Joaquin Andujar was among the most unique personalities to ever play organized sports. He’s also a bit player in a piece of MLB history that might offer up a plan for Kevin Lowe this summer.
Earlier this week I suggested the Oilers were doing some “spin” in regard to what they could get via trade at the draft: I think this is probably spin from the Oilers. When you don’t have much going on, there’s nothing like a fantastic “12 deals at the ready” rumor. It was followed by “Redden may be coming here” and “Richards likely” throughout the day.
The fact is the Oilers don’t have the horses, they just don’t. If another NHL team is shopping someone, they aren’t going to take three unproven forwards when they’re looking to improve the top end of the roster (which is what all the teams are doing right now, including Edmonton). So if we’re talking Redden then we must be talking Horcoff and or Smith and if we’re talking Pitkanen we must be talking Staios, et cetera.
Rock, meet hard place.
In 1986 the Montreal Expos went 78-83 in what was then known as the ‘post-Gary-Carter-era’ with Hubie Brooks playing shortstop and Mitch Webster replacing Andre Dawson in centerfield. It was a transitional team that had one outstanding player (Tim Raines), one outstanding veteran who was slowing down (Andre Dawson) and some nice pieces to the puzzle (Tim Wallach, Vance Law). Nothing outstanding, but division titles have been won with less.
The Expos had some holes in the pitching staff, especially among the starters. 10 different men started at least one game that season, including several very young starters (Youmans, Tibbs, Sebra).
The following season should have been a disaster. Andre Dawson left, and I believe this was the year Tim Raines held out (only to come back on NBC’s Game of the week and crush an extra inning homer his first game back. What a beauty player).
But the Expos improved their pitching in a big way. How did they do it? Well they picked up Neal Heaton in a trade, but the biggest impact came from the training camp invite list. They had picked up an ailing Dennis Martinez and had thoughts of letting him go but invited him anyway. They asked flake Pascual Perez to see if he could recover his career, and they also invited veterans from everywhere. Larry Sorenson, Ubaldo Heredia, Bill Campbell, Joacquin Andujar and a few I’ve forgotten.
Martinez was brilliant that summer, as was Perez. PLUS the innings they gave the club (along with Bryn Smith, one of my favorites) allowed the team to get deeper into the game and use the bullpen more effectively.
The Expos won 91 games and were in the pennant race all down the line.
The Edmonton Oilers have some nice things, they just don’t have enough of them. Goalie Dwayne Roloson, defensemen Jason Smith and Steve Staios, forwards Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres, Ethan Moreau, Ales Hemsky and Fernando Pisani are guys who can play in the NHL in one role or another. Add to them some young players who could play at the bottom of the roster, let’s pick Smid and Greene on the blueline and Pouliot, Thoresen and Lupul up front.
What they need is obvious: a left winger on the top line (the Ryan Smyth replacement), two veterans up front who can play the game and two veterans on the blueline who can push back the kids to the 5-6 slot.
It can be done. I don’t think Kevin Lowe is going to be able to pick up a home run via trade, so they’re going to have to go on the cheap. Signing Radek Dvorak, Mike Johnson, and even Petr Sykora up front isn’t going to kill the cap, and signing Jan Hejda and Dick Tarnstrom won’t kill them either.
THEN they should invite about 10 of those AHL veteran defensemen (let’s call them the Dan McGillis generation) to training camp and if one of them plays better then deal Greene away or send Smid down.
The Edmonton Oilers roster decisions last year were beyond curious. Trading Chris Pronger, watching Spacek and Tarnstrom leave and then replacing them with Tjarnqvist, Hejda and Smid looked as bad on the ice as it did on paper. There WERE other options, and there ARE other options now.
Just ask the 1987 Montreal Expos.
Two things we should probably begin to accept: the Oilers are extremely likely to get a lottery pick next summer, and Kevin Lowe should be fired based on his performance since G7 of the SCF.