THE HONEYMOON: LOVE IS BLIND

I can only guess that the young groom on the right was a very happy man when this photograph was taken, even if it’s not necessarily a pretty picture to those with no emotional skin in the game.

In that regard, fans of the Edmonton Oilers might be a little bit like lover boy here after a stretch in which the Oilers plucked young Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the Entry Draft and then followed that up by stealing the show on the first day of the NHL’s free agency season.

After back-to-back 30th-place finishes, fans of the Oilers could use a little bit of a honeymoon when it comes to the love of their lives, and GM Steve Tambellini has certainly provided some anticipation of that by drafting RNH, David Musil and all and then rounding up Ryan Smyth, Ben Eager, Cam Barker, Eric Belanger, Darcy Hordichuk, Andy Sutton and Josh Green via trade and free agency.

I’m thinking the Oilers still resemble the blushing bride on the left a little bit too much to be considered a playoff contender in 2011-12, but long-suffering fans are in for a good time — starting tomorrow, when the Oilers kick-off their prospect camp at Millennium Place.

Like the old BTO lyric from You Ain’t Seen Nuthin’ Yet goes: "They say that any love is good, so I took what I could get, yes I took what I could get . . ."

Tambellini, indeed, did at least that.

BREATHLESS . . .

Writers and fans here have waded in plenty already on Tambellini’s spasm of signings and acquisitions Friday, with a range of opinions from breathless gushing to ho-hum scepticism. Whatever your take might be, Tambellini certainly put his Mr. Dithers persona to rest.

Many people — Bob Stauffer comes to mind as one of the first — have talked at length for some time about the importance of bolstering work done at the draft table with acquiring the right mix of transitional players to help bring the kids along and fill obvious needs, even if those veterans won’t be here when the team is any good.

By any measure, I’m thinking Tambellini has done a pretty good job of that, managing to unload Colin Fraser and malcontent Sheldon Souray in the process, which strikes me as a bonus.

He’s acquired functional toughness in Eager, Hordichuk and Sutton. He got a face-off man in Belanger. In Barker, Tambellini got a reclamation project who is young enough that, if he regains his form, could be a part of things down the road. He got glue guys in Smyth and Green.

WHEN THE HONEYMOON’S OVER

After these back-to-back seasons in the basement, all of it must look pretty good to fans who have had precious little to cheer about these last five seasons. I’m sure the lady on the left looks pretty hot to lover boy, too, especially if he’d been sitting home alone on Friday nights for as long as the Oilers have missed the post-season fun.

For now, with the prospects on the ice tomorrow, enjoy the honeymoon. You’ve earned it. Scratch out some line combinations. Contemplate who will have to be traded — the best bets are apparently Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano — now that this team is so laden with depth Tom Renney won’t have a place for everybody.

We’ll re-visit how this team stacks up, and why, soon enough, like when training camp and pre-season begins. We’ll ask some questions about what still looks to me like a glaring deficiency in goal. We’ll see how all the new pieces fit together, and if they do. Want to talk about being back in the playoffs next season? Get after it.

Any love is good love . . .

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Crash

    Well since I cannot choose Jacques strap to be cut in training camp anymore, Lowetide had Bru on extended IR, and harti being the transitional player i/o, that leave green as the go to guy in the minors and hodichuck in th presser as well.

  • Jodes

    So… Gagner gets 42 pts in 68 games this season and if not for a freak injury projected to hit 50 pts. In his first 3 seasons, he has put up 49, 41 and 41 (in 68 games).

    Let’s compare to the rest of the centers on this year’s Western conference playoff teams:

    CHI – Toews (76pts), (Bolland (37 pts/61gms).

    DET – Datsyuk (59pts/56gms) Filppula (39), Hudler (37).

    NSH – Legwand (41pts/64 gms), Wilson (34), Goc (24pts/51gms).

    ANA – Getzlaf (76), Koivu (45), Mcmillan (21).

    LA – Kopitar (73), Stoll (43), Handzus (30).

    VAN – Sedin (104), Kesler (73), Malholtra (30).

    PHX – Belanger (40), Hanzal (26), Turris (25), Fiddler (22).

    SJ – Thornton (80), Pavelski (66), Couture (56).

    So, Gagner’s point total any one of his first 4 years would have been good enough to be the top center on both NASH and PHX. Also, other than SJ and VAN’s 2nd line centers, Gagner’s point output would have been at least as good, if not better, than every other 2nd line C’s.

    Now maybe there are issues with his battle, his face-offs or his defensive zone play. With regards to that, as stated by many others – he’s 21.

    I think that all of the Gagner haters are the same folks that suggest we trade Cogs and Strudwick for Yandle (etc). Of course, in a world of hopes and dreams and unicorns, Brad Richards is your C2. Otherwise, realize that you’ve got a 21 year old that is holding his own so far on an underwhelming team.

  • Crash

    Very good points, Gongshow. There’s no doubt that Gagner is a quality youngster. And he’s done a lot of that while facing tougher assignments or dragging around two rookie linemates. He’s actually a pretty impressive hockey player. The problem is finding the right role for him that accentuates his strengths.

    He’s trade bait, but only because he has value and his attributes are somewhat replicated elsewhere in the line up. The same way Hemmer is trade bait and Omark.

    +50 point guys are rare in this league and that’s what he’ll be in his prime, so they better get quality back if it’s Gagner that goes.

  • Crash

    @ Brownlee

    With Gagner couldn’t he just move to Right Wing….instead of playing centre?

    He is a better hockey player than Omark…no?

    *Horcoff – Smyth – Hemmer

    *RNH – Hall – Eberle

    *Belanger – MPS – Gagner

    Isn’t it easier for a natural centre to move to the wing than the other way around?

    This club has force fed him 1st and 2nd line mins over the years…why not boost his confidence and play him on the 3rd line and on the wing with a true 2-way centre. Pressure will be off and he can learn a thing or two from Belanger.

  • Jodes

    Btw.. how is Ganger’s hand healing? The Oil camp have been REALLY quiet on that front..

    Injury like the one he suffered could really put a damper on his puck handling/face off abilities.

    Oh and Danny Boy.. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • Crash

    Does anyone else out there think SCOTT HANNAN could be the perfect fit here? He was playing between over 20 minutes on a good team in the playoffs and is still an unsigned UFA. Is it just me or should Tambo be kicking the crap outta those tires like the karate kid? Am I off the mark or could this guy not help? Lowetide, Robin, i’ll leave the rest up to you guys. Flog and Blog my friends. Keep up the great work.

  • Jodes

    I couldn’t wait, here is the first hit i found on Hannan’s scouting report. “Has good size at 6-1, 225 pounds and uses it effectively to play a tight defensive game. Is able to combine a physical defensive game with discipline. Can log a ton of minutes and is a leader.” I was clearly wrong. He don’t need a player like that. Sweet Merciful Crap sign him.

    • shau_co

      My first preference would be to package up some forwards for a top end defenceman. I don’t really want to see Gagner go, but if it brings back a really good young defenceman, then I would be OK with it.

      If that fails, then signing Hannan would be a good fall back. I agree that he has a lot of attributes this team currently needs.

  • Jodes

    I thought this thread was supposed to be letting our fanboi all hang out and post some lines?

    Well I’ll take a shot at it…

    I think this is how they’ll break TC:

    HALL HORC EBER
    SMYT NUGE HEMS

    I have a real problem with this because Hemsky and RNH are very similar players. They both like to hold the puck and find the amazing dishes to a sniper type. However, it protects the kids well.

    If we switch RNH and Gagner, we run into the same problem… Gagner and Hemsky don’t play that well together. And then we have RNH playing with Paajarvi and Omark when he would be better protected playing with Hall and Ebs. Still they might try that for awhile.

    We could go with the old stand by:

    SMYT HORC HEMS
    HALL NUGE EBER

    That means we got 3 young’uns playing together, but at least Hall and Ebs have faced the toughs before. They should be able to keep their head above water playing the seconds, and we may even see a surge in scoring.

    The only other option is to flip Hall and Smyth but I’m leery of messing with Hall and Eberle’s chemistry, and I think the Oil will be too.

    I think shortly after the start of the season we will see the lines change to that top 6, followed by:

    PAAJ BELA OMAR
    EAGE LAND JONE

    With the hope that Lander can eventually move his way up to the 3rd, but it might not be till the season after.

    I can’t see Gagner being kept to play the 4th line. He might be given another chance to find chem with the two Swedes, but the Brass will remember how that worked out last time.

    The only other way I can get Gagner to fit is to trade Hemsky. It might just depend on what deal is on the table as to which one goes

    That leaves Gagner, Brule and Cogliano all to be dealt, which is a tall order.

    • D-Man

      The interesting tangent with all of Tambo’s signings is Belanger. Before that signing, I was under the assumption that RNH would bounce between #2nd/#3 line center… But now – he truly has to earn his spot…

      Obviously, Horcoff and Belanger are going to be in the lineup… I think the fact that Brule is either bought out or on LTIR is also apparent… I also think you’re significantly selling Gagner short… He was having his best offensive season until he got hurt… I think he’d be a good fit between Hemsky/Smyth – even though his FOW percentage is less than desirable… That means you have one roster spot for a 3rd/4th line centre – either Cogs or RNH. If RNH blows the doors off at training camp – I could see him slot between MPS and Omark on a 3rd line… Granted, he isn’t your prototypical 3rd line center but this team doesn’t have the roster for a 3rd line – Omark/MPS aren’t the crasher/bangers that you’d expect… You can give RNH regular 3rd line minutes and 2nd PP unit time and shelter him from tougher minutes that your Horcoff’s and Gagner’s should get.

      I’m really interested to see what happens to Cogs should RNH prove that he’s ready.. I don’t buy the argument of sending him down for the sake of sending him down… Does Cogs get dealt for a 2nd round draft pick?? I can’t see Tambo trying to send him down as he’d definitely get picked up on waivers.. Buying out doesn’t really make much sense either…

      Thoughts??

    • Lofty

      Cant wait for the season to start and Sutton to do this in an Oiler jersey. I’m sure there will be lots of yelling at the TV while he throws clean hits and gets sent to the box for phantom elbowing and charging calls.

  • shau_co

    Based on CapGeek, it looks like Washington needs to move some salary out. They still have to sign Troy Brouwer, who they traded for and only have $500K left.

    I know there have been rumours of Mike Green trades, but what about Jeff Schultz? He is making 2.75M and let me list a few of his stats:

    Born in Calgary

    6’6″, 221 lbs

    +86 on his career in 319 games played

    130 – 140 blocked shots per year

    Would you guys consider trading for him?

    Is there any chance Washington moves him?

  • big joe grizzley

    grizzleys all jacked up on this fine monday morning…the days of getting beat on are over!the oilers have been taking it dry for years and with fridays rfa haul the ”soon to be mighty oilers” have finally started on the right path to respect around the nhl on the toughness front!the oil filled some major holes on friday,great job tambo…..now go trade cogliano,gilbert,brule,and lets get this party started…next year may still be a little rough,but the year after that the nhl better watch out,cuse were coming and baby were bringing the heat…bjg is out

  • big joe grizzley

    What do you think it would take to get Suter out of Nashville? Gags + Cogs + 2nd Rounder??

    And no I’m not dissing on Gags, but you have to give up someone good to get someone good.

    • big joe grizzley

      The quantity-for-quality offer, eh?

      What GM would in his right mind would trade one of the top-10 defenseman in the NHL, and a young one (26) at that, for a second-line and a third-line centre and a draft pick that gets you a big “maybe” in the 35-40th overall range?

  • paul wodehouse

    “…That picture… wow. Is he posing with it because he just married it, or because he just caught it, and is about to tie it to the hood of his pickup?…”

    that’s what i mean!!!…everyone needs a good laugh first thing in the morning

    thanks gerry