Timeframe for landing a centre

Craig MacTavish10

There is a tone of increasing desperation in much of the commentary concerning the Edmonton Oilers’ ongoing quest for some help at centre.

Weighed against that rising emotion is the take general manager Craig MacTavish offered on July 1 when asked about the problem.

He Knows It’s a Problem

Draisaitl, Leon

“We didn’t address all of our needs today,” was the first thing out of MacTavish’s mouth when asked about the team’s depth chart up the middle. “We still feel ideally we’d be able to add a centreman.”

And no, he wasn’t banking on Leon Draisaitl riding in to save the day.

“The one thing I will say about centre is that Leon Draisaitl is an element that we did add in the draft that we think is going to fill that position for a long time,” he said. “We do have some depth there, but they’re young, developing players and any decision regarding Leon or any of those players will be strictly based on what the best situation is for the player and not what’s best for the team.”

In other words, however the depth chart looks at the moment MacTavish’s words indicate no desire to force feed him NHL minutes he isn’t ready for.

The Current Depth Chart


“Right now we have Mark Arcobello, we have Anton Lander, we’ve got Boyd Gordon and of course [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins in those positions now,” he said, summing up the depth chart that so many see as unacceptable.

“Now you can draw all your own conclusions based on what my strategy may be going forward, and we’re hopeful that we can do something and add a centre piece to what we’ve done already. These things aren’t always guaranteed, but we’ll be trying to do something in that regard.”

Asked whether the new centre would be primarily an offensive forward or more a stabilizing defensive force, MacTavish made it clear that the Oilers weren’t picky.
“Both are really possible,” he said. “I think both are probable. We’ve talked about how we want to build our team going forward. We want three offensive lines and we want a line, probably centered by Boyd Gordon, that can start much like Chicago is built, that you have another line that you can start predominantly in the defensive zone. Then you’ve got three possession lines, or three lines that you can count on for offence… We’re not in such a need offensively up the middle that we have to get an offensive centreman. We feel that Nugent-Hopkins is going to fill that admirably, and also a more versatile centre would fit in that place too.”

Patience from an Impatient Guy

Craig MacTavish6

The most important comment MacTavish made, though, was probably his last on the subject.

“We’ve made a few calls,” he acknowledged. “But it’s hard to say whether it’s going to fit tomorrow, a week from now or in September/October.”

The level of concern in Edmonton is understandable; until a team actually does something there will always be skepticism that they recognize the problem and are actively looking for solutions.

In this case, though, it’s a pretty good bet that MacTavish is doing all that can be done. His record is open to interpretation, but he’s been an awfully active manager in his time at the helm; he’s not prone to the dithering that predecessor Steve Tambellini to be plagued by. He’s not unaware of the problem; on July 1 he made it abundantly clear that he saw the trouble and wanted to address it.

That’s means and motive; the question now is whether the right opportunity exists. The free agent options are not compelling, and even in situations where a case to sign one can be made the player’s willingness to come to Edmonton (recall Mike Ribeiro taking a buyout rather than accepting a trade to Calgary) and contract demands are unknowns. Also unknown to outsiders is the content of the calls MacTavish has made since; he has a much better idea of the players potentially available through that route than anyone not plugged into the team does.

If the 2014-15 season rolls around and the Oilers are running Arcobello/Draisaitl on lines two and three, we’ll probably look back ruefully at Derek Roy and wonder what could have been. But if MacTavish’s public statements are anything to go by, it won’t come to that.


  • a lg dubl dubl

    An article about the fact that we have no more information from MacT about his plans to address is second line centre issue…..news be a bit thin, eh?

  • Jordan1126

    Be as it is I still don’t think having a combination of draisatl arcobello and lander playing c is worse then gagner and smyth playing c

    Once we find another quality center gordon will slip from 3 to 4c

    The need is so obvious that other gms I’m sure are playing hardball wanting more then Mac t is willing to part with.

    This isn’t a Stanley cup contender this year. No need to risk the future. However it should be a much harder team to play against

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Full disclosure: I am not an oiler fan but a Flames fan(yes the booing and trashing can begin) I often come to your sight because your stories change more frequently than ours at FN but this is the first time I intentionally commented. Over at FN we have been having a discussion on whether we should pursue RoR, and I just wanted to throw that name out into your discussion(I apologize if it has already been written to death).

    • a lg dubl dubl

      O’Reilly might be the ideal 2C in the NHL. Lead the league in takeaways last year for eg. He would be a great fit with the Oil.

      But the price would be high, probably in the 7M range and the 4 or so first round choices as comp. I don’t see how the Oil can do this.

      The Oil would need to dump one salary assuming O’Reilly is in the 7M range and Schultz is in the 4Mi ranhe.

      The question for the flames would be, even with O’Reilly resulting in an improved result, how valuable might the draft picks be?

      • Dan 1919

        Agreed, 4 firsts + approx.7mill I’d be expecting Crosby back, nothing less.

        Flames are rebuilding too, no way around it. Making fast reckless moves will only guarantee they stay in the Feaster desert permanently.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      He’d be a good fit on either team, especially on the Oilers. Since Feaster kind of screwed the rest of the NHL teams from offer sheeting him this off season, it would take 4 1st rounders (6+ mil)to make it so the Avs would walk away from RoR.

      That being said, Id have a good hardy laugh if Burke signed RoR to an offer sheet and got him, just because then the Lames would have less depth in the club than the Oilers do and would sit at the bottom of the League forever!!

      PS Flames suck, hope you don’t get McDavid. 🙂

  • CMG30

    I for one am not overly concerned by running with Arco in the 2C for a while. His body of work last year, while small, was impressive as most of the players he played with were better with him on the ice,(Gadzic being the notable exception).

    If MacT can find a guy, great but don’t break the bank. If it costs Marincin or Petry, then you’ve just blown a hole in your defense. If it costs a 1st or 2nd round draft pick next year, also bad.

    • Dan 1919

      Lol Petry fans are funny. If Petry fetches you a 2C, YOU MAKE THAT TRADE 10 OUT OF 10 TIMES!

      Then after the 2C is secured by Petry (lmao), you package Lander and Arco for Malkin, win-win for both sides.

      Seriously, there is nobody returning from injury like last year. Lander and Arco would be it ALL season, maybe Draisaitl, but a big maybe. They need at least one more proven NHL centre on this team.

      I’m not saying they might not luck out with Lander, Arco, and Draisaitl, but that’s a huge gamble to take with the very real negative potential ending in the West basement again.

  • Dan 1919

    Since we know this team has tanked on purpose for this rebuild, would it be reasonable to assume they wouldn’t be against running Arco and lander to see what they have with them and not be overly concerned with this seasons results, again?

  • Serious Gord

    Sorry, Willis, but talk is cheap and good intentions mean little in a results oriented business. If the Oilers begin the season with the current roster, we can confidently declare the offseason a disappointment – even with very modest expectations. The two areas of weakness that were unianimously agreed upon by the end of last season were centre and defence. Centre depth is worse than last year (ignoring injuries), since Gagner is now gone. Defence is arguably the same as it was at the beginning of last season. We had depth guys like Nick Shultz, Smid, Belov and Grebeshkov who were expected to shore up the defence. The addition of Nikitin, Fayne and Aulie, who were all third line defenders on their respective teams last season, will bring more of the same.

    Remember: you may look back and say “yeah, well those weren’t very good players and these new defenceman will be different,” but last August MacTavish said he was happy with the roster and didn’t feel they needed to add more. He’s saying the same thing now about the defence as he was last offseason.

    MacTavish should be judged on what he accomplishes, not on what he wants to accomplish.

    • Dan 1919

      Finally, the facts are written by this poster and not agreeing with journalists who have been drinking Lowe and Mac T Koolaid.

      By the way, that koolaid makes us the worst organization over the past 8 years.

      I dont think the media will ever wake up in this town. It is rather pathetic.

      Thx for the great post.

    • Serious Gord

      Well done.

      Jonathon talks of two things: patience on the part of MacT and that he is very active.

      Well what looks like patience may in fact be paralysis.

      And what looks like activity has been a whole lot of secondary and tertiary moves and moves far past the due date: getting bryzgalov, moving hemsky and gagner for example.

      I think MacT lacks the courage to make the big trade – and he backslides into risky positions – keeping dubnyk as the number one for example.

      If he actually makes a big trade the above assessment might need to be edited – if he is the instigator in the deal – but until then he looks to be pretty much like a chicken – a whole lot of scratching in the dust but not much of resounding significance.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      Fayne, Nikitin, Aulie is a massive upgrade over Belov, Grebs and Smid. Fayne himself was not a third pairing guy. He regularly played against the top superstars in the east. The defence is considerably better now than at the beginning of last season.

      However the center depth chart is hurtin bad.

  • 24% body fat

    Looking at the Gagner – Purcell swap and Gagner to Phoenix.

    Could we not have kept Gagner until we had another center and just trade a sixth for Purcell?

    I mean he wasnt perfect and a defensive liability but still would be in a better position than we are today in regards to center depth.

    Ok all you arcobello lovers time to trash. Have fun banking on a 50 game sample. I can pull out 5 50 game samples where Gagner looked like an allstar.

    P.S. I Like Arco, but find arguments for him replacing Gagner as stupid, based on sample size and people calling Sam a smurf. He needs to do more on line 4 before he is put on line 2.

    • Issues I see with keeping Gagner in that situation.

      1. You keep his salary cap on the books giving you much less flexibility when you do have the opportunity to take on that piece at C.

      2. You’d have likely had to take Purcell AND Combeen right? That was the salary dump they did. Now, assuming all other moves are the same and you sign schultz to say 4mil (give or take what you want there the point stands) now you have less than 2m of cap space left to take that C

      3. Its likely fair to say that moving gagner at this point is actually more difficult as teams are set and looking to dump salary not take it on.

      4. It’s likely MacT knows he has a decent shot at getting a C and considering all of the above keeping Gagner handcuffs him from doing so.

      • a lg dubl dubl

        and also not forgetting, Gagner No Trade Clause was to kick in on July 1st which was day prior to trade and would have handcuffed the Oilers on any possibility in trading Gagner

        • O.C.

          And also that MacT demonstrated he was a man of his word. He had a gentlemen’s agreement with Gagne (done on purpose, One More Time). This created a short window.

        • 24% body fat

          Ok ya I forgot about the NTC and Crombeen.

          As for the Cap situation we would have had until october to figure that out.

          Seeing how it was a NTC and not a NMC than we could have burried him in the minors. After 7 years with the oil during hard times they probably wouldnt have done that to him. But the possibility would have him wave his NTC pretty easily.

  • Big Cap

    Arco is 110% NOT the answer as our 2C. He is barely a fringe player on a 28th place team. I wonder how many playoff or near playoff teams would give this guy a chance as their center, let alone a #2C

    We have tried many times to talk ourselves into believing certain players might/could/should fill roles for us when it is abundantly clear they are not ready or able.

    MacT has done a super job this summer and since taking over, but he must address this need in some form or another.

    • Dan 1919

      Arcobello is a step above Gagner, that’s for sure. Arco’s season last year went sideways when Gagner came back too soon from injury & took that spot. Big mistake in my opinion.