SIMPLE, YET DIFFICULT...

Jason Gregor
December 09 2013 01:56PM

It is simple to see what Craig Mactavish needs to do, but it will be difficult to achieve; Get Better Players.

We can spend hours breaking down Dallas Eakins' system, goaltending, the powerplay or a plethora of other issues, but it always comes back to the same problem; a lineup lacking in NHL talent.

MacTavish didn't build this roster, but he is the man in charge moving forward and he needs to start adding players, especially defenceman, instead of shipping them out for future prospects. The Oilers can't afford to give away any more proven NHL players for another prospect or draft pick. They have enough young players, they need experience, size and most importantly some more talent on the blueline.

The harsh reality is that opposing forwards don't fear anyone on the Oilers blueline. Andrew Ference is the only one who is hard to play against. None of the remaining D-men will make a forward pay the price in front of the net or in the corner. The Oilers can't expect Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom or Darnell Nurse to be that type of D-man next season. If they do, then you can expect their playoff drought to extend to nine seasons.

The onus is on MacTavish to recognize this and do his best to rectify it. Find another trading partner like the St.Louis Blues, a team willing to part with an experienced veteran player for a younger, cheaper talent, and pull the trigger.

Everyone knows the Oilers aren't making the playoffs, but they currently have over $7 million in cap space so they can afford to take on some salary to make a deal work. MacTavish has already stated he'd be willing to move the 2014 first round pick, so we know he understands the need to inject experience rather than youth into his organization.

A team looking to acquire that pick will likely wait until the season is over and they know exactly what draft spot they are getting. If you traded the Oilers a solid player today for that pick, the value of the pick would decrease by June. I don't see that pick being moved until closer to the draft.

If MacTavish wants to improve his roster over the next few months, I see the following pieces as the most likely options to move:

Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky. They could move Jeff Petry, but they don't have much depth on the backend, so he wouldn't be my first choice.

Hemsky is a pending UFA, so he will garner the smallest return, however, he will have value at the deadline and his cap hit will be more manageable around the March 5th deadline.

Gagner needs to play better to increase his value. The Oilers and Gagner supposedly have an unofficial no-movement clause, however, this is a business and if a deal comes along that makes sense, I don't see why MacTavish wouldn't pull the trigger.

Yakupov will garner the most interest, and while there is some risk in moving a former #1 overall pick, there will also be significant interest in him because of his draft status. If you want a good player in return, you need to be willing to give up something.

I don't see Yakupov being a foundation piece of the Oilers; they already have forwards who will be that guy. They need to use him to try and acquire a solid piece to their blueline.

Regardless of who or when MacTavish makes a move, it is apparent this group of players simply isn't good enough to win. 

QUICK HITS....

  • I'm glad James Neal got suspended. His knee on Brad Marchand was incredibly cheap, and he deserved five games. Kneeing a guy in the head is gutless, not to mention idiotic.
     
  • Shawn Thornton has always been an honest player, prior to going after Orpik. What I found crazy about that play, is that we see guys punching one another with gloves on all the time and rarely do they get injured. It doesn't excuse Thornton for what he did, he deserves to be suspended, likely at least ten games, but every NHL player I spoke with regarding the incident was surprised Orpik was injured that bad from that gloved punch.
     
  • It is time Dallas Eakins sends a message to someone in his top-nine. The Oilers had way too many turnovers at the Flames blueline on Saturday, and many of them came from blind pass attempts, rather than putting the puck deep in the zone. The Oilers are entering game 32; the coach can't allow those types of plays to continue without consequences.
     
  • Martin Marincin has been good in his two games. He's averaged over 15 minutes a game, got some PP time and he's been sheltered properly. I'd play him again on Tuesday, but I'd be cautious of keeping him here all season. A small taste of the NHL should motivate him even more when he returns to the AHL, and especally during the off-season where he needs to work on getting stronger.
     
  • Bryzgalov practiced today as did Richard Bachman. Bachman will head to OKC the minute he is cleared to play, and it sounds like Bryzgalov is close to being cleared to play. Both Bryzgalov and Dubnyk are UFAs at the end of the year, and their play in the final 50 games should decide if either, both or none of them will be re-signed.
     
  • With three weeks remaining in the NFL season my Miami Dolphins are in the wild card mix. I'm surprised, considering their horrendous GM, but with games remaining against the Patriots, Bills and Jets, they have a very good chance of making it. 
     
  • Tyler Pitlick is heading back to OKC. He hasn't played a game since October 26th. Once he gets back in game shape, I wouldn't be surprised to see him recalled in January.
     
  • The OKC Barons have had 41 different players in their lineup, including 7 different goalies, yet the Barons are only one point out of the playoffs. With Bachman and LaBarbera close to being sent down, along with Pitlick's re-assignment today, the Barons should make a push for the playoffs over the next few months.

DAY SEVEN...MONTH OF GIVING...

On Friday we raised another $2,900 for our Derks Menswear package and the Oilers/Flames tickets. Thanks to Dan and Raja for their generous bids.

Today's package... THE VIP Experience...

  • Pair of Edmonton Rush season tickets. Gold seats, lower bowl.
  • A behind the scenes tour during one home game. You'll meet the coaches, players and the cheer team.
  • You and a friend will go on a road trip with the Rush to Calgary for a regular season game. You will travel with the team, stay at the team hotel, go to the game and have dinner with team owner, Bruce Urban. You will be invited to the after party as well.
  • You will get a meet and greet with UFC champion Georges St.Pierre on January 11th in Edmonton.

    You can bid today between 2-6 p.m. by calling 780.444.1260 or 1.800.243.1945. All the proceeds will go towards Santas Anonymous.
     

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#101 Death Metal Nightmare
December 10 2013, 03:24AM
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fake. keep Yakupov, trade Eber-lazy. otherwise, the list is spot on.

Yakupov actually f-ing hits people. HARD. "yeah, who cares about sand paper when you got toe drags?"

Eberle is just the next Gagner. way better talent obviously but similar deficiencies. each is riding junior/national hype way too long.

who in the organization is "THAT GUY" for Yakupov? a hard shot, speed, agility? Eberle? meh. plus you'd get a way better return on Eberle's hype. if "teaching Yakupov" is some road block to him being a sick RW'er in this league the organization is BRUTAL for drafting him.

"Yakupov is russian, weird and doesnt fit immediately into a canadian archetypal Good Boy player so he isnt a cornerstone (meanwhile Crappy Gagner sits in organization for 7 years getting paid way too much money after the media said he would be great when he "gets older".)

suck eggs

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#102 Oiler Al
December 10 2013, 06:17AM
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The team goes into "suckage" for 4 years so that enables them to draft high . The problem is that all these draft picks are regressing as they add a few years to their NHL experience.That is not a good thing.

Seems players come to the Oilers to die. When was the last time Oilers developed a Benn type from a No.5 pick to a star...they cant even develop NO.1 picks to become complete NHL players.

Coaching changes didn't help, but the Clowns behind the bench today are not going to change things either...very very sad situation.

Boys, uptop, the gig is up.. your BS and hype has come back to bite you in the rear.

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#103 nick
December 10 2013, 07:42AM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Hey DNick, heres why Smid got moved:

1. Not a great skater 2. Terrible passer and puck handler 3. His hits were baby bear hugs. 4. Only time he cleared guys in front of net was after the whistle blew. 5. Tambelini overpaid for a # 5 defenseman.

Great shot blocker,,, but so are pylons.

As for GM rumor mill.... I heard rumors that Crosby wants to come to Edmonton.

Better skater than Ference, Better passer and puck handler than Ference at least he could clear a body unlike Ference. Speaking of over paying for a #5 D-man how about over paying for a #6 D-man in Ference and adding in a NTC. Now there is a bold move. Guess Ference isnt even a pylon because he can't block shots. Oh ya, he won a cup ha ha Penner won 2

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#104 Zarny
December 10 2013, 09:51AM
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Good article. NHL caliber players. Speaks to the crux of the problem.

Simply put it's time to actually start building. A few high draft picks a contender does not make.

I would classify the Oilers problems into two categories: simple and difficult.

The difficult are the bold moves. A top pairing D, 50-60 pt power F and an elite G.

These are difficult trades and not likely available until the deadline or draft.

They will likely involve moving one of the kids which is fine. The top 6 F are too much of the same and the reality is you have to give up something to get something.

The simple is what Gregor eludes to...basic NHL caliber depth.

Conventional wisdom is you pair young players prone to making mistakes with veterans. We've seen the value of guys like Perron and Gordon and how much the Oilers miss Horcoff.

Instead the Oilers throw all of their young players out together. Young players prone to making mistakes are supported by other young players prone to making mistakes, a below average D with very little experience and a 27 y/o G "prospect" that may or may not be good enough to make the playoffs.

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#105 boxman
December 09 2013, 05:07PM
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@Jason Gregor

Jason I so want to explain to you why your wrong but damn...... congratulations. You're going to be an outstanding dad.

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#106 Release the Hounds
December 09 2013, 11:46PM
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Jason, since J Schultz seems to be always cheating for offense and getting into trouble defensively, would it make any sense to try him at RW just for the hall of it? Perhaps he might be a more effective player. Bring up Fedun to take the spot on D?

Signed, Desperate in the Shuswap

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#107 rinbkrat Brown
December 10 2013, 09:13AM
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The argument for taking Yakupov first overall was that you always take the best available player at the draft (that is, the best PERCEIVED available player), thus increasing the value of your team. Yakupov has proved without doubt that he is very far from a fit on this team. Why is anyone in this town opposed to cashing the asset?

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#108 Kr55
December 10 2013, 10:14AM
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Articles like this are why Lowe should be fired. It's all well and good to make legit excuses for a GM about how the team is in shambles and it's almost impossible for him to improve it. However, the guy that heavily contributed to the team being destroyed has an office right next to the GM! And Lowe is without a doubt still heavily involved in any changes made.

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#109 nick
December 10 2013, 02:54PM
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Zarny wrote:

LMAO!

Sorry but Smid was not a better skater than Ference, a better passer than Ference or a better puck handler than Ference.

That's ridiculous.

Do you actually watch hockey

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#110 Batfink
December 09 2013, 08:30PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Who is all the NHL talent that you speak of on the blueline?

The Oilers have the weakest and softest blueline in the NHL. Name one team's group of 7/8 that has less proven NHL talent and experience on the backend.

Buzzzz! What is Florida? Queue Jeopardy music...

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#111 D'oh-ilers
December 10 2013, 01:20AM
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If the market isn't ready for the Oilers to make a franchise-altering deal, get going on addressing the other areas of need.

Bottom 6 needs some upgrades, and the team could definitely use another veteran defenseman, even if it's just a bottom pairing guy for the time being. Anything is better than running 4-5 guys with less than 200 NHL games. The growing pains are brutal.

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#112 j
December 10 2013, 08:26AM
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Hey Jason - I believe one of the commentators for the Boston/Pitts game stated that Orpik had recently returned from a bad concussion. I suspect this had something to do with him getting re-injured from a relatively small blow to the head. Cumulative trauma from repetitive blows. There is no doubt it was a cheap shot but I agree with you in that it was no more intense than 60% of the scrums every game (excluding Oiler games of course).

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#113 Spydyr
December 10 2013, 11:01AM
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** wrote:

"You think the Oiler forwards are suddenly all going to grow 2 inches and put on 20-30 pounds?"

Well I got this email about this herbal pills that helps you grow 2-5 inches, it says it works for reals...

That's why you were a third rate boxer, sorry, fourth rate, you couldn't even win a foxy boxing match! Tuff guy!

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#114 cccsberg
December 10 2013, 11:15AM
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Zarny wrote:

Good article. NHL caliber players. Speaks to the crux of the problem.

Simply put it's time to actually start building. A few high draft picks a contender does not make.

I would classify the Oilers problems into two categories: simple and difficult.

The difficult are the bold moves. A top pairing D, 50-60 pt power F and an elite G.

These are difficult trades and not likely available until the deadline or draft.

They will likely involve moving one of the kids which is fine. The top 6 F are too much of the same and the reality is you have to give up something to get something.

The simple is what Gregor eludes to...basic NHL caliber depth.

Conventional wisdom is you pair young players prone to making mistakes with veterans. We've seen the value of guys like Perron and Gordon and how much the Oilers miss Horcoff.

Instead the Oilers throw all of their young players out together. Young players prone to making mistakes are supported by other young players prone to making mistakes, a below average D with very little experience and a 27 y/o G "prospect" that may or may not be good enough to make the playoffs.

Good insights, got to start facing reality and make some drastic changes. Need more leadership, tough two-way players. Know Edmonton fans loathe Calgary and think the Flames got nothing to offer but here's an idea: Giordano, Stajan, Cammalleri & a couple prospects for Yakupov, Nurse and 2014 1st rounder. Giordano very solid 1D with great leadership and Pt/game offence this year... Stajan tough 2-way centre (2C)? playing some of the best hockey of his career, good leadership/mentorship and Cammalleri excellent finisher/leader, who would replace Yak's shot (and then some). Yak RW where Calgary thin, Nurse fils Calgary's D needs in a year or two. Can fiddle with other prospects but that would be the primary elements, giving Calgary more youth and Edmonton more leadership for the here and now...

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#115 rinbkrat Brown
December 10 2013, 09:13AM
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The argument for taking Yakupov first overall was that you always take the best available player at the draft (that is, the best PERCEIVED available player), thus increasing the value of your team. Yakupov has proved without doubt that he is very far from a fit on this team. Why is anyone in this town opposed to cashing the asset?

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#116 brackenbury
December 10 2013, 11:54PM
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Imo a guy who could really help the oilers out Granted only in the bottom 6 is VERNON FIDDLER. Local product. Excellent on faceoffs, and despite his size He plays a big mans game. And according to one source, Dallas is looking to move him. I'm sure it wouldn't take much to aquire him

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#117 brackenbury
December 11 2013, 12:04AM
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Lowe Expectations wrote:

When I look at the other teams in the Oilers division, I can't figure out when this team will ever make the playoffs.

U r absolutley right. Bang on! We r in tough in an Extremley talented division. Their is much work to b done Oiler fans before we can think about making playoffs.

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#118 brackenbury
December 11 2013, 12:20AM
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Oiler Al wrote:

Hey DNick, heres why Smid got moved:

1. Not a great skater 2. Terrible passer and puck handler 3. His hits were baby bear hugs. 4. Only time he cleared guys in front of net was after the whistle blew. 5. Tambelini overpaid for a # 5 defenseman.

Great shot blocker,,, but so are pylons.

As for GM rumor mill.... I heard rumors that Crosby wants to come to Edmonton.

Oiler AL is WAY OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY. Sorry bud. But that was weak.YOu know it was personal. How ? SMID had a lotta try in him, but the sum of all parts of his game r not very good. Nick is completley right in his assesment of SMID. And as far as was it 15 ? Gm's not Willing to deal with MACT ? That's absolutely ridiculous. If a gm of any club likes the offer on the table from any Organization, he makes the deal. U will deal with anyone if its going to improve your club. OR u will b out of work real fast. Its not personal ( save for the burke,klowe sideshhow a few Yrs back. Which incidentally has been put to bed ) its business Bro.

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#119 Rdubb
December 11 2013, 07:53AM
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Rumor has it that the Panthers are more than willing to move Shawn Matthias, he is a big player who can play both the wing and centre positions, he is physical, and can skate well enough to keep up with the so-called "young guns" on the Oilers, & should the Oilers make a deal for him, he could most defiantly add that physical presence to the top 6 or even 9... & it is my guess that the Panthers would be more than willing to make this deal for a prospect or two, and as we all know, the Oilers are loaded with prospects but are in need of a big physical forward who can play in, @ the very least, the top 9! So, there is one trading partner for MacT, although he wouldn't be adding a D-man that we need ohh so bad, but he'd also be adding another piece that we need dearly too... Let's make a deal MacT... Peck

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#120 aceglfr
December 11 2013, 11:22AM
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The Oiler woes: I don't know why people are not more outraged with our sub par goal keeping we have had for the 8 losing years. We stick with him thinking he can't be any worse than this but next game he is. Why doesn't Chabot tell Dubs to stay on his feet instead of his knees. Everytime he lets in a soft goal he has been on his knees and it goes under his pads. Gagner is another player we have hung on to for far too long, Arcobello is more of a player and deserves to take Sams spot. Smid has gone because we wanted Brossiot back and we could replace Smid with an upgrade like Larson. Its a pity Andy Sutton retired that is the kind of player we need to shore up the back end. Enough crap about letting the coach go, firing the GM, Lowe taking a walk, it is not going to happen so let it be. Bryz get better we need you. Bachman when are you coming back. If loosey Duby is here next season I quit with the Oil.

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