Mercy, with the Edmonton Oilers firmly established as contenders in the 2010 Lottery Pick race, general manager Steve Tambellini is getting all kinds of free advice these days.
"Tank it," say some pundits, seemingly oblivious to the fact, as Jason Gregor has already pointed out, the Oilers are already well on their way to doing that and will likely succeed without trading anybody.
"Trade Shawn Horcoff," offer those in the No Clue Club, a segment of fans who believe Tambellini can simply wag his GM’s wand and make his peers as gullible as Mike Milbury was when he was making genius moves on behalf of the New York Islanders like trading Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha.
"Just do something. Anything," say others, frustrated beyond words the team they picked to win the Northwest Division is destined to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year, tying a franchise record for futility.
And, finally, there’s the Make A Big Splash Brigade, those who scrawl quantity-for-quality trades on the back of their lithium prescription slips — why not trade Robert Nilsson, Steve Staios, Shawn Horcoff and Joey Moss for Ilya Kovalchuk? Why not, indeed.
Everybody has it figured out.
THE WAY I SEE IT
After the Oilers filed out of Millennium Place Monday with, not surprisingly, Ethan Moreau, Sheldon Souray and Dustin Penner leading the way before Tambellini spent 10 minutes or so looking like a deer in the headlights in front of assembled reporters, I took the time to have a coffee and scrawl down some ideas.
They’re not necessarily big-bang ideas or revelations that nobody else has thought of. They aren’t based fully in any of the existing camps, especially those looking for a full-scale tear-down of the roster and do-over with an eye to landing Taylor Hall — or whatever Swiss centre the Oilers have exclusive scouting intel on. They won’t rid the Oilers of spare parts and land a top-six forward in return.
They are, however, do-able between now and the trade deadline, and could address some deficiencies on the ice and in the dressing room based on what I know, or think I know, about this edition of the Oilers.
As important, the moves I’m thinking of won’t gut the team long-term to address the short-term and vice-versa. They won’t bust the cap and they won’t have Oilers fans paying NHL dollars for an AHL product for the next 55 games this season on the way to 29th place.
Here, in no particular order, is what I came up with.
— Trade Moreau and Staios. I know, hello Captain Obvious. As I wrote last week, I believe the Oilers are in need of changes to their veteran core. Staios and Moreau are the most easily moved pieces of that core.
Tambellini can’t move Horcoff’s contract. He likely can’t, and probably shouldn’t, move Souray or Lubomir Visnovsky. That leaves the captain, who doesn’t have enough game left to say, "Follow me, boys," with much credibility. Staios, who can’t hide with all the minutes he’s playing here. Give Souray the "C" and Ryan Stone Moreau’s spot.
— When Denis Grebeshkov gets healthy, assuming nobody else slips in the shower and fractures a leg, decide between him and Tom Gilbert and move one of them. Nothing new to this train of thought, either.
Gilbert’s hideous start has hurt his value compared to last season, when some people thought him a rising star after a 45-point campaign, but he’s got some cachet with teams needing a puck-mover. Grebeshkov might be tougher to move coming off knee surgery.
Pick one and move the other for a proven forward in the same price range. Preferably a centre who can win face-offs. With either one, it’s probably best to wait until closer to the deadline.
— Tambellini has put himself in a bind by giving Nikolai Khabibulin that four-year deal. It looks even worse today because Khabibulin’s cranky back has kept him out for six games.
That said, he’s going to be the guy for the next two seasons, at least, and that means Jeff Deslauriers or Devan Dubnyk probably has to go because both will need waivers to be sent to the minors next season.
I’m not of the mind Dubnyk has done enough, yet, to be a sure pick-up by on waivers by another team, but why gamble on losing one of them for nothing?
— Trade Patrick O’Sullivan. As is the case with Gilbert, this is a move best made later, but it’s one Tambellini should let other GMs know he is willing to make.
I’m of the mind Gilbert Brule or Ryan Potulny can bring all the offence, and more grit, than O’Sullivan does. Does O’Sullivan get Tambellini a shut-down defenceman who could play in Staios spot? I think so.
As always, let me know what you think.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.