The Oilers closed the disappointing book on Ryan Strome Friday afternoon when they sent him to New York in exchange for Ryan Spooner.
Spooner will bring more speed and offensive upside to the Oilers but, like Strome, he is a player with issues. The book on Spooner is that he plays on the perimeter and struggles defensively. I don’t hate the trade, I don’t love the trade, but this article isn’t about the trade.
It seems like Spooner will begin his Oilers career on the wing alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but this article isn’t about where he fits into the lineup. I am intrigued to see if he eventually gets a crack with Connor McDavid, something Ryan Strome really never had and that my friends is what this article is about.
It doesn’t look good on Peter Chiarelli that just 16 months after the trade the Oilers have already moved on from the only player they got for Jordan Eberle. Not only have they already traded Strome, they traded him without giving him a look alongside the best player in the NHL. Ten different forwards played more with McDavid than Strome did during his time as an Oiler.
I don’t know if it would have worked and now we’ll never know, that’s the issue. I’ve had a number of people tweet me today and say, “He had a chance with McDavid and it never worked.” Those people are wrong. Once again I’m not saying it would have worked I’m saying it’s completely mind boggling that they never even gave it a real look.
When the Oilers opened training camp in 2016-17 Ryan Strome was on the top line with McDavid and Maroon. Strome opened the pre-season with a goal and an assist against the Flames, both points coming on the power-play with Maroon and McDavid.
In just his SECOND pre-season game Strome was moved off of the top line in the third period against Winnipeg. It actually makes me laugh a bit right now because he was replaced by Jesse Puljujarvi; JP would score twice and set McDavid up for another and that was the end of Ryan Strome. He wouldn’t see any more time alongside McDavid.
McLellan said he wanted to send a message to Strome. “In Ryan’s case, it was a message that we sent to him fairly early in the process just so that he gets it out of his system early, I’d rather do that now than do it two or three games into the year and have him confused or wondering what or why.”
That’s right, sending a message to the new guy playing in his second game as an Oiler after he had a goal and an assist in his first game. Strome never stood a chance.
By the time the Oilers reached the final game of the pre-season Draisaitl was alongside McDavid and Strome would end up playing less than 10 minutes. In case you missed it, Strome had a goal and an assist in five periods of pre-season action with McDavid and the coaching staff decided they had seen enough.
The Oilers, despite an ongoing search for players to play with McDavid, would never really give Strome another chance. Since the beginning of last season, the Oilers have played 100 regular season games and Strome was on the ice for 58:25 at five on five with McDavid. Not even close to even a minute per game. He played about six more minutes with the Captain than Pontus Aberg did.
Even Anton Slepyshev (92:04) and Mike Cammalleri (94:03) had more ice-time with McDavid, 30 minutes more.
In the 58:25 he did play with McDavid the underlying numbers were positive. The duo had a CF% of 55.47, better than what Maroon, Draisaitl and Nuge were able to accomplish while playing with McDavid. The pair also dominated the goals for with a 75% share. All of these numbers come from a very limited sample size but unfortunately, that’s all we have to work with. Hell 58:25 over a 100 game stretch is really nothing more than being on the ice together for a bit during line changes every once in a while.
When the Oilers first acquired Strome they talked about wanting him to shoot the puck more from the wing but just a few months later they moved him to the third line and tried to convince him and all of us that he was a centre. I wonder if at any point the Oilers wondered if his lack of production was due to the fact he is not good enough to drive a line, even a third line, on his own down the middle. Ryan Strome is a complementary offensive player; he needs to play with other offensive players to be effective. His 50-point season as a 21-year old playing with Tavares is the perfect example.
So as Strome catches a flight to New York City I’m left wondering if a viable option on McDavid’s wing has come and gone. The answer is, we’ll never really know.
You can’t tell me it wouldn’t have worked. I can’t tell you it would have but I can tell you that they never even gave it a look.