We’re just a little bit past the halfway mark of the 2017-18 Oilers season, and things haven’t quite gone as planned. The Oilers have eighteen wins in forty-four games, and they’re all but mathematically eliminated from the second season. Is there any relief in sight?
Fortunately, our experts here at Copper and Blue Industries are here to help get to the bottom of it all. Featured in this midseason roundtable are Matt, Patrick, Shona, Corey, and Derek B.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
- As of this writing, the Oilers are sitting in sixth place in the Pacific Division well out of a playoff spot. There’s several reasons as to why they haven’t experienced much success so far this season. What’s the biggest reason they’re in the spot they’re in?
Matt: Bad luck, probably.
Patrick: Pretty simple here, the special teams. The powerplay is a disaster and the PK is even worse than that. I’d like to live in a world where the PK doesn’t set up for a half-wall cycle and shots from the point, but here we are.
Shona: Honestly, I don’t believe there’s one reason which can be pointed to. It’s not like there’s been one thing that stands out to me. It’s been the unfortunate combination of a variety of factors -- a regression in goal, a struggling defense, offense that can’t consistently produce. The frustrating part is that there were warning signs this might happen from the end of last season. The Oilers were relying on a lot of young, relatively inexperienced players, to take huge developmental steps forward when historically players are as likely to regress as build off strong rookie seasons. It doesn’t surprise me it hasn’t all come together.
Corey: In my mind there are two ways of looking at this question. I thought the Oilers would be a playoff team this year, despite what I considered to be two consecutive horrendous off-seasons. The biggest reason why the Oilers are under-performing my realistic start-of-the-season expectations has to be the penalty kill. It’s laughably bad. They’re giving up ten-bell chance after ten-bell chance, and Talbot hasn’t been good enough to bail the rest of the team out.
But, the Oilers should have been able to outscore their powerplay woes. This team could have had the likes of Hall, Eberle and Pouliot up front, not to mention the draft pick that became Barzal. Add that to McDavid, Draisaitl and Puljujarvi. There’s no way that lineup doesn’t outscore its problems. Plus it would have been so much fun to watch.
Also, I’m getting the feeling that letting Oesterle walk is going to be added to the long list of Chiarelli fuck-ups. He looks like he’s finally starting to flourish on a team that doesn’t treat undersized puck-moving defensemen like lepers.
Derek B: The biggest reason is they’ve stripped away options. Last year when the PP wasn’t quite clicking with Eberle on the 1st unit, they moved him to the 2nd unit and Letestu came up and had a break out PP year. This season rolls around and the 1st PP is struggling and they have no options. This is a small example. Similar things are happening on the PK. Pouliot wasn’t a favourite of McLellan, but he can kill penalties. Oilers are struggling there and it seems no matter who they put in, the job isn’t getting done. This also applies to ES. 97-29 were paired early on but everyone else struggled to score. They split them and it worked for a while, but once that stopped then what? There just isn’t enough options for the coach to switch things around when something isn’t working.
- The halfway mark had the Oilers at 39 points in 41 games. That might be 80 points if the Oilers keep this pace, which will be about 15 points away from the second season. What do you do at the trade deadline?
Matt: Look forward. Get assets for whatever you can. Maroon types. Like any of them, really. Might even think about trading Leon+ to Ottawa if there’s something there for Karlsson.
Patrick: Really tough to say. Patrick Maroon is obviously the big decision, this team shouldn’t be as bad as it is, but now we have a player who can get assets back. The issue is that we’re going to need wingers for next year, if you trade Maroon for futures, are we going to have anything to replace that by next season? Make no mistake, we’re still going for a cup next year. If you can get a 1st round pick for Maroon, you take it. Same goes for a near NHL-ready winger. Anything less and I think you’d have to re-sign him if he takes a reasonable contract. Contract negotiation and trade talks should be happening simultaneously on that front.
The other player I’m keeping an eye on is Mark Letestu. He’s the kind of utility guy that can get a pretty good retuIrn despite not being very good.
Shona: If it were me, I’d be trying to move Maroon. I know he has limited value but it’s doubtful the Oilers re-sign him at the end of the season. It makes sense to try and capitalize on the “rental” market for teams that are poised to make the playoffs. I might also consider continuing to look for some defense. It’s not a pressing need -- not any more -- but it would be good to be aware of who could potentially be on the market come the end of the season.
Corey: The Oilers are obviously sellers at this point. Maybe they can get some value for Maroon before he gets paid. But if the return isn’t great, it’s not the end of the world. He’s a useful player at the right price, so I don’t think there is too much urgency to move him. I would honestly be fine if they don’t do anything at the deadline.
Derek B: I think you sell off your free agents. Maroon can probably get something nice and I don’t think there’s any way the Oilers can sign him to an affordable deal. You can’t over pay him because his offense isn’t there when he isn’t playing with McDavid and if you aren’t playing him there then it could be very expensive relative to production. Mike Cammalleri definitely isn’t the player he once was, but he can probably still help a PP that needs a lefty. Ryan Strome is the big decision. He’s been what most people should have expected. He’s a decent depth guy for your 3rd line (W or C) and it’s about cost. Can you get him to sign a 2 year deal at the same money? He’s got some value there. If not, is there another team who wants a reclamation project? It’s important to separate the trade that brought him here vs what he’s worth either in a contract or in a deadline deal.
Tomorrow: Montoya and Big Surprises
Saturday: Worst Case Scenarios