The Blue

Lowetide
July 08 2010 07:43AM

A glance at the current Oilers depth chart tells us a lot about the future. Up front, this team is loaded with tremendous potential. The list of young forwards (Gagner, Cogliano, Brule with the big league team; Hall, MPS, Eberle, Omark, Hartikainen, Lander, Vande Velde) is long, deep and varied; I dare say the only time this team has enjoyed such a large list of potential quality forwards was 79-81 (although the mid-90's had a large and impressive group). 

The goaltending has two young NHLers (JDD, DD) trying to establish themselves along with two prospects bubbling under (Olivier Roy might be very good; Tyler Bunz is the new hire).

The problem area is the Blue. Only Ladislav Smid (24) is young and established, and there is no "complete" talent among the prospects. This was brought into view on the Oilers one-hour pre-draft show (which I enjoyed, as a draft junkie) Oil Change. At one point Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor asks the room "do we have an Erik Gudbranson?" and the answer from the scouts is in the negative.

I think the Oilers have to be very aggressive in the next 12 months. They might end up using the 2011 lottery pick on a stud D prospect, they may end up dealing one of the high end veteran wingers (Hemsky & Penner) and they may try to sign some European and college free agents. Here is a quick list of the current AHL "bubbling under" group, the kids most likely to play this season if one of the current 6 (Whitney-Gilbert; Smid-Foster; Vandeermeer-Strudwick) suffers an injury.

  1. D Theo Peckham: Sometimes in life opportunity knocks and man I hope this kid answers the door. When healthy and fit, he's a strong, tough defender with a mean streak and a willingness to drop the gloves. Tom Renney has mentioned him as a player he's excited about seeing at training camp in the fall. Injury and conditioning issues have been a problem, but the Oilers badly need developing defenseman and he is the best of the group.
  2. D Alex Plante: Made big strides this season and is certainly part of the future. His pro debut was the most impressive in the entire system. Injuries and callups forced Plante up the depth chart and he played well, so well in fact the club rewarded him with a call to the show (4gp, +1) last season. He's in a position now to play well in Okla City and be one of the first callups when injuries occur. Alex Plante is not an NHL defenseman yet, but the light has turned on and he's trending well. Also important to consider: anecdotal evidence that Plante was playing against some of the tougher opposition in the AHL (as a rookie) last season. It's a strong tell.
  3. D Jeff Petry: His NHLE (82gp, 4-22-26) makes him (once again) the strongest offensive defenseman in the system and his wider range of skills gives us some hope for a more complete defender than someone like Chorney (Petry is 4 inches and 20 pounds bigger than Chorney). Impressed with skating and wingspan at this week's Oilers camp, he is the one player on this list with a wide range of skills.
  4. D Taylor Chorney: A fine skater who has some holes defensively. I think there is probably concern in the Oilers organization about this player. He was drafted right after the lockout, when NHL teams believed puck movers would rule the earth. He is not strong enough to win puck battles and is miles from being able to anchor a big league pairing. Of all the top level draft picks on defense, this player will probably benefit the most from the added AHL veteran group (Petiot, Taylor, etc) in Okla City.
  5. D Johan Motin: Motin made his pro debut and performed well. His numbers (he's not an offensive defender) are rock solid in the AHL (55gp, 1-5-6 -5 on a terrible team) and he would rank higher if there was any evidence he played against tough competition in the minors. I think he is the type of player who will improve over the next couple of seasons as he adjusts to the length of the season and the physical wear and tear. He is exactly the player-type this organization needs at this time, but something tells me he's a fair distance from Plante in terms of NHL readiness. It'll take some time.

History tells us that at least a couple of these players will not develop as hoped, due to injury and ineffectiveness. The top pro prospects at the AHL level 10 years ago were Chris Hajt and Alex Henry; neither developed as a big league regular (although the list above is far superior). 

Defensemen take a long time to develop. They tend to be effective deeper into their 30's (once they establish themselves), so Oiler fans can take heart in the fact that Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney are signed long term. We should expect a high draft pick to be spent on a defenseman next summer and an aggressive attempt by the procurement department to uncover gems through free agency.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#101 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
July 09 2010, 08:12AM
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Aleslav Smidsky wrote:

How come when I make up a rumour, no one cares?

When Rishaud or whatever his name is does, its a story?

As long as Hemsky is on this team, Smyth aint coming back. What for?

I just visited hockeybuzz and that Richard character is out to lunch at 10:15 p.m. He had Penner traded just to make room for Smyth. WoW! Fcuking Internet!

I wonder when I wake up if TSN will have a 2 and half minute piece on the possible trade, with ofcourse expert analysis from Pierre and Bob?

you serious?

you have absolutely no track record or credibility. there is no reason, at all, for anyone to think you are anything other than a pimple faced 14 year old, sitting in his moms basement, self violating far to much.

rishaug is a media member. He is connected to the team, and to other reporters. If he starts throwing BS out there, he gets blackballed, and is out of a job..

odds are, if a credible media person puts it out there, it probably has a tad bit of truth. Odds are, nothing comes of it.

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#102 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
July 09 2010, 09:09AM
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madjam wrote:

UNIQUE POSITION FOR HALL ? Not ever have i seen a 30th pick surrounded by so many other young scoring talents to compliment him . That includes Gretzky , Crosby , Malkin , Toews , Kane, etc..

This is a unique position the Oilers are about to embark upon and normal bounds may take a fall if it all comes together . Proven at worlds players like OMark , Svensson , and Eberle have already proven they can compete in scoring with all the young elites in NHL already . In fact one might argue they may have outshone most of them !

Thats three who's aspirations should be set high to begin with . My 270 plus team goals might be a little understated seeing i forgot to add any scoring from defencemen . Team goal i'm setting at 310 goals for this unique situation for upcoming season . If best defence is offence then perhaps Goals Against will subsequently come down . A year like Phoenix had last year not out of the question either - 100 points and sixth i believe in standings ?

It's not such a wild fantasy considering our unique circumstances with our emerging youth program ! Did Gretzky ever have it this good his first year ? No! Might the next Selanne evolve only as an Oiler in their first year ? We can hope because the possibilities are there for it to happen . You never want to set team goals to easy to achieve-reach for the stars not the minimum or basement . The ceilings the limit with this merging youth program , and they should be setting their sights high . We might all be surprised how high this young club might clib on individual and team basis because of it's unique makeup !

Re: Eberle/Omark/Svenson competing in scoring with young elite NHL'ers

Theirs a long list of guys that put up big points in the WJC/WC that couldn't translate to the NHL.

Also, in one post you're front and center on firing upper managment for incompetence and then a few posts later you're talking about how they may have assembled a team that can score 300+ goals..... see an issue there?

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#103 Archaeologuy
July 09 2010, 09:09AM
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Aleslav Smidsky wrote:

But isn't what he is saying a rumour too?

"Rishaug says he's heard that Tambellini has talked" that doesn't sound very stern to me. Where and Whom did he heard this from, How?

I guess in some senses it's a rumour, but he's reporting it as a credited member of the mainstream media. You can assume that he heard it from a source he trusts enough to go public with it.

How many times do the MSM guys have to explain that naming your confidential sources is counter-productive to getting information? You can choose to believe he's making this all up from the comfort of his yacht in the Bahamas, but given his credibility in Edmonton sports circles I would guess that he was in fact told that Tambellini spoke about Smyth even if it was just feeling things out.

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#104 madjam
July 09 2010, 10:16AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

Re: Eberle/Omark/Svenson competing in scoring with young elite NHL'ers

Theirs a long list of guys that put up big points in the WJC/WC that couldn't translate to the NHL.

Also, in one post you're front and center on firing upper managment for incompetence and then a few posts later you're talking about how they may have assembled a team that can score 300+ goals..... see an issue there?

I'll yank a few chains from time to time to liven things up . As for upper management i still am not a fan . They have something unique here , and i hope they don't destroy it even before season starts .

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#105 David S
July 09 2010, 11:21AM
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madjam wrote:

I'll yank a few chains from time to time to liven things up . As for upper management i still am not a fan . They have something unique here , and i hope they don't destroy it even before season starts .

I'd suggest waiting for these new kids to play a few games in the big boys league before throwing out comps like "Gretzky" and "Selanne".

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#106 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
July 09 2010, 11:42AM
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madjam wrote:

I'll yank a few chains from time to time to liven things up . As for upper management i still am not a fan . They have something unique here , and i hope they don't destroy it even before season starts .

Liking what they've built and disliking them is pretty ridiculous.

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