Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

In the early throes of the NHL season, Connor Brown‘s performance, or rather, the lack thereof, has been under the spotlight. Five games in, the Edmonton Oilers forward is yet to notch a single point, raising concerns among fans and likely the coaching staff. While some argue he might be grappling with the aftermath of a severe injury, expectations in the Oilers camp remain high, particularly considering their aspirations to be Stanley Cup contenders.

The Oilers, despite a dismal start, have not succumbed to panic. However, recent lineup changes, notably demoting Brown to the third line, indicate a strategic shift in a bid to ignite the team’s overall performance. He was promoted again when Connor McDavid was hurt, but the decision to take him off the top line and shuffle him around like deck chairs on the Titanic has inadvertently put a spotlight on Brown’s recent struggles, prompting questions about his effectiveness on the ice.

The Oilers have five games remaining before a big decision needs to be made. A massive signing bonus kicks in on Brown, and while he’s certainly not earned it, the Oilers might be stuck.

Brown’s Bonus is a Big Issue

What sets Brown’s situation apart is the unique contract negotiated by General Manager Ken Holland under a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Brown’s deal includes performance-based bonuses, a double-edged sword for both player and team. The bonus isn’t actually performance related. It’s for games played. He stands to earn an additional $3,225,000 upon reaching the 10-game mark, a sum that could pose a significant cap challenge for the Oilers in the coming season.

Connor Brown, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It was an absolutely ludicrous decision to make it so easy for a player coming off of a serious injury to reach his bonus after just 10 games. It was simply a way to get Brown his $4 million via a loop in the salary cap that allowed Edmonton to push most of his cap hit to next season. In the eyes of the organization, this wasn’t a bonus, as there was never any doubt he’d reach it.

Now the Oilers Are In a Tough Spot

The Oilers find themselves at a crossroads concerning Brown’s role in the team. While the prospect of a healthy scratch or demotion looms, such a decision, common in the NHL, could hold serious consequences. While sitting him offers the player a much-needed breather, the team is shorthanded already. Playing with a short bench and an 11-7 deployment, there’s really not much the Oilers can do as they have no forwards in house to replace him. A waiver down to the AHL might be one of the few ways to shuffle things around on the roster, but that too has serious risk.

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First, he could get claimed. As unlikely as that is based on his bonus, he’s also good friends with Connor McDavid. Sending down a player to the AHL who is not at fault for the way his contract was constructed might not sit well with the captain. And, if by some chance Brown starts to score, but he’s not in the NHL, that hurts the Oilers, who drastically need the extra production.

The Oilers Have to Start Sending Messages to Players

From the Oilers’ perspective, this season has not gone the way it was supposed to. There are so many issues, blaming Brown for them isn’t fair. The on-ice concerns extend well beyond him, touching on aspects like defensive structure and the lackluster play of several players. Still, he’s not been producing and the money issues Brown’s contract could cause this team are real. In any other situation, he might be benched. Other teams have already benched bigger names for smaller things.

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That his bonus being based on games played is an issue. That the bonus kicks in when he plays five more is a bigger one. It offers the Oilers very little time to figure things out. A discussion about waiving him and using the money freed up, (or the roster spot) to bring in someone like Raphael Lavoie has to be on the table. Each game Brown plays without making a significant impact delays the inevitable, pushing the team closer to absorbing the hefty bonus hit next year. It’s a precarious balance; the Oilers need Brown to produce, but the situation this team is in is anything but easy to navigate.

The dilemma facing the Oilers management is clear: they need to send a decisive message and soon. Whether it’s through strategic benching, temporary demotion, or additional training, Brown needs to understand the urgency of the situation. He’s not the only one.

But, also acknowledging that players are human beings first and foremost, each dealing with their unique challenges is important. In a perfect world, Brown should have more time. So should the Oilers. Still, something has to give.

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The post Oilers Forced to Consider Drastic Decision on Connor Brown appeared first on WorldNewsEra.


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