Wow, you think with the amount of writing I do about the Edmonton Oilers, I'd be a big fan.
If I had to choose between the two Alberta hockey teams, I'd go Calgary all the way, much to the relief of my fiance's family (but not so much my fiance). I would thoroughly enjoy it if Calgary was always better than Edmonton, but when Edmonton is always the worst team in the league, they start to take away all the high picks and no one else gets a chance. What was once pity has become straight up frustration.
Seriously, stop sucking, Edmonton.
Now, however, Edmonton has some management in control that were never part of the 1980's Oiler dynasty, so there's going to be some changes. But what kind of changes? Who will go? Who should they get? Who should they draft? And this intrigues me. I like to think I know hockey pretty well. So how would I fix the Oilers so that they can actually start winning?
Priority number one is the draft.
The biggest mistake the Oilers have made in recent history is going to all offense and no defense. When they did go defense, they either didn't turn out or they were sent away for more draft picks, which they used to pick more offense. While that may have worked in the 1980s, it definitely has not worked today. Taylor Hall, the Oilers top pick in 2010, looked to be on the verge of superstar-dom, and Edmonton still couldn't get out of the basement.
So, with the 4th overall selection at this years' draft, what should the Oilers do?
I think they should trade down a bit.
At the 4th spot, there are some very talented and strong kids, but generally all forwards. The Oilers definitely need to get tougher, but they first need a defenseman. In a recent Hockey News article, the author suggested trading with Carolina for young defenseman Justin Faulk, or with Colorado for fellow young defenseman Tyson Barrie. The article states that the Oilers could ship out one or more of their young forwards, specifically centerman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or winger Jordan Eberle, but that the other team may want more for their defenseman.
The author sees Carolina being reluctant to let Faulk go, since he's easily their number one defender, so that leaves Colorado as the trade target. Since Barrie will be a restricted free agent and its been slow-going getting a deal together with the Avalanche, he could be available. In order to coax the Avs to send them their defenseman, the Oilers send their 4th overall and Nugent-Hopkins in exchange for Colorado's 10th overall and Barrie, as well as a later round pick (probably 4th or lower).
Then, with the 10th overall, the Oilers could take one of the top end defensemen that could be available, those being Jakob Chychrun, Mikhail Sergachev, Olli Juolevi or reach a bit for Jake Bean. Should all those guys be gone, the Oilers could go for toughness, in either Max Jones, Logan Brown or Julien Gauthier. Jones is the smallest at 6-3 and 201 lbs. And these kids are 18.
I think that Edmonton should target St. Louis for their first. Yes, it will be a significant fall from 4 to somewhere between 26 and 30, but it won't hurt so much if it's paired with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. He was criticized in the early rounds of playoffs for not being as effective as he had been, so maybe he's available, which would be, in my opinion, perfect for the Oilers. He's a bit older than either Barrie of Faulk, and he does have is somewhat of a defensive liability, but that means the Oilers could get a bit more in return, in either picks or prospects, especially if the 4th + Nugent-Hopkins offer is still the deal. Maybe a goalie prospect like Jordan Binnington, or a defensive defenseman like Joel Edmundson or Jordan Schmaltz, or even a scoring winger like Ty Rattie or Dmitrij Jaskin. Then with the low pick, they either go goalie, like Carter Hart, a tough, two-way winger like Nathan Bastian or Boris Boris Katchouk, or try for defense, like Markus Niemelainen or Libor Hajek.
But if they keep their pick and try to trade player for player, which they very well might, they might try to get a power forward like Pierre-Luc Dubois or Matthew Tkachuk. Which would be alright. I just think they could do better.
After the draft, things really open up. They definitely need to trade a center, and RNH has been in the rumour mill for quite some time. He has great offensive instincts, but is quite small and has fallen down the Oiler depth chart. Send him away for defense. If they can't get a first-round pick paired with him, they should at least try for a second or third. Another player who has become a big question is Nail Yakupov, who will demand a lower asking price because of his lackluster play thus far. But, he is a former first overall, so he could get at least a decent prospect or a few picks.
One name that keeps showing up, though, is Jordan Eberle. I think trading him would hurt the Oilers' lineup more than help, as he's sort of become the heart of the team. He's a Western kid and has been with the team for the toughest years while still producing at a regular pace. Letting him go would also leave a massive hole on the right wing, with only Yakupov to take his place.
There are a number or other areas the Oilers need to address during this season, but with their crop of high-end talent, I think that they're fairly close to competing, or at least not sucking. They've been rebuilding for most of my adult life, and that's just too long. Just listen to me, Oilers, and all your problems will be solved.
Quick note: I said the last post was a part one of two (if I didn't say two, I'm saying it here), but I didn't get a lot of feedback on it, so I assumed people weren't really interested in it. If you want to hear the other side of the story, let me know. I like to hear what people think about these hockey posts, because I know it's more of a niche target audience.