Blow ‘Em Up!

Peter Chiarelli3

The more I read opinions on the Edmonton Oilers, whether by fans in the comments section here or by a surprisingly large number of professional pundits who should know better, the more I’m convinced that it’s a good thing for Peter Chiarelli that this is his first year on the job.

Because it kind of looks like the continual losing has driven everybody else crazy.

One of the effects of this craziness has been calls in the comments here and from pundits around the league to blow things up. The Oilers, the thinking goes, have been bad for a long time and the players who made them bad are still sitting on the roster. It’s time for Chiarelli to move them out.

And that’s nutty.

The Scapegoats

19-Schultz-2

“The same group of guys” shtick isn’t true. Anyone mad about 2009-10 needs to get over it, because the roster has been overhauled since then. Even if we narrow our focus to 2012-13 and beyond, at most the list of holdovers is six names long: Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Lander, Yakupov, and Schultz.

Now, is it intelligent to hang the blame on those six players?

  • Lander only became a full-time NHL’er last year and is currently in the No. 4 position on Edmonton’s centre depth chart; blaming him for being promoted early by Tom Renney is bananas.
  • Schultz has obviously been a big part of the problem, but blaming him for the state of the blue line when he was a rookie and sophomore is nuts. The Oilers never properly supported him and it’s hardly his fault he was asked to be a No. 1 defenceman almost out of the gate. Is there a case to trade him? Given his contract, sure. Just realize that a) he probably won’t bring much back and b) this isn’t going to magically fix the other problems with the Oilers’ defence. 
  • Yakupov has been part of the problem, to be sure. Because of that, his trade value is at an all-time low. This is a classic sell-low scenario, a real opportunity for Chiarelli to mess things up. Going “addition by subtraction” on Yakupov means not getting much in return and maybe being forced to hold your nose if he scores 25 goals a year or two from now. There’s no way to win a Yakupov trade; the only opportunity here is to squander a potential asset.

What about the other three players? In the past I and others argued for trading Eberle, because his 76-point season in 2011-12 had artificially inflated his value (his high water mark since has been 65 points, so as it turns out those assessments were correct) but that isn’t the situation any longer. And without that misconception about his value there simply isn’t any point.

Over the last three seasons, Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins have outperformed the team average in terms of on-ice scoring chances by about 5 percent per year. Without any of those players on the ice, Edmonton has typically been out-chanced by something in the range of 57-43. With those three on the ice, the numbers are more like 52-48; almost break-even on a historically bad NHL franchise.

4-Hall-15

Hall in particular gets mentioned as a trade candidate by people who I assume are really anxious to run Benoit Pouliot/Matt Hendricks in the Nos. 1 and 2 slots on the left wing depth chart. In addition to his on-ice chance numbers, Hall has scored 2.55 points/hour over the last three seasons at even-strength. The entire list of NHL regulars who have done better is five names long: Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jamie Benn, Corey Perry and Tyler Seguin. Every other player in the game, whether it be Steven Stamkos or Evgeni Malkin or Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews or whoever has been less efficient at five-on-five point production than Hall has.

So yeah, trade that guy. I’m sure he can be replaced no problem internally.

The Mistake

Jeff Petry

Whenever people go looking for players to crucify, they make a fundamental mistake. They assume that the problem is that the Oilers have bad players. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that the Oilers don’t have enough good players.

Let’s use last year’s defence as an example.

First it’s important to note that a falling tide lowers all the boats. The NHL suddenly realized that Jeff Petry was a good defenceman after last year’s trade deadline because all of a sudden he wasn’t surrounded by mush (Petry, incidentally, would have been on that list of scapegoats we talked about earlier). Individuals look worse than they are because they aren’t supported by a quality system. Average or slightly below average players tend to look much worse on a bad team than they do on a good one, where their fellows help cover their mistakes.

So when the Oilers cast Nikita Nikitin/Mark Fayne as their shutdown pairing out of training camp, as they did last year, it’s not worth getting too angry with the players. The problem isn’t that Nikitin (who would be fine as a No. 6/7) and Fayne (a No. 5 in New Jersey who played in a specialized tough minutes role with Andy Greene at times) are terrible players; it’s that they’re being asked to do more than they are capable of. If that’s your third pairing, you’re probably fine. If it’s your tough minutes pairing, everyone is going to look bad.

The same lesson applies across the roster. There have been some bad contracts, and yes there are some legitimately poor players in the rotation, but for the most part the issue isn’t that the Oilers have a bunch of losers who need to be dumped pronto so much as it is that they have a bunch of fourth-line forwards and third-pairing D being asked to do more than they can.

Boiling it all down to one line, here’s what I’m saying: People have to stop looking for addition by subtraction. The real need in Edmonton is addition by addition.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Natejax30

    Maybe we need a good coach (got one, BTW)…and a group, that is together for an extended period of time.

    Listen to the comments about the Blues – mature, veteran, been playing together for a long time. Hitch been there forever.

    Oilers turn over 8 more players to start this year, along with their bazzilionth coach. 1 week into the season and it starts…”BLOW IT UP” yeesh. Why can’t we let these guys play for a few months and develop that team chemistry. Those first three games are a great experience for this newly assembled group. It will get better. We need a win!!!

    Great Article JW…bout time someone stood up and said it!

    and ps..I am still banking on a post season trip this year. 3 games won’t change that, and I really hope Ebs gets back soon, hope he is doing well in his recovery, and that he knows how much he means to this team!

      • Natejax30

        Totally agree to a point Verdad; however:

        I distinctly remember when Hall, Ebs and Nuge played together and they consistently cycled and created chances and points in the O-zone, their problem was defence – and that MacL will fix (I have faith)!! I think they all had their best success playing together, it was just so thin outside of these 3 that it was always required to split them up…not the case anymore. That’s why I am excited about this line. Do you remember how much fun these three were having scoring goals? I do.

        A hard working vet, McDavid, and a so-called sniper on line 2… I hope nothing but the best for Yak and I hope he scores 30 goals this year. But early indications are this line is going to create a ton of offense. This is also exciting to me as well.

        I think this is a very legitimate top 6 in the NHL. Does it fix the defence…no…Chirelli and Maclellan will find a way. Have faith!

  • Spiel

    The commentary that has been out there for years is that the Oilers were not rebuilt properly (the Taylor Hall draft was 5 years ago), and the proof is in the results.

    GMs get paid to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. The status quo position with regards to “the core” has not yielded much progress.

    Fans knew that a rebuild would take time. The good fortune, and subsequent team generated hype, of landing McDavid created a euphoric and irrational belief that the rebuild was complete. The team has preached patience on one hand, and created hype like #HereComeTheOilers and the golden ticket to sell that the rebuild is complete on the other.

    For the five years since the Hall draft, the Oilers have not been able to bring in enough players to build around. I don’t know whether it is lack of character, skill, or work ethic, but the team has for a lack of better term a bunch of losers. Not sure how that culture started, but until the culture of losing and not playing “near the other team’s equipment” is changed, nothing will change.

    McDavid could be a culture changer, but he is only 18.

  • Flying Elinski Brothers

    Call me Captain Obvious, but it is very apparent that most of the Oilers issues are related to the lack of decent defensemen. The defence is primarily responsible for two things:

    1) the last line of defence before the goalie.

    I realize that the forwards also play an important role in team defence (see Yak’s failure to pick up anybody last game after he busted his ass to get back) but you need your d-men to be able to staunchly defend your zone.
    Good defencemen don’t give up 10-bell chances every second shift. Ours seem to.

    2) getting the puck to the highly skilled forwards on the fly so that they can work their magic.
    Again, I know that the forwards are somewhat culpable in that they need to come back into their own zone to give the d-men some options.

    However, I have noticed that when the forwards do come back and are in decent postion to receive a pass, most of the time the d-men are either passing it into their feet or rimming it around the boards three feet off the ice at 100 miles an hour.

    Until we have some defenceman that can do these things more than occasionally, we won’t come close to making the playoffs.

    I guess the good news is that we have some good candidates in “the hopper”.

    As someone once said, “it’s the defence, stupid”.

  • M22

    0 – 3? WHY CAN’T THEY WIN EVERY GAME?!? And McDavid? Pfft – buuust! And how come they haven’t finished building the new arena yet?? Why is it taking so long?? It should be finished by now! If I was building it, it would be done already! Stupid Oilers. Trade McLellan! Sign Belov!!

    • Flying Elinski Brothers

      Its not that they cant win every game, its that people dont want another bad start, and end up in November out by 20 pts again. This is the longest rebuild of all time, and you still want to wait.

      • M22

        I know. I’m one of the legion of looong-suffering Oiler fans, and just like everyone else, I wanted to see them get off to a good start. It’s too early to panic, and it doesn’t help anyway. Yet, that’s what we’re seeing from many people. And it’s over the top, hence my tongue-in-cheek response to the neurosis that spills from these pages and call-in shows.

        Three games in, with an entirely new coaching staff, new systems/structure – only the foolish and naive would have thought there wouldn’t be any difficulties transitioning from the Lowe/MacT/Eakins era to the current regime.

        You’re right about the rebuild, it’s painfully long, but here’s the thing we can’t escape – the rebuild is not finished, and it will continue throughout this year, at least.

        And your last comment to me, that I still want to wait – it’s not that I want to, it’s that I have no choice. So I wait, and I watch. But this time around, I’m confident things will get fixed. I haven’t had that belief here for years.

  • Spoils

    Jonathan, I often enjoy and agree with your articles. But this one is off base. The blow them up is to rid ourselves of, should be Mact, KLow and Howson. They should be the ones to be kick out of Oilerland. They did not manage to support these players

    Our once young core of Hall, eberle and schultz are not at a tender age anymore and when you look at there legacy of games played without playoff hockey its a tragedy to their careers. There comes a point where Halls core are now bystanders as the Mcdavid core will be the real core. Yak, RNH and Lander are the only 3 that still have potential that we have not seen that can help the McDavid core. We have seen the upside of the Hall Eblerle and schultz. We know they have are not true leaders or it would have happened already.

    If we blow part of this it should be management 1st then part of the Halls core.

  • Flying Elinski Brothers

    I love how you say you can’t blame Shultz cause it was his first 2 seasons, then go on to say yakupov is part of the problem to be sure, even tho he’s only played half a season longer and is much younger that jultz… Is this a double standard?

  • Flying Elinski Brothers

    How good would we gave looked trading Eberle for the picks which became Seguin and D.Hamilton. Bruins wanted Eberle. We needed high end prospects, which Eberle most definitely was.

    Seguin for Eberle and the leafs 1st rounder from the following year. Trash away folks. But Ebs is still the piece we can spare that gets us the most return.

    • CMG30

      You’re not going to get Seguin for Eberle, let alone another 1st rounder on top.

      If you’re so desperate to trade Ebs, who do you propose the Oil replace him with? ‘Cause they’re sure hurting without him. Getting back picks and prospects would be great, if the Oil were looking to compete in 3-5 years. But they’re not. They need to turn north now and be competing in playoffs next season or they waste McDavid.

    • pkam

      That is assuming that Seguin will be equally good even if he started as an Oilers.

      In other words, you are saying the Oilers development system is working properly.

      If we made the trade, you may be trashing the management today for making the most ridiculous trade because I don’t believe Seguin will be the same if he was developed by the Oilers.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Well we have good goaltending finally……..everything will sort itself out eventually?

    Not sure what people expected as our defence has not been significantly altered……if you look at the people we have added it’s no one of any significance and we have let good defencemen like Petry walk for a bag of magic beans.

    What did we really expect?

  • Zarny

    Blow em up, trade em all, would be futile, as the big plan was to tank and suck and draft high end players!

    You can always second guess drafting. For the most part ,they did ok, even in hind sight .. except for 2012 when they [Katz] picked Yak.

    Consensus was Murray, a D-man , good idea but perhaps the wrong guy. Also available were Reinhart, Riley, Lindholm, Dumba and Trouba, anyone of these guys the Oilers, today would trade Yak for in a heartbeat.[Reinhart was obtained at a high price this year]. Maybe one of the others will come this way also at a high price if Pete decides to blow em up, which I doubt.

  • Nostrum Right

    Absolutely agree there has to be addition. But we can’t call 3rd and 4th line/pairings “additions”. The problem is that our promised stars have not come through. Hall has had 5 years to mature…how much longer should we wait? A trade is needed to change the team dynamics and we will have to pay dearly to get the addition(s) we need. I would start with Hall.

  • Spiel

    Not sure how valid the bleacher report is, but they have Hall ranked as the third best left winger inthe NHL. Eberle was ranked the 10th best right winger. Trading either one straight across will not get you your younger defensive stud we all crave here in Edmonton. I can’t think of one team that has a number 2 defenceman that our GM (let alone our fans) would value as equal to either player. Would the Oilers trade Eberle straight across to Winnipeg for “Big Buf”? We would need some indication he would re-sign here for less than 7 million. Would we have traded either for Hamilton this past Summer? Guys like Shattenkirk are on value contracts (under 5 million so the oilers would be required to make some concession for the difference in $). A trade will have to be very creative to get fair value for both parties.

  • Spiel

    “Because it kind of looks like the continual losing has driven everybody else crazy.”

    I’m glad someone has finally said it. Everyone saying this is contributing to the massive pressure and borderline hysteria. The changes have been made and more are coming (and necessary). In the meantime, can we all just enjoy the small improvements (and there are many) and let the team (players and coaches) try to climb out of a mess that most of them had nothing to do with creating? This self reinforcing negativity and pressure on this team is doing actual damage and helping prevent them from improving faster and achieving the goals we’d all like to eventually see.

  • Ever the Optimist

    I had a few thoughts about players who do well in clutch situations in an attempt to find players of note that might not cost us core pieces but will provide clutch secondary scoring. To get these players I went to war on ice and took a look at point production over the last 3 years (rooks need not apply) while scoring was within a goal.

    Defense first at 5×5 while score is within 1
    Brayden McNabb LA – 1.12 p/60 with size and mean streak
    Grant Clitsome Wpg – 1.07 p/60
    Dustin Byfuglien Wpg – 1.05 p/60
    Cody Franson Buf – .93 p/60
    Victor.Bartley Nsh – .92p/60

    any of these 5 would bring some timely scoring and another puck mover to the defensive rotation instead of a guy like Fayne.

    For forwards I am looking for bottom 6 guys with good corsi, heavy players who bring timely scoring.

    (and as a by the way Hall is 4th league wide when the score is close with a 2.57 p/60 at 5×5
    Nick Bonino Penguins – 2.02 p/60
    Patrick Maroon Ana – 1.93 p/60
    Steve Downie Arz – 1.9 p/60
    Artem Ansimov Chi – 1.87 p/60
    Chris Stewart Ana – 1.7 p/60

    these are the kind of players that will improve us immediately and won’t cost the earth (minus Buff). Getting scoring from the bottom of the roster is key for any team.

  • Spydyr

    I think it is misleading to imply that bloggers and pundits have recently come to believe that trading stars may be necessary and/or prudent. I believe many have believed this for some time.

    I wrote this blog in 2013: http://www.oilogosphere.com/blog/trading-a-star/

    I think the addition of McDavid significantly enhances this team’s ability to make a significant trade. Further, I still believe a team can win a trade where a “star” is traded for depth, need, etc…

    As an aside, I am generally suspicious of the “I am going to say what you said, now I am going to argue with what I said you said” articles.

  • Spydyr

    The Oilers are a lousy team . They have been a lousy team for going on a decade. That is on the players who have been here a while.

    I would be open to deal anyone on the team not named Nuge or McD.

    On the farm anyone but Nurse and Dria.

    The team badly needs two top pairing defencman.

    • Spydyr

      Yes. Nothing the matter with trading someone as long as you’re getting back value the same, or better.

      Oiler’s are not and they should not be in panic mode. So many of the negative comments here are idiocy. 3 games. Sheesh.

  • Spydyr

    Wow, did anyone actually read the article? It was great! Why do we still get poorly informed commentary??
    So Hall isn’t you’re favorite player, it doesn’t diminish his talent. Remember we’re in this mess because too many guys like Hall were traded for guys someone thought might be better. How has that turned out?? Skip the popularity vote. You liking him or not doesnt change his production.
    He’s a meathead so what. Half the people posting these stupid comments are juice monkey dbags. If he can put the puck in the net with the elite of the NHL then great!

  • Spydyr

    Don’t blow it up, but at least entertain the possibility of moving a core player. Make inquiries. This crap that this team has 8 untouchables has been the problem since day 1. This team has 1 untouchable.

    Never should have gone all-in with the Hall cluster. They should have been entertaining trades the whole time. We will never know any of the offers Tambo and Mact slammed the phone on. Sure would love to.

  • SweetBabyNuge

    What I’m concerned about is the trajectory of Hall’s performance. The points/hour stat is impressive (it even surprised me). But if you want to unpack his value a little more:

    Taking into account his 80 point season (3 seasons) – points/hour = 2.55
    Last year points/hour = 1.9
    Current Season (I know it’s early, but for argument’s sake) = 0.92

    Give-aways over last 3 seasons
    Taylor Hall- 3.8/hour
    Nugent-Hopkins is 1.8/hour
    Yakupov – 2.5/hour
    Seguin – 2.4/hour
    Schultz – 2.5/hour

    Taylor turns the puck over TWICE as much as Nuge. He’s one of the worst offenders in the league, yet gets PP1 minutes? Heck, even Schultz is better, although to be fair, his turnovers lead more directly to scoring chances, instead of just suffocating the offense.

    Hits over the last 3 seasons
    Hall – 3 hits/hour
    Nugent-Hopkins – 3.1 hits/hour
    Yakupov – 4.55 hits/hour

    For someone with the speed and strength of Taylor Hall, his forecheck is soft as butter. At least Yakapov makes defensemen look over their shoulder, which trickles down into turnovers and chances. I also understand Taylor’s body awareness is pretty poor, and that he doesn’t really know how to deliver a sound body check, so this will probably never change (unless you want to see Taylor limbs and sticks and lips flying).

    What we’re sick of is the pouting, stick smacking, and ego. It’s getting harder to choke down with his dwindling production. From a visual perspective, his general hockey sense seems as if he’s reached a cap, which means the turnovers and yard sales are here to stay. I might very well be wrong, I actually hope that I am. But I wouldn’t be upset seeing a valuable asset come back for Taylor. Or yes, time machine Seguin into blue and orange.

    Last night’s goal was sick though. It really was! And Taylor is better at hockey than I will probably ever be at anything. I just don’t think he’s the guy that can make the Oilers a winning team.

    *disclosure – If it’s not obvious, I’ve never liked Hall.

  • SweetBabyNuge

    Ok now that we’ve won a couple can some of you calm down please! I’ve said it before ..big roster turnover, new coach, brutal opeNing schedule. This is going to take a little time to look like a team on the way up…but it is going to b better. No need to hit the panic button and start talking s*** everytime we hit a 3 game losing skid. And that’s GOING to happen.Yes we need better D. We could trade a #1pick in a package at some point this season to address that need. But right now let’s assess what we have here. The sample size is too small at this point. So relax fans, let’s have some fun watching this team ,and ease up on the this guy’s garbage etc…rhetoric. It’s getting stale. And oh ya that new kid is some kinda fun too watch. Chill!Better days are coming