Everything written this time of the NHL’s regular season of is legally and morally bound to include the phrase “it’s early, but…”. And it is indeed early, but after seeing the Edmonton Oilers get rolled for the fourth straight game, I think I speak for their fan base – actually, I know I do, because their vocal cords are paralyzed with rage – when I say the following words:
Enough. No mas. Detener la locura.
That’s right – I’m so done watching these Oilers get humbled virtually every time they take the ice, I’m speaking in short bursts of Spanish. This is all affecting us in different ways. But as a writer who isn't a fan of any team, I have no horse in this race, so I can only imagine how simultaneously furious and defeated Oilers fans must be feeling this morning. Is there a single barf bag available for purchase anywhere within the city limits right now?
This stopped being comically inept a long time ago. It is now tragically inept. And while you never want to make knee-jerk moves after a bad run, at some point you have to jerk the knee to prove you’re not a cadaver. The Oilers are at this stage.
Enough talk about the promise of the youngsters they’ve drafted over the years. Enough bluster about the veterans that have been brought in, in different shapes and forms, every off-season to “help the kids”. This is simply not the right mix, and if after these first games of 2014-15 there are any remaining doubts in the mind of owner Daryl Katz that a major move is necessary to change their current predicament, I would suggest those doubts are in and of themselves an obstacle to the Oilers turning the corner back toward respectability.
Throw out the old “you can’t make moves now from a point of weakness” argument all you want. It applies in most cases, but not here and now with this organization. If you don’t do anything now, and the suffering continues, and the air in the dressing room goes toxic, guess what? You just went from a point of weakness to a point of feebleness.
So instead of gambling on that not happening, GM Craig MacTavish needs to get to work immediately on a transaction of significance. That means leaving the third and fourth lines and third-pair defense alone, and finally biting the bullet on trading one of the franchise’s elite young forwards. Now, that probably won’t be star winger Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but even from a so-called position of weakness, there’s no reason the Oilers couldn’t land a better-than average haul in a deal for winger Jordan Eberle. He’s 24 years old and the type of proven scorer you can build a bidding war around. You might not land an equally proficient scorer in return, but you might get a top defensive prospect for a player like that. You might be able to improve your depth in a number of areas for a player like that. And as my colleague Ken Campbell argued, such a deal is absolutely necessary if Edmonton is intent on improving their questionable group of centers.
The Oilers’ season isn’t over by a long shot. But you know what is? Oilers fans’ tolerance for the way these shame sessions have become ritualized and normalized since 2006. If Katz, MacTavish and the rest of the team’s braintrust doesn’t realize their customers are questioning their brains and their trust in their brains, there’s a bigger problem to address than the sizeable one representing Edmonton on the ice.
The time for tinkering has come and gone, with no tangible improvement to show for it. The crossroads has arrived. Safe is death.
Enough, Petroleros de Edmonton. No mas. Detener la locura.