Filling an Oilers Need

Jason Strudwick
December 30 2013 09:43AM

As I have watched the Oilers this season the areas of weakness for this club have been obvious. They are not built to compete with big teams that like to play heavy in the corners and in front of the net.

The defense is full of players suited for second and third pairing roles. Players like Petry and Ference are being asked to play as first pairing guys. This is a tall order for players like this at the best of times and even harder when your group's commitment to playing defense is average at best.

Quick fixes to address the need for forwards that play a heavy game like Wayne Simmons or a top pairing D man like Shea Weber are not easy to come by. When you look at the Oilers NHL roster and the rest of the guys in the system, there are some blue chip prospects in the pipeline on the back end.

I really wanted the Oilers to draft Nurse last year. I felt then and still feel he can anchor the Oilers blue line moving forward. He is big, mean and a leader. I don't expect him to put up a lot of points, he doesn't need to. I believe he is the type of player that will make coming to play in Edmonton uncomfortable for opposing forwards. In time he will be the guy to address players like Backes and Kesler just like Regher used to do for the Flames down in Calgary.

My concern with Nurse is the Oilers ability to be patient with this young man. I see no need to rush him into the NHL. Playing junior next year and then a year in the minors will be healthy for him. He can learn the hardest position at his pace and fill out that big frame.

Oscar Kleifbom is another d-man I have high expectations for, but clearly missing a whole season of hockey last year slowed down his development. He will come around.

There are more projects in the system. The Oilers are hoping that a couple work through their issues. Some need to get quicker, others need to get a lot stronger and some need to learn patience. There is hope on the back end, it just will not be seen for a couple of years.

In my opinion there are very few players in the entire Oilers organization that I have seen play that are a handful to handle in the corners and the front of the net. David Perron is the most obvious top nine forward that is such a player. The Oilers are hoping that Lander, Moroz and Chase develop into full time NHLers that do similar things in this show.

The Oilers need to head to the draft this summer with the goal of addressing this area of weakness. When I look at the Pacific division there is little doubt in my mind that the Kings, Sharks and Ducks are not going to change their style of play. The Oilers need to adjust theirs to compete.

To that end, I have been watching the World Juniors this year very closely. Two players that I think will help the Oilers come closer to challenging the Titans of the pacific division are playing for the Germans and the Swedes.

The Candidates

Let me introduce to you first Mr. Leon Draisaitl. He is playing for Germany in the World juniors and has skated for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL the last two seasons. Depending on where you look, he is roughly 6'2 and 200lbs. He is the big center the Oilers are in desperate need of to compete with the Thornton's and Getzlaf's of the Pacific division.

Draisaitl is a big strong player. He skates well and can beat you with his shot or a nice pass to set up a winger. He has 51 points in 33 games in Prince Albert this year (1.54 PPG), tying him for 5th overall in WHL scoring. Unfortunately, he has not been outstanding in the WJC so far, but I believe this is because he has no support on his team. Opposing clubs are smothering him when he gets the puck. He is also playing a ton and looks tired and at times frustrated with the way the tourney has gone for him.

MacT has been over at the World juniors and he has been keeping a close eye of Draisaitl. The Oilers have also made the trip east to Prince Albert to see him play. A big center that can play easily in your top nine and maybe top 6 is a big need for the Oilers. Draisaitl could be the answer.

The second player I have liked to fill a need for the Oilers is Swedish forward Anton Karlsson. He is eligible for the draft this year. Another big forward at 6'1, 190lbs. He is playing a fourth line checking roll for a very stacked Swedish team at the world juniors. In limited minutes he has stood out for me - Karlsson brings a spark to the team when he is on the ice by finishing checks, going to the hard areas and killing penalties.  He is a player that understands how to be an asset to the team by contributing to areas of weakness. What a crazy idea!!!

I have not seen enough of him playing in a different role to say what kind of offensive ability he has but so far this season playing junior hockey in Sweden he has nearly a point a game.

Both Draisaitl and Karlsson are two players the Oilers need to fill their system with. Big forwards (and especially in Karlsson's case), players that will do anything to help his team win. I only hope that MacT and company are seeing the same issues I am.

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 admiralmark
December 30 2013, 12:13PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Not for me. Unless the return is out of the world. Teams that trade lotto picks end up like the Islanders.

What about teams that draft Russians 1st overall and then treat him like crap so he returns to the KHL? Are they teams that know how to win?

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#52 Spydyr
December 30 2013, 12:20PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

And for the love of god and bobby Orr can we stop buying into the Klowe myth of tier one fans.

There are not nearly as many season tickets sold as most assume - combo packs are far more common and are a growing trend across pro sports.

Most season tickets are owned by businesses - big corps mostly who use them as a perk for clients and employees - the latter being a big part of what happens in EDM, CGY and WPG. So many - probably the majority - of seasons ticket seats are filled by what Klowe considers second tier fans.

The remainder are bought by well-heeled individuals - most of whom i am assuming are also expensing them - probably illegally. Many more split them with friends or family members. So the very few season ticket holders who actually spend their own after tax money and actually watch all forty-one games maybe make up less than five percent is the seats in rexall/Rogers - maybe even far less than that. And really, should those few be allowed to way the oilers tail like Klowe says he does?

So save your empathy for these very rare (and probably very financially secure) fans and give it to the hundreds of thousands who are the rank and file fans.

If I was shelling out big bucks for this product I would be pissed. That is who I have empathy for.

Personally I have stopped buying anything related to the Oilers.

It is the only way one cannot contribute to this mess.

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#53 SlaveLake
December 30 2013, 12:20PM
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admiralmark wrote:

What about teams that draft Russians 1st overall and then treat him like crap so he returns to the KHL? Are they teams that know how to win?

So far I think the best model would be on the new year to give the russian the keys to the city, special vitamins, and his own rap video.

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#54 Tikkanese
December 30 2013, 12:21PM
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VK63 wrote:

Draisaitl is big and strong but he could be a lot more physical with those tools. He kind of reminds me of young Jumbo Joe, tremendous disher of the puck but not really physically engaged.

He is a superb prospect to be sure and will intrigue many organizations with early first round picks.

Young Jumbo Joe WAS very physical. Old Joe is nothing like he was, especially in his Bruins days.

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#55 tileguy
December 30 2013, 12:22PM
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Speaking of rushing a junior into the show, let's have a look at Yakupov, oh no, we can't. He's been announced as a scratch for tomorrow.

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#56 wintoon
December 30 2013, 12:41PM
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Was very happy to see the comments on Draisaitl. From my perspective he is exactly the type of player needed by the Oilers. With Gagner at 2C the Oilers have no chance at being competitive for the Cup and that is or should be the ultimate goal. Drafting D from lotto pick positions is not a solution to the Oilers problems. What they need is to have good D picks in the second round or late first round that pan out as bona fide NHL players. If you look at most of the upper echelon teams that is what differentiates them from the teams that merely churn year after year. Time will tell if the Oilers scouting system was the solution or the problem. In any event, as hard as it may be, patience is still required by the fan base.

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#57 A-Mc
December 30 2013, 12:45PM
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Spydyr wrote:

The problem is they built form wing out instead of defense, goal, center then wing. They got it bassackwards.

Now by the time the defence, goal and center(outside the Nuge) are ready the wingers will be well on in their careers.

Which is exactly why others are saying that the 1st round pick needs to be packaged to get a top pairing Defenseman: to skip ahead on D-man Development.

As far as I'm concerned, the 1st round of this draft needs to have a DEFENSEMAN (read: Not centerman) coming to the Oilers. Either A) We pick the top Defenseman at this years draft (Ekblad) Or we send our 1st round pick + WhatEverElseIsNeccessary, to land an established Top Pairing Defenseman.

It is much easier to find someone who could plug a 2C role (Even if it's not the greatest fit) than it is to find a #1/2 defenseman.

As far as i'm concerned, i'd send our 1st rnd pick + Gagner + Prospect to a team if the return was a true #1/2 D-man coming back our way.

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#58 A-Mc
December 30 2013, 12:48PM
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admiralmark wrote:

What about teams that draft Russians 1st overall and then treat him like crap so he returns to the KHL? Are they teams that know how to win?

Yakcity hasn't played very well. He deserves everything that has come his way.

Frankly, if i were coach, i probably would have suggested he be sent down to OKC.

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#59 A-Mc
December 30 2013, 12:48PM
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admiralmark wrote:

What about teams that draft Russians 1st overall and then treat him like crap so he returns to the KHL? Are they teams that know how to win?

Wierd, my first double post with only 1 click... IGNORE THIS ONE

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#60 Thumby
December 30 2013, 01:02PM
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They're $hittie wrote:

Or Ekblad,

A possible Chris Pronger is Harder to get than a 2C. If we get Ekblad than we can use the surplus of D prospects to package for that center.

I agree, without top D and Goaltending, a 2c won't change anything ..

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#61 K_Mart
December 30 2013, 01:11PM
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They're $hittie wrote:

Sorry with out picking on you specifically, why does he not have pronger potential. Is this your opinion. The way most people judge prospects are on gut feelings about them. Unless you watch his team day in and day out how do you judge an opinion on him.

I have heard scouts compare him to pronger. Professional amature Scouts that is my source.

All I have to judge him on is the WJC, boxcars, the exceptional status special, and some YouTube. But the odds are simply against him even having POTENTIAL of a Pronger type.

Pronger is a once every 10-15 years type player. It's just really not likely. From what I've seen, his skating and offensive upside are not as good as nurse's. He is a little better positional player, but that's it.

IMO.

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#62 DAVE
December 30 2013, 01:12PM
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If MacT and company seen the same issue's that you see, their might not be total revolt by the fan's. Dallas Eakins calling out the fans for his shi**y hockey team sums it up. I still don't know why in the wide world of sports why Smid was traded to Calgary. Cap space issue's were just window dressing.

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#63 Rama Lama
December 30 2013, 01:29PM
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DAVE wrote:

If MacT and company seen the same issue's that you see, their might not be total revolt by the fan's. Dallas Eakins calling out the fans for his shi**y hockey team sums it up. I still don't know why in the wide world of sports why Smid was traded to Calgary. Cap space issue's were just window dressing.

Mac T has had a very negative history with Smid and it came to no surprise to anyone that when he became GM, Smid was going to be traded.

Besides Smid was too tough and apparently not fit enough for our team. We only want small fast defenceman like Larsen and Ference. I understand that Mac T wants to bring Tory Kruge over from Boston, if possible.

With enough trades we can become the smallest, fastest, team in the NHL........just like 6 Rings wanted all along.

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#64 The Last Big Bear
December 30 2013, 01:30PM
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Drafting the BPA is not a strategy (or at least not a good one). It is a *part* of a strategy. If you need a goalie, but there is an elite skater who is better than the mediocre goalies available, then you draft the elite skater and later trade him for an elite goalie.

Drafting BPA is like the "Dump" part of "Dump and chase". It is the easy part. Sucking really, really badly is not hard. The hard part is working to turn those assets into a viable and well-rounded team.

Look at the Nordiques; IIRC, they had 3 first overall picks, and ended up trading all of them to build the team that won the cup. Calgary put the finishing touches on their championship team by trading away Brett freakin Hull, to shore up their defence and get a backup goalie. It was the least sexy trade return of all time, and it won them a cup.

The Oilers just seem to want to take the BPA with every pick, and expect those players will form a cohesive and balanced championship team right out of the box. While that's not impossible, it *should* be fairly clear by now that this isn't what's been happening in Edmonton.

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#65 Spydyr
December 30 2013, 01:39PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

Drafting the BPA is not a strategy (or at least not a good one). It is a *part* of a strategy. If you need a goalie, but there is an elite skater who is better than the mediocre goalies available, then you draft the elite skater and later trade him for an elite goalie.

Drafting BPA is like the "Dump" part of "Dump and chase". It is the easy part. Sucking really, really badly is not hard. The hard part is working to turn those assets into a viable and well-rounded team.

Look at the Nordiques; IIRC, they had 3 first overall picks, and ended up trading all of them to build the team that won the cup. Calgary put the finishing touches on their championship team by trading away Brett freakin Hull, to shore up their defence and get a backup goalie. It was the least sexy trade return of all time, and it won them a cup.

The Oilers just seem to want to take the BPA with every pick, and expect those players will form a cohesive and balanced championship team right out of the box. While that's not impossible, it *should* be fairly clear by now that this isn't what's been happening in Edmonton.

Take the BPA then trade assets to get missing pieces.Something the Oilers have not done.

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#66 They're $hittie
December 30 2013, 02:01PM
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@Serious Gord

when i call guys out they play better, however that is against the slovaks, and they lost against the czecks

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#67 Copper
December 30 2013, 02:26PM
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Struds, Can you please describe what a #1 Defenseman should be? The way I understand it, He must be: Big, heavy, Strong, solid defensively, solid offensively, hits often and hard.

If these are the traits, then I count less than ten #1 defensemen in the NHL. Players like OTT's Karlssen would not fit this description, nor would, Letang, or Keith. Most teams would not have one.

Am I missing something in the description? Can anyone add to the description? Cant be easy to find one and why would a team want to trade one unless they had 2?

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#69 etownman
December 30 2013, 05:21PM
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DAVE wrote:

If MacT and company seen the same issue's that you see, their might not be total revolt by the fan's. Dallas Eakins calling out the fans for his shi**y hockey team sums it up. I still don't know why in the wide world of sports why Smid was traded to Calgary. Cap space issue's were just window dressing.

We obviously don't have the inside scoop but I'm guessing having the flexibility under the cap had some bearing! More so, I think the Oilers want d-man playing defence who are less one-dimensional & more well rounded! D-men like Hamonic & Alzner come to mind! I also remember during one episode of Oil Change where Laddy was pushing hard only to play LD! Don't miss Smid!

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#70 john
December 30 2013, 07:54PM
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Jason Strudwick wrote:

Your description of a number dman isn't totally accurate. Are you trying to make a point?

A top pairing guy for me is someone who can compete agaisnt top lines and handle lots of minutes.

Strudsy I would mostly agree with your description but would add that a true #1 defenceman would also do those things you suggest without looking overwhelmed, do so on almost a nightly basis, be a + in the +/- column most nights, and be a game changer on many nights as well.

The current rendition of this team needs at least one guy (maybe 2) that can do this 28-32 minutes/night without a doubt to make any improvement to defense whatsoever.

To Coppers point that is a long shot for this organisation to achieve at nearly any price.

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#71 Fresh Mess
December 30 2013, 08:15PM
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"Strudsy...Struds" ??? What are you, old army buddies, or perhaps brother bonesmen from 1950's Yale?

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#72 Kevin
December 30 2013, 08:19PM
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Nice prospective J and I agree on your picks. The question is how do you draft either of the two when we will likely have the 1st overall pick and take another smallish skilled forward. Perhaps an opportunity to trade down a few spots and pick up a second asset. That said, it makes me nervous when six rings trades down thinking he is smarter than the rest of the hockey world. Lest we forget Zach Parise, slipping through our finger tips. All said, sadly there is more of the right kind of hockey dialog among nation writers than I have witnessed in reality over the past decade with the transactions the Oiler organization have made. The lack of depth is inexcusable.

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#73 719
December 30 2013, 08:43PM
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MacT's moves are simple to understand, you are just looking in the wrong place. They do not make the Oilers' better, but make the teams fighting for the 1st overall with us better.

Omark to Buffalo - Make Buffalo better, they win more than us, we get better shot at 1st overall

Smid to Calgary - see above

Now will he send Hemsky to the Ny Islanders?

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#74 Woogie63
December 30 2013, 09:19PM
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Hemsky and N. Shultz gone at the trade deadline.

Give Yakupov top 6 minutes it is a great investment in a lost season. - skill

Get Hartikainen back to the Oilers. - size

Get Pitlick onto the third line it is a great investment in a lost season. - size, speed

Can Slepyshev jump to the NHL with Gagner on his wing.- size and skill

Can Moroz jump to the 4th line? - size

Draft Ekblad. - skill, size

You are bigger, faster, a big 2C, and four options for top pairing D (Ekblad, Nurse, Kleblom, Petry)

The veterns to help these kids are Eberle, Hall, RNH, Perron, Ference, Petry, Gagner

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#75 Oliveoiler
December 30 2013, 09:23PM
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Interesting article Jason - but being an armchair coach/scout wont make it happen. You were popular as an Oiler, your behaviour on and off ice was exemplar and your "Battle of the Blades" was AMAZING, but no matter what you think, say or predict doesn't mean it's the right choice. The bottom line is the PLAYERS - their inability or downright refusal to defend, their constant playing as individuals instead of a TEAM, and their constant whine of "we know what we did wrong, we know what to do to make it right," and their total refusal to initiate these "right" moves. If I had a dollar for everytime I have heard, "we need to do this/that" and then watch while they DIDN'T/DON'T, I could afford a long winter holiday in the sun during hockey season.

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#76 Oiler Al
December 30 2013, 10:39PM
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Copper wrote:

Struds, Can you please describe what a #1 Defenseman should be? The way I understand it, He must be: Big, heavy, Strong, solid defensively, solid offensively, hits often and hard.

If these are the traits, then I count less than ten #1 defensemen in the NHL. Players like OTT's Karlssen would not fit this description, nor would, Letang, or Keith. Most teams would not have one.

Am I missing something in the description? Can anyone add to the description? Cant be easy to find one and why would a team want to trade one unless they had 2?

No.1 defenseman... take a C , H, A, R, A. You also answered your own question, they don't trade away No.1 D men..unless you are Mike Milbury.

PS.. Although I like the guy and would have him on my team in a heartbeat, PK Subban, should not have won the Norris last year.It should have been Chara, and I don't even like the guy.

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#77 Dangilitis
December 30 2013, 10:57PM
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Great insight Jason. I agree wholeheartedly with you about Leon, I have been keeping a close eye on him since Romulus has been singing his praises on Lowetide for the last few months. I am worried, however, that Leon will be ranked too low for the Oilers to pick at the time of the draft. He was last ranked 7 overall by ISS. I hope that Oilers playe well enough to move up to 25th overall, so that he will be a safe and easy choice for the team on draft day. I also hope that he continues to fly under the radar, even as he outscores Sam Reinhart.

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#78 Kevrock
December 30 2013, 11:11PM
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Love your articles Struds, Great to see you on the tsn panel for the WJC to...tough questions now...how is this defence different than when you were playing? and do you think you played more than you should have?

Could we hear your personal opinions on the current management and how they are dealing with the prospects/younger players.

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#79 ?
December 31 2013, 12:44AM
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"Let me introduce to you first Mr. Leon Draisaitl. He is playing for Germany in the World juniors and has skated for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL the last two seasons. Depending on where you look, he is roughly 6'2 and 200lbs. He is the big center the Oilers are in desperate need of to compete with the Thornton's and Getzlaf's of the Pacific division.

200lbs is actually below the NHL average

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#80 gus1000
December 31 2013, 01:24AM
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The only thing bold MacT sees is his BBQ sauce.

I fear we end up trading Yakupov for those said magic beans and extend the life of 'the rebuild'. Coach doesn't like him, agent doesn't like the coach. This won't end well.

And like I've said before, guys go to camp to earn a spot on the roster. Nurse was the best d-man in camp from the games I saw. Was there not proof there that he earned the 9 game tryout in the show?

And the WJC is all politics, him not being selected was a farse, but it doesn't affect what looks like a promising career. A WJC roster spot means nothing in the pros, ask Shawn Belle, or numerous other guys who made it, and never amounted to anything.

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#81 Spurzey
December 31 2013, 05:41AM
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Hey Struds. You are doing a fine job on tv. I hear Rogers is looking for help!

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#84 Deke Rivers
December 31 2013, 08:18AM
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I don't get all the Yak support. We have a team leaking goals against and people think the worst +/- in the league deserves more playing time over the other right wings? It's his responsibility as a professional to get his game in gear. He's not doing that, he doesn't deserve ice time over the other right wings in the organization. period. He does need to go to OKC and learn his role. No one discounts his talent. But as we complain about an entitled generation of young people, Yak is a poster child. Earn your minutes, learn to be a pro, contribute to the team. Those are HIS responsibilities. He's failed with top 6 minutes, he's failed on the PP, he's failed with protected minutes. Yak, needs some tough love to accept the fact he needs to listen and learn. Until then he can sit or play in OKC.

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#85 Deke Rivers
December 31 2013, 08:28AM
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Wow, everyone seems to think that just because we want someone traded and should get top dollar in return that the rest of league is lining up to oblige. Isn't every team looking for the same rock stars we are. With the exception of the top 10 teams in the league every other team wants stud D men, vezina goaltending, 40 goal scorers, etc. How many teams are rebuilding. As bad as the Oilers are listening to everyone complain and assume that trading Hemsky for Shea Webber is easy and MacT is an idiot for not doing it. As fans we're coming as annoying as Leafs and Canucks fans. Yes we are entitled to expect more, but lets temper our expectations in some degree of reality

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#86 Copper
December 31 2013, 09:38AM
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@Jason Strudwick

Jason, I was looking for your description of a #1 Dman. Handle lots on minutes to me is a question of conditioning not a description of a #1.

My point being, most fans and media, do not have a clear idea of qualities needed to be a #1 Dman in the NHL. We all know that Chara, Weber and Doughty are top Dmen but, who else? Therre's not many. If Pronger can be traded for bit players and draft picks, more than once, why are fans and media suggesting Oilers trade 1st over alls +++ for a lesser defenseman.

Only looking for advice from a long time NHL defenseman. Never a #1 but, solid, reliable, competitive Dman.

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#87 Ted
December 31 2013, 06:58PM
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I remember a lot of activity and buzz about trades just prior to the 2013 draft. Very few were made which was very odd considering there are many teams, like Edmonton, that are poorly built and could thrive by make a few trades. I think Mac T was asked about the lack of trades and he replied with something like: we're a bunch of stubborn men.

The Oil has sucked for a long time. They may have to get creative and make some moves for grit players. I don't think Nail will bring them much but he should be in play. Their first round pick might be another valuable asset to deal.

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