Edmonton Oilers – Need Depth at Center


March 10, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Mark Olver (40) trips over defensman Ryan Wilson (44) in an attempt to reach the puck as Edmonton Oilers center Shawn Horcoff (10) looks on during the third period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Well this has been a tough week. The Oilers lost Saturday night 3-2 to the Colorado Avalance and also lost 4th line veteran center Eric Belanger to injury. Belanger managed to get his feet in front of a few shots and suffered a broken toe(s?).

Then the team hosted the rival Vancouver Canucks last night and not only blew a 2-0 lead, they then lost captain Shawn Horcoff and defenseman Mark Fistric, broken knuckle and injured back respectively. So now they are down to just two NHL caliber centers, who can’t win faceoffs, to play for the next while. According to news today Belanger is still at least a week today and of course Horcoff is down and out for 4-6 weeks.

For stop gap purposes GM Steve Tambellini called up OKC Barons center Mark Arcobello who will see his first NHL game Wednesday against the Dallas Stars. There are 2 problems I see with this, 1 – it means that Chris Van de Velde is nowhere near as close as we had hoped, and 2 – Arcobello is not a checking center, the guy plays 1st/2nd line down on the farm. So essentially this isn’t going to plug the hole left by injuries.

Let’s have a look at what the Oilers may or may not decide to do here. Clearly, with the call up of Arcobello the team does not have the depth it needs at center.

The Free Agent Market

  • Jason Arnott – The twitter verse and radio call-in shows today have been a buzz about the possibility of signing former Oilers 7th overall pick (1993). Arnott recently signed with the New York Rangers but the contract was voided when he failed his medical due to a wonky knee. Do people really think that would be a good signing? Bob Stauffer mentioned today that if they were to sign him that maybe he would be trade bait at the deadline for some sort of asset (lower round pick).
  • Brendan Morrison – Now here is an idea if the Oilers were to go the free agent route. Brendan is at the end of his career but, besides his lack of size, would be a good addition to the 3rd/4th line. Morrison has a career face off % of just over 50%. He can kill penalties and won’t be a defensive liability for the 7 to 10 minutes a game he’ll play.

The Trade Route *Note – I won’t put values to the players I list, just that I think they might be available and a good fit for the Oilers needs*

  • Marty Reasoner – Again an ex-Oiler. He’s aging and slotted in as the 4th center for the New York Islanders. He’s played anywhere from 6 to 15 minutes a night so far this season and has won 42 out of 80 face offs. The Islanders also have some depth at center with Josh Bailey in the minors and a Ryan Strome possibly ready to step in as soon as next season.
  • Zenon Konopka – This guy has everything the Oilers need, he fights, he’s a faceoff specialist, he can hit and he can fight. The one problem, he plays for the Minnesota Wild who may be reluctant to trade with a conference rival, although the teams have traded with each other before (Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz). Also the Oilers had a chance to sign this guy in the offseason if they wanted. Who knows maybe they tried.
  • I’ve heard people like Vernon Fiddler, from Dallas, mentioned. I’ve always liked the guy, he plays bigger than he is (6’1”) and is good on the dot. We should get a look at him tomorrow night.

There are probably more players out there that are available, but I’m not an insider or an NHL general manager. We will just have to wait and see I suppose, but one thing is clear losing all these faceoff’s it is going to be tough winning games if the we don’t have the puck.

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