In Sunday night’s 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Oilers forward Ty Rattie played all of 3:32 minutes, highlighted by a total of 0:46 seconds in the second period and one shift in the third.
As Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wrote, “The Ken Hitchcock era predictably does not favour Ty Rattie. He’s had four shifts and 3:32 of ice time through two periods.” Spector has a point. In new coach Hitchcock’s system, a bigger emphasis is placed on a heavy style of play. We know this because in only three games, Hitchcock has put a line of Milan Lucic, Kyle Brodziak, and Zack Kassian together and he’s convinced general manager Peter Chiarelli to recall Jesse Puljujarvi from the AHL, thinking he needed someone with Puljujarvi’s size for the Oilers to compete in the Western Conference and Pacific Division.
Looking at the limited playing time being offered to Rattie and the fact that Rattie’s game is not a heavy one, what’s the plan for the forward who had more goals than any player in the NHL preseason?
What Was Supposed to Be for Rattie
There were many in Edmonton who predicted Rattie was going to go on a big run this NHL season. He finished the 2017-18 campaign strong when placed with Connor McDavid and when he returned this preseason for the Oilers, Rattie has seven goals and 11 points in four games. That was supposed to equate to 20 or 30 goals if Rattie got consistent time on the top line. In short, Rattie was one of the answers to the lack of depth question for the Oilers at right wing.
Unfortunately, Rattie was injured early in the season and missed a number of games with an abdomen injury. It derailed his momentum and put others in a position to succeed on the top line. With Drake Caggiula having some success, Rattie wasn’t immediately put back in his expected spot.
Former coach Todd McLellan seemed to have time for Rattie and the expectation he would be placed back up on that top line one day would come. Then, the realities for the Oilers, McLellan, and Rattie changed quickly.
What’s Happening to Ty Rattie
What was supposed to be for Rattie certainly isn’t what’s happening. Since Hitchcock took over the Oilers, Rattie hasn’t dressed for a game where he’s played more than 9:39 minutes. With each passing contest, his ice time has consistently dropped and Sunday’s game was by far his lowest. There were jokes on social media by the time the third period had started that Rattie probably hadn’t even left the dressing room or put his equipment on. The reality wasn’t too far from those poking fun.
Is this the future for Rattie when it comes to his role with the Oilers? Will he have the opportunity to earn his way back into Hitch’s lineup and onto the top line to reignite some chemistry with McDavid? Ryan Spooner got that spot on Sunday and certainly didn’t do much with it. Does that mean Rattie will get another look?
Maybe a Trade is Best
Rattie isn’t a fourth-line player in the NHL, that much is clear. He’s also not a proven talent despite glimpses of magic in relatively small sample sizes. If those glimpses have given another general manager in the NHL enough motivation to think that in an elevated role Rattie could help their team, the Oilers might want to consider making a move. The question is whether or not you can convince an opposing GM that Rattie can produce without McDavid as his center.
The return won’t be much, but if the Oilers have no intention of using Rattie, it doesn’t really matter. He’s making $800K this season and an RFA at the end of the campaign. If he’s not going to play, there’s no scenario where the Oilers hang onto him. Clearly, you don’t want to dump him for just anything because an injury is always possible and Rattie could once again get a chance, but if there’s a market out there, the Oilers should explore it.
Remember too, Hitchock has a history with this player and if he’s not playing him now, it’s very likely he’s got a reason. That too is not good news for a forward who seems to have some ability to score in bunches.
At the end of the day, if you’re not going play Rattie, trade Rattie. Or at least send him to Bakersfield where can do someone some good.