Crossing The Rubicon


The other day Steve “Dangle” Glynn of Sportsnet (and Nation
contributor) asked a very fair, open question about whether or not the Oilers
would be better off drafting in the four or five spot so they could rightly draft
a defender. I think that’s a natural question to ask of a team with a draft
record like the Oilers, but I believe the answer is “no”. Edmonton isn’t in a
position to pin their hopes on an 18 year old defenseman. Edmonton is past the
point of no return.

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It’s absolutely true that as a result of being poorly run,
poorly coached, and generally terrible for almost a full decade (there were
pockets of light), the Edmonton Oilers have drafted high for many years. As a
result of that, the Oilers have taken a lot of forwards, as is the bias of the
draft. The Oilers have drafted first overall in four of the last six
years and over that entire time there has been only one defender taken at the
top of the draft. Every other year, they’ve taken a forward. Since the 2010 draft there
have only been three defensemen taken out of all the 18 players who made up the
top three picks in each of those years. That’s just 17% of top three picks.

Edmonton, by virtue of selecting the Best Player Available, took
forwards each time they were drafting in the top three. The end result of those
selections are Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Leon Draisaitl,
and Connor McDavid. At this time only Nail Yakupov is struggling to live up to
his billing.

When they weren’t picking in the top three of the first
three picks, the Oilers opted for defense. They took Klefbom 19th in
2011 and Nurse seventh in 2013. At present, those two players have the
hopes and dreams of the franchise resting on their shoulders. The team goes as
they go until Chiarelli plays Jedi mind tricks to fix his blueline. Klefbom
looks fantastic when healthy. Nurse looks like an NHL rookie with a ton of raw
talent. Add to that Andrej Sekera doing the dirty work, mix in a Brandon
Davidson, Griffin Reinhart, and a Jordan Oesterle and what you get is a team
with a lot of unproven defensemen in the ranks.

Is the fix to this situation going to be another defenseman
taken fourth or fifth in the 2016 draft? Is the answer to our prayers an 18
year old defenseman?

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No. I hardly think so.

The problem with another 18 year old defenseman is that the
kid is still at least two years away from being an impact player. There is no way
the Oilers are going into next season with any defender they pick. Zero chance.
That kid, if they do actually select him, is going back to junior.

Of course that also doesn’t address the fact that the two
defenders commonly listed at the top of scouting lists (Chychrun and Juolevi)
are both left handed and Edmonton needs righties. There is no secret at all to
the Oilers depth chart on D. Here are the lefties vs righties.

Klefbom Fayne

Sekera Gryba

Davidson Clendening

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Nurse Bear





We could keep going with this depth chart but the point is
made. The Oilers don’t need more left handed defenders. They already have four
they are committed to long term. What this team needs more than anything
else is no less than two right handed defensemen. One has to be able to play in
the top pairing. The other at least must tread water on the second.

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They need those players right now because the clock is
ticking. Edmonton has already wasted Connor McDavid’s rookie season. The next
two years will be the cheapest he is ever going to cost the Oilers against the
cap. After next season he can essentially name his price and the Oilers will
have to pay it. By the time his ELC is complete there’s a very real possibility
that 10M per season will represent a discount. When that happens this team will
very likely have to start making cost decisions on quality players.

The Oilers can’t afford to pin their hopes on an 18 year old
defenseman because they can’t wait around for him to get good. The window to
aggressively attempt to improve is now.

If Edmonton wins the draft lottery or picks somewhere in the
top three then, from my perspective, it gives them the most options. They can
trade that pick for the defender they need. Whether that’s the dream trade of
Matthews for OEL or a less exciting Puljujarvi for Shattenkirk, only time can
tell us. If they keep the pick it enables the Oilers to much more comfortably
trade Eberle for Hamonic or perhaps RNH (don’t do it) for Barrie.

Picking in a place where the high end forwards are going to
go opens a lot more possibilities for the team that will enable them to get the
prime-of-career rearguard they need. They’ve crossed the Rubicon. There’s no
turning back now.

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Dropping down in the draft to a place where the BPA is a
defender is not just something undesirable, it may be the worst scenario for
the Oilers if the goal is to find a player who can help them compete today. 

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    the Oilers need to trade their 2016 pick for as top a defender as they can find ! we don’t need any more kids, we need a couple of good vets on the back end like Hamonic, or sign one of the good UFA’s like Goligoski or Demers.

  • That's My Point

    Auston Matthews is coming home.

    Oilers are projected to finish last based on winning percentage.

    Maybe an OEL trade from Phoenix to Edmonton and the Yotes can get their home town boy?

  • For Pete's Sake!

    Let’s face it, right now it looks like the Oilers will finish dead last in the NHL once again this year. The lowly Leafs are two points behind us with three games in hand.

    With all the promise shown at the beginning of the year, Connor, Chiarelli and McLellan in the fold, how did we end up here again?? Is there really a Pronger Curse?

    So we’ll likely pick in the top three of the draft. David Staples wrote an article in The Edmonton Journal today saying the Oilers should consider keeping that pick because they wouldn’t have to protect a player taken in this year’s draft if the NHL holds an expansion draft next year.

    We would actually be better off trading one of our core players like Eberle or Hall to get a top pairing defenseman like Hamonic or Shattenkirk.

    It seems to make more sense from a salary cap standpoint as well. Maybe we should all be getting excited about Auston Matthews.

  • Tvinne

    Why isn’t there more Brent Burns talk? A guy that is actually going to be a free agent July 2017, likes playing for Todd and is a RHD.

    Is there just an assumption he signs an extention this offseason? or that he will be just simply too much money?

    • MattyFranchise

      I like it, obviously he’s huge, he just turned 30 and he shoots right. I don’t think they’ll trade him though when he has a) Cup run value and b) so much trade deadline value if they’re not in the playoffs heading down the stretch.

      What does Edmonton need to give up in trade to get him next season? If they opt to wait until next off season how much do they have to pay to get him to sign here? He’s already making 5.76 per, can Edmonton even afford him?

      So I guess it comes down to whether or not the Oilers are ‘going for it’ next season or they’re content to wait til next summer. They currently have 58.75 million on the books next summer before signing anyone and the the only player that’s a “must” in the 16/17 off season is Leon and (maybe Oesterle) for even more cap room. But after that season while Ference officially comes off the books they’re gonna have to back the truck up to Connor’s house cause his contract will have expired as well.

      Trading that first round pick this season might be the best way to pry him out of SJ after the draft lottery if it falls out of the top 3. But I’m not entirely sure if that would be worth it.

      I don’t know, I could go over pros and cons all day with what it would take to get Burns and why or why not it would even be a good idea.

  • Serious Gord

    It seems almost certain that any chance for a cup is more than three years away.

    Miss/barely make playoffs next year;
    Solid middle of the pack playoffs year two;
    Cup contention year three? How? – draisaitl nurse and mcdavid will be off their elcs and hopefully will deserve way more money – crippling the rest of the roster.

    One must assume chia is aware of that – even that he will be making moves this off-season in anticipation of the problem. The problem is the team has very few cheap high quality prospects/veterans to fill out the bottom two lines so as to make room for the stars.

    One thing is absolutely certain – of the current “stars” or budding stars;

    Nuge, eberle, hall, McD, klefbom, draisaitl, nurse, yak, this year’s pick, probably half will be dealt by the time McDs elc ends two seasons from now. That is the agony that the oil are about to endure.

        • S cottV

          Well – it was kind of a tongue and cheek comment, but we are running out of time on the Hall era core – when they run up against McD era contract extensions.

          • Ed in Edmonton 1

            MacT identified the core as Hall, RNH, Ebs and Shultz and I assume that is the “HAll core” you refer to. Schuktz is gone and its safe to say 1 and possibly 2 of the remaining 3 will be gone by next season. The “Hall core” time has already run out.

          • Zarny

            Complete and utter nonsense.

            The Hall core’s time has run out the same way the Kopitar core in LA and the Tavares core in NYI time ran out.

            It didn’t. Every legit Stanley Cup contender has a core older than Taylor Hall. Hall is literally just entering his prime. Nothing has run out.

          • Randaman

            @ Zarny, I believe the Hall core has reached a time limit with the fan’s. Not necessarily correct but that’s how fickle this fan base is, wouldn’t you agree?

            Frustration of being on the outside looking in (that’s putting it mildly Haha) has most fans feeing quite jaded I would say.

            I think maybe it might be time to trade two of Hall, Nuge or Eberle. I hope to see Yak traded myself.

            To me, there is one untouchable. That’s it.

          • Zarny

            The Hall core has reached a time limit with the fans?

            1. Who cares?

            2. That just shows how dumb fans are.

            Frustration is perfectly understandable. Stupidity is not.

            I’ll repeat…nothing has run out. Period. Surround this core with an actual roster and they will win. Just like every other team that started out with a few highly skilled players.

            The ONLY reason to consider trading any of the core is simply to move an asset you have many of for an asset you have none of.

            Everything else is pure, unadulterated drivel. Why is it time to trade two of Hall, Eberle or Nuge? Because they’ve played a couple hundred NHL games with the worst blueline in the league and garbage goaltending?

            They are young, skilled and will win if the holes in the roster are filled.

            If you don’t fix the holes in the roster it doesn’t matter who the core is; you won’t win.

            It really is that simple.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            See any value in Ivan Provorov….definite top pairing potential? Maybe he could play the right side on the pp. The Oilers must have something the Flyers could use. The kid could find a home in the top pairing before his elc expires. A move on top of filling the 2 spots in the pairing in question.

          • McRaj

            He shoots left, and will not be an impact D man in the NHL for 2-4 seasons. Also the acquisition price will be high (Eberle +). Oilers need D in their prime (23-28) who shoot right.

          • Ed in Edmonton 1

            I don’t think there is anyone who follows the Oil who don’t think one of Hall, Ebs, RNH will be gone this summer. 2 of the 3 is certainly a possibility. So there won’t be much of the “core” left. Even if Hall stays and Oil start having success next year it won’t be due to the “core”.

    • Ed in Edmonton 1

      I’m not as pessimistic as you wrt cap challenges post McD’s ELC. It might prove to be one of PC’s greatest challenges. Perhaps the Hawk’s greatest accomplishment has been to keep their stars (Kane, Toews, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, (Crawford??)) intact. Would PC be able to keep a core of say McD, LD, another forward and 2 Dmen (Klef, Nurse??) and Talbot?

    • #1 overall waivers pick

      Oilers should of kept the draft picks. David Musil will most likely be traded and outplay Reinhart.

      David Musil NHL totals 4GP – 2PTS
      Muffin Reinhart NHL totals 31GP – 2PTS

  • toprightcorner

    “The problem with another 18 year old defenseman is that the kid is still at least two years away from being an impact player”

    I would suggest that defenseman is at least 4 years from making any impact. Nurse is draft+3 and is nowhere close to making a positive impact and the defence options in the 5-6 range are no better than Nurse was.

    They will pick in the top 3 and the return to drop back a couple spots is not big enough to justify the wait. That pick can instead be used for a proven NHL veteran dman that plugs a weakness immediately.

  • tkfisher

    The Oilers would be fools to trade the pick. With the upcoming expansion draft, players under three years experience are exempt. By trading the pick, that’s one less quality player they can protect as a vet (acquired vet) needs to take one of those slots. But a younger player is basically a free protected asset. The Oilers would be better served trading a 3 plus year roster player and keeping the pick so they can protect the most quality assets (via young stars) come expansion time.

    • Hockey Buddha

      Yup. Those picks Chiarelli acquired at the deadline have a slight increase in value now. I don’t know about keeping the pick, but it does provide more leverage for trading it. The expansion draft is going to force teams to trade players they cannot protect. It’s going to open up some possibilities on players who wouldn’t otherwise be available. Ideally you trade for a younger, 3-4 defender poised to become a top defender in this situation. The expansion draft is actually going to help this team acquire some of its defensive needs.

      The timing of the expansion draft also needs to be considered in moving the second round pick for Chiarelli. Whenever the expansion draft takes place, I think that pick becomes even more valuable.

  • DannyGallivan

    Avg. age of our top 6 F’s is ~23 and our top 4 D is 24. Do we really need another teenager? Teams that are long in the tooth know they need to add youth. Trade the pick with other reasonable assets (e.g. NOT McD or Klef) and get 1 or preferably 2 Right D that are currently shaving, are top 4 D calibre and have experience. Get a backup G and somehow instill in this team a need to win. We will likely finish last in the league again and you can’t tell me we have the worst “average” talent in the league. There is no sacrifice.

    From the ’83 Stanley Cup, lost by the seemingly invincible Oilers to NYI:

    “We walked by their locker room in the corridor and saw after they won they were too beat up to really enjoy it and savor the victory at that moment,” said Gretzky. “We were able to walk out of there pretty much scot free. We had so much respect for the Islanders players and the Islanders teams that we learned immediately you have to take it to another level in order to win a Stanley Cup. And that’s what we did. We learned from it and often credit for the Islanders players and Islanders teams for teaching us exactly what it’s all about and how hard it is to win.”

    The current version of the Oilers don’t understand that. They need to.

  • Oil City Roller

    Let me crack an egg of knowledge on you guys. The Oilers are not going to be making any major changes in the off season. They are going to draft high and not trade the pick. The media will tow the line and tell us the Oilers would never get full value for the pick and management needs a year for development/evaluation. The Oilers will stink out the league again next year and the media will continue to dance to whatever tune Katz is playing. How do I know this? Because the same thing has happened for the last decade and the same clowns are still involved with this team.

    • well, except for Nicholson, and Chiarelli. Those guys werent around for the previous decade. A decade, lets not forget, where the oilers were technically a competitive team in 2007, and 2008. The wheels didn’t really fall off until 2010. They’ve missed the playoffs for 10 years, but they’re only been tanking for 6.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    if i had my way, the 2016 Oiler 1st rounder is on the table for trades as well as Yak, Fayne, Ebs and Nuge. i can’t help but think that this Klefbom for Hamonic trade just might happen as Oscar is injury prone and Hamonic is just what this team needs and he and his family would joyfully come here. and i want to keep Hamonic away from the Flames and Canucks. we need him worse!!

  • EZ76

    James Mirtle

    ‘Ownership is part of the problem in many Canadian NHL cities…’

    ‘Just hire good people and get out of the way. Don’t talk. Don’t meddle. You have one job.’

    ‘I think this is why some US teams succeed where Canadian ones don’t. They’re second or third fiddle for an owner. They get left alone.’

    ‘Anyway… add that to the list of why Canadian teams don’t win. 23 years! Crazy’

    • It’s a very interesting point and one I’ve always thought about.
      Canada is hockey mad and the owners know it. They want to be a part of the action and put their stamp on the team – hockey in Canada is managed like the passion it is for Canadians.

      For American owners, they seem to be ok with putting up the $$$ and putting the right guy in charge. Hockey is a business and especially in small market teams, no results = no $$$ and your team is relocated. Is there more at stake for American owners, especially small market ones to keep the team alive? Or is there more at stake for Mr. Katz who – after 10 horrendous seasons of owning the worst team in North American professional sports – still manages to sell out every game and get the city to pay for part of his new arena?