Oilers need to swallow pride and send Leon Draisaitl away
By Rob Soria
With the Edmonton Oilers 2014-15 campaign now officially in the toilet, Craig MacTavish has to come to his senses. The time for the Oilers GM to swallow his pride and admit he was wrong is now at hand. If he does nothing else, MacT needs to get Leon Draisaitl out of town and keep him from having to suffer through what could arguably end up being the toughest five month stretch this organization has ever had to deal with.
Edmonton - December 2, 2014 - With the Edmonton Oilers 2014-15 campaign now officially in the toilet, Craig MacTavish has to come to his senses.
After watching this team drop a 7-4 decision to the Arizona Coyotes back on October 15th, my hope was the Oilers general manager would have recognized where this ship was headed and get both Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse out of town before this season completely got out of hand.
Thankfully he was bright enough to do just that when it came to Nurse but he completely missed the boat when it came to the former Prince Albert Raiders star centre.
We are now twenty-five game into Draisaitl’s rookie campaign and the kid looks completely out of his element and yet he remains in Oilers silks.
Averaging roughly twelve and a half minutes of ice time a night and just over ten at even strength, which is last among all forwards who see regular duty on the Oilers “top” three lines, the third overall pick of last summer’s draft hasn’t exactly been tearing it up at the National Hockey League level. With two goals, six points and a rather ugly minus eleven rating on his resume, suggesting Draisaitl has not had an easy go of things, would be putting it mildly.
On far too many occasions, he has found himself stapled to bench in close games and to be fair, it is hard to blame Dallas Eakins for approaching the situation in the manner he has. At nineteen year’s old, it is quite clear to anyone who is willing to pay attention that he is not ready to compete in the best league in the world…especially when he is a part of a roster that is as poorly constructed as this one.
In a perfect setting, Draisaitl would likely be able to hold his own in a third line role but he does not play for the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings. Instead he gets to suit up for the team that currently sits in last place and looks to be getting worse with each and every passing game. There is no Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar to help insulate him in this neck of the woods.
Edmonton already have a plethora of kids in the lineup that are in dire need of having a lifeline thrown their way and the last thing this group needed was to add another potential anchor on to the pile. Unfortunately by keeping Draisaitl around as long as he has, MacT has only made life that much tougher on everyone involved and in case you have not been paying attention…the pressure to win games has been turned up a notch or two.
Apparently he was not counting on people actually expecting this group to take some sort of step forward in 2014-15. Now, why anyone in their right mind would have honestly believed that was even a possibility after to looking at the make-up of this roster is truly beyond me but that is the reality of the situation. At this stage of the game, the season is already lost, what is the point of keeping the kid who wears No. 29 on his back around?
Please spare me the argument that Draisaitl would not benefit from another year in the Western Hockey League because it is an asinine one to make. Just watch him play and you can see the flaws in his game. Whether he ends up back in Prince Albert or is traded to one of the better teams in the WHL, he has things to work on and outside of getting regular reps in practice with the Oilers, he simply will not get the opportunity to grow as a player in Edmonton.
If anyone thinks this kid is benefiting in any way from playing marginal minutes and being around a bunch of players who have absolutely no idea what it takes to win hockey games in the National Hockey League, sorry to say, you are completely out to lunch. Open your eyes people…this is not a good situation.
While the Oilers did end up wasting a year of the youngster’s entry level deal by allowing him to dress for his tenth game of the season against the Nashville Predators on October 29th, that decision should have nothing to do with whether or not Draisaitl sticks around in the Alberta capital for the remainder of the season.
As teams across the league started to approach that “magical” nine game mark in late October, TSN’s Bob McKenzie was nice enough to remind all of us about the so-called “9/10 game threshold” not being the be all and end all when it comes to players who still have junior eligibility.
It varies from NHL team to team and player to player, but there's growing evidence to suggest NHL clubs are becoming a little to a lot less concerned about "burning" the first year of the contract. Most, if not all, of the GMs I've spoken to on the subject are far more cognizant of the 39/40 game threshold than the 9/10 mark.
If a player plays in his 40th game of the season, it counts as an accrued year of service counting towards the seven years required to become an unrestricted free agent. Put more in terms us laymen can understand: if your favourite team's underage junior plays in 40 games this season, the clock starts ticking on his seven-year countdown to unrestricted free agency.
So a team may very well be prepared to "burn" that first year by allowing its underage junior to play 10 games but, depending on how the player is faring at mid-season, won't permit the player to get into that 40th game, secure in the knowledge the young prospect is eight, not seven, years away from UFA.
That is a direct quote from McKenzie’s article which appeared over at TSN on October 27th and in my mind, this makes the decision to send Draisaitl out of town prior to Edmonton’s January 4th date with John Tavares and the New York Islanders an absolute no-brainer. That will be game No. 40 on the Oilers schedule and in all honesty, it should not even be a decision.
If this organization had any sense whatsoever, they would immediately allow Draisaitl to join the German squad for the upcoming 2015 World Junior Championship in Toronto and after that…he should be headed back to Prince Albert for the rest of the year. The kid got his taste of the National Hockey League and my guess is was a bit of an eye-opener for him.
If Craig MacTavish does nothing else for the remainder of the season, he has to make this his No. 1 priority. The time to swallow his pride and admit he was wrong is now at hand and let’s hope he is big enough to do exactly that and save Leon Draisaitl from having to suffer through what could arguably be the toughest five month stretch this organization has ever had to deal with.
Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org