LONG WAY DOWN

Tank

It’s becoming obvious that if the Edmonton Oilers are going to hang with the awful Buffalo Sabres in the Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel sweepstakes, they are going to need some help from GM Craig MacTavish. So, what can he do to take a run at 30th place?

As it stands now with both teams having played 47 games, the Oilers are playing well enough under interim coach Todd Nelson there’s no chance they’ll catch the Sabres in the upside-down standings. The Oilers sit in 29th place at 12-26-9 for 33 points, including a 5-4-2 mark under Nelson. The Sabres are 14-30-3 for 31 points after 11 straight losses.

The Oilers aren’t tearing it up under Nelson, but they’ve gathered enough points of late to relinquish 30th to Buffalo. The players on the roster Nelson has to work with are going to do what all players do – they’ll go through the gate ready to compete and trying to win games. Players don’t tank. That’s up to team management.

While I’m not a big advocate of the Oilers tanking – adding a first overall pick, even a “generational talent” like McDavid or Eichel isn’t going to turn this team around and I’m not sure more failure heaped on years of futility is good for the young core of the Oilers – I understand the lure of 30th place in the 2015 Entry Draft. It guarantees one of the first two picks.

For me – skipping past the “trade everybody” mentality that has gripped some fans who are sour over another dismal season — there’s three moves MacTavish can make that might do the trick without crippling the Oilers in the long term. These moves would come, of course, with the understanding MacTavish won’t get full value. Teams in this position seldom do.

THREE EASY PIECES

Three

  • Jeff Petry. As everybody knows, Petry is much-maligned around Edmonton. He’s a better defensemen than a lot of people give him credit for. There are lots of arguments why the Oilers should keep him, not the least of which is he’s the best blueliner the team has, even if it’s a bad bunch. That said, what “should” happen doesn’t matter. Petry is a pending UFA and he isn’t going to re-sign here, barring a huge over-pay.

  • Unless the Oilers are willing to offer (they’ve already shown they aren’t) something goofy in the vicinity of $5 million or more a season over six or seven years, Petry would be a fool not to test the UFA market. Petry would be a great second-pairing addition for a team like the Detroit Red Wings. The sooner Petry is moved, the better.

  • Andrew Ference. Ference, 35, won’t be a part of the picture when the Oilers are any good. Many would argue the captain is not a significant part of the picture now. Ference won’t command a return of any note, but he might, however, be of some value to a contending team looking for experienced depth on the back end. Again, not much coming back, but his departure would open up a second spot and weaken an already overmatched blue line.
  • Matt Hendricks. Hendricks has delivered everything you’d want from a bottom-six forward since arriving. He mucks and grinds and leads and gives you what he’s got. He’s the kind of veteran the Oilers could have used but didn’t have when Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were in their first or second seasons.

    That said, Hendricks is 33 and he’s put on a lot of hard miles in the 382 NHL games he’s played. I’d argue he’s as worth as much now as he’ll ever be. Moving Hendricks before he begins to decline is a case of selling high. He’s not part of the long-terms plans here and is exactly the kind of role player a team making a playoff push would be interested in now. Return? Not much.

IS THAT ENOUGH?

Enough

You can argue I’m nibbling around the edges of the roster with Ference and Hendricks and that Petry is the only real loss, at least in the long term. You’d be right. The thing is, if I’m MacTavish, I don’t move any big pieces before the trade deadline because there are too many sucker deals for weaklings like the Oilers. Those moves, if they come, are best made heading into the draft and during the summer.

That’s the time when you’re going to be able to negotiate a better return for, say, somebody like Eberle, if you’re putting him in play, to acquire something you need to bolster the middle, the blue line or your goaltending. Right now, we’re talking about weakening the roster just enough to give Buffalo an honest run at McDavid or Eichel.

The Sabres are so inept there’s no question they’ve got the inside track and they could jettison useful players to weaken themselves further. What they might do in coming weeks is a wildcard, so there’s no guarantees. Might MacTavish find a market for somebody else like Derek Roy or Boyd Gordon (I wouldn’t do that right now)? Sure.

Would moving a minute-eater like Petry, the experience Ference brings and the grit Hendricks provides while filling those holes with farmhands weaken the Oilers enough to take a run at the first two picks? Given what Nelson has to work with, I think it might.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Results

The Edmonton Sun ran a piece Thursday about what the Oilers might do in terms of tweaking the roster. You can find that here. Connected to the item was a poll asking fans who they think should be moved before the trade deadline. As of 10:30 a.m. with just over 5,170 votes cast, the top results looked like this: 

Andrew Ference, 1,467 votes

Viktor Fasth, 1,272 votes

Jeff Petry, 1,163 votes

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.


  • justDOit

    Some important distinctions on Edmonton’s tanking:

    1) I don’t think the braintrust believed that their summer moves would have put them in contention for last place at the half-way mark.

    2) After the misery that was the first half of the season, you might as well go down.

    3) Not all 1st overalls are created equally. If Nuge/Hall/Yak were on par with McJesus, things would not be like they are.

    4) In contrast to other avenues of building a winner, UFAs are hesitant to sign in the City of Champs.

    • I don’t think the braintrust believed that their summer moves would have put them in contention for last place at the half-way mark.

      How could they not?

      1) No #1 goalie
      2) Draisaitl at 2C/no 2C to replace Gagner
      3) The LOL D

      Alot of people here like to bring out the incompetence of Oilers’ management team. Rather convenient since it makes bloggers look like freaking Einsteins by comparison. Tell me with a straight face that men having a lifetime of experience at the highest levels of the sport on the inside as well as on the ice are somehow dumber than bloggers with rudimentary stats knowledge, zero intimate knowledge of how the game works and a website.

      I’d bet a good pile of cash MacT knew exactly what was going to happen.

      • dougtheslug

        It doesn’t take a lot of brains to build a team to lose. Any of us could do it.

        The problem, illustrated by the raging success of the Oilers over the last five (nine?) years, is that tanking and drafting high is not a recipe for success. All of us can see that.

        Yet you think, “men having a lifetime of experience at the highest levels of the sport on the inside as well as on the ice” are somehow NOT dumber than bloggers.

        We can see this strategy doesn’t work. They can’t, so it seems. Especially if you are suggesting this tank job started last summer.

        Are they dumber than us? Yes. Yes they are.

    • Rdubb

      Well, they aren’t going to sign here for the weather.

      We have to already have a good team, to attract free agents. No way we can build a team with free agents.

  • bradleypi

    “Ference, 35, won’t be a part of the picture when the Oilers are any good.”

    Haha, judging by Katz unwillingness to get competent management, I don’t think any of us will be part of the picture when the oilers are any good. I love the way everyone just assumes the oilers will one day be good.

    • Rdubb

      Sure lets bring him back to complete his carnage. Almost single handedly this guy destroyed a lot of players and any hopes the team had for success this year. Next time the Toronto media rants about how great a coach they see out there please lock MacT in a closet.

  • bradleypi

    If a winger llike Perron is worth a 23-30 pick in the first round…..

    ———————-
    Better asset management

    Trade Gordon this year and he is worth a 15-23 pick in the first round.

    Trade Petry for a condition pick in 2016 (2nd round, but if you sign him a first round)
    ————————-
    Terrible asset management

    Trade Gordon NEXT year for a late second round pick

    Sign Petry for $5M/6 years

  • I’d trade Hall + 2nd/3rd round 2015 picks to Arizona for Domi and Samuelsson….Centre position set….

    Eberle + 2016 1st +++ to LA for Quick…goalie situation solved for years….

    Wait a year, let Nikitin Expire, buyout Ference, and sign Seabrook to a 10MM deal…

  • Romanus

    Seriously, all this wasted breath and idle chit chat on who the oilers may trade to tank the season. Keys sign petry, and not shovel anyone else out. Keys take a chance on Roy. He’s played well thus far… Tired of all the soon and gloom.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    30th place has to be the target. Gives the Oilers the best shot at that first selection. If they unfortunately are forced into the second spot after the lottery, they should do everything possible to trade and move up and select McDavid.

    If an American team wins the lotto. They may be content with Eichel, the American generational player up for grabs in this draft.

    I see a real opportunity here. With Petry, Fasth, Gordon, Ference, Roy and WarDaddy up for grabs, this could be the most important draft class in Oiler history.

  • Rdubb

    I’d like to read/hear more about this so-called “divide” in the Oilers dressing room in regards to the firing of Eakins and the hiring of Nelson…
    If there is a “divide” between the players in regards to firing of Eakins then MacT MUST trade those that are still on side with Eakins as I think that they’ll only become a “cancer” (for lack of a better word, & unfortunately it is a poor word to use for any of us who have lost a loved one from any type of cancer) in the room and will only cause problems for Nelson going forward as he tries to teach his system…
    BUT, why would those players be divided? All Eakins did was take a top 10 PP & PK unit and turn them into bottom feeders. He also took all of the so-called young stars and have had them regress under his guidance, have they not? Just look at the numbers of Hall, Eberle, RNH, & Yakupov, not to mention that of defenceman of the likes of Petry, Schultz & MM. All of the above, with the exception of MM and Schultz, have started playing much better under Nelson.
    Also, all we’ve heard coming from ex-Oilers these last 5+ years is how lax their practices are, and, from I’ve heard from TSN 1260 staff as well as writers here is that their practices intensities have increased several fold.

  • Rdubb

    And another thing, even by trading or shipping a few guys off here in the next little bit, is it not better for the overall health of so-called young guns to continue playing good hockey and having a winning record vrs that of losing far more than they win?
    Really, what is the highest draft position we could expect the Oilers to finish if they continue playing hockey like they currently are, 28th @ best from what i see in the standings.
    And by having this team continuing to play good hockey, winning hockey under Nelson, the teams physcie would be FAR BETTER coming into next season and even by picking 3rd who would they get, a big D in Hanifan, Crouse, or the kid i like for 3rd and to play with the Oilers, Strome, who happens to be a big C @ 6’2″ and is somewhere around 190 already.
    And if the Oilers trade several NHL guys, maybe one of their top guys and play out the rest of the season all the while playing to a .250-.350 winning %, sure they get Mcdavid, but now they’ve depleted the cupboard of NHL players and the team will suck again next season, boy that’ll be good for the likes of Hall, Eberle, RNH, ect.., and perhaps even a few yrs after.
    Thus, i think it is more valuable for the organization to win and win as much as possible, draft 2nd or 3rd and try and trade for some veteran leadership in the off season as well as try and over pay a guy or two to come here, but only for maybe 2 years, 3 @ the most….

    • A winning record for the rest of this year does not transcribe to a winning record for next year. The players will not have any pressure on them for the rest of this year to win therefore will play loose.

      Teams and players (and people generally) react differently under pressure. Their true skills come out when under pressure. Prime example for this year is Scrivens, playing better as the year goes along. He did the same last year.