Friday, September 28, 2007

Training Camp - Hope

Interesting article about the Oilers at from Canadian Press. The main focus is on the play of Cogliano, Gagner, Nilsson and Brodziak but there are references to the rebuilt D and the play of Mathieu Garon as well as the fitness of the returning veterans. Horcoff is described as "tearing up the ice" in the preseason and Pitkanen also comes in for a positive mention.
Good stuff, especially seeing as its from an outside source rather then the Oilers, the Edmonton media or us (the fans) who want to put last year's debacle behind us.
TSN has the Oilers ranked 27th to start the year but they sound intrigued by the potential of the kids, the rebuilt D and the probable rebound of so many veterans who had terrible years last season.
I think that this year's club is going to be better then expected. While Adam Proteau crowed about how his prediction about the Oilers was in the ballpark last spring (although not a word from him when the Oilers were leading the division in December - frontrunner!) he also made no reference to the fact that injuries to nearly half the roster had a lot to do with the freefall - quality work , pal. In other words, a relatively healthy Oilers' squad doesn't make the playoffs last year but they don't crash and burn either if Staios, Tjarnqvist, Hejda, Moreau, Stoll, Hemsky etc etc aren't hurt.
Not likely a playoff team this season - man they would need everything to go right and a lot of teams to crash and burn, but I think we're looking at around a tenth place finish. Look at a team like the Kings who everyone is picking to finish ahead of the Oilers despite the fact that they don't have an NHL goaltender right now.
What I liked about this camp is something I touched on in August - a return to the pre Cup mentality. The veterans are hungry and they are taking nothing for granted. Some say intangibles don't matter but the fitness level of Torres, Reasoner, Stoll, Moreau, Staios, Hemsky and Horcoff is outstanding and will make a difference. It also exhibits an edge that this team lost last summer, imo.
What I loved about this camp is that it has brought hope back to Oiler fans. I am talking about this year but more about next year and the years to follow. Cogliano, Gagner, Brodziak, Nilsson, Gilbert - all have had impressive camps and could make this team on the merits of what they have shown. Grebeskov has shown flashes and will stick. Pitkanen and Hemsky are still just kids really. Stoll and Penner too. Smid has looked like he may be ready to take the next step. And then there is Trukhno who has lived up to Lowetide's expectations, O'Marra who may indeed be a player and Almtorp who may be a guy who can play a role down the road.
And we haven't mentioned Schremp who McKeen's ranks in their top 100 prospects list despite his struggles last season. Kid had a decent camp coming off an injury remember. And Jacques who may be figuring it out. (Interesting note in McKeens - I just bought it - can you tell? - about Jacques and how he is miscast as a fourth line energy guy). And Stortini who has improved his skating and strength. And Thoresen. And even poor Pouliot who looks like he may not know what has hit him as he likely heads to Springfield.
We all know that some of these kids will get derailed at some point but the fact is I don't think we'd want Lowe to trade a whole lot of these guys for Don Awrey or someone to replace Fernando Pisani. Adding an Awrey and having Pisani return doesn't get this team into the playoffs (although it would make them better obviously - these kids are going to take their lumps). We are rebuilding and I want to make sure that when Trukhno scores twenty five goals in 2011 and Cogliano is a terrific two way pivot scoring seventy points and Gilbert is quarterbacking the PP and O'Marra is a twenty goal scorer who can shut down whoever you want and Gagner and Nilsson and Brodziak and Peckham and Petry and Chorney and whomever you like is doing what they may be capable of doing that they are doing it in copper and blue. Hopefully with Hemsky and Horcoff and Pitkanen and Smid leading the way.


Vic Ferrari said...

So this is the plan, Pat? A rebuild?

I actually thought so too until July when they tried to send away there next four (or five?) 1st round picks in an effort to get young Vanek (who is very possibly this generation's Yashin btw).

And then they acquire Penner, who makes them a bit better no doubt, but they give up their 1st round pick to do it.

And the offers to Souray and Nylander would have been inspired if they were big coin on one or two year deals. That way Lowe would have appeased the fans by being seen to spend on stars, without actually making the team much better. But they were long term, PLUS he was about to start offering up his first round draft picks. Madness.

I think that this is an Accidental Rebuild. Because I find it difficult to believe that a planned rebuild could be so poorly executed. In fact I think this started off as a rebuild 15 months ago, a rebuild motivated by the desire to keep payroll at a minimum acceptable level.

Then the fan backlash from the Smyth trade, Nichols' bold strike against Lowe in the press and the collateral damage from the Katz offer ... this forced an emergency change in direction.

I don't know who invented the word "clusterfuck", but I'm glad that they did, otherwise there wouldn't be a simple way to explain the Oilers situation.

Black Dog said...

Ah, I don't disagree with a lot of what you say Vic. I like Vanek more then you do but Lowe has been all over the map this summer. If it was a planned rebuild they would have done what the Isles did and given short term big money to Markov and Guerin say - keep the team competitive over the next two years but not so competitive that they could not justify shipping said players plus Roloson out for prospects (plus the added bonus of the higher pick at the end of the season).

But it is a total clusterfuck, demonstrated by the fact that Smid, who should have been in the minors last year, may get sent down now. And we will see what Lowe sends away in order to make sure Burke doesn't get a lottery pick.

That's my worry Vic - that he sends away Cogliano or Gilbert and Trukhno in order for this team to finish ninth.

You and I know that this team may be a nice team but that day is three years down the road. My fear is that Lowe is turning into Ferguson, stop gap after stop gap to save his job.

Anonymous said...

Can't say I agree with you gentlemen. Maybe I am just to devoted to my team but I don't think the Oilers are a worse team than last year. My reasoning....

Last year Christmas we were in 1st in the NW, at the deadline we were 6 points out of the playoffs. Then 20 games which we get clobbered with Hemsky playing on a bum shoulder and 10 other AHL players getting their first look. Everyone gets on the Gator trade but he had a - 13 himself with 53 less points than Souray...we give up 15 more EV goals for 40 more PP points. Pitkanen has looked great so far (going off what everyone is saying) and we have a great # of NHL ready defencemen because of the no pressure practice they got last year in the final 1/4.

Stoll took this team on his shoulders and carried it to that 1st place position last year when Hemmer and Smyth were out and as long as he is healthy I believe he can help carry this team (not to mention replace Smyths points and then some).

Horcoff and Torres both had horrible years, and while the Torres still has some work to do to regain his form, Horcoff has shown he will not dissappoint 2 years in a row with his work so far.

Roloson was the MVP last year and has done great in his first few games and Garon gives us the best tandem since Cujo/Essensa in 97/98.

The youth for the first time in I don't know how long is impressing right from camp and I believe they are going to continue on as most teams are already circling a game against Edmonton as a W. The Oilers have improved at almost every position (except the loss of Smytty) and if they stay healthy should catch a lot of teams by surprise.

Also, don't under estimate the effect a player like Moreau has on a team. Heart, grit and speed...although we had a great PK last year we were missing the scoring threat that has been there in years past by having him on the unit. Sure there is no Pisani but Brodzy looks like he is ready to try and fill the spot.

All in all, I love the start of a season as it brings new hope with it...Let's Go Oilers..>Calgary Sucks!!!

Pat said...

While I am attracted to anonymous' optimism, I agree with BD and Vic - and like mc79 said a few weeks back: "hope isn’t really a plan, no matter what the Oilers would have you believe".

I completely agree with Vic's post. If the real plan was rebuild, don't offer ridiculous long term contracts like the one to Nylander (I still am thankful for his wife - we would be so screwed if he had taken it) or Souray. Even overpay slightly to get a guy for 2 years, max. And for god's sake, hang on to our draft picks!

Vic and BD are right - 'accidental rebuild' and 'stop gaps to save his (Lowe's) job' seem like the only reasonable ways to account for what's gone on here. Other than the word clusterfuck, which as Vic says, describes it perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Great post, many thoughts that I have, too.

I can agree, one could see it as madness, but as the saying goes... :-) I feel Lowe is an intelligent hockey man and I will continue to have faith in him. Again, doing his best with what's dealt to him (Nylander, you big weinie) so an "accidental rebuild", perhaps, since plan A and B/whatever got kiboshed. Can one not see it as a rebuild but also moving foward given the young guns we have? I don't know, but I choose to think this. And as for Souray I disagree here, I think he will make this team better.
Questionable moves, sure maybe, but who hasn't made some? Like in life, sometimes you make your best guess and take some gambles.
And I liked the Vanek move, that kid is gonna shine this year I think. Lowe got an 'A' from me this summer, turbulent though it may have seemed.

Ranking the Oilers 12th last season, yeah, he was genius predicting those injuries wasn't he? Whatever.

Black Dog said...

Hey anons, please sign with an initial or something - I want to address your points but I'm not sure if you are the same or different poster. Thanks.

Anyhow, anon #1, great comments. Well, first of all I think the Smith trade was a good one. You have to give up to get and Pitkanen is going to be terrific, imo. The one thing with comparing him with Smith is that Smith faced the toughest opponents while Souray faced a lot of dreck. I am not sure about this D - I waver back and forth. I think that they will move the puck far better this year which will help the offence. I also think that when Smid is in your top four one year and now he may get sent down that may tell you things are looking up. I guess we will see.

I think you are right about the goaltending, Horcoff and Torres, who I believe is going to have a good year.

And I believe that this team does have a lot of intangibles going for it - call it hunger, a chip on their shoulder, whatever.

I'm hoping they eke out a playoff spot. I think they will likely finish tenth. I think in 2010, 2011, 2012 they are going to be serious contenders.

Anon #2 - I like Lowe a lot but he had a bad year last year and this summer just seemed to be way to scattered - I liked the Vanek move. I'm iffy on the Penner move. Souray, meh. And this whole D situation where Smid and Gilbert may end up going down when both are better options then Roy because they have seven guys they cannot send down without waivers. Not very smart. Believe me, I would love for this team to outperform expectations - I just don't see it happening.

Anonymous said...

I concede that the D situation isn't tidy right now, but as the poster earlier noted (that'd be Anon #1) I'm confident Roli/Garon will hold the fort while this gets sorted out better. Saying that, I agree with you about Smid and Gilbert. I find I've gotten quite attached to those two.
Lastly, I'm not a Roy fan really, but definitely hope he's okay after that hit tonight. Jebus.

Anon #2

Vic Ferrari said...

I don't know which anonymous said it, but one of them was apologizing for last year's Oilers by saying they were a good team before the rash of injuries.

This is a load of shit. They were a pegging out as a borderline playoff team at their best, and that was during a stretch when Roli was terrific, the shooting percentage was high, and they had more good fortune from the goalpost gods than any team in the league.

They weren't outchancing the bad guys very often. That was obvious to even casual fans. I remember catching a bit of talk radio, late Novemberish, the Oilers had won 5 of 6 or some such, but they hadn't deserved it. Everyone could see that the bubble would burst. All but one of the callers was worried about the Oilers and suggesting trades, AHL demotions, line shuffling, etc. Stauffer and his cohost thought that Danny Syvret was the answer. Seriously.

Through the magic of the internet you can go back and read commentary from that period. Check the obvious stats and the underlying numbers. It's all there.

Surely the "We were in first place in December!" horseshit that Lowe throws about is only eaten by the profoundly gullible and natural born bootlicks.

Black Dog said...

Thing is Vic is agreed that they had a lot of luck and a lot of Roli to get to that point in December but if I was Lowe I would not draw attention to it because the fact is that the team got to that point with a joke D that he built.

If he had acquired a veteran Dman or two last summer or by Christmas then that team probably doesn't start the big fade when Staios and Shaggy go down. They might have hung in there and then the Smyth trade likely would not have happened and so on.

That's what kills me about this last fourteen months - Lowe knew this team needed a Dman or two last July and failed to address that and everything since then has resulted from that failure.

Vic - Danny Syvret, seriously? That's too much.

Vic Ferrari said...

I shouldn't take shots at the radio guys. We all say foolish stuff, just when you or I say it nobody remembers. :) But yeah, Syvret, it stuck with me because it seemed so wacky. They had a lot of fans agreeing with them too. At this time Jim Matheson and Kevin Lowe had convinced the vast majority of Oiler fans that Lady Smid was like Bobby Orr with good knees.

I never did buy into the notion that a veteran defender was the magic pill. I mean it would sure as hell have helped, but they had problems up front as well. Lowe had traded Pronger for unproven youth and picks, had opted to leave Smyth unsigned in the summer, they were playing kids over their heads and pretending that they weren't, Cal Nichols expressed his man-love for Bill Wirtz ... the writing was on the wall.

Black Dog said...

Yeah I know that you had a lot of issues especially with the wingers, iirc, and LT made a comment about a preseason game he saw this week where a simple play up the boards ended up properly, ie/ puck out of the zone quickly and efficiently - he remarked on it because Lupul, in particular, could not make that simple play at all.

I also think that a lot of guys came into camp unprepared (Stoll and Torres said as much) or still nursing injuries from the run in '06. Add in everyone's fat new contracts (except Smyth) and I think last year's squad was pretty fat and soft.

I think one, probably two (considering what happened to Shaggy)veteran D - say Markov and Tarnstrom - would have made a difference. Maybe put them in a better position come the new year, at least so maybe Lowe would have been a buyer rather then a seller - I wasn't one to see a magic run or anything but I think, even in retrospect, that a playoff spot may have been a possibility. Of course I can't help myself sometimes when it comes to blue skying. :)

I think tenth this year is a likely result. Phoenix, Columbus, Chicago and LA all look to me to be weaker and likely someone else will fall to pieces for some reason or another.

There's that hopeless optimism again.

Rod said...

Not that Bob Stauffer needs me to defend him, but he's *never* been a fan of Syvret. If someone points out the defender of the year (or whatever award he won as an over-ager), Bob shuts that down by saying that domination as an over-ager is no big deal. He doesn't like his size, etc.

Considering that history, it's unlikely that Bob was pumping Syvret for a call-up. Stranger things have happened though. Maybe it just speaks to how poor the D was last season.