Edmonton needs to add a centre to compete in 2014-15

Craig MacTavish2

The Edmonton Oilers need to add an NHL-caliber centre if they are serious about being competitive in 2014-15. That’s a lot easier to say than to do, but there’s just no way to get around it. The team has a surplus of talent on the wings and need down the middle, and at this point a trade from a position of strength to address a position of weakness just makes sense.

The Depth Chart

26-Arcobello-5

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 14 games, 11 points, 48.4% in faceoffs, 20:56 average TOI
  • Mark Arcobello: 16 games, seven points, 51.2% in faceoffs, 15:59 average TOI
  • Boyd Gordon: 16 games, four points, 57.1% in faceoffs, 13:34 average TOI
  • Leon Draisaitl: 16 games, four points, 45.6% in faceoffs, 12:36 average TOI

It’s really interesting watching Dallas Eakins and his staff work with the centres, because it’s pretty obvious that they trust Arcobello more than Draisaitl but have a mandate to develop the young German. At home, Draisaitl plays one minute more per game than Arcobello, but on the road Arcobello averages eight (!) minutes more than Draisaitl. That’s a problem, because as much as I like Arcobello as an NHL player he’s not a guy who should be playing 18:40 per game on the road and taking on all matchups.

As I see it, the Oilers have two guys who would fit really well as the centre of a third scoring line. It’s a great spot for Draisaitl to learn his trade, and it’s a great place for Arcobello, who is really a fantastic fit for the role as a jack-of-all trades guy with scoring ability. Edmonton only has one spot on that line, though, which means the better of the two players has to play higher on the depth chart than he really should. Right now, the coaching staff clearly sees Arcobello as that guy.

Adding a Pivot

29-Draisaitl-1

The solution is to add a centre who can be trusted in a tough role. Jeff Petry’s name is the one often suggested as trade bait to land that guy, but with the Oilers’ defence the mess that it is at the moment it would be folly to trade him unless he’s totally unwilling to re-sign with Edmonton.

That leaves the Oilers with one position of strength to draw on: their wingers. Wingers have less value than centres, so making that deal is going to hurt in that the guy coming back in trade probably isn’t going to have the same level of scoring ability as the player heading out of town.

A deal doesn’t necessarily need to be for a real difference-maker, just a guy with a range of skills who can be trusted if he ends up in a tough matchup in a road game. Kyle Brodziak is the player I use as a “for example” case, not because he’s a perfect fit but because he’s a serviceable NHL centre. There are plenty of others who fit the mold too, though of course it’s hard to know exactly which options Craig MacTavish has. If the Oilers can get a serviceable but overpaid centre for someone like Teddy Purcell, that’s something that should interest them. If they can get a really good centre for one of their better wingers (basically anyone other than Taylor Hall), that too needs to be considered.

Moving a winger out in such a deal comes with a bit of a bonus: the ability to transition Arcobello or Draisaitl to a spot on the wing. In those road games where the coaching staff clearly doesn’t trust Draisaitl enough to use him, he could move to the wing while Arcobello centres the third scoring line. At home, Arcobello could shuffle to the wing (perhaps taking faceoffs as well) while Draisaitl learns the ropes in an environment where Eakins and his staff control the matchups.

It’s also really not a bad idea to have a spare centre waiting in the wings (sorry) for when injury hits, which it inevitably will.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Prongers Promises

    Remember in 07 when Nilsson, cogs and Gagner were the future?

    Remember in 08 when Pouliot, Kotalik, and O’sullivan were the future?

    Remember in 09 when Brule, Potulny, and comrie were improving our team!?

    Remember in 2010 when Hall, Ebs, and Paajarvi were the best thing to hit the NHL since the invention of the glowing puck on fox?

    Remember in 2011 when Nuge, Eager and Hordichuk were going to turn the team around. Oh Smytty too, he would provide that veteran leadership the kids needed!!

    Remember in 2012 when we got the most prized possession of the offseason!!?? Justin Schultz is ours!! HELLO POST SEASON. Not to mention the Elite Ovechkin Like Russian YAKUPOV. This is our year!

    Remember last year when we could run with Dubnyk and The barber in net? Mark Fraser will shore up our blue line along with roman horak for the future. Who needs Smid?

    Remember this year when we all had such high hopes? Pouliot & Purcell adding grit and size! No more gagner to lose us games. Drai will step in and be NHL ready look at his size!

    I don’t know how management can keep putting band-aids on a rotten corpse hoping it comes back to life. RIP 2006 Oilers. time to move on and be accountable.

  • BlazingSaitls

    I have generalized the choices into 4 camps.

    1) Stand Pat. Its still to early in the season to panic. Do nothing and see where this season goes. There is no trade value out there at this time of year. Eakins needs more time, MacT needs more time, Lowe needs more time. Trust the process, trust that there is progress from this group and the team is on the right track.

    2) This season is salvageable. Tinker with the line-up. Force MacT’s hand and fill the glaring holes in the line-up. Get a center at any cost. Get a veteran for the D. Get a true #1 goalie. At the very least get a center at any costs.

    3) bLOWE up the ship. The management group, from Lowe down, have had more than enough chances to right the ship. Their chance is squandered. Hire a new POHO, let the new POHO hire a new GM, let the new GM hire a new coach and address the roster in the off season.

    4) Who cares? I’m a masochist and I’m in this for the pain.

    Bob Stauffer calls out the ‘vultures circling’ on OilersNow but then sighs in exasperation repeatedly during game broadcasts. Go ahead and call me a vulture Bob but my choice is #3.

    • That’s a pretty fair assessment of the options. I personally fall into camp No. 2; I think MacTavish is a bright guy who has made some definite improvements but still has a ways to go and deserves more time.

      But I understand why people want to burn the whole thing with fire and start again.

      • Serious Gord

        Johnathon:

        as a guy who is very conversant with the analytics how can you possibly say that the season is salvageable? The team is statistically already out of the playoffs. NO team since the advent of the loser point HAS EVER come from this far back at this point of the season and made the playoffs.

        It is over.

        Why even discuss getting a center at this point?

        Now is the time to tear down management and try and get a POHO and GM in place in time for the trade deadline. MacT may be a “Bright guy”, but he is inept and incompetent as a GM. And there is no better evidence of that than what has transpired (or rather not transpired) at centre.

        Rather than post threads talking about the centre issue – long after the horse has left the barn – why not post on who might be a good replacement as POHO and GM? Now those would be relevant, timely topics – this one certainly isn’t.

      • BlazingSaitls

        MacT has been forced into a corner for virtually all his trades & signings. Its not his fault he has to overpay to attract signers and he did make a good trade for Perron.
        With that in consideration I think he has done an admiral job.

        Some of his core players he acquired are letting him down though. Nikky and the goalies in particular. A seasoned D-man and veteran, all-be-it unproven, goal-tending. MacT needed those guys to carry the burden while the Oilers try and land a center. He needed them to meet expectations. They haven’t.

        It was a gamble to take that approach. It was high risk. When you gamble in hopes of a desired result and that gamble fails there is a cost to be paid. The fans are paying a cost, so should those making the bets.

  • BC BOY

    Watching Schultz can be painful sometimes. Nashvilles first goal he literally watched Ribero tap the puck into his net. I don’t understand how his lack of compete and lack of desire to defend isn’t a concern to the Oilers. It’s blatantly obvious that he is so far off from being a top pairing guy but yet he keeps getting 25 TOI a game. He has potential to be good defence man but the Oilers need to make it clear to him that he needs to get his sh*t together when he doesn’t have the puck.

    Personally I would like to see him get traded for serviceable C and let another team try and teach him how to play defence.

  • Rick

    Didn’t worry guys, next summer the Oilers can sign Shawn Horcoff. Don’t laugh to hard. Think about how much more competitive this team would be with him in the 2nd/3rd center spot as opposed to feeding a Rookie to the wolves.

      • Spydyr

        Waiting too long to fix a need makes it worse but I agree do it now as I mentioned last night reposted below:

        #17 Spydyr
        November 11 2014, 09:34PM
        Trash it!
        10
        trashes
        Cheers
        22
        cheers
        Reply Edit

        Fasth proved he is what he is a backup goalie that lacks consistency.He started well this year but is just to inconstant.

        Acro does OK against the smaller eastern teams.Against the west he does not have the size to compete.

        I would open discussions with Petry If he is not interested in signing here in the New year I would try to package him and Acro to a eastern team for a centre.

        If Eakins keeps running only three lines he is going to fatigue his forwards and the injuries will come.

  • RMGS

    While recognizing that we need a second line centre, (after watching Nashville play with all their star Defencemen), I believe we need to get a defence man first.

    NN is so far over his head………..exactly who in the Oilers organizations scouted this player and thought it would be a good idea to sign him? He is the biggest giveaway machine I have ever seen. Why is Eakins playing him over MM? Just how many mistakes does he have to make before the coaching staff does something? Why punish good young players like MM while letting other off the hook?

    If we really want to bench someone for continuously making mistakes, let’s bench Schultz……..the guy make more mistakes than MM and NN combined.

    WE need to play our youth and let them make mistakes…….it’s better than watching veterans make the same mistakes.

  • Afc Wimbledon

    The Oil have needed to add a center or two at least from the day they traded Gagner. One might argue that thee also needed to add a center or two when they a still had Gagner.

    Either way MacT’s inability to do anything about this obvious and fatal flaw is a serious black mark on his tally sheet.

    • Serious Gord

      exactly, writing this article in november, it could have been written in august, when after they traded Gagner, they decide to once again, go into the season with Draisatal or Archibello as there guys after Hopkins, total failure on management to once again not address this problem. fix

  • RMGS

    so Tampa dumps Purcell for what ended up being a draft pick, and now the Oil are supposed to get a seviceable nhl centre for him?

    He was already a salary dump, to the oilers!

  • Spoils

    What does our first pick in 2016 get you?
    What does our first pick in 2016 + our second in 2015 get you?

    I tend to believe we should focus our energy on having this team peak at the crossroads of Hall/Nuge/Yak/Schultz + Draisaitl/Nurse/Klefbom/1st in 2015. Call this PEAK TEAM.

    that is NOT this year and not next year.

    but I would argue that our 2016 pick could be better used if traded soon, because that pick has a lower chance of helping PEAK TEAM

    my argument is go for a #2C that can move to the 3rd line as Draisaitl steps up.

    so someone 25-28 that is ready now.

    can we get that for picks? what do we need to throw in to get that?

    • Rick

      I tend to agree.

      For me the Oilers should be looking to make two moves (partly in an attempt to salvage this season) but more importantly to be ready for next year.

      1. Yak for a (Tyler Myers / Seth Jones) type D-man.

      2. Purcell + prospects for a (Kyle Brodziak / Patrik Berglund) type C-man.

      Great article JW!

  • Zarny

    Good article but none of this is new information. You could have recycled numerous articles from July, August or September and simply changed the tense.

    No one should be surprised that neither Draisaitl nor Arcobello are good enough to be a 2C in the NHL. This was expected. Once again, the Oilers’ chose to white-knuckle it on unproven players and hope for the best. And once again that strategy has failed.

    I fail to see what has changed from the start of October other than the critics of rolling the dice with Draisaitl and Arcobello have been proven right. The Oilers were universally predicted to finish 11th or 12th in the West. 6-9-1 pretty much aligns with that prediction. If you expected anything different from betting on Draisaitl and Arcobello you were suffering from delusions of grandeur.

    The options haven’t changed from August. Examples like Brodziak will be the easiest and cheapest to acquire. They are also the shortest term answers based on the assumption that Draisaitl will be much better next year. Well, this is Yakupov’s 3rd year and there is no guarantee Draisaitl will develop faster.

    So my opinion on the matter hasn’t changed from last year, this spring, July, August or September. Take Draisaitl out of the equation and target an option that is viable for 2-4 years. Look at the success Van and Cgy have had with Bonino and Colburne. 24-26 y/o who are ready NOW. Anders Lee in NYI fits the bill. Or go after Hanzal, Soderberg, Zajac etc.

    It’s fantastic that Arcobello is a jack-of-all trades. He is still a terrible fit against the behemoths that play C in the Western Conference. Go get an option that fits well as a 2/3C if/when Draisaitl is ready.

    • Kevwan

      I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, until this team makes the playoffs, you could probably recycle about 60% of the articles on here, year after year. I’m pretty sure the comments section goes round and round every day/week/year. Right now guys are saying trade Arco/Draisatl…I’m pretty sure they were saying the same crap about Gagner a year ago/2 years ago/3 years ago/etc.

    • Yea we understand that management should have gotten a real second line centre, but how would Brodziak be better than Arco.

      Arco is solid defensively, wins most of his face-offs, and has good hands in general.

      If we are going to get a big solid 2nd line centerman, then why not draft another one…….because that’s the only way we are going to find one of these.

      In my mind Arco is NOT the problem………there are far too many problems on defence and goaltending that we need to fix first.

  • Lumley

    Teddy Purcell for Sam Gagner?

    In all seriousness, Purcell seems to be in surplus right now. If we are deep anywhere, I would think it’s on RW. Eberle, Yakupov, Perron can play there, Arcobello can play there and now Pakarinen. What he brings back, I have no idea but I’m sure it’s nothing too special. That said, a centre who can buy Draisaitl a few years before he can become Robin to RNH’s Batman would be fantastic right now.

  • 916oiler

    ” If the Oilers can get a serviceable but overpaid centre for someone like Teddy Purcell, that’s something that should interest them.”

    Maybe the Coyotes would send us Gagner? LOL just kidding…

    Why didn’t we sign Ribeiro???? G0d freaking d@mmit!!

  • pkam

    I really don’t understand the idea of acquiring Kyle Brodziak to savage the season. Seriously, is RNH, Acro, Brodziak, and Gordon good enough centre depth to make the playoff in the west?

  • I don’t know how I feel about trading Purcell for a serviceable but over paid center. It’s almost like that’s what Edmonton gave up to get purcell.

    I suppose no one was really to know that Ribiero would turn his life around in the offseason. Shame on MacT for that!

    • pkam

      I don’t understand why fans keep blasting MacT for not trying to sign Ribeiro. Don’t you know Ribeiro will never come to Edmonton because of the fans here?

        • pkam

          Why should MacT even waste his time on a player who indicated he didn’t want to go to a hockey city? Not sure about you, but I would rather MacT spent his time on players who at least shown some interest to come to Edmonton.

          • BlazingSaitls

            You can’t really believe there are many, or any for that matter, who “want to come to Edmonton”, especially right now?

            Who would willingly go to the delightful climate of Edmonton, for a team that can’t get their ish together, and that seems to be finding new ways to fall apart and regress all the time?

            At this point, we should hold it AGAINST players if they’re acting like “Sure, Edmonton would be great, I’m down for that!” because they’re probably nuts or desperate

          • pkam

            If a player already says he is not interested to come to Edmonton, what is the chance of signing that player? If a player shows some willingness to come, then you suggest MacT should hold against him?

            So what would you do if you’re MacT?

          • Serious Gord

            If I were Mac T i would inform the management group that the tier 1,2, and 3 fans have suffered enough. It is time for all of us to fall on the sword and have a mass resignation.

        • Basshole39

          It is a known fact that Ribiero did not want to sign in a traditional hockey market as he tried to resurrect his career after the off ice issues surfaced in Arizona. He and his agent made it clear they did not want the added attention of a demanding fan base while he tried to pull himself together. I am no MacT fan but people need let go of this notion that he should have signed MR this past summer.

          • I think people are questioning why MacT didn’t sign players LIKE Ribiero. In other words, any NHL centermen who has experience and is better then Gagner. Not a lights out centermen, just a guy who would put up the odd point and be defensively responsible.

          • woodenshoes

            No argument there, going in to the season with the centers available made no sense and is proving to be the case now. I just get tired of the we should have signed Ribiero rants when it was clearly never an option.

            FWIW, and it doesn’t solve the issue long term, picking up Brodziak for prospect/draft pick and sending LD back to PA would make a lot of sense right now. Minny wants him gone so likely wouldn’t take a roster player to get it done, and Eakins isn’t using LD much lately anyway so how is he developing in Edmonton? Maybe next summer we try harder to get the 2C we really need and line up down the middle with RNH/New 2C??/Brodziak/Gordon. Then LD can try and play his way on to the team, possibly as a winger, or just go down to OKC hone his game and wait for an injury callup?

          • Eli Porter

            I have a higher opinion of Arco than you. I think a group of RNH,???, Arco and Gordon would be a reasonable if thin center group this year. Since LD is clearly not ready to play at the NHL level this has forced Arco to play 18 minutes a night vs higher quality competition than one would hope.

            A one year stop gap at 2C would have been a major improvement. The Oil would not have needed to waste a LD contract when he is clearly not ready and Arco would have been in a better place. A guy like Legwand would have been a good fit.

          • woodenshoes

            Actually I am quite high on Arco and would like to see him finish the year at 3C even if it was Brodziak that comes in. For next year it just seemed like Brodziak would be the 3C leaving Arco the odd man out, assuming that a true 2C is brought in. I also agree that Arco would look a lot better to some of his detractors if he wasn’t playing so much, but that seems to be the Oiler way…

            I agree that Legwand could have worked on a 1 year deal as a stop gap. But at the risk of sounding like broken record, word was he had no interest in going West which may have been a polite way of saying not Edmonton?

  • Lumley

    I really think the time is NOW to accept the fact that this group of players is not good enough to play as a ‘team’. The time has come to move the assets they have for different players, the Oilers have too many of the same players. IE-too many forwards not willing to pay the price, not gritty enough. Too maybdrfememanthat are old and slow, too many defenceman that aren’t good enough. Keep Taylor Hall and move every other player on the team.

    The problem I have with doing this is I personally don’t trust the current management group to make the proper deals and make the right moves. I loved MacT as a player, loved him as a coach but I really don’t like him as a GM.

    I miss the old days when you had a coach/GM. It seems there’s just too may people making decisions nowadays with the president, GM assistant GM, traveling secretary, assistant to the traveling secretary, chief head scout and others. The coach/GM role worked, maybe to back to that and just rid yourselves of these other roles.

    One other thing, say no to all the fancy stats. I don’t think there is one coach in the world that says to the team, hey keep close to ‘Player’ he has a good fenwick and his Corsi is through the roof.

    That is all from Lumley.

  • pkam

    I think Perron’s the guy that needs to be dangled to get something of singnificance. It would be nice to turn Teddy Purcell into a 2nd line centre but it’s not going to happen. A top 2 dman and another NHL centre are the priorities. It’s too early to give up on the Nail Yakupov, especially considering how hard he’s been playing this year. RNH-Hall-Eberle seem to be untouchable. Pouliot and Draisatl aren’t going anywhere. I think Perron’s the guy you deal.