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

Welcome to Oil Acumen. All Oilers, all the time... Occasionally other stuff.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

01/13/15 Odds & Ends: More On Yakupov, Trading Gordon, Trading Marincin, Voracek's Year & More

A busy brain is the readers' gain! Here are eight more thoughts on the Oilers and around the NHL.

I'll start by officially throwing my hat into the "don't trade Boyd Gordon" ring. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Boyd Gordon is completely irreplaceable for the Oilers, because there's nobody in the organization who can do his job. It's as simple as that, because a trade or free agent signing to replace a player under contract for another year would make no sense at all.

Gordon being on the wrong side of thirty may worry some, but it shouldn't. The goal for the Oilers has to be winning next year, and Gordon's age shouldn't prevent him from helping the team do that in the short term. If the Oilers are somehow able to turn the corner, they should be thinking about re-signing Gordon at this time next year, not trading him.

Among NHL centers who have played at least 30 games, Gordon has the fourth-toughest zone start workload in the league. He's starting in the offensive zone just 18.7% of the time at even strength. Dominic Moore has it the fifth-toughest, at 26.1%. Gordon is also facing the toughest competition among the Oilers' regular forwards.

He's totally irreplaceable, really by any means, and if the Oilers trade him they will just spend the next several years trying to find another Boyd Gordon.

Yakupov's Struggles

In my previous article about Nail Yakupov's struggle to find offense, I forgot to mention that his personal on-ice shooting percentage at even strength has dropped from 11.11% to 7.37% to 5.69% over his first three seasons. That last number especially is low, and his 957 PDO suggests a player who has been quite unlucky this year. As we know, these things tend to turn around.

Don't let his mistakes trouble you too much, and the Oilers shouldn't focus on them too much either. This kid had 170 points in 107 OHL games, but he finished his junior career with a modest plus-13 rating. In his first year in Sarnia he was a minus-2(!) with 49-52-101 in 65 games. The Oilers had to know the player they were getting. I've said this before, but if they want to maximize his value they need to put him with some defensively sound forwards (like Derek Roy has been for him), and just let that horse run. Trying to turn him into something he's not is a recipe for the failure we've seen so far.

Signing Derek Roy

I've liked Derek Roy just as much as the next guy since he came to Edmonton, and even wished the Oilers had signed this player in the off season rather than rushing Leon. But let's just wait and see before anybody jumps to re-sign the guy. I don't think Roy's phone is going to be ringing off the hook in the off season, and it's not like signing him to an extension right now is going to avoid the frenzy.

Small sample size is so deceptive with players. Remember how good Corey Potter looked early in his first season with the Oilers, and how poor he looked after he signed his extension? We need more games before making a call on Roy, and that goes for Klinkhammer as well.

Voracek Makes Howson Look Silly

Jakub Voracek is having one hell of a year in Philadelphia. With 17-35-52 in 43 games, he's leading the league as of this writing. Remember when Scott Howson traded him along with a pick that became Sean Couturier and another pick that became Nick Cousins? Jeff Carter played 39 games for Columbus, scoring 15 goals. Voracek has already got 80 goals and counting for Philadelphia, not to mention Couturier's work. I understand why the move was made, but trying to have a goal-scoring center play with Rick Nash always seemed strange to me.

Anyway, that's Scott Howson for ya - our very own Senior VP of Hockey Operations.

Oh, and Voracek is making the Oilers look foolish in another way: he was picked one spot after Sam Gagner. I remain a Gagner fan, and I won't blame anyone for picking him over Voracek at the time, but if the Oilers flipped a coin at the draft they came out on the wrong end. Such has been their decade.

Fixing The Shootout

There's still debate about the way the shootout points system should be handled, even after all this time. I don't expect that the NHL would care what I think (I don't expect you to care either, but I'll tell you anyway!), but a few years ago I had an idea that might work:

Award two points for a regulation or overtime win.
Award one point for an overtime loss.
Award one point for a shootout win, and no points for a shootout loss.


Both teams lose something if the game goes to a shootout, which makes them more likely to try to end the game in regulation, especially in a playoff race. Teams still get something for winning the shootout, leaving its relevance intact. This way the NHL would not have to revamp the points system entirely by introducing three points for a regulation win.

Trading Martin Marincin

This is a player whose name has been in trade discussions for a while, even before he played an NHL game, and all the reasons that made it plausible then are still true now.

No player is untouchable, depending on the return, and if trading Marincin is the right thing to do then it is. The problem I have with it is that this is a player the Oilers drafted outside of the first round, and who has actually given them a return on their investment. He's inexpensive useful depth and unknown, mostly untapped potential at this point. I wouldn't be in any rush to move him unless it was part of a very significant upgrade to the here and now.

The Tank Must End

I won't say that it's wrong for Oilers fans to cheer for losses and Connor McDavid, because if this blog had existed in 2009 you would have found a bunch of articles about the virtues of a Fall For Hall.

From December 3rd, 2009 to December 11th, 2009 the Oilers won five straight games on the road - and barely moved in the standings. It was then that I first felt that tanking for the future was the only way forward. The Oilers might have felt that way, too, because the team went on to win only one of their next 21 games, including zero in the month of January. We can certainly debate the wisdom of my thinking, and the wisdom of the men at the controls, but it did award the Oilers one of the best players in their history.

Having said that, I do think that it's time for the tanking mentality to end, McDavid or no McDavid. Rather than selling players off and hoping to lose, it'd be nice to see the Oilers try to win and convince them to stay. Maybe they'll convince others.

Which brings me to:

The Jeff Petry Conundrum

If it is Jeff Petry who wants out, and not Oilers management that wants to be rid of Petry, then the organization is in a tight spot. However, that doesn't mean that it's not management's fault. As Ryan Batty pointed out, saying that a player didn't want to stay is often just another way of saying that the team isn't worth playing for or caring about. That's on the people running the show.

But they can redeem themselves. It would be a mistake to simply trade Petry, as others have already stated in greater detail. Read this, or maybe this one, or even this! This guy has got to come back if the Oilers hope to compete next season.

So because the Oilers can't offer Petry a winning team, they'd better offer him money. A lot of money. It could be that money and winning wouldn't be enough - maybe he wants to play closer to home, like in Detroit - and if that's the case I hope we hear about it after he's gone. But my sincere hope is that we don't hear that Petry left Edmonton because of dollars.

Nikita Nikitin has never shown as much as Petry, he's not a former draft pick of the team (although they gave one up to acquire his rights), and he got $4.5 million to be very sub-par. Is $5 million outrageous for Petry? I don't think so, especially on a shorter-term deal.

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