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

    I am convinced that the only way they should deal for Heatley is if Penner is involved. Add O'Sullivan/Nilsson and another piece if needed (except for the 10th).

    I would also like to see them move Souray (I like him but his value is as high as it will ever be) for a salary type dump and then try to get JayBo… if they can't land him, then fill Souray's spot with another UFA D-men.

  • Hippy

    The thing is if u could trade Penner and OSullivan for Heatley that pretty much balances out the salary. Would u not then move a puck moving defenceman if you could sign Boumeester as an upgrade?
    I'm thinking Boumeester doesn't want to play in Edmonton and the Oilers are aware of this or that is how they are viewing it right now. I would be shocked if the Oilers didn,t at least chat with Boumeesters father to try and gage his interest

  • Hippy

    I am not sure I agree with your intrepretation. (though I agree it could be read in two ways.)

    I read it as he is they are not interesting in moving a dman for BOUMEESTER.

    That same article talks about the more important focus on offence.

    My intrepretation is that they would move a dman for scoring but not for Boumeester.

  • Hippy

    You could be right, but I also think "they're not prepared to trade a defenseman" could mean "they're not prepared to trade ANOTHER defenseman if they're already moving someone to get Heatley". Or maybe even some other trade target instead of Heatley.

  • Hippy

    Trouble with Gaborik is he is a right winger and the Oil have never had success moving a player to their off wing.
    With the Oil interested in Kotalik I would assume Penner must be in play

  • Hippy

    While I would love to see Heater in oil silks come october, I think the kind of trade Tambs should look for is for guys like Kessel or Frolov. It would cost less to get them, they are younger, and are less of a cap hit.

  • Hippy

    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.

  • Hippy

    Ha. I was just gonna bring up big Nik's name. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them make a play for him. Wouldn't be a terrible pick up, but it sure as heck isn't what Oil fan has in mind. The 750 comments on ON after would be well worth the read tho. Could it be that what Matheson meant is that the Oil aren't interested in moving a 2nd d man after the potential Heatley trade? How bout Patrick Marleau as the LW.

  • Hippy

    If the Oilers acquired Heatley due to the Quinn factor… what about Nik Antropov for the 2nd line RW position? I know Kotalik was playing there for a while at the end of the last season and what kind of a raise do you think Antropov will get on as a UFA this season?

    Heatley-Horcoff-Hemsky
    Whoever's Left-Gagner-Antropov

  • Hippy

    Remember the first year Souray was here? 26 games played. That was awesome. Well that would be the story with either Havlat or Gaborik. Please stay away. IF they go after any free agent it has to be balls out for Boumeester and then make a trade.

  • Hippy

    Gaborik's injury history obviously makes him a bigger risk, but also a bigger reward. Whichever team takes a chance on him could have a tremendous payoff…
    Do you think its a risk these "New Era" Oilers would take? It would be exciting to see, if nothing else.

  • Hippy

    West Coast Oil wrote:

    Im starting to think the Oilers may target a LW who has a history with Quin. He tends to prefer players he knows he can count on and that would almost certainly point to Heatley as he played for Quinn at the world stage if Im not mistaken.

    Please not Sundin or Tucker. Quinn loves them both.

  • Hippy

    Im starting to think the Oilers may target a LW who has a history with Quin. He tends to prefer players he knows he can count on and that would almost certainly point to Heatley as he played for Quinn at the world stage if Im not mistaken.