The Edmonton Oilers and their lack of success this season has been one of the main storylines of the year. How could a team that performed so well in 2016-17, and led by such talented players, find itself back in the basement of the National Hockey League already?
One of the main factors has been the lack of speed on the wings. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall were traded away, and while the team was able to overcome the loss of one of the quickest and best wingers in the league in Hall, losing both guys has had an impact on this team.
The likes of Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic are relied on to keep pace with Connor McDavid and it just doesn't work. He needs wingers who can keep up with his torrid speed.
That's something Peter Chiarelli needs to properly address going into next season.
It's rather unlikely that it happens on February 26th, however.
Chiarelli recently provided an analysis of his team's situation this year to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.
"We probably overachieved last year, and we’re underachieving this year," Chiarelli said. "We’re somewhere in between. And I believe in-between a contending team. Now, what is contending? It’s broadly defined."
"Of course not," Chiarelli said. "I’ve said that to our fans. Part of what we’re striving for here is stability and continuity and sticking to a strong plan. We’re not going to stray from that. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to make a trade here and there. But a blockbuster, blow-it-up (trade)? No."
This second quote is the key to what Chiarelli will do this coming month. Trade away the likes of Patrick Maroon, Mark Letestu, and perhaps Mike Cammalleri if there are any takers, and that's about it.
Maybe a minor hockey trade will happen, but the odds of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins getting traded, or any other core player, seems slim to none.
Chiarelli will not blow up this roster, if his word is to be trusted. As he says, he is seeking stability, and that starts with letting this group grow together. There needs to be tweaks and adjustments to improve the overall speed of the team, but there are great pieces to work around, and Nugent-Hopkins is one of them.
As the old saying goes, never say never. If someone blows him away with a legitimate hockey deal, he could eventually consider it, but it's not the kind of trade that goes down in February. Rather, it's something that could happen at the draft.
For now, you'll have to accept that this team won't improve this season with any kind of trade.