THOUGHTS FROM GARBAGE BAD DAY

Kesha made this garbage bag dress herself, supposedly, and wore it to the 2010 VMAs. As garbage bag dresses go, it isn’t that bad, and yesterday when the Oilers cleaned out their lockers, had their season ending meeting with the coaches and spoke to the media the feeling wasn’t as bad as previous years.

Last season, outside of Sheldon Souray’s classic rant, the rest of the interviews were about as exciting and uplifting as listening to your buddy ramble on about his/her past relationships.

Yesterday the attitude was rather upbeat, considering the Oilers just finished 30th for the second consecutive season. This team hasn’t wallowed in self pity very often this year, so we shouldn’t be surprised that yesterday was more about looking ahead at a bright future, rather than focusing on another dreadful season.

VANTAGE POINTS

I had a chance to speak to a variety of players and get their thoughts on a few different issues.

What is Tom Gilbert going to work on this summer?

 

Individually I’m going to work on a lot, especially when it comes to shooting. I know my scoring has been down, and I found myself in the right spots plenty of times, but I didn’t get the finish I wanted. I need to focus on my shot this summer. The more you do, the more comfortable you get with it. I took a lot of time off the ice last summer; because I thought that is what my body needed, but I think the more time you spend on the ice, mess around, shot pucks and stay with the game all summer, then I will come into the season more prepared and hopefully with a better shot.

I asked Devan Dubnyk if he feels he is ready to start 50 games next season.

 

I think so. With Khabby here, I think he has a lot of good hockey left in him, coming in next year it will probably be a similar situation as this year. At the same time I want to play as many games as I possibly can, and there were a lot of opportunities to play back-to-back games, and four games in ten days this year and getting those opportunities builds to being consistent and learning how to play those situations. I certainly got the chance to experience that this year, and I definitely want to play more games next year.

Theo Peckham was probably the biggest surprise this season, and from start to finish he was their best D-man. For a guy who some thought should have been sent to OKC after the preseason, he had a breakout year. I asked him how he improved so much.

I looked at it like there was nothing to lose. Either you make it or you go back to where you’ve been the last three years. I really didn’t want to go back to the American league, and that was a big motivator. After not having the greatest training camp and the coaches showing still showing they had faith in me, that made it an easy and comfortable environment for me to come in and just play my game. That gave me a lot of confidence and outside of a short spell, I thought I played fairly consistent.

The Oilers don’t have many UFAs, but Ryan Jones is the one most fans want to see re-signed. Jones spoke to me about where his mindset is at right now.

It hasn’t really changed. My mind wants to come back here next year, and I’ve said all along I want to be here, so it is just a matter of getting the business stuff together and agreeing on terms. Most of the times when a player wants to be in a city, it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’ve said all along I want to be here. We’ll see what happens, but it doesn’t always work the way you plan.

Is a three-year deal the security you are looking for, because I don’t think you’ll get a 12 year deal?

(Laughs) I’m not really to sure on the terms; it all depends on what the team is thinking. I know that two years from now will be a tough year for the team, so you have to look at both sides. Three years would be phenomenal, but we need to find out where both sides are coming from. I said at the start of the year I thought I could be a guy who could chip in 15-20 goals, and that was before I even started scoring goals. That is where I see myself. I think we can all agree I’m not a first line player, but I’d like to think I could play up in the lineup when need be, so that is where I’m hoping to fit in the organization.

I asked Shawn Horcoff if he thinks they need a few more veterans guys mixed in with the rookies/sophomores/young guys next season?

That always helps. I think at the same time, it is hard to find good veteran players to come in that are leaders and good players. I think it is a little bit of both. I think we are going to need some guys to take another step forward, guys who are four, five, six year pros now; to become leaders. I’m sure if the opportunity arises over the summer through free agency or a trade he (Tambellini) will bring someone in.

Jim Matheson asked Horcoff which young guys impressed him late in the season.

I thought Hartikainen was great. The physicality he brought, he can score some goals and he finishes every check and we need that. You can only have so much skill and so much youth in the lineup. You need to sprinkle in some grit, that’s what good teams have. You can’t have four lines of skilled guys. I think Harts did a good job of recognizing that, playing his own game and realizing what game he has to play to be successful and I thought he was great.

Leino (Omark) proved he can play. He is competitive and works hard. Vandy (Vande Velde) got better the more games he played, and he will compete for a spot next year. Pete (Petry) is going to be a very solid defenceman for us, he moves the puck well and sees the ice well, and the list goes on.

THEN THE MAN SPOKE

Taylor Hall had a few interesting things to say about his first season and his plans for next year.

What did you learn in your first NHL season?

When I first came in the speed of the game was the biggest challenge, and it was tough to adjust at first. It is funny, there is not as much hitting as you’d think there would be. Players are too fast, and that surprised me a bit. As the season progressed you realize how good the players are, and the D-men are great at containing you and having good gaps so you can’t really do anything. Overall team defenses are so good that when you come over the line you can’t cut into the middle and fake a pass, or fake a shot, you have to put it on net or make a play right away.

After producing like you did are you confident that you can produce at this level?

It is nice to know that my style of game, or how I play, has transitioned well to the NHL, but I want to keep improving as a player, continuing working with my teammates and getting chemistry with whoever I play with next year. I want to become a better player at both ends of the rink, but at the same time it is nice to know that whatever I’ve done has worked and I had a pretty good year.

What are your goals for next season? 

I want to be a player that plays PK, plays PP, plays everything and I want to become a leader on this team. I just said a lot of things there (chuckles), but it’s what I want to be. I expect a lot from me and this summer is going to be big for me, and if I can come back next year and have a good year and set some goals for myself it will be a good year.

PARTING SHOTS

  • Listening to Hall speak about his goals for next season, and how important this summer will be for him, it is hard not to believe he will be the offensive leader of this team. Hall is very driven. He talked about how he will use this extra long summer to workout, get stronger, faster and improve his shot. I’d expect him to be 200 pounds when he comes to camp in the fall.

    He was 195 this year, and feels he can get much stronger. He really wants to be a leader on this team, and it is refreshing to hear a player talk so passionately about how much better he wants to become. He didn’t come across as arrogant or selfish, instead he came across as a guy who believes in his ability and realizes that if he works harder he will be better. This team hasn’t had a player with Hall’s skill or drive in many years, and I have no doubt he will a leader on the ice next season, despite being only 19 years old.
     

  • It seems clear that the players feel Vande Velde is better than Ryan O’Marra. No one came out and said it, but when I asked different players about young guys competing for jobs next year, not one of them mentioned O’Marra, but they all talked about how well Vande Velde played down the stretch. Sometimes the message is clear even when no one says it. That is too bad, because I like O’Marra as an interview and a guy. He gives insightful answers and doesn’t just run out cliche answers.
     
  • None of the players were satisfied with their season, but everyone I spoke with was confident about the future. Their goal is to compete for the playoffs, and they expect that to become reality, not just something you say, like they did last October.
     
  • Today I’m going to ask Tom Renney what he feels he and the coaching staff need to improve on for next season. Robin Brownlee asked every player what they thought of Renney this year, and to a man they raved about his demeanor, patience and his desire for them to succeed. That comes as no surprise, considering Renney has a teacher mentality, but when your PK and PP are 29th and 27th respectively, and your team felt their way cautiously into too many games, the coaches need to come up with something different. I’m curious to hear what areas he and his staff feel they need to improve on next season.
  • So anyways, I went for a workout today and who do I run into but all the guys out for a team-building session after finishing up at the Rex. They were out on the curling rink getting lessons from Olympic gold medalist Kevin Martin. They sure seemed to be enjoying themselves, something I wouldn’t have expected after this season.

    Seeing the players having fun together kind of shows you that they’re a pretty solid group. Just regular guys in jeans and hoodies out for an afternoon. And to a one they seem like pretty decent people too – they signed everything the little kids brought up to them and took a few pics with them too. I know we all have fun crapping on them during the season, but sometimes I think we forget they’re just like us, just really REALLY good at hockey.

    After that experience, maybe I’ll take a step back next year in the criticism department. Hockey is just a game at the end of the day.

    Have a good summer everybody!

    • Big Perm

      Just a game – the best one on earth at that!

      I’ve been called a dreamer, but how about planning to put in Olympic ice at RX2?

      Who gives a crap, baseball parks are way different from one another.

      How long do we expect to have NHL hockey at the inevitably soon to be built new arena?

      May save some major renovation costs down the road. So what if we’re the only team out of 30 with Olympic.

      An intriguing thing would be our “home ice advantage” with other teams struggling to adjust.

      Yes I’m a dreamer. But the game has changed. Players are faster and bigger in this new NHL, and I think it would be a major statement from Katz.

      Afterall, he’s said himself he’d do anything within reason (obviously less tickets sold) to give this team a chance to win.

    • book¡e

      I think one of the things that they found when signing guys like Pronger and Souray is that established players bring their ‘profesional’ version of hockey with them. That means that after the game, you say bye to the team and you see them back at ‘work’ for practice, etc.

      The Oilers have long had a reputation for being a team that eats together and hangs out together (particularly on the road) and I think that part of the culture repairing that Tambi wanted to undertake was to restore that by only bringing in like minded vets and young guys.

  • I wouldn’t say O’Marra impressed me this year, per say, but he didn’t look completely out of place either. But I agree with the majority that Vandevelde definitely looked much, much better out there, and I’m really excited to see if he can bring it next season. Could be a tough break for O’Marra, but on the flip side the competition could be exactly what the doctor ordered for these bubble guys. And worst case scenario we have another solid player on the farm (in either of them, really).

    Sounds lot a lot of good things coming out of the room today. What’s that saying, “After the darkness comes the light”? Next year probably isn’t going to be leaps and bounds better than this horrific season, but I think we can all see more and more rays of light starting to peak through the clouds.

    God that sounds ranty and disjointed. Staring at footage of planes and fireworks for 9 straight days will do that I guess (only three more days, only three more days…).

  • The PK this year was terrible like mentioned but I think it is more of a fine tuning then blowing everything up. The most noticable thing I caught onto was the Dman for the Oil were always out of position on goals. Alot of the time there was a Dman behind the net or way to high up in the zone leaving 2-1’s and 3-1’s. Remember the Oilers in the early 2000’s and how they would block shots at will, I think the Oil should make a tape of those PK warriors and show the forwards how to effectively block shots from the points.

    The PP will be better next year if we can get a full season out of Hemsky and Whitney. Omark and Gagner will be better next year on the PP as well.

    Speaking of the coaching staff I hate to say it but I think Buchy needs to be relieved of his job. If he was the head of the PK and it produced in the fashion it did there should be no reason to keep it the same old way that wasnt working.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    This year was exactly what we needed in order to know what we had. Even the massive amount of injury was a benefit so we could see guys from OKcity sure we all would of rather seen Hall play but he is a 99% known commodity. yes 30th place is no fun but we are miles ahead of 12 months ago. The team needs to add a free agent or two this summer. Not big priced superstars but get in to the trench men. Blue collar hockey players with great d-Skill and crust. My “I wonder” question of the day is will S Mac drop the gloves on any one hitting Hall next year and take the extra 2 and the game misconduct. That is what I want to see.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I really don’t understand that outfit. The rings, the hair, garbage bag, ash smears on arm, random beads etc…

    Can you ask Renney if he thinks they can move on from working on the basics and if they will start focusing on the smaller things like FO, blocking shots, SO etc… Or do they still have lots to learn on the basics of the game.

    Seems their PK came a long way this year, so I’m happy with that but the PP seemed pretty inconsistent. Wonder how much better Whitney makes it?

  • smiliegirl15

    I really don’t understand that outfit. The rings, the hair, garbage bag, ash smears on arm, random beads, etc…

    It’s very Tina Turner – Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

    These kids have all the right attitudes going forward. I think if we can mix in some solid experience via free agent or, god forbid, offer sheet, then we’ll have something to give the rest of the league a run for their money.

    It really was exciting last place hockey this season for the most part. It always felt like they were just on the edge of something special.

  • book¡e

    Jason “I’ll decide” Gregor a good nickname? Or Jason ” aprettybigdealroundhere” Gregor? Anyway, I hope the long awkward pauses in some shows don’t continue, unless the hosts name is Jim Rome and not someone else.

  • neojanus

    I would ratgher see Brule with omark and harty instead of cogs on that 3rd line…… but can brule stay healthy…. seems like, maybe not.. more fat to be trimmed…….

  • neojanus

    Hey, sorry to bug you all but is there going to be a press conference from Tambellini in regards to the season? I have been disconnected for a few days and wasn’t sure if he has yet.

    I still want to hear his account for the season, much like last year. I believe that he has some important issues to address and wish that he’d let the press ask some tough questions regarding the “rebuild”.

    Cheers.

  • Adam D

    In what universe was Peckham our best defenseman? Unless you meant best rookie defenceman, in which case that’s definitely a defensible statement, pun intended.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Instant rebuild: draft RNH sign Shea Webber to a max. RFA contract and give up the picks (we have the extra first).

    Baboom: Webber – Gilbert, Whitney – Smid, Peckham – Petry. Foster as your 7th. Let the kids up front run & gun

  • Ender

    Vande Velde looked good to me when I saw him in pre-season in Vancouver; I’m glad he got a long look at the end of the year here. If he displaced someone that started this season in the bottom six, that would be fine by me.

    Harsky is a nice surprise. Even if he doesn’t make the team out of camp next season, he’ll definitely ensure that someone plays their ass off to make the squad ahead of him.

    With the emergence of both of those guys and the solid performance from Jones, I fear the writing is on the wall for Reddox. There just isn’t room for everyone and if you’re trying to figure out what will help your squad make the playoffs next season, the players over 6′ and 200lb are likely to be the first people you look to.

    Speaking of Jones, does anyone else read his comments above and hear someone who sounds like he is going to be asking for a boatload of money this offseason? There is no doubt that Jones exceeded a lot of people’s expectations this season (certainly me among them). Besides the obvious question being “Can he repeat it again next year?”, perhaps the better question is “What are you willing to bet on it?” What would you offer Jones to play here next year? Is he a $1M like Cogs? $1.85M like Brule? $2.5M? I’m pretty sure some idiot GM will throw a bunch of money at Jones this summer. The question isn’t whether he’d look good in an Oilers sweater next season, but rather whether we’d be comfortable overpaying for him to do so and by how much.

    • And an overpay for Jones might be what, a few hundred thousand bucks? We’ll be ridiculously under the cap for the next couple of years and both Jones and the Oilers know it. So what if we “overpay” him? In the greater scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. If anything, it’ll show what sort of talent we value and send a message that we’re open for business. Might not be a big deal now, but it could mean something in a couple of years.

      If Jones gets signed, it’ll be for market value. What’s does that sort of guy get paid on said open market? Let’s stop thinking like a pack of grannies hording pennies in jam jars. The overpay argument for guys like Jones doesn’t hold any water on a team with as much payroll slack as we have.

      • Ender

        On the one hand, you’re right when you say that we’ve got the money and if we want to give Jones $4M a year, we could do it.

        On the other hand, there are negatives to overpaying even if you have cap-room to burn. You think the rest of the team isn’t going to be looking at what we give Jones and measuring it against their own paycheque? Cogs played on a bargain contract this season and everyone in the world knew it. When Brule looks at the fact that he makes almost twice as much as Cogs and scored a quarter of the points, he better be hanging his head. He sure as hell would have a tougher time looking for a raise. Other players do similar things when they measure themselves against Cogs, so that’s a great contract to have on the team in more ways than one.

        On the other hand, you start paying guys like Jones $2M to anchor your third line, other guys on the squad start saying things like “Jonesey is the fifth-highest paid forward on the team? Damn, I need to sit down with my agent.” Inflation doesn’t stop at the gas-pumps and while we can afford to burn some money tomorrow, the few hundred-K or 1M that we overpay could translate to several other overpayments of equal magnitude down the line when other guys want the same treatment. That adds up to either a lot of ‘wasted’ cap-space or a lot of hard-feelings when the Oilers start playing hardball and paying market-value.

        If Jones wants to sign here for $1.5M for the next year or two, you could look other Oilers in the eye and justify it. You start pushing him up to that $2M-mark, you’re going to start to set yourself up for trouble, especially if his numbers dip next season.

        • Of course you’re right. But we both know Jones isn’t going to get $2M on this or probably any team. An overpay in my mind might mean $1.4M-$1.6M. Again a few hundred thousand isn’t going to mean anything to anybody. Besides, when you have Shawn Horcoff on your team there’s no way you could possibly say anybody else is getting overpayed by comparison.*

          *Yeah. Sorry. I went there.

          • Ender

            I think some idiot GM is going to offer Jones $2M this summer. And I think Jones is going to take it. And I think there will be more than one person on this board calling out Tambellini for being a first-class moron for letting Jones ‘get away’.

            I think you’re pretty smart, Davey-Boy, when it comes to what people should do. I also think, though, that you might be giving them a little too much credit regarding what they’re actually going to do.

            On that note, let us both pray that I’m not the one giving Tambellini too much credit here. If he matches that offer . . . he’s not really that dumb, is he?