The Contrarian – Bad Teams Need Players

by Demetri Fragopoulos on October 18, 2015

Would it be wise for the Oilers to move some major pieces in order to turn around their fortunes?

“Bad teams need players. And just because players are playing in the league and on bad teams and maybe getting 15 goals doesn’t mean that they’re going to help you win.” So says Craig Button, former GM of the Calgary Flames and current analyst.

I found his comment in an article by Tony Gutierrez of the Edmonton Journal. He was referencing something he heard on a Leafs Lunch radio segment.

Button’s argument is that the Edmonton Oilers should start moving out these bad apples so the team can start to build a winning future. He says, “Just because Todd McLellan comes in and gives you purpose and structure and gives you what you need to do to be successful, it doesn’t mean those players are going to help you win, and to me, that’s the big step now for Peter Chiarelli. He’s got to move players out. And there’s too many players that to me simply aren’t good enough and don’t help you win.”

He continues, “The same group of guys has been instrumental in them being one of the worst teams in the league for the last half-dozen years.”

Harsh words ten days into the new season, but some fans would agree with him after their Oilers earned no points after four games.

My initial question is would his opinion have changed if the Oilers earned two points? How about three in those four games?

The reason for my question is that the Oilers had their first three games on the road against the St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars. They came home to play their home opener against those same Blues.

Maybe they could have won one game, or lost some games in overtime. I do not believe that would have changed Button’s opinion though.

You can have a great recipe, purchase the best quality ingredients, get the most decorated chefs to mix the items together, but you still have to wait for the chemical reactions to occur.

In a world of instant gratification, delivery, and take-out meals, we forget that sometimes things take time to grow, build and mature into great products.

Blaming this group of players for the mistakes of past coaches and general managers is crazy. These guys need more time to gel.

Here is what this roster has accomplished:

All-Rookie Teams – 5 OHL, 2 All-WCHA, 2 All-Hockey East, 1 ALL-CCHA, 1 AHL, 1 NHL

Rookie of the Year – 4 OHL, 3, CHL, 1 WHL, 1 CCHA, 1 Hockey East, 1 AHL

All-Star Teams – 2 Memorial Cup, 3 WHL, 2 IIHF WJC, 2 OHL, 1 AHL, 1 AHCA, 1 WCHA, 1 CHA

Scholastic Player of the Year – 2 CHL, 2 OHL, 1 WHL

Defenseman of the Year – 2, WCHA, 1 AHL, 1 OHL, 1 QMJHL Telus Cup

MVP/Player of the Year – 3 IIHF WJC, 3 Memorial Cup, 2 OHL, 2 CHL, 1 CHA, 1 WHL

Bronze –5 IIHF WJC, 2 IIHF U18, 1 Olympic, 1 IIHF WC, 1 IIHF U17

Silver – 3 IIHF WJC, 1 IIHF WC, 1 IIHF WJC U18

Gold – 4 IIHF WJC, 4 IIHF WJC U18, 2 IIHF WC

Stanley Cup – 1

I do not understand how a team with the previous list of accolades can be so bad that anyone would want to move some of these guys because of a seemingly bad start.

It is a good thing that the Oilers do not feel the same way as Button.

Robert Tychkowski writes about how the players are not giving up, how they did not think that everything would be corrected over this past summer.

He gets quotes from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Coach Todd McLellan.

First from Nugent-Hopkins, “We’ve seen a lot of good things in the last four games, we’ve played good, just not good enough to get that other goal or keep them from scoring it. We have to find a way to do that. I don’t know if we have that feeling that we know we’re going to win yet. We have to get that feeling, where you have confidence that you can get the next goal.”

Then McLellan adds, “I’m not surprised. I’m a little disappointed, but I’m not surprised. We know that we had a lot of work to do here and that hasn’t changed”, and more importantly, “We’re watching those guys. Are they going to let their shoulders slump and their heads go down? If that happens then we’ve got a bigger task ahead of us.”

Making a trade now would undermine all that. It would give the players an easy excuse to slump those shoulders and bow their heads, especially if the return in a trade does not give an immediate boost to the team.

No, the best play is to invest in these athletes and let them grow into the players that everyone expects them to become.

One other point of disagreement I have with Button is his high esteem for Peter Chiarelli in regards to trades.

Sure he has made good ones (see Phil Kessel), but he has made some bad ones too (see Tyler Seguin).  You can read this Sportsnet article to see his best and worst three maneuvers when he was with the Boston Bruins.

Can you imagine if he were to trade Taylor Hall (first overall in 2010) and get a return package that was similar to the one he agreed to for Seguin (second overall in 2010)?

There are a lot of good teams that would want a few of these Oilers. Those teams are very willing to give their bad players to maintain the Oilers’ recent reputation as a bad team.