookie defenseman.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    i dont expect the playoffs this year but is it reasonable to expect us to be better with solid goaltending, decent d-men and 2 more nhl wingers even without C depth?

    If Nurse passes Marincin on the depth chart, do we trade Marincin for a C?

    maybe i have too much faith but i feel like marcobello can take charge of the 2nd line like he already showed us he could. Draisaitl and marco could also share the 2nd/3rd line depending on whos got the hot hands.

    • A-Mc

      I honestly think we can keep afloat with lander and Arco. They aren’t flashy but they are both defensively responsible, which is exactly what this team needs MORE of.

      I’m a fan of letting it ride and lets see what we got.

      • Chainsawz

        He didn’t say some one was going to get fired, just some one should if this is the center core we are going with this season. That’s a truth indeed.

      • CMG30

        Last years’ centre depth was RNH, Gagner, Gordon and Acton. This years’ is an even more underwhelming RNH, Arcobello, Lander, Gordon. This poor depth has been evident for quite some time, yet MacTavish has done nothing to fix it. In fact he’s only made it worse since trading Gagner without a replacement.

        MacTavish is a fool if he thinks this lineup will be adequate. He should have fired, re-hired, then fired again if this is how he proceeds.

        I say ‘should’, but I know he won’t. MacTavish is an ol’ boy and is invincible.

        • bazmagoo

          Vis a vis last years centers it comes down to ones opinion if Arco is better than the Gagner who played here last year(I am assuming that Ladner and Acton are a wash, neither one being NHL caliber). I don’t think that anyone can honestly say that Gagner played better as 2C last year than Arco did when he played as 2C. However, there is the question if a munchkin like Arco can maintain that level through an entire season.

          I don’t think that either Roy or Riberio were good fits, even as band aids, for the Oilers. After Legwand was signed I started hoping for a trade.

          For the Oil to show significant improvement over last year they will need to do something with their centers.

      • Spoils

        For all of you that think we are okay going into next season with the current centres, what will happen when Nuge or Gordon go down with injury? That would be disaster with the current depth! It’s time to find a centre! I am a season ticket holder and not finding another centre to add depth is unacceptable.

        • Serious Gord

          And Gordon is one year older. And likely slower. Currently there would be two borderline centers on the roster – borderline on a 26 place team that has centre as it’s weakest position. One of any of these four getting hurt would be replaced by?

          Not saying he could have been signed for a million and play here, but ribeiro as a project who could be jettisoned if he misbehaves sure seems like a reasonable idea to me. I hop MacT/Lowe didn’t rule him out out of hand.

          • Zarny

            Take it for what it is, but Rishaug was saying earlier tonight that both the Oilers and Rangers had interest in Ribeiro on a short term deal, but he decided to choose Nashville. I highly doubt MacT is ignorant of the situation.

            Just one of those things…personally I wouldn’t have minded taking a flyer on him either, but something tells me he’s got a lot of serious issues going on outside of hockey that he’s trying to fix with the help of his family, and the idea of taking them to a hockey-crazed zoo like Edmonton where you can’t fart without half the city debating your fart’s corsi rating just didn’t appeal to him.

            As for Roy, I saw enough of him down here when Vancouver picked him up for their playoff run to understand why the Canucks didn’t do much to keep him around afterwards. Skilled, but melted ice cream soft and nothing like the player he was when he was a Sabre. And again, there were indications that he wasn’t too interested in coming to Edmonton. It’s a sentiment I thought we would’ve been used to by now.

          • Serious Gord

            Thanks. Good points. But in a city where everyone knows you might be better than one where no one does when you have addiction issues. That certainly was the case with Theoren fleury.

  • CMG30

    I say head into training camp with the current crew and maybe something shakes loose around the league. If not, well the team is still much improved. A trade is tricky because you’re opening a hole somewhere else.

    Lots of people seem scared about running with Arco in 2C but frankly he’s a better center than anybody left on the market.

    • Spoils

      I hate the idea of creating a hole by filling a hole as well – but “much improved” doesn’t cut it for me.

      My view is this team has to manage their assets around the cross-over period when our current up and coming D – marincin, schultz, nurse, klefbom are NHL ready AND we still have hall et al. on contract.

      In that time we will NEED a #3C – so trading away some future picks and prospects for a #2ishC that can slide into the #3C role once Draisaitl has matured makes sense.

      plus we could really benefit from playoff experience if we ever want to win – soooo it is a trade worth making NOW.

      obviously not the 1st pick next year (due to the rare expected quality of the 2015 draft), but can’t we package up some prospects and a pick and get that puzzle piece?

      maybe a team with depth at C, a tough cap squeeze and interest in restocking the pantry with some youth.

  • BLAKPOO

    MacT has a very large center he just drafted who turns 19 in October. I’m pretty sure he wants to see what Draisaitl looks like with some quality NHL wingers before making any decisions on a ‘stop gap’ center. He’s also going to see what Khaira, Yakimov & Chase for that matter look like. No sense wasting assets on something you might not need!

    • Quicksilver ballet

      And again we keep a junior eligible high draft pick with the NHL team with no regards to their future development. I’m OK with Draisaitl making the team on merit – but being better than Arco or Lander doesn’t cut it. MacT’s job is to acquire and help develop talent and he’s failed if he doesn’t insulate Leon. Isn’t the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”?

  • 2004Z06

    If we had to go into the season with who we have it would still be a better team than last season by a mile. Nobody says it is a playoff team but I bet they will be more competitive. Ribeiro and Roy are not safety nets more like a net with holes. A trade or waiver wire will be all that is left for MacT to find a centre that will be better than a bandaid.

  • bazmagoo

    We dodged another bullet……….both of these players is what we are trying to avoid and do not offer any long term solution.

    It appears Drisiatle is our only real option here, the next being Arco………everyone decent has been taken. If a trade happens great but do not hold out hope.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The sole focus all along should’ve been Sean Couturier, and there’s still plenty of time to accomplish this before September. Capable defensively, he could also rekindle some of the offense he once had with increased icetime he’d receive here in Edmonton.

    Sean is far from untouchable, and has zero control as to where he gets moved. Give them one of the blue chip blueliners and flip first rounders if you have to. Maybe even take back a salary dump of the Flyers choosing if need be. Couturier can be much more than the limited role type player he’s been in Philadelphia. Edmonton could give him that chance.

  • Spydyr

    JW: why are you so bullish on recycled garbage that the 29 other teams in the league don’t want? Here’s a clue — if you want to be “better” than any of those 29 other teams, you don’t take something they wouldn’t take.

    This squad is STILL a developmental squad, it’s key, core, fundamental (use any synonym you like here) pieces still NEED to develop into actual NHLers. Whether it’s Hall learning to lead by example and play Defense, or the Nuge having to add weight to beat top line centres, or Yak, or JShultz, or Scrivens …. etc. they ALL still need work.

    This is the perfect time to add pieces that will develop along-side them, otherwise when you add those other pieces at some later point, the team STILL isn’t ready to challenge for anything because they half half a team that has zero experience (or at best, very limited experience).

    Enough promoting garbage ayers, and take a position that stands up for the players we have developed already — do you seriously think Lokitonov is any better than what we have, to the point we should forsake a developing player in this year of DEVELOPMENT.

    Even better are the bloggers like Lowetide who want to trade the farm for another centre … Like that will make Hall, Ebs and all the others magically able to lead this team to victory! Enough already when they are 27 we can talk about playoffs and challenging for division titles, until then, EVEN THEY NEED TO DEVELOP, if you put it in their minds that they don’t, this team will never win championships because they will have the same defects which keep getting taken advantage of by other teams.

    Do you like giving up record levels of short handed goals against??? Not many teams win championships like that.

  • O.C.

    It doesn’t matter if MacT could have signed Roy for $5.00. Depth doesn’t fill the need, or the net. Switching out Gagner for Roy is… Just don’t go there.

    Ribiero might have worked, but none of us have the inside track on where his head is. The stats seem good on paper, but RMNB called him out in the summer of 2013. I quote…

    “As measured by shot attempts, nearly everyone Ribeiro played with did worse when they were together, as an average of 4.74% of shot attempts went in the wrong direction. The four players who got better were Troy Brouwer, John Erskine, Jack Hillen, and Martin Erat.”

    That, and the fact that he gets moved a lot, suggests something to me.

    I’m all for MacT making no move instead of a bad move.

  • bwar

    Sean Monahan made the jump into the NHL and was effective as a 1c or 2c most of last year. I would not replace him to play Roy or Ribeiro.

    Drisaitl is more NHL ready than Monahan was at this point last year.

    I would start the season with Drisaitl on the wing with Hendrick and Gordon and give him some PP time. Then move him to 3c as the season moves on. If you can catch an upgrade via trade good … But otherwise we end the season with,

    1c RNH
    2c Arko/Drisaitl
    3c arko/Lander/Drisaitl
    4c Gordon

    Kihari, and others grow in the AHL

    • Now, how the hell do you know that Drisaitl is even NHL ready let alone better then Sean Monahan?

      A couple things, these are the things that set you up for disappointment and the player up with unreal expectations.

      Whereas I expect Drisaitl to be fully protected and given extremely soft minutes and OZ starts on the 3rd line or sent back to Jr.

      Not only that, you realize by putting Drisaitl on a line with Gordon (that line’s center) You also put Drisaitl on the absolute toughest minutes line, a line that had a combined point total of 28.………Kind of asking a lot for a 18 year old, ya?

      Also, going into a season with career AHL players who can’t make a 28th place club full time is just about as bad as it gets……. period!

      • CaptainLander

        NHLE on LD are better than Monahan.

        In draft class LD picked in the first tier of players and Monahan picked in the second tier of player… Lots of math around NHL success of draft based upon order they were picked.

        Arko and Lander have both ripened as players in the AHL if they are not ready now, they are likely never going to be ready. We have been developing them for the next job … And now that job is open for them to fill.

        We are going to play four lines this year. Starting LD on the wing with our two most responsible defensive players is easing him into the NHL.

        Not sure that you mean by protected minutes, every team is going to target LD until he proves he can play in the league.

        It has been my observation in life that never few things deserve a “…..period!”

        • Well, first, last years draft was deeper so while Monahan was picked as you say in the “second tier” he holds up in the top 3 this year.

          I would like to mention had Calgary gone walk about, the Oilers would have taken Monahan instead of Nurse.

          So your going by projected NHL equivalencies….How nice.

          You do know that Monahan was two points off his NHLE and a whopping 4 points behind Drisaitl NHLE.

          Regardless, those are projections, you still have zero idea how Drisaitl will do, zero.

          No the spots as it stands right now are gifted to those guys AHL as there is no internal competition for them…..huge difference, again can’t make a 28th place team.

          It’s clear you don’t know what protected minutes are & easy zone starts or QoC are, I can’t continue this part of the conversation because it’s obviously lost on you.

          putting the kid on the 4th line toughest assignment line and into a checking role is just a tick of above bloody insane.

          • PlayDirty

            You are clearly a bright hockey mind.

            However NHL coaches are not going to give Drisaitl, Bennett, Ekblad or Rienhart any easy minutes no matter where the puck is dropped or the score in the game.

            All those teenager rookies are going to be looking across at a player that is tougher, stronger and at this point a better hockey player.

            I know you know, but the ” young stars” are the weakness point of most lines and that weakness will be videoed and game planned against by opposition.

            So playing on first, second, third or fourth lines (if those even exist on a modern hockey)mean very little IMO for a player like Drisaitl. He will have a forward and defensive pairing on the ice who plan to exploit his current weaknesses.

        • Zarny

          Here is the thing…Monahan’s draft was considerably better than Draisaitl’s. According to scouts, no one this year may have gone top 5-6 last year including Ekblad. So comparing draft positions between different years is a shell game.

          It’s also debatable whether the Flames made the right choice with Monahan. He had a nice rookie campaign with 22 G but only 34 pts. He also only played 15 min a game.

          In the end, the Flames were able to shelter him less than Yakupov and he was 4th or 5th on the team for PP time but it’s a matter of opinion whether that was more beneficial long term compared to being a dominant player in all situations in Jr.

          IMO, if Draisaitl can be a basic version of what the Oilers want him to be (2C) then he benefits from staying.

          If you have to shelter him on the 3rd line and play “soft minutes” he’s better off in Jr.

    • Serious Gord

      So you would start the season – for say 20 games with RNH, Acton lander Gordon.

      In my best Mel Blanc bugs bunny voice when he sees something ugly “dyeeuu!”

    • CaptainLander

      Monahan played 74 games last year and ended up with 34 points and was -20. These are not 1c or 2C numbers.

      If the Oil plans include having LD play in the NHL this year they ate taking a huge risk.

  • bwar

    If our lineup is structured with more distributed goal scoring this year, aka having three lines capable of scoring, then I think Arcobello is perfectly capable of filling the 2C role. Right now its just a matter of figuring out how can center the Yak line and there should be a few decent options for this role at training camp. Lander, Draisaitl, Yakimov, Khaira, guys like this should all head into camp fighting for that last roster spot. Who knows maybe its time to unleash the Yakimov Yakupov connection on the world.

  • bwar

    I believe if Petry is traded one of either Nurse or Klefbom makes the team.

    Roy or Ribiero would have been a mistake. I fully expect LD to make the team but like others have said RNH, Arco, LD, and Gordon with zero.depth behimd them is a recipe for disaster. One 15-25 game injury by any of those 4 and were screwed.

    Trade Petry + for a center and bring in Nurse. So pumped to see that guy in the NHL full time

  • PlayDirty

    JW, gotta say I’m not a fan of your last couple of articles about centres. You’re really acting like the sky is falling. You seem to be taking a ho-hum approach to the guys like Sobotka, Ribero and Roy while they’re available; like they may help us or they may not. In Sobotka’s case, there really wasn’t much talk about him at all until he signed with the K. (Berglund was the target.) …then a full article as if he was already on his way here. With the other two, you made a few brief mentions of them but are making a much bigger deal now that they signed elsewhere.

    I know I would like to see us stronger at centre too but you’re being sensationalistic and driving paranoia around here. The Oilers will not live or die because of any of these guys.

    IMHO

    • PlayDirty

      But is Arcobello going to help us? He is our 2nd line C right now, the guy who has a combined total of 42 NHL games. At least we know that Sobotka, Ribeiro, and Roy are NHL players (though I share the skepticism of Roy’s abilities at this point). The oilers will live or die (again) on not having sufficient depth at C…and they don’t have it at this point.

  • CaptainLander

    Too much panic about the center, no the center depth we have now is not going to win us a cup. But is strongly believe that the team in front of us today is not the same team as last year. The additions are solid NHL players, if you include the goalies that is 6 new NHL players. The starting roster this year will have the Nuge. In my mind this team will not have the horrendous start the had last year and will be closer to challenging for a playoff spot then the McDavid sweepstakes. Even with a center core that could be Nuge, Arco, Gordon, Lander.

  • CaptainLander

    I don’t know y everyone is worried about 2 center so much I think Mr dry saddle will do just fine He’s more nhl ready then half of Oil’s current roster. Give the kid a chance he’ll do just fine. Hall Nuge and Yakupov all played the following year of their Draft. Come on now u can’t tell me Nuge and Yaku were ready for the big leauges. Drysaddle is already a beast. He’ll do just fine. Come on nation sit back and enjoy the kid we got a real stud here.