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.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Perron – Hopkins – Eberle

    Hall – Gagner – Yakupov

    Morrow – Grabovski – Umberger

    Smyth – Gordan – Jones

    Ference – J Shultz

    Smid – Petry

    N Shultz – Belov

    Klefbom – Potter

    Dubnyk

    This is a playoff lineup. Only if Dubnyk plays to an elite level an keeps developing. He plays average like he has the last couple years and our defence is going to struggle, due to lack of confidence. Without elite goaltending we will be exposed for all the holes the lineup has.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        We have 7.7 in cap space now. 10.5 when brown, lander and jj are sent to the minors.

        Gagner takes up 5. Grabovski takes up 4, Morrow takes 2.

        Hemsky for Umberger we save .5 million in cap space.

        We are not over the cap.

        To make it less confusing we can trade Hemsky for a cheaper 3rd line checking rw but the lineup is still valid.

        • MKE

          Your math is off:
          FORWARDS
          Taylor Hall ($6.000m) / Ryan N.-Hopkins ($3.775m) / Jordan Eberle ($6.000m)
          David Perron ($3.813m) / Sam Gagner ($5.000m) / Nail Yakupov ($3.775m)
          Brenden Morrow ($2.000m) / Mikhail Grabovski ($4.000m) / R.J. Umberger ($4.600m)
          Ryan Smyth ($2.250m) / Boyd Gordon ($3.000m) / Ryan Jones ($1.500m)
          DEFENSEMEN
          Andrew Ference ($3.250m) / Justin Schultz ($3.775m)
          Ladislav Smid ($3.500m) / Jeff Petry ($1.750m)
          Nick Schultz ($3.500m) / Anton Belov ($1.525m)
          Oscar Klefbom ($1.244m) / Corey Potter ($0.775m)
          GOALTENDERS
          Devan Dubnyk ($3.500m)
          Jason Labarbera ($1.000m)
          OTHER
          Buried: Ben Eager ($0.175m)
          Buried: Jesse Joensuu ($0.025m)
          Buried: Philip Larsen ($0.100m)
          ——
          SALARY CAP: $64,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $69,831,667; BONUSES: $9,500,000
          CAP SPACE (22-man roster):- $709,167

          Your reasoning is also off too. First, why would the Oilers go with only 12 forwards? Second, Grabovski probably wouldn’t come here is he was only going to play third line minutes. Third, new GMs tend to have more loyalty to the guys that they bring in as opposed to the aging, fringe vetrans already on the team. Thus, despite the salary differences, Larsen and Joensuu are more likely to stay than say Potter and Brown. Fourth, Edmonton is not a choice destination for most players and to get Morrow it would likely require an overpay and more than $2m. Finally, trading Hemsky, who has an expiring contract, straight across for an effective forward such as Umberger, who is signed until 2016 with a lower cap hit, is pure fantasy.

          • nuge2drai

            Oiler Domination To Follow

            How much above the cap are we on my playoff oilers roster?

            I’m confused about the cap, capgeek has us with 7.7 in cap space.

            The confusing part of that is elc bonuses no longer count against the cap.

            If we have 7.7 and we bring in some bodies and move some out- we should be able to bring in Grabovski. We could sign him and ship out Gagner as soon as Hopkins is back.

            Larson and JJ should be sent to the AHL.

            Morrow is not that good, just a suggestion or the third line.

            Umberger had a horrible year, ridding clb of that contract would be a massive favour by Edm and not my fantasy by any means.

            2014 first rounder + Hemsky and Smid for Couturier and Coburn is my fantasy…

          • MKE

            No one is knocking the roster in those terms. The problem with it is that it’s over the cap and thus unworkable. In theory, your additions are all fine, just too expensive.

          • nuge2drai

            Oiler Domination To Follow

            We have 7.7 in cap space now, when Hemksy is gone we have 12.7.

            So basically we need to fit Grabovski, Gagner, and Umberger with the 12.7 cap space.

            Brown, Lander and JJ cap space can be used in morrow.

            Seems plausible to me.

          • 15w40

            It may be plausible in the short-term but, unless there is a huge increase in the cap next year, you will have to dump players in order to sign RNH & Schultz.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    I would like to see phaneuf in an oilers jersey, he would bring some much needed physicality, puck movement, and smooth skating to the back end.

    Problem is he will be looking at signing a 5.5-6.5 million long term contract extension and that probably is not a good contract for the oilers moving forward.

    Coburn would be a solid addition as well, without the big price tag.

    Ideally we sign Grabovski, sign Gagner to an extension, trade Hemsky for a forward like Stafford, Umberger, N Foligno, M Foligno, Malone, etc, and than when Hopkins comes back – we can move Grabovski to the third line and have the depth needed to compete.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        I think Grabovksi would get a chance to prove himself as a good fit with Hall and Yakupov or Perron and Yakupov, if he fits than Gagner could be dealt for an asset when Hopkins returns.

        Can never have too much depth, talent and trade assets. Worst case scenario we package one of them up for a two way center like Dubinsky.

          • nuge2drai

            Oiler Domination To Follow

            Tambellini could have signed Gagner for a long term contract for reasonable money.

            Now MacT is left cleaning that mess amongst other things.

            Problem with Gagner is he’s streaky, and inconsistent. Hope he settled for 24/5yrs.

          • nuge2drai

            Oiler Domination To Follow

            This year would be considered a break out type year for Gagner.

            Hence why he will want and rightfully deserves more money on a new contract.

            Anyone with any common sense would realize that Gagner would have been much cheaper to sign last year instead of now.

          • nuge2drai

            The rumours last year seemed to be that Gagner wanted a big contract (Eberle & Hall got $6M/yr each) and the Oilers wanted to see if he would have a good year, be more consistent and earn a big contract. He had that remarkable two consecutive games in 2012, including the eight point game, but it wasn’t clear if that was a total aberration or if there was further untapped potential.

            Nowhere did I read last year that Gagner would have signed a multi-year deal for a “reasonable” price. I remember reading & hearing speculation in the $4.5-5M range, and his agent’s demands might have been higher.

            I don’t think you can characterize 2013 as being a breakout season. Inconsistency remains a bit of an issue with him. He continues to have defensive issues and hasn’t improved much on face-offs. The situation hasn’t changed a whole lot other than he is one year away from being a UFA. The team & Gagner still appear to differ on his value.

          • Word to the Bird

            That’s fair enough, but his pride is his downfall.

            Eventually when we sign Gagner to a contract with a cap hit upwards of 5.25 million, it will be an overpay. 5.25 million for a small centre who isn’t fast, can’t win draws, can’t play defense and always misses the net. Who knows his contract could be a bargain, it could cripple us, that’s just my two bits.

          • MKE

            I feel even 4.5 would be an over pay for him. You need to get him at a reasonable cap hit. I agree.

            ALWAYS misses the net? That would mean he NEVER scores. I get what you mean though. He is what he is

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Elite goaltenders Make average Defenceman look great.

    If Dubnyk does not develop Into an elite goalie, our defence is going to look weak and we will all be saying the oilers need a true #1.

    If Dubnyk plays to an elite level our 3/4 guys will look stellar and our team will be competing for the playoffs.

    The one true problem is our center depth. Our small centers will get Injured and any momentum will be destroyed.

    We need to sign a few more players like Morrow and Grabovski to create the depth we need to succeed, IMO.

  • bazmagoo

    I love the sportsnet broadcast in all aspects! I wish they did the Saturday night games instead of CBC! Anyone who has a concern with Kevin and Louie has not listened to hockey broadcasts outside of Edmonton. Louie is a poor mans Craig Simpson and doing one heckuva job! Kevin brings tons of passion to his play by play and gene is money! In Vancouver at The Black Frog where they play Oilers games over Canucks games the fans started chanting Geno. Geno Geno! When they switched over to another game before his post game interviews and comments. Like I say, watch a few out of Oilers market games and let me know how you feel about our sportsnet coverage.

  • Lowetide

    i think we should make a move for phaneuf. I listen to oilers now and the toronto media was pretty harsh. could we trade nick shultz straight across? just 1 yr at 6.5mil doesnt seem that bad

  • Philosiphil

    Regarding media coverage – Edmonton is blessed to have some very bright and well informed coverage. I can flip between two radio stations on my lunch hour and satiate my Oil appetite ad naseum (sorry LT – the boss doesn’t allow free time from 10-12). The blogs and website are numerous and insightful as well.

    Entirely agree with LT’s take on Sportsnet – Kevin Quinn is just fine, but he and Louie need to stay focused once the puck drops. The dialogue sometimes degenerates into the same mindless chatter of two guys sitting in the stands after a few wobblies.

    On the whole, i will only speak for myself, suffice it to say the Oilers coverage and media in the City of Edmonton is reasonably sophisticated and engaging.

  • Spydyr

    @LT

    If we eat 1M of Hemsky’s salary would Buffalo trade Drew Stafford straight across. Equal risks on both sides…and is a salary cap neutral deal when we each a bit of salary.

    Thoughts?

    • bazmagoo

      If Teemu Selanne retires I could also see Hemmer going to the Ducks. If we have to eat some of Hemsky’s salary/cap hit I don’t think it’s going to be for a bad contract in return. Make no mistake about it, Stafford’s contract is a bad one.

      Hemmer (Oilers retaining $1 million of his cap hit/salary) to the Ducks for Daniel Winnick would be a huge score for the Oilers. Great 3rd line right winger, decent size, grit and ability.

      Just my opinion.

  • RexLibris

    This roster isn’t picture perfect, by any means. However, it is moving more closely to something near and dear to my heart…

    Balance.

    The Oilers have some good players developing, like Smid and Petry. However, they are best suited to a 2nd pairing role, and the sooner they can be deployed as such the sooner this team can find success. The top-six forward unit, outside of Gagner’s defensive play, appears settled into their respective roles.

    The bottom-six is a work in progress, but Gordon is the first piece in that puzzle.

    The blueline is another story, as I also feel that a team can work with a defensive corps by committee for a time. Depth can go a long way in today’s NHL.

    Overall the roster just appears to be constructed in a more sane and responsible fashion than previous incarnations. A ways to go, but moving in the right direction with some momentum.

  • Craig1981

    Rumour has it Ristolainen does not attend Buffalo camp and refuses to go to Rochester . Instead going back to Finland as he claims is his preferable option. They just signed him the entry league contract and now he might burn first year back in Finland ? Would not have thought much of it , but rumoured refusing camp issue is puzzling . Maybe MacT. can make a trade for him ? Nurse and Ristolainen could make us a future dynamic defence/duo . Window of opportunity possibly ?

    • RexLibris

      As I understand it, ELCs don’t kick in until the player plays professionally in North America.

      Klefbom’s contract is still in year one of his ELC because he stayed over in Sweden.

      • bazmagoo

        “As I understand it, ELCs don’t kick in until the player plays professionally in North America.

        Klefbom’s contract is still in year one of his ELC because he stayed over in Sweden.”

        You are correct sir.

        Personally I’d like to see Lander start in OKC and the Oilers sign David Steckel to a 1 year deal at 1.5 million if he’s willing to come here on that basis.

        Easy contract to trade if Lander proves he’s the guy, and gives us some size, grit and faceoff ability up the middle in that 4th line spot.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    MacTavish’s acquisitions thus far have upgraded key positions, but he has yet to address the lack of depth in certain areas. For instance, Gordon is nice replacement for Horcoff, yet the Oilers sorely lack depth at center. RNH won’t be ready to start the season, Lander is barely NHL ready, and Gagner isn’t signed(even when he is signed, I’m not too crazy about him for various reasons). In short, lack of depth down the middle puts the Oilers in a precarious position – especially if (or more accurately, “when”) another player falls victim to injury.

    Another problematic area is defence. With the additions of Belov and Ference, the Oilers have added depth to the blueline; however, a true first line pairing (note the word “true”) still eludes them. Ference in particular was a positive addition, but, contrary to the praise that’s been showered upon him by the media and fanbase, he’s no messiah, and will only marginally augment the defence. Belov, in spite of his success in the KHL, is an experiment. He may very well be back in Russia this time next year if the season does not go well for him.

    I echo the sentiments of others on this board who call for another #1 D-man and another center. Both will likely have to come via trade – and they should, since whatever talent is left on Free Agency is uninspiring at best. If these areas are not addressed, then it will be another playoff-less season.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I really don’t think our scouts are that good,we seem to have to make a trade to fill most of the holes in the line-up.Their success rate after the first pick must be pretty low,and don’t forget about all the players brought in that have failed,i am sure they were ask for their oppinions.

  • Big fan of DeBrusk and Quinn as broadcasters. Had the pleasure of meeting them after someone I knew won a Sportsnet tour. Great couple of guys. DeBrusk is generally pretty homer, but it’s a homer broadcast.. I don’t mind (others watching that aren’t Oilers fans would though).

    As far as Gene.. well, his shtick makes me roll my eyes with far more frequency than it makes me laugh now, I guess. But I don’t want to be too critical of him. I’m sure there is a crowd for him. I kind of wonder if people have just tired of it though. When he was just starting out, I laughed and found him pretty funny.

    Anyways, I’m on board with either a Coburn or Phaneuf here for the d-group.

  • Lowetide

    I love Gene Principe too……..we need funny to go along with boring, losing hockey…….it helps the cause.

    Speaking of cause, I get the feeling that the real big trade has yet to come…….let’s hope it’s one that gives us a big boost. MacT has already done more in six months than Tamby did in his lifetime.

  • 3rdlinecentre

    I’m a fan of the SportsNet team easily second best and and well clear of CBC (TSN is first by a wide margin).

    I’m NOT a fan of our 3rd and 4th lines. I like Boyd Gordon, I’m worried about Lander as a regular, but would like to think that Hemsky is part of the solution.

  • Craig1981

    I think they need a 3rd line center and winger. As I said yesterday, they need someone that can center the top 2 lines when RNH or Gagner are hurt as it would be surprising to see both play 82 games. Gorden has very little offence.
    Plus it would be nice to have a 3 rd line that can put add some offense. At this point I only see Jones being that guy

  • Jprime

    Perhaps you should have not have used “us fans” before asking for other fans perspectives.

    I have no problems with Kevin Quinn and Gene Principe. Gene does a bang up job interviewing the players; nothing wrong or upsetting about his puns at the introduction of the game. Quinn’s overtime calls on Cogliano’s consecutive goals were legendary.

    That being said, he is no Bob Cole, but then again, there will never be another Bon Cole. I’d rather listen to Kevin Quinn than to the other completely biased CBC play by play.

    You want to kick dirt? The embarassing CBC panel thats consists of: Healey, Weekes and PJ Stock is the worst hockey related panel in the industry. Hell, they make Pierre tolerable.

    So, no – I don’t have a problem with what SportsNet has to offer considering the options on other competeing networks.

    • TeddyTurnbuckle

      Totally agree with JPrime, CBC has the worst inbetween period shows in all of hockey… including some of the awful stuff that happens in the States.

      First off Coaches Corner is the biggest joke,Cherry has totally lost the plot, reading from cue cards with 3 inch graphics. Mumbles and bumbles about irrelevant stuff.
      And you are right with the Studio 42 crew. PJ Stock , along with Healy should be kicked out on the street.

      Kelly Hrudy as a color man, is NHL’s idea of watching paint dry… the guy is out of his realm.

      Sports Net guys are all homers, but Quinn and DeBrusk are OK, and better than the guys in Calgary and Vancouver. John Garett is the worst. I think the guy makes up stuff, thats not even on the ice.

    • Jprime

      You guys watch the games and actually listen to Louis and Quinn? I’d rather Bob and Jack and Rob Brown and Dan Tencer. The only time I listen to them is if I am not in my own home with my radio on and volume off on the TV.

      MacT on the phone in a week or 2 after the herd has been culled and the other 29 GM’s are looking to the waiver wire and looking to make trades to get cap relief. Be patient and the guy we need will roll off the truck just as neat as can be.Be patient.

  • Lowetide

    Oilers are missing a two way center on their top 2 lines.

    They are missing 1st pairing D-men

    They don’t have a good 4th line.

    Lack depth in all positions

    Non playoff team

  • Lowetide

    DeBrusk was a sought after broadcaster and Quinn does an excellent play by play job to my ear. Gene’s awesome, I don’t know what I would do without his funny antics at the beginning of games.

    I do have one issue with Sportsnet, and that’s the fact that they seem incapable of getting back to the broadcast in time for the bloody faceoff.

    Beyond that, I have no issue with the coverage.

    • alledmonton

      I don’t mind the Sportsnet coverage. It’s way better than CBC’s. What I always hate is the use of the corner camera, when they insist on showing a close-shot shot of a player who has just centered the puck. We always miss the pass and the shot. Do we really care what the guy looks like? Just show the play. You can show close-ups of players during the intermission, if anyone really cares.

    • Jimmeh

      My biggest peeve with their broadcast is the amount of times they play a 5-15 second commercial instead of talking about the game. Watching TSN or CBC for that reason alone sways my vote.

  • TayLordBalls

    Sorry to hijack the thread but we fans have concerns.

    The local radio, print and blog media coverage of the Oilers cannot report on a major fan problem, as they risk the wrath of their peers.

    The Edmonton Oilers are important to us. It’s a serious pastime and does matter.

    To the point, while the team has rebuilt, the media’s presentation of the team also needs rebuilding.

    Oilers Nation blog contributors are excellent and second to none. Newspaper and Cult of Hockey articles are fantastic. Jason Gregor, Lowetide, Jonathan Willis and Robin Brownlee are the best – thank you.

    Radio broadcasters Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer are excellent with Jack possibly being only second to the great Rod Phillips in enthusiasm.

    CBC broadcasts are excellent no complaints at all.

    Sadly though, Sportsnet coverage is a huge fail. Kevin Quinn and Louie DeBrusk suck as hockey broadcasters. They come across as casual in the least and dopy in most cases. This can’t be the best that Sportsnet has, in fact, I think it’s a deliberate insult to Edmonton fans.

    I would turn the sound on from CHED and watch the broadcasts if they were synchronized, however they’re not.

    Gene Principe is intelligent and presents himself well but presents the Oilers as a joke. It’s not a joke Gene, it’s serious and time for you to show your professional side.

    In summary, Gene hit the nail on the head being the company clown, reflecting how far this team drifted down in the last few years, Yes – our team was a joke, however that time is now changed and it’s past time for Gene and Sportsnet to rebuild their presentation also.

    What do other fans think of the Oilers media coverage?

    Blog on …

    • **

      DeBrusk and QUinn are my favorite broadcasters. Gene irritates me a little but I can live with that. I don’t know why you don’t like these guys, they are fun, keep it light and don’t throw sour comments or get on a high horse like most other broadcasters do.

    • alledmonton

      I would rather have Quinn and Debrusk than the pathetic Mark Lee and Kevin Weeks duo, Lee is very anti-Oiler and pro Flames, he does however do a good job on the Calgary Stampede broadcasts.

    • yeah…. no.

      If we’re making complaints (which wasnt what this thread was about) then Jack Michaels is a boob. The dude spends half the game not actually calling the play. He will talk about some guy who graduated some obscuring high school hockey team whos name rhymes with Taylor hall for half the play. It’s annoying as heck.

      Also, yep LT, clear and pronounced holes in this lineup. To us at least, lets hope MacT is as good as we think he can be.

      P.S. If you dont like Gene then you obviously dont get it. Some people just dont have a knack for those things.