Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

In the storied history of the Edmonton Oilers, few trades have turned out better than Colin Fraser and a 7th round pick for Ryan Smyth. Hell, I’m not even certain there IS a 7th round! I’m not sure it’s the biggest trade in Oiler history, but it’s the longest and that’s for sure.

DEAN LOMBARDI TALKS A LOT, SAYS STUFF

 After months and months of headlines like "Kings find Fraser Injured" and "Colin Fraser War" the entire LAK-EDM feud was settled with Edmonton sending a bedpan, a raised toilet seat and a tub mount grab bar to Los Angeles. Holy much ado about nothing, Batman! Honestly. How on planet earth can a man with Dean Lombardi’s reputation go from "The bottom line for me, I would have rather invested my money with Bernie Madoff than invest in Edmonton’s word" to "hey buy lunch and send over a tensor bandage and we’re good." 

The NHL has thousands of truly weird stories about teams and individuals saying ridiculous things about each other, but this is an "out there" event of Harold Ballard weirdness. Honestly. About 150 days of poor Helene Elliott tweeting away the latest updates on a story that apparently no one by Dean Lombardi cared about at all. I think the Kings should send Elliott on a paid 2-week vacation for her trouble, or at least give her the scoop when they replace Dustin Penner. 

LINUS THE UM, ER, MINUS

Linus Omark will miss the next 6 weeks with a broken ankle. It’s a potentially devastating blow to his NHL hopes, as the Oilers may cast an eye to OKC if the problems continue on the 3rd and 4th lines. The leading scorers among prospects in Okla City include Phil Cornet (12 goals in 16 games), Teemu Hartikainen (7 goals in 16 games, including 4 on the PP) and Gilbert Brule (10 points in 14 games) may also be an option.

BLUE ON BLUE, HEARTACHE ON HEARTACHE

Someone clearly said "wow, do the Oilers ever have a lot of healthy defensemen!" and then the Hockey Gods proceeded to sort that out in a hurry. Cam Barker, Corey Potter and Andy Sutton were all hurt within a few days of each other and Jeff Petry sustained a hand injury too (although not considered serious at last report).

Steve Tambellini called up Colten Teubert and Taylor Chorney, but I don’t see how they can go the entire season without addressing the blue. Ryan Whitney is close to a return, but that’s a mixed blessing because the closer he is to the starting lineup the closer he is to his next injury.

Smid-Gilbert have become a constant along the blue, and I think Petry is here to stay. After that, Sutton-Potter can help but increasingly Theo Peckham’s play has become a concern. The Oilers may look to deal him in an effort to cut down on the errant passes and bad decisions. It’s a thing.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I think the Oilers are in for a rough week. One of the things we might look for is a less rigid coach Renney and perhaps some shuffling on the forward lines. Jason Gregor tweeted lines yesterday that were quite different than the recent 12, and perhaps we’ll see them tonight.

The blue is the blue, unless we get fabulous news that Whitney is suddenly healthy. And the goaltending might improve if coach Renney worked Dubnyk in more, keeping the young G fresh while giving the older man longer periods of rest between starts.

SERIOUSLY, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Nation Radio hits the airwaves at noon today, Team 1260. It’ll be up at Oilers Nation sometime Sunday and our scheduled guests include:

  • Jonathan Willis from Cult of Hockey, Nations Network, Hockey Prospectus and ESPN Insider. Jonathan is that rare item: a man who can converse equally well in the math hockey world and in the "saw him good" group. I’ll ask him about his recent article entitled "Statistics are Dumb" and the point he was making.
  • Trevor Maughan from Arctic Ice Hockey. We’ll talk Jets and their steady improvement, including two impressive wins this week.
  • JP Nikota from Pension Plan Puppets and Leafs Nation. The PPP people are some of the finest bloggers on the planet, and JP has been doing some excellent work re:scoring chances. I’ll attempt to mock him, but am a bit of a fan so it’ll probably be lame.
  • Tab or Sam from Committed Indians, a Blackhawk blog of some note. Chicago stumbled last night after a nice run recently, and I’ll check in and see what the CI folks think about the team, tonight’s game and Chicago’s chances this season.
  • Jesse Rogers from ESPN Chicago.We’ll talk about the current Hawks and how they compare to the Stanley bunch, and I’ll check on any inside info about the Hawks moving forward.

Emails welcome at nationradio@theteam1260.com and I’m on twitter now too @lowetide_ if that works better for you. I do read comments at both blogs and enjoy your input and questions for our guests. Have a great Saturday, drive safely.

  • Eulers

    I’m getting up early for a weekend, but at least I can start my day off on a good FIST. Might actually get my questions answered while I’m at it (also on Gregor’s last post)…

    LT, how about bringing in a free agent defenceman? Can the Oilers bring somebody over from Europe?

    Bryan McCabe is starting to look pretty good right about now. The counter-argument I’d previously heard was that McCabe duplicated some of Barker’s skills. With Barker out of the picture for essentially the whole season, an actual NHL defenceman–albeit an aging one–seems like a great option. What do you think?

    Anybody miss Colin Fraser in our lineup or power play? [crickets] Didn’t think so!

  • Lowetide

    The Farmer: Bob McKenzie tweeted a vague item that went something like “Oilers will pay undisclosed medical costs” re: Fraser.

    So, not much.

    Eulers: It’s been a weird time for those free agent defensemen. NHL teams just aren’t spending money on them despite need, so it’s probably a case of ownership saying no to adding a UFA at this point in the season.

    Boynton, Mara, McCabe are still out there, too. So, who knows? I think the Oilers have plenty of depth to put a D and an F together and improve quality.

  • The Farmer

    That’s awesome. So in the end Smyth comes basically as a one year overpaid free agent. And based on his production right now the overpaid part could be argued

  • The Farmer

    There are two ways to look at the Lombardi situation and both are disturbing, either the Oilers managment intetionally tried to screw the Kings twice or the Oilers medical staff is incompetent. In light of the of the Souray mess, Hemsky and Whitney seemingly rushed back into the line up before ready I’m leaning towards the latter.

    • Lowetide

      I somewhat disagree. The Souray item is flat out disturbing, from the failure to communicate to the punishment and everything in between. It’s a sign of insecurity somewhere imo.

      Hemsky is injury prone, we know this and we’ve come to know Whitney is too. Due diligence aside, I don’t think they are in the Souray area in terms of real concern.

      The Fraser item imo (and I’m no doctor) could be easily explained. The Oilers doctors examined him after the season as required and submitted to the central directory their diagnosis.

      LAK made the deal, which could have been followed by a flight to Los Angeles by Fraser and an immediate exam. It did not happen, and as the summer wore on the old report wasn’t updated.

      Now, injuries heal differently based on person and two doctors can come up with a different solution to a hangnail. So, in light of the elapsed time between the two sets of doctors examining him, the option LA had to get him into a doctor post haste, and the relative timeline (he’s back) I don’t think there’s a lot here.

      jmo.

    • Eulers

      There is a third way.

      Lombardi was desparate to get Smyth salary definitively off the books by July 1, so he could go get himself locked outside the doors of Don Meehan’s offices in Mississauga trying to offer Brad Richards that money.

      So when the Brule thing didn’t work out, Lombardi took Fraser instead, even though Tambellini told him the last medical report had Fraser on his way to recovery, and his next checkup was in just a couple of day on Wednesday.

      Lombardi couldn’t wait for Wednesday. He couldn’t wait for his own doctors to check out Fraser. Lombardi had to get Smyth off the books so he could go prostrate himself before Don Meehan and Brad Richards.

      And when Richard went to New York, Lombardi needed something to vent with.

    • bazmagoo

      Another way to look at it is your assessments are completely wrong on both accounts.

      1. Oilers Managment is Screwing Teams – As the article seems to indicate the Fraser event was a complete smoke screen and non-event after someone tried to make it an event. After all the tweeting there was no substance to any of it – hence no fines from the league etc.

      2. Oilers Medical Staff incompetent – Let’s look at Hemsky for example has been injured on again and off again. Since 2006 he has only played more than 70G twice. Oilers have gone through gone through 2 medical and traing staff teams so is the problem the medical staff or the player?

      Souray had the same issues in Montreal with their training and medical staff- so again is it the medical teams of the NHL? or the player?

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Ryan Whitney is close to a return, but that’s a mixed blessing because the closer he is to the starting lineup the closer he is to his next injury.

    increasingly Theo Peckham’s play has become a concern. The Oilers may look to deal him in an effort to cut down on the errant passes and bad decisions. It’s a thing.

    Ha! Who let Pessimism Pete near a keyboard!

    I hear you about Whitney. The man, like Hemsky, is jinxed. It’s so strange that there are players like Cogs who seem completely immune to injury and others who for the life of them can’t seem to avoid it. Do we have any adv. stats on the matter? Is there any explanation besides

    1) luck

    2) style of play; risky behavior — and not the kind that involves a beauty like Ms. Welch… speaking of which, here’s something completely ridiculous:

    man the 60s must have been weird. what the hell is that “walk” she is doing? remind anyone of this:

    anyway… she gets huge props for that jacket! could it being tighter, or shorter? probably not without violating a health code.

    sorry for the digression.

    Peckham… looks like he is wasting an opportunity, much like Barker. It looks like he decided he made it last year and stopped working. his effort is all directionless and leads to a lot of penalties.

    Thanks for the Lombardi update. I was asking about this the other day. Any word on the no-touch icing. I thought that was being discussed at the big meeting too… after Fedun, I’d like to know what the league is doing about it… Incidentally, I care more about this than the whole goalie fiasco.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    That Jane Birkin is a fine looking Gorgeous as well..you got taste Ive got to say, similar to mine but I prefer just a tad more meat on my ladies especially around the hip/thigh area if you know what I mean..

    Oh yeah, there was hockey in there somewhere..I honestly think that Omark often hasnt been given a fair chance to succeed on the Oilers, and the times he did (for more than one game at a time) he succeded..I dont know why Renney went away from using Omark and Paajarvi on the same line..

    Defencemen..this is where Tambellini should’ve done something a long time ago..there’s a prospect or two plus Gagner that could’ve been moved for an established top four Dman at this point, if not then a second round pick definitely could’ve warranted such a trade.

  • John Chambers

    We have a .500 record and I couldn’t be more upset.

    The kid line isn’t scoring, Paajarvi is lost, and Omark is a lost cause.

    I don’t mind poor play from Khabibulin or injuries to Andy Sutton. Last year we witnessed a horror, but I was opiated by the fact that the rookies were racking up points. In the last 6 games my worst fears have come true, and no one defenseman in the world is a panacea.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Curious as to how you think Renney is stifling development of the kids.

        On virtually every team I’ve watched over the years, young players have to earn their ice time (see Seguin in Boston) yet Renney has been sheltering Hall, Eberle and Hopkins all season and feeding them plenty of ice time.

        Sorry, but I’m not buying Renney being responsible for the poor play of Paajarvi. Paajarvi hasn’t earned a thing and he is still refusing to go the net. That’s all on Magnus.

        Would Paajarvi benefit from playing in the top 6?

        Sure. Who wouldn’t. But who is he going to replace? Hall? Smyth?

        I tend to agree with you that inserting Omark on the third line might have helped a little but now that that train has sailed, Renney has placed Gagner between Hemsky and Paajarvi. Looks good on virtual paper but who is going to put the puck in the net?

      • RexLibris

        Hear hear!

        I suspect the comparisons between Omark and Satan (that’s Miroslav, not Nixon) and Renney and Low will begin again pretty soon.

        I have been interested in seeing a 91-57-23 line for over a year, and especially looking forward to it since Lander came over from the SEL. As I see it you have a trio of personalities and playing styles that ought to mesh well. Paajarvi has the speed and size and talent to be a puck rusher, he’s also responsible defensively, Lander has some good hands and can win the faceoff to gain possession and again, is responsible defensively, and Omark has the ability to control along the boards, create plays, and draw penalties. Lander’s leadership qualities and competitiveness ought to keep Omark honest and inspire the whole group of them to be successful and hard-working.

        Of course, I’d also like the Oilers to trade for Alex Urbom and then we could ice 91-57-23 along with Klefbom and Urbom and have an entire Tre Kroner group, call it the IKEA 5.

        With Calgary giving Chicago a boot to the head last night I don’t imagine this evening is going to be any easier now. That being said, Crawford looked a little weak on some of those goals, so who knows. Maybe Hall and Paajarvi get the monkeys off their backs tonight and we win.

        Oh, and LT: what can I say about the photos except “They look MAH-vehlous!”

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    @John and LT

    I couldn’t agree more with both of you. winning at the sacrifice of long term development is a losing strategy.

    something needs to be done about the kids. find a new path to success the one they are on isn’t working.

    the D needs long term fixes. via draft or acquisition look only for credible career top 4. fill the current gaps with cheap plug and play types (sutton and potter were good examples of this – you don’t need to pay out, or sign long deals to get moderate talent). don’t sign an albatross, unless they are young, awesome, committed to the rebuild and willing to stay for 4-5 years (ie. not an albatross). I would stay away from Kaberle or McCabe

  • Lowetide

    DSF: Paajarvi has been buried, hell even Renney admitted it early this season and suggested he needed to find a way to get him into better situations. As of now, I think it’s likely MP needs a trip to OKC to regain his confidence.

    Paajarvi isn’t a perfect player, and as Dennis has mentioned a few times he is unlikely to be an outstanding offensive player.

    But he can be a useful player. 15 goals a year and tends the home front.

    That’s Renney’s job, to develop that talent.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      The solution to the non-problem of Paajarvi is to play him 15 minutes a game, not 9.

      He isn’t going to gain confidence in OKC. He will just lose more confidence there. You don’t learn how to score in the AHL, you learn defensive reliability. Paajarvi is already defensively reliable. There is nothing for him to learn in the AHL.

      Paajarvi needs the “Mike-Keenan” method of developing confidence. Play the player till you break him.

      Mike Keenan finally made Oli Jokinen into an NHL hockey player (in Jokinen’s 3rd organization) by doing something other coaches refused to do. Play him. Play him more. And then play him even more.

      Paajarvi was one of the top Oilers in fitness testing. He’s not breaking a sweat. Thus, he is still thinking to much, and not just playing. To make him react, and not think, you have to “fatigue” him, and one achieves that by giving him more ice time, lots of it. And you can do that, because he is already defensively reliable.

      I would just stick him with Horc and Smyth on RW, and let the guy play, and forget about him to the next decade.

      And go find a real problem to solve…like the lack of defesnemen.

  • Lowetide

    DSF: Of course it’s up to Magnus, but it’s also important where he plays in the order. Apparently he’s lining up with 89 and 83 tonight. We’ll see, and we’ll see for how long.

    Oilers are in some danger here. Giving at bats to older veterans is great but you need these kids to replace them eventually.

    • RexLibris

      So, are you suggesting cutting back ice time for Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky and handing it to the kids.

      I’m guessing the opposition would love to see that. 🙂

      • Lowetide

        DSF: Riiight. That’s what I said. Seriously, this isn’t rocket surgery. The Oilers have six forwards going and six sucking. Paajarvi scored 15 goals a year ago and is 20, so you might want to find a spot where he can succeed.

        The Horcoff-Smyth duo can roll the toughs as they have, and the kid line can be (imo) broken up in an attempt to ignite guys like Gagner and Paajarvi.

        Plus Hall, who hasn’t been stellar lately. You can do all that without impacting the Horcoff-Smyth unit and their minutes.

  • Lowetide

    I wish we had Fraser instead of Eager, cause at least Fraser hit people and fought twice a year. I`ve personally had enough of Eager and they can send him to OKC (doubt anyone takes a flyer on an overpaid 4th liner who forgot his role), and get a body in there whos willing to fight for playing time.

    I think the Oil turns this around tonight, and if not we need to see some bodies on airplanes between Edmonton and OKC come Sunday.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Everyone seems to have the opinion that Ben Eager was some kind of big hitter. If you look at his stats page on TSN he has never broken 100 hits in his career. What he is effective at is keeping his feet moving, aggressively forechecking, mixing it up with fights and activity after the whistle, and protecting the puck with his body on the cycle. He hasn’t completely put up all of his strengths yet in one game but I still think that he should be given a little more time to find his game. Tonight in Chicago was a prime example of what he is capable of, except for the wildcard stuff he sometimes does.

  • Lowetide

    Okay. Since it’s not rocket surgery…

    What spot?

    If Smyth/Horcoff are playing the tough minutes, you have a choice between Hall and Paajarvi to bat second.

    Since neither of them are playing well, I’m not sure how you can craft a lineup that caters to both of them.

    But I would certainly be interested in seeing what you come up with.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Yeah, I saw that earlier.

        Do you think that addresses Paajarvi’s needs?

        To my eye, that third line could get lit up badly if a smart coach can get his second line out against them.

        Tonight that second line is Kane, Sharp and Carcillo.

        Should be an interesting experiment in line matching and Chicago’s third line of Brunette, Bolland and Mayers could lay on a bit of hurt if they’re in a surly mood.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            For every complex question there is an answer that is simple, easy and wrong. 🙂

            It’s pretty easy and simple to say Paajarvi needs to be put in a position to succeed but the devil is in the details.

            We’ve already seen LT and Godot take a stab at it but to pump Paajarvi’s tires you’re going to have to deflate someone else’s.

            The choices are Smyth, Hall, Eberle or Hemsky.

            Considering Renney is likely going to run the vets out against the toughest competition, your choices become even more limited.

            If, as Godot suggested, you run with Smyth-Horcoff-Paajarvi and play them 15 minutes a night, I would think you would be looking at Hall-RNH-Eberle as a second line unless you’re prepared to bump Eberle to the third line and play him 9 minutes a night.

            Pick your poison…bury Hemsky, Eberle or Paajarvi on the third line.

            I know where I would put my money.

            If the team is prepared to part company with Hemsky, it free up a top 6 spot for Paajarvi but I doubt that is true at this point.

            And, if they are prepared to cut him loose, playing him third line minutes will do nothing but devalue him.

            Making room for Magnus is not an easy thing to do.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            First off, we can stop with the 9 minute non-sense.

            So far this year the guys that have played on the third line for the Oil have played:

            Belanger: 15:38 Omark: 14:34 Gagner: 13:48 PRV: 12:35

            Even Petrell and Lander play 10+

            Petrell has been decent and Lander has been ok, but the 4th line really hasn’t been anything special.

            If you really want to get a couple guys a little bit more time you can trim Ebs/Jones/Hall a shift each (45 seconds) and cut the 4th line by 2-3 shifts per game… pretty easy way to get your third line an extra 2 minutes per game, getting them into that 15 min+ range if that’s the goal.

          • Wax Man Riley

            So, you think all Paajarvi needs to get going is more ice time?

            It’s likely that with increased ice time he’ll face tougher competition for some of those extra minutes (he’s currently 7th in Qual Comp).

            Not sure how that would be a benefit since he is struggling against inferior competition.

            Maybe playing with Hemsky will attract some tougher match ups anyway and allow others to benefit.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            I don’t know what he needs, that seems to be the argument from others though…. which for some strange reason you think is an impossible task.

          • justDOit

            Don’t think it’s impossible at all but I also don’t see any point taking minutes away from someone who is producing and handing them to someone who isn’t.

            I’m thinking Renney would agree with me.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Petrell and Eager aren’t producing, Hall/Ebs haven’t done a whole lot since the big home stand to start the year and Jones isn’t that high of a producer anyway.

            1 shift loss for the actually high end sophmores is pretty minor.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Awsome read again LT, keep the pics and good work comin. Any idea if DD is starting tonight? I was at the debacle that was the game against the Sens and Khabby looked tired and disinterested in the game IMO.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      ha. that made me laugh!

      sidenote: is Gagner a go tonight. based on the lines LT quotes it looks like it? so this back deal… is that a long term nag or what? did it affect his play?

  • bazmagoo

    I’ve liked the idea of playing Gagner – Hemsky – PRV since before Hemsky got back from injury but would rather see Jones – Horcoff – Smyth as they played really well together. The kids will get their groove back eventually, it’s just a matter of time. I think this line shuffle has a lot to do with motivating Hall, so hopefully it works.

    The d, well, enough has already been said. Should be interesting to say the least.

  • justDOit

    Being close to his return to the lineup, not only is Whitney closer to his next injury, but he’s also closer to showing us what a Dman who hasn’t played much in the last year will look like. The few games he played earlier this year are a testament to that.

    Is it rude to suggest that veterans returning to the lineup after extended time off be given time in the AHL for conditioning? They are waiver exempt for 2 weeks or so, I believe.

    Also, does anyone miss Charlie Huddy? We seemed to get more from less when he was handling the defence.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    In my opinion there is a concerted effort on the part of the Oilers Brass to shoot for the bottom again. They would like to draft high again……….this is the only logical explanation for the line combinations that Renny is drafting!

    Playing Horcoff with Hall is the same as playing Janet with Wayne on the same line. It may appear to do something on the surface, but Hall will not benefit from playing with someone who has NO offensive ability. This nightmare of a line will be very predictable. Horcoff gets the pucks and before making the play loses the puck in his skates and as a result Hall with his blazing speed goes off side. This type of play will repeat itself over and over again until Hall loses his patience and stops attacking.

    Renny has to assess his talent and where Hemsky and Horcoff are best suited in on the third or fourth line.

    Rama has spoken

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      based on your years of pro hockey experience and experience in the development of young pro hockey players?

      or based on the talkings out of your ass?

      edit: i should say i dont disagree at all with the idea.

      • Wax Man Riley

        Based on being 20 years old and struggling in his role here.

        His 3rd line (up to tonight, anyway) with Belanger is not helping him at all offensively. I don’t expect him to score 30 goals a year, but it looks like he is tentative out there. Playing some top line mins and actually developing through the minors is not a bad thing at all.

        However, who takes his minutes? Hartikainen? Hordichuk maybe.

        • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

          problem is, he already has about 100 games of NHL experience.. if you send him down and he struggles, then what? You end up with a 20/21 year old with zero confidence and zero trade value.

          The guy has already proven he can play in the NHL and, in my opinion, he should be given every chance to pull himself out before resorting to any sort of AHL demotion. Play him 3 or 6 or whatever games with some offensive players and see what he does.

          the team, as a whole, is struggling right now anyways. Playing a struggling young guy a bit more to try and get him out of a funk probably isnt going to hurt the collective group