July 16 2014 09:25AM
July 15th begins a long six-week stretch for hockey fans. The euphoria of the draft and free agency has subsided and now many start to dissect how their team's roster looks like. It is obvious the Oilers are light on proven NHL centres, but are you so desperate to add another centre that Derek Roy's signing in Nashville upsets you?
I can understand being concerned about the Oilers current state of centre position, it is a valid concern, but if you think Roy is the answer, then the question must be.. Which centre can the Oilers add that won't improve their team?
I never read an article or a comment that mentioned Roy is a player the Oilers should target leading into free agency, so why is he suddenly someone Craig MacTavish missed the boat on?
Roy is small, not physical and his production has declined drastically in the past three seasons.
In the past three years, Roy has produced 22-76-109 in 197 games. 0.55 points per game.
In that same time span, Sam Gagner scored 42-80-122 in 190 games. 0.64 points per game.
Roy is not considered a defensive stalwart, so how he is an improvement over Gagner? He is 31 and has slowed down the past three seasons, I'd wager that Marc Arcobello could produce the same as Roy and he'd come in much hungrier.
I'm not enamoured with Arcobello as the 2nd line centre, but I don't see Roy as an obvious upgrade, and adding him just to add a veteran centre reeks of desperation. I would have preferred Olli Jokinen or David Legwand but the Oilers were unable to land them.
MacTavish started the off-season with a plethora of holes to fill, and it was unrealistic to expect he'd be able to fill all of them. He added some solid pieces, mainly veterans who have a reputation of knowing how to play solid defense, but so far he has been unable to acquire a proven 2nd line centre.
The biggest reason was because there wasn't many on the market and very few teams are willing to trade legit 2nd line centres. If you want one, you need to develop them and that's why the Oilers handling of Leon Draisaitl is ultra important.
If MacTavish is unable to add a bonafide 2nd line centre by training camp it will be a disappointment, but I can't say his summer was a failure. Which Oilers assets are worth a legit 2nd line centre straight up? Nail Yakupov won't get you a proven centre, neither will Jeff Petry, and that's why I never expected MacTavish to get his 2nd line centre this summer.
Of course it is possible, but there is a major gap between possible and realistic. Legwand would have been a solid stop gap, but he wanted to play out east. He choose Ottawa over Edmonton, which shows he was more interested in geography than winning. The Senators aren't that much better than the Oilers now that they lost Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.
As for Ribeiro, he is a proven scorer. However, he just got bought out by Arizona, who count every penny, because he wasn't committed enough on and off the ice. It would have been a risk for the Oilers to bring him into their young dressing room, but they did consider it. If things went awry with veterans like Shane Doan and Derek Morris, what would happen in Edmonton?
Brian Sutherby played with Ribeiro.
"I would have been a little bit hesitant being the Oilers and bringing him in, and I say that respectfully. He is a fantastic player and was a good teammate. He is a different guy..He doesn't look like your prototypical hockey player in how he dresses. He does get a bad rap due to that. He likes to have fun off the ice. He isn't a rink rat. You won't see him come to the rink and spend hours in the gym prior to warm up. However, he was always committed to winning. He has a lot of skill.
"He is a pretty quiet, reserved guy. On a team like the Oilers, I think you want your older players to be guys who are going to bring the team closer together, and Mike is a guy who does his own thing. You want your leaders to be rink rats and sending the right message all over the rink, whether it is nutrition, watching video or just being around the rink.
"In Dallas we had a good leadership group and I never felt like he was an issue. He produced, but I believe he fits in better on a veteran team," said Sutherby.
The Oilers did reach out to Ribeiro's camp, and they were indeed interested, but his camp clearly choose Nashville. Ribeiro admitted at his press conference yesterday that his marital struggles impacted his off-ice issues last year. He was honest and upfront about a very personal situation saying he and his wife are still trying to work things out. I was also told his camp was a bit leery of being in a hockey crazed market right after what Don Maloney had said publicly.
He is trying to save his marriage and his children and wife are comfortable living in the USA and they are used to the school system, so you can understand why they elected not to come to Canada. I hope he gets his life in order, and I can see why both sides had some trepidation about making a deal.
The Oilers lack of centre depth is a major concern. MacTavish has made it known he's looking for a centre. He's talked to numerous teams, and I suspect a deal will happen, but it might not occur until early in the season.
I don't see the Oilers as a playoff team. I truly hope I'm wrong, because we are all tired of watching a losing organization, but I do believe they've improved. The Oilers will be more competitive next season, but last April I didn't expect them to jump up six spots in the west and make the playoffs, and three months later, even after upgrading his defence and wingers, I still believe that.
And that's why in my eyes MacTavish can't force a trade. He can't give up too much just to fill an obvious void. If not making a deal right away means Arcobello and Anton Lander get more icetime than people expected, that is a better alternative than making a trade that will hurt the organization long-term.
I know it sucks to be patient, but I don't see a better option at this juncture.
- The Oilers have two vacancies in their professional coaching ranks. The need a 3rd assistant coach on the Oilers, a guy who will watch the games from upstairs, and they need a head coach for their ECHL team in Bakersfield. Troy Mann was the head coach, but he got the head coaching job for Hershey in the AHL. Rocky Thompson is a candidate for both jobs.
Thompson has been an assistant in OKC for the past four seasons. The players love his enthusiasm and he is very good at breaking down video and very good technically. For the past few seasons Thompson would split his time in the game watching from the pressbox, and then coming down for the third period and coaching from the bench.
He has experience in picking up things from upstairs and relaying that information to the head coach.
The Oilers need a young, players coach on their staff. Craig Ramsay is an excellent teacher, Keith Acton is a veteran coach, but he's not a guy who will lighten the mood. Thompson is a very bright guy, but his attitude and demeanour would be a welcome addition on the staff. Every team needs an assistant who can relate to the players, and Thompson could fill that void. He has some youthful exuberance. I think he would be a great fit.
Thompson still has a home in from Sherwood Park, so moving home would be an easy decision. He's also a candidate to be the head coach in Bakersfield. Does he want to be a head coach and forge his own path, or work his way up the assistant ranks in the NHL?
"I'm interested in both jobs," Thompson told me yesterday. He did meet with Dallas Eakins during the prospect camp. "My goal is to be a head coach, but NHL jobs don't come around every day. Both positions offer different challenges, but I think I'm ready for either one," Thompson said.
Look for Eakins to make a decision regarding his third assistant coach soon, and I expect Thompson will be hired.
- I'm hearing the Oilers will bring back goaltending coach Freddie Chabot. Chabot will continue to work with Sylvain Rodrique, who the Oilers signed last summer to help with goaltending development and scouting.
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