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Half Measures

The Oilers continue to stop short of doing enough to make meaningful progress on the road to respectability.

Bruce Bennett

I'm running out of ways to write this article, but I'm going to try it one more time.

There's a great scene in "Breaking Bad" where Mike Ehrmantraut discusses with Walter White a lesson he learned in his days as a cop. In the scene, Ehrmantraut recalls an occasion where he threatened to kill a serial domestic abuser to try and scare some sense into the man before ultimately letting him go with a warning...Two weeks later that same man killed his wife. The scene describes the perils of using a "Half Measure" and stopping short of what is really required to get the result you're looking for.

The speech ends with Mike saying he would never make the same mistake again. I wish the management team of the Oilers could say the same thing.

All Just A Case of History Repeating

During my two and a half years of writing with Copper & Blue, I've written about this issue a number of times. In the summer of 2012 I looked back at the failures of the 2011 off-season acquisitions and pointed out  where the Oilers had failed to do enough to make the necessary improvements from the 2010 squad. The next day, I forecasted the failure of the 2012/13 team if no additional moves were made because the club had once again stopped short of truly addressing their deficiencies and the result was predictable.

Once again last summer, I noted ahead of the season that the roster was likely Not Yet a Playoff Team and took MacTavish to task for stopping short of taking the necessary action to have a realistic shot at the post-season. After the season was essentially over by Halloween, I  took a bit of a different approach by pointing out the Paralysis that is created by the fear of the opportunity cost of shaking up the roster to create meaningful change.

The Common Thread

In all of those past articles the constant was that the Oilers management team stopped short of doing what was truly necessary to pull this franchise out of the gutter. To paraphrase the scene above, they "used a half measure when they should have gone all the way".

Poised for Failure...Again

As we sit on the eve of the 2014/15 season, the team has done it yet again. After what I feel very comfortable saying was the most difficult season to watch in Edmonton Oilers history last year where the team led the league in goals against...they added one established top 4 defenceman. One. Mark Fayne. Beyond that, they used a series of half measures by relying on the internal development of their prospects and signing 3rd pairing blueliner Nikita Nikitin to a VERY lucrative 2 year contract.

The Blueline

Is the team's blueline better? Absolutely. Last year's group was horrendous and this may be the first year in five seasons they can legitimately say they have 6 actual NHL-calibre Dmen on the roster. So, they're better...are they good enough to compete? Not even close. MacTavish's reluctance to either a) admit the error that was the Andrew Ference contract or b) deal some of his prized youth for immediate help has left them with a situation where the left side of the blueline to start the season has a 35 year-old bottom-pairing Dman and two kids with a combined 17 games of NHL experience. Was it really that impossible to go out and get another legitimate top 4 player?

The Pivot Position

Looking at the centre position, after a season that magnified the glaring holes down the middle of the line-up, the team dealt the flawed Sam Gagner and replaced him with...nobody. When your head coach opens training camp by openly admitting that the entire organization only has two NHL centres in it, its not hard to make the case that maybe a little more should have been considered during the off-season. Heck, as Jonathan Willis noted in this piece, the Minnesota Wild have tried and are still trying to deal Kyle Brodziak, who could likely be had for pennies on the dollar.

The unwillingness of the management group to impede the ascension of new prized draft choice Leon Draisaitl to an NHL job has once again handicapped the team before the season begins. In recent days MacT and Coach Eakins have repeatedly stated that Draisaitl earned the spot by being the 2nd best centre in camp and winning the job. Its rarely acknowledged by the team though that the competition was so non-existent that he would essentially have had to play blindfolded in order to lose the job. Draisaitl wasn't even forced to compete with the other Oilers centre who was looking to establish himself as a full-time NHLer this year. Both he and Marc Arcobello were gifted top 9 jobs just by showing up to camp in decent shape.

The Definition of Insanity

Sure, the moves made over the summer were largely defensible. They got an actual NHL player in return for Sam Gagner in Teddy Purcell. They added a valuable depth winger in Benoit Pouliot. These are serviceable moves independently, but for yet another season they scream of a job that has once again been left incomplete. The team needed more, and MacTavish failed to deliver. Consequently, they are (rightfully so) being widely predicted to finish no better than 6th in the Pacific division and 12th or 13th in the Western Conference. Another season in danger of being over before it even truly begins.

Everyone knows the famous Albert Einstein quote..."The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". That's not the actual dictionary definition of insanity, but it is a pretty crazy thing to do and the fact that the Oilers management team has done so time and again over the last few years is a big part of what is driving Oilers fans (like me) absolutely nuts.