On the first of many McEichel nights, we have some perspective from the Oilers side of things. Zach Laing from The Copper and Blue was gracious enough to share his perspective on watching Connor McDavid, rebuilding the wrong way, and the future of the Oilers.
1. The biggest story for the past two years in Buffalo has been McDavid and Eichel. Having gotten a chance to watch Connor this season, just how good is this kid?
Let me tell you, he is better than I ever had thought. During the early season prior to when McDavid broke his collarbone you could tell his first few games were tough. He had a difficult time adjusting, but quickly learned his place. I had honestly gotten to a point this season where I forgot Connor was even an Oiler.
His play away from the puck is what has blown me away the most. I never got a chance to watch my of his OHL games, but from watching his time in the big leagues it's clear this kid is as dangerous with the puck as he is without it. His spacial awareness on the ice is second to none and he seems to know where everyone is on the ice at any time - friend or foe.
On top of all of that, he has speed that is already at Elite NHL levels. He just flys past defensemen out there and is great at making them look silly.
2. The Oilers are the "horror story" version of the rebuild that the Sabres are attempting right now. What exactly went wrong, or what should the Sabres try to avoid?
What I feel went wrong with the Oilers rebuild was that the team was never able to successfully surround the Oilers young players with veteran NHL talent. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall had been thrown into the fray as rookies with some of the vets on the then Oilers being Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner, Dustin Penner and Ryan Whitney. Now I'm sure they are all nice guys, but they aren't the types to be helping groom the next best in the NHL.
Even into the last few years, the experiments with Andrew Ference, Mark Fayne, Boyd Gordon, Ilya Bryzgalov, and David Perron just didn't pan out how the team hoped. Call it what you will, but I feel that if the Oilers had surrounded their young players with good talent that could've taught them the rigours of the NHL, the team may be in a different position today.
3. What does the immediate future hold for Edmonton with GM Peter Chiarelli? What are you guys expecting the rest of this year, and next year?
To get a good look at where the Oilers sit, you have to look at more than just the GM's chair. Bringing in guys like Bob Nicholson to be the CEO of the Oilers was a big move, just like hiring Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli was. The Oilers have had a certain ineptitude when it comes to management and coaches the last say, seven years. Since 2009, the Oilers have seen seven coaches come through town and three different general managers. I think a lot of the difficulty for the Oilers has come from the fact there has been a revolving door of new faces around the rink. That's tough for any players, let alone number one draft picks.
Moving forward I am very confident in having ChiaMac running the ship. The changes have already come with sending out guys like Justin Schultz, Teddy Purcell and Anders Nilsson and exchanging them with players like Patrick Maroon, Adam Cracknell and Adam Pardy. I don't think they will be huge needle movers in Edmonton, but the truth is that the Oilers have been too small of a team in too big of a conference for too long.
Thanks to Zach for answering our questions. Check out our answers to his Sabres questions at The Copper and Blue.