With a five-game losing streak staring them square in the face, injuries starting to play a toll and still little to no scoring from the bottom half of the roster, the Edmonton Oilers, namely general manager Peter Chiarelli, needed to do something. The fans were getting restless, media was calling for change and there were even idiotic suggestions the team should look at moving Connor McDavid — such is the drama that comes with losing in Edmonton.
As the Oilers hit the ice for practice on Sunday morning, Chris Wideman was pulled off the ice 10 minutes into things and was informed he’d been traded. He was part of a deal that included a third-round conditional pick going to Florida for defenseman Alex Petrovic.
What the Oilers Gave Up
With all due respect to Wideman, the Oilers can’t lose this deal (unless you value a third-round draft pick more than what Petrovic might bring). Wideman was picked up from the Ottawa Senators in a trade that didn’t mean much when it happened and certainly didn’t mean much a few weeks after it took place. More often than not a healthy scratch when the Oilers had their regular rotation of defenseman available, with Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell down and out, Wideman was playing, but not very much. To say the least, he certainly wasn’t trusted by his coach.
Fans angry over losing Wideman — and I can’t imagine there are many — should keep in mind that in the last five games, Wideman was on the ice for five goals against. He never looked comfortable, he often seemed out of his element and, frankly, he’s not been the same since his surgery last season.
A free agent at the end of the season, there was really no scenario in which the Oilers were going to keep Wideman around.
What Did the Oilers Get in Petrovic?
An Alberta kid who is struggling in Florida, it can be argued the Oilers upgraded their defense when they moved out Wideman for 26-year-old Alex Petrovic. With no goals and one assist in 26 games for the Panthers this season, Petrovic isn’t exactly going to “light it up” from the blue line when he arrives. That said, the hope is that he can provide a more stable defense and element of sandpaper to a team that is sorely struggling to keep goals out of their own net.
As Kurt Leavins wrote, “Petrovic is no world-beater but he IS a “real” NHL D-man who defends pretty well.” Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer wrote, “Petrovic will upgrade a depleted Oilers D that won’t have Klefbom for weeks. Third-pairing right shot D. Has some jam, once fought Evander Kane 3 times in a game. Can make a decent first pass.”
When asked for comment, coach Ken Hitchcock provided an honest assessment in that he didn’t know much about his newest player. Citing that he’d only coached against him a couple of times, he called him a “defending defenseman who can make a good first pass. Size matters in this conference and his aggressiveness and competitiveness will certainly add to the third pair.” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins knows him well and says Petrovic plays with a bit of an edge.
More Deck Chairs Being Moved?
From the sounds of a number of Edmonton-based journalists, the Oilers may not be done. Mark Spector of Sportsnet reported, “Hearing from multiple sources that Chiarelli still has some balls in the air. Obviously recognizes need to make changes now. No promises, but stay tuned.”
The question worth asking, in the end, do these little moves matter? Petrovic might be an improvement over Wideman and with Russell returning, the defense will be improved. The reality is, the Oilers still aren’t good enough to contend for a playoff spot the way they’re playing and shuffling deck chairs just won’t be enough to completely reverse the fortunes of the last few games.
Whatever these “next moves” might be, it will be interesting to see if they include something more signficant or the GM is just moving small pieces around until the Oilers can snap this losing streak.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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