When you’ve blown out as many birthday candles on the cake as I have, you learn certain things are inevitably true. What comes to mind right now is that telling somebody to settle down, especially a wound-up hockey fan, almost always has the opposite effect. So, I’ll resist the urge to do that.
The Edmonton Oilers are 14-12-0 for 28 points as the Arizona Coyotes come calling tonight, but many fans are unhappy with them after a mistake-failed, half-assed effort in a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals Monday, a game in which they allowed 50 shots. In a season of too many uneven efforts, this one pushed the needle to awful. No argument here.
That said, when I see a thread on a fan website titled “Woodcroft was the wrong hire and it’s time to fix that” in which it’s suggested the Oilers cut him loose and hire Barry Trotz, I know frustration is mounting. Sack Woodcroft, who has a 40-21-3 (.648) record since taking over from Dave Tippett and guided the team all the way to the Western Conference final? Sorry, but that strikes me as a profoundly bad idea.
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When I hear speculation from people in the know like Darren Dreger of TSN about the Oilers being interested in bolstering their blueline and breaking the bank for somebody like Erik Karlsson, I know for sure GM Ken Holland is working the phones looking for help. I don’t see Karlsson as the solution at age 32 with four more years of an $11.5 million AAV left on his contract after this season, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. 

GETTING IT RIGHT

Nov 7, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft (M) talks to his team during a timeout against the Washington Capitals in the third period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
I’m not of the mind that Woodcroft gets everything right or that he’s above criticism. I do question at times who he deploys and how he deploys them, but unless somebody worked him over with the stupid stick when nobody was paying attention this off-season, talk about firing him to bring in Trotz or anybody else is laugh-out-loud goofy. We’ve gone the recycle route behind the bench before. How did that work? Trotz? Terrific career. Pass.
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If it’s all the same, I’ll stick with Woodcroft and see what the Oilers can do when Evander Kane gets back in the line-up, when Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi, who have combined for one goal to this point of the season, start putting pucks in the net and when Holland acquires some bonafide help for a blue line that isn’t good enough. And maybe a save or two from Jack Campbell? I’m guessing that might help.
As for that help on the blue line, I remember when Erik Karlsson broke out in Ottawa with 78 points in 2011-12. Karlsson has had seasons of 74, 66, 82, 71, and 62 points since. He’s won the Norris Trophy twice (2012 and 2015). With that duly recognized, and even though Karlsson is off to a great start this season, I don’t see how he makes sense for the Oilers with all that time and money left.
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Karlsson has a long history of injuries – forearm surgery, a broken thumb, ankle surgery, and Achilles tendon surgery – and he hasn’t played more than 56 games since 2017-18. Those up in arms over the $9.25 million Darnell Nurse is making on his new deal should note that over the previous three seasons (2019-20 to 2021-22) he has 104 points to Karlsson’s 97.
My feeling is the Oilers need to add a proven player with experience, size and edge to their defence. If they insist on a player with high-end offensive potential but a risky injury history, then maybe Holland can put something together to convince Arizona to leave Jakob Chychrun behind when the game is over tonight. He’s just 24 and makes less than half the money ($4.6 million AAV) that Karlsson does. I’d be looking elsewhere.
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THE BOTTOM LINE

Simply put, I don’t think firing Woodcroft to bring in Trotz or anybody else at this point and doing salary cap gymnastics to try to wedge Karlsson into the blueline mix makes any sense at all. This is not what the Oilers need. My guess is most of you agree. To the rest of you, I say, well, you know . . .