TURNING OVER TOUGHNESS

It is much easier being tough on the Internet than it is being a tough guy in the NHL, and while I’ve always respected the guys who are willing to throw down on a regular basis and risk getting KO’ed, all arrows point to the Oilers making a massive overhaul in their toughness department.

Last season the Oilers finished 7th in the league with 55 fighting majors. The Blues were tops with 78, while the Bruins and Penguins had 71, the Islanders (68), Ducks (67) and Rangers (62) were the only teams with more fights.

Four of the top ten fighting teams made the playoffs, while eight of the bottom ten least fight-happy teams made the playoffs. Clearly you don’t need to fight often to win in today’s NHL, instead you need guys who are willing to do it if need be, and most importantly; they need to be able to play.

Theo Peckham led the Oilers with ten fights, but he also averaged 18:35 of icetime a night, 6th most on the team. Peckham was valuable because he wasn’t just physical; he proved he could contribute in more  ways than just through his fists. I love watching a good tilt almost as much as a good goal, but you need fighters who can play, and it is clear the Oiler coaches didn’t  have faith in their fighters, or their fighters just weren’t good enough to play.

Steve MacIntyre might be the toughest guy in the league following the unfortunate passing of Derek Boogaard, but MacIntyre only dressed in 34 games and averaged 3:32 of icetime. He had seven fights, and all of them got the fans and player’s attention. He crushed Raitis Ivanans on opening night, had two tough tilts with Boogaard in November, tangled with Colton Orr in Dec, had a draw with George Parros in February, had an epic slugfest with David Koci in March and snapped on Brad Staubitz in April. Essentially he fought once a month.

The problem for MacIntyre was that outside of fighting he didn’t contribute much. MacIntyre is one of the most humble guys you will meet. He truly enjoys and relishes everyday he is in the NHL, and being a super heavyweight he risks getting his face broken every time he drops the mitts,however, I don’t see the Oilers re-signing him and I can understand why.

There are only a handful of guys who are willing to fight Big Mac, and gone are the days where you can truly intimidate through fisticuffs. Don’t post in the comment sections that MacIntyre should just grab a guy and beat him to a pulp, because then the Oilers’ skilled players would instantly get more room.

Sorry folks, the league doesn’t work that way anymore.

If MacIntyre could play even seven or eight minutes a night then he’d be worth re-signing. If he got that type of icetime he might be able to intimidate by throwing a big hit, or getting in someone’s face in front of the net, but it is virtually impossible to intimidate while sitting on the bench. The Oilers won’t find a guy tougher than MacIntyre in free agency, but they could find a guy who will fight more and play more; Zenon Konopka.

Konopka was 2nd in the NHL with 25 fights last season, and he led the league in 2010 with 33. He isn’t a super heavyweight, but he is tough enough to fight the guys that get out of line, and more importantly he can play. He was 57.7% in the dot last season, and only Paul Gaustad, Manny Malhotra and David Steckel had a better success rate while taking at least 1075 faceoffs.

Konopka averaged 10:11 TOI each game, he wins faceoffs, he can kill penalties and he is a good dressing room guy. He was 4th amongst Islanders forwards in PK icetime, which is pretty good considering he spent almost 250 minutes in the box for fighting and misconducts. The Islanders were 12th on the PK last year, in case you wondering.

The Oilers should offer Konopka a three-year, $3 million deal. Sure it might be a slight overpayment, but he will protect the kids, and he can contribute in more ways than just fighting.

NEW BLOOD WILL BE SHED

Zack Stortini, JF Jacques and Jason Strudwick also look like they’ve played their last game with Edmonton. Stortini (8), Jacques (5) and Strudwick (3) were in the top seven amongst Oilers in fights last season, but it is clear the organization is looking in a different direction. Strudwick played the most and showed the best in his tilts, but the Oilers want to get younger and quicker on the backend.

The Oilers have to offer Stortini a one-way deal prior to July 1st to retain his rights and they won’t do that so he will become an UFA. They’d have to do the same for Jacques at around $675,00, which won’t happen, so both former 2003 draft picks will be looking for work elsewhere this summer.

Jacques’ inability to stay healthy is why he won’t be coming back and Tom Renney clearly lost confidence in Stortini last season, so why would they bring both players to camp in September?

Some guys they should look at if they’re still available on July 1st include Ben Eager, Tanner Glass, Mike Rupp, Aaron Asham, Brad Winchester or Cam Janssens, although if they get Konopka there is no need for Janssens.

I fully expect Teemu Hartikainen to start the season on the 4th line, and while he won’t replace the fighters, he is a big body along the boards, who skates well enough and can cause problems down low.

OTHER OPTIONS

The Oilers can’t go into next season with only Peckham and a guy like Konopka, so I wonder how hard they will try to re-sign Jim Vandermeer. Vandermeer was brutal for the first 40 games last year, but he got comfortable after that and played well. He definitely is tough enough to handle most guys in the league, and if he can play like he did in the 2nd half of the season, then I’d offer him a one-year deal around $1 million.

The Oilers need to get more productive minutes from their physical players this season, but they also aren’t good enough yet to go into a season without at least three of four physical players that will keep the opposition honourable.

  • Jason Gregor

    Gregor:

    You seem to be oversimplifying things imo.

    For instance, shouldn’t toughness be used as a deterrent as opposed to a reactionary measure?

    If so, then does the amount of fights one team has really tell us anything about whether or not opposing clubs were “kept honest”?

    If you have a country without crime some would argue there is no need for police. Chicken or egg?

    Not saying your general opinion is right or wrong but you haven’t really proven anything with the numbers you cited.

    I think everyone would prefer Lucic to Smack, Getzlaf to Gagner and Kesler to Horcoff.

    Edmonton’s insistence to employ 2 minute per night enforcers speaks to how management feels about the the 15-20 minute per night players more than flawed philosophical breakdown imo.

    More than an enforcers, and more than tough guys that can play, Edmonton needs to get rid of the sissies that play heavy minutes (Horcoff, Gagner ect).

    • Jason Gregor

      The point of the article was to talk about changing their 4th line pluggers, not talk about pipe dreams of acquiring guys who are tough and skilled.

      Of course the Oilers need more size in their top-six that can play, but unless they draft it they won’t acquire it.

      I’ve written many times they need more size, but I think Hall brings that without fighting.

      I think you are missing the point. The Oilers need to find guys who are GOOD enough to play ten minutes a night. They didn’t have any that was the point.

      • John Chambers

        This is about the 8th time I’ve seen you suggest this trade or some derivative of it within the last week.

        Steve Tambellini does not read this website. He does not canvas our your posts for ideas. Your suggestion of this trade will do nothing to actually manifest it into anything concrete.

        To humour you – yes the trade is interesting. It is not altogether unbalanced and if it came true I think most in Oilerville would be happy with it. So congrats, clever you.

        Now that it has been acknowledged please feel free to move on from it and contribute other ideas to the Nation community.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Appologies Mr. Chambers….

          I’m currently conducting an in depth brainwashing study/experiment here on Oilersnation.com. If i cease and desist all data will be lost.

          [edit] The data reveals 5 confirmed occasions in which i presented this proposal here between May 21 and June 6th 2011. Your guesstimation of 8 times in a span of the last week misses the mark at tad i’m afraid. I know how you value accurate imformation John, for a small access fee you too can have this unquestionable data at your disposal. LMK….kay?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    When you have the likes of Cooke and clutterbuck running your star players,having an enforcer trade blows with another teams enforcer is a deterrent how?A clear message needs to be sent.Run our star players and we will target your star players.Is it any wonder Hemmer is in such rough shape after the years of abuse he has taken?

    • GEP

      The injuries got worse after George left. Anyone think that Montreal didn’t think twice about not having an enforcer after the Pacioretti hit by Chara. The runts in Montreal had no choice but suck it up and walk away. I don’t disagree with the need to have someone who can play more minutes. I just don’t think that we are going to find that player on our fourth line. I think we need to look at a player who does what you describe but plays on defence rather than up front. Peckham has become the protype for that kind of player. Is there another Peckham type player in our organization or elsewhere who could play 12-14 minutes a night on defense but could also fill the enforcer role(McSorley).

      • GEP

        Ya, we have prospects that fill that role. Teubert is the perfect example, though he isn’t ready to play at the NHL level. Plante could also fill the role, as could Marincin (maybe the best of the three, but also probably at least 2 years away from playing).

        We need a stable of players just like that, guys that can play a lot and fight enough. If they can be in the running for mustache of the year ala Peckham, all the better too.

        With Penner gone Hartikainen has a guaranteed roster spot up front as far as I’m concerned. We can add a few more guys like that in the next while (Hamilton to the fourth line in another year, hopefully draft McNeil) we’ll be set. In the mean time, a guy like Konopka makes good sense for a 2 year deal.

  • CanaDave

    If the Oil decide to bring back SMac as the 13th or 14th F on the roster and slip him into the 4th line for 20-30 games against division rivals and teams that have comparable players, I wouldn’t really have a problem with that. I’d rather waste the non-lineup spot on a guy like SMac who clearly knows his role instead of having a young player up and sitting in the pressbox when he could be developing in OKC.

    I really like the idea of Konopka in the bottom 6 if he would sign a contract similar to the one suggested by Gregor since he would fill more than 1 need for the Oilers short term, but if not him I do hope Tambo puts a hand in the shallow end of the FA pool to try and pull out a 4th line shift-disturber for around 1mil/yr.

    I wanted to finish this post with a trade suggestion as insane as the Kesler “deal” proposed earlier in this thread, but I couldn’t get lightning to strike me on my roof even holding a 8 foot metal pipe over my head so I can’t make my brain think in such a clearly irrational manner.