Friday, January 25, 2008

Pitkanen - What Are You Going To Do?

Terry Jones had another blockbuster of a column the other day, wondering how come the Oilers always fall short when they are a game short of the magical .500 mark. Here's a newsflash for Detective Jones, likely going through Daryl Katz's garbage right now trying to find some incriminating evidence - the Oilers have no mental block when it comes to getting over the hump - they just aren't that good.
Its like this just completed Southeast trip. Nearly everyone figured it would be five wins and out. Now the Southeast is awful but so are the Oilers and if you look at a team like the Canes they have more NHL players then the Oilers and the ones that they have are better then the Oilers. Staal, Whitney, BrindAmour, Cullen, Stillman, Cole plus you throw in Walker, LaRose and Samsonov and a D that is underachieving but still a veteran group and you have a group that should beat the Oilers, all things being equal. This idea that the Oilers would sweep through this gang ignores the fact that, even healthy, the Oil are not that good.
Still, a .500 trip and the successful homestand before and the Oilers remain within striking distance of the top twenty. I think that would be a decent season, all things considered.
And the trade deadline approaches. Always an interesting time of the year. To me its Detroit, Anaheim, Ottawa and a bunch of pretenders but I could see a few teams, notably San Jose and Vancouver, putting themselves into a good position with the right moves.
As for the Oilers thoughts are flying fast and furious as to what may happen. Here is what I think.
Next year is going to be a long year again. Maybe not as bad as this, although bad enough that injuries could put them in lottery territory.
Lowe is too competitive to be a big seller. While he knows this team is no playoff team he can, barring a huge collapse in February, sell a standpat at the deadline as a reasonable position. While some fans say 'who cares' to where Burke picks, I can assure you that Lowe is not so sanguine about it. Penner has been a good acquisition and he is looking like he may be a great one but Lowe doesn't want to be known as the guy who traded Stamkos for him. Far easier to sell a twelfth overall pick for Penner then a top three.
On a team this bad my list of untouchables is actually quite lengthy. You've got the obvious ones - the big line, Garon and the primo kids - Gagner, Cogliano and Gilbert. You've got your veterans who can play tough minutes - the Oilers have so few that they have to hold onto the ones they have got unless they can pick up a guy who can do the same thing plus a little more. In other words you can't move Staios unless you're replacing him, imo. You also have what I will call your useful kids - Brodziak, Thoresen, Smid, Greene - all guys who have NHL experience, who can play roles or who may still be trending upward. Unless moving one of these guys nets you a bigger fish who can do a lot more then I think you stick with them. You need those cheap guys who can help you in some way.
So, who is left? Torres is like Stoll last year - not going anywhere until he comes back and is healthy. Stoll himself has little value after the year he has had and I cannot see them going with a centre corps of Horcoff, Cogliano and Gagner quite yet. If they get Horcoff signed longterm then I think Stoll gets moved next season or in the summer of 2009. Going into 2009/2010 with Horcoff a possible goner and Stoll traded would set this team back years. They need to hold onto him at least until they have #10 signed.
Nobody is taking Roloson now - a backup goalie with a year left at a 3.6 cap hit (I thought it was 3.9 - whatever). They may be able to move him this summer to a team looking to split duties between a kid and a vet or to a team struggling to reach that salary floor. But its not happening before March. And Tyler Dellow makes it pretty clear why he's not getting bought out either.
So who's left? The veteran flotsam - Tarnstrom, Reasoner, Sanderson. And Pitkanen. Rumblings have him asking for a big wad of cash and the Oilers not looking to pony up. What is Pitkanen worth? I would say low 4s - he and Gilbert have been quality this year. Having them locked up longterm would mean a stable backline for a while.
Problem is (and it always seems to come back to this, doesn't it?) the Souray contract. At 5.4 million per this boat anchor has tied the Oilers' hands for four years after this one. All together now - spending big money longterm on a player over thirty is not a great idea unless his name ends with, say, Lidstrom or Sakic. There are others but you get my drift. Ask the Leafs how that works out - they have over 40 million tied up for next season, not including Sundin. The media here talks about the Leafs moving guys like Kubina, Tucker, Bell, Raycroft, McCabe and Blake - there may be a sucker born every minute but very few of them are NHL GMs, I'm afraid. Too bad because the one guy I'd like to move fits in with that crew. Not enough bang for a whole lot of bucks.
Sheldon has been ok but certainly not 5.4 million worth and this contract is going to bite us in the ass for years to come. They have to pay Gilbert and Horcoff and Garon (or whoever will be their starter) and then they will have to give deals to the kids. I don't think Joni is worth 5.4 million either but I would rather have that money invested in him then in Souray. Problem is its already in Souray and so Joni, like so may quality players before him, might be bye bye but in this case its not the Oilers' financial straits doing them in, its their own foolishness.


PPP said...

I always thought that those guys would be unmoveable but the crazy thing is how many reporters in the city and on TSN are talking about how there are lots of teams interested in McCabe and Tucker.

Black Dog said...

I could see McCabe a little bit - he has three years left and he's a decent player. Not as good as that contract but still a pretty good defenceman.

Tucker has been terrible. Absolutely terrible. He must be hurt.

I can't buy it but who knows - I thought Theodore could not be moved but he was ...

Anonymous said...

great read. I agree completely. When discussing Sourays contract with a buddy of mine he said "well at least there spending the money on someone" as if to say spending it on someone is better then not spending it on no one. Problem is as you have so elegantly put it in your piece is that the contract really handcuffs this team.