May 05 2009 12:18AM
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With the reported rift in the dressing room last year, do you think there will be a change in the captaincy and the alternate captains for this coming year? In your opinion was the rift due to an age gap or MacT's obvious bias for some of the veterans? Do you think some of the younger guys need to be included in the leadership group to bridge the age gap and groom them for the future? Of the young guys, which one or ones do you see still playing for us next year that would be a good candidate for an A on his sweater? —Elsa
I really think the rift was overblown. I have spoken with a variety of veterans and young players, and none expressed there was a real rift. In fact, one veteran told me that on the road they hung out more as a team this year than they had in the past.
Few players get handed a leadership role unless they are prepared to take it on. I know for a fact that one time early in the season Moreau stood up and told the young players he wanted them to express themselves more. Not every player has to be vocal to be a leader. In fact, some of the best leaders don’t say much; rather, they make sure they are ready to play every night.
None of the young players strike me as great leaders right now. Gagner has the best chance. He has a quiet, competitive fire that should make him a leader down the road, but I don’t see it being next year. As for the captaincy, unless Moreau gets dealt I’d be surprised if the new coach stripped him of the "C."
Moreau and Souray are really close. I don’t think Souray would lead that much better than Moreau. In today’s game it's rare to have ONE leader; instead it's more of a group that leads and with Souray and Moreau being fairly tight, I don’t see how Souray would be that more vocal with a "C" instead of an "A."
Why didn’t the Oilers sign Omark? I’ve only seen him on YouTube highlights but he sure looks skilled. —Andy
The Oilers are currently at 50 contracts until July 1st, unless they make a two for one deal before then, so it was impossible to sign Omark. They could have agreed to a deal and not announced it the July, but from the conversations I’ve had with management, he was looking for a one-way deal.
The Oilers have too many contracts right now and they weren’t willing to give him a one-way deal. It is hard to evaluate how good he is because the SEL (Swedish Elite League) isn’t that highly regarded.
Fabian Brunnstrom, who many thought was better than Omark, signed a two-way deal with Dallas last year. I spoke to a European scout last week and he said Omark has loads of talent, but he needs to get stronger before playing in the NHL, and he (scout) said he heard Omark signed in Russia for the money but also to test himself. He signed a two-year deal with Moscow Dynamo, but with an out-clause after the first year. The Oilers will watch him closely and if he holds his own it sounds like they will find a way to entice him to come over next year.
I asked the scout if he thought Omark could crack the Oilers lineup this coming year and he said it was doubtful. I can’t comment on how good he is, because I have never seen him play a full game. I could care less about his sweet moves in the shoot-out, because those only help if your team gets to the shoot-out.
I really liked Jim Matheson’s idea of trading Hemsky. Would you trade him right now? —Brandon
I wouldn’t trade him for Brown and Greene, because you need skill to win, and if the Oilers trade Hemsky they are losing their most skilled player. Of course, if he was part of a package to acquire a proven sniper like Kovalchuk then I would do that deal.
I think Hemsky needs to be more consistent, and since I don’t see the Thrashers dealing Kovalchuk this summer, the Oilers should focus on getting another top-six forward with skill that is comfortable playing LW.
Hemsky is rare, in that he is willing to go in the tough areas, but at times he doesn’t seem willing to do all the little things that will propel him to great status. I think having a new coach will get his attention, but it will naturally excite him as well. He became frustrated last year, and even though he did squat after publicly stating he wanted to be the go-to-guy, I think he will come to camp with lots to prove this year.
The most important factor with Hemsky might be his contract. With the cap going down next year, the Oilers will need more players who outperform their contracts rather than those who underachieve. Hemsky’s contract will look even better if the cap figure is 47-50 million in 2010.
Do you think there is room for Peckham, Smid and Staios next year? —Darren in Millwoods.
Good question. It seems obvious that one of Souray, Gilbert, Visnovsky or Grebeshkov will be dealt. If that happens and they get a forward in return then yes all three could be here. I get a sense that Steve Staios will be the veteran on the move this summer. Smid’s game has improved to the point that he can replace all the intangibles that Staois brings, and he is a better passer.
Even with one of the big four getting dealt, I still see Staios being moved. While some think he is overpaid, his $2.7 salary isn’t that scary, and if he isn’t asked to play more than 19 minutes a night I think he can still be effective.
Would there be room for Smid, Staios and Peckham? Yes, but I don’t see all of them being here when the Oilers return to the ice in mid September.
I highly recommend reading this article from Mike Wise. It is rare to have an athlete divulge this much information on what has to be a very touchy subject. Many fans don’t like Brashear, but it would be hard not to respect him after reading what he has had to overcome. It is a wonderful piece of journalism by Wise. I’ve always said being a heavyweight is the hardest job in sports, but his role pales in comparison to what he endured as a child.