Thursday, July 20, 2006
A while back Lowetide and I were discussing, well, something, and he made the comment that the Oilers' goal in the new world was to be the New England Patriots, not the Arizona Cardinals.
With the Pronger affair and subsequent departure of veteran free agents there has been some talk of how the window has closed and Lowe is now rebuilding this team, that the next opportunity for this team will be in three or four years, if that.
With the cap as long as you have financial room (check), a stable of young, cheap players who can contribute (check), prospects who can step in (probably check - argument below) and assets in those same prospects as well as picks in order to acquire help for now (check), then you might make something happen in any year. You have to draft smartly and you should not be overpaying for free agents. The Patriots rarely make a big splash in the free agent market - they always seem to pick up the unknowns, the underappreciated, the up and comers. They pay them decent money and then let their coaching staff and team concept take over.
Compare this year's team to last.
Goaltending is better. Nobody can argue that.
Forwards are better. There is inexperience and there are going to be wildcards but overall I think this is going to be a go-go group of forwards. Lupul adds a nice shooter. And I think that Torres, Stoll, Horcoff, Pisani, Hemsky as well as Lupul are all still improving. Now I am talking regular season here. Someone has to play the Peca minutes in the playoffs but we all know that he was a dud in the regular season. No biggie there, the RS minutes I mean. Add to this group a couple of Jacques, Winchester, Mikhnov (if they get that agreement signed), Almtorp, Thoreson, Pouliot or Captain America. Some of these youngsters aren't going to pan out but I'd bet on three or four being bona fide players over time. And you have a young hungry group. How old is the oldest guy? 30?
Intangibles are better. Confidence is high for individuals and as a team. They learned a lot about winning and what it takes to win in the postseason. Add to that stability behind the bench and I think you'll see this team be a little more consistent this season, ie/ winning games that they should.
Now, of course, the Achilles' heel, the D. First of all I think the bottom third is improved over last season's Cross/Ulanov duo. But of course that's not where the hole is.
It would be nice to believe that one of Greene, Bergeron, Hejda or Smid is going to step up and play in the top four and do it well but, as positive as I am, I can't see it. And I think without that addition this team is life and death to make the postseason.
Lowe will pull the trigger on a deal to get that top four guy - he has the cap room and the chips to make it happen and too many teams are bumping against the cap. They HAVE to get rid of guys. Its not like they have much in the way of options.
So Lowe will get his guy, maybe your man Brad Stuart.
Then midseason he goes sniffing around for another guy who is looking at UFA status whose team has fallen out of it or who is looking to get something for him - take your pick - lets say Markov from the Habs.
Now your D looks pretty damn good, right? Like maybe as good as Carolina's or Tampa's?
He needs to augment his depth up front so he picks up Mike Peca - we all know the Leafs are going nowhere.
So, how does this team look now? And who out there scares you in the West? San Jose. Anyone else?
Seriously, I know I'm a bluesky type of guy but I think the Oilers are going to do well this year and I think that Lowe, while he has some work to do, has a pretty good handle on how this thing works.
If he makes the right moves then they will be in the playoffs and once there would you bet against them if he's loaded them up as he did this past season?
Posted by Black Dog at 7:27 PM