October 25 2010 06:28PM
This is Wayne Cashman. He was a load. Tough in the corners, a mile past filthy and skilled enough to run with Esposito. A "Cashman-type" is at the top of the shopping list for the current Edmonton Oilers. Along with "????? to Hall" and "amazing stop by ????" and "Oilers most complete defenseman" is the need for a guy just like Wayne Cashman.
KNOW YOUR ROLE
As this season rolls along we can begin to see a clearer future. Taylor Hall brings ridiculous skill and determination, and may grow into a more physical role; Eberle brings the clever moves and the sixth sense on positioning; Pääjärvi in the role of rapido.
Now that the team has 3 potential offensive leaders years from their peak, the next step is to find complementary talents.
There are three current Oilers who can run with the kids when they mature (barring injury). Ales Hemsky is an outstanding offensive player in the NHL, contributing an enormous amount to the most difficult item on the agenda - scoring goals.
Dustin Penner brings size and an impressive touch around the net, and as he showed at times a year ago he can carry a team for stretches.
Sam Gagner is the one potential "man in the middle" for the 5 men mentioned above. His exceptional ability to make passes in tight areas should prove beneficial for one of the three kids and he's been a good offensive partner for Penner.
After that, we have the aged (Horcoff) and the running-in-place (Cogliano) up the middle. One possible solution at center on the skill lines is Gilbert Brule. He doesn't bring the two-way ability of a Shawn Horcoff, but Brule has some jam and can score goals, a very valuable skill.
The shopping list for ST and the MBS should be a strong winger with Cashman's skill and gumption and a center who can dish butter passes to Taylor Hall for the next decade unless Gagner's the answer.
The blueline needs a complete talent. Someone who can move the puck via the pass or shank's pony, and also possesses the size and strength to sway the conversation in front of the net and along the boards. A big shot from the point and offensive creativity would be a nice addition to the resume, but we shouldn't be greedy about it.
Oiler fans well remember the exceptional impact Chris Pronger had spring 2006, and that is exactly the player-type this team needs to acquire before they can contend for the Stanley.
The Oilers have drafted exactly two elite level goaltenders and they came at about the same time. The current depth chart features an aging veteran and two guys the new coach is working hard to evaluate without actually trusting them at all. It's either funny or tragic.
The Oilers could do themselves a big favor by drafting and developing a well priced goaltender who can start 50+ games a season and give them a chance to win every night. Investing large cap funds on veteran G's means the team will no doubt have holes elsewhere.
NOTE: Edmonton may have addressed this situation (at least partly) with the drafting of young Q goalie Olivier Roy. He's off to a nice start in the QMJHL this season and is building a nice resume at the amateur level.
CONSIDER THE LIST
As the fall gives way to winter, and we spend long nights gazing at the 2010-11 Edmonton Oilers, it is important to keep the "shopping list" top of mind: filthy skill winger; C who can turn at least one of the kids into a 40+ goal scorer; a complete defender and a value-wise goalie whose SP is north of .915 most seasons.
In the coming weeks, we'll discuss names like Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Gabriel Landeskog, David Musil and others. One of them will probably join the Oilers department of youth in the next couple of seasons; it is extremely likely the name called by Edmonton at the 2011 entry draft will have a scouting report that resembles one of the needs listed above.
It's going to be a fun winter.