Earlier this week, we made a play on the flatlining Edmonton Oilers thinking that they’d been beaten down so much by the market that they might represent a decent betting value. We won’t make that mistake twice. The Oilers might just be completely ‘unbettable’ at this point and they face a tough challenge on Friday night as they head down to ‘Tobacco Road’ to take on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Having the best hockey player on the planet can just take you so far. Connor McDavid does everything except sweep out the arena after games but are the Oilers are in dire straights. They’re facing the profound risk of missing the playoffs for the second straight season. Entering tonight’s game, Edmonton is tied for #13 in the fifteen team Western Conference. They’re just one point out of last place. The cellar dwelling Los Angeles Kings are idle tonight so the Oilers won’t fall into last place even with a loss here. The Anaheim Ducks are hosting the Boston Bruins so there are several scenarios by which Edmonton can take over sole possession of 14th place.
Making things all the more frustrating for Edmonton is trying to understand what’s wrong. Former GM Peter Chiarelli didn’t do the team any favors but you can blame Edmonton for hiring him. Chiarelli did a nice job while he was with the Boston Bruins. Looking back at his time with the Oilers it’s become readily apparent that Chiarelli did a horrific job of surrounding the best hockey player in the world with a ‘supporting cast’. The best thing that Chiarelli did during his tenure was to not stammer when he walked up to the podium to announce that ‘the Edmonton Oilers select Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters’.
It went downhill quickly after that with the nadir likely the 2016 Taylor Hall trade. Hall definitely underachieved in Edmonton and likely benefited from the change of scenery. Even so, there’s not a way to put a positive spin on the transaction even though the Oilers received Adam Larsson who is a very capable defenseman. What Larsson is not is a NHL MVP–that’s the award that Taylor Hall won the year after Edmonton sent him packing. Fansided NHL writer Dave Stevenson provides the rest of the ugly postmortum:
Hall, as many Edmonton fans know, was traded in 2016 straight up to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson. Larsson, to his credit, has been solid for the Oilers. However, Edmonton unquestionably gave up the better player, so it’s hard to see the trade as anything less than a downgrade. And, before anyone claims Hall wasn’t a great player in Edmonton, the Oilers were a much better team with him on the ice than they were without him.
Eberle was traded in 2016 for Ryan Strome, who was a major disappointment. Strome was then traded for Ryan Spooner, who has been even worse. All Chiarelli has to show for trading a proven top-six forward who consistently scored around 20 goals a year is a fourth-line caliber forward. That’s an indisputable downgrade.
Pouliot was bought out, so the Oilers got absolutely nothing for him. Schultz, who was constantly underutilized and miscast in Edmonton, got traded to the Penguins for a third-round pick. When healthy, he’s a top-four defenseman.
Stevenson also points out that the Oilers have only one playoff appearance in the going-on four seasons that ‘McJesus’ has been in the NHL. By way of contrast, he notes that Sidney Crosby would win a Stanley Cup in his fourth season in Pittsburgh. While it’s not beyond the pale for the Oilers to qualify for the playoffs with a quick turnaround (they’re only 6 points behind the 8th place Minnesota Wild) it’s hard to see a team that is on a 6-15-2 run making that kind of move.
The Carolina Hurricanes are also fighting for a playoff spot but they’re doing a better job at it. Since New Years’ Eve 2018 the ‘canes are 14-5-1. They’re just 3 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the East and have a schedule spot with six very winnable games coming right up. They face the Dallas Stars (#7 in the West) but otherwise take on Edmonton, the New York Rangers, Florida and Los Angeles. The teams split two meetings last year with each winning on enemy ice. In the only meeting so far this year the Hurricanes won 7-4 at Edmonton. The price we’re laying here is a bit more pricey than we’re used to seeing Carolina at but given their solid form and the Oilers’ deplorable form we’ll pull the trigger.