Derek Roy, Anton Lander and Leon Draisaitl isn’t enough

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Once again, the Edmonton Oilers are facing tough decisions at centre ice. A year ago, they talked themselves into going with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boyd Gordon and a bunch of uninspiring maybes. This year, the maybes are a little more compelling, but the basic choice remains the same.

Outside Opinions

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Edmonton’s centre position has come up recently in a few different places. I read Lowetide religiously; he commented on the depth chart this morning:

Oilers are probably running Nuge—Roy—Lander—Gordon next season as their default position. What could change that depth chart? Drafting McEichel or a strong, strong camp from Leon. That’s about all I can think of, unless they decide to bring in a David Legwand but MacT didn’t do that a year ago so one assumes that won’t happen this year. I have to say Lander’s advance this year (his 5×5/60 and Corsi aren’t terrible) have me wondering if Roy—Draisaitl might be enough. Thoughts?

My colleague over at the Cult of Hockey, David Staples, had some mixed comments on Derek Roy in particular. After noting that he’s small and not very good defensively, Staples highlighted his offensive success and offered a limited endorsement:

As second line centers go, Roy isn’t at the level of Gagner in 2010-11, Horcoff 2011-12 or Gagner in 2012-13, but he’s putting up more contributions per game than Gagner last season, or more than young Leon Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello did this year. So keep him, I say, at least if he’s willing to sign a short term, discount contract. At worst, he’s a fifth liner. At best, he’s on a support attacking line and his presence can help Draisaitl by allowing him to develop on the wing or in the minors, if that’s the best bet for the young German.

I don’t want to put words in either writer’s mouth, but I interpret those comments pessimistically. There seems to be a lack of faith in the Oilers’ willingness to go out and get help, and a belief that Roy might be a useful piece to have around as insurance. I tend to think there’s a lot of truth in both comments.

Ruthlessness

Craig MacTavish9

Edmonton’s centre depth chart for next season includes the following internal candidates, ranked by ice-time this season:

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 20:53 per game (significant time in all three disciplines)
  • Derek Roy, 16:58 per game (significant time at evens, second-unit power play assignments)
  • Anton Lander, 14:06 per game (minimal time at evens, spot duty on the penalty kill, lots of power play time)
  • Boyd Gordon, 13:29 per game (minimal time at evens, spot duty on the power play, lots of penalty kill time)
  • Leon Draisaitl, 12:41 per game (minimal ice-time at evens, second-unit power play assignments)

Nugent-Hopkins is the most pivotal player at any position on the Oilers’ depth chart, and that depth chart virtually guarantees ruination if he’s out for any length of time. There simply isn’t any player positioned to take on his load at even-strength.

Roy is the current option for eating up minutes at even-strength, and he isn’t a good one. By eye, he’s a wreck defensively, and that’s backed up by number no matter what system to which one subscribes. His Corsi is staunchly mediocre despite a gorgeous 61.9 percent zone start and weak quality of competition. Using Staples’ scoring chance numbers, no forward on the team commits as many errors on chances against; incredibly only two regular defencemen (defencemen typically commit more errors by nature of their position) have worse averages. He’s also minus-11 in 35 games with the Oilers, not that anyone should be putting stock in plus/minus. Edmonton is out-shot, out-chanced and out-scored at an alarming rate when he’s on the ice. Getting along with Nail Yakupov is not an acceptable substitute for competence in the role.

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Lander’s been pretty decent in the aggregate over 27 games this year, but four of his six goals and six of his 13 points have come on the power play and his even-strength work is more questionable (though we should allow for wretched linemates for much of it). Given the short span of his success and the limitations of that success, it’s ludicrous to suggest him at this point as a second-line even-strength pivot.

Draisaitl was stupidly given the benefit of the doubt this past summer/fall and that shouldn’t happen again. Penciling him into the No. 2 role would be more justified this year than last but at some point the Oilers have to stop looking at draft position and assuming a player is ready to solve all their problems just because he has pedigree.

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Gordon is an established NHL player, but a sharply limited one. He’s a fantastic defensive specialist and a godsend to the Oilers this year (though they certainly paid for the privilege) but that excellent performance should not lead to him being cast in an offensive role to which he is poorly suited.

An NHL team has to be built with clear vision and a ruthless disposition. The clear vision part means accepting players for what they are, not allowing wishful thinking to take over. The ruthless disposition is necessary for taking the actions made evident by that clear vision.

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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bringing both Roy and Lander back in 2015-16, assuming of course that the price is reasonable. But there should only be one job in the starting 12 available to that duo, and it shouldn’t be the second line centre position. One of them can take Lander’s current position, the other can assume the No. 5 centre role and wait for an opportunity. That leaves Draisaitl in Bakersfield, but there’s no harm and potentially a good deal of benefit in that.

It also leaves a hole at the No. 2 centre position that needs to be filled. The Oilers talked themselves into leaving the position vacant in the summer of 2014, to the team’s great detriment. It was an inexcusable decision. It will be even more damning if they repeat it.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Craig1981

    If they get Eichel or McDavid

    Pouliot-RNH-Eberle 20 min a game

    Hall-McEichel-Yak 20 min

    Purcell-Roy-?????? 7 min

    Lander-Gordon-Henricks 13min

    Klinkhammerand and Gazdic not dressing and Drisatal able to get called up if someone is LTIR

    That is a forward roster that makes playoffs……take the money/picks/prospects and find a goalie and a blue line that doesn’t belong in the AHL.

  • billythebullet

    If oilers don’t get Mceichel this season was a waste of time. Any pick after that HAS to be on the table. The oilers don’t just need centers they need an entire dfence and a starting goalie. Time to get creative because buying a free agent in edmonton can be tricky.

  • Zarny

    It’s crunch time for playoffs and we are talking about next year already. How sad.

    It’s really about expectations. The Oilers aren’t just sitting in 28th; they might not crack 60 points. Pathetic is an understatement. This isn’t a roster that only needs 1 or 2 players and a bit of tinkering unless you’re cool with 26th next year.

    Roy has done well compared to Draisaitl and Arcobello but that’s comparing him to 2 guys who aren’t really NHLers. The Oilers should certainly sign Roy (assuming it’s 2 ish years and economical) but he isn’t a 2 C.

    In his intro presser MacT said he’s have to take some semblance of risk to get this rebuild moving. It’s long past due to walk the talk which means giving up assets to get what you need. A guy like Soderberg should be the minimum. Talk to Col about O’Reilly. Talk to NYI about Lee or Nelson. Talk to Chi about helping them with cap relief. Phone up Pit and offer Draisaitl and some 1sts for Malkin.

    Because relying on rookies and hoping for the best will only lead to another unmitigated disaster.

  • billythebullet

    I do think they are going to resign Roy. I think he’s done some good things but we need help defensively and he doesn’t cut it. I would hope for outside help. Carl Soderberg might be a good option and Boston is in a serious cap crunch. He’s 6-3 216lbs. And putting up close to 50 points for the second season in a row at 29 years old. Just throwing it out there……..

  • Anton CP

    Considering that Roy was on waiver and he had difficulty of landing a NHL job at the beginning suggested that he is way passing his prime. The great play that Yak had with Roy on the same line is more of a veteran leading a talent young winger to define his game. Oilers did not have a good veteran to centre the line for him for most of his career which is partly why he struggled for awhile. It is not how Roy helped Yak, it is about how a veteran centre can do to Yak.

  • Kevin McCartney

    Who’s to say Roy is either a 3rd line Center or a 5th line C??? For all your smart number crunching and insight, I think you and Staples forget to see the forest for the trees and think pragmatically. Sign Roy and If the Oilers fill the C positions great… Put Roy on the wing. My guess is he’d do just fine w/out the defensive responsibilities of a Centre.

  • Zarny

    Mact, shakes up the roster for the final phase of the Oilers perpetual rebuild:

    Gaxdic, Pitlick, Fraser, Klinkhammer, Hamilton, Aulie, Pakarinen, Nikitan, Scrivens, Fasth,Yakaniov,Pouliot, Roy Fayne,and Purcell.

    With these fine moves, don’t understand why they only leaped from 30th to 28 th?

    If the Organizational plan was to end up in 30th place [TANK], then this was indeed a roster for it! Then again, looks like they screwed that up as well.

    Katz,I don’t think you are dumb or blind, so only thing I can think of you must be in love.