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.
Avatar
#51 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 09:46AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ 4 Brownlee said:

"You don't need to trade a first-round pick and Hemsky or Gagner, let alone both, for a player who can provide an edge and play more than six minutes a night."

I don't think he meant Hemmer and Gagner and a 1st combined......maybe more like Hemmer and a First Round Pick for a David Clarkson out of NJ. (Given that Clarkson will be UFA at the end of this year) Didn't Hemmer have some chemistry with Elias during the lockout?

Avatar
#52 VK63
February 12 2013, 09:47AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Robyn became a shadow of his former self post the 04 cup run. When obstruction rules changed, the game began to pass him by. The flames milked the best out of him in a high mileage role and the end results are wearing on him now.

In a sense he is another ryan smyth. Theres some good left but guys who introduced a robust style into their play when young are often afflicted with dead legs once the odometer passes 1000 games.

Maybe take a flyer on him in a Scott Hannan role for the usual 1mill a year offered a plow horse but that places a lot of stock in his character and leadership and Im not certain that is in fact the case. Not to be contrarian but I get different intel on the guy.

Avatar
#53 gcw_rocks
February 12 2013, 10:11AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

And they say the dinosaurs are gone.

They can always bring Teddy Peckman back and at least he will be on the ice. If you want toughness, fine, but Hordichuk was not the answer.

Avatar
#54 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 10:12AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ #16 Kevin.....

"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."

Seems to me that Klowe Tambo and you have a lot in common.....Wasn't the Ben Eagre deal at the time (pre-concussion) a Jamie Mcginn type of deal?

Avatar
#55 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 10:19AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

"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."

Two things wrong about this:

1) He's 20.....how much A** were you kickin when you were 20

2) I don't see Stamkos, or Taveras, or Toews, or Seguin, or etc....playing any greasier a game.

He may eventually become Messier or Messier light....but he's doin just fine for his age.

Avatar
#56 Rama Lama
February 12 2013, 10:19AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The comments are "trending against tough guys", needed for this team. I would bet dollars to donughts, that sometime very soon someone is going to crush one of our small forwards. The leve of physical play will intensify in the playoffs ( assuming we make it there) and we will all be writing about needing tough guys.

The tough guy needed for the team essentially gives all the other players added courage! Imagine if your were RNH, and say a Curtis Glencross and Tim Jackman start running you all over the place.........exactly who is going to his defense? Yes it will probably be Sam Gagner , who will get hurt fighting ( much like Taylor Hall did fighting Dorsette) as he will be on the ice.

Regardless of the anti-fighters in this discussion, we need a tough guy who can play the occasional shift and send a message to opposing players.

I don't care if this " tough guy" can play hockey in a top-six role.......we need deterence plain and simple!!!

Avatar
#57 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 10:34AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ #32 Small Town Dreams

"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"

Answer: Hemsky alone would not be enough... and much depends on NJ situation...

1) Clarkson is a UFA at the end of the year (that is good) 2) NJ is contending and probably looking to add..not subtract from the roster (that is bad) 3) NJ is up against they cap for next year (not sure if that's good or bad)

Given these considerations and others they will probably not move Clarkson if they are contending...

If they were to consider because of point one I don't think Hemmer would be their first choice because of his $5 mil contract.

I guess Hemsky and a first round pick might warrant some consideration....but even then..it seems unlikely given NJ's in a WIN NOW situation.... (yes)then they probably...they are up against the cap...But Hemsky and 1st round pick might get consideration depending on

Avatar
#58 2004Z06
February 12 2013, 10:38AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

These guys are out there....It just comes down to what you are prepared to give up to get one of them. At some point the Oilers will have to make the tough decision and trade one of the kids. This toughness/grit needs to be present on at least one of the top 2 lines, as well as the 3/4th. Oiler fans have fallen in love with all the kids, but need to realize that in order to move forward, they will have to cut one of them loose. I know who my pick would be.

Avatar
#59 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 10:48AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ 33 Oiler Al said

"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."

I (and I'm sure many others) had the same thought about Kassian........but only after watching him in his second season with Vancouver......

I really didn't contemplate a deal for him when he was in Buffalo... Cudo's to Gillis...

I'm not being sarcastic when I ask....where is there another Kassian to be had (when your not picking in hindsight) ?

Avatar
#60 Rick
February 12 2013, 10:50AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

A well built roster that can play in almost any situation can handle burning a roster spot on the luxury of a 2 minute a night guy for 50 games a year.

This roster isn't one and as such can't afford to burn a spot on what is at best considered a luxury.

That aside, as far back as two drafts ago Kevin Lowe was seen on Oil Change saying this team needs guys with "pop" and guys that will "go through a wall for you". In the two years since this team has moved even further away from getting those kinds of players.

Why is there such a disconnect between the different decisionmakers on this team, between what they say publically and what they do behind closed doors?

And perhaps most importantly why aren't the Oilers professional scouts able to find some of these guys before they become house hold names and cost an arm and a leg to get?

Avatar
#61 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 10:52AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The thing I really like about the Kassian Hodgson deal is that BOTH teams won in that deal.

Kassian brought power forward type grit to Vnacouver and Hodson brought scoring touch to Buffalo.

Not only did the two teams win....both players won...they are both doing considerably better than they were doing prior to the trade....

It was a thing of beauty......Oilers need to find a win win deal that addresses their weaknesses and the other teams weaknesses....not try and STEAL Oliver Ekman Larson for a bag of pucks....

Avatar
#62 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 10:57AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ #36 Oil Runs Deep said

"Brian Boyle. And he plays center. Cost wouldn't be outrageous."

Define outrageous.......Put a deal together for us.....what do you think it would cost us?

Because he would be an above aveage value for us for the reasons you mention.

Avatar
#63 A-Mc
February 12 2013, 11:00AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

RE: The thing I really like about the Kassian Hodgson deal is that BOTH teams won in that deal. Kassian brought power forward type grit to Vnacouver and Hodson brought scoring touch to Buffalo. Not only did the two teams win....both players won...they are both doing considerably better than they were doing prior to the trade.... It was a thing of beauty......Oilers need to find a win win deal that addresses their weaknesses and the other teams weaknesses....not try and STEAL Oliver Ekman Larson for a bag of pucks....

If i were running the operation over at the Oilers Office, I'd be damn sure to have a team of people whose sole purpose is to maintain an accurate listing of what each team is looking for: strengths and weaknesses.

I hope the Oilers have something like this in place now instead of just flying by the seat of their pants. But sometimes when we see guys traded for next to nothing that would have value in edmonton, it really makes you wonder how in touch the oilers are with what is happening elsewhere in the league.

True Hockey trades, like the one you mentioned, are the best kind. A 3 way hockey trade is something of beauty. Trades like this can't happen if the guys calling the shots are in the dark about what other teams have and need.

Avatar
#64 Walter Sobchak
February 12 2013, 11:06AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

There is a two on the helmet, I think it's VV

Avatar
#65 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 11:19AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@ #60 Rick asks:

"And perhaps most importantly why aren't the Oilers professional scouts able to find some of these guys before they become house hold names and cost an arm and a leg to get?"

If you substitue the words "NHL Teams" for the word "Oilers"....you get to the crux of the situation.

Why did so many teams pass on Boone Jenner at the end of the first round?

Where will a guy like Hartman go in this years draft. It's scary drafting these types of players...one in 5 over achieves and the rest become boat anchors....

I think this chain of posts has identified a large number of potential candidates via trade, which is cool.

Perhaps we could start a list of the "Grittier" guys in this years draft class and have some discussion on that??

Does Curtis Lazar have a chance to turn out to be a Shane Doan type?? Yes? No? Others?

Rychel? Domi? Hartman? Gauthier? others?

Avatar
#66 Rick
February 12 2013, 11:27AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I said professional scouts, I am not talking about grabbing guys these types through the draft.

The draft was supposed to be the means to get the top end guys. Actual GMing and the professional scouts need to do the spade work for the rest of the roster.

It's about unearthing the discards or the guys on the verge that are playing in the AHL or some other professional league.

Things that other teams seem to be able to do.

If every damn piece is supposed to arrive through the draft, the cycle will never end and the finished team will never get assembled.

Avatar
#67 blue31
February 12 2013, 12:18PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Unfortunately, the Oilers are playing tonight. You are obviously a man of vision and foresight, but a team without grit is not winning much in the near future.

We've waited 23 years since the last cup, what's another 25?

Avatar
#68 blue31
February 12 2013, 12:20PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

My above post was responding to Hayek's post #9. How do you edit posts? How do you add props?

Avatar
#69 Old Retired Guy
February 12 2013, 12:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

#66 Rick ...I said professional scouts, I am not talking about grabbing guys these types through the draft.

Gotcha.....and Agreed.

Avatar
#70 Quicksilver ballet
February 12 2013, 12:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Fear not ON, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will fill this pugilist role. Might as well get that shoulder done during another year spent on the outside looking in.

Avatar
#71 The Oilers Shot Clock
February 12 2013, 10:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Old Retired Guy wrote:

@ #36 Oil Runs Deep said

"Brian Boyle. And he plays center. Cost wouldn't be outrageous."

Define outrageous.......Put a deal together for us.....what do you think it would cost us?

Because he would be an above aveage value for us for the reasons you mention.

Well considering he's not playing well, it wouldn't take a huge overpay to get him. I wouldn't know what to offer but I know where I'd draw the line. Nothing in the top 6.

Comments are closed for this article.