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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

David Desharnais failed to adequately address the Edmonton Oilers’ need at centre

2016-17 Edmonton Oilers: No. 13 C David Desharnais

Third-line centre was a position of weakness for the Edmonton Oilers for most of 2016-17, and at the trade deadline the team decided to go looking for outside help. It’s always difficult to find help down the middle at midseason, and generally expensive, too.

Edmonton settled on pending free agent David Desharnais, an undersized but competitive pivot who had fallen into disfavor in Montreal. In exchange, the team drew from its stockpile of left-shooting defenceman, sending Brandon Davidson to the Canadiens. It was clearly a trade aimed at the present, as we noted at the time:

This is a reasonable deal from a rental perspective in that it makes the Oilers better today. In a vacuum, it’s hard to argue that a pending UFA Desharnais is a superior asset to an NHL team than a signed 25-year-old Davidson, but sometimes the short-term boost is worth giving up the superior asset. It is, in short, a deal that makes sense for both teams. It just happens to be one that works more in Montreal’s favour than it does in Edmonton’s.

Davidson was in and out of the lineup with Montreal over the rest of 2016-17. Desharnais was a fixture in the Oilers’ forward rotation the rest of the way, though it sometimes felt like he wasn’t playing. The key difference is that Davidson still has some value (either as a third-pair defenceman or as expansion bait) while Desharnais will almost certainly be allowed to depart via free agency.

In his time with the team, Desharnais mostly played soft minutes and centered a line that didn’t generate much offence and didn’t keep the puck in the opposition zone. He had eight points in 31 combined regular season/playoff games and his forward unit was routinely out-shot by the opposition. He did good work in the faceoff circle but otherwise steadily worked his way down Edmonton’s 5-on-5 lineup and didn’t participate on special teams.

One game stands out as an exception to Desharnais’ unremarkable tenure with the Oilers: Game 5 in the team’s first-round series against the San Jose Sharks. With the Oilers down 3-2 in the dying minutes of the third period, it was Desharnais who teed the puck up for Oscar Klefbom’s game-tying blast. Desharnais then snuck past Tomas Hertl and into the slot to score the overtime winner.

Those few brilliant shifts came at a critical moment in that series, and helped guarantee the Oilers advancement to the second round. As disappointing as Desharnais’ overall work in Edmonton was, plenty of the team’s past deadline additions have  never had a moment quite so memorable or important.

Bottom line: Playoff heroics aside, Desharnais was brought in to stabilize Edmonton’s third line. He failed in that task and it’s unlikely that he’ll be returning to the team.

Previous year-end reviews:

  • Spydyr

    I did not like the trade when it was made. Desharnais did nothing to change my opinion. IMO it is not good asset management to give up young defenceman coming into their prime for a small, older rental player. Yes the may have lost Davidson to Vegas but now they have lost Davidson and another player.

      • Spydyr

        Perhaps Davidson comes on when Sekera was injured and they win the series because of a defensive play he makes or someone else scores the overtime goal or more goals then Desharnais did and they win the series. We will never know.

      • Gravis82

        Whos to say that without DD, we might has won that game in regulation? Too many variables here. Bottom line, weird trade , everyone knew it. This one did not inspire confidence. Sure, its a minor trade, but it scares me a bit that he pulled the trigger on this.

    • AJ88

      If the Oilers thought they were going to lose him to Vegas or he was not part of the long range plan then I would not call it poor asset management. They took a shot at Desharnais hoping he would help in a playoff run, must not have been able to do better. I guess your value of Davidson was higher than what the Oilers valued him at, a decision I am sure the Oilers aren’t losing sleep over.

      • Spydyr

        So your argument is they thought they were going to lose him to Vegas or he was not part of their long term plans. Now they are going to lose another player to Vegas. You talk like the Oilers have never made a mistake on the value of a player. Now that is some funny stuff.

        • AJ88

          The one thing I know for sure, I do not call out Oilers decisions based on what Davidson might have done if he replaced Sekera in the playoffs. That is not funny stuff, it is actually very sad, what is more sad is your constant whining and complaining and how you think you know better than everybody.

          • Rugbypig

            Wow Spydyr total out of nowhere attack on Eberle . . . . Oh wait a moment it’s Spydyr the “coming out of the closet” Eberle hater . . . . . no-one and I mean no-one saw the Eberle hate coming yet again . . . . as in every post you are ever and I mean ever involved with.
            Sad little man, sad.

  • Markeejay

    Never figured DD was a long term plan…..great moment in game 5 v sharks and fiesty in game 6….Chiarelli will look to address a strong, face off winning sizeable 3rd line centre longer term in the very near future.

  • ed from edmonton

    Moving Davidson for minimal return tells me he no longer “fit into the Oilers plans”. PC must think that he has enough LHD without Davidson, i.e. Klef, Sekera, Nurse, Russel(?), Reinhart. Osterle, Simpson, Jones, the kid they signed from the OHL. Desharnais was never going to be more than a playoff rental. Did they get good enough value out of Desharnais vs what if anything Davidson might have provided? Hard to say, but one could argue the lone Deharnais goal may have given the Oil one more playoff round. If they had dropped games 5, do they beat the Sharks? It is conceivable, maybe likely, that Davidson would have drawn into Ducks game 6 and possibly game7.
    I get the impression, based on PC’s one rather minor move at the deadline, that the team surprised him in the playoffs.
    BTW, if Willis wants to do a critique of effectiveness of a 3rd line center suggest he look at RNH.

  • Jordan88

    Edmonton needs to trade Nugent-Hopkins, trade Eberle and remove pouliot, that whole line should be rebuilt.

    Sign Leon, Go after Hanzal, bring up Puljuarvi, Trade our 1st for someones spare 3c. Let Shattenkirk go.

    We have Bear, Bear is best Bear.

    • Timmah007

      There is only two targets I’d consider bringing ebs or nuges name up for and that’s hamonic or Faulk.
      Hurricanes I could see wanting nuge and have plenty of young defenders coming up Faulk might be possible.
      Islanders need a scoring winger to play with Tavares and if there is any concerns about him signing an extention time is now to give him one and there is successful history between ebs and Tavares it’s a safer bet for snow than another vanek or Ladd. Outside of that ebs and nuge are very important to oilers they both offer Todd flexibility. Dealing nuge forces Todd to play Leon in the middle. Dealing ebs kinda forces Todd to keep Leon on the wing. Forget about Puljuarvi let him work himself into being a factor rather than expecting him to be. Elevating a young player into those top roles fail far more often than works out expesically when your forced into it like yak,Shultz, even Leon’s first year wasn’t anything to write home about. Wouldn’t want Hanzal because he’s not coming without term and don’t know what if anything he will bring to the team. Vermette would be my number one target for that centre spot if can pry him outta Anaheim. Competes hard every shift, face off machine, solid on the pk.

  • TKB2677

    I didn’t see Desharnais as a long term solution. I saw him as a depth add and all it cost the Oilers was a 6 more likely #7 dman that wasn’t going to play for their team this season or moving forward.

    Desharnais came in, did a mediocre job but he scored a HUGE OT winner in round 1. If you told me you could get a guy that would score a huge OT goal in round 1 to help you win the series and all it cost you was a #7 dman that won’t play for your team. I’d take that trade again.

      • 24% body fat

        im not celebrating nor was i predicting.

        I said i hear from a realy close source to sekera that he was out this long. It was the day of the 7 – 1 win that I stated this. Because I wouldnt name the source out of respect to said source, everyone was trashing it and such.

        This is the same when 7 months before Klefbom signed that I knew what the contract would be.

        Have a discussion, dont just trash. Unless it is on flames nation

        • Rugbypig

          Hmmmm, Trash away haters.LOL – Seems someone is acting like they are all important and seem rather happy about the injury. Would have been different had your approach been a little more respectful of Sekera rather than proud “you got it right” “I’m awesome Sekera out 6 – 9 months” LOL as you proudly stated and then defended.

  • I can’t remember the last time the Oilers had a legitimate longer-term 3rd line centre. So, for another year, Nuge is our best option at 3rd line centre, but long term, as far as dollars, this doesn’t work. Letestu, while great on special teams and faceoffs, is not a 3rd line centre. So if Nuge is the guy for another year, then Draisaitl is 2nd line centre, opening a hole on 1st line right-wing. Caggiula is versatile and can slot in anywhere, but it would be nice to have a top line right-shot guy for right-side dot faceoffs.

  • Optos

    At least we did not overpay at the trade deadline like giving up a 1st round draft pick and more for a deadline rental like Hanzal only to perform subpar down the stretch and in the playoffs. At this point, the mindset has to be changed from seller to buyer and everyone knows that buying assets at the deadline are always a gamble. Majority of the time you lose, but sometimes you hit it right on the spot and get a big x-factor player in the playoffs. Unforunately, DD was not one of them. Take this loss and look to free agency for a 3C.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Desharnais was okay.

    I don’t see the point of this post, other than as a “Na Na I TOLD YOU SO that the advanced stats warned us about this trade when it was made!”.

    He was okay. He wasn’t a difference maker, but he wasn’t really brought into to be one. I’m sure Chia was HOPING he’d be able to add some bottom-six offence (obviously he did in Game 5!), but I doubt anyone was EXPECTING him to. Should they had paid MORE for the services of someone like Hanzal or Hansen? How’d those trades work out for the Wild and Sharks?

    I like Brandon Davidson but between his struggles/injuries this year and his expansion vulnerability, he had VERY little value. He was a non-factor for the Habs. You think Habs fans think they “won” the trade? I doubt they care either way.

    In conclusion, Desharnais was a probably good trade because of his Game 5 heroics.

    • Gravis82

      Ummm….there was no advanced stats analysis of this trade. Cant behind that excuse and narrative on this one sorry. Was bad at all stats, advanced or otherwise.

  • O.C.

    Although not great, he also gave another decent option for faceoffs, ultimately the best of 5 Oil centres this postseason. Lander could have been an option but his speed, playoff experience, defensive awareness, and history all worked against Lander.

    A decent swing by PC. Not a home run, not a miss, and at the very least PC stepped up to the plate.

  • Timmah007

    Didn’t like this deal because of expansion draft. Going to loose someone for nothing elevating Reinhart up the list of possible targets is very costly. That being said charelli has clearly proven himself enough to assume he’s already dug into this situation.