In the beginning, they all look good in suits. The NHL draft provides young men every summer, and they’re all young and talented and fueled by dreams. It is a RARE item for a player and team to waltz through the next 20 years together, but in the case of Ryan Smyth and Edmonton that’s how the story told. We were lucky to have him these years, and he tells us the feeling is mutual. That 2006 team is high on my personal mantle of fan experience, Smyth is too. It’s going to be an emotional night, either due to the events we’ll see on television, or the events we don’t see on television. Either way, rock the casbah tonight if you’re going to the game. Celebrate a wonderful career, and a good man.
We chatted in the thread below about the forward group, the feeling is/was that Edmonton would be looking to add scoring in the offseason. I think the Oilers are better served by hiring three ‘two-way’ type forwards and allowing their current snipers more time in the scoring zones to make things happen.
Hear me out.
Let’s say the Oilers hook up with the Islanders this summer, trading Sam Gagner for Josh Bailey. He’s a winger currently, has been for a couple of seasons, but came up as a center and can play the position. So, let’s put him in Gagner’s spot and see how that looks:
- L1: Nugent-Hopkins—Hall—Eberle
- L2: Bailey—Yakupov—Perron
Technically, you’ve reduced your offense. Right? There’s no way Bailey is Gagner’s equal offensively, hell Bailey has fewer points than 89 this season! However, you’re improving the look of the 2line, giving them more of a chance to gain and maintain possession. Bailey gives structure to Yakupov’s game, as does Perron, and allows the young Russian to wheel.
- The 1line scored 72 goals this season, plus whatever they do tonight. The Bruins big line of Krejci—Lucic—Iginla has 71 goals, so despite the criticisms in the previous thread, I don’t think the top line is a major concern. If you sprinkle some power-play success in there, maybe they pop 80+ goals, but if they manage this kind of production next season we shouldn’t consider it a poor year.
- The 2line this year scored 49 goals, but I think we can agree there were issues. We’ll get into these themes during the RE series, but Dallas Eakins handling of Yakupov, Gagner’s injury and poor coverage, plus Perron’s quality season make it difficult to really see what we have here. The Bruins 2nd line of Bergeron—Marchand—Reilly Smith scored 73 goals, a tremendous total for a second line (you could argue it’s the top line). The improvement offensively for Edmonton has to come from the 2line, and I don’t think adding a pure offensive player is the right play. The reason a Josh Bailey (and I don’t care about the specific player, pick Hanzal in PHX if you like) makes sense is he’ll help the ‘what you leave’ portion of the game for this line.
The Oilers third line has been a mixed bag this season, but Boyd Gordon is the constant. He played most with Ryan Smyth and Matt Hendricks, and those gents scored 21 goals. It has to be mentioned that Hendricks has played on 32 games with the team, and that we have not accounted for Ales Hemsky’s 9 goals this season, but I don’t think the Oilers are very likely to have a third line who post 40 goals next year.
Let’s have a look at the 3line I proposed last night:
- Boyd Gordon—David Moss—Daniel Winnik
What I’m basically doing here is trying to find a 2002 Marchant line on a budget, and you have to give up offense if you’re going to stay under $7.5M for three veterans. If Edmonton can get a better scorer for this line, that’s great. If not, they’ll have to ride a better powerplay and an improved 2line to success next season. By the way, my third line scored 21 goals this season. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to spend big money on offensive types for the 3line. The Bruins 3line of Carl Soderberg—Chris Kelly—Loui Eriksson scored 34 goals this past season. That’s definitely beyond the Oilers unless a young player emerges from the pack and has terrific offense (this isn’t going to happen. A guy like Bogdan Yakimov or Jujhar Khaira might make the team but he’s not going to score 16 goals).
The offense-to-add for 2014-15 comes from the 2line. And the power play. The 1line performed well and the third line should be used to improve the GA next season.
It’s easier to be an Oiler fan in the offseason than the regular year—man that’s a terrible but true statement—so we’ll role with draft talk and RE’s beginning next week. I’m hoping we hear about the Dillon Simpson signing soon, and of course we might see some coaching changes in the coming days.
Saturday Sports Extra will be on following Masters coverage today. Paul Almeida and I will be on approx. 5-7 this evening, with Masters chat, Smyth banter and we’ll argue about how to fix the Oilers. We’ll also welcome guests Paul Reinhart and Morris Lukowich in hour two of the show. TSN 1260, 5-ish.
I know cheering for losses is not popular, but this might be the night to do it. If Edmonton stays in 29th, they’ll draft 1, 2 or 3. Last night for Smyth, it’s crying time again.