Jonathan Willis has a post up at Oilers Nation declaring the Oilers must be sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. Willis’s logic is that, since the Oilers would be certain road kill even if they do squeak into the post season, they might as well take the opportunity to dump some contracts and reload for next year. He identifies four players to ship out: Cole, Staios, Moreau and Rob Schremp, as well as a few guys on the bubble (Penner, Nilsson, one of the big names on D). In exchange, the Oilers would get prospects and picks, as well as a third-line centre. In closing, Willis has this to say:
In the big picture, it’s far better to jeopardize a playoff spot now than it is to risk this team’s ability to contend over the next few seasons.I have a lot of respect for J-Dub, and can see the logic here. The Oilers are a third tier team and would need a miracle just to make it past the opening round. They have a boatload of overpriced contracts that need to go to make way for the raises earmarked for the kids (although, given the declining cap, their performances this year, and barring a major leap forward next year, I have to wonder what kind of raises Ganger, Cogliano et al can reasonably expect to get) and to patch the holes that riddle the lineup. I get it. I do. I believe it.
But I can’t endorse it.
In a race as tight as that in the Western Conference, it’s probably a forgone conclusion that giving up as many as three veteran roster players (even if two of them are kinda shitty) would negatively impact the team chances of making the cut. I actually don’t think the choice between playoffs this year and future success is as stark as Willis makes it out to be and it’s entirely possible that the Oilers could make the moves he suggests and still make the playoffs, though I don’t think it’s that probable (most of the assets Willis puts on the market probably wouldn’t bring that much value back, but that’s a topic for another time.) To me, just making the playoffs this year is a necessary step for two reasons.
Experience. Yeah, it’s unquantifiable, but I can’t see how first hand exposure to playoff hockey wouldn’t be beneficial to the Oilers’ young guns and contribute to the ability to contend over the next few seasons. Of course, it’s hard to say just how much a difference it would make, so I don’t wish to overstate the importance of this factor. No, there’s a much more important reason for the Oilers try to make the postseason this year:
It’s been two fucking years out of the dance and I, the fan, am getting pretty sick of missing out. Now, I’m not your typical Oilers fan with an enormous sense of entitlement: I recognize I’m owed nothing, but all the same it’s hard to stomach putting in an (admittedly ever-diminishing) amount of energy and emotional investment and receiving nothing in return. A playoff appearance, as brief as it would no doubt prove to be, would be a first step to making amends for the last three seasons of futility. Some might say a playoff appearance would actually be a negative thing in that it would serve to shore up the erratic and borderline incompetent bunch behind the bench and in the front office. And I can see that view as well. But I challenge any fan to look me in the eye and tell me that the euphoria of an Oilers win on home ice in the playoffs wouldn’t erase those fears, even if just for a moment. Fandom is essentially an irrational, emotional exercise and while it’s perfectly logical to look after the long term interests and accept pain now in service of a bigger emotional reward down the road, sometimes logic needs to shut the fuck up.
Me want playoff hockey. Period.