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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#2 shanetrain
March 05 2011, 08:03AM
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We should be built to beat Calgary all over the ice. Thats all I have.

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#3 Chris.
March 05 2011, 09:33AM
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@ Lowetide:

I get the distinct feeling there won't be a strong push by management to really address holes and push into the offseason until the new building is in place.

They are going to bleed the faithful season ticket holders for a few more years, continue to deal away quality for futures, and intentionally slow the pace of progress. The business plan is to launch the new building with the promise of an allstar game, a good young team, and the possibility of a deep cup run. (All for the low, low price of a massive seat liscence fee to be paid by the same people who already made the galacial rebuild possible.)

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#4 shanetrain
March 05 2011, 11:06AM
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I don't believe for one second Shea Weber is available.

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#5 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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#6 @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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#7 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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#8 SumOil
March 05 2011, 09:14AM
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Lowetide wrote:

T-Roy: Scottie Upshall probably fits the template.

+1 LT. I will be really pleased if we are able to sign him!

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#9 K-UGER Industrial Smoothing
March 05 2011, 09:41AM
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SumOil wrote:

I dont know why brule is on your plans. Look for him to get traded at draft/ off season. I would love an Upshall Horc Eberle/Hemsky line

Brule can be an effective hockey player- how often have we seen Oilers give up on the 23-26 year old prospects. Its a process, and all it takes is one healthy season for any player to turn it around. You can't think that 37 points is going to be a career high for a 23 year old, can you?

Its not like an end all be all type situation by any means, Brule isn't the sticking point, but we will have to find someone to replace the speed and physicality, and we can see Brule has the shot and capability to put the puck in the net OCCASIONALLY, I just think at 23 hes not a bad fit on the third line, and hes willing to relish that role too, which is hard to get some NHLers to buy into.

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#10 Hands McDangles
March 05 2011, 10:23AM
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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/

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#11 shanetrain
March 05 2011, 10:32AM
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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/

Glencross and Shane O'Brien.

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#12 chet
March 05 2011, 10:44AM
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I'm also hearing reports that Shea Weber may be moved cuz Nashville doesn't have the budget to sign him to long term contract. Isn't Weber a Alberta boy and we have the quality prospects with low price contracts.

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#13 Quicksilver ballet
March 05 2011, 10:50AM
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Ripping their arms off and then beating said opponent with the wet end is a difficult job...but someone has to do it.

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

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#15 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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#16 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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#17 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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#18 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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#19 T-Roy
March 05 2011, 08:15AM
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I like this direction. Any thoughts on possible free agents that would roughen the forwards a little?

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#20 shanetrain
March 05 2011, 08:35AM
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Get Glencross back for a start! Overpay a bit to show him we messed up with the Hossa B.S. 5 years/12-15 million?

Looking at the UFA list on Capgeek there is bonafide talent up and down the board.

This season is an absolute joke for the beloved Oil. I feel for the season ticket people. There was no reason to tank this year as there was role players available just like there will be again this summer.

Tambellini has an incredible opportunity to really put his stamp down this offseason.

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#21 michael
March 05 2011, 08:42AM
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I like Landeskog. All I can think of when I hear lets draft Courtier is Jason Arnott or Jason Bonsignor names ringing through my head. We have had no luck drafing big centers.Stick to to what we know works for us. And that would be Landeskog.Plus his first name isn't Jason.

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#22 shanetrain
March 05 2011, 08:46AM
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Yes to Upshall.

I have no opinion on the 'top 5' because I have not really seen them play. I did like what I saw of Larsson in the xmas tourney.

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#23 Next Year Country
March 05 2011, 08:48AM
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Great article Lowetide.

I was @ the game. Unfortunately i didn't look away. To tell the truth, I think we have too many little wings, so Landeskog might help us keep on growing. I keep on hoping that it's not too late and that any day now, my love for the Oil doesn't have to be so sad. The upside for the Oil is still bright, so I think they will defy the old axiom that nobody knows you when you're down and out.

Until then, I say to the Oil, I am your(s) loyal fan and sooth myself by listening to one of the greatest songs of all time, Layla.

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#25 a lg dubl dubl
March 05 2011, 09:01AM
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Im hoping the Oil take Dave Musil with the pick from LA, pretty sure he'll turn out like like his old man, but thats just my 2 cents.Still hoping ST gets rid of Gilbert this off season(there has to be a god right?).

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#26 Senator Theo
March 05 2011, 09:02AM
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When I read "Tyler Dellow" I always hear the voice of Brian Fellows. http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1071125/brian_fellows_safari_planet_part_1/

It will be interesting today to see how close that is. Looking forward to the show!

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#27 SumOil
March 05 2011, 09:10AM
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I really really like Dougie Hamilton, If we are able to trade up and grab him, this will be a great draft.

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#28 K-UGER Industrial Smoothing
March 05 2011, 09:28AM
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@lowetide

I suggested Scottie Upshall (who is UFA) to Chase and he did not like that option. Said he was too soft- I whole heartedly disagreed.

Its impossible- there are so such thing as soft hockey players from Fort Mac.

Just imagine a line with Upshall-Horc-Brule on third line, its got the speed, talent and grit that could be effective on any other team in the NHL.

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#29 SumOil
March 05 2011, 09:32AM
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@K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

I dont know why brule is on your plans. Look for him to get traded at draft/ off season. I would love an Upshall Horc Eberle/Hemsky line

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#30 Hands McDangles
March 05 2011, 09:36AM
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Lowetide,

Great article.

- I agree with drafting Landeskoog. They need to start putting a premium on these types of big/physical players in the draft and free agency.

-They need to re-sign Vandermere and hopefully Plante can replace Strudwick as that 6-7 guy next year.

- Cogliano/Omark/Gagne- I only see one of these 3 on the team in two years. With Hemsky staying, I see them sending Omark for sure but I'm not sure whether Gagne or Cogs will stay.

- Question: If they draft a winger, where do you think they get a top 6 centre? Trade or Free agency?

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#31 Hands McDangles
March 05 2011, 09:39AM
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Chris. wrote:

@ Lowetide:

I get the distinct feeling there won't be a strong push by management to really address holes and push into the offseason until the new building is in place.

They are going to bleed the faithful season ticket holders for a few more years, continue to deal away quality for futures, and intentionally slow the pace of progress. The business plan is to launch the new building with the promise of an allstar game, a good young team, and the possibility of a deep cup run. (All for the low, low price of a massive seat liscence fee to be paid by the same people who already made the galacial rebuild possible.)

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).

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#33 Denny
March 05 2011, 09:40AM
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More on Jamie Oleksiak from Mock Draft Mania:

My thoughts on Jamie Oleksiak some NHL mock drafts have him going in the middle of round 1 while others have him going in the middle of round 3.  Oleksiak is so talented in terms of physical skills and size that I think he becomes the next Chris Pronger.  Heck he could become the next Nicholas Lidstrom.  Think Chris Chelios with Eric Lindros’s size.  That’s what your getting in Jamie Oleksiak.  That’s pretty scary if you ask me. If he can stay focused and improve his discipline Jamie Oleksiak could be the guy that everyone talks about down the road.

Lowetide, what about Nugent-Hopkins? Based on your article you make it seem as though the Oilers aren't considering RNH as a potential #1. This is from Craigs List on TSN:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a premier centre who creates offense and makes everybody around him better. He has great vision  and creativity, his hands are quick and he is a superb passer. Don't worry about his stature, he is extremely elusive and very difficult to check. The Oilers selecting him would add a perfect compliment to Taylor Hall who has the ability to score 50 goals. Playing with a player like Nugent-Hopkins could help him realize that lofty achievement. He reminds me of a Brad Richards in his style and abilities.

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#34 Rusty Trombone
March 05 2011, 09:42AM
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T-Roy wrote:

I like this direction. Any thoughts on possible free agents that would roughen the forwards a little?

I'm sure he's not the most popular guy in Oil Country at the moment but I'd love to have a guy like Dorsett on our team. He brings intensity to every shift.

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#35 Shane
March 05 2011, 09:45AM
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I like the style that Landeskog brings on the wing and we have room there now with Penner gone but do you take a guy who sits 45th!! in OHL scoring with the 1st Overall??

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#36 SumOil
March 05 2011, 09:47AM
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Kirk Luedeke on Orleskiak

"Jamie Oleksiak is gi-normous, but probably overrated at 27. Who doesn't love 6-7 d-men with condor-like wingspans, but he's much more Hal Gill than he is Zdeno Chara or Tyler Myers. "

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#38 Chris.
March 05 2011, 10:02AM
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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).

Then why the Penner deal? I'm not suggesting management would intentionally sabotoge a season to try and enter the playoffs for the first time in a new building... I'm making the observation that the timeline and subsequent spin around this rebuild keeps getting longer, and seems to be tracking (~coincidentally I'm sure~) syncronous to the progress of the downtown arena project.

If Land-urier-hopkin-sson can step in next season and contribute, and the H.O.P.E crew can avoid sophmore slumps; this team would have been in a position to at least compete for a playoff spot past the all-star break... Now I'm not so sure: it's always one step forward followed by a step back.

So my take: Penner for futures was a clear, calculated, slowing of the pace... BTW, who thinks this new slower pace may disuade Hemsky from extending? If Hemsky doesn't extend does that give Lowe/Tambellini a new goat excuse to slow the pace even more?

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#39 chet
March 05 2011, 10:14AM
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Lowetide, we have to change the dynamics of team ie soft, small, one dimensional, won't go into the tough areas. Thats great drafting RNH and Couturier but these guys are the same type of players we have now. Landeskog is big, nasty, gritty, goes into the tough areas, leader and NHL ready. In the off season we have to change our team by trading or releasing Omark,Hemsky,Foster,Gilbert, Reddox,Jacques, Fraser and hopefully getting players back or picks that bring size, grit and players that are tough to play against. If not this club isn't going anywhere and we will be a easy team to play against.

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#40 Mitch
March 05 2011, 10:19AM
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@Lowetide

Unless the Oilers scouts are blind, we need to draft Larson. The Oilers have been drafting highly skilled forwards in the 1st round for 20 yrs, only recently they have had success. The reminder of Pronger and what that type of dman brings to the roster is why you draft Larson. Also with all the other swedish picks it's another good reason, if you don't pick Larson go with the other highly touted winger Landeskoog. True Grit and toughness that it takes to be a champion is what is clearly lacking.

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#41 Hands McDangles
March 05 2011, 10:26AM
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@Mitch

The Oilers have not had a lot of top 10 picks in their history. Picking highly skilled forwards outside of the top 10 is a bit of a lottery. Look at drafts from the last 10 years. But, when you pick skilled forwards in the top 10 there is a very good chance they will work out.

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#42 chet
March 05 2011, 10:38AM
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If you want to get the LA pick into the top ten then we have to trade a player off our roster(Gagner)then we have a chance to get a Strome or Huberdeau

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#43 Hands McDangles
March 05 2011, 10:44AM
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@shanetrain

I like it...Calgary has a lot of money tied up in no-trade clause/overpaid older players.

Glencross has 21 goals now...wonder how hard other teams will go after him?

O'brien fits that mold of big physical d-men. Do you know why he has only averaged 60+ games/year?

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#44 buttermilk buscuits
March 05 2011, 10:47AM
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Could Hall be the Messier, RNH be the Gretz, Eberle be the Kurri.. Of course RNH is no Gretzky, but plays a game similar and with similar height+weight.. I see it now....

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#45 freeze
March 05 2011, 10:52AM
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@chet

If they pulled that off I think I'd have a heart attack!

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#46 Hands McDangles
March 05 2011, 10:53AM
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@chet

I agree...here is Landeskog's TSN feature...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01XymQDXh04

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#47 buttermilk buscuits
March 05 2011, 10:55AM
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Weber would fit right in on the Oilers blue line and would get rid of the need to draft the questionable Larsson.. So after a package of picks+players Oilers would draft two in the top five, is an RNH or Coutourier+Langeskog the way to go..I think it is..or we really load up on D by still drafting Larsson and RNH or Coutourier at center

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#48 Hands McDangles
March 05 2011, 10:58AM
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@Chris.

We have no idea what went on behind closed doors with Penner. Also, the Pittsburgh/Chicago re-builds both took more than 2 seasons so I don't see why they would try rushing this one.

I just don't think Katz went to Tambo and said 'slow this thing down, I want our Cup to be won in the new rink'

Wouldn't one last cup run at good ol' Rexall be a good send off for that aging beauty?

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#49 Hands McDangles
March 05 2011, 11:00AM
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@buttermilk buscuits

How many times have teams been successfull trading into the top 5 in the last 10 years? I don't know the answer but I just don't see teams giving those picks away. I don't think Gagne plus the Kings pick would get it done.

Gagne +kings #1+ our #2 (essentially a late #1)?

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#50 Kaiser Wilhelm
March 05 2011, 11:03AM
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Every time someone mentions Weber's name on this post, my hopes foolishly rise. Dang, that would be awesome. . . would Omark, the 1st pick, and either Brule or Cogliano do it?

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