Oilers Journey Needs To Change With McDavid


Last night, the Edmonton Oilers found out that they will be picking first for the fourth time in the last six seasons. Three of those times, they picked first three consecutive times. (Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan-Nugent Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012).

But the Oilers are looking to return to where they were back in 2006 when they advanced to the Stanley Cup final. Since 2002-2003, Edmonton has only made two playoff appearances and have yet to qualify for the playoffs in the last nine years. In those nine seasons, they have only won 30 or more games four times. That’s right. Four times. The last time they had above a .500 record was in 2008-2009 when they finished 4th with a 38-35 record.

With the Oilers having 11 first round picks in the last nine drafts, including having three in the 2007 draft, what is taking so long for this team to become relevant again? Well, you can say drafting is a big issue.

Edmonton has lacked the ability to draft in the middle and late rounds of the draft. In the last ten years, only two players has made himself a regular NHL player in the league who was drafted outside the first round by the Edmonton Oilers. Those players would be Jeff Petry (45th overall) and Theo Peckham (75th overall). Peckham, though, to say the least has been scratched multiple times, so we’ll just leave it at Petry. Clearly this is a huge problem for the team. They lack any sort of home grown depth. Take a look at the Chicago Blackhawks. They have a couple blue chip players in their line-up (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews). But if you look deeper, you will find where finding those deep drafted players paid off (Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford and so on).

Sure, this team has a bunch of 1st round generational talent, but they have lacked huge holes in defense and at goaltending for years. They have proven that it’s very possible to do the least with the very most offensive talented players the league has seen. So what’s next, then? Would the Oilers consider moving one of the big three? (Yakupov isn’t quite there to be considered in that group) Perhaps. Eberle has made his way to rumored trade blocks for a couple of seasons now, and he can no doubt fetch a return to beef up the Oilers defense. Yes, they have Oscar Klefbom. Yes, they have Justin Schultz. Yes, they have Darnell Nurse. But Schultz and Nurse are still underdeveloped, especially 24-year-old Schultz, whose a pending restricted free agent this summer. He needs to work on his game if he wants to be considered a number-one defenseman in the league. He has the talent and speed to be as good as Erik Karlsson, but lacks the defensive side to his game.

Of course that can all be fixed, if he’s willing to work harder and wanting to improve. And he’s very aware of it.

"“I can get a lot better. I want to be one of the top D-men in the league, and I have a long way to go,” Schultz said on Sunday as Oilers players cleaned out their lockers following the season. “I look at guys like Drew Doughty and those types of players, and I want to be like them and play like them.”"

So, if you’re MacTavish, who do you target as a goaltender? Do you sign Boston University star, Matt O’Connor? Do you trade for one of the three goalies in Ottawa? Do you talk to Glen Sather and take a risk late riser Cam Talbot? Honestly, the answer can be any one of those. Edmonton is in dire need of a young and upcoming goaltender. Surely Anderson is getting old, but if you target Robin Lehner or Andrew Hammond, then you may have a nice piece to work with. The last time the Oilers had a goalie that kept them competitive was when they had Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon. It’s a shame Devan Dubnyk couldn’t help Edmonton the way he has for Minnesota. (A first round pick, by the way).

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Now, Edmonton brass has struggled to make some solid signings. Let’s start with the infamous Dustin Penner offer sheet. Kevin Lowe offered Dustin Penner an offer sheet worth 21.25 million dollars over a five-year span. So with that transaction, the Oilers had to give up a 1st round and 2nd round pick. What did those picks end up being. Coincidentally, players who play defense. The first round pick ended up in Buffalo, who selected Tyler Myers, and the second round pick ended up being Justin Schultz, who signed with Edmonton eventually anyway.But if you look through the signings the team has made, they haven’t really made any big splashes. From most recent memory, Sheldon Souray was probably their “best signing” in 10 years. But alas, injuries kept him from playing many games for the team.

What is a good example of making a splash while rebuilding? Just be patient. Make a move when it comes to you and run with the home-grown talent. There’s no rush at this point for Edmonton. They know they have a deep hole to climb out of and it will take some time.

In the end, maybe they’ll do what Pierre LeBrun has reported from a bitter team exec.

"“Maybe they’ll take [Noah] Hanifin instead,” quipped, via text message, one team executive not too thrilled that the Oilers won the lottery."