A WORK IN PROGRESS

Lowetide
August 11 2013 02:59PM

For most of the summer, Oiler fans have been watching Craig MacTavish "build up the middle." A club with so much talent on the wing, and in clear need of an upgrade at G, D and C, would seem to have an obvious 'To Do' list--and for the most part new GM Craig MacTavish has followed the script.

However, the center position remains about the same; with Boyd Gordon replacing Shawn Horcoff, the Edmonton Oilers remain a team without true NHL quality and depth at the position. If the Nuge can't play right away, the club will have to move Taylor Hall over from the wing, weakening an impressive left flank.

We've talked and talked about free agent solutions, but that arena of summer appears to be closed for the Oilers. How then will Craig MacTavish improve center ice? Perhaps we can learn something from his recent past.

PROBLEM SOLVING

So far during his time as GM, Craig MacTavish has procured talent in the following ways:

  • Signed NHL free agents (Ference, Gordon, LaBarbera, Joensuu)
  • Signed his own free agents (Jones)
  • Signed minor league free agents (Ryan Hamilton, Richard Bachman, Will Acton)
  • Signed college free agents (C Andrew Miller)
  • Signed free agents from pro league outside the NHL (Anton Belov, Denis Grebseshkov from the KHL)
  • Traded a veteran (Horcoff) for a fringe NHLer (Larsen) and a pick much later this century
  • Traded a young, less established NHLer (Paajarvi) for a young, more established NHLer (Perron)

If we're guessing about how MacT will address center--and I'm pretty sure he's going to at some point, it may be in-season--and we believe he's done in free agency, it means a trade of some sort.

Question: what if MacT uses the Perron-Paajarvi deal as a template? What if he dealt Anton Lander and a high end prospect (Marincin?) or dealt Lander with next year's 1st round selection? I think the idea of acquiring a solid NHL center becomes much easier using the trade made with St. Louis as a guide.

CENTER AVAILABLE?

The first thing we need to do is identify some teams that are unlikely to contend for the playoffs in 2013-14 or have tremendous depth at the center position. Even at this early stage, it's very unlikely the Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres will be playoff contenders. Looking at their rosters, we  can come up with an interesting list of potential C's for the Oilers based on a 'Lander and a pick/prospect' return. Other names below may be part of a crowded group, with a player like Lander being a better fit (Lander can be sent to the AHL without waivers).

  1. Mikael Backlund, Calgary: There are some serious problems in suggesting Backlund, not the least of which is that a Flames-Oilers pick happens once a lifetime and Steve Staios is the trivia answer for the 2000's. The other problem is that Backlund is a wildly underrated hockey player (Kent Wilson has documented this brilliantly at Flames Nation). However, I think there's some evidence the Flames don't know what they're doing and I'm pretty certain MacT would appreciate the skills a Backlund offers. The price might be dear, but the player is an outstanding fit for the Oilers.
  2. Shawn Matthias, Florida: I actually like a free agent Panther better (Peter Mueller) but Matthias has some things that make him attractive too. The Panthers have Marcel Goc as well, but I think he's a little long in the tooth to be a legit Oiler target. Matthias has size and good 2-way skills, he is usually solid in the faceoff circle but was poor this season.
  3. John Mitchell, Colorado: The Avs have a stunning depth chart at center, with Mitchell possibly being the odd man out. He blossomed late, and isn't a speed demon, but would be a very nice addition to the current depth chart.
  4. Brian Boyle, Rangers: Big man is being pushed out by insane depth in Manhattan, and could be available sometime this season (when all are signed and straightened away in NYC).

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I don't really believe Craig MacTavish would do so much heavy work on defense and so little at center--both badly needing improved quality and depth and he's addressed one and not the other.

My feeling is that it's not for a lack of trying and we may see something break before October. Something similar to the Paajarvi and a 2nd deal for Perron, possibly involving one of the many prospect defenders.

We wait.

(Lander photo by Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved).

C2a6955161684b5e3189319acfa5ebe4
Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
Avatar
#51 Crash
August 11 2013, 11:12PM
Trash it!
5
trashes
Cheers
18
cheers

I am wishing for a Hemsky for David Legwand trade. Both players each have a year left on their contracts and $500,000 difference. Nashville gets an offensive threat (lowest scoring team in 2013) and Oilers get a rugged centre who could play second line, third line, or fourth line minutes.

Avatar
#52 Hammers
August 11 2013, 11:42PM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

I guess you just like saying goodby to the Swedes but then again you love the Finns .As we are set up right now adding any of the Picks you listed stiil won't get us to the playoffs ( maybe Boyle). I'm a bit surprised you haven't gone for your 3 for 1 again as I think we need to be more aggressive and go a little higher in the food chain .

Avatar
#53 Woogie63
August 11 2013, 11:58PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers

How do we get Ryan Johansen from CBJ, he seems to have stalled in that system.

Avatar
#54 Quicksilver ballet
August 12 2013, 12:33AM
Trash it!
75
trashes
Cheers
9
cheers

This year is toast already. So many holes still remain and no cap space to address them. Overpays rampant throughout this lineup is to blame. Bringing in AHL'ers, and passing them off as NHL'ers, is the only cards MacTavish has left to play. 5 yrs of this and the Oilers are still starting the season with AHL'ers in the starting lineup, what a disgrace.

Avatar
#55 Rocket
August 12 2013, 04:39AM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Cheers
22
cheers

*Rolls eyes*

Avatar
#56 madjam
August 12 2013, 06:59AM
Trash it!
26
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Lack of playing time has affected our youths progress each year by never reaching the playoffs . 7 months on and 5 months off - nice paying job .

Avatar
#57 madjam
August 12 2013, 06:59AM
Trash it!
31
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Lack of playing time has affected our youths progress each year by never reaching the playoffs . 7 months on and 5 months off - nice paying job .

Avatar
#58 madjam
August 12 2013, 07:06AM
Trash it!
37
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Lack of playing time has affected our youths progress each year by never reaching the playoffs . 7 months on and 5 months off - nice paying job and endorsements to boot . So who now becomes captain and union rep ?

We may not be filling holes with upgrades , but most others doing the same in this cap era - picking your poisons . Major adjustments seem slow in coming no matter what team you speak of . After most options foe MacT. have run dry , maybe we'll revert back to default position and add someone like Smithson back into lineup ?

Avatar
#59 madjam
August 12 2013, 07:08AM
Trash it!
27
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Sorry for the triple post , have no idea how that happened ?

Avatar
#60 fuzzy muppet
August 12 2013, 08:41AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

Nothings happening until training camp when the waiver wire may bring some help.

Im still pretty meh on what MacT has done. Sure he brought in a lot of bodies, but are any of them actual improvements on what they had? Perron is the only guy thats an improvement over the player he is replacing.

Im hoping there's something still coming when camps open and the cap limit becomes a more pressing issue.

Avatar
#61 CaptainLander
August 12 2013, 08:45AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I think Steckel could end up an Oiler, but I still think Mac T will attempt to acquire a 3/4 center via Hemmer trade. Steckel is a filler not a 3-5 year solution. I agree that a solid 24-26 year old center with a good contract is what the Oil need. Finding one that a team is willing to trade is another story.

I found exactly zero. Likely best best is to find the fringe NHLer that has a break out year. No problem.

Avatar
#62 Lochenzo
August 12 2013, 09:20AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

I've always liked the idea of bringing in Brian Boyle. I'm surprised that the Rangers would not be interested in replacing Gaborik's skill with somebody like Hemsky.

I think things are on hold in NY with AV settling in as the new coach. After training camp, we'll know where things fall and maybe Boyle become available if Brad Richards looks real good.

Avatar
#63 Aitch
August 12 2013, 10:16AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
9
cheers

Lowetide, I'm usually with ya, but once I read package Lander and a 1st to fix the Centre issue, I tuned out. There's no way we should be dumping a future first rounder (not to mention other aspects) for a 4th line Centre. Way to expensive.

Avatar
#64 2004Z06
August 12 2013, 10:44AM
Trash it!
16
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

Cracks me up that most of you still see Gagner as a legit #2C. What we need is to get a natural#2C that forces Gagner out to the wing. Stastny for Hemsky works!

Avatar
#65 madjam
August 13 2013, 06:36AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
2004Z06 wrote:

Cracks me up that most of you still see Gagner as a legit #2C. What we need is to get a natural#2C that forces Gagner out to the wing. Stastny for Hemsky works!

Ye of such little Gagner faith as second center may be pleasantly surprised as he has huge breakout year with Perron and the likes of Yakupov . The next M. St.Louis in the makings perhaps emerging ?

Avatar
#66 The_CWD_GarbageMan
August 13 2013, 08:12AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The biggest factor this year, just like the last few years is our compete level. Every time we are supposed to make the jump to the next stage in the club's development there seems to be one or two teams that we should be better than on paper that overtake us. And it's because of work ethic.

Mac T has made a few decent moves to get us some "character" guys who's track record shows that they can compete, but (Sorry for the baseball reference) as the Jays have shown, you can have a great roster, but if the chemistry and the competitive nature is not consistent, those great names aren't going to take you anywhere.

If Eakins can get these guys to compete on a nightly basis and the players (namely our burgeoning core) buy in, then this could make for an interesting year. If not we are going to be having the same discussion about what guys we need who could turn the tide for us next year.

Avatar
#67 Oilcity
August 13 2013, 11:57AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I've brought up the idea of Brian boyle for a long time now.. Massive 4th line centre with great pk and face-off stats. He brings size and is just what the oilers need. They need to do this. If thinking either a pick or prospect. Not hemsky because rangers are high on cap hit As it is

Comments are closed for this article.