Keeping Them Together

As Jonathan Willis already wrote, the Oilers have told the trio of Hall, RNH, and Eberle that they are going nowhere this summer. You can add to that list Nail Yakupov if we can take MacTavish at his word. The Oilers are hopelessly struggling to fill important positions on their roster and that group represents the most valuable part of the franchise’s stash of talent. Surely they could part with one or two to fill their needs, but I’m happy they aren’t.

This was MacTavish on committing to the aforementioned players:

Well absolutely. I think those players that you mentioned, including Yak, are players that are very deserving of our organizational support and I certainly appreciate their commitment to our organization over this lengthy rebuild that we’ve been all enduring. Those players are going to be very well supported by the organization and that’s my job.

The Oilers are heading into their sixth draft in the “Rebuild Era” and three of the four players MacT says the club is committed to represent who the team drafted in years 1-2-3. They damn well better be committed to this group. The organization’s entire philosophy over the last half-dozen years has revolved around acquiring them. Sending them away now seems like a pretty idiotic move.

The team asked for fans to be patient and they have been. They told the season ticket holders their suffering would be worth it in the form of those coveted prize taken atop the NHL Draft. If somehow the organization had run through this so called audit and found that the core was the reason the team wasn’t winning then it would have signalled us to buckle up for another rebuild. 

The failing of the team hasn’t been on the core so much as it has been on management’s ability to surround and insulate the core with complementary pieces. The Oilers threw these kids in the deep end without so much as water-wings and told them to swim.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is an apprentice without a master.

Hall and Eberle learned how to be pro’s living the NHL life with each other as roommates.

Nail Yakupov was given third line minutes for three years and asked to grind on defense until Nelson arrived.

Justin Schultz was learning how to defend with a 21 year old rookie as the defensive conscience in his pairing.

Are we seeing a pattern here?

If we are to believe that all (or at least most) of these players are going to lead the Oilers to greatness then they need help. And, if they have failed to take us to the promised land, then it is because they weren’t given the tools they needed to succeed.

Yeah, the Oilers could easily fill the top four with a couple solid defenders if the team traded Taylor Hall. But after they’ve done that then we’re right back to where we started, hoping that maybe we’ll luck out and find that elite offensive talent hidden under the seat cushion. And what does that say to the people whose nearly unwavering support allowed the team to nosedive straight to the bottom of the standings for this long?

A bargain was struck with the fans. We keep buying tickets even as losses pile up out of control, they find otherwise impossible-to-find players in the draft. That was the deal. Turning back now isn’t an option I think the franchise really wants to explore. Not when this season has already seen Rexall emptier than it has been in years on game night. They claim the tickets were sold but you could always buy them minutes before puck drop, so I’m not inclined to believe them. 

They are already facing a rebuild fatigue from the consumer. Trading from the core could be what brings this house of cards tumbling down.  

Keep Hall. He’s a dynamic winger whose season was derailed by an injury he came back weeks too early from but was a top 10 scorer in the league two years running.

Keep Eberle. This is a guy who had 43 points in 46 games during the Solo Nelson part of the year. He’s a top line right winger.

Keep Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. For the love of all that is good and pure keep Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Keep Yakupov. He was on the verge of being labelled a bust before we found out what kind of evil spell the coach had put on him. Under Nelson he had 25 points in 45 games. Extrapolated over a full season that’s 46 points…just like Galchenyuk who some fans retroactively wish the team had taken.

I’m ecstatic that the Oilers are making their pledge to this group very public. I’m over the moon that the GM feels like it’s his job to support them.

It’s about time somebody in the organization starts to do it. Up until now management has done a relatively poor job doing just that. No legitimate offensive center to ease the load on RNH or to help put Hall & Eberle in good positions. Not even a second line center for Yakupov until the year was off the rails. 

Don’t even think of trading them. Support them. Just for one season, at least, actually support them.

  • BubbaZanetti

    Funny thought, wouldn’t it be hilarious if they fired Mactavish, like everybody is screaming for, only to have the new guy come in, access the situation, looks at the lineup and realizes that certain special individuals aren’t the answer and ships a few of them ( rhymes with tore ) out of here. Now that would be so awesome!! Better be careful what you wish for ??

    • hagar

      Hopefully MacT is gone. Whoever takes over will not have the “investment” of stating how great and untouchable the Core are. Anything would be on the table.

  • AJ88

    Sorry but I don’t think you know the meaning of “Core” as it pertains to profesional sports.

    Core for the NHL should bring something for each major position which helps a team be successful – So a power forward or Centreman, #1 d and a “starting” goalie capable of .910 save %.

    Problem with these players is not really Hall vs Eberle vs Nuge getting better at their craft its just that we have the same type of player for all core spots. And Schulz is not core anything – at best he is special situation player for PP.


    I am firm believer of the strength up the middle philosophy so I would not trade Nuge.I would trade Hall for two reasons. One he his style of play makes him injury prone and two I think he is very weak defensively. I also think he can get a lot in return (hopefully not Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf – please no!!)

    So let’s just pull the band aid off and get this done now. Before we wait for another year of crap year of HOPE.

  • paul wodehouse

    …trade Eberle in a package at the draft table along with our pick(s) and get a goalie!

    give Hall the C…see what happens and if he only plays half the season for yet another injury then trade him and the high pick this team gets (30th?) next year for an NHL Dman…

    I still think the media made them both look like fools with that STUPID radio spot Hall&Ebs years ago and THAT is part of the curse that’s on this team … you NEVER make your best players look like fools!!!&they did!

  • paul wodehouse

    keep 3 wingers, because wingers are so important? surely, they can part with one. I’ve been saying it for 2 years now; trade one of Ebs or Yak. this attachment to wingers is true folly of this rebuild.

      • AJ88

        well, that’s true. They missed the boat on these trades awhile ago. They fell in love with these kids, didn’t look ahead or notice that: ‘hey, we’re building the team with wingers as its foundation’. should have traded the Yak pick before they picked him. All water under the bridge, tho.

        Most poorly executed rebuild imaginable. 3 wingers as building blocks, and not one is a Cam Neely. Absolutely asinine.

        • AJ88

          I’m confused. Aren’t RNH and Draisaitl Top 5 overall draft picks that play Center? If Strome is the pick this year, do we have enough C’s to add to the building blocks?

          Also, do we know many successful teams without effective wingers? Players like oh I don’t know Eberle, Hall, Pouliot, possibly even Yakupov?

          The rebuild is not off the rails because of who they drafted. They almost to a T drafted BPA with the 1st rounders. The failure is in the Pro scouting DEPT. They let Petry go and picked up Nikitin and Ference. That is poor poor talent assessment and has screwed the team and the development of the young D.

          I know hindsight is 20/20 but picture this team with Boychuk, Leddy, Petry, Klefbom, Fayne, Schultz. I can guarantee you this team would of looked much much different right now.

  • Ever the Optimist

    I love the skill these 4 can bring ….. however offense begins with solid defense. How often have we seen our skill players run around their end of the rink until a goal is scored or save made and Gordon then comes out.

    Without 4 competent NHL dmen who are able to defend and then transition the puck I fear we will never see the true potential of these kids.

    This is where we get sad as oiler fans … we are all pretty aware that top defense is drafted and as much as i like Klefbom and Nurse it is hard to imagine them both being top pair dmen before Hall and Eberle flee from Edmonton.

    I have said it a few times now but we need to draft more top end defense (we do have 3 picks in the top 35) and move the “CORE” slowly out of town over the next few years. Do this only as the right deals come along and with a plan in mind to draft and develop D first and then the offense to come after that.

  • Saazman

    Of course you keep all of them! Totally agree. We have enough assets aside from them to trade for our needs. Two top 4 Dmen (ideally a top pairing), goalie and another center.

    If our pick isn’t 1 or 2 this year then I say trade every pick we have to fill a couple of those holes. If Hannifan or Strome isn’t enough to get a #1 goalie I’d be pretty surprised. (Note: regardless I have no faith in Kevin Lowe or the brain trust to find the right deal)

    Marincin, Schultz in my mind are expendable as well so package them with Pittsburgs pick to get a NHL defensive that can play 28 mins a night.

    Sign Derek Roy and goes aggressively after another center just in case (Note: I don’t have confidence in Kevin Lowe and the braintrust to see the value in center depth) God forbid Leon is given a year in the AHL to develop.

    When the smoke clears the Oilers go hard in the free agent pool for 1 more top pairing defensive and 2 bottom pairing (bye Nikita)

    Bottom line is we have to be patient with Hall, Nuge, Eberle and Yak! We have suffered to long as fans to see them be traded. Keep in mind those players are still young and were never put into a position to succeed because the management had no experience BUILDING and managing a winning team! The players can’t be blamed for being dumped into the deep end without a guide, rushed into roles that she shouldn’t be given. The player development is so terrible that fans, to bloggers, to media have blasted the management repeatedly.

    Until the owner of this team shows some gumption and fires Kevin Lowe the man responsible for this mess then the organization will always have this black cloud of arrogance and lack of success hanging over this team. Accountability is necessary in this case because it’s so obvious it reeks of “old boys club”

    No need to clean the slate with our future just clean slate with our past. Some minor tweaks can turn the culture of the team and help create an identity. We have seen our rivals to the south prove how that is possible.

    Somehow how there needs to be accountability!

  • Serious Gord

    All the experts and fans think that getting 1A Dman can help your team win? That’s so stupid, really.

    Look at Boston with Chara, LA Kings with Doughty, both missed the playoffs. Nashville had Weber, the Preds has not won a Cup yet.

    1A Goalie to win? Quick and Rask, both teams are done like our Oilers.

    It’s professional sports, they win as a team, not with a few good players.

    The Pens squeaked in playoffs with 2 good centers, Malkin and Crosby.

    Why is this site is so obsessed with 1A Goalie, 1A Dman?

    The Sens has been winning as a team and The Wild also, with good goal tending at the right time win games. Dubnyk and Hammond had a whole team defense concept to help them win.

    Win as a TEAM with any players, Coaching can do thatt.

    • AJ88

      You do realize Boston (Chara) and LA (Doughty) have won 3 of the last 4 Stanley Cups. Granted 1 player does not win on their own but these two are top D in the league that I would not mind having on the Oilers. I agree that a coach is a very key element to establish team chemistry and motivate players, is Nelson the guy?

  • Serious Gord

    This site always has somebody complaining about anything all year long.

    30 teams, 16 make playoffs, 1 Cup winner. 14 team miss playoffs. Players on any team want to win most get in, coaching is very important.

    People (players) can be coached do win with what they have!

  • Serious Gord

    I don’t really think we should trade any of them. In Yak’s case it is because he is worth nothing in the trade market.

    MacT has a nearly impossible task this off season though. He needs to get 2 top 4 defensmen, 1 2nd-3rd line center and a starting goalie. Hopefully without giving anything away.

    I doubt it.

  • Serious Gord

    You know, at the end of the game when the horn sounds, and your score is higher? That’s a WIN, not corsi or some fancy stat name. Lowest WIN total in franchise history ??? We’d better keep the holy core together-we might finish 29th or 30th

    Absolutely pathetic

  • sesame_oil

    Roy helps fill the centre void until Leon takes it away from him later in the year. The d and goalie issues can be at least partially addressed through free agency and the off season. Plenty of teams offering up good quality players at less than full value to clear cap room. It’s time the Oilers take advantage instead of being taken advantage of in this kind of situation. If there is a quality trade to make make it, but we have Leon, Nurse and our top pick this year all ready to make an impact over the next 1-3 years. This years 1st-2nd round picks will provide the depth, quality and value contracts we will need moving forward if we can find a way to start to win. We have been at this a while people lets not mortgage the future we have all been waiting for now.

  • sesame_oil

    Sorry HENDERSON but if they do it your way (and theirs) we’re destined for 5 more years of futility where the plan is based on creating offended at the sacrifice of anything close to dear bling NHL offended. It’s been that way for a decade now and look what it’s gotten us. Wake up and for Christs Sake get some real Defencemen for that injury prone pouting baby Hall.

  • sesame_oil

    I think the mgmt needs some time in the minors to learn how to do their job. Only a brain cramped GM would say Hall, RNH, Eberle amd Yakupov are going nowhere this summer.

    What if some team is willing or has to part with what the Oilers need ? What you gonna do? Continue to stare into that crystal ball that’s been giving you all those wonderful answers the last couple years ?

    You don’t have the guts to make a bold move. I don’t think Daryl Katz does either. Therein lies the teams biggest issues.

    St. Louis
    Pick some leadership from people who know what it means to go to work, and does exactly that.

  • Saazman

    I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to sign and up respond to all the talk about the “core”.

    The question needs to be asked are they the right “core” to build a team around. I believe the answer is a resounding no. What is seriously lacking from this “core” is leadership. Leadership is not something that can be taught, either it’s in you or it isn’t.

    Leadership is not about how many goals/points you get; it’s about holding your teammates accountable in the dressing room, playing as hard as you can every shift, every game. Since this “core” has shown that they can’t or won’t do the latter, if they stood up in the dressing room to challenge the team and/or a player an NHL veteran would laugh or walk out.

    Can leadership come from outside the “core”, nope, because then the “core” has shifted from the anointed “core” to the real leadership.

    Last point: While I strongly believe we have the wrong “core”, I am fine with the status quo until the Oilers get new management. The thought of Kevin Lowe and/or Craig MacTavish being involved in any “major” deal terrifies me.

  • Saazman

    I wonder if Lowe demands any of Hall or Eberles signing bonus money back like he did with Comrie. That imbecile should have got fired for that alone. Chiarelli maybe fired a couple of years after winning the cup ffs. Lowe and MacT love the oilers so much that they are smothering the franchise.

  • Spiel

    Management will not trade these players because they value the players higher than the rest of the league. They are good offensive players, but the bill of goods being sold by the Oilers that this core is ultra skilled compared to the rest of the league is being exposed. For the Oilers to be better, this core needs to be better and outplay other team’s best players.

  • hurricane

    BubbaZanetti, Slats

    A rebuilding team usually has 2-5 players that they build the team around, AKA “the core”. Slats suggests these need to be specific positions, sure, I have no problem with that. In the Oilers case, the players they have publically identified as the ones to build the team around are all forwards.

    My only point being, that of those 2-5 players (no matter what position they play) one or two need to be leaders and/or have leadership qualities. The Oilers “core” simply doesn’t have that.

  • JBear

    Hall/RNH/Ebs have been first line since their day 1. On many successful teams they would’ve been 2nd, or 3rd liners while learning the NHL game and leadership while eventually taking over. On top of that we have minimal secondary scoring to help relieve them of any pressure and a weak and/or young D core which exasperates the situation even further.

    There is no way they should ever be traded. It’s been management’s fault (Lowe post-Pronger and Tambo) on this. Oiler’s better pray that Roy, Yak, and Pouliot can muster 20 goals each while the first line stays healthy.