Right now the Edmonton Oilers are clinging to a wild card spot in the Western Conference, which is a far cry from their outstanding 2019-20 season debut.
It will be a fight to make the playoffs, and if the Oilers want to advance to the postseason, general manager Ken Holland needs to shake things up. What do the Oilers need? A third-line center or a second-line winger would be ideal.
The franchise cannot risk missing another postseason opportunity, especially when they have the best player in the league on their team. It’s embarrassing.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at why the Oilers should trade for a rental.
Can’t Afford to Waste McDavid
Connor McDavid’s comments after failing to make the playoffs again last season undoubtedly propelled a blaze of fear in fans. After the 3-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on April 1, 2019, officially eliminated the Oilers from playoff contention, McDavid told the media about his frustration level:
“It’s really high. It’s really, really high. We want to play in the playoffs as a team. I personally want to play in the playoffs. I’m not happy about it. It’s going to be a long summer.”
He also said, “We have a lot of crap to figure out.”
It’s essential that the Oilers do what they can to ensure that McDavid makes the playoffs. McDavid is the “McJesus,” the Batman, the Harry Potter of the Oilers, but every hero needs support—the Holy Trinity, Robin, Ron Weasley, a third-line center, a second-line winger, and so on.
What’s the point of letting these seasons with McDavid go to waste?
Tough Schedule Ahead
Up to this point, the Oilers have had the 24th easiest schedule, whereas they’re projected to have the 12th hardest schedule for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames have had the sixth toughest schedule until now, but have the easiest schedule coming up. And they are one of the teams that the Oilers will definitely be battling for a playoff spot with. Both the Oilers and the Flames have 47 points, which makes the Battle of Alberta more interesting, so there’s one (sad) plus.
Unfortunately, the Golden Knights (ranked 16th) and the Vancouver Canucks (ranked 18th) have easier schedules than the Oilers for the remainder of the season. And guess what? The Canucks now sit one point ahead of the Oilers in the standings. Weren’t they supposed to be in a rebuilding phase? Sigh.
Thankfully, the Arizona Coyotes have a tough schedule ahead, too (ranked 11th).
Need to Avoid End-Of-Season Frustration From Players
After the Oilers were eliminated from playoff contention in 2018-19, McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Darnell Nurse spoke publicly about their frustrations.
As aforementioned, McDavid claimed that his frustration level was “really, really high.” Nugent-Hopkins talked about the disappointment of being in his eighth year and only making the playoffs once, and Nurse commented on how it’s been too many years since they’ve had the chance to make the playoffs and “we need to figure it out.” (from ‘Robert Tychkowski: Oilers management shouldn’t ignore warning shots from frustrated players’, Edmonton Journal – 4/2/19).
And when McDavid dares to let his frustration show, it’s more frightening than watching Anaconda with your eyes taped open.
The bottom line? The franchise can’t afford to sit around like useless squibs when April rolls around, especially when they have the best player in the world on their team. It’s not fun listening to high-end players unveil their disappointment towards the organization.
So let’s avoid that this year, shall we?
Lack of Depth
It’s no secret that the Oilers lack depth. They’ve lacked depth for the entirety of the last decade. During the 2016-17 season, the Oilers had five players score 20-plus goals (129 in total), and three players reach the double digits (amounting to 46 goals). And that was the last time they made the playoffs.
Last season, depth scoring dropped: four players scored 20 or more goals (amounting to 141, but McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined for 91 tallies), but only two reached double-digits (amounting to 25 goals).
And this season, the Oilers have struggled to score. Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t even reached double digits in goals yet (I trust he’ll pick up his game). At this point, only four forwards are producing: McDavid, Draisaitl, Neal, and Kassian. But the Oilers are clearly dependent on McDavid and Draisaitl.
The point? The Oilers need to add more depth to the line-up.
Which Players Should Holland Consider?
Mark Spector from Sportsnet shared his three bold predictions for the Oilers, one being that Holland trades for Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators. So far this season he has 18 goals and 11 assists, which is far better than any of the Oilers’ bottom-six players. Pageau even has double the goals of Nugent-Hopkins.
It’s been noted that Holland doesn’t want to give up draft picks, but I think it’s worth it to trade for a 27-year-old center with a $3.1 million cap hit. Pageau would help to provide some much-needed depth without giving up too much (hopefully).
Another option would be Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings. The right winger may help out Nugent-Hopkins, who is in need of a talented, goal-scoring winger. Toffoli has 11 goals and 12 assists so far. His $4.6 million cap hit may be higher than Pageau, but at least it’s not as hefty as Taylor Hall’s contract.
Both contracts expire this coming summer, so the Oilers don’t have to commit to signing an extension for either player.
Plus, Kailer Yamamoto and Tyler Benson will be more developed by the start of next season, which may help to solve the depth scoring problem without having to spend a lot of cash. One can dream, right?
The previous decade (and some seasons before) was all about rebuilding for the Oilers, but fans don’t want to hear that ugly word muttered anymore. It’s a taboo word. So it’s time to take a risk, one that will propel this franchise into the playoffs.