July 17 2009 10:55PM
Now that I've had a good cry after hearing Edmonton Oilers assistant GM Kevin Prendergast admit the team has "given up hope" in its pursuit of Dany Heatley, I will wring out my notepad and try to move on.
So, rest assured, will GM Steve Tambellini. Like Jonathan Willis, I'm not of the mind Tambellini has curled up in the fetal position muttering "Dany, Dany, Dany," paralyzed into inaction after being spurned. Not even close.
I don't believe that, while there remains a need for a finisher on left wing alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, the Oilers can't fill the other holes they had in the line-up last season and make up for the devastating additional losses of Kyle Brodziak. Ales Kotalik and Liam Reddox.
Nor do I buy the argument Tambellini, Pat Quinn and Tom Renney will have a problem with Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano and Ladislav Smid in terms of mending fences.
Yes, it would've been a bonus to dump Penner's contract, but I can't believe he won't be better, even sulking, under Quinn and Renney than he was after being repeatedly shown up and mis-used by Craig MacTavish.
Likewise, I see finding a way to better utilize Cogliano more of a challenge than soothing any hurt feelings. As for Smid, well, he had issues before he was tossed into the Heatley package. I'm led to believe he's past what had him contemplating a trade early in the season. He'll get past this.
So must the faithful.
ON THE TELEPHONE
What Tambellini needs to do, and is doing, now is work the phones to fill the holes that are obvious to everybody.
As for left wing on the top line, I'd like to see Tambellini place a call to Pennsylvania and inquire about Simon Gagne or Scott Hartnell. Or maybe he should ring L.A. about Dustin Brown. Alex Tanguay? Not so much.
Nothing that's happened so far has changed the fact Tambellini has assets on the back end he can trade. Denis Grebeshkov going to arbitration is a minor distraction, nothing more.
As for finding a handy, defensive-minded centre who can win face-offs and kill penalties, Manny Malhotra, as I pitched earlier this off-season, remains the best option, even if it'll take an overpay -- like that's stopped the Oilers in the past three seasons.
I'm led to believe Tambellini is looking to make a move to address that need and that, despite being focused on Heatley for weeks, he's kicking some tires. I don't have a name for you, but if he hasn't put a call into Malhotra, I'd be flabbergasted.
Free agent Blair Betts is sitting there, and has said he'd be happy to don Oilers silks. The Oilers have a passing interest, but they already have a centre who can kill penalties and win less than 50 per cent of his face-offs. His name is Gilbert Brule.
COUNT TO 10
I'm not going to take a "don't worry, be happy" stance here because I don't believe that signing Nikolai Khabibulin to a 14-year contract and jettisoning Brodziak to open things up for Brule puts the Oilers into a playoff spot in 2009-10. How much of an upgrade, really, is Khabibulin over Dwayne Roloson?
At the same time, I'm not going to lose any sleep over the swing-and-miss on Heatley, but you already knew that. And, as previously mentioned, I'm not willing to write-off PDP despite all the ragging I've done on him. If Quinn and Renney stroke him the right way, he could shove it to the critics in the coming season. Not likely, but possible.
The challenges we know, as does Tambellini. I'd suggest a step back and a deep breath over the next couple of weeks. Take the kids to Capital Ex. Go to Commonwealth Stadium and boo the Eskimos. Anything.
Let Tambellini do his job.
WHILE I'M AT IT . . .
-- Without face-to-face interaction on the internet, bafflegab has become the secret pinkie handshake among fans on message boards. In addition to nerd-speak like "playing the toughs" and "doing the heavy lifting" and "butter-soft minutes," we get the following lingo from somebody named PDO over at HF Boards in the ongoing debate about the value of acquiring Heatley: "Yes. We're a better team if he comes here," opines PDO. "Second he goes top cheddar on Luongo we all forget about how long it took to get him here."
Yes, the second Heatley goes "top cheddar" -- a shooter picking the top corner has morphed from going top shelf to top cheese -- on Luongo, I'll be buying his jersey. Can Heatley go "top havarti" or "top feta" on Luongo?
-- While I'm at it, is there room for interpretation of "butter-soft minutes," given the difference in texture between room temperature butter and refrigerator butter?
-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.