Exactly one week ago, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector passed on word that Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has made forward Anton Slepyshev available to all 31 other teams via trade. In the seven days since then, with the Oil on their bye week, nothing has transpired and Slepyshev is still a member of the Oilers.
I believe that should remain the case through at least the remainder of the season.
An Investment Gone Wrong:
When GM Peter Chiarelli traded Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders last summer, he made a gamble. That gamble was that Ryan Strome, the player coming back for Eberle, would break out in Edmonton and help replace some of the offense lost. In addition to that, Chiarelli was banking on young players like Drake Caggiula, Jesse Puljujarvi and, yes, Anton Slepyshev to take steps forward.
That hasn’t been the case thus far. Puljujarvi has emerged as an NHL’er, but wasn’t ready to go until December, which was far too late. Kailer Yamamoto made the team out of camp, but the 18-year-old also wasn’t quite ready for the NHL after an impressive run for a job. Caggiula? He’s been handed chance after chance but simply hasn’t taken the bull by the horns.
Slepyshev, on the other hand, simply hasn’t been given a chance. The Russian forward only has 1-2-3 in 18 games this season, which is quite disappointing after a strong playoff last spring. That said, coach Todd McLellan simply hasn’t used Slepyshev and has not put him in a position to succeed by any means.
Chiarelli made a gamble that a 6’2” forward with size, speed and skill would take the next step in his career. He hasn’t, and while Chiarelli rightfully gets blame for Edmonton’s wing situation, Slepyshev’s situation is unique.
What’s Wrong With Slepy?:
Slepyshev scored three goals during last spring’s playoff run, including the series winning goal against San Jose in the opening round. For my money, he was one of Edmonton’s better forwards all postseason, and showed especially well in the second round against Anaheim. In that series, Slepy got a chance to play with Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic.
Common sense would dictate that Slepyshev would get a chance to impress on that line again this season. Common sense hasn’t prevailed in Todd McLellan’s mind when it comes to this player, however. Slepyshev was injured prior to training camp and missed essentially the entire camp and preseason. This irritated Todd McLellan, and appears to have put the Russian forward in the coach’s doghouse.
Slepyshev has only played in 18 games this season, and has only been in a top-six role for about three of those contests. In fact, most of the time, Slepyshev has been playing on a failing fourth line with the over-matched Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian. That’s not putting a young player in a position to succeed.
The numbers aren’t good for Slepyshev this season, but the coach clearly doesn’t want to use him and refuses to put him back in a position where he was successful a year ago. This is completely on the coaching staff for mismanaging a young player with some success playing with skill.
The Edmonton Oilers are the worst team in the entire NHL when it comes to production from the wingers. They simply do not have enough competent NHL players at left wing or right wing, and it is having a major impact on the season in a negative way. It’s a problem, and it must be addressed before next season.
Anton Slepyshev is not a perfect player by any means, no one is saying that. That being said, Slepyshev has size, speed and skill and is a shoot-first player. He’s had success with one of Edmonton’s top centers and he proved in the playoffs he has the ability to play a top-nine role in this league.
He hasn’t been given that chance this season, and I’d wager his trade value is at an all-time low. It would be unwise for Peter Chiarelli to simply flush this once promising player because his coach is too stubborn to use him in the right spot.
The season is lost, give Slepyshev a chance and see what happens. It could be an internal solution to one of the many questions that needs to be answered.
I’ll leave you with Slepyshev’s scouting report via The Hockey News:
|A dynamic winger with great hands and slick moves, he also has a very projectable 6-2 frame for the National Hockey League game. Is also capable of playing a complementary role.|
|Needs to work on on his play without the puck and improve his defensive-zone coverage. Must also learn to use his big body more. Also, can he thrive while playing in North America?|
|Slick, versatile offensive winger with some upside.|