Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Time, Like The Oilers' Rebuild, Is A Flat Circle of Violence and ... wait, what's that?

Monday night I was feeling a little bleak about the Oilers and of course could you blame me? Eight years of garbage. Eight years! And while I had little attachment to Sam Gagner, I mean he seemed like a nice enough kid but he also played defence like it didn't matter if he played defence, it bothered me, a lot, that the cluster from the first rebuild (the non rebuild, the Lowe years that somehow a lot of folks seem to forget) is pretty well all gone.

 A lot of the kids brought in before the latest golden boys are already out of the NHL and have been for years, a couple due to injury or illnesses, some probably due to poor development by the Oilers, some because they just weren't any good. Schremp, O'Marra, Pouliot, Jacques, Nilsson, O'Sullivan, Deslauriers, Peckham, Plante, Brule, Chorney, oh yes the list goes on and on. And now with Gagner gone to join Cogliano, Brodziak, Dubnyk, Smid and Gilbert nobody remains although at least Gagner brought back an honest to goodness NHLer.

 Unlike the entire roster of reasonable players the Oilers have sent away for nothing. (Although it looks like Penner may have netted Klefbom at least).

 And so with Gagner gone well that was a capper to the last eight years, a reminder to me of all of the good players sent away for nothing or for kids who were supposed to be the next great thing who are all playing in Europe or senior leagues now. Pronger begat Eberle, true, but Smid was the centrepiece prospect and of course there was Lupul who begat Pitkanen who brought us Cole who left us with Patrick O'Sullivan. And that worked out better than the Smyth deal. Smyth ended up coming back and even all of those years later his battered, aged body was better than all three of the kids he brought in.


 So Monday night I was frustrated and really, honestly, I had little faith in MacT. I like MacT and his first year was decent, if uneven, but the UFA market is a minefield and based on these past eight years I had little faith that Edmonton management could navigate it.

 The problem for MacT is that Lowe and Tambo, by sending out so many quality NHLers for nothing, by drafting poorly for the most part, by selecting the wrong prospects when sending away their own players, had gutted the roster. So last year when he sent Paajarvi away for Perron, a good move, it also meant the one chip he had that he could afford to give away was gone unless he wanted to move one of the golden boys. Too many holes and no way to fill them.

 And yet ... and yet.

 Today I am remarkably buoyant. And here is why:





MacT pulled the Tambopposite and turned one NHL player into four actual players in the last week. After the one rookie (and Draisaitl is making the team there is no doubt about it) there are no players with less than two years of experience on this list. What else do I like about it?

 While the Pouliot contract may be a slight overpay in term neither he nor Fayne have ridiculous contracts. Both are good solid quality players, these aren't reaches at all. Purcell isn't a world beater but again he is a proven NHL player. The worst of the bunch, Nikitin, is a bit of a gamble and the money is goofy but at worst he holds the fort for the upcoming kids as a bottom pair guy and obviously this is a Howson deal so here's hoping Niles knows what he's doing, obviously when he dumped that horrible Maris for Daphne he showed he has some smarts.

 The acquisitions push guys down the lineup and for the first time in years guys won't be batting too high in the order. Gordon and Hendricks, who were decent third liners last year, are pushed down and this is great. Schultz (I presume) will be given a lighter load at times, this is great too. Same with Ference.

 There is depth to the lineup now. The fourth line is an actual NHL line and all three guys can punch above their weight to varying degrees. Same with Purcell and Pouliot, they can slide up if need be.

 The kids, especially on D, need not be rushed. Klefbom can start in OKC. Nurse can be sent back down to the Soo. In other words the Oilers will be developing kids the proper way for the first time in a long time.

 So now what? Well I can't see them going with Arcobello as the 2C and they are saying all of the right things about getting that 2C so this to me is a good sign. The big (only?) question is can they find that C for cheap? I would hope so. There had been talk of Petry being moved, perhaps to fill that hole but if you do that then you have another hole to fill. I like Petry and I don't think you move him unless you a) get proper value back and b) replace him properly (I think that applies to any player really - anyone can be moved but you better be smart about it or you end up eight years out of the playoffs). So that is the key there.

 They do need that 2C though there is no doubt about it. Presently there is no depth and if Draisaitl struggles (likely) then what do you do? Have him play 8 minutes a night on the 4th line? Terrible.

 So that is where they are at. One hole up front to fill. A blueline that isn't a big boy blueline but is at least a real blue for the first time in years. They still need that number one Dman of course but at least they have six NHLers back there. And they have two real goaltenders too.

 Playoff team? Well you have LA and Chicago and San Jose and St Louis and Anaheim and Dallas. My god, as I said on the tweeter yesterday its a bearpit out west. And Minnesota is a pretty good club too.

 So probably not but at the very least I expect a step forward this season, especially if that last hole can get taken care of smartly.