Year One for Craig MacTavish as GM saw several impressive moves (covered here) and despite bitter disappointment there was hope for the future. As year two of the MacT regime winds down, what did the GM do to improve the team?
I’m certain some will say “how hard is it to draft the right guy” or “Sam Bennett was the right guy!” but big Leon has delivered under unusual circumstances. I’m absolutely on board with his being mishandled (which will be covered when we do ‘worst moves’) but the player is rock solid and should have a strong future.
SIGNED POULIOT & FAYNE
In free agency, MacT delivered a solid possession winger (Benoit Pouliot) and a veteran NHL defenseman in his prime. Again, I can feel you screaming at your computer screen but let’s discuss the positive in this post before we get to the negative.
Pouliot’s ability to play up and down the lineup, score timely goals and be a nuisance are all commendable skills and he’s full value (the injury aside) as an Oiler. Mark Fayne’s game doesn’t shine when a team loses every night but I’m comfortable with him as a tough minutes defender (as shown by the Vollman Sledgehammer).
This is Corsi Rel and shows Fayne in the ‘death corner’ that Shawn Horcoff used to occupy during the period many Oilers fans were down on his performance. It’s very important to include some context when discussing a defensive defenseman. Fayne is playing the tough competition and he’s getting severe zone starts (although not as severe as Andrew Ference) according to the Vollman. Notice the good work of Martin Marincin here (along with Oscar Klefbom).
TRADED FOR DEREK ROY
The cost was Mark Arcobello but the benefit came when the veteran center helped Nail Yakupov unlock the key to finding his considerable talent on the NHL stage. The combination has been impressive and the results for Nail Yakupov since the new year are obvious:
- October through December: 38GP, 4-5-9 -20
- January through today: 32GP, 8-11-19 -13
Yak’s post All-Star performance (23GP, 7-9-16 -12) is even stronger. The Derek Roy trade and Yakupov’s uptick in performance are tied to our final candidate for best move of the year.
HIRED TODD NELSON
There’s a tendency to blame all the ills of the Oilers on Dallas Eakins, but he (and Nelson) were/are dealing with a badly flawed roster (more when we get to the downside of MacT’s year). One could argue the club made an error in firing Eakins or that firing him ignored the real problem. I have a lot of time for that line of thinking.
Having said that, I believe Nelson’s hiring helped in several areas, including a number of young players improving in the NHL. I think Nelson’s hiring is a candidate for best move of the year.
LET’S HAVE A CLOSER LOOK!
So, choose your poison. The new coach? Free agency acquisition Pouliot? UFA Fayne? Roy? Leon? YOU make the call.