When I started with the Edmonton Journal back in 1989, columnist Cam Cole would fill days that didn’t provide him with enough meat to churn out a full rant or rave with a bit he called "Items that might grow up to be columns, Volume XVI" etc.
This, with the Edmonton Oilers scattered all over the place during a seventh straight post-season out of the playoff mix, the draft and free agency still many weeks away and new GM Craig MacTavish settling into the job, is that. I’m stealing it from Cole, with credit, of course.
In no particular order of importance, some of the thoughts that have crossed my addled mind in recent days, grabbing my attention at least as much as the Stanley Cup playoffs and trying to fix my busted Biscayne (don’t ask) have.
THE WAY I SEE IT
. . . We already know that Jonathan Huberdeau, Brendan Gallagher and Brandon Saad are finalists for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and that Nail Yakupov of the Oilers is not.
Outside of, perhaps, Yakupov’s bonus structure, that oversight doesn’t mean a damn thing – if I had the pick of any of the four as an armchair GM, I’d take Yakupov in a heartbeat (insert "and trade him for David Clarkson" smart guy remark here).
Don’t get me wrong, the Calder Trophy is a terrific bauble to have in the trophy case at home and a nice personal accolade, but it’s not always (some would go as far as to say seldom) an indication of who’ll have the best career, and there’s lots of examples of that in just the last decade or so.
Would you rather have 2011 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner or runner-up Logan Couture? Steve Mason won it in 2009 and can’t stop a beach ball today, while the runner-up was Bobby Ryan. In 2003, Barrett Jackman was rookie of the year ahead of Henrik Zetterberg. In 2001, Evgeni Nabokov got the nod over Brad Richards. You get the idea.
Yakupov, of course, won’t even be a runner-up because PHWA voters somehow left him off the list of three finalists, but it says here he’ll be the best – certainly the most dynamic – player three years from now.
WHILE I’M AT IT
. . . I did an item several days ago extolling the (obvious) virtues of pending UFAs Bryan Bickell, Nathan Horton and Clarkson as forwards MacTavish should have an eye on and I said I’d take a swing at defensemen who might not only raise the compete level but the talent level on Edmonton’s back end.
I don’t see a lot in the UFA pool in terms of blueliners, so it looks to me like MacTavish’s best bets will come via trade. That of course, raises countless possibilities, ranging from tweaks to landing proven top-two talent, but I’ll just offer four names. Not-shoot-for-the-moon stuff necessarily, but do-able deals.
If the Oilers are willing to spend a tall stack on their top two (and I think they should consider it), I’d be looking at Keith Yandle, 27, of Phoenix and Alex Edler, also 27, of Vancouver. Neither name, of course, is a revelation.
Yandle, who has three years remaining on a contract with a $5.25 million cap hit, can play the minutes required (22:14 this season) and brings some edge (54 PIM) and the ability to generate offence (10-20-30 this season).
Edler, who inked a six-year deal with a $5-million cap hit, might be pried out of Vancouver if they’re looking to tweak a line-up that again fell short this season. Edler produced 8-14-22 and had 37 PIM this season while logging an average of 23:50 a night.
On the cheap end of the salary scale, at least as of right now, I really like Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders (the former Wheat King who almost ended Taylor Hall with a wicked check in the CHL post-season). Hamonic, 22, an RFA, played 22:48 a night for the Islanders. He bangs.
I also like Brenden Dillon, 22, of the Dallas Stars, but who doesn’t? The big blueliner, six-foot-three and 228 pounds, averaged 21:22 a night for Dallas this season. He’s got one year left at $900,000.
AND . . .
Kudos to Jason Gregor and everybody at TEAM 1260 for raising almost $10,000 with their king and queen of karaoke tilt at On the Rocks last Friday . . . on a personal note, thanks to the readers of Oilersnation and fans of Gregor’s show who’ve brought their business to my Crackmasters Southwest shop since we opened. The business, especially in the first year of start-up, is very much appreciated . . . sat around talking hockey for a couple of hours in the shop with Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal last week . . .
Don’t forget to play StreakCred the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Only $20 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.