July 14 2013 12:17PM
The Edmonton Oilers aren't done with roster moves, they have a few holes to fill before September 15th when Craig MacTavish hands off to Dallas Eakins for the fall and winter. A summer full off addition and subtraction leaves the roster with 2 goaltenders, 8 defensemen, 12 forwards and an unsigned Gagner. The roster holes are pronounced and significant, and if we're talking playoffs in 2013-14 they must be addressed.
There are elements of this team that are (in my opinion) top drawer and worthy of the second season. They have a dynamite 1line (Nuge-Hall-Eberle) and an emerging 2line unit (Gagner-Perron-Yakupov) if they can get Gagner signed and Perron's possession stats move with him to Alberta's north country.
I'm also convinced the Oilers 3-7 blueline group will be strong and deep enough to weather the storm. If the 3-4 tandem is Andrew Ference-Justin Schultz and the 5-6 is Nick Schultz-Phil Larsen/Anton Belov/Corey Potter then I think that represents major improvement year over year in that area.
Finally, the goaltending. I think the Oilers can expect the tandem of Dubnyk-LaBarbera to be strong enough to get the club into the playoffs for the first time in a generation (or at least it seems that long) and despite Ryan Miller rumors I expect management is convinced the duo offers enough quality to proceed as is when training camp opens.
MUCH IMPORTANT WORK BEING DONE
Despite many transactions, the top pairing--the most important item--and the 3rd and 4th lines remain in an uncertain state.
The Smid-Petry duo did not have a strong 2012-13 season, much chaos happened on their watch. I think a case can be made that the shortened season, the quick coming together of the roster and systems employed by the new coach probably had something to do with it, but it's also true that given a full season this tandem has played the opposition to a tie in a previous season.
VOLLMAN PLAYER USAGE CHART, 2011-12
This is a Vollman Usage Chart, I call it the Vollman Sledgehammer because it takes my bias and wallops it with a big old Sledgehammer (have you ever seen a man use a Sledgehammer? It's pretty frightening), leaving me with a new view on reality. There is no mercy from the Vollman Sledgehammer, but there is truth. Smid-Petry is in the upper left quadrant and in blue and baby that's a good thing. Can they do it again? I don't know, but it's always wise to bet on someone on the way up as opposed to on the way down. Smid and Petry healthy should certainly have their best days ahead of them.
And if you're going to improve the top pairing, make it a veteran player like Braydon Coburn. I think that's what the Oilers management is thinking--improve this graph (the last full season one) or go with Smid-Petry. Seems wise to me.
THE 3 AND 4 LINES VIA VOLLMAN
This is a graph using last year's numbers applied to this year's 3 and 4 line candidates. Boyd Gordon looks like he's going to earn his money and it is very lonely at the top of this graph. The club also signed Jesse Joensu but his portion of this graph is a mere 7 games and is highly unreliable (I included it as a curio).
What to do with the bottom 6? Improve it.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Craig MacTavish hasn't worked this hard only to lay a Thanksgiving turkey for the fanbase. I think the Oilers can probably get by with the current blue depth chart (doesn't mean they won't improve it, just means if there's nothing out there they can proceed as is) but the bottom 6F needs some help toot sweet. My guess is that Gordon, Smyth, Jones and Brown will be part of the forward group on opening night, with Lander, Joensuu and Eager as possibles for NHL employment.
From here, it looks like the return for Ales Hemsky is extremely likely to be a two-way forward who can join Gordon at the tough end of the Vollman Sledgehammer.