Key to the Highway

Lowetide
March 05 2011 08:00AM

This has been a tumultuous week for Edmonton Oiler fans. Dustin Penner dealt for futures, Hemsky down again and the Golden boy out for the season courtesy the one thing he can't do (fight) leaves Oilers Nation with the Bell Bottom Blues. Fortunately, the Oilers website has an article up that offers the Key to the Highway.

Ryan Dittrick has an article up at the Oilers website called The Progress Report: A New Identity (it is here). Dittrick gives readers a nice glance into the mindset of the organization at this time. I'm not going to quote all of the pertinent items but did want to highlight two areas of interest. First, discussing the callup of defender Alex Plante:

  • Plante’s game is driven to achieve a targeted model. He brings an overwhelming physical presence that features a nasty edge unrivaled among his peers. It’s another stone in the wall to help Edmonton establish its new brand. 

The article discusses speed, skill and high overall talent up front, then spends a lot of time pointing out the size, strength and grit of the new blue (Tom Gilbert is not mentioned in the article). I think it gives us an indication about the future of the Oilers defense from now on, and it's clear the MA Bergeron's of the world need not apply. The Oilers backline is going to be big, tough, strong and willing to compete physically every shift:

  1. Ryan Whitney 6.03, 210 and 1 major in 35 games
  2. Tom Gilbert 6.03, 206 and 0 majors in 65 games
  3. Ladislav Smid 6.03, 226 and 2 majors in 61 games
  4. Kurtis Foster 6.05, 226 and 1 major in 61 games
  5. Theo Peckham 6.02, 234 and 7 majors in 60 games
  6. Jim Vandermeer 6.01, 214 and 3 majors in 45 games
  7. Jason Strudwick 6.04, 226 and 3 majors in 27 games
  8. Jeff Petry 6.03, 196 and 0 majors in 21 games

Alex Plante is 6.03, 225 and has 10 majors in Oklahoma City. I expect he's auditioning for the 6-7D position next season and with the organization loading up on willing fighters it's his chance to show the organization he's ready to bend it like Peckham. If he can be a thorn tree in the garden, Plante might have an NHL future.

In regard to the draft, big defender Dougie Hamitlon would fit the more complete player profile (Whitney, possibly Petry) and a kid named Jamie Oleksiak is a perfect fit for the tougher Oilers. He's 6.07, 220 and is durable. He's tough, big and has some skill. If I were to guess the name of the player Edmonton chooses with the recently acquired (from LAK) first round pick it would be Oleksiak. Redline report says this about him:

  • Jamie Oleksiak (Northeastern University) — Biggest man in the entire draft, and plays a solid brand of defense, too. Even developing some puckhandling skills. What's not to like?

The other item in the article from Dittrick is this one:

  • With balance in mind, the Oilers are looking to develop a championship-caliber squad that features explosive offensive talent, along with the studded defensive style to complement the creative side.

If this is indeed how the organization plans to keep on growing, then any Oilers who could be described as little wing should know it's too late. Candidates might include Linus Omark and Liam Reddox.

Based on this article, I think we should add Gabriel Landeskog to the list as a consideration for #1 overall. With Dustin Penner leaving the organization, Landeskog's hard-nosed style and skill might be what the club is looking for at the draft. I remain convinced it'll come down to Adam Larsson versus Sean Couturier for the Oilers at #1, but Landeskog's resume fits Dittirck's future like a glove.

--

Another edition of Nation Radio goes today. Among the guests "scheduled to appear" are Tyler Dellow from MC79 hockey, Jason Gregor from Oilers Nation and Kent Simpson from the Oil Kings hockey broadcasts on Team 1260. You can email questions and comments (I got about 25 last week, sweet! and thank you!) to nationradio@theteam1260.com this morning. Show goes noon to 2pm today.

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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 Peterborough
March 05 2011, 12:00PM
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Did you not see that HUGE elbow that got him kicked out of the WJC??? He's got everything.

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#52 sailorjerry66
March 05 2011, 12:00PM
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i dunno how to do quotes...

but yeah man madden would be good for the 3rd line. comes with stanley cup experience, vet experience in general and could do what Oates did for Stoll and the other centers a few years ago. sign him to a year contract

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#53 shanetrain
March 05 2011, 12:04PM
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@sailorjerry66

Whoever you are trying to quote just hit the reply button on their comment box.

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#54 freeze
March 05 2011, 12:07PM
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@sailorjerry66

I think they looked into Madden the last time he was UFA and he didn't have any interest in coming to a rebuild.

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#55 JACKPOT
March 05 2011, 12:47PM
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LANDESKOG GETS MY VOTE AND THAT HUMAN TREE OLEKSIAK OR WHATEVER HIS NAME HIS WITH A LATE ROUND PICK IF AVAILABLE.

WHENS TRAINING CAMP ? ESKIES-YOU BETTER ROCK THIS SUMMER. NUFF SAID.

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#56 Hemmertime
March 05 2011, 12:58PM
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o I hate Tyler Dellow. I should call

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#57 David S
March 05 2011, 12:59PM
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Hands McDangles wrote:

Chris, I completely disagree with you. When this team is ready to contend, management will not hold them back because the new building isn't ready. Regardless of the status on a new building, the Oil would love the extra revenue from a playoff run (even in Rexall).

@Chris - You might notice that "when the team is ready to contend" and "new arena completion date" seem to intersect at roughly the same point in time.

That being said, there's a whack of space between 30th and contention. I find it incomprehensible that "making the playoffs" wasn't on the schedule for next year. Its almost like there's some mysterious point in this rebuild map code named "lightbulb". That being the projected time when this team goes from basement dweller to SC contender.

It stuns me that progression does not seem to be part of the equation, either for management or fans. Hey man, most realists would be happy with a couple of rounds in the playoffs on a regular basis, knowing full well that only two teams get to duke it out in the end.

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#58 David S
March 05 2011, 01:01PM
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JACKPOT wrote:

LANDESKOG GETS MY VOTE AND THAT HUMAN TREE OLEKSIAK OR WHATEVER HIS NAME HIS WITH A LATE ROUND PICK IF AVAILABLE.

WHENS TRAINING CAMP ? ESKIES-YOU BETTER ROCK THIS SUMMER. NUFF SAID.

http://salakka.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/caps-lock-priveldges1.jpg

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#59 DSG
March 05 2011, 01:28PM
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Lowetide - I was just about to write on your blog about Jamie Oleksiak. That is whole lot of human... If there is any guy the Oilers should be targeting in the middle of the draft he looks like a great candidate. MVP of the Beanpot if I am not mistaken.

Also can we please start being realistic about Couturier? The guy is falling... He was always touted as a two way player and not the second coming of Mario. 2 way centers are available elsewhere in the draft. I just think he is going to end up falling down the draft like Angelo Esposito.

Lets start focusing on the real top candidates. Landeskog, RNH, Larsson... Maybe Strome?

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#60 chet
March 05 2011, 02:00PM
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@Peterborough

Hey Peterborough, i respect your opinion that Landeskog may not be a good fit for the Oilers but when a kid is 17 years old 6 foot 207lbs. Wow the kid can only go up in size. By the time he hits 22 to 23 yrs old, he'll be playing at 215lbs to 220lbs. Google this kid and you'll be on board. Larsson is not a bad option or try to trade for a defenseman

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#61 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
March 05 2011, 02:30PM
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DSG wrote:

Lowetide - I was just about to write on your blog about Jamie Oleksiak. That is whole lot of human... If there is any guy the Oilers should be targeting in the middle of the draft he looks like a great candidate. MVP of the Beanpot if I am not mistaken.

Also can we please start being realistic about Couturier? The guy is falling... He was always touted as a two way player and not the second coming of Mario. 2 way centers are available elsewhere in the draft. I just think he is going to end up falling down the draft like Angelo Esposito.

Lets start focusing on the real top candidates. Landeskog, RNH, Larsson... Maybe Strome?

I can't believe how many people are overlooking Couturier's offense.

He's blowing the other top draft eligible players away offensively people.

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#62 DSG
March 05 2011, 02:37PM
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Yes he has offense but I think everyone realizes he is scoring at that pace in the Q.

Strome is ranked lower but has similar stats in the OHL.

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#63 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
March 05 2011, 03:04PM
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DSG wrote:

Yes he has offense but I think everyone realizes he is scoring at that pace in the Q.

Strome is ranked lower but has similar stats in the OHL.

I'd like to see something more conclusive then "but it's in the Q" before I start dropping him down the rankings.

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#64 @NateInVegas
March 05 2011, 04:21PM
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Christian Ehrhoff seems like a good transitional player IMO.

28 year old pending UFA with almost 500 NHL games played, capable of 22mpg, and 40 points.

Whitney & Gilbert would benefit from Ehrhoff, they wouldn't play huge minutes over the next 3 years.

The Oilers need depth and it will cost to get him, $20.5/ 4 years ?($5.5, $5.5, $5.0, and $4.5)

Vancouver probably wouldn't pay that much, but it makes sense for Edmonton without giving up prospects or picks.

Smid, Peckham, Petry, Marincin, *Larsson* ? can develop at a more reasonable rate.

Would he go from 1st to worst though?

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#65 Ken
March 05 2011, 04:53PM
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It seems we are going to put a whole lot of faith in Stu. Isnt he the guy that said after he saw Hall get smashed by Hamonic that thas was it .It would be Seguin and only changed his mind after Hall scored hilite reel goal. Holy moly i didnt think an injury would be that big a factor, Lord help us!!!!

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#66 Ben Dover
March 05 2011, 04:59PM
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Hands McDangles wrote:

If you were Steve Tambo and had to pick up one free agent d-man and one forward to help this team next year...who would you pick up?

Under $2 Million per guy...

http://www.sportscity.com/nhl/2011-nhl-free-agents-by-position-unrestricted/

I can't limit my list to just two players. If I was the Oilers G.M. on July 1st, I'd be very aggressive about going after the right UFA's this summer. No pie in the sky offers like past fiascos. Only real players that justify a slight overpay if necessary to convince them to play for a rebuilding team with potential.

"IF" the plan is to finally start improving and trying to win next season, the roster has some glaring holes, particularly in the bottom six. Unfortunately, we don't have any fully developed prospects ready to step up and contribute immediately. We need some character and experience ASAP, and have the cap space to acquire it. Let the prospects get their feet wet when injuries hit, but fill the holes now.

I'd sign Zenon Konopka (C) and Ben Eager (LW) to play on the 4th line with Stortini, and then purge MacIntyre and Jacques. Konopka and Eager are hard-working, stand-up guys that can contribute up to 10 minutes a night, skate, hit, agitate and drop the mitts with almost anyone without embarrassing themselves. Konopka's a proven ace on the dot as well, which is sorely needed right now. Stortini isn't a bad player and deserves a second shot in my opinion. This would be the toughest 4th line in the league, yet capable of playing a fairly regular and responsible shift.

I'd sign Joel Ward (RW) and one of Curtis Glencross or Scottie Upshall (LW) for the 3rd line. Ward is a big body that bangs and chips in offensively, plus a character guy with a good story. Glencross and Upshall are both Alberta boys with qualities needed on any good team; though Upshall might be more likely to sign as he hasn't been spurned by the Oilers before. Throw one of the little fellas (Gagner, Cogliano or Brule) in the middle and that rounds out the bottom six nicely. If the Bastard drafts a center with the first pick, these types of players would also provide a nice cushion for him to learn the ropes.

As for defense, I'd re-sign Jim Vandermeer for less money. He struggled early, but I've been pleasantly surprised with his play and smiling toughness the last few months. Then I'd go hard after Jonathon Ericsson. Detroit probably doesn't want to let him go, and he'd probably prefer to stay put or go to another contender, but the Oilers can afford to overpay if needed.

These UFA signings would all be within reason dollar-wise, bring a dramatic improvement in size and toughness, and allow the skilled youth and incoming prospects to develop without fear and bullying from tougher teams. They're also all young enough to re-sign in 2 or 3 years if the team is finally ready for actual contention in the playoffs. Plus, we wouldn't have to trade any picks or prospects, and it would at long last force the decision to jettison at least a couple of the small and/or fringe forwards gumming up the works.

Then again, I'm not a dopey, monotone, fickle goof like Tambellini who will probably just re-sign Strudwick and stand pat citing a need to develop from within for the next 4-6 years.

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#67 Peterborough
March 05 2011, 05:26PM
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chet wrote:

Hey Peterborough, i respect your opinion that Landeskog may not be a good fit for the Oilers but when a kid is 17 years old 6 foot 207lbs. Wow the kid can only go up in size. By the time he hits 22 to 23 yrs old, he'll be playing at 215lbs to 220lbs. Google this kid and you'll be on board. Larsson is not a bad option or try to trade for a defenseman

True, he is a beast; however, he's not going to get any taller. We need top 6 (and bottom 6 for that matter) that are 6'2"+ With Penner gone we need more reach up there. I like him he's going to be a great player. Its a crap shoot this year with several players that each have unique abilities that would benefit the Oil.

I trust Stu to make the right choice.

(Who could doubt him after last years draft?)

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#68 Peterborough
March 05 2011, 05:36PM
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@Ben Dover

I like the way you think! Maybe Have Brooks Laich as a thrid line option and Michael Rupp as a forth? James Wisniewski on D?

I like the way you think! Maybe Have Brooks Laich as a thrid line option and Michael Rupp as a forth? James Wisniewski on D?

But only the 4th liners are taking under 2 mil. We have to over pay to get good third liners. Two year contracts so the money is off the books when its time to sign the big three to long term deals.

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#69 wayne
March 05 2011, 06:00PM
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@DSG

What are you basing your comments that Couturier is falling on? I am guessing nothing more than the prospect rankings. If you having been paying any attention, over the last while Couturier has been putting up really nice numbers and scoring goals.

As far as Larsson going #1, the last I heard he had one goal. If you arent getting offensive from him there is no way he should go #1. And RNH, other than his hat trick a couple games ago, he really hasnt done much lately. The Oilers dont need another small skilled player. Lets aim for a centre on this team over 6'.

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#70 chet
March 05 2011, 07:46PM
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@Peterborough

Your right, stu has done a great job in the last three years but having Hall Eberle RNH on your topline with MPS Hemsky Gagner on your second. Wow a lot of dynamic, creative, very skilled players but no size and whos going to win the puck along the boards. We will get manhandled. Worse than it is now. I think with Hemskys latest injury, maybe we look to trade him for a prospect and a top pick cuz are we willing to take a chance by signing Hemsky to a 4-5yr contract at 5 million. I wouldn't. Three first round picks, we must hit a home run with two out of the three picks. Think positive people.

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#71 Chris.
March 05 2011, 10:56PM
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DSG wrote:

Yes he has offense but I think everyone realizes he is scoring at that pace in the Q.

Strome is ranked lower but has similar stats in the OHL.

Yeah, points in the Q are meaningless... Just ask Sidney Crosby.

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#72 Peterborough
March 06 2011, 05:27AM
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@chet

I don't like RNH. He is a good player but not a need ditto a winger. We need a vet in the top 6 (Hemsky) its too expensive to trade for a good one and no top 6 is signing with us. Gotta keep Hemmer (at least till next trade deadline. All this trade for a centre talk . . . it ain't gonna happen. Every team is looking for a top two centreman (except maybe Pittsburg but this year who knows) We need a #1 centre and a #1 D-man. Yes We could use tough physical big body wingers, but its not nearly as pressing. And again I want mine to 6'3" or bigger.

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#73 chet
March 06 2011, 09:55AM
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We have to realize that Kovalchuk set the bar on his trade value at the trade deadline when he was going to be a potincial UFA at the end of the season. We're talking about a multi 40 goal player at the time and what did Atlanta getfor him. Nothing, so if we wait til nexts seasons trade deadline to trade Hemsky, we will get less value then we would at the draft. I was one of those homers that wanted to keep either Hemsky or penner but now its bitten us on the ass. Get something for him ASAP. In the last 20 games Gagner and cogs have been testing our emotions with there play ie last nights game against the aves. Topline centermans and d man don't grow on trees especially 6 '3' 200 something pounders. Note to Tambo from us the arm chair quarterbacks and presidents, make a tough decision, package Hemsky, Cogs, Gagner, Burle, Gilbert, Omark, Foster, Fraser or Jacques together and find us that top center or d-man. I feel if were still spinning our wheels next year at this time and we haven't seen an improvement in the standing, YOU MUST GO AND TAKE LOWE WITH YOU

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#74 wiseguy
March 06 2011, 02:47PM
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Hands McDangles wrote:

If you were Steve Tambo and had to pick up one free agent d-man and one forward to help this team next year...who would you pick up?

Under $2 Million per guy...

http://www.sportscity.com/nhl/2011-nhl-free-agents-by-position-unrestricted/

Not a UFA, but with the amount of cap space the Oilers have, I'd look an an overpay RFA offer for Doughty if he doesn't sign before the deadline.

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#75 Team Hall
March 06 2011, 03:23PM
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Well written again LT, however, I don't see anything in your quote which would preclude Omark and Brule being here. Explosive offensive talent would surely include them.

Studded defense would seem to indicate a dissatisfaction with Gilberts game however.

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#76 Team Couturier
March 06 2011, 03:25PM
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I would like to cast my ballot for Couturier. Larsson could be Lidstrom, but could be Pitkanen or Gilbert as well. Hard to say, however, I believe the term "studded defense" would preclude Larsson. Couturier it is. Size and skill, that is combination we have none of.

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