Willis: Edmonton Oilers family fast approaching ‘all-in’ moment

The NHL It is often, at his expense, an ill-advised clique. Short term rather than long term thinking tends to dominate.

My favorite example of this trend came in recent years from Toronto, where then-general manager Dave Nunes was asked about the long-term implications of David Clarkson’s signing of a seven-year anti-takeover contract of 8.2 percent (the modern equivalent of $6.74 million) of maple leavescover area.

“I’m not worried about[six or seven]years right now,” Nunes said, in a real damn fashion. “I am worried about one. And in the first year, I know we are going to have a very good player. I think he has a lot of good years left in him.”

It’s a fun quote in many ways, not least because Clarkson scored a total of five goals in his first season with the foliage. What I have always enjoyed is his honesty. Few NHL managers are willing to announce their indifference to the future.

In general, when an NHL manager makes a long-term fraudulent bet, he finds reasons to justify it, as Peter Chiarelli did after signing Milan Lucic.

“He’s 28 years old, and he has very limited, if any, injuries,” Chiarelli said at the time. “And yes, the way he plays, it’s hard to play that in your thirties. I’ve seen him grow both physically and mentally as a young man, and I know how much he takes care of his body, and I know what his wife is – she’s very interested in nutrition, as Milan became in The field of nutrition.He has always been one of the best-adapted athletes on Bruinsso that these things reduce the risk.

“But there are risks, yes, there are risks.”

Compared to the sheer mass of data that says power forwards and frustrated skaters tend to age poorly, the “I know this guy, he takes care of his body and never had a heap of injuries” argument is thin. It was a signing with an eye on the present, and the decision to load heavy signing bonuses into the 5-7 years of the contract made it clear that Chiarelli either didn’t think much or didn’t care what happened to the streak.

There are countless similar examples of short-term thinking burning NHL teams. However, there are times when a rational actor may weigh the options and focus heavily on the present. This is rarely true for rebuilding teams or mediocre teams, but for the best clubs it can make sense.

Takes Calgary Flames General Motors Brad Trilling. This summer, the Flames – who came off a 50-win season and second-best goal difference in the NHL – faced the loss of their top strikers, Johnny Goudreu And the Matthew Tkachuk. It would have been a potentially fatal blow to a legitimate competitor, and there was an argument for Calgary to take a step back and rearrange, despite the fact that the average age of the top six strikers/top four defenders next year would be 28.

Instead, Treliving sacrificed wisdom in a series of moves aimed at keeping Calgary as a contender:

  • trade for Jonathan Huberdeau and his signing of an eight-year contract which shall come into effect only after he reaches thirty years of age, and further proof of acquisition of this contract by the signing of bonuses;
  • Trading for suspended free agent Mackenzie and jealous;
  • Spend the first round to take it Sean Monahanhold out books;
  • Free agent signature Nazim Qadriwho will turn 32 on opening night, for a seven-year contract.

These measures will definitely help The Flames next season. They will certainly hurt the team just as much. This is unwise, but it is not necessarily unreasonable; For a team that can win in the moment, there is a good argument for maximizing the present. The question is whether the flames have lost so much that they are so formidable in Gaudreau and Tkachuk that these efforts are in vain, and there is no sure answer to that. Treliving is betting on a “no”.

Another NHL team in Alberta took a different path for most of Ken Holland’s time in the chair. This longtime CEO was mostly aiming for wisdom.

As a deadline buyer, the oiled He was stingy. They declined to participate in the first round selections. When dealing with second rounds, target players who were hoping for long-range spells (Andreas AthanasioAnd the Britt Colak). The only pure rentals that mattered to Edmonton in the past three years were bargain pickups (Mike Green, Tyler Ennis, Dmitriy KulikovDerek Brassard).


Nurse Darnell (Harry Hu/Getty Images)

Even in free agency, where Oilers were active, they mostly avoided the big spots. nurse darnell – Irreplaceable in the team’s top pair and hitting the market while the defenders were getting paid – is the only real exception. Zach HeymanAnd the Ryan Nugent HopkinsAnd the Evander KingAnd the Tyson BarryAnd the Cody Sisi And the Jack Campbell All contracts were carefully thought out, and they were all signed with at least the medium term in mind. In each of the latter cases, at least two cap or duration bonuses or signature bonuses were carefully restricted.

Holland sometimes defended his moderate approach. In 2021, he angered fans with his comments after the trade deadline.

“I don’t think you can be all-in-all,” Holland said. “I think you choose and you choose.”

Anger is easy to understand. God bless the oilers Conor McDavid And the Leon DrystelDefinitely the best center double punch in the NHL since the early days Sidney Crosby And the Yevgeny Malkin. The team with these two players in their first league must be a competitor, period.

Of course, “must have” and “have” are not the same thing. In 2019-20, the Oilers finished -16 in five-on-five positions. They improved to minus one in 2020-21, and finally in 2021-22 they reached the high plateau that includes plus eight.

Add it all together and in those three seasons, Edmonton was the best five-to-five team in the NHL, with a total of minus nine. The two teams with cup rings in those three years ranked first (Coloradoplus-135) and the second (Tampa Bay, plus-88) during the same period. When Joe Sakic or Julien BriseBois pawns the future to try for a title, it’s done from a very different position than the situation the Netherlands was in during his career with the Oilers.

Edmonton had superstars to run, but they didn’t have the team around them. Forcing things on a deadline isn’t going to change that, it’s not enough. The Dutch restraint is justified.

So what then? Relax and make modest improvements in the hope that something will change before Draisaitl hits the free agency in 2025 and McDavid does in 2026? No, because something changed in the middle of the season last year, although it took time to appreciate how significant the shift was.

In fact, many things have changed. Kane is signed as a free agent. Colac was obtained by the deadline. More importantly, Jay Woodcroft replaced Dave Tibbett as head coach.

When Tippett was sent off, Oilers played 44 games. They were under 12 at the age of five, and barely better on other metrics, with a 50 percent shot percentage and 51 percent expected goals. During the next 38 games under Woodcroft, they went plus 20 with a 53 percent shot and an expected goal share.

Then came the playoffs. It took seven games to send kings, but at five-on-five, the streak wasn’t close: Edmonton had 52 percent of shots, 57 percent of projected goals and edged out Los Angeles 16-12. The core numbers were less pretty against Calgary (largely due to how good Flames did when behind) but again Edmonton had a four-goal margin in five against five in a 4-1 victory.

The Oilers were then cut by a Colorado buzzer saw in the third round. The results would probably have been more respectable if the bits didn’t keep falling from Draisaitl and Nurse while playing, but even they weren’t up to the Avs.

This latest failure is not enough to undo what happened before. The deadliest playing team in the NHL now looks like it could be a legitimate five-on-five contender. This is the first time during the Netherlands’ tenure that there is reason to believe that aggressive action could put the team at the top.

This is a cause for urgency, even if it is not usually heard. There has always been a feeling in Edmonton that if the Oilers are to keep the great McDavid/Draisaitl duo together, some win has to happen before they hit free agency. There is an hour to success.

That clock was ticking louder than at any time since those contracts were signed. It’s good to have pressure. It was also wise to adjust it until the team surrounding these players was ready. That may be for now, although a cautious GM may wait until there is longer evidence of a five-on-five success before committing.

Either way, Oilers are fast approaching the moment when it will be time for ill-advised moves, to sacrifice prospects or first-round picks in the right deal, to push chips to the middle of the table.

They may already be there. There is usually a series of moves in early fall, just before the season begins. If the Netherlands judge the time is right, it can and should be a crowded window to Edmonton.

(Photo by Leon Drysitl and Conor McDavid: Ed Mulholland / USA Today)

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