April 19 2010 10:50PM
As much as people like scribbling out line-ups and trying to figure out what the Edmonton Oilers will look like next season, I've never had much interest in doing it myself, at least not in April.
Jason Gregor of TEAM 1260 and Oilersnation and Jim Matheson of The Journal have given us their takes on what might unfold and who might move over the summer in the last couple of days. Both were good reads and sparked plenty of discussion.
For me, though, I can't possibly project with any accuracy what might happen until after the draft and before the opening of free agency, when things start to take shape.
I've always found that it's then, after the picks are made and some deals have been made, GMs like Steve Tambellini start to show their cards one way or another.
Until then, I find the range of possibilities too broad to narrow down with any certainty. If the Oilers draft Tyler Seguin and not Taylor Hall, does it make a difference to Andrew Cogliano or Gilbert Brule or even Robert Nilsson? I think so. If Tambellini unloads Sheldon Souray, does who he gets back impact Jason Strudwick, Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham or Aaron Johnson? Yes.
Or maybe I'm just dim.
Is there a fit here?
Given the many holes Tambellini has to fill, there are two unrestricted free agents I think might address some needs and do it at a bargain basement price -- Zenon Konopka and John Scott.
Before anybody accuses me of stealing from Matheson -- he mentioned Konopka as a possibility in the last couple of days -- those following along know I've talked about both before. In the case of Konopka, over a year ago. I stole Konopka from Bob Stauffer then, so there's no need to steal it from Matty now (although I've done that, too).
Now, I know the mention of Konopka and Scott won't sit well with those who don't value toughness -- knuckle-draggers, the nerds call them -- but I think both could fit here, beyond their fistic prowess.
First, obviously, is the toughness factor. And is there really any debate it's a good idea for the Oilers to add toughness, given the size of their forwards and the kids they might have in the line-up next season? Uh, no.
Konopka, 29, is a ruffian to be sure. He led the NHL in fighting majors with 33 while toiling for Tampa Bay this season.
Scott, 27, who plays with the Minnesota Wild, is a beast. At six-foot-eight and 250 pounds, we know that after watching him slap around Dean Arsene for fun.
Two birds with one stone
Bloody knuckles aside, what I like about Konopka and Scott is they can fill more than one need and do it on the cheap.
Aside from his 265 penalty minutes, Konopka is a centre who won 62.3 per cent of his face-offs this season. That's Manny Malhotra and David Steckel numbers. Better than Steckel this season, actually. Aside from providing toughness that can play as coach Pat Quinn demands, wouldn't Konopka fit on the fourth line alongside Zack Stortini and come in handy on the dot? I think so.
As for Scott, he's less of a player, but he's not the kind of can't-play hammer Quinn has no use for. He'd bring toughness to the back end, and that might come in handy because I can't see adding two tough guys up front with room needed for kids like Jordan Eberle.
Scott could slot in as a sixth or seventh defenceman. He averaged just over eight minutes a night in 51 games with the Wild this season. He's a spot player who could play in the third pairing and take turns in the press box. The question is if Scott will be available. If Minnesota opts not to re-sign Derek Boogaard, they will almost certainly try to keep Scott.
Konopka made $500,000 this season, while Scott made $550,000. Both are cheap and both fill a need -- two needs, actually. If Tambellini doesn't inquire about both, he isn't doing his job.
From Team Hall at Oilersnation, today.
"Hey Robin, You and Stauff broke the news the Oilers like Seguin. Did you get any sense as to the reason why? I hope its not just because Seguin is a centre, because a responsible scout picks the BPA at all times. So how is they have become convinced that Seguin is the better player? What is it I'm not seeing here? How does one "project" a player to be available without a crystal ball? Is it the fact he had no help on his team? How do they explain Seguin getting completely shut down in that series with Windsor?"
Signed, Concerned Oil Citizen
The job of NHL scouting departments is, and always has been, about projecting who will be the best player three, four, five years after draft day, not who's the best on draft day. In that sense, BPA is a bit of a misnomer.
Based on conversations I've had with scouts, I can tell you this: in the minds of many, Seguin projects as the better player down the road. That's not stop the presses stuff because other people have suggested that before. It's why some see Seguin that way that's of interest to me.
Essentially, I get the sense some scouts believe Seguin thinks the game better and they think that will translate better five years down the road than the physical game Taylor Hall relies on.
While Hall and Seguin are listed as about the same size, Hall is actually playing at 202 pounds. He's dynamic for many reasons, and one of them is the physical edge he has over players at the OHL level.
There is some question, and rightfully so, how that physical aspect of Hall's game will play out in the NHL against bigger, stronger opponents who are seasoned pros. I'm not saying Hall is a knucklehead who can't think the game and relies too heavily on physicality, but it's more of an element with him than with Seguin.
Forgive me if this has already been reported, but, as expected, defenceman Ryan Whitney had surgery to repair his right foot last Friday after seeing a specialist in Carolina.
Whitney, 27, had a procedure called an osteotomy, which helps re-align the bones in his foot. He was born with abnormally high arches and had the same procedure on his left foot while with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Oilers PR man J.J. Hebert tells me the procedure was a success. The recovery time is about three months, so Whitney should be ready to resume off-season training well before camp opens.
While I'm at it
-- I see the MSM is aboard the Ales Hemsky speculation train, as is the possibility he might not re-sign here after his contract is up in two seasons and whether or not the Oilers should trade him while they can still get something for him. Better late than never, I suppose.
Matheson talked about it today in a live-chat thing with Dan Barnes put on by The Journal. Matty's seen and heard many of the same things I have, so I was a bit surprised it took him so long to come to the same conclusion.
That's not meant as a shot at Matty because he's a friend, but I'm surprised we haven't read something from the full-time beat people before now. Jim spends as much time covering the rest of the NHL for his must-read Hockey World as he does covering the Oilers.
-- Still on Hemsky, why is it some people immediately revert to denial and play shoot-the-messenger when a reporter raises questions about Hemsky, as Matheson did today?
As was the case when speculation about Souray surfaced a year ago, knuckleheads with ZERO inside information would rather rip the reporter -- in this case Matheson -- as being irresponsible for speculating based on what they've seen and heard rather than asking themselves if what's being said is possible or even likely.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.