Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Scorched Earth

After three and a half seasons where apparently the Oilers 'braintrust' figured they were just a lucky break or two from contending they suddenly came on the realization that maybe, just maybe, they needed to rebuild this sucker.

Considering that this braintrust consisted of Kevin Lowe, who completely dismantled a club which came within a break or two of winning the Stanley Cup, and Steve Tambellini, whose signature move at the time was to sign a veteran goalie to an absurd contract, displaying an absolute lack of understanding of his own team's quality and of managing the salary cap, one can only wonder why they have been entrusted with getting the franchise out of the ditch into which they had plunged it quite merrily, like teenagers on a bender.

But that is a topic that I have beaten often enough, so that now very little remains of that horse but a slightly rusty stain on the pavement, noticeable to none but the odd stray dog which wanders by and whining and panting, sniffs out the faint odour of horsemeat and begins to lick the asphalt greedily, longing for a hint of fleshy sustenance.

That metaphor might apply to us Oiler fans, come to think of it, dreaming of a championship and getting nothing but garbage.

But I digress.

So the Oilers, having gotten rid of nearly every good player on the roster and thrown a generation of kids into the deep end of the pool to sink, finally decided it was time to get serious about getting competitive, down the road of course. To that end they rebuilt their farm system and the results there have been good. They concentrated on the draft and while it wil be years before we see the results right now last year's draft looks like a home run and both in quality and in quantity the Oilers' system is overflowing.

They have seven rookies on this year's club right now and all of them look like they will have NHL careers. Hall. Eberle. Paajarvi. Omark. Peckham. Petry. Dubnyk.

Of the first three this was expected. The fact that the other four have arrived and look to be reasonable quality was unexpected and is terrific.

Now we have talked about what the Oilers have right now - lets look at this once more:

Eight top nine forwards - Hall, Horcoff, Eberle, Penner, Hemsky, Gagner, Paajarvi, Omark

Five top six defencemen - Whitney, Gilbert, Peckham, Smid, Petry

One goaltender - Dubnyk

I think Omark can produce as a guy who faces soft opposition at ES as well on the PP. In my mind he is the only maybe on that list. I have not included Cogliano or Brule. So that leaves the need for one centre to play top nine minutes.

On D I think right now you have to consider Smid and Petry as the third pair, which is fine. So that leaves the need for a top pairing Dman to play with Whitney.

In net I don't think we know what we have in Dubnyk yet. At worst I think he can be a quality backup. He may be better. I have not included Khabibulin because he won't be around when this team is good and frankly I think he is shitty now. I know a lot of folks disagree, which is fine.

Fill those positions, add some fourth line guys who can PK (and one who can win draws) and let time take its course and suddenly you're looking at a pretty good club I would say. As a matter of fact the future could arrive a lot sooner than we think.


Here's the deal. There has been plenty of talk of models. The Chicago model. The Pittsburgh model. Basically suck really bad for years and reap the rewards. Of course the Islanders and the Thrashers also have followed that model, at least the first part of it, they haven't quite figured out the second part yet.

Atlanta had five top TWO picks. They have one playoff appearance to show for it and not a one of those players remains with them.

Yet right now, with our second straight last overall coming, there are folks who are demanding that the earth get even more scorched and that it starts with moving Penner and Hemsky. And apparently, according to Elliotte Friedman, a preety reliable source, the Oilers will entertain offers for the two. Never mind that both Chicago and Pittsburgh had some quality veterans, both homegrown and imported, that were big parts of their Cup runs. Never mind that these two guys are quality players on a club lacking said necessity to compete.

Here's the thing. If management has a very clear idea that either player is definitely not going to sign an extension then they probably have to move them and get something for them but otherwise they need to fullcourt press these guys and get their signatures on paper.

Why? Because when it comes to building a champion there is one model that stands above all others. Its a simple one. Accumulate good players. Keep them. Its what Detroit has been doing for two decades now and in that time period they have six appearances in the Cup Finals, four Stanley Cups and they have been a contender every single year.

Think about that. I would argue that that run is the greatest run in sports history, all things considered. To be at that level for that long in an era with this many clubs, free agency and a salary cap is mind boggling.

And yes I know they had advantages prior to the lockout.

But twenty years.

And the key is simple. They get good players and they keep them.

On twitter the other day James Mirtle was talking to the Down Goes Brown guy about Clarke MacArthur, who is having a terrific year for the Leafs. Mirtle's argument (they were talking about extending him) was essentially this: if they do not sign him they need to replace him and that is just not that simple a thing to do. Burke made a nice bet on the former Sabre and it looks like it is paying off. If he gets rid of him then he has to replace him which means he either needs the return for MacArthur to do what MacArthur does (not likely) or he needs to move someone or something else to get MacArthur v2 or he needs to probably overpay a UFA.

Now James was not talking about giving away the store and neither am I but his point is an excellent one and absolutely relevant here. The Oilers are so very thin when it comes to NHL players, even now. Yes Hemsky is injured quite a bit and yes neither he nor Penner are perfect players but they are two young NHL veterans who drive results the right way. Penner is good for twenty five to thirty goals and Hemsky has been averaging just under a point per game for years now.

If you trade them for picks do the picks do what they do?

If you trade them for prospects, can the prospects?

Some might argue that Hall and Eberle will step into their roles and I think that absolutely the two kids are going to be outscorers and good for around thirty or more goals apiece but then who replaces those two spots in the lineup?

Tambellini may HAVE to move these two guys and if he does well so it goes although rumours say that Hemsky is already talking extension. But if he does not have to move them and chooses to do so then he had better bring back absolute sweetness in the return. None of the horseshit they got for Ryan Smyth. It has to be quality and it cannot be fucking guesswork. It has to be a sure bet or we are going to be seven years out of the playoffs and figuring out the return for Whitney, Gilbert and Gagner and then ten years out and doing the same for Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi.
Keep your good players. Acquire more good players. Its not rocket science.


Coach pb9617 said...

Keep your good players. Acquire more good players. Its not rocket science.

*Sigh* It flies in the face of acquire more picks, which is the mantra now.

Marsha said...

It's nice to see someone else who wants to keep Hemsky and Penner. I'm tired of more picks more picks. You can't have all rookies as you need some experienced guys. I only trade them if they refuse extensions. I'm worried Tamby won't even ask them. :(

David S said...

As much as I deeply resent the tanking strategy we've so obviously deployed, at least we've seen some excellent pickups from the fallout. My problem is the same as what you've stated - that being when is it time to seriously start thinking about winning again?

To my mind we already have a pretty positive nucleus which could comprise the centrepiece of a competitive team. Where we truly suck is the bottom part of the roster and our ridiculous D - although that seems to be by design. So we want to get rid of two of the three legitimate NHL'ers who might fill out our core roster - for what? *spits*

Sucking forever and suddenly turning that suckage into a decent team isn't a strategy, its wishful thinking.

James Mirtle said...

That's exactly the point I was making with MacArthur. Beauchemin, too.

How does trading either for a second-round pick help the Leafs?

Paper Designer said...

I think you can afford to trade one of Hemsky or Penner, and it's got to be Hemsky. On a team that has problems with size up front, and trouble staying healthy, trading one of your few forwards that is always healthy, gigantic, and plays a solid two-way game is nonsense.

I think you can replace Hemsky, but if you trade him, you have to trade him for someone you know is going to play. If you can trade him for one of the guys in the top four, you might make that deal (if you can get both Courturier and Larsson, that would be a pretty nice haul from the 2011 draft). If you can get Brayden Schenn, then you might make that deal. But if it's a middle of the first round pick or a prospect who may or may not make it, what's the point?

So let's not give him away, but if you can deal him for a key piece, when you've already got several important pieces on the wings (Hall, Paajarvi, Omark, Eberle, and Hamilton and Pitlick on the way), you can probably deal him to get a key piece either at C or defence. Or a pick high enough that you KNOW you're getting a player. (Hemsky to the Bruins for the Leaf's pick, maybe?)

Andrew said...

I love that picture of Hemsky! What a goal.

Black Dog said...

P.D. - when it comes down to it that is it right there. I would say keep them both but if they trade either then they HAVE to get a player coming back and by that I mean a guy who can help right now. I have no problem with trading to shore up centre or the D but it has to be proven quality. I don't even want another lottery pick.

Adam D said...

I think the idea that Tambo ever WASN'T hearing offers for Penner and Hemsky is ridiculous, if true.

Are they good players? Yes, of course. Are either of them the best player in the league? No. Therefore, they shouldn't be untouchable.

macaotim said...

Penner is healthy, big and pretty good. Hemsky can be great, but paying a guy to sit on the sidelines injury after injury isn't going to help us in the long run. I'd plug one of those holes you mentioned with the payback from Hemsky. I might bite at a lottery pick this year...assuming we are 2-3 years out of being really good. If I thought 1-2 years, I'd opt for a player. If I was a NYI executive, I'd sign Dubie to a 25 year deal and trade the whole fucking works except for Omark. I need to be entertained damn it!

I hope Tambo doesn't read this shit...I have visions of him with a pen in hand jotting down my last idea!

Tambo...it's a joke you idiot!

Black Dog said...

Adam D. - not saying that they are untouchable or that they should not find out what they can get for them.

But if you are moving Hemsky it had better be for a quality Dman or centre who can play right now.

That's all I'm saying.

No more futures.

88MPH said...

Hemsky is a young leader, yes, but he is aging as we speak with all of these injuries. I see moving Hemsky and necessity over Penner, and for something that will fill in his absence in the next year. They still have time to develop players, but they need to be on an upward trend towards being an impact player soon... not in the minors or a draft pick.
Unfortunately, trading Hemsky for 'almost a Hemsky' is a really hard thing to accomplish.

spOILer said...

You're now Tambellini. I know that makes you older and uglier and dumber, but on the bright side, you're the height you've always wanted to be and you now have a new toy: The Edmonton Oilers.

Hemsky's agent tells you he's willing to sign an extension, somewhere in neighbourhood of 5 X 5.75M.

Meanwhile 3 GMs have been inquiring about Hemsky...

1. Dean Lombardi figgers Hemsky can play either wing and would be a great match for Kopitar. He offers you Brayden Schenn, and a 2nd for Hemsky.

2. David Poile calls. Weber's camp wants $7M per yr. He can't justify that payday. He's willing to trade you Weber for Hemsky & Petry & a 2012 1st. Weber's agent confirms they will sign in Edmonton.

3. Glen Sather calls. He wants his fishing rod back.

4. Dale Tallon in Florida LOVES Ales Hemsky. No particular reason. He's willing to offer the expiring contracts of Dvorak and Higgins, along with Dennis Wideman and Michal Repik and a 2012 2nd for Hemsky. 5 assets!

What do you do?

Black Dog said...

88MPH - yep sure is, getting an almost Hemsky that is

whcih means you keep the one you have, right?

spOILer - I would consider options 1 and 2

I think I'd need a first back in option 1 and if I got it then I might make that deal and I know what I said about prospects etc. I think Schenn is the real deal though. I might make an exception.

As for option 2 man that is a lot to give up. I like Weber though.

Hmm, much like Tambellini apparently I'm pretty wishy washy too. ;)

spOILer said...


Does that mean you would consider options 1 and 2 above re-signing Hemsky, or would the extension be better than the offered deals?

Tallon's deal fills the most holes, but with the lowest quality players. Poile's deal gives the best quality players, but takes a lot of quality back... And Lombardi's deal gives the best young player, but probably means we aren't competing for awhile.

Keeping Hemsky means we still have holes to fill, some other way.

I think you are right though... one would want to negotiate these deals such that Lombardi & Tallon would have to give up a 1st not a 2nd, and Poile would have to take a 2nd not a first.

Being a GM is not an easy job despite what all the laptop pilots out there say. And the reason I say that is because I doubt:

a) Tambi has this many decent options available
b) I think it takes lengthy negotiations and playing hard-to-get to set up deals so that they have a reasonably equitable exchange.
c) We look at things with 20-20 hindsight which is a heckuva lot easier than the angst that comes with wondering how a big deal is going to affect your team going forward. This is not a job for a neurotic.

Black Dog said...

spOILer - I would take Hemsky extended over all options but the Weber deal. The Schenn deal is tempting though.

Hey I have no doubt its not an easy job. These guys are running multimillion dollar businesses.

Everything you say is true but these guys are also well compensated to do what they do and we should expect a level of competence. Its like any job I guess. Folks say 'well you couldn't do the job' and they are absolutely right, just like I could not be a bond trader or salesman or any number of things.

The problem is whether or not Tambellini has the chops ;) - I'm not sold on that fact - of course you know that though.

LittleFury said...

You know Tambo would send Hemsky away for the fishing rod, right?