On November 12th, Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins ran Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres. Miller’s teammates stood by picking flowers. They either couldn’t or didn’t want to do a thing. Lucic is a beast to handle, that is clear, but a team like the Sabres who feel they are on the rise needed to respond.

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Enter Paul Gaustad and Robin Regehr. These two are pillars that their team can lean on to do the heavy lifting when required. Just over a week after the Miller incident those two players sent a clear message to the Bruins early in the game. Gaustad fought Lucic and Regehr took on Zdeno Chara.

I can guarantee that Gaustads fight was premeditated. I can also guarantee that he probably didn’t sleep well the night before, and then slept with the lights on for his afternoon nap. It takes a lot of courage to do what he did and his teammates love and respect him for it. They should also thank him, he helped get the team’s mojo back.


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It didn’t matter if they won or lost the fights.

What mattered was that through those fights it was announced clearly that the Sabres will stand together. If nothing had been done, believe me both the Bruins and the Sabres would have known who was who’s daddy.

Gaustad and Regehr are pillars or anchors for their team. Fighting is just a small part of what they contribute. They get in the trenches to do the dirty work. When the skilled players are struggling it is these types of players that help keep the ship steady. Life is very uncomfortable for opposing players when these two are throwing their body and sticks around.


The Oilers are also a team trying to get respect back.

Looking at the roster I feel that there are no players similar to the above mentioned. The team has great young talent, leadership, a defense that is surprising people when heathy and solid goaltending.

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Yes, Ryan Smyth battles very hard but his skill set is different than a Gaustad. I also think that Ladi Smid is coming along nicely, but as a dman he can’t do a lot to wear down opposing D-men.

To be effective a pillar needs to play meaningful minutes. This means they need to be at least a top-nine forward or a top-four D. Examples around the league include Ryan Clowe, Kevin Bieska, Tim Gleason and Scott Hartnell. These players do not grow on trees.

It is expensive to sign them as free agents, so I suggest a course of action of developing home grown players. This would require a change in draft planning. To continue to build the team it may be necessary.


Some of you are thinking i am bringing this up now because of the hit on Taylor Hall. That is not the case. Gregor and I have discussed this on his show and this has been on my mind for some time.

I actually feel it was a clean hit. If the hitter, Ryan Wilson, doesn’t want to fight there is nothing the Oilers could have done but wait for another day. That is just the way it is with the current set of rules.

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Winning a Stanley cup requires a lot of different pieces to come together. Pillar type players are required, and the Oilers don’t have many right now. Colten Teubert might become a top-four in a few years, but that’s likely a few years away.

I liked how strong on the puck Tyler Pitlick was in camp last year, and Teemu Hartikainen is a big body, but I’m not certain either one be a pillar.

I think it is time to start looking ahead.

    • Im not following. U talking #9 for the PA raiders who vanished from all contact in the playoffs vs the blades last year.

      Im more of the opinion that Gregor offered on his show, when it comes to grit you either have it or you dont….. he doesnt. Thus…. Pillar would be very loose usage IMO.

      Good player, greasy with the puck, but more of a skatback than a bone crusher make em tremble during the afternoon nap kinda guy.

  • A-Mc

    So either we grow one, and he doesn’t come to fruition for another 3-4 years, Or we buy one somehow with any trading chips we currently have?

    Would a 3-4 year wait be too long? There is a chance the Oilers get in the playoffs this year. With the way the team is progressing, we could have something serious on the move next year.

    How long is too long to wait before what we have going right now tapers off and we are in a state of filling the holes?

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      They also need to start looking at contracts that are up soon and if they don’t plan on having them as part of the team of the future, then now would be a good time to move them for a missing piece.

      Couple examples being Hemsky, Gagner, and Omark the team needs to make some choices and choose a direction. This should be a year of some big changes through trades.

      • A-Mc

        Hemsky i agree with.

        I think Gagner and Omark will be good affordable talent in the future (Gagner is already decent, even though off to a slow start this season).

        What are your main reasons for wanting to bail those 2? Is it Size or Skill based? or are you naming them because no one else is expendable?

        • I’m mostly naming them because of their contract status at the end of this year and they were the only ones I could think of off the top of my head. I like all of them but….

          Gagner is interesting though because unless he moves to the wing I just don’t see a future for him here with Horcoff, Nuge, and Belanger. True Belanger likely won’t be here past his current contract but can they really afford to have gager signed and playing ineffective bottom six mins? And what about Lander? Too many NHL ready One way contract Centers.

          I think hemsky is a great player if he manages to stay healthy however I just can’t seem him being a fit for a Stanley cup team. He holds on to the puck to long, tries doing fancy crap with it and because of that he gives up a lot of turn overs or kills plays and PPs. You don’t need fancy to win a Cup.

          Omark is just a odd man out right now and since he has already mentioned possibly going back to Europe if hes not playing in the NHL, maybe a move is good to find him a team that can use him now rather than later.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Nice Post Struds.

    Couple of thoughts:

    1) What’s amazing about that second video that shows Buffalo showing up to the dance is how badly outmatched they still look. Gaustad takes by most measures a pretty tame run at Marchand (not a big guy) after a comparable hit by Marchand on Gerbe… and look at the Bruin response! Everyone piles on Gaustad! He’s in the fetal position fending off 3 or more guys following a pretty average hit! that’s a pretty impressive team response to physical threats!

    2) Lucic type players definitely don’t grow on trees. One of the problems in Oiler scouting over the past decade seems to be a heavy reliance on coke machines (prospective Lucic-types) most of which have not panned out followed by what might be considered an overcorrection in the post-lockout era of small, skilled not terribly physical players.

    It is comparatively way easier to find either energy, scrappy players with terrible to modest finish or skilled, unphysical players… than it is to find a Lindros or a Lucic – a big hitter who can score.

    The problem as I see it is to avoid the temptation that the next JFJ will present – i.e., maybe we can groom him and his speed and skill will follow from his size… quick recipe for getting burned…. ask ladies if this strategy works out:

    • A-Mc

      Yea, i definitely thought the Sabres got clobbered there. The Bruins just beat the piss out of them in that one video. I’m not sure the Sabers did themselves any favors with regards to regaining some respect.

      At first i thought maybe the white jerseys were the Sabres, and that is why Strudwick was posting the video.. but then i looked at the Giant B on the goalie jersey.

  • I don’t think Bieksa is a piller when I look at Vancouver. He’s wildly inconsistent and a pretender in the physicality department. Smid won’t put up the offensive numbers Bieksa does, but has been a better defensive defender then Bieksa at half the money. He’s been a pillar so far this season for this young club. How many shots did him and Wreckum block in the final 2 minutes of the game last night to give their team a chance to win. Strap a letter on the guy after last night.

    On a different note, don’t the Oil take a run at Bobby Ryan. The problem this team has is stills size and physicality on any of their lines.

    Tell me I am nutz but why something like this

    Gagner, Wreckum, a third or Martindale/ Hamilton for Ryan or

    MPS and a second for Ryan or something else.

    I don’t agree with the pundits assessment that he’s going to Philly or TO. Philly’s not doing VRD for Ryan, and what can TO offer. Kadri, Biggs, Franson, and I don’t see Kulemin ,going to Disneyworld either. The Oil have no one with his skill-set and size on their team or in his system, and they have assets to spare to make this work.

  • shanetrain

    Excellent article.

    Short, concise and to the point.

    The Oil are weak to play against. This is not a new issue.

    We need:

    Top 2 Dman

    Power forward(s) that can play. (C Stewart M Lucic R Clowe etc)

    Hemsky, Gagner, Omark, take your pick or package a couple up.

    By the way .. hell of a goal the other day .. congrats!!

  • I give them (sabres) modest credit if any at all…….. they tipped their hand when the incident occurred and the “courage” in the rematch was nothing more than saving face.

    apparently being called gutless chickens for a week grows spines.

    who knew?

  • I think the drafting has improved. They are drafting kids with the physical tools and size now. Before too many of the big guys couldn’t skate which makes it nearly impossible to have a NHL career post lock out.

    Another way to put Strud’s point is we don’t have any players who can actually play and are “mean”. Lucic, Chara and Pronger are mean. They don’t mind hurting people. The Oilers seem to like nice, well adjusted athletes. Eager might have filled that role but they brought the crazy Russian over and ended up screwing themselves.

    Hall gets compared to Messier, but the big difference is that Messier made the Oilers by catching Sather’s eye when as a 17 year old he beat up the team’s tough guy, and pretty handily IIRC, at training camp. Messier was a very mean player, as was Gordie Howe.

    I do believe that it is possible to make deals for players you want if you are persistent and patient. We saw some good movement last year, but you have to know what you want and be ready. I also believe it is the sign of a good GM. Chiarelli got Horton and didn’t ruin his team.

  • @ Jason Strudwick:

    Regarding a shift in drafting, could you elaborate a little on what you mean?

    The Oilers have been drafting larger players of late – the last few years have seen just a few exceptions, on forward or defense, to the drafting size rule. Some of them (guys like Ewanyk, Czerwonka, Abney etc.) are more than capable of playing with an edge, too.

    I’d just be worried about placing an overemphasis on tough players in the draft, even if, like J-F Jacques, they’re good skaters. The Oilers spent a lot of time looking for these guys with top picks in the early 00’s, and while some of them worked out (Stoll and Greene for sure, arguably Winchester) a lot of them (Caron, Radunkse, McDonald, Jacques, etc.) look like poorer selections in retrospect.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible to take a good player with some edge high in the draft, but an emphasis on them tends to sacrifice other things. For instance, the Rangers got their man in throwback defender Dylan McIlrath 10th overall, but they passed on Fowler, Gormley and Forbort to take him.

    In a roundabout way, I guess what I’m wondering is if the draft is really a cost-effective way to land these guys on a consistent basis.

    • Agreed, it would be more effective to go after guys that have already proven themselves at the NHL level through free agency or a trade and just rely on the best available option in the drafts regardless of position or size.

    • I agree with the drafting philosophy. If you stop looking for best player available and start drafting primarily by position or size. You end up with coke machines that take a long time to develop, if they ever do. I am not saying if you have two players of similiar skill that you shouldn’t take the bigger guy. We need size up front.

      We will be able to sign and or trade for these types of players. With what appears to be transpiring with our top 6 forwards there will be players lining up for a chance to sign with a contending team.

  • Struds has a very good point.I dont think you pick these players up from the draft.You can pick them up fairly cheap by having good pro scouting.Players like Lucic have been traded or signed as free agents.The oilers pro scouting has been weak but i think they are working on it.
    I think we are afraid to give up on some of our young prospects.We have to trade at least Gagner and MPS for gritty prospects who might only have 20 pts as a top end.Build forward with Hall Nuge and Eberle as our goal scorers and the rest of our forwards as tough gritty checkers.

    • Jerk Store

      Not sure what I am missing here. Lucic was drafted in the 2nd round by Boston. Not arguing that pro scouting is important – but Lucic was a product of amateur scouting. Perhaps a point could be made that 49 picks occurred prior to Lucic and about 44 of those were questionable vs taking Lucic. Would the Oiler’s rather have Lucic than Petry who they took at 45 (no 1st round pick) – certainly. But Boston were no geniuses either. They took some tomato can named Yuri Alexanderov 13 picks before Lucic. At the end of the day it is an imperfect science.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Oilers had a guy the last couple years who’d stick his nose in on the most undesireable occasions. He used to wear No.34 i believe, didn’t see him at training camp this year. That guy had stones like the ones being mentioned here in this article.

    The Oilers are still in the bandaid mode for players they hoped would step into this role, bringing in short term solutions till they see what sprouts through the soil in their own system.

    Have to wonder where Hemsky and Gagners game would be today if the Oilers had 3 or 4 guys who’d throw first and ask questions later. Guys that’ll initiate the violence rather than responding to it when it’s too late.

  • Jason Strudwick

    Many good points made. I am not suggesting not taking the best player available through all rounds. After the top 3 rounds it becomes much more unclear as to who is the best prospect. I would suggest starting to drafting to fill need at that point. I am biased but I would be looking to the WHL to fill out those needs. I love the warriors out of there.

    I plan on writing an article both about why some players make it to the NHL and another on how certain players could be developed in a different way in the future.

    Keep the questions coming. Good feedback that I can use.