Reading Between the Lines: “Dawn of a New Era” is Probably Too Much

Jonathan Willis
June 21 2009 12:19PM

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I’m going to read between the lines here a little bit, which is always a risky exercise, so feel free to point out if I’m misinterpreting things here. If I’m not, we could have a very good idea what (if anything) the Oilers are offering for Dany Heatley.

Matheson’s latest column is about Jay Bouwmeester – essentially explaining why the Oilers aren’t interested in pursuing him. One of the reasons he listed got me thinking, though:

Edmonton would also have to move a blue-liner to bring Bouwmeester in and they aren't prepared to do that.

Given that everyone and his dog (including me, although I’ll leave it vague if I’m the former or the latter) predicting that the Oilers will move a defenseman – generally either Tom Gilbert or Sheldon Souray – to address the hole at LW, this is a little bit startling.

It may also be a very good sign.

The hallmark of every team Kevin Lowe has put together has been a lack of balance – especially since the lockout. In 2005-06 he put a very good crew together, and took a reasonable risk by using a pair of budget goaltenders. Unfortunately, when things went south he didn’t try to address the problem until the trade deadline – a move that nearly cost the team a playoff spot and lined them up against the toughest team in the Western Conference in the first round.

The 2006-07 squad featured a lot of one-dimensional offensive players up front, but more critically an extremely limited blueline. Steve Staios and Jason Smith were fine defensemen, but not exactly noted for their ability to move the puck. The team’s first pass quickly became comedic (…and he banks it off the boards, again) and we all know how that squad faired.

The team in 2007-08 featured a truckload of rookies – Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Brodziak, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Stortini – and finished surprisingly close to the playoffs, for reasons that remain disputed but most definitely included some lucky breaks and a phenomenal (and unsustainable) shootout record.

This past season featured a team with a bunch of holes at forward. Cheap options like Marty Reasoner were ignored, and that, combined with the Jarret Stoll trade, left the team critically short of both penalty-killing forwards and guys who could handle the other team’s best players. The most glaring weakness to many was the first line LW position – a position that has been a weakness since Ryan Smyth was dealt.

In any case, the point is that Kevin Lowe built teams with some stengths, but also with obvious weaknesses. Trading away from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness was a hallmark of this era, and generally it meant that new holes were created to fill old holes.

That line of Matheson’s is an indicator that things may be changing. Steve Tambellini has a team with a strong blueline; a blueline that he seemingly intends to retain. Could it be that the Oilers’ G.M. plans to fill out his lineup without weakening its current strengths?

This is also consistent with the Oilers’ cheap plans for goaltending (highlighted here by Robin Brownlee and then later by Matheson) since they obviously need to make cap decisions somewhere to retain their defensemen, although one might argue that depending on how Tambellini fills that slot he could be creating another hole.

In any case, the obvious options for that LW position are Gaborik, Havlat, and Heatley. I’m fairly convinced that either of the UFAs would be a better option if healthy, but “healthy” is not a selling point for either of them. Heatley, on the other hand, is durable but has developed a reputation that isn’t remotely favourable, and at the same time is not exactly a guy who is useful at both ends of the ice.

IF the organization is pursuing Heatley, and IF that line about not trading away defensemen is correct, the only package that I can see the Oilers putting together for Heatley would involve Dustin Penner and Patrick O’Sullivan, perhaps with a lower-tier roster player (Nilsson, Pouliot, etc.), prospect (Schremp, Potulny, etc.) or draft pick. It’s a nice thought, and one that would help clear up the Oilers’ crowding at forward.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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 Cory Dakin
June 21 2009, 12:33PM
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If given the choice between Havlat and Gaborik, who would you think is the better option?

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#2 Jonathan Willis
June 21 2009, 12:36PM
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@ Cory Dakin:

Whoever comes cheaper ;) Probably Gaborik, although I haven't sat down and thought about it all that hard.

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#3 West Coast Oil
June 21 2009, 12:43PM
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Im starting to think the Oilers may target a LW who has a history with Quin. He tends to prefer players he knows he can count on and that would almost certainly point to Heatley as he played for Quinn at the world stage if Im not mistaken.

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#4 Sandra
June 21 2009, 12:48PM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

Im starting to think the Oilers may target a LW who has a history with Quin. He tends to prefer players he knows he can count on and that would almost certainly point to Heatley as he played for Quinn at the world stage if Im not mistaken.

Please not Sundin or Tucker. Quinn loves them both.

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#5 Michael N.
June 21 2009, 12:49PM
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Gaborik's injury history obviously makes him a bigger risk, but also a bigger reward. Whichever team takes a chance on him could have a tremendous payoff... Do you think its a risk these "New Era" Oilers would take? It would be exciting to see, if nothing else.

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#6 Travis Dakin
June 21 2009, 12:57PM
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Remember the first year Souray was here? 26 games played. That was awesome. Well that would be the story with either Havlat or Gaborik. Please stay away. IF they go after any free agent it has to be balls out for Boumeester and then make a trade.

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#7 oilerzz
June 21 2009, 12:57PM
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With Hossa not signed yet is he still in play ?

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#8 Travis Dakin
June 21 2009, 01:06PM
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oilerzz wrote:

With Hossa not signed yet is he still in play ?

Hossa is just Hemsky 3 years from now. It doesn't fill the hole.

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#9 Antony Ta
June 21 2009, 01:07PM
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If the Oilers acquired Heatley due to the Quinn factor... what about Nik Antropov for the 2nd line RW position? I know Kotalik was playing there for a while at the end of the last season and what kind of a raise do you think Antropov will get on as a UFA this season?

Heatley-Horcoff-Hemsky Whoever's Left-Gagner-Antropov

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#10 RossCreek
June 21 2009, 01:21PM
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Ha. I was just gonna bring up big Nik's name. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them make a play for him. Wouldn't be a terrible pick up, but it sure as heck isn't what Oil fan has in mind. The 750 comments on ON after would be well worth the read tho. Could it be that what Matheson meant is that the Oil aren't interested in moving a 2nd d man after the potential Heatley trade? How bout Patrick Marleau as the LW.

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#11 Ogden Brother
June 21 2009, 01:41PM
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Good read, but I really don't understand why everyone is that impressed with our defensive core.

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#12 Lofty
June 21 2009, 01:48PM
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Antropovs size would be nice. The Oil Would have to get rid of Penner, Pisani and Gilbert to get Heatley and Antropov. Don't know if anyone is crazy enough to pick up those salary's.

The most important thing for the Oil is to find some scoring ability. People moan about the penalty kill but its a lot easier to find a plugger to get that job done than it is to find someone to put the puck in the net.

There is no way that Marleau is the answer for a first line that doesnt score.

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#13 Ryan12
June 21 2009, 02:02PM
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While I would love to see Heater in oil silks come october, I think the kind of trade Tambs should look for is for guys like Kessel or Frolov. It would cost less to get them, they are younger, and are less of a cap hit.

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#14 West Coast Oil
June 21 2009, 02:04PM
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Trouble with Gaborik is he is a right winger and the Oil have never had success moving a player to their off wing. With the Oil interested in Kotalik I would assume Penner must be in play

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#15 Jamie
June 21 2009, 02:36PM
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You could be right, but I also think "they're not prepared to trade a defenseman" could mean "they're not prepared to trade ANOTHER defenseman if they're already moving someone to get Heatley". Or maybe even some other trade target instead of Heatley.

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#16 me
June 21 2009, 02:45PM
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I am not sure I agree with your intrepretation. (though I agree it could be read in two ways.)

I read it as he is they are not interesting in moving a dman for BOUMEESTER.

That same article talks about the more important focus on offence.

My intrepretation is that they would move a dman for scoring but not for Boumeester.

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#17 West Coast Oil
June 21 2009, 03:01PM
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The thing is if u could trade Penner and OSullivan for Heatley that pretty much balances out the salary. Would u not then move a puck moving defenceman if you could sign Boumeester as an upgrade? I'm thinking Boumeester doesn't want to play in Edmonton and the Oilers are aware of this or that is how they are viewing it right now. I would be shocked if the Oilers didn,t at least chat with Boumeesters father to try and gage his interest

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#18 NBOilerFan
June 21 2009, 03:11PM
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I am convinced that the only way they should deal for Heatley is if Penner is involved. Add O'Sullivan/Nilsson and another piece if needed (except for the 10th).

I would also like to see them move Souray (I like him but his value is as high as it will ever be) for a salary type dump and then try to get JayBo... if they can't land him, then fill Souray's spot with another UFA D-men.

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#19 RT
June 21 2009, 03:24PM
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Just a thought, but would the Oilers be better served standing pat and using some of our younger talent to trade up in the draft?

In my mind, I would rather make a move up the draft board for Duschene, Tavares or even Hedman. If we sent the #9 pick plus Eberle and Nilsson or Riley Nash - would the Islanders or Lightning bite?

If we sign Bouwmeester (which seems unlikely given Matheson's comments) or pick up Heatley/ Gaborik/ Havlat, we'll remain in cap hell for the foreseeable chance. And in 08/09, had Visnovsky stayed healthy, we'd have made the playoffs.

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#20 EMAC
June 21 2009, 03:39PM
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Why don't we bring back MacT for a veteran in the faceoff circle and leadership in the dressing room.

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#21 Jkumar
June 21 2009, 03:46PM
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Heatley would be great, though i sense there is alot of baggage with a player like that, he's obviously skilled, duh, but i dont see him being a great fit. He was highly touted coming in as a young player, though he is a player, that has san jose or new york written all over him, I really doubt he would be excited to come here. Honestly i would wait till next year, when Rick Nash is going to be available, he's younger, he'd be a lil cheaper, and he's one of those superstars that would wanna come here, considering Columbus goes on a free fall next season.

The Oilers should really focus on getting the right pieces first, to get them into playoff contention. Its the only way they will land a superstar that ill stay. Signing Grebeshkov and Kotilik would be a great start, Re-acquiring Marty reasoner would have been great, but he re-signed with atlanta. They need size, speed, and a way higher compete level. The draft coming up will be a good indicator of how the team is going to find their new "identity." My picks: David Rohnbald, Zach Kassian, or Ideally trade some players we have one the roster, trim some fat off the salary cap, and draft, My fantasy pick would have been Evander Kane, We wouldnt have been able to trade for the top 3 picks.

This Offseason,and i know everyone will disagree and please comment because i wanna hear all your opinions. Anyone of tese players would make a difference. I would go after: -Martin Havlat -Ian Laperriere -Jason Williams -Brendan Morrison -Mark Parrish -Mikael Samuelsson -Tomas Kopecky -Kurtis Foster -Joel Ward -Radek Bonk -Scott Nichol -Travis Moen -Taylor Pyatt -Curtis Sanford -Jeff Cowan Thanks for reading, shoutout to Jason Gregor, Love the show!

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#22 West Coast Oil
June 21 2009, 03:59PM
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@RT I view it differently I would keep Souray and trade Visnovski to San Jose as they need someone to replace Blake and bring leadership and I would keep Souray for the grit and toughness he brings. Grebs and Gilbert are similar to Visnovski but cheaper.

@JKumar

I'd take Bonk, Williams and Foster from that list and perhaps try to trade up in the draft if for anything just to get rid of some of our redundant players.

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#23 Death Metal Nightmare
June 21 2009, 04:16PM
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a) no one brought up Heatley "baggage" during their cup run and when they were dominant. this is all in vogue garbage to look at and if they trade for him and he pots 40+ goals, increases Hemsky's production to what it should be, and they get into the playoffs - everyone forgets about "baggage" fast.

b) this team has "baggage" regardless when you dont win. cue up all the locker room rift stories, etc... individually, we could run down most of the players on the roster and what their baggage is.

c) im way more scared of Gaborik's profusely damaged groin over "bagggage" and with how bad Havlat gets destroyed at any given time - id bank on Heatley. its better to have a consistent scorer out there and to get what you pay for.

d) theres holes on every team. Detroit had one glaring hole that the Oilers and Penguins found - a strong forecheck destroys their "puck control" strategy. they also played soft in the offensive zone when they were back on their heels. games 6 and 7 were huge signs of this and it showed with their offensive zone strategy of 3-men on the boards, losing puck battles on the half/lower boards and Pittsburgh breaking out with ease after that.

e) this team needs a "core". thats what all the great teams have. a solid core of dependable players. the Oilers might have to still develop a team with a decent first line and then hope for very strong third/fourth line play still to balance it out to be competitive until further notice. all the young players are too immature to be core players and the vets are too mediocre outside of Hemsky. so wheres the core? if they get Heatley, at least that gives the hope of Horcoff being more productive by riding two elite players coattails offensively. without that, id fear for another sub par season. the Oilers D is redundant as some people pointed out. they could really use a solid stay at home D-man for shot blocking, PK and grit. and the ability to work down low on the boards hard. the current system is fairly soft and gets hemmed down low. Gilbert and Grebs are a shining example of this. they have things to learn but at the same time, we seen with Detroit that a good forecheck on smaller D-men can really boss them off the puck or into making bad decisions. which will happen with any D-unit but is more likely when the guys cant physically sustain it. its a fine balancing act i suppose but i think the Oilers, even with how good the D is offensively, is teetering on "too soft" side.

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#24 zeus
June 21 2009, 05:27PM
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It seems to me martin havlat would like to stay in chicago

http://twitter.com/martinhavlat/status/1981174033

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#25 Archaeologuy
June 21 2009, 05:31PM
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A week or so ago an Ottawa columnist suggested somewhere that Penner might be a possibility in an Edmonton trade because he's a LW goal scorer (not prolific but he does score). At the time i laughed because if I suggested that Penner be included in the trade proposal I would be laughed at by the Nation for assuming anyone would want that contract. If it happens, I will be dumbfounded. Absolutely dumbfounded.

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#26 Travis Dakin
June 21 2009, 05:43PM
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@ Death Metal Nightmare: I laugh at the negative things being said about Heatley like "he's a one dimensional player."

50 goals and 50 assists is pretty versatile to me. It seems to be the major dimension this team is missing. You made an excellent point about what it would do to Hemsky. He scores 50 assists a year with no one to pass to. Imagine what he could do with a trigger man. I salivate at the thought. We'd have two 100 plus point players on this team once they found their chemistry. Heatley is EXACTLY what this team needs. a LW that likes to shoot. Perfect to match out RW that loves to pass. 50 assists shows that he can pass to and I really believe that would help turn Hemsky into a 35 to 40 goal scorer. The boy can shoot with the best of them.

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#27 Hemmertime
June 21 2009, 05:59PM
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West Coast Oil wrote:

I view it differently I would keep Souray and trade Visnovski to San Jose

I would hate playing against Vis on that strong of a team. That and who would we want in return? Michalek comes to mind. Ofc Marleau but not happening.

Archaeologuy wrote:

At the time i laughed because if I suggested that Penner be included in the trade proposal I would be laughed at by the Nation for assuming anyone would want that contract. If it happens, I will be dumbfounded. Absolutely dumbfounded.

We undervalue a lot of players (and overvalue the others, god I love ON). We look at DP and see a player not producing alot. People in the East look at DP and see a player not producing because hes an Oiler. I play 30 man online PC hockey leagues (id plug the site but even Id delete the comment then) - and before people rip on me saying "NHL 09 video game value blah blah blah" and make fun of me, I am not talking about inside the video game value, just laying out the fact most of these people are die hards too - and majority of people I associate with there are ugh Eastern Conference hockey fans and EST people. The way they view a lot of Oilers is drastically different, I don't know if its just too late for them to stay up and actually watch the games or what. But DP is generally liked by most fans that dont bleed Copper and Blue. Most have fairly high esteem for DP, Gilbert, Gagner, Cogs, Nilsson, Souray, Pisani, PattyO Undervalued: Visnovsky, Grebeshkov, Hemsky, Horc (? this one Is hit or miss for Oil fans too)

I don't know why EST blogs and fans like DP and still like Nilsson but generally seem to

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#28 oilersseasonticketholdersince99
June 21 2009, 06:09PM
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I say we trade Souray,Neilson and our 10th overall pick for La's first rounder this year and next,we free up over $8.5million we then sign Jay Bouwmeester for 7 million a year, Trade Gilbert,Penner and Schremp for Heatley.Trade La's first rounder in 2010 for Harding

Heatley Horcoff Hemsky o sullivan Gagner Kotalik Pisani Cogliano Moreau Jaques Brodziak Stortini

Bouwmeester Visnosky Smid Grebeshkov Peckham Staois

Harding and JD are our goalies

Macintyre,Strudwick and Brule are the fill ins

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#29 JF
June 21 2009, 06:56PM
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oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:

Trade La’s first rounder in 2010 for Harding

seems like an overpay on our part to me.

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#30 Milli
June 21 2009, 07:40PM
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Winning teams make dressing rooms work...Didn't someone say that not too long ago? I think if we could get Heater, and win, there would be no problems, but if the ship sails the other way, then the problems creap in. I agree with the Jbo thing, we are strong on d, so, why make a move to address that area? Pursue the weakness, and if it costs us a top 4 dman, I think we are still fairly strong on the backend. If it'd gibby who goes, we still have Souray, vis and Grebs. The scoring needs to be addressed, and if it takes on d, thats okay, but if we lost 2 of the top 4, we start to move back to where we where before.

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#31 Dave
June 21 2009, 09:34PM
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My problem with taking Heatley is I wonder how many players may become available in 2010 if the cap takes a sever plunge? I wouldnt want to handcuff the Oilers ability to absorb salary in the future. I also think JBO is the best talent available, Heater included.

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#32 Jkumar
June 21 2009, 10:01PM
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Im not saying dont get Heatley, i would love to have Heatley on my team, im not stupid, but with the salary cap going down, can we absorb his contract. Now if we can get rid of some contracts to make room for Heatley, im all for it. The "baggage" thing, the 2 teams he's played for, he's asked for a trade both times. Keep that in mind, I'd take Heatley over Gaborik and Havlat anyday. Though, who would you give up. Ive heard, Gilbert, Cogs, O'sullivan, Penner, etc.

My Theory:

to OTT: Gilbert, O'sullivan, Riley Nash, conditional 2nd round draft pick

to EDM: Heatley, 4th round pick

and for fun....

to EDM: Bouwmeester, Norton

to FLA: Souray, Penner, Nilsson, Staios

Man, if tambo did that, id praise him, you'd have a team with, heatley, hemmer, bouwmeester, horton, kotilik(if signed), gagner, Eberle, and cogs, could you imagine the scoring! then get a steady d-man, and wait till alex plante moves up!

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#33 Bryant
June 21 2009, 10:10PM
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Please Oiler gods bring us Heatly we NEED a sniper. Period end of story we NEED goals the ufas do NOT line up to come to Edmonton and we already have a strong defence. what I dream about is a first line that produces game in game out. The only move that would be better is picking up Tavares but that will mostlikely not happen so again I beg you send us Heatly!

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#34 cm
June 21 2009, 10:44PM
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Ok so the oilers make 3 trades.

1. Vishnovsky, Cogliano and Shremp and a second for Heatley and Lee.

2. Sully, Souray, Moreau, Eberle and one of petry/chorney/wild for bouwmeester, horton and weiss.

3. Staios and nilsson for harding and foster.

Line is as follows.

heatley/horcoff/hemsky penner/gagner/horton pouliot/weiss/pisani jacques/brodziak/stortini

Bouwmeester/foster gilbert/grebeshkov smid/lee

harding JDD

MacIntyre/Brule/Peckham

Total cap hit 56.4mil bouwmeester signed to 15years/90 mil 6mil cap hit foster 5 years 9 mil/1.8 mil cap hit Grebs 3years 9 mil/3 mil cap hit

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#35 TonyT
June 21 2009, 11:02PM
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If the Oilers indeed intend to keep their blueline intact that still doesn't the address the team's need for a top tier shutdown defenseman. In otherwords to keep the blueline a [balanced] team strength, one of them may still need to be moved.

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#36 TonyT
June 21 2009, 11:15PM
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I think alot of us have our own little wishlists for the Oilers next season, however given the reality of an abundance (give or take 7) 2nd line players, the ability to work the free agent market is severely hampered. I would be satisfied for this season at least, dumping at least a few of our dead weight contracts.

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#37 scorecoff hemmercules
June 22 2009, 08:16AM
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@ cm:

I'm no so sure about these trades. The first one is a little odd IMO, I don't see Lubo going since he has a NMC and likes it in Edmonton (we badly need to keep awesome players that like it here!). And Lee was one of their first rounders, they will likely want to keep him since they appartently need d-men. Secondly, I don't know why I always see people making up packages for Jaybo, he's a UFA. We would have to sign him for huge money and dump salary assuming he even wants to play in Edmonton. As for the third one, Foster is also UFA so no trade necessary. Harding could probably be had for just Nilsson or Staios, or even less than that by offer sheet (Harding is RFA).

It's fun to dream up trades but why even waste your time when half of them make no sense?? That

Another thing about the first one is that Heatly won't agree to be traded to us, I think he would stay in Ottawa before taking a trip to Edmonton. I like Heatly alot but that contract is a little tough to take on.

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#38 Rick
June 22 2009, 10:09AM
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I found that Matheson quote to be a little confusing for a couple of reasons.

First one being that he has already been floating Gilbert in his rumours for Heatley. So is this new quote a change on his original musings or is it specific to the Bouwmeetser scenario? The topic of the article this was quoted from.

If it's Bouwmeester specific which is how I understood it then it becomes even more confusing. Bouwmeester, if they could get him, would be the best defenceman of the bunch. If you have to make room for him by moving a guy that isn't as good (even if the guy getting moved out is damn good in his own right) then I don't see why you would hesitate.

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#39 Cam
June 22 2009, 10:33AM
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@ Rick: Jim Matheson could have heard some new information but can't quote his sources. That is what Brownlee often talks about and something you need to watch for... especially when a guy is as plugged in as Matty is.

I think it would be great if they could trade away some of these so-so prospects and and wimpy players and get something real in return, but I don't think other teams will bite. You need to add in something with substance to get something back.

You keep Penner because when he plays his 'A game' he is one hell of a player, and I for one want to see what Quinn & Renney can do with him. IF they can get more consistency he could definitely be worth his contract, and then no one will want to trade him.

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#40 Rick
June 22 2009, 10:49AM
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@ Cam:

Even still it doesn't make sense.

The Oilers can't bring in a high priced forward without shedding salary somewhere, that salary pretty much has to include one of the defencemen. Particularily if it's a trade scenario where teh blue line has the most attractive talent.

Second, if it is about Bouwmeester then their not sacrificing talent anyways, their improving it.

I'm not necessarily questioning Matheson because if this is based on some kind of inside scoop. He would be the guy to get it first. That said, if it is some kind of inside scoop then I am questioning Tambellini.

Like Jonathon said this roster has been out of balance for a number of years. Right now the overall roster is defence heavy but even if you look past the overall defence as the strength of the team at look closer at the make up of the defence core specifically they are just as out of balance in their own right.

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#41 Cam
June 22 2009, 11:43AM
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Rick wrote:

Right now the overall roster is defence heavy but even if you look past the overall defence as the strength of the team at look closer at the make up of the defence core specifically they are just as out of balance in their own right.

Are you thinking that we have too much offense on the back end and not enough pure defense (making them pay in front of the net, etc)? Is that what you mean by "unbalanced"?

If so I definitely think we could use one more heavy warrior type. I don't think Souray is a puck mover. He blasts the puck on the power play, but he is really a Warrior like Staios and Smid.

So we have three warriors and then three PMD (Vis, Grebs, and Gilbert). Do you think that is too much? I don't.

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#42 Antony Ta
June 22 2009, 03:20PM
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Lofty wrote:

Antropovs size would be nice. The Oil Would have to get rid of Penner, Pisani and Gilbert to get Heatley and Antropov. Don’t know if anyone is crazy enough to pick up those salary’s. The most important thing for the Oil is to find some scoring ability. People moan about the penalty kill but its a lot easier to find a plugger to get that job done than it is to find someone to put the puck in the net. There is no way that Marleau is the answer for a first line that doesnt score.

There is actually an Antropov rumour now!

hxxp://brochuishockey.blogspot.com

Turns out if the Oilers acquire Antropov it's because there's confirmation he can come at a lower price. Plus, there's always that Quinn factor.

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#43 Allan Bliss
June 22 2009, 04:32PM
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@ Bryant: You are soooo right, we need goals now. Getting sick and tired of "They are a team with much optimism." Screw it, we don't want to go on like the Maple Leafs and wait forever between Cups, Oiler brass, make a deal for Heatley.

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