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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Maybe Tambellinis turning up the heat on his gameplan. Leave the kids exposed, so one or two of them could be taken out, so this summers boobie prize will be Nathan MacKinnon.

    Tambo gets fired, and the Oilers land MacKinnon, i’ll take that trade.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    As i said in another post : It is now up to Lowe and Tambo
    to do something and soon, Taylor- Nuge – Eberle – Yak
    Cannot do everything, they need the pieces to play with them
    to give then the room they need to do to excel at what they do.

    Put up Kevin and Steve or please get out.

    You did not give us these kids , FAILURE DID !

    And we as Edmonton fans, not Florida fans know it
    and are now watching you guys.

    Get off your a– and work it.

  • GVBlackhawk

    Lucic, Lucic, Lucic! I dont know how, or what but other than the 5 kids anyone else is on the table including hemmer and gagner. First rounder too, i dont care.

  • GVBlackhawk

    Would Kieth Yandles contract would be more tradeable and yeild the Yotes a considerable asset/s in return. How long till the NHL suspends the Phoenix franchise? It would be an option.The franshise needs a fresh start.Perhaps a break for a couple of seasons would be preferable to the limbo the franchise is in now.

  • 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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Think the optics of that Pheonix situation has merit. After a difficult start to the season for the NHL, why wouldn’t they explore every financial opportunity to lessen their required influx of monies to that franchise. If i had the same handcuffs on that Maloney has to wear, i’d be cutting corners on a venture where 9 out of 10 kids would fail to even have a marginal NHL career as well. Way too many teams and not enough talent to go around, going on near 20 yrs now.

    It’s in the leagues best interests to cut their costs/expenses over the next couple yrs. Strip the value/costs and send that stripped/bargain basement valued franchise to Quebec. That would be like buying the Oilers 5 yrs ago. The toughest yrs are ahead for them. Good luck with that Quebec.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    The problems of drafting first overall three years in a row. The development timeline is so stretched. I don’t want to wait untill hall and huge are in their mid twenties before guys drafted in the same year are full time nhlers. Package them for something reasonable. Gernat + Marincin and a pick would land a power forward of some sort would it not? Maybe even a center.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    maybe they also have a plan to get rid of whitney and bring up peckham,then have peckham with a d and fistric with another d, build the back end tough, those guys will fight, that’s what I would be thinking about doing right now with the currant roster, sorry hordichuk isn’t good enough to play anymore

  • vetinari

    In 4 games this year, Hordichuk averaged about 2 minutes per game with no points. The year before, in 43 games, he averaged a whopping 4.3 minutes a game and collected 3 points. The year before that, in Florida, in 64 games, he averaged 5 minutes a game of ice time and collected 5 points.

    I know that he wasn’t brought in to put up points or to run the power play but if he can’t be trusted to do some PK work or pull regular duty on the 4th line, frankly, we won’t miss him and I’d rather use that roster spot to develop someone else.

    And as for protecting the kids, he had 2 penalty minutes this year and 64 last year– not really policing much, is he?

    I’m not saying that we need less of a physical presence in our lineup– I’m saying we don’t need this type if physical presence in our lineup– slow as molasses and not even someone you would risk against the other team’s fourth liners. Waiving him won’t hurt the team.

  • 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.

  • GVBlackhawk

    Bang on RB- a guy like jamie Mcginn off the Avs would do wonders- you would’nt think it would take much for these types of players. The trouble is we haven’t got a management team that knows how to build a competitive NHL rooster. That said as long as Klowe Tambo along with MacT are running this team we are in for the same old results. This oil team is built for pond hockey not the NHL.

  • Skin

    Why can’t Hall be a crasher/tough guy to play against? It’s not like his skill will disappear. If he plays a tougher, more in your face, kind of game, it could make more room for his line mates and that’s good for him too. Taylor Hall is not a small forward. Maybe he should try to muck it up more and play a little greasier game.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • That trade would be way to good to be true (obviously) but damn that would fill some holes on that Oilers team.

    A team I think the Oilers should be looking at and talking to is Philly. They must be in panic mode and at the rate they trade players Im sure we could swindle a deal for someone useful on that team.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    As an earlier post said do just about anything to get Lucic…pipe dream,yea probably,but it cant hurt to try.

    Is Peckham really that much worse than Potter? I dont see anyhing wrong with this d

    Shultz-Shultz jr

    Smid-Petry

    Peckaham-Fistric

    Whitney untradable due to feet and contract, good 7th dman

    Potter, just go away please

    imo if a dman cant make a good first pass he shouldnt be in the big time.

  • To reiterate, I’m talking about gloves-on, play-some-minutes toughness. There isn’t roster room for a monster who sits on the bench for all but three shifts a night.

    There are skilled players with an edge to them who can fit into the top nine. I’m not talking about 40-goal scorers who are also tough as nails because they are few and far between. Nice, but . . .

    Philly got a good one out of LA in Wayne Simmonds. Brenden Morrow was that guy 10 years ago. There’s one or two on most top-tier teams. Just not on this team.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Im curious Robin if you were GM for a day, who would you get, who would you give up? Not tryin to be a piss off towards you just want to pick your brain is all.

  • 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?