If The Oilers End Up With A Lottery Pick...

Jonathan Willis
December 07 2009 10:07AM

If this edition of the Edmonton Oilers manages to finish in the bottom five of the NHL, they'll have done something few teams have done in the salary cap era. 

This morning, Tyler Dellow looked at teams spending more than 90% of the cap who have managed to contend for a lottery pick.  The Oilers currently sit at 98.6% of the cap; only one team in the salary cap era (the 2006-07 Chicago Blackhawks) has managed to spend that much and earn a spot in the draft lottery, so if the Oilers can pull it off (and despite recent victories, that's plausible) it will represent an achievement of sorts.

In any case, Dellow looked at the nine teams to manage such woeful incompetence despite a relatively high payroll, and again with the exception of the 2006-07 Blackhawks (Khabibulin) all were plagued by lousy goaltending.  He also looked at the general managers of those teams; with the exception of Dean Lombardi, were fired or retired shortly thereafter.  Dale Tallon managed to hang on for two years before getting fired for other incompetence, while Larry Pleau managed to extend his job by bringing in a replacement. 

I strongly recommend reading Dellow's piece to get an idea of the true level of mismanagement involved in such a feat.  I'm of two minds on this one; I want to see the Oilers add a franchise talent via the draft lottery this summer, but I also feel that the current management group should be completely cleared out if the Oilers find themselves in that situation - Kevin Lowe's already on the fast track to the sunset, but such a poor performance would certainly warrant a full burn it to the ground and start from scratch approach in the front office.

Wouldn't it?

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 homerer
December 07 2009, 10:18AM
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That is a fair point, but can you law the blame at Tambo's feet? he has only been here two years. He is still recoiling from Klowes crap shoot tenure as GM. If there isn't a marked improvement over the next year, my opinion will change.

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#2 JonJon
December 07 2009, 10:19AM
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Why would you suggest Lowe is on his way out? Do you know something or are you just speculating? I can almost guarantee he won't be fired for moves he made in a job he no longer holds.

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#3 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
December 07 2009, 10:22AM
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Yet you fail to comment that Tambo has to clean up a mess that Lowe started in 2006.

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#4 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 10:28AM
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Clearing out the managment would be about as impactful as clearing out the coaching staff.

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#5 Robin Brownlee
December 07 2009, 10:30AM
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Cap figures change throughout the season. Are the numbers provided at the start of the season? At the 40-game mark? After the trade deadline? At the end of the season?

Tambellini should be fired after two seasons because he can't move awful contracts Lowe handed out? I think not. Blame him for not adding needed players to the roster and for over-reaching in length of term to Khabibulin, but for being up against the cap?

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#6 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 10:30AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Yet you fail to comment that Tambo has to clean up a mess that Lowe started in 2006.

How long do you give a guy to do that?

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#8 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 10:32AM
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"Tyler Dellow looked at teams spending more than 90% of the cap who have managed to contend for a lottery pick."

The cap increased roughly 12% - 13% per year up until this past year and then was stagnent. All of a sudden the majority of the league has become pushed up against the cap. Comparing teams close to the cap this year vs any other years is like comparing apples to cantalopes.

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#9 misfit
December 07 2009, 10:33AM
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Last year Tambellini had the "1st year on the job/learning about my new team" amnesty, and this year he'll have the "record man games lost to injury, but we had a great record before they hit" excuse for sucking. He should probably be shown the door, as well as Lowe and the rest of the shiny nickle chasers, but I think those two excuses will probably be enough to get him at least another year at the helm.

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#10 Hemmercules
December 07 2009, 10:34AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Yet you fail to comment that Tambo has to clean up a mess that Lowe started in 2006.

What really has he done so far to clean up that mess??? Bringing in players we don't need and signing a goalie to a Lowe style contract, not a great start. Personally, I'm giving Tambo until training camp next season until I totally write him off. So far I havent been at all happy with our new GM.

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#12 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
December 07 2009, 10:35AM
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@Travis Dakin

Well once some of the salaries are able to be moved. After this year I would think Tambo could have a few of the bad salaries moved. I'd say that next year barring any injuries we should be at least a playoff team if not I would have to start questioning management.

I'm writting this year off. Sure we could make the playoffs, but if we don't I won't be disappointed.

If next year though say Bulin is hurting us again and nothing has been done to fix the holes, then I will call for Tambo's head.

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#14 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
December 07 2009, 10:37AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Not sure what the knock on Neil is, he was a player that we needed but were able to clear up from within. And the fact that Neil signed with his orginal team for 4 years at 2mi, makes me believe that Tambo wasn't making that bad of a mistake.

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#17 mc79hockey
December 07 2009, 10:41AM
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The cap figures are from the end of the season. In the Oilers' case for this year, it's a projection - we obviously don't know where they'll finish in terms of dollars spent, but I'd be surprised if they were able to shed enough dollars to get below 90%.

The only real defence for Tambo is that Lowe created the problem, not him. I don't see that as being particularly compelling where he compounded things by going out and adding Khabby this summer and tried to convince Chris Neil to provide his roster with yet another $2MM anchor.

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#18 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 10:41AM
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As for this "$ for production" that everyone seems fixated on.

The vast majority of the teams in the league are witin a couple of millsion dollars in the dollars spent catagory, those with significant space also have internal budgets (for the most part) and/or have a pile of rookie/2nd contracts.

As Robin mentioned, cap dollars spent is in constant fluctuation. At the begininng of this year the team was somwhere in the 13 - 15 range for $$ spent, howevever to be in the 16 to 20 slot for $$'s spent you would only need to trim roughly 2million. (another way to look at it would be cutting Nilsson in the summer would have put the team in the lower half of $$ spent)

I think most would admit that a healthy Oiler roster was not a lotto team... I'm not saying it was a contending roster by any stretch, but I do believe it was a "bubble" (and probably at the lower end of the bubble) team.

In other words, this team healthy should probably fall in the 15 - 20 range in the NHL...meaning the roster as a whole is roughly 2 million overpaid (a Robert Nilsson if you will).

Fire the managment because 3 (going on 4) years without the PO is unacceptable? Sure.

Fire the managment because we want to play interenet games (that don't look at the big picture I might add) comparing success to $$ spent. Laughable.

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#19 Logan
December 07 2009, 10:42AM
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I know that this will be a surprise but I am not totally sold on flushing out the current management team if this season ends up in the tank. Why? Well I would rather have the devil I know than the Devil I don't know.

Sure we can hope for the best that we somehow get a mirculous new management team that turns the franchise around. But has there ever been a situation where this has happend and things turned out better? I haven't personally heard of even a star management team saving a franchise (cough couh, burkie in TO).

What happens if you get a real gong show situation going on by hiring someone that operates like 'Mad' Mike Milbury or 'Iron' Mike Keenan who were happy to blow up a team for years to try to get it to how 'they' wanted it to be and in the process gave up some rediculously awesome talent in these failed gambles over many years.

I know that these are the ultimate 'worst case hockey management scenarios' but it goes to show that like your on-ice team, you can rarely just blow things up, make wholesale changes and expect things to be perfect the next season. Change takes time. The real star franchises have tinkered and made small changes over time to get where they want and need to be and personally I think that this is what the Oilers need to do and in some way are doing.

As one other thought, if there is so much fear of Klow and Tambi, are people as paniced over the Canadian Mens Olympic team as well? These two guys have a huge say in how that team will be made up as well. Just some food for thought there.

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#21 JonJon
December 07 2009, 10:45AM
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@Jonathan Willis

I'm not arguing what the motivation was for his move at all, but if you think Katz is going to cut him loose for something he did two years ago and now has no control over, I think you are wrong. There is more of a relationship between Katz and Lowe than I'm sure you're aware of. He will continue with the Oilers until he chooses to pursue something else, which might be never.

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#23 Robin Brownlee
December 07 2009, 10:49AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Tambellini will have been G.M. for two years this summer. He failed to identify key fixes in the off-season, he spent his money poorly, and aside from the Heatley deal the guy he pursued (Neil) would have added to the cap hell rather than helping fix it.

He failed to make significant changes to the roster in the summer - he didn't move out salary or excess parts when he had the opportunity - and consequently much of the current mess can be laid at his feet.

Aside from giving Khabibulin two years too many for the liking of a lot of people, tell me how Tambellini spent his money poorly.

Tell me what salary or excess parts Tambellini had the opportunity to move. "Hey, it's the off-season" doesn't qualify as opportunity on its own when you have as many over-paid underachievers as the Oilers do.

And the "salary cap era" is, what, four seasons coming into this one? Nine teams over 90 per cent. The Oilers have done a poor job managing contracts under the new CBA, but they fall well short of stand-alone awful. Might be abn idea to wait more than 29 games to run this angle, no?

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#25 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
December 07 2009, 10:53AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Where did you hear about the Neil contract anyways?

I do agree that it is a bit much for him.

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#27 I'm a Scientist!
December 07 2009, 10:54AM
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I read this article and came away with one thought... If we are following the blackhawks path to success i have no argument.

*curls up and rocks back and forth mumbling "Two more years....two more years!!!"*

Also, Edmonton will always be at the cap limit. If we want players to play here, we have to over pay, that is just the nature of it. I don't think we can blame Tambo for that.

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#29 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
December 07 2009, 10:59AM
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@Jonathan Willis

So you don't exactly have a true number? What if it was 1.5mil, I would be happy with that?

I wouldn't suspect that the Rangers could've been the one to offer 2.5-3mil. They seem to be a team that doesn't need to overpay, yet for some reason they always do.

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#30 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 11:01AM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

So you don't exactly have a true number? What if it was 1.5mil, I would be happy with that?

I wouldn't suspect that the Rangers could've been the one to offer 2.5-3mil. They seem to be a team that doesn't need to overpay, yet for some reason they always do.

Why would you have been happy with that?

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#31 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 11:01AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Ogden Brother:

Nonsense. You could run a cap team that missed the playoffs. I could run a cap team that missed the playoffs. Any idiot off the street could find a way to spend to the cap and miss the playoffs.

And that's the point really; if this team ends up with a lottery pick, that means that these guys are at the very bottom of the barrel in terms of performance: the random idiot level. Any random idiot could take an expensive non-playoff team and two years later still have an expensive non-playoff team. For the money, Katz may as well have hired you, me or Brownlee to run the team; we couldn't do much worse.

Like I said, people aren't looking at the big picture. The vast majority of the leauge just became "expensive", people aren't taking it in context.

Lets push to the extreme for effect.

Assume the whole league paid 55 million for their roster.

Would we assume their was a value for $$ problem? Unlikely.

People don't realize that almost everyone is spending within a couple million of the cap. Because of that the $$ for success argument is basically null and void.

Like I said, petition for firings because of sub par results, not because you think theirs a disconect between dollars spent and results.

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#32 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 11:07AM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

I read this article and came away with one thought... If we are following the blackhawks path to success i have no argument.

*curls up and rocks back and forth mumbling "Two more years....two more years!!!"*

Also, Edmonton will always be at the cap limit. If we want players to play here, we have to over pay, that is just the nature of it. I don't think we can blame Tambo for that.

Your last paragraph is bang on.

The "no one wants to play in Edmonton" non-sense is overblown, but looking league wide I do think it's safe to say we are in the bottom 25% for disirability for the majority of players.

... which then points towards the team needing to pay a premium to get and keep players.

Looking success for $$'s spent league wide this team seems to be 2-3 million overpaid...which would give us a good indication of what the Edmonton premium would be (5% - 10%/contract).

This team needs to get better by developing it's own youth.

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#33 RossCreekNation
December 07 2009, 11:09AM
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Anyone think Dallas would move any of Matt Niskanen, Niklas Grossman, Jamie Benn, Steve Ott or Toby Petersen (jk)

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#34 Ender
December 07 2009, 11:11AM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

Edmonton will always be at the cap limit. If we want players to play here, we have to over pay, that is just the nature of it. I don't think we can blame Tambo for that.

True. Also, we have to allow that unforseen injuries are going to play a part in Tambo's record. While one might argue that he could have seen things like Khabi's back or Pisani's colitis coming, he couldn't possibly have predicted Hemsky's surgery, Comrie's mono, Horcoff's shoulder, and a dozen other things that have just been incredibly unfortunate. I'm not saying he's the greatest GM in the NHL today, but I don't think any of the 30 current GM's would be in playoff contention right now if their team was stuck with the same injury situation the Oilers have had this season.

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#35 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 11:12AM
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@Ogden Brother

You aren't making any sense. Since the start of the Cap, the Oilers have been at the limit every year and aside from the first year, have missed the playoffs every year. I'd like to see if there is a team that has spent as much and had a worse record.

Dollars spent to results achieved is a basic business measuring tool. The Oilers are a very poor performing product for the cost the company pays to supply it.

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#37 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 11:14AM
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Another way to illustrate my point:

The 5 teams currently below the Oilers in the standings:

Carolina Toronto Florida Ducks Flyers

Their cap space to start the year:

Canes 2.9 million Toronto 1.9 Florida 2.7 Ducks 3.2 Flyers 5 (but realistically 0 because of all their LTIR/cap shenanigans)

Oilers 2.1

In other words, all 5 current "lotto teams" would be at or near the 90% threshold.

Seeing as of now, it looks like all 5 lotto teams will be at or above the 90% of the cap compared to previous years when:

"only one team in the salary cap era (the 2006-07 Chicago Blackhawks) has managed to spend that much and earn a spot in the draft lottery"

Wouldn't that render that comparison pointless?

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#38 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 11:16AM
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Sure the injuries are a major factor but all they are doing is hiding the holes that were on the team to begin with.

If we had the opportunity to see what the team looked like healthy, we would be able to focus on the fact that this team is still missing way too many parts to be successful.

Instead we have another excuse lined up and ready for management to fall back on when the results AGAIN are crap.

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#39 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 11:17AM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

You aren't making any sense. Since the start of the Cap, the Oilers have been at the limit every year and aside from the first year, have missed the playoffs every year. I'd like to see if there is a team that has spent as much and had a worse record.

Dollars spent to results achieved is a basic business measuring tool. The Oilers are a very poor performing product for the cost the company pays to supply it.

Last year the team was actually middle of the pac in $$'s spent, that's where they finished (maybe a couple of spots worse in the standings then they were on the $$'s spent ladder)

With all the injuries, I'd bet the same will happen this year.

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#40 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 11:18AM
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"Wouldn't that render that comparison pointless?"

No it shows that there is more than one team in the league that is poorly managed. Do you really think that makes it ok for the Oilers to be as well?

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#41 David S
December 07 2009, 11:20AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Ogden Brother Jr.:

TSN reported this summer that EDM, OTT and NYR all pursued Neil with multi-year offers in the same range, and that Neil left money on the table to return to Ottawa.

This is the only problem I have when talk about firing Tambellini comes up. He's constantly saying that he's working the phones and your quote above seems to verify this. Its hard for me to think he's been inactive when its just as likely he's been trying to get something done and nothing has panned out.

I think alot of the problem might be that until we start to look like a competitive team we'll be rejected most of the time, and the few talents that take us up will demand massive overpays. The only people who would know this for sure would be the front office team, and they're obviously not about to tell us anything.

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#42 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 11:21AM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

"Wouldn't that render that comparison pointless?"

No it shows that there is more than one team in the league that is poorly managed. Do you really think that makes it ok for the Oilers to be as well?

@ JW/Travis

With a relatively healthy line-up (ie average amount of injuries, not the mess we've seen and will see). Where would you place this roster league wide?

I'd put them 15 - 20.

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#43 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 11:24AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Last year the team was actually middle of the pac in $$'s spent, that's where they finished (maybe a couple of spots worse in the standings then they were on the $$'s spent ladder)

With all the injuries, I'd bet the same will happen this year.

Without all the injuries we'd have another 8th -10th place team. How many more years until we can start raising the expectations bar?

Listen, I've been one of the biggest defenders of the management group for years but I'll be 30 in a few months and the memories of me cheering for a winning team are fading very fast.

It was funny to make fun of the Leafs and Canucks fans for their years of no success but going on 20 years is starting to create a pot calling the kettle black feeling in me.

'06 was nice and all but I'd be a whole lot happier to at least be in Calgary's position of expecting the playoffs as opposed to a wish and a prayer.

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#44 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 11:28AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

@ JW/Travis

With a relatively healthy line-up (ie average amount of injuries, not the mess we've seen and will see). Where would you place this roster league wide?

I'd put them 15 - 20.

There are so many parts of this team that I love. Individually the parts are shiny and all but it's still missing too much.

Too small, not enough grit, unbalanced, No support down the middle, Injury prone....

Your 15-20 mark is about right and that is no longer acceptable to me. in 2000-2005 it was. Not anymore.

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#45 Terry S
December 07 2009, 11:28AM
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This team is a playoff contender on paper.

I think you could trade any number of players off this roster and see them easily achieve what their salary is worth. (with a few exceptions, Horcoff I'm looking at you). The problem the Oilers have is the sum is LESS then it's parts.

I think there was a window of opportunity when this season started to see the team we watched in the first few games play a whole season. That team win or lose was at least invested in the games.

Some will argue based on shooting % and lopsided shots that team wasn't very good either, but even in losses I found myself entertained, whereas in November I wasn't.

The injuries and flu crushed the spirit and allowed the culture of this team to fall back where it's settled the last few years. So while it's interesting to argue about what how much we're spending vs our performance, there then has to be a further analysis as to why that happened.

Injuries (which has hurt the club on the ice AND as others mentioned has had to significantly drop our cap hit), Leadership, Culture.... there's a lot going on here that I wouldn't put on the head of the GM, or former GM.

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#46 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 11:29AM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

"Wouldn't that render that comparison pointless?"

No it shows that there is more than one team in the league that is poorly managed. Do you really think that makes it ok for the Oilers to be as well?

Travis, my point with that statment ("Wouldn't that render that comparison pointless?")

Is that the statement:

"teams spending more than 90% of the cap who have managed to contend for a lottery pick. The Oilers currently sit at 98.6% of the cap; only one team in the salary cap era (the 2006-07 Chicago Blackhawks) has managed to spend that much and earn a spot in the draft lottery, so if the Oilers can pull it off (and despite recent victories, that's plausible) it will represent an achievement of sorts."

Represents an epic failure. Now under normal conditions I would agree, because you are taking something that's only happend 5% of the time (1 out of 20 lotto teams since the cap spending to 90% of the cap) so ya it would be impressively bad if we could be team 2.

However, as I pointed out their could easily be 5 out of 5 lotto teams spending 90%+ of the cap this year so really the 1/20 comparision is invalid.

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#47 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 11:30AM
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As I said before, I will completely support a crap season if it means getting the right parts to end the perpetual cycle of mediocrity with this team.

Always too crappy to EXPECT the playoffs but never good enough to get that franchise player draft pick that ensures your ticket out of the cellar.

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#48 Travis Dakin
December 07 2009, 11:33AM
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@Ogden Brother

Ok I understand what you are saying now. HAHA I guess I am taking issue with what seems to me, your defence of the results. We can always make excuses and use numbers to support our claims but a some point I just want to say enough is enough. I want to know that there is a smart plan in place to stop the bleeding eventually.

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#49 Ogden Brother
December 07 2009, 11:35AM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Without all the injuries we'd have another 8th -10th place team. How many more years until we can start raising the expectations bar?

Listen, I've been one of the biggest defenders of the management group for years but I'll be 30 in a few months and the memories of me cheering for a winning team are fading very fast.

It was funny to make fun of the Leafs and Canucks fans for their years of no success but going on 20 years is starting to create a pot calling the kettle black feeling in me.

'06 was nice and all but I'd be a whole lot happier to at least be in Calgary's position of expecting the playoffs as opposed to a wish and a prayer.

And I'm not taking issue with that, missing the PO is unacceptable to me as well. What I take issue with is the inference that it's a $ for production problem.

So lets go under the assumption that this is a 15 - 20 place team league wide. If we wanted to look at dollars for production, should we not then assume the team should be in the 15 - 20 range for $$ spent?

As it sits right now the Oilers are projected to spend 57 million.

The 15th highest projected payroll is 55 million

The 20th highest projected payroll is 54,75 million

I would conclude the team 2 roughly 2 million overpaid.

Is the team a 2 million dollar player from being a contender?

If the team sent Nilsson to Seden over the summer would the team be considerd "fair value" on a $$ for production metrix?

I think it's safe to say no on both accounts.

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