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