QTNA Episode VIII: Dressing room rifts? Omark signing? Hemsky trade?

Hemsky

If you have any questions send them to Gregor at jason@justagame.ca.

With the reported rift in the dressing room last year, do you think there will be a change in the captaincy and the alternate captains for this coming year? In your opinion was the rift due to an age gap or MacT’s obvious bias for some of the veterans? Do you think some of the younger guys need to be included in the leadership group to bridge the age gap and groom them for the future? Of the young guys, which one or ones do you see still playing for us next year that would be a good candidate for an A on his sweater?
—Elsa

I really think the rift was overblown. I have spoken with a variety of veterans and young players, and none expressed there was a real rift. In fact, one veteran told me that on the road they hung out more as a team this year than they had in the past.

Few players get handed a leadership role unless they are prepared to take it on. I know for a fact that one time early in the season Moreau stood up and told the young players he wanted them to express themselves more. Not every player has to be vocal to be a leader. In fact, some of the best leaders don’t say much; rather, they make sure they are ready to play every night.

None of the young players strike me as great leaders right now. Gagner has the best chance. He has a quiet, competitive fire that should make him a leader down the road, but I don’t see it being next year. As for the captaincy, unless Moreau gets dealt I’d be surprised if the new coach stripped him of the “C.”

Moreau and Souray are really close. I don’t think Souray would lead that much better than Moreau. In today’s game it’s rare to have ONE leader; instead it’s more of a group that leads and with Souray and Moreau being fairly tight, I don’t see how Souray would be that more vocal with a “C” instead of an “A.”

Why didn’t the Oilers sign Omark? I’ve only seen him on YouTube highlights but he sure looks skilled.
—Andy

The Oilers are currently at 50 contracts until July 1st, unless they make a two for one deal before then, so it was impossible to sign Omark. They could have agreed to a deal and not announced it the July, but from the conversations I’ve had with management, he was looking for a one-way deal.

The Oilers have too many contracts right now and they weren’t willing to give him a one-way deal. It is hard to evaluate how good he is because the SEL (Swedish Elite League) isn’t that highly regarded.

Fabian Brunnstrom, who many thought was better than Omark, signed a two-way deal with Dallas last year. I spoke to a European scout last week and he said Omark has loads of talent, but he needs to get stronger before playing in the NHL, and he (scout) said he heard Omark signed in Russia for the money but also to test himself. He signed a two-year deal with Moscow Dynamo, but with an out-clause after the first year. The Oilers will watch him closely and if he holds his own it sounds like they will find a way to entice him to come over next year.

I asked the scout if he thought Omark could crack the Oilers lineup this coming year and he said it was doubtful. I can’t comment on how good he is, because I have never seen him play a full game. I could care less about his sweet moves in the shoot-out, because those only help if your team gets to the shoot-out.

I really liked Jim Matheson’s idea of trading Hemsky. Would you trade him right now?
—Brandon

I wouldn’t trade him for Brown and Greene, because you need skill to win, and if the Oilers trade Hemsky they are losing their most skilled player. Of course, if he was part of a package to acquire a proven sniper like Kovalchuk then I would do that deal.

I think Hemsky needs to be more consistent, and since I don’t see the Thrashers dealing Kovalchuk this summer, the Oilers should focus on getting another top-six forward with skill that is comfortable playing LW.

Hemsky is rare, in that he is willing to go in the tough areas, but at times he doesn’t seem willing to do all the little things that will propel him to great status. I think having a new coach will get his attention, but it will naturally excite him as well. He became frustrated last year, and even though he did squat after publicly stating he wanted to be the go-to-guy, I think he will come to camp with lots to prove this year.

The most important factor with Hemsky might be his contract. With the cap going down next year, the Oilers will need more players who outperform their contracts rather than those who underachieve. Hemsky’s contract will look even better if the cap figure is 47-50 million in 2010.

Do you think there is room for Peckham, Smid and Staios next year?
—Darren in Millwoods.

Good question. It seems obvious that one of Souray, Gilbert, Visnovsky or Grebeshkov will be dealt. If that happens and they get a forward in return then yes all three could be here. I get a sense that Steve Staios will be the veteran on the move this summer. Smid’s game has improved to the point that he can replace all the intangibles that Staois brings, and he is a better passer.

Even with one of the big four getting dealt, I still see Staios being moved. While some think he is overpaid, his $2.7 salary isn’t that scary, and if he isn’t asked to play more than 19 minutes a night I think he can still be effective.

Would there be room for Smid, Staios and Peckham? Yes, but I don’t see all of them being here when the Oilers return to the ice in mid September.

Parting shot

I highly recommend reading this article from Mike Wise. It is rare to have an athlete divulge this much information on what has to be a very touchy subject. Many fans don’t like Brashear, but it would be hard not to respect him after reading what he has had to overcome. It is a wonderful piece of journalism by Wise. I’ve always said being a heavyweight is the hardest job in sports, but his role pales in comparison to what he endured as a child.

  • Cam

    scorcoff hemmercules wrote:

    I’m not pronouncing doom and gloom yet but I have to agree with DBO here. New GM, new coach, new systems, new goalie, more new players…..the oil have a pretty tall order to fill to become a playoff team over one summer if you ask me… …Lots of work to do in my opinion.

    I definitely agree with you… it is a tall order. However it is not outside the realm of possibility. Other teams have managed it (like Vancouver), so I am not ready to get pessimistic just yet. There is too much upside and youth ready to get better for me to go there.

  • #Swiss Oil Fan

    Hey guys, we haven't yet spoken about UFA defenseman Jason Strudwick. Should we sign him for next year or let him go? In my opinion, he was a good warrior and we could use his experience (and leadership to a certain degree…) in the team.

  • scorcoff hemmercules

    DMN said: It’s popular in the Edmonton media that theyll play soft ball (aka no balls) this off-season and just get gap fillers to hope for a possible low seed playoff cash grab.

    @ Gregor
    Do you think that Tambellini will play soft ball this summer like he seemingly did all year?? During the presser he held about Mact, he sounded like he was ready to play hard ball from what I heard. Will Katz be pushing him to sign a 8 million dollar guy or will Tambo do what he wants to??

  • Digger12 wrote:

    I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong on this, but doesn’t the CBA stipulate that all rookie deals HAVE to be 2 way?
    If that’s the case, then how can the Oilers say he was wanting a one way deal when it wasn’t even possible to sign such a deal?

    Yes, but he wanted the "guarantee" that he would play in Edmonton and not the AHL…where he would earn a whopping $65-80,000…It was a verbal agreement that they were interested in. He wouldn't be the first player to ask for this type of guarantee.

    And the Oilers weren't prepared, nor from what I was told do they think he is ready to be a guaranteed NHLer just yet. The out clause in his Moscow Dynamo deal will allow both sides to re-evaluate his stock next summer.

    He would get an bonus laden contract with the Oilers if he comes next year I would guess, so he could at least match the $1.4 that he will be guaranteed with Dynamo.

  • Death Metal Nightmare wrote:

    It’s popular in the Edmonton media that theyll play soft ball (aka no balls) this off-season and just get gap fillers to hope for a possible low seed playoff cash grab. there goes one more year of that “sweet deal” down the tubes. so why should Hemsky be Mr. Chipper when he’s playing for about 70% of his market value with turds? oh yeah, its the “noble” thing to do.

    If Hemsky is whining about his deal, like you alluded to then I'd say screw him. He signed the deal, so live with it, although I've never heard from anyone that he complains about it.

    I agree Hemsky doesn't have a great supporting cast, but if he wants to be in the elite he has to produce without other great players around him.

    The year Iginla won the scoring title, with a measly 96 points in 2001/2002, only four other players had double digits in goals. He made Craig Conroy a 75 point player.

    I'm not saying Hemsky is Iginla, but at some point if Hemsky wants to get in the conversation of top-end players he has to do it, regardless of who is on his team.

    He was averaging more than a point a game halfway through the year. He tailed off in the final 40 games, with the same linemates.

    Hemsky is the Oilers' best forward, but if he wants to move into the upper echelon of forwards he needs to produce with whoever he plays. That is what the really good to great players do.

  • Digger12

    I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong on this, but doesn't the CBA stipulate that all rookie deals HAVE to be 2 way?

    If that's the case, then how can the Oilers say he was wanting a one way deal when it wasn't even possible to sign such a deal?

  • Ender the Dragon

    I get a kick out of the Omark question. We should definitely ice our team next year based on the number of YouTube hits they get, with a bonus structure tied to the number of comments. That's the only real way to recognize top talent; isn't that right Robbie Schremp?

  • smytty777

    speeds wrote:

    Gregor:
    There’s no way for the Oilers, or anyone else , to give Omark a one-way deal .

    Speeds, my understanding is that Omark's agent wanted an assurance from the Oilers that the agreement would be "one-way" in the sense that the Oilers would provide assurance that Omark would not be sent down at any point during the year, even though all entry-level deals are two-way.

    So I agree with your characterization of the issue, Omark risks getting 65K in the AHL by coming over versus millions in Russia. It will be the same issue next year though, although maybe if Omark lights up the Russian league he can be assured a roster spot next year.

  • speeds

    Gregor:

    There's no way for the Oilers, or anyone else , to give Omark a one-way deal . It's part of the CBA that a player in his situation HAS to have a two way contract.
    That is not an issue.

    What seems to be an issue is whether Omark is willing to play for an extended period in the AHL, making 65K, when he could be making much more in Europe, in the case where Omark doesn't make the team.

  • Harlie

    the Brashear article is eerily similar to the story about O'Sullivan. It really shows that these guys are human beings and not just a big cheque skating up and down a surface of ice. Great article and good on Donald for persevering. Also good luck to him in his future when he hangs up the blades and tries to integrate back into society with his past still shadowing over him.

  • scorcoff hemmercules

    @ Cam:

    I'm not pronouncing doom and gloom yet but I have to agree with DBO here. New GM, new coach, new systems, new goalie, more new players…..the oil have a pretty tall order to fill to become a playoff team over one summer if you ask me. I just hope Tambo can lay a good foundation so we can at least make the playoffs next season and continue to improve over the next 3 or 4 years. I wish I had the optimism of Mact and Lowe in thinking that you can go from a non playoff team to a division title holder in one summer. Lots of work to do in my opinion.

  • Cam

    DBO wrote:

    this team will not be able to compete for a cup, and it will not go into rebuilding mode so we’ll be stuck in the 8th seed limbo again.

    How can you truly say that until we see what comes to the table next year. they have a one in thirty chance. No one thought they would compete for a cup in 2006, but there they were anyways.

    The Oilers didn't play as a team last year, and players underperformed, but that doesn't diminish the assets overly. I think Tambo has some quality trade bait to play with, and I would prefer to wait until we see what gets done this summer before I pronounce doom and gloom.

  • scorcoff hemmercules

    @ The Towel Boy:

    I still view him as a crazed, psychopathic, face-pummeling monster because that's what he is. I do have more respect for him now though (in a non-hockey kind of way).

  • That Brashear article was pretty darn good. I no longer view him as a just a crazed, psychopathic, face-pummeling monster. Tough life he had, for sure. Hats off to him for making something of his life coming from all that.

  • DBO

    Gregor; good post. heard the show yesterday and the discussion about dealing hemksy. The thing that scares me is if you put him as the #2 on a team he's propbaly a 90 point player. Our problem is that I'm not sure we can get anyone better then Hemsky, and Hemsky will continue to be our offensive leader when he should be our offensive distributor. Kovalchuk is ideal, but unfortunately unrealistic. We can't move Horcoff (who I like) or Penner (who will certainly have a better year this year), so you move forward and try and improve your team by addressing needs. this team will not be able to compete for a cup, and it will not go into rebuilding mode so we'll be stuck in the 8th seed limbo again. That being said, you find an upgrade at 1 LW, an upgrade at 3C, and bring some more grit and this team is more competitive, funner to watch, and at least makes the playoffs.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    this is just in general, not in response to Gregor really:

    Hemsky needs a core. Even Crosby and Malkin have a "core" of players to help them elevate their drive to compete. yeah, they got their points but what did it take for them to start winning games to get back in the playoff picture? Guerin, Kunitz, Gonchar coming back, etc, etc… throw Crosby on the Oilers and theyd still miss the playoffs.

    Horcoff and Penner are not a core (but theyre paid like they are). Gagner took 75% of the season to get over his NHL 09 rating. Run down the roster and you catch my drift. Hell, on some nights it took Souray to come storming down the boards forechecking to create something. Hemsky is playing with garbage or skilled players who arent mature enough – and he is still close to a point per game.

    It's popular in the Edmonton media that theyll play soft ball (aka no balls) this off-season and just get gap fillers to hope for a possible low seed playoff cash grab. there goes one more year of that "sweet deal" down the tubes. so why should Hemsky be Mr. Chipper when he's playing for about 70% of his market value with turds? oh yeah, its the "noble" thing to do.

    anyhow, when Hemsky's sweetheart contract runs out and we look back on that era, dont try to blame him for their inability to be successful.

    no REAL core was ever put WITH him (not AROUND him) to do so. you have a bunch of above 27 year old flunkies who have the skill level of AHL players and some fake ID kids who are borderline AHL at times. yeah, we all get that you need role players but when youre more hellbent on getting those players than a core of consistent players to make you effective every night and who Hemsky can work with… wow.

    Elite team, bro.

  • Wanye Gretz

    That Mike Wise article is an absolutely tremendous read. More features like this should be done on players. I see a totally different Brashear now having read it.