Stirring the Pot

Keeping the Dream Rivalry Alive

The Abbotsford Heat sit atop their AHL conference while the Barons are struggling to stay in the playoff picture

In Calgary this is greeted with great joy, dancing in the streets, and various acts of nefarious merriment with barnyard animals*. In Edmonton, well, that isn’t really our thing.

*This may or may not be true.

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So based on the cackling voices about the Barons poor performance, and by extension the Oilers rebuilding efforts, being thus revealed as a futile effort that will inevitably end in ignominy, I decided to dig a little deeper into the status of the two AHL teams and their success thus far.

Here is what I found.

I began by taking a look at goaltending. This has been an area of great strength for the Heat this season. In fact, Barry Brust and Danny Taylor sit 1st and 2nd in the AHL goaltender statistical categories, whereas Yann Danis is a meager 22nd, and Olivier Roy doesn’t even rate due to the limited number of games he has played.

Advantage appears to go to the Heat there. More on that in a minute.

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Now let’s have a look at the point producers for each team. Here is a breakdown of the players for both teams based on their number of points and where they sit out of the top 400 in the AHL. (numbers taken from effective December 17th)

Rank Barons Heat Points
1st Eberle   38
2nd Schultz   38
20th Hall   23
41st Nugent-Hopkins   20
44th Arcobello   20
53rd Hartikainen   19
56th   Street 19
61st   Horak 18
77th   Baertschi 17
80th   Walter 17
81st Paajarvi   17
144th   Brodie 14
163rd Marincin   13
178th   Sylvester* 12
2124th   Olson* 11
248th   McCarthy* 10
255th   Kolanos 9
262nd   Laing* 9
347th   Byron 7
360th Fedun   7
369th Vande Velde   7
394th   Bancks 6
1st   Brust*  
2nd   Taylor*  
22nd Danis    

Baertschi has played only 17 games due to a neck/concussion injury, so his points total is likely slightly lower than it ought to be. By the same token, Hall has played only 18 games this season and Nugent-Hopkins is currently away at the World Juniors after only 19 games. The point totals of all three players are not entirely representative.

Now, taking the list of players above, I have italicized those who are AHL rookies. Players in bold are those who were acquired as free agents – in other words not through draft or trade. An asterisk sits next to the players who are employed not by the NHL parent club, but by the AHL team itself, and therefore are not property of the NHL team.

A quick glance tells you a few things.

First is that Eberle and Schultz are taking this league to the woodshed.

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Second might be the narrow margin between 20th and 80th place on the points standings.

But aside from that, the Oilers farm team is being dominated by their core players in Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, and apparently Schultz. As well, the Oilers have an organizational stake in every one of their leading players, as well as a number of others spinning their wheels, but more on them in a minute.

The Heat, meanwhile, are getting yeoman’s work from their players, including Street and Walter, both AHL veterans. Baertschi appears to be, when healthy, coming along at a reasonable rate in his development. However, the Heat are being dominated by, and indeed dominating the AHL with, their goaltenders, both of whom have no contract with the Flames themselves. Meanwhile, the goaltender with an actual Flames pedigree, Leland Irving, is sitting out most games. More on him in a moment, too.

Now for the bad news (with baby animals)

The Barons are suffering from the lack of complementary play from some of their depth. It may not stand out, but what ought to be noticeable, and rather unsettling, is the complete omission of players like Anton Lander, Curtis Hamilton and Tyler Pitlick from this list at all. I went through the top 400 players in the AHL, and they are nowhere to be found.

When the lockout occurred, and the Oilers trio were sent to OKC, I had anticipated that players like Pitlick might suffer from the reduced playing time and role. I hadn’t anticipated this. Jonathan Willis has a great article on this very topic up at OilersNation right now.

Things might change, but right now the future, at least of the bottom six, is looking decidedly less-bright. As the old saying goes, this too shall pass.

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As for the Heat…

I’d start by taking a look at who the best players are on the team, how they came to be with the Heat and what relationship they have to the Flames organization. That isn’t a good sign. The best performers, outside of Horak and Baertschi, are AHL free agents who combined have a single NHL goal between them. In terms of how the Heat’s performance-to-date might translate to the NHL, the answer is likely not very much at all. Irving is well down the pecking order as a third string in the final year of his contract and at a time when he needs to be pushing for an NHL job. Troy Ward, who thus far has made a fair name for himself as a development coach, isn’t even going to Irving as a backup. That speaks volumes.

The future for the Flames isn’t in the AHL right now, outside of Baertschi, so that is understandable. However, it does speak to the amount of work ahead. Also, and this is a part that may really ruffle some feathers, but when analyzing and anticipating the eventual influx of talent that the Flames are currently fostering in place like the NCAA, keep in mind the drop off and early-season disappointment that the Oilers are experiencing with their talented depth prospects. It isn’t like it couldn’t happen to the Flames in a few years’ time, either.

For the time being, the Heat will continue to be able to look down their nose (and standings) on the farm team of their despised northern rivals. At the same time, the Barons will continue to dazzle fans with their NHL-ready talent sitting in purgatory at the Cox Convention center while Oilers fans repeat the mantra “education” and “development”.

  • Brent G.

    If the NHLPA decertified wouldn’t all of these players become free agents and, obviously, look for the first exit out of that stank hole? While I feel it is a stupid move by the players 1 silver lining is what the Oilers have to lose and be in the perpetual toilet for another decade šŸ™‚

  • Brent G.

    If the NHLPA decertified wouldn’t all of these players become free agents and, obviously, look for the first exit out of that stank hole? While I feel it is a stupid move by the players 1 silver lining is what the Oilers have to lose and be in the perpetual toilet for another decade šŸ™‚

  • geoilersgist

    Every time I have heard someone talk about the Heat I just laugh and say (in fewer words) exactly what you just did.

    The only problem I see with the Barons is the lack of scoring depth. The players that were performing last year aren’t this year and that is a bit of a problem, but hopefully its just a speed bump.

    • Word to the Bird

      They also aren’t playing as strong of minutes as last year. That being said, it’s not really asking that much for the occasional goal once in a while

    • Word to the Bird

      Most of the returning barons aren’t playing as strong of minutes as last year. That being said, it’s not really asking that much for the occasional goal once in a while

  • RexLibris

    There you have it, straight from the Gregor’s mouth, and Macramalla is a pretty smart guy: he knows that of which he speaks.

    As I understand it, the league is pushing for the voiding of all contracts in order to prevent having to pay triple value in damages should they be found guilty under anti-trust legislation in the U.S. (don’t ask me how this woudl affect Canadian teams, but suffice to say it would likely be something similar).

    Here is how I see the court ruling going, should they find in the League’s favour: the lockout is valid and the DOI is a maneuver meant to apply bargaining pressure. Players can pursue their careers in other leagues in North America and Europe, and the fact that they do so today undermines any claim to the contrary.

    HOWEVER…the league’s owners signed their contracts in good faith, one supposes, and are currently engaged in negotiating a new CBA in which efforts to make whole those contract have been offered. Therefore, the contracts shall be upheld and any moves to void them are viewed in the same light as the Players Association’s move towards a DOI.

    Ergo, the lockout is valid, the contracts stand, and both sides would be well-served to recognize that a negotiation involves finding compromise.

    Just as a side note, if the contracts were null and void, why would anyone assume that the Oilers would inevitably lose their talented young players? I know the fear exists, but Eberle appears to like it here, Hall has bought in, Schultz chose this team, and Nugent-Hopkins has family nearby. It might be slightly less likely, but entirely possible, that the Oilers could actually attract some other talented players to join them, instead of losing them all to sun, sand, surf, and the almighty dollar.

    Just a thought.

    • geoilersgist

      I agree with you on the losing of players. They all seem to like it here and this ownership will pay to keep them here. I honestly believe the Oilers could really turn the ship around if it became an open market.

      • DSF

        If the union decertifies and all players become free agents, the Oilers will be at a tremendous disadvantage in pursuing players since the non cap world would resemble what was occurring in the 90’s.

        Based on league revenues, teams like Toronto, Montreal, the Rangers, Vancouver, Boston, Detroit and Chicago will have far more revenue available to acquire and pay players.

        For example, Toronto’s revenue last season, according to Forbes, was $200 million….the Oilers a mere $106 million.

        That extra $94 million can buy you a lot of hockey players.

        Even if you do a more reasonable comparison, the Canucks’ revenues last season were $143 million.

        That extra $37 million could theoretically pay 6 $6 million players.

        Unless Katz is willing to lose tens of million a year, the Oilers would not be able to compete for top talent.

        • Truth

          So you’re saying that the league (who is currently fighting to pay the players less, thereby leveling the playing field for all 30 teams) is pushing to void all of the contracts of current NHL players only so they can extremely overpay for their services later? hmm.

          I would envision them: a) voiding all contracts, b)ensuring all teams have the rights to negotiate with their “own” players, and c) set a hard cap of ~$30M. Sure it would be hard, and as Gregor says it’s not going to happen, but if the league sets their own agreement they can do whatever they want. Maybe make them have a negotiation list for every team and anyone that signs elsewhere pays big in compensation. Be it through actual dollars or players/draft picks.

        • geoilersgist

          The Oilers make more money than half the league. I am surprised you value Hall, Ebs, Nuge as much as you do since they play for the Oilers. If the Oilers are already willing to pay them 6mil/year in a cap world I imagine they are willing to offer more dollar bills if there were no cap. It wouldn’t be like the 90s just because our dollar is actually worth more than US. That alone has changed the playing field from the 90s.

        • OilClog

          If the Oilers were able to make the playoffs in a open market, get that extra income, they could compete for top talent.

          With the right GM and staff the Oilers would have no problems assembling a fine hockey team. The leafs may make $200 million per season, but even if.. this isn’t baseball, this isn’t the yankees, they’re not spending $200 million on salary.

          • DSF

            The Oilers could NOT compete for top talent based on making the playoffs.

            They couldn’t do it before the salary cap and there is no reason to think they could do so now.

            If the Oilers had 8 playoff dates/season on average, they would net another $16 million per season (estimated) which even if the Canucks missed the playoffs EVERY season, would still leave the Oilers at a tremendous disadvantage.

            Here are team payrolls for 2003/04…the year before the last lockout.

            DET $79M

            NYR $76M

            PHA $68M

            COL $63M

            DAL $63M

            TML $62M

            STL $61M (team went broke)

            LAK $54M

            ANA $53M

            WSH $51M

            NJD $49M

            BOS $47M

            VCR $42M

            NYI $41M

            OTT $40M

            MTL $39M

            PHX $39M

            CAL $37M

            ATL $36M

            CAR $36M

            SJS $35M

            TBL $34M

            CLB $34M

            *EDM $33M*

            BUFF $33M

            CHI $31M (this was in the old man Wirtz era)

            MINN $27M

            FLA $26M

            PITT $23M (now have new arena)

            NSH $22M

            You’ll note that the Oilers were in the bottom half of the league in payroll and the EIG, without a cap in place, were losing money.

            What happens, over time, is the big market.big money teams can easily outbid the small market teams, of which Edmonton is one, for any free agent that hits the market.

            For example, if the Oilers offered RNH $6M while the Leads offered him $10M what do you think would happen?

            This occurred over and over again in the 90’s and there is no reason to believe it wouldn’t happen again.

            That the Oilers will also be playing in one of the smallest and oldest arenas in the league, also works against them.

            While I agree the Leafs likely would’s spend $200M, on payroll, the fact remains they don’t need to but with revenues twice that of the Oilers, they don’t have to…they just need to outbid other teams for players which they can easily do in a non-cap world.

          • geoilersgist

            And which teams where in the finals that year? Don’t have to spend a lot to win, ask the Yankees about that.

            Even so with the value of our dollar now compared to then add in an owner who is willing to spend money this point is pointless… but thats how you roll…

          • One thing is a fact beyond all other and that is the Yankees are ALWAYS in the mix for a World Series what happened to the Yankees had never happened to a team in the wold series before in two series there batting average dropped below 0.99% they still managed to beat the one team,.

            Long story short, the MLB is a two to three teared system, the rich, the haves and the have nots.

            The NHL will lose close to 10 to 12 teams within the first 3 years would be my guess.

            On a completely different thought is that the NHL could cease being a league and re-start a new league after it goes belly up.

          • DSF

            I’d guess Phoenix, Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Carolina and St. Louis would bite the dust in short order, resulting in a 24 team league.

            If you remove those teams from the equation, the Oilers would stand 14th in revenue among those 24 teams…well below average.

          • DSF

            You’re whistling past the graveyard.

            While the Canadian teams are in better shape thanks to the dollar, the big money teams would always be able to outspend the small market teams.

            Name me an owner in the top ten revenue teams who isn’t “willing to spend money”.

            There isn’t one.

          • DSF

            Just wondering DSF, what do you do when youre not commenting on oilersnation?

            You seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time arguing with random people for nothing. You can only debate because its fun for so long before it becomes a bit over the top.
            That said, and as i`m sure you would reply, its your time to waste, so thanks for providing some entertainment in the comments section I guess.

          • DSF

            I spend a lot of time rendering video footage.

            While it’s rendering, I’m sitting in front of my computer…an ideal time to pummel the pompous and inoculate the innocent.

            All in fun.

          • Reg Dunlop

            According to your data,I take away a couple of ideas. First, the Pens now have a new arena and will therefore be able to spend way more on player contracts. Edmonton WILL also have a new arena, but we don’t count that fact as a positive because, well, it’s Edmonton.

            Second, Chicago is no longer in the old man Wirtz era and will doubtless spend way more on player contracts. Even though Chicago fans didn’t seem too interested in supporting the struggling Hawks from 2000-2006 when attendance ranged from 12000 to 15000.

            Third, from your data, 12 to as many as 14 teams should be able and willing to spend more money on players than the canucks. Because of their clear superiority over the Oil, I am sure that you would agree that canuck players will be preferred targets when it comes to rich teams poaching talent. Too bad canuck fans will see the sisters, Kessler, Burrows etc. bolt gefore vancouver wins anything.
            Also, because, like you always say, Oiler players are just not as good as other team’s players, I guess Hall and the boys have no option other than staying put. Cheers and thanks for the input!

          • DSF

            The Pens have a new arena. The Oilers don’t.

            If shovels were in the ground in the spring, which they won’t be, Edmonton won’t have a new arena until 2016.

            Chicago fans became disillusioned with their team when tight fisted Bill Wirtz screwed them around (remember Pocklington). As soon as he passed away and his son started to spend money, the fans flocked back.

            Bear in mind that United Centre seats over 20,000 and Chicago is an exponentially larger television market that Edmonton. Also bear in mind that United Centre is owned by Rocky Wirtz and he also receives revenue from Bulls games. No such situation exists in Edmonton and never will.

            Not sure where you’re getting your notion that 12-14 teams will be able to outspend the Canucks.

            According to Forbes, the Canucks generated $143 million in revnue last season, ranking them 4th in the NHL.

            The top 15 for your review:

            Toronto: $200 million

            New York Rangers $199 million

            Montreal: $169 million

            Vancouver: $143 million

            Boston: $128 million

            Detroit: $128 million

            Chicago: $125 million

            Philadelphia: $124 million

            New Jersey: $122 million (big local TV contract)

            Los Angeles: $120 million (should rise after cup win)

            Calgary: $117 million

            Ottawa: $113 million

            Edmonton $106 million

            As you can clearly see, the top 4 have a pretty wide gap over the rest of the group.

            Vancouver is one of those teams and will have no problem signing anyone they want to.

            I would imagine Toronto and New York would go on an immediate spending spree if the cap was abolished and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the Oilers young guns were on the top of their shopping lists.

            I’d even wager money that Stamkos would be a Leaf in very short order.

          • RexLibris

            I think it is prudent in that argument to account for the desire of the player in question to play in that market.

            Many have eschewed large centers in the past because of the working environment. Others have chosen what could generously be described as a less-than-ideal metropolis for living standards in order to achieve the goal of winning a championship.

            The key for the Oilers would be to try and nab two of their core players, and then romanticize the heck out of their master plan, giving the remaining free-agent targets the idea that another dynasty was taking shape.

            It might be smoke and mirrors. It might not. But Edmonton can’t do it with money and they can’t do it with the weather. So you have to get creative.

  • RexLibris

    Glad you guys have a crystal ball to know how it will all turn out but I dont think there are any certainties if things go down the decertification road and lawsuits and anti-trust, and that’s all american law not sure what the players or owners will attempt in Canadian courts.

    I’d like to think they’re all smart enough to get something done before that happens but we havent seen any signs of intelligence on either side of this thing.

    We all want to believe our guys would sign up and stay here if the contracts were voided but if the Rangers and Leafs and Red Wings start throwing out contracts like the old days I’m not sure we’ll be able to keep up and money talks. Everyone was hopeful Doug Weight would stick around, he seemed to love it while he was here but it didnt keep him here when the dollars came calling.

  • RexLibris

    Players usually rise to the occassion and for the roles they are being asked to play.

    With the current lockout at the NHL causing roster mayhem in OKC, I’m not surprised that Pitlick, Lander, Hamilton etc are struggling.

    When the NHL’ers leave these players will play additional minutes in roles that were taken away from them………..all will be fine!

    • RexLibris

      From the article: “Baertschi has played only 17 games due to a neck/concussion injury, so his points total is likely slightly lower than it ought to be”.

      I have to give credit to Baertschi, just as I later mention Hall and Nugent-Hopkins’ small sample sizes as well.

  • geoilersgist

    Geeze DSF is there anything you dont know.Your like the Cliff Klaven of Oilernation.You really are a sexual intellectual,wich Im sure you know what that means.But just i case you dont it means your a [email protected]&%in know it all.Would you please just give it a rest,everytime I come on here there you are with your b*llsh!t opinions.Happy Holidays true Oiler fans.

  • RexLibris

    I think we need to remember that if the league looks to void contracts, it doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the cap. The league is fighting against Fehr’s desire to remove the cap, so unless they are all terminally brain-damaged (yes, I realize the temptation to believe that right now), there is no way they would willingly walk into that scenario and essentially do Fehr’s dirty work for him.

    This is brinkmanship right now. And both sides are trying to get to the deadline (Jan 11th to 15th) with a bigger stick than the other guy in the hopes it’ll make them cave.

    • DSF

      If the CBA perishes…so does the cap.

      Trying to implement a cap while the teams are operating under anti-trust legislation would result in litigation since it is clearly collusion.

  • DSF

    DSF and many others appear to have a limited understand of basic business practices. Revenues differ from profits. Revenue is what a team earns before any other costs are applied. Therefore, no owner in his right mind will pay players 100% of the revenue generated or he will be operating at a loss. Also keep in mind that, although they are the best figures we have, Forbes revenue estimates are just that – estimates. We really have no accurate figures regarding how much revenue these teams are generating, nor do we know what their non-hockey related costs are. Therefore it is very difficult to rank how much a team would spend in a salary cap-free NHL.