Monday, November 11, 2013
The errors of management have been rehashed ad nauseum here and elsewhere so lets just sum everything up quickly as follows:
1/ Kevin Lowe put the club in the ditch, mostly by trading Pronger and Smyth, the team's best two players, for futures and not replacing them or other veterans from the Cup run (Peca, Spacek, Samsonov, Dvorak) with quality NHLers. This would become a theme as you will see.
2/ Lowe actually made things worse by trying to eat his cake and have it too. Rather than commit to a full on rebuild he spent money and assets acquiring a sprinkling of vets who prevented a full freefall, all the while pushing kids into the NHL too soon, resulting in a bad team and damaging or ruining the development of a number of prospects.
3/ Steve Tambellini came in and when it became clear that the team with Khabibulin in net was not going to be a Cup contender (lol) the organization went into full rebuild mode, burning everything to the ground, the end result being a roster which at the beginning of this summer included three number one picks overall as well as three top ten picks selected by the organization, not to mention Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz.
Coming into this season then the team had spent seven years out of the playoffs. They had changed owners once, they were on their third GM, second scouting director and fourth coach. They had fired the training staff (seriously!), redone their minor league system and turned over assistant coaches, some scouts and other head office staff.
With the Horcoff trade there was only one player remaining from the 2006 club which came within a break or two of winning the Cup who had played for the team every year since then, 'Winter' Ales Hemsky. Somehow he has survived though his days are definitely numbered. Here's hoping a Chicago or California address is in his future.
How do you turn a team that almost wins the Cup into the laughing stock of the league? It takes a lot of work but the Oilers' management team discovered the easiest way to do it. Turn NHL players into nothing. Turn the house into a paper clip.
Chris Pronger, the best defenceman not named Lidstrom of his era, was turned into Lupul who was sent away with Jason Smith for Joni Pitkanen who was traded for Erik Cole who was moved for Patrick O'Sullivan who is out of the NHL. He was turned into Ladislav Smid who was just traded for two nobody prospects. He was turned into three picks, one of which is Jordan Eberle.
Ryan Smyth, good enough to play in three best on best tournaments for the deepest national team in the world, was turned into Ryan O'Marra, Robert Nilsson and Alex Plante.
Jaro Spacek, Michael Peca, Sergei Samsonov and Radek Dvorak all left as free agents.
Jan Hejda left for nothing.
Jarret Stoll and Raffi Torres were traded for Lubo Visnovsky who was traded for Ryan Whitney who just cleared waivers.
Curtis Glencross left for nothing.
Kyle Brodziak was traded for nothing.
Andrew Cogliano was traded for nothing.
Sheldon Souray was buried in the minors and bought out.
Tom Gilbert was traded for Nick Schultz.
Dustin Penner was traded for Oscar Klefbom and Colton Teubert. Teubert is gone. High hopes for Klefbom.
Have I missed anyone? Probably. I've only tried to include players who were NHLers when they were moved out and who remained NHLers for at least a couple of years after being moved out.
That's a lot of good players out the door with only Jordan Eberle and maybe Klefbom coming back. And Nick Schultz who looks to be done.
There's a reason its been seven years, soon to be eight, out of the playoffs.
You can argue a move here and there maybe. Maybe you hate Gilbert, who is a top pairing Dman this season. Maybe Souray was a bad bad man.
But the proof is in the pudding.
Since 2006 you could probably divide Oiler fans into two camps. Those critical of management and those who believed in it. Some, like Vic Ferrari, RiversQ and Dennis King, wanted Lowe's head on a stick by September 2006. They predicted, correctly, that he had turned a winner into a loser. Others, such as myself, saw a flawed team that fall but believed that there was no way Lowe would not add the necessary ingredients to ensure success. When he flushed the season and traded Smyth then he lost me. I wasn't the only one.
Every autumn following I would predict doom for the Oilers and someone would invariably comment that I would eat my words and that I was not a true fan, too negative and so on. And the franchise circled the drain. The critics increased in numbers.
There were always fans who believed in the club though, believed in Lowe and Tambellini, believed that the rebuild began when they moved Lubo out the door, believed that the tank job would result in BAM STANLEY CUP! They ignored the fact that the guys who destroyed the club through incompetence and folly were now in charge of building it again. They also conveniently ignored the fact that for every Chicago and Pittsburgh there were Atlanta and Florida and the Islanders and Columbus and that Chicago had in fact wandered the desert for fifteen years 'rebuilding' before Bill Wirtz died and Bob Pulford finally got the axe and that the Penguins had not one but two generational players and that in both cases management surrounded the young stars with quality veteran players all through the roster and that a lot of the 'youth', Keith and Seabrook, for example, were entering their prime when these clubs went all the way.
There will always be that dichotomy in the fan base although even the diehards are starting to grumble now. There will be those who think that moving in more kids is the answer.
And there will be those of us who are skeptical. The diehards point at us and say 'you're not a true fan' much as someone will point to a citizen critical of the government of the day and say they don't love their country. This is dumb of course. Blind faith is really dumb. The fact that because someone is an NHL GM makes them good at being a GM is foolishness. Mike Milbury and Doug MacLean and Steve Tambellini and John Ferguson Jr. say hello. For starters.
The funny thing is like the diehard all the critical folks want is to win. And we look at history and we say that its not likely going to happen.
The fear all along for me is that this would become a perpetual rebuild and again there was scoffing but the move Friday night of Ladislav Smid for, wait for it, two marginal prospects, was a perfect symbol of all that we have gone through since 2006.
He, along with Lupul, was the centrepiece of the the Pronger deal, the first pieces of the puzzle. Now both are gone for nothing, seven years later, and the franchise has not played one playoff game.
Ladi Smid never turned into an all star but he was at worst a top four defenceman who took a step backwards over the last eighty games. Now he's gone and Saturday afternoon the Oilers made the Flyers popgun offence look like the Chicago Blackhawks and then when they met the actual Blackhawks last night they handed the defending champions the two points with an absolute joke of a defensive game.
The Oilers are in no position to give away actual NHL players without replacing them, especially those under contract (and a reasonable contract at that) after this year. They are amongst the worst teams in the league. Again. Same as the last seven years. They are going to miss the playoffs. Again.
The team is not as bad as their record. There has been bad luck and injuries and the goaltending has inexplicably let them down.
But the song remains the same. Not enough NHL players. Giving away guys like Ladislav Smid isn't helping matters.
Hold on tight because the next thing I predicted is one of the golden boys asking out. It won't be this year, maybe not even next. But does anyone think Taylor Hall is going to spend his career waiting for management to get it together? He won't. He will ask out and the media will say nobody wants to play in Edmonton and that he was a bad person and Oiler management will count their money and shrug.
They need more good players and the problem with the scorched earth rebuild is part of it is you give away most of your good players. The end result is that you are weak and so the Oilers don't have the chips to acquire what they need unless they are really smart and really creative.
I'm a MacT man through and through and I'm hoping someone is on their way to replace Smid but if not then I have to say I'm beginning to have my doubts.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:53 PM