Confessions of an Oiler Fan

My name is Lowetide and I haven’t thought about the Oilers trading for a defenseman in five minutes. (polite applause)

Since trading Chris Pronger (and allowing Jaro Spacek and others to leave without replacing them adequately) the Edmonton Oilers blue has been bluer than blue. Purple, maybe. As an Oiler fan, it’s like watching one giant experiment over many seasons. I know other teams have NHL defensemen, I see them all the time. But the Oilers keep moving out Vandermeers and shuffling in Suttons without ever really having a plan. I don’t recall the last time Edmonton acquired a quality NHL defemseman in his prime without also sending one away.

I think it is beginning to have an impact on me as a fan. I get all jittery when the opposition reaches center ice, and when said team gains the zone and possession my mind runs around in lock step with the Oiler defenders. Pell mell, that’s our blue.

What does the future hold? As always we look to the past. This 1979 preview of the Oilers defense offers us a clue about the current club’s future.

Over the hills added to fresh faced rookies with a giant dose of never weres.

There’s a good pairing here

True, the Oilers (when healthy) could cobble together a solid pairing from Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert. Also true that Ladislav Smid has improved over the last couple of seasons and could be considered an actual NHL defenseman at this time. Hell, I’ll even throw in Andy Sutton who blocks out the sun, blocks shots and blocks forward progress for opposition wingers.

After that, we’re developing at the NHL level while other teams are icing superior pairings. Theo Peckham is a horse and serves as an enforcer who can play the position. Still, as a young blue he’s in learning mode and could take a couple of years to reach Smid levels. Jeff Petry has stepped up this fall and gives us someone with a nice range of skills to look forward to watching for years to come.

Added to that is a long list of blue chippers, guys like Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and others. These men will eventually emerge as useful NHL players and could be a big part of the cluster that begins winning playoff series toward the end of this decade.

THEN WHAT ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT?

I don’t love this defense even when it’s healthy. We don’t know how many puck movers or heart and soul men are coming through the system and we don’t know how many of them will be wasted on the way due to injury, ineffectiveness, etc. All we really know is that the Edmonton Oilers haven’t had a top flight defensive group in years and they are more than a Jason Smith away from being anything.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

It means the forwards are miles ahead of the blue in this rebuild, and the prospects we’re going to see here in a few years will be ready to help a couple of years after Taylor Hall is getting paid in full. It means the plan is flawed, it means the Oilers are going to have to trade from strength to address weakness. 

I confess: I want the Oilers to made a trade for a defenseman today, and am terrified of the result if they do. The pro scouting department isn’t exactly Stu MacGregor-credible,  the last time the club made a big deal to acquire a quality NHL defenseman they sent a better one away and this is the exact time when other teams see the Oilers coming.

Getting 10 cents on the dollar for these fine forwards is not acceptable, but is very possible. Oiler fans are between a rock and a hard place this morning. It’s a big test for Steve Tambellini. Collecting assets is one thing, deciding on which ones to keep and which ones to cast away quite another.

In a very real way, this is opening day for Steve Tambellini as Oilers GM. Godpseed.

  • justDOit

    All these injuries. What is it with the hockey gods? What do we need to sacrifice? A goat? two chickens? Dan Tencer? Will that appease them? Mind you, if I needed a fresh reason to renew my hatred of all things canuck I got it last night. Two head shot penalties. A knee on knee on Hall. A head hunting charge on RNH. In a freaking exhibition game. I hate the Canucks. But I fear the hockey gods even more.

  • Rob...

    As bad as the score was last night, don’t forget that Khabi, guaranteed to let at least 3 behind him a night, was in net.

    LT, what do you think of our forwards ability to play both ends of the ice this year compared to years past?

    • TAE0145

      You do realize they scored 2 empty netters and the Oilers were out chancing them for most of the game. Kind of early to panic when you haven’t even officially lost a game!!!

      • Rob...

        I don’t think I’m panicking. I agree with LT that with our trades and pickups that the Oilers have some veteran forwards who are more capable of playing both ends of the ice. On top of that, our rookies also seem to understand the need… especially surprising in Hall since he idolizes Iginla… cherry picker extraordinaire.

        I also think that a 4-1 loss with Khabi in net is hardly a surprise, regardless who you put in front of him as his defensive corp. I’d also rather lose a lot of 2-1 & 3-2 games with DD in net and our current defense than give away a valuable asset for a lesser return just cuz we NEED another veteran D.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Weekend results were as follows – Khabibulin at .893 on Saturday and Dubnyk at .880 on Friday. Neither is providing what is considered adaquate NHL goaltending. Who should we point both barrels at?

    • Lowetide

      I really like the additions of Smyth and Belanger, even Eager can help imo. Plus Hordichuk is such a massive upgrade over MacIntyre I think the difference is palpable.

      Add that to good health for Horcoff and Hemsky, along with one more year of experience for the gifted kids and it’s a nice group.

      Very pleased with the forwards.

  • justDOit

    Big IF. The Oilers finish last or near last and Yakupov is available do we pass on him to fill an organizational need at defense or do we take the best player available? how would you like that kind of talent lined up with MP and Lander? I would take Yakupov and trade assets to get a stud dman when we need it.Do we really want to win this year with Yakupov as the carrot? Play Bulin and we’ll be assured of that 30th place finish once again. Last night is the perfect example of why we will be in the lottery. Our D is porous and our goaltending is suspect. Its not so much Bulin lets goals in, its the when he lets them in. It always seems to be at a crucial point in the game.he gives up the gola that beats us. Thats what bites me. That 3rd goal with less than a minute to go is a backbreaker. He has to make that save.

  • What scares me most is ST might be really happy with the recent turn of events.

    I picture him in the Dithers Cave worrying about how he’s going to handicap the tem this year. Even though it would take a lot of Things going right (no softmore slumps, healthy vets, DD grabbing #1, Jupiter aligning with Mars), there was a real chance that the Oilers would finish out of the lottery picks this season. If this GM knows one thing, it’s that his job is to win that draft. Every. Year.

    Now all he has to do is nothing. Just toss out a few lines about it being a great opportunity for the young defenders and career AHLers in the system to step up and/or develop, remind everyone that rebuilding could take 15-20 years, and you’re golden.

    Katz should be getting paid by every other team as compensation for being their NHL level farm team. Everyone gets a real good look at the forwards they’ll be able to buy in a few years when they are unrestricted and sick of losing.

    Even better, all our young racehorses will strain against the hobble so hard they will start their own cycles of perpetual injury, allowing ST to “address” the blue-line without fear of finishing outside of first place… In June.

    If ST doesn’t do something to ice an actual NHL level defensive core this year, he must be fired.

  • RexLibris

    From where I sit, I wouldn’t be moving any bodies right now for a D-man. I think part of our response is because we’re still reeling from the Fedun injury and the fact that we lost (temporarily) 3 D-men on one night.

    The fact is that we have a week before we open, some players will come back in that time, others will be available by the end of October. The only D lost to long-term injury thus far is Fedun. Don’t get me wrong, this hurts because he was like found money, at 22 he looked like he was only a step or two away from being at the same level as Tom Gilbert and you can say what you like about Gilbert but that’s a pretty decent defenseman to come across. But I feel we are in a half-way decent position overall because we have bodies returning by month-end in Whitney, Smid, and Chorney.

    We have first dibs on the waiver wire for October, and most importantly, we have a team that is not yet within it’s window for “winning” (to quote Mr. Sheen). As I see it we’re on the lookout for a swing 2nd to 3rd pairing defenceman who can keep his head above water for about a month or until we get Whitney and Smid back. to paraphrase Carey Price from last year, they’re not handing out the Cup in October or November, so let’s just calm down.

    I’d rather take our time and victimize another team’s need at the deadline to secure a top D than be the one over the barrel before the season has even started.

    A decade ago this wouldn’t have been as serious an issue because, as you once put it LT, the Oilers looked like they could find defensemen in a snowstorm.

    With regards to this being a true test for the pro-scouting dept., I agree, but I would have them first pass the waiver test and see who they pick up by that route before trading forward pieces. Because you know those injuries are going to come along soon too.

    Besides, if we start to panic we’re no better than that-other-hockey-blogger-who’s-name-starts-with-E who recently said that the Oilers were looking to move a forward asset like Hemsky for Jeff Finger plus. The only way we win a trade involving Jeff Finger is if the player we give them is in a bodybag. Even then it may only be a tie.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Would Gagne for Chris Phillips be an overpay? Ottawa is so thin up the middle after the trade of Fisher last season. They could use a skilled center for thier second line. They have plenty of organizational depth on defense. Would it seem reasonable that Ottawa could be the trade partner were looking for? If,big if. Lander proves to be the real deal does not that put him into a #2 or 3 center position in the years to come. I see him developing into a #2 center. With Pitlick at #3. I think that our need right now is to strengthen our d until Klefbom and some of the other kids are ready to take over. Phillips has experience and is a servicable 2-4 dman.

  • The Oilers defense will look totally different next year. After they trade Hemsky, draft in the lotto, and sign a UFA in July. I don’t think the rebuild was meant to be finished in two years.

    Trading the wrong prospect now for a defenseman would be career suicide for Tambellini. Let’s face it, he hasn’t made the most astute moves under ideal circumstances. Don’t trade a Lander, Pitlick, or Hamilton now for a 15 minute bandaid in a non playoff year.

    I like that the recent injuries have to impact contract talks with Hemsky. Either he’s here long term, or Tambellini has to move him ASAP. Should they even risk putting him in the lineup until there’s a commitment?

    We’re all aware of the deficiencies on the blueline. Play hard at home and finish the season strong. (but not too strong ya know)

    Good read LT>

    • John Chambers

      You’re bang on, Nate. Thoughts about trading Gagner, Omark, or Lander to fill a hole left by … Ladislav Smid??? Insane.

      For the moment we’ll rely on Corey Potter and a waiver pickup. No use overreacting when Smid and Whitney will likely be back by the end of Oct.

      As for the Tambellini haters, I thought he was pretty clear last night: you can’t trade for a top-4 D at this time of year. Period.

      The Oilers will fix the D. They are acutely aware of the problem.

      I offer a more detailed opinion on it here: http://www.coppernblue.com/2011/7/8/2266020/building-a-championship-blueline-an-oilers-management-imperative

      • You’re bang on, Nate. Thoughts about trading Gagner, Omark, or Lander to fill a hole left by … Ladislav Smid??? Insane.

        The hole is a top pairing RH Dman.

        Smid and the other injuries are just exposing the lack of depth on the Oiler blue, but the hole has been there for years.

        Its not “trade a good young forward to fill 2nd/3rd pairing guy”, its “trade a good young forward for a Dman who can be a top pairing guy for years”

        • John Chambers

          Okay, then I think we’re in agreement. At some point this season the Oilers need to trade something like Pitlick and Anaheim’s 2nd rounder for Greg Zanon then re-sign him, and then go hard after Matt Carle in the offseason.

          Hopefully ST and co have targeted Shea Weber and he continues to be dissatisfied with the Preds. At that point an aggressive deal like Omark and Marincin for Shea is something we need to make happen.

          But expect us to patch holes in the meantime. My expectation is that it’s a necessary fact of life that we’ll have to endure this season, but I’ll be disappointed if we haven’t made an impactful move to address the D by this time next year.

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      Did that just happen?

      Did you just ask : “Should they even risk putting him in the lineup until there’s a commitment?”

      Unless I’m not getting something, or you’re inferring something I’m not getting, then why in Sam F*ck would the Oilers not put him in the lineup until he commits? To fail again and draft in the lottery? ~That would make Tambo SO popular amongst the fans, not to mention just a pure genius hockey move~

      Right then, so Hemsky would be out of the lineup on a reverse-contract holdout. How would management, already considered very weak, explain that one to the fans?

    • Don’t want to put MBS in charge of too much. He kills in June, they should overpay him to keep doing it.

      Maybe hiring Duane Sutter was the first step in reforming the pro-scouting.

      This is from the Oiler’s press release when they hired him:

      The Viking, Alberta native was most recently the Director of Player Personnel for the Calgary Flames from 2008-2011, where his responsibilities included managing the Flames pro scouting staff and depth charts, as well as managing all hockey operations for their American Hockey League affiliate, the Abbottsford Heat.

      Given his background of being in charge, I doubt Duane stick around just to be scout.

      Morey Gare might be (rightly so) feeling the heat with the Sutter hire…and the pro procurement history.

  • Dipstick

    Sorry for asking a dumb question. If a player is picked up on waivers don’t they have to be kept on the NHL roster? Don’t the Oil really need help at OKC since we already have enough bodies for the big club? How do we acquire the necessary farm team D men then?

  • My name is Lowetide and I haven’t thought the Oilers trading for a defenseman in five minutes. (polite applause)

    “Hi LT”

    Collecting assets is one thing, deciding on which ones to keep and which ones to cast away quite another.

    That is the scarey part.

    Letting MBS call out names in June is all well and good, but Tambellini has a terrible track record on the pro-procurement side.

    The Oilers need a Dman, and I fear they will trade someone like Omark for a guy who’s ceiling is 2nd pairing, but whose established NHL level is 3rd pairing and only has 2 years left on his contract.

    I’d be happy for something like Omark or Gagner for a player like Blum. 2nd pairing credentials with 1st pair ceiling still on an ELC, so would be an Oiler for at least 6 years.

    Is that too much to ask?

      • Agreed, although Lubo for Whitney + 6th was fairly high risk.

        Pat Quinn hated the way Lubo skated the puck out when there wasn’t a forward pass option.

        Lubo’s skating was the only thing worth watching 2 years ago at Oiler games.

        I’d like to see the forward corps as they are together for a year too. 3 lines that have offensive ability is a very good thing to have.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I thought Petry and Potter did well the last 2 nights, should be more than enough to hold the fort a few weeks until the injuries work themselves out, and let’s see.

    Adding castoffs like Mathiew Roy and Ryan Parent would be a slight upgrade if that.

    • Look at the teams that need scoring forwards and are heavy on D.

      NAS, WPG, TOR come to mind.

      Others would be interested if you are trading a decent young player offensive players with RFA years left.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    You know I don’t really understand the whole pro scouting thing. Doesn’t ST watch hockey? The type of guy we are looking for should be someone that you know what he is all about.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Normally, you have to give some quality to get quality back. The Oilers need to trade away a position that they are strong at to get a quality, and experienced D-man. If that ever happens, their fans have to forget what they gave up. It’s all too easy to complain that the player they gave up is lighting up the score board elsewhere while their acquired D-man is Only shutting top players down.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      My issue would be trading Omark (who would be lighting up the scoreboard plenty) for a guy who doesn’t figure in the top-4 3 years from now.

      Value for value trades just don’t happen this time of year.