Dan Barnes’ Must-Read Column


As happens with astonishing regularity, Dan Barnes has once again written a must-read piece on the future of the Edmonton Oilers. It’s both wide-ranging and incriminating of much of the roster, although I’m only going to focus on a couple of excerpts.

Much of the article is based on a conversation with a surprisingly candid Sheldon Souray; although for my money the best quote is this one:

“It would be like Mardi Gras in here after a win and then we would lose in such a poor fashion that all momentum was lost. There was none of this,” Souray said while holding his arm straight out to simulate an even keel. “Even to consistently be average, we couldn’t do that.”

We’ve heard tales of rifts in the room before, but to my knowledge no other player has talked so plainly about the emotional roller-coaster in the dressing room. Craig MacTavish has hinted broadly that the team was far too up and down (“the vortex of death”) but this is the most explicit statement and there’s no reason to disbelieve Souray – all the evidence is there.

That even keel shouldn’t be viewed solely as the fault of the youngsters either – it seems to be a common enough problem in young players, and it’s up to the veterans and the coaching staff to instill the professional culture that the team needs. Souray, refreshingly, painted with a broad brush, omitting only goaltender Dwayne Roloson from criticism.

President of hockey operations Kevin Lowe will ease further into the background and general manager Steve Tambellini will step forward to put his mark on the team. This will not be a Lowellini roster next September.

I have been told MacTavish will not be here to see it through, that he will step away because he has failed to achieve the desired results more often than not. He surely knows how damaging this season has been for the organization and is cognizant of exactly where this buck stops. While a host of players should take the rap for their terrible seasons, and there will undoubtedly be significant roster changes, MacTavish will pay the biggest price.

Lowetide wrote about this at some length yesterday, but this summer is going to show one way or the other which direction the Oilers are going. Here’s the comment I made on one of his posts:

If the Oilers do the right thing (hire a coach from outside the org), we’re not going to note it as the start of a trend. We’ll note it as the continuation of a trend that saw Steve Tambellini, Rob Daum, Jeff Truitt and Rick Olczyk hired from elsewhere.

The news today that Kevin Lowe will step back from the team (and the reiteration that Mactavish will not return) means that in just a year of ownership, Daryl Katz will have completely overturned the brain-trust in Edmonton. People playing significant roles on the team have come from outside the organization, and if Katz holds true to form, the next head coach will as well. Scott Arniel should be one of the names considered (and is a logical candidate since he has some past history with Tambellini), but the important thing is that whoever is brought in be the best candidate for the job; an experienced coach, someone with (at least) an extensive track record in the AHL or as an NHL assistant.

For all the negativity this season (and there’s more to come), if the Oilers make the right changes this summer we could be watching the renewal of the team and a cultural change taking place right before our eyes.

Tambellini wants a bigger and stronger top-six corps of forwards and will probably have to move a defenceman to do it. Because, by playing their way out of the playoffs, the Oilers sent a strong signal to potential free agents; this is not a team ready to win much more than it loses.

I hope that the team realizes that Barnes is correct and avoids a likely-fruitless run at Marian Hossa. If another top-six forward is brought in, it seems to me that some of the current group (Robert Nilsson being the likeliest name) will not be brought back. Although from the sounds of it (and not solely from Barnes – both Brownlee and Gregor have said similar things) the trade that Barnes refers to will be just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Hippy

    topshelf wrote:

    What is Hemsky supposed to do carrying around dead weight all year long on the top line? He basically produced every point he got with little to no help from his linemates for most of the year. He could’ve easily got 10 more assists if Horc had buried half the chances he was provided.

    Horcoff, Penner and Hemsky were pretty strong together all year. That said, while Horcoff had a bad offensive campaign, centre wasn't nearly as bad a position as the rotating top line LW – Penner being the best of a group including Kotalik, O'Sullivan, Nilsson, Cole, Moreau and Reddox.

    As for Hemsky, his performance on the powerplay this year and his inconsistency were two major problems on this team.

  • Hippy

    Rick and Vic: my point was I'd rather have Garon as the back-up and the rest that it would provide Roli rather than the marginal package we received in return for Garon.

    If we moved him for something that would've helped us, I could've lived with the move. But, we didn't and MacT didn't trust what was left for depth and Roli fell apart.

    I"m not saying he was The problem but he was a big one in the games vs Min and Ana and the Kings. Think back to how many crap goals the opposing goalies gave up in those games?

    Anyway, Garon is better than JDD and MacT would've probably played him more and Roli would've been better off for it.

    Anyway, the problem with the Oil wasn't the top line as much as it was A: 89 couldn't do enough with the soft min that the top line's matching up provided him and B: we couldn't kill a penalty to save our lives.

  • Hippy

    @ Dennis:

    I am not sure what they could have gotten that would have helped but I guess it is possible.

    One thing that they did get is the open roster spot which ultimately lead to being able bring 2 guys in at the deadline with one going out.

    Obviously O'sullivan did sweet eff all down the stretch but the attempt was made all the same.

    As for MacT possibly playing Garon, I disagree so we can call it a difference of opinion on that one.

  • Hippy

    topshelf wrote:

    I find it hard to point a finger at Hemsky when at times he was the only player producing any offense at all this year.

    As, at times, was Gagner. As, at other times, was Penner.

    I thought Hemsky had a decent year, but his powerplay numbers have fallen off and he hasn't been the guy down the stretch that he needed to be. Still a good player of course, but then so's Horcoff and even someone as biased as me can see that his offensive game isn't where it needs to be.