Watching the 2011 playoffs got me thinking about how much has to change with the Oilers before they will be in the wonderfully-intense post-season action. Coming off consecutive 30th place finishes it is obvious they have some work to do, but the fashion in how Steve Tambellini tries to build this team will be most intriguing to me.

It is obvious the Oilers are going to try to build the majority of their foundation through the draft, but no team can win solely through the draft. Tambellini will need to make some astute trades, smart signings, a possible surprise waiver wire pick up and, most importantly, he’ll need some luck.

Every team needs a few stars to be successful in the playoffs and the Oilers are hoping Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi become those guys. There is no guarantee they will, but after one NHL season it looks like they all have the potential to be difference makers down the road.

Shawn Horcoff always gives you his best effort, and can be counted on to compete come playoff time. Ales Hemsky, if he is here when they get to the playoffs, is also a guy who isn’t afraid of the tough areas.

The big void that I see within the team are 3rd and 4th line guys who will be able to contribute. Every year the teams that make it to the final four, and ultimately win the Cup have a 3rd line guy who really elevates his point production in the playoffs.

This year guys like Joel Ward, Steve Downie, Sean Bergenheim, Teddy Purcell and Brad Marchand have emerged as playoff surprises. Ward and Bergenheim lead the playoffs with seven goals after scoring only ten and 14 respectively in 80 regular season games. Fernando Pisani did it for the Oilers in 2006, Maxime Talbot was huge for the Penguins in 2009 and every year it seems some 3rd line guy comes out of nowhere to produce big points.

Most of these guys are grinders, guys who have to battle hard every night in the regular season just to stay in the lineup, and outside of the surprise offensive production, their games don’t really change much come playoff time. They just seem more prepared for the constant battles in the playoffs because they’ve had to play that way most of their careers. 

Who do the Oilers have that fits that description?

Currently I see Ryan Jones and possibly a guy like Teemu Hartikainen. Jones’ game isn’t flashy, and he certainly won’t win points for pretty goals, but his game doesn’t vary much from shift-to-shift. He goes up and down his wing, crashes the net and scores most of his goals from three feet out or less.

Jones could be an UFA come July 1st, but when you look at the crop of free agents it makes no sense for the Oilers not to lock him up before then. Jones made $975,000 last season, and even after his surprising 18-goal season, I don’t see why he and the Oilers won’t agree on a two or three year deal worth between $1.3-$1.5 million/season.


The list of guys who the Oilers could sign instead of Jones isn’t that long. There are some guys who’d cost more, but if you are looking in the $1.4 million range Jones might be the best bargain they can find.

NAME                               LAST CONTRACT
Scottie Upshall                    $2.25 million
Brooks Laich                        $2.067 million
Chad Larose                        $1.7 million
Chris Higgins                       $1.6 million
Joel Ward                              $1.5 million
Tomas Kopecky                   $1.2 million
Curtis Glencross                 $1.2 million
Vern Fiddler                          $1.1 million
Max Talbot                             $1.05 million
Raffi Torres                           $1 million
Ben Eager                             $965, 000
Brian Sutherby                     $812,000
Body Gordon                        $800,000
Ville Leino                             $800,000
Eric Belanger                       $750,000
Sean Bergenheim              $700,000
Tanner Glass                      $625,000

Talbot, Glencross, Laich and Leino will definitely garner some attention, if they aren’t re-signed prior to July 1st, but do any of those other names jump out at you as guaranteed upgrades over Jones? 

Even though we only saw him for a short stint, Hartikainen opened a lot of eyes and I spoke to two different AHL coaches this past week and both told me they think he is a bull and is a sure bet to be a consistent NHL 3rd liner, with the potential to chip in offensively.

The Oilers need another guy similar to a Jones or Hartikainen, but they are hard to find, so Tambellini either has to make a smart, subtle trade to acquire one or they have to draft one. They might have one in either Tyler Pitlick or Curtis Hamilton, but I’d like to see them acquire one with some NHL experience, because those two are likely a few years away from playing in Edmonton.


  •  If Patrice Bergeron is out for more than the first two games, the Bruins will be in tough against the Lightning. Bergeron has been great, and if he is out then the Nathan Horton line will have to carry more of the load. Horton’s line was dominant against Philly, and it will be interesting to see if Eric Brewer and Matthias Ohlund can control that line starting Saturday.
  • Besides Sidney Crosby, I don’t think anyone is better than Pavel Datsyuk. He has unbelievable skill in the offensive zone, but his dogged determination on the puck in the other zones separates him from all the rest. If he cheated defensively now and then I bet he’d score 110 points every year.
  • Do you remember when Philadelphia offered Ryan Kesler $1.9 million on a one-year deal in September of 2006. Many around the league thought the Flyers were just being dickish, but it sure looks like they knew something about Kesler that the rest of the league hadn’t seen until last year. Even if you hate the Canucks or Kesler, you have to admit he is a hell of a player. I don’t think it is a coincidence that once he stopped be so prickly towards the media off the ice, and so mouthy on the ice that his play improved. It wastes a lot of mental energy sparing with the media, especially in Vancouver where many, but not all, of them truly love the Canucks.
  • The first round of this year’s playoffs was the best two-week stretch of hockey I’ve seen in years, and I’m including the Olympics. We had nine straight days of overtime games, four games sevens and I can’t recall an entire country, excluding BC, cheering so hard for one team to lose. It was awesome. 
  • Jeromy Roenick went a bit far with the word "gutless" when describing Patrick Marleau’s play so far in the playoffs, but had he just used lazy or "void of caring" I doubt anyone would have complained. It is Roenick’s job to speak his mind. The next day Jeff Marek tweeted that Roenick stood them up for a radio interview. I thought that was just as classless to be honest. I’ve had many guests either flat out forget about an appearance or blow it off because of a meeting and I didn’t complain on twitter about it. Turns out Roenick was having a surprise lunch with his wife and kids and ended up doing the show the next day. Analysts are paid to rip or applaud a player’s performance, radio hosts shouldn’t moan publicly when a guy doesn’t come on their show.
  •  A huge thank you to all the listeners who donated during the TEAM 1260 radiothon from the Stollery last Thursday. It is an emotional day, and I’m sure it is hard for you to listen to some of the stories, but you helped raise almost $450,000 in one day. Thanks for your kind hearts and big wallets. 
  • Souby

    I would like to see the Oil get an enforcer that can be effective. I love Big Mac,and while he is certainly willing to take on anybody and defend him teammates, not many guys will fight him, which makes him ineffective.

    I think the Oil should try to land a guy like Ben Eager. He is tough as nails, he knows his role and other players are more willing to fight him. Just a thought….

  • Jason Gregor

    I dont think there need to be the drastic signings to make the Oil more competitive and tougher. An answer may be tossing a contract to Zenon Konopka ($600K last year) so a mil this year, with McCormick($500K last year) on the wing. Allowing Horcoff to center a third line with Jones, and Hartikainen. Given how the top 6 end up looking, jones or Hartikainen could move down to 4th line minutes. It gives the oilers size, grit, toughness and face off prowess, in a relatively cheap overall package and doesnt hurt the future as any of the pieces are replacable. Horcoff with those two would provide that defensive 3rd line with offensive pop, and a fourth line that could match up with anyone given the need.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Upshall 7 mill over 3 yrs, Glencross 6 mill over 3 yrs and bring Ryan Smyth back. These 3 guys would constantly be pushing guys ahead of them in the lineup.

    Would like to have Rick Rypien as well if he could stay on the straight and narrow. The Oilers will be grabbibg 2 centers with their two top six picks anyways, doesn’t leave any room for Ripper with Brule and Fraser still under contract.

    • Mantastic

      why would anyone want a mentally unstable player like rypien? he’s not even good to begin with. if it was tootoo, even with his troubled past, at least he could play.

        • Mantastic

          i was 4~ in the late 80’s, so i don’t get the reference. rypien has heart, but he can’t play. it’s out of position, losey skater and takes late runs at people because he’s an awful skater. he would be on the same boat as ZS but worse of a hockey player.

      • Souby

        I would love to see the Oil swing a deal for Tootoo. Now if they could somehow talk the Preds into including Shae Weber in that deal, that would be awesome!

        …I yawn, as I wake up from my fantasy world! šŸ™‚

  • While losing Jones wouldn’t be the end of the world, fact of the matter is the Oilers could use 2 players like Jones. Be it Jones and someone or 2 others like Jones. They really should be working hard and exploring every option to sign him within reason.

  • GEP

    “a possible surprise waiver wire pick up”

    Wasn’t Jones a waiver wire pickup?
    I think his play and his output this last season would be considered a surprise for a waiver pickup.

      • GEP

        Thanks Gregor, i thought he was a waiver pickup.

        What i would look for in any player filling our 3rd and 4th line roles would be attitude and work ethic.

        By attitude, i mean they are pissed off if they are sat for a game, but not in a negative manner that would bring down the morale of the team or other players. Pissed off because they care.

        By work ethic,I would like the Oil to get a hardworking player in the games and in practice to show the kids what it takes to stay in this league as a bottom 6 forward.

        Then my third criteria, would be to have the ability to win a frickin faceoff!

        So sign Jones to a 2 yr deal because i think he has the above qualities except the faceoffs, and sign someone like Boyd Gordon or Vern Fiddler(although i don’t know about his FC%) to the same 2 yr term.

        That would allow our prospects the 1-2 years of development time that is required.

  • Sparky

    I think 2-3 years at 1.5 per would be a good length for Jones. I would only sign him for 5 years if it was for like 1 – 1.3 per. Although if it came down to 5 years 1.5 per they should still pull the trigger. Jones was a bright spot on the team this year and losing him would be like Glencross 2.0.

    No point in getting rid of him just to sign another player with the same skill set. RJ is a character player and enjoys playing on the team. If you have to give him another 100-200k to keep him from walking, they would be crazy not to do it. Although, if they do let him walk over a piddly amount, it would pretty much be par for the course.

  • Oilers21

    The most generous assessment of Marleau that I can give is that he’s incapable of raising his game when it matters. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t show any passion or energy during the postgame either; sort of a shoulder-shrug “oh well” attitude. To a point Heatley is the same way; there was a play in game 6 where a Detroit player bobbled the puck near the boards in his own end while Heatley was “forechecking” and if he hadn’t been skating lazily towards his opponent it was a guaranteed steal. Instead he waved at the puck with his stick and the puck headed up ice for a Detroit goal. Sure it wouldn’t be fair to judge someone on just one play but anyone who has seen these he and Marleau play with any regularity know it happens way too often. It’s demoralizing to play on a team where a couple of guys (especially your “top” players) are consistently passengers

  • 416oil

    what about cody mccormick out of buffalo? I think he would be a perfect forth liner for the oil. One of the leaders in fighting majors, chipped in 20 points, and can play centre or rw. 6’2 225 and can skate, sign me up

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    “a possible surprise waiver wire pick up”

    This is one thing that really disapointed me this year. Theirs been lots of quality NHL’ers plucked off the waiver wire the past few years. What a waste not getting anyone when we had “1st pick”.

    • Mantastic

      most waiver pick ups are like jones, 1 year remaining on a deal and we’ll be back in the same boat as jones now, trying to re-sign him. the only waiver stand out this year had to be grabner.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        So why would that be a bad thing if we were “back in the same boat as jones, trying to resign him”?

        Yes Grabner, the ROY candidate.

        • Mantastic

          it’s only bad if we can’t re-sign and in my eyes it’s almost as hard as signing a UFA to edmonton. sure it’s worth a shot, because it’s better to take a chance then not to but i didn’t really see much in terms of waiver of a pick up this season besides maybe rivet?

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

            Actually it is in no way bad.

            Even if we can’t re-sign the guy, the team loses nothing… as they’ve given up nothing to get him.

            I’m not saying thier are LOTS of good waiver pick-ups, I AM saying their are a handful every year, and of those 3-4 decent pick-ups their seems to be 1 or so a year that turns into a really nice suprise.

            The team wasted a nice oppertunity not taking advantage of it’s crappy record (and it’s first shot at the wiaver wire)

  • 416oil

    It was an error to let the same people that leaked the toxic environment for public consumption to handle the rebuild . They should have denied it, and worked feverishly to rid themselves of it while the players value was still at a reasonable rate to procur at least a few decent replacements . It should have remained internal or restricted just to Souray in retrospect . Instead , they let entire team get thrown under the bus .

    It’s no wonder why no one wants to come here . If Katz(back then) had tried a move to help situation by making management the fall guy, and by bringing in a new managerial team , then i rather doubt we would be in such an adversarial or negative position we are in today .

  • Jason Gregor

    I guess the real question ends up being is this what you can expect from Ryan Jones year in and year out.

    His underlying numbers are terrible (Scoring Chances for/against, Shots for/against) so you need to ask yourself does Ryan Jones really have a knack for creating better quality scoring chances than he gives up or does he have a knack for converting a higher percentage of shots than the average player? Or did he just have the shooting gods smiling at him all year? It’s a fair question and one that management should have a clear idea about before choosing whether or not they should try and sign him.

    Unlike Brule the previous year, there’s not a lot of historical data to go on. Jones essentially doubled his career games, goals and shots with his work this past season. They made a pretty bad choice with Brule already and Jones is in a similar boat.

    • Jason Gregor

      He doubled his points and goals, because he played in twice as many games. Also considering he doesn’t shoot a lot and played with some less than offensive players, of course his shots for/against was low. Did you account for who is linemates were?

      Which is exactly why I said the Oilers need to improve their 3rd and 4th lines.

      • NastyNate

        I’m aware of how he doubled his point totals, I was simply using that as an example of how limited his history is.

        The point I was trying to make was that we have a question that needs to be answered.

        Does Ryan Jones have an ability to either create a higher quality scoring chance than an average NHL player / score on a higher % of chances than an NHL player or did he have the hockey gods smiling down on him.

        Even when you account for his linemates, Jones had horrific SC+/- and Shot+/- (incidentally, everyone who played with him had their worst numbers in these categories… draw your own conclusions there).

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

          Unless his break away ability was a fluke this year I’d say he has the ability to create a higher quality scoring chance.

          That said, I wouldn’t be signing him expecting 20 goals, I’d be signing him looking for 10 – 15 goals, some 4th line utility play and a little PK.

          • Jason Gregor

            Is break away ability an actual ability? Jordan Staal scored 29 goals his rookie season, a lot of them shorthanded and on breakaways. He hasn’t been close to that number since despite getting a lot more ice time.

            The other question is Ryan Jones good enough to play on a good hockey team scoring 10-15 goals if he continues to have the same underlying numbers? In other words does he give up too much to get those goals?

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

            I don’t know, but he seems to have the speed and anticipation to make me think it is. We’ll see over the next couple of years I guess.

            He scored at a 10-15 goal pace twice on pretty solid hockey teams so I’d have to think he would.

            Beside, we’re not even close to being at that point yet, when we’ve got 8 superior wingers then we can talk about how we don’t need him.

  • Had to do a double take on the writer of the article, I coulda swore I heard Gregor on his show last year talking about how Datsyuk wasnt in his top list of NHLers… you just didnt see it. You’ve finally seen the light?

      • EDIT: Somehow it quoted the wrong part. I wanted to quote Jason’s question about which team mates Jones played with

        Ryan Jones has the distinction of making every player on the Oilers worse when they played with him, except two. (in terms of scoring chances for/against)


        The killer stat is how many players are so close to .500 when not playing with Jones.

        He scored 18 goals in the NHL and that’s quite an accomplishment. The underlying numbers are terrible though.

        The same guys who warned against re-signing Brule are putting up even larger red lights on this guy.

        Let him walk.

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

          Here’s my issue with the Brule comparison:

          (As a side note I did think that Brule was overated after last year)

          The issue with Brule wasn’t so much that his play sucked this year, it is that he couldn’t stay healthy (or whatever the heck it was keeping him out of the line-up)

          • No question Brule had a tough year medically (what does he have anyway, plague?)

            His numbers last year away from Penner were terrible.

            His numbers this year were terrible.

            Its tough to make a distinction based on his problems this year, but he did play only 14 less games this year compared to last year.

            Brule 09/10
            65 gp 17g 20a 37pts -8

            Brule 10/11
            41gp 7g 2a 9pts -7

            A healthy season would be interesting to see, but I’m really not expecting much from him.

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

            24 less games.

            And just as a side note, I remember a few years ago the same numbers being used against Jones (and Brule last year) were being used in support of O’sullivan (ie saying he was a better player then what his counting numbers/observers “eyes” told them)

            The underlying numbers are interesting and certainly hold some merit, but I don’t think they are a slam dunk either way.

          • Thr underlying numbers being refered to here are scoring chances being tracked by Dennis King.

            He wasn’t tracking them when O’Sullivan was an Oiler, and I don’t think any public website was publishing any Oiler scoring chances.

            So whatever underlying numbers were being used to defend O’Sullivan, they were not Scoring Chances.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I sure hope Jones doesn’t get a overpriced long contract. I feel like year was just an anomaly.

    In my opinion, a $2.5 million one year deal would be better than a $1.5/yr for 4 or 5 years.

    If he repeats his peformance give him an extended contract. The Oilers have been burned too many times on giving guys long contracts for one year of performance.

    • Jason Gregor

      If you bump him up to $2.5 on a one year deal, he is still a UFA next year and if he scores the same you have to give him at least $2.5. No way I would go that high especially on a one year deal.

    • 416oil

      the only problem with that contract at one yr is that it then becomes an expected wage for the numbers he produced.

      3/yr 1.2-1.4 is something that is acceptable to me. we need to stop denying possible returns on a player for one to two hundred thousand a year.

  • Ender

    We still have too many top-six players on the team, and we may well be drafting another one. My money is on the bet that the Oilers will try to roll out three scoring lines (yet again) this year instead of going the traditional 3rd line checkers and the 4th line goon squad/energy line. If they do, they’re likely to figure they only need 3-4 of those guys like Jones and Harski. Stortini and O’Marra are probably going to get one-way deals, and Vande Velde may play his way onto the squad. I don’t know what Renney figures to do with Reddox.

    I like a lot of the guys Jason points to as bottom six candidates. I’m just thinking the Oilers may not be out shoppping as hard for them as some people think they should be.

    Bergeron being out of the Boston series means Seguin is in. It will be interesting seeing how Tyler handles the pressure of a big game in the Show.

  • 416oil

    on datsyuk and crosby…

    crosby plays like he is just flat out way more talented than anyone else.

    datsyuk plays like he is WAY smarter than anyone else.

    both ridicuously talented and imo there are no 2 better players in the game.


    i agree with more depth on the 3rd and 4th lines but to what level do we approach because of the way Mr. Dither’s has set up the rebuild. if his plan is indeed “4-5 yrs away” then for the short term a ward or upshall good, but pitlick and hamilton may be the fit by the time hell freezes over…otherwise known as the time dithers lead us to the promise land.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      The amazing thing to me is that there are many players whom could be as good as Datsyuk and Crosby but they just would rather enjoy the life of being a rich athlete. Penner comes to mind in a way (I know he could not be as good as them.) because we will never know how good Penner could be nor will he ever know because the motivation to be the very best is just not there. Good? Sure, but the very best? NO!

    • Wax Man Riley

      I gave you props for just bringing attention to our hallowed tradition.

      I agree with Ender on this one. I think the Oil will once again try 3 scoring lines. This doesn’t leave much room for bottom six-ers. I’d like so see Jones back, I liked that he worked hard every shift as well, he seems to actually like it in Edmonton. Those are 2 traits that we need more of, and that hopefully will be contagious.

    • Souby

      The anti-fist….nice!

      I like Jones and I think the Oil need to re-sign him. They could go after a guy like Glencross, but after making 1.2mil and scoring 24 goals this season, his price tag will be too high for a 3rd liner IMO.

      There are other good guys on that list, but no one really jumps out as a significant upgrade over Jones.