TURN THE OTHER CHEEK

Robin Brownlee
February 11 2013 05:42PM

It's no news flash the Edmonton Oilers came into this season lacking grit up front and that they're not nearly belligerent enough throughout the line-up, but they got even easier to play against with the decision to waive veteran tough guy Darcy Hordichuk today.

Now, I'm not going to mount the apple box and make a stand for Hordichuk because he hasn't been used nearly enough by coach Ralph Krueger to be any kind of factor. In essence, Hordichuk was taking up a roster spot for nothing. He was wasted space. This move, on its own, is not a big deal.

The issue I have isn't about keeping Hordichuk, or any one-dimensional beat cop for that matter, but rather it's the bigger picture -- the unquestionable lack of what we're calling functional toughness these days on the roster. The Oilers have next-to-none, save for reluctant and often-concussed Ben Eager. Jason Gregor talked about it this afternoon, and I couldn’t agree more.

At some point, hopefully before every other team figures out – most already have -- they can knock Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins around at will without any kind of push-back from a roster incapable of it, GM Steve Tambellini will take a look at the make-up of his team.

Namely, the obvious need for a forward or two who can bang some bodies and play with an edge. Somebody who can play hockey – and meaningful minutes in the top-nine without beating the puck square or serving as a boat anchor for more talented linemates. Simply put, top-nine options with mustard. Easy to say, difficult to find, I know.

THE MIX MATTERS

Earlier this season, when Edmonton's power play was scoring at a rate nobody expected would continue, it was at least possible to offer the argument the Oilers could make up for their lack of nastiness the way the Detroit Red Wings have for years – by making opponents pay with the man advantage.

I think there's still room to make that approach part of the plan, even if the PP settles into the 20-something per cent range, which it will, and stays in the top-third of the league. But there has to be more, and that's where Tambellini and tweaking the personnel comes in.

It'll mean making tough decisions because gritty, hate-to-lose, hardnosed guys who can actually play some are a valuable commodity. If you don’t have them in your system, you won’t get them from somebody else for spare parts. If Tambellini wants to address that need – heaven help the Oilers if chooses not to – it's going to mean giving up something.

The Oilers are skilled enough. They're talented enough. Their best players are still feeling their way into the NHL. What the Oilers are not is tough enough and nasty enough in the supporting cast to ensure that all that talent blossoms as it should. They aren't tough enough to play against. They scare no one.

That has to change.

BEND OVER, DONNY BOY

From Rex Libris earlier today:

"My target in this hypothetical is Phoenix because of the NHL ownership angle and due to their system needing an influx of prospects. The Coyotes cannot afford the luxury even of an abbreviated rebuilding phase due to severe financial concerns and the desperate need to grow the brand within their market.

"In exchange for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Kyle Chipchura and Henrik Samuelsson the Oilers would send back Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Whitney (minus half the dollar amount on his contract through the Retained Salary mechanism in the CBA), Tyler Pitlick, Toni Rajala, David Musil and a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft."

While some might characterize Coyotes GM as a simpleton and an imbecile if he did anything other than laugh off this suggested swap as the ramblings of somebody staggering about with Oilers beer goggles on – I believe others have done so already -- I can't see why Phoenix wouldn’t jump at this deal.

Sure, the Coyotes would be giving up a young defenseman in Ekman-Larsson who'll be a first-pairing guy and a third-line banger with pretty good hands in Samuelsson, but they'd be getting, well, uh, a third-line winger in Paajarvi, a veteran defenseman who is mastering the knack of playing in the NHL on one ankle and, well, uh, Musil, who might develop into a third-pairing stay at home guy like, say, Frank Musil.

Never mind.

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

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
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 GVBlackhawk
February 11 2013, 06:32PM
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And then BAM! Stanley Cup.

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#2 RexLibris
February 11 2013, 09:13PM
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Wait? Feb 11th? I thought it was April 1st!....hehe....he...yeah *hangs head in shame*

I think I'm man enough to admit that looking back at that scenario, it is a gross underpay and I think I was guilty of extreme fan bias in crafting it. But getting called out by Robin, one of the best writers I've read in print or online, is something I'll hang my hat on and learn from.

As for adding some toughness, I'd love to find some through a trade, I just don't know how the Oilers can acquire it when the rest of the league knows how desperately we'll be needing it. The asking price is likely to be quite high, and the team doesn't, so far as I can see, have a great deal of depth from which to draw.

This could be the roster player the Oilers spend the next few years spinning their tires trying to acquire, the same way Philadelphia is always looking for a goalie or the Flames a centre. I certainly hope not.

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#3 The Oilers Shot Clock
February 11 2013, 10:58PM
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Brian Boyle. And he plays center. Cost wouldn't be outrageous.

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#4 @Oilanderp
February 12 2013, 12:35AM
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In the words of the immortal Yakupov,

"We win, first, we win Canada. Second, we win, we win Canada. Third win, 80,000 peoples, red jersey, everybody put red and white jersey. But we win the score, more goals, and it doesn’t matter how, how much, how many shoots Canada shoots at our box, our net, so we win. We’re very excited. It doesn’t matter right now. We, we beat Canada, so.

[Interviewer] Little too close at the end there?

I don’t know. You can give me like hundred questions, but we win. Russia win. Russia better Canada, so . . . see you next time.

[Multiple interviewers talking at one time]

Surprise did I? Not surprised. We been ready 100 percent. We score six goals. We score more goals and win the games, and we win Canada. We beat Canada. We win with a wonderful rink, 80,000 guys and ‘Canada, Canada! Let’s go!’ We have, I think we have, I don’t know, 30, 40 guys, Russian guys from Siberia, and they put their Russian jerseys and ‘Come on, Russia!’ and we win, so that’s it. Thanks, guys."

(taken from http://twentytwowords.com/2012/06/13/hockey-player-knows-just-enough-english-to-give-a-perfect-post-game-interview/)

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#5 Cody
February 11 2013, 08:48PM
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You can see it slowly creeping into his game and I think he will be very similar To iginla when he developes, I texted into greggor a show saying this, am I the only one who thinks people should calm down? We have a winning record and are in every single game, why are we freaking out, I would like some more size but the team is doing fine, seems like a lot of yeg media think the oilers are dead last or something. I'm a flames fan and we have more grit and size and where are we?

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#6 Hayek
February 11 2013, 07:08PM
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Totally disagree with you Robin.

I'll take a team of 5'10, 190lb forwards as long as they hold their own at even strength, and draw more penalties than they take.

I could care less about players who have a lot of hits, take a bunch of penalties, and get outscored.

This notion of "grit" will be laughed at 25 years from now when evluation of games has advanced to a point to where hockey writers don't have knowledge of the game from a 1960's prospective.

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#7 mouthbreather
February 11 2013, 07:35PM
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Have you even watched a game in the last 10yrs? I mean an NHL game?? 5'10" 190lbs? Take off your WHAM shirt and climb out of the basement dude.

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#8 RyanCoke
February 11 2013, 07:55PM
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The thing about trying to trade for OEL is that if he was on the market I am sure there is a team out there willing to give fair value in the trade and the proposed trade by Rex would not even be close to what other teams offer. The only way I see it working is with the wink wink nudge nudge to Don Maloney about making him our next GM if he does it that someone else mentioned. But then how would it get done because Tambo would be involved in the trade and telling Maloney that he will give Maloney his job lol.

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#10 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 10:03AM
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@ #9 Hayek wrote...

"I'll take a team of 5'10, 190lb forwards as long as they hold their own at even strength, and draw more penalties than they take. This notion of "grit" will be laughed at 25 years from now when evluation of games has advanced to a point to where hockey writers don't have knowledge of the game from a 1960's prospective."

I say....In 25 years Brownlee and I will be dead.....in the mean time..."Git me sum GRIT"

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#11 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 10:05AM
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And......thank God we'll be dead....because what your describing isn't Hockey.....its ringette....

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#12 Quicksilver ballet
February 11 2013, 05:55PM
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Maybe Tambellinis turning up the heat on his gameplan. Leave the kids exposed, so one or two of them could be taken out, so this summers boobie prize will be Nathan MacKinnon.

Tambo gets fired, and the Oilers land MacKinnon, i'll take that trade.

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#13 MarcusBillius
February 11 2013, 05:56PM
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I love the poking fun at the trade suggestion.

I was hoping you'd have some trade ideas for toughness. First round pick, Hemsky, Gagner... for...?

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#14 Mac962
February 11 2013, 06:10PM
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As i said in another post : It is now up to Lowe and Tambo to do something and soon, Taylor- Nuge - Eberle - Yak Cannot do everything, they need the pieces to play with them to give then the room they need to do to excel at what they do.

Put up Kevin and Steve or please get out.

You did not give us these kids , FAILURE DID !

And we as Edmonton fans, not Florida fans know it and are now watching you guys.

Get off your a-- and work it.

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#16 Tyler
February 11 2013, 06:25PM
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Lucic, Lucic, Lucic! I dont know how, or what but other than the 5 kids anyone else is on the table including hemmer and gagner. First rounder too, i dont care.

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#17 Closetgm
February 11 2013, 06:33PM
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Wow that's quite the trade scenario. He should have his blogger licence revoked!

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#18 michael
February 11 2013, 06:54PM
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Would Kieth Yandles contract would be more tradeable and yeild the Yotes a considerable asset/s in return. How long till the NHL suspends the Phoenix franchise? It would be an option.The franshise needs a fresh start.Perhaps a break for a couple of seasons would be preferable to the limbo the franchise is in now.

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#19 Quicksilver ballet
February 11 2013, 07:09PM
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Think the optics of that Pheonix situation has merit. After a difficult start to the season for the NHL, why wouldn't they explore every financial opportunity to lessen their required influx of monies to that franchise. If i had the same handcuffs on that Maloney has to wear, i'd be cutting corners on a venture where 9 out of 10 kids would fail to even have a marginal NHL career as well. Way too many teams and not enough talent to go around, going on near 20 yrs now.

It's in the leagues best interests to cut their costs/expenses over the next couple yrs. Strip the value/costs and send that stripped/bargain basement valued franchise to Quebec. That would be like buying the Oilers 5 yrs ago. The toughest yrs are ahead for them. Good luck with that Quebec.

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#20 The Oilers Shot Clock
February 11 2013, 07:23PM
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The problems of drafting first overall three years in a row. The development timeline is so stretched. I don't want to wait untill hall and huge are in their mid twenties before guys drafted in the same year are full time nhlers. Package them for something reasonable. Gernat + Marincin and a pick would land a power forward of some sort would it not? Maybe even a center.

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#21 shonn
February 11 2013, 07:34PM
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maybe they also have a plan to get rid of whitney and bring up peckham,then have peckham with a d and fistric with another d, build the back end tough, those guys will fight, that's what I would be thinking about doing right now with the currant roster, sorry hordichuk isn't good enough to play anymore

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#22 vetinari
February 11 2013, 07:55PM
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In 4 games this year, Hordichuk averaged about 2 minutes per game with no points. The year before, in 43 games, he averaged a whopping 4.3 minutes a game and collected 3 points. The year before that, in Florida, in 64 games, he averaged 5 minutes a game of ice time and collected 5 points.

I know that he wasn't brought in to put up points or to run the power play but if he can't be trusted to do some PK work or pull regular duty on the 4th line, frankly, we won't miss him and I'd rather use that roster spot to develop someone else.

And as for protecting the kids, he had 2 penalty minutes this year and 64 last year-- not really policing much, is he?

I'm not saying that we need less of a physical presence in our lineup-- I'm saying we don't need this type if physical presence in our lineup-- slow as molasses and not even someone you would risk against the other team's fourth liners. Waiving him won't hurt the team.

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#23 Kevin
February 11 2013, 08:01PM
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Bang on RB- a guy like jamie Mcginn off the Avs would do wonders- you would'nt think it would take much for these types of players. The trouble is we haven't got a management team that knows how to build a competitive NHL rooster. That said as long as Klowe Tambo along with MacT are running this team we are in for the same old results. This oil team is built for pond hockey not the NHL.

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#24 Skin
February 11 2013, 08:18PM
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Why can't Hall be a crasher/tough guy to play against? It's not like his skill will disappear. If he plays a tougher, more in your face, kind of game, it could make more room for his line mates and that's good for him too. Taylor Hall is not a small forward. Maybe he should try to muck it up more and play a little greasier game.

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#25 MarcusBillius
February 11 2013, 08:27PM
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So you're thinking of a one-player solution, a role player? Will a sole 4th liner be enough?

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#26 Cody
February 11 2013, 08:49PM
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I love both oilers and flames and the oilers are a better team, look at Chicago, how big and mean are they

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#28 MarcusBillius
February 11 2013, 09:32PM
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I guess I'm just looking at Eager, Hordichuk, and back at Jacques and Winchester and not seeing it.

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#29 Tayranchula
February 11 2013, 09:34PM
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That trade would be way to good to be true (obviously) but damn that would fill some holes on that Oilers team.

A team I think the Oilers should be looking at and talking to is Philly. They must be in panic mode and at the rate they trade players Im sure we could swindle a deal for someone useful on that team.

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#30 a lg dubl dubl
February 11 2013, 09:37PM
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As an earlier post said do just about anything to get Lucic...pipe dream,yea probably,but it cant hurt to try.

Is Peckham really that much worse than Potter? I dont see anyhing wrong with this d

Shultz-Shultz jr

Smid-Petry

Peckaham-Fistric

Whitney untradable due to feet and contract, good 7th dman

Potter, just go away please

imo if a dman cant make a good first pass he shouldnt be in the big time.

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#32 a lg dubl dubl
February 11 2013, 09:41PM
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Simmons maybe, Id take him over Petrell anyday lol

LET THE ARMCHAIR GMing BEGIN!!

EDIT: that was for Tayranchula

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#33 Seaward
February 11 2013, 09:43PM
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Speaking of Philly...

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=655185&navid=nhl:topheads

Sure, it could be anything but it's still a little interesting. I haven't been able to find anything else (net or networks) on the move.

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#34 a lg dubl dubl
February 11 2013, 09:45PM
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Im curious Robin if you were GM for a day, who would you get, who would you give up? Not tryin to be a piss off towards you just want to pick your brain is all.

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#35 shonn
February 11 2013, 10:16PM
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cheechoo seams to be getting back on track and could help the oilers with toughness that norm is talking about, the oilers just have to offer him an NHL contract first, but why not roll the dice with him, he used to be everything we are asking for

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#36 Small town dreams
February 11 2013, 10:23PM
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Not saying its what, or who I want to see for the Oil but even the Black Hawks have Carcilo playing as high as the first line to protect their top players, hey Robin in your opinion what would be the asking price for Clarkson. Would Hemsky be enough? IMO I think Clarkson is the next closest thing to Lucic

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#37 Oiler Al
February 11 2013, 10:33PM
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Oilers need to make a deal like Vancouver did with the Hodgson for Kassian deal. Kassian has, grit, can skate, and will even drop the gloves, ask Eager.

The problem is that Oilers tend to over value all their players, and top that off with the fact that Tambelini hasn't got the mettle to make deals it would seem.It dosen't help that Lowe and Katz , over to many scotches, are stuck in the 80's still trying to revive the Boys on the Bus,even to the point of bringing MacT back in the fold. Paajarvi could have got you a Kassian. I know Kassian got an "over rate" grade only because he played with the Sisters, but he could also have played with Ebs. and RHN.. got the same number of points.

Draft idea is great but only in part. If you rebuild your entire championship team via draft, you soon run out runway.

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#38 David S
February 11 2013, 10:43PM
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Ralph Krueger said today "The intimidation is in the way you play."

I get where you're coming from Robin, but I also have to agree with Ralph on this one. The issue at hand isn't a single guy as much as the team understanding what it takes to win night in and night out.

Which is why I desperately want this team to make the playoffs this year. They need to raise their game to compete at the heightened level this shortened season is generating and they need to see how much more they have to step up to compete in the playoffs.

This is the price you pay for not putting winning at the top of your list EVERY DAMN GAME. This team hasn't been expected to do much of anything but tank limp their way through the season for a few years now. I think it'll take them a while to readjust to a real competitive mindset.

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#39 Newj
February 11 2013, 10:45PM
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A wish list:

Ryan Clowe Wayne Simmonds Milan Lucic Cal Clutterbuck Nicolas Kronwell Brandon Dubinsky Jordin Totoo Steve Ott Kevin Bieksa David Clarkson

Certainly there are differences amongst these players but all bring an edge to their game and alot teams dont like playing against them.

We have a few choice assets to trade with.

I agree we need someone to stir the pot once and awhile plus make sure our younger players get the ice they need.

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#40 Bonvie
February 11 2013, 11:51PM
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He may be available he has been scratched and was a bit in the doghouse, the Oilers better at least ask I always hate hearing when some player like this gets traded for a reasonable return, and you think to yourself if this guy was available why were we not able to make that deal.

Although it is hard to imagine New York letting him go but they have more size than we do, but I guess the deal for them is trading for a guy that plays well with Nash, as they like the Richards-Gaborik tandem.

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#41 andrewmk20
February 11 2013, 11:52PM
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No you don't. The players Edmonton should target are guys like Adam Burish, Brandon Prust, Aaron Asham, Derek Dorsett, Kyle Chipchura, etc. Those players can be acquired with mid round picks or are available during Free Agency.

I was kind of disappointed that Edmonton didn't go after Prust in the offseason. Yes he is commanding 2.5M/year but he basically has all the skills that Edmonton is lacking this season and he's played really well with 2 young skill kids in Montreal (Galchenyuk & Gallagher). He could have done the same with Ebs and RNH.

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#42 Rob
February 12 2013, 02:12AM
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I don't see where Horty is going to be missed all that much unless you reason that his prescence on the roster alone is a deterrent.

He is a solid citizen in every other way, I get that, but two minutes a game on the rare occasion he does play just isn't going to scare too many teams.

Unless and until the Oil build a team like St. Louis, San Jose or L.A. they are going to continue to be slapped around.

I think there are just too many hot-house flowers in the Oiler line-up. RNH's solo crash into the boards would be a case in point.

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#43 eastcoastoil
February 12 2013, 02:35AM
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Posted this in Rex's article, see if it gets more play here.

"I am definitely in the camp of staying the course. If you want a trade then...

I do not see a need to address the second line center. Gagner is more than effective in that role but needs some defensive help on that line.

The hole is on LW, who's behind hall. Yak has scored from the right side not the left.

Move one of the RW(Hemsky/Yak) for a lefty. Someone who is large two player with experiance or size. Max Pacioretty, Scott Hartnell, Patrick Marleau or even pipe dream Milan Lucic.

Size in the top six solved..."

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#44 Walter Sobchak
February 12 2013, 02:48AM
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You got to draft this player or your scouting department finds a diamond or your going to pay a premium to get them via trade or UFA's.

The Oilers have passed on or given away this type of player, so I'm not sure they even know what one looks like.

Most under rated power player out there..

Tim Glesson.

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#45 Dawn
February 12 2013, 07:03AM
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Wow. A lot of panic seems evident around here. Sure there's a few pieces here and there to fill out the roster. Doesn't need to happen this week though. This team is not a cup contender this year. While I'd dearly love to see a round or two of playoff hockey, I'm not expecting it just yet. And I sure don't want to see the future sold for it. It's chill time now. The moves will come. Maybe even free agents will come. And if the stars align just right, a draft pick in the Curtis Lazar mould could come. Either way, to lose patience with the rebuild plan now would be the height of foolishness.

Besides, we have a wealth of youthful skill, something other teams dream of. If we are patient (as opposed to desperate) those other teams will come to us with hat in hand.

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#46 db7db7db7
February 12 2013, 07:23AM
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I think Harti is a very good start as far as effective grit. He doesn't intimidate, but grinds down the opponents. I think we should trade Hemsky and our extra second round pick for Simmonds. This would give us a very nice balance of pure skill and effective grit. I also believe that this grit issue will resolve itself with time as the kids start packing on the pounds and get stronger on the puck.

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#47 The Beaker
February 12 2013, 07:40AM
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Who was that in the pic? Eberle? He should have bit Jagr. His teeth marks are probably too distinctive though.

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#48 The Beaker
February 12 2013, 07:43AM
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@Dawn

So... We wait... We wait and assess.

That's what you're saying?

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#49 oilcan
February 12 2013, 09:02AM
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when considering how to inject grit into the lineup could l please suggest Robyn Regehr in Buffalo?...does anyone remember how he used torment the oiler forwards?...hes available...his contract ends this year in Buffalo...hes big...plays mean ..is a leader...is a great person and teammate and wants to return to Alberta..this is a no brainer

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#50 mustang0304
February 12 2013, 09:33AM
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It seems the powers to be don't think or didn't think "grit" was something to important, or it was easy to add when needed. IE. Glencross. They went whale hunting instead of signing a important piece to the puzzle. Do we need grit and some balls up front, ya you damn right we do...but thats easy to add..right? When we let Glencross walk we needed grit right from that day, what was that 3-4 years ago? Don't worry people we have some grit and size coming in about 5 years, one Mitch Moroz, two Travis Ewanyk. Ya, apparently the end of the world is coming as well.

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