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.


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.


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.

  • RexLibris

    Wait? Feb 11th? I thought it was April 1st!….hehe….he…yeah *hangs head in shame*

    I think I’m man enough to admit that looking back at that scenario, it is a gross underpay and I think I was guilty of extreme fan bias in crafting it. But getting called out by Robin, one of the best writers I’ve read in print or online, is something I’ll hang my hat on and learn from.

    As for adding some toughness, I’d love to find some through a trade, I just don’t know how the Oilers can acquire it when the rest of the league knows how desperately we’ll be needing it. The asking price is likely to be quite high, and the team doesn’t, so far as I can see, have a great deal of depth from which to draw.

    This could be the roster player the Oilers spend the next few years spinning their tires trying to acquire, the same way Philadelphia is always looking for a goalie or the Flames a centre. I certainly hope not.

  • In the words of the immortal Yakupov,

    “We win, first, we win Canada. Second, we win, we win Canada. Third win, 80,000 peoples, red jersey, everybody put red and white jersey. But we win the score, more goals, and it doesn’t matter how, how much, how many shoots Canada shoots at our box, our net, so we win. We’re very excited. It doesn’t matter right now. We, we beat Canada, so.

    [Interviewer] Little too close at the end there?

    I don’t know. You can give me like hundred questions, but we win. Russia win. Russia better Canada, so . . . see you next time.

    [Multiple interviewers talking at one time]

    Surprise did I? Not surprised. We been ready 100 percent. We score six goals. We score more goals and win the games, and we win Canada. We beat Canada. We win with a wonderful rink, 80,000 guys and ‘Canada, Canada! Let’s go!’ We have, I think we have, I don’t know, 30, 40 guys, Russian guys from Siberia, and they put their Russian jerseys and ‘Come on, Russia!’ and we win, so that’s it. Thanks, guys.”

    (taken from http://twentytwowords.com/2012/06/13/hockey-player-knows-just-enough-english-to-give-a-perfect-post-game-interview/)

  • Skin

    You can see it slowly creeping into his game and I think he will be very similar To iginla when he developes, I texted into greggor a show saying this, am I the only one who thinks people should calm down? We have a winning record and are in every single game, why are we freaking out, I would like some more size but the team is doing fine, seems like a lot of yeg media think the oilers are dead last or something. I’m a flames fan and we have more grit and size and where are we?

  • Dawn

    Totally disagree with you Robin.

    I’ll take a team of 5’10, 190lb forwards as long as they hold their own at even strength, and draw more penalties than they take.

    I could care less about players who have a lot of hits, take a bunch of penalties, and get outscored.

    This notion of “grit” will be laughed at 25 years from now when evluation of games has advanced to a point to where hockey writers don’t have knowledge of the game from a 1960’s prospective.

  • RyanCoke

    The thing about trying to trade for OEL is that if he was on the market I am sure there is a team out there willing to give fair value in the trade and the proposed trade by Rex would not even be close to what other teams offer. The only way I see it working is with the wink wink nudge nudge to Don Maloney about making him our next GM if he does it that someone else mentioned. But then how would it get done because Tambo would be involved in the trade and telling Maloney that he will give Maloney his job lol.

  • Who I would get (via trade) is dictated by who is available and I don’t know who that is. No GM has the pick of even a small percentage of players on other rosters.

    It’s about timing and two teams having players that meet the needs of both. Then, it takes a willingness to make the deal and price point is a factor. Cap issues etc.

    Lots of players I like who fit the bill, but at what price, even if they are available?

  • Dawn

    @ #9 Hayek wrote…

    “I’ll take a team of 5’10, 190lb forwards as long as they hold their own at even strength, and draw more penalties than they take.
    This notion of “grit” will be laughed at 25 years from now when evluation of games has advanced to a point to where hockey writers don’t have knowledge of the game from a 1960’s prospective.”

    I say….In 25 years Brownlee and I will be dead…..in the mean time…”Git me sum GRIT”