I consider myself an optimist. I champion the down-trodden to a fault. I have often found light in the dark (cell phones help with this). I have been known to find the good in nearly every circumstance. I have my grandmother to blame (who passed away this weekend). When watching scary news transpire or when reading disheartening things she was always quick to remind me that there was still good in the world. Although this viewpoint is particularly rare these days, I have grown accustom to applying this to every day life.
Even in the world of hockey I see things like Kris Russell becoming a Dallas Star and find hopefulness (maybe in shot-blocking or better defending beyond the blue line or my desire to see him ride a horse). I think to myself, “Maybe there is a reason Hamhuis remains a Canuck for a while. Yeah, maybe there is a reason.” Through it all the optimistic, good-natured version of my psyche is finely tuned to pluck the “good” from potentially “bad” — even when it comes to hockey.
I turn the page on the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline to discover that perhaps there is some good coming from the central Albertan city we know and love as Edmonton. Not that they got better, but there is a new, more sunnier outlook towards their farm team. Maybe, just maybe, the Edmonton Oilers believe in their farm.
The extensions of Brandon Davidson and Laurent Brossoit seem to be commitments to players that are or will make a difference. Davidson is an intelligent defender who has carried a large burden defensively on a team that understands defensive burdens. Brossoit is a goaltender with good reaction time, and solid mechanics who is likely the only goaltending prospect to pan out in the last six seasons. Both grown on the farm. Both deserving of a shot.
For years the Edmonton Oilers have let prospects grown on the farm fall to another or simply fall from the league entirely. I won’t name specific players because you know them (okay, okay Omark, Harski, CVV, Petry, Arcobello, etc.). Instead let’s discuss the reason for not bothering with the farm. Because it boils down to one thing — the team is terrible.
When the demand to pull yourself from the basement is so important you lose the luxury of forming opinions about the future because, in some ways, the future is now. You have to be better now. And maybe that’s where the re-build went off track. Perhaps the plan to turn things around quickly was flawed. Therefore forcing prospects to be A grade players from day one, and certainly after a single season of play. If we look at highly successful teams like the Red Wings (historically) they promote healthy seasons through backfiller at the bottom. Meaning that prospects were the key ingredient to the bottom half of the lineup, not necessarily at the top. And those prospects spend time on the farm, and are slowly integrated into an NHL lineup. There are several on their squad at the moment that fit this bill (goaltending, forward play, and defenders).
So let’s circle the wagons back to the original thought. The Oilers have made investments in Davidson and Brossoit financially. There seems to be a push for Nurse to begin his full-time NHL career. There are likely more considerations on the horizon. Yet those players will have the continued time to work out the flaws in their game in what will likely be limited top tiered minutes. The Oilers believe in what they see, and are committed to them. That’s a huge step.
You might think differently. You might hate Davidson’s smallish sample size. You could certainly make a case that Brossoit being a number two next season is a frightful thing. Either way, there is a plan in place that now includes trades, drafts, and legit prospect building.
Photo by Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.