The most common question coming out of the Edmonton Oilers post-season is most certainly why Craig MacTavish did not go out and get another, veteran center.
I’m among those that feel the roster needs another pivot, and anticipated a move. And I’m not one of these people who think Leon Draisaitl should be handed a one-way ticket to Prince Albert, this fall, either. I am, however, unconvinced that either Mark Arcobello or Anton Lander can handle the equivalent of second line minutes over 82 NHL games.
But now that I’ve seen new contracts handed out to Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry, things are starting to add up. It seems obvious that the club has no consensus on which of the young defencemen currently in the system will turn into the real deal. And so, rather than ship off one of them for a “decent” center, they are instead going to sit and wait.
Well, cynics might say it’s the ghost of Steve Tambellini, frozen on the steps of a real decision, indecisive as to which move would be the right one. But I don’t buy that. Craig MacTavish has swung more deals in the past 12 months that any other General Manager in the NHL. There’s no sign he’s indecisive. Instead, I believe the reason the Oilers are headed into the season lacking depth at center is because they don’t think the club has a good shot at the playoffs. What’s that? That’s why we need to make that trade, you say?
Think about it. If a G.M. felt that the only thing standing in the way of a playoff berth was a 2C, he would address that deficiency. Any GM would. But do you really think that all the Oilers are missing is a 2C? That’s fantasy. It’s a bad gamble to give up a potential blue-chip defencemen in exchange for a 2C that in all likelihood is not the difference between post-season and not. Why would you do that? I’m betting that Craig MacTavish asked that very question.
I watch the Oilers certainly more than is good for my mental health. But I can’t tell you with a high degree of certainly who, out of this crop, will end up our de-facto number one rearguard. None of them have made me rise out of my very expensive seat, and shout to the Rexall rooftops “Him! He’s the one”!!
Of the “young guys”, so: Petry, Schultz, Marincin, Klefbom, Nurse and perhaps Gernat or Simpson, we have the largest samples from Petry and Schultz. I believe that both still have capacity to improve, but by and large what you see is what you get, in terms of style, physicality, and hockey IQ, etc.
I’ll bet both men received one-year contracts because Craig MacTavish thinks the same way. He thinks it’s more likely that Klefbom, Nurse or (perhaps) Marincin can be “that guy”. Me too. But with such small samples from all 3, the risk of giving up on any of them right now is incredible.
You may debate me on all this by pointing out the glowing review the GM gave the media on Justin Schultz last week. O.K., but surely you understand that GM’s often make statements to the media for reasons other than that is what
they actually believe. Don’t kid yourself. Every statement has purpose.
This franchise has been through SO much, and is so deep into the rebuild, to now potentially pass on the guy who is your stud for years to come, the kind of guy that you can’t just go out and acquire, would haunt Craig MacTavish for as long as he remains GM.
And if he makes the wrong decision…that would not be long.