ALONE IN A COLD DAY DAWNING

Asked to turn around a franchise buried deep in the second division for a generation, Craig MacTavish looks to make bold steps on his first draft day. Oilers Nation–tired of losing and watching the brilliant youth acclimate to it–awaits the turnaround. Based on yesterday’s rumors, this is one of the few days in organization history where "expect the unexpected" doesn’t quite cover it.

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

This is Lake Louise. In my 50+ years on the planet, I have not seen anything more beautiful in nature. I love to walk around the lake, and afterward grab a hot chocolate and a blanket and then watch the world watch Lake Louise. I’ve met people from Germany, Japan, America, hell you name it folks have come to Lake Louise to see this view. In my view, it’s perfect.

Craig MacTavish is about to put his stamp on the Edmonton Oilers, create his ideal, his version of what a winning team should look like when it’s complete. Based on his conversations with the fanbase, and based on yesterday’s explosive news about Cory Schneider, I think we know a few things:

  • MacT is as aggressive as we thought he might be
  • MacT is as devoted to keeping the puck out of the net as we thought he might be
  • MacT will leave no stone unturned
  • MacT will pursue players in their mid-20s to complete the roster
  • There a no mid-20s players available in this draft
  • The scouting department may have a lot of time on their hands today
  • We could see as many as five Oiler trades today
  • The Oilers are about to get a makeover
  • The only calm scene for Oiler fans today is the photo of Lake Louise

A DIFFERENT VIEW

I had planned on giving you a list of possible Oilers at the draft today, but with the top three Oiler picks in play that seems pointless. What we can talk about is MacT’s vision of this team, why he believes they’ve failed in the past and how he plans to get them to the second season as soon as possible.

  1. BUILDING CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS UP THE MIDDLE: In every sport, the mantra ‘strength up the middle’ holds sway, and for good reason. As good as the Oilers teams of the early 1980s were, they didn’t win any Stanley’s until the defensive side of the game received more attention, and until Mark Messier moved to center. At the same time, a young blue arrived as established NHLers and the good times began to roll. I think the idea of acquiring Cory Schneider and Braydon Coburn this weekend speaks to this desire, and perhaps we’ll see the Oilers tell us Taylor Hall is moving to the middle (and Sam Gagner to the wing) as early as this week.
  2. EXPERIENCE IS VITAL: Importing Cory Schneider and Coburn is likely just the beginning of a large group of players who will be 25-30 years of age and have 200+ NHL games experience. We can add names like Cal Clutterbuck, Boyd Gordon, Paul Ranger, Viktor Stalberg, Andrew Cogliano, Scott Hartnell, Keith Yandle, Dustin Penner and Tom Gilbert into the mix as well: experienced men who are also young enough to hang around for a few years and help contribute to a brand new thing: winning hockey games.
  3. A LOT OF SAIL ON: Today, we may be saying goodbye to Shawn Horcoff, an Oiler since 2000 fall; Ales Hemsky, who wasn’t much behind him; the 7th, 37th and 56th overall picks, which not so long ago represented ultimate value for the Oilers and the fanbase; and a plethora of other spare parts and assets of varying degree. Today could be one of the truly historic days of player movement in NHL history based on what we’ve been told–and the Oilers are front and center.
  4. A PERIOD OF TRANSITION: When you have enormous turnover, there’s a time (often an entire season) of adjustment.  Expecting a quick turnaround is a bad idea no matter how many imports of value arrive. The new players will have to develop chemistry with the current Oilers deemed good enough to stay, and Oiler fans will have to adjust to their calendar being turned upside down: the biggest day of the year will no longer be draft day. That lesson may be learned in one day–today!

VALUE DEALS

Based on what I’ve read, Craig MacTavish is so determined to create the current team in his own image that he is willing to overpay, to lose some deals, in an effort to improve areas he believes are badly in need of help. His vision is not our vision necessarily, and that fact is driven home by the Schneider deal (as rumored last night). It is entirely possible we’ll walk away from today believing the Oilers got less than 100 cents on the dollar, and it’s also possible they’ll be a better team as a matter of fact.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I think we have to acknowledge that what we’re hearing from New Jersey this weekend is a half bubble off plumb compared to expectations. This happens when a powerful personality enters a situation and goes about the business of improving it. Remember when Jacques Lemaire arrived in Montreal as coach? Guy Lafleur was the established on ice power for the Habs, but Lemaire shuffled the roster and a more defensive strategy was used, effectively ending Lafleur’s career in Montreal in about 20 games.

Craig MacTavish is doing some things we may find out of line with our own vision–it appears Devan Dubnyk is not the ‘goalie of the future’, and Nick Schultz is apparently about to get a teammate who does exactly what he does, and that checking line is going to be far more physical if Clutterbuck comes over from Minnesota.

This draft day will not be similar to the last ones. The impressive first round string that began with Sam Gagner and continued through Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov is very likely to be broken this afternoon–the Oilers are poised to trade their pick at #7 overall.

The Oilers have a unique draft strategy–acquire actual NHL players this afternoon. Expect the unexpected? More like "make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Also make sure your seat belt is correctly fastened."

And there may be some turbulence.

  • Spydyr

    Dubbie was not been the goalie of the future for me for a couple years now. That being said Schneider is not the answer.

    The trick to winning is not trading for the Lucics and Letangs. The trick is finding the next one. If you remember correctly Lucic was chosen by Boston with a draft pick the Oilers traded away.

    After suffering for this long why trade the future for two years?

  • geoilersgist

    What every deal not go through. Cold feet Sunday.

    Everyone is hoping for deal crazy Sunday. Curious to find out why nothing has happened?

    I’m hoping for the best….

  • magisterrex

    That lakeside view pic is inspiring me to approach the day with serenity. The truth is that the no one knows what rumors are true, which ones are wildly inaccurate, or what MacT’s will be able to accomplish today. I doubt he will overpay for anyone, as he possesses a keen intellect. He is also capable of changing strategies based on changing circumstances, and I imagine some of these rumors come from that. You have to kick a lot of tires to uncover the best deals, especially the well-hidden ones.

  • Spydyr

    ok we are all up and waiting,mact get something started and make this a great day for oil fans!!!!!I have a feeling the oilers next season look nothing like the oil of last season!!!!!

  • In all seriousness, I don’t care if Schneider had the best save %.

    I still wouldn’t deal for a goalie who ripped the Oilers organization and has two years left on his contract.

    Does anyone not remember Curtis Joesph leaving for squat after two years.

    smell pretty funky.

  • vetinari

    Trading with Vancouver is a foolish move. They have less than $50,000 of cap space (cap geek) to sign 6 players. Gillis is desperate late round draft pick and “B of C” prospects only.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I like you sir, I like you a lot. You forgot to mention the Clarkson signing on July fif, but hey, that’s okay man.

      Had you pegged for a Dos Equis beer drinker all along.

    • I must say that I have seriously considered all of these guys, but never together in one breath.

      I would not give up the players you listed.

      I dont believe Seguin will equal Gagners career numbers or longevity. Since Sam has been surrounded by quality players he has made a significant jump offensively. We waited for this jump to come from Hemsky, but it didnt materialise when the new skill was brought in for him like it did for Gagner. That is telling.

      I see why people like Clutterbuck, but he isnt a full buck anymore after Taylor Hall took his fifty-cents out of him last year, we have Hall and he is the superior version of that type of Player. Hall earned that title by being dominant when the chips were down.

      MPS is one of our key zone transition players, he has shown Gagner like evolution in an upwards direction, and he is doing so in the Big mans arena, sorry folks but the MPS questions ended last year when he went toe to toe with the Big Boys head on. He did that as requested and didnt become a defensive sieve to do so either, some games he was a dominant force opponents had to adjust their systems to cover, we cant deny him unless we goddam lie.

      MPSs upside is still huge and untapped, he has sick hands for a big man and speed to burn and is a defensive minded zone entry player, other teams are salivating because a few Trolls have spent a lot of time online repeating the same anti-MPS and anit-Gagner propoganda, co-incidentally these are two players I identify as being key pieces of the puzzle here. That is not fluke.

      On that note, power to mac-T, I await his decisions with 100% support. I just want to make my valuations of these players clear so I can accurately assess Mac-Ts productivity today from solid ground.

      Anyone but the Nuge is available today as far as I am concerned, but some good-byes would be harder than others for sure.

      Lets rock and roll man.

  • Lowetide

    MacT bold? Easy to say. Harder to do. I truly believe that the media love in can come crashing down this summer.

    A customer once said to me “all I Hear is what I See”.

    MacT would have been wise to be the “strong silent” type

    I do hope he’s able o add: depth in goal, top 4 D, 6 bottom 6 forwards and 1 top 6 forward. Likely? No.

    • This is my sense too. I believe in the art of the possible, not so much miracles, and too many of us are onboard to expect miracles today.

      This is understandable due to the ineptitude of the Oilers’ hockey ops since Katz purchased the franchise from the Edmonton Investors Group and brought about financial sustainability. The fans are overdue to cheer for a team that competes on a game-by-game basis and makes us proud, not a perennial loser.

      The easy part for MacT is to cull the many under-performers and those players that really don’t fit into the future of the roster. The difficult part is replacing them with real NHLers that can complement the core and strategically live within the cap. To accomplish this in one short period of time is really impossible. In today’s NHL, it will take a transition period of at least two seasons.

      We’ll all be focused on what MacT does with the 7th overall pick, particularly if an impactful player is still on the board. No pressure MacT, just don’t screw up.

    • Lowetide

      Yesterday did the trick for me. I expect the Oilers to deal their top 3 picks and acquire several NHL players. They might trade Horcoff and get another pick but for me the draft will be a lot about the trades and where these young men we’ve followed this season are drafted.

      For me, Monahan, Lazar, Nichushkin, Jarry, etc are a fascinating group.

      • good morning lowetide. i am probably as excited as you are, but i am a realist. years of ineptitude at the management level with this organization only breeds disappointment when one raises their expectations. thank you for all your excellent work.

  • Lowetide

    Why do I feel like a crazy person. I may be remembering this wrong but wasn’t Clutterbuck the guy Hall destroyed? And hasn’t there been chirping and animosity there every time we have played his since then? For some reason I think the room chemistry may be a little hurt by a Clutterbuck move. I distinctly remember seeing video of Clutterbuck telling Hall he was joke on ice. Not exactly the guy I would think to fall in line behind our future captain. Maybe I am thinking of the wrong person. I don’t want to do the research but that is just what I am thinking. Am I wrong LT?

  • John Chambers

    This is the perfect storm. A lot of teams will be unloading salaried talent and I bet the Silver Fox is figuring out the best way to spend his pennies.

    I’ve been waiting for today since Dec, 2009.

  • Lowetide

    eastcoast: There’s no going back. MacT’s words before the draft set sail on all kinds of things. Horcoff, Hemsky, etc. The 3line may have Paajarvi next season, but it’s a solid guess to say three new men will populate that line.

    It’s over. The 2006-07 through 2012-13 teams are a Nash Rambler. There’s probably a museum, but who’d go?

  • Concur

    So it should make good theater today I take it ? Can MacT. turn into MacT. The Magician -sequel 2 of “Now YOU SEE ME “? How does he do it . or is it just an allusion ? PRESTO -ABRA CADABRA !

  • Concur

    Well, I turn 40 today! MacT… gimme a gift, ok? And not one of those jack-in-the-box things that fill you with momentary terror, and then gets cast aside with the rest of the junk.

    No, something of real and lasting value, please!

  • The Soup Fascist

    LT,
    Lyrics from a great song by an underrated talent in Steve Winwood. Might want to keep his songbook handy if the Oilers happen to pick Nichushkin with “Valeri(e)” or “Arc of a Diver” if they chose to sign Lapierre.

    It sounds like you think MacT should adopt the “while you see a chance take it” strategy vs Tambo’s ineffective “roll with it” model. As long as the Oilers end up “back in the high life again” by acquiring some of the “finer things” available during the off season, I will be happy.

  • Concur

    I really don’t like the Schneider rumor, I don’t think that he has come close to proving himself and that was demonstrated this year when he couldn’t wrestle the reins from Luongo. The position was more like a tandem of shared responsibility. I don’t want this blowing up in our face.

  • vetinari

    In the last few years, the only excitement at the draft as an Oiler fan was who would we take at #1. This year, I can’t wait to fire up tsn and see what happens with MacT at the helm. If the team had to be remade in either MacT’s or Tambellini’s image, I vote for MacT!

  • Trading our 7th overall…++ for a goalie in the same division with two years to UFA status is grounds for immediate termination.

    This is not smart nor is it in any way shape or form a good draft strategy.

    Imagine Nichushkin, Monahan or lindholm coming down on a two on one and blowing it by an unnamed goalie in the third year of there ELC cause Schneider is already gone!.

    Congratulations MacTavish you just gave Vancouver a stud for two years of service from a goalie who’s unproven…….Pass!

    Teams like this MacTavish just has to wait out, let those teams panic today.

  • eastcoastoil

    Good morning

    It seemed like every second story on tsn last night had Mact’s name in it.

    LT, i understand the need for bold moves, especially after coming out and saying it so often, but isn’t Valeri Nichushkin exactly what the team is looking for.

    What do you think that the odds are that everything stays the same to some degree on the top end…

    RNH(arco)-Hall-Ebs

    Gagner- Valeri Nichushkin- Yak

    Horcoff- (clutterbug/penner/stalberg/pajarvi)- Hemsky

    (smithison/lander)- smyth- brown

    The reason I ask is because of the third line. I do not see anyone better than Horcoff or Hemsky out there. Yeah the cap hit but couldn’t we afford it?

  • Spydyr

    I have faith in Mac-T to improve this team. I would be completely speculating as to how much though. I have been happy so far as to what our new GM has done and can only believe that he will continue to garner the pieces as needed. Good luck Mac-T…..go get em!