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.