Edmonton Oilers fans are having a hard time letting go.
I get it.
On an intellectual level, the trade of Taylor Hall represents something of an anathema to those who consider the old “acquire good players, keep good players” mantra the gospel of building an NHL team. And on an emotional level, Hall (when he was drafted) is the thrilling, gifted star who represented everything that the Edmonton Oilers franchise was about to (and should have, dammit) become.
I have time for both arguments. The former was a basic of the Strat-o-Matic baseball game I used to challenge my brothers to as a kid. The latter explains why a Taylor Hall Edmonton Oilers jersey hangs in my closet. Still.
Neither argument, unfortunately, in this case, turns out to be either accurate or true.
See… logically, we knew that one of the “6-million dollar men” was going to depart Edmonton this summer. So did Peter Chiarelli. And while it’s incredibly hard to see an offensive weapon of Hall’s quality leave town, there’s this little intellectual detail: The Edmonton Oilers allowed 245 goals last year, 42 more than they scored. Only one NHL team allowed more. One. For years, now, this team has leaked a goal. It’s high time it stopped.
Fans obviously didn’t necessarily want Hall to be the one to go, of course, and as it so often happens, when we’re emotional, we argue irrationally, in a desperate hope that this alone will “make it all go away.” We demonstratively insist that Peter Chiarelli “should trade one of the other ones.”
What fans are thinking is, “by all means, yes, fix the problem, yes, but not for what the price-tag says it will cost.” We want it fixed, and for cheaper than is reasonable to expect.
If you subscribe to the facts as laid out in the article by Elliott Friedman, what becomes painfully obvious is just what the landscape was that the Edmonton Oilers General Manager faced: Trade a player lesser than Hall, receive a lesser player in return. No, Chiarelli did NOT have to trade Hall. He could have traded Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (apparently, for example) for Matt Dumba.
It would have been better for the fans if Hall was still with the team. It’s easier. It’s comfortable. We want it to work. We’re happy if it does. The problem is that we intellectually find out that this would not work. It now would appear that Leon Draisaitl is our 2C, and that we would have no one as our 3C, and our top-pairing D-man alongside Oscar Klefbom would be Dumba.That is the solution to the 245 goals against? No, because that is not realistic.
With all due respect to Dumba, the fact is every D-man available for less than Taylor Hall is less of a D-man, and therefore less capable of curing what really ails this team. Emotionally, we hate this, but in reality, we know this is necessary for a fix.
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Emotionally, we would have loved P.K. Subban. Intellectually, we know that the Edmonton Oilers in the long haul can not afford both Subban and Connor McDavid. The same goes for Kevin Shattenkirk; we’d love to have him, but know he would likely not sign long-term, and would be a short-term, expensive rental.
And, as we continued to hope that the next breath-taking flash up the left side would be Taylor Hall finally taking us to the promised land, we look up the scoreboard at the end of the game and realize that we have lost…yet again.
At some point, we have to discover that our emotional and logical aspects are at serious odds with one another, and eventually, we will need to come to terms with that.
Peter Chiarelli did. Every day, in the business world, intellectual decisions are made because companies require a change in direction in order to be successful. It doesn’t mean the old employees were bad. More likely, they were doing a fine job of doing the wrong thing. That’s business. And that’s what hockey is, too.
Will I ever have an Adam Larsson jersey in my closet? Well, if I’m being honest with myself…probably not. But when I reasonably think about it, now I get closer to buying a player of playoff tickets to fill the void of a missing jersey. And that’s a better return.
After 10 years of looking up longingly at that scoreboard, logical-me will make that trade, every day of the week.
Passionate me will follow. Eventually.