Thursday, April 3, 2014

Draft a center

The Oilers lost 3-2 to the Ducks last night. It was a good game last night despite the result. As Lowetide points out, Taylor Hall is on a nice run with 17 shots and 5 points in the last 2 games. Its nice to see the kid line dominate despite it being almost all Taylor Hall. He sure makes Ebs and Nuge better but they compliment him nicely. Last night, I spent some time comparing Edmonton to Colorado. I'm still at a loss to explain the Oilers this season and the general idea behind my thoughts was to figure out what it would take for the Oilers to have an Avalanche type break out season. The obvious answer is luck. The Avs are riding good goaltending and thus their percentages will likely cause them to regress next year. This has been covered by others like MC79Hockey so I wont go into that. But the fact remains, 102 pts vs 61 pts is night and day especially given that the Avs drafted Mackinnon first overall last year. I'm gonna start with identifying areas that the Avs have done better at compared to the Oilers.

1) Goaltending

 As mentioned, the obvious difference between the Oilers and Avs is goaltending. Varlamov has been great and the Oilers goaltending was horrible until recently. That appears to be somewhat resolved now with Scrivens and Fasth.

2) drafting outside the first round

The Avs have drafted and developed O'Reily and Barrie in recent years as well as Stastny and McGinn prior to that. The Oilers deserve some credit for drafting Eberle but Musil, Lander and Pitlick dont appear to be impact players while other teams that have worse picks are getting better value. This is something that cant be fixed instantly.

3) Number of 2 way players in the top 6

Yakapov is a work in progress and Sam Gagner is a liability defensively. The gap between Gagner and O'Reily or Stastny is pretty large 5 on 5. O'Reily is one of the more underrated players in the league. Statsny is overpaid but still highly effective.

4) Strength at center

Nuge, Gagner, Gordon vs Mackinnon, Duchene, O'Reily, Stastny is a daunting difference.  Gordon was a great add by MacT. I like him a lot but he doesn't deliver a ton offensively. The really good teams have 3C who can deliver points and are effective 2 way players. Both Gordon and Gagner are fairly one dimensional. Nuge struggled this year and I still expect big things. One a side note, if Paul Statsny becomes available as a UFA, the Oilers should go after him. The end result is likely an overpay but he'd cost nothing to add.

5) Eric Johnson

As a 1st overall he's been a bit of a bust but he is still playing top pairing D in Colorado. Despite the missed season due to the golf injury he is still a 2006 draft pick who has finally become an impact player in the last couple years. The Oilers are going to need Darnell Nurse to arrive prior to the 2018 season. The other top pairing defender in Colorado is Jan Hedjda who I don't consider a huge upgrade on Petry.  Oilers lack a clear top pairing D.


Overall, I think the biggest gap between the clubs is the center position. The defense also needs to be addressed but they do have cap space and assets required to land one via trade. The Oilers pipeline is also full of dmen. There are no top 6 forwards ready to challenge for minutes while the d pipeline has Klefbom, Marincin (who is here to stay), Nurse and Simpson. If I'm MacT, I'd be looking at drafting Lion Draisaitl. He has decent size and his scouting report reads as a 2 way C. This type of player I think would compliment Yakapov well. Yakapov did will last year with Horcoff on his wing and I think he will be most effective playing with 2 guys who are responsible defensively who look to get him to shoot in the offensive end. As a likely top 3 pick, Draisaitl will bring a lot of offense as well. The other argument for drafting a center instead of say Ekblad is that D take a lot longer to develop. Eric Johnson is likely the high end in terms of development length but even the shorter term (3 years) is too long given that Taylor Hall is ready to lead the team. He was probably ready last year. He just needs a supporting cast.

The quickest way for the Oilers to improve is to draft a center. Its also the Oilers biggest need.

Draft a center.
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