At last night’s draft lottery (not a great television show but there was suspense–witness Bryan Murray’s facial expressions throughout the proceedings) Oilers General Manager was resolute when asked if he wanted to be back on the lottery show next year: "Absolutely not!" he told James Duthie. IF the Oilers are serious about staying away from the dungeon, what would this summer look like?
Even from this far away I think we can agree on a few things about this summer. If the Oilers want to step into the elevator shaft that means a lottery pick they can spend the summer quietly. Draft another elite prospect, get some diamonds in the later picks and then wait for the entire group of youngsters to develop.
Steve Tambellini can’t just say "you know James, we’re going to spend the next few seasons getitng really good kids and then dominate for a decade" so we shouldn’t put too much weight on ST’s words last night. However, if the club is serious about getting better, we’ll know about it this summer.
- The draft: If the Oilers plan to reach for higher ground in 11-12, the draft will be about the #1 pick and getting quality with the LAK pick and their own selection at #31. Veterans like Hemsky, Gagner and Gilbert won’t be in play. The number one pick won’t be on the big league roster.
- The free agency period will have some nice acquisitions. Along with Ryan Jones, perhaps a Clarke MacArthur or Scottie Upshall will be under the tree. Signing an NHL calibre defensemen (say Denis Grebeshkov) would go a long way to making things right.
- Another Martin Gerber type signing–a quality goalie who can play in the NHL and do the job–is vital. The Oilers don’t have any AHL depth now with the free agency situation and Khabibulin’s fade is likely to continue. NK has a lot of miles on him and can see his 40th birthday on the horizon.
- A solid center who can help on the PK and in the faceoff dot. Someone like Boyd Gordon. I know Vande Velde showed well late in the season but this team is so poor when it comes to established veterans that signing Gordon and having him play those vital special teams minutes can go along way to improving the PK.
So, what would that look like?
- GOALER: Devan Dubnyk, Nikolai Khabibulin, real strength in the AHL
- DEFENSE: Whitney-Petry, Peckham-Gilbert, Grebeshkov-Smid and Foster or Chorney
- CENTER: Horcoff-Gagner-Cogliano-Gordon
- LEFT WING: Hall-MacArthur-MPS–Hartikainen-Reddox
- RIGHT WING: Hemsky-Eberle-Jones-Omark-enforcer (not my choice but Renney likes enforcers)
It isn’t perfect, but it’s better. And there’s a chance this team would be able to endure the annual injuries better and finish outside the lottery. We’ll know this summer.