5 Things: What should Chiarelli do after that one thing?

5things

1. The current situation

The issue facing the Edmonton Oilers is an obvious one: Now that they’re getting a generational talent, they have — at most — two years to get their acts together and put a presentable team on the ice.

The thing that I think gets overlooked a lot in all the pointing and laughing at the Oilers is that, despite every apparent effort to make themselves a laughingstock, they did in fact put together something resembling a decent core of players. If your top six forwards, even before you draft Connor McDavid, include:

  • Taylor Hall (the best left wing alive)
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (soon to be an excellent No. 2 center)
  • Nail Yakupov (a former No. 1 pick who seems to be taking big steps forward at long last)
  • Jordan Eberle (a borderline first-/second-line wing), and
  • Benoit Pouliot (a possession-driving top-six winger on any team in the league)

…then that’s a really, really good jumping-off point. Like, really good. Five guys who can play in any top six in the league, plus McDavid, and you’re good for a while. Plus Leon Draisaitl. Hmm, suddenly this Thin Team With Lots Of Problems looks like it might be Too Deep To Accommodate All That Talent. Tough spot to be in, eh?

This also does not take into account the fact that all are locked up for a while yet (with the exception of Yakupov, who only has two years left on his deal) and relatively cheaply — a combined cost of $24.5 million, which ain’t bad when you consider what, say, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be pulling by themselves next year.

Sorting out the bottom six really shouldn’t be that hard if you’re smart, and now with Peter Chiarelli running the roster (I’m confident he learned from his many mistakes here in Boston) and Todd McLellan running the bench (ditto his missteps in San Jose, some of which weren’t really his fault but something into which he was forced by a puzzling general manager), being smart might actually be a strength in Edmonton for the first time in years. And frankly, I think the Oilers have some good pieces in the bottom six as well; Teddy Purcell is expensive but has a track record of possession success, Anton Lander might be something, Matt Hendricks is okay, etc. You can fill out the rest of that group with ease.

That’s the forward group handled, and relatively cheaply.

Defense and goaltending is the problem, and that’s what needs addressing.

2. So you draft McDavid, then what?

WhatNow

Obviously McDavid, even if everything else goes sideways, buys everyone time and goodwill. Which is, I think, crucial here. The kid is, no joke, the kind of franchise savior Crosby was, not in the sense that the Oilers were ever in real danger of moving, but in the sense that they suddenly had to go, “Well we better not screw this up as colossally as we have everything else for the last decade.”

But even after all the confetti drops at BankAtlantic Center in a few weeks’ time, there are still three more picks to be made in the first round alone. So the first thing Chiarelli needs to do is consider whether he should stand pat (meh), trade up (yup), or move some or all of those picks plus a contract or two for roster help (yuuuuuup).

Will good players be available at No. 16? Yes. Probably at 33 as well. Maybe even 57. But those are a long way out from being meaningful NHL players unless you get really lucky. Patrice Bergeron lucky. Shea Weber lucky. And in the meantime, the Oilers’ defense is a disaster. That’s not news.

Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom are two bright spots — maybe, more certainly so a year or two from now — and Mark Fayne may or may not have been a product of Andy Greene in New Jersey. But that’s three guys out of six or seven you need to have be any good, and that’s the place where I go shopping with those picks. Again, obvious.

Maybe you do it at the draft, maybe a little before. But that’s a space where I think Edmonton has more flexibility than most give them credit for. Because even if he doesn’t budge there, Chiarelli has other future options.

3. Learning from experience

Learning

Again, you have to consider where Chiarelli has made mistakes before, and what he might have learned from them.

Take, for example, the Boychuk-ing he went through last year. The Bruins were forced right up against the cap ceiling (in part due to Chiarelli’s mismanagement of the bottom six, i.e. overpaying everyone in it from the 2011 team) and in the end had to deal Johnny Boychuk — the clear No. 2 defenseman on the team — for a pair of piddling second-round picks from the Islanders. That alone is a big reason the Bruins missed the playoffs. The Islanders also did this to Chicago vis a vis Nick Leddy, though that seems not to have hurt them quite so badly, for obvious reasons.

But now, instead of being the guy having to make those tough decisions himself, Chiarelli is in a position to hurt the teams that have to make them. The cap is likely to go up very little it if does so at all, maybe $1-2 million or so at the outside, and as such a team like the Oilers, with scads of cap space and plenty of attractive picks and prospects to deal, might be able to do a little shopping closer to the start of the season. There should be at least a few teams that get backed up against the wall in this way, and buzzards with cap room and roster needs should be circling. The Isles, in fact, provided an excellent blue print in this regard.

Or, if the fancy strikes, they could even do something on the RFA market, though I wouldn’t hold my breath there, because no one offer sheets anyone in this league.

Moreover, that wealth of potentially high-end talent in the top-six and beyond — again: Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Draisaitl, McDavid, Yakupov, Purcell, and Pouliot, which is amazing — makes someone expendable (Yakupov in particular if you believe the rumors).

So basically: There are many options to acquire a defenseman from somewhere in the league, meaning that I’m not so convinced the situation is as dire as most people in the national media do.

4. But…

But

Even if you can address the problem in one or two of these ways, that sorts out some blue line problems, but not others. You still have to play Andrew Ference, and Nikita Nikitin, and you have to hope some of the guys who struggled last year get their acts together, and you have to hope the kids come along nicely, and you have to figure out what to do with Justin Schultz, who seems only slightly closer to winning a Norris as you, the reader, are right this second.

And on top of that, goaltending is still a huge point of concern. Edmonton used three different goalies last season, and at 5-on-5 (where the league average save percentage is usually in the low .920s or so), the two that got by far the most use averaged .899 and .896. The likelihood that they do so again is remote to say the least, especially if the Oilers can shore up the defense in front of them, but even if they don’t, these guys are in the NHL for a reason, and it’s because they can, generally, stop about 91-92 percent of the shots they face at even strength. Even if nothing else changed in Edmonton, the team would likely improve because of just how dismal the luck was last year.

I was one of the very few guys outside Edmonton who thought the Dallas Eakins firing was a bit unfair but at least understandable. He had the team trending in the right direction possession-wise even as the roster decisions made above him baffled. He was doomed by horrendous luck, which diminished under Todd Nelson and will further do so under McLellan, just as a matter of course.

And even if they don’t, it’s actually pretty easy to go out and get useful goaltenders if you need to, mid-season or not. While you’re very unlikely to get performances from midseason goalie pickups like Minnesota did from Devan Dubnyk (“Oops,” says Craig MacTavish), you can at least get competent goalies on the cheap until such time as you may be able to sort out those issues internally if need be.

Point being: I roll with Ben Scrivens and (insert UFA backup goalie here) if I’m Chiarelli, at least for a few months. If Scrivens steadfastly refuses to turn back from the pumpkin of last season, the other guy you sign might help, and if not, you hit the trade market. 

Average goalies are all teams need to be decent a lot of the time, and average goalies are easy to acquire because they’re just that.

5. One thing to root against

DoNotWant

The danger, of course, is that Chiarelli, known for fetishizing things like “jam,” “compete,” and “size” (and not so much “good drafting”) goes and does that Boychuk thing to the Bruins for Milan Lucic. You definitely don’t want that to happen. The wheels are falling off for Lucic if they haven’t already.

  • The_Angershark_Lives

    “Eeeeewwwww what is that disgusting thing?”
    “Don’t worry it’s just a FlamesNation article”

    1-0 for Oilersnation!!! #WHOAREYOUANDWHATDIDYOUDOWITHJEANSHORTS

  • Rem99

    PC is an experienced GM, not his first BBQ so he doesn’t need to be told when to flip the steaks. With the 16th pick I am sure by draft day he has 1 or 2 kids that he has identified as “can’t pass on” (let’s say Thomas Chabot as an example” if their still available he’s taking them with that pick unless someone is offering a huge overpayment. If not he’s looking at a fair value for 16, so to say we need to definitely trade the 16th pick is getting way ahead of ourselves.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    Really, The Calgary guys are writing on here now??? Give me a break. According to Calgary Hacks Nuge is a third line center. Too bad the Oil doesn’t have Johnny Hockey That would complete this team WOW Where are the Oiler Writers

  • chickenStew

    I am sensing a great deal of angst within Oiler Nation. This is probably due to the fact that motor mouth MacT is no longer in charge and telegraphing his every move to the fans and his NHL competitor GMs.

    PC has more experience and is playing his cards much closer to his vest. What he will be able to accomplish over the coming months is yet to be seen. However, he is setting himself up to under promise and over deliver, whereas MacT, in his innocence or ignorance, over promised and under delivered.

    Patience is still required. The Oilers are not yet any better than they were last season but this summer holds amazing promise. My fingers are crossed.

  • I think PC, will carefuly review the options available for any trades offerred the Oilers way. I seriously do not see him, trading the #16 for a 30+ Dman, on the down side of his career. This would not make sense, as in 3 years the player is retired, and we are wondering who will take their place.

    If the #16 is the price for a 23 – 26 y.o. Dman of significance, that would require some scrutiny, and may be a deal PC would do, provided there is term left on the contract. Hopefully the player sticks around for a few years.

    In normal draft years, #16 is a good pick, this year, it can be an amazing pick. If we take off the top 10 – 12 players, which could be #1s in many normal drafts, we are looking at a top 4 pick, with the #16 this year.

    Our system has a bunch of Dmen, that are similar in age and size, but what is behind them?

    Chabot at 16, after his showing at the U18s would be a great option. He has good height, great wheels, and from his stats can score. In 3 years, he can be the next one.

    In the meantime, sign a UFA goalie, look for an older UFA dman or find a good D coach, to work with the youg prospects.

    Remember our core is still young, and they have not yet hit their prime.

  • Ready to Win

    I really don’t get why people are valuing drafts picks so high in Oilers nation with all the things that have gone on in the past decade. In peoples eyes unknown draft picks were is so high on peoples don’t trade list for what ever reason, then we pick that draft picks only to skape goat that player years later for, guess what another draft pick and a bag of puck, rinse, wash, repeat. We are at the point we don’t need picks anymore.

    • Oilcounty88

      That’s pretty simple. If the team drafts well, like the Lightning, you can add quality players on great contracts. If the team drafts well, you also have prospects that can be used in trades to pick up NHL players. The problem for the Oilers is that outside of consensus picks at the top of the draft, they don’t have a lot of success.

      • Oilcounty88

        So players like Cogs, Gags, R-Nash all high drafts but didn’t turn out, so we just keep the same path.

        There needs to be balance or organization with how drafts and contracts all interconnect, because as it is right now and how some of the contracts we’er going to do the whole Cogs and Gags sh-peal with Hall, Ebs, and Yak, then when McD, Nurse, and Dri contracts come up rinse, wash, repeat who’s the odd man out this time. We don’t need picks this year and in a few years if we do, we can trade like other teams.

  • Rob...

    Sorry, I know this is off topic but I’m finding it ironic that Dan Tencer was on 1260 today (hat in hand). Dan went out of his way to dis the ‘struggling’ station several years back. As I recall it, ON stepped up and several of its members wanted to donate money to send a 1260 personality to the draft to provide some unbiased coverage. Dan decided to make it his business to get those donors to reconsider and route the money to a 630 CHED sponsored charity instead.

    I’ve always believed that when those great ON fans contributed and reached their goal that they triggered a very successful draft coverage by 1260 and also gave the young radio station a needed boost that kept them climbing the ranks of credibility.

    I wonder if Dan has reflected on that old twitter decision this week.

    • Oilcounty88

      Dan Tencer?? That guys still around??? I was hoping to never hear that name again!!

      I use to be a stauffer listener too, but now his smug oiler apologist style has just pushed me past my limit. I started listening to Gregor about a year ago and wonder what the heck I was ever thinking listening to the other guys. I miss struds as well. 1260 is far better

  • Ready to Win

    First thing he should do is draft McDavid. Second thing he should do is draft Lawson Crouse. Third thing he should do is draft brandon Carlo. Fourth thing he should do is call Jultz’s agent and let him know he’ll be free to sign else where. And the fifth thing he should do is trade for Adam Larsson

  • Apparently the guys on Fan 590am, in Toronto are saying the Leafs are working on a trade for Carolinas #5 pick. then they will trade the Leafs #4 to Edmonton, for our #16 and Draisatl?

    This would allow Edm to draft Hanifan.

    would your do this trade?

    What about Jultz, and a second rounder in 2016 for Larsson?
    After the way Petry showed while playing for the Habs, perhaps the eastern GMs feel some of the defencemen on Edmonton are better than they may have thought.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I don’t understand whats happening. Yesterday and today I heard Dan Tencer on 1260 and now this is 2 ryan lambert articles on ON. My fave station and my fave spot to go for Oilers news are suddenly in danger of being ruined by this. Cant stand either one of you on a purely msm/not personal way. The summer was going so good…..

  • bleedingoil

    Waaaay off base on Eberle. He is an elite player that probably should have started in the league a year later than he did. 2012-2015 5v5 straight up hockey, Eberle has played the 2nd most minutes in the league and marked himself in for 14th most points in the league amongst all forwards and 4th of all right wingers. Thats pretty elite if you ask me. More points than Ovi, the Sedins, Kopitar, Malkin….the list goes on. The only winger combinations in the west better than Hall and Eberle are Getzlaf/Perry and Seguin/Benn. The best part is that Eberle did this by playing 500 minutes without Hall, while the other two lines have pretty much even minutes. Eberle should be in any conversation when we are talking about the best RW in the league.
    Now I am going to throw my neck on the line here. Justin Shultz. What to do? Sign him. Sign him at 4 mil for as long as he wants. Max out the years on him. Most fanagers out there in Oil country would drop their pants to take on Mike Green. Shultz IS the Oilers Mike Green, MacT just showcased him as a first pairing, Norris Trophy winner. Mike Green is a phenomenal 3rd pairing defender with lots of Power Play time, and that is EXACTLY where Schultz should be. Green led the Caps in OZone faceoffs and had the least DZone faceoffs. Give Schultz this icetime and you will all be hanging his posters on the back of your bedroom doors.

    • Coppperhead

      Green > Schultz AINEC. Look at their shots from the point. One is a cannon while the other barely does anything more than wrist it on net. Imagine Green firing one timers on the PP, getting soft passes from Nuge and McDavid.

      Zone starts? Schultz had a 63% zone start last season. He’s getting that push and still not delivering.

  • In my estimation, most ON comments focus on the players stats, specifically Points, as the criteria of whether they’re a good or bad fit for the team. Which in reality, if it were only that easy, then anyone who can read a stat sheet can be an effective GM in the NHL. But we all know that’s not true.

    A team is comprised of various components and successful teams have a proper mix of high point generating players, mixed with players whom on paper, don’t look so great. These intangible things that the non-point-darling players bring, are what is missing on the Oilers. Chiarelli has made it clear to everyone who asks that his intent is to sign or draft players that play heavy. This is not typically a trait that translates positively to the stats sheet.

    With Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Yakupov, Pouloit, and now McDavid and Draisaitl, we have all the statistical superstars that this team needs. All focus has to be on finding players that can play with these guys. Youthful, speedy, defensively responsible, aggressive, crash and bang guys is what’s on the radar for the scouts and the GM at this point. It should also be the things that are dominating the discussion on these comment boards too.

    The discussion, or rather the dismissive attitude of posters around players like Lucic is one of those things that make me scratch my head and wonder where some of you are coming from. Who cares if his point production is on the decline? In all reality, he is exactly the type of player Chiarelli has in mind to round out the Oilers roster. Even if it’s not Lucic specifically, the style of play he uses is missing and needed in Edmonton. A player like that is able to dig pucks out of the corners, win physical battles, defends admirably, sticks up for his star teammates, and can knock a SOB’s teeth down his throat if necessary. Plus, can chip in 35-50 points per season.

    The forward guys on my wish list include Lucic, Marchand, Dorsett, Downie, Neal, Eakin.

    The Oilers can either take the opportunity to trade off some of our fringe players and draft picks to teams that have these players available and immediately improve, or we can draft and pray the hockey gods are on our side. I for one am sick of praying for second picks and beyond to turn out in our favor. For once the Oilers have enough picks in a deep draft to make things happen with some established NHL players.

  • I’m sorry RL but not one of those top 6 players you mentioned would come close to making the TEAM in St.L never mind the top 6, heck the way the Flames pulled it together this year none of them would likely be in Calgarys top 6. It’s always at this time of year that we magically forget just how bad that top 6 core of players played last year. I don’t understand how the same players that landed us McDavid the first overall pick are just so good that they could play top 6 on any other team in the NHL, this is backwards thinking otherwise known as Oilers thinking.

    The only thing the Oilers should be doing this time around is building the entire team around McDavid and if that means trading away a few or all of the past first or otherwise draft picks for seasoned NHL player then that’s what they should do. As an example I’d part with say Hall + to get a player like Backes who would teach/show/lead McDavid on how to be successful in the NHL.

    • Coppperhead

      Talk about backwards thinking.

      I won’t even go down the list, but just suggesting that Taylor Hall wouldn’t make the St. Louis Blues marks you as the dumbest person on this thread.

      Hall + for Backes? While you’re at it let’s trade Jordan Eberle for Zach Smith.

      Go home Troll. Go home and never return.

      • Reg Dunlop

        where exactly does Hall slide in with St.L. right now, how about RNH, Eberle, who’s spots do they take

        Let’s review where the Oilers have finished each year since drafting Hall 5 years ago, that’s for you to do.

        Then ask yourself what was it that the oilers were lacking when we drafted Hall, was it Veteran leadership, yes it was. Now take a look at the team we have now, it’s younger, smaller and less experienced than then. We’re still sheltering our top line, where is it that you think we can hide McDavid for at least one year.

  • Reg Dunlop

    2015 #4 pick trading for 2015 #16 and 2014 #3 Draisaitl? In what world is that make sense? Sorry maybe send that #5 from Carolina in and it would make more sense but then Edmonton would have to send a prospect.

  • Harry2

    Will someone in ON management please explain what this piece by Ryan Lambert is doing on this site? If it’s meant to be funny, it certainly isn’t. If it is meant to be controversial than it has to have SOME validity. If it is meant to be taken seriously, than words fail me. If it is intended as irony, it is very poorly done and besides, irony NEVER works with a general audience. I have tried to see every possible way it can be read and it fails from every imaginable perspective. I love ON, so I forgive you. No one is perfect, least of all me, but please whatever you are trying to do here, don’t try again. I understand it is a long time until June 26th, but this is not the solution.

    • X Man

      Lambert got ran out of flames nation, for being really dumb, basically… And now will be posting stuff everywhere, annoying everyone else…

      As per his last post on FN:

      “…This is the last 5 Things I will be writing for Flames Nation. Starting next week I will be writing about all the teams in the Nations Network as I see fit…”

      Enjoy…

  • Burnward

    Visiting (non-troll) from FlamesNation here.

    Sorry about this, guys, really am. When our season-long protests against Lambert’s drivel finally were answered last month, we didn’t intend to send our crap up north. We just wanted him to go away, out of the Nation’s Universe.

    We wouldn’t wish this on our worst enemies. Maybe he can go to LeafsNation, where he can write to an empty audience?

  • It’s funny when Flames fans are expressing solidarity over suffering with this guy. I hate trolls and am the opposite of a Flames supporter but I appreciate their comments. NO MORE LAMBERT.