Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So This Is it?

Hey everyone,

Just letting everyone know that I am closing down this blog for the time being. I will be taking my musings over to RantSports Oilers where I will be doing a more of the same I was here. Doing game reports, scouting reports, depth charts, and looking into the proverbial crystal ball. I thank everyone for checking in on this blog and viewing my thoughts and opinions on all things Oilers. I invite all of you to check out the RantSports website. If you are a sports enthusiast like myself, its a haven of information for sports of all kinds.

Once again, I thank you for your time,

Dan Lizee

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Oilers Defense 2012

Everyone in the world should know by now that the Oilers are in the market for a high end, preferably top pairing Dman. The depth chart shows that the Oilers are chalk full of lower pairing defenders that would feel more comfortable playing against lesser opponents. Let's have a look at the depth chart as it stands now:


- I have Smid-Petry as the defacto top pairing. The pairing that is best equipped to start the season playing the toughs. Perhaps a little light on experience but have the mobility and toughness to handle all shapes and sizes. A regression by either of these two would likely mean the Oilers would be in a world of hurt next season.
- I have Whitney-J.Schultz as the 2nd pairing. Might be overall a bit erratic defensively but will push the pace more offensively rather than bumping N.Schultz to play in the top 4 and then potentially have 2, maybe 3, perhaps all 4 not pissing a drop offensively. Oilers need more offense from the D, even if it costs them a bit defensively. The Oilers can't have another season where their top defender only gets 25 points and expect them to get better. This is where the Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz deal hurts them for the present time. Tom Gilbert is better offensively for the time being but will likely get pushed out by the likes of J.Schultz and Fedun over time.
- I have N.Schultz and Fedun as the third pairing. A typical experienced/rookie pairing. A pairing that is mobile but short on toughness and aggression. This is where a player likely Sutton or Peckham could fill in depending on matchups. As long as Fedun can regain most of his mobility after his serious leg injury, he should get a good long look to make the club out of training camp, especially since the Oilers need mobility and all thats really in his way is Corey Potter.

Now my reasoning on why the Oilers are in the market for a defensemen but haven't made a move yet is because they are looking for something very specific, a right handed two way defender that can play big minutes. That's why Shea Weber made all kinds of sense and even at his price point, would still make the Oilers a playoff calibre team. The Oilers are sniffing around the likes of Jay Bouwmeester and Keith Yandle, but neither quite fit the way Weber would have and both are left handed shots. The depth chart would have taken on a kaleidoscope type turn and looked like this:


Now, that's a defense that's ready to roll. A good blend of offense and defense, Weber would elevate Whitney's game to the point where he could just be himself. Instead, the Oilers are left with trying to acquire a Dman through trade and to be honest, its going to be a tough find. Zach Bogosian and John Carlson are two defenders that have top pairing upside but are darn near impossible to pry out of their organizations. The Oilers, for now, are stuck in a holding pattern and will have to wait for another train like Weber to come by. It's the kind of thing that happens when you draft forwards in the first round over and over again.

One more thing to think about is what kind of value Ladislav Smid would have in getting that top pairing Dman. If the Oilers can think Theo Peckham can return to his 2010/2011 form, perhaps Smid might be the piece to move that might get them that top pairing, right handed Dman. The Oilers are setup to have a 3-for-1 deal. They have a pleathora of forwards and D. They have their harpoons out, its whale hunting season.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

While the euphoria of the Oilers drafting and signing Nail Yakupov, winning the auction for Justin Schultz, resigning a bunch of RFA's seems like an epic win for most Oilers' fans, I'm here to offer a more sobering view. With the possibility of being called a hater and a pessimist, I'm going to rundown the current strengths and weaknesses of the club going forward.

- The Oilers will have offense to burn in most games. And while it may not translate in some games, it will translate well in others. More importantly, if injuries arise, especially at forward, the Oilers will be able to plug and play many characters into those top 6 scoring spots.
- The power play should be very good once again going into next season. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins playing the role of point guard and a pleathora of shooters at his disposal, should make for another strong season in that aspect.
- The penalty kill should be able to build off of last season's rise. A lot of it will depend on Ladislav Smid's shot blocking prowess, and Devan Dubnyk continuing his solid play from the last month of last season. Any injuries to some of the vets and this area could take a hit.

- Puck retrieval and puck pursuit will continue to haunt this team. The only way it doesn't is if either Nail Yakupov turns into a man overnight, Taylor Hall decides he is a forecheck demon, which would lead to more injuries for him, or Ben Eager decides he is more than a 4th liner and bring punishing hits every game.
- Defensve depth is lacking, to the point where if the Oilers lose Ladislav Smid, of all players, they could be in a world of hurt as someone like Andy Sutton or Theo Peckham would have to take over some big minutes. Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz kind of counterbalance each other. Ryan Whitney, gimpy ankle or not, 100% or not, is needed as a veteran presence.
- Strength overall is lacking throughout the lineup. It essentially comes in the form of Andy Sutton and Theo Peckham, both not likely to be in the lineup at the same time. Strength isn't apparent in the forwards either unless Ben Eager or Darcy Hordichuk are going to get more minutes than we think.

Question Marks:
- Veteran leadership. The Oilers have it, but it wasn't very good last year. Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger need to be better and buy in is crucial from these two. Strong defensive play is a must from these two in order for the Oilers to get off the canvas. The key is trying to get that without having to overplay them. Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones, Andy Sutton, Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz, also fall into this category as well. Hemsky needs to find his offensive groove again, but he's going to need some help some his line mates to make a strong line combo.
- Goaltending. The sun is setting on Nikolai Khabibulin, and the keys are likely to be handed over to Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk had a strong finish to the season, but he is hardly a slam dunk to keep up the pace. How he plays will likely go a long way to telling us how good/bad the Oilers will be.
- Role definition. A new head coach should mean some new wrinkles. How much is hard to say because Ralph Krueger was part of the staff last year that finished 29th in the league. To say the team's system and style are going to be overhauled is a stretch but it does need some fine-tuned tweaks to get the engine running. Shawn Horcoff or Eric Belanger can't see any power play time next year. They need to focus on defensive/penalty kill responsibilities and try to excel to the best of their abilities. Offense = kids, defense = vets, and its about as cut and dry as that.
- Center play. The Oilers could use one more veteran center, but with the resigning of Sam Gagner, it seems a one-two of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Sam Gagner is the order of the day. I've voiced my concern of this in the past, and it will continue to concern me until the day it is broken up. For me, its at best a question mark, but I feel like I should have put this under the weakness category. Not enough defensive acumen yet. They become a tough matchup for bigger centers in the Western Conference.

Oilers' fans are looking for goals, and they will get their fair share of them. Wins may not necessarily follow, at least not consistantly for this upcoming season. I'm still trying to figure whats more important in Oilerville, goals or wins? I guess you have to learn to walk before you run, and goals would be a nice step in the right direction, but if the Oilers are drafting in the lottery again next season, despite what the GF total says, can it be considered a success?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sam Gagner and The Arbitration Case

Last year my cohort, Heazues, posted the thoughts of Sam Gagner here. In it, he runsdown the thoughts of keeping Hemsky and selling off Gagner. This time last year, I was of an opposite view. I was in favour selling off Hemsky and keeping Gagner. Now that the Oilers have decided on keeping Hemsky around for a couple of years, it means that I feel its Sam Gagner's time to move along. The Oilers need some shooting, two-way centers to go along with their playmaking wingers. Hemsky needs one for sure, and I don't feel Gagner is that player. Initially, I had them battling for the 2nd line RW spot, essentially they are the same player but one happens to be a more speedy, experienced version of the other. Besides the Oilers could use some bigger forwards that impose their will in the top 6.

All of this brings me to the current situation of Sam Gagner. Gagner is due for arbitraton tomorrow. Oilers are stuck in no man's land when it comes to Gagner. They will end up overpaying him, all while trying to find a spot for him that will benefit the Oilers as a whole. Plug and playing him as the 2nd line C is not the answer the Oilers are looking for. The Oilers need to start shoring up weaknesses on the club and start showing the fanbase they are serious about getting better. Sam Gagner is that player they should look to improve upon. At best, Sam Gagner is nothing more than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins insurance in case he goes down to injury. Gagner had quite the run this past year when The Nuge was on the shelf.

I think the best they can hope for from the Sam Gagner case, is to get a 1 yr deal at around 3.5 mil and continue to try and peddle him. Giving him a long term deal makes no sense, walking away from him makes even less sense. Giving him a 1 yr deal, has him remain as an RFA next season, under the current CBA. The Oilers need to trade one of Sam Gagner or Ales Hemsky to allow the one that stays the 2nd line RW spot.

As for addressing the 2nd line C spot, I would look at giving Jason Arnott a deal if he is willing or giving Jordan Eberle a shot at it. Oilers need hockey smart centermen to allow the wingers to fly. Without it, the Oilers will end up chasing the puck a lot of nights. I wanted Jason Arnott last year, but the Oilers decided on Eric Belanger instead.

I'm very intrigued to see what the Oilers management do in this situation. Do they go the path of least resistance and give Gagner what he wants, or do they get creative and find a taker for him that makes sense?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Oilers Top 20 Prospects 2012

Here is my rundown of the Top 20 Prospects for 2012. I do a list based on a blend of importance and value to the Edmonton Oilers. My cutoff for qualifying as a prospect is playing less than 40 games in the NHL.

1. Nail Yakupov RW - The latest 1st overall pick and a dynamic offensive winger. Will likely play on the big club out of the gate and a player with the highest of upside and potential. Ceiling - First line scoring winger.

2. Justin Schultz D - An agile Dman that enhances a team offense, through gifted skating and excellent vision. High hockey IQ. Capable defender as well. Ceiling - First pairing offensive Dman.

3. Oscar Klefbom D - Klefbom is a solid two-way defender with leadership abilities. All will come together with experience, a willingness to learn and a good attitude. Klefbom and Schultz could prove to be a solid 1st pairing of the future. Ceiling - First pairing two-way Dman.

4. Taylor Fedun D - Fedun was on course to make the big club last season until a frightful leg injury ended his season in the preseason. Should challenge for a spot on the club again this season. Smart puckhandler on the backend. Ceiling - Middle pairing puckmoving Dman.

5. Tyler Pitlick C - Position will determine his value. He is far more valuable if he can turn out to be a center than a winger. The Oilers have a need for a RH shooting center and he fits the bill. Also has value as a punishing on the forecheck type winger. Versatile player. Ceiling - 2nd line shooting center

6. Martin Gernat D - 5th rounder from 2011 turned out to be a hidden gem. 6'5" defender with mobility and offensive flair. Needs to work on the defensive game somewhat but he has a reach advantage on most players. Ceiling - Middle pairing Dman.

7. Martin Marincin D - Didn't have a breakout WHL season last season. Put up modest point totals for Prince George/Regina. Better off now trying him in the AHL now. Sink or swim time for Marincin. Had a 6 game audition with OKC last season. Still needs to bulk up. Heavy shot is his calling card. Ceiling - Middle pairing two-way Dman.

8. Teemu Hartikainen LW - Hartikainen has been an AHL/NHL tweener the last couple of seasons. Will likely get the same treatment this upcoming season. Works hard, but his skating is average for the NHL level. Can play gritty and score a little. Needs to find a niche at the NHL level. Ceiling - 2nd line grinding winger.

9. Tobias Rieder RW - Rieder has adapted very well at any level he's played at. Has a variety of tools at his disposal but shooting is his best talent. Can play a variety of roles but has excelled in a scoring role with his Kitchener team. Ceiling - 2nd line scoring winger.

10. Olivier Roy G - Its a big year for Roy. If he ends up in OKC to end the year, thats good, if he ends up in Stockton to end the year, thats bad. Roy needs to establish himself fairly quickly as the Oilers now have a dearth of goaltenders to run through if anyone falls off the tracks. Ceiling - Potential starting goaltender

11. Tyler Bunz G - One of the goaltenders that will be hot on Roy's heels chasing him for a job in the pros. Bunz will be starting his pro career off this season, likely will start the season off in Stockton. Ceiling - Potential starting goaltender

12. Curtis Hamilton LW - He and Hartkainen have flip-flopped spots this season. It was a slow start to Hamilton's pro career. Learning curve is a little longer than first anticipated but the tools are there to become a solid pro. Ceiling - 2nd line grinding winger.

13. Joey Laleggia D - Offensive minded, diminutive Dman. Interesting upside to this player, could become a Marc-Andre Bergeron type, or could turn into Taylor Chorney. Ceiling - Middle Pairing offensive Dman.

14. Jujhar Khaira LW - Khaira has a well rounded offensive game. Mostly a playmaker but can score a bit. Big body, but doesn't play overly physical. Playing in low-leveled leagues doesn't help his prospects, but I'm sure he will soon find his way to higher playing leagues. Better sooner than later. Ceiling - 2nd line offensive winger.

15. Daniil Zharkov LW - Big bodied, one shot scorer. Will remind some Edmontonians of Dustin Penner at times, but will put up numbers. A little more of a finished product than Khaira but less dimension to his game. Ceiling - 2nd line scoring winger.

16. Travis Ewanyk C - Tenacious, checking line center. Loves to be lined up against the other team's best. Rare for a junior player to relish in such a role. Has a long road to get to the pros and needs to continue to develop and improve each year. Injury plagued season hurt his development but looked more confident in his ability in his shortened season. Ceiling - 3rd line center.

17. Kristians Pelss LW - Pelss really found his role with the Oil Kings last season as a tenacious, pesky, up and down winger with a lethal shot. His shot might make him a top 6 forward but I feel his overall game will be better suited as a third liner. Ceiling - 3rd line winger.

18. Colten Teubert D - Tough, defensive minded defenseman. Will likely play the role of AHL/NHL tweener again this season, like he did last season. Not a lot of dimension to his game. Ceiling - Bottom pairing Dman.

19. David Musil D - Kind of in the same boat as Teubert. Big and tough but still trying to find an offensive dimension to his game. He has great tools for a big man, just a matter of trying to develop his mental skills. Ceiling - Bottom pairing Dman.

20. Samu Perhonen G - Big, lanky, athletic goaltender that has a nice frame to become a solid goaltender. Still very raw and unproven though. Will have to make many necessary steps before being in the big show. Ceiling - Potential starting goaltender.

Final thoughts - Oilers can still use more right handed shooting forwards. Much like last year, the only forward that shoots right is Tyler Pitlick. Oilers are lacking in the center department as well as they only have 2 centers on the list. The defense is slowly shaping up nicely. A nice blend of offensive and defensive minded Dmen. Goaltending has some decent prospects as well.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Pursuit of Shea Weber

I normally don't go around rumour mongering and panning for potential deals via trade. I usually know who the suspects are that would be available via trade but its usually a steep price that the Oilers cannot afford. Besides, no one really knows whats going down on deals until they are actually made.

This all brings me to the pursuit of Shea Weber. It's a multi-faceted pursuit but one that is very intriguing. Its a negotiation that is going to require a lot of finesse. Let me run down the specifics in point form.

- First off the Oilers are going to have to let Nashville know they are interested in Weber, perhaps there can be a deal worked out, so to avoid the offer sheet route. I don't know if the Oilers can part with any of the "big 4" or the newly acquired Justin Schultz and be any better for it. They could try and parlay, say an Eberle or a Hall, to get the deal done, but the Oilers wouldn't be as far ahead as they otherwise would be. I could see both sides butting heads on the trade route, eventually ending in a stalemate. Besides the Oilers don't want to be dealing all these assets for a player that is one year removed from UFA. Too risky, unless there can be a sign and trade that can be worked out, but I don't see Nashille wanting to put in the time to do that. I have the feeling Nashville would be looking for an Eric Lindros type bounty, at least to start with, it might wane a bit by the time trade deadline rolls around.

- All that, leads us to the offer sheet. If the offer sheet looms, it may scare Nashville into taking less in a deal. Nashville GM David Poile has been at this for quite some time, so I'm not sure if he will be scared easily into that. Losing Ryan Suter for nothing may give him second thoughts about potentially losing Shea Weber, and the Oilers have to be aware of this, but the Nashville isn't going to be goaded into a bad deal.

- Have to have some good intel and feel on how Nashville would respond to an offer sheet thrown at them. Term and salary are vital components to this offer sheet. I've seen rumour mongerers suggesting a one year, 12 million dollar deal, maximum money allowed under the salary cap. I understand the thinking on this, because it might be enough to have Nashville part with Weber, in thinking a short term deal would make Nashville walk away and take the the 4 1st rounders, but I think the Oilers get hosed in this deal. Not enough net to work with and in the end, if Weber decides to walk away from the Oilers in a year via UFA, then the Oilers still pay the 4 1st rounders, which is awfully steep and could put a total halt to the rebuild. It's a ballsy proposition to be sure from both sides.

- The key for the Oilers is to get a contract that is good enough for the Oilers without Nashville feeling compelled to match the offer. If the Oilers offer 6+ years, then Nashville will match and then the Oilers will lose out now, and a year from now when he was set to hit the UFA market. Then Nashville will truly hold all the cards even if Weber was to demand a trade.

- Like I said, a great deal of finesse is involved in this. Have to remain interested but can't get pushy. Patience is a key. Have to let Nashville know there is an offer sheet threat there, but going through on it, would likely end in disaster for the Oilers. Best option for now, is to hope things sour quickly enough between Weber and Nashville to the point where there will be an auction for his services. At this stage, the Oilers still cannot overpay for this player, not when he is one year removed from being a UFA and then everyone can bid on his services. Worst comes to worst, the Oilers would have to wait the year where Shea Weber could potentially be had for straight dollars. But at that point, every team in the league will be garnering his services.

- If the Oilers decide on a one year offer sheet or a potential trade on Weber, they have a year to re-up Weber to a longer term deal. I cannot stress this enough, but the Oilers would not be afforded the option of being awful next year. Oilers' management would have to break trend and throw life preservers to this team, each and every time its needed. Its truly playoffs or bust. But on the other hand, playoffs are a real possibility when it otherwise wouldn't be. If Weber sees a future with this club that might contain some bling, he might be inclined to stay. Otherwise it could be a Chris Pronger situation all over again, in where the Oilers are holding the bag again.

If Shea Weber comes to the Oilers for the upcoming season, it would be an intriguing season as a fan, but a gut-wrenching season as part of management. High risk/high reward to say the least.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Depth Chart: July 2012 Edition

This is what I have the lines setup at the moment.

- The ultimate offense line. Likely cannot play powerplay together as they all shoot left, but with speed to burn off the wings, they should prove to be a handful for opposing defensemen, as long as they have their skating legs, without them, they are likely neutralized. Its a line that has a lot of offensive dynamics to it. Excellent passers and shooters on this line.

- If the first line is the fastball, then this line is the changeup. Should able to establish a decent cycle game and be more efficient in the offensive zone. The key will be in Hemsky limiting his turnovers. Fits in with my playmaker-shooter-netcrasher combo I like as a template. Eberle at center might be a bit of a gamble, but one with the highest reward without having to fudge the rest of the lines. Eberle's cerebral play should help him with the transition. He'll need time and reps to get acclimated to the position. I believe Eberle to be a better all around player than what Sam Gagner would otherwise bring to the position.

- Horcoff moves to the wing for three reasons. One, to get his skating legs going again and two, Belanger is a better faceoff man and three, is marginally better in defensive zone coverage. The key for this line is, to shut their mouths and know their roles. Don't get scored on and maintain some puck pressure. Buy-in, buy-in, buy-in.

- In my eyes, Paajarvi and Lander need to break camp with the club. Thats of course as long as they show they are NHL capable in all zones, which I have little doubt they will be. Eager gets his chance with some mildly offensive talent. Need more hits from Eager. If he doesn't finish north of 150 hits this season, I will be disappointed. This line to needs 10 minutes a game, one, to keep them engaged and two, to keep the other lines fresh. Stick to the plan.

- Petrell and Hordichuk are safe options but don't turn my crank in terms of offensive/defensive output. They will keep the top 12 honest enough as they at least bring a consistant physical element. But if either of them get 60+ games on the Oilers, the Oilers are likely toast.

- For better or for worse, Smid and Petry have graduated to the big minute, shutdown pair. Both coming off of semi-solid seasons, and have their arrows going the right way. A regression from either of these two and the Oilers could be in a world of hurt. Goal stopping needs to occur somewhere in the lineup. These two need to keep trending upward for the Oilers to have a hope.

- It's a bit ambitious to think Taylor Fedun can play a top 4 role. Its a high risk/high reward move, but one that could pay big time dividends. Fedun's mobilty/offensive ability would give the Oilers a push the pace defensive unit. Ideally the Oilers would like to find a suitable trade to fill this spot and have Fedun battle J.Schultz for the #6 spot. But if the Oilers found no takers, I could feel pretty comfortable with this. To be honest, I might have more concerns about Ryan Whitney rebounding to a competant NHL defender.

- I have Andy Sutton playing ahead of Nick Schultz and the reason being, the Oilers need more of a fear element on the backend and Sutton is it. Sutton would be a better security blanket for J.Schultz to break into the pros. It give a good toughness/mobility combo on this unit. J.Schultz could potentially break into the top 4 if need be.

- Its tough to have a 3.5 million dollar Dman sitting in the pressbox. While Schultz is versatile and safe, he doesn't excel in any one area. A non-descript Dman. He will be good to have as a security blanket and to push the kids but if the kids are playing well, he's a player I'd have out of the lineup. He and Sutton could potentially flip in and out depending on matchups. N.Schultz gives more mobility and Sutton gives more toughness.

- Fresh off a new 2 year, 7 million dolllar deal, Dubnyk looks to be the one to take over the twine in Oilerville. Dubnyk ended the season, well, but not sure it was well enough to warrant that kind of cash. We'll have to see how this one plays because he got paid more on potential than on past accomplishments.

- Khabibulin doesn't inflict a lot of fiath into the position these days. Best case scenario is Dubnyk lives up to expectations and Khabibulin is the backup and plays occasionally. If Dubnyk falters and Khabibulin gets the bulk of the games, its gonna be another long season.

Trade Bait:
Sam Gagner
- Gagner is the best trade option for the Oilers without upsetting the apple cart too much. He's the best option to land that veteran top 4 Dman the Oilers covet.

Theo Peckham
- Would be a good throw in on a deal. I'd rather keep him, but the Oilers ran out of room for him when they resigned Sutton. With the Oilers trying to get more mobility out of their defense, Peckham's time has likely come to a close. I feel like another Matt Greene is being cast aside.

Linus Omark
- His time is done here. He doesn't want to be here, Oilers don't want him, time for everyone to move along. The Oilers will be lucky to get anything of substance for him.

Corey Potter
- It speaks to my faith in Corey Potter, when I have 0 games of NHL experience in Taylor Fedun and Justin Schultz ranked ahead of him. The Oilers don't need one trick ponies anymore. The likes of Kurtis Foster and Corey Potter need not apply. Might fetch something as a throw-in, but is more likely to be drawing an NHL salary in the AHL. Another dreadful signing in a long list of dreadful signings.

Power Play:




This is where its at for now. Hopefully the Oilers aren't done trying to wheel and deal, as they have some spare parts. Trying to deal away some of the oerpaid would also be beneficial. We'll see what happens from now until training camp. The Oilers are getting closer to the end goal, but a long way away from achieving any kind of moderate success.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

UFA Day 2012

The Oilers re-signed a couple of their own in Ryan Smyth and Darcy Hordichuk. Also, brought back Yann Danis to tend the net for OKC. Smyth was a signing I have half-heartedly expected, Hordichuk was one that I was not expecting at all.

Oilers had a spot for Smyth on the depth chart and Smyth wants to play out his remaining days as Oiler. If he would have left again this time, I believe it really would have left a bitter taste in everyone's mouths. Good to see Smyth back and more accepting of a secondary, albeit, important leadership role.

Hordichuk was also a sentimental signing, though I'm not sure the Oilers could afford the roster spot. Hordichuk is a solid team player and knows his role, just not sure its something the Oilers can accommodate with the team trying to improve.

As it stand right now the Oilers have 13 "for sure" forwards on the big club, that including Yakupov, but not including the likes of Paajarvi and Lnader who are going to need to looks in the very near future. All this tells me is that the Oilers are trying to move a forward for a Dman. Talk today was Ales Hemsky was the player on the block, it will be interesting to see who moves along and who stays. The Oilers are holding onto a china bowl in terms of the forwards right now. Cutting or adding the wrong piece could set the team back. Its crucial they make the right additions and subtractions, if playoffs are truly the goal, although we ahve all heard this lip service before.

I think the Oilers will be in on the Shane Doan bidding if he wants to cut his ties to Phoenix. Word is, he is waiting until July 9 to see how the Phoenix ownership unfolds. I also think the Oilers are trying to peddle one of their forwards for a Dman, something I have frowned upon in past writeups. I'm of the belief that when dealing a forward for a Dman, it usually takes an A forward to get a B Dman and a B forward for a C Dman. Dmen are tough to acquire and usually have to overpay for them, either through dollars or assets. Today was the kickoff to the hockey offseason. We'll have to wait and see how the rest of the summer unfolds. At least this offseason, the Oilers are looking more to subtract than to add.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

You Want A Miracle ?!?!?

You want a miracle, I give you Justin Schultz. Justin Schultz has decided to take his talents to the North Pole. I get the feeling Oilers fans abroad are excited for the news but not exactly sure why. Let me give a rundown on why this is a wonderful thing for the Oilers going forward.

- Justin Schultz is a puckmoving, puckrushing assassin. If you have watched how the Oilers defense have mangled many an outlet pass, fear no more. Justin Schultz plays the game with much more poise.

- Schultz will enhance the offense 5v5 and on the power play. Imagine cross ice passes between he and the Nuge on the backend of a powerplay. One-timers, back door plays. Essentially what Eberle did on the powerplay last year, but not having to sacrifice the defensive aspect. You can have Eberle and Schultz on the left side of the ice on the powerplay, it will give a dual option.

- One thing Schultz might struggle with is volume of games. Coming from the NCAA circuit, where he may only get in 40-50 games a season. Usually players from Europe or NCAA experience "burnout" towards the end of the season. Once Schultz becomes acclimatized to the pro game, the Oilers should have themselves a big minute eater on the back end.

- Schultz may never be considered a "lockdown" defender, but what he can do is play with enough smarts and guile to make sure the puck is moving in the right direction. He'll never be physically imposing, but stick positioning will be top notch.

As the Oilers get prepared for UFA season tomorrow, I'll give a brief rundown on what the Oilers should be looking for.

A top 6 LW:
- Ryan Smyth would be ideal, as long he is a willing soldier upon his return. Bitterness needs to be set aside on both sides. Mikael Samuelsson, Jaromir Jagr, heck even Dustin Penner would be nice additions. Ultimately the Oilers need some veteran presence to chip in 20g without the benefit of a ton of powerplay time.

A top 9 RW:
- Oilers need a swiss army knife type playere here. A player that can play a variety of roles. A bit of PK, some PP, play toughs 5v5 without losing his shirt. I had Lee Stempniak as the #1 player here, but he re-signed in Calgary. David Moss perhaps even Shane Doan would be nice fits here. Doan would likely be overpriced though. As with the top 6 LW, veteran presence is needed.

A top 4 Dman:
- A player that can play tough, block shots and play on the PK. I have the likes of Pavel Kubina, Milan Jurcina. A player that can fit the bill now is Bryan Allen. With the addition of Justin Schultz, the Oilers can move Nick Schultz back on the right side and have Bryan Allen work with Justin Schultz. With Justin Schultz in the mix, there are some decent possibilities now.

(Optional): 2nd line C
- I'd be working on the top 3 first, and then focus in on holes that can be upgraded. Sam Gagner is the placeholder for now. I have toyed with the idea of moving Jordan Eberle into this spot to help Ales Hemsky regain some of his old form. Either way, its something to keep an eye on. Jason Arnott is the only player I can think of that would be worth the risk, otherwise I would look to fill the spot internally. A RH shooting center. With Jarret Stoll off the market, the options are thin.

(Optional): 1B goaltender
- If Dubnyk is 1A, then the Oilers will need a safety net plan. Khabibulin can potentially be a part of that plan, but I don't have a lot of faith in that plan. If the Oilers can find a cheap, low maintenance option 1B, it should be pursued and then Khabibulin moved along, likely to Europe. The only two goaltenders I would be willing to take a flyer on are Justin Peters and Al Montoya, otherwise I'd stick with Khabibulin and revisit the options in a year.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Eternal Optimists vs. Bitter Pessimists

The Oilers made the official announcement of making Ralph Krueger the new head coach. Term is a three year deal, standard stuff for most new coaches. Krueger represents a lot of things for a lot of Oilers' fans. Either he's a master innovator that helped a beleaguered special teams and can coach defense or offense, or he's a tired, old retread that represents everything that is wrong with the current Oilers infrastructure. As usual, the answer lies somewhere in between. I don't believe a Stanley Cup is lurking just around the corner with Krueger at the helm, but I also believe the list was short for head coaching applicants considering the current plight of the Oilers. It's one of those "could have been better, could have been worse" type hirings, one that has become a mantra under the Daryl Katz regime. My personal choice was Marc Crawford. I believe he would have brought back some much needed accountibility to this organization. Considering it took this long to promote an associate coach leads me to believe they were looking elsewhere but came up short, leading them to double back to Krueger.

I'm gonna write a little something about the optimists and the pessimists of Oilerdom, because right now, they are both getting on nerves.

Pessimists seem to be prancing around preaching that the sky is falling, and the team will never be any good again. I could see how the average fan would get annoyed by this. Pessimists need to let the fans be fans. Let them cheer their faces off at anything that they deem to be positive. The Oilers need all the support they can get right now if they have any hope of getting out of the basement.

Optimists are certainly getting on my nerves because it seems the Oilers can do wrong, therefore affects the accountibility. The Oilers brass should be having their asses held to the fire and not sitting on their hands selling hope. Edmonton's MSM and bloggers alike are enablers in all of this handing out cups of kool-aid over and over again, rarely a critical word spoken or written. There needs to be some kind of voice of reason in all of this. Fans can cheer as loud as they want, but I'm not taking any hockey advice from those that don't feel the slightest bit of shame for the last 3-20 years of mediocrity.

Essentially its a battle between fans and wannabe GMs. Both have their place here as they give balance to whats needed for the Oilers to go forward. But one is not more important than the other, and one's opinion is not more important the other. Debate is fine, but to have one side try and crush the other side is fruitless and pointless. Ultimately, we'll need both sides to come together in harmony to see this team rise again.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Oilers Offseason Post Draft 2012

Now that the draft is done and Nail Yakupov is the newest player to join the Oilers family, it shifts the mindset of trying to improve the defense ASAP. The ironic thing about picking Yakupov is the same people that wanted to draft Yakupov will be the same people begging for Steve Tambellini to be fired by the end of the year if he doesn't find that impact Dman. Its a tall task to say the least, getting tougher by the day.

Depth Chart:
Belanger Petrell



Gone - Gagner, Peckham, Omark, Potter.

- I must admit, even though I was against picking Yakupov, the thoughts of this line makes me a little giddy. High speed playmaking and everything filters towards Yakupov unleashing one-timers off the wing. Very dynamic line that will be tough to contain off the rush.
- The ultimate player for the AAAAAA spot would be Ryan Smyth. We'll have to see if it plays out like that or not. I have Eberle as the candidate to move to center. Might be an adjustment, but he has the hockey sense and the positioning to pull it off. Hemsky can now feel comfort in just being an off the wing playmaker with Eberle as his shooter and AAAAAA as his net crasher. Hemsky needs a bounce back season and linemates like Smyth and Eberle would go a long way to helping.
- This will ultimately be the checking line that plays the toughs. The Oilers need Horcoff to bounce back embrace this role desperately. Without it, the Oilers don't have a hope. The BBBBBB needs to be a player that can check his hat while playing a bit of PP and PK. Horcoff and Jones will be the go to PKers on the club. The BBBBBB player really needs to shoot right, otherwise the Oilers only have two forwards that shoot right, both on the 2nd line, and its tough to draw up a powerplay with only two righties in the forward ranks.
- It would be nice if Paajarvi hit the weights a bit and started throwing a few more hits. But more than anything, this line needs to skate and create energy. Eager needs 100 hits minimum this season, should be pushing 150-200 ideally. This line needs to play 10 minutes a night. No more, 4th line getting under five minutes a night. Kills the top part of the lineup over an 82 game season. The more players you have engaged in the lineup, the harder it is on the other team to dictate the matchups.
- 2 versatile, older forwards, than can play in a variety of roles. With Petrell back in the fold, I could see Belanger being moved along. The Oilers need more right handed shooters in the forward ranks and I don't see Belanger embracing a pressbox role all that well, even though he would likely still see about 60 games, given the injury history with the club.

- The defacto shutdown pair, that will likely get more of a chance to run with that role this season. Petry will likely see the most minutes on the club, something that is needed more out of necessity than anything. If the Oilers can find a way to poach Justin Schultz off of the UFA list, it would alleviate some of Petry's powerplay minutes. But as of right now Petry will likely see big minutes. Smid just needs to continue to build on last season. A regression from Smid would be a tough pill to swallow for the Oilers.
- Oilers need a bounce back year from Ryan Whitney. Without it, the Oilers are no closer to a playoff spot. Whitney needs to find a way to up his point total while chiseling down his +/-. A tall task to say the least. Hopefully the motavation of being a contract year for Whitney will help him. CCCCC needs to be a veteran defender with some penalty kill ability and can defend in his own end. Its likely the Oilers are going to have another Corey Potter/Cam Barker gamble on someone, if they go the UFA route. A very weak crop to say the least.
- Fedun is a place holder here for now. If the Oilers can't get their hands on Justin Schultz, Fedun may be that player. I have Fedun over Corey Potter just for skating purposes and I have little faith in Potter's ability to defend. What a poor contract signing that was, and it only happened 5 months ago. N. Schultz will continue to be what he is, a minute eater that will give a modest point total. This pairing needs to tread water around the even mark, if they both start getting below the -10 mark, its going to be a long season.

- He should get a chance to roll, at least early on in the season. Whether he plays well or falters should determine how many games he gets. I'm not a fan of giving goaltenders jobs and results be damned but Dubnyk should be given the chance to run with the ball from the outset.
- It will be interesting to see what becomes of Khabibulin. I have him on the list because I have a hard time thinking they will farm Khabibulin out somewhere. It would be wise if they did, but I'd be stunned to see it happen. The Oilers are pretty loyal unless they rock the boat. Khabibulin has been a class act off the ice for the most part minus one DUI charge, playing a mentor role for most of the kids on the team. If Dubnyk falters and the Oilers have to rely on Khabibulin, that will be great cause for concern.

UFA Options:
1) Ryan Smyth (1yr/3mil) - Ryan Smyth would be the best value option. The Oilers need a grinding net crasher here. Smyth would have to accept playing less on the special teams being more of a backup plan if others falter. He may get better money and term elsewhere, but the Oilers cannot afford to overpay in either in money or term.
2) Mikael Samuelsson (1yr/2.5mil) - Samuelsson would be a decent Plan B as he plays a greasy game and doesn't mind getting his nose dirty. Could score 20g on this Oilers 2nd line. Can play on the PP or PK. Decent two way option. Character player that will contribute any way he can.
4) Jaromir Jagr (1yr/3mil) - Jagr would have been a good option 5 years ago, but he's over 40 and the wheels are going to fall off of this wagon real soon. At best a 1 year option and a lot of hoping and praying. He did score 19 goals last year and thats the kind of production the Oilers would be looking for.
3) Dustin Penner (2yr/4.25mil) - Do we really want to go down this road again? A very weak market on the LW side.
5) Alexei Ponikarovsky (1y/2mil) - Its not promising when I have you underneath Dustin Penner as an option. Doesn't score enough and checks out too frequently. More of a 4th line option these days. Better than nothing I suppose.

1) Lee Stempniak (2yr/1.5mil) - Up and down 3rd line winger. Can play on the PP and PK, finishes checks. Shoots right. Fits all the profiles the ilers would need out of this spot. Hope and pray he can help with playing the toughs.
2) David Moss (2yr/2.5mil/yr) - Moss is coming off an injury plagued season with the Flames. Doesn't hit enough for my liking but does have some offensive dimension. It will be interesting to see if he tests the market or not. Another versatile player that can hellp in a variety of areas.
3) Jamie Langenbrunner (1yr/1.5mil) - Langenbrunner is coming off an off year where he only tallied 6 times but still managed to finish +7 on the Blues. Langenbrunner is turning 37 this summer, so he is diminshing returns at this point but would stabilize the third line. Not sure Langenbrunner would come here at that price, but you at least have to make the phone call on that one. No longer hits as much as he once did.
4) Steve Bernier (2yr/1.5mil/yr) - Would be an interesting case study as a UFA. Bernier looked like he was going to emerge as a stud power forward when he was in San Jose. Fell off the map in his time in Vancouver and in Florida, had a subpar season in New Jersey but has made a contribution during New Jersey's playoff run. I could see Bernier as a solid 3rd cog with Hall and RNH, but he will have to toughen up a bit. Can he play a checking role against tough opposition? Might be a reach.
5) Shane Doan (2yr/5.5mil/yr) - Shane Doan would be ideal but unlikely candidate. Big robust winger that will put up 20+ goals and and 150+ hits. Rumblings that he might becoming less enamoured with the Coyotes ownership issues. Will he come to Edmonton to play a 3rd line role? Do you want another 5mil+ on the third line? Will he like that role? Yikes, lots of ifs there.

1) Pavel Kubina (1yr/2mil) - Needless to say, this group of Dmen I'm about to rundown is pretty subpar. Outside of Ryan Suter, the Dmen in this group are either going to be grossly overpaid, at the end of their line, or flat out not very good. Kubina is the most servicable of the bunch. Big body that can get in the way more or less. Having him play in the middle pairing is cringe worthy to say the least.
2) Milan Jurcina (1yr/1.5mil) - Poor man's, but younger version of Kubina. He would be OK if he wasn't coming off a -34 season. At least he doesn't have much bargaining power.
3) Radek Martinek (1yr/1mil) - A much more mobile version than the top 2, but a player who sat out the year with a concussion. Really not even sure if he is ready to play yet.
4) Cory Sarich (1yr/1mil) - Less offensive ability than any of the aforementioned, but likely the best defender of the bunch. Scraping the bottom of a dry barrel here.
5) Sami Salo (1yr/2.5 mil) - Not exactly the PK type thats needed here. A long shot to leave Vancouver anyway. At least he is a veteran defender. The Oilers will likely have to go the trade route to fill this spot. Perhaps pursuing Luke Schenn wouldn't have such a bad idea, but him re-uniting with his brother in Philadelphia is a nice story. Nasty, tough as nails, reliable defender who can PK need apply. Mobility would nice.

- Sam Gagner - I'm personally done with Sam Gagner as the 2nd line C. The Oilers need more consistant production out of this spot. I do believe Eberle will play a more even game and more importantly, will get Ales Hemsky going. Since Oilers management made Ales Hemsky the golden boy, time to build a line around him. Gagner just doesn't fit in the plans at all.
- Theo Peckham - Writing was on the wall when the Oilers reupped Andy Sutton for this upcoming season. Peckham had a subpar season. Didn't play with the aggression and toughness needed for him to be successful. The fans quickly turned on him. Could be another Matt Greene if the Oilers let him go.
- Linus Omark - Numbers game essentially. Not sure he's an NHLer anyway. With the high amount of dynamic forwards there are on this team, there is absolutely no room for him now.
- Corey Potter - What a mistake it was signing him. Just sheer buffoonery. Its pretty bad when I want 0 games of experience Taylor Fedun overtaking Potter's spot. Fedun's mobile even coming off a broken leg, Potter is not. 'Nuff said.

All in all, the forwards are close to becoming rock solid, at least offensively but the defense is going to need a miracle to fix. Even if they were to land Justin Schultz, they need one tough as nails, middle pairing defender and Petry to emerge as a stud defender (hopefully). The Oilers cannot handle a regression from Ladislav Smid. Ryan Whitney regaining some pre-ankle issues of some form would help immensely as well. The defense is being held together by paper clips and binder twine. The reason why I was a big propenent of taking Ryan Murray with the first pick was because it would help glue the defense up, short term and long term. Murray would establish himself as the leader of the defense in short order and then the defense could move forward. But without that piece, the defense is stuck limbo until a miracle happens. Defense are tough to come by, especially the good ones. Trading for one is tough business, because no one wants to give them up and when one does become available, every team is knocking down that door. No point in fixing the goaltending all that much if the defense isn't fixed first. Too many shellshocked goaltenders is not a good thing. Steve Tambellini is painted into a corner now.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

NHL Draft Grades 2012

Anaheim Ducks B- - Anaheim had a decent draft. Picked 5 Dmen and my motto is, when in doubt, pick a Dman. A blend of safe picks mixed in with some home run shots. Picked Hampus Lindholm D at #6.
Value Pick - Nicolas Kerdiles #36 - Kerdiles was a player that I had going in the first round. Thick bodied scoring power forward could stand to play a little tougher, but should be a handful in and around the net.
Reach Pick - Kenton Helgesen #187 - A player that I felt fairly certain wouldn't get picked in the draft. Defensive minded Dman with very limited offensive potential.

Boston Bruins D - Didn't have a lot of draft picks to work with. Only had two picks in the first four rounds. Picked a goalie with their first pick, something that I'm not an advocate of, but something they had to do out of necessity. Didn't get great value out of a lot of their picks. Picked Malcolm Subban G at #24
Value Pick - Seth Griffith #131 - Stout overager that could become a versatile player much like Brad Marchand plays on the current Bruins team. Had a breakthrough season with the Knights.
Reach Pick - Matthew Grzelcyk #85 - With the lack of picks the Bruins had, I'm not sure they could afford to take a gamble on an undersized Dman who has yet to find his offensive game.

Buffalo Sabres B+ - First three picks were hit it out of the park good, everything after that was pretty meh. Sabres really strengthened center play in this draft. Picked Mikhail Grigorenko C at #12. Picked Zemgus Girgensens C at #14
Value Pick - Mikhail Grigorenko #12 - Its rare you could get a player ranked after pick 5 or so that could play for your team as soon as next year, but Grigorenko can. I had him going in the top 5, steal of a pick. Offensive dynamo, coachable, and willing to learn.
Reach pick - Justin Kea #73 - Seems like a pick that was taken strictly on his height and weight. Very much a project with a small window of potential.

Calgary Flames B- - Outside the first round, I thought the Flames had a decent draft. Other than Mark Jankowski, didn't take too many gambles and found some nice projectable players. Picked Mark Jankowski C at #21
Value Pick - Coda Gordon #165 - A player I had projected to go in the 2nd round, fell to the 6th round for the Flames. Gordon screams NHL player to me. Very cerebral player with offensive potential.
Reach Pick - Mark Jankowski #21 - Jankowski is an intriguing prospect with a wide variety of skills, but if you are taking a player that has been playing in a low profile league, you better be darn sure about him.

Carolina Hurricanes B - Traded away their first rounder to acquire Jordan Staal, but still had nine picks to play with after that. Solid value throughout their draft but no real home run shots. No first round pick.
Value Pick - Collin Olson #159 - I really liked his game at the U18s for Team USA. Very square goaltending that has pucks stick to him. Not overly athletic but has strong technique.
Reach Pick - Brock McGinn #47 - Only got into 33 games this past year. There is some talent here, but it hasn't come through yet. A definite reach pick for a 2nd rounder.

Chicago Blackhawks C+ - Chicago had a fair draft. Didn't really get any steals, although its debatable whether Teuvo Teravainen will become one. Solid, but not spectacular draft. Picked Teuvo Teravainen C at #18
Value Pick - Brandon Whitney #191 - A goaltender I had pegged to go in the 4th round the Hawks got in the 7th round. Big, athletic goaltender has intriguing upside.
Reach Pick - Matt Tomkins #199 - Small but quick goaltender from the AJHL. Fresh off picking a goalie 8 picks earlier, you'd figure they would take a gamble at another position.

Colorado Avalanche C- - Only had 5 picks in the draft and no first rounder. Pick from the group that have labels of boom/bust. Picked 5 forwards. No first round pick.
Value Pick - Michael Clarke #132 - Clarke has been a player with intriguing upside. Has the ability to play an all around game, but needs to improve on his point totals.
Reach Pick - Mitchell Heard #41 - Not a big fan of overagers taken this early. Heard is a fine player, character kid, but is likely near the end of his potential. It just seemed like they were better value picks on the board.

Columbus Bluejackets B - Columbus addressed some needs but also overdrafted at some positions. One of those "could have better, could have been worse drafts". Ryan Murray D was the right pick for them at #2.
Value Pick - Gianluca Cucuruto #182 - Curcuruto started off the season as a potential first rounder, but struggled on a lacklustre Sault Ste Marie team. There is a lot of potential in his game, as a mobile, puck moving Dman, but needs a strong bounce back year. Well worth the risk while everyone else was drafting overagers at this point.
Reach Pick - Joonas Korpisalo #62 - As you can see, I'm not a big fan of picking goalies back to back, especially Columbus where they have holes all over their system. Columbus picked goaltender Oscar Dansk with the #31 pick then followed that with this pick of Korpisalo. Even then, I'm not sure he was the best goaltending option on the board.

Dallas Stars B+ - The Stars had a rock solid draft. Getting good vaule in many picks and not reaching too far with any of them. Addressed a pleathora of positions. Picked Radek Faksa C at #13
Value Pick - Branden Troock #134 - A player I had projected for the third round. Troock has the build and ability of a budding scoring power forward, but he needs to work on strength and having a better sense of the game. A project, but one that could have huge benefits down the road. Had an off year with a weak Seattle team this past season.
Reach Pick - Henri Kiviaho #144 - The depths of my prospect encyclopedia is vast, but I'm not familiar with this pick. But the reason of me listing him as a reach speaks more to the other picks that I view as solid. Even this pick here could turn out to be something positive. Its not inconceivable that everyone drafted above Kiviaho, could be wearing a Dallas Stars jersey at some point. That's some great drafting.

Detroit Red Wings B- - Detroit didn't have a first rounder but did manage to find decent value throughout the draft. But for Detroit standards, this draft for them is a smidge subpar. No first round pick.
Value pick - Martin Frk #49 - After having a supbar, injury riddled season, Frk finished the season strong with Halifax. A player that I had projected in the 1st round, slipped to the back half of the 2nd round for the Wings. Potential power forward type.
Reach Pick - Jake Paterson #80 - There were a lot of fine goaltending prospects taken in this area, but I thought Paterson was a bit of a reach here. Not an overly large goaltender, has a similar stature to current Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Edmonton Oilers B - Oilers drafted some solid prospects, when they picked them a little curious. Very winger heavy. Picked Nail Yakupov RW at #1
Value Pick - Daniil Zharkov #91 - A player that I had pegged for early in the 2nd round, was the last pick of the 3rd round. One thing he has is hands, but will have the propensity to remind Oilers fans of Dustin Penner.
Reach Pick - Mitch Moroz #32 - I know the Oilers need bigger, stronger forwards, but with all of the capable Dmen on the board, they could have had a bigger bang for buck here. A project.

Florida Panthers D- - My biggest draft loser on the night. A lack of picks and not good value in any of these picks. Florida's pool is ripe with talent, so they can afford a down year. Picked Michael Matheson D at #23
Value Pick - Francis Beauvillier #174 - I had Beauvillier picked as a 4th rounder, Florida got him in the 6th round. I think has the potential to become an effective defensive forward/penalty killer.
Reach Pick - Steven Hodges #84 - I had him pegged as more of a 6th or 7th rounder if picked at all. Projects to be a 2way center but has a long way to go on both sides of the puck to get to that point. Florida used a 3rd rounder on him.

Los Angelas Kings B - Even though the Kings didn't have a 2nd or 3rd rounder, they managed to find some decent value in the latter rounds. Tanner Pearson LW #30, is a solid first pick that can help them in the very near future.
Value Pick - Nick Ebert #211 - "Mr. Irrelevant" Nick Ebert was the last pick of the draft. A far cry for a player touted to go in the top 10 at the beginning of the season. Talk about extremes, should have gone somewhere in middle of all that. Very much worth the gamble in this spot.
Reach Pick - Collin Miller #151 - An overager that played on a weak Sault Ste marie team. I figured he wouldn't have been picked at all, but the Kings took a 5th round flyer on him.

Minnesota Wild C+ Outside of the Mathew Dumba, not overly enamoured with this draft for the Wild. 3 of the 7 picks are US high schoolers, nothing wrong with picking in their own back yard. Wild may need more immediate help. This is a team that could have used some drafted overagers. They ended up picking one in Daniel Gunnarsson. Picked Mathew Dumba D at #7
Value Pick - Christoph Berstchy #158 - Bertschy is a dynamic, diminutive, Swiss forward that coul become something or nothing, kind of reminiscient of a Linus Omark pick. Well worth the risk.
Reach Pick - Rapheal Bussieres #46 - Don't really hate any of the Wild's picks, but very neutral on a lot of them. Bussieres I had projected to go late in the 2nd round. A boom/bust type pick when the Wild could have stood to draft a little more safe. He plays hard but what his impact will be on a major league team will remain to be seen.

Montreal Canadians A - My draft day winner. Solid picks and value up and down their draft board. Could have used one more Dman and one less forward but that would be nitpicking. I had Collberg as a late 1st, Thrower as an early 2nd, ditto for Bozon, Vail as an early 3rd, Hudon as a 1st rounder that they picked in the 5th round! Outstanding draft. Picked Alex Galchenyuk C at #3
Value pick - Charles Hudon #122 - I can understand scouts concerns when it comes to Hudon. Not big, not fast. But what he does have is strong hockey instincts and an idea on how to create offense utilizing everyone on the ice. The ultimate boom/bust pick.
Reach Pick - Erik Nystrom #154 - Only because I didn't have him ranked and every other pick was so darn strong.

Nashville Predators B- The Predators dealt their first rounder at the trade deadline. Got good value out of their 2nd round picks. After that a mix of Europeans and American borns. No first round picks.
Value pick - Pontus Aberg #37 Aberg was a player I had going mid first round. Speedy scoring forward should help rebuild Nashville's offensive attack.
Reach Pick - Jimmy Vesey #66 Big point producer playing in a smaller league. Very wary of these types of players. Drafted as an overager. Committed to Boston College, so he is headed in the right direction.

New Jersey Devils B- - Love the first two picks, after that their draft is pretty meh. Surprised they kept their 1st rounder after having gone to the cup final, as they need to fork over one first rounder back to the NHL in one of the next couple seasons. They did manage to get good value out of it by drafting Stefan Matteau. Picked Stefan Matteau C at #29
Value Pick - Damon Severson #60 - I had Severson touted in the last few picks of the first round and went at the end of the 2nd round. Severson has Brent Seabrook type potential.
Reach Pick - Ben Thomson #96 - I hate labeling players goons, but Thomson is a bottom of the lineup type player that brings energy to the table. Limited offensive upside. Drafted as an overager.

New York Islanders C+ - Solid first three picks, but the value feel off from there, even their first pick Griffin Reinhart felt like a bit of a reach. Strange that they drafted all Dmen with their 7 picks. Islanders are known to be strange. Picked Griffin Reinhart D at #4
Value Pick - Ville Pokka #34 - Had him going in the early 20s. He and Reinhart could form a solid pair a few years down the line. Offensive minded Dman.
Reach Pick - Loic Leduc #103 - Wasn't on my radar but the Islanders felt the need to use a 4th rounder on him. Has size and plays tough.

New York Rangers B- - Rangers only had 4 picks, but got decent return on those picks. 2 Dmen, 2 forwards. Picked Brady Skjei D at #28.
Value Pick - Calle Andersson #119 - Had him ranked as a mid 4th rounder, but even I think I had him too low. Probably should have been an early to mid 3rd rounder. Grabbing him at the end of the 4th round is a nice fetch.
Reach Pick - Brady Skjei #28 - Only a slight reach as I had him ranked #38, but with the lack of picks, made this the biggest reach.

Ottawa Senators C+ - Ottawa had a nice first pick and then the draft deteriorated from there. Draft filled with reaches. Ottawa not having a 2nd rounder hurt as there was a lot of nice value in that round. Picked Cody Ceci D at #15.
Value Pick - Cody Ceci #15 - Love Ceci's game an all around defender that can contribute in all zones. Very heady player. Had him ranked #10 and going at #5 in my mock draft.
Reach Pick - Chris Driedger #76 - Had a very inconsistant year with the Hitmen. Had long bouts where he fought the puck. Worthy of a draft pick, just not a 3rd rounder.

Philadelphia Flyers D- - Flyers draft was filled with reaches. Very close to Florida for worst draft of the weekend. Even their first pick Scott Laughton, I had pegged for the second round and I like that pick. Picked Scott Laughton C at #20.
Value Pick Scott Laughton #20 - Had him ranked at #55, and that was there best value pick. Some compare him to Mike Richards, I think its a stretch, I'm thinking more of a Colin Fraser type.
Reach Pick Anthony Stolarz #45 - A goaltending that was vaulting up the standings at the end of the year. A bit of a stretch to literally come out of nowhere and become a 2nd round pick. I thought Jon Gillies who was drafted in the 3rd round would have been a better pick.

Phoenix Coyotes B- - Phoneix found some good value in the mid to late rounds of their draft. Picked 4 of 8 Dmen. Picked Henrik Samuelsson C at #27
Value Pick - Niklas Tikkinen #148 - Recently converted from forward to D. An interesting prospect with a lot of physical tools but is learning a new position. Definitely boom/bust but worth the gamble in that spot.
Reach Pick - Jordan Martinook #58 - Another drafted overager who is likely to be donning a pro uniform and become a solid pro, AHL or NHL remains to be seen. I think they could have waited another round or two to pick this player and if they would hve lost out, the loss wouldn't have been severe. Typical forward that Phoenix seems to like.

Pittsburgh Penguins B - Penguins had 9 picks. Picked from a nice variety of positions, drafted 2 goaltenders, that might be overkill. Love the way the Penguins are stacking up on defense. Some great currency to spend there. Picked Derrick Pouliot D at #8. Picked Olli Maatta D at #22.
Value Pick Anton Zlobin #173 - Zlobin has the potential to ride shotgun in the Crosby/Malkin era. Zlobin was an overage pick with great natural offensive instincts. Kind of reminds me of Miro Satan with his ability to navigate in and out of traffic.
Reach Pick - Derrick Pouliot #8 - I had Pouliot pegged for the back half of the 1st round but when the Penguins drafted Olli Maatta with the 22nd pick, it kind of evened everything out.

San Jose Sharks D - Another team with a subpar draft. Loved the Hertl pick, but everything was a mess after that. Picked Tomas Hertl C at #17
Value Pick - Tomas Hertl #17 I had Hertl ranked 12th, so he fell a smidge, but this is a solid pick and getting them ready for the post-Joe Thornton era. They have options with him, store him or convince him to come to North America.
Reach Pick - Chris Tiernay #55 I didn't have Tiernay ranked in my top 100 and the Sharks felt the urge to use a 2nd rounder on him. To go with the fact they had no 3rd rounder. That's working without a net.

St. Louis Blues D - Blues had 8 picks but poor value in all of them. Draft filled with reaches and projects. At least they picked from a nice blend of positions. Picked Jordan Schmaltz D at #25
Value Pick - Sam Kurker #56 - Even though it was a reach, it was their best value pick. I had him rank #96 but like the potential he possesses. Potential mean, scoring power forward in the making. But a long way away from seeing the pros.
Reach pick - Nick Walters #116 - I had him pegged as a 7th rounder if picked at all. A dman with some nice skillset but is struggling to find his way. If Ryan Murray doesn't return to Everett, he will really get thrown in the deepend next year.

Tampa Bay Lightning C+ - I thought Tampa reached a bit in their first rounders but found some value in their 2nd rounders. All in all, a very even draft for them. Picked Slater Koekkoek D at #10. Picked Andrey Vasilevski G at #19
Value Pick - Nikita Gusev #202 - This player is offense in a bag. Potential Marty St. Louis replacement if he decides NHL over KHL. Big time potential in this player even though he's diminutive. Great 7th round gamble.
Reach Pick - Andrey Vasilevski #19 - Most NHL ready goaltender, but not sure he'll end up being the best one of he bunch. Risky pick in a lot of ways in 1) he's a Russian not playing in the CHL and 2) he's a goaltender, the double whammys of picking the first round.

Toronto Maple Leafs C+ - Did well considering they only had two picks in the first four rounds. Didn't swing for the fences in the later rounds. Picked Morgan Rielly D at #5
Value Pick - Matt Finn #35- Had Finn pegged for the bottom part of the firt round. Leafs continue to stockpile defense. Good plan as its the only way they will be getting their center.
Reach Pick - Morgan Rielly #5 - When you only have 2 picks in the first 4 rounds there isn't much to choose from. I had Rielly ranked 8th and being picked in my mock draft 9th. So the "reach" part is pretty negligible. Still a solid pick for the Leafs.

Vancouver Canucks C - Vancouver had a solid first pick and then a bunch of swings for the fences. Vancouver found their 3rd line C for the future. Picked Brendan Gaunce C at #26
Value Pick - Brendan Gaunce #26 - I had him ranked #14. If you can't have the best players, its good to have the players that can shutdown the best players. Gaunce is that player with modest offensive upside.
Reach Pick - Alexandre Mallet #57 - Another overager in the 2nd round. Its like they are trying to recreate Alex Burrows with this pick, they might, they might not, it just seems a little off the board.

Washington Capitals B- - Capitals had a very uneven draft. They'd make a good pick and follow it up with a bad one. One of those, "could have been better, could have been worse" type drafts. Picked Filip Forsberg LW at #11. Picked Tom Wilson RW at #16
Value Pick - Riley Barber #167 A player that I had ranked in the early third round, the Caps got him in the 6th round. A swiss army knife type player that can play in a variety of roles and play with energy. Very effective player, lots of hustle.
Reach Pick - Tom Wilson #16 - Everyone wants to compare him to Milan Lucic. Might be strong enough eventually but is still a pretty clunky skater. I think its a stretch and the Caps may have drafted a player with 4th line potential in the 1st round. I had him ranked 44th.

Winnipeg Jets B+ - Solid draft for the Jets the 2nd time around. Only had 6 picks to play with but found really good value in 4 of them. Picked Jacob Trouba D at #9
Value Pick Ryan Olsen #160 - Something intrigues me about Ryan Olsen. I want to think that he will eventually be a strong 2nd line center but he has a long way to go to get there. Has the projectable frame to do so.
Reach Pick Jaime Phillips #190 - Interesting pick from a goaltender that only played 11 games on a Tier 2 Ontario club. Must have some high intel on that one.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Edmonton Oilers Draft Rundown 2012

The Oilers had a fair draft this time around. Looked for the right things but turned over the wrong rocks. The fact that they drafted some size and strength is a good sign for the Oilers as they badly need it, just not sure the players they picked today will be in a position to help them. 5 wingers and 2 defensemen is the rundown. Could have used some centers, have more than enough wingers kicking around now.

Pick #1 - #1. Nail Yakupov LW/RW - OHL - The Oilers abandon the plan of trying for a top pairing Dman here and take the BPA in Yakupov. Yakupov will add to the push the pace style the Oilers are trying to construct, but with the defense about as broken as it can get, the young stud forwards will be rendered useless on a lot of nights. Yakupov is a heckuva talent, but I fail to see how the Oilers will be able to win games without some high end Dmen and centers. I had Ryan Murray going here, he went #2 to Columbus.

Pick #2 - #32. Mitch Moroz LW - WHL - I like this player's size/strength and what he brings to a team, a no nonsense approach. But picking him here, is a bit of a reach. He's a project player that needs a lot of work on his skating. There were many capable Dmen left on the board with this pick, one that the Oilers could have used in their pipeline. At the moment, I think he has 4th line potential, with some room to grow some more. To say he'll evolve into a scoring power forward is a bit optimistic. I had Damon Severson going in this spot, he went #60 to the Devils.

Pick #3 - #60. Jujhar Khaira LW - BCHL - This is a pick that I'm fond of somewhat. At the moment, Khaira is a tall, lanky winger, that reminds me of a more finesse, less flighty, version of Magnus Paajarvi. Very much a finesse player, that gets pucks from point A to point B efficiently. Khaira, like much of the other Oilers forwards, is going to have to hit the weights in order to make it to the next level. He's a player I'd like to see play in the WHL, rights owned by Everett, but as of right now, is committed to play at Michigan Tech. I had Branden Troock going in this spot, he went at pick #134 to the Stars. I may like this Oilers pick a bit more if he decides on the WHL.

Pick #4 - #91. Daniil Zharkov LW - OHL - Third left winger picked in a row, all 6'3" and believe me, if the Oilers have a strength, its LW. Kind of a one-dimensional sniper, but a dimension he is very good at. Reminds me of a poor man's Kovalchuk, but doesn't quite have the long range shooting Kovalchuk does. A player that rides hot and cold streaks, but doesn't score the volume like a Kovalchuk would. I had Zharkov pegged as a 2nd rounder, so the value is definitely there, but having Yakupov (can play RW), Hall, Paajarvi, to go along with Moroz and Khaira drafted above, just doesn't make a lot of sense. Obviously all of these players aren't likely to pan out, but now its practically a given, given the logjam on LW. I had the Oilers taking Frank Vatrano going here, he didn't get picked at all, which is very surprising.

Pick #5 - #93. Erik Gustafsson D - Sweden - Not to be confused with the Erik Gustafsson playing for the Flyers. This seemed like a very token pick for the European scouts. Haven't seen much of this player other than to say he was drafted as an overager. On the surface, it seems like a storage pick for the Oilers, a player the Oilers can leave in Europe for a few years until they can figure out where he slots on the depth chart. I had Ryan Olsen going in this slot, he went at pick #160 to the Jets.

Pick #6 - #123. Joey Laleggia D - NCAA - Another overage draftee for the Oilers that has high boom/bust potential. Diminutive Dman, that excels in puck movement and distribution. Has excellent vision, but not a lot of strength in his game at all. I figure, at minimum, he'll have an AHL career waiting for him, NHL, we'll have to wait and see. I had Rhett Holland going in this spot, he went at pick #102 to the Coyotes, making him null and void.

Pick #7 - #153. John McCarron RW - ECAC - Yet another overage pick. McCarron has some skills though. Big bodied player that skates well, modest hands, game kid that will stick up for teammates, shoots right. Sounds like everything the Oilers could use. Some potential there, but the learning curve will be steep for this player. I had Peter Quennville going in this spot, he went undrafted.

That's the rundown of the draft. All in all, they addressed size and strength on the wings, didn't do much to improve defense or center depth. They will likely need some of these players in near future to put around the young kids on the current team. But as of right now, the Oilers continue to be a work in progress.

My rundown:
#1. Ryan Murray
#2. Damon Severson
#3. Branden Troock
#4. Frank Vatrano
#5. Ryan Olsen
#6. Joey Laleggia
#7. Peter Quennville

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fail for Nail

Welp, the Oilers did it. They picked who everyone (but me) wanted them to pick and the Oilers fans are in a frenzy. I'm kind of getting tired of being a downer on these blogs, but its ever so frusterating watching the Oilers ignore the basic concepts of how to build a team. After listening to many hockey pundits saying they were taking Ryan Murray, feeling some sort of relief through the day, and then having the rug pulled out from under me by going back to the original plan and taking Nail Yakupov, was a severe body blow for myself. I haven't agreed with the things the Oilers have done in quite sometime here and but I continue to be in the minority of a lot of decisions being made lately. This pick seemed like a plea from the fans to take Yakupov. Then they took Yakupov. From here on out, whatever happens to the Oilers and its fans will strictly be on them. This team seems to be run on public opinion, which is a dangerous thing to do.

Lets review history shall we.
- The fans wanted Hall, they got Hall.
- The fans wanted Nugent-Hopkins, they got Nugent-Hopkins.
- The fans wanted Yakupov, they got Yakupov.
- The fans wanted Gilbert gone, he's gone.
- The fans wanted Penner gone, he's gone.
- The fans wanted Hemsky re-signed, he got 2 more years.
- The fans want Horcoff gone, well good luck with that.
- The fans wanted Quinn gone, Renney brought in, well that happened.
- The fans want Ralph Krueger.....

This is a dangerous precedent. Oilers fans are in no condition to be making such judgments. I know some of them pay the money to make the wheels turn, but when all the moves are disjointed, who is really pulling the strings here? I know the Oilers are in the product selling business, but this stinks of "no clear plan". Oilers's fans love goals, and thats understandable. Me? I'm more about the wins. The Oilers biggest weakness still lies in how to play without the puck and they just flat out don't own the puck enough. It's a concern that hasn't been addressed since 2006.

I dunno what happens from here on out. One thing is for certain, the Oilers are going to need 2 miracles on the backend and 1 down the middle.

The Oilers picked Nail Yakupov tonight (yippee!), but are no closer to leaving the basement of the Western Conference. Miracles need apply.

I'll do a rundown tomorrow night of all the Oilers picks tomorrow night and see how I matched up against them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Petrell Back for One More Year, Odds & Ends

Lennert Petrell was reupped today to a one year deal, money undisclosed. While Petrell had a decent year, leading the Oilers forwards in hits, Petrell is pretty generic in terms of offensive ability. I had labeled Petrell in a previous post as at best a 14th forward on the team next season. Hopefully with this signing, it will mean they can find a new home for Eric Belanger this off season and then Petrell can slip into that 13th, forward, jack of all trades type. I get the feeling that once July 2nd rolls around, the team will have a different look to it, for better or for worse.

Other tidbits:
- Talk of Sam Gagner potentially being on the move between now and UFA day. It will be interesting to see what kind of offers they get for him and what kind of player will fill that hole on 2nd line C. With another top prosepect likely to break camp with the club by the beginning of next season, the Oilers could use some veterans, ones that will buy in and know their role.
- I'm starting to prepare myself for the notion that Nail Yakupov will be the choice on Friday, at the draft. While I understand that Yakupov is a sublime talent with excellent sniping ability, leaving holes all over the defense with no actual #1 Dman anywhere in the fold will be something the Oilers may live to regret. I still maintain that Yakupov may be an A, Ryan Murray would an A-, and the gap between the two in terms impact and helping their team win, is pretty negligible. I maintain Murray is a better fit, short term and long term.
- The Justin Schultz situation continues to become more murky. Everything from the Oilers being one of the final three teams involved in the auction, to not even being considered. The best thing to do here is hope he comes here, but keep building the team like he isn't coming here. Can't put all the eggs in one basket here. If the Oilers do nothing to fix the defense or the centers, I would consider the offseason an epic loss, regardless of Yakupov.

The draft should be a good time. Sorry folks, but the Oilers need to address their strength and size in this draft in the later rounds. Having neglecting this long has been a terrible oversight.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Ol' Boys Club

Another week of wild and wacky decision making from the Oilers. Today the Oilers welcomed back an old retread in Craig MacTavish as their VP of Hockey Operations. So, what does this all mean? It means business as usual with more of the same type of thinking we have been privvy to over the last decade plus. I can't see how this decision can help at all. What the Oilers need to a fresh outsiders perspective, someone who hasn't been tainted by the Oilers way. Someone who can bring in an idea and a system of his own and implement it without being held under the Oilers ways. Everything seems to be dedicated to rebuilding the '80s Oilers, for sentimental purposes. But that was a different time and a different era. Hockey was played differently back then and I'm not sure that style of hockey is coming back anytime soon. Its tough watching this team tripping over itself trying to find its ways out of the wilderness, bringing back the ones that brought them into the wilderness in the first place.

MacTavish is a fine hockey man and with a long list of credentials. But bringing back old ideas isn't going to get the Oilers any closer to the end of the rebuild. Its something that stinks of a jock chasing Daryl Katz would do. The Oilers need fresh ideas, badly. Until then, we keep wandering in the darkness searching for the light, putting out full faith into this Oilers management team.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Inevitable

Steve Tambellini was reupped today, terms not disclosed and I'm not surprised. I'm guessing it was either a one or three year deal. One year deal because no upper management types take a one year deal these days and Tambellini is embarrassed to disclose this type of info, or 3 year deal because the fans would be in an uproar in such a decision and Mr. Katz has far too much money that all he would rather do is burn it.

Tambellini should feel fortunate to continue to see through his rebuild. Most, if not all GMs don't get that opportunity. 3rd coach gone through, not enough life preservers thrown, a vision with a lack of wherewithal with no end to the losing in sight. To remain with the status quo in management is condoning three first picks overall at the draft, and no real leadership or accountibility coming from anyone in upper management. It's condoning losing, and I'm not a big fan of any sports team that doesn't try to win, be it a player or a team. The Oilers have sold false hope over the last three years for the hope of a greater future. A future that may or may not come. If you want to sell hope, gut the management team, that will refuel my hope. Instead it will be more of the same for the foreseeable future.

So, Steve Tambellini is back, the fans are clamouring for Nail Yakupov at the draft, meaning there will be more turning over the hockey club and more of a need on center and defense. Its tough times to be an Oilers fan. Tough road behind and more tough roads lie ahead. The Oilers are going to need a miracle to get the rebuild off the ground. The Oilers have the talent but struggle to find the wins because they don't address the areas that most winning hockey clubs have.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Blessing And The Curse

So, there I was, sitting there, watching the draft lottery unfold thinking, there is no way the Oilers can win the lottery, the NHL can't possibly let this happen. The Oilers will end up with one of Murray or Grigorenko and the evolution of the Oilers can continue to unfold. But once the Oilers logo was uncoverd in the #1 envelope, everything changed, and I mean everything. While most of Oilerdom look on with gleeful disbelief, I was my more looking on in an "OH NO!" type state. This is a spot where winning the lottery could set the rebuild off its course.

There is a fine young prospect, Nail Yakapov, who is the "consensus" #1 pick and as expected from the time the lottery ended right up until now, the chants for name to be spoken by the Oilers at the draft are getting louder and louder. And while I don't deny he's a fine prospect, I wouldn't label him a franchise player, nor would I label any of the prospects in this draft a franchise player. Yakapov might be the best player at what he does in the draft but the gap between #1 and #5 is not as big as all the pundits seem to want to suggest. This group includes, Yakapov, Ryan Murray, Mikhail Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk, and Jacob Trouba. All of these players will be fine high end additions for any franchise, but I wouldn't label any of these players as "centerpieces" to a hockey team. A player that you would build a team around and expect to win.

All of this leads me back to the Oilers. Of course, the Oilers don't need a franchise player in this draft, they have at least two, perhaps three already skating on Rexall ice. The question you have to ask is.... which player can make the biggest impact on this club, now and in the future, regarding skillset, ability to play, where do they slot in the depth chart, position played...yada yada yada, and on down the line. Which player will help this team win? Do the Oilers really need a 2nd line left or right winger, now or in the future? And is it more important than a first pairing Dman or a 2nd line center? In my mind, its not. I guess that depends on what you think becomes of Taylor Hall and/or Jordan Eberle. Magnus Paajarvi and Ales Hemsky are also a part of that conversation. If you are worried about Taylor Hall's injury history or Magnus Paajarvi becoming a bust or Ales Hemsky never finding his groove again, then the rebuild is a failure anyway. That's when the Oilers find themselves in a perpetual rebuild. Out with the old, in with the new, over and over again. Enough with the shiny new toys, its time to give the pieces the Oilers currently have, some complementary pieces they can work with, pieces that will mask their own weaknesses. Just because the Oilers happened to win the lottery on a stroke of luck, doesn't mean the plan should be deviated from. The Oilers need to continue to limit the weaknesses of this hockey club until they are so small, no NHL coach or manager will be able to identify it.

The beef I have with a large portion of Oilers' fans these days is they think in terms of goals = wins. Score a butt tonne of goals and we will win a butt tonne of games. Goals, goals, goals, wins. wins, wins. While I partially agree with this, I try to break down things into finer points. As in, how the goals are going to be scored, where are the goals coming from, and are we going to be able to score more than the other guys? Hockey has turned into a puck possession/retrieval game. The more you have the puck and protect the puck, the better the chance of winning the game. While the Oilers are trying mightily to work on puck possession, puck retrieval is sorely lacking and will continue to lack until the Oilers find some puck moving Dmen, game-managing centers and robust wingers who can win a board battle. Nail Yakapov is a stout winger but is much more effective in open space than he is along the boards, so he will be a lot like the rest of the forwards on the Oilers. Hockey isn't basketball where we can run isolation, 1on1 type plays. Puck movement and puck retrieval are very important in todays game.

All in all, Steve Tambellini is in a real tough spot, made tougher with the lottery win. All it did was add another unneeded option to the ledger. The Oilers' brass are stuck in no man's land. If they take Yakapov and don't deal with other weaknesses, they will likely be back in the lottery next year, in which case Tambellini should be out of a job at that point. If they leave the alleged "best player available" on the table and he turns out to be a very important piece for someone else, the fans will be on the witchhunt, regardless of how well the Oilers improve themselves. If the Oilers were drafting 2nd or 3rd, they would add a Murray or Grigorenko, add a piece they need and could use, all while drafting the "BPA". But with Yakapov now being added to the mix and being highly touted by everyone, including Oilers' fans, I don't see this ending well. Is Tambellini going to have the balls to go against the fans like Glen Sather did when he took Steve Kelly over Shane Doan? If he did, I feel it would be met with better results. This is where the trust in scouting and player development needs to be top notch. Can the Oilers take a little less to gain a little more?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Oilers Offseason 2012 Pre-Draft

Another year, another first overall pick. Like the recent past, the Oilers will continue to turnover the team until they get the right mix, hopefully sooner rather than later. Its time to check the offseason, to see who should be coming, who should be going and how those spots will be filled. I'll do another writeup after UFA day as there will changes between now and then.

Here's what I've pieced together at this point:

Belanger CCCCCC



Gone - Sam Gagner, Theo Peckham, Cam Barker, Darcy Hordichuk, Linus Omark, Lennert Petrell, Corey Potter.

Taylor Hall - Cements himself in the first line LW spot. The only concern is whether he will be ready for the season opener as he is recovering from shoulder surgery. All this talk about Hall moving to center isn't something I would consider for the time being. Hall's speed off the wing is something the Oilers need a lot more of, not less and he's the ace of spades when it comes to bursting off the wing. Hopefully his shoulder injury isn't hampering his ability to work on his core strength.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - RNH has cemented himself as the first line center of this hockey club. He just needs to continue to build on his rookie season. He established himself as a pillar of this hockey club and the Oilers need to construct around him. Hopefully more strength is on the way for him and the others around him.

AAAAAA - This spot needs to be occupied by a power forward type. The more experienced, the better. Someone to ride shotgun with the kids, back them up in physical battles and be reliable in all ends of the ice. Offensive pedigree would be nice. This would allow the other two on the line some time and space, something they'll need to get into that superstardom range.

Ryan Smyth - After looking at the UFA options, the best and most affordable option is Ryan Smyth. I would consider a 1 year deal around 3 mil per year. Give Smyth steady minutes but don't play the crap out of him. Give him either PK or PP time, not both. The Oilers could use a more veteranized 2nd line. Barring that, Teemu Hartikainen might be Plan B, not a terrible Plan B, but one that would most definitely hurt depth. I'd re-sign Smyth to a 1yr/$3 mil deal, if Smyth can handle the pay cut.

Jordan Eberle - The guy on my list that will undergo the most amount of change, but the player, I figure, is the most equipped to handle it. He's my vote to be the player to move to center, reasons being, he's a cerebral player, positionally sound, quick to learn, he's right handed, he gives Hemsky a shooter on his line. Playing center is a different beast in the NHL, but its something I think Eberle would be up for.

Ales Hemsky - I still cringe to see this player on the Oilers. Not because of who he is, but what he represents. He represents "getting your ass kicked over and over" type hockey, and now that he is here, the Oilers have no choice but to build a line to suit him. Eberle seems to have chemistry with everyone because of his versatile game, maybe he can kickstart Hemsky's career back on track.

Ryan Jones - Just keep doing what your doing. Get another kick at playing the toughs and hope to break even, all while chipping in 15+ goals. Jones has been undervalued by a lot of Oiler fans. To me, he has been perfectly fine and to ask for more is asking too much. Perhaps a few more hits wouldn't hurt but all in all, a solid 3rd liner. I expect a big season from him in a contract year.

Shawn Horcoff - Horcoff just flat out needs to be better next year. Cannot hang out in the -20 range, needs to be closer to even while playing the toughs for this team to move forward. Horcoff needs to understand and embrace his role a lot better this season. That keeping the puck out of his own net is more important than putting the puck in the other team's net. Hopefully he can find a balance and chip in 15g, but for now, I just want him to hang out near the even mark of the plus/minus. Like Smyth, he can't play on both sets of special teams, more PK, no PP. If the Oilers can find another home for him, its something that should definitely be looked at.

BBBBBB - Ideally I would like this player to be an above average skater, but more importantly, a player with experience playing on the 3rd line is needed in this slot. PK is an asset needed here along with an ability to help this line overall break even while playing the toughs.

Magnus Paajarvi - The 4th line would be a good spot for Paajarvi to start next season. Limited expectations while having the ability to push those above him on the depth chart. I would teach Paajarvi the finer points of the penalty kill giving him a more versatile game from here on out.

Anton Lander - From here on out, I think Paajarvi and Lander should be joined at the hip. Forging 2/3rds of an eventual 3rd line going forward, maybe even a 2nd line. One day Lander will be the go to PKer on the Oilers, so keep grooming him for that role. If the Oilers are truly about rebuilding then he should be playing over Belanger if all things are equal.

Ben Eager - Many people clamouring for Eager to be gone this offseason. I think the Oilers need him more than ever. He does need to up his hit total and become more engaged into the game more often. If Tom Renney mismanaged two players on the Oilers, it was Magnus Paajarvi and Ben Eager. Paajarvi, for tying him to the boat anchor in Belanger and Eager for not throwing him a carrot and play him with the young guns more often to create space and get him engaged. Eager needs to do more, but the Oilers need to do more for Eager. The 4th line gets bumped up to about 10 minutes a game, most of it 5v5.

Eric Belanger - I'd turn Belanger into a jack of trades type forwards, play him at center, play him on the wing, play him wherever a hole needs to be filled or someone is slumping. Belanger needs to buy into this role as an extra forward, otherwise I'd find another home for him. The vets need to buy in, its the biggest thing holding the rebuild back.

CCCCCC - Essentially the same type of player Belanger, verstatile player, maybe with a little more umph to his game, and someone who would be happy being in the NHL earning an NHL paycheque. Someone who shoots right preferrably, to give the lineup some balance.

Ryan Whitney - Ryan Whitney enters his contract year. What he will give the Oilers is anyone's guess. I think the key with Whitney is to just let him go play and let him give what he will give and re-evaluate at the end of next year. If Whitney can get back to last year's form, great, if not, start moving him down the depth chart. The Oilers need to keep their options open here. He's been a good soldier in his time here.

DDDDDD - The better this player is, the better the Oilers will be for it. This player could be any number of types. Could be a young grade A prospect ready to make an impact, or a grizzled old vet, who's legs might be going, but his expeience makes him better than most. This spot along with 1st line RW are vital spots that need to be filled. Offensive minded definitely needed here.

Ladislav Smid - Smid just needs to continue to be what he was this past season. Hit giving, shot blocking machine. Breaking even on the plus/minus ledger while playing the toughs is also something that is needed from him. Improvements from everyone else but a regression from him, would likely keep the team from moving forward. That's how important his role is to this team.

Jeff Petry - Another player that took a big step in solidifying his NHL career. The next stage for Petry is trying to add more to his offensive dimension without taking away from the defensive side. Petry should be given the opportunity to grow and receive significant minutes next season. I'd re-sign Petry 4yr/$3.5 mil/yr deal.

Ryan Murray - My choice for the 1st overall pick. Him breaking in on the bottom pairing, paired with a veteran Dman is good way for him to kick off his NHL career. Give him 2nd unit PP and PK time. Work him in slowly but make sure he is getting the right education to become an NHL defenseman.

Nick Schultz - Nick Schultz will be the security blanket for Ryan Murray. They will rely on Schultz to keep his own end clean while helping out with the transition game. He and Murray should become a solid puck possession combo.

Andy Sutton - Should be able to settle into the 7th Dman role, getting games in against more aggressive teams. He and Murray should be subbing for each other when everyone is healthy. Sutton gives the defense some much added bite that it would be otherwise lacking without him.

Devan Dubnyk - Dubnyk is prime to get 40-60 games in this upcoming season. It would be better if Dubnyk had someone other than Khabibulin pushing him as the backup but that remains to be seen what happens there. Dubnyk has derserved the opportunity to run with the ball to start next season. I'd re-sign Dubnyk to a 2yr/$2 mil/yr deal.

Nikolai Khabibulin - Here's where we will find out how much Mr. Katz values his money. If he has grown tired of wasting money on inept free agents, Khabibulin will be back as the backup next year. If Katz has money to burn, he'll place Khabibulin on some European club and bring another goaltender. I think Khabibulin will be back next year, but thats just me.

Players That I Feel Will Be Moved Along:
- Sam Gagner - Some are still holding out a flame for him. Others can't wait to get rid of him. For myself, its kind of bittersweet as he was the first poster child of the initial rebuild. Hoping he would flourish into the first line center everyone would hope he would be. But the team has gone into a different direction and the focus on bigger players means Sam Gagner gets cut out of the picture. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the new, improved version making Gagner redundant. If the Oilers had taken Sean Couturier like I recommended, maybe Sam Gagner may still have a place. The Oilers long term are likely better off for Gagner moving along.

- Theo Peckham - Peckham is coming off a setback year where he didn't play with as much toughness as he once did and the Oilers decided to keep Andy Sutton around for one more year, likely meaning the end of the tenure for Theo Peckham. Peckham can play in the NHL on most clubs as long as he gets back to playing the game with an edge and a hard aggressiveness. But with the Oilers needing more offense and puckmoving ability on the backend, Peckham should be a casualty of this.

- Cam Barker - Was a gamble that didn't pan out. For all of those telling us that Barker was a terrible signing, well duh, yeah it was. But its not like there was a variety of options to choose from. Barker was the best gamble. It didn't work out, but it was a gamble that was worth the risk of a one year deal. Time to upgrade on Barker.

- Darcy Hordichuk - Hordichuk was a great soldier in his time here. But what the Oilers need now are more versatile pieces to push everyone up and down the lineup. No one's spot should feel safe and production in terms of pucks in and pucks out are the only things that should matter. Hordichuk is short in hockey ability but seems like one heckuva teammate.

- Linus Omark - Simply no room for him one this club and everyone knows it. Omark wants to play in the NHL and I think he should be given that opportunity to play in another organization. Omark's time with this club has been interesting to say the least.

- Lennert Petrell - Petrell is a 50/50 proposition. He's versatile enough to be the 14th forward on the club but I'm hoping for someone with a little more speed and a little more of an agitator. The fact that he shoots left doesn't help him either. If the Oilers brought him back as the 4th forward, I wouldn't complain. Essentially I'm hoping for a right handed version of him.

- Corey Potter - The Oilers gave Potter a 2 year deal and now I can't even see him breaking camp with the big club next year. He still might if the Oilers can't find a suitable player to fill in the DDDDDD spot. Potter lost his biggest advocate in Tom Renney, so the door is wide open for anything to happen here. Potter is going to have to legitimately play well to make the club next season, otherwise he could be a waiver wire casualty.


AAAAAA: Options
1) Shane Doan (2yr/5.5mil/yr) - Shane Doan would be ideal but unlikely candidate. Big robust winger that will put up 20+ goals and and 150+ hits, to go with that he will stick up for the kids. He's been a lifer with the Phoenix/Winnipeg franchise, so its unlikely to see him moving.
2) Steve Bernier (2yr/1.5mil/yr) - Would be an interesting case study as a UFA. Bernier looked like he was going to emerge as a stud power forward when he was in San Jose. Fell off the map in his time in Vancouver and in Florida, had a subpar season in New Jersey but has made a contribution during New Jersey's playoff run. I could see Bernier as a solid 3rd cog with Hall and RNH, but he will have to toughen up a bit.
3) David Moss (2yr/2.5mil/yr) - Moss is coming off an injury plagued season with the Flames. Doesn't hit enough for my liking but does have some offensive dimension. It will be interesting to see if he tests the market or not.
4) David Jones (3yr/3.5mil/yr) - Jones is much like Moss in that he doesn't hit much but does have offensive dimension. Problem is, he is coming off a good year and will likely get paid for it. Jones would be better than nothing, but could tie up a spot on the books if something better comes along.
5) Mike Knuble (1yr/1mil) - Knuble is a last ditch effort to fill that spot. He'll be 40 in July and will likely have his tires worn down to the nub. Even if you give him a contract offer like that, he'll likely retire anyway. Coming off a year with low goal total and an ugly +/-.

BBBBBB: Options
1) Jordin Tootoo (3yr/1.8mil/yr) - Tootoo isn't an ideal 3rd liner but it gives that line some bite and overall gives the team another bullet to put over the boards. Tootoo would have to find another gear in his goal totals as a 3rd liner he would have to find the 15 goal range when his career high is 11. Would cure a lot of things that ail the Oilers.
2) Jamie Langenbrunner (1yr/1.5mil) - Langenbrunner is coming off an off year where he only tallied 6 times but still managed to finish +7 on the Blues. Langenbrunner is turning 37 this summer, so he is diminshing returns at this point but would stabilize the third line. Not sure Langenbrunner would come here at that price, but you at least have to make the phone call on that one. No longer hits as much as he once did.
3) Lee Stempniak (1yr/1.5mil) - Stempniak has been a 3rd liner most of his career so he knows his role. He scores enough to fit the bill but doesn't hit enough, at least he didn't last year. Stempniak is versatile enough to play all over the lineup, so may be a good fit for a young Oilers team.
4) Scott Parse (1yr/1mil) - Parse would be a bit of a gamble coming off a year where he missed most of it due to a hip injury. While I think he would be defensively responsible enough, whether he would hit enough or score enough would remain to be seen. A low risk gamble.
5) J.T. Wyman (1yr/750K) - Built to play a 3rd line role. Responsible defensively but doesn't score nor hit enough to fit the bill. This player is much like Parse in that he is a low end risk, but requires a lot of work to get to the needed level.

CCCCCC: Options
1) Adam Burish (2yr/1.2mil/yr) - Burish is a perfect 14th forward to have. plays wing or center, brings intensity, pushes others to get better, can PK, and chips in where needed. The biggest thing with Burish is he'll make sure Eager stays sharp. Could also potentially fit in the BBBBBB spot, but fits in better here.
2) Joey Crabb (2yr/800K/yr) - Enjoyed a semi breakout year by putting up 11 goals and over 100 hits this past season with the Leafs. Another hard working, honest effort type. Someone might pay him more, but I wouldn't go much more than this. Underrated role player. Could also fit in the BBBBBB spot.
3) Byron Bitz (1yr/750K) - Big bodied winger who isn't afraid to take the body. Has had injury issues the past couple season, but is a game player when in the lineup. Limited to a bottom six player although played well with the Sedins in a short stint with them. Bitz has some untapped ability in his game.
4) Brendan Yip (1yr/750K) - A player that I was hoping the Oilers would claim on waivers last season. A thick bodied winger that play up and down the lineup. I wish he would hit more, but like Bitz has some untapped ability in his game.
5) Tim Wallace (600K/1yr) - Wallace is an honest up and down winger who has spent most of his time in the AHL. Debatable if he'd be an upgrade on Teemu Hartikainen at this point. Goals have not come easily for him in the NHL.

DDDDDD: Options
1) Justin Schultz (900K/2yr) - Is one of the prized soon to be UFAs on the market. Over the next month, this player should create a lot of drama on who will get his services. A puckrusher extraordinaire that test other teams defenses over and over. A real offensive weapon from the backend that isn't too shabby at defending either. An ideal solution to what ails the Oilers.
2) Sami Salo (1yr/2.5mil) - Salo is a Plan B that really doesn't exist. He's been with Vancouver for quite some time and they both seem faithful to each other. If he goes to free agency, you have to at least put in a phone call.
3) Matt Gilroy (1yr/1mil) - Gilroy is a player that is trying to establish himself in the NHL after a strong collegiate career. Gilroy at this point is a long way from the Schultz, in terms of effectiveness and potential. Settling on Gilroy would be disappointing to say the least.
4) Joe Corvo (1yr/2mil) - Corvo is nothing more than a rusted out old cannon at this point in his career. Limited mobility and limited defensive awareness. All of his value would be in his shot and effectiveness on the powerplay. If he's playing in the top 4, the Oilers are in trouble.
5) Dennis Wideman (3yr/5.25mil) - Wideman is still effective at this point in his career but after coming off a solid offensive year, will likely get paid in full. I'm not sure the Oilers want to pony up for this when a more effective option may not be that far away. Wideman could end up being "fools gold".

Those are my long winded thoughts on things. The Oilers are inching closer and closer to a finished product. Depending on what kind of impact moves are made will determine how far away the playoffs are. I will update this once again after the draft and UFA season. Hopefully the team takes on a slightly bigger and more physically intimidating version.

Until the next time...