Despite all expectations the Edmonton Oil Kings, currently in a three way battle for first in the Central Division, would spend the WHL Trade Deadline Day quietly, General Manager Kirt Hill decided to make a splash.
In a somewhat expected move, Hill traded with the Prince Albert Raiders to move one of his three goaltenders. However, his choice to move Boston Bilous was an interesting one. Bilous a highly touted prospect, and the goaltender who made the Central Scouting Watch List earlier this year, hasn’t been in next for the Oil Kings much over this three years with the club. However, his body of work is more substantial than what the Oil Kings have actually witness from Scott. Scott played a handful of games for the Oil Kings last season before being sidelined by an injury and has added a handful more this season. None of his stats are markedly better than Bilous’s, so it’s an interesting choice to deal the goaltender the Oil Kings drafted and promoted early in his time with them as a strong goaltending prospect.
Despite the slightly puzzling nature of Hill’s first trade, it was grossly overshadowed by his second and final deal of the day. Hill trade Brett Kemp to Medicine Hat for Josh Williams – one for one. Williams who is having a decent, if not amazing, year with a struggling Medicine Hat team is one year younger than Kemp. Kemp – originally acquired in the Aaron Irving trade with Everett – was one of the Oil Kings driving forces this season. Kemp played 40 games in Oil Kings colours this season and tallied 39 points (22 goals and 17 assists) in comparison Williams played 41 games for Medicine Hat and tallied a much less impressive 21 points (9 goals and 12 assists).
If we compare Kemp’s results last season (36 points on the worst team in the WHL), he is more comparable to Williams. However, this too poses a problem. There is no particular reason the Oil Kings should be looking to build their roster for a sustained playoff push in two years right now. Beyond the fact, they have seen the majority of their offense come from a 19 year old forward who may not even be with the team next season, the Oil Kings have (much like the Oilers) been in the shitty rebuild phase of junior hockey for the last four years. Now while this is not as impressive as a decade of being awful, it is a considerable amount of time to be in a rebuild phase.
For comparison, the Oil Kings won their first WHL championship in 2012 only five seasons after they joined the league in 2007-2008. If a team can go from not existing to winning a championship in five years, it seems odd that it would have the Oil Kings would still be in a rebuild phase four years after their 2014 Memorial Cup win. This is, of course, driven by several bad management decisions which have drawn out the Oil Kings rebuild through a series of seasons of modest success. This trade – Williams for Kemp – seems to indicate more of the same. The Oil Kings don’t believe (as they did two years ago) this is the year they’ll be legitimate contenders and so are trying to collect assets for the future. Unfortunately, the team has not developed their own draft picks and there are several concerns about both the offensive and defensive depth on which they can draw.
The very least that can be said is that it made for an interesting WHL Trade Deadline Day.