April 02 2011 08:36AM
The Taylor versus Tyler debate is a distant bell. Another long season in the L column is almost complete. Oiler fans have the draft lottery ahead of them, and then a spring filled with debates over this year's #1 and a plethora of possible roster moves. Let's get started.
We've already talked a little about some of the candidates for number one overall, and the debate will continue through draft evening. This is not a slam dunk for any of this year's models, and unlike last year it's a difficult race to follow because there are so many candidates. The debate will heat up after the draft lottery and the Oilers know where they'll pick.
- Do the Oilers address defense, center or grit with the top pick? I think they'll take Adam Larsson. Why? Well, Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor has taken a player "in the range" in the first round since becoming head scout: Jordan Eberle was selected 22nd overall in 2008 and all major scouting services had him in the first round--Bob McKenzie ranking him 29th (Redline Report had Eberle where he was taken, #22); MPS was chosen 10th overall (McKenzie had it pegged this time, #10 and Redline had the Swede #6) and Taylor Hall was #1 everywhere but Florida where a hanging chad made it unclear. Bob McKenzie had it Larsson, RNH, Landeskog and then Couturier in February and his final rankings are probably going to be similar. The smart money is on Larsson at this time.
- Do the Oilers stay with the NK-DD tandem in 11-12 or go shopping? Although Khabibulin has two more years on his contract and hiding him in the minors offers no relief, it's likely the Oilers will add some insurance at the position. It may come in the form of another Martin Gerber or the Oilers might end up being (Viktor) Fasth enough to sign a veteran Euro free agent.
- Will the Oilers make a big move this summer, either in trade or via free agent signing? I think the Oilers will make a few major signings this summer, but it won't be "big name" variety additions. They will sign Anton Lander and a few of the CHL kids, and I suspect a young man like Adam Larsson has an outstanding shot at an NHL job if he shows well at this fall's training camp. Viktor Fasth might not look like a huge item the day he's signed, but could go a long way to settling things in the cage. Should the Oilers begin next season with Dubnyk and Fasth as a tandem and Khabibublin deep in the heart of Oklahoma that should be considered a major move.
- Are the Oilers putting themselves in danger re:50 man list will all of these college signings? Edmonton has been active this spring, signing Tanner House, Taylor Fedun, Hunter Tremblay, Olivier Roy and Mark Arcobello. However, they have plenty of room for the Lander's and Hamiltons, as Capgeek tells us there are 27 (actually 29 with Tremblay and Arceobello added) along with 12 restricted free agents. Even if the Oilers sign all 12 rfa's--and they won't--that would leave 9 spots open on the 50 mission cap.
- What are they going to do about the powder blue-line? The Oilers have Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney, Jeff Petry and Kurtis Foster under NHL contracts for next season. RFA's include Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham and Taylor Chorney. Minor leaguers in the mix include Alex Plante, Colten Teubert, Taylor Fedun and Johan Motin. I think the Oilers will look at bringing Jim Vandermeer back for another year and assume Foster will be much better next season. A top 4 of Whitney-Petry, Smid-Gilbert seems likely from here, with Foster, Peckham and Vandermeer rounding out the NHL roster. This leaves Taylor Chorney in something of a no-man's land and I believe he may be dealt over the summer.
- What do the top 2 lines look like in the fall? I believe the Oilers will operate (as they have in the recent past) as if they can ice "three scoring lines" and the 9 names in play will be Horcoff, Gagner and Cogliano at center; Hall, MPS and Jones on LW and Hemsky, Eberle and Omark on RW. The wild card is that kid Hartikainen, who could be an ideal item in the ongoing effort to marry size, grit and brains to a skill line. His emergence late may impact the Ryan Jones contract.
- Will they spend a roster spot on Steve MacIntyre again this fall? Yes. The Oilers have invested money and minutes in developing a nuclear deterrent. Why stop now? He'll play 40 games a year under Renney.
- Which of the kids outside the pro portion of the organization has the best chance of making the big team in 11-12? Anton Lander. The Oilers have Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano and Colin Fraser as NHL contracts and minor leaguers Ryan O'Marra and Chris Vande Velde at the top of the depth chart. Lander's SEL experience should put him in the mix for that 4th spot, forcing Fraser to 13F (ahead of MacIntyre) or to OKC with Khabibulin.
- How will the Oilers handle round one of this year's draft? They'll pluck Larsson number one overall and make a trade up to around 15 in order to acquire C Mark McNeill from the PA Raiders.
- Is there an alternate universe on the draft? Yes. They draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and then trade up to get Duncan Siemens at around 15.
- Will they sign any free agents? I think they'll make a push for guys like Viktor Fasth in Europe and Boyd Gordon (57.9 faceoff %) this summer, but heaven knows if they'll be able to sign any NHL free agents. A year ago they signed Kurtis Foster and Gordon would fit into the "day 3" group of free agents so there's always a chance.
- Which NHL Oilers will be dealt this summer? There' s a difference between the men who are available and those who will be dealt. Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky might have been in play, but injuries might hold up deals in this regard. NOTE: I'm not suggesting the Oilers should trade either player, but in Hemsky's case he's outside the heart of the cluster age-wise and Gagner's being sent away might be possible should they choose RNH. Men like Kurtis Foster, Gilbert Brule and Taylor Chorney could be in play.
Nation Radio hits the airwaves again today, Noon to 2pm on Team 1260 radio. Scheduled to appear are Corey Graham, play-by-play voice of the Edmonton Oil Kings; Tom Benjamin, an outstanding Canucks blogger; Bruce McCurdy from Cult of Hockey; Lorne Molleken from the Saskatoon Blades; Jim Byers, play-by-play voice of the Oklahoma City Barons and Gregg Drinnan of Taking Note. I am overwhelmed by the number and quality of emails we get every week, and look forward to hearing from you at email@example.com again this morning.