A win against the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon was much needed for the Oilers but with a slow start to the season the heat has definitely been cranked up. The major issue here for the Oilers is that their schedule doesn’t have a soft spot that allows them to catch their breath.
Sportsnet Insider Elliott Friedman threw more fuel on the fire during a segment on Sportsnet 960.
“I just think the heat internally in that organization… I was just told this morning it’s a really tense place.”
“I would just say this… I don’t think there’s a person in that organization who feels secure.”
The Oilers managed to get by the Rangers 2-1 on Saturday and while that victory certainly helps I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean everyone is in the clear. A win is a win so they’ll take it but they squeaked by a Rangers club that will likely be near the bottom of the Eastern Conference all season. This team has not yet scored a goal without Connor McDavid being involved, and if they can’t find their way through the early stages of the season, there are a number of things we could see happen.
They could replace the P.O.H.O. For anyone who is new here, I’m talking about President of Hockey Operations Peter Chiarelli. Upper management believed in Chiarelli enough to keep him around this offseason so I highly doubt they pull the plug on him by the end of the first month of the season.
They could make a coaching change. Replacing Todd McLellan, while a number of you may like to see it happen, is another highly unlikely option. If the team starts 2-13 or something ridiculous like that then they may have no other choice. Unless it’s an absolute disaster, I’m not sure how Peter Chiarelli could honestly look at his lineup and blame the coach more than himself and so that brings us to option number three.
I’m almost certain that trading for a defenseman would be the first move the Oilers make if their season continues to trend in the wrong direction. The majority of the early season issues are on the blueline. Matt Benning certainly hasn’t played well but he’s also being asked to play a role he’s not yet ready to handle. Oscar Klefbom has struggled as well. Benning and Klefbom are two of the d-men the Oilers would likely classify as “puck movers” and they haven’t exactly executed that task effectively.
Who could the Oilers find that could be capable of second pairing minutes and possibly help the power play? Before I get into a couple of names let me make it clear that these aren’t necessarily players I would trade for but they do seem to fit the bill for what the team may need.
JUSTIN FAULK: FIX THE PROBLEM
Ah, yes, the old Justin Faulk thing again. Justin Faulk has been mentioned so many times in Edmonton you’d think he had already been acquired, failed miserably and was out ran out of town by Rishaug.
Faulk was very much there for the taking during the offseason but I’m wondering how much that availability has changed. The Canes made a coaching change in the summer, they are off to a very impressive start and Faulk is second on the team in minutes. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a not huge fan of Faulk but he’s a veteran who can move the puck and he has powerplay experience. He checks off a number of boxes.
JULIUS HONKA: TAKE A CHANCE THE PROBLEM CAN BE FIXED
This would be a leap of faith, taking a bit of a risk on a d-man who hasn’t been able to crack the lineup regularly in Dallas. He has the pedigree of an offensive d-man and has put up very nice numbers in the American Hockey League. He had four points in 42 games for the Stars last year but was only playing around 13 minutes a night. It doesn’t look like the Stars will have much room for Honka to see significant minutes this year. He’s a puck mover.
A win over the Rangers helped calm the masses, a bit, but it would take a win over the Jets on Tuesday to truly turn the tide. The one thing I’m the most curious about is what happens if they open up the season with wins in just three of their first ten games. Would that be enough for Chiarelli to pull the trigger on a deal for a d-man? With Winnipeg, Boston, Nashville, Washington and Pittsburgh looming it wouldn’t shock me if we get a Chiarelli press conference after the first ten games saying they want to be patient because of the competition they had to face early in the season.
What do you actually think it would take for some sort of change to happen? If they don’t manage to get on track I’m going to guess we won’t still won’t see anything until the 20 game mark. By then it will probably be too late but at least they would have scored a goal without McDavid doing all the work…..maybe.