Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Uh Oh

Tyler Dellow has made the point a few times on the Tweeter that depth is an issue for most clubs these days in Gary Bettman's NHL. The salary cap has really done a job so that unless you have a ton of youngsters or value contracted veterans you're going to be thin somewhere.

You're not going to see many clubs like the Chicago squad that won the Cup. Here are their top twelve forwards: Toews, Hossa, Kopecky, Sharp, Kane, Byfuglien, Bolland, Ladd, Versteeg, Madden, Brouwer, Eager

 Troy Brouwer scored 23 goals that year, iirc, and he was on the fourth line in the playoffs.

 Of course a combination of the cap and Tallon not knowing how to use a fax machine ended up with that team getting blown up about five minutes after they won it all.

 This year's Hawks' team has ripped out to a fast start, in large part to the fact that a new cohort of cheap kids has arrived. So at least for now Bolland plays with Kane and Sharp and they have Shaw and Kruger holding down the 3rd and 4th C positions.

 I haven't watched a lot of Chicago this season but my impression is that while they're not full value for their record (no regulation losses in 9 requires some luck) they're a really good club.

 But even then they're thin. They have about five players they literally cannot afford to lose if they are going to compete for the Cup imo - Toews, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, Crawford. You might throw Kane in there too.

 So in other words even the best team in the league has depth issues.

 Which leads us to the Oilers.

 There are more important players on the Oilers than Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger for sure. If Dubnyk or one of the top four D (the bottom pairing guys have shown they are barely capable of playing in the bottom pair) went down then the club would be in deep and while they could likely survive one top six forward going down, more than that would probably do them in too.

 But losing both Horcoff and Belanger at once is bad bad news.

 Belanger was awful last year, mostly due to a bad back, I believe, which apparently bothered him right out of camp. This year though he has been terrific, everything they expected. Big body centre, PK, draws, defensive work. No offence to speak of but he was doing very well until he broke some toes last weekend.

 Gregor said last night on the Tweeter that he will be back on Sunday at the earliest and that a bigger issue than the toes was a 'large open wound' which makes sense, broken toes are nothing, to a professional hockey player anyhow, I would think they would just freeze those suckers. But if this 'wound' doesn't heal quickly then we may be looking at something longterm.

 And longterm is what Horcoff is out for it seems. The captain is despised, because a lot of fans are idiots and don't like his contract (who cares) and think hockey is a video game. 10 is not the player that he once was (you know, the guys who outplayed Joe Thornton in the playoffs the year Thornton won the MVP) but he does those little things and a lot of those big things, that you need to win.

 Read Elliotte Friedman's reaction to Horcoff going down - 'a tough loss' for Edmonton and incredulity at those who don't recognize what he brings to the table.

 So where does that leave the Oilers? Down two of their best four PK men, their best two faceoff men, their best two defensive centres. At least until Sunday, maybe longer.

 Anton Lander is likely back up to stay for a while, centring Paajarvi and Hartikainen. Jean Vande Velde will get the call for Wednesday and Saturday and I presume he will centre Smyth and Petrell. VV can take draws and PK but really he is a beggar's Eric Belanger, if that. Unless he is sheltered or his wings dial it way up he's going to get eaten alive.

 So then what are we looking at?

1/ Both Horcoff and Belanger are out longterm or Belanger comes back and is horrible.

2/ Horcoff is out longterm but Belanger returns and is effective

3/ By some miracle both are back next week.

I don't believe in miracles.

 So if we're looking at option two and Belanger can play then I think we see Lander stay until/unless he starts getting killed, which is very possible, even with a couple of decent wingers, which he rarely had last year.

 If we're looking at the first scenario then I think Tambellini makes a move and soon. I believe his job is on the line if they don't make the playoffs. I may be wrong but I think it is. So as I've said its really win win for us fans.

 The problem is its early and nobody is dumping guys so options are limited. Possibilities being thrown around:

Langkow - he's retired. You might call him but how fit would he be even if he said yes.

Arnott - failed a physical with the Rangers. Probably done.

Dominic Moore - Gregor said that Strudwick said that Moore was one of the worst teammates he ever had fwiw (might explain why he's moved around so much, I always wondered why) but he would be a fit. Having just lost his wife to cancer though I wonder if he will even play this year.

Tim Connolly - playing for the Marlies, I don't know if he has to clear waivers or if the Oilers even want him but buddy is a good player. Good on the PK. Underrated even if he is exile.

Steckel - not playing in Toronto at all. He's a fourth line guy but there are worse options. Don't know much about him but is faceoff wiz and PK guy I believe. Big body.

 I'm sure there are others but pickings are slim. Probably sacrificing a goat is in order.


Loxy said...

Marty. Reasoner.

(I'm mostly joking, but not completely.)

Black Dog said...

I think Matheson mentioned him too, along with about a dozen other NHL players.

AHL guys aren't going to cut it.

@eastcoasteh said...

Well it was inevitable that we'd get some key injuries, but all teams have 'em at some point, let's just hope it doesn't snowball like it has in years past.
Couldn't agree more on the idiot fans who hate Horcoff. He does all the heavy lifting and gets paid by a billionaire, so what do you care how much it is?! It's not like we're in cap-hell because of it. There's many worse contracts out there for much shittier players.
I'd love to see them go out and grab someone like Langkow or Conolly, but don't see it happening. Belanger is back in a week and Horc is out 3, so I bet Tambo stays pat.
Personally I'd like to see them shake the lines up a bit anyway, so maybe this is a chance. They need to get some more production out of the bottom-6. The top line carries the play, but the other 3 hang on and chip in (well 2nd line does). That can't sustain itself for the season.

Black Dog said...

eastcoasteh -well RNH is back Saturday and Belanger on Sunday apparently so they'll stand pat unless either cannot bounce back.

Langkow would be great but he's retired I think.

Jordan said...

Hall. Centre. That is all.

Black Dog said...

Yeah Jordan I wouldn't mind seeing that. I think if RNH goes for surgery we will see it.