Friday, July 28, 2006

Serenity Now



No phone, no electricity, no motorcar, not a single luxury.

Just us and our outhouse.

No computer either.

For a few days - otherwise we will be touring the north of Ontario.

Kevin, have a good week!

An Oiler Fan's Prayer



Dear Wayne,

Please imbue Raffi with the spirit of Mess, Bergeron with that of Coffey and Greene with the spirit of Lowe. Don't change Horc. He's perfect.

Please give me patience. Help me remember that five Cups in seven years is never going to happen again for any team and that sixteen years is nothing when compared to certain overhyped teams that are more interested in selling condos then winning Cups.

Give me the humility to not rub it in that last season's Oilers' team did better then any team that aforementioned pension fund has put on the ice in going on forty years.

About Horc, actually better hands would be nice.

Help Smytty realize that a hometown discount would be quite alright and that all of that American dough he made when the Loon was 60 cents American will make for a pretty decent life in Red Deer.

Remind Kevin that Smytty should be a lifer with the Oilers and if he is not resigned that his parting would result in much wailing and moaning. From Smytty himself.

Help Bergeron and Staios that they are not that pagan god Loki, they are NHL defencemen. Their job is to prevent chaos, not to create it.

Help Greene realize that like my younger self on a date when he is on the ice he should keep his hands and stick to himself.

Please let Mikhnov be the real deal.

And Captain America too.

Help me remember that Lowe knows what he is doing and that, if need be, MacT will revolutionize the game so that we no longer need defencemen and in ten years when Commissioner Shanahan gives Oilers' captain (and winger) Matt Greene the Oilers' eighth straight Cup that position will be just a memory, like the rover.

All kidding aside though, you can help us out here. Just tell Barnett to keep making the moves he's making. One less team for us to worry about.

Anyhow, sorry to have bothered you. Great work last year - another playoff win would have been nice but we'll take that extra win this year.

If you do this for me I promise to stop going to my local with my son and allowing all of the FOB Irishmen to pass him around while I drink three pints of Guinness in the hour that I am supposed to be taking him for a walk.

Scratch that.

If you give us that extra playoff victory I'll stop thinking dirty thoughts about your daughter.

Cross my heart.

Oh, and amen.

P.S. if when we are running the table for the next nine out of ten years you could arrange it that we crush a certain cuckolded gaptoothed defenceman's new team four straight each year that would be much appreciated.

Amen again.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dancing Bear

If you have not already, check out Grabia's highlight reel of Traktor Boy.

Now, it looks like some of this is against international competion and it looks like some of this is against some crap but regardless there are a few things we can gather.

The kid is big.

The kid is fast.

He likes to go to the net.

He has soft hands.

Lowe said, I think it was in the playoffs, that the UFA market did not concern him too much because the Oilers would be bringing in their own homegrown stars.

And Howson, I believe, said a few weeks back that they felt Mikhnov would play in their top six.

Right now.

Interesting.

If he can then the Oilers, as Lowetide points out, have a whole lot of chips up front. And if they sign Sykora, add to that list.

Meaning a couple less kids will be on this team.

And someone is heading out of town for a defenceman.

Raffi Torres?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Good One


Other then the fact that longterm contracts scare the bejeebers out of me because of their inherent longterm like longevity, that is, anything can happen over six years, the fact is this is a great contract.

They've tied up their best young player and most skilled player for the longterm, including his first three years of UFA and for a reasonable amount.

With arbitration the way it is you know that even if he only improved marginally over the next few years he was still going to get 5+ at some point; you also know some team would be throwing big money at him, a la Havlat, even if the improvements were only marginal ones, the moment he reached UFA.

The contract is very tradeable too if it ever comes to that.

The kid can be frustrating but he's a great talent and grew up a lot in the playoff run. He was one of the most effective forwards in the final.

Finally, think of defining goals in this run - from the goal that clinched the playoff spot in game 81 to the brilliant rush in G1 of the final.

We want to see more consistency. I think we will.

Just a kid.

Good deal for him. Good deal for the Oil. Someone else who wants to stay longterm.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Odds and Sods

Some random thoughts while we wait.

1/ I can't see the Sabres finding a team to take Briere unless they take comparable salary in return and in that case, why would they?

2/ I think they do their best to keep it together for one more season - they were damn close to the final last year and the Sens have taken a step back - they'd have to get through the Canes but I'd say they could do that.

3/ Speaking of the Canes, if they lose Ward or if he plays poorly then they are in trouble but that can be said about nearly every team and their number 1 goalie. Other then that not a bad offseason for Rutherford. Other then rentals they lost Gerber, Aaron Ward and Cullen. They may be back.

4/ I'd feel a whole lot better about the Oilers' no name defence (a la Carolina) if two of Matt Greene, Marc Andre Bergeron or Smid were closer to 32 then 22.

5/ Still waiting for Garth Snow to deal himself to give his team cap relief

6/ Still waiting for Jersey to start the firesale. How much is Scott Gomez going to get anyhow? And if its over 6 million, what will Lou have to throw in to get anyone to take him off his hands?

7/ And interested to see how the Canucks, Leafs, Lightning, Bruins (among others) fill out their rosters - a lot of minimum wage guys for these guys and they still may be too tight to the cap

8/ Can Jan Hejda play in this league?

9/ Can Captain America?

10/ Is there an offseason anymore?

11/ Finally and this truly is food for thought, do the Oilers play the system that is not a trap this season? At least some of the time or maybe even the majority of it? Will this or can this make up for some of the lack of experience on D as well as help teach some of the forwards a little bit about their half of the ice?

Maybe that is the card that MacT will play - lining up five along the blueline can do a lot to hide holes in personnel - ask the Wild or the Panthers the year they made it to the final.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wow



Thought Stoll's contract was too high - I figured he'd come in around 1.7 per.

Now that Mike York gets 2.85.

And apparently Briere is going to get 5.

The poor Sabres.

Looks like Lowe gambled and may have won after all. Too much for Stoll? Yes but what if he went to arbitration and got 3?

Going to be a whole lot of movement. A whole lot of teams walking away from players, I think.

Some others getting traded.

Poor Sabres.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Who We Want To Be



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.

Wrong.

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?

I wouldn't.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Send Them In


The Islanders were once the model franchise. Under Bill Torrey and Al Arbour they built a dynasty from nothing. Trottier, Bossy, Gillies, Nystrom, Goring, Potvin, Smith, Resch - they pushed aside Lafleur's Habs roughly and without ceremony and then held onto their crown until a team of young guns sent them packing.

Love them or hate them they were a team to respect.

Holding onto their vets for a little too long sent them into mediocrity.

Now over twenty years later after the madcap reign of Mike Milbury the team has officially become a joke. Milbury traded, among others, Wade Redden, Roberto Luongo, Todd Bertuzzi, Zdeno Chara, Olli Jokinen, Eric Brewer, Tim Connolly, Bryan McCabe, Raffi Torres, Taylor Pyatt, the pick that became Jason Spezza (#2 overall iirc) and many other good young players with little to show for it when all was said and done. The trade he got right, bringing Peca in to sort out the mess in the room? He traded Peca, effectively making the Isles Alexei Yashin's team! He also was responsible for signing said Alexei Yashin to the most foolish contract of all time. Worse then the Jagr deal (at least Jagr can play and his contract is shorter term). Worse then Holik, Guerin, Weight and all of the mad millions thrown after UFAs when there was no cap to restrain stupidity.

I feel bad for Neil Smith who waited so long for another chance.

I feel bad for Ted Nolan. All this time on the outside looking in and this is the mess he is in?

He'd better have a knockout season to prove his chops, keep his head down and his mouth shut, and maybe , maybe he comes out ok.

This is worse then Bill Wirtz and Bob Pulford and the Hawks.

We're in Ballard Country here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Remember this?



Good for Horc!

Good for the Oil too.

I'm thinking, barring injury, that Horcoff is a 90 point man next season.

What would he have gotten on the open market? Excellent two way centre, great face off man, hard worker, clutch player.

What did Marc Savard get?

I have no idea what Shawn Horcoff or Fernando Pisani are like in "real life" - the fan in me would love to think that they are the type of guy I would enjoy having a beer with.

May not be the case but good for both of them. They had to work for everything they could get in the NHL - they were not handed a thing. And both have come through. After Pronger and Roloson I'd say they were the main reasons the Oil got where they did.

So good on them.

And based on the past few seasons my guess is we have not seen the best from either of them yet.

Have been working on PEI for the last week and now for ten days off (life of leisure, eh?) including three away from the internet, TV etc etc.

Kevin, when I come back Tuesday night I expect that you will have shored up our D, signed Hemsky, Lupul and Stoll to reasonable contracts and assured this team of winning one more playoff game this upcoming season then they did this one past.

Not too much to ask, right?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Change Coming




Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

LW-Smyth, Torres, Moreau, Jacques
C-Horcoff, Stoll, Reasoner, Pouliot, Almtorp
RW-Hemsky, Pisani, Lupul, Winchester, Brodziak
D-Smith, Staios, Hejda, Greene, Tjarnqvist, Bergeron, Smid
G - Roloson, Markannen

For now.

Other possibilities - Mikhnov and Schremp up front

This is one young young team. Holy smokes.

Questions:

Does Dvorak come back as the fourth line right winger? He'd get his ice on the PK and playing tough minutes late in games along with Pisani. I can't see him as a 13th/14th forward. And if he does come back who takes those roles? I'd rather not have a youngster sitting in the pressbox - what's the point?

Does Rem Murray have a role as that 13th/14th guy? To me he'd be ideal there. But does he want to play for nothing again?

I can't see either Mikhnov and Schremp making this team unless they force this team to break camp with them. Loaded with young forwards already, all with more experience then these two, I think the Oilers aren't putting either in a fourth line role. Schremp definitely not. Mikhnov, if he has any clue in his own zone, maybe ends up on the fourth line. He's been a pro for a while but who knows? I don't think playing big minutes in the minors is going to hurt either.

If Mikhnov dazzles maybe they can find a spot for him. I guess they have to.

Lots of young forwards. Nice problem to have.

As for the D, well hard to say where this is going. Smith, Staios, Greene and Tjarnqvist are in. Bergeron too. My guess is Hejda is as well. If he can't hack it its so long but this guy is nearing thirty. I don't think they bring him over to learn the game in the minors.

So the big question, is Smid heading back to the minors or is he one of seven. If he plays his way into the top six then he's ok. If not then he's heading down. No use in the pressbox.

Last question, does Lowe make a move? I say he does. Two big, one or two little.

The little ones - he has to fill a couple of forward spots with vets on the minimum - maybe Murray fits in. Players to fill in those last roles. Or maybe rotate with youngsters on the fourth line, although I don't like it. Young guys have to play. Also depending on if he moves Bergeron, maybe he picks up another guy to be the sixth or seventh D.

As for two big (and this relative - big in Oiler ville may be as big as these moves get).

Trade for a Dman or an upgrade at centre (a 1B guy to go with Horc's 1A). I think they need the former. As for centre I like Stoll but I think the playoffs proved that he is either not up to the task or he still has a way to go before he is.

So they trade for one or the other. If no upgrade at centre then definitely the Dman. They pick this player up from a team strapped for cap room - for a pick, a prospect, Bergeron, Winchester, a combination. Teams are going to be dumping salary and pretty good players can be had for cheap. Note the Mike Johnson move.

The second piece depends on the plans for Stoll. If he's going to get bumped a line or if they decide to roll with what they have down the middle then he stays. He's just a kid and he's a pretty nice player. Having said that if they can move him somewhere for an upgrade on the back end that makes sense then they may do it.

Addition this morning to the original post - in the papers this morning a couple of additional points of interest - the feeling is that Thoreson may also be in the mix for a spot. Fourth line going into camp is Jacques/Pouliot/Winchester. Finally and most interesting - Mikhnov is coming once the transfer agreement is signed and Oiler brass feel he can play second line right now.

If that is the case this team has a whack of young wingers - if this kid can come in and do that then you have:

LW - Smyth, Mikhnov, Torres, Moreau, Jacques
RW - Hemsky, Pisani, Lupul, Winchester(?)

Where does Thoreson fit in? Almtorp? MAP? Brodziak?

Too many young players - not enough spots? Maybe its not Stoll who gets moved? Of course this all depends on Mikhnov, Almtorp, Thoreson being the real deal. But wow! Interesting times. Now if only one or two of these guys played D.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Those Young Edmonton Oilers



Put the kids in with a few old pappy guys who still like to win and the combination is unbeatable. Conn Smythe

Conn knew a little about hockey. He was also a little nuts. Fought in the inferno of WWI. One story about him had him throwing his pistol at a German soldier after he ran out of bullets if I recall correctly. The true measure of his sanity or lack thereof is that after being a combat officer in that most vicious of wars he signed up for WWII.

Anyhow if Conn's statement was a guarantee then the Oilers are about to go on a nice run because this team, mistakenly called young all through the playoffs by the crack team at the CBC, is once again, well, young. With Roloson, Gator and Staios playing the roles of the "few old pappy guys". After that, if I am not mistaken, their next oldest guys are still on the sunny side of thirty.

At the beginning of the upcoming season Ulanov would be 37, Murray 34, Pronger, Spacek and Peca 32, Tarnstrom and Harvey 31. Even LeGG is almost 30 as is Dvorak. All gone. (maybe not Dvo and Rem)

And I'm thinking any help on D is going to be someone around 27 to 29. At leats the guys who make sense to me are all around that age bracket.

Too young? Well this season may see a lot of 5-4 games for and against. Youth is good if your youth are good - just look at the Sharks. But it can let you down when the going gets tough.

See those same Sharks.

Or not.

See Ward, Cam and Staal, Eric.

Should be fun.

I'm with Lowetide. One guy, among many, to watch. Pouliot. I think he's going to be a player.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Parity Shuffle

Is anyone making any headway this off season?

Oiler fans have seen player after player leave this offseason. Pronger's departure, imo, is the only one that has to be addressed. Spacek was not here at the beginning of last season - if the Oilers look like contenders then he will have to be replaced, as will others but for now they have to address that big gap in their D. Then we can talk.

A look around the league reveals that a lot of other teams are in the same boat. With Ottawa trading Havlat and Smolinski for cap relief today the beginning of that process is upon us as teams pushing the cap or about to push it begin trying to get some relief. I think Lowe now is going to address the blueline.

Team after team has picked up a player or two to shore up an area of weakness only to have to rob Peter to pay Paul. There are a lot of unhappy, worried fans looking at their teams and wondering what next. The defending champs are in better position then most, having lost Gerber (but still having Ward), Matt Cullen, Aaron Ward and rent a player Doug Weight. But as for some remaining teams:

Colorado - said so long to Alex Tanguay and Rob Blake while adding Jordan Leopold - a net loss I believe - Colorado needs youngsters to step up in a big way on offence or they will be out of the playoffs

Vancouver - added Roberto Luongo and Willie Mitchell but lost Jovonoski, Bryan Allen, Bertuzzi and Anson Carter (probably) - for all those looking as the Canucks as vastly improved I'm not sure I buy it - how much offence is gone with Carter, Bertuzzi and Jovo?

Detroit - they had to turn the page and with Yzerman and Shanahan leaving this team will have a definite new look - Eddie Belfour in net though? Saw him play a lot last year and even when healthy - yeesh.

Dallas - so long Jason Arnott

Ottawa - goodbye Chara and Havlat

Anaheim - took Pronger off our hands but give up a 28 goal scorer off a team that did not score a lot of goals - they're going to be hoping to win a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 games, I guess

Jersey - kept Elias but will have to say good bye to others, liekly Gomez and Rafalski

The Rangers have made some nice additions (funny to see them going for midrange guys now) and San Jose's addition of Bell, while it cost them Preissing, adds to a formidible lineup. The Flames pickup of Tanguay, while it cost them Leopold, has to help.

The common thread to this new cap cap world is this:

Next year, like this, is going to be wide open and if you are going to make hay your young guys better step it up to replace those who have departed.

If Svatos doesn't score then the Avs don't make the playoffs. In Detroit its Zetterberg and Datsyuk's team now. Ottawa needs some young D to step up for Chara and someone else to give them secondary scoring. Anaheim needs Getzlaf and Perry to score or they won't be going anywhere.

The Oilers need Greene, Torres, Stoll, Lupul and a host of others to make that step up.

Even the defending champs need Cam Ward to perform at a high level for a full season to replace what Gerber gave them or they will be in trouble too.

Interesting times. Who said the draft wasn't important anymore?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Defending Lou

Lowetide has a great post about Sam Pollock and how he manipulated the expansion draft in 1967 so that he was able to keep his team together as well as all of his youngsters in his farm system.

Its interesting to me because Pollock is known as one of the greatest GMs of all time, if not the greatest, and he helped his own cause dramatically by writing the rules the ways he did. He ended up with an unfair advantage although one wonders what opposing GMs were thinking when they ok'd all of this. They probably just didn't see it coming, I guess.

Now we have a change in the way business is done in the NHL and many of the GMs who ran the big money teams in the 90s and early 'oughts are running into issues themselves now that they don't have the luxury of throwing money after their big mistakes. The guys who had unfair competitive advantage then are, in some cases, being exposed as not being very astute after all. Interesting to note, as a sidebar, that Glen Sather, who built a terrible team when he had all of the money in the world, suddenly has turned the Rangers around now that the playing field is far more level. Weird, huh? It seems now thta he has to use his brain again he suddenly is a far better GM.

Bobby Clarke tied his own hands with the large and longterm deals for Hatcher and Rathje. He cannot trade them. They are untradeable. He cannot buy them out because of how this will effect his Cap room. He is stuck with two dinosaurs.

But the guy I really want to look at is a probable future Hall of Famer, Lou Lamoriello. Under Lou, the Devils won three Stanley Cups and have a team that has been competitive year after year. The Devils were usually around #10 or so in payroll, in the top half of the league, but not one of the big money teams. Lou always played hardball in contract negotiations. Holdouts were left to rot or they were traded. Veterans were almost brought in by trade. The team was built from within. They rarely got involved in the annual UFA sweepstakes. Having said that Lou was always able to sign his key guys it seems. They weren't cash strapped like, well, the Oilers. I would think in the old NHL Lou is the guy you would pick to build a team if you were starting a franchise.

But after the lockout Lou stumbled and badly. With cornerstone Dmen Scott Stevens (retired) and Scott Niedermeyer (free agency) gone, Lou cast about for replacements, misread where the league was going and overpaid. Vladimir Malakhov was gone before the end of the year. Alex Mogilny too. And Dan McGillis. Their salaries - 3.6, 3.5 and 2.2 Million bucks. And the Devils are on the hook for all of it. He's also on the hook for Richard Matvichuk for 1.368, another guy who struggled last season, but at least stuck with the team.

Over 9 million in guys in the minors or at home. Another 1.3+ for a guy who can't keep up.

When the UFA season began it looked like his cornerstone Patrick Elias would be gone as well as useful veteran Jamie Langenbrunner. But he signed them both, as well as Colin White, to longterm deals.

To me, Lou had lost it. He's already pushing the Cap and still has to sign key RFAs Gomez, Gionta, Paul Martin and David Hale. The Devils are doomed, right? Going to Leafland?

Wait a second, I thought today. There is a method to his madness, I think.

1/ Notice the guys have Lou has signed to longterm deals - Elias, Brodeur, Langenbrunner, White - all longterm Devils with Stanley Cup rings. This franchise has always had stability. My guess is that these players as well as a couple of Rafalski, Brylin, Marshall, Pandolfo and Madden will be expected to be the core leadership group moving ahead.

2/ Some of the above players will likely be moved to cut salary and to get picks and prospects. What would Madden bring? Rafalski? Even a player like Brylin? Pretty good return I would think.

3/ Gomez will likely be moved as well - Lou will get under the Cap, at a cost.

4/ The Devils will have a lot of youngsters in the lineup this season and many will be cast in prominent roles. Sink or swim. They may not make the playoffs although they might sneak in. I wouldn't bet against them.

5/ Next season they will have Malakhov and Mogilny off the books. And going forward, McGillis and Matvichuk too. Suddenly Lou will have room. He will have his core of experience veterans. He will have Hale, Martin, Parise etc having gained experience in bigger roles (assuming they can hack it) as well as other youngsters in his system (you know they're coming) and the youth he picked up from the deals he is about to make. If these guys don't replace the guys he had to trade (I'll bet on Rafalski and Gomez) then he will have the money to pick up their replacements - RFAs coming the other way from teams in Cap trouble.

The Devils are going to be alright. They'll pay for Lou's mistakes from last year this season. Hopefully Lowe will be a guy who can benefit. But I'd bet that as early as next season they are on the right track again. And that this won't happen to them again.

Compare them to the mess in Toronto. That's for another day though.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

OK, Enough Pissing and Moaning



To paraphrase Paul Newman, "We're blogging like pussies out there."

Lets review:

1/ The Pronger trade had to be made. Teams were not going to wait until September or October to see if they could get this guy. If they did wait and then did not get him then they would be screwed. Further, Bob Clarke was not going to wait until next February and then in the middle of a Cup surge trade Pitkanen and Carter for the guy.

His value was going down from this point on, folks. Teams had to move on, including the Oil. Would it have been nice to get Horton and Bouwmeester? Sure. But in the Cap era Mike Keenan would have been stupid to trade two young cheap talented assets like these guys. Any trade that we were hot and heavy for was likely a dream.

Teams set their budgets and make their plans now. He had to be traded now.

2/ You're not going to get full value in this situation. Ever. Having said that would you trade Brewer, Woyitka and Lynch for Lupol, a top D prospect, a first and second rounder and a possible other first? I would. Did we want more? Did Lowe want more? Of course. Did he make the best of a bad situation? A 22 year old with 28 goals in his sophomore season. One of the top ten prospects in hockey. Two, maybe three high picks. He did ok, I think. This team is loaded with young players. Some are not going to turn out. I'd think a lot are.

3/ He resigned two out of three of their priority UFAs. Only Spacek did not. He signed with Buffalo because after Pronger left he felt the Sabres had a better chance to win the Cup. That's fine. Giving 10M to a second pair Dman who is 32 doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

4/ We knew Peca was going. He had a good playoff. He is going to get paid a lot. Too much for what he is worth. We knew Samsonov was going. Remember that he was brought in to score goals. A lot of them. Didn't happen.

5/ Ritch Winter says Dvorak does not want to be here. Not after being asked to take a 50% paycut I guess not. I like Dvo. I do. But its about the money folks. It is. If the Oilers offered him 1.6M he's be holding an Edmonton festival back in Prague. Believe me.

6/ LeGG - love the guy. Great guy. Wants to be here. Great in the community. How many minutes did he play in the playoffs? 1.2M per for two years plus a notrade clause. Why?

7/ No big UFAs signed here. And we are supposed to be upset about this because ....? Kubina for 5M a year for four years. Chara for 7.5M a year for five years. And a notrade. Marc Savard? Hal Gill? Jay McKee? Seriously, stop me when I hit a contract that makes sense. UFAs are nearly always overpaid in term and cash. One good deal. The Redden deal. Maybe Willie Mitchell. Maybe Mike Grier. It makes headlines. Everyone gets excited. Ask the Devils how great things are in the years to come. Hell ask them in September when they have stripped their roster bare to get back under the Cap. Ask the Leafs how they like paying McCabe nearly 6M per when he is 36 and still as crappy as he is now. How about Boston when they try and unload Savard in two seasons.

8/ Finally, the season starts in October.


Look, losing Pronger was a big hit. Nobody's missing that point. But this team is constituted the same as last year's at this time except for him, Peca, Dvorak, Harvey, Cross, Conklin, Ulanov and LeGG. Add Roloson, Lupul and a bunch of fast, hungry kids as well as the experience the remaining guys picked up. Now, how does it look?

I don't know if this team as presently constituted makes the playoffs. Likely not. Add a solid Dman or two and they do though. I'd put money on it.

Lowe's job as GM is as follows:

1/ Make the playoffs so the team has an opportunity to win the Cup.
2/ Have financial flexibility so that players can be signed in the years upcoming and players can be added this season to augment the current roster.
3/ Develop young players and accrue assets (picks/prospects) in order to replace older players, acquire other assets etc etc.
4/ Use #2 and #3 to put together a team that can challenge for the Cup once they are in the playoffs.
5/ Try not to overpay for assets. After their run the Oilers have a lot of assets who are overvalued. Let other teams pay them. UFAs are overvalued by nature. Let other teams blow their Cap space on these guys.

He still has some work to get this team into the playoffs but notice the number of teams in deep Cap trouble. Look at the flexibility the Oilers have in that regard.

To paraphrase asiaoil, go to your local. Get a seat on the patio. Order a pint. Drink it. Enjoy the sun. Order another pint.

The Oilers are going to be fine. They are going to make the playoffs, barring a rash of injuries. Once they are there then we will see what happens. Its a marathon. The gun hasn't even sounded yet.

Take a deep breath, Oiler fans.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

c-c-c-c-cap problems



You think the Oilers have problems?

The New Jersey Devils have 44.5 million in salaries commited already including 9M or so for three players who finished last year off their roster - Mogilny, Malakhov and McGillis. They have 17 players signed. Still unsigned - Gomez, Gionta, David Hale, Paul Martin.

Philadelphia has 33 million in salaries tied up and still have to sign Gagne, Niitymaki, Umberger, Pitkanen and Radivoyevic

Boston has 34 million committed to twelve players and have to resign Bergeron, Boyes and Tanabe.

San Jose has 30 million committed to fifteen players and still have to resign Ehrloff, Goc, Rissmiller, Mark Smith and Nolan Schaeffer.

Tampa has 39 million committed to 16 players and still have to worry about Cory Sarich and Fedotenko.

Buffalo has 8 million committed to 4 players. Everyone else on their roster is an RFA.

Now, does anyone out there think that Kevin Lowe may be able to pick up a defenceman or two from one of these teams (and these are only the teams I looked at) and at minimal cost, that is a prospect, pick or someone like Bergeron. And, is this not a better option then signing Jay McKee for 4M a year or Jaro Spacek (32 years old) for 4 years at 3.5 or something?

Now, there is nobody Philly will be trying to dump that I want, really, and San Jose is not in too bad of shape, but Jersey? Wouldn't Rafalski look good patrolling the Oilers' blueline? How about Cory Sarich? Brad Stuart? Rumour de jour Ehrloff? Hannan? MacLaren? Hale? Martin? Lydman?

You may scoff but for some, if not all of these teams, something has to give.

I think things will be ok.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Somewhere in Vancouver


A young woman smiles.

Somewhere, Earl Sleek is Laughing

After the Oilers beat the Ducks my post title was "Eat Me Joffrey Lupul".

I thought he was a good young player who would likely become a great player.

I also thought he was a punk.

Well, now he's our punk.

Pronger fatigue hit me this weekend and I'd had it - spent the weekend away from the TV and away from the computer for the most part.

And now the deal is done. Finally.

I haven't yet checked out anyone's site except for a quick look at Lowetide's yesterday. Some pretty angry reaction from some quarters.

Thoughts:

1/ The idea that Lowe could have waited is not a reasonable one. Teams set their budgets and plans now. No teams were going to leave a spot open based on the possibility they might get Pronger come September. What if they lost out? How would they replace the guys they moved to get him? The idea that Lowe could have and should have waited is nice but not realistic. The next time he might have been able to move him would be around Christmas. His value likely would have decreased. And the Oilers would have watched the season (with one huge distraction) probably go down the tubes. He had to do the deal now.

2/ His hands were tied. And when teams began to drop out of the running then the bidding war he'd hoped for disappeared. There were two trains of thought - that he would get two quality players plus a pick or that he would get a good young NHL player, a blue chip prospect and a high pick. It turns out that #2 was what he ended up with. And the fact that we as fans looked at possible returns (Bouwmeester/Horton - Pitkanen/Carter) and got worked up about those possibilities (and happy about them, mind you - Bouwmeester and Horton - give me that deal in a second) tells you they weren't going to happen. In Florida's case, for example, Keenan looked at it and figured why give up two guys who are already damn good players for a guy ten years older and more expensive then the two combined.

3/ Was the deal a good one? Well, of course Anaheim won the deal. Unless Lowe was able to get a bidding war he wasn't going to win this one. But he got a shooter, something the Oilers need, and he's a 22 year old who scored 28 goals playing with, who, Todd Marchant?? That's a nice pickup. The young Dman is a top prospect. If he becomes a player then this deal looks pretty good. Throw in the picks and Lowe received some pretty good assets.

I think he got the best he could get.

He's added to a nice core of forwards and we'll see what Smid can do. The big issue for this team, obviously, is the blueline. Lowe has to add someone, maybe two someones. It will be interesting to see if they go really young early or if he picks up two veterans. I don't think he's done dealing and there are already teams bumping up against the cap so he'll get this team the help they need.

Its just too bad it ended the way it did. I don't blame Pronger for putting his family first. You can say whatever you will but whatever the real reason, whether his wife didn't want to live in Edmonton or it was something a little more, as many believe, you have to put your family first. Nothing is more important.

It was a terrific year and he was a huge part of it. A lot of great memories.

And now its time to move along. Nothing to see here.



.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Uh, okay then. Death Taxes and Overpaid UFAS



I was looking for a nice feeding frenzy pic but on the first day of free agency and all of its craziness nothing represents what is going on more then a nice picture of MONEY!

Because when Winter says Dvorak has problems with the Oil you can bet that that is what it is about. As in the Oilers aren't offering him enough.

Guerin, Holik, Lapointe, Khabibulin ... the list of completely ridiculous contracts given out to UFAs in the past is an endless one.

Surprised at the length and money that Pisani and Roloson got - sure am, at least a little. Figured Pisani for 3 @ 6M and Roloson for 2 @ 5M.

Pisani has been earmarked by Oiler brass for bigger and better things, according to Duhatschek; they figure this playoff run was the beginning for Fernando's offensive output, not a flash in the pan.

As for Roloson. Well, I like the guy. There are a ton of goalies available but only one other UFA left, Legace. They could trade for Giguere, Nabakov, Biron, Cloutier or Aebischer. I guess Lowe looked at these options and thought they weren't good enough. Roloson has two great playoff runs on his resume. Only Giguere nears that pedigree with one. Biron, of all of them, intrigues me the most but maybe the Sabres are asking for the moon and Lowe just figured he would go with what he knows. Do I think the contract is too much and too long? Sure. But the Oilers need a goalie and looking at the list of available guys the only ones who I really liked were Denis (traded), Gerber (signed) and Biron. Roloson beat the Ducks and the Sharks this year and we all know Cloutier's playoff history.

You can hate the contract but I also understand why Lowe chose him.

The one comfort is that if you look around this is minor shit compared to what some teams have done to themselves.

The Leafs give Kubina 5 M a year. And then they signed Hal Gill. And this is a team that is deep in young D. If they have one strength, that is it. Yeesh.

The reality is that nearly every contract given out today to the UFAs can be summed up in two ways, either too much or too long. But if that is what a team deems a guy's worth to be, then I guess that's his worth.

Surprises

Jovo signs with Phoenix - I was sure he would sign in Florida
Elias resigns with the Devils - 6M per, less then he would have likely gotten on the market, but for seven years - a similar deal to Brodeur - never would have thought he would be back
Blake leaves the Avs
Tyler Arnason still found work
Sens signing Gerber - I figured they would go for a veteran guy as insurance not as their main guy

Nice to see - Mike Commodore getting a nice raise and a two year deal. Even though he was a Flame and then a Cane, I dig this guy. Good player who spoke out during the lockout - he felt that it would kill his career just as it was starting. A year later he's a big part of a Cup winner and rewarded for it.

And now, whither Pronger? I figured Florida or the Rangers or Philly would make a splash with a big UFA but all is quiet. Blake's signing leads me to believe the Kings are out but apparently the Sharks may also be in it.

Could be good.

Happy Canada Day!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Rest Easy, Lowetide



The Morning News

Good for him. And, I think, for us.