Building and Evaluating Talent


It is very common for a team who starts slow to look at any possibility that could bolster the team and turn their season around. The Edmonton Oilers are at this point after a 0-4-1 start, but can a team really turn the tides after a trade or a signing? How often has a trade turned a team into a contender?

Trades and Free Agency are tools to add missing pieces for a team that already has some infrastructure in place. If I think back to recent champions and contenders I am hard pressed to find a team that didn’t already have a strong self-built team before adding the final pieces needed to build a champion. The great teams build their own talent and retain this talent.

Teams like Los Angeles, Chicago, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Montreal find ways to cultivate young talent while adding pieces through trades to make themselves perennial contenders for the cup. This is what strong teams do. They believe in their young talent and realistically measure their players. A team can’t change its fate with one transaction; in fact other than possibly the Tyler Seguin trade I challenge readers to come up with a trade that changed the course of a team’s future. There are many trades that make a team better, but it is very hard to find a trade that can turn a mediocre team into a contender.

Finding examples of talent cultivation has been easy this year as Los Angeles has Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Jake Muzzin all coming up through their ranks. There was a persistent rumor that LA had talked about trading young Toffoli for Lupul but thankfully for the Kings that trade never happened. The Kings found all these young players and stuck with them and seem to be reaping the rewards.

The Montreal Canadiens have been a strong playoff team for the last two seasons and if you look at their roster all the big name players are Montreal Canadiens draft picks. It is this delicate balance of choosing the right players for your organization and attempting to pull out all of their worth that can make or break a hockey club. On the other side of the coin you must be able to cut ties with players that are not living up to their potential.

How does this fit in with the Edmonton Oilers? There has been news of shopping around Nail Yakupov, Jeff Petry, Martin Marincin and Jordan Eberle. Things are bad in Oil Country, but why wouldn’t you model your organization after these successful teams and hang on to talent that could turn into something. Defenceman take a long time to development and trading Marincin or Petry for a center seems counter-productive to me. Look down the road at the Calgary Flames and the success they have found with TJ Brodie and Marc Giordano. They have a homegrown legitmate top defensive pairing and it took time. Hell at one point Giordano went to the KHL for a season because the Flames couldn’t come to terms on a contract with him.

It is crunch-time for the Oilers management as the pressure to win is at a height but making a poor trade that sends talent that the Oilers have been developing could send us back even further. Yakupov showed he could play his rookie year and is not someone you want to send out of town for a quick bandage player. Jeff Petry is a player that I still think can bring major upside to the Edmonton Oilers defensive core, which is the laughing stock of the NHL. Martin Marincin has been brought up in a few rumours I have seen but I can’t see him getting traded and he shouldn’t be, he has less than 100 games of experience he could turn out to be our TJ Brodie or Jake Muzzin. We don’t have enough information to just send these players out our door yet.

Evaluating players is a delicate and importance facet of NHL management, something I think the Edmonton Oilers need to focus on over the duration of this season. Any idiot can see that 1st round picks like Hall, Toews,Doughty and Crosby should not be traded; however, the difference between mediocre and great franchises is the ability to foster talent to build around these franchise players and it is about time the Oilers looked at successful teams around the league and learned this lesson.