Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Oh So Brady!

One game into the American Foozball season and everything rests on an MRI - if it comes out badly for Mr. Bundchen then its wide open and all hell is going to break loose. In today's Globe Stephen Brunt summed it up as he explained how the Buffalo Bills, once resigned to fighting for a wildcard, suddenly see a wide open horizon.

Imagine what New England fans are feeling today.

Meh, fuck them. They can't complain after the run they've had.

The cap in the NHL has changed things drastically as well. I remember Detroit running out a power play with more salary then some entire payrolls. There was the year that they had Joseph, Hasek and Legace on their roster. And of course they and others would load up on veterans at the trading deadline to stave off the inevitable injuries that would come in the playoffs. I recognize that the success that the Wings had all of those years started with excellent drafting and development (if spending bought you Cups then the Leafs and Rangers would have a lot more to show for the prelockout years then absolutely nothing) it certainly helped that they had the wherewithal to pay those players when they had to.

Nowadays one or two injuries can break your season. The Oilers have had quite the run in that department the last two years and here's hoping this year is not a repeat. Strangely enough the Oilers are actually in better shape then most of their rivals when it comes to weathering a possible injury storm. Actually after two years of poor results (much of it self inflicted), the Oilers must look around the Northwest and realize that opportunity is coming just at a time when the Oilers youth may be peaking.

May be being the operative phrase. A concussion here, a blown knee there and all of this youth movement will go to naught but lets try and stay positive here. The Oilers' kids certainly make it easy to do so. Look at the youth in place and in the pipeline and compare it with the Flames or the Canucks. Hard times are coming over our most hated foes.

With the departure of the last two veteran centres on the roster Shawn Horcoff becomes far more valuable and if he or Hemsky were to go down for any period of time this team would take a hit. Compare this possibility to what would happen to Calgary if Iginla were hurt or Vancouver if Luongo went down. Truth is that would be it for either team. The Canucks are one case but the Flames are another - a lack of depth up front or on the back end is going to hurt them. The year they went to the final they had effective cheap players up and down the roster - some young, some not, but much like the Blues did at the beginning of the decade they replaced some of those younsters with some big names and big salaries. Tanguay was a good move but then they soured him on the club last season. As for some of the other players who have been moved out you would have to ask a Flames' fan what his or her thoughts are. Taken one by one the moves may have merit or appear reasonable but as a whole its a recipe for disaster.
Indeed as an Oilers' fan its difficult to not look around the division and conference and hope that the stars may be aligning for a run shortly. In Vancouver there are questions about Luongo's happiness and the agent for the Sedins is making noise about gigantic contracts for the twins and apparent unhappiness with the removal of Nonis. In Calgary a dearth of young talent and the possible decline of Kiprusoff are talking points. The Avs are going to See Joe Sakic move on soon and the Wild may see Gaborik do the same. Add to that the aging of Ducks' Selanne, Niedermeyer and Pronger and the eventual retirement of Nick Lidstrom and a fan of the Copper and Blue can see that smart moves and some luck could propel Edmonton into the position of a contender quickly.


Jonathan said...

Nice points all round. In the Northwest, I think Vancouver and Edmonton are the teams best poised to climb the rankings quickly, but then the Canucks have Mike Gillis in charge, so I think Edmonton stands alone.

Colorado would be good if they had a goalie, but all of Sakic/Hejduk/Foote are not long for this league, and when they go the Avs will step back.

And losing Lidstrom will hurt (lots and lots and lots and lots) but between Zetterberg/Datsyuk, I think Detroit will keep on trucking.

Black Dog said...

jonathan - the Canucks, do you think so? Great D and Luongo of course but too many holes up front, imo. And something is rotten there. Not sure what is going on but it just seems to be ready to fall apart.

The Avs have a nice team but that goaltending ... and when Sakic leaves that's the end of it for them.

As for the Wings, oh yeah, seventeen years and counting. Lidstrom will leave and they will still be a force but losing one of the all time greats - well, things are going to change.

Jonathan said...

the Canucks, do you think so? Great D and Luongo of course but too many holes up front, imo. And something is rotten there. Not sure what is going on but it just seems to be ready to fall apart.

Not that I think they'll ever be consistently good with Gillis in charge, but they have the holes that are hardest to fill plugged (good two-way defensive corps, elite goaltending).

A competent GM would look at the Sedins, and then at Kesler (who is an absolutely wicked shut-down type) and say he's got 2 of 4 lines that he needs to be a contender. He might brig in another winger to play starboard with Kesler/Burrows, or he might just focus on bringing in a first-rate second line forward to anchor the second unit.

They've got cap space and they aren't far away. I just don't know if Gillis is going to figure it out.

As for something fishy - it's there. I don't know what it is either, but it's there.

Scott said...

The Avalanche do look really weak in goal and I would have expected for them to go out looking for a goaltender, but if they do pick up a good goalie I think they have enough time to transition to stay good.

Three years from now their top four D is probably going to include Scott Hannan who had a rough year last season but has been a solid defender most of the rest of his career. Liles is young and is a nice complement to Hannan in that he brings a different set of skills. Then I'd assume that they're going to be breaking in Kevin Shattenkirk at some point, possibly next year. I suppose he may not be quite ready for top four minutes in two years time, but he should at least be on the team. Having at least two and maybe three top four guys for three years from now is pretty good stuff. A lot changes between now and then, so maybe they make a trade or have a prospect surprise, but the base is there for a strong D.

It's similar when you look at the forwards. Sure, Sakic is going to retire soon, but in to replace him is Paul Stastny who was an absolute beast of a player last year and should probably continue to improve, if not his counting numbers (I recall him having a pretty high shooting percentage), certainly his play. Stastny, Wolski and Hensick will all be twenty-five at that point and should be ready for some at least medium to tough minutes with a good deal of success. Svatos will still be under thirty and, barring a trade, they should still have Smyth there, who should at least be effective playing some medium minutes given his history. And that's five solid guys that can be projected for three years from now. They look as good to me as the Oilers do in a lot of respects.

So yeah, I have some confidence that Colorado should continue to stay good in our division IF they can solve the goaltending problem, which to this point is decidedly NOT solved.

Anonymous said...

Wow. The comments are on the money and intelligent. Maybe with the season comin on, the crackheads are puttin dwon the pipes and actually lookin at the Div for real.
Edmonton has improved, but not to the point where they are gonna win or seriously compete for the title. Goaltending and inadequate defence will bite them in the end.


Black Dog said...

Scott - I think the Avs are best positioned out of the rest of the division as well going forward, mostly because they have a nice group of young players and have shown the ability to keep that pipeline going

Losing Sakic will hurt badly though.

With a few key components aging and Sakic likely to be in his last year I'm not sure why they're going with that goalie tandem though - I would think that they pick up a replacement pretty quickly if Budaj cannot do the job.

With goaltending I think the Avs are the best team in the division. But they don't look to have it right now.

billy - yeah they're not ready yet - would take a whole lot of everything going right for them and wrong for everyone else

HBomb said...

The Oilers may not finish 1st, but they certainly won't finish last (in my mind, the NW shakes down to four teams battling for 2 or 3 playoff spots and then a lousy Canuck squad aways back), and about as much would have to go wrong for them to finish 4th as it would have to go right for them to finish 1st.

Odds are they finish 2nd or 3rd. Finishing first may be a longshot, but it's far from the impossible dream that even the playoffs were in 2007-08. They've taken steps forwards, while every other team has taken steps backwards. If anything, it's a good start.

And that's what it's all about really. The arrows are pointed in the right direction, and success over the long term is the most important thing in the big picture. Given that 2009-10 is the last year of "cheap Gagner, cheap Cogliano", that might be the optimum year to load up on a couple depth veteran UFA signings and some deadline rentals and REALLY go for it.

This year, the playoffs have to be the goal, but not at the expense of giving up significant assets at the deadline in order to make it (see "Roloson trade", March 2006).

Black Dog said...

"Arrows in the right direction" - that's what its all about this year hbomb.

So true.

HBomb said...

I haven't been so optimistic about the Oilers in a long time.

Not because of the excitement of one coming season. It's the whole idea of "sustainability". The moves that are being made suggest the idea of gunning for long-term, Detroit-type success. Rivals are staying in the same spot or taking steps backwards - the Oilers are clearly moving forward.

If they don't close the gap all this season on Calgary, Minnesota and Colorado, so what? They're going to do it over the next 3 seasons without question. Sakic's going to retire, there's depth issues in Calgary due to piss-poor drafting and development, and losing Sakic in Colorado is not a trivial matter (if and when he does retire).

Now we just need Denis Grebeshkov to turn into Nik Lidstrom, and we're set.