Could you imagine?
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly flips over the golden placard, and the logo on it belongs to “The Edmonton Oilers.” The resignation in Daly’s voice would be palpable, while the reaction from the rest of the hockey world — fans, agents, general managers, players — would be, well…
Incensed? Irate? Seriously P.O.ed?
Here at Sportsnet.ca, we are wiling to take you down this dangerous road, one that has a five per cent chance of actually being travelled according to the draft lottery odds. You know the road well — it ends with Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli standing on stage at the NHL’s Entry Draft in Dallas, and uttering those words that so many Oiler GMs have uttered in the past:
“With the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Edmonton Oilers are pleased to select…”
Rasmus Dahlin. Let’s discuss.
Do the Oilers Need Dahlin?
Listen, 31 teams can make a case for needing this young stud, who played pro in Sweden as a 16-year-old, made their Olympic team and has blazed past Andrei Svechnikov (40 goals in 44 games with OHL Barrie) to the undisputed top ranking in the 2018 draft.
But the Oilers key weakness is on the blue-line, where they lack a true No. 1 and a power-play quarterback. The question with Dahlin isn’t if he can be both of those things, it is only how long it will take.
When you have the Art Ross Trophy winner and the worst power play in the NHL in the same season, you can see why Chiarelli has gone into this off-season in search of the defenceman we just described. The Oilers received just 129 points from the defence corps this season — ranking 27th in the NHL, well behind league-leading Nashville (206). With the man advantage, Edmonton’s power play did not threaten anyone from the top, allowing penalty killers to focus on the forwards from the half-wall down.
Predictability and a lack of options doomed this unit, even with Connor McDavid running the show. Dahlin would change that, though the need for that player would temp the Oilers to give him too much too soon, something that has been a problem in The Big E.
Would Dahlin Be A Good Fit There?
OK, that’s a dumb question. He’d be a good fit anywhere.
With Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson, that would mean half of the Oilers Top 6 are Swedes. Would anyone have any problem with that?
It is known as the Nicklas Lidstrom Effect, and it has turned Sweden into the nation that produces the best defencemen, per capita, in the hockey world. Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson, John Klingberg, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mattias Ekholm, Hampus Lindholm, now Dahlin… Need we go on?
Three of the Top 6 scoring D-men in the league this season were Swedes, and it is believed that Dahlin possesses the skills to be a top producer from the back end one day. Until then, his puck-moving ability and defensive prowess will make the maturation process pretty easy on the eyes.
What Are The Negatives Here?
What is the old adage? Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll have food for life.
No organization has been gifted more No. 1 overall picks for Edmonton, and it is fair to question the culture that this has produced. In Edmonton’s defence, the top selection is almost always a forward, and drafting a defenceman in that spot was only an option in 2012 when Edmonton chose Nail Yakupov over Ryan Murray.
History tells us that Murray would have been a better choice, but not by a landslide. Dahlin has the size, mobility and offensive bent that separate him — the only issue would be if he gets too much too soon in Edmonton, where the pressure is on high to right the ship.
The other negative? We’re being picky here, but Dahlin is a left-shooting defenceman. So are Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell and Andrej Sekera. There is a glut of lefties in EDM, though we are sure Chiarelli would shuffle the deck should Dahlin land in his lap.
How about pairings of Klefbom-Larsson, Dahlin-Nurse, and Russell or Sekera paired with young righty Ethan Bear. That puts an offensive D-man and a solid defender on each pairing in Edmonton — with left-right symmetry — something the Oilers haven’t enjoyed in a long, long while.