When the best hockey player in the world puts on your jersey every game, you’re not supposed to be this bad - especially when he was the last of four first-overall picks in a six-year span.
Yet here they are, the Edmonton Oilers.
After averaging 104 points over the last two years, Connor McDavid is on pace for 115 more this season. Unfortunately, his otherworldly greatness on the ice is being squandered by years of inept management driving his Oilers team into the ground.
Now, Edmonton sits second from the bottom of the worst division in hockey and they are looking like a team that isn’t going to be near the playoffs for a second straight season.
Something has to be done, right?
You’d think GM Peter Chiarelli would be on thin ice, but this is Edmonton we’re talking about. It’s the Oilers. He’s not going anywhere right now. Not only is the ownership group is still letting him make deals - he traded Ryan Strome to the Rangers for Ryan Spooner late last week - but now they’ve let him fire his head coach.
After replacing Todd McLelland with Ken Hitchcock, the Oilers are definitely in desperation-mode. The next move is for Chiarelli to shake up the roster in a way only Peter Chiarelli can.
This is where Joe Sakic gets on the phone and starts to sell Chiarelli on a big, bruising defender that has fallen down the depth chart but most definitely plays a style of game that old school thinkers - like the ones filling the front office in Edmonton - love. Nikita Zadorov and the Edmonton Oilers seem like a match made in heaven.
Given how his season has gone so far, it might seem like the Avalanche would be selling low on Nikita Zadorov, but that would be underestimating how bad Chiarelli is at making trades.
After seeing his ice time steadily diminish through the season, Zadorov found himself as a healthy scratch last Friday night against the Capitals. He was back in the lineup Sunday but only played a little more than 14 minutes and is still very obviously in the dog house with coach Bednar.
With the lowest TOI of his career, Zadorov only has three points this season and when he’s on the ice the team gives up more scoring chances against than any other defender. He’s been playing with Patrik Nemeth. The two of them have been isolated at even strength so having a bad partner shouldn’t justify Zadorov’s sub-par play.
Plain and simple, Zadorov hasn’t been good this season and the situation is starting to get to him.
“I mean, it’s not easy when you’re not playing,” Zadorov told The Athletic after practice Saturday. “I feel a little bit disrespected.”
Those don’t sound like the words of a player who is happy with his standing on the team. If a player is getting frustrated, it might take more than a little extra ice time to turn things around. It might take a change of scenery.
Zadorov will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. If he isn’t a part of the team’s long-term plans, this would be the time to move him.
“They need a defenseman...badly,” Oilers beat writer Ryan Rashaug told TSN this morning.
It’s an obvious statement, but one that reiterates the belief that the Colorado Avalanche could get a very good return by trading Zadorov to Edmonton.
At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, he led the NHL with 278 hits last season. Throwing his body around and playing a physical style are the calling cards of Zadorov’s game. If that doesn’t scream Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers, I don’t know what does.
While Zadorov is having a down stretch, trading for Ryan Spooner last week is proof that you don’t have to be having a good season for Chiarelli to be interested in your services.
At his best, Zadorov would easily fit into Edmonton’s top-four. Even playing below his potential, Big Z would be an improvement to the Oilers porous blueline.
What could the Avalanche reasonably expect in return for Zadorov?
Sakic would have to ask about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but that’s likely a pipe dream. The 25-year-old is having the best season of his career and would fit in perfectly with Tyson Jost and Alex Kerfoot on the second line. But he’s worth a lot more than Zadorov so it’s very hard to see it happening - though it wouldn't be Chiarelli’s worst trade to date.
Then there’s Jesse Puljujarvi. The fourth overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Puljujarvi is an incredibly talented winger that is on the verge of having his development ruined by the Oilers. With only one goal through 11 games this season, the 20-year-old was a healthy scratch and eventually sent down to Bakersfield in the AHL. He has a ton of talent and has the potential to be a steal if someone can get him away from the Oilers.
In the same TSN hit, Rashaug mentioned that Puljujarvi had been off limits until very recently, but given how the team has performed, Chiarelli could be ready to move him in order to make the current roster better.
A Zadorov for Puljujarvi one-for-one trade is something the Avalanche would likely be thrilled to make - the funny part is that it’s easy to envision a world where the Oilers add a draft pick to the deal.
The Oilers have a number of other young players that would likely be of interest to the Avalanche. Chief among them is Tyler Benson. A former first overall selection in the WHL draft, Benson is a kid that had his junior career derailed by injury. Now in his first year of professional hockey, Benson is leading Edmonton’s AHL affiliate with 14 points through 13 games. He is healthy again and showing the skill that made him one of the top prospects in hockey as a 16-year-old. He is another key piece to Edmonton’s future that the team might give up on too early in order to fill holes this season.
Whether it’s RNH, Benson, Puljujarvi or something else altogether, it’s absolutely conceivable that the Oilers would trade away valuable assets for a defender like Zadorov. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but history suggests that we shouldn’t rule anything out when we’re dealing with the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s east to see a scenario in which Zadorov is in fact a part of the long-term plan for the Colorado Avalanche, but if he’s not, this might be the perfect situation to trade him.
Bad GMs are the ones you want to be making trades with. Desperate teams are ones that make knee-jerk decisions in an attempt to save the season. Right now Chirelli and the Oilers fit into both categories.