SIXES AND SEVENS AND NINES

Everywhere you look, there are legions with reasons the Edmonton Oilers are in dire straits today. Don Cherry thinks they need to add fear, others suggest a powerforward, still others want another Pronger (where is that guy anyway?). The truth now is as it has always been: the Edmonton Oilers don’t have enough actual NHL players.

Number 11 is Mark Messier. Of all the factors that have turned the Oilers around in the last few weeks, none has been more important than Mark’s decision to apply himself. The reckless abandon of the early months had now turned into a controlled fury on the ice, and in many games he has been the Oilers most exciting player.

He kills penalties and adds zest to the powerplay. Although he has been converted from centre to left wing on Matti (Hagman’s) line (with Glenn Anderson), Sather still sends him out for crucial faceoffs. It is a favorite play for Sather to send him out with veteran center Stan Weir, then have Stan deliberately mix it up with the opposing center, get waved off and then hand the faceoff duties to the kid.

No one knows for sure what has turned Messier around, although it appears more than coincidence that he began his new dedicated approach at about the same time as his cousin (Donny Murdoch) was banished to the minors. So many of the other youngsters take their moods from him that there are those who believe he will one day be the captain of the Oilers.

Peter Gzowski, “The Game of Our Lives” McLelland and Stewart 1981.

Taylor Hall is the leader of this team, and this season he has stepped into another zone, a higher level. He is the leader of the group of players who can impact every game in a positive way–even last night when the team has lost the script–and should be regarded as the center of the Oilers cluster.

HOW MANY ACTUAL NHL PLAYERS DO THE OILERS HAVE RIGHT NOW?

It’s a moving target, some of these guys are not having good seasons, and your mileage may vary. However, if I were making a list of players to protect from the expansion draft (Portland, Quebec) the "must" list would look like this:

  1. Taylor Hall
  2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  3. Nail Yakupov
  4. Jordan Eberle
  5. Sam Gagner
  6. Ales Hemsky
  7. Magnus Paajarvi
  8. Shawn Horcoff
  9. Justin Schultz
  10. Jeff Petry
  11. Ladislav Smid
  12. Devan Dubnyk

From that group, I don’t think we can count Yakupov and Schultz the younger as being "actual NHL players" yet but that will come quickly because both are elite level talents. I’m comfortable suggesting the organization will be able to count on them as early as next season to impact games consistently.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’d suggest Shawn Horcoff is going to exit the definition at some point and that moving Taylor Hall to center might be a consideration at this point.

THE REST?

Well, the rest are on each side of the bell curve: some are not yet inside the window (until recently Paajarvi would have been there, Hartikainen is outside the rope as are a few others) and others are on the other side (Smyth, Khabibulin) and still others never got there.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The Oilers have their elite talent, their Jacks and Kings (Hall, Nuge, Yak City, Schultz the younger, Ebs, etc) but need those role players. They should be the easiest guys to acquire, and maybe the Oilers management will go out and offer Viktor Stålberg a chance to play with Gagner and Hemsky and maybe he says yes and maybe that’s a perfect fit.

But let me suggest this to you: getting a "power forward" for that line or an "enforcer" for the 4th line is less important than finding actual NHL players inside the bell curve, inside the area where they are effective players at a high level.

Find enough of those and you find consistency because there are no soft spots in the roster, no weakness in the batting order.

As much as Taylor Hall is doing to help the Edmonton Oilers win, the bottom of the roster is giving it all away and more. That is the lesson of this season, and chasing a specific player type as suggested by Don Cherry loses the heart of the matter.

Find NHL players.

  • bazmagoo

    Probably need to replace Jonesy too unfortunately, love the guys heart but his style is redundant on the Oilers unless he’s played on the 4th line. Need to bring in a capable 3rd line right winger who can bring a big body, the occasional body check, and 30-40 points.

  • paul wodehouse

    …skimming CapGeek see that Nathan Horton is a UFA this summer…really?

    Memo To LT: if we get Nathon Horton this summer suggest possible ‘what it all means’ candidate could be this kids wife slash playmate/wife

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Cutting to the chase here. Have to think even 1/3rd of the list you mentioned should be used as trade bait.

    Gagner,Hemsky,Paajarvi,Petry and Dubnyk, all up for grabs if it fetched us a top pairing blueliner. (perhaps even Eberle if it’s a monster deal) I’d have to be pretty drunk before i’d admit that Horcoff is even an NHL player most nights. His salary alone must be what has him on your list.

    Many of us have been saying this for a year and a half already (selling the farm) it’s good to see the msm getting behind this truth now.

    Can’t help but believe we are finally on the cusp of significant changes here now. Well done LT. With your contribution to this topic, the fire rises….

    • This ^ and more.

      If these players are on this team next year then the systemic issues have not been dealt with.

      Gagner – Paajarvi – Hartikinen – Jones – Petrell – Brown -Horcoff – Petry – Smithson – Belanger – Hemsky

      This team is soft…BUTTER SOFT, this team can longer wait for Paajarvi and Hartikinen to finish there 5 year development, they can offer more through trade.

      The Oilers do need a Glencross or a Clowe or a Clarkson

      The Oilers need to draft a Barkov a Monahan a Nichushkin and not a Lazar.

      The Oilers need tough, skilled players with size.

      Not just skill, not just size

      If you disagree with these players then expect the Oilers to be right back here next year.

      Sell it off, bring in new blood and shoot for at least two top ten picks.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The blame is on Tambo and Klowe. What a crock of dino dodo. The feeling around the team going into the trade deadline was that the players wanted to give it the old college try.They wanted to stay together. Many on ON felt the same way. Don’t trade Whitney,Jones or anyone else. It might upset the feelings of players in the room. I posted that at the time Tambo needed to move this team forward.Making trades that were in the longterm best interest of the time. Not the short term. Tambo did what he did. He gave the men in the room a vote and guess what happened? 5 straight losses. This is not a democracy. This was a major mistake imo. Tambo needed to make the hard decisions and move this team forward. If I am evaluating this season I would certainly mark that as a huge negative against Tambo.

    The argument is that the team was going well. The argument was based on 5 games including 2 against Calgary a team in turmoil. What Tambo was thinking I do not know. The result was and is a train wreck of monumental proportions. I am disappointed at the result.The team has responded opposite of what Tambo thought. Too bad he gambled wrong. It behooves the GM to act as if its a democracy. Short term thinking has cost this team going forward. We could have cashed in on some assets and now that the point of no return has happened we have lost that opportunity.

    Tambo needs his body of work evaluated. There are a lot of negatives along with those positives that he has achieved. IMO you can’t have a democracy running this team. Tambo needed to lead this team and his judgement imo has been found lacking.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I’m not sure if I’m the first to say this;
    Assuming the management remains unchanged – and I think that’s a very safe assumption

    and assuming that they don’t change their spots – IOW do jack all other than change out a few third and fourths and pick the obvious in the draft – again a pretty safe assumption –

    and then we should also then expect marginally better – iow still miss the playoffs; still lack the changes in the first and second with gagne and hemsky still on the team,

    that some of the young guns – specifically hall and eberle – will be grumbling about things and looking for a trade out of town.

    And THAT is a risk that should be kept in mind by KL&T.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I’m not sure if I’m the first to say this;
    Assuming the management remains unchanged – and I think that’s a very safe assumption

    and assuming that they don’t change their spots – IOW do jack all other than change out a few third and fourths and pick the obvious in the draft – again a pretty safe assumption –

    and then we should also then expect marginally better – iow still miss the playoffs; still lack the changes in the first and second with gagne and hemsky still on the team,

    that some of the young guns – specifically hall and eberle – will be grumbling about things and looking for a trade out of town.

    And THAT is a risk that should be kept in mind by KL&T.