Sunday, 22 January 2012
01/22/12 A Question of Depth
"Every team goes through injuries," said Ladislav Smid back on January 18th. The problem with the Oilers is that they lack the ability to replace the players that they have lost, and they're still a number of years away from being able to. Until that changes, this team will continue to lose.
The players that are pictured above look like a formidable group, don't they? One day they may all play a part in the Oilers' future success, but as of now Taylor Hall is the only one in the NHL and the others really aren't close. From left to right, Jeremie Blain is plying his trade in the QMJHL this year, Pitlick is a rookie in the AHL, Martin Marincin is still in the WHL and Ryan Martindale is playing in the ECHL. Curtis Hamilton (not pictured) is also an AHL rookie this season. None of those players is ready to step in for an injured NHL regular.
From 2006 to 2008 the Oilers made just 16 selections in the NHL Entry Draft, and given the crapshoot-like nature of the event that's not a recipe for a lot of organizational depth. Jordan Eberle, Theo Peckham, Jeff Petry and Sam Gagner are NHL regulars from those draft years, with Linus Omark, Philippe Cornet and Teemu Hartikainen trailing behind. That's only part of a team and two or three players that are capable of filling in when injuries strike.
The Oilers are starting to see the fruits of the 2009 Draft in Paajarvi and Lander, but nobody else from that class is near the NHL at this point and it's arguable whether or not either of the first two belong with the Oilers just yet. And as encouraging as it was for the Oilers to make 20 selections in the last two years with many tracking well, the fact remains that most of them are still a long way from being able to impact this team.
At the moment this rebuilding thing appears to be a failure because the fans and the team have gone through so much painful sucking. But the fact is that it's still too early to judge. Building depth takes time, and not enough of it has passed. Laddy Smid is right: every team does go through injuries, but the ones the Oilers have suffered have been crippling. There's no team in the NHL that could absorb the loss of three of their best offensive players and their top two defensemen, but how teams can deal with it depends on the quality of the trailers they've got in the organization.
The Oilers are always going to suffer injuries (hopefully not as badly as the last few seasons), but one day they will have the ability to replace the players they've lost. That will be enough to keep them in the playoff hunt while their injured players convalesce, and by that time the Oilers' regulars will be even better than they are now.
Whether or not Renney or Tambellini are right for this rebuild is not a question that is being answered here, but there is one thing to keep in mind:
No matter who is in charge, this team doesn't have the depth to be competitive. Decide for yourself whose fault that is, but the only thing that's going to fix it is time.