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.

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