IN SEARCH OF Keyser Söze

Ask an Oiler fan what the club needs to improve and the answers vary wildly. However, a "top 4D" and a "big, tough forward to play with the skilled kids" are at the top of the list. We’ve talked at length about the defenseman, but what of this big forward, this Frankenstein, this Keyser Söze?

The Oilers spent many picks and a lot of at-bats on Coke Machines last decade. I define a coke machine as any player with tremendous size, toughness, grit and courage but lacking in actual ability to play the game. J-F Jacques is a coke machine, Milan Lucic is not.

Do the Oilers need such a player, a Milan Lucic? How many are there?


How many NHL forwards score 60 points and have 80 pims? How many of those are over 6.02 and 205 pounds? Needle in a haystack, baby.

  1. James Neal 6.02, 208 81 points and 87 pims
  2. Scott Hartnell 6.02, 210 67 points and 136 pims
  3. Milan Lucic 6,04, 220 61 points and 135 pims
  4. Corey Perry 6.03, 212 60 points 127 pims

Incredible, isn’t it? We could expand the list–Iginla wasn’t as grumpy as usual and Malkin missed by just a little–but the point here is that the player we envision Edmonton acquiring–big, strong, ugly mule, jackhammer hitter, skilled sniper, vicious attack dog–is more rare in actual fact than a shutdown defender or a 30 goal man.



Ryan Smyth is 6.02, 192 and delivered 46 points and 82 pims at 35. If he was 23, all would be right with the world. So, let’s move beyond the NHL: are there any minor leaguers or junior players in the system who are 6.02, 205 and deliver those kinds of numbers in their current league?



Probably best to get 23 actual NHL players. The Oilers need to find men who can run with Hall, Ebs and RNH as players and putting another JFJ up there isn’t going to help anyone.

Teemu Hartikainen remains the best in house option, but he’s not at a level where the Oilers can say with authority he’ll become a mainstay; and he’s never going to be a PF with 100 pims.

Best to find better players, then worry about their shapes and sizes.My guess is that by that time the kids will be able to take care of themselves and the size of the roster will be less of an issue.

  • Lowetide

    Still, these are expensive guys, and fellows the other team is unlikely to send our way without 12 virgins and a fleet of Camaro’s in return.

    I think the Oilers would be wise to re-sign smyth for the 2line LW role and then push him with Hartikainen.

    The need up front isn’t for a big, tough, winger it is for a veteran winger who can play against tough opponents. Pisani ’06 version.

    I have a bad feeling about this power forward, grit thing that is seeping into the spring conversation.

    We’re going big game hunting again. God help us.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      “We’re going big game hunting again. God help us.”

      With any luck… Grig will come to Oilerland and solve the problem by being the BPA at #2.

      However, that doesn’t rule out some crazy picks down ballot.

      • stevezie

        My fear is we draft Grigs and assume he’s a sure thing and immediately trade Gagner, only to find that there’s a bigger difference between 1st overall and 2nd than we thought. I’m not saying Grigs won’t turn out, I mean that he won’t be the immediate soution that this team craves.

        • Lexi

          That is a big fear of mine with Grigs. An 18 and 19 yr old top 2 centres seems as risky as counting on an 18 yr old to be a top 4 dman. I really think Gagner is okay as an average 2nd line centre.

          I’m just not getting the “too good to take” vibe from Grigerenko. Based on the stats line he looks like he is getting outplayed by McKinnon in their series. I’m seeing Murray as a no brainer pick from my end and hopefully the team manages him in his first two years to properly develop him.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          I hear you there…

          but it would solve the problem of “addressing the need (real or apparent) of size up front” without watching the Oilers pick wildly off-the-chart players, i.e., it would protect the Oilers from their baser instincts.

          RE: Gagner… Grig could force an issue as early as next season… I don’t know the timeline on his NHL-readiness.

          • stevezie

            The nice thing about taking Grigerenko is that he fits a very rare model (Big Right Handed Center with hands) I would hope if they draft him they don’t go ship out Gagner instantly but if Grigerenko proves he can play then I think you can.

            Depending on how much Gagner makes this offseason I wouldn’t be against Gagner as a 3rd line centre, you can’t go wrong with depth and 3 scoring lines would go a long way to helping this team out of the playoffs.

            In appearance we need D but in reality we need secondary scoring just as much, besides RNH Ebs and Hall and hopefully Hemsky who is a threat to score?

    • I’ve thought about that also. But I don’t think he has any hockey skills whatsoever. So he’d fit right in with some of them.

      But he would try. Something i haven’t seen much of in this town over the last few years.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Nice work LT. Add this to the file of “deflating unreasonable expectations” alongside the file “my definition of a top 6 forward is limited to 3 actually human beings” and all the other crazy fan nonsense.

    The lingering problem with Oil management is that even when they manage to identify the right needs of the team… they eff up the execution.

    We need a goalie… sign Khabbie

    We need D… sign barker, etc.

    and on and on.

    • Lowetide

      Some of that comes from making reasonable bets that didn’t work out. Belanger would be an example, maybe Eager too (I don’t recall him ever being a guy who didn’t engage opponents before he got here).

      But Cam Barker was a bad bet and Khabibulin’s four year contract was too long and it was said the day those happened.

      So I do think it’s fair that someone pays, probably at the news conference tomorrow 9am.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I still have hope for pitlyck and Hamilton. It looks likes pitlyck is coming around,so maybe if he keeps improving maybe he gets a cup of coffee next year and is fighting for a roster spot in 2 years. Hamilton gets healthy and starts playing more minutes maybe he can make it too.

    After we win the lottery on Tuesday we should be have a couple of pieces to get what we’re looking for 😉

    • Hamilton cant hit his way out of a wet paper bag. He is physically gifted but has the heart of a sparrow.

      Pitlick is a gamer who is a tad light on the skill set needed to be an impact guy. Love his game but its a bit uninspired.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      I’ve got a lot of hope for those guys too… but they are somewhere well above long shots and well below guaranteed nhlers… cautious optimism!

      Regardless, my main concern with the AHLers is that the Oilers will continue to look to them too early and too often and fail to both develop players adequately and field actual nhlers.

  • I think you’re narrowing the focus too much by setting a cut-off of 60 points and 80 PIMs. How many Oilers had 60 pts this season without even bringing penalty minutes into it? One.

    This top six needs more grit and physicality to compliment the skill already here and that seems beyond obvious to me.

    While that often translates to “size,” it doesn’t necessarily follow that the candidate must be six-foot-three and 215 pounds with the ability to beat the puck square, which seems to be what the term “Coke Machine” translates to.

    An effective corner man who contests every puck, hits everything that moves (within the rules) and has the ability to skate doesn’t have to have 60 pts and 80 PIMs to be a fit. Grit and willingness to compete cannot be measured by stature and PIM alone.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Hey Robin what about guys like Adam Burish or Brandon Prust. I know they aren’t really offensive players but they are great energy spark type of guys in the bottom six and the Oilers lack that aspect as Eager and Jones are much too inconsistent with being aggressive. Also in relation to your point I think Harti is a good candidate. He lays the body and if he had been given a full season he would have realistically put up well over 160+ hits which would have led all Oiler forwards. He is tough in the corners and he is already very effective at keeping the puck alive or turning it over using his body positioning, strength, and stick. The whole having to put up PIMS isn’t really relevant and I’m not sure why that would even be considered a positive. PFs having to put up big PIMS has always confused me since childhood as I believed being SH was a negative.

    • Lowetide

      If the Oilers are going to “narrow the focus” we may be in for another year of J-F Jacques alongside Hemsky.

      If the Oilers are going to outscore other teams, they need skilled players getting minutes. If they can find size/skill players that’s great but these guys don’t grow on trees and cost the moon. I fear another draft devoted to coke machines.

      • You narrowed the focus with the thresholds you set. You can find players with well-rounded games — good skill, lots of grit, a measure of physicality — if you look and avoid extremes like he MUST be huge, he MUST be insanely tough.

        In terms of drafting, Gabriel Landeskog comes to mind and he met neither of the thresholds you set. Might the Oilers have a chance at acquiring that type of player with picks 1-3? I think so (Jacques was a 68th overall pick).

        As far as acquiring established players of that ilk through trade/free agency, it’s do-able if the Oilers take into account grit and physicality as opposed to making that the ONLY qualifications.

        • Lowetide

          Sure, that’s what I’m hoping for. The Oilers should pursue men who can play, and not focus on things like HUGE and TOUGH.

          And if they do that, Ryan Smyth and Teemu Hartikainen are reasonable options.

          • @LT, Brownlee
            Definitely both 60 points and a bruiser is a tough filter to get through. Personally, I think the Oilers could use another 60 point player more than a bruiser, but I guess that’s me.

            So lets expand the scope. There’s no point in emulating other loser clubs, so let us consider the top 8 successful clubs (points). And since we’re looking for a regular player rather than PP player (where physicality is far less critical), lets consider the top 6 even strength minute munchers for those 8 teams (30+ games).

            The list (with even strength points per game) are:
            Sedin (.66), Sedin (.66), Burrows (.54), Raymond (.33), Higgins (.48), Booth (.35)

            Richards (.51), Gaborik (.67), Callahan (.45), Stepan (.43), Hagelin (.56), Dubinsky (.38)

            Backes (.41), Oshie (.45), Steen (.53), Perron (.53), Berglund (.39), Stewart (.33)

            Malkin (1.0), Staal (.61), Neal (.64), Kunitz (.52), Dupuis (.67), Kennedy (.50)

            Fisher (.50), Erat (.55), Legwand (.42), Kostitsyn (.44), Wilson (.34), Spaling (.27)

            Giroux (.69), Hartnell (.54), Briere (.46), Jagr (.47), Simmonds (.40), Voracek (.49)

            Bergeron (.58), Krejci (.65), Lucic (.62), Seguin (.64), Marchand (.61), Kelly (.44)

            Red Wings
            Zetterberg (.65), Datsyuk (.63), Filppula (.67), Franzen (.56), Bertuzzi (.48), Hudler (.49)

            48 players, most of them batting north of .40, and the ones less than that seem to be big hitters. So a reasonable filter is a guy that hits and is in the .40 esp/g range. There probably are quite of few of them.

            A better question is whether top teams need guys who bring a lot of toughness and hitting, or whether being, you know, a good player is enough. Decide for yourself but it seems to me to be an awful lot of room at the top for teams that don’t dress waves of truculence and boardwork in the top 6, but rather get their record primarily on the backs of good even strength players.

            For the sake of comparison, here are Oilers numbers:
            Hemsky (.39), Hall (.52), Gagner (.47), Nuge (.47), Smyth (.46), Eberle (.72). Omark, the previous season, was .37. Hartikainen in limited time is .27, .29 this season.

          • John Chambers

            There are many players that can play the role of toughness combined with skill …..size is irrelevant if you have the heart!

            This should add more players ………like a Horton, or Clutterbuck guys who are good in the corners and can get the puck to our skilled players. The problem we have is there are no real player roles in Renny’s blender approach to line combinations.

  • The bigger player is for the second line primarily,but is subject to shuffle. I dont think this guy has to be crazy or any of that. I just want a big guy who is hard to knock off the puck to make space for the other guys. Personally I sign dustin penner on the cheap, let him an mps fight it out for second line lw and play the loser with horcoff and smyth. I also want grigorenko tho, as he seems to fit the bill as jordan staal 2.0. Adding these two big guys would give us a few more options defensively, as they could play as high as first line. It would help in the dallas type games when our stars are targeted. This roster would have not only increased size but would give us the fabked three scoring lines plus a great fourth line.
    Defense has to be addressed first but if we get that shultz kid (ranked 1 ahead of klefbon by thn as a prospect and nhl ready) we should go this route with our forward group.
    Hall nuge ebs
    Mps gagner hemsky
    Penner grigorenko smyth
    hartikainen horcoff jones