The Sports Daily > The Oilers Rig
The Day the Draft Music Died

With the 2018 NHL trade deadline now past, the time-honoured tradition of rehashing previous deals is now front and centre. The Edmonton Oilers, on the back of a very disappointing season, were not buyers at this deadline, instead moving out Brandon Davidson (NYI), Mark Letestu (CBJ) and Patrick Maroon (NJD) for picks, prospects, and one improbable roster player.

For the Oilers to be in this situation less than a year after they finished with 103 points and came within one win of the Western Conference Final is troubling at best. While Letestu was in the middle of a significant goal-scoring slump (which he’s since busted in his second first game as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets), those three players were hardly the problem in the Oilers lineup.

Much has been made about the significant drop in goals for, save percentages, wins, and even points. While last season was notable for its lack of man games lost to injury, especially among the top two lines and top defensive pairing, this season has been quite the opposite. Blaming a lack of success on injury is shortsighted though. What the team suffers from is a lack of talent, one which could have been prevented through inaction in previous years.

Before the 2015 NHL Draft, the Oilers had some skilled players in the lineup (or at least in the system), namely Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Oscar Klefbom, and Leon Draisaitl. Rounding out that lineup was a complement of veterans who could have helped guide the team toward a future. As if there was ever any doubt as to who the Oilers would take, Draft Day 2015 officially brought Connor McDavid into the fold. After making perhaps the easiest decision of his GM careern, Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers still had a 16th and 33rd pick to make use of.

However, instead of using that 16th pick to take another player they could develop and use in 2016 or 2017, the Oilers GM instead bundled that pick with the 33rd and sent both to the Islanders for the blue-chip defenceman the club had been looking for – Griffin Reinhart. A former 4th overall pick in the shallow 2012 entry draft, Reinhart was supposed to be the solution for a blue line that was severely lacking in both size and skill: Jeff Petry had already been sent to Montreal; Andrew Ference was on a steep decline in what would turn out to be his last full season; despite playing 81 games Justin Schultz had not yet emerged from under the weight of Norris Trophy potential; Mark Fayne played 74 games that season, and has yet to crack a regular NHL lineup since.

Griffin Reinhart, on paper, was meant to fill the void left behind by any number of the defenders employed by the Oilers in 2014-15, but the reality is that the trade was the first step towards the decline experienced by the Oilers in 2017-2018.

Looking at the Oilers current roster, it’s difficult not to engage in a game of ‘what if?’ and imagine what could have been. With Connor McDavid almost guaranteed to have a Hall of Fame caliber career, new Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli was given the task of building a team around the highly skilled forward. He had two line drivers in Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall, a ready-made second line of Hall-Eberle-RNH, and a serviceable, if inexperienced, top defensive pair in Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz.

Adding Reinhart to that blue line should have meant that the second pair was also solid, but instead he struggled to even crack the lineup, playing in only 29 games over two seasons with the organization, scoring one point. That inability to play in the NHL on a consistent basis was reflected in Reinhart’s exposure during the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. He was picked up by Vegas, but has spent the bulk of this season in Chicago with the Vegas AHL affiliate Wolves franchise. At this point, over two years past the trade, it’s safe to say that the Oilers lost not only the deal, but any potential progress with respect to building a solid, sound NHL-calibre defence.

To add insult to injury, the 16th pick traded away by Peter Chiarelli in that bundle for Reinhart is Mat Barzal, a Calder trophy front-runner and Islanders phenom who has had three 5-point games this season (becoming only the second NHL rookie to do so since 1918), and who has scored 66 points in 63 games. Not only did the Oilers lose that trade, seeing the success of the pick that could have been is a constant source of frustration for Oiler fans.

To look at any transaction other than the Reinhart trade as the source for the Oilers’ current problems is myopic. Had Peter Chiarelli not emptied the cupboard in return for what was seen at the time as ‘not much’ and what has amounted to nothing, the purchase price for other talent would not have been so steep.

As wonderful as that day was in adding Connor McDavid, I keep coming back to the Reinhart deal and seeing in it the first stirrings of what would become a deep and troublesome trend for Peter Chiarelli and his vision of the Edmonton Oilers.

Thanks for reading. You can find me on twitter @codexrex.

3 thoughts on “The Day the Draft Music Died

  1. PC was gifted a pile of talent and he made a mess of it. To me this is on ownership, PC is doing exactly what he did in Boston.
    If the team has to move out RNH (I can’t see how they can keep him) then trade him for Galchenyuk in Montreal plus a prospect. Montreal is desperate for a center and Galchenyuk will be a 70-75 point winger if Dria or McDavid is his center.
    When you look how bad the prospect pool is for this team, PC has done nothing to improve this
    I can only hope he is not in charge at the end of the season at the draft table.
    TM has also not helped matters, he and PC are a bad team.


  2. That blasted trade was indeed the day the music died in the sense of the riches of talent that should have poured into Oiler coffers, and were instead pissed away. I myself was hosting a draft day party and when Boston went Zboril, Debrusk, Senyshyn, it was like FIXATION — fantastic luck struck again — Barzal, Kyle Connor, Samsonov, O-M-G! — the Oilers were getting a bonanza because also at #33 the talent was galore! In ’15 there were at least 45 1st round grade players, and, depending who you talked to, a bunch more than that. Kylington was had at #60 for goodness sake! And then that horrible announcement. Fuck! You idiot! I truly thought Chiarelli was going to be Harvard brilliant. Instead he was incompetent to the point of ridicule across the league. In doesn’t matter any the rationale. When you spend two dearly earned 1st round grade assets you HAVE TO BE RIGHT. And it turns out he didn’t even do his f’ing homework on Reinhart’s skating and general development.

    All Chiarelli had to do was go with consensus scouting reports. If he had done that, the likes of Barzal and Carlo would be Oilers. If he didn’t trade for Talbot and instead signed Neuvirth, Kylington and others at #79 and #86 could have been added to the haul.

    In light of that draft day and the bad trades, bad contracts, and bad team building that followed, it’s amazing that someone or sometwo (including Nicholson since he’s now trying to provide cover) could screw up a team’s potential as has happened and skill had management jobs. It was all there. The perfect storm. The puck was on Chiarelli’s stick with a gaping net to shoot into. Instead of just shooting, he had to show us his bullshit moves. What an ass! Sakic made him look like an even bigger fool in Sakic’s getting a haul for Duchene in contrast to Chiarelli’s claiming it’s the price ya gotta pay. Oh, I need a solid, physical RHD so yesserie I gotta pay Hall because that’s what the man said. Snow and Shero have fleeced our GM and fleeced again.

    And none of this had to happen. If you’re an Oiler fan who was hoping for great hockey to return to Edmonton, it just plain hurts. And it prolongs because the contracting folly constrains the team for a lot of painful years ahead.


  3. Any IDIOT who had watched Griffin Reinhart thru his junior career as an Oil King knew he wasn’t a top 10 pick – yet Snow drafted him #4. Seeing the error of his ways, he TOTALLY FLEECED Chiarelli, getting a 16th and 33rd pick for him.

    What concerns me is the Oilers staff that watched Reinhart thru-ought his entire junior career and SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER!!! Either Chiarelli should be fired for such a poor display of judgement, or the staff who convinced him to make such a horrid deal should be fired – OR BOTH!!!

    Who remains from the “Decade of Darkness” that could have influenced such a poor decision??


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