SWAY

The Edmonton Oilers aren’t done with roster moves, they have a few holes to fill before September 15th when Craig MacTavish hands off to Dallas Eakins for the fall and winter. A summer full off addition and subtraction leaves the roster with 2 goaltenders, 8 defensemen, 12 forwards and an unsigned Gagner. The roster holes are pronounced and significant, and if we’re talking playoffs in 2013-14 they must be addressed.

TOP DRAWER

There are elements of this team that are (in my opinion) top drawer and worthy of the second season. They have a dynamite 1line (Nuge-Hall-Eberle) and an emerging 2line unit (Gagner-Perron-Yakupov) if they can get Gagner signed and Perron’s possession stats move with him to Alberta’s north country.

I’m also convinced the Oilers 3-7 blueline group will be strong and deep enough to weather the storm. If the 3-4 tandem is Andrew Ference-Justin Schultz and the 5-6 is Nick Schultz-Phil Larsen/Anton Belov/Corey Potter then I think that represents major improvement year over year in that area.

Finally, the goaltending. I think the Oilers can expect the tandem of Dubnyk-LaBarbera to be strong enough to get the club into the playoffs for the first time in a generation (or at least it seems that long) and despite Ryan Miller rumors I expect management is convinced the duo offers enough quality to proceed as is when training camp opens.

MUCH IMPORTANT WORK BEING DONE

Despite many transactions, the top pairing–the most important item–and the 3rd and 4th lines remain in an uncertain state.

The Smid-Petry duo did not have a strong 2012-13 season, much chaos happened on their watch. I think a case can be made that the shortened season, the quick coming together of the roster and systems employed by the new coach probably had something to do with it, but it’s also true that given a full season this tandem has played the opposition to a tie in a previous season.

VOLLMAN PLAYER USAGE CHART, 2011-12

This is a Vollman Usage Chart, I call it the Vollman Sledgehammer because it takes my bias and wallops it with a big old Sledgehammer (have you ever seen a man use a Sledgehammer? It’s pretty frightening), leaving me with a new view on reality. There is no mercy from the Vollman Sledgehammer, but there is truth. Smid-Petry is in the upper left quadrant and in blue and baby that’s a good thing. Can they do it again? I don’t know, but it’s always wise to bet on someone on the way up as opposed to on the way down. Smid and Petry healthy should certainly have their best days ahead of them.

And if you’re going to improve the top pairing, make it a veteran player like Braydon Coburn. I think that’s what the Oilers management is thinking–improve this graph (the last full season one) or go with Smid-Petry. Seems wise to me.

THE 3 AND 4 LINES VIA VOLLMAN

This is a graph using last year’s numbers applied to this year’s 3 and 4 line candidates. Boyd Gordon looks like he’s going to earn his money and it is very lonely at the top of this graph. The club also signed Jesse Joensu but his portion of this graph is a mere 7 games and is highly unreliable (I included it as a curio).

What to do with the bottom 6? Improve it.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Craig MacTavish hasn’t worked this hard only to lay a Thanksgiving turkey for the fanbase. I think the Oilers can probably get by with the current blue depth chart (doesn’t mean they won’t improve it, just means if there’s nothing out there they can proceed as is) but the bottom 6F needs some help toot sweet. My guess is that Gordon, Smyth, Jones and Brown will be part of the forward group on opening night, with Lander, Joensuu and Eager as possibles for NHL employment.

From here, it looks like the return for Ales Hemsky is extremely likely to be a two-way forward who can join Gordon at the tough end of the Vollman Sledgehammer.

  • MKE

    You might not be able to get a #1 dman here this year, but I think there is another move to be made before the year starts for a dman that will improve us right now.

    I do however think 3 years from now the Oilers will have an exceptional blue line.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    Lowetide I like the changes so far but I agree that a few more moves would put us in playoff contention. I’m ok with our defence if we can’t get Coburn. There is room for young defencemen to step up and make an impact. I’d like the Oilers to sign a 4th line center for insurance (Steckle ex…) just in case someone gets injured like last year (ie Horcoff) I’d also like the Oilers to add more toughness. I’d even prefer for them to go overboard on this detail. I’d rather sacrifice skill for toughness even if it means we have 4 goons in the bottom 6. I’m sick and tired of being the softest team in the league and I think the top two lines need a LOT!!!! of back up.

  • TayLordBalls

    great comments.

    I’ll take another turn at Sportsnet coverage and try to enjoy it. But if not I’ll try the PVR idea, thanks.

    Don Wittman___ hahahahaha. He was great at calling curling, but not as good at hockey.

    Nobody calls a hockey fight like Jack Michaels!

  • TayLordBalls

    I like Gene, he keeps the mood light and most nights, kind of needed that when it comes to Oilers hockey. Debrusk is to big of homer for me and I’m a homer, Quinn is good in my opinion, 10x better than Lee on CBC, can’t stand the late broadcast. PJ.Stock is a tool and need to go somewhere else like PL. Healy could go with Stock.

  • MKE

    LT, then why sign Jonesuu to a 2 year contract (and it is one way, I believe) if you plan on having him duke it out for 13F position? What kind of message does that send to the 3rd/4th line wingers? Nobody in that bottom 6 should be assured employment except for Gordon and Hemsky if for some reason he stays.

    Important question about Smyth, and its an honest one – where would he be on Vollmann sledgehammer if you isolate the time he played winger last year? I don’t think its fair to expect he is going to stay in the red as much when he is employed on the wing. I also know he has lost a step, but I strongly believe he is better at handling the toughs than Jones. If the 3rd line next year happened to be Smyth Gordon and Hemsky, I would be pissed off because it means MacT did nothing to address 3rd line, but it would be a better employment of talent than Jones, Gordon, Jonesuu and in my opinion those two lines aren’t even close. Agree or disagree?

    I hear NJD are honing in on Brunner. He is an expensive 3rd line option if he is truly seeking 3-4 million per season, but he would be an upgrade on Hemsky (IN THE 3rd line W role) and still be at a reduced cost. Would you trade Hemsky for a 4th line center like Zack Smith + 2nd rd draft pick just to get Hemsky’s 5 mil off the books… IF you knew you had all but signed Brunner to take his spot at 3.5 mil per season? Then you suddenly have
    Smyth-Gordon-Brunner
    Jones-Smith-Jonesuu/Brown

    Then sign one of Morrow, Cleary, or Prospal to a 1 year deal as stop gap.

    Morrow/Cleary/Prospal-Gordon-Brunner
    Smyth-Smith-Jonesuu

    Is that bottom 6 good enough? It depends a bit too much on Oilers ability to sign a veteran, I’ll admit, but I would be satisfied.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    At least the SN boys dont use the term “bounce pass”(GOD I HATE MARK LEE). When did a Basketball term get involved with our great game? I HATE IT and the next time Lee uses it, he should be FIRED.

  • Hair bag

    The Sportsnet crew are like my wacky cousins from Buttkisser Bluff. Lame, but hey, you can choose your friends but never your relatives or local team broadcast team. My pet peeve is Glenn Healy. What a mouthy, Edmonton -hating turd.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      30th, 30th, 29th and 24th place finishes, should lead us to believe his criticisms were accurate, no?. Hope only sells for so long. It’s good to have a realist like Glenn Healy to call a spade a spade. Is it not warranted after what we’ve been forced to watch here these last 7 yrs? Makes me sick that management has passed this off as their best effort.

      • MKE

        Or part of a plan. They have the high end talent they need to win. And people will tell you that’s the hardest thing to get.

        So now they need the pieces around those players to win. I have full faith in MacT and it will have been worth the wait.

        It didn’t happen over night in chicago either

  • The Heist

    @nuge2nail

    Nowhere in my comment did I say a #1 defenceman would make dubnyk elite. I purely just meant imagine if we had elite defence in general terms. Guys who cleared the net better, forced perimeter shots and closed up the slot, that kind of thing.I’m referencing bad spells like Schultz jrs second half, learning curve of smid/Petry tandem etc.

    Now back to reality, our defence is still young, assuming Schultz senior leaves, our oldest is smid at 27 or ference at 29? Not sure just guessing, guess belov is around there too. My point is, they’re gonna get there, and with some of the guys in our pipeline, we should be by all accounts “elite” in two seasons. I hope.

    I’m as hopeful as iv ever been. Lets go oil

  • MKE

    Worst comment of several announcers is ” so and so team comes out in numbers , they got the numbers” ! Right , they forgot the other team and their names , often even our own . Flames announcers so bad , and slanted bias, it takes long minutes before one can decipher which team they are playing against or any opposition player mentioned , and almost never with a name . One thing they are good for , is taking the excitement out of the game .

  • MKE

    If you guys are gonna talk about bad announcers/broadcasting people can I throw in my vote for the worst as mark Spector? I hate that guy. He is so anti-oilers, how he ever got a job that has to do with the oilers in any way is beyond me. Half the time he ends up talking about the wrong player or the wrong plays. He is terrible

  • MKE

    There is a reason people don’t want phaneuf. The guy is a cancer in the room.

    He is not the guy you have around if you want a winning culture. Toronto made it to the playoffs one year.

    He’s been part of a few teams that have had winning seasons. But he’s never been part of a winning culture in the NHL

  • MKE

    Maybe I’ve missed it somewhere in all of the free agent hoopla, but is there a write-up anywhere about any of the OKC kids making the jump to the NHL next year?

    You’ve got a coach who made his bones in player development. Seems only logical to me that you give some of the young big centers in OKC a chance to play in Edmonton next year.

  • 15w40

    Something kind of just dawned on me.

    Why not have 3 lines that can play tough minutes and produce? Dilute the talent, so to speak?

    Hall RNH Yakupov
    Joensuu Gagner Eberle
    Perron Gordon Hemsky
    Smyth Lander Jones

    Moreover, it makes a lot more sense this way of 3 two-way lines (or more realistically, Line1 two-way, Line2 offensive, Line3 two-way) in terms of picking up free agent talent than it does with the conventional 2 scoring lines and “checking” line.

    With the conventional model, there aren’t many options left for checking line forwards on the UFA market. It would necessitate a Hemsky swap for 3rd line help, it seems.

    And then they basically spend one of the major bullets they have to help get them top-4 d help, plus they would still be missing a 4th line C.

    If they play to their roster strengths and, say, sign Penner or Grabovski for 2nd/3rd line W, they’d still have Hemsky to play a two-way role on the 3rd line, OR use him along with N. Schultz and/or picks to pick up another top-4 d-man.
    —–

    For me though? I’d rather see them try to improve this bunch as much as possible through signings. There is still too much of a talent hole to only improve the team through trades. Trading usually helps solid teams that have a luxury at one position and a hole at another. The Oilers aren’t at that place yet.

    My choice picks for improving the holes that remain on the team would be thus:

    -Top-4 d-man: sign Tom Gilbert.
    -Top-9 winger: sign Dustin Penner or Mikhail Grabovski.
    -4 line C: David Steckel.
    (of course, sign Gagner.)

    And then call it a day and see how the Oilers go to start the season.

    Hall RNH Eberle
    Perron Gagner Yakupov
    Penner Gordon Hemsky
    Smyth Steckel Jones
    Limbo: Brown, Joensuu, Eager, Lander, Omark

    Smid-Gilbert
    Ference-J. Schultz
    N. Schultz-Petry
    Limbo: Belov, Klefbom, Larsen, Potter

  • 15w40

    Oilers went from 29th to 24th this year. I would say that they have made improvements in the roster but still holes remain.

    With the UFA situation A, being quite weak and B, none of the top guys will come here anyway, that is typically not a viable option for Edmonton.

    Trading has proven to be difficult especially with the constraints being put in place of not willing to trade the most marketable assets that they have.

    The only other way is through the draft and that seems to be what they are doing. It also means having to wait the longest for the most visible improvement. It also presents the most risk of losing players that you have developed in the process simply because the process is taking too long. Case in point – Gagner, may walk for nothing or force a trade at 50 cents on the dollar because the oilers have no leverage anymore.

    People use Chicago as a template but they can get free agents and they also have a better record with picks after the 1st round (this without any real research or data to back it up) just the way it looks from afar.

    Edmonton needs to make another jump in the standings this year to at least be in the hunt on the final weekend of reg season play. Hall & Eberle are locked up, and I suspect so too will be RNH and J Schultz this year.

    The Gagner situation is a prickly one and could set a dangerous precedent. If he walks for nothing or forces a bad trade, it will look awful because both player and organization have said they both want to continue down the path with each other but yet were unable to come to an agreement.

    I get if the Oilers need to make a decision based on finances and if the Gagner camp is holding them ransom now but it better not turn into Smyth 2.0 where they are playing chicken over $2 mil across a 5 year deal. IMHO