Now that Jesse Puljujarvi has made it known he does not want to stay in Edmonton… where does the team go from here?
This comes as somewhat of a surprise. Especially when the player has only 37 points in 139 career NHL games. When you are a player of high draft pedigree like Puljujarvi, that stat is underwhelming.
Perhaps even more surprising is how a player, who has yet to prove anything, could be comfortable with requesting such a hefty demand to the organization.
Let the blame game begin. And there is plenty of it to go around.
Of course it goes without saying that if Marty McFly and Doc Brown appeared with their DeLorean and sent Oilers management back in time, they should alter the course of Puljujarvi’s development.
That would mean letting him spend another year in Europe after he was drafted, then bringing him over to North America to play a full season in the AHL the year after.
So in a perfect world, we would have seen a Puljujarvi NHL debut in 2018-19, as a marinated, more mature 20-21-year-old with two additional seasons of pro hockey under his belt as opposed to being a raw, inexperienced 18-year-old kid who struggles for three years to adapt in a league of men.
For a 4th overall selection, I get it, expectations are high and teams invest a lot of time and resources into their player. The desire to rush him immediately to the show is tempting considering the glaring forward needs of the Oilers for the last couple years.
It doesn’t seem quite as far-fetched to allow a young player to learn on the job in the best league in the world.
But as mom taught us, “patience is a virtue.”
At the end of the day, the Puljujarvi experiment has failed miserably and the time is now to decide whether or not there is anything left to salvage and fix. Or maybe it is time to cut bait and send the player off to greener pastures.
Having said that, it isn’t entirely all managements fault.
The blame is 60% player and 40% management.
While it is fair for Oilers brass to own up to past misjudgement and handling, it comes down to the player to earn his way.
Yes, Puljujarvi should have gotten more power-play time. Especially on the point where his terrific shot could be made use of. Yes he should have got more time in the top-six playing with skilled, fast players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
He needs his confidence back. Maybe he could find it in Europe or with another team. Maybe even in Edmonton if the mood changes from all sides of the spectrum.
Ken Holland could work on finding a deal that can net the Oilers a third line forward or a mid draft pick in the 2nd to 3rd range. Perhaps there is a deal out there that gets the Oilers an A or B level prospect. Or they could go the other way and take on another teams reclamation project in a deal for Puljujarvi.
The bottom line is Puljujarvi needs to make a decision. The right thing to do is to come to camp and prove himself. A new regime of coaches and management up top and a fully recovered body should be giving the young man a rejuvenated, positive approach heading into next season.
There is a lot of negativity surrounding Puljujarvi right now. The truth is you never want to see anybody struggle. You wish them all the best. I have my doubts if he can find his groove in Edmonton; but one can hope he turns things around and shows up to camp this fall.
If not, he really does need to get a fresh start elsewhere. There is no ill-will here as there should never be towards anyone. I hope he succeeds.
But the Oilers need players that want to be in Edmonton. Puljujarvi can try to dictate where he goes and where he plays in the lineup. At the end of the day it comes down to a simple fact:
Put up or shut up.