The Edmonton Oilers find themselves in a curious predicament. The limitations of their roster are obvious to any hockey observer and yet the opportunity to grab a playoff spot in a rather pedestrian Western Conference is quite real. Though a return to the post-season remains priority one for the here and now, the long-term viability of this organization being able to enjoy future success is of far greater importance.
It’s no secret that general manager Peter Chiarelli is on thin ice and is in all-out survival mode. For those familiar with my writing, where I stand on the job the former Boston Bruins frontman has done since arriving in the Alberta capital is well-known. With that said, one can’t blame him for trying to save his job and doing his best to get this group over the proverbial hump and back to relevance.
Oilers’ Chiarelli Feeling the Heat
Problem is, getting back to that point has nothing to do with reaching the playoffs this season. If this team can be dragged kicking and screaming into grabbing one of the two available wild-card spots by Connor McDavid, so be it. But unless we are talking about making additions at little to no cost, this organization can ill afford to give up future assets and/or continue to wreak havoc on its salary cap.
With all due respect to Chiarelli, he created this mess and it’s going to take some clever manoeuvring and difficult decisions to fix. That isn’t going to happen between now and the NHL Trade Deadline but the situation could be made that much worse if the mentality is to reach the playoffs at all costs. We have already seen recent moves backfire and continuing down said path cannot be allowed to continue.
Be it the “additions” of the likes of Brandon Manning and Ryan Spooner or the rumoured speculation of potentially trading away their first-round pick or Jesse Puljujarvi, this madness needs to stop. If anything, this club should be looking in the opposite direction, with the hopes of shedding salary for the coming years or acquiring assets. It may not be a popular approach but it’s the one this organization should be taking over the coming weeks.
Tomorrow is What Matters…Not Today
Believe it or not but once Oscar Klefbom returns to the fold, the Oilers will be in a spot where they can move actual NHL bodies out. Now, does trading away a Kyle Brodziak, Zack Kassian, Alex Petrovic, Tobias Rieder or Kris Russell improve the team today? Probably not but the argument could be made their internal options are not much of a downgrade and it would benefit the team for next season and beyond.
Let’s not kid ourselves, if this group manages to sneak into the playoffs it will come down to the play of this lineup’s best players and a hot goaltender. That’s right, they will go as far as their captain and a few of his most talented friends can take them and no deadline addition is going to change that. In other words, the focus has to remain on tomorrow and if things happen to work out today, it’s an added bonus.
Again, this organization is going to have to make some tough decisions during the off-season and it will likely see a fan-favourite or two depart in order to try and fix the roster. Those aren’t decisions that should be made today and certainly not by the current general manager. So please spare me the rumblings of surrendering a first round pick and/or skilled young talent.
In order for this thing to have any hope of getting back on track, the panic moves need to stop. The Edmonton Oilers decided to go down said path following the 2015-16 campaign and they are paying for it now. One can only hope the higher-ups have finally learned from their previous blunders and start to make the most of the gift, hello Connor McDavid, that fell onto their lap back in April 2015.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.