68

Don’t Fight Destiny: Tank

I’ve been fighting it for a while, but sometime between the sixth and seventh goals against the Panthers it hit me like a bolt of lightning sent down from heavens: I’m ready for this tank.

This farce of a season won’t keep me down. I’m going to find the positives in it, even if that means hoping the Oil fall even further down this mineshaft. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. All plans have failed. It’s time to quit fighting destiny and embrace what the universe has in store for us.

Today the Oilers sit in 27th place in the NHL. That’s fifth by odds in the draft, but we all know the lottery can reorder things (he said with a wry smile). Edmonton has 50 points, same as Vancouver in 28th position. Ottawa has 29th with 47 points and a game in hand on the Oil. Second last place (30th) is currently locked down by the Sabres who have 42 points and I don’t think Edmonton can fall that low unless Buffalo really puts on a show. So Edmonton sits within striking distance of 29th place, and I think they can do it.

Sure, a lot of people wanted the Oilers to compete for the Stanley Cup this year, but the management and coaching staff clearly had no desire to make that happen. This roster was built to lose and now is their time to shine. With the trade deadline approaching, Peter Chiarelli seems likely to make the final touches to this group that will put them over the edge.

For example, if you think the wings are weak now, just wait until Maroon is dealt for picks or AHL players and Cammalleri is dealt for a seventh round pick in 2024. Plus, we can’t forget about moving Letestu. The post-deadline forward group could look like this:

Caggiula McDavid Puljujarvi

Lucic Draisaitl Strome

Slepyshev Khaira Pakarinen

______ Malone Kassian

Sure, you can probably make two-ish lines when Nuge returns, but until then the bottom six will be a dog’s breakfast and both Caggiula and Lucic will feature heavy down the stretch. So with this forward group leading the way for the final 6-7 weeks, there will be ample opportunity to push downward in the standings. I mean, just look at those lines! Five of the top nine forwards are in their second NHL season or are part-timers.

We know the coaching staff likes playing Caggiula and Lucic regardless of their outcomes. We know that Sekera is struggling like crazy and Klefbom is having a down year. Most importantly, the goaltending we are getting from Talbot is incredibly bad. Only one failure would have been hard to overcome. This has been a chain failure across all systems. We have hit the iceberg and she has mortally wounded the ship.

Talbot’s inability to make saves is killing Edmonton and I’m counting on that to continue. He has a .900 save percentage this season. I don’t see how downgrading the NHL roster at the trade deadline is going to help him stop more shots. He’s likely going to bounce back next season, but I’m in no hurry for that. He can focus on that in the summer. For now, I’m happy to see him do his best impression of 1980s goaltending.

The special teams are so bad that you could make a case after every game to fire the coaching staff in its entirety or at least the assistants overseeing these atrocities. Again though, if you fire Woodcroft and Johnson now there’s a chance that the power play starts to work like it has Draisaitl and McDavid, and the PK might stop being the worst ever in recorded history. That’s going to help in 2018-2019, but it’s going to hurt the cause this year. We need Woodcroft and Johnson to keep suppressing the special teams.

We’ve passed the point of no return on this season. Wins hurt the long term goals of the team.

Email sent from: “Grant, Rob” rgrant@thestar.ca Subject: gettychiarelli Date: 12 April, 2015 8:14:40 PM EDT Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: General Manager of the Boston Bruins Peter Chiarelli attends the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Peter Chiarelli dropped Hall and Eberle for poor returns and now the club is in a position where it needs to replace high-end wingers. The Oilers did well, IMO, by drafting Yamamoto later in last year’s draft and with a bit of luck and hard work they could finish 29th and guarantee themselves a top six pick. This player *might* be an NHL player as early as next year, depending on a lot of factors.

Yeah, unless they win the lottery they aren’t getting Dahlin and helping that blueline immediately, but the problems up front might get mitigated. Frankly, the Oilers blueline is locked up and a mess unless they get continued growth from Klefbom, Nurse and Bear, and Sekera returns to full impact. That’s a problem for the next general manager to fix.

This tank over the final two months could have extremely positive impacts as early as next year. Getting down to 29th increases the odds of winning the lottery from 8.5% to 10.5%. It increases their odds of drafting in the top five to about 41%. It might not fix all their problems, but it should help them cross at least one issue off their list. They may be able to grab an impactful forward that helps them regain part of what Chiarelli lost them.

There is a reason to believe that this Oilers team can bounce back next year. Significant players like Klefbom and Larsson have experienced extremely low PDO (measurably bad luck) and ought to see improvement in the future. Players like Draisaitl have experienced major lapses in scoring on the power play, but there is literally no reason to believe that this near point-per-game player has forgotten how to score. Cam Talbot cannot stop a puck on home ice and nobody wants to blame the fact that he has baby twins at home, but he’s never performed this poorly before and no reason to believe this is his new normal.

So things can get better, and that’s before we add Yamamoto and Brady Tkachuk/whomever. I just don’t want them to get better soon. Not when there’s a prime opportunity in front of them, anyway. Nobody wanted this in September, but now it’s time for us to learn about the top of the 2018 draft class. It’s time to embrace this losing record and start visiting Draft Lottery Simulators. It’s time to plan for the future. Maybe the rebuild never stopped. Maybe this isn’t even a rebuild. I don’t know for certain. All I can say now is that wins aren’t helpful and every regulation loss brings us closer to a chance for a better future.