There’s always a bit of a tendency in a hockey-mad market like Edmonton to see the team suffer a couple of losses and begin to think the sky is falling. And, while there’s reason for slight concern after the weak effort put forth by the Edmonton Oilers in their 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday, there’s not a legitimate reason to panic.
8-2-1 on the season, a recent article written by The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples comes a bit out of left field. While he admits ” it’s not panic city”, in Edmonton, his article suggests fixing the issues but doing just that— panicking. Staples writes:
What would I do? I’m inclined to go nuclear, save for one thing, the Puljujarvi trade.
Edmonton’s going to be prone to stinker games until it more fully addresses the talent deficit on the bottom two lines and bottom-pairing defence.source – ‘Should Edmonton Oilers go nuclear to fix their lack of depth scoring?’ David Staples – Edmonton Journal – 10/29/2019
This is not a good idea and don’t expect the Oilers to “go nuclear” to fix the issues in the bottom-six.
Oilers Lack of Depth Scoring an Issue
No doubt, that the Oilers aren’t getting production from the bottom-half of their forward corps is a problem. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are machines, but even machines have a tendency to wear down. The organization might be starting to see glimpses of that in the last few games where McDavid hasn’t always been his “McDavid-like self” and Draisaitl scoring a couple times isn’t enough. The combination of GM Ken Holland and coach Dave Tippett certainly need to address the issue.
That said, with some roster shuffling as the Oilers take on the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, it appears the Oilers are trying to find internal solutions.
The top line will stay the same, but the big change is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and James Neal being split up in an attempt to spark other forwards. Tippett said, “There’s some execution stuff that just needs to be a little better. If we can balance some of the skill, maybe it can help some of them out.”
Gaetan Haas will get in the lineup and slide in alongside Neal while Jujhar Khaira — who has been among Edmonton’s most ineffective forwards — will get bumped up to the second line in what appears to be a “show-me” game.
Still, Staples suggests bigger and more drastic changes. Among them include calling up forward Kailer Yamamoto, getting defenseman Caleb Jones into the lineup, sitting Brandon Manning and Matt Benning, and perhaps finally trading Jesse Puljujarvi (in fairness, Staples didn’t like the idea of moving Puljujarvi yet.)
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A Few Arguments Against Staples Suggestions
First, one can argue that what Staples is suggesting isn’t actually the definition of Edmonton “going nuclear”. Trading Nugent-Hopkins in the next two weeks? That would be nuclear. Sitting an ineffective forward or blueliner and/or calling up a couple of the roster from Bakersfield? Not all that nuclear.
Second, as mentioned earlier, the Oilers are 8-2-1. And, while the game against Florida was ugly, it was hardly a game that suggested the season is slipping away from the team. Now, if Edmonton gets throttled by the Red Wings (3-8-1) on Tuesday, that could be an issue.
Third, bringing up a number of players from the farm team only does what Edmonton said they were no longer going to do, which is rush players.
The Oilers Will Likely Look Around
Until the Oilers go on a slide that affects the early points they’ve put in the NHL-standings bank, don’t expect drastic changes. Holland will likely see what’s out there in the marketplace — Jim Matheson suggested Sven Baertschi out of Vancouver — but even that might be hard to navigate considering the salary complications that would come with adding a player who makes more than $3.3 million per season over this and next year’s campaign.
More likely, as Holland has shown to do this season, patience will likely remain the flavor of the month.
This Can’t Last Forever
Finally, what people — and to an extent, Staples — are ignoring when they write that Edmonton is in trouble, is that this anomaly can’t last. The fact that no bottom-six forward has produced for Edmonton isn’t just unhelpful, it’s a fluke.
There are plenty of top-loaded teams in the NHL — Boston and Toronto among them — but what’s happening with the Oilers is just odd. 12 games into the season, there’s no easy way to explain why Khaira, Riley Sheahan, Josh Archibald, Markus Granlund, Sam Gagner, Haas, Patrick Russell and Alex Chiasson are all without a single goal on the season. This group had 64 goals among them last season in the NHL.
The game against the Red Wings couldn’t come at a better time. If the Oilers don’t play down to their opponent, the Red Wings are struggling enough that this is the kind of team, especially the defence, where the Oilers can explode offensively. If that happens, a lot of fans will quickly forget how ugly the game against the Panthers was.