MAJOR OVERHAUL, AGAIN!

Change-ahead

This is not breaking news by any stretch, but by next October the Oilers will have 50% of their opening night roster from this season changed over. With Anton Belov signing a four-year deal to return to the KHL that means three of the Oilers starting D-men  from last October won’t be in the lineup this coming October.

It isn’t just the defence that will have a massive overhaul.

Last season’s opening night roster looked like this: (players in bold are no longer in organization)

Smyth-Hall-Hemsky

Perron-Arcobello-Eberle

Joensuu-Gordon-Yakupov

Gazdic-Acton-Brown

Ference-J.Schultz
Smid-Petry
N.Schultz-Belov

Dubnyk

LaBarbera

Those eight along with Ryan Jones and Denis Grebeshkov (not re-signing), Wil Acton and Jesse Joensuu (shouldn’t be on roster) and Sam Gagner (trade) makes 13 of 26 players who dressed early last season, who might not be here in six months.

You can look at those changes two ways:

1.) It means the Oilers realize they aren’t good enough and had to improve.

2.) You should be concerned because many of the players they brought in last year weren’t good enough.

Can anyone say with certainty that the players they bring in this year will be better? I don’t think you can. I believe that Oscar Klefbom and Martin Marincin have much more potential than N.Schultz or Belov, but will that potential appear right away? 

The Oilers had to change their roster because it wasn’t good enough, but MacTavish must ensure that he and his pro scouts bring in competent replacements this year. If the organization wants to grow they can’t afford to sign guys who can’t play. They need to bring in better players.

QUICK HITS

  • On Tuesday MacTavish gave a glowing report for the assistant coaches. “I think we have the right people in place,” he said. He went on to say he and Eakins will sit down in a few weeks to discuss the team and coaching staff. MacTavish said Eakins will have the final decision on who is on his staff, but if the GM is on record as saying they are great, how will that impact Eakins? If there are no changes on the staff then I believe the coach didn’t want to go against his GM. If there are changes, which I expect there to be, then Eakins does have free reign to choose his staff.
  • MacTavish is big on loyalty, and him speaking highly of his assistants didn’t surprise me. I’m sure he believes what he said, and if one of them isn’t returning, he was never going to throw them under the bus prior to leaving. I’m very curious to see how this unfolds. I believe this situation will say a lot about the direction the organization is going, how much freedom Eakins has to make decisions, and if he will make a tough decision.
  • Last year MacTavish said Sam Gagner was one of the core players, but on Tuesday he wasn’t mentioned amongst the core; Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Schultz were. It doesn’t guarantee he’ll be traded this summer, but all arrows are pointing to that. I still believe Gagner will be a 50-55 point player, and the broken jaw in the preseason completely derailed his season, but I think a change of scenery would benefit both parties.
  • MacTavish didn’t mention Yakupov amongst the core, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t high on him. I doubt the Oilers can get fair value for Yakupov this summer, and I get the sense they believe he can still play a big role in the future. MacTavish will try to hard to find a 2nd line centre, a playmaker who is good defensively, who will compliment Yakupov and allow him to succeed.
  • The Oilers need more scoring from their 5th-12th forwards. I expect Yakupov to be better next year, but they need decent production from a few others. Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks are good role players, and won’t produce much, which is fine, but here are a few UFA options who could help.

    Mikhail Grabovski. He isn’t perfect, but he possesses the puck well and can produce.
    Dave Bolland. If he wants $5 million/year then pass. He can chip in with 30-35 points and is very good defensively. Excellent 3rd line guy who could move up to 2nd line for a few games if needed.
    Brian Boyle. Would add size down the middle or on the wing. Outside of one 20-goal season he hasn’t been very consistent offensively, but he does have decent offensive skills.
    Devin Setoguchi. Good complementary player. He likely wouldn’t cost much, but the former #8 overall pick has skills despite a poor season in Winnipeg.
    Nikolai Kulemin. A big body who is responsibly defensively, produces shots and chances. He scored 61 goals his first three seasons, but has only scored 23 in his past 188 games. He could be a solid 3rd line left winger.

    There are some big name offensive players like Tomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik, Matt Moulson and Milan Michalek, but all of them are left wingers and the Oilers have Hall and Perron, so I don’t see why you would add more top salaries on the left wing. If the Oilers were going to spend big in free agency then I’d go after centre Paul Stastny.

    Stastny is 28 and has become a solid two-way player. He’s exactly what the Oilers need, but if he tests the market I think he’ll be the most sought after UFA and will command $6-6.5 million over 7 years.

  • MacTavish said he won’t go after any middle of the road D-men, instead he’d rather give an opportunity to Klefbom, Marincin or Darnell Nurse. That makes sense, as long as his definition of middle of the road refers to guys like Grebeshkov, Belov, Philip Larsen, Corey Potter or Mark Fraser. I don’t see any reason to sign players like that, but I’d assume he is still open to signing a proven veteran defender.

    The Oilers need some experience on the backend other than Andrew Ference. Last summer I said they should look at Ron Hainsey, and he would have been better than any of the five aforementioned D-men. I’d still consider him, but they also need a right shot veteran. Matt Greene would help their leadership and size, and even though his footspeed and puckmoving skills aren’t great, I wouldn’t have an issue with him on their third pairing. The free agent list of defenders doesn’t have many big, strong, defensively sound players, but MacTavish has to get a proven player, rather than a wildcard.

  • I’ve noticed many people believe the Oilers are over valuing Justin Schultz. I’m not in that group. I think Schultz is still developing and he’s done some very good things in his first 122 games. Since 1990, only 25 D-men have had a better points-per-game in their first two seasons than Schultz.

    I understand people are concerned about his defensive play, but I don’t need him to be great defensively, just solid. He needs to work on when to pinch and when to stay back, but his offensive instincts are very good. He excels in that area, and as he matures and learns the defensive side of the game he will be very valuable. A good comparable could be Matt Niskanen. Niskanen’s first two seasons were fairly good, then he struggled for a few before being dealt to Pittsburgh, and now at 27 he has emerged as a very good D-man.

    It takes time for most D-men to develop, especially those who were pure offensive D-men in college or junior, and I suspect that Schultz will prove many of his detractors wrong in the future.

  • A huge thank you to Page the Cleaner. They wanted to get involved and offered free dry cleaning to anyone who donates a suit to The Gregor Foundation. You have one week left to make a donation. Click here to find out which Page the Cleaner location you can drop your suit off at.
  • The OKC Barons lost 2-1 to first place Texas last night, but they still sit in 8th place with two games remaining. The Barons have a two-point lead on Charlotte and Rockford. Their final two games are Friday and Saturday against the last-place Iowa Wild. The Barons own the tiebreaker over Rockford, but not Charlotte. If they pick up three points this weekend they are in the playoffs, and they could guarantee a spot Friday night if they win and Charlotte loses to Milwaukee.

    It would be great for Klefbom, Nurse, Lander, Pitlick and the rest of the Barons to get some playoff experience. Nurse has played very well according to Todd Nelson and the more experience those young players get the better prepared they will be to battle for a spot at Oilers training camp in October.

    I only see room for one of Klefbom or Nurse in Edmonton next season, and maybe neither to start the season, but both will come to camp hungry to make the team. I’d send Nurse back to junior just to get more seasoning, but at some point soon it will be a refreshing change when the Oilers can send some players down who are actually ready for the NHL, but didn’t make it because they have too many quality NHL players.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Doctor Smashy

    Hey Gregor…about those suits…how old is too old? Let’s say someone…you know, a friend…had barely used suits from the mid to late 90’s…still ok to donate? Don’t they say everything old is new again?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    What about guys like Moss or Winnik as possible third liners as well. Will be nice when we can have guys like Hendricks and Gordon actually play where they are supposed to, ie 4th line and PK only. Maybe have some real scoring depth next season.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    What’s to discuss Mac T won’t make any significant changes.

    Would you sign in Edmonton if any other team offered you a contract?

    Take Hendricks took less money to go to Nashville now is stuck where he didn’t want to be.

    Hypothetically we can all fix the team as arm chair GM’s but fact is that real people, players will not come here if they have the choice.

    We will get more bottom of the road free agents and less value than we want for any trades. Hopefully Eckblad falls to third pick and he develops before the kids contracts are up (Nurse & Klefbom too) than just maybe we will see a playoff game. I sure hope I am wrong but nothing our illustrious management has said or done makes me think anything will change.

  • As for the Forwards, especially changing the balance in the top six, that’s a lot more difficult. There does appear to be teams out there that have size who could make up for Gagner’s lack of defensive acumen while enjoying his secondary scoring. There also looks like there’s teams where someone who should be better just sin’t fitting, and a change of scenery type of trade could work. But I honestly don’t know what Gagner’s value is, so what you could get for him is a mystery.

    I don’t see Stasny going anywhere, and my bet is Legwand goes to Anaheim. But if I was Mac T, knowing how rare the decent 2 way centres are in the league, I would overpay. The Oilers, like every other team in the entire NHL, will have to overpay to get a top UFA.

    That’s a good start and maybe a more defensive minded centre, combined with better defence and goalie can lower Yak’s horrible minus 33 this year. But there might be a better RW option for second line C out there.

    As for the third line, I do not understand why everyone says we’ll be a contender when our third line is our fourth line. Are third lines not meant to be shut down lines?

    Brandon Suter, for example, the third line C who moved up to second line for the 22 games Malkin was out, got 13 goals and 13 assists. Whereas Boyd Gordon on the Oilers, playing only 3rd line C and only getting defensive Zone starts and PK, managed 8 goals and 13 assists for 21 points.

    Sure Hendricks didn’t produce a ton, but if you could upgrade the 3rd line RW, then I see nothing wrong with that line. In fact, it actually looks like our most put together line in terms of where it falls in the line up.

    Some great UFA RW options are Steve Downie, Radim Vrbata (who could also help on the second line), and Seteguchi as mentioned.

    Hall Nuge Ebs

    Perron ? Vrbata

    Hendricks Gordon Downie

    What kind of second line C could you get for Gagner and Yak? Coutuier maybe?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I’m still betting Gagner is in Oiler silks in the fall. I just don’t see any trade that makes sense, and I don’t see them dumping him for the 3rd-4th round pick that hes currently worth, with no one challenging for the 2nd line spot.

    It takes two to tango, and I don’t see anyone wanting to do the Oilers favours.

    • vetinari

      We were at the Oil Kings playoff game last year watching Seth Jones completely dismantle the team.

      One of my more, enigmatic friends noticed of all people the Blues scout a few rows down. So naturally he went to pick his brain. Now I wasn’t there, but my friend is not real big on lying, and he said the topic of Magnus came up. The scout said they had absolutely no interest in Magnus. Kevin Lowe and behold, we get Perron for Magnus and a pick. Mac T turned an unproven LW – who’s biggest season came in his rookie year when he scored 34 points – into David Perron who nearly had a career year her playing on the LW and got 57 points.

      Imagine what he can do with a 2nd Line C who is second from his draft year in total points, only behind Patrick Kane.

      I think there is a team that will want him.

  • Spydyr

    Kevin Lowe Kelly Buchberger and Steve Smith must wake up every morning and ask themselves is today the day they expose me for being a fraud, Or are they bulletproof.

    • Jason Gregor

      Don’t forget the goalie coach!… Goalies arrive, do well wither and die. It’s been a revolving door, only Rollie who was old,smart and game enough to resist the poison fed to all tenders. Rollie would be an excellent goal coach imo

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    MacT must know many fans are against the old boys club. He goes on and praises the old boys. MacT is sounding a lot like KLowe.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • Spydyr

    I think the Stasny should be the big chase for MacT
    this summer. Probably a hard sell for him to come to Edmonton. He’s worth $6 million bucks.

    Maybe theres a three way deal to be done with
    St. Louis as Stasny makes his home in St.Louis and would prefer to play there.

    If Smith and Bruck return next season, you might as well paint ” puppet” on Eakins forehead.

  • The D is going to be hard to fix via free agency this year. Largely because hat’s available isn’t great, but more so the ones worth getting are mostly L handed. If Marincin, and Klefbomb are up next year, then that’s 3 L handed defensemen already. So either both Klefbomb and Nurse stay down, they look for a right hander, or someone plays their off position.

    Not to mention, if they did get a Left handed vet like Markov, then who mentors Marincin? Petry?

    Instead, I would look to grab two vets, one top two guy for the left like Markov or Timmonen to play on a top pairing with either Schultz or Petry.

    Then look to grab a vet that is solid but comes cheap to play on the third pairing with Marincin. Of those guys available, I hate to say it but Tom Gilbert at 2 mil per?

    Markov Petry

    Ferrance Schultz

    Marincin Gilbert

    What does everyone think of this idea?

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      i don’t think these 2 signings improve the Oilers “D” enough. i still think these 6 would play too soft of a physical game on the back end, and frankly, i am not a fan of Gilbert. i’d rather bite the bullet with Klefbom than sign Gilbert!

      • Ya but again, he’s a lefty, and you can’t pair him with Schultz or Marincin.

        I just don’t think it works out.

        I’m also not saying I absolutely love this defence either, I’m just trying to say, of what’s available, this would be the best bet through free agency.

        Through trade I have no idea since it likely means trading forwards for defence, leaving holes at forward.

        Basically, Mac T does not have an easy summer ahead.

    • Jason Gregor

      Zero chance Markov signs in Edmonton. He turns 36 in December. He’ll want to play on a contender, not a team hoping to compete for 8th in the conference.

      • I agree and understand Markov.

        It’s the competing for 8th place that has me baffled?

        As you mentioned turning over half the team and until players are brought in to fill those spots 8th place would be a very bold prediction.

        MacT presser didn’t say a lot of promising items.

        Yes, he will search for that top pairing D-man, but not at the expense of his roster(core players)

        If they go young, they go young….meaning get ready for the Oilers to continue leaking chances.

        I think everyone can agree that goaltending masked the last 20-25 games.

        Unless you think Scriven’s can maintain 945 SV %.

        There is far to many unknowns to say the Oilers improvement will be any better then Islanders at this point.

        • Jason Gregor

          Scrivens had a .916sv% with Edmonton.

          And I wrote, “An organization HOPING to compete for 8th place.” I didn’t say they would, I wrote that the organization is in a spot where they hope to compete for the final playoff spot next year.

          That is why Markov won’t come here. He has a few years left to win, and he knows it won’t happen in Edmonton.

          • I get that Scriven’s has a 916 SV % at the end of the year.

            I also understood what you meant by 8th spot….

            What I should have said was Scriven’s masked a lot of glaring mistakes and deficiencies the Oilers had throughout the line up especially the defense.

            The Oilers should realize this, they don’t IMO

            With the MacTavish admitting that very little may change and the possibility of going youth on defense, I think the best the Oilers could realistically HOPE for would be just outside a lottery position.

          • Tikkanese

            Never say never. I seem to recall the Oilers signing over the hill Khabby(top rated ufa goalie that year), Souray(top rated D-man that year), Belanger(top rated triangle that year) etc onto not very good Oiler teams.

      • paul wodehouse

        I agree. I don’t think he comes here either. But if I’m the GM of the Edmonton Oilers, I sure am going to try. I’d do everything to site a team like Colorado who seemed like they were just a goal tender away from being the team they are.

        Otherwise I’d appeal to his wallet. I know the idea of overpaying isn’t popular, but that’s free agency. Wideman, Boumester, Richards, O’Reiley, Garrison, ect.

        If not then your looking at a trade, which always circles back to Yak and Gagner, which if fine if we sign Stasny or Legwand, but they are likely in the same boat as Markov wanted to go to a contender. The only way to become a contender is to overpay for guys like these, or trade away one of the wonder kids.

    • Spoils

      mactavish can say whatever he likes at press conferences. it is just double talk and rhetoric. the proof is on the ice. these guys are clueless and at this point it appears mact is dillusional.

  • Spydyr

    I totally agree on Justin Schultz. He’s a young guy who’s going to get better and better. He’ll never be a defensive stalwart but I think there’s a place for him on this team. Part of the issue with this team is they don’t have great puck movers from the back end. Schultz is somebody who can actually make plays from the blueline. When this team actually becomes decent, Schultz will be a piece of the puzzle. He won’t be their best dman but he’ll be part of the solution, I think.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    It’s nice to see the bottom 3 dmen from last year’s starting line up to be gone, to be honest. I think it’s a good sign at least.

    Also both goalies have already been improved on big time.

    Things might actually start changing for the better.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    MacT said yesterday the team is at the latter parts of rebuild than at the begining. It doesn’t sound like big changes coming hopefully a better season next year.

    • Spoils

      not to label things as latter or beginning, and not to say we can’t be competitive sooner, but by my calculation the Oilers should target 5 years as the peak year and build towards that.

      in 5 years Nurse, Klefbom, Schultz, “Ekblad” are most likely to be truly competitive – Hall will be 27 so still at or near peak. Nuge, Yak will be at or near their best as well.

      Strong D coupled with two scoring lines.

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        I think you have described the Oilers Managments plan to a T. They just can’t say publicly that the rebuild will continue for three more years and peak in five.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      Gregor just outlined that 8 are gone for sure, and likely 5 more. That is a big turnover. Also MacTavish admitted his scoring depth needs to improve.

      Major changes again…hopefully this time it works. **kneels down and says a prayer**