Edmonton - October 16, 2014 - With the Edmonton Oilers getting off to their usual slow start, one can’t help but wonder when general manager Craig MacTavish will do the right thing and get both Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse out of town.
While both players may be better than some of the options that Dallas Eakins currently has at his disposal, by no means should that dictate whether or not either of the two stay in Edmonton for the entire 2014-15 campaign.
When it comes to Nurse, the likelihood of him staying past his nine game audition was always tenuous, at this stage of the game, what is the point of keeping him around? Outside of giving the youngster a game on home-ice to experience the moment and allow Oiler fans the opportunity to cheer for the kid in person, he needs to go back to the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds.
Again, while that was probably always the plan, what is MacT waiting for? The Greyhounds currently set second in the CHL rankings and have posted a perfect 7-0-0 record to start the 2014-15 OHL season and could quite easily find themselves vying for a Memorial Cup crown come next May. With that being the case, why not allow Nurse the opportunity to submerge himself into a “winning” environment and prepare for what should be his first appearance at the World Juniors for Team Canada?
The only thing that keeping him in Edmonton would accomplish is having him form bad habits. There is question Nurse would love nothing more than to play the entire year in the National Hockey League but from an organizational standpoint this should be a no-brainer. Have him dress against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night and then send him on his way.
As far as Draisaitl goes, the same rules should apply but unfortunately they do not. Anyone who has watched this kid play over these last four games can see he is in over his head…just like nearly every other player currently on this roster. Not surprisingly, the former Prince Albert Raiders standout is having a tough time adjusting to life at this level but what eighteen year old doesn’t? The speed of the game is much faster than what he is accustomed to facing in the Western Hockey League and the players are obviously far better, bigger and stronger.
Add to that the fact the Oilers are simply a poorly constructed squad and are counting on the big German pivot to anchor their second/third line and one can’t help but see this not ending well for either the club or player. How on earth can anyone expect the former third overall pick to keep his head above water when the other three centres on this roster are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon? Come on…a dose of reality is obviously in order.
There is no doubt that from a talent level standpoint, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins are the two best centres on this team but should that really be what determines whether or not he has to endure what looks to be another train wreck of a season in the Alberta capital? By sending him back to PA and having him work on the deficiencies in his game, most notably his defensive zone coverage and play away from the puck, they are at least giving him the opportunity to improve as a player.
That will not happen playing in the NHL….on this team. Now would he develop on team like the Los Angeles Kings? He most certainly would because they can insulate no matter where or whom he would be playing with. In my opinion, that is an impossibility playing with the Oilers current group, no matter how is used. The focus should be on developing the player and not having him chase his tail and simply trying to survive.
Where the Oilers general manager miserably failed both his team and Draisaitl, was by not bringing in a real NHL player who this kid would have had to have beat out in order to earn a spot out of training camp. Instead, he decided to go in the complete opposite direction and basically handed him a starting gig. It was his to lose and considering the lack of competition, the result was never really in doubt.
In my opinion, going about it in the manner they did was a major disservice to the player and if Craig MacTavish hasn’t completely lost his marbles, he will recognize the error in his ways and do the right thing and get Leon Draisaitl out of here before it is too late. The Buffalo Sabres were smart enough to do it with Sam Reinhart and hopefully the Edmonton Oilers will follow suit.