Reading Between the Lines: “Dawn of a New Era” is Probably Too Much

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I’m going to read between the lines here a little bit, which is always a risky exercise, so feel free to point out if I’m misinterpreting things here. If I’m not, we could have a very good idea what (if anything) the Oilers are offering for Dany Heatley.

Matheson’s latest column is about Jay Bouwmeester – essentially explaining why the Oilers aren’t interested in pursuing him. One of the reasons he listed got me thinking, though:

Edmonton would also have to move a blue-liner to bring Bouwmeester in and they aren’t prepared to do that.

Given that everyone and his dog (including me, although I’ll leave it vague if I’m the former or the latter) predicting that the Oilers will move a defenseman – generally either Tom Gilbert or Sheldon Souray – to address the hole at LW, this is a little bit startling.

It may also be a very good sign.

The hallmark of every team Kevin Lowe has put together has been a lack of balance – especially since the lockout. In 2005-06 he put a very good crew together, and took a reasonable risk by using a pair of budget goaltenders. Unfortunately, when things went south he didn’t try to address the problem until the trade deadline – a move that nearly cost the team a playoff spot and lined them up against the toughest team in the Western Conference in the first round.

The 2006-07 squad featured a lot of one-dimensional offensive players up front, but more critically an extremely limited blueline. Steve Staios and Jason Smith were fine defensemen, but not exactly noted for their ability to move the puck. The team’s first pass quickly became comedic (…and he banks it off the boards, again) and we all know how that squad faired.

The team in 2007-08 featured a truckload of rookies – Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Brodziak, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Stortini – and finished surprisingly close to the playoffs, for reasons that remain disputed but most definitely included some lucky breaks and a phenomenal (and unsustainable) shootout record.

This past season featured a team with a bunch of holes at forward. Cheap options like Marty Reasoner were ignored, and that, combined with the Jarret Stoll trade, left the team critically short of both penalty-killing forwards and guys who could handle the other team’s best players. The most glaring weakness to many was the first line LW position – a position that has been a weakness since Ryan Smyth was dealt.

In any case, the point is that Kevin Lowe built teams with some stengths, but also with obvious weaknesses. Trading away from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness was a hallmark of this era, and generally it meant that new holes were created to fill old holes.

That line of Matheson’s is an indicator that things may be changing. Steve Tambellini has a team with a strong blueline; a blueline that he seemingly intends to retain. Could it be that the Oilers’ G.M. plans to fill out his lineup without weakening its current strengths?

This is also consistent with the Oilers’ cheap plans for goaltending (highlighted here by Robin Brownlee and then later by Matheson) since they obviously need to make cap decisions somewhere to retain their defensemen, although one might argue that depending on how Tambellini fills that slot he could be creating another hole.

In any case, the obvious options for that LW position are Gaborik, Havlat, and Heatley. I’m fairly convinced that either of the UFAs would be a better option if healthy, but “healthy” is not a selling point for either of them. Heatley, on the other hand, is durable but has developed a reputation that isn’t remotely favourable, and at the same time is not exactly a guy who is useful at both ends of the ice.

IF the organization is pursuing Heatley, and IF that line about not trading away defensemen is correct, the only package that I can see the Oilers putting together for Heatley would involve Dustin Penner and Patrick O’Sullivan, perhaps with a lower-tier roster player (Nilsson, Pouliot, etc.), prospect (Schremp, Potulny, etc.) or draft pick. It’s a nice thought, and one that would help clear up the Oilers’ crowding at forward.

  • Hippy

    My problem with taking Heatley is I wonder how many players may become available in 2010 if the cap takes a sever plunge? I wouldnt want to handcuff the Oilers ability to absorb salary in the future. I also think JBO is the best talent available, Heater included.

  • Hippy

    Im not saying dont get Heatley, i would love to have Heatley on my team, im not stupid, but with the salary cap going down, can we absorb his contract. Now if we can get rid of some contracts to make room for Heatley, im all for it. The "baggage" thing, the 2 teams he's played for, he's asked for a trade both times. Keep that in mind, I'd take Heatley over Gaborik and Havlat anyday.

    Though, who would you give up. Ive heard, Gilbert, Cogs, O'sullivan, Penner, etc.

    My Theory:

    to OTT: Gilbert, O'sullivan, Riley Nash, conditional 2nd round draft pick

    to EDM: Heatley, 4th round pick

    and for fun….

    to EDM: Bouwmeester, Norton

    to FLA: Souray, Penner, Nilsson, Staios

    Man, if tambo did that, id praise him, you'd have a team with, heatley, hemmer, bouwmeester, horton, kotilik(if signed), gagner, Eberle, and cogs, could you imagine the scoring! then get a steady d-man, and wait till alex plante moves up!

  • Hippy

    Please Oiler gods bring us Heatly we NEED a sniper. Period end of story we NEED goals the ufas do NOT line up to come to Edmonton and we already have a strong defence. what I dream about is a first line that produces game in game out. The only move that would be better is picking up Tavares but that will mostlikely not happen so again I beg you send us Heatly!

  • Hippy

    Ok so the oilers make 3 trades.

    1. Vishnovsky, Cogliano and Shremp and a second for Heatley and Lee.

    2. Sully, Souray, Moreau, Eberle and one of petry/chorney/wild for bouwmeester, horton and weiss.

    3. Staios and nilsson for harding and foster.

    Line is as follows.

    heatley/horcoff/hemsky
    penner/gagner/horton
    pouliot/weiss/pisani
    jacques/brodziak/stortini

    Bouwmeester/foster
    gilbert/grebeshkov
    smid/lee

    harding
    JDD

    MacIntyre/Brule/Peckham

    Total cap hit 56.4mil
    bouwmeester signed to 15years/90 mil 6mil cap hit
    foster 5 years 9 mil/1.8 mil cap hit
    Grebs 3years 9 mil/3 mil cap hit

  • Hippy

    If the Oilers indeed intend to keep their blueline intact that still doesn't the address the team's need for a top tier shutdown defenseman. In otherwords to keep the blueline a [balanced] team strength, one of them may still need to be moved.

  • Hippy

    I think alot of us have our own little wishlists for the Oilers next season, however given the reality of an abundance (give or take 7) 2nd line players, the ability to work the free agent market is severely hampered. I would be satisfied for this season at least, dumping at least a few of our dead weight contracts.

  • Hippy

    @ cm:

    I'm no so sure about these trades. The first one is a little odd IMO, I don't see Lubo going since he has a NMC and likes it in Edmonton (we badly need to keep awesome players that like it here!). And Lee was one of their first rounders, they will likely want to keep him since they appartently need d-men. Secondly, I don't know why I always see people making up packages for Jaybo, he's a UFA. We would have to sign him for huge money and dump salary assuming he even wants to play in Edmonton. As for the third one, Foster is also UFA so no trade necessary. Harding could probably be had for just Nilsson or Staios, or even less than that by offer sheet (Harding is RFA).

    It's fun to dream up trades but why even waste your time when half of them make no sense?? That

    Another thing about the first one is that Heatly won't agree to be traded to us, I think he would stay in Ottawa before taking a trip to Edmonton. I like Heatly alot but that contract is a little tough to take on.

  • Hippy

    I found that Matheson quote to be a little confusing for a couple of reasons.

    First one being that he has already been floating Gilbert in his rumours for Heatley. So is this new quote a change on his original musings or is it specific to the Bouwmeetser scenario? The topic of the article this was quoted from.

    If it's Bouwmeester specific which is how I understood it then it becomes even more confusing. Bouwmeester, if they could get him, would be the best defenceman of the bunch. If you have to make room for him by moving a guy that isn't as good (even if the guy getting moved out is damn good in his own right) then I don't see why you would hesitate.

  • Hippy

    @ Rick:
    Jim Matheson could have heard some new information but can't quote his sources. That is what Brownlee often talks about and something you need to watch for… especially when a guy is as plugged in as Matty is.

    I think it would be great if they could trade away some of these so-so prospects and and wimpy players and get something real in return, but I don't think other teams will bite. You need to add in something with substance to get something back.

    You keep Penner because when he plays his 'A game' he is one hell of a player, and I for one want to see what Quinn & Renney can do with him. IF they can get more consistency he could definitely be worth his contract, and then no one will want to trade him.

  • Hippy

    @ Cam:

    Even still it doesn't make sense.

    The Oilers can't bring in a high priced forward without shedding salary somewhere, that salary pretty much has to include one of the defencemen. Particularily if it's a trade scenario where teh blue line has the most attractive talent.

    Second, if it is about Bouwmeester then their not sacrificing talent anyways, their improving it.

    I'm not necessarily questioning Matheson because if this is based on some kind of inside scoop. He would be the guy to get it first. That said, if it is some kind of inside scoop then I am questioning Tambellini.

    Like Jonathon said this roster has been out of balance for a number of years. Right now the overall roster is defence heavy but even if you look past the overall defence as the strength of the team at look closer at the make up of the defence core specifically they are just as out of balance in their own right.

  • Hippy

    Rick wrote:

    Right now the overall roster is defence heavy but even if you look past the overall defence as the strength of the team at look closer at the make up of the defence core specifically they are just as out of balance in their own right.

    Are you thinking that we have too much offense on the back end and not enough pure defense (making them pay in front of the net, etc)? Is that what you mean by "unbalanced"?

    If so I definitely think we could use one more heavy warrior type. I don't think Souray is a puck mover. He blasts the puck on the power play, but he is really a Warrior like Staios and Smid.

    So we have three warriors and then three PMD (Vis, Grebs, and Gilbert). Do you think that is too much? I don't.

  • Hippy

    Lofty wrote:

    Antropovs size would be nice. The Oil Would have to get rid of Penner, Pisani and Gilbert to get Heatley and Antropov. Don’t know if anyone is crazy enough to pick up those salary’s.
    The most important thing for the Oil is to find some scoring ability. People moan about the penalty kill but its a lot easier to find a plugger to get that job done than it is to find someone to put the puck in the net.
    There is no way that Marleau is the answer for a first line that doesnt score.

    There is actually an Antropov rumour now!

    hxxp://brochuishockey.blogspot.com

    Turns out if the Oilers acquire Antropov it's because there's confirmation he can come at a lower price. Plus, there's always that Quinn factor.

  • Hippy

    @ Bryant:
    You are soooo right, we need goals now. Getting sick and tired of "They are a team with much optimism." Screw it, we don't want to go on like the Maple Leafs and wait forever between Cups, Oiler brass, make a deal for Heatley.