NO CIGAR

Robin Brownlee
April 09 2013 12:05AM

As quickly as the Edmonton Oilers playoff bandwagon gathered steam with five straight wins, it is today upside down and on fire in the ditch after three straight losses, the last coming 2-1 against the Anaheim Ducks Monday.

Simply put, it was fun while it lasted, but the post-season drama is done and slim has turned to none. It's over. No chance. No way. No cigar. The Oilers will miss the playoffs, long shot that it was, for the seventh straight season.

The question now, with the Oilers sitting with 39 points through 39 games and with seven of their last nine outings home at Rexall Place, is how close is good enough? Or is close good enough?

If the Oilers push the issue from now until game 48, if they give it the old college try and finish within two or three points of eighth place in the Western Conference, is that sufficient progress? Is that good enough for a team that's finished 30th, 30th and 29th the past three seasons?

PLAYING OUT THE STRING

The Oilers weren't nearly good enough against the Ducks – as far as the big picture, they won’t be good enough, period, until GM Steve Tambellini addresses the holes on this roster -- despite a score dressed up by some terrific goaltending by Devan Dubnyk and a hope-and-a-prayer goal by Nick Schultz.

Outside of Taylor Hall roaring up and down the ice and the stellar play of Dubnyk, Oilers faithful had little to yell about during a game which at least provided comic relief when thick-skulled Anaheim fans mistakenly booed Nick Schultz (before his goal) instead of Justin Schultz for shunning So-Cal fans in favor of a city that actually cares about hockey, but I digress . . .

Thanks to an attack that went south the past three games, a drought that's seen the Oilers outscored 10-2, you don’t need a spread sheet – really -- or a vast intellect to understand the challenge for coach Ralph Krueger and his players now is to suck it up and play it out with as much gusto as they can muster the rest of the way. Finish strong. Don’t fold. Leave what needs to be done to those (Tambellini and Kevin Lowe) responsible for the make-up of this team.

Of course, we'll hear plenty of that from the players and the coaches in coming days. What are they supposed to say? "We give up." As much of a kick in the teeth for fans as another year out of the playoffs is, I do see progress and I do see movement, slow as it has been, toward contention. Right now, that seems like cold consolation for those who wanted and expected more than "close."

No cigar.

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 Taylor Gang
April 09 2013, 12:08AM
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I'd be disappointed but this will be the first year that we're not bottom feeders. I have come to terms with my Oil.

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#2 oilers2k10
April 09 2013, 12:09AM
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Need more grit that can score 10-15 goals per season.

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#3 Rocket
April 09 2013, 12:10AM
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Yeah disappointing loss. Disappointing season.

Oh well, better NHL than no NHL.

Remember when the lockout was a thing?

(Just trying to distract myself from the fact that it's been a while since The Oilers have actually been competitive against legit teams, Chicago excepted).

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#4 DSF
April 09 2013, 12:13AM
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Thing is...other than a marginal improvement in the PK, the team is actually slightly worse than last year in G/G, GA/G, SH/Diff.

Dubnyk has been better but his performance is masking a team that is underachieving on a massive scale.

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#5 Clarence Oveur
April 09 2013, 12:14AM
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Leaving it up to the same clowns (Lowe and Tambellini) who've put the Oilers in this position to begin with?

Why am I not optimistic?

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#6 Taylor Gang
April 09 2013, 12:25AM
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Settle down everyone, we all new before this season begun that Tambellini had no intention of making the playoffs. The problem is that he's backed himself into a corner. Let me explain:

Due to the fact that he has done no major moves to improve this team since Hall was drafted, we are actually a couple of steps behind in the rebuild. We have if not the same then very similar needs to the 2009/10 Oilers. Because of this, in the offseason, Tambellini, who we all know is reluctant to make the big deals, will have to clean house to pull this team out of the rebuild once and for all. The 2006 line simply isn't cutting it anymore. Smyth just looks like he's going for a Sunday scrimmage out there and Hemsky is surplus. Also, these borderline AHL defenseman should not be playing on the roster (I'm looking at you Potter). But why stop there? Why don't you get rid of the Old Boys Club that for whatever reason refuses to want to win games. Someone has to grow a pair and crush some skulls in this organization.

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#8 Slats
April 09 2013, 12:40AM
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DSF wrote:

Thing is...other than a marginal improvement in the PK, the team is actually slightly worse than last year in G/G, GA/G, SH/Diff.

Dubnyk has been better but his performance is masking a team that is underachieving on a massive scale.

nice cherry pick of stats again - see Gregor article of earlier today . . .

what about a simple one like "Standings"?

Is this team Great - No. Are they making progress - Yes. A lot of teams mask their problems thats called playing to your strengths . . .every team,organization does this. Oilers are no different.

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#9 common sense
April 09 2013, 12:41AM
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Coulda woulda shoulda. That's Batman(KLO) and Robin's(Tambo) M.O. The litany of things this tandem skidoodled over the years is mindboggling: getting nothing for Souray, missing on getting Perry for Comrie, idling by soon to be getting nothing for Whitney and Jones. Could they have gotten Filip Forsberg for Hemsky....I betcha we could've but that would be beyond the scope of management expertise from these two buffoons. What was the point of getting Smithson so late to this campaign? I will not accept this Big Lie...

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#10 pan0ramic
April 09 2013, 12:52AM
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Just another game where we're hopelessly out-shot. I'm pretty sure that we've been out-shot in 95% of the games this year (if I'm wrong, it's not by much)

Robin is right that the season is over. We need to go 7-2 (+/- 1) to make it and I don't see that happening considering who we have to play.

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#11 biggesmall
April 09 2013, 12:52AM
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I can nor think, which has more holes???? The city of Edmonton, or The Edmonton Queens????

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#12 Slats
April 09 2013, 12:53AM
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@Robin Brownlee

And that's the Big Conundrum we have Robin. What will they do?

To add to this "core" I believe 1-2 pieces will have to be moved. I think most think its Hemsky and Gagner. I believe it is too, when Hemsky only has 1 year left of that contract, but I think the other will be Nuge if they REALLY want a legit #1 Dman.

But guess what Tambo/Lowe won't make that deal and will limp along with the next "rejuvenated" Cam Barker 2.0 project.

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#13 719
April 09 2013, 12:57AM
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Another great article. I don't always agree with your opinions, but I respect them.

I hope the Oil play hard down the stretch and give all of us delusions of the playoffs.

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#14 VK63
April 09 2013, 01:06AM
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I sure hope harti, lander and peckham benefitted from "watching".

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#15 Clarence Oveur
April 09 2013, 01:10AM
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Slats wrote:

nice cherry pick of stats again - see Gregor article of earlier today . . .

what about a simple one like "Standings"?

Is this team Great - No. Are they making progress - Yes. A lot of teams mask their problems thats called playing to your strengths . . .every team,organization does this. Oilers are no different.

Standings, as in those based on not even half a season's worth of games?

Playing to your strengths, as you define it, would mean that the Oilers' weaknesses are not debilitating and that the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Not even close.

If you want to continue to pretend that this team is improving, do so at your own peril. My guess is that you'll continue to be disappointed.

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#16 TDSM31
April 09 2013, 01:22AM
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Painful to watch the performance of Ryan Smyth. I'm a big fan as are most of us but he is just not able to keep pace in the NHL anymore. He is bringing next to nothing to the table 5 on 5 or on the PK. And worst of all I don't see him playing with the passion that became his trademark.

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#17 Walter Sobchak
April 09 2013, 01:23AM
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The last three games prove how far away the Oilers actually are.

Numbers aside, when the games mean the most and mattered to the opposition the Oilers could not compete.

I don't believe Gagner can handle the playoffs; he was pushed around the last three games and was all but invisible when it mattered.

The defense is playing out of position, and all our kids out perform our veterans.

I honestly have zero faith in Tambellini or Lowe that they could bring this team out of the rebuild.

So many holes and these are not small holes to fix; these are major holes to fill.

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#18 Toro
April 09 2013, 01:54AM
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Hmm, I seem too be the only one thinking this but seeing how hope for a playoff appearance is fading quickly, why not try and get the best draft pick available, I personally would rather finish 13th in the west and get a top 6 pick then finish 9th in the west and draft 14th overall , regardless we still are finishing better then last year , or the years before . Obviously management didn't believe in this team enough too make any moves too make the playoffs , so wouldn't surprise me if that was there plan all along ... Just don't be last..

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#19 Wippit
April 09 2013, 02:02AM
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Looking back the GM has managed to bring in two 4th liners and one 7-8th D-man in Fistric this year. Wow, now that's using your noodle. The Oiler management are weak to the point of being useless. They haven't got the first clue on how to build. I'd like to say it's just a lack of caring and creativity. I think it may much more serious.

Although it's not solely Krueger's fault I have tired of the self-indulgent mystery lingo he spews forth daily. Save it for the corporate types Ralphie it has gotten rather tired.

The AHL team is where they have hidden Tammy's mistakes. Taking up contract room hiding his goof-ups. The ffect of this has limited them from signing any college free agents. Lander has been called up to sit in the press box instead of leaving him in OKC where he can skate and continue to improve. What the heck is that crafty move in aid of?

The weak, ineffectual, inconsistent and disorganized play is a fairly accurate facsimile of the questionable competence of the high foreheads in the Oiler head-office.

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#20 common sense
April 09 2013, 02:09AM
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Toro wrote:

Hmm, I seem too be the only one thinking this but seeing how hope for a playoff appearance is fading quickly, why not try and get the best draft pick available, I personally would rather finish 13th in the west and get a top 6 pick then finish 9th in the west and draft 14th overall , regardless we still are finishing better then last year , or the years before . Obviously management didn't believe in this team enough too make any moves too make the playoffs , so wouldn't surprise me if that was there plan all along ... Just don't be last..

What plan? They don't have one.

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#21 Devolution
April 09 2013, 02:10AM
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There really is progress, and I believe if in December we were told that they would finish 9th (or wherever they end up) and have at least some playoff run, most fans would be satisfied.

We have gone from losing to everyone, to at least beating the teams we should beat. That is progress.

And hey, some exciting hockey this year!

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#22 HOFFFF
April 09 2013, 02:14AM
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"The Oilers will miss the playoffs, long shot that it was, for the seventh straight season."

For missing the playoffs for the 7th straight season, and only making the playoffs twice in the last 12 years (counting the 1 missed year due to lockout), I would have expected more changes than just the 3 (free) first round draft picks.

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#23 DSG
April 09 2013, 05:54AM
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@Robin Brownlee

Sure we can see a talented core but here is where the rubber hits the road and we are behind in the rebuild.

This summer it all changes... There is no Yakupov coming from the draft. No Schultz choosing our team. Tambo has to make a hard decision. A decision he should have made 6mths ago. Review the roster.

Players with high value - Hall, RNH, Yakupov, Eberle, Schultz

Players with med value - Gagner, Hemsky, Nick Schultz, MPS, Petry, Smid, and the upcoming 1st round pick

Players with low to marginal value - Hartski, Jones, Horcoff, etc

Players with no value - Whitney, Belanger, Horcoff maybe because of his contract, and the rest of the squad (Smyth (too old), Fistric, Peckham etc etc)

Sure you can argue with the rankings I have put forth but looking at what Calgary got for a D man like Bouwmeester and what a player like Erat brought back to Nashville (it is worth noting that some believe Filip Forsberg may never be an impact NHLer which is why WSH jettisoned him)... you can't argue with what the Oilers have to work with. It requires a tough choice.

Look at that lineup. See the holes. Make the move. The reality is that to get a valuable piece you have to move a valuable piece out. I really don't have much faith in Tambo doing this but I do have some faith in Kevin Lowe

Personally, you start with Gagner. A guy you should have traded 6mths ago because you have to keep RNH and he is a duplicate player with less upside and skill. Then you try and get something for Hemsky and go from there. MPS is the sweetener that will be needed in any deal.

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#24 Mark-LW
April 09 2013, 06:33AM
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Devolution wrote:

There really is progress, and I believe if in December we were told that they would finish 9th (or wherever they end up) and have at least some playoff run, most fans would be satisfied.

We have gone from losing to everyone, to at least beating the teams we should beat. That is progress.

And hey, some exciting hockey this year!

Fans should be satisfied with no playoffs for seven years?

Just think about that for a minute

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#25 Devolution
April 09 2013, 06:37AM
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Mark-LW wrote:

Fans should be satisfied with no playoffs for seven years?

Just think about that for a minute

When you look at a seven year chunk, fans should absolutely not be happy. When you look at this year versus last year, then yes, I think there is improvement. That is all I am saying.

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#26 Mark-LW
April 09 2013, 06:41AM
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Devolution wrote:

There really is progress, and I believe if in December we were told that they would finish 9th (or wherever they end up) and have at least some playoff run, most fans would be satisfied.

We have gone from losing to everyone, to at least beating the teams we should beat. That is progress.

And hey, some exciting hockey this year!

Also who are the team's that we're beating who we are supposed to, Calgary? Do we have a winning record against anyone else?

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#27 DSG
April 09 2013, 06:45AM
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I guess to break it down to one line..

How do the Oilers make the next step from here?

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#28 jason
April 09 2013, 06:55AM
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@Slats

just saying, if this were not a shortened season it wouldn't even be the new year yet and they'd be out of playoff contention, nothing has changed the results are just skewed. and when has a late season push ever resulted in a carryover perfomance to the following season, almost never. his assesment is right with the exception of a few bright spots this team is moving backward.

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DSF wrote:

Thing is...other than a marginal improvement in the PK, the team is actually slightly worse than last year in G/G, GA/G, SH/Diff.

Dubnyk has been better but his performance is masking a team that is underachieving on a massive scale.

You're so full of sh*t, you're starting to make up stats now??

The Oilers are, IN FACT, better than they were last year in all those categories except for shot differential. They're worse in shot differential because of the terrible SA/G. Their SH/G has actually improved.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/teamstats.htm

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#30 Newj
April 09 2013, 07:21AM
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Devolution wrote:

When you look at a seven year chunk, fans should absolutely not be happy. When you look at this year versus last year, then yes, I think there is improvement. That is all I am saying.

I'm not sure that is absolutely the case. If we assume an 82 game schedule projected out of where we stand today we would finish 34-34-14 (16-16-7 in 39 games as of today) when the season is complete. Last year the record was 32-40-10.

Yes comparing this shortened season to previous years is difficult, but to date our improvement is marginal..in my opinion. Particularly because our younger players had another year under them.

I, like a lot of others feel more could be done by management to address the team's needs.

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#31 shifty203
April 09 2013, 07:32AM
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DSG wrote:

Sure we can see a talented core but here is where the rubber hits the road and we are behind in the rebuild.

This summer it all changes... There is no Yakupov coming from the draft. No Schultz choosing our team. Tambo has to make a hard decision. A decision he should have made 6mths ago. Review the roster.

Players with high value - Hall, RNH, Yakupov, Eberle, Schultz

Players with med value - Gagner, Hemsky, Nick Schultz, MPS, Petry, Smid, and the upcoming 1st round pick

Players with low to marginal value - Hartski, Jones, Horcoff, etc

Players with no value - Whitney, Belanger, Horcoff maybe because of his contract, and the rest of the squad (Smyth (too old), Fistric, Peckham etc etc)

Sure you can argue with the rankings I have put forth but looking at what Calgary got for a D man like Bouwmeester and what a player like Erat brought back to Nashville (it is worth noting that some believe Filip Forsberg may never be an impact NHLer which is why WSH jettisoned him)... you can't argue with what the Oilers have to work with. It requires a tough choice.

Look at that lineup. See the holes. Make the move. The reality is that to get a valuable piece you have to move a valuable piece out. I really don't have much faith in Tambo doing this but I do have some faith in Kevin Lowe

Personally, you start with Gagner. A guy you should have traded 6mths ago because you have to keep RNH and he is a duplicate player with less upside and skill. Then you try and get something for Hemsky and go from there. MPS is the sweetener that will be needed in any deal.

I see these half thought out ideas that Gagner is expendable all the time. My question to you would be, what do you actually expect to get for him?

You're not going to get a bigger or better center for him. As Gregor said many times, you have to give something to get something, and if he's as expendable as everyone around here says he is, who's going to give us anything for him?

Personally, I'd like to see the 23-year old with 35 points in 39 games moved to the wing, and package our 1st and Hemmer to bring in a center.

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#32 Harlie
April 09 2013, 07:40AM
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Tambo should be fired. Someone must pay. Let's see what happens...I'll be checking TSN and twitter for the news until it happens.

Not as exciting as checking boxcars ill tell you that!

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#33 Mark-LW
April 09 2013, 07:53AM
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Devolution wrote:

When you look at a seven year chunk, fans should absolutely not be happy. When you look at this year versus last year, then yes, I think there is improvement. That is all I am saying.

Courtesy of Tyler Dellow on Twitter:

"Teams that picked first and couldn't makes playoffs in next three years since 92: TB (92/98), OTT (93), ATL (99/01), CBJ (02), NYI (09)."

Still satisfied?

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#34 Serious Gord
April 09 2013, 08:00AM
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Good to see mr brownlee has come to his senses and acknowledged that yak is a keeper. Now he need to acknowledge that there isn't enough room on the bus for gagner.

Dubnyk aside the team is roughly where we thought it was in October. We still need size one physicality on the 1/2line. Gagner and hemsky are still the surplus that can be moved to get it. Whitney is pretty much gone - though is suspect oiler mgmt is partly to blame - perhaps he rises like a Phoenix. Like souray has on his next team. So we absolutely have a hole on defense.

And oilers management has done nothing. And many fans have abetted him by jumping on the playoff wagon instead of insisting KL&T make moves to continue on the quest for the cup - playoffs this year be damned.

As for the remainder of the year - mgmt should only be playing those it intends to have around next year plus those it wants to display and sell in the off season.

Smyth should be benched save for the last and final game of his career.

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#35 vetinari
April 09 2013, 08:13AM
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Trade Gagner? Trade Hemsky? Trade Yakupov?

First, you don't trade a player unless you have another one of equal or greater value lined up behind them, and we don't.

Second, how many of these deadweights while in Oiler silks turn into good NHLer's after we dump them? Souray and Coglianno are better off now. And so are many others.

Our problem is that we stunt a lot of our players for some reason.

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#36 michael
April 09 2013, 08:17AM
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Losing to Anaheim last night was frustrating in the fact that is wasn't Corey Perry or Teemu Selanne that stuck the dagger in us it was scrub that played hockey in Europe up until 2 weeks ago. Radek Dvorak! Disgusting.Some marginal NHLer throws you in the midden heap. The Oilers deserve their fate when a guy like Dvorak is allowed to beat you twice in one game.

The Oilers need to look at their defense this summer and get some defencemen. Not imo the current creampuffs that litter our roster masquerading as defencemen. We need to get tougher, grittier . Uglier to play against.

The Oilers need to come back home and give the fans more of what we saw before this road trip. I don't expect them to win their last 5 games. With tilts against Minny,2x Anaheim and Vancouver to finish our season we will ensure ourselves a top 5 pick. I think we finish 25th.

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#37 Professor
April 09 2013, 08:18AM
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I think the other thing we have to remember when evaluating this season is that we played all of our games against Western Conference teams. Over the past several seasons the West has had far more points then the East.

Who really thought the Oilers were going to make the playoffs this year? We were a longshot at best going from 29th to a playoff position. Does this team still have holes? Absolutely and if Tambo doesn't fix them this summer he should be fired. He has had long enough to turn this team around and hasn't done it.

I know we are all upset right now but we have to look at the increase in points and the fact that we are higher up in the standings as signs of improvement. Points really are the only thing that matters when it comes to making the playoffs and there is improvement there.

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#38 oilabroad
April 09 2013, 08:18AM
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I am certainly not a fan of tambo, but all this talk about management not knowing what they are doing is ridiculous. They are building through the draft, you cant do that when you are finishing middle of the pack or sneaking into the playoffs every year. The team is improving, the core is maturing, and the players that will put them over the top are the same ones that would make them a middle of the pack team until the core is ready to make them a contender.... it took Gretz, Mess and Coffey 5 years to win a cup, so stop bitching and enjoy the ride, its just getting good

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#39 non descript
April 09 2013, 08:25AM
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given the inclination of this team to mail it in, they could easily be picking in the 3-5 range. any improvement this team is showing is marginal at best. that is not good enough and an indication that this is going nowhere.

much the same as the game plan the team fails to execute on most nights, managements plan to rebuild was solid, but they have not executed properly. the team they are building is flawed and probably requires a series of trades to fix. i am not personally confident the current management team is capable of anything other than flipping the odd mid round pick for a depth player.

i could go on about the poor drafting and the pipeline of talent to the big club that isnt materializing but its pointless.

the most frustrating part is the complete lack of transparency. we just have to sit back and watch this unfold and hope for the best.

it will be interesting to see how management deals with their ineptitude a few years from now.

sean monohan?

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#40 Eddie Shore
April 09 2013, 08:30AM
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@Serious Gord

You trade Gagner, who plays 2C?

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#41 Hammers
April 09 2013, 08:32AM
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It's bad when we have 8 guys who played as forwards , 1 goalie ,4 "D" that shouldn't be back .Still a mess and we could draft in top 6 -7 spot . How does Mr. Katz live with this mess.

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#42 Jono
April 09 2013, 08:33AM
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Here's how I see it:

Finish ahead of Calgary? Check

Play meaningful games in April? Check

World domination to follow.

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#43 Sliderule
April 09 2013, 08:35AM
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This is a poorly coached team.

They changed the person sitting in the captains chair but they have had the same crew since Renney was promoted .

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#45 Jack Handy
April 09 2013, 08:49AM
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@Eddie Shore

Any retired jockey over 4'6" wth rocks in his pockets. Gagner can't play defence and is the poster boy for inconsistent play.

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#46 madjam
April 09 2013, 08:51AM
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Our veteran core is not getting better each season and lack chemistry to move our club forward . They will not get better going into next season and i doubt will compliment emerging talent even as good as this season . Examples of this are Horcoff, Hemsky , Smyth, Jones , Whitney , etc.. We need a new grittier core thats not of the fleeting or diminishing talents . The veteran core has shown with diminshing talents they are incapable of moving our club forward enough .

Talent in AHL will not be vast for a while , and may not produce much anyways . Not much down there that looks like they might make a major breakthrough on a very competitive club.

Hopkins is struggling this season and hopefully will rebound next year . Still not sold on Hopkins at this stage . Paajarvi , Hall , Eberle , Yakupov and J.Schultz look to be the future .

Time to move forward with a new veteran base !

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#47 j
April 09 2013, 08:55AM
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oilabroad wrote:

I am certainly not a fan of tambo, but all this talk about management not knowing what they are doing is ridiculous. They are building through the draft, you cant do that when you are finishing middle of the pack or sneaking into the playoffs every year. The team is improving, the core is maturing, and the players that will put them over the top are the same ones that would make them a middle of the pack team until the core is ready to make them a contender.... it took Gretz, Mess and Coffey 5 years to win a cup, so stop bitching and enjoy the ride, its just getting good

But those teams in the early 80s made the playoffs every year and were well put together. They had talent, grit, leadership, veterans who could still play, goaltending etc. The current group have too much of the same skill set. I don't play video games too often but it is like picking your car for the race - you can choose one with high end speed, or torque, or handling, or tire quality etc. Usually, it takes a balance of all elements (and a bit of luck) to win. The Oil don't have enough balance. It sure would be nice to have a few players between 25-30 who could actually contribute physically and on the score sheet. Imagine that...

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#48 Halfwise
April 09 2013, 08:57AM
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The team is not good enough on the ice. The same roster holes remain. The main cause for optimism is that the youngest players will be better year over year.

But the organization IS better. There is a minor league system with developing prospects. That should create value for the long haul.

What else isn't good enough? If this is the entertainment business, we paying fans aren't being entertained. If this is the business of selling hope, there isn't much reason to buy it.

If the talents of KL and ST are better suited to building infrastructure than to improving the NHL team depth chart by wise asset management, we shouldn't hope to be entertained by their results. This year for me, it's been a growing sense of dread that KL and ST are wasting generational talents by making poor decisions.

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#49 Gerald R. Ford
April 09 2013, 09:04AM
Trash it!
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The Oil are, collectively, like a composite of "The Kid" from 'The Quick and the Dead'. Young, fast, slick, arrogant, and pretty hot s*** against the Swede, but when it comes to going up against big, mean, crafty bastards like Gene Hackman... close, but no cigar, indeed.

Maybe next year...

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#50 The Soup Fascist
April 09 2013, 09:06AM
Trash it!
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Eddie Shore wrote:

You trade Gagner, who plays 2C?

That is what it boils down to always, no? Everyone magically trades Gagner and .... POOF .... a Jamie Benn clone suddenly shows up on our door. How, does that happen exactly?

Easy, just throw in Pitlick and the rights to Omark. Right.

Yes it would be nice to find a physical, large PPG center. That is Grade 1 / Day Two at General Manager's school. Everyone has the same playbook.

Since there is little to no chance of trading for this player you have two options, well three really.

1) Draft and hope to develop this guy. Not sure this is optimum for a team with 0 playoff appearances in 7 years.

2) Sign a veteran UFA center to fill the hole until the above (hopefully) happens. Take a Vinny LeCalvier / Patrick Marleau type (not really UFAs this year but likely available pretty cheap) and worry about the cap issues in a year or two. Risky, as these guys are heading in the wrong direction with big contracts.

3) Admit you are screwed and try to add size / scoring / toughness on the wing and live with the small / skilled centers.

I honestly think the 3rd option is the best and most attainable. If you are serious about competing next year and want to improve up front (in addition to finding a top pairing D-man - which I think is a much bigger priority and another "easy" pickup) try to find the next Clowe / Clarkson winger. Not easy, but more likely than finding a C. Maybe go with a veteran transition - Ryan Malone / Scott Hartnell type who certainly have some warts and are older than dust, but fit the mold.

At any rate it isnt going to be easy. Hemsky is the moveable piece (not sure of his value?). I just hope they don't dump Gagner for some big center who couldn't hit water from a boat. That would be a mistake.

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