DESPERATION ON DISPLAY

Robin Brownlee
November 09 2013 12:17AM

As the losses have mounted through 17 games, the demand by fans of the Edmonton Oilers that GM Craig MacTavish DO SOMETHING to change the fortunes of the team have grown louder by the day.

MacTavish gave those fans what they wanted Friday, sending hard-nosed and popular but limited defenseman Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy down Highway 2 to the Calgary Flames for prospects, MacTavish followed that up by signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a one-year contract.

Yes, Ilya Bryzgalov, the goaltender the Philadelphia Flyers just paid $23 million to not play for them two years after signing him to a ridiculous nine-year contract worth $51 million. Ilya Bryzgalov, the oh-so flakey laugh riot, Knob Hockey hero and dressing room distraction represented by Edmonton agent Ritch Winter. That Ilya Bryzgalov.

With the Oilers floundering at 4-11-2 and staring at an eighth straight year out of the playoffs less than two weeks into November during a season in which MacTavish and new coach Dallas Eakins have over-promised and under-delivered, these aren't the bold moves MacTavish talked about when he took over the chair formerly occupied by Steve Tambellini.

This is desperation on display.

AN UPGRADE?

Make no mistake, Devan Dubnyk left the door wide open for MacTavish to make a deal to address his goaltending – forced his hand, actually – with an absolutely abysmal performance so far this season. That's on him.

The last straw, obviously, came in a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a game the Oilers played more than well enough to win. That's been the storyline more than once this season, one repeated often enough that the upgrades MacTavish has made to the roster on paper haven’t translated to the standings. How could MacTavish stand pat?

Fair question, even if dealing from a position of weakness almost never turns out well. But Bryzgalov, now 33 and coming off back-to-back seasons with save percentages of .909 in 2011-12 and .900 in 2012-13? Bryzgalov, whose career save percentage of .913 on good, bad an indifferent teams is a wash with the .911 posted by Dubnyk, including his horrid start to this season and a career spent on a bottom-feeder team?

I'd argue, and did on Twitter, shunting Dubnyk aside is like deciding to trade in your old Ford because it isn't reliable enough, then replacing it with a Lada that's six model years older. In terms of actual performance, I don’t see it as a clear upgrade. Then, there's the flake factor with a player who has had dubious chemistry with teammates in the past.

WHAT'S THE PUNCHLINE?

Bryzgalov, to understate, has some quirks. He's out there. He tends to fill the notepads of reporters -- never a bad thing for those who work the beat – and wear on the patience of teammates. Bryzgalov, you might remember, once compared Edmonton to the North Pole when talking about why Anaheim teammate Chris Pronger might have wanted out of Edmonton.

"He (Pronger) maybe tried to leave here because here in November months is a minus-32," Bryzgalov said in an interview with The Score. "Could you imagine? It’s eight months in a year of snow."

Might Bryzgalov push Dubnyk to be better or even displace him as the starter if he can reverse the slide in his performance of the past two seasons? I think it's unlikely, but it's possible, I suppose. Is it a big gamble? Not really, at least in terms of money, reported to be $1.75 million, or term.

Still, it strikes me as an ill-conceived signing brought on by another season off the rails because it wasn't supposed to unfold like this again. It's a just-do-something -- ANYTHING, dammit -- move. A distinct hint of panic over a plan gone wrong. It's desperation on display.

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

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A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Chris.
November 09 2013, 12:21AM
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I'm waiting on another move... *sigh*

...always waiting...

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#2 druds
November 09 2013, 12:23AM
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Yes its desperation but what exactly are they supposed to do? wait for DD to "find himself"? and I think Brgy's save percentage is still miles ahead of Labarbera and Dub so where is the hurt? You having a bad night?

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#3 27Ginge
November 09 2013, 12:27AM
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I honestly love the Bryzgalov signing. There is little to no risk in a one year deal. The best case scenario is that he comes in and plays well and raises the level of Dubnyk's game. Duby proved before that he could handle having a veteran Russian backup that wasn't exactly the most polished guy off the ice. Worst case scenario is that the guy is a head case that plays as bad as Labarbera has and gives us all something to laugh at while the Oilers slowly die a thousand deaths for yet another season.

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#4 Naky
November 09 2013, 12:28AM
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Bryzgalov couldn't handle the fans or the media pressure in Philly, you think he can handle it here? How about living in the North Pole now? This guy's a joke and a clown who made his career and money off successful defensive systems of superior teams and has proven that when those systems fail, he can't do any better than Dubnyk is faring right now. I've been linking that stupid video for ages and the fact that we actually signed him just lowered MacT several notches in my 'capable' category.

For the love of this team and what it used to be, I honestly hope the signing works out because if it doesn't it'll just be another domino in the chain of events that's making this organization a true mockery.

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#5 Johnny Larue
November 09 2013, 12:33AM
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Better than a kick in the ass

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#6 Sevenseven
November 09 2013, 12:34AM
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Maybe after getting bought out, a newly humbled Ilya Bryzgalov comes in and challanges Dubnyk to play better, and he responds. Our season can't get any worse, and signing a player to a one year contract means if it's a failed experiment, just walk away. I liked smid, but he's not the top pairing defenseman we need. IMHO I think we are deep at defense, the ahl call ups have been pretty good. Iit's just too bad they are all 4,5,6 guys. Mac t at least tried here to address the goalie problem, and although this may not be a top 10 NHL goalie, he didn't really give up anything to make it happen.

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#7 Eddie Shore
November 09 2013, 12:36AM
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@27Ginge

Exactly. Whats the risk? The more puzzling move for me is the Smid trade.

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#8 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
November 09 2013, 12:37AM
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Can we make a Nero Rome burning reference? Someone call Katz in Vancouver and ask.

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#9 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
November 09 2013, 12:38AM
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Johnny Larue wrote:

Better than a kick in the ass

I believe this is a kick in the ass

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#10 Retsinnab5
November 09 2013, 12:53AM
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Too bad Bryzgalov's five hole is Humongous Big!

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#11 Jay Gray
November 09 2013, 12:57AM
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Clearly the price was too high to obtain a #1 goalie by trade. It would've been nice to get Lehner, Gibson, etc, but not at the price I'm sure their gm's are asking. Something had to be done and I'm fine with signing Bryz. 1.75m is a very reasonable, low risk deal.

I've loved Ladi's dedication and sacrifice, but the young guys are knocking at the door, bodies have to move to make room. Was happy to see Brossoit come back in the deal.

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#12 Retsinnab5
November 09 2013, 01:05AM
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Laurent Brossoit has Played 127min in the ECHL this year and hasn't let in a goal. Maybe we win this trade in the long term?

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#13 Naky
November 09 2013, 01:08AM
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I'm honestly perplexed by the amount of people who think that this was a decent signing.

2m for a goaltender whose statistics are literally awful barring a couple of decent years (equivalent to Dubnyk's usual numbers!!!) in a highly defensive oriented system implemented by Tippett.

2m for a goaltender a goaltender that has expressed his honest and heartfelt feelings, not to mention disrespect, towards Edmonton and its fans just a few years ago - a sentiment that likely didn't change until he was bought out and started to feel that desperation as the summer went on and realized nobody wanted him.

2m for a goaltender who has previously and publicly thrown his teammates under the bus when he feels they were the real reasons why he let in so many goals.

2m for a goaltender that will make a 3 headed monster of our goaltending situation made even worse if he can't play well. What happens if he sucks, as his previous numbers show that he does? Do we waive him? How many games do we give him if he is sucking? How many does he get as a free pass or is LaBarbera the odd duck out here no matter what?

2m for a goaltender that forced one of our better veteran defensive defenders off to our rivals to the south. We just got smaller, weaker, and easier to play against to make room for him. Hope he can make up for the loss as Smid was one of like two defenders willing to make space for our goaltenders in our crease.

This makes no sense and especially not at that price. If Bryzgalov wanted to prove himself so badly he should have been willing to sign for 1m. We overpaid, we lost a good asset to make room for him, and we can't even say we got an upgrade on LBB much less DD.

How are you guys not perplexed with me.

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#14 stubblejumper99
November 09 2013, 01:10AM
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At least it wasn't Ebs....have said so many

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#15 stubblejumper99
November 09 2013, 01:13AM
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Rock bottom is giving players away to the Flames

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#16 watkinator
November 09 2013, 01:27AM
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I like that karma has come back to bite Bryz in the backside and I respect the crow he's eating right now for it. Hope he turns things around for his sake and the Oilers.

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#17 Saytalk
November 09 2013, 01:34AM
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Bad trade. Not only did MacT give Smid away just to make cap room, but he gave Smid away to a division rival. On top of that, the Oilers' 50 man roster gets further cluttered with mediocre prospects who are highly unlikely to amount to anything. Trading Nick Schultz for a seventh round draft pick would have been a better deal than this one (assuming someone who have taken the other side).

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#18 Cynic
November 09 2013, 01:38AM
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Wasn't Smid the only Oiler defender with at least a passing familiarity with actually playing D? Which of the organization's score of 5s, 7s and 9s will fill that hole?

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#19 Pouzar99
November 09 2013, 02:06AM
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With the Oilers goalies posting a league-worst .874 save percentage, down from last year's .917, something had to be done. How many more games can we bear to watch where our goaltending costs us points? The boys have raised their battle level on the road trip and are cutting down on the still too frequent giveaways, but they will never turn this around until they get at least average NHL goaltending, in the .912-.913 range. Bryz will have to start in OKC and should be ready to play in a week or two, which gives Dubnyk time to get his act together.

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#20 Mychew
November 09 2013, 02:09AM
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Why didn't we trade glengross?... Oh never mind we gave him away.

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#21 mlcselli
November 09 2013, 02:15AM
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I guess the only thing to do is welcome Bryz, and hope like hell he can win us some games. I hate to see Smid go (especially down the road), but I bid him a farewell. This team left the way it is, with no defensive replacement for Smid is worse than it was Friday morning. MacT can't be finished--something must but be in the works.

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#22 Andrew
November 09 2013, 02:17AM
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The desperation of the situation is exceeded only by the fans' impatience (mine included).

For Mact's part in all this, he has been official GM for six months or so and in the weeds waiting for a year before that. He unfortunately inherited a schmoozle in the dressing room and those problems can't be fixed overnight. I give a pass to him to that extent. The axe needs to fall higher up but that is getting to be a stale issue.

The same group that have been clamouring for him to make a move, seem to have become experts in critiquing the latest move. If Eakins gets more of a full and healthy line-up then I think more moves will be less likely right now. If the team starts to show continual improvement then I don't expect to see much player movement until the trade deadline.

I think more improvements need to be made but doing so from a position of relative strength would likely increase the chances of it being successful. I'm more interested in seeing what the team performs like with all hands on deck.

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#23 The real minnow
November 09 2013, 02:30AM
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Why do people constantly clamour over the financials of a signing? Right now the oilers suck the hind banana whether this deal was for 750k or 45m. Who gives a damn. We won't make the playoffs this season, this move is prolly just to evaluate what we have moving forward. It's the middle of November and we can say with almost absolute certainty that this team doesn't stand a chance this season. Enjoy the winter months :)

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#24 @Oilanderp
November 09 2013, 03:50AM
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The Oilers better do something! Anything! But if they do anything they better not! I'll be so pissed if they do! See this cake? I am eating it too!

For some, whining is autonomic, like breathing.

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#25 DigDeepNBleedBlue
November 09 2013, 05:01AM
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Trade:

Salary cap dump.

Smid was signed for too much loot. His game was rough, but lacked skill. At 2mil a season he would have been a good addition. Alas, he was not.

I liked your will, sir.

What you pyhsically get, from someone with cap space in a rebuild, is a respectable goalie prospect. A need in the org.

Horack for Roy. Oilers drop a goalie (cause the math) prospect and the flames dump a small F prospect. Both RFAs at the end of their ECLs. 50 man list. One year commitment…

Brossoit will determine the winner. Have a seat, grab a beer and enjoy the ride.

In addition, we snatch up Bryz. Colourful. Enigmatic. Blah, blah, blah. What? The goaltending sucks ass right now. What does it hurt? Nothing. Send him down to Cali. Cosmonaut in Cali.... This can only have an on ice up.

I want more….

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#26 TeddyTurnbuckle
November 09 2013, 05:16AM
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Personally I think Smid is no better than a number 6 defenceman with a big contract so I don't mind the deal. He does block a lot of shots but his transition game is horrible which is why Eakins probably gave the green light to get rid of him. Bad contract by tambo. As far as brzgalov, Is this guy in game shape?

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#27 BingBong
November 09 2013, 05:21AM
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The trade is nothing more than a salary dump. I liked Smid's effort, but he was weak last year and has been worse this year. He'd be a 7th d-man on a good team. We have enough depth to cover it for this year, and it makes room for Klefbom next year.

The Bryz signing definitely comes off as desperate, but when you have the worst goaltending in the league I guess you gotta do something. It's only 1 year so it's low risk. He can't be worse than Dubnyk's been. At lease his interviews will be entertaining.

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#28 GTL
November 09 2013, 05:42AM
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Retsinnab5 wrote:

Too bad Bryzgalov's five hole is Humongous Big!

And also his pie hole...

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#29 big slick
November 09 2013, 06:04AM
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Is he an up grade at back up goalie?

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#30 Rheal1
November 09 2013, 06:05AM
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Giving Smid away was dumb. Real dumb considering he went to a division rival. Oilers desperately need Dmen so what's the solution? Trade a Dman, and a top shot blocker to boot! We need no stinking prospects. More of the same. Why does MacT trade for prospects when we are soft and require vet talent NOW? The Smid trade is very suspicious and his indicative that Oilers management are panicking but also extremely clueless about how to right this sinking ship... My assessment is that macT must be getting something big ready for the near future. Must. Or he's a complete moron here. How about PK Subban to Edmonton for Hemsky, a prospect and Yaks?... BOLD. Bryzgalov - if he can get back to Phoenix shape - will make MacT look like a genius. That's a big if...

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#31 Greg the Hammer Valentine
November 09 2013, 06:26AM
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Any truth to the rumor Tambellini challenged MacT to get more first overall picks in a row than him?

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#32 jonny94
November 09 2013, 06:45AM
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I love how MacT is just getting criticized by everyone and their dog about Bryzgalov. If I recall correctly everyone in OilersNation including myself was up in arms about our goaltending and how we needed a change,. The Oilers went as far as bringing in Bachman to steal the spotlight between the pipes and nothing worked.

If you want to call this "desperation on display" fine. But if you ask me it would have been A LOT more desperate to overpay another team like Anaheim or Toronto to bring in a goalie and possibly weaken this team more then it already is.

At least MacT did something.... And that something was more then Tambellini ever did.

Btw Bryzgalov is a low risk high reward. If Bryzgalov sucks then see you later we didn't lose anyone over him (unless you consider Smid a salary dump to bring him in but I don't believe that true) if Bryzgalov plays well and wins the Oilers hockey games well I hope all you critics give credit where credit is deserved.

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#33 Oilcruzer
November 09 2013, 06:52AM
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Nobody's given Bryz the starting job. Nobody has signed him to a long term deal.

Making two goalie moves in one day? A definite wake up call that takes the pressure off the skaters.

Face it. If the Oil would get that one big save a game, heck, any game this year, it could have changed the course of that game, etc.

NO TEAM can play well if they aren't confident in the goalie.

Seen it / coached it way too many times. There's nothing in hockey that changes a team's confidence like good / poor goaltending.

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#34 LoweBrow
November 09 2013, 06:58AM
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What were these transactions about? Was trading a solid Dman like Smid just to clear cap room for a goalie (head case) no better than DD ( measured by save percentage )

Does the brain trust (chuckle now ) believe this will make a difference to the season?

Please tell me more is coming!

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#35 Serious Gord
November 09 2013, 06:59AM
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Judging by most of the posts above MacT/Lowe/Katz aren't the only ones feeling desperate.

The quest is the cup. How do these moves advance that pursuit?

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#36 non descript
November 09 2013, 07:14AM
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desperation indeed. but for what? to finish 25th instead of 28th? the team is bad, bryzgalov wont change that. there is a fine line between winning and losing and until this team learns how to play fundamentally sound hockey they will be bad. horrible habits constructed on a foundation of acceptable losing.

dont mind the smid dump though. bad contract for a bottom pairing defencemen who was the poster boy for a guy who couldnt figure it out. almost 500 games and still doesnt know good defensive positioning. for those who think his physical presence will be missed. pushing after the whistle and rubbing guys out doesnt scare anybody.

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#37 Deep Oil
November 09 2013, 07:17AM
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MacTavish hinted in the summer that his goaltending was suspect, seeking CC via Canucks.

Tim Thomas and Bryz were available for free this summer, and they took on Greb for some reason... cap management could of been addressed more professionally.

Objectively, this season is over, I know that this is redundant, but why not tank and get another lottery pick, the building will still be sold out.

This is desperation not a bold move.

I have pondered over the years, yes years to have my friend in Vegas to bet on the oilers to lose every game, over the course of 8 seasons, I would be a very rich man right now, better than Apple or Google. I am seriously thinking about this program, even though the odds are low, the risk is also low.

A season ticket holder betting against his team for monetary gain, free enterprise when the rewards are there..... wonder how much navel gazing is going on here - Katz has not had one playoff penny of revenue since borrowing $100million to buy this team....

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#38 James
November 09 2013, 07:18AM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

Nobody's given Bryz the starting job. Nobody has signed him to a long term deal.

Making two goalie moves in one day? A definite wake up call that takes the pressure off the skaters.

Face it. If the Oil would get that one big save a game, heck, any game this year, it could have changed the course of that game, etc.

NO TEAM can play well if they aren't confident in the goalie.

Seen it / coached it way too many times. There's nothing in hockey that changes a team's confidence like good / poor goaltending.

That is pretty terrible thinking no? You have star players who already feel entitled, the last thing you want to do is take pressure off them.

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#39 John Kirsch
November 09 2013, 07:20AM
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27Ginge wrote:

I honestly love the Bryzgalov signing. There is little to no risk in a one year deal. The best case scenario is that he comes in and plays well and raises the level of Dubnyk's game. Duby proved before that he could handle having a veteran Russian backup that wasn't exactly the most polished guy off the ice. Worst case scenario is that the guy is a head case that plays as bad as Labarbera has and gives us all something to laugh at while the Oilers slowly die a thousand deaths for yet another season.

Love is a strong move. Anyone who "loves" this move is not a real fan of this team and is one who accepts the joke that Oil have become.

I want MacT and Co. to build a competitive team and not make knee jerk reactionary "low risk" moves like bringing in journeymen.

And to bring in a "high risk" character player into that locker room, to me, makes no sense.

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#40 Serious Gord
November 09 2013, 07:23AM
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So spec says there is more to come From philly:

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/edmonton-oilers-working-on-trade-for-philadelphia-flyers-wayne-simmonds/

Also mentioned are the schenns.

So we could see Bryz, Simmons, and the two schenns in oilers silks. And lose smid, hemsky and eberle. Two or three of the four in the flyers trade were/are a big part of why the flyers have failed these past two seasons. And my guess is that Simmons - being from scarberia might not be too happy to be sent to a team located in the North American version of the real Siberia.

Real potential for an epic, milbury-when-he-was-GM-of-the-islanders disaster.

And further proof that Klowe needs to be replaced with someone who is:

competent

Not tarred by the mess this team is and thus not under pressure to cover it up/fix it in the short term

And thus able to keep a firm rein on MacT and prevent disasters like the one that's in the making...

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#41 Serious Gord
November 09 2013, 07:26AM
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Deep Oil wrote:

MacTavish hinted in the summer that his goaltending was suspect, seeking CC via Canucks.

Tim Thomas and Bryz were available for free this summer, and they took on Greb for some reason... cap management could of been addressed more professionally.

Objectively, this season is over, I know that this is redundant, but why not tank and get another lottery pick, the building will still be sold out.

This is desperation not a bold move.

I have pondered over the years, yes years to have my friend in Vegas to bet on the oilers to lose every game, over the course of 8 seasons, I would be a very rich man right now, better than Apple or Google. I am seriously thinking about this program, even though the odds are low, the risk is also low.

A season ticket holder betting against his team for monetary gain, free enterprise when the rewards are there..... wonder how much navel gazing is going on here - Katz has not had one playoff penny of revenue since borrowing $100million to buy this team....

You would not have made any money - or very little in Vegas. You would have had to not just bet win/lose but the spread. Just as betting the Jacksonville jags to lose is not an available option...

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#42 Chaz
November 09 2013, 07:30AM
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Another obvious example of terrible upper management in Edmonton. Not only did they not adequately address the goal tending issue in the summer but then they do risky signings like Grebs which leaves them no room to sign a G during the year. Should not have had to of traded one of your regular D to bring in a G no one else would touch with a 10 foot pole. I know it's not spring, but please Katz time to clean house. The embarrassment continues! They've been trying to lose for so long to get top picks, that this all they know how to do now. At least Pocklington held people accountable. What a mess!

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#43 Oilcruzer
November 09 2013, 07:46AM
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James wrote:

That is pretty terrible thinking no? You have star players who already feel entitled, the last thing you want to do is take pressure off them.

Punishing your dog because the cat scratched the furniture doesn't teach him anything.

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#44 Stack Pad Save
November 09 2013, 07:46AM
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27Ginge wrote:

I honestly love the Bryzgalov signing. There is little to no risk in a one year deal. The best case scenario is that he comes in and plays well and raises the level of Dubnyk's game. Duby proved before that he could handle having a veteran Russian backup that wasn't exactly the most polished guy off the ice. Worst case scenario is that the guy is a head case that plays as bad as Labarbera has and gives us all something to laugh at while the Oilers slowly die a thousand deaths for yet another season.

That is not the worst case. Worst case is he comes in, stinks and convinces Nail to fly back to Russia with him.

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#45 James
November 09 2013, 07:55AM
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Oilcruzer wrote:

Punishing your dog because the cat scratched the furniture doesn't teach him anything.

Well that's fair. But at the same time, you still have to hold your star players accountable and they have yet to do that.

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#46 Batfink
November 09 2013, 08:00AM
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One would think that there is more to come.....please? (begging with puppy dog eyes)

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#47 BuckNegged
November 09 2013, 08:01AM
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@Jay Gray

Have any of the young guys shown any toughness at all? We are going to get l=killed on the cycle and in front of the goal.

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#48 moneygoalie31
November 09 2013, 08:05AM
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I have been reader on the nation for a few years now, This is my first post. Your dam right this is a desperate move.... Its over due. Bryz cant hurt us why not try him. Smid has been a pylon this year that crosschecks the odd guy who is standing still. I like Laddy,but at this point it was a good move to get a potential goalie of the future. We have high end young D-men commin who are gonna need spots.

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#49 Gordie Wayne
November 09 2013, 08:13AM
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So when is Klefbom getting called up? I can see that happening any day now...

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#50 albertaboy19
November 09 2013, 08:13AM
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So who is actually going to play defense now? Gave away our only dman who really hits? Our defense has gone from soft as butter to soft as baby sh*t

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