Tuesday, January 25, 2011
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.
Posted by Black Dog at 11:00 AM