There is no secret as to what Steve Tambellini’s number one priority this offseason has been: acquiring a goal-scoring LW, namely Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators.
It isn’t possible to argue that the Oilers don’t need some more offensive punch; they scored 152 even-strength goals (7th in the WC) and their powerplay clocked in at 17.0% (10th in the WC). Neither of those numbers is overly respectable.
That said, with the Dany Heatley situation currently on hold (and Eugene Melnyk making noises about him possibly coming back with the Senators), there’s no reason not to take some time to deal with other matters as well. To his credit, Steve Tambellini has made some minor housekeeping moves (sending Sestito to New Jersey, adding AHL players) and didn’t leave the goaltending situation unresolved. There is however, more to be done, something evident from a couple of statistics I pointed out last week:
Penalty-killing Percentage: 77.5% (14th in the West)
Faceoff Percentage: 47.9% (13th in the West)
Other teams are making moves. The only team in the Western Conference weaker than the Oilers in both of the above categories was the Phoenix Coyotes, something that Don Maloney acknowledged in an interview published today:
MONIQUE: What do you see as the biggest areas you want to improve?
MALONEY: Penalty kill, power play and faceoffs. We picked up Fiddler for those reasons. Vern is 54% on the faceoff and plays big PK minutes. We need to improve those stats in order to have success next season. Our goaltending has to be better.
In addition to bringing in Fiddler, Don Maloney also signed Adrian Aucoin, who was Calgary’s second most-used penalty killer last season.
These aren’t big, headline generating moves, and I don’t think the Phoenix Coyotes are a model to emulate in most cases, but I do know this: a couple of lower-profile veterans to shore up the Oilers weakest points (faceoffs and penalty-killing) would make me feel a lot more at ease about this team.
Some players off of the following list might be of interest:
- Andrew Alberts (D): 2:28 SH TOI/GM, 157 hits, 133 blocked shots
- Blair Betts (C): 2:59 SH TOI/GM, 93 hits, 49.3% faceoffs
- Radek Bonk (C): 59.9% faceoffs, 6th in QualComp in NSH
- Chris Gratton (C): 2:05 SH TOI/GM, 58.5% faceoffs, 37 hits (in 24 games)
- Mike Grier (RW): 2:29 SH TOI/GM, 147 hits, 1.61 EVGAON/60
- Manny Malhotra (C): 2:49 SH TOI/GM, 74 hits, 58.0% faceoffs
- Marek Malik (D): 2:45 SH TOI/GM, 3rd in QualComp in T.B.
- Travis Moen (LW): 2:21 SH TOI/GM, 171 hits, 5th in QualComp in S.J.
- Dominic Moore (C): 2:19 SH TOI/GM, 75 hits, 54.1% faceoffs
- Scott Nichol (C): 2:40 SH TOI/GM, 79 hits (in 43 games), 54.6% faceoffs
- Rob Niedermayer (LW): 3:09 SH TOI/GM, 1st in QualComp in ANA
- Martin Skoula (D): 2:39 SH TOI/GM, 126 blocked shots
There aren’t a lot of guys out there left; the lower-tier veterans are slowly being signed away, and Edmonton needs to pick up one or two – either via free agency or trade.