I think we’re all pretty much agreed on the shopping list for the Edmonton Oilers this summer: don’t screw up the draft, grab a defenseman and maybe a goalie when no one is looking. Oh, yeah. One more thing. a 2-way forward with or without crust.

When Craig MacTavish left as coach of the Oilers, he spoke with great passion about his team and what they’d tried to do; now this is old history but I wanted to quote one line and lay it across the current roster:

  • MacT April 2009: "Virtually all year, we’re trying to get nonconfrontational players into confrontational areas where we’re going to score goals. It was a losing battle from a lot of perspectives."

As MacTavish has said in the last 24 hours, things have changed. No one can reasonably suggest Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle or even teenager Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shy from the confrontational areas. Although the Nuge doesn’t run over people, he certainly plays an aggressive forechecking game and uses his body to remove player from puck well. Lots of try in this group, and I dare say that veterans Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Jones, Lennart Petrell, Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk will hunt for pucks when the opportunity arises.

So, with all of these hairy men replacing wallfowers Nilsson, Cogliano etc what pray tell is the problem?


The problem is pretty easy to identify: not enough actual NHL players. Sometimes "crust" or "rugged" or "grit" get in the way of the truth: subpar players deliver subpar results.

The Oilers added Smyth, Petrell, Hordichuk and Eager to the mix last summer, but only Smyth proved to be a difference maker (and he faded as the season wore on). That’s a huge key for this season, and I expect the major item the three amigo’s (Tambelllini, Lowe and MacT) will look to address is the group of forwards behind the young studs. For our purposes, I’m including Gagner, Horcoff, Hemsky, Jones and possibly Magnus Paajarvi or Teemu Hartikainen as additional forwards beyond Hall, Nuge and Eberle.


Let’s take this one at a time:

  • Eric Belanger: He had a poor season but still has term on his contract. I’d bet on a recovery of some sort, but rumors have him headed to Montreal. The Oilers would probably pull the trigger even if there wasn’t much at all coming back.
  • Ben Eager: He delivered most of what was expected, although I thought he’d be better at passing and taking a pass. All that speed and size and he can’t catch a pass. Too bad. I think he might end up elsewhere, too.
  • Lennart Petrell: He sure did pressure opponents on the PK, but he was overwhelmed at evens. Was it him or the other guys? The Oilers are unlikely to spend another season finding out.
  • Darcy Hordichuk: I think he was just fine, delivered as expected. However,the Oilers may be looking for a bigger nuclear deterrent (someone like Parros).
  • Anton Lander: I think the Oilers would do well to give him an entire season in the AHL.



The candidate we’ve talked about at length this spring is Teemu Hartikainen. He has size and talent, plus he’s show an ability to win battles in his brief cups of coffee in the NHL. Magnus Paajarvi is also a candidate, his speed is a major plus on the forecheck and the new coach may well find him useful when playing a more uptempo style.

If the Oilers are going to re-work their 4th line and tinker with their 3rd, then they’ll need more than these two in order to make a go of it.


The Oilers have some outstanding top end talent, and maybe another on the way via the draft. The job of Lowe, Tambellini and MacTavish is to make tough decisions: send Lander down and possibly Paajarvi or Hartikainen too; find a new home for one or more of Belanger, Eager, Horcoff or Jones.

They don’t have time for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk. And they have to decide some very important issues right away. Job one: signing Ryan Smyth. Although he didn’t have a strong second half, it’s also true the club used him heavy early and that can be overcome by handling him more carefully.

A top 9 that includes Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Gagner, Smyth, Hemsky, Horcoff and Jones has some strong points. That 9th man is vital, and the 4th line will need some actual players too. 

Up next: who fills the 3-4 line roles after the flood.

  • As the SKILLED depth increases with Yakupov – other players being asked to play roles they can’t fulfill start to settle in to roles they should be in.

    Ryan Jones is a great utility player but has no business being in the top two lines. When used as a third liner he contributes and has momentum changing shifts.

    A third line of Haartikanen – Horcoff – Jones – would be great. IF AND ONLY IF Ryan Smyth understands he has a diminished role and might not be an every day player so factor that into your salary demand then I could see Smyth platoon in an out of this third line should Haartikanen slump be demoted to fourth line.

    the CENTRE position and not the D is the BIGGEST Problem for the Oilers – to date Gags has not proven to be a 2nd line centre…. and the 4th line centre duties are currently with Belanger – who doesn’t want to be a fourth line centre!

    I’m not sure I want another trial year for Gagner as a 2nd line centre. He has showed flashes when playing with talented wingers, but that’s all they are – a good ten game set followed by 15 games of nothing.

    I don’t know what Penguins are asking but Jordan Staal is the No. 1 target IMHO for the Oilers.

  • 2004Z06

    Love the Belanger bashing! Ever since we traded Jarrett Stoll the cry has been for a proven face off man to gain puck possession on the PK and the PP. Well now we have one of the best face off guys in the league and because he had his first ever bad season from a points production standpoint we are prepared to dump him. Here are some questions for all of you. Did the PP improve? Did the PK improve? Did RNH and Gagners face off percentage improve? The answer is yes to all…Why you ask? Because Belanger was there to mentor them and to help the Oil get the puck on the PP and PK. He wasn’t brought in to score goals! I fully expect him to rebound next year and you will all be eating your words. No wonder no one wants to come play here!

  • Copperblueandwhite

    LA’s second round pick goes to dallas as part of the Grossman, Richards trades:

    From the Hockeywriters
    The Los Angeles Kings’ second-round pick will go to the Dallas Stars as the result of a trade on February 16, 2012 that sent Nicklas Grossmann to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a third-round pick in 2013 and this pick. Philadelphia previously acquired this pick as the result of a trade on June 23, 2011 that sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles in exchange for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and this pick .

  • Wanyes bastard child

    I don’t think Tambo should deal Gagner unless he knows he can find a suitable 2nd line centre to replace him. Skilled centres are hard to come by and I don’t want to be looking back in the mirror wondering why we dealt Sam creating a void at 2nd line centre. Calgary dealt Marc Savard and never did find another centre to replace him. How many years did Iggy go without a legit playmaking centre to play with? Craig Conroy was a flash in the pan, but that was it.

    It would help to find a stud Dman, but the free agency pool sucks and it’s going to be very expensive to trade for one. Maybe not an ideal time to grab one. But having a rock solid top 6 would be a good step for this team to take. Try to sign Schultz. If Schultz does go to Toronto, we can inquire about Cody Franson. Maybe add a wiley vet via free agency like Bryce Salvador who was great during the playoffs. We’ve accumulated some very good young prospects. Let’s not overpay to grab a star defenceman at this time.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Ethan Moreau was waived by the LA Kings on Dec 9th 2011. Can’t find anything on if he went to Manchester or not. Probably not with him signing for near league minimum before training camp.

    He had a pretty good career though, started in 1995 and played through 2011.

  • Zamboni Driver

    “A top 9 that includes Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Gagner, Smyth, Hemsky, Horcoff and Jones has some strong points. That 9th man is vital, and the 4th line will need some actual players too.”


    5’10 and 165 lbs
    OLD and greedy
    5’11” (energy guy who thinks he can score)

    THIS is your top 9?

    Yeah. I see no problems there.

    Honest to god, did ANYONE watch the playoffs?

  • Let none of us forget the cardinal rule of “thou shalt not have good players on your fourth line.”

    Otherwise we will have a shortage of jam and crust and school children throughout the city will weep at the contents of their lunchboxes.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Well I feel that people are being to harsh on Eager he pretty much did what was expected if you look back at his previous seasons. He was a little out of sorts at the beginning of the season but that could have been because of the concussion he had.

    Hordi was mostly a non factor in every game but one againts Minny, whether it was mostly him or how the coach played him is anybodies guess but rumor was the oil were looking for an upgrade.

    As for the trade talks, I wouldn’t be surprised if the oil can get a trade that sends Belanger, Hemsky and a prospect or pick to Montreal for the 3rd overall. The canadians want players that can play now and would rather not wait on development. It would not surprise me to see Hemsky,Belanger,Omark and a 4th round pick going to Montreal and I don’t think this is a huge overpayment. This would give Edm a couple options with the third, if Murray is still available,and they can’t sign schultz, they could take him as a drop in for NHL duty. Or if they think they can take care of the defense in other ways they can select one of Alex Galchenyuk or Mikhail Grigorenko which I think would be a really hard choice for Edm.

  • RexLibris


    1. Belanger – why couldn’t he have demanded a trade when Gauthier was still GM? We might have gotten a 2nd round pick out of him for it.

    2. Eager – I might give him one more year, but if he were traded for a 2nd round pick I be’d overjoyed with the return.

    3. Petrell – I’d like to see him come back for one more year. I think he’d buy Hartikainen another year to develop a level of consistency in the AHL. I’m not in favour of promoting Hartikainen this fall, I think he needs at minimum another half-season in OKC.

    4. Hordichuk – A good teammate, but if the Oilers could add Parros, I would be very happy with that move. Also, it would put the team in a new mustache bracket and make Movember a thing of beauty. He and Gagner could make some facial hair history.

    5. Lander – Agreed. He needs a full year. Maybe two. Why rush him when promoting him now would give the Oilers approximately the same level of player that they could find in Vande Velde? Bring up Vande Velde, let Lander take his minutes in OKC, and turn VV into a asset that could be traded for required parts before replacing him with an overall upgrade in the now-matured Lander.

    P.S. Smyth – If he signs then Paajarvi should spend some time in OKC. If not, then Paajarvi gets the nod and let’s just hope that he can make something of it. Just not too much of something, this is a contract year for him and we’ll need an affordable contract for the young man.

  • Danny Donkey


    Please explain to me how trading belanger,hemsky, marancin and a 2nd round pick for montreal’s thrid overall pick is a “High Risk, High Reward”? How is there any risk to the oilers at all? your trading away absolutely nothing for a top 3 pick. maybe mike milbury would do it but no one else.

  • Wax Man Riley

    THIS is your top 9?

    Yeah. I see no problems there.

    Honest to god, did ANYONE watch the playoffs?

    Apparently some people have forgotten about the Oiler’s last 82 games as well.