On the fence: for better or worse?

Robin Brownlee
July 27 2009 06:57PM

lowe-tambellini

If the Edmonton Oilers don't make another roster move between now and the start of the 2009-10 season, do you see them on the outside looking in for a playoff spot for the fourth straight season or are you of the mind they'll be back in the post-season?

While I'm sitting on the fence, I'm leaning big-time toward the former. That's the easy projection of course, and it seems to be the overriding sentiment around here during these hockey dog days of summer.

Still, there's a corner of my brain -- my head is square -- that says otherwise, even if there isn't much evidence, and none in terms of new personnel, that the Oilers can climb from 11th place back into the top eight in the Western Conference.

Reasonable arguments can be made on both sides of the issue, so rather than slag Dany Heatley yet again, lament that Nikolai Khabibulin will be 57 when his $166-million contract is up and curse Steve Tambellini for mostly sitting around with his thumb in his arse when he's not on his knees in Kelowna, let's do that.

THE PESSIMIST SAYS

-- With Heatley dragging his feet until the San Jose Sharks come up with a package of players that tickles Bryan Murray's fancy, the Oilers will again lack the one-shot scorer they covet to complement Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. The first line won't be good enough.

-- Khabibulin isn't a significant upgrade on Dwayne Roloson and odds are Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, left to die on the vine last season, isn't capable of taking over as No. 1 when the Bulin Wall takes a header in the shower and dislocates his spine four games into the season.

-- With Tambellini failing to bring in any high-priced help for Hemsky, letting Ales Kotalik walk and Pat Quinn thinking No. 83 is a centre, how long is it before Hemsky phones agent Jiri Crha and says, "Get me the hell out of here, and make it fast?"

-- Patrick O'Sullivan, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule are pencilled into Quinn's top-nine forwards, and Robert Nilsson is still hanging around, so the Oilers remain too soft and too small up front. Not a six-footer in that group. There isn't enough grit in those expected to play top-nine minutes.

-- Between Lubomir Visnovsky's surgically-repaired shoulder, Tom Gilbert's bad back and Sheldon Souray's long list of past injuries, a defensive group that seems to be deep is a couple of bad breaks from leaning on Denis Grebeshkov, Steve Staios, Jason Strudwick and Theo Peckham for too many top-four minutes. Does the thought of seeing Taylor Chorney force-fed playing time give you the willies? Me too.

THE OPTIMIST SAYS

-- Dustin Penner can't possibly be worse than he was last season under Craig MacTavish, who made him a whipping boy. While PDP brought some of that on himself, MacTavish went too far and showed him up. A new start under Quinn and Tom Renney could be exactly what Penner needs to pick up where he left off in Anaheim before hitting a wall under MacTavish. Might the Oilers already have the first-line LW they seek?

-- This team won't have the distraction of the dressing room splits that were whispered about much of last season. While some of that talk was nothing more than gossip and speculation, MacTavish lost the room with his inability to resist the temptation to make examples of certain players, particularly Penner. That, I can tell you first-hand, was a real problem.

-- The penalty-killing (ranked 27th) will be better under Quinn and Renney. I know, how could it be worse? Likewise, the power play, which was a middling 22nd, has the potential to move up 8-10 notches with a full season of O'Sullivan and if Penner gets more PP time, which he deserves.

-- No chance the Oilers replicate their feeble 18-17-6 home record at Rexall Place. That was 14th in the West, ahead of only Colorado.

-- Liam Reddox will not play on the first line at any point this season. Then again, neither will Rob Schremp.

Which side of the fence are you on? Let me know.

GRIFFITHS FIRED AT TEAM 1260

Bryn Griffiths, host of More On Sports at TEAM 1260, was let go by Astral Media at 4 p.m. this afternoon.

Griffiths served as sports director under Marty Forbes when TEAM 1260 took to the airwaves some seven years ago and co-hosted More On Sports with Jake Daniels until Daniels was fired this spring. More later.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#101 hatecrime
July 29 2009, 09:12AM
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hate to say it but when calgary did the run people partied and we saw hot women.edmonton does the run we see fires and riots.carma?

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#102 Garett
July 29 2009, 09:39AM
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If this is the team we enter training camp with, we should see Lowe got at the very least, can't fire Tambo yet with Lowe still there. I doubt that we could take even one game from the Flames this year with the current roster. If we can't improve the club, let's cut down payroll and totally rebuild, this mediocrity reaks of the Leafs situation for all those years. Call me a douche bag, but I would kill for Brian Burke right now! I am jealous of the Leafs and their fans, How does Burke do it? I look forward to those Leafs being reborn again!

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#103 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 09:45AM
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Sandra wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: so your saying it’s the City then.

It certainly doesn't help. Also, alot of mid-level teams need to pay a premium. Look at some signings the last couple of years for even mid level talent:

BJ's:

Commodore 3.75 Huselius 4.75 Umberger 3.75 Pahlson 2.65

Atl

Antro 4 Hainsey 4.5

NYR

Kotalik 3

Flames

Vandemeer 2.3 Sarich 3.6

Kings

Stoll 3.6 Green 3 Scuderi 3.4

Actually, I think the main problem is that Etown fans have no clue whats going on around the rest of the leauge, and that most of these precieved "overpays" are actually a league wide trend... which should mean it's market value.

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#104 scorecoff hemmercules
July 29 2009, 10:34AM
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@ Garett:

Burke has the luxory of joining a team with cap space, Tambo wasn't so lucky. Anyone who thinks we become a contender over one summer with a capped out team full of small average players is dillusional. Obviously we don't plan on buying anyone out or we would have done it by now so we remain against the cap. Tambo tried to get the best offensive talent available, and hes still trying. Plenty of time to add a gritty 3rd line center which is all I really see us doing from here until training camp. Don't be so quick to call for Tambo's head, at least wait until were in 30th place at Christmas. We'll see what Toronto can do under Burke, he's only been there a few months.

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#105 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 10:45AM
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scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

@ Garett: Burke has the luxory of joining a team with cap space, Tambo wasn’t so lucky. Anyone who thinks we become a contender over one summer with a capped out team full of small average players is dillusional. Obviously we don’t plan on buying anyone out or we would have done it by now so we remain against the cap. Tambo tried to get the best offensive talent available, and hes still trying. Plenty of time to add a gritty 3rd line center which is all I really see us doing from here until training camp. Don’t be so quick to call for Tambo’s head, at least wait until were in 30th place at Christmas. We’ll see what Toronto can do under Burke, he’s only been there a few months.

What has Burke done? The only decent deal he has is Beauch.

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#106 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 10:47AM
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scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

@ Garett: Burke has the luxory of joining a team with cap space, Tambo wasn’t so lucky. Anyone who thinks we become a contender over one summer with a capped out team full of small average players is dillusional. Obviously we don’t plan on buying anyone out or we would have done it by now so we remain against the cap. Tambo tried to get the best offensive talent available, and hes still trying. Plenty of time to add a gritty 3rd line center which is all I really see us doing from here until training camp. Don’t be so quick to call for Tambo’s head, at least wait until were in 30th place at Christmas. We’ll see what Toronto can do under Burke, he’s only been there a few months.

And even then, 3.8 isn't fabulous.

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#107 Reggie
July 29 2009, 10:55AM
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hatecrime wrote:

hate to say it but when calgary did the run people partied and we saw hot women.edmonton does the run we see fires and riots.carma?

I think that's just your perception. Calgary didn't have a riot, but the police and city worked hard at closing down the red mile and ensuring the drunken partying in the street was stopped.

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#108 scorecoff hemmercules
July 29 2009, 11:59AM
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@ Ogden Brother:

I didn't say he did anything great yet, I'm just saying he has a little more breathing room than Tambo does as far as cap space goes. I hate Burke and you are right that he hasn't really done much and probably wont turn them into a contender anytime soon. Lots of people think so highly of Burke, I don't get it.

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#109 Ogden Brother
July 29 2009, 01:06PM
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scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: I didn’t say he did anything great yet, I’m just saying he has a little more breathing room than Tambo does as far as cap space goes. I hate Burke and you are right that he hasn’t really done much and probably wont turn them into a contender anytime soon. Lots of people think so highly of Burke, I don’t get it.

He also lost a trade (badly) to free up some cap space. That's like the Oil trading Souray for Xelby in order to overpay Komi.

Also, they don't have a whole tonne of cap space, almost spent to the cap so far this year and have roughly the same/player for next year, with arguable three 2nd liners (no first liners) signed.

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#110 Hemmertime
July 29 2009, 01:16PM
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All this will be moot when The Hemsky breaks out for 110 pt season with whoever the hell we have him playing with, we have 2 D with 20+ goals and the 4th best PP in the league. We will win the division in large part due to Patty O'Sullivan contributing. We may already have our LW. In basically all estimations and Oiler rants I rarely see him mentioned, maybe because he performed at the "MacT level" for offense once he came here I don't know. With Quinn/Renny perhaps he is a serious candidate for 1st line LW or even C.

Read a lot of comments too about not having a shut down defense. I recall the one that said he missed the days where Smith and Ulanov were in the top of the league in blocked shots. C'mon people, are you serious? Daniel Tjarnqvist came in as the savior to our powerplay. That is not a situation to envy. Our D is great, but fragile. Until/If injuries maul them then we could see a D man picked up then - but as is this is the best D corps the Oilers have had to start a season (the D for playoffs 06 dont count, Spacek trade deadline =) ) since... hell early 90's? Although I was a big Niinimaa fan - Visnovsky is one of the best defensemen in the west or even the NHL, his injury was detrimental to us as much as Detriot losing Lidstrom or Anaheim losing Niedermayer.

I mean, yes, we all covet a bona fide first line wing superstar - who doesn't? Most great lines in the NHL have only 2 skilled players anyway. But our main gripes are about faceoff percent and a third line center. A cheap shutdown D would be nice. But I love having these problems instead of Smyth, Guerin, Weight, 15 - 3rd line players

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#111 scorecoff hemmercules
July 29 2009, 01:22PM
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@ Ogden Brother:

Sorry, I should of wrote "....HAD more breathing room..." not "has". Anyway, I agree, nothing special there. We'll see how they perform.

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#112 Posts about sports as of July 30, 2009 » Video Blog And Arcticles
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#113 Posts about sports as of July 31, 2009 » BLOGVIDEOS
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