Mark Arcobello Traded To Nashville in Exchange for Derek Roy

Today Mark Arcobello departed the Oilers organization after about 4 and a half years, 78 NHL games, 11 goals and 30 points. Oilers fans got to see his first game and first NHL goal. The Princeton grad worked hard for the opportunity and paid his dues. He was a personal favorite and will be dearly missed. Best wishes to Mark Arcobello and may he have a nice career.

Personal feelings aside, this trade makes little sense, if at all. The team has already lost the season so trading for bottom of the line players is not something to get excited about, but alas, after what is about to become the 9th straight season out of the playoffs, every little whisper gets Oil Country riled up. Sure enough, the twitter verse exploded with speculation and debate regarding the move and the newest Oiler Derek Roy.

First let’s compare the men involved:

  • Both stand at 5’9, with Roy having about a 20 lbs advantage.
  • Roy is 31 years old, Arco 26. The former has played 692 NHL games, the latter 78.
  • This season, Arco has 7 goals and 12 points playing on one of the worst Oilers roster in team history and doing so while  way above his batting order. Roy has 1 goal and 10 points for one of the top 5 teams in the league so far with plenty of teammates to carry the load.
  • Arco’s cap hit is 600,000. Derek’s is one million. Both contracts are up at the end of the season.

Looking at the basic comparisons, it is difficult to see where Derek Roy is an upgrade on Arcobello other than NHL experience. Before continuing, it is worth noting that Derek Roy was not an ideal option for the Oilers no matter which avenue the team used to acquire him. He is not a difference maker, he is small, and with Lander at the ready down in the farm, bringing Roy into the fold is redundant. The Oilers need a top 2 and top 3 centers (Draisaitl is at least one more season away from taking over the 3rd spot, and may not be good enough for a top 2), Roy is a 4-5. Having said that, let’s take a look at some of the ideas going around today. There were several arguments floated around as to why this trade made sense, none of which seemed substantial enough:

  • A trade has advantages over a waiver pick up. Like saving money on the waiver fee and being able to trade the player at the deadline, except the team is not saving money because Roy is owed more than Arcobello and Nashville doesn’t seem to be retaining any salary. As for the ability to trade the player, why does that even matter? if anything Arcobello would fetch more pucks than Roy, because neither would get what this team needs, so that is a kind of moot point. Arco was more likely to reach at least 25 points, which was good enough for a late draft pick. If Roy couldn’t produce with Nashville, what is he going to do here?.
  • Derek Roy is a veteran and the Oilers are in desperate need of veteran centers. No argument there, but this is an incomplete statement. By this logic the team should have gone and got the longest-serving players and throw money at them regardless of where they stand in their career curves. The graphs below show Derek Roy’s performance since 2007, taken from stats.hockeyanalysis.com
Derek Roy stats taken from stats.hockeyanalysis.com

The stats on the left are point totals and the ones on the right are possession numbers (shot counters: Corsi and Fenwick). The data have been adjusted to smooth out effects of excessive offensive or defensive zone starts and they are per 60 minutes of play time to account for some of the effect of injuries. We can clearly see that Roy’s best days were past behind him since 2011 and he has plateau. As for his possession numbers, the decline has been more steady but it is still in decline. Roy is shooting less and his ability to drive the play has also stagnated. This is a player on the tail end of his career.

  • Derek Roy will provide much needed mentorship to Leon Draisaitl. Perhaps, but Leon already has an excellent role model in outstanding Boyd Gordon AKA The Commissioner. Roy in that role is rather redundant. As for where will he play, best guess is Gordon will be moved to the second line full-time with Draisaitl on a soft minutes third line and Roy taking Gordon’s spot on what used to be the best thing about this team: its special defensive line. Roy will not be able to handle Gordon’s previous load, and he won’t contribute offensively either, so what’s his reason for being here?
  • The trade was made because they Oilers needed to move a contract. Unless there’s another move on the horizon or something everyone else missed entirely, this is the most idiotic of the arguments out there defending the trade. Firs off, the net result was the same, since it was a contract for a contract. Then the Oilers 50 men reserve list is currently at 47, so keeping Arcobello would have only put them at 48 (47 if Joensuu doesn’t count and 46 if somehow Pinizzotto is picked up). There is plenty of room to maneuver with 48 contracts. For a team desperate for centers, the more should be the merrier. A center can always play wing, but it is harder for a winger to cover the pivot. Just ask Taylor Hall and Ryan Smyth.
  • Having two small centers is far from ideal specially on a smallish Oilers team. Why this is important is beyond comprehension. Yes, if the team was competing for a playoff spot those two guys on the same roster would be something to cringe about. But given the season has already been given its eulogy the team can’t possibly do any worse. It goes back to why is Roy here in the first place.

The saddest component of this transaction is the Oilers official website posting all sorts of uplifting clips trumpeting the intangibles of both Matt Fraser and Derek Roy, as if they were newly acquired core pieces that will guide this team to the Stanley Cup. It is sad because these players are the best MacTavish can do and because the team still underestimates the intelligence of its fans.

The players themselves have no control over coming here under these circumstances, so it is unfair to criticize them before they have even played a game in Oil colors. Sadly, their stats do tell a story and the fact they are here is the result of a series of unfortunate events produced by the combined incompetence of the Oilers organization. And as unfair as it is, Derek Roy and Matt Fraser are the newest faces of that incompetence.

Best wishes to the newest Oilers and may they find some measure of success.