When the Oilers managed to come to terms with Ales Hemsky on a two-year contract extension, it was a sign that maybe the Oilers had made a decision that they were going to stop selling off NHL players for assets and turn this rebuild into a legitimate NHL team.
Unfortunately, this attempt at a legitimate team is brought to you by the same guys who gave Cam Barker and Nikolai Khabibulin a home in Edmonton. The trade that sees Tom Gilbert go from Edmonton to Minnesota for Nick Schultz is a trade that once again shows the Oilers complete lack of understanding in terms of what it takes to make a quality hockey team.
Don’t misunderstand me. I think Nick Schultz is a solid defenceman and that he would have been a great addition to the Oilers blueline. But the cost to acquire him was far too high, especially when you consider the current state of the Oilers defensive group.
Heading into this season the Oilers had Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid as reliable, legitimate top 4 defencemen. Ryan Whitney was borderline simply because of health issues, and everyone else was either unproven (Jeff Petry), past their best before date (Andy Sutton) or had a track record of not being up for the task (Cam Barker, Theo Peckham and Corey Potter). Basically the Oilers needed something to happen out of virtually nothing and they were fortunate enough to have Jeff Petry (especially since the start of the calendar year), step into a top 4 role and contribute.
Think about this. The Oilers rebuild philosophy of “KIDZZZ!!!!” went out and worked. An organizational hole had been filled by an up and coming player that they had developed through their brand new farm system. It’s a joyous day for Oiler fans everywhere when something like this works.
Sadly, this is the same organization who looked at team toughness as a need and went out and added a pair of players who play less than 8 minute a night, then stare at each other with shit-eating grins like they’ve actually accomplished something.
It wasn’t good enough that Petry was able to fill an organizational hole. Oilers management had to look further up their depth chart to see if he could make anyone else expendable. After finally finding a couch that matches the rest of the living room furniture, the Oilers decided to move it into the bathroom to use it as a bath tub. Jeff Petry made Tom Gilbert expendable the same way a bowl makes milk expendable in cereal.
A player of Nick Schultz's calibre was desperately needed in addition to what this hockey team already had. Unfortunately, it seems the Oilers think that this trade (given their explanation) fixes a lot of what is wrong with this group on defence. This team would have been much better off trying to use free agency to bring in a player who could “help shut the door in close games” (Newsflash: if you felt Gilbert was terrible at this, why keep sending him out there coach??). Bring in a player who could be an addition to the core group. Even though this trade does not stop them from still adding a quality defenceman in the summer, this move is still bothersome.
It is bothersome because there was no need for this trade to be made on deadline day. Neither team will make the playoffs. Both players are signed long term. This trade has no real impact on the current season for either team. The Oilers could have kept Gilbert and seen what sort of options there were over the summer. Maybe they could find another guy like Gilbert, signed him and made this trade. Or maybe they could find a guy like Schultz and signed him without needing to trade anybody.
What this looks like is the Oilers making personnel decisions with hockey terms that aren’t really all that important. We need grit in our lineup. Sign some goons who play less than 10 minutes per night, that will make the lineup tougher! We need a shutdown defenceman. Quick, look for a guy with next to no points and trade the guy we play the most and in all situations for him. This trade makes it look like the organization is stuck in a time warp and making player decisions based on knowledge from 20 years ago.
Nick Schultz is a good player, but that doesn’t make this a good trade. The Oilers re-arranged the deck chairs on the titanic and broke up the life rafts to make a card table.