Saturday, January 19, 2013


Your Edmonton Oilers open their season tomorrow and for the first time in six years folks with sense are feeling positive about the club's chances. Are they a sure thing for the playoffs? Absolutely not. Might they crash to the bottom of the standings again? Maybe, although I suspect it would take a mighty bad run of injuries for that to occur. As an Oiler fan I know that's possible of course. Hell, we're used to it.

But my best guess is that this club will contend for the playoffs and with good health and a bit of luck they may actually make it. They are deeper up front than they have been since 2006/2007 and I think Dubnyk is, if not a star, at the very least a solid number one goalie. The blue is a concern, again, but we know Smid and Petry can handle the toughs and do well in that situation (they did so last year) and Schultz senior is competent, if no Tom Gilbert, and even Fistric, the new kid, while a bottom pairing guy, put together good numbers in that role in Dallas. Plus he's solid on the PK apparently.

As usual they are throwing a rookie Dman to the wolves and I am sure young Schultz is going to get exposed but based on how he tore apart the AHL I think its safe to say that he is the real deal, or will be, give time.

Matt Fenwick just wrote his annual post over at Battle Of Alberta (man I miss Battle of Alberta, Covered in Oil, Irreverent Oil Fans, my God those were the days) and in his too brief note he points out that the Oilers have been losers forever and that they actually haven't done anything yet.

He's right of course and as Tyler Dellow pointed out recently, its not like Tambo has shown that he can build a team. I think Ty said that Tambo's idea of rebuilding is to lay on the floor passively and wait for everything to happen. That is sort of my feeling as well. I don't trust Tambo one bit to take this club to the next step and of course the problem is that his boss, Lowe, is the guy who started this mess.

We can all agree on that right? Really both (and everyone else) should have been fired after 2009/2010 when the team they put together with the maximum allowed payroll finished dead last. (RiversQ pointed out on Twitter last night that Lowe should have been canned after he followed the Pronger and Smyth trades, full on rebuild moves, with the attempted signing of Nylander and the signings of Souray and Penner (which cost a pile of picks). There was obviously no plan and all it did was prolong our agony).

I think if the Oilers don't make the playoffs this year that Tambo gets fired and so I am looking forward to this season in that either way I think we're going to win. Playoffs would be great. Tambo getting canned and replaced (hopefully) by someone who knows what they are doing, well that would be great too.

The problem for the Oilers and Tambo is that the easy part is done. They have the top end talent now. Hall and Nugent Hopkins and Yakupov and Schultz and Eberle. They have Smid and Petry and Dubnyk and Gagner who are all quality NHLers. They have Paajarvi and Hartikainen who look to be guys who can play a supporting role and while the majority of their prospects had a shit autumn the reality is that just as we wouldn't be going mental if they all were awesome for three months (well I guess some of us would be) I'm not one to say well they have no prospects now, as some are saying, because of a bad run. Small sample size and development isn't a straight line and all that. Right? Remember Kyle Brodziak?

Wow could we do with a guy like Kyle Brodziak, amIright?

Rambling now but in any case the Oilers have the core now and its really just a case of filling in the blanks. The great thing is that the blanks, with the exception of another top four Dman, if Schultz younger can cut it, could be filled in easily.

 If management is up to it. I see nothing in their work of the past three years (with the exception of the Schultz signing) to show that they are up to it. And that's what worries me somewhat. The talk, again, of moving Hemsky along is irksome. If Jones were healthy Kreuger could run:

Hall/Gagner/Hemsky, Yakupov/Nugent Hopkins/Eberle, Smyth/Horcoff/Paajarvi, Hartikainen/Belanger/Jones

That's a pretty solid set of forwards. And yet already there is talk of dumping Hemsky or of moving Paajarvi or of doing both. I have no problem with moving guys if good players are coming back but I suspect that we're going to see young Paajarvi moved out the door so they can bring in guys like Mike Brown. You know what I mean?



I guess I'm being a worrywart when it comes down to it really. I should just relax up in my drug attic with a six pack of Old Milwaukee.

Because that is a pretty decent set of forwards. Hall and Hemsky are healthy, which they were not last year, and the kids are going to hit the ground running and the old guys probably benefitted from the extended layoff I would think. You can run the kids out on the PP, using Teemu and either Smyth or Horcoff as the guy to do the dirty work. And then Smyth/Horcoff/Paajarvi/Belanger/Jones on the PK with one of the kids getting some time out there as well.

Not bad.

Where the season is going to make or break is on the blueline though. An injury or two and it all falls apart. The good news for Edmonton is that a lot of other clubs are in the same boat (thanks parity). Look at Detroit for one. Wow. The bad news is that if Smid or Petry go then the season is probably gone as well.

And on top of that Whitney is not what he once was apparently and so really we are relying on the Schultzes to be able to handle some tough sledding. There have been kids who have done so in the past so its not out of the question that young Schultz can do it. If he can or if he cannot and by some miracle Whitney can step in then this club will be in the mix for the playoffs.

If he cannot and Whitney cannot step in ( I don't think that he can) then they finish up the track for the seventh straight year.

That's what I'm thinking. Its possible, if not probable, but that's a big step. And looking at the West there are a few good teams but other than the Kings, Chicago, Vancouver and St. Louis I don't think the conference is that good. So there's a chance.

Which is a lot better than we have had in a long long time.


@eastcoasteh said...

Gotta say, I'm fucking giddy at our chances, but that evil injury monster that lurks forever in the shadows around this team scares the shit out of me.
I do worry about our young kids on the road, not getting the line matching they need.
I also worry about seeing Belanger on the power play or other ridiculous line choices. I'm hoping that was Renney's doing and not Coach K's.
It's hard to be optimisitic as an oiler fan cuz of the pain of the last few years. I was at game 7 in 2006 and it's been a long run down the shithill ever since.
Anyways, I plan on a lot of bleary-eyed mornings (2 kids under 3, live in NB, trying to watch every game..simple math), and hopefully a decent playoff run.

Black Dog said...

eastcoasteh - two kids under 3 eh? whoa. enjoy it, its toug sledding but will be over before you know it

injuries could derail them of course but they have more depth than they have for a while so unless they get devastated they can survive things a bit more

and yeah road matchups are going to hurt but they have two lines that they can throw out there imo against the tougher opp so ... things are better

slowly but surely

Pete. said...

I've been laughing about that drug attic thing since I saw it on Twitter last night. Thanks for that.

I'm cautiously optimistic - mostly scared of injuries on D or in net. I think offensively there's not too much to stress about: there are quite a few guys who can move up/down a line or two if need be. You've got the Joneses and Horcoffs, etc., who can play a scoring role for a while if need be without embarrassing themselves, and the young flashy kids all seem reasonably intelligent, which suggests they might grasp the defensive side of the game more quickly than some. They already show glimmers of understanding every now and then.

Do you secretly fantasize about Tambo getting the axe, to be replaced with MacT? I do.

Black Dog said...

oh absolutely Pete. I like MacT, always have. He has an education. He has coached good teams and bad so presumably has an understanding of what you need to be a good club. Would he be a good GM? Who knows really but I am guessing yes.

The depth up front is almost where they need to be. Obviously the kids need experience but as you noted they have some options now where they can move guys up the lineup shortterm without missing a beat.

Still not there on D though.

cartooncolin said...

Adding Fistfic was like a lantern appearing in the dark woods. It's a sign in the right direction - and I'd wager that trade doesn't get made without MacT hanging around. Natural choice for next GM .... But if this is a season in which all the stars align then Tambo is going to be around a while.

Black Dog said...

Colin - yeah I liked the trade, I know some thought a 3rd was a lot, imo its best to pick up D in the summer, look at the trades, there were better guys going for a 2nd rounder

but I can't sweat the cost really and based on last night and what I have heard he's an improvement on the current duo on the third pair