Dear Steve: Please Don’t Trade…

The front page story over at TSN today is an opinion piece by hockey insider Darren Dreger, one of the most connected men in hockey, and it delves into the problems facing the Oilers and the things Steve Tambellini might do to address them.

One part of the column points to the possibility that Tambellini might make a trade, and lists him as “in the market for additional grit, a centreman and some help on the blueline.” While that’s a fairly generic list, some of those pieces might be expensive, and there are a few names possibly on the block that I hope Tambellini doesn’t move at this point in time.

The key players that I hope aren’t being considered right now include Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule, and to a lesser extent Tom Gilbert and Dustin Penner. The reason is very, very simple: I doubt that Tambellini can get fair value for those players given how their seasons have started.

Tom Gilbert has been singled out for his poor play this season. Generally, he’s been described as error-prone and passionless, and those points are not without merit. I don’t know if he’s actually been less motivated – he’s still blocking shots, for example, as he currently leads the Oilers with 42 – or if the usual vanilla aspects of his game are just getting more play than usual because he’s been so bad, but that’s a bit of a side point. The main point right now is this: Gilbert’s suffering through probably the worst stretch of his career, his contract is structured so that he’s making boatloads of money this year, and Steve Tambellini probably can’t get more than a rusty nickel and a bad contract back for him in trade.

Meanwhile, Dustin Penner’s numbers have taken a bad turn. Most of this is the result of the misfiring first power play unit – Penner has only two power play points this season – and that will probably turn around at some point. His even-strength point totals are only a little worse than last season, and still quite respectable, so if he can keep those up and score some points with the extra man, it’s likely his value might be better at the trade deadline than it is right now.

Regular readers will recall that I stated several times I would have been willing to trade Gilbert Brule over the summer, had the right offer come along, and that I’d even have been asking around to see if I could get a decent offer. That stance, which was wildly unpopular in the summer, might be more popular now given that he has just three points through the first quarter of the season, but that’s precisely why I wouldn’t be shopping him now.

I don’t think Brule’s a bad player – which is what he’s looked like early this season – but I do think he’s a complimentary one, the kind of guy who needs to play top six minutes with talent if he’s going to put up points. Unfortunately, the addition of Eberle and Hall to Penner and Hemsky seems to have sown up all the slots for a top-six winger, and that means Brule’s been consigned to the third line to play with an assortment of guys who need help carrying the load. Predictably, his results have suffered. Because I believe he’s a better player than he’s shown to date, I’d be highly reluctant to shop him now.

Most of what I’ve said about Brule also applies to Andrew Cogliano. He’s not a four-goal player, the number he’s currently on pace for, and he’s not a 16-point player, the number he’s currently on pace for. I think he’s a player with serious problems – the most notable being that he lacks the defensive acumen and the faceoff ability to be an NHL centre at this point – but I also believe there’s a quality NHL’er underneath his current struggles. He’s frequently mentioned in trade rumours (and was once dealt for Dany Heatley) but I’d guess he has negligible value around the league after last season and his early struggles this year. If he’s got minimal value, it makes minimal sense to trade him.

There aren’t many players I would trade now. One imagines that players with real value – Ales Hemsky, Ryan Whitney – would be worth more at the trade deadline. Beyond those guys, the support players have generally struggled, and of course it almost certainly makes no sense for this team to trade a Paajarvi, Eberle, Smid or Gagner. There might be a minor deal out there, for a guy like Zack Stortini (who Renney doesn’t seem to like) or Linus Omark (if he isn’t going to get a shot here) or maybe a waiver pickup that makes sense, but beyond tinkering I’m not sure it makes long-term sense to make big changes now.

And this season, what makes long-term sense is all that matters.

  • Horcsky

    Maybe having all those young guys in the lineup to make cogs compete for his position is whats bothering him especially after being in almost every trade discussion for the last two years. He needs to go somewhere he can feel secure in a job. Let face it the one year 1 mill contract doesn’t make him feel his job is secure. Maybe then he will start playing the way we all know he can, yes we’ve seen it in the past.

  • Horcsky

    It shouldnt matter what ur getting paid.. if your on an NHL team ur getting paid alot and to effin bad if u feel your job isnt secure.. if you cant hack the preasure… its time for a job change!!!

    • In a world with a salary cap and contracts being major considerations it’s pretty tough to not take into account what people are getting paid.

      If you just want to dump everybody that’s one thing. Katz has already eaten Souray’s contract and something tells me that he’d prefer not to eat a bunch of others.

      If you are bringing in new people you have to get rid of the old people. Either you take a bath on them and get hosed in a trade or you switch your garbage for someone else’s garbage.

      If you want to dump guys that aren’t performing you don’t get to swap them out for guys that are doing well for someone else unless you sweeten the pot with picks or prospects. If the oil start dumping picks or future players to get marginally better now I don’t know what I’ll do.

      I agree with JW that the time to move some of these guys was in the summer but at some point you have to say that the experiment is over. Get what you can for Cogs but if they drop Penner now it is a huge mistake. Nobody will even look at Gilbert because of his contract (unless his dreamy hair can distract them).

  • The question I have for you Wayne in the case of Cogliano is what is fair value?
    On the Oilers he is about 7th on the depth chart in forwards. On the Oilers and on most teams, they need their 3rd and 4th liners to be big, physical and hard to play against. Cogliano is and will never be any of those. He isn’t a good faceoff man and his production has continued to decrease. So what exactly is fair value? The only thing he has going for him is he skates fast, has a cheap contract and is still young.
    Other than skate fast, what does Cogliano do well? I can’t figure it out. Can you? If the Oilers got a 3rd or 4th round pick, I would be happy.

  • rubbertrout,

    agreed..I guess im just getting tierd of peeps saying these playes need to be coddled .. Personally i think gags and cogs both have been rushed.. gags will mostly likely work out but cogs i dont know.. get him out of the circle.. He prolly needs to play somewhere else.. Again another player with the tools but cant seem to put it together..
    The oiler brass needs to take some of the blame here..

    but ill sure take one of the top 3 picks though lol

  • A lot of people have portrayed Cogliano and Gilbert as the reasons for lacklustre play and continual losing. However, it takes more than 2 or 3 hockey players to produce this malaise of a team and the problems run much deeper than a few players. I don’t think trades will solve much, but accountability would help. Start sending players back and forth to the AHL and NHL even if there is a risk of waiver claims….players have a lot of time to reflect on bus rides in the AHL and get hungry to get back.

    The last strategy we need is a Darryl Sutter garage sale. Turnover hasn’t helped the Flames and it wont help the Oilers.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Haha dont worry I never take anything that Eklund fellow says seriously. Im sure I could make a website like his cuz I honestly think he has no sources when creating his E5 and all that bolongy (spelling?)

      I really wish the Oil would trade Penner not only cuz he frustrates me but because he is a pure goal scorer that has value. Yes I realise the Oil have gone dry recently with goal scoring but I really dont think Penner will benefit the Oil in the long run if they dont get him away while his trade value is high.

      Simmonds and Tuebert for Penner? Just read that this is an E13 (jokes). Im going to go make that trade in my Nhl 11 team and see if it works out and if not I wont save.

  • If trading these underachiever’s isn’t the answer then sending them down to the AHL or at least giving them pressbox time needs to start to happen.

    Removing negatives from your lineup helps.

    Cogliano could really use a year in the AHL to learn how to be a better hockey player. He needs to find out what he is good at and try to develop that. He is not a physical third line center and never will be. He needs to either develop into a person who can produce offence or face the fact that he needs to change career paths. His greatest strength, speed, is never evident. I’ve never seen a fast guy like him lose so many races to the puck. Even a slow defensmen can lighly touch him and cause him to lose the puck so all that speed is wasted . This is why he looks like he might be trying hard but invariably he always produces little.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Removing negatives only help when they are replaced with superior players. Other then the very odd exception that is next to impossible to do once the season starts.

      That said, their are very few players in the NHL that are so bad that their team is better off without them.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    The problem the Oilers have is they have bad players. Cogliano has negative trade value. Talking about him getting traded is pointless. Nobody wants him.

    The Oilers need to introduce competition for playing time. Send Jacques, Stortini, MacIntyre, and Strudwick to the AHL. These players are useless. Call up Reddox, Omark, O’Marra, and Belle.

    Make icetime a meritocracy. Everyone starts every game even. Play well during the game you get more shifts. Play poorly and your turn gets skipped. Play the schedule in three game blocks. Every three games rotate the guys in the press box, putting the worst performers over the previous three games in the box. Make the goal to play .500 each three game season.

    There is no way to get better players right now. What you can do is make the players you have compete with each other. This won’t make them better players but it will give you the best chance to bring out what they have. If the players won’t compete with the other team make them compete for playing time. Make nobody exempt and be fair (don’t make an example out of anybody and start every game with equal icetime). The team still won’t be good but at least you’ll find out what you have. If Cogliano and Brule or Reddox or Omark can’t stand out in this crowd then they aren’t NHL players.

    • CitizenFlame

      Just curious about your meritocracy? When you tabulate how well your players played during their 3 game block, what are you marking them on? Points… what about match-ups? Everybody is getting even ice time but who is getting matched up against who? I’m hoping I get matched up against the other guys 3rd & 4th liners. What about zone starts? Sucks to be the guys starting 45% of the time in their own end. I would hope I’m lucky enough that when its my turn I’m starting in their end. There is some merit to your approach but it’s not that obvious.

    • D-Man

      I like your idea of splitting shifts and holding players accountable – even though we would never seen that actually happen… There’s no way any NHL GM would ever allow a Hemsky to sit for more than a game…

      I disagree with you about sending JFJ, Storts and Smak down in the NHL… We need some sort of grit on this team – without those guys, we’d definitely be run out of the rink on a nightly basis… One problem is to play like we did last night, without emotion, but you have a HUGE problem if the kids run into physical teams with no one in the line up to respond…

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Count me as a guy that could not fathom trading Brule last summer. In hindsight I wish that they would have moved him as Willis suggested.

    I must say that 1 thing that makes no sense to me is any talk of trading Hemsky or Whitney, either now or at the deadline. While I am all for building through the draft at some point you need to keep players, and heck even sign a few free agents. Our D is terrible, and losing Whitney would put us at a AHL level on the backend.

    If Hemsky is willing to sign an extension, or atleast hinting he would be willing then you keep him. What good is another 1st rounder you have to wait 3 years to develop??

    As far as dealing Cogliano at some point you need to get what you can get. I thought LA was crazy for dealing O’Sullivan but it turns out it was perfect timing. There is no place for him here. Negative return or not, even getting a guy that was more money and older that would help slow the bleeding right now would do just fine.

    Penner’s value is low, but it is not like his work ethic is going to drive his stock up. If he really is as disinterested as he seems then the time is here to move him. For something, anything.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Nice column, Jonathan.
    I think that before the summer ends, one of Cogs or Pens must be gone. Omark will be here next year for sure, and there just arent enough spots to go around. I can see Vandy and Struds terminated at year end, to make room for a Plante, Petiot spare.

  • Who is Darren Dreger connected to? Ryan Rishaug?

    Darren Dreger is not connected. He sells sports for TSN.

    Connected is a guy who brings another guy, A for B. Connected is a guy who finds a A guy for his B.
    Who is Darren Dreger connected to? Field reporters working for TSN around N.America; like Rishaug?

    Any one can write a bunch of asinine possibilities on a strenght of a generic list. It doesn’t take a genius, analyst or an insider to figure out that the OIlers need; grit, a center and some better defense.

    Tom Gilbert would not get you sh!t in return right now. But, first oppurtunity Tambellini gets, once Gilbert is back on track, Gilbert should be traded. We have to put up with Gilbert until he proves worthy.

    Both Cogliano and Brule will be traded at some point of the season before the trade deadline.

    Hemsky, Penner and Whitney are not going anywhere. I don’t know why waste time typing that crap up. Or maybe I am wrong, maybe you are connected too.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Kip Drodry a.k.a Paajarvi is my Ninja.

    I waste my time typing that Penner should be traded is because his heart is the size of a mouse. No passion it seems and not a lazy attitude but a ‘I dont give a crap’ about the jersey on my chest (Renney has mentioned this plenty). Penner has so much talent and ability to score but if he couldnt do that he wouldnt even make a junior B team. I dont know what he is like off the ice, he might be all in a tizzy when they loose but on the ice it sure doesnt seem like it.

    Also how is Cogs going to get traded with his projected 9 points this season, couldnt win a faceoff if his life was on the line. The only thing he does well is get down and dirty (his face resembles that as of late). Tambo isnt dumb enough to trade him for a 4th or 5th round pick. I think the best interest in trading Cogs is to pick up another 1st or 2nd round draft pick that hasnt turned out for another team. The Andrew Ladd for Tuomo Rutuu trade that happened a few years back at the trade deadline is a perfect example of this.

  • Simmonds for Penner is a one sided trade for the Oilers. The Oilers would have to give up much more. And future consideration for Stortini? Thats a bad deal for any team above beer league. There’s a reason he’s not liked. 1. nobody wants a fighter who either gets beat up or tries to hug a guy to death. 2. Who takes too long of shifts, who goes across the ice to attempt to make a hit, runs out of gas before he gets there, pushes the player narrowly escaping an interference call then go to the bench totally out of the play and wave your greasy hand calling for a change…. 5 shifts a night.

  • The Oilers need to “tinker” like they used to in the OLD NHL days when the Oilers would think future in trades not present because they were poor. Doug Weight, Todd Marchant type acquisitions

    So roster players may not be coming back in a trade or we are getting duds with bad contracts but perhaps a project that can shine in the rebuild.

    I’d target guys like Joe Colborne 6’5 190 lbs centre from Boston’s prospects. Something the Oilers can work with along with Salary dumps (Sturm, Stuart) Boston needs to do in exchange for Penner.

    New Jersey Devils who desperately need to make some moves and Salary restructuring have depth in prospects at Centre. Jacob Josefson to add to the Oilers sweedish invasion. It might mean we would have to eat Brian Rolston’s contract but so be it.

  • My conclusion that Dreger is connected is based on the word of media guys like Gregor and Brownlee who call Dreger one of the most connected guys in Hockey.

    I dont know who his connections really are, I’m not privvy to that info. I dont know what proof you need. I’m sure whatever I, or guys in the know like Gregor, say wouldnt be enough.

    • That is my point exactly.

      You base your opinion believing word of another man to be fact. I dont understand the bases of calling Dreger the most connected man in hockey or where they come from. You say you dont know who his connections are, yet you say he is the most connected man in hockey.
      I dont need proof, I just asked for some answers from people who call him the most connected man in hockey, why he is called that.

      • Why do they call the Dos Equis guy “The Most Interesting Man In The World”? Because it’s true.

        “I dont need proof, I just asked for some answers from people who call him the most connected man in hockey, why he is called that.”

        I dont need proof, I just need proof.

        The guy is uniformly respected in the hockey world and is front and centre in the trade/news breaking department. That’s all the proof I’m ever going to get. When he starts sounding like Eklund I’ll re-evaluate.

        I dont have the opportunity to evaluate Dreger’s connectedness myself, the same way I’ll never get to walk on the moon myself, but that doesnt mean I’ll start to believe that the Lunar landing was a fake.

      • Lets put it this way Kid Crapy: Dregor works for TSN the biggest sports broadcasting network in Canada. His job is to have inside info on Canada’s biggest sport, hockey. What more do you need. He is also awfully quick to report trades, signings etc… you dont get that by reading some guys blogs or talking to some guy on the street, you get those from having “inside” connections. He has his job for a reason, not just because TSN speculates he has those connections but because they know he has them.