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. 

  • Terran

    After todays news out of Pittsburgh he should be able to find a “willing partner”. Both Neal and Staal out for extended periods. Top of the list I’d say. Philly. 2cd on the list. Goaltending? TBay. Ditto. there are trades out there to be had.Perhaps Mr Dithers overvalues his players to a point where he can’t make a deal. The old “Do you see what I see” mentality. Will ST be here next year? I’d say no. The Oilers are going to finish 28th. A lottery pick for sure will seal ST’s fate. Perception is reality. And this a results based buisness. No way he survives being GM if we are a lottery team. Renny? If ST goes so does Renny and his staff.

  • GDot

    I believe the problem with the Oilers goes all the way back to the 90’s where coaching/management and even fans always promote the ideal Oiler as a 10-20 goal scoring garbage player who is supposedly good on the PK and “tries hard”. We reward losers without any consequences or punishment against players who play garbage hockey, best example is a C on the jersey of Horcoff. We wont move forward until we stop making excuses and get tough on garbage players who don’t provide results. Hand the reins over to the kids who actually perform and tell any veterans who stink to beat it. We cant win until we have a culture that promotes winning and punishes losers.

    • OilLeak

      Fans like you are the reason the Oilers have bad players. Persecute the useful players and praise the crap. Of all the crappy players on the Oilers this year, you chose to crap on Horcoff. The man who takes on the best players night in and night out and it’s not even close, the man playing with a bum shoulder, but goes out anyways because he knows what the injury situation is like.

      Horcoff leads by example, produces decent results, and still gives a crap when others have given up.

      Shame on you, because with that attitude good players are not allowed to struggle even after carrying the load all these pathetic years.

  • It’s the curse of Jason Strudwick.

    Last year:
    Taylor Hall – 42pts, injured.
    Jordan Eberle – 43pts (injured near the end of season).
    Sam Gagner – 42pts, injured.
    Ales Hemsky – 42pts, injured.

    This year:
    Eberle – 43pts, injured
    RNH – 35pts, injured

    Nobody can get more than 43pts, when someone gets close, the ghost of Jason Strudwick’s uniform wreak’s havoc on the team. Something needs to be burned in effigy, quick!

    • Crash

      All kidding aside it’ll never matter who the GM and coach are here if the Oilers continually lose their best players to injury every freakin year.

      This is 3 yrs in a row with multiple games missed by the top players on the team and a lot of the injuries are freakish and not due to getting pummelled by the other team….

        • Crash

          What depth players were going to come here to replace what a healthy Hemsky, Hall, Eberle, Whitney, Gagner, RNH and your fav Horcoff provide to the team?

          You’re only allowed 50 contracts and waiver issues come into play.

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

            Been over it 2 dozen times (in fact you quoted a post that touched on it briefly).

            You don’t bring in players to replace the guys you listed, you bring in guys to replace Lander, Petrell, Peckham and Petry.

            Then when the injuries come, the depth that was brought in move up the roster and the guys I listed above (in this post) are you’re first call ups.

          • Crash

            It’s not as simple as “SAYING” you just bring in depth….again…who are all these depth players that are going to sign with a 30th place hockey team and play on the 4th line behind Hall, Eberle, RNH, Hemsky, Horcoff, Smyth, Jones? Why do you want to waste many of Stu’s picks on middle of the road 35 yr old players just in the hopes that they might move you into 9th place? Isn’t Corvo like almost 35 yrs old? And would he even agree to come here or be happy here? I doubt it…

            Isn’t Smyth a depth player? Isn’t Petrell a depth player? I mean he’s definitely not a youngster, isn’t Jones a depth player? Belanger? Eager? Keep in mind you still have to chew up one of the 50 contracts for each player to carry Lander, Petry, Petrell, Peckham, etc in the minors…..plus you would also have to get Peckham through waivers and I think he’s one of those guys you wouldn’t get through. I’ll give you Lander…I agree he’d be better off playing big minutes in OKC but he’s the only one

            But the problem still exists, who are all these good depth players that will sign here (in Edm, northern most city in the NHL and 30th place team) to play 3rd and 4th line minutes that will make the team better than playing Lander and Petry? Please spare me the Hannan thing again (he signed in Calgary and they are no better this year) Fact is they don’t exist so the big team is better off letting some of the youth play in the bigs and get NHL ice time…What’s the point of picking up older guys who don’t make the team better? Or who make the team slightly better?

            Besides, what are you complaining about…didn’t they send PRV down, Omark down, plus have many other young players down on the farm?

            What I’d like to see more than anything else is for the Oilers to have a full season of health to most of their high end guys….If they continue to lose Hall, Eberle, RNH, Gagner, Hemsky and yes even Horcoff for long periods of time they will never win a lot of hockey games no matter what older slugs they add for depth.

            It’s true, I agree, they need some good d-men….good being the key word….I’m not sure there is a quick way to do this….Ottawa drafted Karlsson….the Oilers are going to have to draft themselves one or throw a gross amount of money at someone and then “HOPE” he signs here and then “HOPE” he doesn’t disappear after signing the big contract.

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

            I agree with every word of that.

            People assume (I catch myself doing it too when I’m pissed off after a game) that ST can just acquire desirable players. I wrote something to the same effect after one of Brownlee’s articles, and it stands: sure, everyone wants an elite d-man, but the teams that have them either aren’t interested in moving them – period. Or, they would require one of Edmonton’s untouchables.

            Way too easy to cherry-pick management on stuff that we simply do not have full disclosure on. It’s impossible to know what kind of conversations ST has had with other teams. People call him hesitant to the point of handicapping the team, but frankly, give me that and a plan (he has one – don’t argue otherwise) over a GM Milbury-ing a team anyday.

            We talk about players like they are tools – and they are – but keep in mind there’s a host of other dimensions – personality, family situation, team culture – that play a role, and they’re as important as anything on the ice. Problem is, we can’t quantify it or measure it, so we as fans are approaching a problem with a problem of asymmetrical information. Long story short – we aren’t privy to full disclosure, so you can’t make fully-informed judgement calls.

          • Crash

            I”m one of the guys who is neither a ST backer or ST basher….I think people just don’t realize the challenges of anyone who has to be in charge of manning a team in Edm.

            Other cities have advantages that Edmonton doesn’t…..Edmonton is a fishbowl and is in the extreme north….Calgary has the same issue. They can’t attract high end FA’s to them either

            Add to that Edm is right now a bottom dwellar and it makes it difficult for the Oilers to acquire players that “1” want to be here and “2” will stay awhile after they get here.

            I think we’ve seen how bad players want to come here…top end ones I mean….Hossa didn’t, Heatley didn’t, hell even Nylander didn’t and Pronger wanted out of here after one yr and he even signed a 5 yr contract after he came here….

            To get guys to come here my perception is you have to overpay them grossly…..ie: give Wisniewski a sick contract like Columbus did or like the Oilers did when they got Souray and Penner.

            I sure hope one of Kelfbom, Gernat, Marincin can turn into the top end d-man we need or maybe Ryan Murray or Matt Dumba….I’m not sure how else this will get fixed.

          • Terran

            I’m not a ST backer or hacker either. I just feel that GMs and Coaches get an unfair shake from a generally ignorant fanbase that figures its as easy as snapping ones’ fingers.

            As for the inability to attract free agents, you’re right, it is tough. Climate, travel, etc play a factor. Conversely, there’s positives that wash those out – quality of education for children, size of city (not everyone wants to take the train to practice or live an hour away in the next state over). I think these can balance each other out.

            The best way to attract quality – as Gregor says – is to win. Or at least, put your team on a winning trajectory.

          • Crash

            This is exactly right….in order to attract the kind of guys who will make a difference you have to win if you’re Edm…it’s kind of a catch 22…the Oilers need these players in order to win but they need to win first in order to get these players…

            So it appears to me…at least on the surface that the Oilers decided 2 yrs ago to build it from the ground up….they are going to need the young players to drag them out of the garbage and into prominence and then they will attract the better players.

            Not sure how adding this 35 yr old or that 35 yr old to play on the 4th line really accomplishes much

  • Crash

    Folks, all this talk about the Oil fans needing more patience on this so called rebuild is quite honestly making me sick to my stomach. Oil brass and media sponsored by Oil have really got us- well most of us brain washed.
    Just out of curiosity, how long was Ottawa’s rebuild ? In case you haven’t had a chance to check the standing they are 6 point shy of number one overall.
    People please wake from this spell Oil brass has and is trying to cast upon us. This is after all, is a level playing field – the salary cap error and has been the case for how many years now ? Management should all be hanging from the rafters at Rexall if not due to pure failure in their task but embarrassment for being in the running for a third straight lottery team. Fans need to stop attending home games for maybe this will send a message. People, this is not and should not be about patience when there are clear examples that these turnarounds do not have to take 4-6 or even 3-4 years. It’s about knowing your strengths and weaknesses and targeting and addressing those needs. Yes, easier said than done but yes, there are management teams out there that are making it happen. What we need is a competent management team ! This learning on the job has got to stop and we need to clean house.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ Crash. Ok, 2 dozen and 1 times. I think if we added say Steckle/Corvo/Hannan and maybe a Versteeg and we are probably a plaoff team without sacrificing anything of real value… And guess what, only one was a free agent aquisition so you’re favorite fall back excuse that they wouldn’t sign here isn’t relevant. Has a team ever gone through a full year without injuries to major players?? I doubt it…. So what do they do to combat that??? They bring in depth guys like the ones above. Bank on an injury free season is a pipe dream. And I’m the one that can’t see the forest through the trees.

    • Crash

      They brought in Belanger (there’s your Steckel), Hannan is junk and wouldn’t make a difference (not sure how many times I have to point out he hasn’t helped Calgary be better), Corvo is 35 yrs old and is a decent complimentary player on a powerhouse team in Boston….but would he have been happy here? Probably not….I’d rather leave the pick with Stu than waste it on a 35 yr old d-man.

      Picking up Barker was a worthwhile gamble….3rd overall pick, 25 yrs old, could be gold, who knows…it’s worth a shot…..look at how Smid is doing now.

      Kris Versteeg is having a fine year…hindsight is great…but isn’t Ryan Smyth having a fine year too? Isn’t Jones doing pretty well? Isn’t Belanger in the top 5 in FO% in the league? Isn’t the PP and PK much better this year?

      I didn’t say bank on an injury free season but a season where the team doesn’t lose all their best players for long stretches shouldn’t be too much to ask at least once in awhile…..

      It looks like Pittsburgh is running into that this year and look what it’s doing to them. They are dropping down the standings like a rock. Yes I do think there are teams that go for a good period during the year without serious injuries to their major players..usually those are the teams that manage to win. So I maintain, if the Oilers continue to lose all their best players every year for long periods of time it’s going to kill their playoff chances. Everytime.

      A top end d-man is all this team really needs, maybe two of them or one and a healthy Whitney, oh and relative health to their higher end guys….but getting a top end d-man is a difficult thing….unless the Oilers are willing to deal Hall, Eberle or RNH….and then you have to make sure you get one with term on the contract or you may have him leave when he becomes UFA

    • Terran

      I don’t obsessively follow players, so forgive me if I’m misunderstanding, but you say “only one was a free agent aquisition”. By this, I’m lead to believe the others would have been obtained through trade. And what would we have traded in order to gain these other players? What assurances do you have that the trade was there to be made?

      • Terran

        And furthermore, it seems as if Versteeg was challenged in playing for Philadelphia and Toronto, while he flourished in Chicago and Florida.

        If ST was aware Versteeg was available (first assumption), he would have done the following (second assumption) – attempt to identify the factors behind the player’s success on some clubs while struggling on others. Due diligence. Perhaps even speak with the clubs’ GMs to glean insight. So, perhaps after doing his due diligence, it appeared that the player was not a fit, and so to sacrifice anything more than a token asset (say a seventh rounder) would be an unreasonable gamble.

        I guess the point of this hypothetical scenario is to illustrate how little we know of a situation, yet how quickly we jump to the conclusion that we could have and should have acquired a player.

        • Terran

          Hmm, Philly and Toronto, what do those two markets have in common? Seems to me those are both high pressure markets, sort of like Edmonton is, no?

          And I have to agree completely with your closing paragraph.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Steckle and Corvo went for 4th rounders, versteg went for a second. My assurance? … Well they were traded… So that’s pretty good assurance.

  • Terran

    Ottawa built thier team around defence the first time, and are doing it again this “rebuild”.

    Good defence and goaltending can cover a myriad of sins. That’s why I have no faith in Tambellini. He spent his high draft picks on forwards and therefore should have procured quality defencemen (trades or FA) and he has done neither.

    Until the defence gets fixed, this is a lottery team, I don’t care how good the forwards are.

  • CaptainLander

    What do you call a young D-man? Is it number of years in the league, age? If you consider Potter a “young” d-man I would agree, more then youth it is NHL experience, not just AHL I just do not think having a fairly young d means they cannot compete to win, I look to the NYR:
    Michael Del Zotto 21
    Ryan McDonagh 22
    Dan Girardi 27
    Jeff Woywitka 28
    Anton Stralman 25
    Steve Eminger 28
    Stu Bickel 25
    Michael Sauer 24
    Marc Staal 24
    Tim Erixon 20

    This looks like a pretty young d to me that seems to be pretty effective. The top three with Sauer and Stralman have the most ice time. Assuming Staal will get more as he gets healthy. I guess my point is a 21 and 22 year old play some of the highest ice time and lead there D in points, maybe the Oilers D regardless of age, Peckam for example are just not very good and the real issue with the Oilers D is not that they are to young just that they are not good. I am not convinced that Klefbom would not be better now then Peckam. Skill is skill and our D just does not have a whole lot of it.