I apologize for the unoriginal title and format of the blog but there really is two levels of bad to the Oiler's situation.
The Oilers did better than we all expected them to do. The proved that they could win without a solid blue line (especially in game six). It saw great season's from a bunch of players and confidence that very well might make the careers of guys like Kassian and Maroon.
The team showed that they weren't a one horse show. Easily the best player in the playoffs was not the one we thought but the much older center Draisaitl. This team were led by him, McDavid and Talbot which was amazing to see. Not only led but these players showed without a doubt that they are among a short list of players that are already compared to past greats and hall of famers at what is essentially the second year in their NHL roles. McDavid's future is all but mapped out but Talbot and Draisaitl are way better than anyone could have hoped for when the Oilers got them.
The year showed Klefbom finally emerge as the Oilers number one defender and arguably a legitimate 1-2 pairing defender in the NHL on almost any team. Nurse's playoff performance was incredible for his NHL experience and it should give Oiler fans hope that he can be a solid two way defender next year and arguably already better than Sekeras on the left side. The right side is still nothing to celebrate. Larsson was decent but not 4 million decent. Russel and Benning were good value but they are really tier 3 defenders.
Nuge really showed promise. He wasn't given the chances that McDavid and Draisaitl were but he looked dangerous on most shifts. Caggula was good. I don't think he ever should have seen top line ice time but he is a solid third line player. Kassian has raw talent and with a little more experience I think he would be a great second line and maybe even first line winger. Letestu did great, not sure why he was the "shooter" on their PP when Klef can slap it over 100 mph, Draisaitl is an amazing goal scorer and McDavid can pick holes like no one else, but I would be protecting Letestu in the expansion draft.
The Oilers are young. They got a ton of experience and they easily could have beat ANA had they played their game for a full 60 during any of the losses. Great positive to take away from this. To be honest, I didn't like their odds against the Pens anyways so a game 7 finish against ANA isn't a bad way to go. They still lack depth. When it makes sense to put a fourth line player that barely made the team on line one, then that says you are missing some decent wingers. Slepyshev did good but McDavid shouldn't have to be shadowed and carry two players.
The Oilers team as a whole. They seemed motivated but never seemed able to keep it. They would be the best team in the playoffs for 10 minutes at a time. This is not terrible, this can be coached, or it might just be an experience/confidence thing. Who knows why the highs and lows on the ice but it was bad. They didn't show up for a large portion of many games and as much as some players looked great, it was Talbot that kept them in games they shouldn't have been in.
The Oilers had no real support from the wing. No one consistent. They got goals from Letestu who played wing towards the end, Caggula, Maroon, Kassian... but none of these are top line guys on any cup contending team. I know Maroon had a great year but a trained chimp would have a great year playing with the number one and number eight point getters in the league as line mates. I am not convinced he could have produced on any other line. He does however look a lot more confident so maybe they have created a player where there wasn't one. Like LeClair when he moved to Philly, he was nobody in Toronto.
The Oilers got almost nothing in the playoffs from most of their budget. Their top 6 forwards (not including bonuses) are Eberle, Nuge, Lucic, Pouliot, Deshanais and Hendricks. Their top defender is Sekeras. 32.5 mil of their 62 mil, more than half is paid to these 7 players.
Best thing Sekeras did in the playoffs was get injured so Nurse and Klef got more ice time. Eberle and Pouliot were as effective and Hendricks. Nuge, Lucic and Deshanais were okay but they weren't good. Deshanais as a 4th line center was worth the money the Oilers paid. Lucic made some good hits and looked like he almost had talent at times. At 6 mil with a NMC, the Oilers needed to get someone that could put the puck in the net. Say what you will but at the same price on a better contract, I would rather have had Hall. Nuge looked good but he also looked expendable. Like he was taking ice time from Draisaitl or McDavid who could have been doing it better for less.
That said. Eberle and Nuge did great in the regular season. Their points helped get the Oilers to the playoffs. Can you fault them for being bad their first time? That's a lot of pressure and they weren't given a lot of help. Lines weren't producing so McLellan changed every line but theirs until the middle of the ANA series. When he finally did it was a punishment and not an attempt to spark something. Eberle had 51 points this year. You want to get him to produce, not add more pressure to the guy. He should have got a chance with McDavid before Slepyshev of Caggula ever did. Even one period or even when they were up 7 to 1.
McLellan and his coaching is as bad as it gets with the Oilers. He couldn't spark anything with any player. He couldn't get the refs to call anything towards the Oilers where Carlyle seemed to be playing them like a fiddle (and Carlyle is border line retarded). His line combinations made no sense. Playing McDavid on the PK was ridiculous. This is where Nuge and Draisaitl excel, why put out your best offensive player. Any other coach would have saved him to play right after when the kesler and getzlaf lines were tired. He had Kassian and Letestu to play pk as well, there was never a reason to have Pouliot out there.
He sent Desharnais to take numerous specialty team offensive zone faceoffs when there were second left in the penalites. Key faceoffs that should have went to ANY OTHER CENTER. He played a one defender PP almost all season EXCEPT when the Oilers had injuries all in the same game to three blue liners. Then he tried to play two rather than just putting Larsson on the point with defensive minded forwards he put Russell and Benning out. Worst PP ever and it seemed like he was trying to throw the game.
The team seemed free to play anyway they wanted. Constantly announcers saying that the opposing team was using "a set play" but how many set plays did you see the Oilers run. Anything look organized about their defensive zone breakouts or their offensive cycling? They position of where the players are in the sense that they were playing a passive box offense but you get taught that in Tiny Mites. Remember when the Oilers use to cycle down low? They use to use their talent to keep the puck. They hardly won games but they looked dangerous while not winning. What is McLellan doing with these guys? Obviously not helping with faceoffs.
The teams management is still brutal. The coaching costs them games. The GM is easily one of the worst in the league and the Ugliest part is that since the team did well, people think that Mclellan and Chiarelli are doing well. The two are not connected. The team did well in spite of these two.
Chiarelli did trade for Talbot. He overpaid for a backup and he got lucky. He actually sent Talbot to the minors as well which people don't talk about when praising the genius. He gave up before really giving the guy a chance. Then traded all our backups for nothing (Scrivens not included since he wasn't a backup and had some value). Then beauty idea, he decided to not even get a backup before the playoffs. Awesome idea.
He traded Yakipov away for nothing. The guy didn't have to go. We replaced him with worse. He traded Hall for Larsson and I don't care whether you like either player, you have to know that Hall was worth more. He bought out Korpikoski who we have a million cap hit for next year as well. The guy had a good year and was actually traded at the deadline for what I consider a higher return than what we got for Hall.
Chiarelli said he wanted to add a top six forward at the trade deadline. His words. He couldn't do it and it was easy to do. Even if it was just 39 year old Iginla who wanted to play in Edmonton and had a great end of the year in LA. Or Vanek who signed with Edmonton before who also was cheap, cost nothing to get and is a pending UFA. At 33 Vanek might have signed a cheap contract extension and been that option on wing that the Oilers need. Able to play any of the top 3 lines if needed. The list is long and he couldn't get any.
Still the best option is the fragile yet talented Ales Hemsky. Yeah I said it. The pending UFA is just 33 years old. A first round pick by the Oilers and a guy that use to bleed copper and blue (a lot, he really is fragile). Yes, much like the more adored Ryan Smyth, it is time for equally as goofy looking Hemsky to come home. Someone had to say it. That person would be wrong but still funny to say.
Chiarelli's lack of ability to get a defender of any merit or do anything at the draft other than the easiest pick ever in McDavid, is mind boggling. Yes, I still think Puljarvvi is not as good as Tckauck (still hate his dad so I refuse to spell his name right). Puljarvvi will be a good player but just not as good.
This year has the expansion draft, tough choices with what to do with Nuge and Eberle. Right now Draisaitl was playing the top RW spot but with Pulj and Kassian both competing for a RW spot and Letestu being more than capable of centering the third line, one of the 6 mil contract seems expendable. Maybe not this year but parting with one this year allows the Oilers to protect one more player during the expansion. That's a tight deadline but one that needs considering.
Chiarelli got Larrson for Hall. He got less than nothing for Koripkovski who another GM had no problems getting a high draft pick for. I am not sure he could get a second tier defender for McDavid. The guy is a ridiculously bad GM and this is the worse offseason for the Oilers to have him. I don't know how he will do it but come the start of next season he will have made the Oilers worse than they are right now. Doesn't get Uglier than that.