Tuesday, January 01, 2008
When I was introduced to the Oilogosphere back in March of 2006 by Vic Ferrari, this site was described as the best place to go to after an Oilers' loss. I am an optimist by nature - I always look at the bright side of things.
But this is getting pretty fucking hard to take.
Here we have a team just eighteen months removed from losing Game Seven of the Stanley Cup that is amongst the very worst in the NHL.
Injuries? Forget the whine. The injury situation from last spring when the number of regulars out of the lineup reached double digits? That was an excuse. To paraphrase Andy as he put it (sarcastically I might add) in a comments thread - just wait until everyone is healthy ... and gets thirty games to gel - then we will see what this team is made of.
Bullshit. All teams go through injuries and deal with it. The problem arises when you don't have enough quality NHL players so that when you lose one or two of the actual ones that you have you reach critical mass almost immediately.
We're coming on almost a year since Smyth was traded and has the number of regulation wins reached double digits yet?
This team has spent almost up to the cap. Since the Rangers before the lockout has there ever been so much money so poorly spent?
The Loweapologists look at Smyth's numbers in Colorado and say I told you so while we watch the guy who got that money, Souray, do even less. I was one of the few guys who could get on board with moving Smyth - it made no sense to me to spend the money on an aging player when the trend was to give the youngsters the big bucks. Then Lowe turned it all around by signing a lesser player, with a terrible history of injuries, who had one good year. A guy who Habs fans were all to glad see leave town.
The Loweapologists say that Lowe has a plan, that they will be saying I told you so in two or three years when this team is contending again.
See, here is the problem. These kids may not turn out. It happens. And if this team is in rebuilding mode why dump your first round pick in a deep draft? There are only two explanations. Either you think your team is not going to be near the lottery, which means that you cannot evaluate talent, or you don't have a plan, which means that you should resign. Lets review shall we ...
1/ Lowe's hands are tied to an extent by Pronger's request. Ignoring David Staples' advice that we should just give Lowe the benefit of the doubt because he is Kevin Lowe, we should ask two questions. Why did he think that Lupul was worthy to be the centrepiece of the deal? Either the kid is crappy (I think so) or he could not handle playing in his hometown. You think Lowe, with his vast experience and finger on the pulse, could have figured that out. The second question is could he have gotten more? Reason tells us yes. At the top of his game and signed to a beauty contract, Pronger's value should have set this team up for years. At the very least they should have gotten a quality NHLer for him. And he did not. He traded one of the three best defencemen in the game for nothing.
2/ Lowe fails to address losing Pronger, Spacek and Tarnstrom on the blueline as well as Peca and Dvorak up front. Three veteran puckmoving defencemen, two who played tough minutes, and two out of seven forwards on the Oilers finallists who could play the other team's best players. Instead the Oilers enter the '06/07 season woefully short of experience on the blueline. When Moreau goes down they are left with Smyth, Horcoff, Pisani and Torres who can handle the tough sledding. When Staios goes down only Smith and Hejda are left to do the same on the blueline. With too many guys who can't play anything but the soft stuff (how do you hide four defencemen and eight forwards anyhow?) the team predictably slides. Smyth gets sent away.
3/ So much has been said about Smyth all I will say is this. All of those people who are slamming him as part of their support for Lowe - how do you reconcile this viewpoint with Lowe himself saying this summer that he made a mistake by not signing Smyth? For that matter what do you think of his explanation that he was surprised to see the cap go up?
4/ Lowe's defence for not signing Smyth revolved around his age and his non-elite status yet he immediately threw big money and term at Nylander and then Souray last summer.
5/ Rebuild? Lowe took the MLSE route - after Oiler fans waited patiently for over a decade for their squad to get back to success, Lowe decided that they would not wait for another young team to develop so he tried to have it both ways. Unfortunately he blew it once again. Rather then spending money on short term solutions - giving two year contracts to guys like Guerin, Hejda, Markov, Johnson (much like he did with Tarnstrom) - to buy time and wins while the kids developed, he blew the wad on Souray. The result - a defence deep in guys who can play on the third pair and a forward corps once again thin on veterans and guys who can handle the tough sledding (the two go hand in hand obviously). He is lucky that Tom Gilbert has arrived. Imagine this team without him. And before everyone goes on talking about how this shows how astute Lowe is when is the last time a rookie defenceman stepped in and played top two minutes in the NHL? Don't go telling me that they figured Gilbert was Bieksa. They did not.
So we are left with a team that is too thin to handle any injuries without falling apart. A team with too many kids up front and on the back end. A team with iffy goaltending, inexperienced defence and forwards, built for tomorrow but with a maxed out cap, a team that is losing game after game but doesn't even have its first round pick to show when all of this will be said and done.
And while all this is going on nobody calls the man responsible for this mess to task.
All of these kids had better turn out or we're Phoenix.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:01 AM