Because I had better things to do, I didn’t tune into any part of the Oilers last three games – all losses, although two did at least come with a point thanks to Gary Bettman. With those three losses the team’s current losing streak stands at ten games, any hope of salvaging the season went up in flames long ago, and the calls for change are a whole hell of a lot louder now than they were when I last watched the Oilers play just seven days ago.
And there is nothing surprising about the fans and media calling for change. A team losses games, people would like to see the team make some changes so they start winning games, that’s essentially how sports work. And that change can come in two forms: change in management or a change in the players. Of the two changing management is usually simpler – you can’t fire 23 players – and given the current losing streak I’m a little surprised that the head coach, Dallas Eakins, hasn’t already been shown the door, even if I don’t think he’s the man most responsible for all of this.
If the coach isn’t going to be fired then that leaves some personnel changes, right? Well, when it comes to the Oilers, I have my doubts that changes will happen any time soon.
Because it is very difficult to get something for nothing, to make a trade you need something that the other team values, these are what I tend to call "good players." And while the Oilers do have a lot of players at their disposal, they lack enough "good players." This has been a problem for the franchise for longer than I care to remember and it’s a large part of why they’re looking to make a trade in the first place. So what exactly do the Oilers have to trade?
First things first, everybody is tradable. For the right return I’d trade my own mother, but when it comes to players like Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, players around which the rebuild has been based, trading either would be a massive altering of the team’s makeup. That doesn’t make a trade involving either impossible, and perhaps that’s exactly what the team needs (I don’t think it is, but to each their own), but it’s not the kind of thing that’s likely to happen in season when the playoffs are already an afterthought.
You can say much the same thing with the next tier of players as well. This is where I slot in players like Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Jeff Petry, and Justin Schultz. All four are good players (Schultz has been included more on reputation than actually play) and would very likely bring a decent return but trades in today’s NHL sound easier than they typically are because of that salary cap.
Take Eberle for example, with a cap hit of $6M it’s not as easy as simply dropping him onto any roster you choose, a couple months from now as the deadline approaches it gets far easier, but we’re, sadly, not at that point of the season. If the Oilers wanted to also take on an anchor player who came with a higher cap hit things get easier but a) they don’t have a lot of room either, and b) already a decent amount of cap space next year spoken for so they’d need to be very careful. Again, not impossible but not likely either.
But even if you could find a partner would the return be worth it? If you trade Yakupov is the return anywhere near his potential? I don’t think so. If you take Petry off the roster there actually is no defence, so the team isn’t better in the short term because you’ve robbed Peter to pay Paul. This summer, when MacTavish tries to transform this squad into something slightly better than what we see now he’ll need to consider trading players like these, but as for today, there are probably just too many parts that need to be made to fit for it to happen.
So what’s left? The David Perrons and Teddy Purcells of the world. Quality players that belong on an NHL roster but not the kind that is likely to bring back a big return on their own. That Perron is being shopped by the Oilers isn’t going to be shocking news to anyone, but it doesn’t look like the return the team is looking for is there either. From Elliotte Friedman's most recent 30 Thoughts:
I wrote last week that I thought it could be a matter of days before David Perron was traded from Edmonton. There’s no point in splitting hairs over how many "days" that gives me to be correct, as I clearly was premature.
That’s not to say the Oilers aren’t trying but there are a few things I learned in the aftermath of the original story. First, it is going to be very hard to trade any winger for a top-flight centre, unless that winger is an absolute game-breaking stud. Second, Perron’s been available longer than I realized. He certainly has value, but it’s going to be hard for the Oilers to get what they need with him as the centerpiece of a deal.
Basically the Oilers can't get what they need for the pieces they've got. And it's a situation made worse by the simple fact that the team cannot win hockey games. I said earlier that "team losses games, people would like to see the team make some changes so they start winning games," well, I'm not the only person who knows this, GMs around the league are familiar with this concept as well and I'm sure they're putting the screws to MacTavish to try and get just a little bit better deal for their team.
What Perron might have returned in August can now be had for Perron and a pick, or Perron and a prospect like Martin Marincin perhaps. This is the problem with dealing from a position of weakness, and the Oilers are very much in a position of weakness right now. And until a few more teams start to see their playoff hopes slipping away and go looking for help to get things back on track things are not likely to change for the Oilers on this front. And I don't see that happening until mid January.
If another season without playoff hockey was likely to cost MacTavish his job then he might be more desperate to make a trade happen right now, but his job is not in jeopardy, not this season at least. This team is not where anyone wanted it to be two years into his tenure as the GM, but regardless of where this team finishes, I don't see a scenario where he isn't the GM of this team next season so there is no need for him to panic just yet. Even though the team has lost ten straight games.
And all we as fans can do is hope that the current group of players figures it out because there is no help coming in the form of a trade.