To get the full picture of what I’ve dubbed ‘The Puljujarvi Dilemma’, you first have to go back to the year 2010.
Many of you will remember this as the ‘Taylor vs Tyler’ draft, when the Edmonton Oilers took Taylor Hall first overall from the Windsor Spitfires. This is where it all begins, or at least, this is as far back as I can go and still keep this article a respectable length. Proceed with the general awareness that though I begin with Hall, there are a handful of scorned first round picks from before 2010 whose existence should not be forgotten.
So, the year is 2010. Taylor Hall has just gone 1st overall to the prestigious and historically rich Edmonton Oilers. From here, it’s all downhill for the future league MVP. Hall’s highest points total in his 6 seasons with the Oilers saw him hit 80 points in 75 games, and that was the season he had the worst Corsi For percentage of his NHL career. The potential was always there for Hall, and now he’s flourishing in New Jersey with complimentary linemates while dunking on the Edmonton media and the coaching he received with the Oilers. Oh, and he has a Hart Trophy now too.
Next, came one of the few survivors, Ryan Nugent Hopkins. He was second in the Oilers’ astounding run of picking 1st overall in three consecutive years, currently manning the top line with Connor McDavid (when Leon Draisaitl allows). However, he isn’t immune to the churning cesspit of the Edmonton media, and has been swamped in trade rumours so that the Oilers can finally, finally get the good 1st pair defenseman that Adam Larsson was supposed to be.
Then, Nail Yakupov, who will always be remembered in our hearts. From the Oilers, to the Blues, and finally the Avalanche, he bore the scars of Edmonton’s shockingly non-existent ability to develop players right up until the end. Now with SKA St Petersburg of the KHL, Yakupov is possibly one of the biggest victims of coach Dallas Eakins who kept his leash short and consistently did one of the worst things to do with youngsters making mistakes: long periods of bench warming.
Darnell Nurse is just now beginning to break out as a decent defenseman for the Oilers, getting a bridge deal just before the start of the season so hopefully the Oilers can afford to pay him when he’s next due to get paid. According to Dailyfaceoff, Nurse is currently playing on the 22nd best second pairing in the NHL along with Kris Russell. Not exactly surrounded by talent.
Third overall in the 2014 NHL Draft was Leon Draisaitl out of the WHL, who everyone is just now realising might be a tad overpaid at $8.5 million a season for eight years. Now in the second year of the deal, the rumours that he wants to play with McDavid clash heavily with the reports that the Oilers want him to be driving his own line. It’s becoming evident, however, that with a 40.1% Corsi For, he might not be capable of driving the second line.
2015 blessed the Oilers with Connor McDavid, and there’s no way they could have screwed that one up. They’re definitely wasting some of his best years though, so maybe they should do something about that. Those out there clinging to dying remains of Crosby’s reputation as the best player in the NHL are holding too tightly to the past. Embrace Connor McDavid as your new overlord.
The point of this whole article is in defense of Jesse Puljujarvi, selected 4th overall in 2016 after having his nose pushed out of the top three by Pierre-Luc Dubois. With no time machine readily available, it’s all well and good to lament that he should have spent another year in Finland following the draft, but right now the media needs something other than the organisation to blame, and the title has fallen upon poor, poor JP.
Yamamoto has cracked the NHL roster, for now. He had a resurgence in the second half of the OHL season after being sent down before the first year of his ELC could be burnt. He’s somehow earned the privilege of playing on Connor McDavid’s line, where many fans are yelling that Puljujarvi should be playing, seeing as that’s where he posts some of his best results. But alas, tie goes to the rookie, I guess.
Bouchard is the newest kid in the honourable group of Edmonton first round picks, and currently the biggest question remains whether he’ll be shipped off back to juniors or be forced to play this season on a worryingly poor Oilers squad. I’m in favour of giving him another year to marinate, but then again that’s how I feel about most prospects playing their draft +1 year in the NHL, outside of the top two picks.
Not every draft selection is going to be a smash hit, but when the second best of the last eight picks, along with his Hart trophy, currently resides on the roster of a different team it, well, it raises serious doubts about the integrity and capability of both the coaching and management staff.
The Edmonton Oilers have won three of their last four games. Jesse Puljujarvi has watched each of them from the warm, but depressing, comfort of the press box.
Playing in front of coaching staff that he can’t seem to impress no matter what he does, where there are glaring and painful to see trust issues, Puljujarvi is wilting. There seems to be a belief that a half-season stint in the AHL would ‘wake him up’, while letting him get some minutes in. Yet, he’s breaking even in his possession metrics, and can he be blamed for not producing when he plays third and even fourth line minutes with Ryan Strome or Kyle Brodziak?
In the preseason, the Puljujarvi had a two goal game. The next one? He played single digit minutes. Tell me, please, where and how that makes any level of coherent sense. To quote Frank Seravalli, “The Oilers are failing Jesse Puljujarvi in terms of how they are managing and deploying him.” This quote is from October 16th. Since then, Puljujarvi has been healthy scratched four times.
The suggestion has been raised that the Oilers should trade Puljujarvi while he still has any value left. Healthy scratching him for four consecutive games will do nothing to hike his trade value. The return for him wouldn’t be high and for him to go somewhere else and bloom might be the straw that gets one of MacLellan or Chiarelli fired. And thus we exist in some sort of limbo, waiting for something, anything, to change.