Rotten To The Core

bad apple

The core is rotten. The rebuild has failed. These things are
not the same thing, but people really are confusing them for each other a lot
these days.

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Let’s be completely honest with ourselves for a moment. No
goal can be effective or reasonable if there isn’t a realistic time limit
attached to it. That goes in either direction. Expectations of time can be unrealistically
short (I’m going to lose 30 pounds in two weeks) or they can be ineffectively long
(I’m going to lose 30 pounds before I retire). We have to judge this rebuild
based on a reasonable time limit to start competing for the playoffs.

If we do that then the Oilers have objectively failed to
accomplish anything resembling success. We are six years into this thing and the
franchise is still struggling to climb out of the league’s basement. Katz and
crew asked for our complicity in a plan to gut the team via a tear it down
rebuild in the winter of 2009 and here we are creeping into holiday season 2015
staring down a future that could very easily include another first
overall pick.

The rebuild has failed to produce a winner in a timely

Is that the same thing as saying the core is rotten? I
really don’t think so at all.

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We need to start by looking at the core. The problem with
this is that some people have different players in Edmonton’s core. I’m going
to propose that right now the foundation of Edmonton’s franchise is as follows:

Hall McDavid Eberle

Draisaitl RNH



That’s it. There is Edmonton’s supposedly rotten core.

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Noticeably absent from the core: A cornerstone goaltender
and a right shot defender. Specific players absent, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz.

This list is entirely comprised of Oiler players drafted by
the club after they formally began the rebuild except for Jordan Eberle. It’s three
of four first overall picks. I don’t think I’m rocking the boat by not
including Yakupov or Schultz in the list as neither have established themselves
particularly well up to this point in their careers.

So how terrible is this group of players?

Taylor Hall: Edmonton’s top player. He is the offensive
motor of the team and likely going to end the year in the NHL’s top 10 for the
third time in his career. He is unquestionably one of the top three left
wingers on the planet. Fast, productive, fearless. Probably the next captain.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Soft Skill. Just kidding, I don’t have
brain damage. 22 years old and has been a 1C in the West since his rookie year
(sorry Horc fans). On pace for his fourth 50+ point season in five years.
The only season he didn’t score that much was the lockout. Leads the team in
TOI per game. Head Coach Todd McLellan compares him to Pavelski in San Jose.
Only an idiot would want to trade him.

Jordan Eberle: Consistent 60 point forward and the only
natural Right winger in the core. A look at his Even Strength shot locations
reveals that the suggestion he’s a perimeter shooter is entirely baseless. He
finds the slot with frequency. Since returning from a shoulder injury that
forced him to miss the beginning of the season, Eberle has only picked up three
points in 13 games. Injured still or a scoring slump?

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Leon Draisaitl: Asked if he was in the core a year ago and a
lot of people would have scoffed. The wide shouldered German exploded onto the
scene after a very brief stint in the NHL. At 18 points in 16 games he is the second
leading scorer of the team. I think it’s impossible to be unhappy with his
contributions to the team.

Connor McDavid: Words about how awesome he is that are
totally unnecessary because everyone knows how awesome he is.

Darnell Nurse: NHL rookie defender playing 20 minutes a night
in no less than the second pairing. He has every single tool in the
toolbox, from offensive instinct to size to speed to nastiness. Nurse is showing
glimpses of the passion he played with in junior. Right now he looks like the
beating heart of the Oilers from 2016-20.

Oscar Klebom: For my money Edmonton’s best all-around
defender. He is tied for the scoring lead on the blueline and offense wasn’t his
calling card. Listed at 6’3” and 210 pounds at 22 years old. When he’s paired
with Schultz he’s the defensive conscience of the pair. When he’s paired with
Fayne he’s the offensive driver. His upper limit isn’t thought to be as lofty
as Nurse’s, but it’s still difficult to gauge.

So who among the core is the rotten apple? Is it the best 18
year old in the NHL? Is it the point per game forward who can play in any
position? Is it the time on ice leader who was on pace for a career year offensively?
Is it one of the best left wings in the game today? Is it the blueliner playing
20 minutes a night in his first NHL season? Is it the club’s best defenseman?
Or is it the 60 point winger who has played triggerman since he arrived in

Which one of them is the reason Edmonton doesn’t win games?

Or, perhaps, it isn’t them that’s the problem. Maybe it’s the fact that none of them wear goalie pads or that there’s
only two defensemen and they combine for 122 games played in the NHL.

The rebuild is a failure to date, at least in the sense that
it’s been over a half-decade and the Oilers are still in 30th place.
The standings can’t be avoided. Can you say with a straight face that it’s the
fault of the seven core members of the roster though? I can’t.

  • CMG30

    Habs have two expendable defencemen that could really help Edmonton right now: Emelin & Tinordi. Maybe also Gilbert (LOL). I think that Eberle or Yakupov would be a good offer for the return of Emelin and Tinordi.

    Any takers?

  • Spoils

    oh god please stop acting like trading RNH is dumb.

    you can trade any player. what would you rather have

    Toews Kane and Crosby


    Toews Kane and Keith

    yes RNH is one of my fav players ever. yes he is going to be a total star on any team. yes i would be fine trading him as LONG AS WE GOT A #1D back.

    RNH + top pick in 2016 for a #1D plucked from a team with no playoff hopes or multiple great Ds that need scoring…

    Also, not saying it has to be RNH, just saying – you could trade RNH and improve the team and that would NOT BE DUMB.

    please stop fearing the trade.

    • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

      RNH is the most experienced centre in the core, and he’s only 22. Trade him, and top two centres would have 2.5 years of experience total. People complain about a lack of experience and leadership, but want to trade it away?

    • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

      How many centres teams does a team need? Many centres can play wing. Last year many complained bitterly that we only had 2 NHL centers. Now we should trade one????? Should Draisaitl or McDavid gets injured, who do you suggest replace them? Lander? Lestestu? Hendricks? A team can never have too many centers. If RNH brings you Doughty, do it. If not…keep our young skilled top 6

  • Soiled Trousers

    So the 2006-2009 retool was a failure and calls at the time for patience were crap. The 2009- The End of Time rebuild has now been deemed a failure and all the calls for patience can be seen as bogus placation of the fans by management and media that have a vested interest in people giving their money to the Oilers. Now that the team is in last and the season is done yet again the cure is miraculously patience! I can’t even imagine why people would be a little suspicious.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    Taylor Hall….probably the next captain???

    What makes you say that? The fact that he never a sticks up for teammates on the ice? The fact that he still whines and throws tantrums at refs when he doesn’t get a call?

    Please…Taylor Hall is 24 and in his 6th year in the league. If he was going to be this teams captain then that would have happened already…clearly his teammates don’t have the same respect for him that his cheer leaders do.

    Top 3 LW in the game…debatable…but no denying he’s great at padding his stats. I say padding his stats because I’ve rarely seen him win a game for the oilers on his own.

    Future captain of this team…never…look at Darnell…that’s what the future captain of this team looks like.

    Nurse or McDavid are the future. The only question left is how will Hall react to that…throw a tantrum…feel disrespected….

    I for one am hoping he won’t be around for us to find out.

    • You just got LITT up!

      We chatted on the Hall subject the other night OilBlood and we certainly see the same things.

      If you remember I had written

      “Hall is regarded highly because of his points and passion. Some contender may bite! Those of us who have watched the player closely, know first hand that those points of his have come at a very high cost to teammates and the team itself. I can not even recall how many times I have watched great efforts by many a player to get him the puck and only see the vast majority of the plays die once the puck reaches him.

      Many like Hall for his passion and compete. I like those traits in him too only they are about the only things he brings to the table. Minimal, if any, hockey IQ, zero creativity, and yes the old and tired “one-trick-pony” is truly applicable!

      Hall is at his highest value right now. Let him out of the door and you will see a much improved locker-room, better attitudes by many players and less wasted efforts – individual points be damned. With Hall gone, the core will be what is supposed to be: true core pulling for each other.

      Hall has not made many friends in that team.
      I have nothing against the boy, I wish him well no matter where he is. I simply know that he is not a player the Oilers will ever win anything with”…

      There are those who think that hall is the best left wing on the PLANET!!!

      There are those who see what you and I (and some others) see on the ice. Maybe we are not as well equipped to judge, maybe we are… This is an opinion stating section and we are entitled to offer ours just as those who think that Hall is actually a leader. He may be. I am not sure whom or what he would lead how and to where but may be he is…

      In fairness, Hall is not the only problem the Oilers have. He is a good player! He just isn’t a constructive part of the core. He never was and he will never be!

      And Chia KNOWS IT!

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    I agree with your article, Matt. I’d also suggest that Nugent-Hopkins–if he isn’t dealt–deserves to be in that core as much, or perhaps more, than Eberle. I’d also offer that Yakupov, who developed nice chemistry with McDavid before their respective injuries may yet also become a significant piece of that core. Finding skilled finishers like Yakupov is not easy to do, and giving up on them too soon is foolish. Relinquishing either player in a trade could be a serious mistake.

    With Nuge’s current slump, it’s all too easily forget that he is a future star in this league, and he has a long and productive NHL career ahead of him. He has been, for fans, one of the major bright spots on the team the past few years. It wasn’t long ago, earlier this season, that Hall was similarly on the hot seat with fans and deemed expendable. You’d be hard pressed to find an Oiler fan saying that now.

    This season, once again, we have (1) a new coach with a new system, (2) a host of new players, (3) young and inexperienced defenseman, (4) young and inexperienced goaltenders, goaltenders who have yet to establish themselves as NHL starters, and (5) injuries to key players (McDavid, Yakupov, and earlier to Eberle), which have been serious setbacks for the club as a whole. All of those things combined create quite a collection of obstacles for the team to overcome to find success. Only time will truly tell the tale of this team.

    Fans are clearly, understandably, out of patience with the rebuild. It’s pretty easy to call it a failure. Timeline wise, it’s been pathetic, and it is frustrating watching this kind of a result, year over year. Still, suggesting that a core containing rookie players like McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nurse is rotten or failed is a little mental, a sign of where we are at as fans–clearly, that is one fan-*******-tastic trio of NHL rookies. It’s just that our patience as fans, collectively, has worn so thin it is almost nonexistent. This **** simply has to break soon.

    • hitchikerforajax

      After again watching Eberle struggle, when will the Oilers, sit him & get someone in, that’s going to help the team? He’s on a 2 on 1 & loses the puck w/o anyone around. There’s enough player struggles, that most teams have in a full season & the Oilers have more than half the season to go. It is painful to watch again. By Christmas, this team will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs again. I wonder how the fans who pay money to see these clowns, try & play a game called hockey. If not for Anders Nielson, the Oilers, would be even farther back than they are now & that is truly frightening!!

      • You just got LITT up!

        Yeah, Eberle has struggled since returning from injury. It’s been frustrating to watch sometimes, but we’re seeing flashes of what he can bring. That shootout goal was some sick skill level.

        Difficult for Eberle coming off an extended injury in the NHL–timing wise, keeping up with the play, etc. I know just from playing men’s league hockey and trying to come back from an extended time off with an injury how difficult that is. I really can’t even fathom how difficult it would be to come off a long injury at the NHL level.

        The thing to remember is that Nuge and Eberle traditionally have pretty solid chemistry together. Pouliot-Nuge-Eberle were our best line for a lot of last season, and Hall-Nuge-Eberle were this team’s only line for I don’t know how many seasons. Last season, Hall took a while to regain his form coming off injury, so Eberle isn’t a lost cause. Pouliot effectively replaced Hall on the top line last year. I think it’s natural to struggle coming off an extended injury, so I really don’t think it’s wise to write off a player because of it. Playing together for years, Nuge and Eberle have come to rely on each other quite a bit; they’ll get that back though.

        It’d be nice to have all of our key offensive pairings playing well at the same time:
        I think we’ll get to see it sometime this season, and only then will we have a true estimate of what this team is going to be. It’s been a tough haul for fans, but some questions are getting answered this year. Nilsson might be one of the best surprises of this season next to Draisaitl and Nurse. McDavid was sort of expected, but that kid is so phenomenal to watch.

        I do think a lot of the pieces are already in place, and I know I’m completely off the board in that thinking.

  • Speed Junky

    VERY accurate scoop on the top players. These are the guys I’m cheering for!!

    Too much fantasy hockey by fantasy GM’s and some false hope that Aaron Eckblad will land in the Great White North. Yikes 1D’s are not like ripe cherries guys. Get with it.

  • Agree with the wait-and-see for three scoring lines.

    When you’re missing a whole line-up equivalent (McDavid, Yakapov and Pouloit), it’s only hot air sharing to talk about trades.

    IF (close-to) everyone is healthy and still no wins, then we’ve got trade bait to consider.

    Analysis of opposition goals and who missed what assignment would be time better spent.

    So much goalie in net… bigger IS better.

  • You just got LITT up!

    Honest question. If those ping-pong balls don’t bounce the oilers way … do you feel the same? I mean if the core is now “player drafted 6th” overall (or whatever) and not McDavid. Logically think about this, the oilers are 30th with McDavid (yes, I know he’s hurt) how bad would they be without a generational talent? Then is the core still good enough?