The Push

Jonathan Willis
November 13 2013 08:49AM

At this point, it seems all but certain that the 2013-14 season is done for the Oilers. The team is in a hole so deep in a conference so good that clawing back into a playoff spot is going to be an extremely difficult proposition. Given that, does it make sense to start the tank job and go for the best available pick?

Not on your life.

RE-BUILD

Rebuild has gotten to be an ugly word in Edmonton, but the idea is sound. The trouble is that the Oilers have only been able to execute one part of it.

Via dictionary.com:

"Withdrawal or backward motion" pretty much sums up the Edmonton Oilers post-Pronger. But that's only half the battle.

Again from dictionary.com:

Pick a definition; that's the plan now. The Oilers need to construct a better NHL team. They need to establish, increase and/or strengthen their ability to compete with other clubs. They need to mold or form young players into championship-calibre professionals. And on and on it goes.

The Edmonton Oilers are masters of “re-.” They’ve got “re-“ down cold. It’s the whole “build” part of the word that was always going to be much, much more difficult and seems to have the organization flummoxed.

Tossing The Season

That’s why it’s important that general manager Craig MacTavish not toss his hands in the air and say ‘forget it, we’ll move the vets at the deadline and take the pick.’ That portion of the rebuild needs to be over. That’s not to say that pending free agents that aren’t in the plans can’t be let go at the deadline – just that the focus has to be on building the team for next year.

Draft picks are a long-term investment that, if they pay off at all, pay off years down the road. This isn’t a team that needs more draft picks. This isn't a team that needs the highest possible first overall pick this summer.

The lone focus here, with this season already all but over, has to be on making the playoffs next season – and the best way to do that is to do everything possible to make and keep the team competitive this season. Even if that means picking 10th overall rather than in the top-five. 

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 Dave
November 13 2013, 09:13AM
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Can a team tank when it never got up from the bottom ? This is just business as usual for the Oilers.

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#2 Drowning in Oil
November 13 2013, 09:02AM
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Boys on the bus............. It is sad to think these boys have grown into men that are destroying an organization from the top down!!

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#3 tileguy
November 13 2013, 09:28AM
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I can't stop (weeping, chuckling) over the angst season ticket holders are going through.Tanking the season in November. What a joke this organization has become.

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#4 Bob
November 13 2013, 09:51AM
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One time I rebuilt a shed.

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#5 VK63
November 13 2013, 09:40AM
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Drowning in Oil wrote:

BUFFALO FIRES THEIR COACH and GM after a crappy start..... PHILLY FIRES THEIR COACH after a crappy star..... and in EDMONTON ??? What do the Oilers do to shake things up??? They trade our grittiest D-man and bring in a goaltender that was absolutely IGNORED BY 29 other teams!!!

Y u heff 2 be mad?

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#6 Drowning in Oil
November 13 2013, 09:33AM
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BUFFALO FIRES THEIR COACH and GM after a crappy start..... PHILLY FIRES THEIR COACH after a crappy star..... and in EDMONTON ??? What do the Oilers do to shake things up??? They trade our grittiest D-man and bring in a goaltender that was absolutely IGNORED BY 29 other teams!!!

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#7 Todd
November 13 2013, 09:45AM
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Smokey wrote:

That's why more then ever its time to get new direction. Katz needs to come outta his cave and change the culture of loosing.

The Yak mess shows how bad it is that Larionov feels compelled to fly to Edmonton to get their ____ straight. Yak getting thrown under a bus. Sure he's sucked and needs to grow a pair, but so does MacT and Klowe.

I would never expect this coming from Klowe or MacT but an apology to the extent of this mess would be nice. Take some ownership. And Eakins needs to stop preaching accountability and start actually showing it. Bench your vets, or play Yak when he screws up.

Since Willis is doing a grammar lesson in his article... LOOSING is not a word. Losing is.

As Oiler fans we should at least know how to spell LOSING properly.

Just sayin

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#8 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 09:04AM
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oilfan in yyc wrote:

Every time I see a picture or shot of the Oilers bench I can't help but think of the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen". Do they really need 3 assistants on the bench giving a multitude of directions?

It's what the Oilers are good at: adding unending layers of coaches, VP's, directors, advisors, consultants, and presidents to the hockey operations department. They are innovators in superfluous corporate bloat.

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#9 Hockey Problems
November 13 2013, 10:13AM
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Bob wrote:

One time I rebuilt a shed.

Did it take 8 years because you had to fire and rehire 4 hammers, 3 sheets of plywood, and a special lock that "swarms" anyone trying to enter your "zone" ?

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#10 Bob
November 13 2013, 10:02AM
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I re-shingled it and I fixed the door on it. I put new windows in it too. It took me all afternoon but it was a nice day.

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#11 Big Cap
November 13 2013, 10:05AM
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With Eakins, MacT and Lowe setting the Oiler record for the fastest bombing of a season (beating their own previous record) I hope they continue to manage and play guys like Smyth, Eager, N. Schultz as much as possible while Eakins continues his blowhard views of how the young guys have to "earn it" and "learn the system".

With another season shot, Our young guys and future roster players should be playing in every situation possible. If not now, then when? When we are in the Conference Final??? PS - Nuge will be 35 years by then.

Eakins has been the Biggest bust in the last 10 years, maybe since Jason Bonsignore. He's demolished our once successful PP and PK, and implemented this ridiculous "swarm defense". Tell us again how we will be the most fit team and the most ultra competitive unit in the league for all 60 minutes.

PS - Thank you to both MacT and Lowe for Green Lighting this coaching hire.

PPS - Katz, enjoy the Caribbean. See you in March when you get back to start hitting us season ticket holders up for next years deposit. Plus 6 percent increase, of coarse.

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#12 Bob
November 13 2013, 09:57AM
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Another time I rebuilt an old bike

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#13 DSF
November 13 2013, 10:46AM
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Cam Cole ‏@rcamcole 4m

Now here's a stat to ponder: @mc79hockey The Oilers are the 29th worst defensive team in the NHL when Yakupov isn't on the ice.

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#14 DSF
November 13 2013, 10:58AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

He hired Tambellini and kept him in that position for 5 years while the franchise spiralled into disaster.

That's all on Lowe

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#15 Smokey
November 13 2013, 09:01AM
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That's why more then ever its time to get new direction. Katz needs to come outta his cave and change the culture of loosing.

The Yak mess shows how bad it is that Larionov feels compelled to fly to Edmonton to get their ____ straight. Yak getting thrown under a bus. Sure he's sucked and needs to grow a pair, but so does MacT and Klowe.

I would never expect this coming from Klowe or MacT but an apology to the extent of this mess would be nice. Take some ownership. And Eakins needs to stop preaching accountability and start actually showing it. Bench your vets, or play Yak when he screws up.

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#17 Lowe Expectations
November 13 2013, 10:33AM
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This rebuild looks like the birdhouse Homer Simpson made.

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#18 oilfan in yyc
November 13 2013, 08:59AM
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Every time I see a picture or shot of the Oilers bench I can't help but think of the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen". Do they really need 3 assistants on the bench giving a multitude of directions?

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#19 Reg Dunlop
November 13 2013, 09:41AM
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I think the concept of 'rebuild' started with local media. The team was woeful and media floated the idea that the oil was intentionally tanking to get higher draft picks to which oil mgmt. said, 'uh...ya, rebuild, that's what we are doing'. This situation is the result of incompetence only. There is no plan.

Regardless, this is pro hockey, always play to win. Even though that concept cost us Monohan last year it earned us Nurse. Go oil.

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#20 Lowe Expectations
November 13 2013, 09:30AM
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Being a fan is like being an addict. We are all waiting for that great high but all we get is the cheap crap. And like real addiction, feeling bad is better than feeling nothing at all. Damn I wish I didn't care so much.

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#21 Pat
November 13 2013, 10:20AM
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@Quintana

Six rings to rule them all.

If only Samwise could take Lowe to Mordor.

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#22 Andrew
November 13 2013, 09:31AM
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Smokey wrote:

Saw yesterday Fedun got sent down and they brought back Potter?

Is this one of those where Potter finished his conditioning stints and he has to come back up, or did they just send a bad message to Fedun. Fedun been so-so defensively, but has contributed to the offence. Anyone got some perspective?

I'm not surprised. I'm just waiting for the announcement that Arcobello has been sent down. The Oiler way...2 steps forward 3 steps...etc

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#23 Shredder
November 13 2013, 09:03AM
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Willis...glad someone said it. It's time we start building real NHL players. All this potential is making me sick. It'd be nice to add Edblad to Nurse and Klefbom and the rest of the dmen, but right now the only guy able to teach them how to play on a night to night basis is Petry, and I think he's still just figuring it out. Smid would have been nice to keep for the young guys. No doubt we needed a goalie prospect, and our goaltending needed an upgrade, but let's focus on real players going forward.

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#25 rob
November 13 2013, 12:24PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'd be reasonably shocked if Philadelphia wasn't willing to part with Couturier+ for Eberle.

hey J.W,how about the fans give the oil a standing O tonight and cheer through out the game,lets see if we can kick start our team instead of leaving it to our incompetent managment team!lets make these guys feel like someone is behind them and turn this year around,I know they dont deserve it but lets rock the hell out of rexall tonight!

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#26 Citizen David
November 13 2013, 12:31PM
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@DSF

Wow. This is why you don't have credibility. You say that Voracek is better that Eberle because in a 48 game season Voracek out scored him. When it's pointed out that Eberle is beating him this year you say small sample size. How about full sample size: Eberle career PPG .799 Voracek .615

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#28 Zarny
November 13 2013, 11:11AM
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Roger in Vancouver wrote:

JIm,

My name is Roger from Vancouver. I need you to tell me if these proposals are crazy or if they are feasible. I sent you the proposal last year for Matt Duchene which you reasonably reasoned out…

Here are my proposals:

1. Trade to Philly - Hemsly, Gagner, N. Schultz, 2015 2nd and 3rd for Coburn, B. Schenn, Simmons

as well as

2. To Buffalo - Yakupov and J. Schultz, 2014 1st rd pick for Cody Hodgson and Tyler Meyers.

Lines: Hall RNH SImmons

Schenn Hodgson Ebs

Perron Gordon Joensuu

Smyth Arco Jones

Defense: Coburn Meyers

Ference Larsen

Petry Belov

The only reason i say J Schultz is we need a tougher D. Im liking Larsen and how he is jumping into the play a la J Schultz but still gets back on D.

The second line may relive the magic of the WJC….

Hallsie gets a guy that plays like him with the magician RNH that can feed those two…..

AM I CRAZY JIM???!

Please pass this to Mc T if you approve!

Your devoted and humble fan in Vancouver,

Yes, you are crazy.

Why on earth would Phi even consider your first offer?

And why on earth would the Oilers consider your second offer?

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#29 Towersofdub
November 13 2013, 11:18AM
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why do people come on here and make ridiculous trade suggestions, as if they believe that every other team in the league will go out of their way to make Edmonton better. Furthermore...what the hell has Tyler Myers accomplished since his rookie season? Honestly. Think about these things before you post them.

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#30 6 ring circus
November 13 2013, 11:26AM
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In some organizations they don't allow you to keep making mistakes and have endless excuses,they just get rid of you, never to be heard from again.

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#31 sizzay
November 13 2013, 10:52AM
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DSF wrote:

Cam Cole ‏@rcamcole 4m

Now here's a stat to ponder: @mc79hockey The Oilers are the 29th worst defensive team in the NHL when Yakupov isn't on the ice.

Interesting. If you look up turnovers on NHL.com, Yakupov is far from the worst culprit.

His defensive positioning and understanding his assignments require leaps and bounds of work but I'm sure he will become average at best over the next several seasons. Just need to wake him up offensively and play him with someone to mask his defensive issues.

Why haven't we tried: Perron - Gordon - Yakupov. Tried everything else imagineable.

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#32 G Money
November 13 2013, 09:19AM
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JW, you've well summarized the Tambo years. He got the 'backward' part right, three #1 picks, yay, but not the 'build' part.

Strategically - and of course, some of this is the gift of hindsight, but lots of it was known beforehand and done poorly or not done at all - I think the template of a 'proper' rebuild would be to fill in the top part of your team with high drafts, the bulk of your team on the cheap through the draft, and sign key veterans at key positions to fill in the rest.

Ideally, the veterans are in place when the team - i.e. the lottery picks have matured - is ready to contend.

The Oilers have the #1 picks alright, but the rest of the depth was never developed.

This requires some measure of optimization in timing too. Defenseman develop slowest, so you want a pile of them in the system right at the start of your rebuild process so they're maturing when you finally contend. The Oilers have that, but started too late and now those guys won't be properly ready to help until years from now.

To summarize:

- Rebuild means trade away veterans for as many prospects and picks as possible, tank, and collect lottery picks for say five years to build the cheap(ish) high end skill that is otherwise way too expensive to buy or trade for

- Draft a ton of defenders with mid/late picks early in the rebuild so some are ready to go when the rebuild finishes

- Draft a ton of high-risk skill with late picks later in the rebuild to fill out the rest of your roster

- Sign veterans to add stability and depth to your roster late in the rebuild

- The only part Tambo got right was the tanking part. And here we are today.

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#33 Ray
November 13 2013, 10:08AM
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You want to build a team.

Trade for Kulemin this will help Yakupov's growth.

Trade Eberle for Sean Couturier

Begin the process of building a team.

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#34 Toro
November 13 2013, 10:38AM
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Play bad for Ekblad

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#35 Zarny
November 13 2013, 11:01AM
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Excellent article and 100% bang on.

People say "three #1 draft picks" like they come with magical pixie dust from a land of unicorns and rainbows.

Sorry but no. Hall, Ebs, Nuge, Yak and Schultz does not a rebuild make.

The Oilers are characterized by a complete and utter lack of depth. Squeaking into the playoffs in 7th or 8th was always best case scenario.

This year won't be best case but it is certainly not lost. It gives MacT an opportunity to move off of step 1 of the rebuild.

Forget about "bold moves" right now. Start with assembling a 4th line that isn't all AHL caliber players.

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#36 Fresh Mess
November 13 2013, 08:58AM
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Lafontaine new president of hockey operations in Buffalo (thanks Oilers for bringing this idiotic title into vogue). Regier out. Ted Nolan in as coach.

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#37 Smokey
November 13 2013, 09:04AM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

Lafontaine new president of hockey operations in Buffalo (thanks Oilers for bringing this idiotic title into vogue). Regier out. Ted Nolan in as coach.

Good on Ted...talk bout full circle.

Wonder if they will bring back Muckler.

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#38 aburgess@downholebattery.ca
November 13 2013, 09:11AM
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true oiler fans will tough it out-if you look hard enough positives abound-the "kids" are now young men playing in a mans league, if any group of young players are learning at the school of hard knocks its this group-bogdan yakimov, darnell nurse, oscar klefbom, marc olivier roy, jujhar khaira, greg chase, all positives-I truly believe this is our deepest and darkest moment-I argue bull sh*% to anyone who says that a team loses to learn-do you really think RNH or Taylor Hall got to where they are by accepting loss? Mac T has assets to make not only the bold moves but the right moves to bring Stanley back to Jasper Ave! Then all will be well with KLowe(and I will change my moniker!!)-GO OILERS! Bandwagoners off now please!

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#39 Jon
November 13 2013, 10:05AM
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Todd wrote:

Willis tweeted yesterday how Potter has been very good in OKC. Shot differential was something like -14 with Potter not on the ice, and +65 with him on it. So basically, he earned a shot with great play.

Err, just so no one thinks Potter is Jesus...he meant +6 not +65.

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#40 Quintana
November 13 2013, 10:11AM
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Drowning in Oil wrote:

BUFFALO FIRES THEIR COACH and GM after a crappy start..... PHILLY FIRES THEIR COACH after a crappy star..... and in EDMONTON ??? What do the Oilers do to shake things up??? They trade our grittiest D-man and bring in a goaltender that was absolutely IGNORED BY 29 other teams!!!

In Edmonton chaos..6 rings stand still!!

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#41 Bongshow
November 13 2013, 10:20AM
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loweblows wrote:

really??? as I stated earlier the kids are now young men learning to play in a mans league-if you look at most teams they shelter and groom them in the ahl until they are 21-its sad that the majority of the posters agree that RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov are destroying the organization-trash me all you want but it is obvious that your anger outweighs logic, glad you guys aren't in charge

You misunderstood. The destroyers from the top are the "original" boys on the bus. Not the current players getting thrown under it. J.

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#42 2004Z06
November 13 2013, 10:39AM
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What's sad is that 1/3 of our team is players averaging less than 100 NHL games total. What other organization does that?

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#43 Drowning in Oil
November 13 2013, 10:49AM
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loweblows wrote:

really??? as I stated earlier the kids are now young men learning to play in a mans league-if you look at most teams they shelter and groom them in the ahl until they are 21-its sad that the majority of the posters agree that RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov are destroying the organization-trash me all you want but it is obvious that your anger outweighs logic, glad you guys aren't in charge

Wow, how long have you lived in Edmonton son? Get a grip and do some research! The boys on the bus are the management of this team who used to play on this team. It is really hard to blame the kids for this mess!!

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#44 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:34AM
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DSF wrote:

I'd be very shocked if Philly would be willing to take on Eberle's $6M cap hit given his production.

And beyond that, their RW depth is Voracek, Simmonds, Downie and Reed.

The Flyers already have a bigger, better version of Eberle in Voracek.

Voracek outscored Eberle 46-37 last season.

Also Eberle is outscoring Voracek this year.

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#45 Roger in Vancouver
November 13 2013, 09:29AM
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JIm,

My name is Roger from Vancouver. I need you to tell me if these proposals are crazy or if they are feasible. I sent you the proposal last year for Matt Duchene which you reasonably reasoned out…

Here are my proposals:

1. Trade to Philly - Hemsly, Gagner, N. Schultz, 2015 2nd and 3rd for Coburn, B. Schenn, Simmons

as well as

2. To Buffalo - Yakupov and J. Schultz, 2014 1st rd pick for Cody Hodgson and Tyler Meyers.

Lines: Hall RNH SImmons

Schenn Hodgson Ebs

Perron Gordon Joensuu

Smyth Arco Jones

Defense: Coburn Meyers

Ference Larsen

Petry Belov

The only reason i say J Schultz is we need a tougher D. Im liking Larsen and how he is jumping into the play a la J Schultz but still gets back on D.

The second line may relive the magic of the WJC….

Hallsie gets a guy that plays like him with the magician RNH that can feed those two…..

AM I CRAZY JIM???!

Please pass this to Mc T if you approve!

Your devoted and humble fan in Vancouver,

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#46 Bob
November 13 2013, 10:06AM
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TayLordBalls wrote:

just as an individual's power is in the NOW and not tomorrow or yesterday.....

the team is now - not in the past and not in the future.

Oilers players - focus on today and you'll be fine.

As the great Bill Murray said: "What if there is no tomorrow - there wasn't one today."

(Groundhog Day)

I agree. I think they just need to keep there feet moving, get pucks deep, play 110%, take it one game at a time and they'll be fine.

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#47 Serious Gord
November 13 2013, 10:20AM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

Lafontaine new president of hockey operations in Buffalo (thanks Oilers for bringing this idiotic title into vogue). Regier out. Ted Nolan in as coach.

Regeir apparently was/is best friends with the owner. Many in buffalo didn't think it was possible that he wild be fired.

Katz take note.

And Jonathan, part if he building should include firing the POHO, do you agree?

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#48 sizzay
November 13 2013, 11:01AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It depends on what Lowe's precise role has been these last few years.

If Lowe's been pulling the strings, absolutely he should wear this.

If Lowe's been in other roles - overseeing the broader organization (the Barons, the Oil Kings, etc.) - and not been involved in the day-to-day of the Oilers, I don't think he should be fired for the sins of Steve Tambellini.

See, I think he is pulling strings. See how defensive the imbecile got when he got questioned after the Tambellini firing? He didn't say, I left everything up to Tambellini.

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#49 Zarny
November 13 2013, 11:15AM
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Ray wrote:

You want to build a team.

Trade for Kulemin this will help Yakupov's growth.

Trade Eberle for Sean Couturier

Begin the process of building a team.

Doubtful Phi would trade Sean Couturier for Eberle straight up.

That's the neat part about trades. Both teams have to actually agree.

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#50 DSF
November 13 2013, 11:20AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

And that's a fair point.

I said it at the time and 100 times since: the Khabibulin signing alone should have been a fireable offence given what it said about management's approach.

Yes you did and there have been multiple decisions since then that only reinforce that sentiment.

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