The Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway, which made me wonder what if everything had went right and the Oilers were in round one of the playoffs currently?
There’s a lot of talk about what went wrong and which bets were poor, but we’ve heard it all before. Let’s have some fun and imagine if the season went how most people thought and the Oilers were heading to the playoffs.
How does it happen?
Cam Talbot posts another great season. Instead of saving .907 percent of the shots faced, he’s up in the .915-920 range.
Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning fill in for Andrej Sekera’s injury, or at least enough until Peter Chiarelli can add at the deadline.
Do the Oilers get involved in the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes? Probably not. We’ll say the playoffs stay mostly the same except the Oilers are in and Colorado is out, pushing everyone down a spot in the division and standings. More on their seeding later.
The trade deadline
This is the big one. Chiarelli left a huge amount of cap space open. Probably too much, but for the purpose of this post it leaves a ton of room to add for a cup run. One saving grace of this season is the Oilers weren’t in a position trade a bunch of picks and prospects. Their prospect pool is weak and they need the draft picks to bring along young cheap talent over the next few years.
Had the Oilers be in the playoffs at the deadline, I have no doubt the Oilers would have traded a bunch of early draft picks, including their first.
The biggest need for the Good 2017-18 Oilers are similar to the bad ones: some scoring wingers, a right-handed defenceman, and special teams help.
- RW – Michael Grabner – traded from Rangers for a 2018 second-round pick and LD William Lagesson
- LW – Mike Hoffman – traded from Ottawa for 2018 first-round pick, LW Drake Caggiula, LW Tyler Benson, and LD Caleb Jones
- LW/RW – Thomas Vanek – traded from Vancouver for LW Jussi Jokinen and LW/RW Anton Slepyshev
- RD – Mike Green – traded from Detroit for 2019 second-round pick and LD Dillon Simpson.
- Hoffman gives McDavid a quick, shooting winger. Maroon can slide over to RW for the meantime where he’s played a bit before (and currently playing in New Jersey). He’s signed beyond this season at a reasonable $5.187M cap hit so giving up the first and prospects is easier to stomach.
- Grabner adds some much-needed speed to a slow Oilers team. He can also help the penalty kill and be a threat when the Oilers need an empty-net goal to seal a win.
- Vanek cost nothing and the Oilers right wing is brutal. Vanek can play with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or form a soft minutes line with Ryan Strome and Milan Lucic. He also adds another right shot on the power play.
- For this post’s sake, Green is healthy enough to be traded and gives the Oilers depth on right defence and a better partner for Nurse, bumping Sekera and Russell to the third pairing. Another right shot for the man advantage.
That’s a seriously deep forward group. I resisted running all of McDavid, Draisaitl, and RNH at center so Draisaitl and RNH can unite on the second line, but you could switch RNH and Hoffman. That’s a competitive group that just needed some wingers. Green adds depth on defence and puts a recovering Sekera and Russell in a better position.
But that took a lot of assets. Maybe I’m far off here, but the Oilers had a poor prospect pool and this would have made it even worse. Kailer Yamamoto is still here, but there’s virtually nothing after him and Ethan Bear.
That matters less if they win it all, or even just make a Finals appearance, but how deep could this group go? Let’s say Vegas still wins the division, but the Oilers bump San Jose into the first Wild Card spot and face Anaheim in the first round. I think that’s a winnable series, but they’d be in tough against a hot Vegas team or Winnipeg/Nashville in the later rounds.
I don’t think it’d be their year even if they made it to the trade deadline and loaded up. Their defence still isn’t good enough compared to Nashville and Winnipeg.