Thursday, July 26, 2007

Come On Now

I liked the Vanek move.
I'm not a big fan of this one. If it was Ryan Getzlaf, maybe. But Penner ...
Not sure.
My first instinct was that Burke would match it but this guy has always been the type to stick pretty closely to what he believes is good fiscal sense (except when it comes to Bertuzzi?). His mindset is that you pay a few guys the big money, the right guys.
Getzlaf and Perry are better players now and likely in the future then Dustin Penner. And they are up next season. Maybe he says what the hell and lets him walk.
I hope not. I want the Oilers to get better but I don't see them getting out of the bottom ten with Penner on board. And three picks, including a first rounder ...
Too much.
Please match, Mr. Burke.
Thank you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mr. Katz

Today CP ran the following story.
I would say its just a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers are sold to Daryl Katz.
As I mentioned in a comment on a thread elsewhere regarding whether or not Katz would spend to the cap, I think it is pretty clear that he would be willing and able to do so. Five million bucks is pocket change to a guy with his money.
Could the Oilers soon have a billionaire owner and a local one at that?
Unless the guy is a complete nutbar (see Ballard, Harold) I can't see the downside.
I'm officially on the bandwagon.
EDIT July 25th - And Terry Jones steps away from the buffet long enough to weigh in. What does he say? That having a billionaire owner would be BAD and that Katz is UNTRUSTWORTHY and that its all moot anyways because EIG is not going to sell because they are all that is GOOD and HOLY in this world.
If you look closely enough you can see Cal Nichol's lips move when Jones speaks.
Its truly amazing.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

The day after Ryan Smyth was traded, I posted this minority opinion. I wasn't happy and in conversations on threads and in private, I admitted that my enthusiasm was lukewarm at best, usually finishing up by saying that if Smyth signed for the Oilers for the same amount in the summer I would probably be a very happy man.
Trying to have it both ways. :)
The crux of my argument was that in a league where there was a finite amount of money to spend on players, giving big money and term to guys over thirty not named Pronger, Lidstrom or Sakic didn't make good sense. If a guy is older I want him to be the guy who carries the day. The goalie like Hasek circa 1998 who when his team scores a goal you begin to worry. The defenceman who removes all fear of being scored upon when he is on the ice. The forward who strikes fear into your heart every time he steps onto the ice. You know the guys.
As much as I love Ryan Smyth and appreciate everything he brings to the rink, he is not one of those guys. Terrific player but not in that league.
Give the money in longterm deals to kids like, yes, Thomas Vanek, who in his second year in the NHL, scored 43 goals and was a plus 47. Soft opposition? Yep. Play him with Ales Hemsky and watch him score 50 plus each year for seven years. Yes please.
Or sign guys like Hemsky and hopefully, providing they step it up, Pitkanen and Stoll, to nice longterm deals that get you through their first years of UFA.
Allocate your resources wisely.
Of course Lowe now admits his mistake in not signing Smyth. And with this Souray signing, let me say Mea Dopa.
Souray, who is a star, but not really a very good defenceman, certainly not an elite player, and far less of a player then Smyth, gets Smyth's money.
He's Bryan McCabe, essentially. He's famous. And he's not that good.
Hey, I hope I'm wrong. I really do. The guy is big and strong and tough and he's going to help the PP. He can handle himself in one on one battles, he is apparently "terrific in the room" and he's a guy you don't want to fight. Ever. And it is a necessary shot in the arm for an organization that was struggling with the perception that nobody wanted to play for it.
He's just not a great defenceman.
And he has a five year contract.
I read that we can't have it both ways - we can't bitch about EIG not spending the money and then bitch when they do.
Well, yes, yes we can. When you trade away the face of the franchise because he's not an elite player or you don't want to spend the money or you don't like his hair or whatever reason the Oilers are spinning today, then you had better well spend the money wisely. Or if you cannot spend it the way that you want then spend it on short term deals. Blow your wad on Danny Markov and Mike Johnson on one year deals. The team will be better, likely better then with Sheldon Souray, and next year you can try again.
I'm a dummy. There Andy. I said it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Guy Goes To The Beach For A Few Days

He comes back. He gets the kids to bed. He goes online. He shits himself.
I don't know about this - five years, right? At how much?
We'll see if Craig Simpson can wreck one of the most lethal power play weapons in the league.
Other then that, I see a lot of sizzle and not much steak, as a wise man once said.
I've been over to Jeff's site quite a bit and I've read about the Habs there and his take on Souray was that he was an ES disaster and this was not even facing tough opposition.
So, the pluses - he's definitely a PP weapon and, uh, he's a Dman with NHL experience.
The negatives - he's an ES disaster, he's signed for five years and without even knowing, I will bet that its for 5.5 or higher.
And this guy is no elite player either.
And now that they have him, Pitkanen, Tarnstrom, Smid and Grebeshkov on the left something or someone has to give.
A trade or trades coming.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


With even Terry Jones and John MacKinnon sharpening the knives, it looks like Kevin Lowe is really in deep trouble. Only Bob Stauffer remains in his corner and with friends like that ... well, you know the rest.

A terrible week for Lowe to cap off what has been a terrible year, a year that saw the Oilers transformed from near champion to laughing stock, bit by bit.

Prior to the lockout I think Kevin Lowe would have been considered a decent GM. His drafts were pretty good, certainly a vast improvement over the late 90s. He was able to put together a competitive team on a budget. For the most part he made the correct choices when moving guys out, generally getting pretty good return.

The year after the lockout he hit home run after home run. Striking out on the UFA market, he acquired Chris Pronger and Mike Peca and managed to get Pronger to sign a terrific longterm deal. As the season wore on he acquired Spacek and Tarnstrom for pretty well nothing and then added Samsonov and Roloson at the deadline. His creation came a game short of winning it all.

Even when he played with fire (leaving the Oilers' goalie situation to fester until the last minute) he came out on top. A little lucky at times but that's ok. The goaltending situation was a bit of a harbinger of what was to come as he almost flushed the season as he waited and waited and waited to address an obvious problem the team had from day one. It worked out but it illustrated that Lowe has patience and stubbornness in spades.

Last summer and fall things were still in hand for Lowe despite being blindsided by Pronger's trade request and the fact that he didn't get the return the team needed to remain a true contender. The only NHL player he received turned out to be a disaster. The remainder of the deal was futures.

Having said that the remainder of the calendar year was not a disaster. He managed to sign Pisani and Roloson; only Spacek stands out as a guy he wanted back who walked. He shored up the blueline with serviceable Tjarnqvist and also acquired a nice pickup in Jan Hejda. He signed Petr Sykora. He also extended upcoming UFAs Steve Staios and Ethan Moreau and got Hemsky and Horcoff on a couple of nice deals, especially the Hemsky deal.

Two problems remained. Just as the previous year there was an obvious shortfall in net, the Oilers' blueline was now a big issue. And secondly, heart and soul winger Ryan Smyth was unsigned with UFA status coming in 2007. Lowe had the chance to ink him to a five year, 25 million dollar deal and walked away.

As we now know, these two issues would come back to haunt Lowe and would mark where he led the Oilers over the cliff.

More then anything though the disaster of the past twelve months started and ended with the failure to acquire a Dman. The Pronger trade request and disappointing return ensured that this team could no longer be considered a threat for the Stanley Cup but the Oilers were in first place in a brutal division right through mid December.

And this with Tjarnqvist and Hejda taking turns playing with Smith in the top pair and Laddy Smid playing with Staios in the second pair.

We don't know what was out there but rest assured a GM a little less patient, a little less stubborn and lets face it, perhaps a little less mindful of his press clippings, would have filled that hole before the season started, never mind the end of 2006.

Lowe had a plan for 2005 and it worked to perfection. He went with the same plan in 2006 and refused to bend when other teams likely asked for more then the most marginal prospects for defensive help. That stubborn refusal to give was akin to Nero fiddling. When he finally realized that getting Brad Stuart was going to cost him more then a pick and some clown toiling in the Slovenian league, the team had faded from the race.

Lowe admitted that if the team had still been in the playoff hunt he would not have dealt Smyth.

If he had retained Smyth he most likely would have signed him, I think. Instead by not signing Smyth, famous and well liked, he opened the franchise to questions about their commitment to winning. The fact that they would not sign the face of the franchise was questioned by many, including those few who thought committing that amount of money to a player on the wrong side of thirty was not a great idea (guilty as charged). Nobody, even supporters of the deal, didn't feel a little violated by the whole thing. (My first reaction was a hearty Fuck You EIG!) The disaster of the last twenty games would have made an impact at UFA time as players look for situations where they can win if all other things are equal.

Add to this the sudden organizational verbal trots, coming from the GM, Cal Nichols, Patrick LaForge, the assistants to the GM and no wonder that this looks like a franchise in disarray. From Nichols' musings on divorce to LaForge's letters and sermon and Lowe's public promises, one wonders what the hell is going on.

Shut up! Even a franchise where management is as dysfunctional as the Leafs, with constant machinations an apparent daily occurance, manages to keep a lid on it. Only the taciturn GM says anything, with the exception of the odd blather from the foolish Richard Peddie, and when Ferguson speaks, he says little.

Instead we have the spectacle of Lowe inviting reporters to his home, promising the moon over and over again as he thrashes about in an attempt to dig himself out of the hole that is of his own making. And a team that was a goal away from the Cup has now traded the two guys who were the heart of the team for a decade (and I liked the Smith deal - don't get me wrong), have only six or seven proven forwards, a defence corps that makes last year's look like the 77 Habs and an aging goalie who is probably trying to figure out how he got into this mess and when he should ask out (Colorado at the deadline anyone?)

Its simple but if Lowe had picked up that D man a year ago, hell, maybe gone crazy and picked up two, it would have all been different.

Things are bright for 2010, maybe 2011 but this year is going to be a disaster. Its a bitter pill.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Holy Mary, Mother of God

My best buddy is a fan of Les Sabres. He may not be buying me a beer this weekend.
Bold move - is it the right one?
Edit - And ... the Sabres match.
Not a dull offseason, that's for sure.
Too me this type of contract is going to become the norm - not the RFA offer sheet, I mean, but the big money for the young guys entering their prime. Makes a lot more sense to give the money to run a guy from 23 to 30 then to give the same amount for a guy on the other side of 30, with the only exception being your big elite guys.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Schwifty Schwifty - WTF?

Oh boy, its going to be an ugly year methinks.

Remember last fall? The Oilers got off to a decent start, thanks mostly to Roloson and two guys, ah, what were their names ... Smyth and Sykora.


Last year's D in the fall included Smith, Staios, Shaggy, Hejda, Bergeron, Smid and Greene.

So four of the top five in that group are gone. Presently their replacements are Pitkanen (good), Tarnstrom (good in your third pair, maybe passable if paired with Staios in your second), Grebeshkov (rook) and Gilbert (pictured above - rook). So considering last season's D were both too green and too Greene, How do you like them now? Two more rookies and a lot more Matt Greene (either in the first or second pair).

One of Lowe's flunkies said that they were definitely still going to add someone up front. Uh, what about the back end, pal? Poor Roloson. At least Garon looks to be a decent pickup. I liked Jussi but this guy looks like an upgrade.

We've been waiting since the beginning of last July for Lowe to get some help for this team on D. It probably only cost them a playoff spot last season. What's another year or two anyhow?

Danny Markov is available again - the more things change ... anyhow I'm thinking Doug Wilson might want to get on the horn to him.

As for the lads up front, well, the vaunt was a bust and now Smyth, Sykora and Lupul (thankfully) are gone. So your forwards are set as follows:

Jacques, Stortini

They're small, they're young and they don't score. Now you may want to shuffle things about a little. Torres, Stoll and Pisani worked well together last season. For that matter so did the same two wingers and Pouliot.

Pouliot is destined for the top nine and I think its what they have to do. Maybe he gets soft minutes with Hemsky. Maybe he works with Moreau and Pisani. Or maybe Hemsky, Horcoff and Torres get some tough sledding.

Options are limited.

Ideally, seeing as this is a rebuild, Lowe makes a move for a building block of the Pitkanen variety but unless he can do it for picks and prospects its not going to help the team win any games this season. He has few pieces teams might want. And who is available and who is dumb enough to give someone like that up for futures?

There are a few UFAs still out there. Shanahan, who will likely return to the Rangers (although one year of Shanny with Stoll or Pouliot and Hemsky might be fun) and then there's Guerin, Mike Johnson and Fedotenko. Any of those three would help, I would think.

They could trade for Glenn Murray or someone of that ilk.

Or they could give Robert Nilsson top six minutes and battle it out with the Yotes and the Isles for that #1 pick overall.

They have a ton of cap space (around 36 million on the present roster by my count). I guess Lowe has to weigh whether giving Nilsson and Gilbert and Pouliot their ABS is more important then spending enough money to at least be competitive most nights. Adding Guerin, Markov and Fedotenko for example gives you a lineup that might look like this:

Brodziak, Jacques

There you have three lines that can grind it out and score a little and a fourth that likely can hold its own. Plus a D with Markov/Pitkanen and Tarnstrom/Staios

Still likely losers but not as bad as what we're looking at right now.

My guess - two of Pouliot, Nilsson and Thoresen are in your top nine forwards to begin the season.

Er, yikes?

EDIT - Fedotenko has signed with the Isles ... uh, Mike Johnson?

ADDITIONALLY - This just in, this year is going to be a bag of suck because, apparently, there is no plan. Today's papers, quoted at length around the Oilogosphere, make it clear that Kevin Lowe is a defeated man on his way out the door. What a fall from grace from June 19th of last summer until today.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

So Long and Fare Thee Well - End of an Era

For me, the Edmonton Oilers were defined by a couple of men. Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith.
I am a latecomer to the Oilers. I enjoyed watching the dynasty of the 80s and if I had a second team after my Hawks, it was them. Amazing talent on those squads - very often they were steamrolling Larmer, Savard and Doug Wilson on their way to their Cups.
My love for the Hawks ebbed slowly, dying bit by bit as Wirtz and Pulford undercut Mike Keenan, refused to pay Steve Larmer and others, failed to draft, traded away veteran players and so on.
I had followed the Oilers slightly in the late 90s and was a fan and one night in Florida I was watching an Oilers/Hawks game and found myself cheering for Edmonton and realized that was that.
My Oilers' teams were about (in my mind) a bunch of young guys, short on talent but long on heart. Fast skating and hardnosed and a lot of fun to watch - Smyth, Marchant, Mike Grier, Ethan Moreau, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Jason Chimera, Georges Laraque, Steve Staios, Janne Niinamma, Rem Murray, Radek Dvorak. A bunch of kids fighting every year for a playoff spot. Sometimes failing. Sometimes succeeding, which meant playing Dallas.
A team captained by Jason Smith.
A team that last season almost made it to the top of the mountain. Led by the shiny new acquisition of Chris Pronger. But personified by Smyth, Smith, Horcoff, Staios and Pisani.
By the time they made it a lot of "my Oilers" were gone already. Laraque and Dvorak left last summer. Murray went to Europe. And of course the disaster of last season included Ryan Smyth being moved along.
Now its the captain's turn. A good trade, I think. Just as I thought (as a part of the minority) that giving Smytty the money he ended up getting was not a great idea.
But its hard to take. With Smith and Winchester and probably Jussi and maybe Petersen gone, there are only nine players left from that run. Nine!
And only a handful of the old Oilers remain.
I remember commenting on a thread many months ago about how players back in the day stayed with their teams forever. That's the way it was. There was little movement. As an example I used the 1970 Blackhawks, iirc. The majority of the team played their entire career with the franchise. Many more played all but a year. Ten years plus for most.
I miss those days. Call me sentimental.
Good luck to Jason Smith. A guy who played hard and played hurt. A guy who was barely a minus until the final freefall last season, despite playing hurt, with rookies and bums, against the best the opposition could offer, night in and night out. A guy who all the cliches about being a warrior apply to. I remember the beauty goal he scored in the run last spring. And I remember a video I saw where someone was trashtalking and all he kept saying, quiet and menacing, was 'try me. try me.' Buddy didn't and it was a good move on his part.
Its a new team now - its Jarret Stoll's and Ales Hemsky's and hopefully Joni Pitkanen's. And I hope that this team measures up to those who came before and, of course, surpasses them.
Call me naive or an old softie but the business of sports can be hard to take.