One consistent feature of the Oilers' rebuilds, besides losing, has been trading honest-to-goodness NHL players for picks and or prospects. The second rebuild - starting in January 2010 - was far more efficient in this than the first, and the scorched earth approach allowed the team to finish last twice and next to last the following year en route to three first overall picks. Of course if you trade all your current players for future players (hopefully future players) you're eventually left with a roster that has no depth and can't win a damn thing. That not quite where the Oilers are today, but they're not very far removed from it either.
On this site I've written about the flaws associated with the Oilers' effort to rebuild more times than I care to count. I've also discussed it on Twitter, with friends and family, and even shouted about it to strangers on the street on occasion. I didn't like the plan five years ago, I don't like it now, and I can't imagine that I will ever like it. I also have no desire to go through all of it again, but the Oilers decision to trade David Perron for Rob Klinkhammer (great name) and a magic bean, a trade which feels a lot like one of Tambellini's greatest hits, brought up something else I've heard a lot of during the eternal rebuild, that the player leaving town didn't want to be here.
In just the last 18 months I've heard this said about Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, David Perron, and even those he's not gone yet, Jeff Petry. In a season and a half that's a lot of players that, if rumours are to be believed, didn't want to be here. I say rumours because not one of them has said or done anything that makes me think they wanted to leave. I'll be the first to admit though, in the case of every player I listed, they might not have wanted to play in Edmonton anymore. That's absolutely possible and unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to sit down over a beer and ask them about it. Of course, neither have those saying that they didn't want to be here.
But it's not the speculation about the player's motives that bothers me the most about the "he didn't want to be here" thinking. It's that it's a justification for whatever the Oilers get in return. The combined return for Horcoff, Hemsky, and Perron - three NHL players - has been Philip Larsen, Rob Klinkhammer, 2014 third and fifth round picks, a 2015 first round pick, and a 2016 seventh round pick. Larsen is in the KHL this season, Klinkhammer is a fourth line player, and the rest are lottery tickets, and the Oilers gave up three players to get all of that. And to some that's okay because they didn't want to be here; therefore, MacTavish did a fine job considering the circumstances.
Have you ever wondered why they might not want to be here though? Surely the fact that the team has been very bad for a very long time has something to do with that, in fact that's likely the single biggest factor. So if they really didn't want to be here isn't that actually a failing of management? Of course it is. So saying MacTavish did a good job by getting Klinkhammer and first for Perron simply because Perron was leaving anyway is crazy because it MacTavish's fault that he wanted out. He's putting a gun to his own head and you're giving him credit for making the best deal he could.
If one player wants out, even two, you can write it off, maybe they wanted to test free agency, didn't like the city, wanted to be closer to home, the list goes on; and in those cases a GM has to make the best of a bad situation, I don't blame a GM for making a questionable deal when this happens. But when player, after player, after player, supposedly doesn't want to be here anymore that's a problem of management's own creation, and the minimal return is absolutely their fault. Saying they did a good job considering the circumstances is like thanking the person who set fire to your house for putting the fire out before it burned it completely to the ground. It just doesn't make any sense.