The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

When you’re enduring a lopsided loss by the Oilers (as OilersNation did today) it’s important to remember that this team has a tremendous future. The three kids up front in Edmonton will soon be joined by a group of defensemen with varying skills and ability. In a very real way, the timing of the Oilers progress at the NHL level will depend heavily on the development of the blue in Oklahoma City. 

The Barons have a nice mixture of experience and prospects in OKC. In fact, the veterans (mostly Shawn Belle and Richard Petiot, although Jake Taylor plays when healthy) may beat the kids to the NHL in the short term. The future on the farm (on D) is represented by Jeff Petry, Taylor Chorney, Alex Plante and Johan Motin and it’s these players I’m going to look at in this post.

Over the past 10 games, the OKC Barons are 7-3 (I’m not counting all the goofy stuff, just the straight up result). Here’s how the group of four performed in those games:

  1. Jeff Petry 10gp, 1-6-7 -7. Performed in difficult circumstances, as he has been paired with Shawn Belle on what looks like the tough minutes pairing for the Barons. He played against the Marlies in back to back weekends when Kadri was playing like a magician and had another tough game in there against the Griffins. Still, I think he’s exactly where he should be and would hope the coach would consider giving him softer minutes if the minus numbers continue to grow. I remain convinced he’s going to be similar to Tom Gilbert in style.
  2. Alex Plante 10gp, 1-2-3 +2. He’s had a nice run on what looks like the 2nd pairing (with Chorney). Some PP minutes, but his main job is to defend and then help with the toughness (41PIMS leads the team). Mobility gets mentioned a lot when discussing Plante, but he looked capable last season during his callup and the Oilers have a couple of guys you can time by sundial right now. I suspect Plante is faster than Vandermeer, as an example.
  3. Taylor Chorney 10gp, 0-2-2 +2. Clearly not part of the PP for OKC, Chorney’s main skill when he turned pro (offense from the blue) is no longer in the discussion. That’s the trouble with offensive-defensemen, their main strength is unlikely to be utilized as they move along. In Chorney’s case, the combination of better options and the organization’s desire for him to do his defensive homework have him staying away from the fun stuff. Had no disaster during this 10-game stretch and seems to be settling in nicely. Seems to play with Alex Plante a lot.
  4. Johan Motin 9gp, 1-2-3 +4. Has the most impressive stat line in the group over these 10 games. His +4 stands out but he appears to get a lot of time with a veteran (Petiot) pairing partner and some easier minutes (I think that’s the 3rd pairing). Since he signed with the Oilers and turned pro, I’ve gotten the feeling he’s below the others in terms of the organization’s ranking. You never know, but that’s how it looks at this time. He did have a wonderful game on November 5th (1 assist and a +3).

Now a few questions.

  1. Are any of those 4 ahead of Belle or Petiot for the next callup? I’ll suggest Plante. With Theo Peckham’s status a little bit in question (there’s some worry he came off the bench for today’s melee), Plante would be the most obvious replacement if they’re looking for a player to match Peckham’s style.
  2. Would you be surprised if any of the 4 got the call? Yes. I’d be very surprised if Petry was recalled now because he’s clearly adjusting to the pro game and doing it well. If we’ve endured the sundial blue this long at the NHL level, for heaven sakes continue the education. Also Motin. I don’t think the organization is convinced of him. By that I mean they seem to be using him as a replacement level player, not forcing him up the depth chart when opportunitty arises. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe all these kids are passing him the old fashioned way. But I think he’s in danger of getting the Danny Syvret-Cody Wild treatment at some point.
  3. So they should callup Belle or Petiot? Probably. I think Plante is ready for an extended look at the big league level but that can happen any time this season or early next. I believe he’ll push for a big league job fall 2011, and if that’s what the organization is thinking then maybe a 10-game stretch now is a nice prelude to 2011-12.
  4. You don’t really like Petry, do you? I like him plenty, more now than a few years ago. He’s got size, foot speed and some puck moving ability. I’m comparing him to Tom Gilbert and I think Gilbert is a good defenseman.
  5. How can you say that after today? Easy. Defense is damn difficult and when you make a bad play there’s nowhere to hide. That’s why Oiler fans use to boo Paul Coffey so much back in the day.
  6. They never booed Coffey. You’re making it up. They sure did, I was there. Absolutely true.
  7. Which of the 4 has the best upside? I don’t really know what "upside" means, but if everyone delivers on their promise then Petry should be the best man of the four. The only thing I’d mention is that Plante appears to be doing a lot of good things and that could have an impact on the final result. Plante has the best draft pedigree, put it that way. You never want to close the book on a prospect at this early stage. He could end up being this generation’s Jason Smith for the Edmonton Oilers.
  8. Petry’s a new pro, Plante has been around awhile. How can you say Plante will be better? I’m not saying he WILL be better, just that it could happen. Put another way, the outer marker for Petry imo is a solid top 4 defender with size, speed and the ability to move the puck. A Tom Gilbert-type. A really valuable player. Plante’s outer marker is a different type of player. Less PP, fewer points every year. However, he could be a heart and soul player on the Oilers for a decade if he continues to develop the defensive side of the game. More a Jason Smith-Steve Staios type player.
  9. Gilbert’s more valuable than Jason Smith ever was. You’re sure about that? Defense is still more about keeping the puck out of your net than anything you can do at the other end of the rink.
  10. You’re saying Plante’s upside is Jason Smith? I’m saying he is a similar player type. There’s a lot of luck, sweat and work involved in getting to that point as a player. He could get hurt, or he could lose interest or the Oilers could lose interest in him. New Jersey and Toronto shipped Smith away, and he was just about ready to be Jason Smith when he arrived in Edmonton.
  11. How old was Smith when he got to Edmonton? 25.
  12. How old is Plante? 21. There’s a long way to go, but he does have a nice range of defensive skills.


  • I remember when Tom Poti was run out of Edmonton – Oiler fans were horrible, piling on, name-calling and ignorant. He’s pretty happy where he is now, has produced consistently over the past 8 years (pretty much the same numbers that enraged the locals). I don’t think he misses you folks.
    Tom Gilbert is off to a bad start – and he’s playing on weak defensive squad where his theoretical role is offence. While I agree that both he and Penner need to get meaner, it’s just not the dominant part of their game.
    I also think it’s time to give Dubnyk a few games in a row before Khabby gets used to letting in a half-dozen a game.
    I can’t believe that Smid fell for Avery’s ruse. I’m guessing that doesn’t happen again.

    • The year before we* booed him off the ice Poti scored 12 goals. He was a minus player, but at least he was scoring goals.

      The year he was finally jettisoned he had a single goal and was -6 (he would finish the year -10). He stopped bringing the thing that kept his wacky defensive coverage acceptable.

      To your claim that he’s been puting up the same numbers in Washington, no. No he has not. His offensive numbers look like they’re similar to his final year, but he hasnt had a minus season in a Capitals uniform. In fact, last season he was +26. There is no way that the Oil would have traded him away if he was on pace for a +26 season in Oiler silks.

      It took Poti until he was in his late 20’s to figure out the defensive game and to stop bleeding goals. Gilbert is now in his late 20’s. When does he learn how to stop bleeding goals?

      *I used we because I actively participated in booing Poti

      • Jeff Schultz was +55 last year (or around there)

        and yes, the question is “Who the hell is Jeff Schultz”

        Its a chicken and egg thing. If Poti was +26 here, we’re a President Trophy team, and could give two sh%ts about his defensive play.

        +/-, atleast the way the NHL records it, is as much about the other 11 guys on the ice at any given moment.

        Statistic say that you are 9% in control of your own plus/minus, all things being equal.

    • Horcsky

      I would also like to believe that Smid will smarten up after Avery’s sucker-punch. However, Smid has consistently shown that he will either put his head down, turn his back, or refuse to get his stick up, any of which could protect him in certain situations. I keep waiting for the Ladislav Smid that will actually protect himself, but it never seems to happen.

      Side note, don’t ask Avery to fight. Give him some lumber on the legs and/or a glove in the face.

  • Crackenbury

    Gilbert reminds me a lot of Tom Poti. Skillset of a potential star but just too laid back to get it done. Gilbert will evenutally leave the Oilers and go on to have a reasonably successful career with a better team but will never hit the highs that we thought he was capable of. On a weak team like the Oilers his lack of intestinal fortitude is a glaring weakness.

    Give me a Peckham any day on this team over Gilbert. Bring up Belle and retire Strudwick. I’d even say Vandermeer deserves some more ice time. At least he gives whatever he’s got. Man, I miss Matt Greene. A Greene and Peckham duo would have been a lot of fun in that game yesterday.

  • The way a lot of people talk on here, it’s as if the Oilers cannot make trades nor free agent signings in the coming years. Our entire roster is not going to be filled with prospects coming up and making the team. When it’s time to start contending, Tambellini can/will augment the younger players with solid veterans and role players that can help the team win.

    • Horcsky

      RYAN – he hasn’t been successfull doing that for 4 years now! What makes you assume he will do any better over next 4 seasons ? He talks about it , but never accomplishes it . When he has tried we have managed to get progressively worse . He may have been an acceptable vice GM in Vancouver, but has not been as a GM over the course as tenure here – which i believe is his first assignment as a GM in his career . Their is nothing i see to support your comment .

      • I wasn’t speaking to Tambellini’s record as a GM. I was commenting on people ignoring the fact that our GM, regardless of past performance, has more than prospects to work with in the coming years when building the team.

      • Zed

        Unfortunately, tanking this season is what is on the agenda. Sellouts, cap space and cheerleaders is the only thing this team can walk away with in April. To me that is acceptable.

        It’s salt in the wound if the fans are making the same comments a year from now. I’m fairly confident that a .500 team is achieveable by then.

        If that is not the case, that’ll be the time to demand blood.

        • D-Man

          Well put, although the jury should be out two years from now rather than one… I agree with most that Vandermeer won’t be here next year, and Struds will have an off-ice job considering how good he is with the community… That leaves room next year on our back end with two roster spots – if we don’t see Plante, Petry or Belle in either of those spots, we will then have a legitimate beef about the direction of this rebuild.. That is, of course unless Tambo has gone and found a veteran or two that’s better than what we have on the farm or drafted a pedigree d-man who’s ready for the NHL spotlight..

        • D-Man

          Your kidding , right ? Maybe we should send all our NHL bonafied players to AHL, ECHL so they can all remember what it’s like to win again . Maybe promote the management team with them . Maybe bring up our AHL and ECHL players to learn how to play losing hockey . Demanding management do something about the state of the Oilers should have been done over 2 years ago , not waiting till another year or two wasted years have past ! We don’t want to tank any season , that’s for losers and fans of losing .

          Real Oiler fans are about winning and winners , with little appetite for prolonged periods of ineptitude or oral diarhea doled out by people who talk the talk but can’t do the walk . We call em as we see em and don’t get hung up with ” rose colored glasses , buried heads under the ice , and prone to phony hope advertizing stunts ” . Real Oiler fans are result driven not excuse driven for losses , etc.. The rest should take the callouses off their eyes and see us for what we really are .

          • D-Man

            See us for what we really are?? Yes – we’re a 30th place team in the start of a rebuild… We have a ton of holes in our defense and lack face-off winning centermen… A “real Oiler” fan would acknowledge this and expect bumps along the road… This doesn’t mean a free pass, but means to give the current management more than 15 games in one season before throwing them under the bus as you are so willing to do…

            Give management time!!

          • Zed

            So what I think you’re saying is…..

            Trade the kids for established players. Make the playoffs. Any other path would be fairy land make believe. Adding to a team with free agency? An expensive (and risky) way to go but I’ll give you that as well.

            You now have mediocre players. (What? did you expect other teams to let their good players go?)

            Now that the team has been knocked out of the first round (maybe second), what to do?

            The players want more money as they have just brought the team to the playoffs.

            “Can’t afford me? That’s ok, I’ll just go somewhere else.”

            Back to square one. 15th place hockey.

            This has happened to the team before. Do you not remember?

            Success requires planning.
            Not horseshoes up your bum.
            Although it sure helps. I’m talking to you Carolina.

            I agree that management’s plan was a poor one after 2006.

            2010’s plan may just work.

            If it doesn’t then they’ve had their chance. Move on Katz.

      • It’s a rebuild *process* – it wasn’t a rebuild offseason.

        The holes we have left might be easier to fill going forward as the young players start getting better. Do you think it might be easier to get free agents to sign here after a season where you finished last and are starting over with 3-4 rookies, or after a season where you finished on an upswing and you have some exciting young players building on impressive numbers?

  • I’m a huge oil fan but I don’t have much faith in Tambellini. We are in a rebuild so y not change the defense a little more. Get rid of vandemeer, strudwick, smid. I dont think smid is that great of a player however maybe he would benefit playing a better partner. You can’t tell me that strudwick and Vandemeer are part of the future so why not just get rid of them. From my point of view they are hurting the team and they hold back the other players on the ice. Also Penner, yes he may be getting points but the simple fact is he is a big man that doesn’t hit much and doesn’t play with a lot of intensity. I say trade him for someone that does. Smaller forwards can put up points but can’t be as big a physical presence as someone that size so if you are that big that needs to be part of your role.

    • In the long run, isn’t it better to have Vandermeer and Strudwick provide a bit of leadership in the room and bleed goals for a year so that we can pick top five next draft and replace them in the off-season? They both have 1 year contracts and I’m sure they’re not in any future plans beyond that.

  • Horcsky


    I tend to agree with you that Petry has the highest upside of the 4 kids on the farm. The troubling thing is Petry is roughly Smid’s age, is younger than Peckham and if Bill James taught us anything: it is that hitting 20 HR at age 19 is not the same as hitting 20 HR at 23 or 24.

    I am not high on Plante as a prospect was plesantly surprised by his NHL stint last year. Using the KISS principle, he may be a decent 5-6 D man

    Gilbert is not a better player than Jason Smith completely different games but in the SCF run of 06 Smith got the shut down pairing and played ALL tough minutes with Pronger. If Gilbert gets those same minutes, we ain’t going to the SCF

  • How pressing is it upon ownership and /or management to field a competitive team with the building already being full ? Even Gretzky era never had it so good as far as full crowds . For some odd reason Oiler fans seem to prefer backing a losing team to a competitive or Stanley Cup team .

    • D-Man

      Maybe you fail to understand that this isn’t New York City and there’s a shortage of quality places to spend your entertainment dollar.

      Madjam – myself and many others have long differed in opinion with you on the point of whether we should spend more money and be a half-assed team, or tank it in the pursuit of future awesomeness. But after 3 brutal losses on this road trip, I see your point that spending more and trading toward mediocrity actually has its merits.

      On second thought, I’m just going to take a galley bound for the New World and come back in a few years ago when the team is worth watching again.

    • Ryan14

      You must have missed the “Oilers are Rebuilding” memo. Well here it is:


      The Oilers are rebuilding. Any fan expecting this team to be anything remotely resembling a SC team this year will be sadly disappointed. Any fan who expects this team to do anything this season that will bring about short term results at the expense of long term success should google rebuild.
      For fans who do not support a draft based rebuild, see

  • BarryS

    Re: Coffey

    As a season ticket holder at the time, it is quite true the fans booed him out of town. The Critiques of Gilbert are about the same as those of Coffey, lots of talent, not used enough to satisfy the fans. No one complained when he left nor asked for him back after he left. Only difference, were three guys up front to save the day most times which we lack today.

    Sad but true.

  • D-Man

    Yeah, OK, Madjam. But I’d also like to think that Oiler fans are a little more sophisticated than your average win-at-all-costs bandwagon jumper.

    The bottom line is in today’s NHL, losing is part of rebuilding. Heck, it was that way in yesterday’s NHL. You lose with kids, let them make mistakes, vacuum up their messes and pick high in the draft in June. Three or four years in, you hope the kids start to mature and stop making the mistakes and messes.

    It worked that way for Quebec/Colorado (note to all: And the Nords were WAY worse than the Oil0.

    It worked that way for Pittsburgh (both in the late 1980s and now).

    It worked that way for Chicago.

    Is there any guarantee it’s gonna work? Nope. See Islanders, New York.

    But let’s ride this out and see where it takes us.

  • Dan the Man

    Hi all – I’ve brought good news.

    We all knew (and were hoping) that we’d be a bottom-5 team this year. What we didn’t now is that we were going to be embarassingly pumped on this roadie.


    In ’05-’06, Ovechkin’s first season in Washington, they were also crap and finished the season with 70 points. Here’s a game-by-game recap. They got pumped a whole bunch too:

    Interestingly, they managed 70 points the following year in ’06-’07, but played (and lost) a whole lot more 1-goal games:

    In ’05-’06 the Chicago Blackhaws were led in scoring by Kyle Calder, Mark Bell, and Radim Vrbata. Puke. Brent Seabrooks started to look okay, but Duncan Keith had 21 points over a full season and finished -11.

    In ’06-’07 Chicago lost 8-straight in Oct and Nov, including 3 in a row where they failed to score. They managed just 5 goals over their next five. Funny enough they only finished 3rd last that year, won the lottery and drafted Pat Kane. They don’t win the cup in 2010 if they draft James Van Riemsdyk (who went 3rd overall).

    It is raining hard and we can’t see the sun. Remember this road trip a few years from now. We’ll all have a laugh about how our defense corps had Vandermeer, Strudwick, and Tom Gilbert on it.

  • Zed

    “Petry… He’s going to be Tom Gilbert in style”

    We don’t need anymore styles that produce giveaways to the centre of the slot for a goal like Frolov’s goal.

  • Dyckster

    The players embarrassed themselves again.. This obviously looks bad on the players, the organization, and the city.. I dont know much but i do know this city has a ton of pride… If a player or players are not doing what they should be doing… Sit them…. we are losing anyways… bench the slackers….. i am tierd of being more excited to watch our team play than the players themselves that are actually playing the friggin game!!!! oh and did you all know these players are getting paid millions to do so…. i know its a shocker..

    If i slack at work i hear about it.. if i keep it up i get canned…….. need i say more??

  • Ryan14

    In case you all missed it we have been rebuilding for over two years , and managed to make 30th spot before they even acknowledged it . Now you’ve gone to the dumb idea trading all our players away for meidocrity is what i’m implying ? Just how dense are some of you anyways . I clearly stated to move a good portion of our diminutive players for size and more toughness as well as revamp defence to competitive level . How some of you think otherwise is truly astounding ?

    I am flabbergast some of you think rebuild just started this year . Two years of getting worse , two more years of making it worse and frinally this season actually actually acknoleging it . Thats 4 wasted years already at a time we could have only filled a couple of voids and been competitive if not maybe even upper eschilon by now . How well did Gagner era turn out so far – that was the last rebuild or have you all forgotten . Are we that competitive or better 3-4 years down the line . No – so what are you people talking about . Were not even mediocer for crying out loud going into their 4th year !

    • Ryan14

      Your missing the entire philosophy of the organization as a whole. Last year and the year before (where we missed the playoffs by 6 points; 3 the year before) they were not rebuilding. This is obvious by the FA signings, and willingness to give up young roster players for older players. The results may have been poor, but they were not rebuilding. This year is a rebuild. This is actually year 1 of the rebuild.

      Gagner was not part of any rebuild. He was supposed to become a #1 centre (expectations which were unrealistic). His rookie year, the Oilers finished 3 points out of the playoffs, and that offseason they went after that “missing piece.” Rebuild? No. One season of poor play? Yes.

      They may have sucked 2 years ago, but that does not equal rebuild.

  • The progress of these kids will also effect the way the Oilers draft in 2011. If we are blessed with the 1st overall pick again, as it stands right now, we have our pick of 3 elite prospects. Couturier, the big 6’4″ centre, Nugent-Hopkins, the slick playmaker down the middle, and Larsson, the 6’3″ Swede defender. You could make a legit case for each to go first. Couturier plays like Eric Staal, the size and style that the Oil need in their top 6. Nugent-Hopkins can make any of the 3 young winger better with his excellent decisions with the puck. Larsson, the kid who scouts say is better than Hedman. Hedman is already the #1 Dman in Tampa.

    If I were calling the shots, I’d say Couturier. #1 centres with size and toughness is so rare, you should grab one when you get the chance. But if alarm bells start ringing about the lack of progress of the defensive prospects, then you might see the organization take Larsson. The key to building a winner is that you need as many guys peaking at the same time as possible. We know that Eberle, Hall and Paajarvi are going to be stars. We’ll see these guys hit elite level in the early 20’s. Then it’s a question of being able to keep them together until their late 20’s. So the window of opportunity should be clear. The challenge will be to get the blueline ready within that period of time. generally speaking, Dmen take longer to develop, so the timetable is actually very short. If Larsson is all he is touted to be, that may resolve any issues the team would have with developing Dmen in a timely fashion. If he can step in the be a quality Dman right away like Doughty or Hedman, then problem mostly resolved. But we have a year to decide.

    There’s always free agency, but that’s proved unreliable for the Oil in the past.