Sunday, July 29, 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
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.
- 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
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
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
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.