Can the Oilers not panic, but also improve this team?

This current road trip and to date the Oilers season has a lot of fans worried. Expectations were that Edmonton would at least be competing for a playoff spot and playing meaningful games in April and May. The way the season has progressed has the appearance that may not happen -- yet again.

Fans and media suggest the Oilers aren't gritty enough, don't have the will and desire, lack experience, are too young, need a better blue-line... you name it and people have suggested these are the problems. All of them may be right.

An area Edmonton wasn't supposed to be lacking in was skill and goal scoring, but they've struggled their too and failed to get shots on the opposing goalies net. Not a good sign.

So, how does GM Steve Tambellini improve this club now, but not panic in the process. Should Tambellini look to make trades, I'm sure many a General Manager would take his calls, but they'd all be asking for the same returns. Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, RNH, Justin Schultz and Klefbom, are likely not going anywhere.

The reality is, Edmonton's best players are young. They're extremely skilled, but they lack the experience and ability on many nights to compete with talent at a level of their opposition in the NHL. They may be able to keep up in terms of pure skill; but get pushed around, out-chanced and often outplayed a lot of the time. That's going to happen with a team this young. A team who's highest on-ice time players are all under 23 years old.

The real problem is that these skilled players need a mix of veteran talent to play with. To have RNH, Eberle and Hall on the ice together consistently looks great on paper, but in reality can be a dangerous game defensively. The Oilers veterans are older, coming to the end of their careers and play on the bottom-six lines where they might have a good shift or two, but don't help the young guys when they make mistakes.

That is the downside to consistently drafting in the top three spots in the draft. You can't not play the kids, but the kids aren't always ready.

Here's a few cast members that could play with these young guys and may be available in the NHL right now.

Ryane Clowe 

Clowe is a bonafide top six forward. He plays big, he can score and he's on a team right now rumored to be heavily involved in the trade market.

Some people may see this and say, "no way, the Sharks won't trade Clowe". But the Sharks do make big trades including Heatley for Havlat, Burns for Setoguchi and so forth. They aren't afraid to make a trade, even if it means they lose it long-term.

Clowe for Hemsky plus a pick? Clowe is a free agent at the end of the season, so that makes his value a bit lower and also a slight risk for Edmonton. Clowe has had a bad year offensively with only six assists and no goals in twenty games, but he's consistently a close to or over twenty goal fifty point player. He's the type of grit Edmonton needs and a change of scenery could be good for him.

Imagine Clowe out there with Yakupov (who would get to move back to RW) and Gagner? That could be a pretty good combination of grit, skill and determination.

John-Michael Liles

He's an experience d-man and just isn't getting the time in Toronto who may look to move him for an asset. I don't think the return would need to be significant and Edmonton shouldn't be looking to collect more draft picks, but move some of what they have for help that can improve this team right now.

Liles has one goal and five assists in fifteen games with the Leafs and he's locked in at a decent and not damaging contract for three more seasons after this one at $3.875 million. By today's NHL standards that's a going rate for a 3rd or 4th pairing guy.

The trick is making sure that Liles is a 3rd or 4th pairing blue-liner and an upgrade over Ryan Whitney who is on his last year at $4 million per.

Paul Stastny

He's a big cap hit and having somewhat of a down year, but he's a perfect second to first line center that can exchange ice time with a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If RNH is hurting or struggling the two can be interchanged easily to keep good skill on both lines.

Stastny has been rumored to be on the market - although I doubt there is a ton a validity to that - and with Colorado now having to pay Ryan O'Reilly big bucks on a matched offer sheet, could be on the move if the Avs can pick up a couple assets in return.

I'm not an advocate of moving Sam Gagner as I believe he's finally coming into his own in the NHL, but if you're going to, and the Oilers always seem to be rumored to, Edmonton needs to maintain a strong one-two punch and a bonafide center coming back is an absolute must.

Wayne Simmonds

I know, I know... I wouldn't move him either, but the Flyers may not have a choice. Their cap situation is going to cause them huge problems in the next couple of years. I would have said Jakub Voracek would have been the obvious move, but not after the year he's putting together. I don't see Voracek getting traded and the Flyers can't move Hartnell or Briere without their ok.

Yes, Gagne, Fedotenko and Jody Shelley come off the books, but that's not going to do much to help the Flyers long term who may be close to or over the new cap that kicks in next season. Simmonds has a new contract worth almost $4 million per starting next season and The Flyers could use picks, Edmonton can spare them. Would a package of Paajarvi, Marincin, 1st round pick and conditional 3rd rounder could get it done?

Edmonton could move an Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth to clear space to another team or on waivers (in Smyth's case) to make room for another right winger and I would do that if I'm the Oilers GM to get a guy like Simmonds who has skill and plays with the grit Edmonton is missing.

These guys are hard to get from other teams and despite the Flyers cap trouble, won't let him leave without a good to great return. He's young enough and locked up long term too so any team receiving him knows what they're getting for a long time.

If I had my wish, Edmonton's team would look something like:

Hall / Eberle / RNH

J. Schultz / N. Schultz


Post a Comment

More To Read