Sunday, September 16, 2007
Vic Ferrari over at IOF has his usual terrific take - in this post he looks at depth players. Take a look if you have not already.
Pundits and fans look at the Oilers and worry about who is going to score goals. Some, including myself, look at this team and think that this defence corps is still a mess. I see two guys who are definitely capable of top four minutes - Pitkanen and Staios. After that I see a bunch of guys who would be excellent fits in the 5-6 hole. In Grebeshkov, Gilbert and Smid, I see three guys who need experience and who would be best served playing this role. You have Roy who is likely a 6 or a 7, period, but likely a guy who could hold his own there. Then there is Souray who played second pair minutes last year and got killed doing it. And now has a five year 27 million dollar contract.
Finally you have two guys who, by my eye anyway, make Vic's point. Remember the playoff run? Tarnstrom started on the bottom pair with Bergeron. Something was wrong with Tarnstrom almost immediately after he came over from Pittsburgh. If you recall, he played very little down the stretch. At the time I thought perhaps MacT did not like the Swede but his return belies that theory. He had an injury, some sort of nagging issue.
Anyhow, Tarnstrom played and then came out when his problem flared up again (this is my theory - I would say it was likely) to be replaced by Matt Greene. It was a tough position for the rookie and he struggled mightily. Anybody who watched that beauty run will remember that when Greene and Bergeron hit the ice Oilers' fans collective hearts were in their throats. Nothing good ever resulted. Penalties, scoring chances, icings - it was a clusterfuck every time they hit the ice. And they were playing the other teams' shit, mind you, for the most part.
After Ladd blew by Greene and Bergeron came flying over (we all know the end result of that), the following game saw Bergeron out of the lineup. Wrong guy. While Tarnstrom's return settled down the third pair somewhat, Greene still made plenty of mistakes in the SCF. G5 - two penalties that resulted in goals. And so on. Tarnstrom/Bergeron may have made a difference there.
So now we fast forward to training camp. Some good things so far - the fitness level of the vets, the apparent maturity of Raffi Torres, the apparent health of Jarret Stoll. Good stuff. Also it sounds like Pouliot and Thoresen are ready to establish themselves as players. And apparently there may be some actual prospects up front for the Oilers - it seems like some of these kids look like they may be players.
But here is the problem - Lowe has created a huge mess on the back end. Nine defencemen but the problem is the only two with real trade value are the two that the Oilers cannot afford to give up - Pitkanen and Staios. The kids all have value but not a lot or Lowe likely would have made a move by now. By trading for Pitkanen and adding Tarnstrom Lowe addressed the problems this team had moving the puck and likely helped the PP. Tarnstrom being on a short term deal meant that his contract could be moved and also that a spot would not be taken up longterm. A really nice pickup. And eight D so that Roy could stick as your seventh and a kid could be sent down.
And then the Souray signing, which Souray himself said came out of nowhere. Just about the time Katz was making some headlines. Coincidence? Of course not. So Lowe added a guy who could help the PP, replicating his two prior moves. And this guy likely cannot play top four minutes. And he has a five year big money contract.
Now I wish Souray well, I do. I'd love for him to score 20 goals a year for the next five years and hold his own 5 on 5, although that sceanario is unlikely. But the move makes no sense, based on the acquisition of Tarnstrom. Who is going to play top four? Pitkanen, Staios, Souray, Greene, Smid, Tarnstrom?? Four of those six, I'd guess. Those names make you happy? Not me.
And now they have two D lost in the numbers game, not one. Who would you rather on third pair, Greene or Gilbert? Would not a third pair of Gilbert and Tarnstrom sound good? A kid who by every account has it - he's big, can skate, he can move the puck, he has the right instincts for the game - paired with a vet so he can get some experience the right way. Instead Gilbert will likely be sent down while Greene who struggled against the garbage last season will stay. And Roy may be lost on waivers. He's not Bobby Orr but a guy who can likely step in and play on that third pair and hold his own - to give that guy away is sheer stupidity.
And ... the D is still going to be lousy. The third pair will actually probably do fine but they don't have a top four.
Lowe has backed himself into a corner. Its amateur hour again.
Posted by Black Dog at 11:13 AM