Question Period

It seems the Oilers are entering a tipping point of sorts.

Scanning the intertubes I’ve noticed that fans are beginning to schism into two familiar, yet divergent camps.

There are the ones who are hoping for a strong playoff push. They see the Oilers as ready to lift themselves up off the NHL mat and throw a few punches back at the league that has beaten them down (and rewarded them handsomely for it) these past few years. These fans want the playoffs this year, or a whisker away from it at the very least.

On the other side are those who look at this team and, bourgeoning stars aside, see some areas of concern they would like addressed, preferably through the draft. These fans are comfortable with a finish between 13th and 15th in the West and will wait another year before putting their foot down on a playoff appearance.

Both groups of fans want nothing more than a parade with a big shiny silver chalice going down Jasper Avenue. So the disagreement at this point is more or less academic.

WHATS THE MOVE?

But it does raise some interesting questions. Are the Oilers best served by getting into a playoff race this year, pushing for a spot, and perhaps falling short by a few points but showing that they will be ready for prime time when the 2013-2014 season starts?

Or perhaps the Oilers would be best having their roster holes made apparent and facing the struggles this brings?

From where I sit this boils down to two perspectives: the first focuses on the development of the players while the second questions the development and decision-making of management.

If the Oilers look ready for a playoff jump this year might management move some assets to try and bolster a roster for a post-season push? It could certainly happen.

And if they fall out of the playoff picture by the beginning of March would management focus instead on addressing long-term needs by making decisions on expiring UFAs Ryan Whitney and Ryan Jones?

Will they be buyers or sellers? If buyers, how many chips do they cash in and to what effect? We all remember the Avalanche making the playoffs the year after they drafted Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. The next year they were back in the basement and it appeared that management got the impression the team was better, or at least more advanced than they actually were. Could the Oilers make the same mistake if they got into the playoffs this year?

Were the Oilers to finish well outside of the playoff race, but still north of where they’ve sat these past three seasons (because south of, and adjacent to, dead last isn’t an option) they would be assured of a pretty decent draft order. And drafting good players is something fans can get addicted to.

I’ll admit that I tend to fall into the latter group here. I see holes in both the roster and development group. I hesitate to make any move that comes at the cost of the draft, but there are trades I would like to see worked out as well. Unless the Oilers make a decision to address organizational shortcomings by subtracting from their respectable stockpile of young and prospect-level players, I won’t hold my breath.

So which group do you tend to fall into?

Are you looking for a great season with some post-season promise in the hopes that it will help educate the young core on how to win in the playoffs? Do you want to see some moves made that would cash in some prospect chips for those veteran players that good teams always seem to have? Do you want the team to just keep on keeping on and draft a second line centre with size?

Is it too early to talk draft? I’m never likely to say no to that, but others might feel differently.

HOW ABOUT A TRADE

The Oilers are clearly entering the crucial window wherein a team that has rebuilt either starts filling the holes or loses young talent to attrition and continues to spin their wheels. I like to call that territory “the Long Island Mile”, a stretch of proverbial highway (to use Lowetide’s favourite metaphor) that sees a team either take the off-ramp to improvement or just keep rolling along on cruise-control.

So, to start things off, how about I propose a trade idea that might qualify as a “wow” sort of move. Keep in mind, this suggestion is just to signify the kind of move that I think the Oilers need to make. This would address two areas in which I feel the Oilers are struggling or are going to struggle in the near future but I hope also recognizes that it comes at a cost.

My target in this hypothetical is Phoenix because of the NHL ownership angle and due to their system needing an influx of prospects. The Coyotes cannot afford the luxury even of an abbreviated rebuilding phase due to severe financial concerns and the desperate need to grow the brand within their market.

In exchange for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Kyle Chipchura and Henrik Samuelsson the Oilers would send back Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Whitney (minus half the dollar amount on his contract through the Retained Salary mechanism in the CBA), Tyler Pitlick, Toni Rajala, David Musil and a 2nd round pick in this year’s draft.

The Oilers have a wealth of prospects at many positions, but need to acquire two key positions for their future, that of a defensive partner for Justin Schultz and a potential future 2nd or 3rd line centre. This addresses both those needs.

The assets Phoenix acquires aren’t insignificant and diversify their prospect pool immediately. The financial aspect of the deal would see the Oilers on the hook for Ekman-Larsson’s next contract (he is an RFA at the end of the year), as well as retaining half of the remaining money of Ryan Whitney’s contract. Chipchura coming the Oilers’ way is solely to balance the contracts on the reserve list for both teams, the Coyotes currently sit at 49 contracts and GMs are very hesitant to remain at the 50-contract max for long.

The Oilers could also flip Daniil Zharkov for Alex Bolduc to appease Don Maloney in this regard, but the Coyotes could just as easily trade an expiring UFA for a draft pick at the deadline and solve their own problems more to their liking.

So, what do you think? Which camp do you find yourself in, anxious to see some progress or patient for this year? Do you have any faith in the management group or are your concerns primarily with on-ice issues? How about the proposed trade idea? Go on, tear me a new one in the comments section, or propose your own trades or player-types that you’d like to target. I’ll set the over-under at the number of comments before someone proposes a Sam Gagner trade at 1.5.

  • Very interesting trade proposition………if you are trading to someone who is one brick short of a full load.

    I like the idea of trading however, exactly who from the Oilers management has the kahonies to pull off something like this? Certainly not Tamby……..I’m not sure he dresses himself in the morning, without getting premission from someone.

    Based on your trade assessment you feel strongly that we need another puck moving defenseman along with a power forward and a legitimate centreman who can play either the second line or third line position.

    In my humble opinion, you have to draft players like this because no one in their right mind is going to give you players like this without getting the same back. I think we should be making a move right now to get another first round draft pick, to take advantage of a strong draft. We can acquire additional pieces by targeting UFA’s ………..although I hate this.

    Trade Hemsky now while he has trade value and get another first round draft pick.

    • Phixieus666

      I’m not so sure about trading Hemsky yet. But if you can package something up with Whitney to get another 1st and 2nd, I don’t see any reason not to even if you need to include Hemsky. With a draft like this it would be nice to have 5 picks in the first two rounds. The reason I say 5 is because according to Stu they are going to be looking to take a goalie somewhere in the first two rounds. With the remaining 4 I would target two centers, a winger, and a defense-man. This team needs more centers and higher potential ones at that. Hell the way this team is setup right now if the best options were all centers I would just keep taking centers. You can always move them to the wing if needed.

  • Phixieus666

    I love OEM’s game too, but he’s their Justin Schultz (albeit a slightly different player). The kid isn’t going anywhere for any price. Besides – Paajarvii’s trade value is low right now and I really have liked his game recently. Now is a horrible time to deal MPS.

    The fact is that it’s almost impossible to acquire young, good defenceman. They are rarer than super forwards like Eberle and Hall. If you’ve got OEM, J Schultz, or Pietrangelo you hold on to those assets – period. It may be a decade before you draft another one even if you burn your high first round picks on D-men every time.

  • Oilfan69

    btw we have 2 second round picks not 2 first round picks, but I think spending picks for next year and beyond is a good idea. grab a few more players in this “deep” draft and let them mature in the minors for a few years so they are ready to plan when we need them.

  • Phixieus666

    As bad as the Oilers have played, they are tied for 7th in the Conference. A pretty good record considering they have had some significant injuries to guys like Horcoff, Belanger, and Jones. This team might not be capable of finishing 13th-15th in the Conference.

    I’m definitely in the camp of they should start cashing in some prospects and/or picks to start filling those holes. If you draft between 7-10, there is no gaurantee that prospect will be able to contribute in a significant way immediately…such a prospect could be 4-5 seasons from what the Oilers need him to be.

    Two first round picks plus the wealth of prospects the Oilers have should be able to fill some of the holes this team has. Tambellini needs to start earning his paycheck and make some moves other than simply drafting 1st overall every year.

    • Oilfred

      Trading picks in this years draft is crazy. Like Brian Burke nuke the Leafs forever stupid.

      Its a crazy deep pool. The top 8 look insane. It looks like the ’03 draft. Go back and look at that draft class and tell me how many rd 1 and rd 2 picks you want to flush to maybe make the playoffs in what is crap shoot year.

      Zona had a great article on NHL Numbers about how mush luck and chance will play a factor this year.

      Give your head a shake. Repeat.

      Again.

      Patience grasshopper.

      • First off, there is no way this draft is as deep as the 2003 draft. Anytime you hear a so called credible source make that comparison they are just being salesmen.

        Second, PATIENCE?!?!? Seven years is patient enough.

        If a first round pick can fetch us a playoff spot, then I say do it!

          • What if we draft a solid prospect, then Dubie gets hurt? or Hall or…

            Then we will still be a losing team but with a prospect who is 5 years younger than Eberle. Eventually we will need our scouting to draft us good players later in the rounds.

            Think about your logic.
            All playoff teams run the risk of injuries.
            Not every team can have luongo in case their starter gets injured.

      • bwar

        It isn’t necessarily about making the playoffs this year. It is about taking step towards the playoffs. This team isn’t going to finish 30th, 30th, 29th, 1st…just not going to happen. Unfortunately patience is wearing thin on Tambo sitting on his hands and doing absolutely nothing to improve this team. Other than signing Schultz, what has Tambellini done outside of making the 1st overall selection every year to significantly improve this team.

        I don’t like Brain Burke as much as the next guy, and while nobody agrees with the Kessel trade, I’m not sure that team is any better now with Seguin in the lineup. They would still be bottom-feeders and would have been a lottery team with or without that trade.

        It is time to start bringing in some veterans who are actually in their prime (not guys like Smyth who are approaching retirement), but guys who are proven in the NHL and are between 23-28 years old.

        • Oilfred

          The point is they would have a great nucleus to build from.

          It has to be a long term vision. Making the right moves is tough, and doing nothing, often is the right move.

          Its not sexy but to move pieces now that will be useful in in two years when this is a contending team seems foolish.

          We’re not a great team, but we could be soon if we can just stay calm and let it happen.

          Hall and Ebs are men. Wait till Nail and Nuge get there too.

          • bwar

            I’m not talking about trading any of the nucleus. You’re keeping Hall, Eberle, RNH, Yakupov, and Schultz. I’m talking about trading draft picks (who are probably going to be 4-5 years away from making a real impact) or prospects. And again, you aren’t giving them away, you only make a trade if it brings you in something this team clearly needs.

  • Phixieus666

    I’m not so worried about the Defense right now, not enough to make a bad trade. Not to mention the Oilers don’t need another player like OEL. They have Schultz. What they do need is a top pairing defensive defense man. N Schultz is a good player but he shouldn’t be on the top pairing, hes a bottom 4 guy. So really they need a big heavy hitter that plays the defensive side really well and allows Schultz to do his thing.

    I think Gags has been great this year and the amount of commitment the guy has to this team, I would never trade him. I Actually like a lot of the guys we have right now, just need the Vets to play better and add a little size. MPS is starting to throw hits, fistric is a nice addition. Eager still doesnt seem like the right fit for this team but maybe thats just me. I also think Harti should get some shifts in the top 6, he doesn’t really need to provide offense he just needs to bring the possession up to par and play physical.

    When Jones and Horcoff are back I’d consider sitting Smyth for a game or two.

    • Phixieus666

      What about an Eager, Arcobello/Reider/smaller skilled forward prospect and a pick or two for someone like Dubinsky? Would that kind of trade be possible?

  • bwar

    My main question is what is going to make this team a Stanley cup contender? From this perspective I would look at our blatant deficiencies: Face-offs, 5v5 scoring and defensive depth.

    So how can we solve these three problems? I’m not well versed enough with all of our prospects but I doubt we have a top six center developing in the minors. So that means this hole needs to be filled through trade or draft. I think you could make the prediction that either RNH or Gagner will be able to make significant improvements in the faceoff circle but you would have a tough time convincing me that both will.

    The second area is 5v5 scoring. I think this is an area that should improve as our young core develops but could be bolstered with the addition by a skilled player with size. I would like to believe that a player like Paajarvi could develop into this role but he still isn’t there yet and would still have to jump over top of one of the top six forwards we already have established. This area could also be addressed at the same time as getting a top six center.

    The third area is defensive depth. Whitney and Potter have not impressed this year. So that means we need at least one more D-man before we can really start making that push for the playoffs and Stanley Cup contention. the answer to this question may lie in one of our developing players. We have some solid CHL prospects as well as Klefbom overseas. I would like to think that at least one of these guys will have the talent to crack the roster in the next few years (hopefully next year).

    I really do feel this roster is improving but it seems like that improvement is happening at a slower pace than most of us expected. At some point we are going to start to have some salary cap issues when all of the young guns require big time contracts. We do have a window for success but may need some help from management in order to pull the trigger before that window closes.

  • vetinari

    I think that Tambi needs to be flexible and approach a trade from one of two ways: Option 1- if you are looking at a long term solution to obtain a quality young player (such as Ekman-Larson) who can also grow with your core, grit hard and package up some of your 2nd tier youth players (Musil, Plante, Paajarvi, etc.) in a 3 for 1 trade; Option 2- if you are looking at a short term solution with a veteran or a pending UFA, then see what you can get with your “spare parts” bin (Hordichuk, Peckham, Omark’s rights, etc.). Otherwise, stay the course and wait till the cap heavy teams need to move talent either at the trade deadline or between the draft and July 1st.

  • T__Bone88

    I don’t think you could get an Ekman-Larsson without sending back an established top 6 player. With that package of players it might acquire Tyler Myers out of Buffalo along with Marcus Foligno and maybe Luke Adam. This team does need to start acquiring pieces that will make it better like a bigger top 6 player that hits.

  • bwar

    I’m in the lets exercise patience camp. Main reason is I just feel there are too many holes to fill right now. However, if the trade is simply right then you gotta make a deal to improve the club. A trade along the lines of what you suggested i would personally pull in a heartbeat. I don’t think Phoenix would however. But you were also savvy enough not to offer a trade including Hall, RNH, Yak, Eberle, or Schultz. Outside of those top 5 players as GM i would entertain all offers.

    But again I felt at the beginning of this season that we were likely looking at a 10th place finish in the West.. And i would be just fine with that. Trading future assets to squeak into that last playoff spot i would not go for. However, I should say that sometime so called “future assets” might be assessed by the team as being valued higher out there by GM’s then their actual worth.. So if thats the situation then by all means make the move.

  • Let’s call Musil and Samuelsson a saw-off, even though I think Samuelsson’s the better prospect. We’ll also ignore Chipchura, even though he’s a decent ‘tweener type.

    That leaves Ekman-Larsson for a year of Whitney at $2.75MM, Paajarvi, a 2nd, and a pair of lousy prospects. Pitlick can’t score in the AHL, and already has significant injury problems, Rajala’s 4-foot-nothing and started the year in the ECHL.

    I just can’t imagine a team like Phoenix dealing a player like Ekman-Larsson for such a poor package when there’s no pressing reason; not unless Don Maloney’s doing a wink-wink, nudge-nudge deal that he gets to take over in Edmonton as soon as his deal with the Coyotes ends.

    If there were to be a trade, It would probably be something like Gagner, Paajarvi, Klefbom, a year of Whitney at 1/2 price and Omark for Ekman-Larsson, Chipchura and Samuelsson. And even then it’s one of those situations where I just don’t see a reason why the Coyotes would want to dump Ekman-Larsson.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      ^ya, unfortunately i see this online all the time in trade proposals…for Ekman-Larson, the Coyotes would want the moon and stars, starting with Oscar Klefbom…add in Samuelsson, and the conversation starts with a 1st rounder, then switch to two or more of Klefbom, Martin Marincin, Musil, MPS, Harti…the Oil simply would not get away with an under payment for these two, no matter how desperate the ‘Yotes may appear!

    • Oilfred

      Agreed. The chances of pulling wool over a Western Conference GM are pretty slim. Target the East – the Rangers are soon to be cap heavy, Washington are losing, the Islanders love to place these types of bets (and seldom win), even Phili are sputtering. As far as the overall theme – the Oilers need to start making the playoffs. That is what professional hockey organizations are supposed to deliver. We (fans) have been led to believe that losing has its rewards (i.e. top drafts) but I would much rather have a winning team with a nucleus of great talent and spare parts(Detroit anyone?). I could care less if the Oilers pick in the top 15 for the next decade. That is not the game we should be focused on.