Pat Quinn on the Current Roster

Jonathan Willis
August 19 2009 01:00PM

Dan Barnes’ column this morning is (as it often is) a must-read for Oilers fans – in this instance because he gets Pat Quinn saying some things that he (and the organization as a whole) haven’t been saying before. To start with, it’s the middle of August, and the major changes expected by a good portion of the fanbase have not come to pass. Thus, it’s time to manage expectations a bit.

Tambellini Press Conference, April 15, 2009:

[12:17] - He wants at least one top-six player, and guys that are hard to play against in general. He also reemphasizes the need to get more out of players that are currently in the organization. I’d guess that means that not all of MacTavish’s whipping boys are considered irredeemable.

Pat Quinn, August 19, 2009:

No, I didn't have that expectation [of change]. When we were talking about my coming on, I pretty much had the expectation that the roster would be pretty similar. There are a couple ways to get better, making trades or getting into the free agent market. The other, more important way is to improve from within. Our improvement will come from within.

Still, that isn’t the money quote. I think most fans have already put two and two together: if Tambellini’s able to make a trade that can improve the team, he will, but he’s not going to move heaven and earth (or even move a guy like Robert Nilsson to the minors) to bring in someone to bolster the roster.

No, the money quote is this one:

I've been historically a four-line guy. You're looking for balance. But we may not have that kind of roster. We may need to have a checking line, a slug line and two scoring lines. I am not pre-judging any of that.

That may not sound terribly interesting, but it does contrast subtly with what Quinn told Jason Gregor at the end of May:

At the start I want to find out the kind of depth we have. I’d be interested in playing all of our players. I’m more of a guy that thinks about handling a checking responsibility in terms of a defense pair, or maybe a defense pair and a given centre. As for matching a whole line, I think you can get confused some times. I think you can get caught up too much in the changing and sometimes I think you are telling players you are just a specialty player who can’t play in this circumstance. I want to have a team that believes in themselves and can play in all circumstances. I know there are some nights you do pay attention to who is on the ice at certain times, but line matching is not as critical, especially during the regular season, as some of the other things we will want to do with our hockey team. Hopefully well have good balance so we can be a strong and up tempo four line, six defense team.

Based on that quote, I’d been assuming that Steve Tambellini was going to bring a veteran or two in so that Quinn could run his four-line team, and roll his lines without worrying too much about the matchups. However, the roster as constructed really isn’t built for a line-rolling game; there are simply too many players who aren’t reliable in all situations. Maybe natural development and work by Quinn and Renney can turn some of these players into guys who are reliable in all three zones, but it will take time.

Quinn’s latest quote seems to indicate that he’s willing to run specialty lines a little bit more than he’d originally intended, and make no mistake – that’s a good thing. I doubt we’ll see Horcoff on the third line, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Pisani and Moreau flanking a to-be-determined centre (Pouliot, Brule, UFA?) as a dedicated checking line.

And The Rest Of It

 

  • Barnes talks about how 4th-line centres who can win draws “do in fact fall from trees”. That’s true enough, and like him I’m curious as to why the Oilers haven’t picked one up yet. If they don’t the Brodziak trade will have been an error; if they do (as Barnes seems to believe) than not only might they save some cap room (Brodziak’s cap hit is 1.15MM for the next three seasons) but they’ll have done a fin job of asset management.
  • Tambellini did, as Barnes points out, repeatedly refer in his press conference to getting more out of the existing group of players. Personally, I’m not a fan of rolling the dice like that, but Tambellini has been consistent on that point.
  • Barnes suggests that the powerplay needs to improve and the current cast should be worried about their positions on it. He isn't wrong, but the more urgent concern is the penalty-kill, which is down in lottery pick range.
  • Quinn talks a lot about he’s an “open book” and in most ways that’s a good thing. I like MacTavish as a coach – and my opinion of his abilities is much higher than the consensus among Oilers’ fans – but at the same time it was easy to see him getting stubborn on certain players last season. Dustin Penner is the obvious guy who might benefit, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see players like Andrew Cogliano and Marc Pouliot – both of whom saw their roles diminish down the stretch – benefit as well.
  • Lastly, I know the video above is only very, very tenuously related to the column, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to put some old Pat Quinn footage up. Also of note: Don Cherry sounds a lot gruffer these days, doesn’t he? That’s for the best, I think.
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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 Bettman4PM
August 20 2009, 01:08AM
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@ esa tikkanen:

Ya because because teams like the Leafs and Rangers who do a poor job of developing their own talent and always go the UFA route are so much better than teams like Detroit or New Jersey that do lol....For a team like the Oilers who needs to apparently overpay for UFA's, if they can't start drafting and developing cheaper homegrown talent to fill major roster spots then they will never get anywhere. If Katz wants to spend a bunch of money on this franchise, it would best be spent on hiring the best scouting/player development staff money can buy. I was really hoping we would have hired Francois Allaire to work with Dubnyk and JDD, but unfortunately Burke got him. We need to model our AHL affiliate after what Detroit has in Grand Rapids or New Jersey has in Albany - a pipeline of well groomed young talent ready to step into the NHL and play a meaningful role. If Katz wants to return the Oilers to the glory years as he says he does, there are no quick fix/bandaid solutions unfortunately.

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#52 Jonathan Willis
August 20 2009, 10:28AM
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esa tikkanen wrote:

It may be true to draft a few star players but the bottom half the roster can be build more efficiently and just as cheap if not cheaper than through the draft. The Oilers now could sign Betts for cheaper than they would have to pay Pouliot or Brule to do the same role and would not have to live with the young players’ mistakes that Pouliot would make.

I've often thought this, especially for contending teams. I think Pouliot's at the point now where he's a legitimate + on the 4th line, but there seem to be all kinds of cheap and capable veterans to fill a bottom-three role.

Plus, it forces the kids further down the dpeth chart, increasing the team's depth.

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#53 Jonathan Willis
August 20 2009, 10:29AM
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Bettman4PM wrote:

Ya because because teams like the Leafs and Rangers who do a poor job of developing their own talent and always go the UFA route are so much better than teams like Detroit or New Jersey that do

If you look at Detroit, they've made a killing by signing/trading for vets for their bottom six - exactly the strategy Tikkanen endorsed.

I like the idea developing top-six players, when possible. I like the idea of buying cheap vets for the bottom-six.

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#54 JeffG
August 20 2009, 10:51AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: and where do those cheap vets come from. Old used top 6 guys. ;)

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#55 Morgan
August 20 2009, 11:35AM
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Lets see the penalty killed sucked last year.The face-off percentage sucked but the team won't sign Betts.Oh well here comes another year battling for eight place.

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#56 spOILer
August 20 2009, 01:30PM
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Why all the love for Betts? Hasn't he been a bleeder his whole career? I don't see him being as good a solution as say Peca--or Malhotra (if we wanna put all our faceoff eggs in the LH basket).

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#57 rindog
August 20 2009, 01:32PM
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@ Bettman4PM:

I agree 100%!

3rd and 4th liners are a dime a dozen. The problem with our organization (in the past anyway) is that we placed TOO much value on those 3rd and 4th liners.

People may hate Penner at $4.25 million per year but; that is not nearly as bad as Pisani at $2.5 or Staios at $2.7.

We may not have the best 1st liners or the best 3rd liners - but following a model like Detroit (with the players we have) would be a great idea.

Pay your offensive players the money; develop the skill in the minors; and fill in the holes with complimentary players (at a cheap price).

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#58 rindog
August 20 2009, 01:33PM
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@ rindog: Oops! I meant to reply to Esa.

Sorry!

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#59 Ogden Brother
August 20 2009, 02:32PM
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rindog wrote:

@ Bettman4PM: I agree 100%! 3rd and 4th liners are a dime a dozen. The problem with our organization (in the past anyway) is that we placed TOO much value on those 3rd and 4th liners. People may hate Penner at $4.25 million per year but; that is not nearly as bad as Pisani at $2.5 or Staios at $2.7. We may not have the best 1st liners or the best 3rd liners - but following a model like Detroit (with the players we have) would be a great idea. Pay your offensive players the money; develop the skill in the minors; and fill in the holes with complimentary players (at a cheap price).

You mean like Cleary at 2.8 and Stuart at 3.75?

What Det did better was grab a couple gems in the late rounds and sign a few guys to lifetime contracts to fit them under the cap.

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#60 rindog
August 20 2009, 03:25PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

You mean like Cleary at 2.8 and Stuart at 3.75? What Det did better was grab a couple gems in the late rounds and sign a few guys to lifetime contracts to fit them under the cap.

As much as I am not a Cleary fan; he earned his way into the top 6 with Detroit. He was able to show over the last few seasons that he can be a more offensive type player (if necessary). While I agree it is a bit of an overpay - Detroit seems to think that Clearly is a very versatile player than can fill in many different roles for the club.

As far as Stuart goes - he is logging just over 20 minutes per game and has been a great player for the Wings. In the playoffs, his icetime goes up even more.

If guys like Derek Morris, Ryan Suter, Brett Clark can all make over $3 million - what should Stuart be worth?

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#61 Ogden Brother
August 20 2009, 03:45PM
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rindog wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: You mean like Cleary at 2.8 and Stuart at 3.75? What Det did better was grab a couple gems in the late rounds and sign a few guys to lifetime contracts to fit them under the cap. As much as I am not a Cleary fan; he earned his way into the top 6 with Detroit. He was able to show over the last few seasons that he can be a more offensive type player (if necessary). While I agree it is a bit of an overpay - Detroit seems to think that Clearly is a very versatile player than can fill in many different roles for the club. As far as Stuart goes - he is logging just over 20 minutes per game and has been a great player for the Wings. In the playoffs, his icetime goes up even more. If guys like Derek Morris, Ryan Suter, Brett Clark can all make over $3 million - what should Stuart be worth?

You could have made the same post only switching Staios/Moreau's name with Cleary/Stuart.

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#62 Soup
August 20 2009, 09:27PM
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Gotta tell ya, I'm all for giving Brule a try on the 3rd line with Pisani and Moreau. They have enough size and d ability to cover for a smallish centre, and he brings enough speed and tenacity to fit in with those two. If MAP can be the 4th liner he should be, maybe the solution truly is already in hand.

As far as Nils and Penner, if the team gets off to a good start over the first couple of months, like last year, they become more valuable in the trade market. Why not give it a chance if there isn't a reasonable chance of making a trade today. Better asset management route than potentially losing a player and eating half their salary through the waiver wire. Send a player away for nothing is a hugh risk with significant cap consequences.

If the team gets off to a crap start (first quarter of the season), then consider the highly drastic move of waivers for under achievers. Even with a couple of changes, this team is not a cup contender. What's one more underachieving season in the grand scheme of things. Aside from shatting the bed down the stretch, this team was in playoff contention for all but 15 - 20 games or so. The roster really isn't that bad.

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