Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mulling It Over

While commenter Uni referred to me as a wide eyed optimist earlier this week, I would tend to disagree with that estimation. I am a realist but I am a positive guy. When Vic Ferrari at IOF originally linked to me about eighteen months ago he referred to this site as a good place to visit after an Oilers' loss - I generally dwell on the good. Goodgamegoodgamegoodgame. That's the way I am. And last summer I felt that once Lowe added a veteran defenceman (or even two) that the Oilers would be, if not contenders, at least a playoff team that would likely win a round, if not two if things fell their way.
That veteran Dman never came and when Shaggy and Staios and Moreau went down the season went down the toilet. Smyth was traded and the worst year for the Oilers in a decade petered to a sad close.
I'm not a big fan of what Lowe has done this season. I like the Garon move and I liked the Tarnstrom move before they picked up Souray. Then it was, uh, why pick up three left handed Dmen to go with Smid??
I could live with the Pitkanen deal even though it cost us Jason Smith. The Vanek offer sheet was one I could get behind. Penner - well, we'll see. I tend to think it will be fine. I like his makeup. His development over the past two years makes me think the kid will be a player and considering the money getting thrown at kids like Stephen Weiss these days it could work out just great.
I'd like the Souray deal a lot more if Smyth was getting that money or if that five million plus was going to Tarnstrom and say Danny Markov on a two year deal. I think that ends up being a millstone. Conversations with Habs' fans (three so far) have not made me feel very good at all. Phrases like "worst defenceman in the NHL" and "good riddance" tend to make one a little concerned.
Now, having said all of that I think that this team may be greater then the sum of its parts, just like a lot of Oilers' teams in the past. Last summer was a short one. Players barely finished playing and then it was training camp again. After a long wonderful season guys were worn out. I think a lot of them played quite a bit of golf, drank a lot of beer, got laid a lot, made a pile of money and then turned around to see the calendar turn to August. They came to camp satisfied and out of shape.
Reports out of California since much earlier this summer have a whack of Oilers going through their paces under the watchful eye of Chad Moreau. I believe that we are going to see a lot of Oilers with a lean and hungry look come September. And I do believe that a lot of guys are going to make amends for disappointing seasons.
So, here's ten things I believe. Positive stuff and it won't all happen but I think a lot of it will.
1/ The addition of Penner, Souray, Pitkanen and Tarnstrom will make the power play better. It won't be the 27 Yankees but it will be good.
2/ The addition of Pitkanen and Tarnstrom, the continuing maturation of Laddy Smid and the appearance of Tom Gilbert will mean that the forwards will actually get the puck on their tape while they are skating at full speed. A better transition game will mean that this team will spend a lot more time in their opponents' end of the rink (helping hide some holes on the defensive end) and will probably score a lot more goals then last season's meagre output.
3/ Penner will score twenty five to thirty goals. He will be fine.
4/ Losing Smith will hurt but Penner's size, Moreau's health and the addition of Souray will make this team bigger and tougher. One remark that I read from a Hab's fan that made me happy - Souray is as strong as an ox and when he fights he kills guys. I am looking forward to the first time that a guy takes a run at Hemsky and Sheldon smashes his face with much malice. Remember buddy who took a run at Koivu?
5/ Hemsky will finally take that step. There were times last year when it looked like it was going to happen. LT predicted 90 points the other day.
6/ Horcoff will score twenty plus, no longer worried about that contract. Pisani will also. Pencil Stoll and Torres in for the same. Its no vaunt but I think we'll see six guys break twenty this season. Four more then last year.
7/Geoff Sanderson will be a nice addition. His best days are long gone but he can still skate and he can play. He will help.
8/ Two kids will emerge up front to be capable NHL players. I'll keep it simple and say it will be Pouliot and Thoresen.
9/ Another kid will do what Thoresen did last season. Hold his own. Not do a lot offensively but will do okay. It may be Jonas Almtorp. It may be a kid like Cogliano, O'Marra or Brodziak. I'd bet on Almtorp or Brodziak.
10/ Some kid will exceed expectations in a big way. It may be that Smid, Greene or Gilbert makes a leap. It may be Nilsson or Cogliano surprising everyone. It may even be Pouliot or Thoresen taking a bigger step then anyone could even imagine.
Bonus - the goaltending will be a beauty.
There you go - sunshine and Natalie Portman. All is wonderful. :)
Seventh to eleventh is what I'm saying - that's a big spread. A lot of shit is going to have to go right but I have a good feeling about this team.


Swabbubba said...

It is all about staying healthy. I am no number guy but I went to London came back and the team was on a tilt. They never recovered. I think the Oilers lost more people to to injuries than I recall ever. But my memory may be fading.

It is precamp and hey we are contending for the Cup. We do need a forward to come from no where. But with our own AHL team maybe we will have a supply.

Steve said...

I mostly agree with your assessment, although I just don't see Gilbert getting much of a shot. Which is a shame, because I'm a big fan of his. Stupid Tarnstrom and stupid Gebeshkov's one-way contract.

It is a little depressing that "7th to 11th" is optimistic, though.

Steve said...

Oh, and I notice you say nothing about the team's defensive play. I guess that's subject matter that's incompatible with optimism.

uni said...

They seriously need to trade Tarnstrom and get Gilbert in. The kid deserves his shot and costs over 50% less.

I look at a guy like Ian White in Toronto and think that Gilbert can have a comparable season and at least get valuable experience. They can't quite shield him behind Kaberle, Kubina, McCabe, & Gill though.

Tarnstrom may surprise, but I don't see another 50 point season in the cards with Souray and Pitkanen in the lineup.

And I still think Black Dog is a fatal optimist. Maybe he's not wide-eyed...but at the very least a squinty-eyed one.

I really do like Nilsson, I've followed him a bit since he was drafted by NYI, and I've secretly been giddy since he came over with O'Marra. I choose to forget what they traded for him...but it was a damn good return considering.

Then again I love Bergeron too, and I still miss the little blighter.

Vic Ferrari said...

Nice post, Black Dog. I wish I could buy in completely, but I think that the real problem will be lack of puck possession. I look at this roster and then the Flames ... when do the Oilers get the puck?

The Flames, by my memory, are one of the teams that MacTavish has always gone against with a checking line. That hasn't worked too well on the whole, though Peca, Pisani, Dvorak and Moreau have all had good games against Iginlain the past, as have Smith, Pronger and Staios.

I'm sure that the Flames have outplayed the Oilers over the past three years though, and I'd think that Iggy has impressive numbers against the Oilers. And I'm sure that whatever line MacT has used for offense in the shift after Iginla (say Horc, Hemsky, Smyth or similar) has usually started in their own end or without the puck, and against some pretty good hockey players as well (Regehr more often than not, probably Leopold or Lydman or Warrener or another in the long list of good defensemen that seem to float around that squad) up front probably Langkow and Lombardi this season, I dunno. In any case I'm having a helluva time seeing a way that the Oilers get the better of the play.

And without Jason Smith I'd rather not think about who plays against Iginla, or who's left to play against Lombardi or Huselius or whoever comes next.

If the goaltending is awesome, Kiprusoff outplayed, and the powerplay is awesomer then they can win the games. Really they probably need the better of the bounces as well. But good goaltending can make up for a world of wrong on any hockey team, to my mind that's the thing that could save them.

They need to have focus too, really bear down for the games against PHX, CBJ, STL, CHI, etc. They need to keep those teams below them if at all possible, for selfish reasons, because it would break my heart to see Anaheim picking in the top five next June.

Black Dog said...

steve - you caught that huh? Its better left unsaid. A bunch of 4s, 5s, and 6s.

Ah Vic you know me - I can't help myself. I will say that I think the Flames are going to win the division. I thought so last season as well of course. Anyways I think the Oilers will struggle against the Flames for sure but they may be able to make some hay against their other divisional foes.
And they have to beat up on the (other?) weak sisters or they are doomed.
They need more then a lot of things to go well. They need Staios to stay healthy and this Grebeshkov to be the second coming of at least Jan Hejda and Pitkanen to show what he's made of plus they need Greene or Smid to step it up.

Is that likely? A lot less likely then a few of the things I posted above but then again last year there were so many disasters the hockey gods have to smile on them. Right? Right?
uni - Nilsson emerging as a player would be a start

rstahl said...

Nice post Pat. I pretty much agree with everything you said, except I think the PP will be worse, and the D-men better. But it all evens out as I see them as 6-10 in the West.

What do people think of a Sanderson - Pouliot - Thoresen line, assuming one of those can switch to RW? Pouliot and Thoresen have some defensive awareness to cover up for the 'wily vet', and its a line that may be able to abuse the soft parade.

David S said...

Well, I am quietly optimistic.

I concur with your belief that the guys will come to camp ready to give 'er shit. Moreau and Staios were already ripped and lean when I saw them earlier this summer downtown. Moreau had his game face on and looked like he could chew nails.

And lets not forget the one thing stats can't quantify. The 06 'gel' factor. If these guys can come together, believe in themselves again and get back to playing the kind of hockey this team used to be known for, then all bets are off.

I'd be OK with scratching and clawing into the big show. As we saw in 06, its a new season and anything can happen with the right attitude.

But its the end of August and we're still tied for first overall.

Black Dog said...

rstahl - thanks for th ekind words

PP worse then last year and D better? wow, I don't know. I think the PP will miss Smyth and Sykora but I think Penner can do good work and I think Tarnstrom, Souray and Pitkanen make up for it. Losing Smith is really going to hurt the D - there are possibilities back there but its going to require a bunch of guys to do more.

I think David's comment is an accurate one - obviously this team could use more talent but I do think the preparation, mental and physical, will make these guys better. Pouliot for example lost his spot on the team last season due to poor conditioning. This summer he is in California. He will be a better player this fall - he sounds like he's getting it.

Louise said...

Good day, Pat.

Your Pouliot comments triggered some mulling of my own.

I had a conversation with Jason Gregor earlier this month, and made a side comment about liking that MP had gone to SoCal to work with Chad & co.

He said ~"Yeah, he went for a week... yada.. he hasn't looked good at any camps.. yada..." and finally came around to, ~"They haven't been impressed with his effort."

I made a mental note of the ambiguous tense, added 'it's Jason Gregor', filed it away and moved on with the conversation.

It came to me that he talks to Stoll a fair bit... and Stoll was living in SoCal when MP was there.

I'm going to be mighty ticked off if Pouliot isn't in the best shape he can be to start the year. This kid has an opportunity to be one helluva player.


I guess I'm not floating quite as high as you are. ;-D I mentioned near the end of one of Lowetide's topics (probably already in the archives)... I think that luck will place us somewhere between 8th & 12th.

17 sleeps till TC.

Scarlett said...

Good points all around. I'm desperate for Gilbert to get some action, I think he's a player right now. The Oilers will struggle to make the playoffs, why should any other year be different. But 13th as the Hockey News predicted? I don't believe it.

Black Dog said...

oh scarlett I hope not but remember last year how we all went into a rage when they predicted them to be eleventh (or twelfth - can't remember) - jeez I hope they're wrong!

hello Louise - I hope that Pouliot has it together - some time in SoCal is better then none and indicative of some improvement over last season when apparently he came to camp in terrible shape however if he blows this it would be a real disappointment.
Strange thing to hear because was it not his draft year that he impressed with how hard he played despite being on a terrible terrible team. His attitude was always noted as being excellent.

Then again he is a kid and he may just not have figured it out yet.

louise said...

Yeah, Pat... I keep a big "It's Jason Gregor" disclaimer flashing. I may be a little crazy, but that dude can lose all contact with reality at times. He seems to be getting better at interviews, tho.

As hockey fans, we are all feeling some anticipation and angst awaiting play to start. And the balance of the two, is both subjective and fluid depending on what we choose to view at any given time. ;-D

To me... Pouliot is a really smart, versatile, young centre, who has top line potential. He's developing solid defensive instincts, and with the right linemates, he may be able to handle some heavy lifting this year. He appears to have the ability to adapt to and use his linemates' strengths, whether they be defensive or offensive. Experience can only hone these skills.

I think he sees the game very much like a young Shawn Horcoff did, actually, and IF he can embrace the hard work it takes to be an elite athlete, he's got winner written all over him.

He's capable, so it wouldn't surprise me if coach throws him out on wing, because he's the best option at the time. imho - he's best suited to C over all, tho. And, if I recall correctly, Shawn played LW for a spell.

You know... Some of Lain's and my favourite converstations have involved one or both of these two players. Go figure... :-)

Have a good one...

Pat said...


I'm very sorry to go off topic, I was just wondering if you could help me with something. I was glancing at one of your posts from a while back that referred to the famous argument stating that Lowe could have had Smyth for 5 million last summer. I had heard this elsewhere as well, but I can't remember where. I'm just wondering if you can recall a particular source? The closest I've seen is a passing reference in this Matheson article:

Black Dog said...

Louise - Also two of my favourite players, Horcoff probably moreso because he doesn't have the pedigree of Pouliot. Regarding Pouliot I'm not too worried even if what Gregor said is absolutely true. For a lot of these kids, like all kids, its a learning process. Last season he apparently came to camp in awful shape. The fact that he was actually in California at the camp tells me that he is starting to figure it out. As to whether or not he was really into it who knows. Maybe he didn't get a long with Chad Moreau. Maybe he preferred the regimen he had at home. Or maybe he is a lazy so and so though based on the competitive instincts he showed in junior and once he got over being sent down last year I would doubt it.
I think he is going to be a fine player.

Pat - sorry I can't give you much on an actual source except to say that I can tell you I read it multiple times and it was from credible sources (meaning not on a trade rumour site or at a bar)

Anonymous said...

I've been readin your blog for the last few months. Honestly, you write some good reading, and even though I can't stand the oilers, it is still good to read. I'm wonderin though about your flipfloppin over the degrees of suckiness for the oil this year. They have down-graded considerably, and to even imagine six 20-goal scorers on the team is sheer lunacy. The oil will battle hard and play hard, but they will lose more than they win, and above all else, will easily be the most boring team in the Div to watch. I'm already dreadin the clutchin and grabbin that the oil will employ this year. It will be like the Canucks of last year, but with even less talent... Shudder...

rstahl said...

PP worse then last year and D better?

Sorry, I wrote that poorly. I meant I like this years D (not compared to last year) better than you, and like this years PP less than you. It all comes down to coaching: every D-man Huddy touches seems to turn to gold, while MacTavish seems to limit the PP productivity of his players.

Black Dog said...

rstahl - gotcha - sure hope so with the D anyhow - Shaggy and Hejda sure came out of nowhere last season

anon - thanks for the kind words

as for your opinion well I'll admit to some flipping and flopping for sure - hell I change my mind daily

my mind says they're going to finish 11th

my heart says they battle for a playoff spot

as for six 20 goal scorers - you have five who have hit that mark in one of the last two years and two more who have fallen just short in one of the two last years

probable - maybe not - but its definitely possible if things go their way

Pat said...


re: Smyth at 5 mill.

No problem, I just though you might recall something. Personally, I'm with you - I know I've heard/seen it from 'reliable' sources, I just can't find them now.