a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Thursday, 11 December 2014

12/11/14 Running In Place

Not long ago, I made the claim that this is the best Edmonton Oilers team in the last five years. And that got me thinking:

Is it? Is it really?

We tend to look at a general manager's transactions in chunks, rather than as a whole picture. When you think of MacTavish's trade history, what's the first thing that comes to mind? David Perron? I don't think that's the proper way to examine things.

Below I've laid out the Oilers' depth chart from the last year of Tambellini's reign (2012-13) and that of today. This way, you can see for yourself the players that have gone out and come in, and decide for yourself if enough has been done in the last 20 months. The depth charts are listed by position and total ice time, not by line combinations.

The Forwards


Taylor Hall Sam Gagner Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Nail Yakupov
Magnus Paajarvi Shawn Horcoff Ales Hemsky
Lennart Petrell Eric Belanger Teemu Hartikainen
Ryan Jones Anton Lander Mike Brown
Ben Eager Jerred Smithson
Darcy Hordichuk Chris VandeVelde

Mark Arcobello

Now let's look at today's forwards:


David Perron Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall Mark Arcobello Teddy Purcell
Benoit Pouliot Boyd Gordon Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks Leon Draisaitl Jesse Joensuu
Luke Gazdic Will Acton Steve Pinizzotto

Bogdan Yakimov Tyler Pitlick

Iiro Pakarinen

Is that better? The left wing certainly is, though the Oilers are spending $15,662,500 on their top four left wingers (23.7% of their cap expenditure). You could make a good case that both center and right wing are weaker than before.

The Defense


Ladislav Smid Jeff Petry
Nick Schultz Justin Schultz
Ryan Whitney Corey Potter
Mark Fistric
Theo Peckham

And the new-and-improved:


Andrew Ference Justin Schultz
Nikita Nikitin Jeff Petry
Martin Marincin Mark Fayne
Oscar Klefbom
Keith Aulie
Brad Hunt

The right defense is upside-down, but improved. That is, of course, as long as MacTavish doesn't trade Petry this season, which would most probably negate the Mark Fayne addition (depending on the return). The significant portions of the left side are a combination of players from the Tambellini era who are now NHL-ready, along with Nikitin and Ference. Nikitin is the new Ryan Whitney, and a buyout candidate in the off season. Ference is an upgrade on Smid but not an extreme one, and not a top pair defenseman on a good team.

We can't blame MacTavish for using the good players who were coming up in the system. This organization may yet be saved by the players they've drafted. But when it comes to the defense, everything depends on what happens with Petry. If he gets re-signed then we're moving in the right direction and this is a better group; if he gets traded then it's basically more of the same, outside of the draftees.

Below is a comparison of the goaltenders. I ranked them by games played, but I also have their career save percentages in brackets. Goalie performance is so up-and-down that listing their single season Sv% would be too misleading.

The Goaltenders


Devan Dubnyk (0.909)
Nikolai Khabibulin (0.907)
Yann Danis (0.910)


Ben Scivens (0.911)
Viktor Fasth (0.910)

The Conclusions
If you want a reason why the Oilers continue to run in place: This. Is. It.
There have been upgrades here and there, and downgrades too. Interestingly, MacTavish said in his recent press conference that he wouldn't be "fixing one hole and exposing another", except that's exactly what he did when he traded Sam Gagner and arguably Devan Dubnyk (0.918 Sv% this year) as well.

If you think of individual moves in a vacuum, like the Perron trade, it's easy to say MacTavish has done some good things. And he has. But this team really isn't that much stronger than the one he inherited, especially in key positions.

That's my own opinion, of course. What do you think? Is this team significantly better? Should we expect more after almost two years?

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