START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON

Lowetide
November 16 2011 06:01PM

When I was a kid, the Oakland Seals had a new crop of good looking rookies every year. The following year, most or all of those would fall out of favor and there would be a new group of hopefuls. From Stan Gilbertson to Bobby Sheehan to Joey Johnston to Dave Hrechkosy and on it went. After awhile--and I was young, this may not have occured to me until years later--the smart man stops questioning the rookies and begins to suspect the organization.

The players Edmonton drafted during the Kevin Lowe-Kevin Prendergast-Craig MacTavish era have pretty much established themselves as NHL players (or not) by this time. Beginning with Ales Hemsky and including Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene, Kyle Brodziak and Andrew Cogliano among those who are clearly NHL players.

As we sit at the edge of 2012, it's interesting to see just how many of those listed were deemed expendable before they emerged as complete talents at the NHL level. I also find it worth noting the Edmonton Oilers have offloaded many player-types they could use right now during this rebuild, and further find it interesting that some of the players being mentioned as "not developing" or "stalling" seem to fit the list mentioned here.

A PEEK

There are a group of Edmonton media people who (to me, anyway) can be reasonably be counted on to deliver "hints" about the Oilers management and what they're thinking at any given time. Jim Matheson appears to be jotting notes in the actual meetings, and when someone like Robin Brownlee says the following about Sam Gagner:

  • The prudent approach, as always, is patience. We already know that runs thin with a sizeable segment of Oiler fans. What I'm wondering is if that's becoming an issue with team management.

History tells us that Robin Brownlee has a reason to have placed two and two together. Never mind that Gagner is a young player who can help a team when healthy and used with skill players, never mind that the mistakes bought and paid for by Oiler fans will give way to a more mature, capable player--history tells us that too.

Sometimes teams lose because they're rebuilding, and sometimes they lose because they're run by people who are not good at their jobs.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

A few things: someone is probably going to get a very good NHL forward for less than 100 cents on the dollar. One hopes it's a better return than the Brodziak windfall and for crying out loud lets make sure he's healthy and posting numbers before sending him away in order to get good value.

However, I think it's reasonable to suggest that somewhere in the bowels of the Edmonton Oilers offices, they've become so found of the shiny new dimes and quarters that the older ones may be put aside without the organization realizing their value.

In this way, the Edmonton Oilers are in danger of becoming the modern Oakland Seals: in love with this year's girl, and last year's model--who can help--lost in the flood.

It could be a different kind of Groundhog day in Edmonton for Oiler fans. Different from finishing 30th overall but Groundhog Day just the same.

Heaven forbid Taylor Hall lose his shine.

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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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#1 Robin Brownlee
November 16 2011, 06:11PM
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Shiny and new. An often fatal attraction. Watched the Canucks give away Cam Neely for Barry Pedersen, partly because Pedersen was established but in equal part because enough people in Vancouver thought Jim Sandlak, drafted a few places higher than Neely a couple of years later, might turn out to be better.

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#2 HOBOjuice
November 16 2011, 06:17PM
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I like Shiny things! They distract me from more important things....like work and something people call "responsiblilites" gezzz

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#3 Captain Obvious
November 16 2011, 06:59PM
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You can add in the pernicious love of "hard working" players. Omark is in the AHL, Paajarvi is in the boondocks, and Gagner is already out of town.

There are two possibilities. First, these players aren't as good as we thought, or, second, the coach isn't putting them in a position to succeed.

I vote #2.

Dear Tom, it's ok to have three lines that can score.

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#5 Shawn Cronin
November 16 2011, 07:14PM
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Great article......thought provoking.....and right on the money.

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#6 Dog Train
November 16 2011, 07:25PM
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There some guys on this team that don't have much of a chance to succeed right now. For instance, I can't understand for the life of me why Belanger players the point on our second unit PP. We have a kid like Paajarvi who is fighting some confidence issues right now offensively. I really liked what he did on the point on the PP late last season. Then we have Belanger, who does a lot of other things really well but is an older player who is average at best offensively, and we aren't letting Paajarvi get some time on the PP. It doesn't make much sense to me.

As for Gagner, he is getting some PP time but his already limited offense isn't likely to get a boost on the fourth line. If he can't stay healthy and produce reasonably well, then nobody will trade anything for him.

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#7 Saytalk
November 16 2011, 08:25PM
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I agree that you have to give players time to develop, especially defencemen. In fact, I really like the steady progression the Oilers have used to bring along Dubnyk through the ECHL, AHL and then as NHL backup.

However, the examples of Stoll, Greene, Brodziak and Cogliano as NHL players that management dealt too soon don't leave me with much regret. Chicago didn't wait long enough for Hasek; Calgary didn't wait long enough for Brett Hull. Now those are what I'd call mistakes, and every team has made them.

But for every superstar in waiting, there are hundreds of mediocre players taking up roster spots, ice-time and cap space. How long are we supposed to wait for the current crop of prospects to develop into quality NHL players? (And not just passable players like Cogs, but a quality player.)

Should our 2011 complement of top six forwards consist of Jason Bonsignore, Steve Kelly, Robbie Schremp, Marc Pouliot, Jesse Niinimaki, and Michel Riesen while we wait for them to reach their full potential? If we kept playing them, there'd be no room for RNH, Hall, Eberle. At some point, management has to make a call and make room for a more promising player.

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#8 UNCA MILTIE
November 16 2011, 08:56PM
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LT, you forgot the Riverton Rifle who went from the seals to the Flyers..

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#9 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 16 2011, 08:58PM
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LT you're killing me with these music references...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIpR3V-KkcE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_h4jxXPENU

nice!

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#10 Jerk Store
November 16 2011, 09:56PM
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Seals. Great jerseys. White skates were worst idea ever until "new coke" came along.

L.T. Could google but you likely know. Seals begat Cleveland Barons. Did they then fold or merge with another team? N. Stars?

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#11 @NateInVegas
November 16 2011, 10:16PM
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LT,

I really like this post.

Are decisions being made to appease an owner, the fans, or Taylor Hall?

Full disclosure: I've always felt the Oilers made a "Magnificent Blunder" June 25th, 2010. Not just because I liked Tyler Seguin's game, but because of the ramifications to Hemsky, Penner, and now Paajarvi. Adding Ryan Smyth only compounded the situation. It put Tambellini under the gun and Edmonton will deal someone from a position of weakness.

Are Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini, and Tom Renney really assets to the organization?

I take comfort that Edmonton has a #1 center and that things will start to fall in line. At least we're not in denial like some people down the deuce.

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#12 Quicksilver ballet
November 16 2011, 10:42PM
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That Vampire look works well on the subject in the last image provided. She looks as though she's no stranger to a walk on the wild side.

Where were we again...

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#13 common sense
November 16 2011, 10:50PM
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Dog Train wrote:

There some guys on this team that don't have much of a chance to succeed right now. For instance, I can't understand for the life of me why Belanger players the point on our second unit PP. We have a kid like Paajarvi who is fighting some confidence issues right now offensively. I really liked what he did on the point on the PP late last season. Then we have Belanger, who does a lot of other things really well but is an older player who is average at best offensively, and we aren't letting Paajarvi get some time on the PP. It doesn't make much sense to me.

As for Gagner, he is getting some PP time but his already limited offense isn't likely to get a boost on the fourth line. If he can't stay healthy and produce reasonably well, then nobody will trade anything for him.

I agree with the above. Someone should shake some common sense into Renney. What is the point of having Belanger on the PP...the only reason I can see is that he can take a draw. Paajarvi has played on the Swedish National Team's PP.

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#14 Bandwagon jumper
November 17 2011, 09:18AM
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I love the photos of the good old days of hockey. Oh, the pics of the ladies are pretty good too.

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#15 Smokey
November 17 2011, 09:36AM
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Hate

Let get this straight. Taylor or Tyler was a blunder. Are you trolling? They are both good players, and really both have been as good as the other. Its kinda like Ovi and Malkin. After 6 years both organizations are pleased with their selections. Both put up great numbers. That will be the case with these two.

I know your argument is we needed centers at that time, and now we got a logjam. But I would call your magnificent blunder more of a subtle annoyance.

I'll concur with the sentiments of many that Gagner, MPS, Omark are being mishandled and thus not producing. I think the problem is that team is doing well, and player develop is taking a backseat. I think the management has to find a way to do both, and I would argue that is magnificent blunder.

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#16 Dodd
November 17 2011, 09:37AM
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This is an excellent, thought - provoking article. I can't wait until our draft picks are kids we'll see in the bigs in 2 or three years. I don't want any more "shiny new dimes". Let's build with the kids we have.

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#17 Dodd
November 17 2011, 09:41AM
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@@NateInVegas

Had Seguin gone to the Leafs, your "Magnificent Blunder" would be referred to as "A Bullet Dodged" because Seguin (or any talented kid) would be far less effective on a team desperate for him.

Seguin gets the benefit of time, amazing linemates, and limited minutes on a champion team.

After Seguin went to Boston and Hall went to Edmonton, it became impossible to play "what if" anymore.

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#18 John Chambers
November 17 2011, 10:46AM
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@Dodd

I was a huge backer of Hall back at the 2010 draft. The main reason was that Hall had a more proven pedigree and therefore was less of a risk.

Hall has turned out to be pretty much everything I wanted in the player. He's fun as hell to watch, enthusiastic, a great teammate, excited about being in Edmonton, and when the bounces go his way he's going to tear up the scoresheet.

Seguin wouldn't have been a bad option. He's proving out why the debate was that close, and that we wouldn't have gone wrong either way.

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#19 Lochenzo
November 17 2011, 10:54AM
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Long history in this town of thrusting young guys onto the team and fans and media only giving them a couple of years before they really lean on them.

Ladi Smid came to us as a 19 year old. Feels like he's been around forever, but that's a byproduct of him starting so early. He is at that age when most very good defenceman take that leap to the next level. Not everyone is a Drew Doughty and deliver Norris trophy type seasons right away. Even Pronger took years to get his game to a high level. This year, I'm sure every fan and media guy that wanted to trade Smid is happy that the Oil did not.

I remember people calling in to complain that the Oilers were never going to win with Gretzky and that they should trade him. Patience was already started to wear out for a team that featured future HHOF inductees who were still in their early 20's. Can you imagine how different things would have been if the Oilers sent Gretzky to the Leafs in the early 80's?!?!? I mean, yikes!!

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#20 Oilers21
November 17 2011, 11:06AM
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@Lochenzo

"I remember people calling in to complain that the Oilers were never going to win with Gretzky and that they should trade him"...........is that true?? That blows my mind; he had a 50-goal season as a 19-year old!

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#21 Oilers21
November 17 2011, 11:20AM
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Someone who is able to watch more games might be able to correct me, but how is Gagner not being given a chance to succeed? His avg ice time has increased every year and it always seemed to me like he got a chance to play with skilled linemates (not so much this year, admittedly). It's sort of a chicken and egg situation; is he not succeeding because he doesn't get enough quality ice time, or is he not getting quality ice team because he hasn't produced when given the opportunity? Are other players jumping ahead of him on the depth chart because they're new and shiny, or are they simply better players? I'm OK with being patient because he's only 22 (hard to believe), but is giving him more ice time going to pump his numbers, or simply give the league a longer look at a player whose skill set simply doesn't translate well to the NHL?

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#22 Lummeropenet
November 17 2011, 11:28AM
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Taylor vs Tyler

If Boston had the first pick who would they have taken or any other team for that manner.

Any who, I like the fact that for the most part TR wants his players to earn a spot.

If a scorer is not scoring what is he doing to improve his chances? Is he going for the net and not worried about getting hit? Is he a defensive liability? How does he stack up with others that are struggling?

The reason '06 8th place Oil team made it to game 7 of the finals, besides good goaltending, they had the grit needed when other teams did not.

How many of your favourite Oilers today could really handle a Blackhawk/Red Wing/Bruins team in the playoffs. How would 89 or 91 handle it. Not the way they are playing today. I'd rather have 37 or 20 instead. Remember, playoffs, Blackhawks/Red Wings/Bruins...OK?

TR and management have to get this team ready for that day. So for now we wait and watch. 18, 19 and 20 year olds have to be 22, 23 or 25.

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#23 freeze
November 17 2011, 11:32AM
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Barker out 3 months!! Hooray!

He definitely won't be getting any faster; hope he has been wisely investing his money thus far.

Later goat-boy!

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#24 Lummeropenet
November 17 2011, 11:42AM
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"I remember people calling in to complain that the Oilers were never going to win with Gretzky and that they should trade him"...........is that true?? That blows my mind; he had a 50-goal season as a 19-year old!

From what i can remember 99 was too slow, not big enough and shot wasn't hard enough. But, when i watched him play back then he was almost always the best player on the ice. For both teams.

Remember he was a phenom, nothing like him was around at the time. Nothing to compare to. Bobby Orr became an Icon in the NHL and for good reason. When 99 came in from the WHA there were many who could not accept that there was someone better. Believe me i've met them. 99 really made everyone around him better. I've seen it. Playing with and practicing with him everyday 17, 9, 11 and 7 thrived. They all did. It carried on to the '90 cup and into New York (blaaah). Ask those players what 99 did for them as players in the NHL or for the NHL.

That's how i remembered it Lochenzo

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#25 Druds
November 17 2011, 12:04PM
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I'm sorry I cannot get any "love" going for Omark and I notice nobody is mentioning his predecesor shremp who everone believed was a ruined man by the Oilers yet could not make a go on the island even though he was given every opportunity that the evil oilers never did. Is it not possible that some players just are not good enough or just will not fit this orginization? I am sure that this happens elsewhere so lets just all take a deep breath. We all said in the summer that geewhiz some of the rookies might have problems this year but it seems that message was lost...take a pill.

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#26 Pucker
November 17 2011, 12:53PM
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Lochenzo wrote:

Long history in this town of thrusting young guys onto the team and fans and media only giving them a couple of years before they really lean on them.

Ladi Smid came to us as a 19 year old. Feels like he's been around forever, but that's a byproduct of him starting so early. He is at that age when most very good defenceman take that leap to the next level. Not everyone is a Drew Doughty and deliver Norris trophy type seasons right away. Even Pronger took years to get his game to a high level. This year, I'm sure every fan and media guy that wanted to trade Smid is happy that the Oil did not.

I remember people calling in to complain that the Oilers were never going to win with Gretzky and that they should trade him. Patience was already started to wear out for a team that featured future HHOF inductees who were still in their early 20's. Can you imagine how different things would have been if the Oilers sent Gretzky to the Leafs in the early 80's?!?!? I mean, yikes!!

Nobody in their right mind ever talked of trading Gretzky, let along trading him because we couldn't win with him.

The Oiler bandwagon was full long before they swept Montreal in that best of five playoff. All us fans we're just happy to be in the NHL and frustrated that we had to face the Islanders every year.

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