by Lisa McRitchie on 11/15/13 at 03:45 PM ET
Who cares about draft picks anymore? Honestly. If you are in Edmonton, you have seen enough of highly touted draft picks. You have seen enough “HOPE” (Hall Omark Paajarvi Eberle) and can look back at how that turned out. Omark is having a fantastic season in Oklahoma City, but is still not helping the NHL team while he’s there. Paajarvi is struggling to crack the St. Luis Blues team, Hall has been off to a slow start, and Jordan Eberle leads the team in points… with a whopping 15 points in 20 games. And so with that, Oilers’ GM Craig MacTavish had no choice but to address the media, the fans and the city Thursday. What he had to say seemed honest, but it wasn’t a message the fans are excited to hear.
Firstly, 8 or 9 man group? Who on this Oilers’ team could Craig MacTavish feel are the core, the players to build around? You would have to think that it would be Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz, Devan Dubnyk but then who else? That’s 6 players. Perhaps he also meant Sam Gagner, whom he often speaks so highly of, maybe even Ales Hemsky, but MacT explicitly said that he was looking to move Hemsky. But ultimately, these 8 forwards are far too similar, there is not enough diversity amongst those players, they are all too much the same.
If MacT thinks that he needs to keep all 8 or 9 players that he has identified as essential, he has to be joking. But of course, having a fire sale and trading off everyone won’t help much either. Setting the team back on this never ending rebuild won’t be the answer. Moving one or two players along with a pick or two, may help to round out the team, allowing MacT to obtain some missing complementary pieces. But in order to do that, MacT can’t see all 8 or 9 players as essential.
To add to that, MacT did mention that he is willing to trade the first round pick of next year’s draft, and at this point, it’s looking to be a top 3 pick, that may also help to sweeten the pot. Players like Sam Reinhart could add to anyone’s roster, but the fans in Edmonton are demanding playoffs, not the draft lottery.
Knowing how desperate the Oilers’ front office is to get better, the Oilers have a difficult task in trading their top pick, one of their stars and in return gaining key pieces, pieces that are highly coveted around the league. There are not a lot of top line players or top 4 defencemen traded, and there are no guarantees that any moves will help the team. But MacT feels the team is only 3 or 4 pieces away.
Ultimately the Oilers are in a terrible position. They look worse this year than ever, partly due to injury and partly due to bad goaltending to start the year. They are getting booed off of their home ice, they can’t buy a goal, and they have just traded their biggest and best shot blocking defenceman. To the Calgary Flames.
“There is a lot of optimism around the league in terms of our ability to turn things around” MacTavish remarked, but the problem is that the optimism is disappearing in Edmonton. Especially when any players who are mentioned in possible trades are quick to speak up and say that Edmonton is on their no trade list, Edmonton is a city they will not go to. Optimism is running out.
MacT is right in saying that there is a “Fine line of being patient and wait for the current 4 or 5 guys who we have that are going to grow and get better and I see that being a certainty and trying to make something that is going to help us immediately.” He cannot trade all of the core to help the team now. But without the missing pieces, what good is it having a few really great pieces that are very similar.
Only a few months into the job, MacT has admitted that this is a lot harder than he thought it would be to fix up what needs fixing on his team. But being an Oiler for so much of his life, MacT does want to see the team succeed. At this point however, success would be a close game, not getting shut out, and ultimately a win or two, preferably in a row.
Craig MacTavish is not on his way out the door, certainly not yet. But something has to change, and at least MacTavish is making moves where we saw Steve Tambellini sit. It could not have been easy to move Ladislav Smid, and certainly not for so little return, but there is always the hope that this move was to clear up cap space and a roster spot.
The sky isn’t falling in Edmotnon, but it certainly doesn’t look blue and that’s not because it has been a rainy November week. Something has to change, a season without wins will break even the loyalist of fans. I was offered 3 separate pairs of tickets to Wednesday night’s game. That’s not a good sign of fan confidence, especially in a town where people pay dearly for tickets every year.
Someone has to move off of the Oilers roster, a few people need to be added. Something has to change.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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