At this point in the season, the odds of the Oilers winning the draft lottery are better than the chances that they turn this thing around and crawl into a playoff spot.
If you’re an Oilers fan, reading that sentence probably filled you with some heartbreaking combination of anger and agony, I know that because it’s exactly how I felt typing it.
We finally felt all the joy and intensity of a playoff run last year, and for a young fan like me, it was euphoric. I wanted more and like a lot of people around the NHL, I assumed the Oilers were going to walk right back into the big dance this spring.
So, where do we go from here?
I know there’s a crowd who’s demanding that Peter Chiarelli be fired, and there’s a reasonable argument for that. I know there’s a crowd that wants Todd McLellan’s head on a platter, that’s less reasonable but fair enough I suppose. When things go bad, fans demand change and that’s more than understandable.
There are some demanding a big move, like trading Oscar Klefbom or Leon Draisaitl, but that’s just crazy talk. I know that it sucks to see the team back in this position, but I think it’s important that the organization doesn’t overreact. When organizations overreact, they make bad deals and the Oilers are honestly a great example of that.
They overreacted to their want to improve quickly and it resulted in a string of bad moves. They overreacted to a poor postseason by Jordan Eberle and traded him for less than he was worth.
It’s not what many of you want to hear, but now is the time for this organization to take a deep breathe and simply re-group. If the Oilers come off as a team panicking to make big changes, they’ll end up losing any move they make.
Don’t take this as me saying that they should sit on their hands and come into next season with the same team. It’s me saying that they should follow a model that the likes of Winnipeg or Tampa Bay did when they missed the playoffs last year.
The Lightning are probably the best example of this. When things went bad for them last year, they didn’t panic and start trading off key members of their core. They traded expendable assets at the deadline like Nikita Nesterov, Brian Boyle, Ben Bishop, and Valtteri Filppula for picks and prospects, which gave them more organizational depth (something the Oilers lack).
They also made a string of smaller moves that addressed needs like signing veterans Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz. Then, when the deal was right, they made a big splash swapping Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev. The reason they were able to get such good value for Drouin, was because they didn’t run out shopping him like crazy, they waited for a deal to come to them.
The Jets did something similar. They didn’t look at last season as the result of a poor core of players, they saw what their problems were and addressed them. They added some depth with players like Hendricks and Kulikov, who also helped their PK. Then they went out and got an experienced goalie to help Connor Hellebucyk. They didn’t run out and try to fix their team with a blockbuster deal.
The Oilers don’t need to blow this team up, they still have an incredibly gifted core of young players. There’s no need to turn a bad regular season into a bad offseason.
They’re going to get a good pick, they’re going to have some cap flexibility in the offseason. This organization and the fan base needs to see that nothing good will come from selling off good young players, we already know that. This team doesn’t need a complete overhaul in my mind, they need a re-tooling.
Good things can still come from a season that doesn’t involve the playoffs.