Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Long And The Short Of It

There's a terrific thread over at Lowetide's and in it one of the themes touched on is the rebuild. One of the commenters, Lowe apologist Mike, claims that he's prefer the peaks and valleys of the Oilers' recent history to what Ottawa, Buffalo or Calgary have done. Basically in his mind, making the playoffs year after year but not winning it all is pointless - he'd rather tear it down and start over.
Of course this ignores a number of facts. Since 1991, say, the peaks have been few and far between for the Oilers. Indeed the peaks were two first round victories in the late 1990s and the beauty run of 2006. In between the peaks were more molehills then mountains - making the playoffs and putting up a good fight against Dallas before bowing out was considered a good year.
Also, while Mike somehow refers to the 2006 team as Pronger and nobody, the fact is that was a pretty good club and one that was underestimated because it was an eighth seed, a placing the Oilers fell into because atrocious goaltending that undermined their efforts until Roloson was acquired. So when Pronger asked out its not like Lowe was left with a bunch of pylons out there. If he played his cards right he could have augmented his veteran lineup until kids like Cogliano and Gilbert arrived and would these guys ahve not benefitted from easing into a winning lineup rather then being thrown to the wolves as they are this season.
You see, Lowe did a terrific job in 2006 and one of the most impressive things that he did was improve the team dramatically without giving up very much in the way of prospects or picks. Now, I'm sure Ranger fans don't regret trading Doug Weight and Tony Amonte for the veterans who helped win the Cup for them in '94. If I were a Flames' fan I could live with moving Hull for Ramage and Wamsley in '89. They weren't huge parts of that Cup win but they provided depth and showed the team and fans that the organization was going for it. Moving Kobasew and Ference last year didn't work out so well but you have to admire Sutter for giving it a whirl.
These examples make Lowe's job in 2006 that much more astounding. He added Samsonov, Spacek, Roloson and Tarnstrom for very little - Reasoner and Cross off his roster, some picks, two prospects now in Europe. He was terrific - he balanced present and future perfectly. He kept his kids and set himself up for what should have been a nice run for the Oilers. Maybe not in the Final every year but in the mix. What more could you want?
And this is what makes the present state of the Oilers and Mike's statement so frustrating. Sorry, I'd rather be Calgary or Ottawa, who both have made the finals within the last three seasons and, on top of that, are not bottom feeders right now. I'd rather be the Sabres, conference finallists two years running and likely in the playoffs this season once they adjust to losing Drury and Briere. Because you cannot win the Cup if you don't make the playoffs! And there is no guarantee that the kids will turn out or not be derailed by injury (see Stoll, Jarret).
So here's a thought Mike - the Oilers' disaster last year did net them Gagner, which is nice, but this year's travesty isn't going to get the Oilers a lottery pick although I'm sure Brian Burke is chortling in some pub somewhere. So all of these brutal losses - they're for nothing.
Next time you wax poetic about Lowe's six Cups and how Oiler fans should just give him a break you might ask why he blew the budget on Souray and Penner while not signing a first line left winger who, along with "nobody" Horcoff outscored MVP Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo head to head in '06. You know the guy? He may have helped this team stay competitive for the next few years. Or why Jan Hejda, playing on the top pair for a Columbus team with five shutouts already, was allowed to walk when he makes a fifth of what Souray makes (-28 against mutts last year remember?). Do you think Smyth and Hejda and, say, Danny Markov signed for two years, might not have been better options? Maybe you don't and that's fair. But don't tell me that as a fan I can't have my cake and eat it too. Detroit, Colorado, Jersey and yes, even Ottawa and Calgary belie that you have to tear everything up to get to the mountain. Smart drafting and player development and good management can keep you in the mix year after year. Is that too much to ask?


Matt said...

You kind of allude to something that I may or may not have written about on my own site, and that is, when you're talking about "risk" in the context of prospects/young guys, the question is not merely whether they turn out to be good NHL players. There is two other important elements:
1) they might get hurt. It's not a *huge* risk, but it happens regularly enough that you can't just dismiss it.

2) When the prospect blossoms, your team might not be any fucking good, and then where are you.

Even when they're executed smartly with the best available information, rebuilds fail a lot more often than they succeed. It's just the way it is.

Anonymous said...

movember pics?

Black Dog said...

coming - going to try and post a link to the log tonight

its coming along alright

my wife is very pleased

uni said...

Well it did net them Nilsson as well, and man I had to go and miss what seems to have been his best game of the season.

I'm still a big Nilsson and Gilbert booster. Gilbert all but has everyone won over, and if Nilsson can get some finish, or a linemate who can actually put the bloody puck in the net consistently we're cooking with spam and eggs. Then again isn't that what Hemsky has always needed?

Anonymous said...

great post. People always forget how bad that goaltending was in '06. It really was the worst. None of the 3 goalies had much better then .880 sv%. I still remember out shooting st.louis something like 35-15 and losing 3-1. I did like that team alot though.


Black Dog said...

That was a terrific team doug - remember one strecth where they won a whole whack of games 6-5 and 7-6 right after Christmas - they were in first but with that goaltending you knew it wouldn't last

uni - Nilsson was terrific on Wednesday - if he can bring that effort on a consistent basis then he will play in this league for a while