Next Year Time

Craig MacTavish9

As anyone with even a passing interest in the Oilers knows, the team is pushing hard to try and improve its roster in the hopes of stemming the bleeding at all positions this season. Those efforts shouldn’t be mistaken as an attempt to save the 2014-15 season; the current campaign is irretrievable. Instead, any trade made will be made with the twin intention of stopping the bleeding this year and setting the team up for improvements in 2015-16.

The Current Situation

11.26.14 NHL standings

The Oilers are five points out of second-last in the Western Conference. They are 12 points out of the final wild card slot. That is a nearly insurmountable gap, even with three quarters of the season left to play.

Looking at it another way, the Dallas Stars claimed the final playoff berth in the West a year ago with a 40-win, 91-point campaign. For the Oilers to hit those thresholds, they’d need to go 34-17-7 the rest of the way, in a schedule that features plenty of excellent Western teams and lots of road games because the easy starts were clustered in the first half of the season. It isn’t happening.

Making a trade for this season is slamming the barn door after the horses have already left. There’s no point to it.

Why Make a Move Now?

Defensive mess

So why make a move now, if next year is what we’re looking at? Why not hold off until the summer when more teams will have players on the block and the salary cap is less of a hindrance? There are a few reasons.

First, there is a lot of value in stopping the bleeding. Craig MacTavish’s tenure as G.M. hasn’t been bad by any objective standard, but it follows years of incompetence under Steve Tambellini and the post-Chris Pronger debacle that Kevin Lowe presided over. The Oilers are a laughing stock, a punch line around the NHL. That wears, and if the team is to convince its current players and any future additions that it’s turning the corner it has to actually give some evidence of turning the corner. Edmonton needs to prove to Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and whoever is tending goal next season that it is serious about getting better and has some idea of what that’s going to take.

Second, there is only so much that a team can do at any one point in time and the more items MacTavish can knock of the list now, the fewer he’ll need to deal with in the summer. Additionally, certain assets (useful veterans, for example) have more value now than they will in the summer, so it makes sense to deal players whose values are elevated for those whose value isn’t (nearly NHL-ready prospects, Vladimir Sobotka)

Third, the remainder of the year gives the team time to assess both what they have and whatever they add. The team needs to know that the guys it is adding are going to work and 2014-15 is an opportunity to field-test additions at centre or on defence or in net in the last half of the year.

Finally, giving Dallas Eakins some tools to work with is long overdue. I know there’s a (massive) level of dissatisfaction with the coach among fans, but realistically I don’t know what he should be doing that he isn’t with the roster he has. He’s riding Nugent-Hopkins and Gordon and sheltering Draisaitl at centre; at the same time on defence his best option on the left side is Andrew Ference. There’s only so much any coach can do with that and the man could clearly use a lifeline from the general manager. And even for those who blame Eakins for a good deal of the Oilers’ struggles this season – those positional problems aren’t going to be handwaved away by canning the head coach. One way or another, they’ll need to be tackled head on, and that should start right now.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Jordanzza

    The crazy thing about our 14 regulation losses is the number of blowouts we have suffered, which I define as losing by 3 or more goals.

    We’ve had 7 blowouts where the scores on average have been 1.7 goals for to 5.4 against.

    We’ve also lost 5 one goal games by an average of 2.2 – 3.2.

    The other two losses were ironically shutouts of 0-2 at the hands of the Canucks and the Devils.

    I’ve loved our last two games since the 1-7 drubbing by the Hawks. Against two of the best teams in the league in Nashville and St. Louis we’ve played a full 60 on back to back nights no less and gotten a loser point. If they keep that effort up more consistently, I can easily see us clawing our way back to .500 with the team we have now.

    Sure we aren’t a playoff team this year, but if we can finish December a little closer to .500, then we won’t be too far behind Sharks sitting at 11-10-4 at 2 points back of the last wild card right now.

    With 14 games and 28 points in December up for grabs, a run of 4-6-4 would give us 28 points and 10-20-8 to close out 2014.

    http://oilers.nhl.com/club/teamseasoncomparison.htm

    Nothing to write home about but improves on last seasons 25 points – well short of the the 39 we had in as many games of the shortened season under Krugz prior.

    With winnable games versus the Avs, Wings, Panthers, Lightning and the Capitals, the opening 10 game segment of 2015 could be huge:

    http://oilers.nhl.com/club/schedule.htm?gameType=2

    If we went 6-2-2 and took 14 out of 20 points, that would get us to 42 points and 16-22-10 with two games left in January.

    At that point we would be improving from last years 35, and sniffing the 45 points we had after 48 games in 2012-13 with Krueger.

    If we can at least be playing meaningful games in the new year and finish the season around 80 or 82 points, that will be a huge step in the right direction and maybe be around 10th in the west?

    If MacT can pull the trigger on a deal that vastly improves the team in terms of a bonafide top pairing D or legit journeyman 2nd line Centre then he should deal from a position of strength to do so. That means sitting pat and waiting until the trade deadline to maximize return and get a firmer grasp of who isn’t part of the picture in 2015-16.

    So I don’t think he should drastically alter the makeup of a team that currently 17th in the league in shots per game at 29.9 …

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/teamstats.htm?fetchKey=20152ALLSAAAll&sort=avgShotsPerGame&viewName=summary

    … and 15th in Corsi at 50.8% …

    http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/teamstats.php?disp=1&db=201415&sit=5v5&sort=CFPCT&sortdir=ASC

    … while dead last in PDO :
    http://www.sportingcharts.com/nhl/stats/team-pdo-numbers-save-plus-shooting-percentage/2014/

    Sure, you’ve got to be good to be lucky but eventually we’re are gonna start consistently stopping more pucks and putting more in at the other end.

    I’d argue this team, as it stands now has the potential to be a bubble sniffer, and will be best served in the long run by letting this coach and these players figure out a way to win more 3-2 games.

    We’re a lot closer than you think, and I worry making trades out of frustration with our record, ignores the strides we have been making lately.

  • dougtheslug

    Gretz said MacT and KBlowe hate losing? Well, apparently not because thats all they seem to do.

    I sense the new Oil yes-man, Bob Nicholson, is laying down the foundation for a “we screwed up” defence for the braintrust. Then, they will admit their scouting and drafting has sucked and that they will fix it. More long time Oiler employees will be fired, but the guys at the top, who are the ones who are truly responsible will soldier on, in their never quest to get the Oilers into 8th place in the conference.

    Meanwhile, down the road in Cowtown, our bitter rivals have seemed to retool and re-energise their franchise and will definitely make the playoffs this year and will continue to kick Oil ass for at least the next decade. How did they do this? How did they manage to get to such an impressive place in their rebuild so quickly? Will the Oiler braintrust be grilled on this by the E-Town MSM? Do you think Oiler propaganda apparatchiks like Jim Matheson will summon the courage to question these Oiler legends? Unlikely.

    The Flames and Oilers are the talk of the NHL, but for very different reasons.

    Do Klowe, MacT and Howson know the league are laughing at them? Do they know how angry and bitter and pissed off Oilersnation is? I read a lot of hollow talk on Oilersnation about how people shoud stop going to games, but this has never really happened. However, with 58 meaningless games remaining in another meaningless season I think Katz is going to be seeing a lot of empty seats, enough to catch his attention hopefully.

  • BubbaZanetti

    Since Willis seems to be in MacT apologist mode, I’ll go into Tambo apologist mode.

    When you have the likes of Hemsky, Souray, Horcoff, Gilbert, Penner, Cogliano and Gagner as your top players to build your team around when you’re coming in as GM how the heck are you supposed to really succeed?

    The team’s success in 05/06 was built upon two things: 1. Chris Pronger and 2. Dwayne Roloson playing at his absolute best. Other than that, the Oilers were lacking in many areas, including a true number one centre and a defensemen to replace Pronger. Then you had significant injuries to key players that seemed to plague this team year after year and it seemed that the fall for Hall, etc. was almost inevitable no matter who was GM.

    Not convinced by any of this? Neither am I. Just trying to be objective, ha ha…

  • BubbaZanetti

    I would like to see the list of the following team personnel loaded into a shipping container:

    Kevin Lowe
    Craig MacTavish
    Scott Howson
    Dallas Eakins
    Oilers Scouting Staff (Pro, Amateur, All of you clowns)
    Rob Brown
    Bob Stauffer

    Have them set sail to a deserted island where they will have to fend for themselves like a Lord of the Flies scenario. Here we will study the cognitive abilities of our specimens. From intel I have gathered over the past few years many of these individuals aren’t functioning very highly (or at all) on a human level.

    My not so obvious prediction: Bob Stauffer eats Rob Brown. Sad but at the same time we have one less gutless apologist to listen to.

    Signed,

    Staged Moon Landing

  • BubbaZanetti

    Why do people think Taylor Hall is so good? He cant even skate. like really people you call yourselves hockey people? He only puts up points cause he cherry picks and has two great line mates. Notice he screws up most of Nuge and Eberles plays???? He alwyas fumbles it along the boards or makes some stupid failed deak to get through two defensemen…..Like am i the only one who notices all of his screwups? people ignore it cause of points……Points are not everything like another poster said. UHG annoys me so much that his ability is soooooo inflated.

  • reaperfunkss

    Out of the playoffs for the 2nd season in the row by the end of November. Didn’t MacT say during his hiring presser that he was an impatient man?
    So everyone can believe that this team will be better. We found the path according to him and the Winning Wizard Lowe.

    How can Katz stay blind to this level of incompetence? How can he say in a public letter that everyone one is accountable yet the architects of this retched franchise continue to be employed here.

    Makes me miss pocklington. Puck did bilk millions out of the Taxpayers but Katz got $350 mill plus other real estate concession to make Downtown Edmonton his own personal playground. At least with Puck we were able to have some pride and Cups. i do miss the 80’s. Not saying Puck was great just saying katz cant seem to hold a candle to a conman and crook.