Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Third Way

With a month to go before the deadline and the Oilers treading water the question has become buy or sell. With Staios' return this is suddenly a far more competitive team and the guess here is the same as its been for a while - this team is going to hang around. There will be no freefall. In other words Lowe is going to have to make a tough decision. Does he tear it down? Or does he go for it?
Knowing Lowe he will not wave the white flag unless this team falls apart. Its possible but unlikely.
But what has been ignored amongst the questions of who would go if they sell (Smyth, Smith, Sykora, Markannen, Tjarnqvist etc) and who would come in if they buy (Stuart, Dvorak, Brewer, Tkachuk etc) is the third possibility.
That Lowe takes stock of his team and does what he does in 2003 - make some moves that may be unpopular but turn out to be alright. Remember the uproar when he moved Niinimaa and Carter? Well Carter has become Brent Ashton, new team every year, and Janne, well, poor Janne is pretty well done. Seems Lowe made the right move moving him while he could despite the unpopularity of it.
Coming the Oilers' way - two years plus of Dvorak and a year and a half of Cory Cross for Carter and Torres and Isbister for Janne.
Not a home run but I think the Carter deal was a win and if you look at how Janne has fallen to pieces you might say the second deal was as well. Isbister was a disaster, one of those guys like Cleary or Kilger who everyone waited on to blossom but he never even made it to that level. But Raffi is a useful player.
I'm thinking we may see more of the same this spring. I think Lowe has identified who he is keeping and who he is willing to move.
Staying for sure: Horcoff, Hemsky, Stoll, Pisani, Moreau, Thoresen, Stortini, Staios, Smid, Roloson
Probably staying: Smyth, Torres, Reasoner, Hejda, Greene
Gone: Winchester, Markannen
Staying or going?: Sykora, Tjarnqvist, Bergeron, Smith
We're not going to see Bergeron and Smith going for a couple of UFAs, like that ridiculous rumour out of Boston but Smith is a definite possibility to move. The reasons - his contract. Whoever picks him up gets him for two years at a reasonable price. And the Janne factor. When Gator declines it could be fast and ugly. I love Smith but can you get on board with him getting four years at big money next summer? He's got a lot of miles on him. I could see him get moved to a team for either a Stuart (UFA who agrees to a contract before the trade) or a younger Dman ready to step into a bigger role. (less likely - would have to be a legitimate contender with a closing window - San Jose? Anaheim? Buffalo? Ottawa?)
We'll see - I can see Lowe making this type of a move, while selling Sykora for a prospect he likes while moving a prospect for a replacement for Sykora. Move another pick or prospect for a depth Dman. Lateral moves. Try and improve. Selling and buying at the same time.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Slip Sliding Away

I know a woman, (who) became a wife
These are the very words she uses to describe her life
She said a good day aint got no rain
She said a bad day is when I lie in the bed
And I think of things that might have been
Sitting here drinking a Rogue Stout from Oregon on a Saturday night. Wife is at work. Kids are abed. Second night in a row. Hopefully tonight and tomorrow are not a repeat of last night.
Oilers get blown out by the Sharks. Their four rivals in front of them pick up 2 points (Wild) and 1 each (Flames, Canucks and Avs). The two teams behind them both win. (Blues. Coyotes.)
So tonight the Oilers go into action seven points behind the Flames and Canucks and six behind the Wild, who also sit in the last playoff spot. They are two behind the Avs and but two ahead of the Blues and Coyotes.
By the end of this weekend they could be tied with the Yotes and Blues, eight points out of the playoffs.
This might be over sooner then we thought.
Staios is now listed as day to day. Shaggy is out indefinitely, I believe it would be safe to say.
Roloson and Smith are wearing down. Sykora is MIA. Nedved is washed up, which we figured. Hemsky is getting run at nightly. The fourth liners are game but they're fourth liners.
Horcoff is snakebit. Torres has become a decent two way player but 27 goals is just a pipedream. Pisani will likely get 20 after all but hopes were higher.
The rest of the D is overmatched.
And what is the point of Joffrey Lupul, anyhow?
Bright spots? Uh, Heyda belongs in the NHL. Stoll has become a pretty good player. And Smyth, although in a bit of a slump now, continues to have a good year. Of course all signs point to him plying his trade elsewhere next season.
Bring on the full on rebuild!
Things have turned ugly. After a fast start and then a couple of months of being average the loss of Staios and Shaggy laid bare what everyone knew was the Achilles heel of this team, the back end. With them in the lineup and healthy the D was maybe average at best. With them out its the suck. And the rest of the team is going down with them.
The Oilers have become the Ducks, the Canes, the Capitals, the Panthers - surprise teams who marched to the finals, fell short and then fell back to earth the next year. Hard.
Hopefully they can become the Canes and rebound in a few years to finish the job. The Ducks look to be in good shape to do this as well.
Its been a real hangover year, compounded by the Pronger disaster. Two months to heal and prepare after ten months of hockey instead of four months after eight. (I know we'll take the former any day.) Guys coming back forgetting what got it done in the spring. (Stoll admitted as much when he discussed his play in the October).
You can read it in the comments by fans as well. People are cranky.
The worse thing is that guys like Smid and Roy and Greene who are not ready for prime time are getting thrown under the bus. They're the ones being put in a position to fail. Whose fault is that?
On the other hand, Jordan Staal has 16 goals. Mike Grier has 10. Ryane Clowe has 12 in 25 games. Joe Pavelski has 9 in 27 games.
By Christ Jeff O'Neill just scored his 17th.
All of these but Mr. Grier and Jeff O'Neill are rookies. Mike Grier, God love him, is Mike Grier. I saw O'Neill near my place last year. He looked like he was thisclose to begging on a steet corner. Washed up.
Hemsky has 7. Torres has 8. Horcoff has 8. Lupul 13.
Do I need to say more?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lowe Rolled The Dice - Now Who Will Pay?

6/ Edmonton - Great forwards, good goaltending. Newfound confidence and an infusion of youth add up to a playoff spot even with this D - look for two of Bergeron, Greene or Smid to exceed expectations and, if all else fails, Lowe will move assets to get help on the blueline - definite playoff team with possibility of higher finish
I look back at those crazy days of my misspent youth. Week long benders, staggering from pub to pub. Sleeping with some different crazy dame every night. Smoking, snorting, shooting any chemical I could get my hands on. Believing what I believed about the Oilers.
Must have been the booze and drugs talking.
Now that Traktor Boy has fled back to Mother Russia maybe we can trade him for a second line centre who averages nearly a point a game. Nah, nobody would ever go for that deal - sending a player like that for some kid who might never even come back from Russia. Plus we might be mortgaging our future.
Oh, someone already pulled a deal like that. Hmm.
Anyhow, we all know that Lowe gambled and it is looking more and more like he has lost. Things started well, even when the vaunt was less vaunt then meh but when Shaggy came up lame things started to go south. And with Staios suffering from that really bad flu, you know the one that dislocates your knees and such, well, things aren't looking so hot for the good guys, even considering they picked up twelve points in their last ten games with Smith, Bergeron and a bunch of guys on D who keep getting younger and younger. Or so it seems.
The Oilers are treading water but those seas are getting choppier.
And now the question is, what does Lowe do and even if he buys is it too late to stop the bleeding? They're only four points out of a playoff spot but your man Kevin Lowe has to make a tough call.
Does he give up prospects or picks for a rental or two when he may not even get to that next season? And who does he give up if he does go that route?
Or does he take this opportunity to remake this team, even so far as to go into full rebuilding mode?
1/ How would the fans feel if he waved the white flag?
My guess is if they are still in it, even if its just sniffing distance, he doesn't sell. Selling off assets even if the playoffs are just a faint possibility isn't going to fly. Ferguson Jr. faces the same issue here and he's not selling unless the team goes into complete freefall. And like the Leafs that is not going to happen to the Oilers even with that blueline, unless they are ravaged by injuries or they just stumble really hard and have the mother of all slumps. Unfortunately they're a tweener team - good enough to tease us with possibilities but not good enough to follow on that promise.
2/ Who would have value if he sold?
You could start with almost everyone who was in on last year's run except for those guys rewarded with long term contracts. So Pisani, Moreau, Horcoff, Staios, Roloson - these guys aren't going anywhere. However, Smyth, Smith, Torres, Stoll, Markannen - all of them would bring something in return, even Jussi. I'll tell you one thing - if Jason Smith isn't an Oiler come March 1st you know this is going to be a longterm rebuild. And Lowe's going to get calls about him.
And of course Shaggy, Sykora and Reasoner would all bring something back as well.
3/ What about Smyth?
Who knows? Rumour was a week ago or so that Meehan and Lowe were talking but that was apparently just that - rumour. Its been debated as to whether or not the Oilers should sign him but an interesting outside take is that of Lyle Richardson from Spector's Trade Rumours - I'll be shocked if the Oilers don't re-sign Smyth, who's been their heart and soul for years. It'll be a serious blow to their fans to lose him via free agency, one that would send the wrong message that, despite the salary cap, the Oilers are unwilling to spend to retain their best player. I for one hope that Lyle is right. Is that my heart talking? Damn right it is. Smyth is my favourite Oiler and I think for once it would be nice to see an Oiler star stay an Oiler. And even my head says sign him, to be honest. They're not going to replace what he brings with another UFA and to trade for the younger equivalent? You're giving up something big to do so.
If he's gone you're rebuilding the D and your forward corps as well.
4/What's going to happen?
I think the Oilers continue to hang around. I think Lowe tries to augment his blueline but he's cautious about it. The Oilers continue to be up and down but they eke out a playoff spot. Worn out, Roloson and Smith can't do what needs to be done and the Oilers fall in the first round. I think they resign Smyth and pick up a top four blueliner over the summer as well as one more Dman who has a some experience, a Shaggy type as it were (if only a little more durable) and try again next year.
5/What do I hope happens?
Staios and Shaggy return quickly and Lowe augments the blueline a little more aggressively. Lupul goes on a tear in the last thirty games and makes Lowe look good for picking him up. Torres continues to develop into a decent two way hockey player as does Stoll. Horcoff and Pisani finish strongly. In the first round they recapture some of last spring's swagger and take a round but can't get any farther. Smyth resigns in the summer and they pick up a Dman or two (see above) and go into next season ready to rebound (and better prepared to).
The next month is going to be interesting.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Oilers Come For Two Reasons - To Drink Some Beer and Kick Some Ass. Looks like they're almost out of beer.

Forgot about this movie until Grabia linked to the poster . Great movie. And the best line - Nicky Katt, bullying nerd Adam Goldberg, " I came here for only two reasons, to drink some beer and kick some ass. And I'm almost out of beer."
Oh yeah, I'm easily amused. Heh. I use that line every chance I can get.
No wonder all of my neighbours think I'm some sort of fucking weirdo.
Anyhow, this year has been for the Oilers and Oiler fans like the day after would have been for Pink, Slater, Don et al, if they were 39 and not 17. Meaning ... major hangover.
Not to say that Lowe isn't helping any as he attempts to show that last season was not a fluke and he is a total genius, hoping to pull not one, but two rabbit Dmen out of his hat for a third round pick and the rights to Rem Murray.
Funny thing is this team has somehow stayed afloat for weeks now with, as Lowetide says, Jason Smith and play for rain. Obviously Shaggy hasn't been right since about the high water mark of the season (Game 8) and Staios is now on the IR. Some flu, huh? Knowing Staios and the Oilers he will probably return and be like the guy in the Leslie Neilson spoof of The Fugitive - one legged, one armed etc. He's got to be hurting.
Point is the Oilers are playing Smith, Bergeron and four rookies, running their goalie into the ground, getting nothing from the Vaunt and yet, they are still in the mix.
And the grumbling mounts. And mounts.
Believe me, this has been a frustrating season for me as well. But I think a lot of this team's struggles can be traced to figuring out where they are going and that old Stanley Cup hangover (the worst kind - the one that the losing team suffers). And a lot of the anger out there from the Oilogosphere is the same - a hangover that is. Last spring was a magical run. The summer was ugly. And this season has been a struggle. And for fans who are hoping for a return to the promised land and seeing EIG sit on their money and waiting for Lowe to address a need that everyone knew they had when CFP asked out, well, its been tough to take.
I'm not happy with a lot of what has gone on. For the sake of development Hejda, who can so obviously play a role, sat while less deserving players played. Yet to try and win Roloson has been played into the ground and veterans like Sykora and Nedved have been given playing time in lieu of young forwards who could use that icetime.
Hemsky gets run game after game and not much happens.
But I still like this team.
Roloson is nuts but there's no questioning the passion there.
Smith has done what he can - man, I wish he could have lifted that Cup last spring. Talk about an everyman.
And there are flashes as they find themselves. Horcoff and Smyth carrying the team Thursday night.
Last night's passion play as Torres and Bergeron and Roy rub guys out and Greene and Roy drop them and then Bergeron does what everyone has been calling for, yes, Bergeron!, and fires Selanne into the net.
They're still in it and I know they need help but if the kid D can hold on for a little longer and Lowe can bring in some help back there ...
You know what the Oilers' record has been in the past nine?
Twelve out of eighteen points. And yes there have been some brutal performances in there. But with what they've got on the back end and all of the doom and gloom surrounding this team.
Get Shaggy and Staios healthy. Bring in a Dman. Or two.
They might not make the second season. But I'm still thinking that if they do, would you want to face them??

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Up and Down, Down and Up

An old photo of Oilers' prospect Zach Stortini from a playoff game when he captained the Sudbury Wolves - here he apparently is punching one Ottawa Dman in the back of the head while elbowing another in the face.
Good old junior hockey.
Last night another reminder of how the Oilers miss Moreau and Staios for that matter, although I find it a kind of funny how my fellow Oiler fans want revenge in a game where Hemsky was knocked out of the game. Along with four of the Wild.
I understand though. Hemsky gets manhandled a lot and you just don't see the Oilers respond in kind. Its like Ken Dryden describing Larry Robinson in The Game, his teammates ribbing him as he points and threatens an opponent who has been running rampant over the Habs, taking liberties with all of their stars. "Don't make me mad!" Point. Point. Point. "Seriously, don't make me mad or you'll really get it!"
The Oilers care. They can handle themselves. They can do some harm.
They just seem a little lost at sea at times. They remind me a bit of the team the year after 99 was traded. Something has been sucked out of them.
Hell, maybe they're just tired.
Fact is they have four veteran Dmen on this team. Two are out. (Apparently Staios was trying to play through a dislocated kneecap. I don't really know what that say about Steve Staios except, well, maybe that he is insane. He boarded with friends of a friend back in Sudbury, btw, when he was in junior, and my buddy says that he's the nicest fellow you'd ever meet. Which is nice. You always hope that the guys who cheer for are the types you'd like to have a beer with.)
Anyhow, back to the D. Two are out. Smith is playing hurt and he's exhausted. Once again, just a reminder, Roli is now seven games short of his career high in starts.
Not sure what we expect, I guess. If Lowe is not bringing in the cavalry then this team isn't going anywhere. I figured by now we'd see some help but ...
Quick thoughts:
I have a good feeling about Tom Gilbert. I hope he doesn't get traded.
Notice how San Jose has two rookie D who have played a big part in their season. Sure Carle got sent down for a short time to get refocussed but where is our Carle? Our Bernier? Our Michalek? Our Marc Edouard Vlasic? Our Ryan Clowe? Our Joe Pavelski?
For those of you who cannot count, that's two sophomores and four rookies who are all having an impact for the Sharks.
What's scary is that the Oilers' drafting and scouting has come leaps and bounds in recent years. In other words the Oilers have no players in their first or second year having the impact of any of these guys and yet they are miles ahead of where they were ten years ago. Frightening stuff.
A lot of people have asked why sign Roloson to a three year deal if you're rebuilding? What's the point? Point is without him this team is probably dead last. With him they are in competition for a playoff spot and if they could spell him and he stays healthy he will do the job for them for the next three years. He keeps them in the mix and, as we all know, if you're in the mix, anything can happen.
Down to their fifth string goalie, the Kings are definitely sellers. And apparently everyone is available for the right price. What would it take to get Vishnovsky? Quite a bit I would guess.
Dennis at IOF said it and I will agree. The Flames are likely running away with this division. Their record over the last thirty games is unreal and even without Iginla they're getting the job done. Other then that I think everyone else is still in the Oilers' sights and don't look now but the Stars are falling closer to the bottom of the pack. Modano and Zubov are due back soon but now apparently Boucher and Halpern are out. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.
Ducks tomorrow. Flames on Saturday.
Drinking Friday and Saturday. BOA on Saturday night. Family back Sunday night.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

To Have and Have Not

Watching a little of the Yankee Foozball today and watching Tom Brady struggle most of the day and now it looks like he's going to pull it out again.
The epitome of cool. Having a terrible day, Chargers' D in his face all day, gets a break and now he's pulling it out of the fire.
Bogart and Bacall, to your left, more of the same. Cool. Bacall at nineteen with that smokey voice, sexier then anyone the media machine pushes on us nowadays.
One great movie moment - Bogart is roughing up the bug eyed Peter Lorre.
Lorre - "I don't have to take that!"
Bogart, as he smacks Lorre around - "You'll take it and like it!"
I think lately fans of the Oilers are feeling a lot like Peter Lorre. The Flames, old, unattractive, on the sauce, are sleeping with Lauren Bacall. And they're slapping us around. And there's not a whole lot we can do about it.
The Oilers are still in the mix and when you're in the mix then there's always a chance you can catch the old lightning in the bottle, as Vic Ferrari put it. But unless this team makes a move and soon, then its going to be seventh or eighth at best and I don't think there's any miracle in this squad right now.
This isn't last year's squad with veterans sprinkled all through the lineup and a goalie finding his place and one rook on D only and guys like Horcoff and Hemsky and Torres finding their place in the league. This is a team that has lost that old Oilers' grit and elan, for the most part. Its greatest shortcoming, a D riddled with rookies, is wearing down the goalie and the few vets back there who are being asked to do too much. And up front nothing seems in sync, with the majority of the forwards falling short of expected production.
Anything can happen - Lowe might still pull a rabbit out of his hat and add a couple of solid vets to the back end. With a good defence this team, while definitely not in the league's elite, might make some noise.
Hell, look at last night's game. They played one of the best teams in the league right now (there, I said it), a team that doesn't lose to anyone but Vancouver (?) lately and has not allowed an ES goal in some ridiculous amount of time. And if Smyth stuffs that wraparound in and Stoll converts that nice setup from Torres then my guess is game over. And for the good guys. Instead, Kiprusoff makes the saves and Roli goes down a little early on Friesen's shot and now its 1-1 and the Flames make their PP work and Lombardi victimizes a rookie Dman and that's it.
The Oilers played two decent games, scored a total of three lousy goals and came away with nothing.
Lowe has tried to have his cake (compete for the division) and eat it (rebuild the D on the fly) too. He gambled and it looked like it might work out ok, despite the offence's shortcomings, until Roli began to tire out and Shaggy, Staios and Smith all came up lame.
Fun fact - our goalie started his 39th game last night, I believe they said. His career high - 47.
He's 37 and they're asking him to be Brodeur or Luongo and play every night. Not a recipe for success.
So, Lowetide has another of his terrific posts about what the Oilers have coming up the pipe and its going to make for an interesting spring and summer. They have a ton of kids who may or may not be ready and a team that is now six back of the division lead (with Calgary holding two in hand). They're a win two, lose two type of team, and St.Louis, Chicago, L.A. and Columbus, who all made little charges, have all begun to fade so while they're unable to establish that playoff spot they're also not likely to fall out of it. So a selloff would be similar to the famous White Sox white flag trade when they gutted their team despite being a couple of games out, if I remember my baseball history correctly. And Oiler fans would probably march on Rexall with torches if that happened. But does this team have what it takes to do anything, really?
Does it make sense to trade Gilbert and Schremp away for a couple of Dmen who will likely command 5M as UFAs this summer? If contract talks with Smyth go south do you move him?
Do you get rid of Sykora?
I would sign Smyth as long as its 5.25 or less (I keep bumping up the price) for four years - if you don't then you might move Lupul or whomever for a Dman but you've traded that big hole on the back end for one up front. Unless you're going full on rebuild then you'd better keep him.
Move Lupul for someone like Duncan Keith or Joni Pitkanen or (dream) try and pry Bouwmeester from the Panthers who are a complete and total disaster and going nowhere. They'd never do it but give it a whirl. Or how about Tom Preissing who is a plus 25 for Ottawa. Soft minutes? Whatever. The guy is a decent player. So add one of these guys and have him play with Smith and pair Hejda or better still a cheap vet if you can find one with Staios. They have Gilbert and Roy pushing up and after last night's debacle it looks to me like Smid has regressed so I'm not sure what the hell you do with that bottom half. Greene had a good game last night. He actually moved the puck well on a number of occasions and looked solid. But with him, MAB, Smid and your two other kids coming up something and someone has to give.
Then up front you have Moreau/Reasoner/Thoresen to play some tough minutes and Torres/Stoll/Pisani and reunite Smyth/Hemsky/Horcoff. Put together a fourth line with kids and give them the butter soft as they say a la Getzlaf/Perry and see what you get.
No? You're right. I haven't the foggiest either. Every day I'm throwing something up there to see what sticks.
Just call me Peter Lorre. Let me have it again. I'll take it and I will like it.
On a lighter note I am sure that you have been here and here. Now these posts are not as disturbing as this or this but they're pretty damn close and just a couple of more examples of the bizarre and wonderful world that is the Oilogosphere. Thank Dog for the Interweb - it certainly makes this mish mash of a season a little easier to take.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Model

Missed last night's game. Out on the town again. Staggered in at 2:30 or so and caught the "highlights".
Two steps forward earlier this week and playing a redhot Flames squad tonight, well it may be two steps back.
Watching the game tonight. Watching the Sens/Habs game right now. Looks like the Sens may be ok. 8-2 with Spezza and Fisher still out of the lineup.
Looking at the Sens' lineup and for that matter that of the Habs is interesting.
The Senators have a couple of youngsters on the blueline in Pressing and Meszaros. Of course there is Redden (his absence from the lineup early this season being an obvious reason this team struggled), Phillips, Volchenkov and then the free agent they picked up - Corvo.
No rookies. And every single one of them can move the puck. Volchenkov is likely the weakest in that area, I'd guess, but the rest of them are all quite good.
Another thing to note - even with Hossa and Havlat moving along in the past couple of years this team is loaded with players they have drafted and developed. Very few exceptions to this. And while the Oilers have improved in this area a look at the Sens' roster shows you how far they have to go. Obviously they benefitted from years of being terrible but in recent years they have made a lot of hay from the draft despite picking a lot lower.
A couple of other interesting things to note. The Sens lost Chara and Havlat last summer. They had a slow start but now they look like they will be a threat again this spring.
And even with Spezza and Fisher in the lineup this was a team that looked thin up the middle. Always strong on the wings they have tried to make due for years with a pivot roster that included Todd White and Brian Smolinski as well as Fisher. Last season they picked up Tyler Arneson in the hope he would make a difference but of course it was disaster. Spezza's arrival helped but while Fisher is a terrific player, he is best suited to a third line role.
So what does Muckler do - gives up a guy who will likely never play for the Sens for Comrie.
Lowetide has called this Oilers' season a failure due to management. Certainly this team has been mediocre for the most part since a nice start. The offence has not performed to expectations but watching the Senators and Habs play (Souray just blasts a shot over Emery for a goal) you can really see how much of that stems from the backend.
But with two or three rookies in the lineup every night and the team's best defenceman not noted for his offensive prowess :) what else can be expected?
And hindsight is 20/20 of course. Everyone knew Lowe was gambling, figuring this team would be where it is at this time, in the mix, and then he would make his move. But we are waiting and waiting and waiting and teams are still hanging around (noted today that Phoenix may actually be a buyer rather then a seller this season) and he would have been better off moving earlier because now the price is going up.
Anyhow, back to the Sens and to the Habs whose lineup is also filling up with homegrown prospects. The Sens have eased guys in over the years, given them the opportunity to succeed. Playing a twenty year old in your second pair is likely not doing that.
So it appears Lowe has gambled and lost. The team is still in play, really, and if he picks up the two Dmen this team needs then we may be able to look back and marvel that he did it again - he had it both ways - developed his kids and still put a team together that is very competitive. But its looking more and more like nobody is going to be available without an overpay.
And if Smyth moves on then you have to replace thirty to forty goals and if Sykora follows suit then you've got holes all over and you may as well bring up all of the kids - Brodziak, Schremp, Pouliot, Gilbert - all of them - and see what you've got.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thinking About Drinking and Other Ideas

Jenn and the kids are gone for two weeks. After a few days of sitting around and doing nothing, which I haven't done, in, oh, seventeen months or so, I took it upon myself to go out for some pints last night. I will be doing it again tonight. And tomorrow night.
Going to turn back the clock and get my liver to cry 'Uncle!'
And hopefully get some research done for my other blog.
Last night I staggered in just after 11 after about six hours of it - very good. The Oilers somehow won in San Jose with the Wilkes Barres D corps. Apparently Smith is going to go to the PB for a rest tomorrow night and likely MAB will be a healthy scratch - Syvret and Bryan Young will make it a all rook six pack.
Took a stroll around the Oilogosphere this morning and noticed that, like any good dog will, I had left my rather incoherent mark in many places.
Apparently I invited myself to Grabia's for food and drink, among other things. Hmmm.
What I wanted to do in this post is expand on a quick drunken point I made at Tyler's site when commenting on the game. Dennis responded to it but I was abed by that point.
With Tom Gilbert's callup it is mighty clear that the Oilers have a surplus (albeit of one) of right handed Dmen. Smith. Staios. Greene. Gilbert. We know Tom is likely up just for the moment but we also know that he has made the transition to pro pretty seamlessly. He is a confident kid. He's big. And he has a skillset sorely lacking on the Oilers' blueline. He has some offensive ability.
Now this might never work out for him at the NHL level but think for a second.
Smith isn't going anywhere. Neither is Staios. We know that.
On the left side, Smid is going to be around for a while. We might see little of him for the remainder of this season but he's twenty, he has a lot of potential and with the optics of the CP trade you know he's going nowhere.
Hejda has earned a spot and if continues to do what he is doing I think they should get him signed for a year or two. He'd be relatively cheap and he brings some stability back there.
Shaggy is gone after this year. Nice try and the guy will benefit from Hejda's emergence as well as if they bring in Brewer or Stuart as a rental but I think he's limited. And injury prone.
So that leaves us with Smith, Staios, Hejda, Smid going into next year and Shaggy in Smid's place, MAB and a rental to round this out for the remainder of this.
Hard to say what happens with MAB - he has value as tradebait and to the Oilers as a player. My guess is Lowe trades for a LD this summer - a Pitkanen, a Keith, a Vishnovsky.
If that happens then we have NewGuy/Smid/Hejda or MAB on the left.
Smith/Staios on the right.
Roy as the seventh guy.
Yep, I've left someone out. A guy who probably has some pretty good value on the trade market. Young. Cheap. Defensive defenceman.
So next year they break in another rook on D. As opposed to the three they are breaking in this season.
I like Greene a lot. I think he's going to be a good defenceman in this league. I just think Gilbert has an interesting (and much needed) skillset that this team shouldn't be moving.
Newguy/Smith, Smid/Staios, Hejda/Gilbert. Switch Smid and Hejda if you like.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lowe Books Vacation Using Frequent Flyer Points From W-B Shuttle

Deslauriers. Hejda. Syvret. Roy. Thoresen. Pouliot. Jacques. Mikhnov. Stortini. Petersen. Smid. Greene. Lupul.
Well, maybe not the last three. ;)
Now Tommy Gilbert.
Nice trophy.
Funny thing is the Oilers have six of a possible eight points in their last four games. You'd really think the season was down the drain the way people are talking.
Its one of those stretches my beer league team goes through though. Unbeaten in six, with two wins and four ties. A loss away from being winless in four.
There's no denying that the Oilers have been mediocre since their quick start and pretty poor up until the last week. And even the last week has left a lot to be desired. They have the majority of the WC ahead of them and the remainder right on their heels.
But they're still in the mix, even with that dog's breakfast on the blueline. And a bunch of forwards who couldn't put the puck in the ocean, check their hat or both.
But I'm a positive type of guy so I'll take the "what, me worry?" approach. And watching the Leafs' 18M dollar top four make Matt Greene and Mathieu Roy look like Savard and Robinson warms my heart. But then you see a rookie like Ian White - undersized and underrated - playing for God's team. Hurt tonight but 18 points and a plus two and eight points in the last ten games or some such thing. Sure he gets the soft minutes but he does alright. He's not getting eaten alive out there.
Roloson looks like he may be getting his groove back and the impression from MacT is that playtime is over. Greene takes a seat and it looks like the 28 year old who has played professional hockey for nine years may have finally gotten a permanent spot on the roster. Hejda has only shown well at every opportunity he has gotten, right from the first preseason game. Having Greene and Smid play ahead of him makes sense if you're trying to give those youngsters their at bats. But that time is over. Five points out of first in the division. A point out of a playoff spot with Colorado between them and eighth.
Time to start winning before the gap grows and they get passed by more teams.
To that point Pouliot and Jacques get sent down and the best rookie from this season's lot - Thoresen - comes back up. MacT references that Jacques and Pouliot aren't going to get the amount of icetime to further their development at this point so they get shipped out and the most complete player amongst the rooks (another guy with some pro experience under his belt) comes up. Thoresen's offence dried up long ago but on a team where not a lot of forwards can figure out their own end at times, he can and that makes him a valuable asset, even if he's only playing eight or nine minutes a night. Better him at a plus one then Jacques at a minus nine. How does that happen?
As for Tom Gilbert, well, hard to say if he takes Roy's place in the lineup against SJ or if he is up like Stortini, Syvret and JDD were previously - just to get a practice or two in and then back down. I'd like to see him get some action. By all accounts he has some offensive upside and he's a big body. Be interesting to see if he gets his shot tomorrow night.
The Nedved experiment continues and the result so far is as expected - whatever. The guy is motivated - its his career on the line here - but so far not a lot happening.
Vic Ferrari is a guy who has talked a lot in the past about posts and puck luck. How many posts has Horcoff hit this year? Anyone?
Dennis from IOF made the completely obvious counterpoint to my point that there was no way Torres was going anywhere with Smyth possibly becoming a UFA and likely even if they signed Smyth with their depth (lack of it) on the LW. Ready?
Pisani could make the move from RW to LW.
Makes too much sense. ;)
Of course then even if Smyth or Sykora leaves (my guess is one sticks around) you've got 94-10-83 and 34-16-15 and then 18-19-28 and throw MAP, Brodziak, JFJ, Schremp and Almtorp into the mix and Torres has been moved for that Dman.
We'll see. I still think its Lupul - Torres just brings that edge that this team seems to lack.
Anyhow another two points tomorrow night and its eight out of ten and then Lowe can make his deal and we're looking at Hejda and Staios, Shaggy and Greene or Gilbert or whoever and then Smith and Brewer (Blues are a dozen points out now) and there you go.
Doesn't that make you feel better?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Congrats Lads!

Watching Canada win the World Juniors or at anything for that matter never gets old for me.

I'm a patriot - not like Joyce's "citizen" but I honestly believe we live in the greatest country in the world and that we have no idea how good we have it.

We are lucky to live here.

So today's victory - sweet.

And Jonathan Toews, in the post game interview, saying he thought they played "fucking great" (I think that's what he said) - beauty.

Brings back memories - I think it was '88. Gold medal game against the Russians. New Year's Day. Waking up in my buddy's basement after a night of boozing. Watching the game with my two best friends and seeing Jimmy Waite stand on his head to deny the Reds time and time again. Canada wins thanks to him.

After the game they interview him in the dressing room.

Jimmy's English wasn't all that great.

The interviewer asked the typical inane question - are you happy with your performance or some such thing?

Jimmy - "I think I play a good game, fuck."


Way to go boys.

Oilers Dig Big Hole, Take Wrong Turn in Own Zone

One of my favourite actors. Bugs Bunny. Incredible range.
And running with the BipOilers theme - the classic Hyde And Hare episode.
In their last eight games the Oilers scored two goals three times and lost each one. Scored three once and won. Scored four or more four times and picked up a whopping three points, including a five goal game (last night) where they were two seconds from losing in regulation and a six goal game where they also lost in regulation.
Uh, yeah, that's not so great.
With the arrival of Nedved rumours have begun to fly fast and furious. The usually reliable Duhatschek surmised earlier this week that the Oilers might move Horcoff or Stoll to the Sens for Tom Preissing.
He wasn't the only one to say that either Horcoff or Stoll might get moved.
Let's look at the Oilers shall we?
Centre - Horcoff, Stoll, Sykora/Nedved, Reasoner, Petersen, Pouliot, Brodziak, Schremp
That's the depth chart I think. Presently. Unless Lowe rips this thing apart, I mean, burns it to the ground, he is not moving those first two guys.
Horcoff has struggled mightily and I can't see anyone picking him up at that price anyway but there's no way the Oilers get rid of these guys. Common sense dictates it. If Lowe were to move Stoll, let's say, and then Sykora, who many feel is out of position anyway, moves on this summer, then their centre depth looks something like this:
Horcoff, Reasoner, Pouliot, Petersen etc etc
On a team that struggles defensively and has few guys who can play tough minutes, I don't think they're going to move many of the guys who can. And what the hell good does a puck moving Dman do for you when that's what you have up the middle? So scratch Horcoff and Stoll as tradebait unless its a blockbuster and there's a centre coming the other way.
Its the same with the LW.
Smyth, Sykora, Torres, Moreau, Jacques, Mikhnov etc
With Smyth and Sykora UFA this summer I can guarantee (kiss of death) that they're not moving Torres. He's a basket case but he's a plus nine, he is one of the few intimidating players on this team and he's going to likely end up ~ 20 goals (that ok, guys?). Plus his pricetag is reasonable. If Lowe was to move him and then Smytty and Sykora walk you're looking at a LW of ... well, its pointless, so we won't even bother.
Nah, the real tradebait is coming from one of four places:
1/Prospects up front - Pouliot, Schremp, Mikhnov, Winchester, Thoresen, Brodziak, Cogliano
Lowetide figures it will be Pouliot - man, I hope not. He's behind a couple of guys in development, namely Parise and Getzlaf, but there is something about this guy that makes me think he's in that Horcoff/Stoll tree - good two way centre is what I mean. I know you have to give something to get something but unless the return is a good young defenceman I wouldn't move this guy. Based on the Comrie deal I think that the price for rentals may not be all that high after all. Wishful thinking? Maybe.
Ideally I see Horcoff/Stoll/Pouliot/Reasoner up the middle next season with Pouliot getting the soft minutes but with quality linemates. Or maybe he moves to the wing and its Schremp in that spot. I know Schremp is tradebait as well but a guy with that skill set ... he's intriguing as a guy who can play those soft minutes.
2/ Picks - the Oil have plenty.
3/ A young Dman - Smid, Greene, Roy, Gilbert, Chorney - unless this team is going to dress even more rookies back there this year one or two of these guys gets moved. Put it this way - up front you have Smyth and Sykora who are UFA. One will be gone, maybe two. Petersen is a stopgap. Likely Winchester will be moved. Nedved - I can't see it. I think he's done. Anyhow - plenty of spots open up front to move young guys into. On the back end you have Smith, Staios, Smid, Greene, a veteran or two (Bergeron/??) and a spot for Roy or Gilbert. If you have two vets (please!) then you're moving one or two guys from this group. So whereas you have places for the youngsters up front to move up, you have a couple of D bumping against the ceiling, unless you clear that logjam. And if you're Boston and moving Brad Stuart wouldn't you rather have a young Dman then a young forward? Up front you have Bergeron, Boyes, Kessel and Savard plus if they keep Sturm or Murray ...
4/ Joffrey Lupul. I know the politics and all that but again, look at the depth. Hemsky is not going anywhere. Pisani is not going anywhere either - not for 2.5 for twenty goals despite the fact that this guy makes things happen (a plus ten on this team and facing tough minutes!)
So, if you're Kevin Lowe and you have to sign your forty or fifty goal scorer and cover the cash for your new young (2M??) Dman getting Lupul's 2.3 M contract and his indifference in his own end off the books is not a bad thing. Duhatschek says today (this makes a little more sense) that Pitkanen might be someone the Oilers could target and that he would cost them a Lupul type.
So to summarize:
Players who can play tough minutes up front are going nowhere.
Due to this fact and also due to possible depth issues at their positions Horcoff, Stoll and Torres are going nowhere.
Lupul is expendable - even though he's a man without a country he's still on pace for ~ 25 goals or so. I don't think anyone questions whether he is going to put up points in this league but to get something good you have to give something up.
If the Oilers lose tonight then they are six points behind the Canucks. A few more losses and suddenly they are in 12th or 13th and have to climb past a few teams. Not a position they want to be in.
So a couple of moves that might make sense??
Greene and a first rounder for Brad Stuart. The Bruins are still in the mix but by all accounts its a lot of smoke and mirrors and if anything goes wrong on any given night a game like yesterday's can happen. I like Greene but someone has to go and he likely brings more then Gilbert. You may not even have to throw in a first but what the hell do I know.
Winchester for Jason Cullimore or an equivalent.
Smyth/Horcoff/Lupul; Torres/Stoll/Pisani; Sykora/Nedved/Hemsky (or if Nedved doesn't work out slide Pouliot in there); Moreau/Reasoner/Thoresen
Or slide Moreau in with the Czechs and have Pouliot on the fourth line.
Stuart/Smith; Shaggy/Staios; Hejda/Cullimore
A start anyway.
Then move Lupul in the summer to pick up a Dman who will take over from Stuart when he gets 25 M from the Leafs.
There you go.
Added: This is Duhatschek's take on the season so far, including the speculation on Lupul/Pitkanen.
Here is the speculation on what Nedved's signing means, including the idea of moving Horcoff for Preissing.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Oilers in World of Hurt; Loyal Fans Pledge Support

Trade that piece of shit Jason Smith right now! Release him!
Right on.
I'll tell you right now that if the Oilers put their captain on the block you'd have over twenty teams lined up looking to pick up a warrior who played in the top pair of a team that came a bounce or break away from winning a Cup last season. Helped along by playing with CFP - you betcha. But I guarantee the Ducks, the Sharks, the Canes - you name a team except maybe the Sabres - would snap this guy up in a second.
Has he played well lately? Nope. But check out this and this from Vic Ferrari. I may be losing it but I also seem to remember a third post that also showed how Smith and Shaggy had a ten or more game stretch or so where their numbers were terrific, out of this world. This guy is a minus 4, people. And he's playing the toughest minutes possible, quite often with whatever stiff they can get out there with him. And as we all know he's no Bobby Orr - its not like he's generating a ton of offence out there.
You'd think the guy was making 7M a year and had spat on a bunch of handicapped kids for how people have turned on him.
Real nice.
Now, the guy is a 3/4 guy likely. Just like Staios. Put him with a guy like Pronger or Lidstrom and he can carry the load in the top pair.
And he has been lousy lately.
Just like every other guy on the team pretty well. Its called a slump. Teams have them and this squad's holes on the back end just makes everything look a lot worse.
What do they have to do?
Play like they did those couple of weeks after Hemsky and Smyth went down - remember? Simple. Trap. Or whatever you want to call it.
But we knew this was coming. Lowe wanted to be in the mix come now, I think. And a couple of weeks ago this team was in first. They could be back there next week, things are so close. But facts are facts:
Last season this team had 89 games played by rookies. 45 of those were played by defencemen, 27 by Matt Greene.
This season, so far. 184 man games played by rookies. 85 by the D.
Its a rebuild. Getting on Smith and Staios? These guys have been put into a position to fail.
They're pros. They're paid a lot of money.
But they have a goalie whose best year in Minnesota had him playing @ 50 games behind a team that made the Germans look like the Flying Frenchmen (or Oilers) of old. He's on pace for @ 70 now and he's facing more rubber then Denis Lemieux.
Out of all of the vaunt they have three guys who are either putting up similar numbers or better then last year - Pisani, Stoll and Smyth.
Horcoff was 22-51 last year. This year, halfway there, 5-15.
Hemsky was 19-58 last year. This year, 5-19 in 30 games.
Torres was 27-14 last year. This year he's 7-14 so he's matched assists already and playing a better all round game but goals are way down.
Bergeron was 15-20 last year. This year he's at 5-10.
Add to that Lupul's indifference, Moreau's injury and just plain inconsistency and you have a mess.
I have no answers. Lowe's in a position of weakness right now. Dennis has made the point that the deals should have been made when this team was hot earlier this season but the problem was that the guys carrying the team - Roli, Sykora, Hemsky and Smyth - they weren't guys you wanted to trade. The guys you might want to move had no value because they were doing nothing. Now teams will be calling looking for the guys who this team needs going forward - Stoll, Torres, the kids.
And the guy playing at the deepest position, who has value and who may not be able to take playing for the Oil Drop - he may not be going anywhere because of politics (Grandpa's an owner) and optics (CFP trade).
This could still turn uglier. As if it weren't ugly enough already. All Ryan Smyth does is score goals. 19 in 28 games now. And Sykora has 15.
And we all know who the unsigned UFAs are, right?