Brandon Davidson was a rare feel good story in a gloomy era of Oilers hockey. He overcame testicular cancer and as a sixth round selection in 2010, beat the odds of making it to the NHL. Very few 162nd overall picks play in the NHL, but to date Davidson has dressed for 91 NHL games.
He is a great story, but was he going to be part of the Oilers future?
It seems the original response to the trade for David Desharnais is the Oilers lost the deal because Davidson is a more valuable asset. He is younger and cheaper, no doubt, but is he a regular NHL defenceman on a competitive team?
He’s only played 91 games, so he is still in the infancy stages of his development, but how much more will he grow?
He looked good on a bad defence core last year, but this year surrounded by an improved D corps he was a third pairing defender, who then became a healthy scratch with the return of Darnell Nurse and the emergence of Matt Benning. For those who look at CF%, Davidson had the lowest among the D-men battling for icetime in the third pairing. Davidson’s 48.7% was lower than Eric Gryba (51.9%), Darnell Nurse (52.3%) and Matt Benning (52.5%). They faced around the same types of opponents.
Davidson doesn’t add much offence. He has one assist in 28 games this year and one goal and 13 points in his career. He isn’t a physical or mean defender. He skates well, has a hard shot, but rarely uses it, and I believe his biggest challenge as he moves forward will be finding an identity of what he does as a defender.
He is young and he has time to find it, and while there definitely is some risk in making this deal I believe it is worth it. The Oilers are looking to win one round in the playoffs, and unless there was an injury Davidson wasn’t going to play, while David Desharnais will play on the third line.
There is a lot of focus on the expansion draft and this deal means the Oilers could lose another player. Had they kept Davidson he likely would have been the player they lose. That was very possible, but I wouldn’t sit idle and not make a trade for fear of losing another depth player in the organization.
I think many are making too much about losing a player in the expansion draft. It will not cripple the Oilers. They will still have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Adam Larsson, Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula, Anton Slepyshev, Cam Talbot and, today, guaranteed two of Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Tyler Pitlick or Jujhar Khaira.
Peter Chiarelli might make another move before with a team who doesn’t want to lose a decent forward for nothing, so they are in very good shape.
Montreal acquired Davidson, but he’ll be in tough to play regularly.
Andrei Markov/Shea Weber and Alexei Emelin/Jeff Petry are their top four. Nathan Beaulieu and recently acquired Jordie Benn are the third pairing. Benn shoots left, but regularly plays the right side, so he’ll have the inside track on that spot. He also has 200 more games of NHL experience.
Beaulieu is currently eighth on the Habs in PP time. He is entrenched in their second unit. Davidson won’t take his spot and with Benn’s experience playing RD he’s also ahead of Davidson and Nikita Nesterov.
Davidson is a great guy and I hope he can stay healthy for a full season and realize his full potential, but he is a prime example of how quickly things can change when a team goes from the basement to competing for home ice advantage in the playoffs.
He is having a down year. He missed 24 games with an knee injury and he’s been a healthy scratch recently. He fell out of favour with Michel Therrien and hasn’t been able to get on track. He was thrilled to be traded and Chiarelli is hopeful a change of scenery will help Desharnais find his game. He also wasn’t playing centre as often this year and that might be why he’s struggled so much.
He has a lot skill. He’s had 60, 52 and 48-point seasons between 2012 and 2015. Last year he missed 17 games and the entire Habs roster stunk from December on.
He doesn’t need to be that productive here in order for this trade to help the Oilers. If he can be a 35-point guy, which equates to seven or eight points in 18 games, then the Oilers will be satisfied.
He has the skill to help on the PP. He had 20 PP points in 2012 and 15 in 2014. He has more experience than Drake Caggiula and is a more proven scorer at the NHL level.
This season he’s only taken 159 faceoffs and he’s 76-83 for 47.8%. However, in the four previous seasons he took a total of 3,958 draws and won 50.8% of them. So since the start of the 2012/2013 season he is 50.7%. He’s not dominant in the circle, but when he’s taking faceoffs regularly he’s above 50%.
He gives Todd McLellan a left-shot veteran centre he can rely on. This is more important in my eyes than having a depth eighth defender or worrying about who you lose in the expansion draft in June.
Of course Desharnais will need to hold up his end of the bargain. There is no guarantee he’ll produce, but for me it was worth the risk.
Last night I received a few tweets wondering how Desharnais will handle the big teams in the Pacific division. A very valid concern. I was a bit surprised to see he’s fared quite well versus Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose recently.
In his last 11 games versus those teams he has produced 2-6-8. Between 2012-2016 he played the heavy Boston Bruins 19 times and produced 7-8-15.
Peter Chiarelli knows him well from his time in the Eastern conference and Chiarelli admitted that factored in his decision to make the trade.
“He is a veteran player with playoff experience. I’ve seen him a lot and I know him well. He is a strong two-way player. He is strong on the puck for his size, and protects the puck very well. We feel he’ll come in as a highly motivated player,” said Chiarelli.
Chiarelli admitted he’s had a down season, but felt he could rebound and be close to the player he was between 2012 and 2015.
There is a risk in any deal, but with the Oilers sitting in second place in the division and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs a realistic possibility, I understand why he made this trade.
If it helps them win a round, then the value is huge because it spreads throughout the room and McDavid, Draisaitl and the rest of the young players should benefit from that playoff exposure.
There is no guarantee they will win a round, but that’s what makes trades so great to debate.
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