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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The First Solution

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.”

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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.

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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.

IN CLOSING:

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.

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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.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:


  • Serious Gord

    If they go 3-7 or a reasonable facsimile of that that on its own won’t be enough to precipitate action on management’s part nor will it agitate the fan base that much.

    What will create those conditions will depend on HOW they lost those games. If the oil are competitive – were able to contend for most if not all of the next seven games and narrowly lost more than they won then I think everyone gets to play another ten games probation as it were.

    BUT

    If they are clearly outclassed in those games – if they show that they aren’t remotely good enough to compete against playoff quality teams – either because they haven’t enough talent throughout the roster or

    WORSE don’t play worth dog poop as a team (see: game one – period two vs New Jersey), then the torrents of rage from the fan base will be epic. And the pressure to make a move or moves will be about as high as it has ever been in the last dozen years.

    • Hockeytalkguy

      Serious Gord….totally agree with what you posted. I can handle the losses when they compete and give an effort. It’s the no shows that completely piss me off.

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        Exactly. Remember all those seasons (1996 – 2002 approx) where the team scratched and clawed its way into the playoffs every season to eventually get beat by better teams (Stars, Avs in either 1st or 2nd round). I’m a child of the 80s Dynasty, but those Oilers teams were some of the most satisfying to watch. They showed up.

    • Chris_Cruise

      It’s quite the conundrum isn’t it.
      On one hand, we could hope for total disaster so that there is the chance of a real shakeup in the office. But that would mean another lost season for all of us to go through. Team and fans. Depressing.

      But if they tread water then there will be no changes and we continue down this path of insanity.

      Either way it’s grim because if we’re being completely objective and honest here, we don’t have the horses to run with the big boys. So what are we really doing then?! Non-results based entertainment. Which seems like Rogers Place, packed to the brim every night, is fine with. Smh

      • Serious Gord

        Well put.

        If I (we?) could be assured that a washout season would mean real change – a true gutting of the old boys and implementation of professional business practices – I would make THAT deal in a flash.

        • wiseguy

          Unfortunately I’m not as optimistic that real change will ever occur with this owner. After another failed season, there will be another “forensic audit”. The current old boys will be shuffled around, Bob Nicholson will be moved to a new post with another made up title. Another person with connections to the group – maybe Messier, maybe Keegan Lowe or Katz jr. will be given the “vital” POHO and GM spot. We will be told that the proper changes are implemented and we have to be patient to allow the new people to “fix” things but a cup will be here soon.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I’d like to see another dman brought in before any coaching or GM change happens. Easier said than done and don’t want to see Benning shipped out, imo he’s still young enough to become a Jeff Petry for the Oilers.

    I don’t really blame TMac too much in all of this other than playing a kid with 12 games of NHL experience in the top 6 over JP in spite of his “flaws”. Shoot, even put JP on the pp with 97 would be nice to see. All in all, for the most part Todd is trying to put the team in the best situations to win. Every flaw in the line up lies at PCs feet.

    If a trade to better solidify the defence doesn’t happen and the team falls further and further down the rankings, I’d rather see PC shown the door before TMac.

    • Chris_Cruise

      Agreed, take 97 out of the mix and who does Todd really have at his disposal to compete with real NHL rosters out there.

      This mess is ALL on PC. Todd has been forced to build a sports car from a scrap heap.

    • palmnickl

      98’s “flaws” are real though… Stops and starts are non-existent, he moves the puck into pressure instead of away, and in Todd’s latest presser it sounded like he was exasperated with how many times he has to tell Jesse to do something. Hopefully Jesse works out but this pick is starting to look like the classic scout over-valuation of physical potential as opposed to the ability to think the game. I do understand your frustration that Todd has been given little option thanks to PC’s decisions.

      • Svart kaffe

        As someone else said: has any young player thrived under McLellan? His only tool is the blender, and if you’re not on his list of favourites that means demotion and some odd linemates.

      • jesse says yep

        I dont think you can put this one on the scouts. Literally every scout in hockey had JP pegged as a top 3 pick. His current development doesn’t change his position and performance pre-draft.

    • Bills Bills

      I don’t agree, the defensive zone breakouts are brutal. That’s system play. If the dmen aren’t able to play the puck out of the zone and need to have a center man circle back in order to skate the puck out, maybe they should reconsider the forward positioning in order to better support the play as it comes out of their zone. The other team blocks up their end of the nuetral zone and since everyone is standing still they either turn it over at the blue line or have to dump it in. It is dumb and they did it all last year. I am sick of watching it. Sure, maybe they don’t have a Brent Burns to make amazing passes but neither do most of the the other teams. So scheme a better option that utilizes the tools you have. Because McDavid can skate past everyone that has become the solo go to. It is dumb. I’m mad.