Monday, February 08, 2010

The Back End


OK so on to the blue. This was supposed to be a strength of this club but whether they are missing Charlie Huddy or they are not as good as we thought or if its a case of injuries and lost confidence, this group has not got it done. So, how do we fix it?

Outta Here

I didn't like the Souray signing but I have to admit its turned out better than I thought it would. He had a terrific year last year and .... oh well, low expectations, right?

Anyhow, the big guy is ready to go and it sounds like there is interest in him despite the remaining two years on his contract. If he had been moved last summer there might have been a nice return but his mediocre season has lessened his value. What will they get for him? Really its clearing the cap space that is important but what I'd like to see is an NHL ready prospect, preferably a forward, to fill a hole that the Oilers have. In other words a guy who they can slot into their top nine, a bigger kid, someone who may score a dozen but more importantly can PK, check, do the little things. Is that a reasonable return? Its definitely a need.

Strudwick, well he just has to go. Great guy and all blah blah blah etc. Ship him out already.

And Staios? Well his time has come as well and apparently there may be a market for him, even with the year left on his deal. Whether the rumours are true or not about the veterans on the Oilers being a big problem he has to go, if just to clear the cap space. I've always liked Staios but he's paid too much for what he does. Send him out. You'll get nothing for him but who gives a damn.

Your Mileage May Vary

Full disclosure, I've always been a Gilbert man, even when he has struggled I've been on his side. He's no thumper but he's a heady player, he can skate and he can move that puck. He's been a guy who's been playing tough competition on and off since the beginning when injuries forced MacT to put him in that role. And for the most part he has kept his head above water.

He's signed longterm to a good contract, he's the only defenceman on the club who has any sort of durability, he has played through injury (bad back last year) and illness (this fall) which makes me a little sour on the idea that this guy lacks toughness.

Plus he's a righty.

Now I'm not saying that the Oilers need to choose between Gilbert and Grebeshkov but with Visnovsky and then Chorney coming on I think that this club has enough guys who have the same skillset. To me there is no choice between the two, you go with Gilbert. If you feel otherwise then go for it but Grebeshkov's best work came paired with Lubo and away from him he has been nothing great, in my opinion.

If you can't do better than him then keep him. He's not terrible and he's certainly better than a lot of alternatives. Having said that due to his history (great w/ Lubo, not so much otherwise), his skillset (replicated) and the fact that he probably has some value I think he's a guy that you can move.

Lubo and Laddy

Lubo has struggled lately but other then Gagner the list of those who haven't is pretty short. When Lubo is on the ice things generally go the right way, indeed he outstrips everyone when it comes to generating scoring chances. And as an added bonus whoever is his partner generally looks like a worldbeater. Grebeshkov last year. Smid this year.

Can you say pump and dump?

Having said that I think that we can agree that Smid has improved from last season. When he's away from Lubo he's not great but he's not getting pulverized either. And paired with Lubo he has done a fine job. He has size and he still has some upside (he's still a kid) and he stays.

The Kids

There's Chorney and there's Peckham and then you have Plante and Motin and Petry. Plante actually survived his first callup (he certainly looked better than Matt Greene did at the same stage of his career) pretty well and with the Swede and Peaches things certainly bode well for the blue in the future.

I think the Oilers have to start by picking up a Strudwick ++ this summer. Not a swingman, not a seventh Dman. A solid six is what they need. A vet who can kill penalties and clear the front of the net and hopefully make the first pass. This is the type of guy I think they can actually pick up as a UFA.

If you keep Grebs then you run:

X - Gilbert, Smid - Lubo, Grebs - this vet, Chorney or Peckham

If you do not keep Grebs then you're looking at the same except you're running Chorney or Peckham out in the third pair with your new vet. If either cannot do it then you grab someone off the waiver wire. I'd think that one of them can though, handle the soft stuff paired with a vet.
What about X though? Who is our mysterious Mr. X?

Searching for Nick Tortelli

The most discouraging thing for the Oilers is that Jan Hejda is the guy that they need. A guy who can play in the top pair, a defence first guy, a guy who doesn't make a lot of money. !!

Really this is job one for Oilers' management this season, imo. They have holes up front as well but I think you can pick up guys who can check, tough minute munchers. There were a few of these still available when camps opened this fall and I think that you can move a smurf with offensive upside or Grebeskov or even Souray for that type of player. But a defensive defenceman who can do the job for you?

A little tougher.

And lets be honest here, no guy of quality is signing in Edmonton this summer. Nobody wants to be part of an organization that is such a disaster.

So beat the bushes. I have no idea who is available. I have no idea who fits the mold. But X is the guy that they need and they need to figure out a way to get him. Remember my list of untouchables ( a very long list, yes)? Here is where you might need to dip into that list if you can get the right guy.
In Addition
Had a think about this and I realized that the way I have presented this may seem pie in the sky and I know it, believe me. The way to go would be the FA market but the guy they need is not going to want to come play for a last place team. So it has to be a trade and its going to be value going the other way and really I don't know if they have that value or if they can find a fit with a team that either has a wad of Dmen or the need to shed a salary.
But they need to try and figure something out, this is the one spot they need to fill more than anything. (They need to fill multiple spots up front but that's next).


Bruce said...

Oilers deperately need a Jason Smith or a Craig Muni to fall out of the sky. Happens more often than it seems likely, some team spends 4 or 5 years developing a guy and wearies of it / him just at the point the guy is ready to take the next step. Have a good hard look at guys around 24-25 y.o. who are maybe on their second pro contract and having trouble getting out of the third pairing where they are. Guys that aren't worldbeaters, especially offensively, but who have some size and toughness. There's lots of examples of guys like that who just need a fresh opportunity and they're on their way.

uni said...

Agree with Bruce here. There's usually a Kurt Sauer, or a Hall Gill, or a Rob Scuderi out there. A FA D-man who's 2nd pairing or so and just plays effective stay at home and PK. It seems they get snapped up quietly for 2 million or less a year each off season. The Oilers just need to grab one. As long as they don't pull a Jeff Finger in TO type of thing. These guys don't necessarily to go powerhouses, they just go where they can play...and in Edmonton they'll likely get a lot more ice-time than they usually expect.

Hell I'm all for just brining up Arsene at this point and letting him play 13 a night on the last pairing. He has a perfect chance this season to get his time in the NHL, too bad he's all beat up.

Traktor said...

An argument can be found on how to deliver this team to 8th in the conference but I think the only way we're ever going to have real success is through the draft.

The problem is management doesn't do the little things (vet C, vet backup, vet 5/6 guy) to squeeze into 8th but at the same time they hold onto vets that could have been moved for picks that flexibility that would benefit a rebuild.

Choose your fucking poison already.

Black Dog said...

Traktor - agreed - a perfect example, to me, is the Penner situation - they sign a guy who is now two years away from being UFA at the cost of three picks, one of which would have been a top ten pick I'm sure

Lowe tried to have it both ways for four years and now we're four years down the road with very little to show for it.

As for next season well my guess is it will be awful again. Having said that if this team is ever not going to be awful they have to start addressing needs and if they can get a shutdown guy somehow then they probably start trying to figure out a way to do so, imo.

Vic Ferrari said...

It could be worse, they could have been successful with their offer sheet to Vanek. How many first round picks would they have lost to Buffalo? I think four.

And what if Nylander had signed here? WSH is burying the guy, that wouldn't have happened here. I'm sure that MacTavish would have had a mandate to make Nylander appear to be their best player. He probably would have been able to pull it off, and the whole team would have suffered. Especially the young forwards, guys like Nylander and Jagr need to play the kind of ice time that most teams reserve for developing players.

And I don't know what they were offering for Jokinen last year at the deadline, but Maloney says they were narrowly outbid by Calgary. There must have been a high draft pick in the Oilers offer as well, I shudder to think.

Lowe and Tambellini do likes thems some famous players. So far the hockey gods have been saving them from themselves, it could be far worse.

Black Dog said...

yeah Vic, it could be worse and it could get worse still I think - the rumoured pursuit of Jokinen was Tambellini's first whale hunt and then Khabibulin ...

Ye cats!

On top of everything its not long before Hemsky and Penner are UFA. Seeing as they are two of the few players on this club who can actually play that fact worries me a lot. I couldn't see either signing an extension.

Scott Reynolds said...

The question that needs to be asked now is, "Can we find someone better than Souray to be Mr. X for less than 5.4M?" The answer is "yes" IMO but it's not such a slam dunk that you move Souray along for dribs and drabs either.

I still think the "D" on this team is pretty good. If they stick with Souray, Gilbert, Visnovsky and Smid that's really not so bad for your top four, especially if you bring in two guys three guys that can play for your 5-6-7, say an average of 1.1M. And then you move Grebs along for young vet up front to shore up a hole.

I guess I'm just worried they'll move Souray for very little return and then show Grebs the money. I'd be more inclined to pump Grebs as much as you can for the tail end of this season and see if you can't flip him for something useful in the summer.

spOILer said...

Per Bruce's criteria: Christian Erhoff... mid-20s, big and mobile, useless offensively, should be turning the corner defensively.

And I'd pick up Shane Hnidy on a 1 yr deal to replace the Strud Missile.

spOILer said...

Sorry, didn't realize you were looking to fill the #2 hole. That's alot tougher and likely requires an overpay to a UFA like Hamhuis or Seidenberg, or eating a big contract like Campbell's, or hoping and older UFA like Willie Mitchell can do the job for 2 more years.

spOILer said...

My word verification was "Patiest". Which is exactly the way I think of this blog--It's the Pat-iest!

Black Dog said...

spOILer - yeah it takes some smarts, which they don't have but Bruce is on the money, a guy like Sauer is what I have in mind

Scott - yeah they should play Grebs with Lubo and flip him I think, I like him but I don't know if he's worth what they are going to pay him

they have to cut their costs on D, I believe, but it doesn't do them a lot of good if they end up with shit back there

so they need to do two things, assess what they can get for Souray and / or Grebs and then figure if they can bring in a guy in the top four who can do the same job or better for less money

Plus that vet in the 5/6 spot.

They can't move them if it means a top six with Strudwick, Peckham and Chorney.

Maybe with Souray they can bring back a little salary in their bottom pair to go with a nice asset? I don't know what he brings back though, I really don't.

Scott Reynolds said...

Yeah, they do need to move a few bucks off the back end and I think Grebs is a problem in that regard. He's an RFA now but his QO will still be 3.25M and if I were him I'd sign that right away. He's not going to be cheap.

You're right about not moving people if you're stuck going with two kids and Strudwick on the backend but I think that's something that they can assume is somewhat fixable. If you've got 3.3M for three guys you might divide it 1.4, 1.0, 0.8 and get at least one pretty good player and two other serviceable guys. If you can only get two guys, then you've got Peckham as a backup plan (who needs waivers anyway).

With Souray, it's all about what you can get. I just don't think they can give him away for cap space. He has value to this team IMO and they need to get something worthwhile to consider moving him. I'm not that optimistic they'll get those kinds of offers.

uni said...

Traktor - agreed - a perfect example, to me, is the Penner situation - they sign a guy who is now two years away from being UFA at the cost of three picks, one of which would have been a top ten pick I'm sure.

That 12th overall pick only went to picking up some 6'8-9" defense prospect named Tyler Myers who I'm sure won't amount to anything in the NHL.

Black Dog said...

uni - yeah, thing is without Penner that club doesn't even do as well as they did. No idea how many points in the standings but probably enough to drop more than a few spots

hunter1909 said...

For some fucked up reason the Oilers think that spending to the cap means paying their second rate players first rate money.

Imagine had Buffalo accepted those 4 first round picks??? Lowe was dissing the entire concept of even drafting, I seem to recall.

Personally I've lived more of my life having the Oilers stink than otherwise, and would far prefer them to be absolute total bottom feeders like the Hawks and Kings were for years, simply for the vague shards of hope endemic to drafting high every June.

Oilers have proven no one wants to play for them unless forced to, and until the management is finally purged of it's arrogant(read ring counting)morons this situation will remain in effect.

Pete. said...

Personally I've lived more of my life having the Oilers stink than otherwise

That's depressing. I was born in the spring of the same year the Oilers entered the NHL. Since then:
-5 exciting to amazing years that I can't remember.
-6 mindbogglingly excellent years.
-1 OK year.
-4 years that were so grim I quit watching (plus I was getting into beer, guitar, and girls).
-5 years that felt good in comparison to the preceding 4.
-a few irritating years.
-cup run
-4 years that are as bad or worse, I think, than the Burnett/Corson/Gord Mark/etc. era.


kanadienkyle said...

The team obviously needs a long term plan. Any attempt at a quick fix is likely to be disastrous, as the club has a funk to it right now.

Get some players who will play hard every night and tell them they have every chance to play to their strengths. A roster of hungry guys who need and want a chance would be fun to watch while new management prepares for the future.

No sense in making changes just to get to 8th, make the team a contender or go down swinging.

Also, nice work on the trim gracing each post. Might I put out a request for Tabrett Bethell?

spOILer said...


I believe Sauer is still hearing bells in his head. I haven't heard any prognosis on his return and that's a heckuva long time for someone to be out with a concussion (Oct 7).

Black Dog said...

Oh yeah, he's just an example of a guy.

spOILer said...

The problem is, BD, is that Bruce is right in that the guy would literally have to fall out of the sky.

The list of possibles is less than 10 and includes UFAs Volchenkov, Hamhuis, Kubina, Mitchell, Seidenberg. Out of the non-UFAs, Cam Barker who has mobility issues, JJohnson who has brain cramp issues, Kaberle who has Brian Burke issues, maybe Orpik if Pitt can't handle the salary... I don't know, there isn't a lot of possibles out there without weighing anchor and pointing the stem at whaling seas.

Black Dog said...

spOILer - hey did I ever say it would be easy?!? ;)

Both of the Sabres' shutdown pair are UFA as well although a) they are older and b) I don't know how effective they are really

And other than the first two on your list I would not really consider any of those guys what I'm looking for. Well, Mitchell too. And Orpik although I doubt he would be available.

They need to pluck someone from somewhere and its probably going to cost them - I think its worth it if they can find someone young enough to be part of the future but good enough to actually be worth it.

Who is it?

Fucked if I know.

uni said...

With the team this bad it opens up some options. I'm all for Euro farming. Find a bunch of guys in the Euro leagues who are good but never seemed to get their shot, bring a bunch over on tryouts and see who sticks.

Hell next year's team can't be the cluster f*&^% that this year's team is. As long as the team they ice doesn't look like the walking dead then I'm happy. I want hard working, full of hustle, demons on the forecheck, speed and energy and I'm happy. Another top 3 pick or whatever, just don't want to watch 20 crushed men going through the motions.

And I got your Penner point BDHS, I was just saying that I'd have been happy with 12th overall as well. That Myers looks like freak, buddy at work thought he was a forward for a good portion of the first game he saw him in. Also my verification word is FIACK for whatever that's worth.

Black Dog said...

uni - yeah they have to look at the Euros as well, Hejda redux

And Myers? Freak is about right. What a pick!

Bruce said...

Who is it? Fucked if I know.

Yeah, that's my point, ideally they find someone who isn't a "name player" the way that Muni and Gator weren't "name players" when we got 'em, or for that matter the way Jeff Beukeboom or Matt Greene weren't "name players" when we got rid of them. Look for a stay-at-home guy who hasn't emerged yet.

Don't mind the Euro idea either. Scout the Olympics and esp. the Worlds hard for a dude that is mid-20s, has stuck around on his national team for a while, and has just reached that point where he's ready to come over and be effective. Hejda-type, indeed.

Black Dog said...

I just realized that every one of these posts pretty well ended in 'Fucked if I know' ;)

Bruce - yeah that's a good start for sure and I am with you, its not a name guy they need, if they can get one then great but they need to beat the bushes