Saturday, May 11, 2013

Oilers Offseason 2013

Its been awhile since I've posted on here. After the shenanigans of the past season, I grew weary of harping on the negativity of the Oilers and decided to put the blog on hold. After all, it was more of the same things that were holding the team back with no "looking for the cure" in sight. Another trade deadline came and went with no purging and the lone acquisition of Jerrod Smithson proved to be nothing more than a waste of a draft pick. Mike Brown was also acquired prior to the deadline and proved to be a very modest upgrade on Ben Eager in terms of willingness to be physical, but when it came to moving the puck north, it was nowhere near good enough.

The Oilers ended up the season in 12th. While a very few of the players took a step forward, many others took steps backwards. The Oilers are still struggling to find an identity. Young, high-flying, risk taking, is something that was similar to the '80s but seldom synonymous with winning in the 21st century. The Oilers need to take their speedy team and blend it into the modern game of station to station, grind it out, type hockey.

In this article, I will run down the player types that will be needed in order for the Oilers to become a playoff calibre team next season.

My Perceived Oilers Depth Chart:

Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nail Yakupov
- Time to break up the "old" kid line and install a new improved version of it. Yakupov will install a more speedy robust style as opposed to Eberle's finesse style. The Oilers need to establish a more quick hitting " one pass and shoot" style. Having Hall play the role of puck transporter/playmaker and have RNH and Yakupov be more triggermen. Having RNH and Yakupov being left handed shots will allow for quick one timer options. This is a line that should define the Oilers going forward. Speed mixed in with cerebral play.

2nd line Power Foward - 2 way RH Center - Jordan Eberle
- Its time to move from Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner. Its time for this team to become more balanced and defensive conscious and this is where the changes need to be made. Two UFAs that could be used in the LW spot are Ryane Clowe and Guillaume Latendresse. Clowe had a cold season while Latendresse endured an injury plagued one. Getting one of these two at a slight discount price and hope they can recapture some old glory. The biggest thing the Oilers need out of this spot is for a LW to score some but hit a lot more. Waste of time to hope for an Iginla or a Horton. As for the C spot, unless one thinks Tyler Bozak will hit the market, the Oilers may need to draft this spot. Most are hoping for Sean Monahan to fall at the 7th spot. While on the surface he is the ideal player in terms of style, the only issue is that he shoots left. The Oilers desperately need more RH shooting forwards especially with me having Gagner and Hemsky departing. Even though it may be a perceived reach, Curtis Lazar might be a better short and long term fit on this club, as well as give the Oilers more flexability to slot Lazar into different positions and situations. I feel Lazar could play on the Oilers as soon as next season. His physical and mental abilities are well above average for his age.

Ryan Jones - Shawn Horcoff - Grinding 3rd line RH winger
- I feel the Oilers need to re-up Ryan Jones, even if I'm in the minority. Jones may not want to come back, but the Oilers should look to re-sign him, otherwise they will be looking for two 3rd line wingers. Ryan Jones suffered through an injury plagued off year, but if he was willing to re-sign a one year deal around the same money, I'd welcome him back. The Oilers need his willingness to battle for pucks. More importantly, they need him hungry. As for the RW, the Oilers need another Ryan Jones type. Puck battling winger that can PK and chip in on the offense. Colby Armstrong would be the first target, Brandon Yip would be the backup plan. I can't see a situation where Shawn Horcoff gets bought out even though he is grossly overpaid. Trying to find a suitable replacement at this time would be a impossible task. Trying to find one center is tough enough, trying to find two, forget about it. Unless you think Eric Belanger can be an upgrade, which I don't, Horcoff will be back another season.

Magnus Paajarvi - Anton Lander - Ben Eager
- Time to start developing Paajarvi and Lander as a tandem. The Oilers would have been better off playing Lander full time with the big club this season. A broken foot kept that from happening although I'm not sure that would have happened anyway. Having Belanger rent out Lander's spot is a complete waste of time. Let Lander learn on the job in a 4th line role. This is a line that I would have liked to see more of last season but rarely were all three on the club at the same time. I know Eager has grown sour on the Oilers but I still feel he is a better option than Mike Brown, especially from an offensive standpoint. Eager is a player that is looking to become more than a "goon". I feel the tradeoff is give him two offensive player to play with, in turn, he give the Oilers hits. If he doesn't deliver the hits, than I feel his time would then be truely done as an Oiler, if it isn't already. This should be a ten minute a game line. In the long run it will keep everyone fresh.

Extras: Ryan Smyth - Teemu Hartikainen
- This is the best I can think of for Ryan Smyth. Not enough energy thes days to contribute every game but his experience will come in handy especially if the Oilers can ever find themselves a playoff game. Teemu Hartikainen still needs to learn the finer points of the game. But with him at the end of his ELC, it likely means his next deal will be a one-way deal, meaning he will stick with the Oilers next season.

Sergei Gonchar - Shea Weber
- This is best case scenario in my view. I know some are clamouring for Mark Streit, but I don't think the value will be there. He will be looking for a long term deal with big money, and I don't think the numbers will be there to justify the deal. In turn, I'd be trying to milk a one year deal out of Gonchar to get him to play one final season. Gonchar may very well stay in Ottawa, but the options are limited. On the other side, I have Shea Weber. Now Weber, isn't a UFA, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the Nashville Predators will hold an auction for. If Weber hits the trade market, its the one player the Oilers need to go "all in" on. I'm talking everyone outside of Taylor Hall, should be made available to acquire him. Bidding will be high, so the Oilers will have to part with some of the Fab 4 to acquire him. I'm talking a Nuge, Gagner, and Petry type deal. As long as Nashville doesn't ask for Hall, I'd do whatever I could to acquire Weber. Without these two pieces the Oilers will likely be out of the playoffs again next season, because their defense will still be too weak.

Ladislav Smid - Justin Schultz
- Time for Smid to take on veteran role and become a reliable go-to defender now that he is being paid like one. He's been OK over the past few seasons, but always leaves me wanting more. Because of his lack of offense, his defense needs to be air tight, and that hasn't always been the case. Justin Schultz had a modest first season. As expected he thrived offensively and struggled defensively. The grind of the NHL game eventually wore the young Schultz down. It will be up to him to make offseason adjustments to become better prepared for the marathon that is the NHL season. This pairing will either solidify Smid as a rock solid defender or expose him as an overpaid defender.

Mark Fistric - Jeff Petry
- I'd bring back Fistric. Oilers need physicality on the backend even though Fistric is a high risk/high reward type style. His hits can be spectacular but when he misses the opponent usually has a clear path to the net. I prefer Fistric over Nick Schultz. Nick Schultz is a no frills defender that isn't particularly good at anything other than getting in the way. Not physical, not offensive, debatable defensive player. Nick being -13 and Justin being -19 showed me the pairing didn't work that well even if there were others that were trying to convince us that it was a solid pairing. Time to cut the cord. The Oilers would be in good shape if Petry played on the third pair. He can continue to learn the offensive side of the game while playing against lesser opposition defensively. If injuries arise Petry can move up the batting order if need be, which is never a bad thing to have.

Extra: Nick Schultz
Nick Schultz wins the extra spot. I'm pretty indifferent about the whole thing but since he is under contract for one more season, might as well. Corey Potter could also fit into this spot if need be. Schultz's contract will likely make him immovable but I don't feel comfortable having him in the lineup as an every game player.

Devan Dubnyk - Cristopher Nilstorp
- Devan Dubnyk will likely get the bulk of the games but needs to continue to be pushed. Enter Nilstorp. Nilstorp is a prototypical Eurpoean goaltender with a blend of size and athleticism. Had a cup of coffee with the Dallas Stars but played well for the AHL affiliate. He's the type of goaltender that could be a talent meets opportunity type scenario. The Oilers could use an AHL goaltender as well as I'm not sure Yann Danis will be back. Enter a Henrik Karlsson or a Chad Johnson type.

Gone: Sam Gagner, Eric Belanger, Ales Hemsky, Mike Brown, Lennert Petrell, Darcy Hordichuk, Corey Potter, Ryan Whitney.

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