Over the past few weeks I have started and stopped writing this blog several times. I wanted to write about how all the woes the Edmonton Oilers are currently facing should not only have been expected, but were avoidable. Admittedly, the reason I held off was because I did not want to jump the gun and was hoping this team would prove me wrong.
That doesn't seem to be the case so here we go.
Aside from some atrocious calls, the reason the Oilers lost to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the 2016-2017 playoffs were as followed:
1) Lack of Scoring Depth (particularly at RW)
2) A Third Line Centre capable of offense
3) Unable to answer the fast puck moving defense of the Ducks
These issues were answered as followed
1) Acquired Jussi Jokinen who came off a bad year, shooting well below his regular numbers so instead of banking on Pouliot to perform as he has in the past we are going to buy him out and acquire an unknown commodity we are hoping will do the exact same thing (BTW Pouliot current has 2 goals to Jokinen's 0).
2) Trade Jordan Eberle, the only real top 6 right wing option the team had for Ryan Strome. Who can play on a top line with McDavid? Or maybe he will be the third line centre?
3) Not signing any NHL defensemen even though you know one of your only puck moving defensemen will be out until December.
The Oilers had a great 2016-2017 campaign but many of the contributing factors (very little time lost to injury, high shooting percentages) are things that cannot be counted on year after year. Most of these concerns of the team's makeup were shot down by the fanbase for being "too negative." While many wanted to deny it the fact remains that the writing has been on the wall for months. What's even worse is these were obvious issues that management saw and either ignored or potentially worse did not think existed.
Chiarelli and Co decided to bank on players such as Caggiula, Slepeshev, Puuljujarvi, and Benning to develop in a straight line and sudden produce like top 9 forwards and top 4 D-men because... reasons? Despite the magical element of "being one year older" nothing remotely suggested these players were ready to step into prominent roles and if someone even mentions Caggiula having a couple good shifts with McDavid in the playoffs I will personally drive to their house and slap them.
This next sentence is absolute fact so listen up and accept it. Wasting the last year of Connor McDavid's entry level contract should 100% be a fireable offense.
McDavid is as cheap now as he will ever be. Next year is when the cap game begins so it baffles me why the team is doing it now. According to CapFriendly the team has $10,297,327 is cap space right now. Why? I'm assuming the original plan was Chiarelli was ready to go hard at the trade deadline and take on some bigger contracts. Right now something has to be done otherwise we'll be talking about prospects instead of players. The team traded Jordan Eberle for cap space but as it stands they did not need to worry about that cap space until next season.
Rewind a couple years back when Chiarelli took over. Most people were excited about having a veteran GM calling the shots, especially when he discussed his plans to Bruinize the team. Last year the team flourished with a hybrid mix of speed size and talent. The current iteration of the Oilers are slow. Lucic, Maroon, Larsson, Strome, Jokinen, Letestu, Russel; these are not fast players. The NHL is an ever changing league. The mid to late 2000 Cup Champions such as the Bruins and Kings dominated because that's how the game was played. Today we see teams like the Leafs and Lightning showing success by playing a high tempo game. Chiarelli has removed many of the players that were capable of doing this in favour of an outdated style.
Can the Oilers make the playoffs? Yes. Will they? As the team stands I don't see it. The team has shot themselves in both feet to start the year and unless they basically have an opposite record 7-3-1 in November, they will begin December below .500.
Right now there isn't much left to say. I thought that the Decade of Darkness was the most disappointing time to be an Oilers fan but honestly I think this is worse. To have watched the success from last year, only to see it failing so tremendously this year hurts. In the meantime there is nothing we can do except to sit back and wait until Chiarelli inevitably trades Nugent Hopkins for... I dunno Lawson Crouse?
Thanks for reading