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Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Duane Sutter: We haven’t won yet but we feel we’re close

The Oilers’ VP of player development, Duane Sutter, did a radio hit on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 on Tuesday and he talked about the importance of having grit and size in the lineup.

For years, the Edmonton Oilers were one of those teams that were easily pushed around by the bigger squads in the NHL and it’s a reputation that has only begun to dissolve recently. Regardless of what you think about the impact of size in the lineup, there won’t be many people that would argue that Edmonton was the kind of team that put fear in the hearts of their opponents.

Despite having no way to accurately track the impact of size and toughness, there is no doubt in my mind that being tougher to play against makes a difference and Duane Sutter clearly agrees.

From the interview:

“We worked hard, especially in the last three years, by adding some important pieces. Some heavy guys like Looch and Patty Maroon and Matt Hendricks and Darnell Nurse. A lot of these guys have come in and really set the tone and give us a balance of some size and skill. It had been lean,”

I mostly agree with this, but I’m pretty sure even Matt Hendricks would debate the fact that he’s on par with the other guys on this list in terms of skill. Regardless, I understand the point he was getting at. Intimidation is still a thing that matters. What else?

“(The Oilers) drafted skill for a long time and there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to size. That’s the toughest thing to add. So, at times, you overpay for it.”

I disagree, sir! Do you not remember the Coke Machine era of the mid to late 2000s? I’m not going to let you just slip that one past me. I remember what it was like when JF Jacques started on the first line. I remember the Mitch Moroz draft selection coming a round or two early. I remember Alexei Mihknov. Ignoring size? Not from what I remember.

“Some people may say down the road we overpaid for Looch, but his internal value is so exceptionally strong. Especially when he’s in the dressing room by Connor. There’s value to that that people do not see on the outside.”

Look at Lucic taking some unprovoked shrapnel. I mean, no one even mentioned his name but Sutter went out there and acknowledge the narrative that he’s overpaid. Odd choice to bring that up, but I guess I understand the point he was trying to make. Being in a functional dressing room is a delicate balancing act of personalities and having a leader like Lucic with some Cup experience has a price attached to it. I won’t try to put words in the guy’s mouth but that’s all I can come up with right now.

When asked about having Cup experience in and around the organization, Sutter said:

“Wayne’s vision for the organization and what he adds to the dressing room, just by giving Connor a little insight and advice on how to deal with certain situations.”

I have to say, there is literally no better mentor for Connor to have than Wayne Gretzky. There aren’t many people on the planet that can understand what it’s like to be the best at something and Wayne certainly fits the bill. Think they talk about babes? I want to know what kind of advice Wayne gives Captain Connor about babes.

What else?

“Peter Chiarelli has done an exceptional, exceptional job by lining the staff up, assigning them, defining their roles, and everyone has followed that to a T.”

Does “lining the staff” actually mean that he has to keep literally everyone that has ever worked for the organization in addition to the guys he wants to hire? That’s probably it, right? Anyone? Just me?

Moving on…

“On the player personnel side, you manage a pro staff out there and you’re looking for free agents and potential trades and going by some little inside advice he’s given you as far as who he’s talking to or who we want to be watching closely. So far it’s worked out fine.”

I don’t want to derail this article but I still question how the Oilers have gotten any better this summer outside of hoping that guys progress and are able to stay healthy. Having something “work out fine” based on an unprecedented run of health without really adding anything else is a dangerous game to play.

“We’ve got a ways to go.”

No disagreements there.

“We haven’t won yet, but we feel (like) we’re close.”

THE WRAP

I hope you’re right about them being close to contending, Duane, because I have a bad gut feeling about this season. I think that Edmonton will make the playoffs but I also think it will be a lot tighter than it was a year ago. Other teams in the division have gotten better, and the Oilers only missed one man-game in their top six all of last season and that’s the kind of luck that seems unlikely to be replicated. They’re also going to be without Andrej Sekera for the first couple months of the season and that means someone from the third pairing will have to fight above their weight class for a while, and they’ll have to do it effectively.

The Oilers are banking on a lot of things going right this season, and I would love nothing more than to be dead wrong about doubting the approach that they’ve taken, but there is little doubt that taking basically the same team into next year is a risky move. As a fan of the team, I want the Oilers to be the best that they can possibly be but I have to admit I’m more nervous about it than Duane Sutter seems to be. Like I said, I hope I’m wrong.

  • WEREWOLF

    Well it is easy to sit back in your chair and break down what you think is right or not but at the end of the day you are just like the rest of the nation who like to think the glass is half empty instead of half full. After 10 years of futility, you would think you would be happy we made the playoffs and see that we are going in the right direction. But some cannot help themselves and still be negative. But then again pat yourself on the back because you are definitely fitting in with the rest of the media.

  • Jaxon

    McDavid has Gretzky and Messier in the Oilers organization and Bobby Orr as his agent. He has another 1st overall center on his team in Nugent-Hopkins. He roomed with one of the best 1st overalls in the past 8 drafts in Hall. Lucic can tell him what it takes to win a Cup. No shortage of mentors who know what it’s like to be the best.

  • Roberto

    I didn’t know that us third tier peasants were allowed to question the moves of King Jung Lowe the 6th rings and his band of merry men, let alone a loyal Scribe! Quickly, send Chris the Jester through the valley, beyond the wondrous meadow to Master Katz golden castle, to entertain the Royal family, for we must not anger the Gods. Master Katz, we humbly speak your name. From the book of Oil City, so sayith the Oil.

  • Hemmercules

    I not too worried, some teams got better for sure so it will be a little tighter this year. Dallas will probably be in the mix again but I think San Jose might start to drop a bit more. I really have no idea what Calgary and LA will do? If Smith has a rough time, Calgary will be in the same situation as last year I think. Cant really see LA being a huge problem but they can surprise sometimes.

    The team will be more confident and more experienced going into this season. I think they can easily finish where they did last year. They are riding a bit of a slippery slope though, a significant injury to Larsson, Klef, Talbot, Connor or Leon would be painful. The Oilers have horrible luck in the injury department but it seems they have shaken the curse last year.

  • OilCan2

    Has the addition of size & toughness contributed to the lack of injury time off last season? I think so.

    My feeling is the roster tweaks, gelling of systems, playoff experience and potential individual improvements will give the Oilers a very good upcoming season.

  • ColoradOIL

    I’m confident we will be a competitive team again this year. We were lucky on the injury front last year but feel there are scenarios that TM and PC have arranged in a situation where injuries would occur. We have the right tools to do the job. I’d even be bold enough to say we get to the conference finals this year.

  • ConAir NicCagevid

    They may not have blown your doors off with any trades or signings, Baggy, but they added an extremely valuable asset to their team which is definitely there but hard to measure. Experience. Going up against SJ and Anaheim in the playoffs, a lot was said about how those teams’ experience would be a factor against us, and one that outside of a few players, our team was clearly lacking. We are still lacking in it against a lot of teams, but we have some, and the boys are just going to get more and more as the years go on , which as I mentioned earlier, is hard to measure, but definitely there.

    • The experience was huge no doubt, and I know Chia has to clear some cap space, but there was also an amazing run of health last year that isn’t likely to continue and I think that’s what has me the most nervous.

      • ConAir NicCagevid

        You could basically say that for any organization though. I agree we had a remarkable season for the lack of injuries to top guys, which we were always bitten with in years past. Last year, I hope, would be a benchmark of what to expect moving forward, but yes we have to factor injuries (or the lackthereof last year) into our expectations. Outside of losing a top line player or top 4 d-man, or few, for a significant period of time, I dont think we are one or two of those injuries away from almost claiming the division to dropping out of the playoff race. We didnt get those big names in free agency but I think it was clear that Chia wanted to shore up the back end, especially with Sekera out, and the tendency for d-men to get hurt more often than forwards. God forbid we suffer through another major injury to one of our top forwards (read: Connor/Drai), but again, I dont think (hope) it would devastate us. Outside of my emotions, of course.

      • Oilerchild77

        So baggy, I’m just curious what it is that you expected Chiarelli to do about that? Sign more UFAs for more than they’re worth? The reason they didn’t add more depth is because this summer happens to be the year they had to get the two most important (and expensive) players in the organization under contract. Now, if they went and added some UFAs this summer (most of whom are looking for term by the sound of things) they screw themselves for the next year.

        However, I agree with you that they will probably take a step back in the standings because of the loss of one of their best d-men, and the unliklihood of staying as healthy as last season, but if this is what they have to do to secure the centerpieces of the organization for the future, then it is well worth it.

      • Ryan68

        So if Connor or Leon gets hurt, who would you replace them with?!?!? My God!!! What team can just slot someone in their top 6 or top 4? Your problem is you’ve gotten so used to losing, you don’t know when you’re winning. Sheesh!!!!

  • McDraivid, Leonnor

    I wouldn’t say we are “banking on a lot of things going right.” If even half of the balls in the air don’t drop to the ground we will have a great season. I can’t even imagine how good this team will be if all the stars align.