Davidson vs. Desharnais


Brandon Davidson was a rare feel good story in a gloomy era of Oilers hockey. He overcame testicular cancer and as a sixth round selection in 2010, beat the odds of making it to the NHL. Very few 162nd overall picks play in the NHL, but to date Davidson has dressed for 91 NHL games.

He is a great story, but was he going to be part of the Oilers future?

It seems the original response to the trade for David Desharnais is the Oilers lost the deal because Davidson is a more valuable asset. He is younger and cheaper, no doubt, but is he a regular NHL defenceman on a competitive team?

He’s only played 91 games, so he is still in the infancy stages of his development, but how much more will he grow?

He looked good on a bad defence core last year, but this year surrounded by an improved D corps he was a third pairing defender, who then became a healthy scratch with the return of Darnell Nurse and the emergence of Matt Benning. For those who look at CF%, Davidson had the lowest among the D-men battling for icetime in the third pairing. Davidson’s 48.7% was lower than Eric Gryba (51.9%), Darnell Nurse (52.3%) and Matt Benning (52.5%). They faced around the same types of opponents.

Davidson doesn’t add much offence. He has one assist in 28 games this year and one goal and 13 points in his career. He isn’t a physical or mean defender. He skates well, has a hard shot, but rarely uses it, and I believe his biggest challenge as he moves forward will be finding an identity of what he does as a defender.

He is young and he has time to find it, and while there definitely is some risk in making this deal I believe it is worth it. The Oilers are looking to win one round in the playoffs, and unless there was an injury Davidson wasn’t going to play, while David Desharnais will play on the third line.

There is a lot of focus on the expansion draft and this deal means the Oilers could lose another player. Had they kept Davidson he likely would have been the player they lose. That was very possible, but I wouldn’t sit idle and not make a trade for fear of losing another depth player in the organization.

I think many are making too much about losing a player in the expansion draft. It will not cripple the Oilers. They will still have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula, Anton Slepyshev, Cam Talbot and, today, guaranteed two of Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Tyler Pitlick or Jujhar Khaira.

Peter Chiarelli might make another move before with a team who doesn’t want to lose a decent forward for nothing, so they are in very good shape.

Montreal acquired Davidson, but he’ll be in tough to play regularly.

Andrei Markov/Shea Weber and Alexei Emelin/Jeff Petry are their top four. Nathan Beaulieu and recently acquired Jordie Benn are the third pairing. Benn shoots left, but regularly plays the right side, so he’ll have the inside track on that spot. He also has 200 more games of NHL experience.

Beaulieu is currently eighth on the Habs in PP time. He is entrenched in their second unit. Davidson won’t take his spot and with Benn’s experience playing RD he’s also ahead of Davidson and Nikita Nesterov.

Davidson is a great guy and I hope he can stay healthy for a full season and realize his full potential, but he is a prime example of how quickly things can change when a team goes from the basement to competing for home ice advantage in the playoffs.


He is having a down year. He missed 24 games with an knee injury and he’s been a healthy scratch recently. He fell out of favour with Michel Therrien and hasn’t been able to get on track. He was thrilled to be traded and Chiarelli is hopeful a change of scenery will help Desharnais find his game. He also wasn’t playing centre as often this year and that might be why he’s struggled so much.

He has a lot skill. He’s had 60, 52 and 48-point seasons between 2012 and 2015. Last year he missed 17 games and the entire Habs roster stunk from December on.

He doesn’t need to be that productive here in order for this trade to help the Oilers. If he can be a 35-point guy, which equates to seven or eight points in 18 games, then the Oilers will be satisfied.

He has the skill to help on the PP. He had 20 PP points in 2012 and 15 in 2014. He has more experience than Drake Caggiula and is a more proven scorer at the NHL level.

This season he’s only taken 159 faceoffs and he’s 76-83 for 47.8%. However, in the four previous seasons he took a total of 3,958 draws and won 50.8% of them. So since the start of the 2012/2013 season he is 50.7%. He’s not dominant in the circle, but when he’s taking faceoffs regularly he’s above 50%.

He gives Todd McLellan a left-shot veteran centre he can rely on. This is more important in my eyes than having a depth eighth defender or worrying about who you lose in the expansion draft in June.

Of course Desharnais will need to hold up his end of the bargain. There is no guarantee he’ll produce, but for me it was worth the risk.

Last night I received a few tweets wondering how Desharnais will handle the big teams in the Pacific division. A very valid concern. I was a bit surprised to see he’s fared quite well versus Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose recently.

In his last 11 games versus those teams he has produced 2-6-8. Between 2012-2016 he played the heavy Boston Bruins 19 times and produced 7-8-15.

Peter Chiarelli knows him well from his time in the Eastern conference and Chiarelli admitted that factored in his decision to make the trade.

“He is a veteran player with playoff experience. I’ve seen him a lot and I know him well. He is a strong two-way player. He is strong on the puck for his size, and protects the puck very well. We feel he’ll come in as a highly motivated player,” said Chiarelli.

Chiarelli admitted he’s had a down season, but felt he could rebound and be close to the player he was between 2012 and 2015.

There is a risk in any deal, but with the Oilers sitting in second place in the division and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs a realistic possibility, I understand why he made this trade.

If it helps them win a round, then the value is huge because it spreads throughout the room and McDavid, Draisaitl and the rest of the young players should benefit from that playoff exposure.

There is no guarantee they will win a round, but that’s what makes trades so great to debate.

Recently by Jason Gregor: 

  • The Steve Austin Line
  • GDB 64.0: Streaking in St.Louis
  • Oilers 3rd quarter report card
  • GDB 62.0: Capital Challenge
  • Talbot chasing a record and Oilers trade options
  • GDB 60.0: Battling the Bolts
  • Monday Musings: Home ice advantage
    • Natejax97

      Liked Davey.

      Good trade. Speedy Skilled vet to help the young guys. Always good.

      However if we lose 2 d-men to injury in the coming games, we are sure gonna miss Davey.

      • toprightcorner

        2 injuries means Gryba and Benning both play and Russel moves to the left side, then you can call up Reinhardt as your 7th. Oesterle would be next on the list if a 3rd injury on the back end, who can be a 7th in a pinch. Not many teams could handle 2 injuries, much less 2 and the Oilers can do that suitably.

        Defensive depth has been the best it has been in 15 years so no need to worry about worst case senarios.

    • freelancer

      Sad to see Davidson go but you are absolutely correct Gregor. The biggest worry with losing Davidson is not having as strong depth if another D-man goes down. Another thing that may work in Edmonton’s favour is by moving Davidson they might be able to push Vegas into taking a contract like Pouliot instead.

    • Muddy

      Again to anyone about to continue to cry about Vegas taking ONE again ONE player off our roster remember EVERY team is on the same reality. When did you all develop such a love fest for Rienhart anyway?

    • Druds

      Thank you for being the voice of reason,Jason…. I sometimes I wonder at the angst people spill over fringe players on the roster, is it because we have been so bad for so long that we have lost our ability to judge what is real talent? Davidson was an ok 7-8 defense man …that’s it…maybe in time he is a good 4-6 D man but I doubt it…he doesn’t score and he is not a tough guy to play against …He is exactly what this team used to be like.

    • Still an Oiler Fan


      When are we going to discuss the major elephant in the room, Pete’s inability to get a backup for the playoff run.

      Whatever God you pray to. Pray for Cam’s good health.

      • vetinari

        That worries me too but after watching Chiarelli’s press conference and knowing that an expansion draft is on the horizon, I suspect that Chiarelli is operating under the assumption that this post season is about getting playoff experience and this is not the year to blow assets on a potential Cup run (look at the monster teams out East in Pittsburg, Washington, Columbus and Montreal) and to keep his powder dry until the off season.

        I think he is prepared to let this group sink or swim on their own merit this post season and he will be more aggressive looking at long term solutions in June and July when we won’t risk losing players in expansion and we get some bad contracts come off the books.

      • toprightcorner

        No backup could help the Oilers if Talbot got hurt.

        If Cam gets hurt, the Oilers can still limp into the playoffs with LB but other than that, any backup would be a huge downgrade and wont help the team win a round in the playoffs.

        That would just be a waste of a 3rd round pick when they already don’t have a 2nd rd.

          • not so daily doug

            I am not sure but I dont think Chiarelli has the cap room for either of these. Draisaitl will be hitting his B bonuses, so another 2.5 or so onto the cap. I am not a cap geek but I remember hearing that the Oilers were close once Drai hits 20 goals. That may be why Montreal had to retain 20% of the salary.

            • Jason Gregor

              Draisaitl hasn’t been top-10 in goals, assists, points or points-per-game all year.

              For him to hit his $1.625 “B” bonus he’ll need to get there.

              He is currently seven points back of being in 10th. He is tied for 22nd. Hard to vision him making up that much ground.

              He is four goals back of top-10. He sits in a tie for 22nd, so he’d have to jump 12 guys. Again hard to vision.

              He isn’t top-30 in assists or points-per-game so I don’t see him making his big “B” bonus.

              Draisaitl will hit all of his “A” bonuses, but that is a maximum of $850,000.

              McDavid has already reached his A and B bonuses, so he will max out at $2.85 million so he and Draisaitl will have a combined $3.7 mill in bonuses.

              They won’t have any bonus overages.

              I agree with you Bishop made little sense for the Oilers. And I’m not sold on Halak. He won one playoff series in his career and that was over five years ago. Plus he has a year left on his deal. Even if NYI paid half you still have him as a back up making close to $2.5 mill to play 17-19 games. Not wise in my eyes.

      • Cowbell_Feva

        Do you think a backup goalie was that important?

        If ANY team loses their starting goalie in the playoffs, they are pretty much toast.

        Any Oilers backup MIGHT get 4 games the rest of this season, so why would Chiarelli move any assets for potentially 4 games?

      • Steveland Cleamer

        Yes, but we also remember what happened to our boy Rollie the Goalie once he went down back in OH-SIX.
        Even with a “seasoned” vet backup we still lost.
        I don’t see this year as a make or break year, but more of a learning building year.
        Giving the core players a year of post-season will be most key to their growth, not whether we lose in the 2nd round because Dadbot gets injured.


      Losing Davidson isn’t my concern, Desharnais’s size is the concern. At 5’7 he has to be one of the smallest guys in the league. Doesn’t really seem like a Chiarelli type player. I honestly have no idea what his game is like, I’m hoping he’s pretty aggressive to make up for the size issue. Did we as fans over value Brandon Davidson? I knew the trade was coming but I thought we’d get more back. He’s a pretty young guy with what I thought was a lot of upside.

      • toprightcorner

        You say you have no idea what his game is like so why be concerned. Derek Roy was the same size and was fine, Eberle is listed at 5’10” but is 5’9″ if he is lucky. He is an aggressive chippy player that wont have an issue with size. Gregor already stated that he has been very successful playing against SJS, ANA and LAK.

        • CRONENBERG

          Well I’m hoping for the best! Another question, these player vs team stats, are these really something to take into consideration? What do they prove? Desharnais has played well in the last few games against the California team pointwise, but isn’t that due more to his teammates and how they were all playing that particular day? Or can you look back on these stats and expect similar results in the future. Should we expect him to struggle against teams he hasn’t played well against in the past?

          • toprightcorner

            Sure it is a small sample size, but they are for his career he has 8 pts in 11 games against SJS, ANA and LAK and in the past 4 years against BOS (another heavy team) he has 15 pts in 19 games. This tells me that he definitely doesn’t struggle against big teams so I don’t think anyone can come to the conclusion that his size is a concern.

            Chiarelli also seen him play a lot when he was with BOS and I guarantee you that if there was any doubt that he was a soft small player, he would never have considered it.

            Not saying Desharnais will be a huge difference maker but the team the Oilers ice in their next game is better than the team that they iced in the past and that is all that really matters.

      • toprightcorner

        I would say the Oilers rank Benning ahead of Gryba as they have had Benning in the top 4 this season and he has played more than Gryba as a rookie. Gryba plays when it is against really big teams to protect Benning.

        I would guess Benning will start in the playoffs and Gryba will only come in if he is being man handled or is struggling.

    • Fortinbras

      I heard on 1260 this morning a point that I agree with: Oilers fans have fallen in love with potential.

      Davey had potential, but so did MPS. and Yak. and Omark.

      Desharnais may not be our panacea, but he will hold his own above Caguila. He has a proven record rather than bias based on potential.

      • Clarkopolo

        Completely agree.

        I also think that a lot of Oilers fans (including me) are thinking that Davidson is only 22 or 23 because he has been around the NHL team for a couple seasons. He turns 26 this summer and is struggling to have a permanent spot on the roster. I’m not sure there is much ‘potential’ anyways for him to become much more than he currently is.

        Maybe at the very top end he could be a regular 4-5 defenseman, but those kind of players are pretty easy to find. The Oilers have had a plethora of 4-6 defensemen throughout the last 10 years.

      • Mr. McDavid

        Mr.McDavid’s is our “Davey”
        If all of the Oilers call him Davey
        Number 88 is not davey .
        Just thought i would be that guy.
        99.8 % at playoffs .
        Why so serious.

    • Cowbell_Feva

      I personally thought Patrick Sharp would have been a fantastic add for some much needed experience.

      The guy can shoot and skate for miles. Said he was 100% healthy. Seeing as he didn’t move makes me wonder if he actually was 100%.

        • Natejax97

          That is really too bad. I have loved this player since Chicago started lighting it up. He is 35 now and would have been the perfect addition to this team for a run.

          Right handed, shoot first me mentality, playoff experience…

          Depending on what happens this summer I would even look at signing him to a 1 year as a depth / power play guy.

    • Hemmercules

      I have to agree with Chia, the team is much improved and playoffs would be a huge bonus but does anyone believe the Oilers are going to beat out the Minnesotas and Washington’s and San Jose’s to win a cup? I dont think they are quite there yet and adding another backup goalie or role player isnt going to send them over the top.

      That said, make the show and anything can happen. I’m just happy they are in the conversation in March and look forward to seeing this group take the step together.

    • Freddie the fog

      At this point in time DD is a better option than Cagguila. And as far as Davidson goes he has been very ordinary this year. And i dont think Davidson has as high of a ceiling that alot of people seem to think.

    • Freddie the fog

      I think taking a flyer on Hemsky , whos about to return to the lineup, would have been interesting. The cost would have been what ? A 5th round pick. But alas….it didnt happen

    • Osmosis_jones

      I want Khaira to stay an Oiler. Once we clinch the playoffs, showcase Poulliot for a couple games with McDavid to fool Vegas into thinking he’s useful.

    • Pouzar99

      How about a column by one of the ON writers on the increasing possibility that Edmonton and Calgary could meet in the first round of the playoffs? It’s been 26 years. This will only happen if the two teams finish second and third, but with SJ pulling away from the pack and the Flames charging hard, it is a very real possibility. Right now the Oilers have 76 points with 18 to go, Anaheim has 74 with 19 to go and Calgary has 72 with 18 to go. The odds are against it happening, but it is distinctly possible and would be incredibly exciting. Frankly I would prefer Calgary miss the playoffs, but since it is very likely they will make it a resumption of the Battle of Alberta would make our heads explode. Just saying.

      • btrain

        Completely agree, this would make for exciting times. Hopefully for the sake of the flames Iginla and his LA Kings don’t roar back and take them out of a playoff spot all together. Wouldn’t that sting!

    • hags437

      Oiler fans have fallen in love with potential. Oh how true that statement is. But at the same time so quick to cast someone aside as a bust. ie Reinhart. The kid is 23 and has played 37 NHL games. What’s the number that gets mentioned for D men? I believe it’s 200 before you really know what you have. I’m not saying the guy is gonna be Shea Weber but holy hell most fans have written him off as Nikitin 2.0.
      I think Oiler fans can’t be happy after all the years of suffering. Seriously. Glass half empty Eeyores. I’m so happy to have the team where they’re at right now and honestly I liked what Chia said today. These players earned the right to see what they can do, including LB. Imagine what that did to the kids confidence and what it would have done had they got a backup with term left?
      Can’t wait for playoffs! Now please carry on with the whining and complaining.

      • Serious Gord

        He’s 23 and only been good enough to get 37 games in the NHL – on teams that had very poor defense. He is perilously close to being classified as a bust.

        • hags437

          Lol okay pal. He’s a bust. Maybe he will be but it just seems stupid to me to be convinced when we won’t know for sure for a couple more seasons. I’ll say Barzal turns out to be Hugh Jessiman who went 12th overall in the 03 draft. Seems like a lock too, no?

    • TKB2677

      I like the story of Davidson. I liked him as a depth guy. It would be nice to have him for the depth. He has good size but isn’t overly physical or tough. He skates reasonably well and moves the puck OK but I wouldn’t call him a puck mover. He brings zero offense. He’s an OK defensive dman who shoots left. When I look at the Oilers defense today, I wouldn’t play Davidson over nor is he better than:

      Klefbom, Larsson, Sekera, Russel or Nurse. Like him or not Russell brings more to the game and has been better than Davidson.So there is your top 5. Benning is young but he’s right handed and when he’s playing well, he does everything Davidson does plus he’s more physical and brings more offense. So today, Davidson is realistically fighting Gryba for the 7th dman spot. In a tough, all out war at times that is the playoffs, I might dress Gryba over Davidson because playoff hockey is nasty. What did it for me is when Davidson came back in the line up and played the Flames. He supposedly challenged Tkachuk to a fight. Tkachuk slew foot you and took you out for almost half the season. You don’t challenge the guy, then skate away if he says no. You grab the guy and fight him whether he says yes or no.

      Regardless, this season, I don’t have Davidson in my top 6.

      Next season. Klefbom, Larsson, Sekera, Nurse and for sure Benning are your top 5. I think the Oilers will bring in an upgrade on Gryba in a right shot to make the top 6. So again, Davidson isn’t in the top 6 next season.

      So for the trade. The Oilers get a bottom 6, vet guy that gives them some depth, can fill a need at center and all they gave up was a guy who I don’t see plays unless a couple of injuries happen this year and definitely won’t play next year.

    • OilCan2

      We won this trade. It cushions the Drake and Lander.

      Reinhart (I know, I know) is actually looking decent in CA and Sekera, Larsson & Nurse are all back in the starting line up.

      Davidson was a great story while he was here so Bon Chance young man.

    • Oiler Al

      Wow! great trade Chiarille….. A 17lb, ,5 ft nothing smurf,left shot,49% FO and a UFA.

      Great trade!Just what the Oilers have been looking for. You might just as well play Lander.

      That is all you could get for Davidson.The Leafs got more ,for less, in the Boyle deal.

      • 3 Little Birds

        Originally, I’m thinking that Chiarelli stayed true to his word prior to the deadline. He stated that he believed in his group and was willing to see what they had in the playoffs. If something crazy came up, great, but he was basically good on moves till the summer. I respected that and liked the mindset.

        Then I hear he traded away Davidson for a guy that weighs 17 lbs!! 17lbs?? I’ve purged my system of more weight than that after a late night, drunken McDs run.

        This 17lb bruiser is 5 ft tall, which makes him a record breaking tapeworm or a big boned snake. Upside is he is very slippery in the corners.

        On top of this, the guy is blue. I’m as liberal as the next guy, but seriously, blue??? How’s he getting the helmut over that stupid white hat? Ridiculous.

        It’s moves like these that have got us in the position we are at right now, and I for one am damned sick of it. I’ve been used to a certain level of performance over the last ten years, and this is NOT what I expected.

        Chiarelli is one pathetic loser, no offence.

    • Serious Gord

      How does one say anything but “meh”?

      The oil had a player they were going to able to keep for another 18 games and probably play a handful of minutes per game if that.

      They exchanged that for a tiny forward having the worst year of his career for 18 games.

      Neither player was going to affect the oil’s playoff chances. And once in the playoffs they likely wouldn’t/won’t be pivotal in getting the team past the first round or beyond.

    • Hat

      Flames fan here. Saw Davidson was traded and wanted to see the response. I really liked Davidson’s story. Was one of my favourite Oilers.

      That said, great trade. Davidson is 26. Young yet, yes. TJ Brodie is 26. Doug Hamilton is 23. I liked Davidson, but no amount of potential makes him anywhere approaching those names. Davidson is, at best, a #5 defender, and the Oilers have amassed surprisingly solid depth since Chiarelli. He was a small cost to upgrade your centre depth for what will hopefully be a multi-round playoff run.

      Go Oilers. Unless Boa in round 1.

    • O.C.

      Once Darnell proved healthy, there was room to move Davidson now, in exchange for a greater team need for the playoffs. Centre depth w face off experience and playoff experience. Otherwise there was only one(?) Oiler with a voice that the youth would listen to who has playoff experience.