Bewitched

Lowetide
October 04 2011 07:26PM

Talent can be found in the most unusual places. Sports history gives us many examples of teams adding talent at little cost. Green Bay's Packers of the 1960s, the Whitey Herzog Cardinals baseball team 82+ and hockey's NY Islanders from 1974-83 are all great examples of finding talent buried in other organizations or the deep minors.

The NY Islanders of the early '70s kept adding qualified hockey players via the draft, trade, WHA, everywhere. They overdrafted the WHL, but used every Canadian junior league and Europe when the opportunity presented itself. The NYI seemed to win out all the time; an example was John Tonelli--originally stolen from the clutches of the NHL two years before he was draft eligible by the upstart WHA--he was eventually drafted much lower in his eligible year by the Islanders. Had Tonelli been a normal graduating junior he would have been selected much higher, but the Islanders showed some faith in the big man's future.

Incredibly, a year later one of the WHA's strongest franchises on the ice--the Houston Aeros--folded and the Islanders swooped in to grab him. As a historic footnote, at the time of the Tonelli signing the Islanders were in terrible financial condition, and in today's NHL one doubts if they would have had the wherewithal to make the signing.

The Islanders found players everywhere, and serve as an excellent example of how to procure talent. GM Bill Torrey had some outstanding help--Gerry Ehman among them--and delivered  a cluster of talent 1973-80 that the NHL has rarely seen in its history.

This fall, the Oilers are showing some signs of having scouting staffs that can procure talent outside the typical avenues. Here are some examples:

  • C Eric Belanger, value free agent signing. Has a huge chance to trump his contract and could be the best free agent acquistion of ST's career as Oilers GM.
  • C Anton Lander, drafted outside the first round and forced his way onto the roster at age 20. Twenty of the 39 picks who came before Lander made their NHL debut before the Swedish C, but his skill set suggests he will have greater value than many of them should he deliver on promise.
  • R Lennart Petrell, a Euro free agent who could end up being a quality free agent signing.
  • D Taylor Fedun, a fine prospect whose injury flushes a season. Still, the Oilers aggressiveness with college kids is a very good sign for the future.
  • D Corey Potter, a minor leaguer who has put in lots of time in the AHL in an effort to secure just this opportunity. He could deliver beyond expectations and comes at zero risk.

The Oilers added a bunch of guys (RNH, Smyth, Eager, Hordichuk) over the summer beyond this group, but I think the 5 men listed represent a renewed effort to look under every rock. A journeyman free agent ideally suited to team need (Belanger), a second round pick properly developed grabbed an NHL job at least half a year early (Lander), a quality European free agent who can help in a specific area (Petrell), a college grad (Fedun) and a minor league free agent who also addresses need (Potter).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Whitney Herzog always treated talent like it was readily available and Bill Torrey held on to his draft picks and spent them wisely. The Oilers have improved their amateur scouting staff since Stu MacGregor took over the lead job, and with signings like Belanger, Petrell, Fedun and Potter the organization is showing signs of returning to a previous time. A time when Finland, canadian colleges and projects were the norm for training camp in this town.

The day Edmonton signed Lennart Petrell it didn't appear above the fold, below the fold or near the fold. I don't think most Oiler fans thought he'd be a late cut let alone make the opening night roster. No wonder, since the Oilers as an organization have had so few pro free agents from Europe come in and force their way up the roster over these past few seasons.

Steve Tambellini's process is not swift, but there are signs that the lessons offered by the past have not been wasted on him. I don't know that he'll survive another losing season--the inertia over addressing this blue is baffling--but the foundation is there and there are some good signs.

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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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#51 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
October 05 2011, 08:04AM
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A year ago every one was calling for ST's head because our forwards lacked so much as did our goal tending and D fence. All of those areas have improved in my opinion though some very little. I know there have been some dismal mistakes but I also like a lot of what I see. The forward are going to compete as are special teams. OK city looks strong! Habby looks possibly better. The Defense has the farthest to go but 1 or 2 signings could really turn things around. Patience!!!

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#52 Rick
October 05 2011, 08:52AM
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I have been reading bloggers/reporters and other pundants go on and on all summer and fall with negative analysis about the defence on this team ....my sincere wish is that this group along with the talent in the AHL proves you all wrong ........but do I expect you to go on record and admit you were wrong and offer up the appropraite apologise' to the members on the team that you have spent the last 6 months dissing .I doubt it .....Negative journalism sells

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#53 DSF
October 05 2011, 09:35AM
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SrCain wrote:

I dont understand why ppl keep crapping on our goaltending. Khabibulin was a mess last year, fine, but dubnyk put up really solid numbers, especially for a rookie on a last place team. At worst our goaltending is unproven. We need to give him a chance.

Why would a professional hockey team go into a new season with "unproven" goaltending when there were many options available?

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#54 DSF
October 05 2011, 09:40AM
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SrCain wrote:

I dont understand why ppl keep crapping on our goaltending. Khabibulin was a mess last year, fine, but dubnyk put up really solid numbers, especially for a rookie on a last place team. At worst our goaltending is unproven. We need to give him a chance.

Why would a professional hockey team go into a new season with "uproven" goaltending when there were other options available?

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#55 DSF
October 05 2011, 09:54AM
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Peterborough wrote:

Visnovsky: whiff-- not a bad trade, he is a great player and played well here.

Whitney: whiff -- the injuries don't look good now but the jury remains out on this deal.

Foster: whiff -- he had bad circumstances to deal with and produced an asset.

Penner trade: whiff -- Added two D-man who may well be on the roster for years. A huge win now and if it turns out could be the greatest move in a very long time.

Visnovsky didn't want to play for the Oilers...he's made that very clear since he was traded.

Acuiring him cost two actual NHL players who would look pretty good on the Oilers right now.

Disposing of him, netted a player with a known injury history who missed 47 games last season and, almost a year after surgery, is still apparently questionable to play.

Not sure how you can call that a win.

Foster begat Andy Sutton...how many bottom pairing defensemen does a team need?

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#56 Jay
October 05 2011, 10:11AM
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@DSF

Visnovsky didn't want to play for any other team, he was given misleading information by the kings. And. once he got here, we catered to that idiot souray and put visnovsky on the back burner. all he was was a setup man playing on the opposite point that he was used to playing. Can anyone blame him why he didn't get settled in?

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#57 dawgbone
October 05 2011, 12:01PM
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DSF wrote:

Visnovsky didn't want to play for the Oilers...he's made that very clear since he was traded.

Acuiring him cost two actual NHL players who would look pretty good on the Oilers right now.

Disposing of him, netted a player with a known injury history who missed 47 games last season and, almost a year after surgery, is still apparently questionable to play.

Not sure how you can call that a win.

Foster begat Andy Sutton...how many bottom pairing defensemen does a team need?

What Visnovsky made clear was that he was pissed at the Kings for trading him before his No trade clause kicked in.

I assume he left some money on the table in order to get that security and they basically used a loophole to get him out.

Not once did he ever say he didn't want to play for Edmonton.

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#58 DSF
October 05 2011, 12:35PM
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dawgbone wrote:

What Visnovsky made clear was that he was pissed at the Kings for trading him before his No trade clause kicked in.

I assume he left some money on the table in order to get that security and they basically used a loophole to get him out.

Not once did he ever say he didn't want to play for Edmonton.

"The re-awakening of Lubomir Visnovsky's hockey career can be traced to a hotel room in snow-packed Chicago in March 2010.

Visnovsky and his Edmonton Oilers teammates were coming off another loss and had arrived to play the Blackhawks when Visnovsky received a phone call.

It wasn't a surprising one.

"The GM, (Steve) Tambellini, knew I wasn't happy," Visnovsky said. "He told me, 'You will be very happy to go back to California.' I appreciated that."

Visnovsky spent a season and a half in Edmonton and never acclimated to the change in scenery after playing his first seven NHL seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.

He didn't quite fit in the Oilers' system, and off the ice, it was difficult for his family because his 2-year-old son is active and the harsh winters didn't allow them to spend much time outside.

"I was not happy," Visnovsky said. "I didn't play very good hockey there. On the ice it was very tough and off the ice was very tough. Mentally, it was very tough."

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=590885

Doesn't sound like a happy camper to me.

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#59 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
October 05 2011, 02:27PM
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@DSF

I guess not everyone can handle the climes of an Edmonton winter...

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