TURN THE OTHER CHEEK

It’s no news flash the Edmonton Oilers came into this season lacking grit up front and that they’re not nearly belligerent enough throughout the line-up, but they got even easier to play against with the decision to waive veteran tough guy Darcy Hordichuk today.

Now, I’m not going to mount the apple box and make a stand for Hordichuk because he hasn’t been used nearly enough by coach Ralph Krueger to be any kind of factor. In essence, Hordichuk was taking up a roster spot for nothing. He was wasted space. This move, on its own, is not a big deal.

The issue I have isn’t about keeping Hordichuk, or any one-dimensional beat cop for that matter, but rather it’s the bigger picture — the unquestionable lack of what we’re calling functional toughness these days on the roster. The Oilers have next-to-none, save for reluctant and often-concussed Ben Eager. Jason Gregor talked about it this afternoon, and I couldn’t agree more.

At some point, hopefully before every other team figures out – most already have — they can knock Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins around at will without any kind of push-back from a roster incapable of it, GM Steve Tambellini will take a look at the make-up of his team.

Namely, the obvious need for a forward or two who can bang some bodies and play with an edge. Somebody who can play hockey – and meaningful minutes in the top-nine without beating the puck square or serving as a boat anchor for more talented linemates. Simply put, top-nine options with mustard. Easy to say, difficult to find, I know.

THE MIX MATTERS

Earlier this season, when Edmonton’s power play was scoring at a rate nobody expected would continue, it was at least possible to offer the argument the Oilers could make up for their lack of nastiness the way the Detroit Red Wings have for years – by making opponents pay with the man advantage.

I think there’s still room to make that approach part of the plan, even if the PP settles into the 20-something per cent range, which it will, and stays in the top-third of the league. But there has to be more, and that’s where Tambellini and tweaking the personnel comes in.

It’ll mean making tough decisions because gritty, hate-to-lose, hardnosed guys who can actually play some are a valuable commodity. If you don’t have them in your system, you won’t get them from somebody else for spare parts. If Tambellini wants to address that need – heaven help the Oilers if chooses not to – it’s going to mean giving up something.

The Oilers are skilled enough. They’re talented enough. Their best players are still feeling their way into the NHL. What the Oilers are not is tough enough and nasty enough in the supporting cast to ensure that all that talent blossoms as it should. They aren’t tough enough to play against. They scare no one.

That has to change.

BEND OVER, DONNY BOY

From Rex Libris earlier today:

"My target in this hypothetical is Phoenix because of the NHL ownership angle and due to their system needing an influx of prospects. The Coyotes cannot afford the luxury even of an abbreviated rebuilding phase due to severe financial concerns and the desperate need to grow the brand within their market.

"In exchange for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Kyle Chipchura and Henrik Samuelsson the Oilers would send back Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Whitney (minus half the dollar amount on his contract through the Retained Salary mechanism in the CBA), Tyler Pitlick, Toni Rajala, David Musil and a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft."

While some might characterize Coyotes GM as a simpleton and an imbecile if he did anything other than laugh off this suggested swap as the ramblings of somebody staggering about with Oilers beer goggles on – I believe others have done so already — I can’t see why Phoenix wouldn’t jump at this deal.

Sure, the Coyotes would be giving up a young defenseman in Ekman-Larsson who’ll be a first-pairing guy and a third-line banger with pretty good hands in Samuelsson, but they’d be getting, well, uh, a third-line winger in Paajarvi, a veteran defenseman who is mastering the knack of playing in the NHL on one ankle and, well, uh, Musil, who might develop into a third-pairing stay at home guy like, say, Frank Musil.

Never mind.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • 2004Z06

    The thing I really like about the Kassian Hodgson deal is that BOTH teams won in that deal.

    Kassian brought power forward type grit to Vnacouver and Hodson brought scoring touch to Buffalo.

    Not only did the two teams win….both players won…they are both doing considerably better than they were doing prior to the trade….

    It was a thing of beauty……Oilers need to find a win win deal that addresses their weaknesses and the other teams weaknesses….not try and STEAL Oliver Ekman Larson for a bag of pucks….

  • 2004Z06

    @ #36 Oil Runs Deep said

    “Brian Boyle. And he plays center. Cost wouldn’t be outrageous.”

    Define outrageous…….Put a deal together for us…..what do you think it would cost us?

    Because he would be an above aveage value for us for the reasons you mention.

    • The Oilers Shot Clock

      Well considering he’s not playing well, it wouldn’t take a huge overpay to get him. I wouldn’t know what to offer but I know where I’d draw the line. Nothing in the top 6.

  • A-Mc

    RE:

    The thing I really like about the Kassian Hodgson deal is that BOTH teams won in that deal.

    Kassian brought power forward type grit to Vnacouver and Hodson brought scoring touch to Buffalo.

    Not only did the two teams win….both players won…they are both doing considerably better than they were doing prior to the trade….

    It was a thing of beauty……Oilers need to find a win win deal that addresses their weaknesses and the other teams weaknesses….not try and STEAL Oliver Ekman Larson for a bag of pucks….

    If i were running the operation over at the Oilers Office, I’d be damn sure to have a team of people whose sole purpose is to maintain an accurate listing of what each team is looking for: strengths and weaknesses.

    I hope the Oilers have something like this in place now instead of just flying by the seat of their pants. But sometimes when we see guys traded for next to nothing that would have value in edmonton, it really makes you wonder how in touch the oilers are with what is happening elsewhere in the league.

    True Hockey trades, like the one you mentioned, are the best kind. A 3 way hockey trade is something of beauty. Trades like this can’t happen if the guys calling the shots are in the dark about what other teams have and need.

  • 2004Z06

    @ #60 Rick asks:

    “And perhaps most importantly why aren’t the Oilers professional scouts able to find some of these guys before they become house hold names and cost an arm and a leg to get?”

    If you substitue the words “NHL Teams” for the word “Oilers”….you get to the crux of the situation.

    Why did so many teams pass on Boone Jenner at the end of the first round?

    Where will a guy like Hartman go in this years draft. It’s scary drafting these types of players…one in 5 over achieves and the rest become boat anchors….

    I think this chain of posts has identified a large number of potential candidates via trade, which is cool.

    Perhaps we could start a list of the “Grittier” guys in this years draft class and have some discussion on that??

    Does Curtis Lazar have a chance to turn out to be a Shane Doan type?? Yes? No? Others?

    Rychel? Domi? Hartman? Gauthier? others?

  • I said professional scouts, I am not talking about grabbing guys these types through the draft.

    The draft was supposed to be the means to get the top end guys. Actual GMing and the professional scouts need to do the spade work for the rest of the roster.

    It’s about unearthing the discards or the guys on the verge that are playing in the AHL or some other professional league.

    Things that other teams seem to be able to do.

    If every damn piece is supposed to arrive through the draft, the cycle will never end and the finished team will never get assembled.

  • Unfortunately, the Oilers are playing tonight. You are obviously a man of vision and foresight, but a team without grit is not winning much in the near future.

    We’ve waited 23 years since the last cup, what’s another 25?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Fear not ON, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will fill this pugilist role. Might as well get that shoulder done during another year spent on the outside looking in.