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Edmonton Oilers

Oilers Can’t Afford to Sit On Blue Line, Must Make a Trade

The Edmonton Oilers are not at all where they want to be this season. Can they afford to be patient or do they need to make a trade?

The Edmonton Oilers lost again. This time, it was a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, a nasty affair in which there were three fights, and the Oilers got absolutely destroyed on special teams. One game does not make or break a season, but no one expected the Oilers to be in this situation so early in the campaign, and as Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic writes, “Management must act well before the trade deadline. Missing the playoffs with Connor McDavid doing what he’s doing is unacceptable.”

So what do the Oilers do? The Oilers have a 21-18-3 record and a .536 points percentage. Following a trip to the Western Conference Final, and now halfway through the 2022-23 season, they are on pace for 88 points. It’s not good enough but the team is hand-tied when it comes to the salary cap, as many clubs in the NHL are.

The Oilers are still waiting on Evander Kane, who will undoubtedly help the team’s top six and then bump someone down to help the team’s top nine. That said, the scoring isn’t coming, at least not enough to outperform the lack of defense. A less-than-average penalty kill allowed the Kings to go 4-for-7 on Monday and went from bad to brutal. To make matters worse, the Oilers put up a big fat goose egg on the power play, an area they rank best at in the NHL. The reality is, when the power play doesn’t convert, the Oilers rarely win. They continually let teams outshoot them and they’re now taking dumb penalties, even if it could be argued the Kings vs. Oilers game was one of the strangest officiated games in recent memory.

Is there a play here the Oilers can make? Is it a play that will actually mean something when it comes to their overall team success on the ice?

GM Ken Holland allowed what many used to call insignificant pieces from their blue line leave last season and he’s now realizing how significant those pieces actually were. Duncan Keith, Kris Russell, and Slater Koekkoek on their own don’t mean much. As a collective, they brought experience and poise to a blue-line group that is a disaster this season. The top pair of Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci continues to appear unconfident. Nurse often can’t get out of his own way, but he’s the teams leading minute-munching defenseman by a wide margin. Tyson Barrie is doing what he can, but he’s not a top-two, except on offense where he remains dangerous. And, to try and explain Evan Bouchard’s season is something that hockey minds who understand the game far better than I do would need to tackle. He’s been Ok at times and outrageously bad at others.  The Oilers were counting on him to take a big step forward and he’s instead taken a huge step back. Brett Kulak was a good signing but he’s in over his head.

Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse Edmonton Oilers

The answer is out there, but the issue is the Oilers can’t afford to acquire it, not without moving another player out and there aren’t a lot of teams looking at the Oilers players and thinking there’s a goldmine to be found.

Can Holland Make the Right Move?

Nugent-Bowman also writes, “Time is running out for GM Ken Holland to make a move. His mantra has always been patience and to provide a steady hand on the rudder in times of distress.” The scribe adds that it’s a strategy that has worked in the past, but now, that’s up for debate. Does he need to make a move sooner than later? Can he afford to wait?

What’s most alarming about all of this is that the Oilers actually have a worse record this season than they did at this time last season and when they chose to relieve Dave Tippett of his coaching duties. Let that sink in.

Next: Flyers Exploring Idea of Ivan Provorov Trade


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