It’s a tough time to be an Oilers fan
Author: harrison brooks – contributor
I have to admit that as a Flames fan I have been more than pleased with just how bad the Edmonton Oilers have been. I almost get more joy watching the Oilers lose than I do watching Calgary win, but that’s beside the point. Just looking at the whole picture, with three first overalls and two other high firsts in the last five years, you wouldn’t think it makes much sense for them to be this bad, so why are they? And how do they fix it?
I told my friend, who is a lifelong Oilers fan, that I was writing an article about them and wanted his opinion on the current state of the team, and he replied with, “Can you put that iPhone emoji of a smiling poop in the paper?”
I think this clearly shows just how lousy the team has been, that their own fans feel this way about them. You can break down why they are so bad by categorizing it into three sections: management, coaching and players.
The first problem is the management seems to be absolutely blind to the fact changes need to be made. This accounts for both bad drafting, failure to bring in free agents, and probably the biggest concern, player development. Owner Daryl Katz can’t see that the President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe has failed to find scouts who can turn second, third, and fourth round picks into NHL quality players, and he needs to be fired for it. This, along with poor player development, is a huge problem for the organization and is the main reason they have no quality players to fill roles while they’re other prospects develop further. Lowe can’t see that the General Manager Craig MacTavish has failed to make the ‘bold moves’ that he promised to make when he came in, and needs to be fired because of it.
The second problem is coaching. The Head Coach Dallas Eakins has failed to get through to the entitled ‘stars,’ which is pretty much the worst thing when it comes to being a quality coach in the NHL. Adding to that, his coaching tactics, like swarm defence, aren’t only not working, but they are the laughing stock of the league. The players aren’t smart enough or dedicated to defence enough for even the most basic “D” strategies to work, so trying to stray from that and bring in new tactics was bound to fail from the start. He too needs to go.
So there it is, clean house and bring in all new management and coaches. But that’s just the start of the problem. It can’t all be on the management, at some point the players need to be accountable. The thing is, the players run the show there. Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle have been deemed the heroic saviours of this organization and they think, and act as if, they’re invincible, this leads to the entitled behaviour that I mentioned before. They need to go also, maybe not all three but at least two of them.
In my opinion, Hall is the one that needs to go first. You will hear people all over the league say things like, “Oh poor Hallsy, he works his butt off, but his team is holding him back.” That’s a load of crap, and is not the reason he needs to be the first to go. The reason he needs to go is because he is dumb as a stump. He is as dumb as Ryan Smyth, but doesn’t have half as much heart. Is that what you want from your leader and future captain? No. The upside of them trading Hall is that he has trade value, still, to some teams. If they can get one or two serviceable centres and a serviceable NHL quality defenseman, this trade will be a win. In my opinion Jordan Eberle should be the second one traded, preferably for a young defenseman with potential and again a serviceable NHL quality centre, if they can swing that, they’ll probably have to add something else, maybe Yakupov.
That’s many centres being brought in, but it’s for a very good reason. The reason they need more centre depth is because of their poor prospect development. They have been forced to throw their young centres like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl into roles they are in no way ready for, thus ruining their development. So, to fix that, they need to get a bunch of centres that can take the workload off these young guys and allow them to adjust, and focus on completing their 200-foot games. If they do all of this, it will put them on the right track to being competitive again.
These trades will also start to fix another huge issue, which is defence. They have a couple young high-potential D-men like Justin Schultz and Darnell nurse who, again, need both mentorship and sheltered minutes so they can become the well-rounded defensemen, which the Oilers currently don’t have. Improving the defence will help, and drastically improve, the quality of goaltending the team is getting, because as of right now not even Brodeur in his prime would be successful with the Oilers AHL caliber defence in front of him.
The real upgrade the Oilers would get by trading Hall and Eberle would be the change in culture. They could bring in guys who are dedicated to a 200ft game, who would then teach the new rookies the importance of team defence. Add that in with a new coach who puts emphasis on never taking a shift off and out working the opponent every second, and a new scout team who actually drafts smart players with NHL potential, then it really is the start of “building something special up there,” as once stated by Pierre McGuire. Sure, they will have to rebuild the rebuild, but they will be better in the long run and become a team with hope of one day making it back to the playoffs.