Comparing 2010-11 With 2009-10

Jonathan Willis
November 26 2010 02:41PM

While the addition of some quality young players to the team has made Oilers games more watchable than last year, I’ve been curious to see how the team has a whole has improved from last season’s debacle. After all, the point of a rebuild is to slowly improve, and ideally we’d see this team making gradual steps forward.

One quarter through the season, how does this group compare with the 2009-10 Oilers?

The following chart shows some of the key places we might look for team-wide improvement:

Season 2009-10 2010-11
Points 62 62
GF/Game 2.51 2.48
GA/Game 3.39 3.86
SF/Game 28.3 25.5
SA/Game 33.1 35.6
PP% 17.3 13.6
PK% 78 67.5

To recap what that chart says: compared to the 2009-10 Oilers, this year’s team a) scores marginally less, b) gets scored on more frequently, c) gets fewer shots, d) sees more shots against, e) has a worse power play and f) has a worse penalty kill.

I sincerely hope that’s the most damning thing I ever say about this team, because despite my modest expectations I was disheartened when I looked up the actual data.

The special teams shift has been this club’s biggest problem. Not only are both special teams units significantly worse this season than they were last year, but the Oilers spend less time on the power play (down to 3.86 power-plays per game from 3.98 last season) and more time killing penalties (from 3.72 kills per game up to 3.95) than they did one year ago. After allowing 67 goals while short-handed, they’re currently on pace to allow 105, and after scoring 52 power play goals a year ago they’re on pace to tally just 43. That shift has hidden marginal improvements at even-strength, where the Oilers are on pace to be minus-50 after putting in a minus-52 performance one season ago.

It’s still early, and so there is still an opportunity for this team to turn things around. But to date the influx of talent and change in coaching staff hasn’t had the desired result, because if the Oilers keep up this pace it will turn out that last season wasn’t rock bottom after all.

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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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#1 Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement
November 26 2010, 02:44PM
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Not the FIST opportunity and certianly not the last.... Go team FIST!

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#2 D-Man
November 26 2010, 02:46PM
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Let me be the FIST to say that this was a good article... A bit obvious in the sense that our special teams require a huge overall... I do think as the kids develop - we'll see some better stats on the PP... Can't say that our PK will get better; we don't have the personnel yet and I don't believe our specialists in Reddox and O'Marra would make that much of a difference..

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#3 Team Couturier
November 26 2010, 02:49PM
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If you look at the NYI as an example of a complete tear down and rebuild (which we did not do), there are more lean years to come yet. However, we have a leg up because we kept some semblance of a team from before - Horc, Hemmer, Penner are legitimate NHLers. Brule/Gilbert/Gags/Fraser/Jones/Storts are further along in development. That's why we will do a bit better than NYI in year 2. Even this year 1 of rebuild, we will probably be better than them, because we kept some veterans. So this is not a complete rebuild at all, but phase 1 of a rebuild.

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#4 misfit
November 26 2010, 02:50PM
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Who needs progress when you've got high draft picks?

Looking at the rosters, this team probably should finish worse than they did last year with Souray/Visnovsky being replaced by Whitney/Foster, Penner not having an all-star start, and 4 rookies in the lineup in full time roles. Even with Hemsky and Khabibulin in the lineup (for the most part), this team should still be expected to not perform as well.

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#6 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 26 2010, 03:11PM
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Wow. Depressing.

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#7 MoJo
November 26 2010, 03:13PM
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Funny how were worse at everything over last year, but that's only good enough for 28th in the League.

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#8 JB
November 26 2010, 03:14PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'd argue that this team is in Season Five of the rebuild. The rebuild started the minute Kevin Lowe sent Chris Pronger away for magic beans.

The problem is that management didn't realize it until about the halfway point of last season.

Almost shocked when I see or hear someone mention the fact this is Season Five sans playoffs. Listening to local radio and reading MSM, it seems years 1-3 in that period are being forgotten as per the corporate narrative mandated by Oilers management. That's okay though. As someone on the message board here replied to me once, "real fans know this rebuild is the way to go" or something to that effect. When you can't build a winner, purposely building a loser feels like a win I guess.

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#9 MoJo
November 26 2010, 03:17PM
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I interpret the rolling of lines and miserable PK as an intentional tank job - insurance for a bottom 5 finish.

Perhaps the Diamond PK system can work with the right personnel - but the right personnel aren't currently on the Oilers roster

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#10 Ender
November 26 2010, 03:20PM
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I think the reason it doesn't feel like we're worse this year is that after the debacle that was last season, our expectations dropped so low that it's almost impossible not to meet them. Can't score? We expected that. Got a bantam-team defense? We expected that. Goalie's got a back-strain from fishing the puck out of his net? We expected that.

You're right, JW; seeing on paper that we're actually worse than last year is a bit of a slap. I guess the only question now is, if last year wasn't rock bottom, how far away from it can we possibly be?

I used to think I knew.

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#12 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 26 2010, 03:22PM
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@Jonathan Willis

I know you're a fan of adjusting numbers to the mean when you feel there's an anomaly present (ie abnormally high shooting percentage, SV%, etc).

Do you feel that the last 5 games played by the Oilers are an indication of things to come this season?

If not, how do your 82-game season projections change if you normalize the numbers a little?

I guess what I'm getting at is... I don't see this season as being full of 8-2 and 5-0 losses. This past 2-week period has to skew the projections at least a little.

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#13 The Real Scuba Steve
November 26 2010, 03:26PM
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It might be the same next year. I don't think Tambo really cares where we end up in statistics. It looks like he already into the next draft. Which he will repeat year after year into we are exactly like the the Black Hawks model. Then elite players from all over will want flock to Edmonton to play on the Oilers. Then We make a serious campaign to make the playoffs but then experience some other road blocks like the Sens did for a whole decade and then we go full circle right back to the beginning again when the next bargaining agreement comes to past. Tambo's and KLowes's (The village idiots of NHL management) master plan.

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#14 MoJo
November 26 2010, 03:26PM
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Ender wrote:

I think the reason it doesn't feel like we're worse this year is that after the debacle that was last season, our expectations dropped so low that it's almost impossible not to meet them. Can't score? We expected that. Got a bantam-team defense? We expected that. Goalie's got a back-strain from fishing the puck out of his net? We expected that.

You're right, JW; seeing on paper that we're actually worse than last year is a bit of a slap. I guess the only question now is, if last year wasn't rock bottom, how far away from it can we possibly be?

I used to think I knew.

But unlike last year, we're intentionally sucking. We should be taking pride in the fact that our GM said to himself "I don't want all these hot-shot rookies upsetting my plans for another Top 2 Pick - better take out some insurance". Hence Fraser, Foster and Vandermeer.

The numbers say it's working too . . .

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#16 gord962
November 26 2010, 03:31PM
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Keep in mind the 09/10 team wasn't sucking the hind banana until after we lost Khabi and Hemsky. Anyone remember winless in January? (Sorry if I opened up any repressed memories.) The 09/10 stats will get MUCH worse when this comparision is done at the 40 or 50 game mark. I'll admit it, I am too lazy to look it up myself to prove my point.

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#17 MoJo
November 26 2010, 03:32PM
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@Jonathan Willis

That's why you've got to hope it's intentional. And if it's intentional - then these numbers aren't as depressing

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#19 gord962
November 26 2010, 03:35PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The 2009-10 stats are from the whole season, not just from the first quarter.

Then may God have mercy on our souls :(

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#20 Bucknuck
November 26 2010, 03:36PM
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I believe we will see gradual improvement as the season wears on. Last season we saw a decline after a strong start. Getting better is much more satisfying than getting worse.

the second quarter of the year will be better, just ask Taylor Hall.

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#21 David S
November 26 2010, 03:37PM
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MoJo wrote:

But unlike last year, we're intentionally sucking. We should be taking pride in the fact that our GM said to himself "I don't want all these hot-shot rookies upsetting my plans for another Top 2 Pick - better take out some insurance". Hence Fraser, Foster and Vandermeer.

The numbers say it's working too . . .

...JFJ, Strudwick (bless his soul), and SMac.

An artfully crafted tank job. If you think about it, Steve Tambellini may well be Magnificent Bastard II.

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#22 Dman09
November 26 2010, 03:38PM
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I still think it is disgusting if, and I believe it so, that Tambo is purposely tanking the season out of greed for the pick. If you put together at competitive team and they end up there then fine I can handle that but when you pretty much sit back after week two of the season and say I don't care, things will stay the way they are I'm not going to try and make the team better. That mentality pisses me off, that's just like paying a boxer to take a fall.

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#23 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 26 2010, 03:38PM
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Not suprised by these numbers at all. I said before the year with the lack of defensive forwards and our defense not exactly being a defensive we were going to be playing without the puck a lot. Would like to see that PP number higher though.

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#24 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 26 2010, 03:39PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Frankly, I expect things to get better. Khabibulin's butt-ugly PK numbers are the biggest reason this team has been so bad, and because they're historically awful I don't expect them to continue.

So modest improvement is probably still a reasonable goal, particularly once the first unit PP gets things going and as the kids continue to adjust.

But the kind of adjustemnt your suggesting is hard to do; the Oilers have lost by 5+ goals on five occasions this season, and only two of them have happened in the last five games.

I think you're absolutely right. What happens if you adjust Khabibulin's PKSV% to something moderately respectable (like, .800?) for the first quarter of the season?

Obviously that pumps up the PK numbers a little bit and pares down the GA/game.

Something about these stats just seems a little off. I realize they've been losing, but by my eye they're easily a better team than last year.

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#25 Bucknuck
November 26 2010, 03:41PM
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The Oil will do a lot better if they play Khabibulin less. He is not the goaltender he was in 2004.

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#26 MoJo
November 26 2010, 03:41PM
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David S wrote:

...JFJ, Strudwick (bless his soul), and SMac.

An artfully crafted tank job. If you think about it, Steve Tambellini may well be Magnificent Bastard II.

I'll reserve my complete judgement until the team starts to improve, but if he can intentionally build a winning team just as well as building a losing team, then we're in safe, safe hands.

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#27 Horcsky
November 26 2010, 03:43PM
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@David S

Artfully crafted tank job? There's nothing artful about out of the playoffs by December. It's more of a bludgeon a small animal to death with a large club for several minutes after cardiac arrest type of tank job IMO.

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#28 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 26 2010, 03:44PM
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Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things wrote:

I think you're absolutely right. What happens if you adjust Khabibulin's PKSV% to something moderately respectable (like, .800?) for the first quarter of the season?

Obviously that pumps up the PK numbers a little bit and pares down the GA/game.

Something about these stats just seems a little off. I realize they've been losing, but by my eye they're easily a better team than last year.

Wait, I may have misunderstood. Are you saying that Khabby's PKSV% is historically awful so you don't expect him to improve, or that he's been historically decent so you don't expect this recent debacle to continue?

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#29 Dman09
November 26 2010, 03:44PM
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I don't know man I think I could put together a team that could finish dead last just as easily.

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#30 Wanye
November 26 2010, 03:45PM
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The level of respect I have for you dropping this album cover on your article Jon cannot be accurately expressed using the English Language in it's current state.

MAD RESPECT

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#31 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
November 26 2010, 03:46PM
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Dman09 wrote:

I don't know man I think I could put together a team that could finish dead last just as easily.

I think Sutter would like your help, he has been trying for a couple years now.

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#32 MoJo
November 26 2010, 03:48PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

Not suprised by these numbers at all. I said before the year with the lack of defensive forwards and our defense not exactly being a defensive we were going to be playing without the puck a lot. Would like to see that PP number higher though.

I'm with you. This is the number I would most like to see improve, but it's also the number I'm most hopeful of improving as the kids start to click. Hall's goal last night has me dreaming of millions of replicas in the future

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#33 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
November 26 2010, 03:53PM
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MoJo wrote:

I'm with you. This is the number I would most like to see improve, but it's also the number I'm most hopeful of improving as the kids start to click. Hall's goal last night has me dreaming of millions of replicas in the future

That is exactly what went through my mind last night:

"I could certainly get used to watching that goal 9345734875 more times over the next few years."

I imagine that's what Tampa fans think every time they watch Stamkos.

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#34 MoJo
November 26 2010, 03:56PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach wrote:

I think Sutter would like your help, he has been trying for a couple years now.

If you don't tank a team properly, someone pops up and has a breakout year, the PP starts clicking, the bottom two lines start treading water and before you know it you're tempted to start dreaming of a run for the playoffs.

It takes Major Cajones to let the rest of the hockey world believe you rationally think Vandemeer, Foster and Strudwick are better NHL defenders than Shawn Belle.

Props Stevie T.

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#35 Zed
November 26 2010, 04:02PM
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I could be wrong but....

Wasn't the second half of the 2009/2010 season the worst half. The oilers had that 5 game road winning streak in the beginning of December and then just started falling from there.

Up until after that winning streak the oil were pretty good.......

BWAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

*Cries on the inside*

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#36 David S
November 26 2010, 04:04PM
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It takes Major Cajones to let the rest of the hockey world believe you rationally think Vandemeer, Foster and Strudwick are better NHL defenders than Shawn Belle.

THIS should be enshrined at the top of the homepage here at Oilers Nation.

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#37 Westcoastoil
November 26 2010, 04:11PM
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Dman09 wrote:

I still think it is disgusting if, and I believe it so, that Tambo is purposely tanking the season out of greed for the pick. If you put together at competitive team and they end up there then fine I can handle that but when you pretty much sit back after week two of the season and say I don't care, things will stay the way they are I'm not going to try and make the team better. That mentality pisses me off, that's just like paying a boxer to take a fall.

Really? Where does it say that there is a best way to rebuild a team. Stack in a bunch of second tier older FA players resulting in minimizing the kids ice time and development so you can MAYBE finish 8th. We did that for years and it didn't work. Let the kids play, earn their lumps and grab a couple top picks. The record is pretty clear that most of the impact players drafted go in the top 5 (more likely top 3). Personally i'd like them to do it right so when we come out of this we're good for a while.

The biggest problem is the D and i think realistically the only wart on mgmt. is Strudwick. Vandy got us out of the POS contract, and i think it's reasonable to assume they thought Foster would be better. At 1.8 x 2 years a good gamble though, and no one griped when he signed (he may improve but i doubt it. Big props to St. Louis for making him an all-star last year - jeez louise did stand still on the blue line last year too?). If 44 wasn't such a knucklehead things would might have been vastly better, and they did what they could with him.

Seeing Colorado's mix of Liles, Hannnan, Foote & Quincy with the young guys up front sure makes you wonder how much better things would be in Oilville if they were solid back there.

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#38 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
November 26 2010, 04:13PM
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Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement wrote:

Not the FIST opportunity and certianly not the last.... Go team FIST!

Bamm!

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#39 Oilers89
November 26 2010, 04:14PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Kinda in response to what Gord was getting at, the team last year started pretty good and probably inflated the teams numbers for the year. Before injuries last year I do believe the team was in a playoff spot or at least competing for one, after the injuries the team was most likely much worse than this team. Good article, unlike some people I enjoy stats based articles, but in this case the numbers might not tell the whole truth.

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#40 Westcoastoil
November 26 2010, 04:16PM
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David S wrote:

It takes Major Cajones to let the rest of the hockey world believe you rationally think Vandemeer, Foster and Strudwick are better NHL defenders than Shawn Belle.

THIS should be enshrined at the top of the homepage here at Oilers Nation.

It takes major amount of Pabst Blue Ribbon to think replacing anyone of those 3 with Belle will make a significant difference to the team's current level of play. Can we not let Peckham get comfortable back there before integrating another rookie D?

We've already got 1 $4million D man in the minors, let cut the payroll dep't a little slack.

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#41 David S
November 26 2010, 04:17PM
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Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement wrote:

Not the FIST opportunity and certianly not the last.... Go team FIST!

A pox on you and your kind, sir. Heh heh.

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#42 Sean
November 26 2010, 04:17PM
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JW: Given the commitment to tank another season and not add vets (I was of the opinion that they should have spent some of their 20 mill cap space and try to win), I think its good that the Oilers are sucking this year early. Watching the kids learn (and we have good progress from DD and Peckham too) I expect its gonna be harder to lose later in the season.

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#43 MoJo
November 26 2010, 04:21PM
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They've missed the boat on drafting high-end D talent. The only way we're going to bring our D up to speed for a cup run (I'm talking 3-4 yrs time) is Free Agency or Trade. I think that some of the kids on the farm might be able to help, but that they'll need to look outside for 1 or 2 Top 4 D to make this team competitive.

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#44 S.Tambellini
November 26 2010, 04:26PM
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David S wrote:

It takes Major Cajones to let the rest of the hockey world believe you rationally think Vandemeer, Foster and Strudwick are better NHL defenders than Shawn Belle.

THIS should be enshrined at the top of the homepage here at Oilers Nation.

Come on man, that Strudwick is an up-and-comer. Just give him time to develop. Maybe some PP time to showcase those hands.

Completely unrelated -- I wish I was "good in the room" so I could be terrible at my profession. Sadly, as is, I am the grumpiest, greediest, most untrustworthy man-whore in the Greyhound station bathroom.

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#45 MoJo
November 26 2010, 04:34PM
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Westcoastoil wrote:

It takes major amount of Pabst Blue Ribbon to think replacing anyone of those 3 with Belle will make a significant difference to the team's current level of play. Can we not let Peckham get comfortable back there before integrating another rookie D?

We've already got 1 $4million D man in the minors, let cut the payroll dep't a little slack.

I'm not delusional enough to think that keeping Belle would make us a play-off team, but I see him as no worse option to those three - with the added bonus of a potential upside.

From memory, Belle's only on a 1 year contract and I'd much rather encourage him to sign for next season by giving him NHL playing time rather than shun him out for Vandermeer who is the definition of a Dead NHL Contract Walking.

And I would cut the payroll dept. some slack except we're paying more for Vandermeer than buying out POS because we were meant to be getting one season of an NHL player. By my eye, that's not what we're getting.

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#46 JeffG
November 26 2010, 04:37PM
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I just wonder why people think that the Oilers have to improve this yr.

Tis the yr to experiment and learn.

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#47 MoJo
November 26 2010, 04:40PM
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JeffG wrote:

I just wonder why people think that the Oilers have to improve this yr.

Tis the yr to experiment and learn.

I think people want to see some metrics improve (PP) and some metrics be not quite as bad as they currently are (PK)

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#48 David S
November 26 2010, 04:46PM
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JeffG wrote:

I just wonder why people think that the Oilers have to improve this yr.

Tis the yr to experiment and learn.

Because I'd rather not have at least one of our young guys go David Carradine by the end of the season from chronic depression. "Rebuild" to my mind means just that, not suck like hell for three years and wait for the magic to return.

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#49 JeffG
November 26 2010, 04:47PM
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MoJo wrote:

I think people want to see some metrics improve (PP) and some metrics be not quite as bad as they currently are (PK)

and maybe management want to find out who is going to be a NHL player and who will be the poser.

Take a couple of flyers on seeing if a 5/6 d-man can take the step to a top 4. (Foster) Can a 4th line center make the step to a #3 (Fraiser) oth experience look to be a failure this yr. But so what???/ Its not like we are going for the cup.

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#50 Ryan14
November 26 2010, 05:04PM
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@MoJo

The presence Struds has in the room outweigh the marginal improvement Belle would bring to the team, let alone the possible asset we would lose depending on who would have to be sent down to make room for Belle.

The NHL is not as easy as "call this guy up and send this guy down", or "sign ___________," or "trade Gilbert for _______." Every move has direct and indirect consequences.

Lets say, for arguments sake, the Oilers send down Vandy, and call up Belle. A week later, a d-man gets hurt. In an attempt to bring Vandy up, he is picked off waivers (where his salary would be half I believe). Now the Oilers depth is down 2 players on the back end. All so we could replace one #6/7 d-man for another #6/7 d-man. Not really worth it.

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