With both a playoff berth and a general manager’s job on the line, the time between now and the trade deadline should be especially interesting for the Oilers.
Darren Dreger had a Thursday morning radio hit on Edmonton’s TSN 1260, where the early discussion point centered on the Oilers’ lack of depth.
“That’s what it is. That’s what it is, is just not enough depth,” agreed Dreger. “And on top of that, the depth is further depleted by injuries. Now, Russell and Sekera are likely going to be back sooner rather than later, but as you know, Oscar Klefbom is going to need some time. He’ll probably drift into early February before he’s able to return. So you’re talking about a blueline with holes in it, and a blueline that some wanted to question with good health at the start of the year.
“But it’s also about opportunity, and developing and promoting what you’ve got. Caleb Jones has gained some good experience. He appears like in the not-too-distant future he’s going to be a nice fit for the Edmonton Oilers, but that doesn’t create a stop-gap for where they’re at right now.
“Edmonton is in full-on survival mode, so Hitch is just going to have to tighten the screws. He’s got no problem with that. It’s going to be about winning games in that 2-1 fashion, where defensive detail is priority one on the top of the list.”
The point was made to Dreger that when people mention ‘Hitchcock hockey’ as being boring, it’s really more about simply being responsible, which isn’t a bad thing.
“I couldn’t agree more,” noted Dreger. “Mike Babcock in Toronto often talks about the fun zone being the offensive zone, and that’s where you want to spend the majority of your time. Well, the only way you get there is by being smart in terms of your exits out of your own zone, how you control the neutral zone, and then you allow your players to be creative in the offensive zone. And Hitchcock would value the same sort of structure, there’s no doubt about that.
“But as Babcock also reminds everyone, he also likes to win more than anything else. And likewise for Ken Hitchcock. His job for the remainder of the year, the foreseeable future in Edmonton, is to try and squeeze out as many wins as he can, keep this team in playoff contention, and if they can lock down a spot in the experience game by re-entering the playoff matrix is going to be valuable. But it’s not going to be easy. Some of the things that make it tough are out of his control and out of the Oilers’ control, and that’s because of injury.
“But when they get healthy, that’s when I think we start to lean on Peter Chiarelli a little bit more to see what sort of magic he can create from the trade market. He’s going to need somebody to dance with, but one thing I know about Peter is he’s working incredibly hard - maybe not on any one specific piece, aside from what we’ve talked about in the defensive needs; but if he can see that this team has a chance and his veteran coach is telling him they need a little bit more in one specific area, then I have no doubt that Chiarelli will try and find it.”
The Oilers dropped three straight games headed into the holiday break, and will square off against the Vancouver Canucks Thursday evening as Edmonton’s five-game homestand continues.