Sunday, June 22, 2008

Learning To Love Porridge



Draft weekend goes by, mostly with a whimper from our point of view. As LT says the Oilers are (remain) porridge.

Coming out of the lockout and right up until June 19th 2006 the Oilers had their identity. Even the big money guys they picked up, Pronger and Peca, fit in with the post dynastic Oilers' ethos, the hard working (well maybe not Peca during the season, yeah), solid, willing to get your hands dirty, hard driving team symbolized by Smyth and Smith. Always underdogs, usually driven by a bunch of hardworking kids making relatively little money, these, ladies and gentlemen, were your Edmonton Oilers.

The team coming out of the lockout almost redeemed all of those long years of falling short of the playoffs, losing to Dallas, just not having enough to get there. Some would say that that team, despite falling short, did do just that. What a beauty team. Things looked great for the future of the franchise.

Then the wheels came off. Pronger asked to be traded and the centrepiece of the return was a disaster. Laddy Smid and the kids in the system may someday make Lowe look good but the removal of Pronger set the team into a tailspin that they only began to emerge from in February. Lowe jumped back and forth with no apparent plan in place. 2006/2007 lacked D from the get go and the vaunted offence never got off the ground as players underachieved right across the board. Injuries derailed some players, in Stoll's case, maybe permanently. Even the rare good move, trading for an unknown Czech defenceman, Jan Hejda, unravelled when they let him get away last summer for nothing. Hejda is now signed long term in Columbus, playing top two minutes, coming out on top in that situation, and doing so on the cheap. Having that type of guy on your roster (like Garon last year) is golden. A guy who can play those type of minutes for relatively nothing leaves cash open elsewhere. Some people think that the Hejda issue is a bit of a joke, not worth mentioning. To me that loss was one of the worst mistakes of an organization that was paralyzed and clueless after Pronger's departure.

The trade of Ryan Smyth for prospects and a pick signified the end of the old Oilers and that the Oilers were truly rebuilding. Last summer they had a nice draft and picked up another nice piece in Pitkanen, moving Jason Smith and Lupul to get him. The jury remains out on Joni but Lowe showed that if he knows one thing its when to pull the trigger on a declining Dman. Smith has gone from being a top two Dman on a SCF team to struggling playing second pairing minutes for Philly in the playoffs. That move and the one for Grebeshkov made it look like maybe Lowe had his mojo back.

And then came Souray and Penner. Penner is still to be evaluated. The Oilers' surge meant the Ducks stayed out of the lottery but Penner's cost left the Oilers rather quiet on draft day. I think that Penner may still work out. If he scores thirty a year for the duration of the contract it may be a winner. Look at what Ryan Malone looks to be in line for.

I was onside with the Smyth trade because paying an over thirty guy a ton of cash doesn't strike me as particularly bright. The Oilers then paid an inferior player to Smyth with a terrible injury history the big money. PR move or not, it remains a stupid move. Jan Hejda isn't going to put up the PP numbers but he's a better Dman at a fraction of the cost. Oh well. Spilled milk, right? The Leafs have nearly a half dozen Sourays.

Anyhow, this leadup brings us to where we are now, which is ten years ago, really. I think the Oilers may be in the lower end of the playoff mix this year. They may make it, they may fall short. The good thing is that Lowe sounds like he is not diving into the shallow UFA pool this year and it appears like he is not moving Pitkanen. I am happy that he didn't dump a good cheap player like Pouliot or Brodziak for a pick. The fact that Camallerri and Tanguay were had for so little is a bit frustrating but imo the Oilers have their top six already. Lets see if Gagner, Nilsson and Cogliano have it in them to beat up on soft opp over a full year. Why move one of them for a five million dollar player who will be gone in two years?

There is still a logjam in the bottom six although Jacques' surgery and the resolution of Glencross' status in ten days will begin to make this clearer. With Pouliot staying I would say that out fourth line will have him as the centre between Brodziak and Glencross or Moreau.

I also wonder if Marty's days are done.

We're porridge - the last two summers made the Oilers that. But out of the porridge we're seeing the team emerge. Young, fast, skilled. Eberle ( a terrific pick I think) fits in with Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Hemsky, Horcoff, Brodziak, Pouliot, Gilbert, Grebeskov, Pitkanen, Smid and the raft of prospects coming up - Nash, Peckham, Petry, Chorney, Wild and so on.

There remain a lot of holes and another pick or two would have been nice but I am happy with this team. The Oilers are building. Trading picks and prospects for grinders is not the way to build. Doing it from within is the way to go.

I think in two years we'll see this start to pay off.

6 comments:

doritogrande said...

"Smith has gone from being a top two Dman on a SCF team to struggling playing second pairing minutes for Philly in the playoffs."

I find this a very hard stretch to say that Smith was our #2 D-man during the playoff run. Sure, he was tandem'd with Pronger for EV from what I saw, but I think Spacek was the #2 guy in terms of overall performance.

He also played for Philly this cup run with two(!) separated shoulders. I've got one right now, and let's say this...I can't pick shit up, let alone give Crosby! the forearm shiv for going into my corner.

I'd still overpay a bit to have him teaching Smid and Greene the ropes next year as the 3rd pair mentor. It's gotta be a one-year deal though.

I don't think Stoll's going to be necessary next year, as long as Horc can handle hard-minutes. Jarrett's no spring chicken anymore...well maybe the concussion problems have him thinking that he is...but he's getting old. I think another year at the bottom of the food chain could be a huge benefit to the Oilers, and may have them poised to pull a Philly the very next year. Problem with that philosophy is we've got uncle pennybags funding us now, and no way does he want to put his mug on a losing franchise.

Good synopsis. Lots of good things coming up, but the roster's only got 18 skaters.

Black Dog said...

dg - I look at Smith's work at EV and on the PK where he was in the top pair, Spacek in the second. Of course Spacek was also top pair on the PP and Smith saw no time there.

Didn't realize his injuries were so extensive, wow. Still he definitely has declined since '06. Its to be expected considering the way he plays the game. I was sad to see him go but the timing was right considering the direction the Oilers are heading.

As for him returning, no spot for him. The seventh man role would be a good one but you already have Smid/Greene set to be there.

Right on about the eighteen skaters - this is what I think we are going to see up front:

Penner/Horc/Hemsky
Gagner/Cogliano/Nilsson
Torres/Stoll/Pisani
Moreau/Pouliot/Brodziak
Stortini/Reasoner

What I would like to see is Pouliot in Stoll's spot, Glencross in Moreau's spot (if the price is right) and someone like Reddox in Reasoner's place as an extra.

I like Moreau a lot but the injury situation has become a little ridiculous.

Big T said...

I realize Chopper has been injured a lot recently but none of the injuries seem to be of the chronic sort - the ones that will follow the player around like Souray's shoulders. He may get injured again but the odds of such an injury can't be better than one in 5.32.

T

spOILer said...

If you grant that our bottom 6 is solid no matter how the logjam works out, and also that, as you say, the top 6 is set, then we don't actually have a lot of holes.

We would then have essentially one: RD.

RD is possibly the weakest spot on the roster with Staios and Greene behind Gilbert. Now RD are a rare commodity, which is one of the reasons we haven't seen Greene moved. There is virtually no one behind him on our depth charts. We would need another RD in return and there aren't that many good cheap ones out there.

Myself, I think we have more holes than that. I can't see the Kid line continuing with no size. Penner, while good, can be improved upon (or can give the kid line size).

So, I'm either making a trade for some size at 2C, or for a 1LW sniper.

I'd be targeting Gagne in cap-strapped Philly for the 1LW. I'd be targeting Jo. Staal or Dubinsky for 2C. I don't think both deals should be made, but one of the two should be...

GAGNE HORC HEMMER
PENNER GAGNER NILSSON

or

PENNER HORC HEMMER
NILSS STAAL GAGN

In both scenarios, Cogs moves to 3C (if not traded), which will be scary while he adjusts.

The RD is a tougher issue to resolve with a true shortage of these players in the NHL. Commodore is a rightie but may want more than he's worth. Same with Montador. Marek Malik...

And we have to keep in mind there's a bit of a logjam at LD with Grebs, Smid, Peckham and Chorney all competing for 3rd LD when Souray's in the line-up. People think its Smid or Greene for #7, but they don't play the same position. It's really between Smid and Grebs.

The point is that 2 trades or 1 trade and a minor UFA pickup could set this team nicely. (A trade for TO's 09 first would be sweet too)

If no good deals come, we won't be anywhere near as bad during this season as we were the past 2 years.

My offer for Gagne is Torres, Schremp, and Grebs (PHI would need a replacement LW and a puck-moving D). My offer for Staal is Stoll, Torres and Chorney (Pitt would need a 3C, desperately need wingers).

Whoever remains of Stoll/Torres gets moved at the deadline for picks if under-performing.

Black Dog said...

spoiler - I agree with you in that I don't think this roster is going to get it done when it matters, starting in 2009/2010, but I think that Lowe is likely to stand pat and see what he has with Joni and Grebeshkov and the kids and Penner and Garon - the list goes on and on really

I think that a Staal or a Gagne would be a nice addition. I also think that it appears Stoll will be on the move - maybe they are going to give Pouliot a whirl as the 3rd pivot??

This team is a ways from competing with the elite clubs. Now if a sweetheart deal comes to them I would make it but otherwise I am all for staying the course. Prune what you have to this summer and then do the same moving forward.

I think Grebs is a very attractive piece in a trade and I think Torres may prove to be once he proves he is over his injury.

I can't see Stoll having any value at all right now. Poor guy.

In other news a guy rumoured on his way out of Philly to clear cap room - Lupul.

Big T said...

Spoiler;

I like the basics of what you're throwing together there though I haven't yet checked how that might relate to the cap in future years. Not completely sold on Staal as a huge improvement on Cogliano for the 2nd line though. Staal is a very famous fellow b/c of his rookie year, his brothers and that he plays in Pittsburg. His percieved value is likely inflated b/c of these factors.

Honestly, I'd put Staal and Cogs at the same value if they were both the same size - but they're not, so Staal gets the nod.

If I had the choice, Gagne for one of Torres/Moreau plus something works for me. Saves some cap room for Philly and sends a quality - though suceptable to injury - winger this way.


T