The Andrew Cogliano trade very likely marks the end of activity for the Edmonton Oilers this summer. A tweak there, a tuck here, but it’s pretty much done. If Ty Conklin calls, maybe they’ll answer the phone. However, it looks like the Oilers have mined this summer’s diamond mine and we can begin to speculate about 2011-12.
- Andrew Cogliano: I believe the return is fair. Not overwhelming, but reasonable based on the fact that Cogliano–despite clear skills–lacked some important attributes in the role he was required to fill. This is probably the best things for Cogs–remember when Marty Reasoner had to clear waivers and how much better he played afterward? Sometimes a player can find a better situation, can improve in areas, can realize the absence of alternatives means batting 7th is better than not being in the lineup. For the Oilers, the return is a valuable asset (teams rarely trade their first round picks anymore, without also getting a high pick in return; the currency is round two selections) and a chance to trade up in either of the 2012 or 2013 entry drafts. Cogliano’s time with the Oil was a case of bad timing, that’s all. Had he come in when the team was laden with veterans–say he turned pro and 20 in 2005 fall–the same year he was drafted–the young man could have been developed slowly and the lessons learned at the speed of light may have found him. As it is, he’s still young and has plenty on his resume; I think he’ll have a solid career.
- Center Ice: Much better than it was a year ago. Horcoff and Belanger are veterans who can play multiple roles, and if one is injured (read: Horcoff) there’s a solid backup plan. Sam Gagner is the best offensive option at the position and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins enters the race this fall. The Oilers have a plethora of centermen knocking at the door–Anton Lander, Chris VandeVelde, Ryan O’Marra, Tanner House–it’s a long list. One of them should get a chance this season, as the top 4C’s as they now stand (Gagner-RNH-Horcoff-Belanger) have only Gilbert Brule on the NHL roster as backup. Brule’s injury situation may mean one of the prospects makes the team out of camp.
- The Blue: I don’t think the blue is better, Rather, I think they’ve run in place. The Oilers sent away Kurtis Foster, Jason Strudwick plus Jim Vandermeer and brought in Cam Barker and Andy Sutton. I don’t see that as a clear step forward, in fact one could argue any improvement from the defense will come from a healthy Ryan Whitney and a more experienced Peckham/Petry. The Oilers overall depth in the organization is much better, but the men at the NHL level are not impressive. Beyond Whitney and Gilbert, there’s miles and miles of miles and miles and I’m not certain there’s a sure bet in the bunch who can cover it. We’ll know more a year from now, but there are going to be painful moments for the defense in 11-12 (as currently set).
- The G spot: Well, Devan Dubnyk should start 50 games (if he can handle the load) and Danis might reach out and grab Nikolai Khabibulin’s spot. I keep thinking (stupidly) that the club will deal for a Bobrovsky or even sign a Conklin, therefore allowing the Oilers and the Barons a sure option for next season. As it stands, one injury to Khabibulin and the OKC Barons are playing new pro Olivier Roy every night in the AHL. We’ve seen that movie before and it benefits no one. I suspect the team will either grab someone from waivers or make a small deal just before TC. As big a question mark as the defense is, goaltending towers over it. There are MORE questions now with Gerber in the fjords and Deslauriers on the left coast. Incredible.
- The powerplay: It has to be better simply because the options are so strong. A healtthy Hemsky, a return of the dogged and determined Smyth, and more passing skill than you can shake a stick at for this team. I think Hall will be the trigger man (wish the slot was still available on the PP, that cracking wrister of his would be good for 20PP or more in the days of Orr-Esposito) and the passers include 83, Eberle, Omark and Gagner. Point men will likely be Whitney and Barker. It should see a major improvement over a year ago.
- The PK: Should also be better with Horcoff and Belanger available. The wingers are not as obvious, but I’d pick Smyth and Jones for the role even if it meant taking Smyth from the PP. Oilers lost a lot of games last season on specialty teams, they need to be better.
- The Rookies: A bunch of kids graduated last year (Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark, Petry, Dubnyk, probably missed a few) and there will be fewer this year. Nugent-Hopkins is a strong candidate to stay (I don’t think we’ll have the controversy in this matter that we saw a year ago with Hall. If RNH shows well he stays, if not he’s a Rebel) the entire season. Other strong rookie candidates include Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander, Chris VandeVelde and Colten Teubert. I doubt they have a major impact on the roster, however.
- Darkhorses: Yann Danis is an interesting player, he could win the day in TC and find enough traction to get another contract before spring. Danis isn’t the top level goalie I felt the team might get, but there are some nice numbers in his past. I also think David Musil will fast track beginning in the fall. He won’t make the big club but will surprise with his strong showing and perhaps be sent out later than expected. Ryan O’Marra is in a nice spot too, offering some experience a few skills (faceoffs, PK) that may make him valuable in a support role. Teemu Hartikainen would have to be considered one of the first callups during the season.
- Do the Oilers make the playoffs? I’m not good at predictions.
Let me say this: had the Oilers added a goalie like Bobrovsky and more of a sure thing on the blueline (I’ll use Scott Hannan as an example but there are many) then yes I believe you could be looking at a solid playoff contender. The Oilers have clearly decided to hold back the water on those moves–they are expensive in assets out and in real dollars–choosing instead to improve in smaller steps.
The Oilers finished 15th in their division a year ago, 30th overall. At this moment I’d say they are the 13th best team in the west, 25th best overall.