Another Year Over

The brightest story in this Oiler season may come from ownership. With the arena situation progressing, Daryl Katz will have more time to examine the rebuild. What’s been happening? Where are the successes? Failures? What should be done?

WHAT’S RIGHT?

  • Scotty Bowman: "Success comes from ownership, goaltending, and I’ve always been thinking that you can have a fire-wagon type of hockey but your ability to play good defence has got to surface. The thread that ran through all of my success was undoubtedly ownership’s commitment to win."

I believe Daryl Katz has the makings of a fine owner. The man has provided his managers with the resources to improve the scouting department and the farm system and the money to spend to the cap. There is evidence that he involves himself on many levels (I’d pay money to find out if he was involved in the Ryan Smyth trade back to EDM) and there’s no doubt there is progress.

  • The qualiy of young talent–especially forwards–has been improved since he took over. Stu MacGregor and his staff have used their picks wisely and the two #1’s should form the foundation of a winner for a long time.
  • The quality of the farm team is much better, hell OKC plays in Hamilton today as one of the very best AHL teams in the league. It’s been awhile for an Oiler farm team.
  • An icon of Ryan Smyth’s status returning has to bode well for this organization’s future. Smyth mentoring guys like Teemu Hartikainen and Tyler Pitlick has to have some long term benefits for the Oilers, and let’s remember Ryan Smyth remains a quality NHL veteran.

WHAT’S WRONG?

The Oilers have been a poor hockey team for years now, really since Ladlslav Smid’s rookie season (this is season 6 for Smid). The problems have been pretty much the same all down the line:

  • Not enough "actual" NHL players. An easy way to describe an actual NHL player is Laddy Smid today compared to the Laddy we saw previous to this season (or maybe late last year). It takes a long time for some quality defensemen to develop.
  • Too many kids learning on the job in the NHL. Yesterday, young Colten Teubert was exposed on a goal and you have to allow for it. Teubert’s a young defenseman trying to survive the multiple sorties that come his way every night, and due to injuries and other things the Oilers can’t give him a veteran hand on the left side of his pairing. These are tough things to endure for everyone, but all teams who play too many young defensemen suffer from it.
  • Lack of balance. The Oilers have an aging goaltender backed up by a young guy they’re not completely sure about at this time. They have Smid-Gilbert on the blue and Ryan Whitney who may or may not be a guy they can count on in the future. They have role players like Suttton and a pleasant surprise in Potter plus all the kids like Peckham, Petry and Teubert trying to find their way. I will credit the Oilers with filling in well up front; between the veterans and the gifted kids, only the 4th line is a true black hole at this time.

 

SOLUTION?

I often recommend a book to my friends. It’s called "The Road to Hockeytown" and it’s by Jimmy Devellano and Roger Lajoie. The book details (among other things) the GM history of the Detroit Red Wings under Mike Illitch’s ownership of the team.

  • Jim Devellano (1992 to 1990)
  • Bryan Murray (1990 to 1994) Devellano was bumped up to VP)
  • Devellano, Ken Holland & Scotty Bowman (1994 to 1997)
  • Ken Holland (1997 through today)

The book details the many missteps by the owner and coaches and Devallano and others. Among the most amusing stories are Illitch talking to Mike Keenan about coaching the team (without consulting anyone) and Detroit signing ALL of the college free agents one summer and driving the rest of the NHL to distraction over it.

It’s an incredible essay that offers real insight into the maturation of a now exceptional organization.

 

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Oilers are making some progress. The minor league team is winning and appears to be developing useful players, the draft picks (#1’s and otherwise) are delivering beyond or at expectations. The NHL team has run into the usual problems relating to lack of balance, lack of experience and some bets that didn’t work out via trade and free agency.

The Detroit Red Wings had all of those problems too. Did they fire Jim Devellano? Hell no! They bumped his payscale! The man driving this rig is Daryl Katz, and there’s every chance the current managers will be here this time next year and the year after that one.

Oilers management talked about competing and pushing for the playoffs early in the season, and now the verbal involves staying out of the lottery. If they end up in the lottery, will things change?

Maybe. But we should be prepared for maybe not. Daryl Katz makes those decisions, has since he bought the team. 

  • Guggenheim

    Katz is just fine, the quiet, behind the scenes cheque signer is my preference. For comparison, that greatest moment of a completed season, handing the Dean Lombardi trophy over to the team owner or the Stanley Cup going to the team captain.

    ST I haven’t given completely up on yet. It’s possible that our elusive #1-2 d-man just isn’t available or at least not at a reasonable price right now. If you were a competing GM, wouldn’t you do everything to fleece the Oil since they -need- that d-man and the perception may be that ST’s employment future is riding on doing something?

    It took the late 80’s/ early 90’s Nordique’s and the early 00’s Penquin’s a number of years worth of drafts and some significant trades to get their fecal matter organized, we may have to deal with a couple more years of it here too. Hopefully at the end of it all we have the same payoff.

    • wiseguy

      They give out the Vince Lombardi trophy to the NFL champs. Do they hand out the Dean Lombardi trophy to the GM who trades for the most injured players in 1 season?

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    LA Clippers- Washington Nationals=St.louis Rams [ wait ! thats my team as well] Edmonton Oilers..Hmmm My Rams canned their inept
    Coach and Mgmt even with some High Draft Picks [ Bradford]
    Yet our owner refuses to believe any of this has to do
    with the crap Kevin and ST and even Renney give us.
    What pisses me off most is these clowns continue to hide.
    We never hear anything from them. Home you guys sleep well
    cashing those massive pay cheques Katz signs for you.

    You guys are way over paid…

  • Al Davis

    Everyone seems to jump on Tambo right away for his lack of moves, but then they don’t give any suggestions to what he should have done (what player he should have gone after).

    For the record I am not a Tambo supporter or hater, I am just an outside observer. But if you’re going to rip a guy for all these moves he hasn’t made, please inform us unenlightened individuals of the players that should be wearing Oilers uniforms right now.

    • Chris.

      I assume you were responding to my comment. What you said is easy to say, but is off the mark because it is not my job to be able to asses all of the talent in the NHL.

      NHL teams employ many people and spend buckets of money to know these things. What I can know is that other NHL teams remain competitive, over many seasons, and don’t have high draft picks. And if you are an observer of Oiler sites, there is enough stat info for fans to have a good idea of who delivers results, so there is no excuse anymore for GM’s to not know as well. Where I am in my family’s life, I don’t have hours to look on rosters, Gabe’s site, and find the gems.

      So we can assume that after you obtain a few high end players, the rest is done through development and smart trades. We have seen no sign yet that ST can make deals that improve the team.

      Perhaps they are waiting on a certain time frame. That in itself is a debatable approach. The handling of Hemsky and Whitney after management making statements regarding changing the culture and of the team and the handling of players isn’t ringing true with me and many other fans.

      At some point in the near future we need to see some signs of the plan that we are told is unfolding. Continual sitting on hands is hardly a plan, and taking years to unfold the plan is a recipe for problems. Patience is necessary, but on the other hand tomorrow never comes.

      Despite what management says, we have been awful for years including the ’06 run season, the rebuild truly began when Pronger was dealt at the very soonest, and we have seen nothing but waiting for tomorrow for far too long. As I said, I feel they’ll tank next year as well, but given the time frame trades could secure the draft pick they want for 2013.

      I think (lacking evidence) that they want a run at one of the two great centres in that draft year, and tanking doesn’t give them a better chance at it given the talent they have, without risking alienating the fans. Then again, winning changes opinion quickly.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Every year theirs a handful of quality guys traded for mid range pics, and others signed for peanuts as free agents. Maybe one middle 6 forward, 1 4th liner and 2-3 defenders and this could have been a playoff team.

      • ubermiguel

        Then how are we going to judge this guy? We are not talking about minor moves here but the lack of a major move that spells out direction.

        In the absence of a clearly articulated vision, we will be speculating what the best direction for this team is.

        Some GM build from within, some build through the draft only, some trade too much, some do both, some dont do anything.

        Im suggesting that Tamby falls in the latter……no vision, no big deals….. just let things happen.

        If you are not a leader…….then you are a follower.

    • bumblebpete

      Very interesting!

      MPS wasn’t played where he could succeed this year.However,I believe Renney was forced to play the cards that Tambo dealt him. Last year Renney played the kids where they could shine, but the signings of Tambo hamstrung him.

      This season is not Renney’s fault, it’s the mismanagement from above that made this turkey.

  • oilbaron

    in my eye’s its always been stu mcgregor, without his picks we have zero. the only thing steve has done that has helped the oilers is brining back ryan smyth. but it was ryan smyth that told dean lombardi that he wanted to come back to edmonton. once that happened tambo had lombardi against he ropes. the only other positive i can think of that he has done for this team is the dustin penner trade. he hasnt signed any free agents to help out the team and the ones he did sign havnt panned out at all. yet i hear him getting too much credit for the players he brought in like hall and nuge. if it wasnt for all of his blundering we wouldnt even have these players. i say we keep him around, get another couple top 5 picks in the next two years and than bring in a GM who actually know’s how to piece together a deal that makes us a better team. After all the best loser always gets the best player. 😉

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    Things don’t resolve overnight. My main concern with ST if that I don’t see a deal maker, and I think that deal making is key to the health of a successful, mature club.

    I truly hope we see the first signs of this from ST when he trades Hemsky for good value. If he gives him away, I likely won’t sleep until the draft!

    Although I like both he and now Gagner, somebody has to go to fill holes unless they find UFA’s at the right price, which isn’t likely. Of the players worth anything they are the most expendable.

    I think we also are going to have another bad year after this one before they try to improve – gut feeling. Of course the team could get to the playoffs now with 2-3 more NHL D and more sense with the bottom 6, maybe a goalie. We’ll know what they are planning by the start of next season, if there aren’t significant changes on the roster. If things remain largely the same we shouldn’t expect much of a climb.

  • Spydyr

    is Tamby a player, slayer, or delayer? It seems to me that everyone is trying to figure this out and in the absence of a vision of what the team is going to look like, we are all left speculating.

    Brian Burke has stated what kind of team he is going to build and then gone about doing it. Tallon has demonstrated that you can draft and acquire talent at the same time……..all the while articulating what his team will eventually look like.

    I have never heard Tamby clearly state what his plan is…….if in fact he has one? This lack of vision and plan will provide much fodder for writers and fans as we try to figure this guy out.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      I’m not a ST hater or supporter yet. Maybe next year I’ll pick a side. But as far as him not being vocal about the teams plans etc, I’m guessing this is directly from Katz. The one thing that’s been consistent with him is he likes to keep a low profile. I’m betting (hoping) that everything about this franchise goes thru Katz. He’s a proven success.

      PS – Burke has to say something. He’s a media addict.

      I’m also not getting all the love Tallon is getting. He had a big part with the Hawks rebuild and Cup but he also had a lot of luck and his share of blunders. Didn’t he sign Campbell and Huet for huge money. Toews and Kane were high draft picks. Keith and Seabrook were huge surprises. And didn’t Tallon get fired as a gm because he didn’t qualify RFAs on time?

      • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

        I’m only suggesting that he do this once a year……..I know he is media shy, but come on……..this comes with the job. If he wants to hide because he is unsure of what to say and why, then he choose the wrong profession.

        I suspect he has no plan…….the emperor has no clothing!

  • Spydyr

    There has to be a demanding of results soon…

    Injuries aside… holes in the team have been exposed for some time now. 3 years of lottery… Whether we end up as the Islanders or the Penguins the results will most likely fall on management,

    Great quote from 30 thoughts a couple weeks ago which I have been stating for sometime.

    “Had a really interesting conversation with a player last week. He was saying his (struggling) team needed an identity. Then, he went on to list some teams that did have one. “You know that Boston is going to pound you and make you pay physically. You know that Chicago is going to dare you to try and skate with them. You know that Vancouver is going to try to get you to take penalties and make you pay on the penalty kill. And you know that Detroit is going to turn the other cheek while winning all of the one-on-one battles.” Then, he added, “We need to be more like the Red Wings.””

    Was that an Oiler? Because if I was a player on the team that is what I would be asking…

  • Oh hello sunday afternoon FIST

    I think Katz is doing the right thing by being patient early in this re-build. He is doing the right things in setting up the foundation for success for years to come, like investing in OKC, drafted talent etc. But before long he will get sick of the process too if progress isn’t made. To me, we’re looking at a possible 3rd first overall selection… you have to be real bad for 3 years to do that. When does Katz himself demand results? When will he get tired of the team drafting future super stars only to see Tambi continue to fill the rest of the holes with the wrong pieces.

    it’s easy to leave it up to the magnificent bastard himself, but at some point the GM has to do some actual work. Make a deal, put the right personal together. Looks to me like this is Stu’s team not Tambi’s.