The Oilers were up against the wall last night.
They were missing some key players. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would miss his fourth consecutive game with a hand/wrist injury. Zack Kassian was out with a back injury. Josh Archibald was playing top six minutes. Matt Benning took a puck to the noggin. It’s that kind of night.
After getting waxed by a 5-2 margin at home on Saturday night, your Edmonton Oilers emerged victorious in Vancouver. Leon Draisaitl had two goals (including the game winner) and...Josh Archibald (!) scored his first in an Oiler sweater. Mikko Koskinen turned aside 30 shots, and the Oilers took two points away from Vancouver.
It’s December 2nd right now. The Oilers have 17 wins, good for first place in the Pacific Division. We are two months into the season, and the Oilers are not only playing meaningful hockey in December, they’re atop the entire division right now. They’re sitting at 37 points in 29 games. Arizona has 34 points and a game in hand. The Sharks are next at 31 points, and the Canucks are right next to them with 30.
What does it all mean? It means that it’s high time to add some help to the roster. Specifically, a scoring winger and/or a 3C.
Before the outcry comes about “mortgaging the future” or something about “percolating” comes up, realize that we’ve been watching this team forever. The last decade and a half have been rough. We’ve sat through some awesome times. The draft lotteries, the post-draft lottery hopes. Useless off-seasons, seasons where the year has been over in late October. You and me, we’ve seen bad trades, terrible signings, awful buyouts, wringing hands and shoulder shrugs by management about how this is a rebuild, how good things take time and patience, and how a little suffering isn’t a bad thing.
Right now, I don’t have time for anything less than absolutely going for it, and neither should you. Whether you thought that this team was going to be atop the Pacific Division or not, acknowledge that they’re atop the division on December 2nd. It’s a thing, it’s happening, and it’s right now. When’s the last time Edmonton was atop their division this late in the season? That’s right, 1725. Two hundred and ninety-six years ago. Time flies.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are having one of the best seasons statistically in recent memory. The power play is a keeper. Ethan Bear has emerged. Mikko Koskinen looks like he might be the guy. The club needs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back in a hurry. Things are good right now if you’re Oilers fan, something I can safely say I’ve said exactly once since 2006. Maybe twice if you count the draft lottery night in 2015. You get the picture.
The Oilers need a winger to play 2LW. There’s no beating around the bush about it. You can plug any (or two of) the roster players that the Oilers have right now, and it’s not good. Alex Chiasson has regressed to what Alex Chiasson is: a 20-ish point scorer. Josh Archibald scored his first goal in Edmonton last night. None of Markus Granlund, Joakim Nygard, Riley Sheahan are going to be able to effectively fill in at 2LW or 3C for any length of time.
Taylor Hall’s name has come up quite a bit over the last few days, and there’s good reason. He’d be a perfect fit at 2LW, a position that’s been played by a half dozen people over the last eight weeks. That includes Tomas Jurco, who’s in Bakersfield today. You’ve had plenty of experience watching Taylor Hall, so I’m not going to tell you why the club could badly use a player of his calibre. Are there any other options for a rental? Sure. Chris Krieder would have to wiggle through a modified NTC from NYR. There’s a couple of other options, almost all are better than the current situation.
The Oilers could easily benefit from an actual 3C as well. Tyler Ennis is a fairly inexpensive option in Ottawa who is on pace for between 30 and 35 points. Jean-Gabriel Pageau would be a dream acquisition, also from Ottawa. There are a handful of other options, but it’s imperative that the Oilers make a move to make it work.
The acquisition costs for each player will vary. If the Oilers were to make a push for a player like Taylor Hall, there’s no doubt that a high draft pick and a couple of pieces are going to head the other way. I don’t suggest that the Oilers give away the house, but how many impact forwards does this club have right now? If the acquisition cost for Hall was something like a first, Puljujarvi and Broberg, would you flinch? Yes, I know that the club would need to free up some cap. Nearly any acquisition (save for Ennis) would need to free up some cap.
But, we’re here. It’s December. The Oilers are on top of the Pacific Division, something that they haven’t been in well over 20 years this late in the season. There’s no good reason that the club shouldn’t explore many options to try and bolster the talent on this club for a big run at the playoffs.
If not now, when?