It doesn’t take a vast intellect or astute observation skills to realize Ryan Whitney isn’t near the top of his game, or to conclude that the playoff hopes of the Edmonton Oilers decrease with every game it takes him to ascend to that lofty lefty again.

If you’ve watched Whitney play more than about 15 seconds during the 15 games he’s been healthy enough to get into on Tom Renney’s blue line so far this season, you have probably deduced that something’s wrong with the big defenseman. You’d be right.

While Whitney is 11 months removed from surgery to re-attach a damaged tendon in his right ankle last January, he told reporters after today’s morning skate in preparation for tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings that the ankle is causing him pain.

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Enough of it, obviously, that Whitney has been a shadow of the player who had 27 points in 35 games when he went down with what would be a season-ending injury last December.

It’s been frustrating for Whitney and damaging to hopes the Oilers have of staying in the race for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, given how Ales Hemsky has struggled at the same time to find his form after having shoulder surgery.

We’ve had inklings about the progress of Whitney’s ankle since before training camp – I wrote about it here oilersnation.com/2011/8/24/ryan-whitney-about-that-ankle — and his comments this morning confirmed that he’s still not right.


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Whitney’s ankle kept him out of the first four regular season games before he returned against Calgary Oct. 18. He played just four games before he fell awkwardly and sprained his knee against Vancouver Oct. 25.

The knee kept Whitney out for 13 games until he returned Nov. 25 against Minnesota. In 11 games since then, he’s managed just two assists and hasn’t looked like his usual self. Now, we know why.

"It’s kind of a tough time," Whitney said. "I’m in a little bit of a battle zone just trying to get healthy and play some good hockey. I’ve got to be better. It’s pretty simple.

"I think it’ll come. I’m trying to really stay positive. It’s not for lack of hard work. It’s just about getting your game back. It’s as frustrating to me as it is to anyone else."

There’s obviously a big difference between playing with injury and playing with pain. While Whitney’s ankle has held together since he returned against Calgary, it’s clearly had an impact on his stride and mobility.

"You want to feel comfortable out there," Whitney said. "It’s tough to feel comfortable when you’re in pain. There’s obviously a thought process you’ve got to have in getting by that.

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"Obviously, I’m not playing as much. Every guy wants to play more, but that’s just how it is. You’ve got to figure out ways to be productive and do your job whether you’re playing 18 minutes or 25 minutes."


While there’s a mental component to overcoming the surgery that Whitney had, or any surgery for that matter, it’s not just as simple as sucking it up and playing through the pain. That’s easier said than done.

"For me, it’s not really looking at points," Whitney said of how ineffective he’s been on the attack and the power play. "I mean, I’m not a two-points-in-15-games type player. That stuff should even out.

"It’s just about feeling better overall with your whole game. It’s physical. It’s obviously a little mental, but it’s physical when you take a stride and you feel pain. That’s as physical as you can get. You’ve got to just be mentally strong to get through those things. A lot of guys are playing in pain."

After back-to-back 30th-place finishes, the Oilers talked this season about the importance of making progress by playing meaningful games in March and April. Fading fast with a 2-7-1 record in their last 10 games and a seven-game road trip looming, I don’t like their chances.

Their other shortcomings aside, I’m not confident the Oilers will be playing meaningful games beyond January if Whitney doesn’t get right – and soon.

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Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

    • I like the thinking behind the trade as much now as I did when it was made — get a younger player who is capable of 45-55 points, is in his prime and costs less money.

      The wrench in the works is the ankle sewered Whitney last season and it has to be considered a question mark from here on out. Visnovsky and Whitney have missed a lot of games this season.

      All told, I’ll take the 28-year-old with a $4 million cap it over the 35-year old with the $5.6 million cap hit through the end of their contracts in 2012-13.

      • keilan

        not to jump on you or into this fray but why do you mention the contracts? I thought that the size of the paycheck “doesn’t mean squat”?

        I listen to you and Gregor all the time and especially Gregor says that he doesn’t know why contracts are always brought up as they shouldn’t mean anything regarding playing time. Yet I hear the contracts talked about all of the time.

        I guess I’m confused. Do the contracts mean anything or don’t they?


        • A-Mc

          I suspect the answer would be “A little of both”.

          Contracts HAVE to matter to some degree. When you’re discussing player retention, a salary cap hit plays a big role in deciding if a person should move or not. Given two identical players with Identical stats: if one makes 3 Million a year and the Other 6 Million, only a lunatic would choose the man who makes the 6.

          Conversely, if you have a player that makes 4 million a year and a player that makes 2, their salary shouldn’t be a factor in how much ice time they get or on what lines they play.

          The realized potential of Hemsky, for example, may not be worth $4,100,000/year to the Oilers hockey club and therefore he may get traded. But also it makes no sense to take out Eberle or Hall on the kid line for Hemsky JUST BECAUSE Hemsky makes more money. Either Hall or Eberle, IMO, are far better options than Hemsky will ever be.

        • keilan

          Harlie, 2 cents worth

          Of course contracts mean something, this is a business and payrolls are capped. If payrolls meant nothing we’d be able to unload a few anchors – you know the guys that we wouldn’t get anything for if traded!!

          Yuuup those precious assets

        • Why try to confuse context here? Go back to the comment that prompted my response.

          Contracts (and age) matter when you’re putting together a team and considering a trade like Whitney for Visnovsky. With a salary cap, that’s straightforward or should be.

          • keilan

            thanks Robin, I was looking for clarification on which way you stood on contracts and clearly it is a situational based and not a cut and dry type of thing. Just wanted to see if you were no or yes or somewhere in between on if they counted. I know now, thanks.

  • The Farmer

    I feel for the guy, hemsky too for that matter. It is the best league in the world, and the separation between players is so small, that being just a little bit off puts you at a major disadvantage.

  • A-Mc

    It sucks that he feels pain but i am glad they are taking it easy on him with reduced TOI.

    Pushing our fresh-off-IR players to the point of re-injury is a decision that would cost us dearly in the long run.

    Even if Whitney cannot skate like he normally would, If he can make smart passes and keep good body position on guys, I think he’ll still be a great asset to the team!

  • A-Mc

    Im having a hard time holding our hopes on a player we have labeled “our best defenceman”.Whether or not Whitney can get back to being the player he was Pre tendon injury is anybodys guess.If we are ever to become a contender or even a playoff hope we had better start finding players who are durable and not the type that only play 40 or 50 games a year.I know its a hard physical game and its real easy for me to talk tough behind my keyboard but we as fans have waited for the Hemsky’s and Whitney’s to return and 15 games later we are still waiting for them to return.

  • keilan

    He will be better as will the Oil. Mark my words they will be lights out in the second half. Hemsky looked better against the Sharks, if both those guys pick it up and if the kids keep it going and…… crap maybe no playoffs that’s alot of ifs lol. Come on boys I’m counting on you PLAYOFFS can happen RB gotta believe

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Hey dude, welcome to the Koolaide Klub. We gotta stay strong as our members are dwindling with the recent slump.

      Our rival fraternity, the Haterade House is gaining a lot of steam.

      Keep the Faith and Keep Strong!!

      PS: Dear ON executives,

      Can you please organize an all out, no quit til death Dodgeball tournament for charity. Koolaide Klub VS Haterade House.

  • At this rate Ryan Whitney may soon have to realize he is going to suffer the same fate Peter Forsberg had. Early retirement due to foot problems.

    Probably just as frustrating as Forsberg too… knowing you have the all the ingredients to play high level but your damn feet in a boot won’t let you. (sniff sniff that was my problem too flat feet in the 80s before the custom boot and orthotics era)

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Ryan is another one of those veterans unlikely to re-sign here when he’s up for renewal in 16 months.

    Put him in the damaged goods shopping cart along with Hemsky and try and get something for him. 4 mill this yr and next for a top 3 dman is affordable for a club looking for a decent depth on the backend if he can stay healthy.

    The Oilers are better off with a lotto kid with some sortof committment here for 7 yrs’ish.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    IF. The team continues to struggle after Christmas what are our options? If this season turns into a lottery pick situation I won’t be happy. Neither will I be unhappy.The unhappy part comes in the form of a franchise dman or one of the best skilled forwards available. The happy part is that Mr Dithers will not be dithering anymore for the Edmonton Oilers.

    Ryan Whitney’s foot may never be 100% again. Injuies are part of the game. someone needs to step up and pick up the slack for Whitney. Good luck with that Tom Renny.

    Oilers win tonight 5-3. Were due and Detroit is the perfect team for an Oilers team that needs a high caliber opponent to push them to thier limits. Smyth gets 2 points.

  • keilan

    Is there no provision for sending him down to the AHL……….for the purposes of conditioning?

    He is no better than anyone else at this point, so my thinking suggests that we give some quality time to some of the guys in the AHL.

    This would give Whiteny some time to try and find his game somewhere where there is less press on him?

    • The provision would be having a defence that didn’t have him and instead had the dreaded combo of Teubert-Peckham return.


      I actually have no clue, but I do think that since he’s playing in the NHL, conditioning might not work…

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Yes there is (as far as I know). Players (I believe) can be sent down for a limited conditioning trip without being exposed on waivers.

      I brought this up the other day too and it’s a real curiosity. As a baseball fan too, I am readily accustomed to the idea of conditioning stints which are basically an everyday occurrence in the MLB and it’s largely unheard-of for people to not warm up in AAA for a few games.

      My guess is NHL teams worry about exposing players in a contact sport to lower levels of competition. The skill might be lower but the contact is still there so the incentive maybe isn’t the same as in baseball.

      Someone else (can’t remember) mentioned that the NHL basically suffers from a stigma about the AHL… and you only have to look at the rigamarole surrounding the decision to send MP down to know that is true.

      It’s a shame because it could be a valuable tool in organizational pockets. I hope it’s something we start to see teams try.

  • A-Mc

    Wouldn’t you want whitney playing the hardest opposition available to him to get him back into game shape?

    If a player needs more ice time to develop and condition, you send him to the OKC (ie: Paajarvi). But That isn’t where Whitney is at. His ice time is limited on purpose. He needs to get used to the pace of the game again and playing in a slower AHL league wont afford him that luxury.

  • D

    Would some one tell me why this team keeps playing injured players which ends up costing us games when there are healthy Bodies in the AHL or are passing thru waivers.Nobody can convince me that Whitney on one leg is better then some of the other talent in the system or off the waiver wire….or that Hemsky wandering around out there afraid to go into a corner is better then some of the young talent playing in Oklohoma …………Management is trying for another Loto choice I am thinking .

  • RexLibris

    I think LT might have been the happiest man on the planet when the Oilers teamed up with OKC, just so he could show that picture (OKLA v HOMA) several times a year. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

    My concern over Whitney is, at this point, more based on his personal well-being than that of the team. This roster, while in need of a Whitney, is more than just one top d-man away from being good, or even better, at this stage. My guess is that Whitney will need the rest of this season to partially recover. And I have to wonder how easy it is to recover while playing a fast contact sport at the highest level in the world. Next season might be the better bellwether for Whitney’s health and career. Perhaps he’ll decline a bit in his play and from this point on is best played as the 3rd defenceman in the rotation with some PP time. His injuries aside, Whitney’s leadership and drive to get the best from his teammates (from what I have seen) is a reason to want to keep him. We’ll see. Now if we had a spare Turris hanging around to trade for a Rundblad, then we would be better insulated against these injuries.

  • What are people’s expectations of Whitney? If you think he’s a 55 point guy I think you’re dreaming. Plus he hasn’t been that exceptional defensively in his career. I admit he’s below where I had him, but not nearly as far as some. I would have been happy with 40 points.

    • People, like me, who consider Whitney capable of 45-55 points (note the range not just the top-end number) are “dreaming?”

      Yes, I’m guessing Whitney is capable of that range if he can get healthy seeing as he’s surpassed the high end once already and was on pace to do it again with the Oilers when his ankle gave out.

      Despite playing with bad feet until he had two corrective surgeries done, Whitney began this season with 226 points in 389 games. That’s .58 PPG or 47.56 points per 82 games.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Most if not all the veterans have never been leaders their whole career. They may have borrowed the limelight for a week or two at a time earlier but we can’t expect them to change now. This roster is chaulk full of followers and not much more. Fortunately the Oil have 3 new kids who look to be capable of leading or doing the so called heavy lifting. The total collapse of the veteran support on this club isn’t a surprise, it’s what has become acceptable here since 2007.

      • Finally someone who sees this team for what they are! I’ve commented from the outset of the season where the Oilers will struggle. The worst core veteran group in the league and that isn’t going to change until they’re moved out or they retire.

        The architect of this re-build needs to be fired today, he has absolutely no vision of what a championship team looks like. Tom Renney doesn’t appear to have anyone’s attention on the team, the Oilers continue to “hot potato” with the puck. How long before the Hall’s etc tune him out?

        Here’s my list of players that we can give away or trade

        Ales Hemsky – made of glass
        Shawn Horcoff – 3rd line centre and PK – not enough
        Ryan Smyth – overrated, old and slow
        Sam Gagner – isn’t a top 6 forward here
        Tom Gilbert – brutal more nights then not
        Ryan Whitney – not nearly good enough this year

          • Quicksilver ballet

            And your opinion on the players I mentioned is what? Or do you have one? If this organization had a clue in the past 15 years they’d be on the floor playing with it!!

          • OilFan

            I’m an arsehole who comes here to try to get under Brownlee’s skin, so I agree with you completely and disagree with everything RB says and ever will say. I don’t really add anything to the conversation, I just come here to needle him and will do so until he blocks my IP.

        • There are plenty of shortcomings with this team and some of the players you mention are part of that, but when you making a statement like “here’s my list of players that we can give away for trade,” it drips with paint-by-numbers simplicity. It’s naive.

          Trade Hemsky. When and for who? His value now is as low as it’s ever been. It better be OK to get next-to-nothing back.

          Trade Horcoff. Yes, there is a line up of teams waiting to take that contract. You might work this on NHL 2012, but not in the real league.

          Trade Ryan Smyth. Were you saying this after 20 games? I doubt it. Who takes this 35-year-old. What do you get back?

          Trade Sam Gagner. There will be room for him in your top six after you’e traded or given away Hemsky, Horcoff and Ryan Smyth for nothing, no?

          Gilbert is brutal most nights? I’ve criticized Gilbert plenty in the past, but this statement locks it down for me that you haven’t been paying attention.

          Ryan Whitney not good enough this year? Stop the presses. You noticed? So now what? Trade him or “give him away?”

          Resist the urge to panic and form a strategy based on the worst stretch of hockey the team has played this season. You weren’t saying this at the 20-game mark, so don’t make it your blueprint for building a team after 33 games.

          AND . . . Didn’t think I’d have an opinion? Really? If you’d stop hyper-ventilating for a minute or two, you’d have seen the comment above.

          • A-Mc

            Let’s get something straight regarding my comments of the Oilers – They’re here on this site in black & white go look them up! From game one let alone game twenty/thirty three I’ve preached the same message.

            So stop with the paint-by-numbers and master plan to I’[email protected] because it makes you appear trivial.

            Trade Hemsky. When and for who? At this point it doesn’t really matter, playing him 20 minutes a game sends the wrong message to the rest of team. Hemsky has unbelievable skills but in his best season he only scored 23 goals. In the 10 yrs he’s played here no line-mate has benefited from playing with him. Tons of skill but……..

            Trade Horcoff. – Will go down as the worst contract ever negotiated in Oiler history. Takes the spot of another veteran player who could be here contributing.

            Trade Ryan Smyth – I was totally against his signing here again and said so – look it up!

            Trade Sam Gagner – if he can’t play as a top six forward here, he doesn’t help this team. Matter-a-fact when Sam first came into this league and Horcoff got injured my comment was – Gagner will make everyone forget about Horcoff which I think he did. For whatever reason/s Sam hasn’t developed much over the past 5 years. Simply Sam isn’t part of the puzzle.

            Gilbert is another American bred Oiler who doesn’t belong in this market. When Tom is asked to play top 4 minutes he doesn’t get enough oxygen to his brain. Tom is a perfect number 5 d-man.

            Ryan Whitney – I’ve reserved an opinion on him until recently, it’s time to let go….

            So Robin I don’t think I’ve panicked at all – I’ve also commented that Nugent-Hopkins is the best 18 year old I’ve seen. Where this Oiler team would be without him this year sends chills down my back.

          • stevezie

            Well, you’ve put your money where your mouth is and ponied up with a detailed plan, which I respect, especially since this is one of the most terrible plans I have seen on these boards, though there have been plenty. I don’t think I’d have had the guts to share it.
            Highlights include “look it up”, and “Gagner is so good we don’t need Horcoff but Gagner sucks so trade him.” Are you published? Where could I look this stuff up?

            Basically, you need to remember that for every guy you want gone we need a replacement. Do you think our first-place farm team deserves a chance to move up a league? Do you know something about Horcoff’s trade value that no one else does? Do you think Belanger should be out second line center?

            Replacements aside, I disagree with many of your assessments but see where you’re coming from, but what more could you possibly want from Tom Gilbert or Ryan Smyth? Why did you not want Smyth back?

          • keilan

            Kind of sad this place doesn’t have a search function!!

            Where’s the re-build? Drafting 1st overall two years running usually gets two pretty good players – mission accomplished.

            For the past 4 years the Oiler brass have been in a re-build, other then drafting some pretty good kids who have they surrounded these kids with? You’re a smart guy, explain how this veteran core of older players measures up?

            You think playing Gagner with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle is smart hockey? Not an ideal line without the puck. You think having Hall on the left side makes sense? Opposing teams shut down one line and other then Jones on one else can score! Game-set-match!

            Hall can play centre – just so you know.

            If you like Gilbert and Smyth, knock yourself out. If Gilbert played for me he’d get 15-16 minutes of ice time at most and I’d be satisfied with his play in general or I could be like Renney and play him 25 minutes and remain horrified. Smyth isn’t good enough and yes I’m wrong and so are the organizations he played for since leaving.

          • stevezie

            I’ll give you one thing: it would be great if they had a search function, or if your posts were tracked by your profile in any way at all.

            I agree the first two years of the “rebuild” were pointless, and I agree that one of this team’s biggest needs is secondary scoring, but to me Gagner, Smyth and Hemsky represent the solution to that problem (as does Omark). As Hemsky heals up I hope he gets better, Gagner is already picking it up, and Smyth was providing it for 20 games. Advanced stats love Gilbert this year, and by my ignorant eye he looks pretty good.

            Smyth was at least decent for every team he played for.

          • Dutchscooter

            You still haven’t outlined your master plan yet, just bitched about their shortcomings. Who would you trade these players for? If you ‘give them away for nothing’ as you say, who would you replace them with? I’m listening with baited breath…..

          • keilan

            Wow master plan – is that what’s it called?

            You think the organization has been vigilant the past 4 years? You think Renney sending Souray to the minors because he chose not to work it out was in the Oilers best interest?

            Who did the Oilers get for Souray?

            If something or someone has no market value then describe to me why you want to keep it? OHH I GET IT – because it’s worthless… clever group here

          • Dutchscooter

            As I figured, you avoided the question I asked because you have no answer. Easy to criticize when you have no solution. Thanks for your input.

            I will now stop feeding the troll….

          • keilan

            Below in part is Robin Brownlee’s post #34

            Trade Hemsky. When and for who? His value now is as low as it’s ever been. It better be OK to get next-to-nothing back.
            Trade Horcoff. Yes, there is a line up of teams waiting to take that contract. You might work this on NHL 2012, but not in the real league.
            Trade Ryan Smyth. Were you saying this after 20 games? I doubt it. Who takes this 35-year-old. What do you get back?
            Trade Sam Gagner. There will be room for him in your top six after you’e traded or given away Hemsky, Horcoff and Ryan Smyth for nothing, no?
            Gilbert is brutal most nights? I’ve criticized Gilbert plenty in the past, but this statement locks it down for me that you haven’t been paying attention.
            Ryan Whitney not good enough this year? Stop the presses. You noticed? So now what? Trade him or “give him away?”

            I wrote in part – post #34

            If something or someone has no market value then describe to me why you want to keep it?
            You sound like a bright guy Dutchscooter, maybe you can answer the question?

          • Dutchscooter

            I never said I agreed or disagreed with your position or Brownlee’s. I just wanted to hear your solution to replacing those players on the roster. That’s all.

            There is no easy fix. Most of this team (management included) will be long gone before we’re near the glory land. Sure, if you can get some value for those players, it should be investigated. But remember you still have to ice a team that is at least near the cap floor. Giving these players away and calling up AHLers to fill in can’t be done.

          • keilan

            When the organization has been largely incompetent for far too long any solution will take time.

            My point is that the architect/s of this re-build has miscalculated player development and player worth in the last few years. No sense going back any further then that.

            Nothing is black or white, everyone understands that but to continue along this path any longer and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

            If management showed a commitment that they are interested in bringing the best available veteran players here that money can buy it would be a start! I think our young players could help attract some very solid pros….

          • Dutchscooter

            I agree with that.

            My solution would begin at the top. I’m not going to rehash mistakes this management team has made, but I’m thinking that a GM like Dale Tallon is a start. He did a pretty good job this summer in Florida, no?

            Forget about the current roster and its problems. If we are in the bottom five again this year, heads should start to roll. Then, not now.

          • keilan

            Not my style to do-nothing, if there is an opportunity to address areas of concern I think every effort should be made in that direction. Management has an obligation to the fans and its players to do so!

            If Katz is thinking about replacing some of the pieces in management I agree he should do that at seasons end.

          • A-Mc

            In your Opinion could the Oilers Management be Cleaning house faster than what has happened?

            I’m no professional but it has looked to me like they have off loaded the heavy cap hit players when their contracts have allowed as much.

            You specifically mention Horcoff and your displeasure with him. His contract has him here for a few years yet: How would you suppose Management offload him?

            Considering the cost of his replacement and the Oiler half of his Salary that they’d be on the hook for if he was moved, Does this make financial sense?

            It looks to me like Management is trying to make the best of the pieces they currently have but maybe the slow careful process isn’t your style; there is nothing wrong with that!

          • keilan

            Shawn Horcoff has over come much during his career. He was lucky enough to have MacTavish as a huge supporter of his and Lowe ended up signing him to a contract that would help keep fans coming to games and allow the previous group of owners to maintain their investment. That was some of the justification afterwards if I remember correctly.

            But it comes apart when you’re paying someone 7 million a year who is really a 3rd line centre and plays the penalty kill.

            It’s past time to fix these problems – our young players have a shelf-life believe it or not!

          • A-Mc

            Yea you keep saying there is a problem, and we’re not asking you to justify why you feel that way.

            More importantly you’re being asked the question: “what do you propose we do about it?”
            It’s not as simple as just saying we need to trade him: There are valid reasons why that is probably not a possibility for the next year or two.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I get your underlying point – though I don’t agree with it in broad strokes – but the problem I have with your initial approach to this whole thing is you seem to think you can absolve yourself from the constraints of reality.

            There are two separate questions that need addressing here (as I see it):

            1) Can we come to some reasonable conclusion about a player, i.e., their performance (at any given time and across their career); and their value (including current contracts, prospective contracts, trade value, ability to draw a crowd, endorsements, etc)?

            Let’s take Horcoff. Clearly you’ve come to the conclusion that he has both underperformed and is overvalued by his current contract. I think most people would agree with the latter claim but some might fight you on the former.

            That’s one important discussion that get’s bandied about around here a lot…

            But a tangential, although non-trivially different, question is:

            2) Given the constraints of current contracts, market values, cap status, impact on roster, development of other players, TOI distribution, the various needs of the Oil or any prospective trading partner etc., etc…. What GM options are realistically available to the Oilers, what are the pros/cons of those options and which should the Oil pursue (and how hard)?

            This latter question demands a lot more thought because so many variables have to be taken into account. The easiest answer is always to defer to the status quo. And in some, if not many, cases that is actually the best option. I would suggest in the case of Horcoff (given his role on the team, his contract status, the TOI and QualComp distributions on the team) he is probably right now serving the team better than any other option available.

            Not least of which… because who would take that contract on? Would the Oil end up footing the bill for a substantial portion of his contract? probably. Is he such a liability that that would be worth it (a la Souray)? I don’t think so. Who would play his minutes against the tough competition, in our own end? Not the kids if you want to succeed.

            All of which is to say that “it’s complicated” but it’s worth thinking through the context of a given situation and consequences of any action. With that in mind it seems flippant to simply say “we can give away or trade” certain players.

            PS: I realize I am echoing a lot of other responses, but my two cents is to try and disentangle two separate, if related, questions.

          • keilan

            With all due respect I’m not qualified to address all of the intrinsic values of each player nor does it interest me to do so. The Oilers if managed correctly could be a very good hockey franchise for the next decade and beyond. That is a realistic goal imo.

            Anyways let’s indulge ourselves!

            1) Do I believe Horcoff has both underperformed and is overvalued by his current contract? Not for one second do I believe that – he is exactly the player I thought he was or could be since joining the Oilers!

            2) The trite response is to move all contracts of the players I singled out. The consensus seems to be that those players have little or no appreciable value if dealt in the free market. If that is true then what value are they to the Oilers? That in my mind is the question!

            Should the Oiler’s end up footing the bill for a substantial portion of his contract – yes, unless the Oilers are satisfied to languish in the cellar of their division. Horcoff –Smyth-Hemsky aren’t able to play the important minutes now and I don’t see that changing. Those were my views at the beginning of the year and before and they haven’t changed.

            The Oilers are easy to play against and the culture here needs to change, bringing Smyth back here bordered on the obtuse.

            You are most correct, I was flippant when I wrote “we can give away or trade” the point is that the Oilers are much worse off then they believed to be at this stage of their re-build. There haven’t been many positives in the last dozen games we’ll see how this road trip goes!

            It’s high time to surround these young kids with a supporting cast of veteran players who can impose their will on the opposition, play important minutes and chip-in with a goal.

            I’m so tired off watching those three get man-handled every shift that matters, 2 on 1’s that end without a shot on net, poor line changes that end with the puck in our net, losing many of the important draws, too soft passes that never reach their team-mates stick, give a-ways in the neutral zone all night long – then finally the clichés after the game!

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Ok. Your position is less flippant now. But you still seem to be dodging the reality of the situation.

            Let me put my two points above in a different light, there is:

            1) the evaluation of actions – i.e., did the Oilers help/hurt the team with x move (let’s say signing Horcoff to his current contract for argument’s sake)

            your answer here is a little muddy. I have no problem with you saying “I’ve always thought Horcoff would be a bust” or something along those lines (although I’m not sure how important this is… who is challenging you on your previous beliefs?? is that really relevant?) and therefore you were “never taken in by the hype” or something… but how can you maintain that and not also think he is overvalued by his current contract (i.e. paid too much)?! that seems inconsistent.

            Or, in the case of Smyth. you obviously would grade the Oilers a D- or something for resigning him. Fine. I don’t agree. But fine. Go ahead and argue that.

            What I am more interested in though is not your evaluation of past mistakes by the Oilers management

            But, rather… and here’s my other point: there is also

            2) the taking of actions in light of both the results of prior actions and the conditional reality that confronts you – ie., your mistakes (for the sake of argument let’s say they are mistakes) go along with you for the ride. You don’t get to opt out of past decisions, actions and current conditions.

            Your criticism of the Smyth or Horcoff deals doesn’t change their existence in any tangible way. You have to work within that reality to get to wherever it is you see the Oilers of the future.

            You seem to acknowledge this by writing:

            “Should the Oiler’s end up footing the bill for a substantial portion of his contract – yes”

            Ok. fine. now what? In that case you are down 3 players (2 captains and someone in the top 40 in league scoring) who play a lot of minutes and against tough competition. You have also handicapped STs ability to acquire anyone to fill those positions by dumping players but neither salary nor cap space.

            To me this puts ST in between a rock and hard place and doesn’t make the team better.

            Getting 3 better players than Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky would make the team better… who would disagree with that??

            The question is how?

          • keilan

            1) Sorry but I thought my comments of Horcoff throughout this thread to be ultra consistent. The Oilers over-paid for his abilities, Horcoff has never been a 1st or 2nd line centre. I will go as far as comparing him to all other captains in the league and you can tell me which in your opinion have a lower market value then he!

            Here’s what in part is confusing to me – it appears to me that most everyone that has commented here today agrees that moving any of the players I mentioned means the Oilers would have to kick-in salary dollars or secondly the Oilers wouldn’t get much back in return.

            Yet somehow I’m treating those players unfairly!

            Smyth is no longer a top 6 forward in Edmonton imho, Smyth like Gagner are not useful players here any longer since we acquired the new kids.

            2) Going forward how does management address these concerns? Identify what ails this hockey team and begin fixing it. Is it possible that the fox is in charge of running the hen house? Have Tambellini and or Renney proven themselves as good decision makers and leaders of this club?

            Don’t worry about Smyth being a top 40 point producer in this league – combined those three have 3 assists in the last 7 games. Yes they play the tough minutes and are minus players all the while losing 9 of the last 11.

            Tambellini and circumstance have put the Oilers precisely were they’re at, wouldn’t it be fair to ask Steve what if anything he plans on doing about the direction of his team! Steve has held the job for 31/2 years, what’s your assessment of the job he’s done to date?

            The reality is you and I aren’t responsible for the decisions of this hockey club and I refuse to pretend that what you or I might say here would make a difference.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Ok slow down there. I’m not trying to get your goat or anything. Just trying to sort out your position.

            1) I think we had a miscommunication. You said you didn’t think he was overvalued by his contract, but it was clear from you other comments and your reiteration that you think the opposite is the case – you now say: “The Oilers over-paid for his abilities”… the phrase “overvalued” is a bit awkward and suspect that is what threw you – I meant the contract overvalues him by paying him more than he is worth…

            2) I think you are missing the point again (for me any way). I think you are treating those players unfairly. I think you undervalue their services to the team. But I also think that your thinking about what to do about it is off: you seem to be saying:

            a) these players aren’t highly valued in the NHL market

            b) therefore they shouldn’t be valued on the Oilers

            c) therefore we should do whatever we can to dump them, because we are worse off with than without them (no matter what the cost)

            Well I agree with (a) to a point (although I bet LAK – excepting their own cap situation – would love to have Smyth back). I disagree with b) and c)

            for b) here’s an example: Trevor Linden. The guy had way less value outside Van than he did there. His market value was much lower than his nuck value. This seems inconsistent but it’s just a matter of switching perspectives. Think of a collector and the general public. THe public will never understand how a collector can value certain items so highly and would never pay hundreds of dollars for a vintage record say when they can download it for pennies (or free)… it’s a matter of perspective.

            Something can have great value in one setting independent of how it is valued in another. The value the Oilers place on their players should only be determined IN PART by the value other teams will place on them.

            regarding c). even if I agreed with a) and b) I still don’t think I would go with that course of action.

            I think you are right to question ST and the job he’s done and to demand an answer about the direction of the team and to demand that he move with authority toward that goal… but there are no straight lines in this game. moving with authority in this respect is still going to be a tortured path. you can’t just cut and run.

            basically I think that unceremoniously dropping those players would make the team worse and would be the biggest black mark on STs middling performance thus far.

            btw: your right we aren’t responsible and you are right to hold you team to account.

          • A-Mc

            I still think you’re missing the question we’re asking of you.

            If we have Player1 that the team decides they need to move but that player is under an expensive contract for another 3 years. How do you move him?

            Moving the player will probably cost the team half his salary for the next 3 years. For this discussion lets say HALF of his salary is $3,000,000/yr.

            Once the player is moved, His ‘better’ replacement will cost anywhere between $4-$5,000,000/yr.

            If you add it all up, the Oilers end up paying $7-8,000,000/yr for the new replacement for the first 3 years of his term.

            This assumes all the other factors have fallen into place, such as: 1) There is a team that wants our Original Player1. 2) There is a suitable replacement for Player1 that we can afford. 3) If Player1 has a No-Trade clause, then he needs to wave it. 4) Even though the replacement player might have better Numbers, There is no guarantee that he would fit into our team and be a positive contribution. Things CAN go south (Souray).

            The Alternative is that you get a less expensive replacement, at maybe $2,000,000/year and all told, the Oilers pay $5,000,000/yr for the new player ($1,000,000 less than keeping the original guy). But at $2,000,000/yr are you getting a better option? or are you hurting the team in an attempt to move an expensive contract.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            that’s probably a clearer way of putting it. I have a tendency to over think underlying arguments and I’m horribly longwinded.

            At any rate, I just want to reiterate that Keilan seems like a responsible fan to me. I disagree with his positions but he seems willing to work through them with others and that’s what makes this site fun – rather than the mindless contrarianism of some posters.

          • keilan

            You asked me – Do I believe Horcoff has both underperformed and is overvalued by his current contract”?

            I replied – Not for one second do I believe that – he is exactly the player I thought he was or could be since joining the Oilers!

            In other words – yes I believe he has performed exactly as advertised and been over-paid in the process. He’s a 3rd line centre, plays the PK – that’s what he’s always been ie as advertised!!

            a) I’m saying trade them for a varity of different reasons, others are complaining they won’t bring much value in return. I then asked if 29 other teams discounted their value why are folks here placing such a high premium on their present worth?

            b) We’re talking about players that are currently being paid more then their market value. These same players are currently the weakest link and are performing to a lesser standard then their pay suggests

            c) What’s the responsible thing to do for the organization, players and its fans? Wait until their contracts expire and face another whole group of problems and challenges? Where’s the fairness in any of that thinking?

            I’m pretty confident the Kings don’t want Smyth back! The more likely scenario is how to dump the contracts of Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll…. I sat too many nights watching them never “breaking a sweat”.

            There are many types of value, assessed value; going concern value – insurable value – investment value – liquidation value – market value – objective value – price – subjective value – value in use. This has been a bad hockey team for a very long time now and whatever subjective value you’ve placed on Trevor Linden and his relationship with Vancouver shouldn’t factor into the Oilers decision in changing the landscape around here.

            If the Oilers resided in 6 or 8 other NHL cities I would expect that ownership would be losing a ton of money and the league would likely be looking to re-locate them. That’s how bad the Oilers have been. You can point at our defense and make all kinds of excuses but the reality is Nugent-Hopkins, Eberele, and Hall have them too. How is it that the young guys can flourish with those same d-men and Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky our veteran leaders skate around most nights of late in a fog?

            It’s close to a 500 dollar bill to watch a game in the lower bowl after all-is-said plus whatever fans invest emotionally. The players that are earning their keep – what about them, shouldn’t management give them the opportunity to succeed? How about the fan that cheers very play from his/her couch at home? – civic pride. And finally how about the owner who invest hundreds of millions of dollars and is all about bringing the cup back to Edmonton?

            But to hell with that group of people let’s get invested in players that aren’t pulling their weight!

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            1) Not sure why this confusion persists… we understand each other but keep muddling the wording regarding “overvalued” but it doesn’t matter…

            all the rest.

            2) I didn’t say discount entirely market value… only that it is a factor. you seem to agree that values are flexible in different contexts. fine.

            The only point was to show that for 2 reasons a player can have greater value in one place than another

            a) filiality – largely emotional, based on history of support, care, respect etc (ie. a family). Smyth is a great example of this. ON goes crazy for him you can’t deny that… but this one is a non-performance-based measure of value… although I’m sure GMs look at it too – Linden same deal

            b) contextual performance – some players (for unknown reasons) play better against certain opponents, in certain buildings, on certain teams, etc. Cole sucked in Edmonton… Linden was mediocre on any team but the nucks… etc.etc… that means though another team wouldn’t get a full performance or full value out of you… doesn’t someone else won’t

            That’s what I meant. (ps. linden is used only as an example… obviously his fate has no direct bearing on the OIlers)

            3) People get overpaid all the time!! that’s largely irrelevant… it’s a crapshoot who will pan out, stay healthy, etc (adv. stats. and projections can only do so much)… the reverse is equally as true. Every team has overpaid players.

            Does that absolve GMs from their decision making? NO! but it adds a crucial context that this is hardly a unique phenomenon.

            The question again is… can you learn from your mistakes, correct them or mitigate their effects? If every GM simply washed their hands of overpaid contracts by either eating them and sitting the player, trading for pennies and eating salary… they would all collapse! This still isn’t a reasonable solution to the problem… no matter how big a problem you think it is.

            4) The Oil have a gift of a dedicated following… Toronto has the same cushion, and Det and a handful of other teams. they will sell-out no matter what. I totally agree that to show contempt for that goodwill is horrible

            and ticket prices are gross… agree there too…

            I don’t disagree that the Oil have been poorly managed for a long time… the proof is in the results. there is no doubt about that. But corrections need to be made within the strictures of present day realities…

            if you take on personal debt… you don’t get to say “Oh, that was stupid, shouldn’t have lived beyond my means” make a pledge to live within your means going forward and wash your hands of the debt! You have to move forward toward your goal of fiscal sobriety with your debt along for the ride.

  • There isn’t a line in the league outside of whoever Crosby is playing with, that would be considered to be playing well if the were taking passes from the Oilers D core. Basically only Gilbert is the only experienced fully capable player. Whitney I am not counting because he hasn’t been a factor in a long time, but IF he were healthy, he’d make two.

    Hockey is a team game, and the good teams have capable defensemen and capable forwards. One without the other doesn’t work against good teams. Look at the Preds, or the Canucks when they lose their defensemen every playoffs.

  • OilFan

    Ryan Whitney will continue to cost the Oilers games one of the most over rated dman in the league hands down. Why would every team he has played for trade him if he was such a good young dman ? He can’t skate ( we will use the injuries as an excuse) and when is the last time the play hasn’t died or ended up on the other teams stick when he has the puck ? Whitney hasn’t done anything for me to believe all his hype. I’d be ok with a depth dman in return for him since that what he is. Smid and Gilbert are above him Petry has outplayed him wow I will stop.

  • A-Mc

    Should the Oilers be looking to draft a potentially great D-Man? or should they look at trading some picks + players for an established one?

    I’m not talking theoretically: Weber isn’t coming here so lets stop naming people we WISH could come here.

    What are the chances the Oilers can pickup a good d-man that’s already established? I’m going to assume top 2-3 is out of the question unless we develop a draft pick INTO one.

    Is picking up a 4-5 D-Man good enough? or do we need much more than that?

    I’m not sure of the best route for the Oilers to land a successful back end. If a Realist could describe to me the different options ahead i would greatly appreciate it.

  • keilan

    I agree, and have always contended that contracts do mean something. It’s just that I hear conflicting reports from MSM (as mentioned) when contracts are mentioned and in the same breath they are said to not matter when it comes to playing time or what to do with a player (see Souray) yet whenever a trade is made or a new contract is put in place a guy is compared and contrasted and his numbers are run through a grinder directly compared to what he makes. Either they mean something or they don’t.

    I think they do.

  • keilan

    It’s easy for media members to fall in love with 6 because he’s a big personality who also seems like a fine fellow but all the questions that are bandied about regarding 83 should also be addressed to 6.

    It doesn’t take a vast intellect or astute observation skills to realize Ryan Whitney had an over-his-head season in ’11 and he is highly unlikely to be able to do that again. So, where does he fall if everything in the universe aligned and he could be fully healthy? Probably a 40 point dman who’s a bit better than Tom Gilbert.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    The biggest issue is if this is the beginning of the end of Whitney’s career; or maybe just the beginning of the end of him being a player you should be interested in paying or putting faith in.

    Right now he is one of the worst dmen in the league; he’s constantly falling down or forgetting about his own-zone coverage. He can’t fall much farther but the biggest issue is if a history of leg injuries will allow him to ascend once again.

    • Can you comprehend the possibility reporters can and do perform their jobs without “falling in love with” or disliking the players/coaches/managers on the team they cover?

      While your first paragraph is tame in comparison to the “lurking around the showers” type references you’ve made in the past, your basic premise remains the same.

      I’m capable of seeing Whitney for what he is, warts and all, without the dose of clarity you think you provide. Likewise Hemsky, whether he buys the house men beers on the road or is seen as a “good guy” or an aloof sort who’d rather skip the scrums and be on his way. Whitney isn’t hard to read because he hangs in and answers all the questions when things are tough. He feels lousy about his game right now. Hemsky prefers not to talk as much. He turned down interview requests today for a story I wrote for CP about how he, Horcoff and Smyth have struggled lately. That’s his call.

      And, yes, Whitney is a huge question mark moving forward because of the state of his ankle. You are not the only person who has figured this out.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        At no time have I made any references that could be extended to accusing anyone “of hanging around the showers.”

        I’ve said that guys in the MSM were easy on certain management folks; not because of hero worship but more out of fear.

        You just took that to a place that I never did and I have to stand in for myself lest anyone think that was ever part of my stance.

        Guys like 6 make your job easier and there’s no way you can’t appreciate that. And I get that.

        But I just wanted to say that he was never as good as he looked; at least not last season. 83 may be a sour MoFo but he’s done more for the Oilers than 6 ever has.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          well… I’ve got nothing to say about misattribution of quotes etc…

          but to the substance..

          I think Brownlee is right that most sports reporters can/do their jobs within the scope of the best practices of journalists. They attempt to be objective and inform their audiences. at least that is the goal that I believe most sports journalists aspire too…

          BUT… and here I think Brownlee might need to complicate his impression of the matter.

          Journalists (like everyone else) tend toward the affable and the conflictual.

          Look at just the affable: the case of Paul Bissonnette is instructive. The guy gets a lot of press. He was the sole guest on After Hours recently. Why? was it because he is a superstar hockey player? no. CBC bald faced admitted that it was because he has a funny twitter account.

          For a lot of reasons I can see both the wisdom

          (sports is a business and people are interested in him, he makes good copy; hockey – and every other business – sells more and is more than on-ice performance and stories about families, pets, tattoos, drugs, girls, etc.. fall legitimately into the “human interest” category)

          and the folly

          (detracts from the actual game and its real stars; sensationalizes non-hockey aspects; contributes very little of substance or information for the audience)

          of such a decision. But I think it is fair to say that there is a crossover effect between who the press and public at large find affable and who comes in for proportionally laxer scrutiny (and vice versa).

          Look at how Politics is covered. Does the press attempt to understand the complexities of legislation, the committee process, the bargaining that takes place between parties and branches of gov’t? Does it inform the audience in substantive ways?

          Inarguably the answer is yes… but only in a limited way. The press prefers to cover outlandish and interesting “characters” and the “conflicts” between parties contesting for power.

          The nature of the contests, the power involved and its responsibilities, the decisions made and their impact are way down ballot.

        • I stand corrected. The shower mention, in reaction to an item I wrote about Joffrey Lupul, referenced you but it was made by Pat at BDHS.

          “And Dennis, in a post about Lupul yesterday makes it clear that apparently Robin Brownlee at the Sun has joined Maguire in lurking around the Oilers’ showers, each in his Edmonton Oilers’ towel, Brownlee having a # 15 and Maguire #16 of course, just waiting for the boys to come in so they can wash their backs if need be. Apparently its not Joffrey’s fault that he has been a big bag of suck . . .”

          Full item here: http://www.blackdoghatesskunks.com/2006/12/soap-me-up-pierre-im-going-in.html

          A snippet from an item you wrote that prompted the shower reference:

          “There are still a lot of stories to write on the ’07 Oilers and some of them wouldn’t even have to be puff pieces. That’s probably not allowed in Oilerville mind you but Brownlee would’ve been better off writing a piece about how much JFJ misses his dog back in Quebec rather than raising the pen to defend a highly paid local who just isn’t doing the job.

          I’d give my left nut to cover the Oilers or any NHL team for that matter and at the end of the day I’d still have one testicle left.

          That’d still be probably one more than Brownlee currently posseses.”

          Full item here: http://vhockey.blogspot.com/search?q=Brownlee

          In the comments of the piece you wrote at IOF, you added:

          “I don’t necessarily think this was Lupul’s opinion but if Brownose was snooping around and asking him about finding a constant centre, then Lupul should’ve had the good sense to say that has nothing to do with his lack of production.”

          I was mistaken in tagging you with the shower reference. All you said was that I have no balls and I’m a brown noser.

          • A-Mc

            well yes but I didn’t say you were lurking around the shower and that was one of my main points:)

            In your defense – or mine – I don’t see anyone around that’s willing to take a piece out of the brass. I think that’s the atmosphere that’s been fostered around the club for the people who cover it.

            Anyway, you might be a fine fellow and I should have stressed that years ago. How you choose to – or not to – cover the team has nothing to do with how you are as a person.

          • keilan

            I watched Renney’s media conference this afternoon via video. If I hadn’t known better I’d have thought he was coaching a 1st place hockey team. He fielded several gift wrapped questions from the media with ease, calling each scribe by their first name. Very civil and almost scripted though I know it wasn’t.

            He kept using the phrase “but at the end of the day” which drives my around the bend!

            I waited for some type of urgency either from the media or Renney, I wanted to see some desperation or passion but none was evident to me at least. A real country club atmosphere where all participates knew their place.

          • keilan

            Many years ago when I was much more passionate about this club I said that being the Oilers GM was one of the easiest jobs in sports because there was no pressure from the media.