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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.



    • 15w40

      The elephant IS the elephant – Katz.

      Do you think an owner like Steinbrenner would have put up with this crap?

      I know I’m repeating my self but readers of the this post should google Phillip wrigley.

      And ponder an owner like him having endless sellouts in a new, govt funded building surrounded by real estate he owns, counting and folding his money not motivated in the slightest to make real changes to the on ice product…

      For the next THIRTY-FIVE years.

      We are hostages to his contentment with being surrounded by sycophants and mediocre hockey.

      • Stewie

        I agree! Why would Katz be motivated for significant change? The rink is full regardless of whether the Oilers put a good effort out or not. The fans continue to hold onto a feeling that someday there will be success.

        To add more, the City of Edmonton bowed to Katz’s demands to build him a new rink.

        Katz wont let this team get to maximum cap levels because he doesn’t need to. The barn is sold out regardless.

        I have a hard time believing there is a real appetite for improvement.

      • Hair bag

        Your comments are becoming borderline ridiculous – conspiracy theories about Katz now owning the Oilers because he thinks they are/can be a cash cow!! Come on! I have know problem with criticizing management for their decisions and possibly Katz for leaving them in their positions with their poor track record, but what you are insinuating is just stupid. Katz is a billionaire, I’m pretty sure he knows a lot of other better ways to make money than by owning a professional sports team in a small market city. I’m sure he definitely is looking to turn it into a money making venture but he would never have purchased the team strictly for that reason…

        • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

          it isnt that far fetched to see the oilers are the driving force behind a downtown area that is going to make alot of already rich people more rich.

          the oilers are probably a nice hobby for him, but in the bigger picture owning the oilers put him in a good spot to make a huge amount of money if/when the arena district finally goes

    • STOP THE LOWE HATRED. THIS IS ALL ON TAMBELLINI. When Lowe was GM, he actually made moves to help the team. Lowest team finished with Lowe was 25th, yes that’s right 25th.

      Tambellini likes finishing 30. So it should be Tambellini that should be fired. He’s fired 3 coaches and fans want him to fire Krueger. I’m sorry but having 4 coaches in 6 years is why the rebuild isn’t going anywhere and off course Tambellini.

  • Lowetide

    It’s not even the fact that we got out played by our biggest rival who dressed 6 ahl players, it’s the fact that we have just as many wins as a team that gave away theyre franchise players and is in the midst of their most depressing season ever. 3 years into this supposed “rebuild” and we can’t even compete with the worst teams in the league!!! It’s embarrassing to be a fan of such a pathetic team. If Lowe and Tambi are still guiding this kamikaze next year It will have to be some kind of record for the most incompetence shown while still keeping a job.

  • Milli

    In the history of all professional sports has their ever been a team that’s missed the playoffs for 7 straight seasons, finish last to near last for 4 straight years and became the joke of the league and actually KEPT the management responsible?

  • Sox and Oil

    Very good article LT and Cherry’s ramblings are outdated and belong in the sixties. Kyle Wellwood is a prime example of a top 9 player who’s carved out a career on the third line who can be shifted around as a offensive contributor and has become less of a liability defensively, all the while coming in at 5’10 180.

    Chicago is going to have cap issues even if they buy out Montador so I’ve been thinking for a long time that they should take a shot at Stalberg. I also think they should deal Gagner and Hemsky in a package of some sort to a team that is the polar opposite of Edmonton in that they have lots of role players but have little to no skill forwards like Winnipeg or Nashville. The Oilers need to let Jones, Smyth, and Belanger go by dealing them, buying them out, or just letting them walk in FA. The only player to even consider keeping is Petrell because he’s cheap and wouldn’t be terrible as a 14th forward to spot in. Also if you lost him in waivers if you were making other moves it wouldn’t be a big loss.

    • Oilers fans doing what Oilers fans do best. Run one of the better players out of town.

      Fans are the reason players don’t come to Edmonton. Don’t you think players hear how Oilers fans run players out of town. That’s why players with NMC/NTC have Edmonton on the list they don’t want to get traded to. Ray Whitney when Oilers tried signing him while Lowe was still GM said he didn’t sign in Edmonton because of the fans.

      It’s hard being GM of a team where fans are reason players don’t sign there and are run out of town.

  • Milli

    Any addition of size should be of the Brouwer/GlenX type not a Coke machine. That is not even an issue for me. I want players that can play the game.

    so the argument is not Tony Rajala or JF Jacques. It is to add a player who can add an element of grit while being fully capable of playing

    Very subtle question on High Noon yesterday:resign Gagner or Map? spit coffee everywhere

  • Eddie Shore

    No argument with the ” keeper list”, other Hemsky, who is a waste of oxygen!.

    The real question is how do you add 10 decent players between seasons end and training camp, when you have not be able to do a single one in the last 3 or 4 years. [ no counting the lotto picks, those were gimmes ]

    • Fans are the reason Oilers have trouble signing players. Players know that Lowe is mistreated and bashed and players are run out of town.

      Oilers fans should be proud that they’re the reason no one signs in Edmonton and that includes potential GMs and coaches.

      A rebuild needs to have the same coach and not 4 coaches in 6 years but fans are trying to run Krueger out of town.

      • Zamboni Driver

        Said this on the other thread too (btw, you come across like the “Leave Britney alone guy” on youtube).

        Kevin Lowe brought you:

        $7 million for Horcoff
        $3 million for FERNANDO FRICKIN’ PISANI
        No clue on a goalie
        Bajillion year extension for his best buddy as coach.

  • paul wodehouse

    …wundrin if 4 has read the Gzowski book…he should…nuge needs to get his shoulder fixed now and begin to eat a lot of cheeseburgers…sign our backup goalie to a one year deal @ whatever is a goalie minimum salary…whata great get Stalberg would be…but really and truly especially focus on finding a way to aquire as many NHL players as it takes to rid this team of its’ fringe prospects and draft picks this summer…oh yes and the only way to do that is to fire our GM 24 hours after the last game of this yet again tanked albeit shortened season…please?

    p.s. thank the Lord&LT for Marilyn Monroe

  • DoubleJ

    I’m tired of everyone who is in love with Hemsky. The guy is not a team guy plain and simple. He’s a huge reason the second line is brutal. He’s the first guy gone IMO. I could care less how talented he is he’s a one trick pony with a ” give a sh*t of zero”. No leadership, shows up one out four games.

    Also the third line and fourth line are so bad it’s imbarassing. I hate seeing Smyth this slow and completely ineffective. We need four new forwards and at least two NHL dman.

    Hartnell has had a bad year with Philly maybe we could get him cheap.

    . And Yandle and Horton are my hopes this off season.

    But with tambo at the helm I doubt we get anything close to that.

  • Sox and Oil

    Hey LT, sorry in advance for floating some next season hypotheticals..

    First is the back up goalie scenario, I like the idea of a positive veteran who brings experience as a starter (playoffs too but doesn’t need that cup) to help develop Dubbie and push the room. I like the idea of JS Giguere as long as its not more the 2 years and more then 2 mill per.

    Second is bringing in (again positive veterans) 2 or 3 forwards that can play up or down the roster in the event of injury. Also with this more back up Centers are a must, or at least players who can shift to centre if the need develops. I haven’t really looked at this summers FA crop but i’m not suggesting bank busters, i’d rather Edmonton adopts the Phoenix strategy of focusing on the 2nd and 3rd tier UFA’s. Someone like Brad Boyes could be a good starting point.

    Lastly please god can we draft Sean Monahan.

    Sorry if this makes no sense, i’m still a little buzzed from last night. Hopefully next year I have some happy hangovers instead of these “look forward to a future that may never come hangovers”

    • Trouble is that players won’t sign in Edmonton unless they overpay. No matter how hard they try these players sign for less with other teams. See Glencross. He wanted close to $2M in Edmonton and signed for way less in Calgary.

      • Hair bag

        Glencross signed for the exact same money in Calgary as Edmonton eventually offered but too little to late. Edm drug their feet getting an offer to him because they were focused on trying to get Hossa, the Flames came knocking and the Oilers missed out…

  • Lowetide

    Sox and Oil: I like the JSG idea too, suspect he’ll re-sign though. I like Dubnyk as the starter but it’s a good idea to have a strong backup.

    At forward, depth is always an issue and you’re right center is tough for the Oilers. I do believe the idea of trying Hall at center might take this time.

    If it does, they’ll have insane depth. If not, then getting a good option at center is one of the important items for summer.

    Monahan probably goes at #7 or earlier.

    • Sox and Oil

      I fear that Tambo will go in “project mode” when it comes to the back up position. I thought Mason was for sure coming to town until Philly proved no one knows less about goalies then them.

      So if Hall does move to center then how do you see the lines shaking?
      Nuge – Harti – Eberle
      Hall – MPS – Hemsky
      Gagner – ??? – Yakupov

      Left wing is still a concern I agree is the logical choice for a move to the middle but still doesn’t change the fact that we have glut of RWs.

      As of today Edmonton is 23rd in the league and would be drafting 8th. I’d love to see them make a small trade to move up a spot or two and draft a player that would fill a need. Then they could play Monahan on that 3rd line LW for his rookie season.

  • Sox and Oil

    LT so your saying we have a shot at Monahan especially if he is 7th . Agree with your top end list but I would add Hartski & probably Lander . Require 2 “D” & 2 forwards . That should be out there with cap space issues & trade possibilities but as so many have said not with Tambellini . As I remember Lowe did an OK job the last time we passed through a lockout season .Just saying .

  • 15w40

    Gagner has to go. As much as I would be loathe to trade away his offence he’s useless in his own zone. Too much confusion on his part.

    I’d like to see him used as an asset to bring someone in that’s a little more responsible on the puck and is a bit quicker to enter a puck battle in his own zone.

    Realistically we’re looking at bringing in someone that can produce 40-50 points and has a head for D… Is Gagner and a second worth that kind of player? I think so.

    I don’t think it’s limited to the bottom 6…

    Braintrust has an incredible amount of work to do this summer and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tambo jettisoned shortly after the season.

  • 15w40

    The way things are going its not out of the realm that these guys will be drafting top 5 again.

    4 of the last 7 games are against division leaders and 6 of 7 are against playoff bound teams.

    If they go full on tank job they may only finish with 44 pts and be top 3.

    If RNH is hurt then I can see them shutting him down as soon as they are mathematically out.

    I say they need the Finnish centre Barkov

    Trade Hemsky/Gagner/Fistric/Eager/some prospects or picks to upgrade on defense.

    Maybe Ray Emery works as a 1A for Dubnyk.

    There are some intriquing RFA’s on defense coming in 2013. A savvy GM might be able to do something…….

  • 15w40

    With 7 games left that we apparently have to play, I say experiment. Play Hall in the middle with Gagner on a wing. That second line has been an enigma all season. Given Hall’s penchant for driving the play, see if he at least has something in the middle. RNH and Hall would give us the 1-2 in the middle that all contending teams have. It would also give us more options if moving Gagner and/or buying out Horcoff were options.

    All I am saying is we have nothing to lose at this point. Kid gloves off, let’s figure this out. We are much further off than most of us had hoped we would be by now.

    • The second line has been an enigma because:

      (1) PRV, while improved is really a third-liner at best.

      (2) Hemsky doesn’t work with Gagner, even when he’s healthy (which isn’t often).

      Yakupov is dialed into Gagner. He’s not quite there yet but they can work magic together as we’ve seen already. Gagner is the setup man and Yakupov is the finisher. NEED:Top six player to fill out the line and compliment (not stymie – *cough* Hemsky *cough*) the trio.

      3rd line: PRV-Horcoff-Harti

      4th Line: Petrell-Lander-Actual NHL’er depth guy

      I’m pretty sure Hemsky won’t be around next year, but if he is it’ll be on a third line with PRV and Horcoff.

      • Bonvie

        I would agree about your assessment of the 2nd line, and add that Yak has t improve on his defensive zone coverage especially whe the On the wall when the D moves the puck to his wing, having a strong right side option to move the puck out would definitely help. PRV has improved so much this year but is still weak on the wall in his own end.

  • 15w40

    THis season as much as past seasons, was and is so predictible. Future seasons with LOwe and Tamby will produce the same results!

    Tamby’s obsession with fourth line players is so laughable, if it was no so tragic. Add smithson to that line-up and move him to our AHL team along with Belenger, Horcoff, Smyth, Petrell, so they can join the many fourth line players that Tamby has acquired.

    It’s obvious this team need a total rebuild with larger more agressive forwards………and don’t tell me these players do not exist or can be acquired. Other teams have them, just not us!

    Unless Lowe and Tamby get fired……….nothing will change.

    • When are fans getting fired for bashing Lowe every chance they get. Fans are the reason that Lowe resigned as GM. Be careful what you wish for. Fans wanted Lowe fired when he was hired. Fans wanted Lowe fired after he made his first trade as GM. Lowe even received death threats after trades. No wonder Oilers have a hard time signing players. It’s the fans.

      Fans hate Katz because when they heard Katz was going to be owner, they were very hopeful Lowe would be fired. Since Katz did not fire Lowe, fans have hated him. Fans started bashing more since Katz became owner and didn’t fire the whipping boy, Lowe.

  • 15w40

    When is to much youth on a team more of a hinderance than a blessing in moving forward ? Oilers perhaps ? The future only looks bright if youth turns out meeting expectations , and so far that is questionable as this year has shown us . The youth down in minors during lockout were not exactly tearing up the AHL as some think . They were still losing down there as well , just not quite as much as in the NHL .

    Keenan would clean house and make us a gritty team in a hurry , but i’m not sure he would be best for our future . Torterella is another one with a short life span .

    We could use more character to joke about . Sean Avery an Oiler ?

  • Milli

    LT, please please please tell me Tambi gets gassed before he gets to give his year end address? I think there is no way Klo goes, but they have to change the guy in the Gm seat! I also wonder if Kruger was the right guy, or if we should have gone with Sutter? I know we cannot keep firing coaches……

  • PutzStew

    I disagree with your conclusion. Are you telling me Columbus, Dallas or Montreal has more NHL player then the Oilers? How about Nashville and Phenoix in past years? We have seen plenty of NHL player brought in and run out of Edmonton, only to turn it around in their new home (Surray, Cole). At the end of the season I think you will see Belanger and Jones do this.

    If you want to turn this into a winning team, change the attitude. Hemsky and Lowe should have been gone the moment the rebuild started. Smyth, Howson and MacT should have never been brought back. Horcoff should have been let go, or stepped down, so a new leader could have the chance to fully develop.

    Edmonton got beat by a team, whose GM has never said “rebuild”, isn’t excepting excuses for losing, has set very high expectation on the player and most importantly has told the young guys, go out make this your team and win. All I’ve heard from management and leadership of the Oilers is excuses on why they didn’t win. (Tambi predicting play-offs a couple years ago doesn’t count. he didn’t even keep a straight face) and Hall and Co (You could include Tambi in this statement too) have never really been given the full rains to take over.

    Rebuilding means starting from scratch. This team has never done that. They have over protected some people (Hemsky, Lowe, Tambi) deleted and then brought others (Smyth, MacT, Howson). Columbus is fighting for a play off spot. Why aren’t the Oilers? What do you mean we hired their ex-GM? Montreal is too? Does anyone know any one on that team besides Price and Subban?

    Your argument is a minor factor in this epic fail.

    PS. LowTide, it is know longer 2006. Quit defending MacT, Smyth, Hemsky. Yes they mad it to a SC Final. They Lost. They’ve been losing ever since. When you drop something in the toilet you flush it. You do not pick it out and give it a hug. It is time to face the facts. 2006 was great but it’s time to flush and move on.

  • Annnnnnd before someone goes off on the value of Petrell, he’s a fourth line guy who brings the physical heat, PK’s like a mad man and can score a few. That’s my definition of a need player if you use him properly.

  • I feel we need 4 signifigant upgrades and we have a few players we could use to attain them.

    If Hall moves over to Centre I would love to see them start the season with a lineup like this.

    Paajarvi – Hall – Yakupov

    Power forward – Nuge – Eberle

    Hartikainan – Gagner – Jones

    Big solid contributor – Horcoff – Petrell

    Brown as the 10th forward.

    Smid – Petry

    Schultz – Schultz

    Klefbom – Descent puck moving Dman

    Potter of Fistric at the 7th Dman

    Dubnyk

    Reliable backup to push Dubnyk

    Trade bait would by whitney’s rights, Smyth, Hemsky amd any number of middling prospects. i would have like to see them trade Whitney and Khaby for anything they could get before the trade dealine.

    • If you’re going to play Gagner with Jones and Harti (an epic fail BTW), you might as well trade him. Gagner needs to work with competent top sixers to be effective. You’d be paying $4.5M a year for a guy that’ll struggle to put up 30 pts with those two.

  • John Chambers

    I’m all for buying out Horcoff if … And only if we signed Steve Weiss. With Nuge, Gags, and Weiss down the middle along with our interchangeable set of wingers, the top 3 forward lines would kill.

    Get a Brian Boyle or Max Lapierre to C a 4th line for cheap and you my friend have your much coveted depth.

  • Zamboni Driver

    I am a first time poster but the things that I have been reading is prompting me to do something about it!

    Week after week I read posts about how disgruntled people are and spewing advice about what to do with OUR Oilers. I have been an oiler fan for over 30 years and have watched the franchise dating back to it’s inception. Safe to say those days will never be back so I think the organization needs to realize this by hiring legit “hockey minds” to run the franchise instead of old alumni! Let go of the past if you are to progress as a person and as an organization! I mean the only person that I would ever hire from that dynasty group is Mark Messier…because he has shown clear direction,leadership, and passion even as a player…and I know he would not accept this pathetic effort of a team we now call the Oilers. Heck, he may even go into the dressing room between periods to bench these kids (and vets) or make them sit in the press box with an “undisclosed” injury just to send the message.

    What I’m ultimately here to say is STOP demanding change from management because it’s not going to happen by you writing on a blog or bi%&hing about things. We complain day after day and week after week yet sell out every home game, I get it, we are passionate about our team. But from a management perspective, there is no urgency to assemble a team that competes if we keep sending the message that we will continue to support them no matter what!! If you want to send a different message, fans need to become a community and boycott the remaining home games…THAT would send a strong message to Katz and ownership/management. That would tell them that the fans are the reason why they are here! Instead of going through a strike, demanding one of the higher ticket prices in the league, and padding their own pockets while doing so.

    Change comes from us…we hold the power people!!! Now, realize that and effect change instead of simply complaining about it!!! Many of you who post here are quite educated as your prose writing pieces and spelling would indicate, so think of a way we can bring the hockey community together and do something worth doing…in unison!!! Playing the victim and complaining just ain’t cutting it anymore…because we’ve been doing it for at least 6 years!!

  • outdoorzguy

    Quoting Lowetide: “The truth now is as it has always been: the Edmonton Oilers don’t have enough actual NHL players”.

    They also don’t have actual capable NHL management!!

  • So what happens if management is fired and the person hired is worse? What happens if no one wants to come to Edmonton because they know fan expect too much and run players out of town. Be careful what you wish for.

    Columbus isn’t on the list players don’t want to be traded to and never was. Edmonton is on most players lists they don’t want to be traded ot.

  • Lowe and his crew took control of the Oiler Plane in 2000 and it started to nose dive ever since, not once looking at the altimeter. Other than the updraft of 2006, they finally crashed into rock bottom 4 years ago.
    However, Lowe and his crew are still in the pilots seat, steering, making airplane noises with thier lips thinking all is good.
    We need a new crew to get this plane off the ground again.

  • LinkfromHyrule

    lol wow I did not realize jasmine was a troll name.

    I don’t think there is anything I could say that hasn’t been said a hundred thousand times. Management sucks. Team has no passion. Our veterans are ATROCIOUS. Defense is a train-wreck at the best of times.

    I wish boycotting these games was a possiblity, but no way in hell a boycott would get enough support to make a difference. We r stuck with klowe, tambo, and the gong show.. 🙁

  • bazmagoo

    Remove Hemsky – add LW gritty winger that can alternate between the 2nd and 3rd lines with Paajarvi.

    Add two defencemen that are noticibly solid improvements over Whitney & Fistric, keep Potter as a 7th guy. Be interesting to see how good Klefbom turns out to be, but we can’t be relying on another rookie in our top 6 if we plan on competing.

    Get a solid #2 goalie who can push Dubnyk to keep his #1 role. If we bring back Khabby that will be our first sign the plan is another tank job for next season.