Key to the Highway

This has been a tumultuous week for Edmonton Oiler fans. Dustin Penner dealt for futures, Hemsky down again and the Golden boy out for the season courtesy the one thing he can’t do (fight) leaves Oilers Nation with the Bell Bottom Blues. Fortunately, the Oilers website has an article up that offers the Key to the Highway.

Ryan Dittrick has an article up at the Oilers website called The Progress Report: A New Identity (it is here). Dittrick gives readers a nice glance into the mindset of the organization at this time. I’m not going to quote all of the pertinent items but did want to highlight two areas of interest. First, discussing the callup of defender Alex Plante:

  • Plante’s game is driven to achieve a targeted model. He brings an overwhelming physical presence that features a nasty edge unrivaled among his peers. It’s another stone in the wall to help Edmonton establish its new brand. 

The article discusses speed, skill and high overall talent up front, then spends a lot of time pointing out the size, strength and grit of the new blue (Tom Gilbert is not mentioned in the article). I think it gives us an indication about the future of the Oilers defense from now on, and it’s clear the MA Bergeron’s of the world need not apply. The Oilers backline is going to be big, tough, strong and willing to compete physically every shift:

  1. Ryan Whitney 6.03, 210 and 1 major in 35 games
  2. Tom Gilbert 6.03, 206 and 0 majors in 65 games
  3. Ladislav Smid 6.03, 226 and 2 majors in 61 games
  4. Kurtis Foster 6.05, 226 and 1 major in 61 games
  5. Theo Peckham 6.02, 234 and 7 majors in 60 games
  6. Jim Vandermeer 6.01, 214 and 3 majors in 45 games
  7. Jason Strudwick 6.04, 226 and 3 majors in 27 games
  8. Jeff Petry 6.03, 196 and 0 majors in 21 games

Alex Plante is 6.03, 225 and has 10 majors in Oklahoma City. I expect he’s auditioning for the 6-7D position next season and with the organization loading up on willing fighters it’s his chance to show the organization he’s ready to bend it like Peckham. If he can be a thorn tree in the garden, Plante might have an NHL future.

In regard to the draft, big defender Dougie Hamitlon would fit the more complete player profile (Whitney, possibly Petry) and a kid named Jamie Oleksiak is a perfect fit for the tougher Oilers. He’s 6.07, 220 and is durable. He’s tough, big and has some skill. If I were to guess the name of the player Edmonton chooses with the recently acquired (from LAK) first round pick it would be Oleksiak. Redline report says this about him:

  • Jamie Oleksiak (Northeastern University) — Biggest man in the entire draft, and plays a solid brand of defense, too. Even developing some puckhandling skills. What’s not to like?

The other item in the article from Dittrick is this one:

  • With balance in mind, the Oilers are looking to develop a championship-caliber squad that features explosive offensive talent, along with the studded defensive style to complement the creative side.

If this is indeed how the organization plans to keep on growing, then any Oilers who could be described as little wing should know it’s too late. Candidates might include Linus Omark and Liam Reddox.

Based on this article, I think we should add Gabriel Landeskog to the list as a consideration for #1 overall. With Dustin Penner leaving the organization, Landeskog’s hard-nosed style and skill might be what the club is looking for at the draft. I remain convinced it’ll come down to Adam Larsson versus Sean Couturier for the Oilers at #1, but Landeskog’s resume fits Dittirck’s future like a glove.

Another edition of Nation Radio goes today. Among the guests "scheduled to appear" are Tyler Dellow from MC79 hockey, Jason Gregor from Oilers Nation and Kent Simpson from the Oil Kings hockey broadcasts on Team 1260. You can email questions and comments (I got about 25 last week, sweet! and thank you!) to nationradio@theteam1260.com this morning. Show goes noon to 2pm today.

  • Mitch

    @Lowetide

    Unless the Oilers scouts are blind, we need to draft Larson. The Oilers have been drafting highly skilled forwards in the 1st round for 20 yrs, only recently they have had success. The reminder of Pronger and what that type of dman brings to the roster is why you draft Larson. Also with all the other swedish picks it’s another good reason, if you don’t pick Larson go with the other highly touted winger Landeskoog. True Grit and toughness that it takes to be a champion is what is clearly lacking.

    • Hands McDangles

      The Oilers have not had a lot of top 10 picks in their history. Picking highly skilled forwards outside of the top 10 is a bit of a lottery. Look at drafts from the last 10 years. But, when you pick skilled forwards in the top 10 there is a very good chance they will work out.

  • Chris.

    Lowetide, we have to change the dynamics of team ie soft, small, one dimensional, won’t go into the tough areas. Thats great drafting RNH and Couturier but these guys are the same type of players we have now. Landeskog is big, nasty, gritty, goes into the tough areas, leader and NHL ready. In the off season we have to change our team by trading or releasing Omark,Hemsky,Foster,Gilbert, Reddox,Jacques, Fraser and hopefully getting players back or picks that bring size, grit and players that are tough to play against. If not this club isn’t going anywhere and we will be a easy team to play against.

  • SumOil

    Kirk Luedeke on Orleskiak

    “Jamie Oleksiak is gi-normous, but probably overrated at 27. Who doesn’t love 6-7 d-men with condor-like wingspans, but he’s much more Hal Gill than he is Zdeno Chara or Tyler Myers. “

  • Rusty Trombone

    More on Jamie Oleksiak from Mock Draft Mania:

    My thoughts on Jamie Oleksiak some NHL mock drafts have him going in the middle of round 1 while others have him going in the middle of round 3.  Oleksiak is so talented in terms of physical skills and size that I think he becomes the next Chris Pronger.  Heck he could become the next Nicholas Lidstrom.  Think Chris Chelios with Eric Lindros’s size.  That’s what your getting in Jamie Oleksiak.  That’s pretty scary if you ask me. If he can stay focused and improve his discipline Jamie Oleksiak could be the guy that everyone talks about down the road.

    Lowetide, what about Nugent-Hopkins? Based on your article you make it seem as though the Oilers aren’t considering RNH as a potential #1. This is from Craigs List on TSN:

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a premier centre who creates offense and makes everybody around him better. He has great vision  and creativity, his hands are quick and he is a superb passer. Don’t worry about his stature, he is extremely elusive and very difficult to check. The Oilers selecting him would add a perfect compliment to Taylor Hall who has the ability to score 50 goals. Playing with a player like Nugent-Hopkins could help him realize that lofty achievement. He reminds me of a Brad Richards in his style and abilities.

  • K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

    Lowetide,

    Great article.

    – I agree with drafting Landeskoog. They need to start putting a premium on these types of big/physical players in the draft and free agency.

    -They need to re-sign Vandermere and hopefully Plante can replace Strudwick as that 6-7 guy next year.

    – Cogliano/Omark/Gagne- I only see one of these 3 on the team in two years. With Hemsky staying, I see them sending Omark for sure but I’m not sure whether Gagne or Cogs will stay.

    – Question: If they draft a winger, where do you think they get a top 6 centre? Trade or Free agency?

  • Chris.

    @ Lowetide:

    I get the distinct feeling there won’t be a strong push by management to really address holes and push into the offseason until the new building is in place.

    They are going to bleed the faithful season ticket holders for a few more years, continue to deal away quality for futures, and intentionally slow the pace of progress. The business plan is to launch the new building with the promise of an allstar game, a good young team, and the possibility of a deep cup run. (All for the low, low price of a massive seat liscence fee to be paid by the same people who already made the galacial rebuild possible.)

    • K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

      Chris,
      I completely disagree with you. When this team is ready to contend, management will not hold them back because the new building isn’t ready. Regardless of the status on a new building, the Oil would love the extra revenue from a playoff run (even in Rexall).

      • @Chris – You might notice that “when the team is ready to contend” and “new arena completion date” seem to intersect at roughly the same point in time.

        That being said, there’s a whack of space between 30th and contention. I find it incomprehensible that “making the playoffs” wasn’t on the schedule for next year. Its almost like there’s some mysterious point in this rebuild map code named “lightbulb”. That being the projected time when this team goes from basement dweller to SC contender.

        It stuns me that progression does not seem to be part of the equation, either for management or fans. Hey man, most realists would be happy with a couple of rounds in the playoffs on a regular basis, knowing full well that only two teams get to duke it out in the end.

      • Chris.

        Then why the Penner deal? I’m not suggesting management would intentionally sabotoge a season to try and enter the playoffs for the first time in a new building… I’m making the observation that the timeline and subsequent spin around this rebuild keeps getting longer, and seems to be tracking (~coincidentally I’m sure~) syncronous to the progress of the downtown arena project.

        If Land-urier-hopkin-sson can step in next season and contribute, and the H.O.P.E crew can avoid sophmore slumps; this team would have been in a position to at least compete for a playoff spot past the all-star break… Now I’m not so sure: it’s always one step forward followed by a step back.

        So my take: Penner for futures was a clear, calculated, slowing of the pace… BTW, who thinks this new slower pace may disuade Hemsky from extending? If Hemsky doesn’t extend does that give Lowe/Tambellini a new goat excuse to slow the pace even more?

        • Hands McDangles

          We have no idea what went on behind closed doors with Penner. Also, the Pittsburgh/Chicago re-builds both took more than 2 seasons so I don’t see why they would try rushing this one.

          I just don’t think Katz went to Tambo and said ‘slow this thing down, I want our Cup to be won in the new rink’

          Wouldn’t one last cup run at good ol’ Rexall be a good send off for that aging beauty?

  • K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

    @lowetide

    I suggested Scottie Upshall (who is UFA) to Chase and he did not like that option. Said he was too soft- I whole heartedly disagreed.

    Its impossible- there are so such thing as soft hockey players from Fort Mac.

    Just imagine a line with Upshall-Horc-Brule on third line, its got the speed, talent and grit that could be effective on any other team in the NHL.

      • K-UGER Industrial Smoothing

        Brule can be an effective hockey player- how often have we seen Oilers give up on the 23-26 year old prospects. Its a process, and all it takes is one healthy season for any player to turn it around. You can’t think that 37 points is going to be a career high for a 23 year old, can you?

        Its not like an end all be all type situation by any means, Brule isn’t the sticking point, but we will have to find someone to replace the speed and physicality, and we can see Brule has the shot and capability to put the puck in the net OCCASIONALLY, I just think at 23 hes not a bad fit on the third line, and hes willing to relish that role too, which is hard to get some NHLers to buy into.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Im hoping the Oil take Dave Musil with the pick from LA, pretty sure he’ll turn out like like his old man, but thats just my 2 cents.Still hoping ST gets rid of Gilbert this off season(there has to be a god right?).

  • Lowetide

    Damn! You got Layla in there. I tried for about 20 minutes to figure a way. Finally gave up after trying to rhyme “seeths” with “got me on my knees”. 🙂

  • shanetrain

    Great article Lowetide.

    I was @ the game. Unfortunately i didn’t look away.
    To tell the truth, I think we have too many little wings, so Landeskog might help us keep on growing. I keep on hoping that it’s not too late and that any day now, my love for the Oil doesn’t have to be so sad. The upside for the Oil is still bright, so I think they will defy the old axiom that nobody knows you when you’re down and out.

    Until then, I say to the Oil, I am your(s) loyal fan and sooth myself by listening to one of the greatest songs of all time, Layla.

  • shanetrain

    I like Landeskog. All I can think of when I hear lets draft Courtier is Jason Arnott or Jason Bonsignor names ringing through my head. We have had no luck drafing big centers.Stick to to what we know works for us. And that would be Landeskog.Plus his first name isn’t Jason.

  • shanetrain

    Get Glencross back for a start! Overpay a bit to show him we messed up with the Hossa B.S. 5 years/12-15 million?

    Looking at the UFA list on Capgeek there is bonafide talent up and down the board.

    This season is an absolute joke for the beloved Oil. I feel for the season ticket people. There was no reason to tank this year as there was role players available just like there will be again this summer.

    Tambellini has an incredible opportunity to really put his stamp down this offseason.

    • Rusty Trombone

      I’m sure he’s not the most popular guy in Oil Country at the moment but I’d love to have a guy like Dorsett on our team. He brings intensity to every shift.