Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Once We Had Hope, Now We Have ... E?

 Remember when the first cluster was beginning to crash and burn - Schremp, Pouliot, Peckham, DesLauriers, Plante, O'Marra all unable to make the grade, Lupul, Glencross, Brodziak, Stoll, Nash, Torres and Pitkanen found wanting and shipped out of town, Nilsson a bust, Gagner, Cogliano, Smid and Gilbert all we could hold onto? Lowe and his media toadies wouldn't call it a rebuild but when you ship your two best players out of town for nothing but futures and let Spacek and Peca and Samsonov walk for nothing, well you need to call a spade a spade, right? Of course Lowe tried to have his cake and eat it too so while all of the signs pointed to rebuild he and his successor splashed big money at free agents like Souray and Khabibulin, blew a wad of picks to sign Dustin Penner and sent two young forwards to LA for Lubo Visnovsky. Lowe spent to the cap bless his heart and finished dead last. But remember he was a GM and you are not so you could do no better even though there is literally nothing worse than that accomplishment.

 Then the rebuild began in earnest and while we had been four years in the wilderness our hearts were cheered, somewhat, as the team admitted what we fans had known for years. They weren't going anywhere. And so they tanked. And tank battling was something that the Oilers showed that they were quite good at, actually peerless at. Kursk good. Tambo was Heinz Guderian. As a matter of fact they were too good at it as they shipped nearly every veteran with a pulse out the door in pursuit of those high picks. It was the Chicago model (people forgot Chicago went over 15 years with garbage teams before it paid off), the Pittsburgh model (over a decade) but it also forgot small details like drafting quality after the first round, developing your youth properly, quality pro scouting and so on.

 The plan was draft high picks and BAM Stanley Cup!

 But despite the failure of the first cluster we had HOPE - Hall, Omark, Paajarvi, Eberle. And then we had the Nuge and then we had Yak. And then we signed JUSTIN SCHULTZ, future Norris winner! And we had some kids coming up - Lander, Pitlick, Hamilton - all were solid consensus picks - and there was Dubnyk and there was Petry and Ryan Whitney and how about those sleepers Tobias Rieder, Marty Marincin and Teemu Hartikainen and then the pick of Oscar Klefbom? Sure the Oilers blew a pick on Mitch Moroz and was it true what they said about the footspeed of David Musil and Colton Teubert?

 No mind, we had hope!

 No longer though. Omark was the first to go and then Magnus, after a nice rookie season in which he scored 15 goals and showed he could find his own end of the rink without a map, was discovered to have sideburns that were much too long.

 And we will just try and forget the rest, shall we ...

 The season starts today and the last four or five days have been extremely disappointing. Late last week the Oilers' depth at C and RW was as follows:

C - McDavid, Ted, Draisaitl, Letestu, Lander

RW - Eberle, Versteeg (PTO), Yakupov, Kassian, Caligula (rookie), Pujujarvi (rookie)

Notice how I have the two rookies who are rookies at the bottom of the depth chart. You could make a case that Caligula earned a job. You could not make the same case for the young Finn. And they are rookies.

Then Chia traded Yak for nothing. Fair enough, that was his value. And the good news is that they had Versteeg ready to sign and then the waiver wire spit up not one but two possible solutions, one was a young Finn who the fancy stats love, Teemu Pulkkinen, the other was a veteran, P.A. Parenteau.

 Now here is the thing with the NHL. It's a tough league. You cannot have enough depth. Guys get hurt all the time. So even if you believe in your heart of hearts that the guys that you have on your roster are better than the guys out there, it behooves you to add talent when you can because sure as shit you are going to need bodies to survive the grind.

 Peter Chiarelli hasn't covered himself in glory these past two years. From the Reinhart deal (both guys picked by the Isles with that return are starting with the big club while Reinhart is back in the AHL) to the Korpikoski move (at least he nutted up and bought him out) to the Hall capitulation (the Oilers could have had a better Dman for less return by the way) to this latest mess, well Chia may have won a Cup but either Bob Nicholson has too big a voice in the room or Chia was lucky in Boston or maybe he just doesn't have what it takes to handle the pressure of a Canadian market. My guess is it's a little of everything sprinkled with some 'Conor McDavid is going to drag us to the Promised Land'.

 Because this could have been the depth chart:

C - McDavid, Ted, Draisaitl, Letestu, Lander

RW - Eberle, Versteeg, Parenteau, Kassian, Caligula (rookie), Pujujarvi (rookie)

What made me laugh yesterday is the folks who sneered about Versteeg and Parenteau. Who cares they said? It's Kris Versteeg they said. Well Versteeg was 15-23-38 last year and Parenteau was 20-21-41.

 That's second line production and in Parenteau's case that is first line goal production.

 On last year's club P.A. would have been third in goals (although of course McDavid was hurt) and now Taylor Hall is gone. On last year's club Kris Versteeg would have been 5th in goals scored.

 And now Taylor Hall is gone.

 Now they have added Milan Lucic who popped 20 and Benoit Pouliot will score 20 if he is healthy and Maroon scored at a terrific pace when he came in from California.

 But with the Oilers it is always half measures. You could add 35 goals for nothing. Literally. Send the young Finn down for seasoning and bring him up when he is ready. Let Caligula cut his teeth on the fourth line and move him up when the inevitable injuries come.

 But no ... half measures and a RW and C depth chart which is now a mess and includes two rookies in the top 9.

 So for Chia to say with a straight face that what he has is better than anything out there, well if he believes that then ... I don't even know what to say. But then again he threw out some random data about Kris Russell that is contradicted by every piece of data out there so ... either he is really dishonest or he has been taken to the cleaners by someone who sold him a monorail.

 The Oilers are going to need McDavid to go supernova (possible), perfect health (improbable) and a whole lot of luck to get anywhere near the playoffs this year.

 I'm not getting any younger goddamnit.

 Where we once had HOPE all we have now is hope and I can understand why Oiler fans refuse to believe that Chiarelli is a dud just as we refused to believe that Lowe and Tambo and MacT were duds. Because if he is then it means more wandering the wilderness and Nuge and Pouliot gone next and all of a sudden it isn't the Chicago model but rather the Islanders or Columbus model and then some day Conor McDavid will take his talents elsewhere as well because let's be honest who wants to spend their career playing for the worst franchise in sports? (Taylor Hall wanted to but he was a 'problem' - see how that PR spin works?)

 Anyways HOPE is gone but hope springs eternal and here we go, another season coming. Let's hope that Kris Russell is all that and more because Mark Fayne is next out the door and for all his struggles he is an actual RD and he is a better player than Mr Shotblocker.


 A few other random predictions, I usually try to do a preview of the season and will attempt to do this in the next few days.

 The East has finally caught the West and imo the Cup champion will be Tampa. I think they will win a couple in the next five years unless they have an awful run of luck. Other true Cup contenders, I always try and separate the league as such - the Pens, the Caps, the Blues, the Sharks.

 The Kings may move into that group but man they have lost so much talent over the years. And I like Dallas except for that blueline and that goaltending. Lol. Other than that they look great!

 And what about Chicago? Well I won't go so far as to say no playoffs but that lineup is thin. The bottom six is worse than Edmonton (!!!!!!!) and the D runs four deep which is one deeper than last year but all of those years of slashing for the cap and trading kids and picks for reinforcements - well it's coming home to roost. It was worth it of course for the Chicagos but now they pay the piper.

 I expect Anaheim to step into the elevator shaft as well. Let's just call it the Carlyle Effect.

Out east you have that top tier and then a whole lot of mediocrity although I expect Florida will separate themselves from the pack. But the Isles are going to take a step back, jeez they lost some quality, and the Rangers are withering and Boston, Detroit, Ottawa oh man.

 It's awful and I expect Tampa will run away with the division if they are healthy and ride an easy first two rounds to a win in the conference final and then a Cup win.

 More to come.


shepso said...

I hate to admit this, because non-traditional market and all that, but I can see the preds doing some damage this season. they were very good last year before the addition of RyJo and now with PK on the back end added to an already stacked defence (Josi-Ellis, Ekholm-P.K. is a dreamy top 4!) this is a team on the rise, especially as Chicago looks ready to slide into mid-pack land and the wild, the Avs being no threat to anyone and the stars having the worst goalie tandem in the west (non-Oilers division - I'd take Talbot over both Antti and Kari, I'd take either of them over the Monster).

Plus, to be honest, that city loves their hockey team, and any barn that will bring you chicken & waffles and whiskey to your nosebleed seats is a good place to see a game.

They won't win the conference in the regular season, but if Rinne gets hot, they're my sleeper pick to survive the west and play TBay for the cup, giving Gary the wet dream he's been waiting 20 years for.

calgarysux said...

You make a lot of good points, Pat, but honestly I think you're practicing revisionist history with MPS. Look at his boxcars and then let's see why he was shipped out:

Yeah, going from 15 goals in 80 games 1 season to 2 goals in 41 games the next is an obvious sign of struggle. He never recovered and has never reached that total in St. Lou either.

Also, like many people I think you're underrating Larsson. First of all, let's not forget he played first pairing minutes consistently with Andy Greene in Jersey - and was playing the NHL's toughest competition and thriving in it.

That's a phenomenal accomplishment for a 23 yr old defenceman, the toughest position in the NHL to master.

Plus, let's not forget Jersey is a defense first system, and he has shown flashes of offence in the past. Under Edmonton's less constrained system, those numbers should go up - and help to keep Klefbom healthier at the same time since now the opposition can't just key in on him.

He IS a legit first pairing guy no matter what people say, and I'd trade Taylor Hall for all of the above any day of the week.

Besides, what better defenseman was actually available? Chiarelli already asked the Habs about Subban prior to him being traded for Weber, and the Habs asked for a Kings ransom in return, so he rightly said no thanks.

Gord said...

The problem is that your regular season predictions comes a week after my hockey draft, your playoff predictions helped me win the last two years... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Life is short. Switch teams, you've done it before �� -billy-

Dana who likes Koolaid said...

DON'T LISTEN TO BILLY!...he with the man/child moniker....the sun is on the horizon and we will be basking in the heat soon my friend...very soon...

Anonymous said...

This is a bittersweet year so far. The Oilers are challenging for the Division Crown into February, but BDHS is silent since the eve of the season. Your acerbic humour and wacky slant kept many of us sane and grounded during the decade of error. It is a hollow feeling not to hear your voice and read your words now that the team is ascendant.

I speak for a great many when I say we miss your presence. Write soon, please.