Do linemates help make the player?

Jason Gregor
May 04 2010 08:50AM

Edmonton Oilers v Phoenix Coyotes

“He makes his linemates/teammates better.” That seems to be the newest saying when it comes to evaluating skilled players, and from where I sit it is the most misused phrase in the game.

How exactly can we evaluate if a player actually makes his teammates better?

Are increased point totals a fair standard? What about Plus/minus?

How much better can a player make his teammates? I don’t think you can make players better, you can give them a better chance to produce, but certain players will compliment one another very well, even if they don’t have the same skill set.

Dave Lumley scored a goal in 12 straight games playing with Gretzky, and that record still stands in Oilerville, but Gretzky couldn’t turn Lumley into a perennial goal scorer, outside of one 30-goal season.

People always talk about how Rob Brown only scored 49 goals because he played with Mario Lemieux, and while Lemieux was a major factor, you can’t underestimate how dynamic of an offensive player Brown was on his own.

He scored 212 points (a WHL record that will never be broken) in 1987 with Kamloops as a 19-year-old, and tallied 173 the year before when he was 18. To suggest Brown didn’t have any talent is absurd.

PLAYED DEFENCE UNTIL HE WAS 18

How many of you knew that Brown played defence his first two years in the WHL? Ken Hitchcock moved him up to forward his 3rd season, his draft year, and he tallied 173 points. He never played forward until he was 18, and three years later he scored 49 goals and 115 points in the NHL. That is extremely rare.

He had the offensive instincts to play with Lemieux, and succeed, like very few had, but why?

“I knew where he wanted me to be,” said Brown. “Some guys had more skill than I did, but they didn’t think the game like Mario. I could anticipate where to go, and more importantly where he wanted me to go. Guys like Mario will give any player more opportunities, but it still is up to you to produce.

“It is hard to create chances as a goal scorer if you don’t have a guy who can find you in the right spots. Very few goals scorers in the NHL can create goals on their own; they need a playmaker, just like the playmaker needs a goal scorer to finish plays”.

Brown was a goal scorer, which is remarkable considering he grew up playing defence and never practiced or learned a lot of the offensive tricks that most scorers develop in minor hockey. And of course he benefited by playing with Lemieux, and then Ron Francis in Hartford, but he also had the offensive instincts to know how to produce playing with those types of players.

I’ve heard and read a lot the past few weeks about players making their teammates better, and that’s becoming one of the big arguments between Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall, but is their any validity to it?

For years many Oiler fans stated that Ales Hemsky made Shawn Horcoff better, but then Jonathan Willis provided some insight stating that wasn’t the case. Hemsky’s numbers were in fact better with Horcoff than without.

No one would argue that Horcoff is more talented, but Hemsky produced better playing with Horcoff than he has with Sam Gagner, who most argue has more natural offensive instincts than Horcoff. Some offensive guys play well together, but some never click because their styles don’t match on the ice.

Suggesting that Hall doesn’t make his teammates better is off-base. He creates space for his teammates, but at the NHL he will probably need a good puck distributor to allow him to flaunt his goal-scoring prowess. Seguin, who became a better shooter this year, will most likely benefit more by being flanked by a scorer who can get open and finish when given the opportunity.

I think both of them will produce in the NHL, if they are put with linemates who compliment their respective games.

And that might be the biggest question that Stu MacGregor and Steve Tambellini need to ask themselves. When you look at the youth in the organization what type of player do they have more of: Playmakers or shooters?

I still say take the centre, but if they honestly believe that Sam Gagner might be a better fit with Taylor Hall, than Jordan Eberle or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson would be with Seguin, then they have to look at that angle and act accordingly.

But I doubt either one of them will make their teammates that much better, rather, the Oilers will need to find players that compliment Hall and Seguin.

The great players will produce regardless of who they play with, and it is too early to tell if either Hall or Seguin will be great, but the Oilers need to ensure that whoever they pick has teammates/linemates who they can feed off to succeed.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 04 2010, 09:17AM
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I'm not sure the chemistry between linemates is as important than the leadership qualities.Having a good line or two isn't a success if you finish south of 8th place. If i could take a line from the Untouchables movie..... "what are you prepared to do" (to help your team win) We didn't see many examples this year of players that were sick and tired of losing.

There's waiting pressure for the kids coming in here in the fall....i pray they can come here and turn around the fortunes of the Oilers one battle at a time.

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#2 Harlie
May 04 2010, 09:25AM
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I just read this story and was about to post and when my mind vaporized the instant I saw Mr. Clean Patio Lantern's bald skull staring at me. Frightening!

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#3 MrCondor
May 04 2010, 09:26AM
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The problem is you can't predict chemistry.

When the Jokinen was first picked up by Calgary, every flames fan that I knew thought it was their ticket to the cup. In their first game together I recall that line scoring around 5 points. But we all know what's happened since.

I've been presenting the pro Seguin agruement for a while now, but now I'm really starting to second guess that. This year's playoffs Hall has been truely outstanding - you can't teach a guy to be a gamer when it counts.

What if Seguin is a Joe Thorton? Mega high skill, would feed all the shooters on our team perfectly, but does anyone want him in the playoffs? Isn't a cup the goal?

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#4 Souby
May 04 2010, 09:30AM
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While it may be tough to choose one over the other, they both have the potential to be very good players for a long time. At first I leaned towards Hall because I see him as a more dynamic player. Lately though, I have been thinking the Oil need Seguin more.

Seguin is the more well rounded player and is a scoring centre, which is something the Oil have not had for a long time. There is no denying Hall's talent, just look at the year he had. Seguin impressed me more because he equaled Hall's point production with a weaker supporting cast.

I know that Hall had chemistry with Eberle going back to the World Juniors, and that would be great to see again. What I would like to see more than that is a line made up of Eberle-Seguin-MPS. With the rebuild under way, I say draft Seguin, give him Eberle & MPS third line minutes and time on the PP. Just think about how crazy good that line would be in a couple years!

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#5 Rusty Duggan
May 04 2010, 09:32AM
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Who are some of our top prospects or potential prospects who could play out of position without risking stunting their development?

Top lines consist (usually) of two players and a fill in guy... a tandem. It could be possible that Gags could play in the middle between the two also. Eberle is obviously a first line winger potential wise, as is Hall.

I think the mystery of who the Oilers will take on draft day can be uncovered fairly easily. It all comes down to Eberle, can he play center? Does he want to play center? The Oiler's will draft around Eberle, and his needs to compliment his game.

Do you steal from Peter to pay Paul by drafting another natural winger?

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#6 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
May 04 2010, 09:34AM
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My favorite topic, great article by the way.

You're exactly right, some players mesh well together but simply playing with elite linemates doesn't always (or even often) mean an increase in production. You don't have to look any further then arguably the best playmaker in the league (Crosby)and his ever changing carosel of wingers (and their pedestrian levels of production when playing with him compared to other points in their careers) to see it takes more then pairing scorer with playmaker(or simply playing with elite linemates) to make a long term difference in the point totals.

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#7 Oil_Loc8or
May 04 2010, 09:34AM
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Great read Gregor, I think your right other players don't make you better you just get more chances

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#8 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 04 2010, 09:48AM
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MrCondor wrote:

The problem is you can't predict chemistry.

When the Jokinen was first picked up by Calgary, every flames fan that I knew thought it was their ticket to the cup. In their first game together I recall that line scoring around 5 points. But we all know what's happened since.

I've been presenting the pro Seguin agruement for a while now, but now I'm really starting to second guess that. This year's playoffs Hall has been truely outstanding - you can't teach a guy to be a gamer when it counts.

What if Seguin is a Joe Thorton? Mega high skill, would feed all the shooters on our team perfectly, but does anyone want him in the playoffs? Isn't a cup the goal?

Opportunity is knocking here with the Bruins going deep into the playoffs. Hemsky could be the dangled carrot to get this deal done. What a start to the rebuild having both Hall and Seguin, and probably a top five next year.

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#9 I'm a Scientist!
May 04 2010, 09:50AM
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But...but...but...how do we explain Pouliot?

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#10 Tracie
May 04 2010, 09:52AM
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I agree with MrCondor. The problem is that you can't predict chemistry. We know that Hall had some chemistry with Eberle on the PP in the WJC. What if he has more chemistry with Seguin? What if he has less? I guess this is the big question and if the scouts are able to answer this question before the draft, that would be magical!

if this is how the Oilers are looking at it, then it's probable that they are leaning towards Hall, seeing as they went for Heatley (pure shooter) last summer and we haven't inherited any pure shooters since last summer...we have many play maker type players, we need a shooter...which is Hall, But Seguin is the center and you build a team around a center...Oy vey! Just bring on draft day already!

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#11 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 04 2010, 09:53AM
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Would Robbie Brown be interested in being the next voice of the Oilers?

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#12 Rusty Duggan
May 04 2010, 09:53AM
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@Next up, is Connor McJesus.

Pipe dream Quicksilver...getting both players, but wouldn't that be nice! HALL SEGUIN EBERLE....Team's would leave our building crying every night!! mahaha

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#13 Rusty Duggan
May 04 2010, 09:55AM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

But...but...but...how do we explain Pouliot?

If I'm not mistaken Pouliot played a year before Crosby and put up good numbers on a bad team.

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#14 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 04 2010, 10:01AM
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Rusty Duggan wrote:

Pipe dream Quicksilver...getting both players, but wouldn't that be nice! HALL SEGUIN EBERLE....Team's would leave our building crying every night!! mahaha

It was a pipe dream that Bouwmeester would play hockey in Alberta earlier last summer as well, it was a pipe dream that Brian Burke would get both the Sedins.....someone rolled up their sleeves and got it done. These are unprecented times for ON.....and i'm expecting/praying the unexpected is upon us.

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#15 Archaeologuy
May 04 2010, 10:08AM
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So maybe the linemate cant actually make the player better, but they can definitely bring out the best and/or worst qualities of the player. Just look at Whitney and Gilbert for a positive example, or Chorney plus anyone with skates on to see a negative example.

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#16 Tapdog
May 04 2010, 10:24AM
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@Next up, is Connor McJesus.

Love the idea too! But I do not understand why people keep throwing out Hemsky as the trade bait. Boston already has three of him in; Savard,Krejci and Bergeron! Yes, Hemsky has great set up skills but Boston has that and needs the finisher.

While we are dreaming lets go big!

Penner, Cogs, prospect + pick for #2 pick (might have to take back Ryder in this)

Hemsky to Columbus for #4 pick + prospect.

Three of the first four picks:) Only in Oilerville!

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#17 Buchburgler
May 04 2010, 10:25AM
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Line Chemistry is interesting but cannot really be predicted ... look at the success of the 'Kid' line when they were first put together. Every attempt to throw gagner, cogliano and nilsson since then under MacT or Quinn has failed miserably.

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#18 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
May 04 2010, 10:28AM
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Tapdog wrote:

Love the idea too! But I do not understand why people keep throwing out Hemsky as the trade bait. Boston already has three of him in; Savard,Krejci and Bergeron! Yes, Hemsky has great set up skills but Boston has that and needs the finisher.

While we are dreaming lets go big!

Penner, Cogs, prospect + pick for #2 pick (might have to take back Ryder in this)

Hemsky to Columbus for #4 pick + prospect.

Three of the first four picks:) Only in Oilerville!

#4 picks from 2000 - 2007

Klesla/Wiess/Pitkanen/Zherdev/Ladd/Pouliot/Backstrom/Hickey

That better be one hell of a prospect.

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#19 Arby
May 04 2010, 10:29AM
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I actually really like Rob Brown as a colour guy.

I might be a little biased though, him and I have the same hair do. It's called 'Denial'.

I don't think I garnered as much tail, and that's why I can't rock 'No Regrets' like Gregor.

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#20 Archaeologuy
May 04 2010, 10:36AM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

Exactly.

But then again who wouldnt want to start rebuilding by shipping out the 2 best forwards under 30, a 22 year old, a pick and a prospect?

Rebuilding means having less young players and less skill right?

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#21 Crackenbury
May 04 2010, 10:42AM
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This has probably already been discussed, but I'm out of the loop on this one. What's the story with Penner and the World team? Did he get an invite? Did he turn it down? I was hoping MacTavish and him could both put differences aside and Penner could get some premium experience on a national team.

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#23 Rusty Duggan
May 04 2010, 10:53AM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

It was a pipe dream that Bouwmeester would play hockey in Alberta earlier last summer as well, it was a pipe dream that Brian Burke would get both the Sedins.....someone rolled up their sleeves and got it done. These are unprecented times for ON.....and i'm expecting/praying the unexpected is upon us.

I like your go getter attitude Quick, but we're talking bout Tambo here. He hasn't shown or done much of anything, but maybe we fire the whole staff in time to hire Stevie Y!! Now that's a pipe dream!

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#24 rubbertrout
May 04 2010, 10:54AM
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Harlie wrote:

I just read this story and was about to post and when my mind vaporized the instant I saw Mr. Clean Patio Lantern's bald skull staring at me. Frightening!

I thought it was Gregor.

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#25 Archaeologuy
May 04 2010, 11:01AM
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@Jason Gregor

I hope they can keep up the pace over a whole season, but the change was so instant that I thought the example applied to the talk. The good (bad?) news is that Gilbert and Whitney already have contracts.

Cant overpay them if they still have term on their contracts right? Right?*

*Remembers that Horc had term on his contract too...*

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#26 Archaeologuy
May 04 2010, 11:07AM
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@Harlie

I didnt even recognize him without the skullet and flat-brimmed* neon hat.

*He was wearing his hats with a flat-brim before it was even cool for the kids to wear them. Trend Setter.

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#27 Westcoastoil
May 04 2010, 11:37AM
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Boston trading away the #2 is a crackhead dream. Why would a cap pressed team trade away an NHL ready prospect like Hall who potential is unknown and who'll be a couple mill cheaper than whoever you think you can dangle in front of them. Now maybe if Milbury was the GM....

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#29 rubbertrout
May 04 2010, 11:57AM
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I like the fact that my comment was modified. I'm pretty sure it wasn't something my mother would disapprove of. A trifle sensitive are we?

It was a joke after all.

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#30 Archaeologuy
May 04 2010, 12:04PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Just got off the phone with a source who told me it looks like Jagr most likely to stay in Europe next year.

It's probably for the best. For him to consider Edmonton it would likely cost more money than he's worth.

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#31 Petr's Jofa
May 04 2010, 12:04PM
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@Jason Gregor

Boo-urns.

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@Jason Gregor

TSN is reporting he signed a one year deal with Omsk. Apparently he had a press conference to confirm this.

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#35 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 04 2010, 12:13PM
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Rusty Duggan wrote:

I like your go getter attitude Quick, but we're talking bout Tambo here. He hasn't shown or done much of anything, but maybe we fire the whole staff in time to hire Stevie Y!! Now that's a pipe dream!

I was hoping Viscious still has a phone and whomever else is capable of speaking on the Oilers behalf.

All hands on deck (Kevin, Steve, Rick and Mike)have to be working on something to better this club come draft day. Hopefully one out of those four could come through with something to improve our lot.

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#36 Harlie
May 04 2010, 12:22PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I didnt even recognize him without the skullet and flat-brimmed* neon hat.

*He was wearing his hats with a flat-brim before it was even cool for the kids to wear them. Trend Setter.

from a skullet head to a skull face.

~ Stay away from those Patio Lanterns kids! ~

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#37 Petr's Jofa
May 04 2010, 12:27PM
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@Jason Gregor

I disagree that it would have been a disaster. I think Jagr as an Oiler could have had many positives.

If I was Tambo, my biggest sales pitch to Jagr would have been that if signs a reasonable contact and for Edmonton, he would traded to a contending team by the deadline. Jaromir would get a shot at another cup, Edmonton's youth would get his expereince to learn from for 2/3rd of a season, and Tambo would have had tradeable asset at the deadline.

There would be no risk for anyone involved.

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#38 Oil_Loc8or
May 04 2010, 12:39PM
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I'm thanking the Hockey gods that Jagr isn't an option. But who is ? I'm happy agreeing to disagree on Hall and Seguin. Are there any players that would fit in the Oilers top two lines in order to help the rebuild? Any cheaper options than Hemsky or Penner? What about a stud Dman ? Are Whitney and Gilbert good enough for our top dmen? Please don't tell me that Tambo did a 50% turn-around on the dline and this is what we have to play with. If so I'd expect Quinn to want out along with any potentially good player

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#39 Westcoastoil
May 04 2010, 12:42PM
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Petr's Jofa wrote:

I disagree that it would have been a disaster. I think Jagr as an Oiler could have had many positives.

If I was Tambo, my biggest sales pitch to Jagr would have been that if signs a reasonable contact and for Edmonton, he would traded to a contending team by the deadline. Jaromir would get a shot at another cup, Edmonton's youth would get his expereince to learn from for 2/3rd of a season, and Tambo would have had tradeable asset at the deadline.

There would be no risk for anyone involved.

I think your grossly underestimating a few things there. If he really wanted a cup why wouldn't he just sign with a contender for lower $ then? Basically it would be Tambi going: "Jaromir, we'll over pay you for the privilege of having your quasi-enthusiastic influence over our young guys for 2/3 of a season, although they know you're leaving, until we trade you to a team you'll really want to play for". How well do you think that will work out? Could we try any harder to piss off Hemsky while we're at it?

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So when do the rumors about Jagr jumping ship and not going back to the KHL start?

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#42 Senator Theo
May 04 2010, 01:10PM
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Harlie wrote:

I just read this story and was about to post and when my mind vaporized the instant I saw Mr. Clean Patio Lantern's bald skull staring at me. Frightening!

It's hard to tell from that picture, but is he taking off a clip-on tie?

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#43 Digger
May 04 2010, 01:15PM
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Yeah, Matheson had an article on this earlier today:

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/sports/Jagr+stay+Omsk/2983279/story.html

Read it before I came into work this morning, around 6 AM PST.

Anyway, I'm just glad this stupid story's been put to bed.

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#44 Ender
May 04 2010, 01:24PM
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Whether Jagr is tradeable or not wouldn't have made a difference. In this late stage of his career, any contract he inked would likely have had some kind of no-movement clause in it. Jaromir would have been the one deciding where he played and for how long. If he needed a cup, he'd simply sign with a contender in the first place. If he was coming to Edmonton as a nanny for the rookies and a reward for Hemmer, both Jagr and management would have that firmly in their minds up front and he'd finish the season on his own terms, probably right here in Edmonton.

I for one am glad we don't have to go down that road. Jagr might have been fun to talk about around the water cooler but he wasn't ever a good long-term building block in the master Plan to bring Stanley back to E-town.

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#45 Mitch
May 04 2010, 02:18PM
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I think if you have long range plans for Hemsky, draft Hall because Hemsky needs a shooter and Hall is a pure shooter. I think the oilers will draft Seguin, he looks like just more of a complete player for the NHL and a bigger body. Lets hope the scouts have done there homework. I also feel they will draft Seguin because if you look at there depth chart Seguin fits the roster better in long range plans.

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#46 oilerman53
May 04 2010, 02:20PM
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What about Souray? What can this guy yield at the draft now considering he demanded a trade? Surely there must be other players out there who are unhappy with their team. Can he be parlayed as part of a package for a prospect or a mid first round pick.

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#47 Chris.
May 04 2010, 02:36PM
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oilerman53 wrote:

What about Souray? What can this guy yield at the draft now considering he demanded a trade? Surely there must be other players out there who are unhappy with their team. Can he be parlayed as part of a package for a prospect or a mid first round pick.

Souray, with his current cap hit, and the term left on his contract, is probably a trade liability. Tambellini will either have to take a poor contract back, or will have to bundle up a good young player or pick for a lesser return just to get Souray out of town.

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#48 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 04 2010, 02:50PM
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Tapdog wrote:

Love the idea too! But I do not understand why people keep throwing out Hemsky as the trade bait. Boston already has three of him in; Savard,Krejci and Bergeron! Yes, Hemsky has great set up skills but Boston has that and needs the finisher.

While we are dreaming lets go big!

Penner, Cogs, prospect + pick for #2 pick (might have to take back Ryder in this)

Hemsky to Columbus for #4 pick + prospect.

Three of the first four picks:) Only in Oilerville!

I heart you Tapdog.

Now we just need a GM who has the attitude of a chainsaw and get something done.

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#49 MrCondor
May 04 2010, 03:15PM
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Chris. wrote:

Souray, with his current cap hit, and the term left on his contract, is probably a trade liability. Tambellini will either have to take a poor contract back, or will have to bundle up a good young player or pick for a lesser return just to get Souray out of town.

Don't forget injury history. Maybe if we trade him to the east so he only has to play Iggy once a year, we can convince the other GM that injuries wont be a concern.....

Souray isn't worth much. Demanded a trade, injury history, defensive concern, older and expensive.

I'd be happy with a #4 D man and a prospect with some grit

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#50 thednp
May 04 2010, 04:01PM
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If the Sens are thinking about trading away Spezza, does anyone think we do a deal with them for Cogs + Penner?

Gives us first line centre. Allows us to draft Hall. And for Ottawa they get 2 guys they wanted last year and they save some cash which it sounds like they need to do.

just sayin...

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