This was supposed to be the season the Edmonton Oilers turned a corner and took the next step to respectability, maybe even a playoff spot. But things went backwards once again for this once proud franchise and with another lost season and another lottery pick likely waiting for the Edmonton Oilers at the NHL Entry Draft this June in Philadelphia many are wondering if that next step will ever come with their young and skilled core of first round picks. To make matters worse the Calgary Flames — who on paper are far behind the Oilers in their rebuild — have been out-working the Oilers and sit ahead of them in the standings with many now asking whether the Oilers’ arch-rivals will complete their rebuild first.
Hockey Night In Canada rinkside reporter and analyst Glenn Healy joined me this past Saturday on “Murphy’s Hockey Law” and had some obvious but yet interesting observations about the state of the Oilers. But don’t count Healey amongst those observers who think Calgary will turn the corner quicker. As Healey pointed out, there’s much more skill on the Oilers current roster than the Flames and that skill can be used as part of the rebuild or to bring in some missing pieces, mainly on defense.
“I would hold off on that comment for now,” Healy said. “If I was to switch rosters which roster would you take? You’d take Edmonton. And what you need to do with that roster now is put together a more complete team. Maybe Calgary has a more complete team [now]? Maybe they have better players at certain positions; they certainly have a better defense group with [Mark] Giordano leading the charge. But this Edmonton team can improve itself and they’ve got … pieces of a chess board to trade that can make them a totally adequate team and defense would be a pretty good place to start. It would be great to hold on to all their players that have been drafted in that first round but they’re not going to. The urgency is in that market and Craig McTavish is going to have to piece together some of their young guns and trade them to fill in some of the voids that are so glaring with this Edmonton team. It just has to happen. Now Calgary do they work hard? Absolutely! They work harder than most teams they play. But man for man when I look at their roster, they probably have a lot more holes to fill than Edmonton and they can’t fill their holes through a trade. They’re going to have to do it through free agency or through the draft.”
The Oilers can have all the skill in the world though and it won’t matter if they don’t change their culture and build around character.
“Character is the most important thing to me,” Healy said. “If you have character, I can overcome the fact you don’t have a good wrist shot. Or the fact that your can’t skate fast enough or the fact that you maybe aren’t the most physical guy. But if you’re a character person that competes and works, to me your skill will take over.”
It’s not the first time someone has suggested that the Oilers try to pry away Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber to become the foundation for their blue line but Healy doesn’t think it’s as crazy a theory as many do. Yes Weber still has 12 years at $7.8 million per season left on his current deal but if the Oilers were to send one of their prized young guns up front to the Predators who need offense then the Oilers would not only get a defensive backbone but a leader with plenty of character.
“Crazier things have happened,” Healy said. “Did the Anaheim Ducks ever think that they were going to get Chris Pronger to play with their hockey club when Chris signed with Edmonton and you thought that’s where he was going to be locked and loaded? Absolutely not for a second did they think they’d land him and it landed them a Cup. Likewise, the Edmonton Oilers, would they ever think for a second Shea Weber could be a fit for their roster? Well Shea Weber makes $14 million bucks a year and Nashville is a non-playoff team with anxious ownership and probably doesn’t want to pay a defenseman that kind of freight. So could there be a flip-flop of skilled guys up front that could give Nashville some dash and [Edmonton] would take a pretty big contract but a contract that would set you up defensively for the next decade? You know things as outrageous as they seem could happen if the right pieces are thrown the right way.”
–Healey also made an interesting observation on another Canadian team the has gone into a tailspin. While some, including this scribe thought the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Game 7 collapse in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the Boston Bruins would make them stronger in the long run and build character for another squad looking to take it to another level, the former NHL goalie believes that game has had the opposite effect in Toronto.
“I think it’s paralyzing them,” Healey said. “They haven’t gotten over it and it’s the opposite effect. It’s almost like you back that up with the year (2012) that Brian Burke said ‘the 18-wheeler went off the cliff’ and a lot of them were around for that, so the 18-wheeler off the cliff, the coaching change, you’re up by 3 with 11 minutes to go, the big gasp and gulp on that one and now it’s like ‘Oh-oh! We’re in the same boat again? So confidence with players is a tough thing at times.”
It certainly is and if there is any chance the leafs make the playoffs, the leaders on that team, whomever they may be, need to step up ASAP! Already head coach Randy Carlyle may have to take a beatdown from boxer Riddick Bowe. Will he go after the rest of the team…well except for Colton Orr?
–If the Oilers or Flames are still stockpiling lottery picks in ten years, they should draft this kid! (Stick tap to Puck Daddy for this find!)
–Really great to hear Rich Peverley say he’s feeling better and is contemplating playing again. Peverley is a class act and asset to any NHL team. Here’s hoping though that when he makes his final decision he realizes he’s more of an asset to his family and alive. Very tricky situation there and wishing him the best of luck!
–Completely agree with buddy and colleague Don Brennan here of the Ottawa Sun that there needs to be two defense trophies given out. There seems to be some general consensus amongst the award voters now that the Norris Trophy goes to the highest scoring defenseman. That’s not the case but something tells me that Duncan Keith or Zdeno Chara, the two best all around defenseman — which is the definition of the Norris — won’t get it this year.
–TSN Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted last week that 75 percent of the New York and soon-to-be Brooklyn Islanders were for sale and longtime Islanders owner Charles Wang didn’t flat out deny it. Where there’s smoke there’s fire and I can tell you that an Islanders source told Murph’s Musings this weekend that Wang is very much entertaining offers. having been a former employee of the team and knowing their dedicated fan base, I feel for the Isles fans that stuck it out and tried to keep the team in Uniondale. They’d most likely have a team there still if Wang had done this earlier. Hopefully for them and the new Brooklyn fans, the new majority owner won’t be as cozy and patient with the GM as Wang has been with Garth Snow and Mike Milbury before him.
–For all those who don’t understand why fighting is a necessary vice in the NHL, read this.
–I got some heat for suggesting in my last piece that the only thing that can derail the Bruins right now besides injuries or a hot goalie is themselves and specifically their discipline against teams like the Montreal Canadiens. Some Bruins fans asked why I couldn’t credit the team for the class they showed this past week when two firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty. Well I actually did but will again now. If there’s one thing the current Bruins regime does, it’s look after their community and be there in a time of need. I knew Lieutenant Ed Walsh who along with fellow firefighter Michael Kennedy was lost in the fire. I’m sure those who knew him more, his family and close friends can attest, what they did, giving tickets to local firefighters for the game against Chicago Thursday, wearing Boston Fire Department swag onto the ice for warmup’s and the moment of silence meant the world to them. Once again the Bruins showed what Boston Strong is!
–By the way, for those wanting to help the families of Lieutenant Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy you can donate here.
–Finally I listened to this song by Bruce Springsteen the day after these two brave men perished and it really hits home. Thank you to them and all firefighters for their service.