Once in a very Blue Moon

Sometimes things appear to good to be true. However, every once in awhile you come across something so beautiful, so powerful, so impressive, you know in that instant this is special. Oilers fans were blessed with such an event 30+ years ago; what will it take for it to happen again? 

We learn from history that youth is wasted on all the wrong people (source: It’s a Wonderful Life). If you’ve passed your 30th birthday, then you’ve left someone from your influence group behind for good reason. The current NHL CBA makes it very difficult for teams to extend their window of opportunity beyond a few short seasons (the exception is Detroit).

With the Oilers having such an enormous group of talents graduating as we speak, what else do they need to reach the promised land that is the Stanley? 

  1. Kids in the Hall group: The group that includes Hall, Eberle, Pääjärvi and extends through Gagner will form the heart of the team during the ’10s. If Hall can become an impact player and the rest in the group improve to the point where they’re consistent outscorers, the Oilers will have plenty of offensive firepower. Those are some big "ifs" but the group is making progress.
  2. Deep 6 the bottom 6:  The club made a fine trade when dealing for Curtis Glencross, but the organization chose not to keep him. The current group that makes up the bottom 6 (Cogliano, Brule, Colin Fraser, JF Jacques, Steve MacIntrye) have been inconsistent. The two players who have been solid (Ryan Jones, Zack Stortini) might have the makings of a solid 4th line but coach Renney doesn’t like Stortini. I think the Oilers need to start by picking up a quality, veteran C who can play 3line minutes, check, impact the PK and help in the FO circle. I know Tambellini tried for Malhotra last summer but there were other men available. He chose Colin Fraser, and he chose wrong. ST has been given most of the top 6 by Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor and the scouting department, surely he can find a checking center somewhere on the planet?
  3. Improve the blue: Tambellini made a beauty trade when acquiring Ryan Whitney for Lubo. I’m also prepared to buy in to Kurtis Foster having an period of adjustment (he should be better) and that Theo Peckham’s progress is for real. Those three–added to finesse defender Tom Gilbert–make for 67% of a useful defense. Ladislav Smid may or may not be top 4 worthy. What Tambellini needs to do is find out if Jeff Petry, Shawn Belle, Alex Plante and or Taylor Chorney can help the team until Marincin arrives. If they can’t, job one is to find a defenseman who can play big minutes. I think ST hurt his own cause with the Souray solution.
  4. Goal: If Devan Dubnyk is the future in goal the club needs to play him more than once a week.. If he isn’t, then the club needs to find that goalie and right soon.

The hard part is over. The Oilers have the scorers and the skilled men up front, and Whitney, Gilbert and Peckham are nice pieces to build around. The problem? The problem is that 3line RH C, the blue and the goalie of the future have been a problem since 2006 summer!!

Yesterday I wrote an item here at ON about Oilers fans and their increasing nonchalance in regard to this team’s success. We’re going from dying of thirst to indifference in 60 seconds here. I think we should enjoy the ride, but I don’t think management has the same luxury.

Steve Tambellini is the current General Manager. Steve Tambellini takes his time. I understand that. However, if we can agree that Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Pääjärv and, Sam Gagner  are part of the future then there are going to be some things that require change. Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky are a veteran trio with real skill. Should the Oilers keep that line together and run with Gagner-Hall-Eberle as suggested by Bob Stauffer this week? 

What then is to be done with Pääjärvi ? What about Omark? The Oilers are quickly becoming a team with lots of future jacks and kings, and very few 6’s and 7’s who can check and kill penalties.

A GM armed with veteran skill players should be able to address need along the blue and on the checking line. Right? The Oilers sent away Kyle Brodziak a couple of years ago and haven’t replaced him yet, let alone Mike Peca. The current group of talent is quality, but the bottom line is that the club needs some role players immediately.

Tomorrow is very promising for these Oiler kids. Steve Tambellini is the current GM. The scouting department has enjoyed a ripping 36 months. Steve Tambellini has done some nice things but he has to address these glaring (and long term) issues.

Steve Tambellini is the current GM.

  • I think the perfect 4th line would be something along the lines of a Glencross-Brodziak-Stortini trio.. how nice would that be? 😉 OK, I still have a tough time getting over it, as I was a fan of both players.

    I’ve been tooting the Konopka horn though for center though. He isn’t flashy, by any means, but he can play hockey. He can PK a bit, he wins LOTS of draws, and he can scrap. Addresses 3 needs all in one. I wondered why we didn’t take a crack at him this past July, but we have another potential crack at it this coming July.

    I have been on the same page for a while here.. I think the Oilers have some great building blocks, they just need the mortar to stick them all together… the mucker and grinders and stay-at-home, shutdown D (the D we might have covered, possibly… still a question mark though).

    I would too like to see “Horpensky line” together, and the “Blackjack line” (Hall-Gagner-Eberle) stay together. I am not 100% sold on Omark yet (hey he’s only played 2 games), but it might be good to keep him and Paajarvi together, as we might finally be seeing what Paajarvi really can do. The only question is who do we put in the middle… is a guy like Ryan O’Marra also a key to their success? What would that do to Cogliano and Brule? I think we’d be selling low in that case.

    The other option is to send that ENTIRE line down on the basis that they all play together and develop some chemistry for the future. That leaves a hole on line 3 though.

    Anyways, just some random thoughts. But I was just saying today to some others that I think this team is at a point now where it doesn’t have to keep losing. I’d like to see them make an honest effort for the playoffs. If they make the playoffs and lose in round 1.. no big deal.. still great experience. If they don’t make the playoffs at all.. still no big deal. I’d like to see this team put in honest effort again to win.

  • Crackenbury

    Why does Dubnyk need to play more than once a week? Fans and it seems media in Edmonton are always obsessed with the backup on it’s teams. With the Eskimos it’s always the backup that needs to play more and is the better player. What is it exactly about Khabibulins performance this year that should see him pushed to the side to make room for the future? I don’t want to hear about his stats. He’s given this team more opportunity to win this year than they deserve.

    I like the NFL for the way fans coaches and media treat their veteran quarterbacks. They are the teams undisputed starter until they can no longer do the job. People in Edmonton like to start picking at the carcass several years before it’s done. Calls for the backup goalie to play more have gone on for as long as I can remember in Edmonton all the way back to Fuhr and Moog. Dubnyk has shown he can play, he’ll get his opportunity, but calling for him to play right now with the way our starter has been performing makes no sense.

    • Steve Smith

      “What is it exactly about Khabibulins performance this year that should see him pushed to the side to make room for the future? I don’t want to hear about his stats.”

      What is it exactly that started the Second World War? I don’t want to hear about Hitler or Germany.

  • Chris.

    Stu has done a wonderful job with the amateur scouting… But are there are still issues with the Pro scouts? Is this the same staff that targeted Lupil as a “one shot scorer” to play with Hemsky without ever bothering to watch enough tape/ games to realize that Lupil can’t one time the puck? Is this the same staff that didn’t know about Khabi’s hydration issues? Fraisers skating?

  • It seems that being a great faceoff guy does not transfer to being a great teacher of the face off skill.
    Sillinger is head of player development for the Oilers and he survived in this league through damn near every city possible with that one skill. Ive mentioned this disconnect before on here and it puzzles me still.

    The problem that Tambo has (in any deals) currently is that every team in the league is fully aware of how full the Oiler coffers are of promising kids (either here or on the horizon).
    The Oilers want to keep all those kids. They are drafting to fill the holes in this lineup but as noted in this article, the window closes before that full cycle and its various pitfalls can be realized.

    I think part of the issue with many Oiler fans during the Katz era started with his first proclamation. I will spend to the cap! What the delusional heard was….. I will buy you a cup. Ironically this team is way under the cap and playing the most exciting hockey of all previous Katz paid versions…. if somehow they could unload that Souray schmozzle this would be one styling ride.

    Does ST actually make 1.2 million? Its conclusive…..I want to work for Darryl Katz.

  • Lowetide

    EasyOil: Cogliano has been a little better recently (over 50% in 2 of his last three). Small steps.

    I think the Oilers do have some FO candidates on the way (Vande Velde, Lander) but they’re not likely to be ready to help at the NHL level for awhile.

    These are all such solvable problems. The hard part is getting a Taylor Hall!!! 🙂

    • Crackenbury

      “The hard part is getting a Taylor Hall!!!” is obvious but understated. They really are all solvable problems with judicious work by CURRENT GM ST.


  • EasyOil

    LT: Great Article. Seems like you think that Marincin is gonna be a big part of our future blue then? Can’t say I disagree, although it is early days. How awesome would it be if he turned into the next Chara?!

    On the point of acquiring a checking centre with faceoff skills, I have to say I would love to see ol’ Marty Reasoner back in Oil silks, he’s having a great season. I know that it wouldn’t help in the long run, but short term we sure could use someone with his talents and that dressing room presence that Tambo is so fond of.

    I find myself praying that at least one of the current kids could get this faceoff thing figured out, is that so much to ask?! I know Cogs said he worked on it over the summer but it doesn’t seem to have made much difference, at least not consistently. And yet the Coaches barely seem to make mention of our faceoff deficiencies, why is this?! Would be good for someone like Marty to come in and teach the kids how its done, I know he’s know Adam Oates but it couldn’t hurt!!

  • reb98

    Do you see Ryan O’Marra fitting into the bottom six? I already see him as being a better fit than Fraser(bigger,faster, stronger, & better on the dot) & seems to have the right mindset. Doobie HAS to play more! I don’t see how they couldn’t have confidence in him unless they are hoping that Bulin will stand on his head so they can offload his remaining 2 years at the deadline.

    • zytsef

      What makes you say that O’Marra is better on the faceoff than Fraser? Of the guys who have taken more than 100 faceoffs this season (and O’Marra) we have:

      Brule: 54%
      Horcoff: 49.2%
      Gagner: 44%
      Fraser: 43.4%
      Cogliano: 43.2%
      Penner: 42.1%
      O’Marra: 36.4% (12-21 for 33)

      Brule’s number is surprising to me, but I think if he took more than 200 his number might fall closer to 50%. Still, he’s obviously got faceoffs figured out. I think this also shows evidence of progress on Gagner’s and Cog’s part, especially since Gagner now leads the team in faceoffs taken (432).

      I’ll buy reb98’s other arguments for O’Marra, but I don’t think there’s any evidence so far that he’ll have an impact on the dot at the NHL level.