The Blue

A glance at the current Oilers depth chart tells us a lot about the future. Up front, this team is loaded with tremendous potential. The list of young forwards (Gagner, Cogliano, Brule with the big league team; Hall, MPS, Eberle, Omark, Hartikainen, Lander, Vande Velde) is long, deep and varied; I dare say the only time this team has enjoyed such a large list of potential quality forwards was 79-81 (although the mid-90’s had a large and impressive group). 

The goaltending has two young NHLers (JDD, DD) trying to establish themselves along with two prospects bubbling under (Olivier Roy might be very good; Tyler Bunz is the new hire).

The problem area is the Blue. Only Ladislav Smid (24) is young and established, and there is no "complete" talent among the prospects. This was brought into view on the Oilers one-hour pre-draft show (which I enjoyed, as a draft junkie) Oil Change. At one point Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor asks the room "do we have an Erik Gudbranson?" and the answer from the scouts is in the negative.

I think the Oilers have to be very aggressive in the next 12 months. They might end up using the 2011 lottery pick on a stud D prospect, they may end up dealing one of the high end veteran wingers (Hemsky & Penner) and they may try to sign some European and college free agents. Here is a quick list of the current AHL "bubbling under" group, the kids most likely to play this season if one of the current 6 (Whitney-Gilbert; Smid-Foster; Vandeermeer-Strudwick) suffers an injury.

  1. D Theo Peckham: Sometimes in life opportunity knocks and man I hope this kid answers the door. When healthy and fit, he’s a strong, tough defender with a mean streak and a willingness to drop the gloves. Tom Renney has mentioned him as a player he’s excited about seeing at training camp in the fall. Injury and conditioning issues have been a problem, but the Oilers badly need developing defenseman and he is the best of the group.
  2. D Alex Plante: Made big strides this season and is certainly part of the future. His pro debut was the most impressive in the entire system. Injuries and callups forced Plante up the depth chart and he played well, so well in fact the club rewarded him with a call to the show (4gp, +1) last season. He’s in a position now to play well in Okla City and be one of the first callups when injuries occur. Alex Plante is not an NHL defenseman yet, but the light has turned on and he’s trending well. Also important to consider: anecdotal evidence that Plante was playing against some of the tougher opposition in the AHL (as a rookie) last season. It’s a strong tell.
  3. D Jeff Petry: His NHLE (82gp, 4-22-26) makes him (once again) the strongest offensive defenseman in the system and his wider range of skills gives us some hope for a more complete defender than someone like Chorney (Petry is 4 inches and 20 pounds bigger than Chorney). Impressed with skating and wingspan at this week’s Oilers camp, he is the one player on this list with a wide range of skills.
  4. D Taylor Chorney: A fine skater who has some holes defensively. I think there is probably concern in the Oilers organization about this player. He was drafted right after the lockout, when NHL teams believed puck movers would rule the earth. He is not strong enough to win puck battles and is miles from being able to anchor a big league pairing. Of all the top level draft picks on defense, this player will probably benefit the most from the added AHL veteran group (Petiot, Taylor, etc) in Okla City.
  5. D Johan Motin: Motin made his pro debut and performed well. His numbers (he’s not an offensive defender) are rock solid in the AHL (55gp, 1-5-6 -5 on a terrible team) and he would rank higher if there was any evidence he played against tough competition in the minors. I think he is the type of player who will improve over the next couple of seasons as he adjusts to the length of the season and the physical wear and tear. He is exactly the player-type this organization needs at this time, but something tells me he’s a fair distance from Plante in terms of NHL readiness. It’ll take some time.

History tells us that at least a couple of these players will not develop as hoped, due to injury and ineffectiveness. The top pro prospects at the AHL level 10 years ago were Chris Hajt and Alex Henry; neither developed as a big league regular (although the list above is far superior). 

Defensemen take a long time to develop. They tend to be effective deeper into their 30’s (once they establish themselves), so Oiler fans can take heart in the fact that Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney are signed long term. We should expect a high draft pick to be spent on a defenseman next summer and an aggressive attempt by the procurement department to uncover gems through free agency.

  • Kovalchuk wants to come to Edmonton. Souray on waivers had intrest from a few teams in the western and eastern confrence. The word of Kovalchuk got leaked to the other GM’s, and they refused to pick Souray up, which would have given Oilers the cap space. I am told it was a 5 year 38 million deal, with a lot of Katz bonuses.

  • How many 30 goal scorers might Oilers have this season ? Hall, Svensson , Eberle , Penner , Gagner , Hemsky and maybe OMark and a rejuvenated Horcoff ? Brule and Cogs chip in with 20 plus and thats over 270 for a nice entertaining season to be sure . Defensive numbers need huge improvement , and with what we have that might be difficult . I made my bold call if they are all on roster to start the season .

    Who will lead Oilers in goals and assists this year ?

    Just how optimistic are you now about our offensive numbers Oiler fans ? Or are you all pessimists and fence sitters ?

    • How many 30 goal scorers? 1. Penner. That is all.

      I seriously doubt Hall will hit 30 goals, Gagner would have to double his highest goal total to break 30 goals. Hemsky is a playmaker with a good shot, 25 Goals is a good year for him. Eberle is another rookie who would have a good year to hit 15 goals. Same with MPS. Omark only scored 20 in the KHL, I doubt he makes the team out of the gate nevermind score 30. Horcoff’s career high is 22…Career high. Brule had never scored more than 9 goals before this past season. Cogliano hasnt topped 20 yet.

      Thinking anyone on your list outside of Penner will hit 30 next season is a pipe dream. It is entirely unreasonable to expect that much from the rookies especially. Even Steven Stamkos, a very special goal scorer, only potted 23 in his rookie year.

        • Just looked it over, I didnt see a single 18 year old rookie crack 30 in the last decade. The last 2 rookies** (unless I missed one) were Malkin and Ryan. Ryan spent extra time developing in the AHL and Malkin stayed an extra year in Russia.

          If history means anything then the rookie with the best shot of cracking 30 will be either Eberle or MPS, and I dont see either doing it without playing on Hemsky’s line.

          **also discounting Crosby and Ovechkin from any comparisons**

          • Ducey

            So I take it you don’t think EDM’s rookie goal scoring record, Arnott’s 33 in 93/94, will fall this year?

            Arnott’s rookie year obviously wasn’t in the past 10 seasons, but that kinda goes to show how great his rookie season was – 33 goals as an 18/19 year old.

          • A rookie is a rookie, what’s with the age thing ? I’m not expecting Hall to score 30 goals but I don’t think it’s out of the question. Eberle may not make the roster I’m giving the edge to Hall and MPS. Which ever rookie gets the pretty minutes will do the best, I expect Hall to be that guy.

          • Sure, a rookie is a rookie in the NHL, but guys like Ryan and Malkin took extra time playing pro hockey in the KHL and AHL against men, developing their game further. Age means a lot. You CAN assume that a 20 year old has developed for 2 more seasons than an 18 year old, has developed physically for 2 more years, and has matured emotionally for 2 more years. The only 18 year old to break 30 goals in the last decade is Sydney Crosby, even Ovechkin had the lockout season to keep developing in Europe.

            I was interested in seeing how reasonable it was to expect hall to score 30, I looked. It turns out to be pretty unreasonable if history means anything. Of course he can score 30, he could score 60 for all I know. All I know is that if he does break 30 at 18 he will be in the company of elite rookies during the last decade.

    • 270 goals – that’s quite a jump from last year. I don’t see it, maybe 2011-12. Goals for will be largely a function of the amount of time NOT scrambling/running around in D zone. Would love to see it, don’t get me wrong. That said, I have no aversions to the 6-5 games, bring them on, as long as 2/3 are them are wins 🙂

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      For a little perspective: the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers, the highest scoring team in NHL history, had five 30+ goal scorers and eight 20+. You might be hoping for a tad much there.

    • Ducey

      People should keep in mind that Tampa Bay and the Islanders (the last two owners of the #1 pick) finished out of the playoffs and in 25th and 26th place last year.

      If you look at the standings there is a direct correlation between goals against and place in the standings. Obviously differential between GA and GF is key.

      The Oilers were near the bottom of GF last year but within range of an average playoff team (heck Montreal had just 3 more GF, Boston had fewer!) You could see them improving with a healthy Hemsky. The offence aint going to be the problem.

      But on the GA front they gave up 17 more goals that any other team (the Leafs) and were miles behind most playoff teams (93! behind league leading NJ and 80 behind many of the best teams). Thats a goal a game folks.

      Add in that they gave up 60 more goals than they got, and they finished last easily.

      Given the questions in goal, the fact young forwards don’t play D well, and a defence that lacks any true shutdown options, this team will be lucky to finish higher than 25th. If the injury curse hits again, its back to last place baby!

  • Caught some of Renney on Stauffer’s show and he was effusive with his praise of Petry.

    One quote that caught my attention was that “he looked like a man out there” (maybe he said adult)

    He then quickly backtracked and said that Petry would probably need more time in the AHL, but you can probably pencil him in for a few games this year and on the roster next year.

    That’s a really good thing.

    Renney seemed quite excited by what he saw in Petry.

    • I think Petry is the closest thing to a blue-chip prospect that we have on D. I wonder if the praise is because Petry is legit or because the rest of the cupboard is bare on D?

      It will be interesting to see if he progresses in OKC this year.

  • Top NHL Rookie & Oilers averages since the lockout. (including OV)

    75 points
    Duchene 55, Ryan 57, Kane 72, Malkin 85, Ovechkin 106

    33 Goals
    Duchene 24, Ryan 31, Toews 24, Malkin 33, Ovechkin 52

    66 points
    Penner 63, Hemsky 66, Hemsky 71, Smyth 53, Hemsky 77

    29 Goals
    Penner 32, Hemsky 23, Penner 23, Smyth 31, Smyth 36

  • Ducey

    LT, you rule, thanks for the updates on the kids. You dug up some good info on Plante, last year I believed he was busting, but you have brought to light new info there. I hope the Oilers draft #3 overall next year and take a defenseman. High enough to possibly grab the best defensive prospect, since they usually don’t go 1-2, but low enough to not suffer the humiliation of 30th place again. Keep up the good work LT.

  • Lowetide

    No worries. There’s no way you could have known. I just wanted to post it so that people would know (so we can avoid it as an issue, if possible). Didn’t mean for it to sound harsh (looks that way as written). I knew you were kidding.

  • Ethan Kortbeek

    Shooter says, smitty is money. Also its not gonna happen. Kovi is going to russia so LA will keep ol mully. Which means the big sex will be keeping our fair city sexed up for the foreseeable future.

  • How come when I make up a rumour, no one cares?

    When Rishaud or whatever his name is does, its a story?

    As long as Hemsky is on this team, Smyth aint coming back. What for?

    I just visited hockeybuzz and that Richard character is out to lunch at 10:15 p.m. He had Penner traded just to make room for Smyth. WoW! Fcuking Internet!

    I wonder when I wake up if TSN will have a 2 and half minute piece on the possible trade, with ofcourse expert analysis from Pierre and Bob?

    • When Rishaug says he’s heard that Tambellini has talked to Lombardi about Smyth there is reason to believe he speaks the truth. When (insert random dude, myself included, from the internet) makes up a trade rumour it bears 0 weight.

      Rishaug is a pro, if he makes up a bunch of crap he wont have a job too long.

        • I guess in some senses it’s a rumour, but he’s reporting it as a credited member of the mainstream media. You can assume that he heard it from a source he trusts enough to go public with it.

          How many times do the MSM guys have to explain that naming your confidential sources is counter-productive to getting information? You can choose to believe he’s making this all up from the comfort of his yacht in the Bahamas, but given his credibility in Edmonton sports circles I would guess that he was in fact told that Tambellini spoke about Smyth even if it was just feeling things out.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      you serious?

      you have absolutely no track record or credibility. there is no reason, at all, for anyone to think you are anything other than a pimple faced 14 year old, sitting in his moms basement, self violating far to much.

      rishaug is a media member. He is connected to the team, and to other reporters. If he starts throwing BS out there, he gets blackballed, and is out of a job..

      odds are, if a credible media person puts it out there, it probably has a tad bit of truth. Odds are, nothing comes of it.

  • In 2009-10, on average, NHL teams used 8.4 defencemen for 9 games or more.

    Peckham will probably play a lot of NHL games.

    One or two more will play a lot as well. That may be a bad thing for development.

    Would it be a bad thing for Chorney or Plante to play a significant amount of games?

    Of course the Oilers used 12 D-men last year for 9+ games. If that happens again, many developing d-men will be playing in the show too early.

    Currently the Barons have 7 defencemen:

    An injury on the big club affects the small club too.

    Maybe it would be wise to sign another defender. A number 8 man or 9 if Petiot is the 8 man. A Mathieu Roy, Cory Murphy type of guy.

    A guy that would clear waivers. A guy that knows his lot in life as a # 8/9 man.

  • Lowetide

    Bendelson: Frank’s kid, right? I’ve read about him, apparently he’s going to be a very good player. Keegan Lowe too, he has made great strides (according to the people I talk to).

    Adam Larsson would be ideal, but two forwards (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier) might make it tough picking a D even if the Oilers get 1st overall again.

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    I am curious about arbitration. It seems like to me that in the past when a player filed for arbitration that it was a bit of a slap in the face and would be the beginning of the end for a player in an orginization. Or is it now just part of the negotiation process and an accepted tool to be used by some of the players? Maybe this is just a fans perspective or it is different in each players situation. I look at Brule and have no problems with him filing for arbitration because he certainly showed well last year with the opportunities he was given. Jaques situation seems strange to me….. He has shown nothing but inconsistency due to his long string of injuries. What about the situation in Calgary….. is it possible in White’s case he can get a large bump in salary and Calgary can’t afford him due to cap space?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    UNIQUE POSITION FOR HALL ? Not ever have i seen a 30th pick surrounded by so many other young scoring talents to compliment him . That includes Gretzky , Crosby , Malkin , Toews , Kane, etc..

    This is a unique position the Oilers are about to embark upon and normal bounds may take a fall if it all comes together . Proven at worlds players like OMark , Svensson , and Eberle have already proven they can compete in scoring with all the young elites in NHL already . In fact one might argue they may have outshone most of them !

    Thats three who’s aspirations should be set high to begin with . My 270 plus team goals might be a little understated seeing i forgot to add any scoring from defencemen . Team goal i’m setting at 310 goals for this unique situation for upcoming season . If best defence is offence then perhaps Goals Against will subsequently come down . A year like Phoenix had last year not out of the question either – 100 points and sixth i believe in standings ?

    It’s not such a wild fantasy considering our unique circumstances with our emerging youth program ! Did Gretzky ever have it this good his first year ? No! Might the next Selanne evolve only as an Oiler in their first year ? We can hope because the possibilities are there for it to happen . You never want to set team goals to easy to achieve-reach for the stars not the minimum or basement . The ceilings the limit with this merging youth program , and they should be setting their sights high . We might all be surprised how high this young club might clib on individual and team basis because of it’s unique makeup !

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Re: Eberle/Omark/Svenson competing in scoring with young elite NHL’ers

      Theirs a long list of guys that put up big points in the WJC/WC that couldn’t translate to the NHL.

      Also, in one post you’re front and center on firing upper managment for incompetence and then a few posts later you’re talking about how they may have assembled a team that can score 300+ goals….. see an issue there?