Where to begin?
I guess we can say the Edmonton Oilers rebuild started in 2010 when the Edmonton Oilers drafted Taylor Hall…although any astute observer would point out it should have (and probably did) start in 2006 when Chris Pronger led the exodus out of Kevin Lowe’s Egypt.
Lowe never was able to part the the Red Sea and employed a long list of toadies to insulate him from his failures as a general manager and, later, as a President of Hockey Operations.
No need to belabour his shortcomings as they are well documented so perhaps it will be more instructive to take the temperature of where the longest rebuild in NHL history stands now.
I’ve been saying for years that the Oilers rebuild was ass backwards from the start and that rings as true today as it did when it started.
In 2010, the Oilers drafted a winger, Taylor Hall, as the first piece of their future when a centre with at least as much potential was sitting right there.
Tyler Seguin has already gone supernova and may have won the Art Ross trophy last season had he not been a victim of a dirty hit while Taylor Hall remains an injury riddled gunslinger who gives up more than he creates.
While very far from a perfect stat, Hall’s career plus/minus is -23 while Seguin checks in at +68.
A year later, the Oilers would start to address their needs down the middle when they selected Ryan Nugent-Hopkins overall but they still remained inured to the notion that, since defensemen take longer to develop, it would be prudent to try and find a top pairing D or two to kick start the process and that decision would (and will) haunt them for several more years.
Adam Larsson, Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Brodin were all top 10 picks in 2011 and all of them are highly regarded top pairing D while Hopkins is likely a second line C.
While still void at centre and, more importantly on D, the Oilers would totally lose the script and draft Nail Yakupov 1st overall in 2012.
There is substantial evidence that the Oilers scouting staff wanted to draft a defenseman in the 2012 draft but were overruled by owner Daryl Katz who opted instead to draft the shiniest prospect in a draft that was incredibly deep in D in the top 10.
I dare say you couldn’t trade near bust Yakupov straight up for any of the D taken in the top 10 of that draft.
Griffin Reinhart (more later)
Old Oiler nemesis Brian Burke left the 2012 draft crowing he got the best player, Morgan Rielly, 5th overall and he was probably right.
The Oilers, meanwhile, are stuck with yet another disappointing winger and have had to overpay wildly to try and correct that mistake by trading for the most disappointing of that first round draft class, Griffin Reinhart.
Apparently two wrongs make a right 🙂
A year later, the Oilers would spend the 7th overall pick to draft Darnell Nurse who has progressed reasonably well but has already been passed by Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, Mirco Mueller and will soon feel some heat from Samuel Morin, Ryan Pulock and Josh Morrisey.
Nurse may well have a chance to become a top pairing D but, most often, those guys appear early and Nurse is almost 21 years of age with only 2 games of NHL experience to his credit.
I would wager he’ll be a very good #3 leaving the Oilers without a true #1D they should have in the stable after almost a decade drafting near the top of draft.
In 2014, it’s somewhat understandable the Oilers would address their dire need at C by taking one at #3 overall…the problem is, they took the wrong one.
Dynamic centre Sam Bennett was ranked ahead of Leon Draisaitl by virtually every scouting service including the “Oracle” Bob McKenzie.
Had Bennett not been injured in his draft year, he may have gone 1st overall but the Oilers opted to draft the next Joe Colborne when they had a shot at the next Doug Gilmour.
I expect Flames fans will be mocking that decision for the next decade.
Despite a decade of gaffes, the Oilers defied the odds and won the 2015 draft lottery and that triggered a series of events that may give even the most jaded Oiler fan some realistic hope for the future.
I’m convinced the potential of drafting Connor McDavid resulted in a phone call from league offices and/or McDavid’s agent Bobby Orr that served as a wake up call to Oilers’ owner Katz that his old boys club gong show needed to come to a quick end.
And it did.
After conducting a “forensic audit” that, honestly, could have been conducted by a drunk chimpanzee, Bob Nicholson decided that Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish were not up to the task of building a winning hockey team.
That neither was fired outright remains a concern but at least someone else is now has the last word on team building.
Enter new GM Peter Chiarelli and new head coach Todd McLellan.
While these hirings represent a huge upgrade on the their predecessors, I believe a little critical thinking is needed here.
Chiarlelli did win a cup with the Bruins but his propensity to overpay bottom 6 role players and his decision to trade Tyler Seguin, combined with his mismanagement of the Bruins’ cap had him run out of Beantown on a rail.
The overpayments for Andrej Sekera, Griffin Reinhart and Lauri Korpikoski suggest Chiarelli may not have learned his lesson.
That he did not exercise buyouts on Andrew Ference, Nikita Nikitin or Teddy Purcell also shows that he doesn’t have a firm grasp on value for dollars.
Certainly worth watching but, in the interim, he is carrying more than $10 million in cap space for players who are below replacement value and when you consider the $3.9 million accruing to AHL level defenseman Justin Schultz, it looks even worse.
Many Oiler fans are giddy that Todd McLellan is their new coaching messiah but they haven’t exercised critical thinking in assessing his body of work in San Jose.
He took over a team that Ron Wilson had taken to the next level and, despite a star studded lineup, was never able to get the team to reach expectations.
McClellan took over a team that finished with 108 points in Wilson’s final season in 2007/08.
Over his tenure in San Jose, his record was as following:
57 (lockout season)
In other words, the Sharks slowly declined in performance during his tenure and were never able to advance to the Stanley Cup finals despite an almost all star lineup.
Whether or not he can take a young team and move them up the standings against incredibly fierce competition is a question that has yet to be answered.
So, what can we foresee for the Oilers in a season that could see them miss the playoffs for a record 10th straight season?
Well, the playoffs aren’t anywhere near a possibility….the team still has too many question marks to challenge the Big Boys in the western conference.
Once again, the Oilers go into a season with questions marks in goal, and on D and while McDavid will certainly make a difference, unless he can influence the Oilers atrocious team D even with the addition of yet another second pairing D in Sekera, it would take a Vezina Trohpy season from unproven starter Cam Talbot to move up much at all in the standings.
Calgary, Los Angeles, San Jose and, especially, Dallas will all be better this season and let’s remember the Colorado Avalanche, despite having a very disappointing season, finished 28 points ahead of the Oilers.
I have no doubt the Oilers will be better but I expect only the Arizona Coyotes will care very much.
13th in the west…again.