Tha Sports Junkies 101

Oilers bought, not built

Dinur via Flickr

NHL

Success for Oilers more short-term than long-term

The Edmonton Oilers are enjoying success they haven’t seen in over 11 years. Success has not come overnight, but it certainly has not been built. Rather, the Oilers bought the team that is finding postseason success this year.

Being the worst team at the end of one decade and the start of another means a lot of high draft picks. The Oilers have held a top ten pick in nine of the last ten drafts.

When looking at the Oilers’ success this season, however, the majority of the main contributors have not been the high draft picks of the past ten years.

Milan Lucic, the fourth-highest regular season point-getter for Edmonton, came in via free agency. Patrick Maroon, third on the team in regular season goals, arrived via trade in February 2016. The man who held down the net all season, Cam Talbot, was also a free agent pickup in 2015.

The Oilers have had their high draft picks contribute this season. Former No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid led the NHL with 100 points, and Leon Draisaitl (third overall, 2014) added 77. But, former first rounders Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have turned into role players rather than the stars they were thought to be.

Other top picks have not panned out. Magnus Paajarvi (tenth overall, 2009) and Nail Yakupov (first overall, 2012) are now members of the St. Louis Blues. Darnell Nurse has not developed into a top flight defenseman, though there is still time for him to grow.

Defensively is where the Oilers struggled over the past ten seasons. Edmonton sent Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson, a move that puzzled many. Hall could have fetched better back-end talent, but the move was one for the future.

Larsson and Nurse are the only exciting prospects defensively in Northern Alberta. Blue line anchors Kris Russell and Andrej Sekera are no spring chickens at the age of 30.  Russell is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the playoffs, and he will be looking for more than the $3.1 million he made this season.

The salary cap situation for the Oilers will be tight in a couple of years. McDavid’s entry-level contract expires in the 2018 off-season. $18 million total is already locked up in Lucic, Nugent-Hopkins, and Eberle. Draisaitl’s contract is up at the end of the playoffs, and he will command at least a few million dollars.

The Oilers must draft better. They have no blue-chip prospects defensively, and they will not have the cap room to continue signing veteran defensemen at large dollar amounts.

The development of draft choices has been sub-par in Edmonton. Nurse, Larsson, and Griffin Reinhart have to become top defensemen in the next couple of years. If they cannot do so, Edmonton will once again be very weak in their defensive end.

The Oilers are having great success, but the way the team is constructed, it is not built to last. Edmonton does not have enough young pieces on the back end. Their defense currently is more of a Band-Aid than a long-term solution. Perennial 50-point scorers and two-way forwards occupy too much of the cap, as well.

But what matters is the present. The Oilers are looking strong, maybe even a championship favorite. If this year’s Oilers can bring home the Cup, it might give management time to prepare Edmonton for extended success.