Anaheim Ducks Boston Bruins Buffalo Sabres Calgary Flames Carolina Hurricanes Chicago Blackhawks Colorado Avalanche Columbus Blue Jackets Dallas Stars Detroit Red Wings Edmonton Oilers Florida Panthers Los Angeles Kings Minnesota Wild Montreal Canadiens Nashville Predators New Jersey Devils New York Islanders New York Rangers Ottawa Senators Philadelphia Flyers Phoenix Coyotes Pittsburgh Penguins San Jose St. Louis Blues Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs Vancouver Canucks Washington Capitals Winnipeg Jets
Magazine Schedule Rumors Rankings Teams Headlines Lifestyle Rookie Watch Ice Girls Videos TFP Radio Subscribe
Bookmark and Share
January 4, 2014 | 11:37am ET
Edmonton needs to pull that trigger
 The Oilers need to address their defensive game by trading away a player they say they'd rather keep.

TORONTO, ON -- Edmonton's first half of the 2013-14 NHL season is probably very close to the polar opposite of what this team had expected at the start of training camp.

The Oilers are dead-last in the Western Conference and would be 30th in the entire NHL if not for the Buffalo Sabres, who can't seem to put the puck in the net.

Much has been made about the Oilers' season, thus far. When it comes to offense, they're not that bad. Their top four scorers -- Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, David Perron and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- are getting the job done.

Simply put, this team cannot play defense. And I'm not knocking guys like Andrew Ference and Anton Belov... I'm talking about the entire bloody team, overall.

There is not a single regular player on the Oilers with a plus-rating. Crack jokes about Nail Yakupov's minus-25 all you want, but Sam Gagner is right behind him (-18), followed by Justin Schultz (-17), and Hall and Nugent-Hopkins aren't far off (-13).

Sure, goaltending has stunk, as well, but when you're hung out to dry most nights, it's hard to build up your stat-sheet.

The Oilers need help. They need outside help.

This isn't a situation of the players not listening to the coach, or being unwilling to mesh well under Dallas Eakins' system. They'd like to, but they're not a Dallas Eakins type of team.

Hall isn't going to be an amazing two-way winger. Schultz won't be a shutdown defenseman. Yakupov isn't a physical specimen.

If Oilers management wants to fix this mess, they can't wait for Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse to bail them out on the blueline. It's time for GM Craig MacTavish to be a little more aggressive on the phone lines. This team has been bad for far too long. The season looks like a write-off, but you need to show this young group you still have faith in them. It's time to shake things up... conservatively as possible.

The Oilers don't need to trade Hall, Eberle or RNH. That's somewhat counter-productive. Let the offensive boys do what they're supposed to do. This team needs defensive-minded players, at both ends of the rink.

Ales Hemsky will command a solid return once he's dealt. MacTavish needs to bring in defensively-responsible assets in return. They don't need draft picks.

Same can be said for Ryan Smyth. If the Oilers feel the season is a wash -- and it pretty much is -- then it's time to move him, as well. Granted, the salary cap can be a pain when attempting to complete a move or two at this point in the season, but that shouldn't stop the team from trying. And we all know MacTavish is trying.

But the move this team really needs to make is one they say they don't want to.

Yakupov has to go.

The 2012 first-overall pick will never be a superstar in Edmonton. At least, not with Eakins (or someone like him) behind the bench. And this isn't a knock on Eakins. It's just the truth. Yakupov will not flourish under the system the Oilers' currently have in place, and keeping him not only hurts his development, it hurts the team, as well. I've chatted with members of other NHL clubs, and they share the same sentiment.

There are 29 other teams that would love to get their hands on Yakupov; they know he's struggled, under the current circumstances. His value may have dropped a tad, but it hasn't deteriorated. That's the reality of the situation. If the Oilers want to better themselves, moving Yakupov for an NHL-proven/ready No. 2 defenseman is the way to go about it.

Whether this happens before the March 5 trade deadline or in the summer, it needs to happen.

Edmonton's in a position for another top-five draft pick, and they'll no doubt have their eyes set on Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad. If MacTavish doesn't move Yakupov this season, would what I outlined still apply if they draft Ekblad? Maybe. Or maybe they decided to deal him for a top two-way forward.

The bottom line is the Oilers need to address their defensive game and it's time to come to the realization that Yakupov's short time in Edmonton is just about over.

They tried. It didn't work. You move on.

Things will get better in Edmonton, eventually. It's time to show the fans they're working towards that.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.



Nov. 30, 2013 Toronto area will get a second NHL team, one day

Oct. 09, 2013 Monahan given every opportunity to shine in Calgary

Aug. 08, 2013 Devils down to final option

Jul. 31, 2013 NHL's new lucky number: 32

 latest issue 
Contact Us | Jobs @ TFP | Our Team | Advertise | Privacy Policy
© 2014 TFP Media, Inc. | All Rights Reserved | The Fourth Period™ and Ice Girls™ are registered trademarks.