What Does the Future Hold?

There seems to be more than the usual frustration surrounding the Edmonton Oilers. It probably has a lot to do with the in-season "Groundhog Day" that includes long periods of futility combined with small windows that give us a glimpse of the future.

We have a bunch of questions. Read on for the answers.  

  1. God this is bad. When will it get better? The current  problems are fixable. There are 4 major elements impacting the team’s strong of L’s: several kids are learning on the jobsite; Steve Tambellini’s moves to address need over the summer (Vandermeer, Fraser, Strudwick, Foster) are not delivering; Nikolai Khabibulin isn’t a major league average goalie; the Oilers (as always) address need so slowly they shouldn’t even bother. It’ll get better when the kids turn the corner and the GM at the time addresses need with useful players.
  2. The coach is bad too. Not so. The Oilers have had good coaching all down the line. From MacT to Quinn to Renney and the assistant coaches, this team has attracted top level people. We can probably assume that the assistant coaches new to the NHL are taking time to get up to speed but these are good resume’s behind the bench.
  3. I’m frustrated because the management gets a free pass under the "rebuild" banner. This is partly true. The problem comes from the rebuild starting right after 4 years of terrible hockey. So we’re going to spend a generation in the cellar on the way to glory. However, Darryl Katz listens to the customer and unrest is building over this hockey team. Steve Tambellini is on the clock and the Khabibulin contract (along with this past summer’s moves) are on him. Tomorrow is promised to Taylor Hall in this town, but not Steve Tambellini.
  4. They should have kept Hall in junior. I disagree, but respect the opinion of others. My feeling is that the risk isn’t as great as made out to be by many fans. There are two reasons: Hall’s a #1 overall pick, he was going to make big coin anyway; and assuming he’ll leave at 25 frames the issue in the most negative way. Hemsky signed to stay here through the first portion of his free agent eligibility and from what we hear may sign on again.
  5. How come they’re so awful? They don’t have enough actual NHL players. If I could draw you a bell curve, with the low end being rookies and young men like Cogliano and Gagner, this group is working toward being productive. If we draw a line just after that, the actual NHL players live there. Farther over on the curve, there is the group of men who may or may not have been productive at this level but are no longer able to handle the speed and skill of NHL competition. Robin Brownlee wrote an item last night that covered the subject nicely.
  6. What should the Oilers do right now? Play Dubnyk for three games in a row. It can’t hurt. Also, call up Shawn Belle and Alex Plante, while risking waivers on JF Jacques and sending down Jason Strudwick.
  7. They can’t do that, because there will be too many veteran contracts on the AHL team. Fine, then ask Strudwick to take on a coaching position with the minor league club. No disrespect, but as Robin stated last night it isn’t working. He’s a strong positive in the room? Fine. Keep him there as an assistant coach.
  8. What should fans do with their frustration? Take your wife/GF/BF out to to dinner and let nature take its course. Watch a movie, take a course at GMC, take up knitting. The Oilers are going to have bad nights this season, but it isn’t a reflection of you as a person and you do have a choice. Depression sucks. Turn off the TV when they\re bad and cheer like hell when they’re good. Oiler fans did it in 92-94 when the club was terrible and last season I’m sure the Oilers were partly responsible for a baby boom in the city.
  9. So there’s nothing to look forward to? Not so. The Oilers have some fine veteran players and three or four sublime talents up front. Plus we can follow the Magnificent Bastard’s draft picks in junior, college and Europe. There’s the trade deadline (the Oilers don’t like to address need during the season, it interrupts lunch) and of course the draft.
  10. How did they get into this mess? Trading Pronger for futures, asking the season ticket holders their opinion ("fix it, and get it right") and losing focus on the big league team because the arena is the passion of ownership and therefore management.
  11. Are they following the Chicago model? I’d say this is more the Pittsburgh model. Sucking in order to get good picks and a new arena.
  12. What model do you hope they’re following? The New York Islanders 1972-1980 model. Acquire good NHL players from all possible places. Bill Torrey brought them in via the draft, trade, signings and waiver wire. You can google "Bill Torrey Islanders Panthers team building" and spend hours reading about true innovation and wisdom.
  • Tha Legion

    *What should the Oilers do right now? Play Dubnyk for three games in a row. It can’t hurt. Also, callup Shawn Belle and Alex Plante, while risking waivers on JF Jacques and sending down Jason Strudwick.*

    How good to you think Plante can be for us down the road? I’d like to think that Peckam can develope into a Robin Regehr Type player, where would you place Plante if you had to compare him to someone?

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      some have suggested that we don’t put Dubnyk into a mess like this, that if a goalie is to be left to fry then it’s better to have Khabby do it than DD. i know he’s still reasonably young but do we wait forever to start DD in more games so we don’t damage his confidence? i say start him more, whether this season is a train wreck or not. i don’t believe that the Oilers even consider DD our goalie of the future anyway.

  • What part of the team does Bucky look after this season? I’m still not convinced that he is a good fit and I was surprised he kept his job during the purge. The way the D has played makes me miss Huddy.

    I understand the need for patience during a rebuild but isn’t there a great threat in setting up these kids up to fail? I’m ok with the losing but these beatings are embarrassing and must be hard to deal with in the room. Surely we can get a defensive forward for one of our speedy wingers (read: Cogliano)?

  • “Also, callup Shawn Belle and Alex Plante, while risking waivers on JF Jacques and sending down Jason Strudwick.”

    Agreed, I’d say Plante is similar to Peckham in style but even bigger, can’t hurt to try him out as he’s been doing good on the PK down in the A. And while discussing the PK, I’d also bring both O’Marra and Reddox up to have them form a solid PK-unit. Send MacIntyre and someone of Jones (though he’s been rather good, but hes sadly not much of a much needed PK’er) or Stortini (mr I’m big but I don’t hit big) down. We’d still have a couple of semi-fighers around in Peckham, Belle and Plante.

    Sadly, I have doubts Oilers mgmt will even make 1 move.

  • Its Grant MacEwan University now. But your right. Take the focus off how bad the Oilers and Eskimo’s are/have been this year and pray and hope that the GM’s that are in place can turn thier respective franchises around sooner than later. I like the Pittsburgh model. Its going to be tough to stomach for a few of years. I am thinking of investing in Rolaids stock. I’ll be watching alot of WHL this year.

    • John Chambers

      We also have a TelePresence endpoint in every home, and a turkey in every pot.

      It’s interesting (so interesting I’ve posted this 3 times now) – have a look at the ’06-’07 Chicago Blackhawks. They had some atrocious losing skids where the couldn’t score goals. They ended up with 70 points and eventually developed the best defense corps in the league.

      Or the Capitals in ’05-’06 who got blown out repeatedly while developing character players (Laich, Green, Fehr, Steckel).

      So it’s fine. We’ll probably have a 4-game winning streak in December and become jubilant again. Magnus Paajarvi will get hot and jerseys will fly off the shelf in time for the holidays. I am confident the stock price will go back up.

      Joy.

    • Ender

      Patrick Laforge called me last night. I was pretty impressed that he’d taken the time to track down my phone number. Within the first second or two, I was ready to give Pat the inside scoop on a couple of things he could do to both improve short-term and keep his fans happy, when . . .

      . . . I figured out that Pat had assigned his voice recording to call me. Bummer. He (it) wanted to know if I supported the new arena or not. I did. He (it) thanked me for my time and hung up.

      Despite the fact that it was cheesey, there was something about receiving a communication from Mr. Laforge that resonated with me*. I hate telephone surveys, but I have to admit that I’d be a lot more likely to take the time to answer a question from Mayor Mandel than I would from someone who appeared to have learned English in their 30’s.

      I wonder if Renney will call today . . .

      *pun intended

  • Tha Legion

    I think they need to play Dubnyk regardless of how the team is doing. Its not really helping his development sitting on the bench watching and not playing games. I also think that Strudwick and Vandemeer area waste of space and if they are going to play that crappy they might as well get a couple of guys from the AHL that are having good seasons and give them a chance. It couldn’t be any worse that what we have going on right now any way. And regardless of what some people are saying there is no way Souray should be on this team it would just be a back influence on a young team.

    • John Chambers

      Dubnyk should play every third game at minimum and on a schedule (I am on board with letting them play and develop even if they lose). It bothers though that a guy like Strudwyck is given 1st team PP. Put guys in a position to succeed. Bring up Linus Omark and play him. Develop him along with the HEP boys. Find a stud young D-man even if it is a costly aquisition. Follow the Oilers model dammit! Grow the talent together … bond them …
      GMB
      PS: You are correct. Vandemeer and Strudwyk are awful. So are Peckham, Gilbert & Foster. Whitney is pretty good but a #2 D-Man at best. Really bad back end in E-town.

  • Dreger tweet:

    “Oilers are looking to upgrade their blue-line, but won’t change their longterm plan to do it.”

    I like 13 or 67 for Gunnarsson (TO)

    Also,

    What should fans do with their frustration?

    You forgot to add in: Wildly type long winded posts on various interweb sites and shake fist at computer/TV screen with semi-regularity.

    Also: Drink

    Working for me so far.

  • John Chambers

    My frustration and concern does not stem from the team but from the management.

    I have this vision of Tambellini and Lowe sitting around smoking cigars and sipping brandy with Tamby telling Lowe “Just wait give the kids a year and everyone will want to play along side them, we will have our pick of any top free agent!”

    I cannot have faith in a management team that has not had success in years and not only has done nothing to address it but barely seems to recognize the problems!

    I am starting to wonder if the moves made last off season was simply a case of dumping salary to save Katz some money. Its not like they really used that extra salary cap for anything.

  • This team is a lot less frustrating to watch if it plays an NHL goalie, backup or otherwise. As of right now Khabibulin is on the bad end of AHL goalies.

    The kids might lose as many games, but at least the games will be closer. Offense is pretty hard to come by when you only have one shot to score before your tender lets in yet another goal.

    I havent seen an Oiler goalie let in so many goals after getting “square” to the shooter. This is the Rask/Thomas scenario from last year but so far the Oil dont have the guts to play the kid over the high priced Vet.

  • As per D. Barnes column in Journal today , Tams may take over 60 more games before even considering tinkering with present club . He implies that Tams and company are thoroughly convinced paying public are O.K. with more poor hockey for a year or more . The only thing that can change their minds is if paying public won’t put up with the B.S. excuses for remaining bad all sesaon .

    That seems to imply they have no desire to do anything more all season but bear it out and lay blame on the players if they fail to mske it better . In a nutshell don’t do anything this year to fill current or past voids . Thats the plan , stupid as it is or sounds ! Either the fans press Katz to do otherwise or we are stuck with what we have and further strapped by AHL conundrum to boot, in way of callups and too many NHL players that can’t go down because of numbers .

    Scre–d , blued and tatooed as the adage goes , in more ways than one . Presently they are satified they did enough in off season to accommodate this year by D.Barnes column . Somehow, their attitude should come as little surprise when one considers how poorly they have done things over last 4 seasons !

    All the clubs that reach elite status all have very good bases added to young talents to get their , and those are all additions in most cases coming from marketplace , trades , etc. outside the draftees . For some reason Oilers feel it not necessary to go that route , certainly not yet anyways . I say why wait for it when you can work on it now .

    For those who seemed strapped to bottonm 5 finish , remember how well we favored at 22 and 10th with Paajarvi and Eberle ! We don’t have to be the worst to draft good talent in the first place !

    • Ender

      I’d like to take the time to explain something to you, madjam. It’s called statistical probability. In particular, we’ll examine the odds of drafting an Eberle at 22nd overall versus the odds of drafting a Daigle at #1. Then we’ll look at the odds of drafting Lukas Kaspar or Sean Bergenheim at 22 versus drafting Ovechkin or Kane at 1. Are you ready to begin?

      Awwww, who am I kidding? We both know the answer to that.

      • I’ve tried, lord knows I’ve tried, but you are trying to get blood from a stone here. Before the season he’s talking about 60 point seasons from all the kids, then he goes on to yell at all the fans who were drinking the kool-aid. It’s comedic how hypocritical and hopeless he is. Try to use reason and historical examples, I dare you. It’s not gonna fly.

      • The Real Scuba Steve

        I’ve taken statistical analysis at the university level . Don’t get to tied up in them . Their are a mere guide and crapshoot like the draft . Speaking of the draft , so far i like what i’m seeing of Musil more so than Coutourier and Hopkins .

        We’ve seen what Tams and team have gone in 4 years , can you honestly expect next 4 years they’ll fare any better ? Will we not end up in same mess with players wanting out of here , and players not wanting to come here . Will they still make additions that are inadequate in player expectations and assessments ? There’s nothing i see in their past that could lead me to believe otherwords . Do we want another 4 year cycle like last 4 years getting constantly worse ?

        • John Chambers

          Madjam, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

          Can you articulate for me (in 300 words or less), your 2-3 year plan to get the Oil back on track? What would you do if you got the job as GM tomorrow?

          I don’t want to hear b!itching. I want to hear your coherent plan to turn this thing around.

          • Ender

            Props, John. That really had me chuckling out loud right in my office.

            Arch, I , and the rest of the Gang will be on the edge of our chair holding our breath waiting for that to materialize.

          • John Chambers

            1. Play Dubnyk every 3rd game
            2. Being up Linus Omark to hang and Develop with HEP boys.
            3. Make a couple of deals for more young studs; priority is a young D. Pay a price if you have to. See above for rationale.
            – Gagner Hemsky Penner Cogliano Brule … all should be available to be dealt.
            – Whitney & Smid are pretty good. The rest are garbage on D. Move them.
            4. Play your best players on the power play and penalty kill. (if I see Jason Strudwyk or Ryan Jones on another power play I may vomit)
            5. Continue to keep the dirty laundry behind closed doors. Great job by Coach Renney et al of maintaining composure.

            I should be GM! lolbwhaha

    • Ryan14

      For every Eberle at that spot there is a pouliot, niitymaki, Nash. I love smb and his superb drafting record. How much of it is luck though? MP fell to this team. That was a no brainer. Eberle was a steal; was he expected to be this good, or has he exceded expecations?

      The oilers do not have the depth to be able to rebuild mid draft or higher. Last year proves it. This rebuild is more than just one or two NHL roster spots. It’s the entire organization as a whole that needs to be improved.

  • book¡e

    The Oilers brass are reading the public wrong if they think the fans or players will be ok with the Strudwicking of the season. Fans and players can accept losing if it appears as though the team is trying to win, but is somehow constrained by market issues or players in development (see Pittsburg). However, taking the Rachel Phelps approach to things and intentionally hiring Strudwick (aka Rick Vaughn) and Khabibulin (aka Jake Taylor) is an affront to the dignity of the organization (yes, I know that is a mighty word indeed to use with the old Oil Drop).

    If you are going to tank, you need to forget about veteran presence and just jump in with two rookie/young goalies and an overly inexperienced team with at least a hypothetical sense that there is potential somewhere ahead. Last year people were somewhat OK with the JDD/DD situation because we knew that they were both trying to win and we could imagine that maybe one of them might be good someday.

  • Ryan14

    Tersonnel just isn’t here to come close to winning and that’s the bottom line; along with the fact that the plan’s poor enough that you’ll get a lot of two goal losses thus crapping on the dumb idea of exciting last place hockey. So just how upset can anyone get when they knowingly authored this mess?

    The Oilers must be trying to hold that delicate balance of losing as many games as they can to ensure another lottery pick all the way feigning small disappointment things aren’t going better.

    But there were a lot of things that happened that pointed to the fact they didn’t want to do anything but tank or they just didn’t know what they were doing in the first place:

    – was 13 a checking centre just because they said he was?

    – how smart was it to give 67 a real payday knowing that you were also gonna ice three kids and thusly take away the best linemates from Brule. Did they really think he could drive the success of his own line? Really?

    – who was gonna kill penalties on this roster? if you were committed to all three kids than it was just as well to cut bait on 13 and 67 and try to bolster the D somehow and use your last six forward slots on cheap guys who could play close to even at EV but then show their true value on the PK.

    – 26 is most likely nothing more than a third pairing guy but what else would you expect? The Oilers took a closer-by-committee approach to the D corps but everyone they bring out of the pen has no better than a 1.5 K/BB ratio.

    So, anyway, a few small bills have come due just a little early given all drillings that took place on the road trip but if you hear too much grumbling from MGMT you’ll know they’re either lying or daft or maybe just a little of both.

    • Ender

      One of the more recent clues I’ve heard that things may not be everything that they appear was when Bob Stauffer admitted on the Team 1260 that he had no viable explanation for why Jones had more PP time than Pääjärvi. It’s not that Bob didn’t have an explanation; it’s just that he didn’t have one he could actually talk about on the radio.

    • John Chambers

      This is good analysis – your points are bang-on.

      I think it was always the plan to have a league-worst defense corps and penalty-kill. This way the Oil could play firewagon hockey, let the kids skate, and lose games 6-4 and 8-5.

      Exciting? Yes. Last Place? Indeed.

      The trouble is that when the goaltending is shoddy then it makes the whole experience downright embarassing. This they didn’t plan on. It will get better.

      Mama said there’d be days like this. But we survived the Tech Bubble bursting and came out stronger, so we’ll survive this air pocket and come out stronger as well.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    Our only sucess we had in the last 20 yrs was in 06, by going by the Detroit model. Go figure. Rebuilding has been the staple phrase since the early 90’s. What is the difference now and all of the other rebuilt teams from the last 20 yrs besides #1 draft pick? Nothing but excuses. According to Oil brass, we were suppose to reap the benefits of the post lock out era and we did for that first year, after that a complete nose dive . We were playing better hockey before the cap, Now I hear maybe 2-3 yrs before we make the playoffs that 7-8 yrs without Oiler playoff hockey, that is just too long.

    • John Chambers

      Like we saw with a company like Nortel, Steve, the vision may have been strong post-lockout but the execution was poor.

      The Oilers spent money, like Nortel, but couldn’t retain key market share. Strategy was also behind-the-curve in hindsight.

      The new strategy is foolproof. Invest in core areas fundamental to success, and build around that core.

      Vision – Strategy – Execution.

  • Milli

    This Defense makes me miss JASON “GATOR” SMITH!!! When he was playing smash mouth hockey, no one was safe. The guy was a freaking warrior! And please, please, please play Dubnyk at least three in a row!

  • D-Man

    @Lowetide…

    Good read. I disagree with you in regards to point six, where we send down Strudwick and Jacques… First of all, I would like to save some more cap space, so send Vandermeer down… As I recall that way we’d only have 1/2 his salary on the block – unless someone claims him. That roster spots clears the way for either Belle, Plante or Petry. I get the impression that Belle would be the first choice… To me – any of the three would be an improvement and give us an opportunity to develop more youth… Strudwick goes back to being the 7th defenceman and maybe plays another 30 games this season..

    I’d also keep Jacques on the roster for a minimum of ten games… If he can bang and crash like he did last year, and stay healthy – he’s better to the Oilers than Jones or Stortini… Jones would be my first choice to waive – and although he’s had a great start by potting 4 goals – we need more toughness on the 4th line… He doesn’t really instill the fear that JFJ does when he’s skating full tilt and hitting everything in sight… JFJ was also willing to drop the mitts a bit too – which means Smac plays only the games when we need that nuclear deterrent…

    Do these choices improve our PK?? Likely not, but it will free up some cap space and bring another young defensemen into the lineup to learn and develop.

  • smiliegirl15

    Mr. Dithers is going to be the death of this club. It’s more frustrating hoping he’ll do something to help this club than hoping they’ll win because they actually do win once in awhile.

  • Ryan14

    LT:
    you seem to indicate that tamby is/may be on a short leash when it comes to Katz. Do you think he is the wrong guy longterm? Is his indecisiveness his Achilles heel?

    By the way, loved the interview this morning.

  • John Chambers

    The Chambers Plan: (Madjam may use as a template)

    1) Play Doobie a whole bunch more this year. That kid has heart and intrinsic motivation.

    2) Get Belle, Petiot, Arsene, some journeyman to play his ass off for a 5- or 6- spot. Push the roster. No major shake-ups, just increase the compete level. Bring up the Red Ox as well.

    3) Give the kids lots of room to skate, powerplay time, and increase their confidence. It’s all about them. Cogs, Gags, and Brule too.

    4) Deal Penner and possibly Gilbert. Try to obtain top defensive prospects … I’m looking at you, Ottawa.

    Season ends. Draft a C. Indiana Jones is right – without a C you don’t win. Defensemen are also easier to trade for and purchase. Re-up Hemsky for another 4-6.

    4) Prior to the start of ’11-’12 sign a couple of gritty wingers to play the PK. Try to get a bona-fide 3-4 dman as well.

    5) Develop Chris VV as our 3rd line C.

    6) Make an assessment of our goaltending during the ’11-’12 season.

    Finish the season competing for a playoff spot. Buy out the last year of Khabibulin. Decide whether Renney is the man or get a Quenneville-type coach.

    Sign a top-pair defenseman (if possible). I believe Oduya, Wideman, Tyutin, and a few others are UFA’s after ’12.

    Execute to become the world’s leading IT company, er, NHL powerhouse.

    • D-Man

      I must admit I’m impressed with your foresight – not sure I agree with everything you’ve said – but kudos for putting your opinion out there..

      The only piece I disagree with is drafting a center… I’d still like to get a pedigree defenseman like Larrson to develop instead… We need a ‘d-stud’ on the back end and you don’t pass up the opportunity if you have one… Granted, we might not get the top 1-2 pick as NYI and NJ are hurting more than we are anyway…

      Not sure I’d bring up Chris VV but considering that you’re expecting him to emerge over a solid season in the AHL, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt… I’d like to see how Pitlick emerges in the WHL – he might be a decent 2nd/3rd line center too…

      But I digress – kudos and props too you…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Momma said there would be days like these.

    You can’t spell success without the suck. Have to say i’m surprised Hemsky is entertaining the thought of extending here, if i had my way Hemsky and Penner would be gone and both Hall and Seguin would be in Oiler silks. We’d still be struggling like we are now but with the addition of Couturier or Larson the largest pieces of the puzzle would be in place going forward. We’d have to supplement that line up with a Scotty Thornton, Chris Neil type of players. A couple of this type of player coming over the boards every second or third shift would give these kids some space, once in every four shifts like Stortini and MacIntyre isn’t enough.

  • GSC

    As poor as Tambellini’s moves this past summer have turned out to be, he did at least a few things right with the farm club in OKC. He deserves credit for that.

    Other than that, he’s lacking.

  • John Chambers

    Seriously just because Oiler management say they have a plan, other that what is happening on the farm at OKC, is there ANY evidence of such a plan? Forgot….we fired the trainers.