Multitasking

Jonathan Willis
July 10 2009 08:22AM

malhotra

There is no secret as to what Steve Tambellini’s number one priority this offseason has been: acquiring a goal-scoring LW, namely Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators.

It isn’t possible to argue that the Oilers don’t need some more offensive punch; they scored 152 even-strength goals (7th in the WC) and their powerplay clocked in at 17.0% (10th in the WC). Neither of those numbers is overly respectable.

That said, with the Dany Heatley situation currently on hold (and Eugene Melnyk making noises about him possibly coming back with the Senators), there’s no reason not to take some time to deal with other matters as well. To his credit, Steve Tambellini has made some minor housekeeping moves (sending Sestito to New Jersey, adding AHL players) and didn’t leave the goaltending situation unresolved. There is however, more to be done, something evident from a couple of statistics I pointed out last week:

Penalty-killing Percentage: 77.5% (14th in the West) Faceoff Percentage: 47.9% (13th in the West)

Other teams are making moves. The only team in the Western Conference weaker than the Oilers in both of the above categories was the Phoenix Coyotes, something that Don Maloney acknowledged in an interview published today:

MONIQUE: What do you see as the biggest areas you want to improve? MALONEY: Penalty kill, power play and faceoffs. We picked up Fiddler for those reasons. Vern is 54% on the faceoff and plays big PK minutes. We need to improve those stats in order to have success next season. Our goaltending has to be better.

In addition to bringing in Fiddler, Don Maloney also signed Adrian Aucoin, who was Calgary’s second most-used penalty killer last season.

These aren’t big, headline generating moves, and I don’t think the Phoenix Coyotes are a model to emulate in most cases, but I do know this: a couple of lower-profile veterans to shore up the Oilers weakest points (faceoffs and penalty-killing) would make me feel a lot more at ease about this team.

Some players off of the following list might be of interest:

  • Andrew Alberts (D): 2:28 SH TOI/GM, 157 hits, 133 blocked shots
  • Blair Betts (C): 2:59 SH TOI/GM, 93 hits, 49.3% faceoffs
  • Radek Bonk (C): 59.9% faceoffs, 6th in QualComp in NSH
  • Chris Gratton (C): 2:05 SH TOI/GM, 58.5% faceoffs, 37 hits (in 24 games)
  • Mike Grier (RW): 2:29 SH TOI/GM, 147 hits, 1.61 EVGAON/60
  • Manny Malhotra (C): 2:49 SH TOI/GM, 74 hits, 58.0% faceoffs
  • Marek Malik (D): 2:45 SH TOI/GM, 3rd in QualComp in T.B.
  • Travis Moen (LW): 2:21 SH TOI/GM, 171 hits, 5th in QualComp in S.J.
  • Dominic Moore (C): 2:19 SH TOI/GM, 75 hits, 54.1% faceoffs
  • Scott Nichol (C): 2:40 SH TOI/GM, 79 hits (in 43 games), 54.6% faceoffs
  • Rob Niedermayer (LW): 3:09 SH TOI/GM, 1st in QualComp in ANA
  • Martin Skoula (D): 2:39 SH TOI/GM, 126 blocked shots

There aren’t a lot of guys out there left; the lower-tier veterans are slowly being signed away, and Edmonton needs to pick up one or two – either via free agency or trade.

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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 Steve French
July 10 2009, 08:32AM
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Plus, with Malik we get his shootout prowess :-)

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#2 Ogden Brother
July 10 2009, 08:36AM
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This is very frustrating, a big 2nd liner, a true third line center and a proper defensive dman would colectively have a bigger impact then one top end scorer IMO.... and are all far more realistic (re: easy) holes to fill.

Lets get it together Oil managment, we aren't winning the cup in the next two years, Heatly or not... lets plug some long term holes and get some balance back to the line-up so we can at least be competite while we wait for Gagner and MPS to develop into the high end 1st liners they will be.

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#3 dragon
July 10 2009, 08:43AM
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due to Heatly cap space requirement the trade should be the option for pk/fo guy. i like travis moen more when a duck. how about we shoot for this trade: milan mihalek & travis moen for gilbert, nilsson, penner and prospect (s) (in light of SJ needing p/m def and fwd depth)

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#4 Poo Czar
July 10 2009, 08:46AM
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Agreed on all counts. I'd love for the management to stop trying for the homerun every summer and just focus on hitting some solid singles and doubles instead of swinging for the fences and striking out year after year (sometimes embarrasingly so). Bust ass assembling a balanced roster top to bottom and let the elite talents gestate for a couple years.

*sends Lowetide a dollar for using baseball analogies and the word "balanced" in an Olers post*

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#5 King Mob
July 10 2009, 08:54AM
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off topic, but...

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=4294050

lame.

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#6 jeff
July 10 2009, 09:04AM
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Don't think we need to worry about guys on that list, from what I gathered most teams are thinking about waiting till after training camp to make decisions on 4th line players.

Could we be the same? Is Brule maybe expected to do well on the dot and help the PK?

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#7 OvenChicken8
July 10 2009, 09:09AM
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If I were GM for a day I'd try to trade for Ovechkin instead of Heatley and after I was told where to go followed by "you %^&%^&$%^#$%@%#$@#@!$#(*&()*&!" I would take a look at Bonk and Gratton. Both have size and are pretty decent on the pk.

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#8 jeff
July 10 2009, 09:11AM
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Another note, do we really need guys like Moen and Grier or any other winger like them? As long as we have Pisani and Moreau do you really think Tambo will add another guy like them? I think it has to be a center coming our way or nothing at all.

Even a d-man, if they aren't 2nd pairing material I doubt we add one.

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#9 oilerdago
July 10 2009, 09:12AM
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You're bang on JW. The only thing question I have as to why they've not addressed this yet goes back to something I think I read a week ago. Have they decided that they need to move more pieces before they bring another contract on?

It's the only thing that makes sense as to why they're not addressing it, other than that they feel that Pouliot/Brule as your 3C/4C are just going to have to grow into because money is tight.

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#10 scorecoff hemmercules
July 10 2009, 09:14AM
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That list will be picked clean by the time Heatley tells us he isn't coming and we will be left with the team we have right now.

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#11 Ogden Brother
July 10 2009, 09:15AM
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oilerdago wrote:

You’re bang on JW. The only thing question I have as to why they’ve not addressed this yet goes back to something I think I read a week ago. Have they decided that they need to move more pieces before they bring another contract on? It’s the only thing that makes sense as to why they’re not addressing it, other than that they feel that Pouliot/Brule as your 3C/4C are just going to have to grow into because money is tight.

That would be a lame excuse, if they have identified the third line C spot as an area to address (I'm starting to question if they have) they could easily dump Nillson and use his $$ and roster spot to address.

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#12 jeff
July 10 2009, 09:16AM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules: There is no reason that Heatley should have anything to do with those guys. It would take about 2 hours to sign one of those guys. I highly doubt Tambo spends all day on the Heatley situation.

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#13 EMAC
July 10 2009, 09:22AM
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I like Manny Malhotra. He's big, will chip in 30 points and wins faceoffs. An ideal bottom six forward.

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#14 Ogden Brother
July 10 2009, 09:24AM
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jeff wrote:

@ scorecoff hemmercules: There is no reason that Heatley should have anything to do with those guys. It would take about 2 hours to sign one of those guys. I highly doubt Tambo spends all day on the Heatley situation.

So what's the hold up then?

The logical reason I could think is they are waiting for their asking price to come down... that said, I'd rather give a guy like Mahaltra 2, then the guy 8 spots below him 1.25

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#15 Archaeologuy
July 10 2009, 09:41AM
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jeff wrote:

I highly doubt Tambo spends all day on the Heatley situation.

I'm sure he also finds time to light all the candles on his Heatley Shrine and comb the lock of hair he stole from the brush in Heatley's Kelowna home as well.

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#16 misfit
July 10 2009, 09:42AM
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I've completely given up hope of Tambellini even recognizing this as a weakness, nevermind actually doing something about it.

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#17 jeff
July 10 2009, 09:42AM
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@ Ogden Brother: Didn't Tambo deny that they were interested in a guy like Blair Betts the other day? Do they consider Malhotra the same type of player?

Maybe they are waiting for this guy;

Chris Vande Velde

“He’s a big kid at 6-2, 210 pounds. He’s very good on face-offs, he’s physical, and he gets in the areas to create things

LOL.

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#18 AlKnowing
July 10 2009, 09:46AM
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I think it’s pretty obvious the goal of this year isn’t to win the Stanley Cup, it’s simply to make the playoffs. I would have loved to see this thing get blown up before the draft. Dump as many contracts as possible via a “Fire Sale”, load up on young talent over the next 2-3seasons and then try to make a run at things. Acquiring Heatley makes the above all too true. We’re still smarting from the screw job by Pronger, but we’re dumb enough to go out and get Heatley who will almost certainly do the same when he asks for a trade out of Edmonton next year. And in doing so we loose 2 pretty decent players in Cogliano and Smid that are only getting better each year, for a “one-round and your out” playoff appearance in 2010.

Certainly not the way I’d do things……….

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#19 Ogden Brother
July 10 2009, 09:48AM
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jeff wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Didn’t Tambo deny that they were interested in a guy like Blair Betts the other day? Do they consider Malhotra the same type of player? Maybe they are waiting for this guy; Chris Vande Velde “He’s a big kid at 6-2, 210 pounds. He’s very good on face-offs, he’s physical, and he gets in the areas to create things LOL.

I haven't heard, kind of scary though if they havent identified the third line C spot as an area to address.

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#20 scorecoff hemmercules
July 10 2009, 09:56AM
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jeff wrote:

@ scorecoff hemmercules: There is no reason that Heatley should have anything to do with those guys. It would take about 2 hours to sign one of those guys. I highly doubt Tambo spends all day on the Heatley situation.

With the RFA's we still need to sign and the possibilty of Heatleys contract on our cap, do we even have cap space to sign a UFA right now??. I know we can go over the cap and dump some salary before the season starts though so maybe Tambo is working on moving someone like Gilbert or Nilsson right now. Unfortunately no one has any idea if Tambo is working deals at this point or just waiting on Heater. Lots of summer left but the list of players is dwindling fast. Tambo was so fired up about making us tougher and adding some depth I thought he might have addressed one of those things by now. It seems that the mentalty right now is that if we get Heatly, penalty killing and winning faceoffs won't even matter since we will be scoring so many goals.

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#21 jeff
July 10 2009, 09:56AM
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@ Ogden Brother: Apparently there is a video on the Oilers website where tambo talks about Betts. Haven't seen it myself but thats what I heard.

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#22 daveeed
July 10 2009, 09:57AM
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Been lurking here for awhile since I stumbled upon this most excellent blog looking for NHL Draft coverage. First off, thank you JW, Robin, Gregor, Wanye (and the others) for what you do, which in my opinion is give us Oilers fans some rational (common sensical...I know its not a word but its how I view it) commentary on the Oilers without being uber-fanboys. Maybe someday the Oilers will institute a position called "Assistant to the GM - Common Sense" and I'd be happy if any of you got that job!

Secondly, I echo others comments/posts that I hope the Oilers realize bringing in a low-cost experienced 3rd line center would be much much better than slotting one of the young guys in there. Learning on the job for that position will kill us. If I had my choice of who was still available I'd like to see Dominic Moore/Manny Malhotra/Scot Nichol signed for 1 or 2 years to bolster the PK/faceoffs and stabilize the 3rd line.

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#23 ChiliChunk
July 10 2009, 09:58AM
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Malik's skating makes Strudwick look like Paul Coffey in comparison so I hope we keep our distance from him.

Malhotra would be ideal - must just be $ keeping him on the market. Jim Kelley wrote on CNNSI that he was looking for $2M per.

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#24 Darren
July 10 2009, 09:59AM
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Hey guys, interesting story on ESPN detailing their list of ALL sports franchises. It looks at which teams are most deserving of our dollar as fans.

I know this is the duldrums of Oilers reporting days but that is something the ON could turn into a story if you wanted to, to point it out their findings to all the fans.

In case you're curious, they are none too happy about how much the Oilers are charging for tickets, 10th in the league, for what the fans here in Edmonton are getting.

To get to the story just click on any sports team and you will find it as one of the stories for that team.

Keep up the good work, ON. :)

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#25 Asciutto
July 10 2009, 10:02AM
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In today's paper

Tambellini says again

No bodies in until somebody's out the door.

Horse - Cart

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#26 jeff
July 10 2009, 10:03AM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules: Reddox, Brule, Potulny, Schremp, Smid and Grebs are RFA's.

On nhlnumbers it has 13 forwards committed to our cap, so signing any of the above guys should have much more then a mil going towards the overall cap. I don't see us going with much more then 14 forward to start the year.

Smid and Grebs combined should sign for around 4.5. That will pretty much take us to the cap.

So I guess maybe someone coming in could be tough to fit in. And chance that Tambo is trying to move a d-man to fill the third line center role?

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#27 jeff
July 10 2009, 10:04AM
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@ Asciutto: Sestito out

Lol

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#28 Archaeologuy
July 10 2009, 10:08AM
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Asciutto wrote:

No bodies in until somebody’s out the door.

Brodziak is out, who is coming in?

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#29 West Coast Oil
July 10 2009, 10:14AM
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I'm wondering how much of the need to get a scorer is Katz and Lowe?

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#30 Miroslav is Satan
July 10 2009, 10:14AM
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Grier back would be awesome. Remember his screams when his shoulder used to pop-out in game? Epic. That guy was a warrior, and one of the guys that symbolized late 90's-early 00's Oilers hockey.

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#31 scorecoff hemmercules
July 10 2009, 10:17AM
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@ jeff:

At this point I sort of wish Tambo would just bring in a couple guys and worry about sending guys out later. That list of guys will be getting shorter by the week and then trades will be our only option. Kevin "Blank Cheque" Lowe left Steve in a tough position here.

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#32 Matt
July 10 2009, 10:18AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Brodziak is out, who is coming in?

Travis Moen would be a guy i would welcome on this team. He brings alot of grit and hard work with him. Goes to the tough places. Brodziak needed to be meaner last year.

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#33 jeff
July 10 2009, 10:22AM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules: I am with you. I wouldn't be afraid of throwing Penner in the minors if need be.

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#34 scorecoff hemmercules
July 10 2009, 10:32AM
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@ jeff:

Haha, Penner won't be going to the minors with that contract. Lowe would never allow it anyway. If we were to sign a player I don't how Nilsson can't be bought out or sent down or traded for picks. That clears around 2 mil right there I believe. There must be a team out there looking for a guy like Gilbert too, no?

Does anyone have any idea what kind of money Malhotra, Gratton, Moore or Bonk are looking for???

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#35 scorecoff hemmercules
July 10 2009, 10:38AM
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I know none of them made much over 1.5 mil so it seems possible to get one of them at around that price IMO.

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#36 Harlie
July 10 2009, 10:40AM
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FDMNF !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fire Danny MachoChoka Now F*ckers

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#37 Harlie
July 10 2009, 10:43AM
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jeff wrote:

@ scorecoff hemmercules: I am with you. I wouldn’t be afraid of throwing Penner in the minors if need be.

his numbers from last year indicate that would be a terrible move. From all of the dumping on movement positionally and riding the pine due to MacT's hate for the guy he actually performed pretty well. I say give the guy some time to round out his game with a new Coach and possibly new system to see how he performs. If he is dreadful then resort to drastic measures. Until then, I see no reason why we should banish him to the cellar. His contract looks like an albatross but his numbers indicate otherwise. JW has done up some of his numbers and comparisons (same with david Staples) and it is surprising how well he did.

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#38 Nick Dynasty
July 10 2009, 10:44AM
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If Malhotra wants 2 - 2.5M per season then I say we give it to him. We're paying our other 3rd liners that much anyway (Moreau/Pisani). We would just need to find someone to take Nilsson's contract off our books. Does he have any trade value around the league????

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#39 Rob
July 10 2009, 10:56AM
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I think it is obvious what Tambo is doing... he's waiting until most of the UFAs have been signed by other teams so that the reamining UFAs will start to worry "oh no, I'm the last kid to get picked, I'll sign with anybody for anything, even if I feel dirty, at least I'll have a job" That way Tambo gets a deal and it negates the douchebaggery of K-Lowes previous nincomepoopery. Brilliant realy, way to go T-Bow!

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#40 scorecoff hemmercules
July 10 2009, 10:56AM
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@ Nick Dynasty:

I think him and Mact pretty much destroyed his trade value last year. Not alot of teams looking for an underperforming, small forward that makes 2 mil a year.

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#41 ScubaSteve
July 10 2009, 11:01AM
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I can see our PK improving just from having a better work ethic, maybe stemming from a new coach, and using the correct players in the correct situations. Souray is not a great PK guy, I would slot in Smid and Peckham as my top 2. (I still think we need to drop Staois)

Malhotra would look great on the Oil, would give us some good depth at C, and is great in the circle.

I'm still not convinced we need to blow the whole team up. I want to see what a good coach can do with the talent we have here.

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#42 Jonathan Willis
July 10 2009, 11:01AM
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Penner had a bunch of problems last year; undoubtedly some were self-created, but even so Craig MacTavish's use of a flawed but capable player was at least partly to blame.

The powerplay was most effective with Penner on the top unit. The first line was most effective with Penner on it.

A Penner+ for Heatley trade makes a lot of sense, but if Tambellini can't bring in LW help this team will need Dustin.

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#43 Jonathan Willis
July 10 2009, 11:02AM
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ScubaSteve wrote:

I can see our PK improving just from having a better work ethic, maybe stemming from a new coach, and using the correct players in the correct situations.

MacTavish has coached a good powerplay every year except this past season.

I think at least part of the problem was personnel; Reasoner and Stoll were vital cogs on the PK who never got adequately replaced.

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#44 Jonathan Willis
July 10 2009, 11:03AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

And by powerplay I mean penalty-kill, of course.

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#45 ScubaSteve
July 10 2009, 11:13AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

I just think we are under-estimating the effect that the coaching had on the team last year.

Playing for a coach who had checked out (you could hear it and see it in MacT) is tough. Even if the players didn't play up to potential, the coaching staff used them in the wrong situations, limiting their success.

I think we will see a big change in this team even if we don't adjust the roster at all. Quinn and Renney have the luxury of being objective, something MacT was never able to do.

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#46 OvenChicken8
July 10 2009, 11:21AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I think the departure of Simpson had something to do with that too. But that's just my opinion.

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#47 oilersinsider
July 10 2009, 11:22AM
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My pick is Maholtra. I put some interesting tidbits about him up on my site too.

It's probably money keeping him a UFA as it was well documented both he and Scott Howsen wanted to get something done in Columbus.

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#48 The Menace
July 10 2009, 11:23AM
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King Mob wrote:

off topic, but… hxxp://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=4294050 lame.

Outdated Concessions? Ouch! that one hurts.

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#49 MJ
July 10 2009, 11:43AM
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The Menace wrote:

King Mob wrote: off topic, but… hxxp://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=4294050 lame. Outdated Concessions? Ouch! that one hurts.

I guess like they say, the truth hurts? I'd be hard-pressed to defend to anyone how the concessions at Rexall could be considered even average amongst the league in terms of price or quality.

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#50 The Menace
July 10 2009, 11:46AM
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@ MJ: Don't people still like corn chips and processed cheese sauce? old hot dogs? maybe if they brought in a donair vendor or two (just don't tell DP).

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