Saturday, June 27, 2015


I don't dislike the Edmonton Oilers, but it has been fun poking at them and their fans since the mid-1990s.  No other NHL team (Toronto included) has over valued its prospects and, at the same time, been so inept at getting talent from the junior level into the NHL beyond the very obvious draft selections.

This season, they were smart.  They drafted Connor McDavid and then traded all of their other picks.  I mean, it's not like they knew what to do with anything after the first round anyway.  Plus, General Manager Peter Chiarelli just fired all of the incompetent scouts; so I'm not sure what list he would have used.

To find an Oiler player who has made it to the NHL to play significantly who wasn't a first rounder, you have to scroll back through the years until you get to Anton Lander, who was a second round selection in 2009.  Theo Peckham was a third rounder in 2006.  To find a steal, you would have to go back to 2003 and the 7th round selection of Kyle Brodziak or 1998 and the 4th round choice of Shawn Horcoff.  I mean, this team just drafts badly.

I had some hope for them once word got out in April they had won the draft lottery (again) and would be choosing the next Wayne Gretzky (Connor McDavid).  Ownership got rid of the 'old boys club' hierarchy in management and put Bob Nicholson and Peter Chiarelli in charge.

Chiarelli was just fired by the Boston Bruins and seeing what the Bruins did on the weekend, the picture as to why is becoming real clear.  The man created a roster that was destined for salary cap hell.  But, at least, he had good players and his team won a Stanley Cup.

Let's review the weekend.  The Oilers traded 2 early picks to the Islanders for Griffin Reinhart, who hasn't proven a thing in the NHL.  He still has a bit of a shine on him as a prospect; but when you consider arch rival Calgary was able to get Dougie Hamilton for 3 early draft picks, this move has to go down as an epic fail.  The word is that Chiarelli refused to part with Darnell Nurse in order to get Hamilton.  We will see in two or three years whether that was the right thing to do or not, but I'm thinking if Nurse ends up being a Norris contender on a regular basis throughout his career, this is still a move Chiarelli should not have passed on.  Hamilton is 22 and coming off  a 42-point season.  He's already one of the better blueliners in the league and only going to get better.  Nurse and Reinhart may have futures, but how many other young Edmonton prospects have we said that about? Let me help - David Musil, Martin Marincin, Troy Hesketh, Alex Plante, Taylor Chorney, Danny Syvret, Doug Lynch, and Michael Henrich just to name a few.  With that kind of track record, Nurse is expendable to get Hamilton locked up for five or six years.  Hamilton, by the way, plays the game similar to Chris Pronger and the Oilers made the finals the one year they had him in the fold.  So, I'm going to give the Oilers a fail on the Reinhart acquisition combined with their refusal to step up and pay to get Hamilton into the fold.  To make matters worse, Hamilton isn't likely to make things easy for McDavid and company as that will now be a match-up that will get a lot of focus in the Battle of Alberta.  Calgary, by the way, didn't need a defenseman; but they recognize the importance of having a back end that is superior to other clubs.  They've got five defensemen better than Edmonton's number one.  Ouch.

Let's assume you pass on Hamilton because, at 22, he's deemed to be too old at 25 when you are ready to be a contender.  That's silly talk, but astute Oiler fans will justify it.  So, I'll give you that.  Don't bother with Hamilton.  It's too early.  Why then would you give up more draft picks for one year of Cam Talbot to play goal?  And, is Talbot coming to Edmonton with any better a pedigree than what Ben Scrivens had?  Talbot may very well be better than Scrivens, but it's the exact same risk.  I'd much rather see the Oilers fix their defense and then make another judgement on Scrivens.  The days of having a goalie bail out or mask other weaknesses are gone.  There are no more Tommy Salos, Curtis Josephs, or Dwayne Rolosons.  Nowadays, you just hope your goalie doesn't mess his pants bad enough to cost you a playoff position or series.

It's still very early in the offseason, but call me very underwhelmed and disappointed in Edmonton.  To me, if they thought Chiarelli had screwed things up that bad; they should have given him a chance to manage his way out of it.  What they did this weekend ranks up there with their Boston Red Sox baseball cousins.  It's just plain stupid.  You don't trade players of Dougie Hamilton's ilk.  You just don't.  If you have to trade Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic in order to keep do it.  Those players are just so hard to get.  Speaking of Lucic, he was traded too but the Bruins kept half of the money.  Why bother if you are in a salary cap crunch?  And, why get a back-up goalie in this deal when they can be found anywhere?  Or, are the Bruins setting themselves up to trade Tukka Rask too?  Wouldn't surprise me.  I'm having a hard time in believing there is a sensible means to the ends of what new GM Don Sweeney is doing.

A lot of folks were impressed with Buffalo, but if Ryan O'Reilly continues to seek maximum money then he is only going to be a one year player for them.  He's in dreamland.  There is nothing to suggest he's worthy of even 50% max money.  No wonder Colorado punted on that one.  Matt Duchene makes $6-million a year.  O'Reilly is not Duchene.  And, if O'Reilly's dreamland resembles that of Evander Kane then it's going to be a great year of drama in Buffalo.  The Lehner acquisition in goal is risky, but all netminder trades are.  It's the most inconsistent position in the NHL.  If you are a rebuilding team, why make a trade for someone who only has one year left on his deal?

I really like what Calgary has done.  They are building a nice club and not afraid to make the trades to add to their group.  I wish Winnipeg would take this next step and get a game breaking forward (no, not Phil Kessel).

But, speaking of the Leafs, I wonder what TSN and Sportsnet will tell us as far as the offers received by them on Kessel and Phaneuf.  I'm sure they will spin tales of 'almost' and 'just not enough for an elite talent like Kessel', etc.  Let them.  The reality is that it's going to be hard to find a sucker to take on that money and term Kessel is owed, all the while knowing he could go into Operation: Shutdown at any second.

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