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. 

    • #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

  • 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!!

    • McRaj

      Ummmm without trading #14 or #4 or #93, how do you expect to land a #1 RHD?

      Oh is it because you believe that Yak plus Fayne can get us Hamonic or Shattenkirk.

      • .

        Trades for top 4 D (like Hamonic) are not always for players of immediate comparable value. For example:

        1. The Toronto Maple Leafs traded captain Dion Phaneuf (24 mins) and 3 other players to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenceman Jared Cowen, forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg as well as Ottawa’s second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

        2. “Calgary acquired defenseman Dougie Hamilton (24 mins) from the Boston Bruins in a trade for their first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2015 NHL Draft and the two second-round picks (Nos. 45 and 52)”

        3. The Vancouver Canucks traded Kevin Bieksa (22 mins)to the Anaheim Ducks for a 2016 second-round pick.

        4. Unrestricted free agent Johnny Oduya (23 mins) signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Stars Wednesday, the club announced.

        5. The Chicago Blackhawks traded Dustin Byfuglien (27 mins) and 3 other players for a first-round pick, a second-round pick, forwards Marty Reasoner and Joey Crabb and prospect Jeremy Morin.

        6. Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli traded Johnny Boychuk (22 mins) to the New York Islanders for the Philadelphia Flyers’ second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft

        7. The Boston Bruins signed defenceman Zdeno Chara (27 mins) to a $37.5-million US, five-year contract Saturday, locking up the league’s marquee unrestricted free agent.

        And so on, and so on.

        • McRaj

          1.) Dion has a bad contract and in his 30’s.

          2.) Calgary robbed Boston due to fear of offer sheet and locker room issues.

          3.) Bieksa is not a first pairing D and quite frankly not a second pairing D either.

          4.) Oduya is a #4 D-Man in his 30’s (those are available this year in free agency).

          5.) Hawks had cap issues and at the time no one knew Buff was a first pairing D-Man (he played forward for Hawks).

          6.) Cap issues, again Boston got robbed.

          7.) 2007, a lot has changed since then. #1 D don’t hit the market.

          Also of all the players you mentioned, only Chara is a true bonafide #1 that every team needs to win the cup. Don’t believe me?

          07 Ducks – Pronger/Scotty

          08 Wings – Lidstrom

          09 Pens – Letang/Gonchar

          10 Hawks – Keith/Seabrook

          11 Bruins – Chara

          12 Kings – Doughty

          13 Hawks – Keith/Seabrook

          14 Kings – Doughty

          15 Hawks – Keith/Seabrook

          • .

            First of all, the conversation had been about Hamonic (a 3-4) and the need to trade a top six for a 3-4 like Hamonic (and not Yak & Fayne, as you facetiously queried). Second, I said “trades for top 4 D (like Hamonic) are not always for players of immediate comparable value” in my post. I didn’t mention a 1-2, but clearly Byf and Chara are 1’s, given their ice time and impact to shut down and put up points. The others are all solid 3-4’s and on many nights Boychuck plays a 1-2 role.

            And regardless of who swindled whom, that’s what happens: teams find themselves in uncomfortable spots and feel they have to trade away a Byf, a Hamilton or simply lose an Oduya or Chara. The Canucks lost Bieksa for nothing and he’s playing 22 minutes a night for the best D in the league. Who plays 22 minutes a night in Edmonton? Justin Schultz when he’s being shopped.

            And I’ll believe you about “the bonafide #1 that every team needs to win the cup” when you honestly can tell me the name of the bonafide #1 from 2006’s Cup winner (which you seem to have left off your list).

          • McRaj

            Hamonic is better than all of the 3-4’s on your list. On a favourable contract, in his prime. He can play top pairing although he is not a #1. Even if the Oilers were to add Hamonic (who might be able to be had for the 2016 draft pick if it falls between 3-7) and another 3/4 guy like Demers, that is not a playoff team.

            I only went back 10 years, but that 06 team that beat the Oilers had a D-Man named Kaberle who scored 44 points for them.

            A lot has changed in the NHL since then and the fact that I provided you with 9 (about to be 10 this season) cup winners that have a true #1 should be enough to validate my side of the argument.

            Look at the team’s in the West making the playoffs this season, they all have True #1’s while most have 2 of them.

            Dallas – Klingberg

            St Louis – Shatty/Pietro

            Chi – Keith/Seabrook

            Nash – Webber/Josi

            Colorado – Brodie/Johnson or Minny – Sutter

            LA – Doughty

            Anaheim – Lindholm/Vatanen/Fowler

            San Jose – Burns

            Even in the East, the only team in the running right now that doesn’t have a bonafide #1 is the Islanders (who might miss) and Philly who also might miss (although Ghost sure looks like a #1).

          • .

            Okay, if you’re calling Cabernet a #1 D then you’re being intellectually dishonest. He was never that. So there’s no point in continuing if you’re making bs claims about Kabby. Pronger was the #1, and his team lost.

            The problem with your selective list of #1s on play-off teams is that there’s an equal selective list for out-of contention teams: Subban, Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson, Byfulgien (who you don’t consider a #1 and consider Hamonic to be better than??), Myers, Giordano, Brodie, and either Suter or Erik Johnson are all counters to your argument. All of these #1s can’t even get their team into the playoffs.

            But, staying on topic regarding Hamonic: my only point is that you can get a solid 3-4 without giving up players. It’s been done as recently as this winter, was done last fall and repeatedly over the last few years. It’ll happen again this summer and next fall.

          • McRaj

            Firstly, I was referring to Frantisek Kaberle and at the time he was a #1 (just like Souray was for us at one point). But yes you can consider that team did not have a bonafide #1 and I can agree with you. But like I said, a lot has changed since 2006.

            Secondly, I agree many #1’s can’t even get their team to the playoffs. But how come you are not arguing my statement regarding the past 10 team’s to have won the cup containing a bonafide #1? Or all of the team’s in the West playoff’s this season having a true #1. I never said Hamonic is better than Buff, I said I don’t believe Buff to be a true #1 but I still consider him a first pairing D just like Hamonic.

            I like how you are just picking and choosing what you want to respond to. And I agree that Hamonic can be had without giving up quality players (although I doubt that will be the deal made unless its a top 10 pick going to the Isles). BUT, even with Hamonic the Oilers are not a playoff team. They need a true #1.

            Now will you please respond and try to prove me wrong regarding the FACTS that I presented to you about all the Cup Winners in the generation of Oilers futility, having a bonafide likely hall of fame bound D-Man. THANK YOU.

          • .

            “I agree that Hamonic can be had without giving up quality players (although I doubt that will be the deal made unless its a top 10 pick going to the Isles). “

            And that was my singular point: a 3-4 D man like Hamonic can be had for picks and prospects rather than an Eberle- or Hall-like player. Full stop.

            Regarding Western teams in the Playoffs all having #1Ds, I don’t know that I completely agree (although I fully see your point generally as well as with respect to winning the Cup–recent winners have all had one). I’d say that Keith completely earned the Conn Smythe last year, for example.

            Small point on the Western Teams: I don’t think the Ducks have what I’d consider a #1 D–a D who 1) plays north of 25 minutes a game, 2) shuts down an opposition’s top line and 3) contribute offensively–regularly and on the PP (my definition for a #1). Granted, they’ve obviously got a good D, but they don’t have a Keith, Burns, Karlsson, or Hedman type player. Vatanen comes close in some categories (offensively most obviously), but doesn’t have the shut down capability and can’t play the minutes every night–or not yet. If the Ducks win the Cup this year, I’d say that they’re mildly breaking from the rule that you need a Hedman-Keith-Doughty-Chara-like player to do so and that you can win with a “team” game. They nearly beat the Hawks last year this way and they’ve been remarkable since January. Full disclosure: was a Hawks fan before the Oilers came along

          • RJ

            Lindholm has been playing that #1D role for them when Fowler was injured. He plays the shutdown minutes, plays on the 2nd PP unit. He’s the reason the Ducks may trade Vatanen.

            He may not be a #1D like Chara or Doughty but he’s been at least a 1A (not a true 1, but better than a 2) most of the season.

          • .

            I take your point and I’m not claiming to have the singular definition for a #1D, but for me there are three parts:

            1. Can shut down top opposition

            2. Contributes offensively regularly and on the top PP

            3. Regularly plays 25-30 minutes

            No one on the Ducks do all of those things well or regularly. That’s not a criticism of the Ducks’ D, as they’re obviously getting the job done.

          • .

            Good choice. Or at least best choice of the lot. But I have a problem viewing him as #1 D at that stage in his career and with that run.

            He’s a shut-down D-man who can eat the minutes but he scored 2 points in 25 play-off games.

            I would expect a #1 D to contribute in both shutdown and scoring minutes (as with Doughty, Keith, Chara, Pronger, etc.), and not just in his own end. So, a solid 2-3-4 but not a #1 by comparison with other SC #1 D men.

          • yeah…i just wanted to throw his name out there for a laugh! just looking through their roster, it’s difficult to see anyone who would be considered a true #1 D. Cam Ward playing at a level he never came close to again is probably what mitigated their lack of a legitimate #1 defenseman.

          • .

            In the NYI-PIT game on March 15th, Hamonic played 28:18; in their game on March 8th, he played 27:30, and he played 28:17 against Pitt on Jan 2nd.

            Those are big minutes against Syd–not that anybody’s stopping Crosby particularly well right now, but Hamonic was only a -1 over the 3 games

      • McRaj

        I’m assuming that PC would talk to and have a deal in place with Shatty before such a deal is pulled. And if that is the case, then they must make the trade. Hall has went from having a good chance to make Team Canada to no chance at all. This is going to be the second straight under achieving year for Hall.

  • slapshot444

    Looking at the league standing this AM I see that the Oilers ( given that they have played more games by 3 than the leafs) are likely destined to finish last AGAIN, this after having McDavid in the line up for over half the season. At this point i have only two words,, GIVE UP.

  • CLubhouse

    I totally agree with this article nice Hendo!

    this is what Id like: Bassically its get two stud RHD and fill holes on wing in free agency.

    Edm: Klef, Sweetner
    NYI: Hamonic, Rights to Okposo for early signing

    EDM: Hall, Sweetner
    STL: Peitrangelo

    Not sure if STL would do this but slot in any total stud RHD for hall (only cause he probably gets best return)

    Sign Okposo, and Lucic (lucic short term)

    This is a solid team d would be:

    Sekera, Pietrangelo
    Davidson, Hamonic
    Reinhart, Osterle

    Nurse full year in AHL becomes Captain leads team to AHL Cup win.

    • DoubleDIon

      The other team has to say yes to your deal. No way either club even looks at those.

      Hamonic is worth substantially more than Klefbom. I like Klefbom on a middle pairing, but come on man.

      Pietrangelo is the Blues franchise defender. They have high octane forwards and have no need of Hall with capable top 6 guys already playing on their third line.

      The Oilers play if they win the lottery again is sending 1OA to Phoenix along with Klefbom for OEL. That or trade something legitimate for Hamonic like RNH+

      • CLubhouse

        Actually those are both very reasonable trades heres why:

        NYI wants a young D in return for Hamonic. Hamonic is better today but Klefbom has a perceived higher ceiling around the league. The sweetner may not even be necessary even. Plus in this instance Snow has no choice which Canadian team will offer more than Klefbom plus. Is Calgary ready to offer up Hamilton plus? No

        STL may be willing to trade Pietro because Hitchcock has made it very clear Parayko is the future franchise D now not Pietro. Stl also still has another year to resign Shattenkirk than. So your telling me Schwartz and Steen are better than Hall get real also Steen is UFA in one year and they wouldn’t have to replace him. But like I said any stud RHD for Hall plus that’s a true # 1 I do. Only because Hall I think gets more value than eberle or RNH (really hope its not RNH that gets traded).

        Oh and by the way experts say the 1st overall whoever gets it would be OEL plus in that trade no way we would give OEL plus Klefbom that’s like saying youd give Hamilton plus the first overall for OEL give your head a shake. Perhaps read a bit don’t just go with your Calgary/Leafs/Senators knowledge.

  • 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?

  • I do think if the team did draft Chychrun, then that might make one of the current lefties available for say, the Hamonic trade. While I’m not crazy about losing a guy like Klefbom, there is little question the back end is a lot better like this:

    Sekera – Hamonic

    Davidson – Gryba

    Nurse – Fayne (sheltered minutes)

    Or, better yet, another righty is acquired in fee agency.

    • McRaj

      Unfortunately that Depth Chart is destined to have the Oilers finish 25-30 again. The Oilers need an impact D-Man. After what the Sens owner said yesterday, maybe there is a small chance at getting Karlson?

      If Oilers win draft lotto, I wonder if #1, Eberle, and Sekera is enough to get Karlson.

  • FireScorpion

    10 cent head Nurse and Made of Glass Boy Klefbom have the hopes and dreams of a franchise on their shoulders..

    Things are worse up North than I thought

  • Eberle won’t get Hamonic IMO and he is our best point producing player other than McDavid. This team needs complimentary pure goal scorers, especially considering that we rank low in team scoring. The value of a return for Eberle is less than what he bring to the team. In terms of trade value : production ratio he is not the guy to trade.

    • Randaman

      This is just hilarious. I have been reading trade suggestions for three weeks now.

      After a win: Don’t trade anything of value for the pieces we require to improve.

      After a loss: Trade them all.

      What a bunch of idiots. Nobody seems to think we have to give up value to get value back (Ok, there are some lesser degree idiots).

      Over value, under value (usually Flame or Leaf fans).

      Why do we allow this pathetic team to make us feel so disillusioned every spring and then by Fall, everybody is planning the parade route or first round opponent at the very least.


  • 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.

  • ifiwasgm

    Hall, Yak and ?? d-man for Subban? Of our 3- $6mil men, Hall is the one who will be getting a big raise at the end of that contract and we will not be able to afford him anyways.