Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Case: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins vs. Anton Lander

The center spot by training camp will be one of intrigue. If we can agree that Shawn Horcoff, Eric Belanger and Sam Gagner are 3 of the centers, than a likely battle between Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Anton Lander will likely ensue.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:
Strengths - Great vision, superb passer. Likely to do a heavy amount of damage on the powerplay. Underrated and effective type release. Crafty skater, doesn't waste a lot of movement.
Weakness - Strength, plain and simple. It will hinder him defensively in the pros, might even hinder him offensively if he gets pushed off the puck too much. Puck protection is going to be make or break for him.

Anton Lander:
Strengths - Heady two-way play coming from Lander. He is built to play in center in the pros. Good surveyor of the game, solid defensive game, passable offensive game if he playing in the bottom half of the lineup.
Weaknesses - Not a lot of offensive pizzazz. He's more Shawn Horcoff than Ales Hemsky. Plays a low event type game.

The Verdict - The Oilers have a lot riding on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It comes with the territory of being a #1 overall pick. The expectations will be high for him, coming a greater fall if he doesn't pan out. The Oilers are at a crossroads with their team. Do they need more offense or better defensive play? Of the need offense RNH is their guy, defense, I'd say Lander is that. With the way the Oilers team is built now, I would say stability at center is something the Oilers need the most. That being said, I would choose Lander, but with RNH having less options than Lander, I would see why they would keep RNH over Lander. I will be keeping a close eye on this battle come training camp.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Case: Jones vs Omark 3rd Line RW

I'm going to run a series of training camp battles that may evolve. Today, I will start with Omark against Jones.

Linus Omark:
Strengths - Offensive wizard that has a high ceiling. He's flashy, he'll bring offense and will help out the powerplay if need be or if there is room. Has good vision and is a pure passer. He's a very effective puck battler despite his frame.
Weaknesses - If he ain't scoring, he's likely not doing much of anything. His defensively play is well below standard and his hockey sense in general is low. I wouldn't trust him on the PK.

Ryan Jones:
Strengths - A jack of all trades player, can PK, be a "in front of the net" option on the powerplay, plays the evens to a stalemate. Tenacious player that plays better off the puck than on.
Weaknesses - Not a lot of flash, meat and potatoes type player. Sometimes gets caught in "no man's land" when defending. Don't want him holding the puck too much.

The verdict:
- I would rather have Jones' 15 goals than Omark's 15 goals. While Omark has more of an entertainment factor in his game, Jones has more security and versatility in his game. The Oilers, as a whole, should have enough offense pizzazz without Omark's contributions. What the Oilers need to do is find more players that can keep the puck out of their own nets. I believe Jones will be one of these players despite what RelCorsi, GA/60, (blah blah blah) has to say about it. Remember, Jones started the year on a line with Fraser and Jacques/Stortini/MacIntyre, all of whom are gone now. One he started to play with more NHL players, his numbers increasingly got better. I would rather have Jones as my 3rd line RW and Omark as the 13th forward.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Predictions for the Oilers 2011-2012 Season

1. Taylor Hall - Will lead the team in goals.
2. Jordan Eberle - Will score 25+ goals.
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Will not get more than 30 points on the Oilers.
4. Ryan Smyth - Will score 20+ goals.
5. Sam Gagner - Leads team in assists.
6. Shawn Horcoff - Will be a plus player. (+/-)
7. Magnus Paajarvi - Will play 82 games.
8. Ales Hemsky - Will be traded by the trade deadline.
9. Eric Belanger - Will score more SH goals than PP goals.
10 Ryan Jones - Will score 15+ goals.
11. Ben Eager - Will get suspended at least once.
12. Darcy Hordichuk - Plays in 50+ games.
13. Linus Omark - Will have the worst plus/minus on the team.
14. Gilbert Brule - Will not end the year with the Oilers.
15. Anton Lander - Will be in the lineup opening night.
16. Teemu Hartikainen - Plays in 40+ games for the Oilers.
17. Curtis Hamilton - Plays at least one game for the Oilers this year.
18. Tyler Pitlick - Plays at least one game for the Oilers this year.
19. Ryan Whitney - Has the highest plus/minus on the team.
20. Tom Gilbert - Will be 2nd on the team in defenceman points.
21. Ladislav Smid - Will be a healthy scratch at least once this season.
22. Cam Barker - More than 50% of his goals will be on the PP.
23. Andy Sutton - Will have more than 100 PIMS.
24. Theo Peckham - Will play more games than Ladislav Smid.
25. Jeff Petry - Will be in the lineup opening night.
26. Corey Potter - Will play in 10+ games for the Oilers.
27. Taylor Chorney - Doesn't play in any games for the Oilers.
28. Colten Teubert - Plays in 5+ games for the Oilers.
29. Nikolai Khabibulin - Plays at least one game for OKC.
30. Devan Dubnyk - Will post under .900 Save Percentage.
31. Yann Danis - Plays more games than Khabibulin or Dubnyk with the Oilers.
32. Olivier Roy - Doesn't play a game with the Oilers this season.

The Oilers will finish 13th in the west and draft 6th overall in 2012.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Off Season Transactions Grading 2011

A look at the Oilers transactions during the offseason:

A The dealing for Ryan Smyth for Colin Fraser - This was a deal from the heavens. They essentially got Smyth for free therefore found their mentor that can still contribute. Will fill a key role for a rebuilding Oilers team.

A- Signing of Ryan Jones - 2yr/1.5 mil/yr - Ryan Jones was a pending UFA that was essential signing for the Oilers. It gives the Oilers a PKer that can play hard on the puck. Stabilizes the 3rd line with some two-way play. Price and term are perfect.

B Signing of Lennert Petrell and Antti Tyrvainen - Petrell is an experienced European hockey player that will bring a varying amount of ability to the Oilers organization, while Tyrvainen is a prototypical 4th line, in your face, pepperpot. Both of these players will help out with OKC with, perhaps, the occasional cup of coffee in the bigs. Both will fill a role, but neither will bring a lot of offense to the table.

C Signing of Ladislav Smid - 2yr/2.25 mil/yr - Ladislav Smid was a player I had pegged for the trading block. So, when he got his deal I was a little stunned by it. Term is fine, money is a little high, but overall, likely to be a signing that, eventually doesn't pan out. Smid needs to find an inkling of offense to justify this deal. All in all, he still adds to the depth on the D.

A Signing of Ben Eager - 3yr/1.1 mil/yr - Ben Eager's signing gave me great relief, as the Oilers have finally found an agitator that can back things up. He can take a regular shift and be a 4th line veteran fixture while kids ride shotgun with him. Term is fine, money is fine. Might be a year too long, but we'll see. The PK is going to have to get better with Eager in town.

B+ Signing of Darcy Hordichuk - 1yr/825K - Initailly I thought this signing was a bit of overkill with Eager just being signed a couple of hours previous. But, nothing wrong with having two agititors if one goes down. Term is good, price is right. He'll be a good guy to have around when some vindication is needed.

B- Signing of Cam Barker - 1yr/2.25mil - Low risk/high reward signing, but unless the Oilers find another a top pairing Dman and push everyone down a rung, Barker will likely drown in the deep end this year. Barker is what he is, a cannon on the power play that will survive in limited even strength time. We'll see how his year plays out, but as it stands on July 16, 2011, someone on the D is setup to fail.

B+ The signing of Eric Belanger - 3yr/1.75 mil/yr - If the name Eric Belanger was replaced with the name Jason Arnott, I would have given this an A. Alas, it was not meant to be. The Oilers NEEDED a veteran center that could help out in multiple areas and thats what they get out of Belanger. Money is good, term is probably a year too long considering Lander will be breathing on his heels soon. Either that or they have big plans for one Mr. Shawn Horcoff. All in all, Belanger is a player that I'm happy the Oilers have put into the fold.

B The acquisition of Andy Sutton - Kurtis Foster served a purpose as a right handed shooting Dman, but he had a bad year last year. The Oilers could have still used his prowess, but I'm guessing the Oilers want to give a bigger role to Jeff Petry next year. Andy Sutton is a large body that plays tough and blocks shots. His presence will help the PK and add to the toughness quotient. But if he playing any higher than the bottom pairing, its a mistake, much like it was for Foster last year.

B+ The signing of Corey Potter - Two-way deal - Interesting signing of Corey Potter, in the sense that the Oilers can use him as veteran AHLer or he might have a shot at making the big club, mostly because of the fact that he shoots right. Led his AHL team in +/- (+25) and led his team in playoff scoring (9 pts in 12GP) as a Dman. Two very nice achievements.

C The Signing of Josh Green - Two-way deal - Josh Green was a signing that was meant to give OKC some vet depth. Problem is he'll probably be put in a position where he will relied upon to score goals, and for him those days are long gone, if they were ever there. He's a character guy that will understand his role, so in that sense its a good signing.

B+ The signing of Theo Peckham - 1yr/1.075 mil - Good money on the signing. Was hoping for more term on this one for the Oilers, like 2 or 3 yrs, but it looks like the organization still favors Smid over Peckham these days. Peckham is a jackhammer that will keep hammering his way up the depth chart. I think eventually he can become a middle pairing Dman, paired with an offensive type.

B The signing of Yann Danis - Two-way deal - The Oilers needed a goalie that can ride shotgun with Olivier Roy in OKC. Although I'm not sure if he's going to be enough of a threat to ultimately replace Nikolai Khabibulin. He'll be an interesting observation come training camp. He has posted some real solid numbers in the past.

B The signing of Ryan Keller - Two-way deal - It will be interesting to see how Ryan Keller fits in the Oilers organization. He's likely ticketed for OKC, and will be relied upon heavily to score goals down there. The question will be whether or not he can handle the pressure of doing so. He is coming off a season of 30+ goals, a solid postseason where his team (Binghampton) won the Calder Cup. He's really the only proven AHL scorer that OKC will likely boast this season.

A- The dealing of Andrew Cogliano - It was something that needed to happen and was likely long overdue. The fact that the Oilers used a lot of resources on him and the return on it was a 2nd round pick in 2013 is a little besmirching. The good news out of all of this is....the Oilers centers are getting deeper and better.

C The signing of Ryan O'Marra - Two-way deal - OKC team is getting pretty deep and I thought it would have been a good time for the Oilers to pull the pin on O'Marra. But on the other hand, the vet depth in OKC is a little lacking. He'll be a good guy to have around, I just hope he doesn't get in the way of kids that have earned their way on the team.

C+ The signing of Taylor Chorney - Two-way deal - At this stage of the game, Chorney isn't any more than an AHL Dman and he's about to start his journey towards the NHL all over again. The Oilers could use another vet Dman in OKC, so its no surprise that he is back.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Back To The Future



When the Oilers are ready to move on and make some hay in the playoffs, I believe the team will resemble as it does above. It could be in the next year, it could be 4 years away. Gauging ripeness of talent isn't an exact science yet.

There are some things that come as a surprise though...No Smyth, no Horcoff, no Hemsky. Now, you could make a case for each...by saying Smyth could be in for Hamilton or Horcoff could be in for Lander, Belanger, even Nugent-Hopkins, Hemsky could replace Gagner, or even Omark could be in for Jones, whatever your fancy might be. But the point is the lineup above has balance, at least at forward it does. While it may be light on experience, it has a nice blend of speed, strength, hockey smarts, good blend of PPers and Pkers, good blend of playmakers, shooters and net-crashers, just an overall solid group of versatile yet skilled players.

The defense still has a lot of questions. Can Petry play top pairing minutes? Can Peckham be a reliable top 4 player? Can Smid help groom whoever is coming through the door? Can Teubert play in the NHL? Its a lot of questions that will be answered, I believe, in short order. Most defenses go through a lot of turnover so if its still a work in progress, its ok, but when the time comes when the forwards are ready to roll, the defense is going to have to be there. So in the meantime, the Oilers evaluate what they have on defense and make sure they have a quick plan attack for something that might come available. Goaltending is in the same boat as the defense, it doesn't have to be now, but its going to have to be soon.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Oilers Depth Chart July 2011 Edition

Just a quick rundown on how the depth chart is shaping up for the Oilers' offseason.
(In my eyes, anyway)

Big Club
Omark Brule NugentHopkins

Whitney Gilbert
Smid Barker
Sutton Petry


Trade Bait: (Potentially) Omark, Hemsky, Brule, Gagner, Smid, Khabibulin.

Tremblay Kyntar Cornet

Helmer Potter
Chorney Teubert
Marincin Plante
Fedun Motin


Synopsis: Eric Belanger helps solidify the center position that has long been a weakness and helps establish a fortified checking line. Eager and Hordichuk add to the functional toughness of the Oilers, players that will initiate physicality. The addition of Cam Barker is one of risk/reward. It's worth the gamble, at best you have a player, at worst, he'll move along at the end of the year. The addition of Andy Sutton is one of depth. A big dude that will terrorize smaller speedy forwards, he'll win some of those battles and he'll lose some of those battles. The addition of Corey Potter is to help out OKC, if injuries occur, he might get a look, much like Shawn Belle did last year. Even though Hartikainen and Lander are both now pegged for OKC, I don't think they will be there long. They have better skill sets than some of the current Oilers have, I expect more moves to be made.

I will edit this thread throughout the month as more moves shakedown.