Chicago and Pittsburgh and Edmonton

Jonathan Willis
April 11 2013 01:40PM

Photo: Andy/Wikimedia

With the Oilers all but eliminated from the post-season - their fourth consecutive regulation loss dropped their chances to 1-in-40 - and the outcome of this campaign nearly in the books, it seemed a good time to compare the progress of the Oilers’ rebuild to successful ones in Pittsburgh and Chicago

A lot goes into building a team beyond selecting early in the draft; these are by necessity abbreviated timelines.

Chicago

  • 2005-06: Finished 14th in the West. Drafted Jonathan Toews
  • 2006-07: Finished 13th in the West, won draft lottery. Selected Patrick Kane.
  • 2007-08: Rookie seasons for Toews and Kane. Chicago finishes in a three-way tie for ninth in the West.
  • 2008-09: Second year of Kane/Toews deals. Chicago goes to the Conference Finals. General manager Dale Tallon demoted.
  • 2009-10: Final year of Kane/Toews entry-level deals. Chicago wins the Stanley Cup.
  • Summer 2010: Entry-level deals of Kane/Toews end; Chicago dumps a bunch of talent and the franchise regresses. Still a power in the West, but has lost in the first round each of the past two seasons.

Thanks to some poor management decisions along the way, new contracts for Kane and Toews triggered a series of trades that saw talent and money sent out of town – significant players like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell and others would be purged from the roster and it’s taken two years for the team to recover.

Pittsburgh

  • 2002-03: Finished 14th in the West. Drafted Marc-Andre Fleury 1st overall.
  • 2003-04: First year of Fleury’s entry-level deal. Pittsburgh finishes 15th in the East, drafts Evgeni Malkin second overall.
  • 2004-05: Lockout. A year of Fleury’s entry-level deal burned. Pittsburgh wins lottery, drafts Sidney Crosby first overall.
  • 2005-06: Final year of Fleury’s entry-level deal, Crosby’s starts. Pittsburgh finishes 15th in the East, drafts Jordan Staal. General manager Craig Patrick replaced. Fleury signs a two-year deal with a $1.295 million cap hit.
  • 2006-07: Second year of Crosby’s entry-level deal, first year of Malkin’s, first year of Fleury’s cheap two-year contract. Pittsburgh eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
  • 2007-08: Final year of Crosby’s entry-level deal and Fleury’s cheap two-year contract. Second year of Malkin’s entry-level deal. Pittsburgh eliminated in the Stanley cup Finals.
  • 2008-09: Pittsburgh wins the Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh remains a power in the East, though shaky goaltending and defence has been a problem the last two years in first-round exits.

Edmonton

  • 2009-10: Finished 15th in the West. Drafted Taylor Hall first overall.
  • 2010-11: First year of Hall’s entry-level deal. Oilers finish 15th in the West, draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall.
  • 2011-12: Second year of Hall’s entry-level deal, first of Nugent-Hopkins’. Oilers finish 14th in the West, draft Nail Yakupov first overall.
  • 2013: Present day. Final year of Hall’s entry-level deal, second of Nugent-Hopkins’, first of Yakupov’s.

Where are the Oilers – in terms of on-ice performance – today? Somewhere shy of Chicago in 2007-08, somewhere north of Pittsburgh in 2005-06? Chicago was two seasons out from the Stanley Cup in 2007-08, Pittsburgh two from a finals appearance.

One thing both Pittsburgh and Chicago had in common was that neither paid big money for their key pieces until they’d had some playoff success – Chicago’s top picks were still on entry-level deals when they won the Cup, Crosby and Malkin were both still on entry-level deals when Pittsburgh went to the Finals and Fleury was on a cheap bridge contract. The Oilers, on the other hand, are about to see Taylor Hall (and Jordan Eberle) graduate to the ranks of paid NHL stars.

Another thing Pittsburgh and Chicago had in common around this time was a change at the top. Craig Patrick, owing to the failures of his team, was dismissed around this time. Dale Tallon, owing less to failures of the team and more to salary problems (including that famous RFA incident), had just a year left in the top job at this point in the Chicago timeline. The safety of the Oilers’ management group is an unknown, though nothing in the team’s on-ice performance should make Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and the rest feel comfortable.

As Pittsburgh shows, a lack of playoff hockey at this point doesn’t necessarily mean that the rebuild has failed or will fail – the Penguins recovered nicely in the years following their miserable 2005-06 campaign. Whether similar progression lies in the Oilers’ future remains to be seen.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 Citizen David
April 11 2013, 11:18PM
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DSF wrote:

Danny Heatley will be bought out ($7.5M) and Vanek would replace Matt Cullen who is UFA ($3.5M)

Also, with the emergence of Jonas Brodin as a top pairing D, I would not be surprised if they trade or buyout Tom Gilbert ($4M) who is in the dog house.

Nick Backstrom is also a UFA and I would be shocked if gets another contract for $6M.

Adding Vanek would probably push them into cup contention in my books. Not sure they'll like his salary. Who will they give up to get him? Don't want to completely empty the prospect cupboards.

Also, I'm not wild about their D.

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#102 DSF
April 11 2013, 11:19PM
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Natedogg wrote:

I'm no surgeon, but if playing doesn't pose the threat of making it worse and they can play through the pain then they're going to play. If the injury is aggravated to the point where the pain is too much, the player is shut down. That's how I remember Hemsky (twice), Horcoff and Hall playing with shoulder injuries being justified.

To what end?

If Hopkins needs surgery he should get it now so he's fully recovered to start training camp.

Remember this season is going later in the year than normal so offseason recovery time is going to be much shorter.

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#103 Natedogg
April 11 2013, 11:19PM
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DSF wrote:

Toronto wanted the Canucks to take on some of Luongo's salary and Gillis told them to piss off.

Luongo will still end up in Florida.

Book it.

If he ends up in Florida VAN is taking on some of Lu's contract or they're getting Jovo or Campbell. FLA has absolutely no incentive to give up anything of value to acquire a player who so obviously wants to be traded there. Just ask Dean Lombardi...

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#104 DSF
April 11 2013, 11:24PM
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Citizen David wrote:

Adding Vanek would probably push them into cup contention in my books. Not sure they'll like his salary. Who will they give up to get him? Don't want to completely empty the prospect cupboards.

Also, I'm not wild about their D.

Vanek has already said he doesn't want to be part of a rebuild so he's already lowered his value somewhat.

Minnesota might be in a position to offer their first round pick and a prospect to get him.

I agree they need another solid second pairing D but they have Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba coming so they may be okay.

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#105 Natedogg
April 11 2013, 11:26PM
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DSF wrote:

To what end?

If Hopkins needs surgery he should get it now so he's fully recovered to start training camp.

Remember this season is going later in the year than normal so offseason recovery time is going to be much shorter.

A 19 year old learning what it's like to be in an NHL playoff hunt seems like a justifiable end. If the Oil keep sliding out of the race I won't be shocked to see RNH shut down in the next two weeks. Mid-to-late April is no later than any other year. That's valuable for a young player.

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#106 DSF
April 11 2013, 11:31PM
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Natedogg wrote:

A 19 year old learning what it's like to be in an NHL playoff hunt seems like a justifiable end. If the Oil keep sliding out of the race I won't be shocked to see RNH shut down in the next two weeks. Mid-to-late April is no later than any other year. That's valuable for a young player.

The NHL season, in a normal year, is already over.

The Oilers are already out of the race...have been for more than a week.

If he's seriously injured they would have already shut him down.

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#107 DSF
April 11 2013, 11:32PM
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Natedogg wrote:

If he ends up in Florida VAN is taking on some of Lu's contract or they're getting Jovo or Campbell. FLA has absolutely no incentive to give up anything of value to acquire a player who so obviously wants to be traded there. Just ask Dean Lombardi...

Lombardi got exactly what he wanted...$6.5M in cap space.

And a cup.

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#108 Time Travelling Sean
April 11 2013, 11:36PM
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@DSF

Seriously injured? Probably not, but injured enough to negatively affect his performance.

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#109 DSF
April 11 2013, 11:40PM
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Time Travelling Sean wrote:

Seriously injured? Probably not, but injured enough to negatively affect his performance.

Excuse?

We'll see.

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#110 Oilers4ever
April 11 2013, 11:47PM
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I think we can all pretty much agree that unless this team addresses it's size issue in the top 6 specifically and gets another puck moving D in the number 1-2 position, this team will continue to fail year in and year out. At some time you gotta stop relying on the draft and give the talent the role players needed. Their names don't include Ryan Smyth, Eric Belanger, Corey Potter, Ryan Whitney, and the list goes on.

There are three things in my mind the Oilers need to do this offseason. First, package Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky and the first round pick NEXT year to Phoenix and get Oliver Ekman-Larsson on your team. There's your top dman you need. A lot to give up, sure, but who really sees either of those players as a long term part of this team? I sure don't. I love Sam's gamey attitude and never backs down. Fact of the matter still remains - too small. And we have FAR too much of that on this team.

Second, make sure you tank the rest of this season enough to get either Barkov or Monahan. Both will replace Gagner as a center with offensive potential ANDDDD.. wait for it... size.

Finally, and someone correct me if I am wrong here, sign Mike Smith in the off season to a long term deal as a UFA. Kids an awesome goalie. Sorry Dubby, but he blows your arse out of the water. I am tired of watching Dubynk cost us games. I get the offense needs to score more, but Dubby sucked the hind banana on two brutal goals last night and it cost us one point for sure. He has the odd outstanding game here and there, but for the most part, he's got at least one bad goal per game. You don't win the cup on the shoulders of that. Smith is a phenomenal goalie and immediately makes our goaltending better. If you have to throw 4-5 mill per season at him, DO IT. Lord knows this management team does nothing else. Do something right.

And this allows me to add one final point, fire Tambo. Sorry bud... you've had three years to improve this team and have done nothing to do that. Your SCOUTING department has improved this team. Signing players like Belanger and Smyth has done more bad than good. Turf him and I'd like to see them give MacT a chance at the GM position. I think he's got a few more brass balls and knows what its all about to be an Oiler and win. He's the last darn coach that got us close to a cup and KLowe made the moves then to get us some players. Whine all you want about the old boys club, they've produced more than Tambo has... and Tambo doesn't know what it means to be an Oiler and the legacy with that. And nor should he.

I ain't no oracle, but I am pretty sure if you make these moves and sign some GOOD role players in the offseason, this team would have the talent next year to finish 4-6 in the conference and maybe challenge the Wild for first.. yes the Wild. This is the Canucks last kick at the cat. They are regressing...

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#111 DSF
April 11 2013, 11:56PM
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Oilers4ever wrote:

I think we can all pretty much agree that unless this team addresses it's size issue in the top 6 specifically and gets another puck moving D in the number 1-2 position, this team will continue to fail year in and year out. At some time you gotta stop relying on the draft and give the talent the role players needed. Their names don't include Ryan Smyth, Eric Belanger, Corey Potter, Ryan Whitney, and the list goes on.

There are three things in my mind the Oilers need to do this offseason. First, package Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky and the first round pick NEXT year to Phoenix and get Oliver Ekman-Larsson on your team. There's your top dman you need. A lot to give up, sure, but who really sees either of those players as a long term part of this team? I sure don't. I love Sam's gamey attitude and never backs down. Fact of the matter still remains - too small. And we have FAR too much of that on this team.

Second, make sure you tank the rest of this season enough to get either Barkov or Monahan. Both will replace Gagner as a center with offensive potential ANDDDD.. wait for it... size.

Finally, and someone correct me if I am wrong here, sign Mike Smith in the off season to a long term deal as a UFA. Kids an awesome goalie. Sorry Dubby, but he blows your arse out of the water. I am tired of watching Dubynk cost us games. I get the offense needs to score more, but Dubby sucked the hind banana on two brutal goals last night and it cost us one point for sure. He has the odd outstanding game here and there, but for the most part, he's got at least one bad goal per game. You don't win the cup on the shoulders of that. Smith is a phenomenal goalie and immediately makes our goaltending better. If you have to throw 4-5 mill per season at him, DO IT. Lord knows this management team does nothing else. Do something right.

And this allows me to add one final point, fire Tambo. Sorry bud... you've had three years to improve this team and have done nothing to do that. Your SCOUTING department has improved this team. Signing players like Belanger and Smyth has done more bad than good. Turf him and I'd like to see them give MacT a chance at the GM position. I think he's got a few more brass balls and knows what its all about to be an Oiler and win. He's the last darn coach that got us close to a cup and KLowe made the moves then to get us some players. Whine all you want about the old boys club, they've produced more than Tambo has... and Tambo doesn't know what it means to be an Oiler and the legacy with that. And nor should he.

I ain't no oracle, but I am pretty sure if you make these moves and sign some GOOD role players in the offseason, this team would have the talent next year to finish 4-6 in the conference and maybe challenge the Wild for first.. yes the Wild. This is the Canucks last kick at the cat. They are regressing...

Some regression.

Played almost all season with only 2 NHL centres.

8-2-0 in their last 10.

On pace, over an 82 game season, for 107 points and their 6th consecutive NW Division title.

Thing is, next season the Oilers won't be in a division with the Wild.

They'll have to beat out LAK, SJS, ANA and VCR just to make the playoffs.

Good luck with that.

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#112 StHenriOilBomb
April 12 2013, 12:22AM
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Looking back, who would you choose out of the top picks the last few years?

Hall/Seguin, RNH/Landeskog, Yak/Galchenyuk

I still think I stick with the ones we have. If the Oilers took Seguin first, I wonder if they would have gone with Landeskog the next year... Seguin Landeskog Yakupov would be another impressive combination.

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#113 andrewmk20
April 12 2013, 12:22AM
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@DSF

Hate the canucks but I've long admired Mike Gillis and his ability to evaluate and sign players for reasonable contracts, outside of Luongo. However this is a pivotal offseason for them as they do have to buy out 2 players, likely Booth and Ballard, but still have decisions to make after that. They'll have roughly 9.7M next year to sign 8 players and Tanev, Raymond, and Roy are free agents.

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#114 The Oilers Shot Clock
April 12 2013, 12:23AM
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This is the last time I'll post this trade idea I promise, but trade Yakupov to the Capitals for Carlson. The guy is signed for 3.9 until 2018. Thats crazy value. Easier trading for needs than drafting for it. McPhee would have a hard time not making that. There is a very good possibility this team gets too expensive before it gets good. Manage the situation. A young, cap friendly, puck moving defenseman would win us games next year and help the cap situation down the road if all it cost was Yakupov. Rant over.

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#115 Oilers4ever
April 12 2013, 12:23AM
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DSF wrote:

Some regression.

Played almost all season with only 2 NHL centres.

8-2-0 in their last 10.

On pace, over an 82 game season, for 107 points and their 6th consecutive NW Division title.

Thing is, next season the Oilers won't be in a division with the Wild.

They'll have to beat out LAK, SJS, ANA and VCR just to make the playoffs.

Good luck with that.

I forgot about that stupid arse realignment. Morons were thinking when they came up with that... They should have come up with something that was all Canada West from the Jets west to the Canucks and add the Wild and Avs... Playing with all the teams down the US west coast makes no sense...

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#116 Taylor Gang
April 12 2013, 12:29AM
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I think some posters have already highlighted the biggest problem, but I'll just reiterate. The Oilers will be a good team eventually. Our rebuild is different from Columbus and Florida's already solely because we have better talent.

That's not the issue.

The issue is that our team, once they DO get good, will be too expensive to hold on to. Sure Hall and Ebs will be making 6 million each, which is a bargain. But what about Gags? What about the other 3 wonder kids, who will each make 6 million? What about Dubnyk, assuming he keeps playing the way he does?

The reason management needs to make moves now is because they have to seize the opportunity. If they keep waiting around like this then we'll be in another loop.

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#117 StHenriOilBomb
April 12 2013, 12:30AM
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Oilers4ever wrote:

I forgot about that stupid arse realignment. Morons were thinking when they came up with that... They should have come up with something that was all Canada West from the Jets west to the Canucks and add the Wild and Avs... Playing with all the teams down the US west coast makes no sense...

Time zones. Prime time hockey broadcasting makes a huge difference in many markets.

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#118 Walter Sobchak
April 12 2013, 02:31AM
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DSF wrote:

Gagner will not be cheap next season and would play 3rd line for the Preds...not happening.

Paajarvi has almost zero value...he's on pace for a 23 point season.

Smid? Give me a break...he'd be third pairing in Nashville.

That kind of junk doesn't get you a Weber.

Ya, much like brewer doesn't get you Pronger..

I have mild faith!

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#119 madjam
April 12 2013, 08:58AM
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The weekend that was or wasn't ? Oilers chasing Dallas,Detroit,Columbus,and Phoenix for last playoff spot . After tonites games most we are chasing should lose and hopefully Flames do us a favor and beat Phoenix . Saturday could see us beating Calgary while Columbus and Dallas lose again to superior clubs . This weekend could put us right back in the hunt for final playoff birth if all goes according to Hoyle . I believe it can and might . Despite our shortcomings , we are far from over the playoff race until at least this weekend , which seems to favor Oilers moving forward into the race.

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#120 madjam
April 12 2013, 08:58AM
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The weekend that was or wasn't ? Oilers chasing Dallas,Detroit,Columbus,and Phoenix for last playoff spot . After tonites games most we are chasing should lose and hopefully Flames do us a favor and beat Phoenix . Saturday could see us beating Calgary while Columbus and Dallas lose again to superior clubs . This weekend could put us right back in the hunt for final playoff birth if all goes according to Hoyle . I believe it can and might . Despite our shortcomings , we are far from over the playoff race until at least this weekend , which seems to favor Oilers moving forward into the race.

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#121 Jay
April 12 2013, 09:57AM
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I've been waiting for these articles to start coming out.... Gonna be another summer of edmonton media preaching patience, comparing this team to Chicago and Pittsburgh. Telling us all how good this team will be one day and how many cups were gonna win. Lets all spend the summer getting our hopes built back up, we all know the routine of being an oiler fan. Where's the draft party this year?

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#122 Eddie Shore
April 12 2013, 10:53AM
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Jay wrote:

I've been waiting for these articles to start coming out.... Gonna be another summer of edmonton media preaching patience, comparing this team to Chicago and Pittsburgh. Telling us all how good this team will be one day and how many cups were gonna win. Lets all spend the summer getting our hopes built back up, we all know the routine of being an oiler fan. Where's the draft party this year?

Calgary...

Ba doo boom ching.

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#123 Ducey
April 12 2013, 11:22AM
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DSF wrote:

Danny Heatley will be bought out ($7.5M) and Vanek would replace Matt Cullen who is UFA ($3.5M)

Also, with the emergence of Jonas Brodin as a top pairing D, I would not be surprised if they trade or buyout Tom Gilbert ($4M) who is in the dog house.

Nick Backstrom is also a UFA and I would be shocked if gets another contract for $6M.

Whats this? Gilbert is in the doghouse?

The N Schultz for Gilbert trade is often cited as one of Tambo's failures. I have to say I liked Gilbert more than most and was surprised at the trade.

I am interested in knowing more about Gilbert's problems. Do tell.

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#124 Ducey
April 12 2013, 11:35AM
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DSF wrote:

Gagner will not be cheap next season and would play 3rd line for the Preds...not happening.

Paajarvi has almost zero value...he's on pace for a 23 point season.

Smid? Give me a break...he'd be third pairing in Nashville.

That kind of junk doesn't get you a Weber.

I agree the Preds are not trading Weber. Teams don't trade their best player in his prime, except in exceptional circumstances.

However, Gagner has 35 pts. The highest scoring forward on NSH is Legwand at 23 pts, followed by Fisher at 19 pts. They are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and sit in the standing with the Oilers out of the playoffs.

I would think they would have a lot of interest in Gagner and he would definitely be a top 6 forward and on their first PP unit.

MPS has lots of value. I would think that most teams in the league would give the Oilers at 2nd rounder for him in a heartbeat. I would expect that in a year or two he will command much more than that. Hopefully the Oilers won't give up on him so early.

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#125 @Oilanderp
April 12 2013, 12:08PM
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This was a good article with good comments too. Then I got to the second page and saw that 2 out of every 3 comments were by a duncecap named DSF, so I skipped the all of the last two pages.

Hey Deliberate Statistical Fallacies, why don't you do like NewAgeSys and make one ridiculously long-arsed post instead of 27 million short to medium sized posts?

Or better yet, don't post at all.

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#126 Obiwan Eberle - Team Silver Fox
April 12 2013, 12:20PM
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@Ducey

Gibby is -14 in 19mins per....not saying the deal was a good one, but no one is winning the deal at the moment

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#127 Light, Sweet, Crude
April 12 2013, 12:45PM
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How would a trade of Eberle to WPG for Evander Kane strike those concerned? I think Kane is the more complete player, but boy could they ever sell a lot of of Eberle Jerseys in the 'peg.

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#128 Dawn
April 12 2013, 12:58PM
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@DSF

"They'll have to beat out LAK, SJS, ANA and VCR just to make the playoffs."

Actually, they only have to beat 2 of the above plus CAL & PHX (Seattle?) to make the playoffs, possibly only 1 if they have a points over the 4th in the other division. Beating all 4 of them would most likely put us at the top of the division.

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#129 Obiwan Eberle - Team Silver Fox
April 12 2013, 12:59PM
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@Light, Sweet, Crude

Not trading Ebs...no way, no how.

Gagner as a center piece that nets us Brouwer out of Washington.

Hemmer and our 1st (if its out of the top 5) for Berglund and Stewart

Sign a LD Sign Bickell or equivalent

call it a day,

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#130 Light, Sweet, Crude
April 12 2013, 01:16PM
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@Obiwan Eberle - Team Silver Fox

Ya, that all seems reasonable. Get bigger on right wing and centre while staying good at hockey.

My only concern with Ebs is that contract - the heaping expectations, and the precedent it sets for the other youngsters getting paid (see Gagner, Sam)

PS. Thanks for not berating me for proposing an Ebs trade (who rules in my opinion)

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#131 Smokey
April 12 2013, 06:56PM
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The Oilers Shot Clock wrote:

This is the last time I'll post this trade idea I promise, but trade Yakupov to the Capitals for Carlson. The guy is signed for 3.9 until 2018. Thats crazy value. Easier trading for needs than drafting for it. McPhee would have a hard time not making that. There is a very good possibility this team gets too expensive before it gets good. Manage the situation. A young, cap friendly, puck moving defenseman would win us games next year and help the cap situation down the road if all it cost was Yakupov. Rant over.

NO, stop being a closet wannabee Mike Milbury fantasy GM.

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#132 Smokey
April 12 2013, 07:00PM
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Ducey wrote:

I agree the Preds are not trading Weber. Teams don't trade their best player in his prime, except in exceptional circumstances.

However, Gagner has 35 pts. The highest scoring forward on NSH is Legwand at 23 pts, followed by Fisher at 19 pts. They are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and sit in the standing with the Oilers out of the playoffs.

I would think they would have a lot of interest in Gagner and he would definitely be a top 6 forward and on their first PP unit.

MPS has lots of value. I would think that most teams in the league would give the Oilers at 2nd rounder for him in a heartbeat. I would expect that in a year or two he will command much more than that. Hopefully the Oilers won't give up on him so early.

Id do Gagner,MPS, Smid for Weber or Gagner, MPS, and a first. I don't think that gets it done though.

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