SI.com hockey scribes debate John Scott’s wacky NHL All-Star vote lead, if the Oilers should trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and more.
Michael Blinn: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The All-Star Game is meant to be hokey and with its new format, it got hokier. The league does its best to not look like the fool with the process, but there’s only so much it can do. This looks worse on the fans, especially since (as Sam points out), Scott is now painfully aware that the joke is on him. I’m guessing that this guy, who has mechanical engineering degree, is smart enough to keep his name out of this event.
PAGE: Buffalo: It’s a great city. Couldn’t be more deserving. I find it vastly superior to towns like St. Louis and Pittsburgh, which were the other finalists. Is it too obvious I’m trying to make up for burying the Sabres in my preseason predictions?
MUIR: I wrote about the greatness of Buffalo this morning, so I’m on board with the pick. Honestly, the Pegulas might be the best friends hockey has these days with their passion for the game and willingness to pick up the tab for a variety of projects. They deserve whatever marquee events come their way, and so do those fans. And let’s face it: The proximity to a vast number of Canadians who will help fill the rink no matter who is playing makes Buffalo a zero-risk proposition for USA Hockey. You can’t say the same for Pittsburgh or St. Louis.
• There’s lots of trade talk coming out of Edmonton lately, with much of it surrounding Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Is that an option the Oilers should pursue? If not, what would you suggest GM Peter Chiarelli do about his struggling team?
PAGE: I think everyone can agree the Oilers need a top-pairing defenseman, or at least someone who is a good bet to develop into one. The problem is there aren’t too many of those players out there and I’m not sure you get one by selling low on Nugent-Hopkins. It also seems as if every team is always looking for more center depth—why give up your chance to have a Crosby-Malkin-Staal-type threesome for a few years? Trading Jordan Eberle makes more sense to me. He’s older and his track record helps his trade value. Besides, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl carrying lesser wingers in the future seems a lot more likely than Eberle making a Nugent-Hopkins replacement palatable.
That said, I’m right there with you on the silliness of making a play now. Everyone knows that they are wanting for help on the back end, but the type of player they need, someone who can help now and be a part of their foundation moving forward, I mean, other teams aren’t giving those guys away. Obviously Travis Hamonic of the Islanders is out there and he’d certainly be a nice fit, but not at the cost of RNH.
Look, everyone knows the Oilers need to do something at some point. And if the right player becomes available, they have plenty of assets that might be in play. Maybe Eberle, maybe Nail Yakupov, maybe even Justin Schultz, although he’s just coming off a back problem, and with an expiring contract his value is at a low point right now. But one area where they look set is at center and it makes sense to build around McDavid, RNH and Draisaitl rather than risk turning an area of real strength into something less.