During any NHL season, there is always the inevitable injury bug that bites every team in the behind. It can decimate a line up, remove essential pieces to the puzzle and put a team behind the 8-ball in a hurry. The Edmonton Oilers have seen some dark times over the last eight years where that is concerned, leading the NHL in man games lost for a couple of seasons.
Naturally, fans are excited that Oilers GM Craig MacTavish has assembled a more formidable line up heading into the fall. Indeed, with three new forwards over 6’3 and 200 pounds, it adds a new dimension to the team. But, what if the injury lords decide to pay us a visit? Defensively, the Oilers have enough strong prospects that an injury in the core won’t be necessarily disastrous.
The forwards, however, are another concern. Down on the farm, the team is actually not very stacked with talented forwards. Many have left or been traded, or just aren’t skilled enough to be a call up.
Now, the Oilers can absorb an injury to say Matt Hendricks, Luke Gazdic or Mark Arcobello. However, they cannot absorb losing Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, David Perron or Nail Yakupov for a large part of the season. If they did, should the team consider a trade, or tough it out and hope to draft high again?
It’s a tough question. If you’re trying to build a winning culture, it doesn’t behoove one to throw in the towel and saunter joylessly to the podium in June. Mind, you Connor McDavid and Carl Eichel are hardly something that should induce joyless sauntering. At the same time, though, building that culture may require making a tough decision. The catch is that the injured player will eventually return, and you may have let go of an important piece just to tide you over to the end of the season.
If I’m MacT, I stand pat during the season. Trading a player to fill a temporary gap isn’t smart for a team as thin in forward depth as the Oilers are. The waiver wire or leftovers from free agency are better bets. They may not get the team to the playoffs, but at least they don’t gamble the future. Of course, if a fellow GM has been huffing gas behind the arena and wants to get Jordan Eberle for their second line center and their first round draft pick, I might bite.
If the free agent pool was similar to what it is now come decision time, the following would be a list that the Oilers could pick from, shooting left or right:
Ok, some of these guys are washed up, coming off injury or maybe aren’t that good anymore. On the other hand, if we lose a couple guys, signing Setoguchi and Penner as replacements sounds okay to me. Sounds a lot better than a kneejerk trade to a bad situation.