The Oilers Won the Visnovsky Trade

Jonathan Willis
August 14 2009 11:09AM

In his latest column, veteran writer Jim Matheson asks a question that rears its ugly head every so often around these parts:

If the Edmonton Oilers could get a do-over, would they move Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll for Lubomir Visnovsky?

I know that I'd make that trade over again in a heartbeat.

It’s pretty simple, really: Lubomir Visnovsky is a far better player than either Stoll or Greene.

Matheson in his column talks about how the Oilers have a surplus of offensive defensemen, and how they never managed to replace Greene or Stoll, but both of those points are largely irrelevant.

The surplus of offensive defensemen isn’t a bad thing, and if the Oilers could I imagine they would keep their top four intact. The limiting factors are a pressing need for more help up front and salary cap issues. The former could have been addressed through free agency – and still could be - while the latter is simply a case of too many players getting contracts they aren’t likely to outperform. The point is that if the Oilers are moving a defenseman, it’s their own fault.

As for Jarret Stoll, he’s now recorded between 36 and 41 points in each of his last three seasons, and has been signed long-term for 3.6MM/season. As tempting as it is to look at his success in L.A. and say the Oilers made a mistake, the fact of the matter is that he’s playing a much different role for the Kings. Let’s compare his numbers, his quality of competition and teammates, and which faceoffs he’s getting sent out for:

2007-08:

  • 81GP – 14G – 22A – 36PTS, -23.
  • Quality of Competition: 1st
  • Quality of Teammates: 8th
  • Faceoff Split: 181 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs

2008-09:

  • 74GP – 18G – 23A – 41PTS, -7.
  • Quality of Competition: 9th
  • Quality of Teammates: 2nd
  • Faceoff Split: 2 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs

That’s a huge contrast. Stoll has gone from playing the best players on the other team with lousy linemates to playing third-rate players with great linemates. He’s gone from getting sent out in the defensive zone every faceoff to an even split. That’s why he’s gained +16 in plus/minus. On the flip side, he’s still a minus player, and although he does well on special teams (he does put up points on the powerplay and effectively kill penalties) he’s an offensive sinkhole at even-strength – just like he was in 2007-08. His 1.40 PTS/60 slides nicely into the bottom of the Oilers list:

  • Ethan Moreau: 1.50 PTS/60
  • Liam Reddox: 1.43 PTS/60
  • Steve MacIntyre: 1.43 PTS/60
  • Jarret Stoll: 1.40 PTS/60

Stoll was a mess as a checking centre in 2007-08, and L.A. wisely took him out of that situation. He’s a specialist on both the PK and PP, but at even-strength he’s nothing special and hasn’t been since a career-altering concussion in 2006-07. That year he managed 20 points at even strength in just 51 games, but in the years since he’s recorded 20 and 19 points at even-strength. The fact of the matter is that he has yet to be the player Oilers fans remember from before his concussion, and it’s completely plausible that he never will be.

Matheson talks about the need the Oilers have for a right-handed faceoff man to take defensive draws. Let’s compare Stoll’s numbers from 2007-08 with another right-handed centre from this past season:

Jarret Stoll, 2007-08:

  • Scoring: 81GP – 14G – 22A – 36PTS, -23.
  • Even-Strength Scoring: 20 points
  • Quality of Competition: 1st
  • Quality of Teammates: 8th
  • Faceoff Split: 181 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs
  • Faceoff Percentage: 55.1%

Kyle Brodziak, 2008-09:

  • Scoring: 79GP – 11G – 16A – 27PTS, +4.
  • Even-Strength Scoring: 23 points
  • Quality of Competition: 13th
  • Quality of Teammates: 14th
  • Faceoff Split: 112 more defensive zone than offensive zone faceoffs
  • Faceoff Percentage: 51.6%

Granted, Brodziak wasn’t playing against the toughs the way Stoll did, and he wasn’t as brilliant on faceoffs as Stoll was. However, he contributed the same amount of even-strength offense with far less ice-time, was +27 better on the plus/minus scale, and costs about one-third as much as Stoll will for the next three seasons.

Also, when it comes to not replacing Stoll as a faceoff specialist, that represented an unforced error on Kevin Lowe’s part: in 2007-08, he not only traded away Stoll, but he also declined to sign Marty Reasoner. Reasoner, a cheap faceoff ace and a very good defensive forward, signed in Atlanta (again, for roughly one-third of Stoll’s price) and would have been a valuable part of the team this past season. Not only that, but according to his public remarks, he wanted to stay, and he’s always had the reputation of being a team-first guy in the dressing room.

That brings us to Matt Greene, who after years of struggling in a depth role with the Oilers finally paid off big-time as a shut-down defenseman in Los Angeles. He’s big, he’s nasty, and all of a sudden he’s helping his hockey team win games.

There are, however, two points worth making about Greene:

  1. He is not now, and likely never will be, a superior player to Lubomir Visnovsky.
  2. The Oilers have a very similar player in Ladislav Smid, except that Smid is a) younger and b) signed for the next two season at less than half the price of Greene (1.3MM vs. 2.95 MM)

I like both players the Oilers sent away to get Visnovsky, but frankly it was still a good trade. Jarret Stoll’s play has dropped off dramatically since suffering that concussion two years ago, and Matt Greene for all of his strengths isn’t in the same class as the guy the Oilers got.

One thing I haven’t gone to great lengths to emphasize is just how good of a player Visnovsky is.

Matheson talks about Denis Grebeshkov as a replacement for Visnovsky, but even at his best Grebeshkov doesn’t have the poise of the former or the same level of puck-moving ability. Visnovsky’s the most talented puck-distributing defenseman this town has seen since at least Chris Pronger, and quite possibly since Paul Coffey. The Oilers’ inability to bring in a third-line centre this past season shouldn’t be held against him.

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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 Alon
August 14 2009, 11:20AM
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Amen!

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#2 Colin
August 14 2009, 11:21AM
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Wow JW if it wasn't for you this site would practically close for the summer. However many sweaty used t-shirts your being paid in it isn't enough.

Nice analysis too, Vishnovsky is the Bee's Knees.

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#3 I Am The Law
August 14 2009, 11:26AM
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I was pretty convinced that the Oilers won that trade when they made it, but that was more based on "saw him good". Your numbers just confirm it. *runs to the nearest store to buy Vishnovsky jersey...realizes he's in Vancouver and weeps*

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#4 Librarian Mike
August 14 2009, 11:28AM
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I'm not too familiar with how other fans are, but it seems like Oilers fans have an incredible amount of buyer's remorse. I was sorry to see Stoll go, but the fact is he hasn't been the same since his concussion.

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#5 Deans
August 14 2009, 11:29AM
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Lubo is also a very exciting player to watch. While I loved Green and Stoll they didnt exactly bring the fans out of the seats. Lubo is fun to watch and when you consider how expensive the games are to see live, having another exciting player, just sweetens the deal.

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#6 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 11:29AM
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I'm suprised it's even up for debate

1/2 Dmen >>>> 3rd line center+4/5 Dmen.

I'm pretty sure the Oil could be more then say Pahlson+Commodore for Gilber. And Vish >> Gilbert

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#7 Chris.
August 14 2009, 11:32AM
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@ Willis:

...and let's not forget that Lubo is one heck of a great guy.

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#8 Wyseguy
August 14 2009, 11:35AM
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completely agree. I also love how Vishnovsky doesn't get flustered. Just have to figure out how the PP units shape up. Never been a fan of having Souray and Vish play on the same unit, especially since they both have a lethal one timer from the right point.

Maybe we go with a 1a, 1b set up like Detroit. You never did know which of their units would start the PP. Although obviously they had the skill to have 2 pretty amazing units last year; missing Hossa, Samuellson and Hudler will change that for them this year.

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#9 jeff
August 14 2009, 11:48AM
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We definetly won the trade, but that doesn't neccasarily mean it was a trade that we should've done.

In hindsight I probably still do the trade.

Stoll was going to be dealt no matter what, same with Torres. It sucked that Greene was involved and that he elevated his game to the next level as soon as he left.

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#10 kurt
August 14 2009, 11:51AM
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i like lubo! i really watched him every game that i been to this year. even when he doesn't have the puck or is in the play, he's almost always in a position where he can jump in and make a difference. That hockey sense is hard to come by.

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#11 GSC
August 14 2009, 11:52AM
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I have to agree with JW, I too would make the Visnovsky trade again in a heartbeat. He's an elite puck-mover and is just fantastic to watch in his own zone, so calm and collected with and without the puck.

Not to mention, wasn't Vish amongst the team leaders in shots blocked before he went down with his shoulder injury?

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#12 jeff
August 14 2009, 11:52AM
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Also I agree with the whole Lowe dropping the ball and not signing Reasoner. Even next year we could've used him.

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#13 Madman37
August 14 2009, 11:53AM
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I thought 2.95 for Greene was a typo. I had to look up Matt Greene's cap hit to find out it wasn't. Oiler definitely won that trade. Never pay a player big bucks unless he puts up points. Isn't that Ken Holland's philosophy.

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#14 The Menace
August 14 2009, 11:54AM
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Looking forward to a full season with Vish in the lineup. We went downhill hard after his injury last year.

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#15 Ender the Dragon
August 14 2009, 11:55AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Also, when it comes to not replacing Stoll as a faceoff specialist, that represented an unforced error on Kevin Lowe’s part: in 2007-08, he not only traded away Stoll, but he also declined to sign Marty Reasoner. Reasoner, a cheap faceoff ace and a very good defensive forward, signed in Atlanta (again, for roughly one-third of Stoll’s price) and would have been a valuable part of the team this past season.

While I've defended several Oil management decisions in the past, I've still never forgiven them for Reasoner. That was just shortsighted, and now the damage is done.

Why, Kevin Lowe, why?

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#16 GSC
August 14 2009, 11:56AM
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Also, I couldn't agree more with JW's assessment of Ladi Smid taking over for Greene as the prominent (and cheaper) shutdown man. Smid has developed a junkyard dog mentality in his own zone and plays a good physical game, albeit not quite as good as Greene's. Smid is a better skater and puck-mover than Greene, however. He will be a beauty, and I'm glad he isn't headed to Ottawa to become another Chris Phillips.

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#17 Librarian Mike
August 14 2009, 11:56AM
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Willis wrote:

Visnovsky’s the most talented puck-distributing defenseman this town has seen since at least Chris Pronger, and quite possibly since Paul Coffey.

That's a great point. Vis is also considerably better defensively than Coffey ever was. In terms of dubious talent however, let's not forget about one Janne Niiniimaa. I'll never forget that game when he scored an own goal on a powerplay. What a spaz that guy was...

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#18 jeff
August 14 2009, 11:58AM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

Jonathan Willis wrote: Also, when it comes to not replacing Stoll as a faceoff specialist, that represented an unforced error on Kevin Lowe’s part: in 2007-08, he not only traded away Stoll, but he also declined to sign Marty Reasoner. Reasoner, a cheap faceoff ace and a very good defensive forward, signed in Atlanta (again, for roughly one-third of Stoll’s price) and would have been a valuable part of the team this past season. While I’ve defended several Oil management decisions in the past, I’ve still never forgiven them for Reasoner. That was just shortsighted, and now the damage is done. Why, Kevin Lowe, why?

Probably because Lowe wanted to give him 3mil a year and Reasoner didn't want to screw the team over.

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#19 Mike Krushelnyski
August 14 2009, 12:02PM
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@ Librarian Mike: Don't you dare speak ill of Janne Niinimaa!

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#20 RyanB
August 14 2009, 12:03PM
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Post concussion Stoll was basically a faceoff guy. Greene is a tough shut down d-man. Both of those types of players are important to have on a hockey team without a doubt but they are far easier to find than an elite puck moving defensemen. So given the choice, I would always move replaceable players for something far harder to come across. Who wouldn't?

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#21 MrOiler
August 14 2009, 12:06PM
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Bang on analysis, however I don't think Matheson was saying it was a bad trade but would the Oilers do it again if they knew Grebeshkov was going to be where he is now.

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#22 Librarian Mike
August 14 2009, 12:06PM
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@ Mike Krushelnyski:

He used to come to the video store I worked at, and to be fair he was a really nice guy. He was also a good player for us, but every now and then, it was like he had ADD or something.

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#23 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 12:17PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

Jonathan Willis wrote: Also, when it comes to not replacing Stoll as a faceoff specialist, that represented an unforced error on Kevin Lowe’s part: in 2007-08, he not only traded away Stoll, but he also declined to sign Marty Reasoner. Reasoner, a cheap faceoff ace and a very good defensive forward, signed in Atlanta (again, for roughly one-third of Stoll’s price) and would have been a valuable part of the team this past season. While I’ve defended several Oil management decisions in the past, I’ve still never forgiven them for Reasoner. That was just shortsighted, and now the damage is done. Why, Kevin Lowe, why?

He was just "letting the kids play" ;)

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#24 5cups
August 14 2009, 12:19PM
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It was a great trade then, and still is. A guy like Lubo does not come abvailable often, just look at the UFA's the last couple of years. So to give up a sound but not great D man and a solid 3/4 liner in Stoll has to be done. Have the oil replaced them, no, but that was by choice. As you point out, they have had guys that they let walk and even this year, the Ufa market has a couple available that would be much cheaper than Stoll. I believe Malhotra put up 30+pts, so he demontstartes that that callabre of player can be replaced. The oilers just have too many forwards to make that move.

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#25 lolvista
August 14 2009, 12:19PM
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I love Visnovsky and I think we won the trade but that last video is definitely not the best video to sway the minds of people who believe the Oilers lost the trade. Repeats of zoom ins on Lubos face and goal celebrations does not make the 'Ultimate highlight video'.

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#26 Dan the Man
August 14 2009, 12:42PM
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I agree this was a good trade, the team that gets the best player wins the trade, right? Lubo is by a large margin the best player in this deal. Smid will be a better player than Greene and I would say that 3rd line centres that can win face-offs are not that difficult to find but for some inexplicable reason Oilers management has yet to find one. When we do eventually get one I doubt that we will have to give up someone as good as Lubo to get him.

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#27 Cam
August 14 2009, 12:49PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

He was just “letting the kids play”

Yep. We had five centres and four spots.

Horc Gagner Cogliano Pouliot Brodziak

And then we had Pisani... er... does anyone know what medication MacT was on last year? I want some.

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#28 J74
August 14 2009, 12:52PM
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Interesting stuff.

Have you updated your formula for figuring out your quality of competition? I saw an article you had on Springfield's website. Is that the most recent version?

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#29 Cam
August 14 2009, 12:54PM
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Cam wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: He was just “letting the kids play” Yep. We had five centres and four spots. Horc Gagner Cogliano Pouliot Brodziak And then we had Pisani… er… does anyone know what medication MacT was on last year? I want some.

oh yeah... and don't forget Brule...

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#30 Dallas
August 14 2009, 12:57PM
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@ Madman37: Yes and I hope we stick to that I just don't see the logic in paying shutdown D more than 2.5-3.0tops Staos is far overpaid ha look at komasaric in T.O this year Burke will suffer with that one for awhile

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#31 Lofty
August 14 2009, 01:02PM
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The Menace wrote:

Looking forward to a full season with Vish in the lineup. We went downhill hard after his injury last year.

Knock on wood.

I dont see how Matheson could even question the trade. The Oil relied on the defense for way too much offense last year. You cant expect so many minutes and so much offense to come from Souray and Viz.

If some offense develops or a trade is made Souray and Viz will not wear down like they have the past 2 seasons.

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#32 Jonathan Willis
August 14 2009, 01:03PM
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@ J74:

Actually, the formula that I use in the AHL was correct the entire time; Desjardins tried to improve it and that didn't work but when he went back to what I was doing it worked fine.

But I don't use that formula for NHL stuff - I use Desjardins' stuff because it's a lot more detailed (you can find it at behindthenet.ca).

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#33 homie
August 14 2009, 01:09PM
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Excellent post and could't agree more.

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#34 Tayranchula
August 14 2009, 01:22PM
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That trade was good just Lowe did nothing to sure up the positions with wholes after the trade. Typically when you trade 2 players from a starting roster for 1, there is going to be somewhere that has a whole and that is 3rd line center PK specialist which we still do not have. The Oilers should trade staious for a 3rd line center if they can and trade Schremp for Purcell, if we cannot bring in superstars then bring in someone that is young, talented, has potential and half a year playing with stars of his former team, also start getting rid of 180 LBS 5 10 players. That would be nice im dreaming again.

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#35 Ender the Dragon
August 14 2009, 01:32PM
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Cam wrote:

Yep. We had five centres and four spots. Horc Gagner Cogliano Pouliot Brodziak

I get that, but at the time Gagne was essentially a winger and MAP hadn't shown he was ever going to be a full-time big-leaguer. Easy to say 5 now, but Reasoner still should have looked attractive then.

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#36 typol99
August 14 2009, 01:42PM
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[I] sure miss [S]toll but [forget about] [G]reene he [isn't very good]. [I]f [Visnovsky] is healthy [for] 70+ games [you will see] his skill and [I'd wager] he's good [for] 50+ points[.]

This comment has been editted so that it's understandable.

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#37 Ender the Dragon
August 14 2009, 01:43PM
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Cam wrote:

oh yeah… and don’t forget Brule…

And there's the rub. Torres turns into Brule on the July 1, 2008, and two weeks later Marty signs in Atlanta. The Oil must have decided that Gilbert was their guy and told Marty to get stuffed. How does that look now, Lowe?

Yeah, Brule is younger and may be something someday. May. But Marty already was and still is. Atlanta just resigned him on a multi-year. The Oilers get it right most of the time, I think, but they really whiffed on this one.

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#38 oilFan
August 14 2009, 01:45PM
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Good read JW. If the Oilers wanted they could make a trade for 3rd line center they want to give the kids a chance. Haven't you guys heard Tambos interviews. Let's see what the kids got, if it doesn't work then make a deal.

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#39 Jonathan Willis
August 14 2009, 01:49PM
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@ oilFan:

I've heard the interviews, I just disagree. Make the kids work against veterans to get a chance, don't hand it to them on a platter.

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#40 typol99
August 14 2009, 01:54PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I’ve heard the interviews, I just disagree. Make the kids work against veterans to get a chance, don’t hand it to them on a platter.

Absolutely.....Gags doesnt seem to think its important to compete 4 all 82 games..cogs is sweet but blows at center here we need him and o.sullivan is ugly as hell..(k fine that has nothing 2 do with this but its tru) sign theo to whip them in place and piss off the shame (flame)fans

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#41 RossCreek
August 14 2009, 01:55PM
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I tend to think the Oil lost that trade. I base this on THEIR team. If Lubo were to be the final piece of the puzzle and push the Oil over the top, then by all means, I'd say they won the deal. But based on where they were and are, I say I wouldn't have made that deal. Trading away 2 younger guys that are your future roll players for a star defenceman that isn't gonna make you a contender and be gone or too old by the time they're ready to win.

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#42 typol99
August 14 2009, 01:58PM
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anybody agree that nilsson just sucks ass...

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#43 Wyseguy
August 14 2009, 02:07PM
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typol99 wrote:

anybody agree that nilsson just sucks ass…

@ typol99: I'd like him if he showed any sort of work ethic and consistency. Like father, like son. Again, question remains what new coaching staff will get out of him and the rest

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#44 MattL
August 14 2009, 02:08PM
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@ Ender the Dragon: Ender the Dragon wrote:

Easy to say 5 now, but Reasoner still should have looked attractive then.

Yeah, but, I didn't hear a single person crying about losing Reasoner when it happened. Only after half-way through the season when it was clear that our faceoffs and pk were a disaster did anyone say anything about Reasoner. Everyone called MacT a lunatic for being the only Reasoner backer, and bitched the year before that when he was our starting 4C.

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#45 Ender the Dragon
August 14 2009, 02:23PM
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MattL wrote:

Yeah, but, I didn’t hear a single person crying about losing Reasoner when it happened.

Mmmmmmmm . . . I don't know. I was probably one of the guys most upset, but other Nationeers were questioning it too. Jonathan wondered that day who was going to fill his PK time and Hemmer lamented the loss of his work ethic and team first attitude. No one talked about his face-off % until later, but there were people who recognized we let a solid and dependable bottom-6 center slip away. The people who were happy to see Reasoner leave were really just those who had been afraid that MacT was going to slide him in on the first line. They didn't dislike Reasoner, just MacT's coaching.

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#46 Morghasm
August 14 2009, 02:25PM
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RossCreek wrote:

a star defenceman that isn’t gonna make you a contender

Seriously? Did you see the difference that Lubo's injury made last year? We went from 6th to out of the playoffs, largely because we missed his contributions. Even pre-concussion Stoll didn't make that kind of impact on this team, and Greene often stuggled. Two kids who were not the promise of the future (these weren't our Hemskys and Gagners at the time) for a player that obviously makes a huge contribution for this team's success = WIN and a trade I do again and again.

@ MattL: I cried when we lost him! Although mostly because he and Greene gave the best interviews ever - it was a serious loss to the otherwise lame oilers tv offerings. Those were the days...

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#47 Jonathan Willis
August 14 2009, 02:26PM
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MattL wrote:

Yeah, but, I didn’t hear a single person crying about losing Reasoner when it happened. Only after half-way through the season when it was clear that our faceoffs and pk were a disaster did anyone say anything about Reasoner.

Bruce M wrote on September 22, 2008:

Any team featuring Craig MacTavish never had any worries about its third-line centre. Until now. The early word from training camp is that Coach MacT has looked at his roster and found an intergalactic void where the third-line centre used to be. No Jarret Stoll, no Marty Reasoner, no veteran centre to replace either of them, and a bunch of kids with known weaknesses extending down (and up) the depth chart.
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#48 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 02:44PM
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Tayranchula wrote:

That trade was good just Lowe did nothing to sure up the positions with wholes after the trade. Typically when you trade 2 players from a starting roster for 1, there is going to be somewhere that has a whole and that is 3rd line center PK specialist which we still do not have. The Oilers should trade staious for a 3rd line center if they can and trade Schremp for Purcell, if we cannot bring in superstars then bring in someone that is young, talented, has potential and half a year playing with stars of his former team, also start getting rid of 180 LBS 5 10 players. That would be nice im dreaming again.

It was Tambillini that did nothing to shore up the 3rd line center spot.

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#49 Ogden Brother
August 14 2009, 02:47PM
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MattL wrote:

@ Ender the Dragon: Ender the Dragon wrote: Easy to say 5 now, but Reasoner still should have looked attractive then. Yeah, but, I didn’t hear a single person crying about losing Reasoner when it happened. Only after half-way through the season when it was clear that our faceoffs and pk were a disaster did anyone say anything about Reasoner. Everyone called MacT a lunatic for being the only Reasoner backer, and bitched the year before that when he was our starting 4C.

Bingo, in fact all the "trade Moreau, trade Pisani, trade Horcoff" posts were "trade Stoll, trade Reasoner, trade Torres" posts last year.

Avatar
#50 Ender the Dragon
August 14 2009, 03:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Ogden Brother wrote:

all the “trade Moreau, trade Pisani, trade Horcoff” posts were “trade Stoll, trade Reasoner, trade Torres” posts last year.

Moral of the Story: Just because the masses yell for something doesn't mean that they necessarily know best.

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