MR. DITHERS RETURNS: WHAT ABOUT MIKE?

"What’s happening with Mike Comrie?" A fan asked me that Friday as the Edmonton Oilers were winding down their development camp at Clareview Arena. I didn’t have an answer.

Here we are 10 days into the free agency season and we haven’t heard one definitive word from GM Steve Tambellini about his intention, or lack of same, when it comes to re-signing Comrie.

I get it Tambellini was busy with the Entry Draft leading into free agency. I get it his plate has been full while shipping out Patrick O’Sullivan, Riley Nash, Ethan Moreau and Robert Nilsson. He’s also been busy adding Colin Fraser, Kurtis Foster, Steve MacIntyre and Jim Vandermeer.

Likewise, Tambellini has been watching the prospects skate the past four days, which is fine and good. Still, I’m thinking that Tambellini should be spending some time on Comrie.

While it’s nice watching the kids take a twirl, it’s not like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Magnus Paajarvi are going anywhere. At some point, if Tambellini and agent Ritch Winter don’t get down to business, Comrie might.

This is where, you’d think, multi-tasking kicks in.

NO HURRY?

My understanding is Winter and Comrie have expressed an interest in returning for a second season in this second go-round in Edmonton. I’m led to believe some members of the front office would like to Comrie return. I’m starting to wonder, given the foot-dragging, if Tambellini shares the sentiment.

Does Tambellini want Comrie back? If yes, when do the sides get down to negotiating? I’m thinking it should be sooner rather than later, especially if there’s any legs to talk I’m hearing that San Jose, Chicago and Vancouver, to name just three teams, are interested in Comrie.

While Comrie, 30, struggled with a bout of mononucleosis and played just 43 games with the Oilers last season, scoring 13-8-21, I see him as a fit with the next edition of the Oilers. With a rebuild in full swing, optimism abounds with fans and there seems good reason for it with Hall, Paajarvi and Eberle looking like they’ll make runs at roster spots.

Fair enough.

But, given the potential for this infusion of youth and the experience that has been sent packing since the season ended, the Oilers are going to need some players on the roster who know their way around the rink. I’m thinking a two-time 30-goal scorer with 568 games in parts of nine NHL seasons on his resume like Mike Duff fits the bill. We’ll find out, at some point, if Tambellini agrees.

NATION RISING

I’m happy to say Oilersnation is a going and growing concern with Oilers fans. That’s not news, seeing as our numbers have steadily increased over the past two years or so, but I got a first-hand taste of the popularity of the website during this development camp.

I don’t spend a lot of time elbow-to-elbow with fans, so it was something new to me to hear so much feedback from people in person as we stood around and watched the players skate.

No fewer than a dozen people took the time to mention Oilersnation is the place they go for their Oilers fix during the time I spent in the rink. Two or three of them made a point of mentioning they thought snagging Lowetide was a great addition.

I’m sure there were critics in the crowd as well, but they never took the opportunity to give me their two cents worth in person like they do here on the website. Nobody razzed me about articles I’ve written about Jeff Deslauriers or about being wrong about Tyler Seguin.

Nobody walked up and suggested I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about in general, as is sometimes the case here. No surprise whatsoever in that, but I digress . . . Anyway, people are reading.

Love us or hate us, that’s a good thing.

OILERS INK ONDRUS

In case anybody missed it, the Oilers have inked free agent forward Ben Ondrus. Here’s the news release:

"General Manager Steve Tambellini announced today the Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with right-winger Ben Ondrus on a one-year contract.

Ondrus, 6’0”, 187lbs, split the last four seasons between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.

Last year the 28-year-old scored 17 points (10G, 7A) in 57 games with the Marlies. In 11 games with the Leafs, Ondrus was held pointless and had 34 penalty minutes.

The Sherwood Park, Alberta native has played 336 career AHL games collecting 119 points (57G, 72A). In 52 career NHL games he has two assists and 77 penalty minutes. Ondrus, who was captain of the Marlies, played his junior hockey with the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos from 1998-2003."

As was the case with the signing of Brad Moran, there’s nothing here to suggest this is more than a depth signing, but Ondrus fits the bill as far as being the kind of veteran minor-leaguer the Oilers can use to help bring the kids along down on the AHL farm in Oklahoma City.

INSIDE ODDS AND ENDS

— Tambellini suggested Friday Tom Renney would be naming his coaching staff "within the week." My best information is we can expect at least one new assistant coach, maybe two. My understanding is Kelly Buchberger has a new contract, but it’s still unclear if he will stay here as an assistant or be the head man down in Oklahoma City. Hmm.

If Buchberger does have a new deal, was that deal done at Renney’s urging? Or, is it possible somebody else has their fingerprints all over the contract and it’s causing Renney pause in putting together his staff? In any case, while I haven’t been told as much, what does seem obvious is Wayne Fleming will be joining Pat Quinn on the thanks-for-coming list.

— I’m told the Oilers have yet to get down to a short list of candidates to take over from retired Rod Phillips as play-by-play man on 630 CHED. On that front, who is doing the hiring? Is it president Patrick LaForge? Is it VP of broadcast Allan Watt? Both of them? If it’s a committee-type set-up, that might explain why it’s taking some time.

— Finally, Ryan Rishaug of TSN said Friday  the Oilers are "kicking the tires" on UFA forward Aaron Asham. Makes sense. He’ll come relatively cheap, he’s tough and he’s got enough game that he could play as a third-liner. In any case, he’d fit in the bottom-six mix.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

    • Somebody suggested that 2 1/2 weeks ago… a couple days before they officially drafted Taylor Hall, and nearly two weeks before he joined the Blue Jackets.

      I think his name rhymed with CrossReek.

      I got very little response on that thought here. I think some assumed he didn’t want to give up Canada gig. If the Oil never called, their mistake. He could’ve been the ex-player Renney wants on his staff that could have run the D. CBJ got a good one.

      • SkinnyD

        Can’t say I thought of it prior to the draft since Seguin was the guy…

        Just figure Boughner would know what buttons to push with Taylor plus the ability to run the D.

      • I’ve admitted when I was wrong. Time to admit you lover for the OIL. You wrote a blog/article and refered to “we”. Is this a joke ? You got me. I check out the Flames Nation just to be behind enemy lines, do we share the same tactic ? I don’t see you comment on teh flames nation. I ask since I’ve been called a bandwagon jumper since I wrote I haven’t liked Horcoff the last couple years. YOUR BUSTED. GO OIL GO

        • I’m from the Edmonton area, so I’m exposed to more Oilers media. I have friends that are Oil fans & I can sit down and chat Oil with them all the time. I pass on Oiler news to them because I’m a junkie. I HATE the Oilers (and like the Flames)… but I probably more Oiler games than any other team, simply to see them lose. I’ve been to a few dozen Oil games in Edmonton, yet only 2 Flames games in Calgary. So, yea, we share the same tactic, I guess.

          At the same time, I don’t just come here to bash the Oil, I come here for constructive convo. I’ve always read Brownlee & Matheson, etc. I almost always have The Team1260 on, going back to Stauffer’s Total Hockey/Total Sports shows, Gregor being on after John Short at 11:00 at night, Bryn & Jake, etc. I literally used to listen from 6:00am til 6:00pm at work. That radio station is what put me on to OilersNation in the 1st place. That lead to FlamesNation and other hockey blogs.

          The “we” I used in that blog last week was meant as we – the Citizens of the Nation. “We” were looking at trade options for Souray.

          In any case, I may hate the Oil, but I LOVE OilersNation.

  • Mitch

    With so many prolific scorers entering our ranks as rookies with a lot of potential , just how safe are Brule and Cogs from being trade bait as well ? Jacques is very questionable , as is Stone to be honest . Gagner should be safe depending on if Hall moves to centerman .

    Packaging first 4 i mentioned should get us a very good young power forward of note and maybe more. A very good centerman might also be on list if same 4 put into play . Now ,if someone would also like a Souray in the mix , possibilities seem endless . Stoll has arthritic problems in hands/wrist and an unlikely target by the way .

    Example of what might be if we used the 4 i mentioned with/withoutSouray , and looking at Ottawa at such players as Phillips or a Spezza . Any way, any would consider Kaberle in a Souray deal ? Will Smid finely have a season without injury problems ?

  • I don’t see Mike as the captain here. That said, players prone to leading will do so whether they have a letter or not.

    Much like Ryan Smyth, Mike isn’t going to set an example by talking or rah-rah stuff. He’ll rub off just doing what he does.

    Maybe Tambellini doesn’t agree — or maybe there’s another issue — because if he did I imagine Mike would be signed by now.

    • The biggest hold up is the lack of movement in some FA forwards with Kovy not signing anywhere.

      Once he signs and teams cap situation becomes more clear, other forwards will start to be signed.

      LA and NJ are the major players for Kovy, but which ever one doesn’t get him will still need a LW and then the dominoes, trade and FA signings will start.

      Tambellini might also be able to finally move Souray. Tambellini has tried to move Cogliano twice now, and is probably still trying to move him.

      Kovy needs to sign,then there will be a flurry of activity.

      If Cogliano gets traded then its more likely that there is a spot for Comrie, depending on the return.

  • If Oilers go with youth and fail to go up in standings , worse case scenario is a shot at centerman Couturier to compliment Hall next season on the rebuild . Not such a bad idea . If we go with an abundance of fillins like last season , basement would seem unavoidable again . I’d rather go the youth route for entertainment sakes ,than endure the type of hockey we put up with last season . Fresh faces , fresh hope at least !

    I don’t want another agonizing season of Pisani , Comrie and the likes to be honest . I’d rather see a Hartekeinen be given a chance to move in and grow with present young group than those two . Thats my opinion anyways .

    • Blue Blooded

      It`d be hard to hate on kids and new players that we don`t know…

      Having so many new faces will take at least 25 games to get used to each other.

      There will be so many new combinations fans can`t be bitter since they`ll be open to virtually anything beacause it`s new.

  • Blue Blooded

    Make that RYAN Jones as questionable, not Stone who already has gone to Flames . Do the Sutter boys think Oilers are their farm club for crying out loud ?

  • Blue Blooded

    It doesn’t seem to me that Mike has been made much of a priority for nextyear. My guess is that Tambo will let Comrie move on at this point. I’m sure if posible he’d rather bring on a defensive specialist center. Ha… and what’s with the rumblings about Rod Phillips becoming assistant coach!?!? Don’t get me wrong, he’s been around the game for decades…. but really!?!?!?!? Just WEIRD.

  • JohnQPublic

    Sorry Robin, but Mr. Dithers is a bit of an exaggeration when you take into account the fact that half of last year’s roster and a slug of the management and support staff are now gone. That has been some of the most decisive management action on any team.

    The reality is that with Eberle, Hall, and Paajarvi in the wings, we have very few spots available. And until Cogliano is shopped and the last high profile free agent is signed, guys like MC and Fernando Pisani are just depth guys that have to wait it out.

    I believe that most fans would rather have 3 rookies in the line up and take a high draft pick for 2010-11.

    • I take it “most fans” means everybody except the 16,000 or so season ticket holders and people who pay for PPV’s who had to suffer through last year’s debacle?

      If the rooks make the team by their own merit, then fine. But slotting them in “just because” would be wrong. The team doesn’t have to be a contender next year, but they sure have to show up and make a go of it. Most fans that pay can deal with a rebuild, but I highly doubt they’ll put up with another season of fail in Edmonton just to get a high draft pick, especially after seeing how successful Phoenix was last year in turning things around.

      • striatic

        I’m one of the 16,000 or so season ticket holders and I can tell you that I do NOT want the Oilers sending a Paajarvi or Eberle down to the AHL “just because”. Yes I agree that just slotting them in “just because” would be wrong but just as wrong is all of these guys who say they want to see the kids in the AHL “just because”.

        I for one as a season ticket holder am really looking forward to this season in hopes that all 3 of Paajarvi, Eberle and Hall are on the team. I think it’s much better than even that they will all make this team this season and I believe it will be fun to watch the kids grow together and learn together all at this level. I won’t mind one bit the growing pains on the ice.

        What I don’t want to pay to watch is another season of career minor leaguers (ie: Potulny) playing a significant role or vets on the PP who shouldn’t be anywhere near a PP (ie: Horcoff) who lack the skill enough to execute a one timer or make a simple saucer pass. Or I don’t want to pay to watch long stretches of our best young skill guys playing on the 4th line alongside Stortini.

        If the young guns turn out as good as we hope then I’m thinking the team can have a turn around more like Colorado did rather than Phoenix whereby it was mostly the young kids who helped turn it around with the odd good vet (ie: Stastny/Hejduk).

        • Agreed . I’d enjoy a Hartekeinen struggle than an AHL player never likely to play a regular role in NHL . For that matter a Pisani or Comrie , whom we all know what they might do and have very little to offer for an upside down the road. Let the fans grow with the youth .

          Hopefully Tams uses the excess that still needs trimming for some other half decent arrivals that have more than a year or two left in their emptying tanks if you get the idea .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Kovalchuk probably wanted to give an NHL clubs a week or so to see if he could get anything near what the KHL was offering……with such a gap i have to think Kovy is KHL bound now.

  • The Other John

    Robin
    Oiler Nation has gotten busier since LT agreed to post 20 or so times a month. Not MSM but best writer on the Oil on the Al Gore.

    ON made a fantastic pickup

  • The Other John

    Yes, I like Asham too, but I think a 3rd line center is more needed at this point. Someone who can, you know, win a faceoff and kill a penalty. I like all the depth we are signing this year. When you don’t chase rainbows you have time to add actual depth to the club. Lots of good bottom six players. One more bottom six, one more top six, one more vet defenseman, and I’d say its time to play ball.

  • SkinnyD

    Penner, Horc, Hemmer. Hall, Gags, MPS/Eberle. That’s already getting a bit crowded, but if you added Comrie at a low number, it would sure push the youngsters. Then we could possibly send some more kids down to the Ahl to start until injuries set in. Omark, Hartikaenen, and one of MPS/Eberle should start on the farm.
    The bottom six has room for at least one more addition too to start the year, so Jacques can be a spare part. Fraser, Jones, Storts. Cogs, Brule, xx. Jacques and Struds are spares. Wait, forgot Mac. Maybe we are already set in the bottom six RB? Only so many spots on the roster to start training camp, hey? Time to do the math.

    • Blue Blooded

      I really don’t think we can send Eberle down this year. Not after him being one of the best players in camp last year (and I”m sure he will be again this year). Paarvi; can you really send a guy down who LED THE WAY for team Sweden this spring. He’s been playing against men playing for Timra the last few seasons and he’s looked good at it. Hall will also stay up (otherwise he’s bound for the OHL which at this point he’s already conquered). So frankly the question now is: “which of these kids will win the calder this season?” Getting ahead of myself? …. maybe…. maybe not!
      Go Oilers! we have something to be excited about again!

  • Robin,

    The roster as it sits. What do you think the line up would look like ?

    @Nation

    Feel free to comment aswell. I know everyone hates on Horcoff and I understand really. Does anyone think he can rebound ? I liked Horcoff untill the last couple season, I don’t get into his salary since they are all over paid. Some more than others. I think IF he can rebound he could really help the team. Colin Fraser would be a good 3rd line center but thats Shawns spot ? No need to look for the third line center just were does Shawn fit. A trade is WAY out of the question. Io look forward to the line ups you guys offer. Arch and David S lets see what you got I always enjoy your comments. With the obvious rebuild how many vets do we need ? Is it bad for the team to let the kids play in the AHL ?

    Locating a line

      • I guess you could say that. I liked him before MacT killed him, making him play almost every shift and take every faceoff. I liked him before he was injured and continued playing instead of dealing with it. Bandwagon lol I’ve been a Oiler fan and season ticket holder for many years. I stand by the team through everything. Did you not notice any questions I asked? I was looking for coversation regarding the team. If you read my comments I wrote I was a fan a couple of years ago. I also implied that he would be a great asset for the Oilers if he rebounds. Did I trash Horcoff ? Take care SkinnyD

    • If Shawn Horcoff can regain the ability to stick on the top 2 lines this team will benefit greatly. I havent seen him play the way he should since he wrecked his shoulder. I dont know how much of it is mental and how much is physical. He hasnt been 100% for the better part of 3 seasons now. I personally dont think he’ll ever be the guy that was playing near a point a game ever again.

      For me, he’s a 3rd liner. He was best last season playing that role with players who also understood how to play that role. This year, the 3rd line might not be a checking line because we dont have checking wingers. If Horcoff doesnt regain his touch then I foresee another very painful season.

      Even though my head says that he wont get better, the Oiler Fan inside hopes his shoulder and skills come back and he performs like a top 6 guy.

  • striatic

    Wow Robin is getting beat up over the idea of Comrie re-signing. I will give Comrie major kudos for being big enough of a man to come back to Edmonton. It sure took big ones to do that. With that said, I just don’t see Comrie being a fit on Oilers roster in 10-11. The Oilers don’t need more small players, they need size and grit, which Comrie does not bring. And please don’t say “well he did have a few fights last year” so what.
    I really don’t understand this love affair with Comrie at all. He’s a nice little player, but in my book he’s not a legit top 6 forward anymore and he isn’t big enough and tough enough for the bottom 2 lines. But I bet if Detroit picked him up he’d be unbelievable for the Red Wings. Hello Kenny Holland are you listening?
    As for Aaron Asham, I like the thought of that. That would give the Oilers a pretty tough bottom 5 (4th line and 2 extras) with Fraser, Macintyre, Stortini, Jones and Asham.

      • Nope, not a Flames fan.

        It’s fairly easy to hate the Oilers as an organization since 2006.

        I wish Taylor Hall “great success” but still believe Tyler Seguin should be an Oiler. Since the draft I’ve actually liked the direction Tambi’s taken the Oilers, first time I can say that in years. It’s a start!

        Nate with LESS hate

  • striatic

    the plan is to find a long term defensive 3C without overpaying.

    if they can find one this summer, most likely through trade, comrie isn’t needed.

    if the right player and contract don’t appear, they’ll sign comrie at summer’s end to a short term, value contract.

    if comrie signs elsewhere first, oilers will go for a less entertaining short term value option – but i think the first second choice is comrie.

  • Stewsquared

    The Oilers need to realise that Horcoff is a 3rd line center and not a 1st line guy just because he’s paid like one. Build Gagner’s confidence by making him the top guy up the middle and give him more time on the PP. It seems that Horcoff gets all that prime ice time just so management can feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. Why would you wear an ugly suit everyday just because you overpaid for it?

  • Stewsquared

    So some random commenter named Ross Creek gets to post articles on Oilersnation now, hey? Perhaps that move was to further prove the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Jajajajaja.
    Pretty sure I could bluff my way through an article as well as this guy. Oh well.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      What you all don’t realize is that RossCreek was the only guy “ballsy” enough to show up to the pint on draft day wearing a Flames hat.

      Say what you will about converting him to an Oilers fan and him being in the closet, but it takes brass ones to go to an event like that wearing the other colour eh.

      Plus hes actually a pretty cool dude.

  • Crackenbury

    Horcoff is the proper person. He’s being picked apart by Oiler Nation fans for taking one for the team last year. It’s well known he was injured and could have spent some time on the IR. Instead he stayed in the lineup and took all the heat off the young centers on the team. Playing hurt he took most of the teams important face-offs, played against the opps best players, killed penalties, played the PP and took a regular shift. He did it because it was in the teams best interest not to subject Gagner, Brule and Cogs to the same situation and have them stink out the joint because they weren’t ready.

    Horcoff isn’t the whining type. He comes out and faces the music after every game. Young players could do worse than look to him for leadership. He’s also got some grey matter between the ears that some of the other so-called candidates for captain are lacking.

    EDIT: Sorry, reply was meant for Cowbell_Feva

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Horcoff is NOT the proper person…he may be the first name to come up, when talking about the captaincy (which goes to show what state the team is/was in) but like I said before, don’t just name him captain for the sake of naming one- We don’t need to name a captain- Montreal & Toronto didn’t, so why do we have to? He’s already be tagged a #1 Center via the same route.

    I had a good laugh at this- “He took one for the team last year”? Are you F*cking serious man! The fans took one for him, having to watch him play “injured”. He played 77 games. If he was so decimated, hit the IR. I would much rather have watched Brule or Gagner take his icetime any day of the week, and would have learned alot in the process. HE was the one who stunk out the joint! If anything Brule/Gagner would have done a better job, because it would be hard to play worse than Horcoff did!!

    Having him out there against the other teams best players wasn’t fair to him. He’s a 3rd line center at best. I can only imagine what the Sedin sisters, or Thornton,Heatley,Marleau would think when lining up against Horc’s, Moreau and Pisani. “OK, I’m gunna win the faceoff because Horcoff is terrible on the dot- you guys get open!”

    I’m not sure what this whole- face the music crap is about either! If there was one player who was being paid out the wazoo and under-performing-nobody can deny, he SHOULD have been the poster boy. But no, O’Sullivan got tagged by the media and Horcoff flew under the radar. What would Horcoff have to whine about? His icetime?

    We don’t have anyone ready for captaincy so don’t name one!