Edmonton Oilers fans have been waiting for rookie general manager Craig MacTavish to make some moves. He started yesterday by trading Captain Shawn Horcoff to the Dallas stars for Philip Larsen and an offensive zone faceoff win next season in Dallas.
It was time for Horcoff to move on. No one could ever question his professionalism and dedication to the Oilers. He is the consummate pro. After so many years of struggle for the Oilers he will get new energy in Dallas next season.
After being with the same team for so long Horcoff will be very uncomfortable with the move. Everything is new. New city, teammates, arena and travel. It will make him uncomfortable but that will provide him with jump. A change isn’t always good but in this case it is.
I expect Horcoff to have a strong season next year, but I am not talking about more points. He will be the strong center that Dallas needs. No longer will he be the lightning rod of attention for many unhappy Oiler fans. The difference between playing in the States and Canada is like night and day for attention from fans. I think Horcoff will enjoy the break.
Horcoff did many things in the community that were unknown. Having played with him though, I know of many. I wish him luck in the big D!
In the trade the Oilers pick up young Danish blue-liner Philip Larsen. His is only twenty-three years old. He is a slight young man that can move the puck. Is he a long term NHL’er? He should get a chance here to prove he is. He is a player that will move the puck up to the young group of Oilers forwards. That is what MacT said he wanted more of when he took over at GM.
This morning once free agency got going MacTavish quickly moved to fill some holes in the line-up. He signed Andrew Ference, a d-man, who played last year with the Bruins. He got both Boyd Gordon, a centreman and Jason LaBarbera, a back-up goalie, out of Phoenix. These are not big, bold moves but there are a very solid start.
I felt the biggest issue for the Oilers was their overall ability to compete every night. They needed more players that give predictable effort and results from game to game. There were too many question marks in the lineup.
Andrew Ference brings experience, steadiness and a compete level to the Oilers. He will be the oldest dman on the team and will be able to mentor everyone in the group. He is a player that is not afraid to speak his mind in the dressing room. When he stands up and addresses the team he will have instant respect from the team because of his career so far.
I do not think he is a top pairing defencemen. He can easily slide into the Oilers second pairing. He is a western guy who played in the WHL. I think the Oilers need more of that. He is also very environmentally informed. Expect the Oilers to start recycling.
Boyd Gordon is also a WHL alum. I cannot tell you how important having more WHL’ers and western players is to a team that is in need of more competitiveness. He is a player with very little offensive upside but he will guide and teach some of the young developing players how to play the game the right way at the crucial times of the games. I would expect rookie head coach Dallas Eakins to use him first in PK situations and important defensive zone draws; think end of the game while protecting a lead.
Lastly the Oilers have brought in Jason LaBarbera to back up Devan Dubnyk. Labarbera has been a back-up all is career so he understands how to stay ready between infrequent starts. I have been told he is a very good guy in the dressing room which I think is very important. In my opinion a back-up goalie needs to be able to play the game but must also be part social director and comedian to entertain and relax the guys.
This signing sends a huge message of support to Dubnyk. There is no doubt whose net this is now. There is no one else for the team, or Dubnyk, to fall back on. This is a huge year for him. He must continue to prove that he is a starter in the NHL and the Oilers goalie moving forward. I will be very interested to watch how he steps up this year. I believe he is the goalie for the future but it isn’t me he needs to convince. He must convince the management and more importantly his teammates.
MacTavish still has a way to go to get his team set for the season. This is a good start today.