Front Office

I never knew a man could tell so many lies
He had a different story for every set of eyes
How can he remember who he’s talking to?
Cause I know it ain’t me, and hope it isn’t you.
And there ain’t nothin’ like a friend
Who can tell you you’re pissin’ in the wind.
-Neil Young

This is Kenny Reardon, a legendary hockey figure. He was fearless and then some, with a few news items in his resume that could turn your stomach. He injured a lot of players and endured plenty of pain during his NHL career. According to Legends of Hockey:

Reardon retired before he turned 30, partially because of the many injuries he’d sustained due to his style of play. Even an incomplete list of his scars and breaks is daunting. He never seemed to allow himself to heal. One shoulder injury was supposed to keep him in the press box for three weeks but he returned to the Canadiens’ lineup after only 10 days. He attempted to hit an opponent in his first game back, missed, and slammed the tender shoulder into the boards. He completed the game and then asked the team physician to look at the throbbing arm. “It’s your head I should be examining, not your shoulder,” replied the doctor.

After he retired, Reardon became a very respected man in the Montreal front office. Accounts of his being an important part of Montreal’s success over the 50s-60s-70s are in several books from the era. He was a valued advisor and his input was sought and relied on through the Hab’s glory years.

I’m wondering if Kevin Lowe needs a Kenny Reardon. Maybe he’s already there, maybe it’s Craig MacTavish. Knowing those two men have spent much of their professional careers together it would seem logical that all things are talked through at some level before a move is made.

Which brings us to the events of the past two summers. In order:

  1. June 28, 2006: Oilers decline the $1.9 million option on the contract of G Ty Conklin, making him an unrestricted free agent as of July 1.
  2. June 30, 2006: Oilers decline the option on the contract of F Todd Harvey, making him an unrestricted free agent as of July 1.
  3. June 30, 2006: Oilers sign RW Fernando Pisani to a 4-year, $10 million dollar contract.
  4. July 1, 2006: Oilers sign G Dwayne Roloson to a 3-year, $11 million dollar contract.
  5. July 3, 2006: Oilers trade D Chris Pronger to Anaheim for RW Joffrey Lupul, D Ladislav Smid and draft picks.
  6. July 4, 2006: Oilers sign C Marty Reasoner to a 2-year, $1.9 million dollar contract.
  7. July 6, 2006: Oilers sign D Daniel Tjarnqvist to a 1-year, $1.625 million dollar contract.
  8. July 10, 2006: Oilers trade a 7th rd pick in 2007 to Buffalo for D Jan Hejda.
  9. July 12, 2006: Oilers sign C Shawn Horcoff to a 3-year, $10.8 million dollar contract.
  10. July 21, 2006: Oilers sign D Tom Gilbert to a 2-year professional contract.
  11. July 21, 2006: Oilers sign C Jarret Stoll to a 2-year, $4.4 million dollar contract.
  12. July 25, 2006: Oilers sign RW Ales Hemsky to a 6-year, $24.6 million dollar contact.
  13. Summer 2006: Oilers do not pursue a long term contract with Ryan Smyth.
  14. August 11, 2006: Oilers sign F Petr Sykora to a 1-year, $2.9 million dollar contract.
  15. August 28, 2006: Oilers sign F Toby Petersen to a 1-year contract.

THAT is a lot of team building in one summer. Massive change on the blueline with a lot of experience headed out (especially considering Tarnstrom and Spacek, two rentals, did not return) and they signed their young star (Hemsky) to a long term deal. Plus they put off making a Ryan Smyth decision (or more to the point, make their thoughts known on his future by passing over an opportunity to sign him long term but giving out contracts to several others).

This spring we were told coach MacTavish was out pro scouting and that he would have more input into the roster moves made by the club. Here’s this season’s laundry list:

  1. July 1: Oilers sign D Dick Tarnstrom to a 1-year, $2 million dollar contract.
  2. July 1: Oilers sign D Denis Grebeshkov to a 1-year, $950,000 contract.
  3. July 1: Oilers trade D Jason Smith and RW Joffrey Lupul to Philadephia for D Joni Pitkanen, LW Geoff Sanderson and a 2009 3rd rd pick.
  4. July 3: Oilers sign G Mathieu Garon to a 2-year, $2.2 million dollar contract.
  5. July 3: Oilers sign LW Raffi Torres to a 3-year, $6.5 million dollar contract.
  6. July 3: Oilers sign D Matt Greene to a 2-year, $2.3 million dollar contract.
  7. July 5: Oilers trade a 2008 2nd rd pick to NYI for their own 3rd rd pick in the 2008 Entry draft and D Allan Rourke.
  8. July 6: Oilers sign F Tomas Vanek to a 7-year, $50 million dollar offer sheet.
  9. July 12: Oilers sign D Sheldon Souray to a 5-year, $27 million dollar contract.
  10. July 17: Oilers sign RW Colin McDonald to a 2-year professional contract.
  11. July 26: Oilers sign LW Dustin Penner to a 5-year, $21.5 million dollar offer sheet.

Massive change (upgrade in terms of veterans and puck movers) on the blueline and they are trying to sign a young player to a long term deal (currently Penner). They’ve added some very nice goalie depth and traded their captain.

So my question for you is this: how much impact has MacT had on this roster? And a secondary question, do you believe (as Louise has suggested) that the Oilers will return to the old days of having the opposition’s best line facing a checking unit and abandon the power v. power setup?

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25 Responses to "Front Office"

  1. MetroGnome says:

    I think the Oil might have to abandon the power v. power strategy for the foreseeable future, at least. To my eyes they don’t have a line that can consistently go toe-to-toe with the other Big Gun lines in the NW – even with the pending addition of Penner.

    I think saving Hemsky et al. for the softer underbelly is probably the only way MacT can go this year. Feed Pisani and his linemates to the wolves and hope they can come out even…

    BTW, I’d like to append to this comment my appreciation for your tireless efforts, LT. Your knowledge and easy-to-read style (not to mention your sheer volume of output) have made this off-season much easier to bear.

  2. Kyle says:

    Methinks Sheldon Souray and Matt Greene are not typical/ideal MacT guys.

  3. Aaron Paquette says:

    BTW, I’d like to append to this comment my appreciation for your tireless efforts, LT. Your knowledge and easy-to-read style (not to mention your sheer volume of output) have made this off-season much easier to bear.

    I’d like to second that.

    As someone just getting back into hockey, I’ve found your site to be ridiculously excellent, consistent, and worth every moment spent reading. You make hockey fandom seem less a mindless, slavering excercise in mob pyschology and more an analytical, thoughtful, gentlemanly pursuit. With beer, smokes and rock n’ roll.

  4. Daniel says:

    Third. This site really does take the edge off the dry season.

    Looking out my kitchen window today, the sky was overcast and had a bit of that smooth winter-gray look. I caught a slightly chilled breeze coming through the screen, and felt an unbidden moment of excitement. It felt like an early October evening, and we all know the significance of that.

    Just get us through until camp LT, then we’ll be alright ;)

  5. oilerdiehard says:

    Kyle said…

    Methinks Sheldon Souray and Matt Greene are not typical/ideal MacT guys.

    Greene might if he continues along his development.

    Souray could be as well as I think both Lowe and Mac are sick of the woeful power plays we put out every season.

    To me this seems to be one of the biggest areas they targeted this off-season. Obviously we are much better at the points but we lost Smyth’s 15 PP goals. Penner plays the same area as Smytty did and had 9 PP goals in his rookie season.

    To the question LT I believe it is looking that way that a Pisani / Moreau line will go against the power. It would be pretty interesting to see a Moreau-MAP-Pisani line.

  6. James L. says:

    I’d like to fourth it.

    LT, you are the CQ of Hockey.

  7. Steve says:

    I can’t see MacT being happy about losing Smith and getting Pitkanen and Souray. I just can’t see it.

    Also, I’d like to twenty-seventh (or whatever we’re at) what metrognome said.

    Finally, I’d like to extend my standard giddily mad props for quoting Neil Young in a post.

  8. Dennis says:

    Yeah, let’s get our money’s worth, as it were, and have the old 18-34 duo to carry the mail at ES. Both guys have spent their time doing this so assuming both fellows come into camp healthy, I think we can count on them to be able to hang. Hopefully the youngster MP can learn as he goes and then we have 10-16-14-83-Penner-PLUS do a good job against the opposing forwards 4-9.

    I think the day the Oilers tried to sign Nylander and Kariya to play with Hemsky, that’s the day that PVP died and honestly, I’m not gonna say anything against that. In a perfect world, you’d have Hemsky able to take on the best and come out ahead with with 18-34 back banging around, there’s nothing wrong with letting the 10-83 or 14-16 duo’s plus Penner try and murder the other team’s lesserlights either.

  9. speeds says:

    Would Stoll ready for the assignment of centering Moreau and Pisani? Would that be the optimal use of Stoll in this lineup?

    It would probably help to reduce his counting numbers, in which case you could hopefully sign him long term to a slightly cheaper number (should he prove healthy, and be willing).

  10. Bill Needle says:

    Is MacTavish really a good enough coach to earn the distinction of having “MacT-type” players?

    Here’s the reality check. He has only coached one team to the Stanley Cup finals. The rest of the time, his teams have been middling at best. MacTavish got so much credit for the Oilers’ surprising (fluky?) run to the Stanley Cup finals two years ago yet received virtually no criticism for the team’s ineptitude last season. How did a run-of-the-mill NHL coach suddenly become as bulletproof as Scotty Bowman?

    Why isn’t there a category of “Doug Maclean-type” players or “Glen Sonmor-type” players. They both steered surprising teams to the finals but didn’t win the Cup. Just like MacTavish. Heck, there isn’t even a group of players who can be called “Roger Neilson-type.”

  11. lionhearts says:

    I have tried to be positive about this summer but forgeddaboutit. We got a bad line up compared to other teams. I hate to say it. I like to think were progressing. And making good money trades

    I DON’t know if i like all the trades edmonton is making. Souray is overpayed possibly. Then we got Pit and if Penner comes on board. Were gettin close to max money on these guys. Not 1 Elite player on the whole roster. Thats what Lowe said he wanted an “Elite Player.”. Im tired of mediocrity. I’m tired of him trading the best defensive man in the league for garbage. Force him to stay then Everyone stays from that fabulous 2006 Roster. He was cheap at 6 mill per yr. If you want to be tough be tough with him. When a player signs a contract thats it. Same if the team wants to get rid of them like Ottawa in Redden. Edmonton should of said your our best player Pronger and we’ll never trade you. Thats It.
    You see the Lakers trading KOBE BRYANT because he wants a trade out of the blue. Hell no. And Pronger had 5 yrs left on his contract. What was Lowe thinking there.

    Next point is this there is gonna be a heck of a lot of good players on the Market next yr. I don’t know why were giving tier 1 money for tier 2 players. What happened to getting an elite player like spezza, Vinny etc. Next year could be great plus our Picks. I have no idea why were rushing to put a mediocre team on the ice when we could be patient and get a good 1 next year. Were acting like the Maple Leafs get a decent team on the ice to sell tickets but forget about the championship.

  12. MikeP says:

    Bill, why is it that folks like you never seem to remember the endless “fire MacT” threads when things are going poorly? Then at times like these, you stick your oar in and pretend like you’re the only one who’s said it?

    Here is a reality check for *you*. MacT has had his share of people demanding his firing, since about loss 4.

    MacT has the distinction because he’s coaching the team. There is clearly a style of player that he prefers, and clearly some styles he does not prefer.

    That’s it, that’s all.

    If Ottawa or Columbus fans want to talk about Roger Neilson or Doug MacLean type players, they can. This being more or less an Oilers site though, I think it’s entirely appropriate to talk about MacT types, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.

  13. Lowetide says:

    It doesn’t really matter what I think, but it’s a fact that there are certain player types who thrive under MacTavish and others who do not.

    I would describe a MacT player as someone who has some grit, intelligence and enough awareness without the puck to be consistently in a good position, and then in turn read the play in a proper manner as to when to jailbreak.

    I also believe it’s reflected in the numbers (if you look at them the right way, EV plus/EV minus without the empty netters, quality of linemates and oppositon etc) and in how they are used.

    Pisani. MacT type. Horcoff. MacT type. Comrie. No. Lupul. No.

    It is my belief that another coach would have elevated some players over others and have a different roster than the Oilers currently own. It’s also my belief that we can identify who MacTavish will use in important situations a mile away.

    Pouliot. MacT type. Schremp. No. It doesn’t mean Schremp won’t have a career, but it does mean that there’s every chance it’ll be for another team.

    How many pure skill kids has MacT given 500 at-bats to and how many of them have survived?

    I count Hemsky. And as it turns out he’s been right. Comrie can help a team win but I don’t think you can argue he was worth what he was being paid last spring or that he’s a difference maker.

    There are teams wasting a lot of money on players whose counting numbers are impressive, and the Oilers may be one of them with a Souray-type contract.

    Which is why I asked the question about MacT’s input into the summer. DOES he know something last year’s stats can’t tell us? CAN the Oilers turn him around as they did with Ulanov, Staios and other veterans who came here after some tough defensive times?

    I don’t know. But the MacT track record isn’t a mediocre one imo. It has its curiosities (the PP!!!), but I think he’s a helluva coach.

    And the non-MacT types who have been sent away haven’t made us regret them leaving town.

    And that’s over 7 NHL seasons, baby. That’s a pretty large sample size.

  14. danny says:

    I notice how you said MacT types thrive under him… dually noted, MacT thrives with a roster of those types… which I think is more to the heart of where you are going with this.

    I think that MacT is a great coach, but I also think that in order for him to apply his acumen he needs the right roster. He seems to be great at a certain style, but sometimes lost under less than ideal conditions.

    A look at the 05/06 roster shows you exactly what type of team MacT needs to thrive. He needs guys that seperate the opposition from the puck, guys that create few turnovers and positioning comes natural. I started a thread on HF centered around losing Peca/Dvorak and replacing them with Sykora/Lupul last offseason and that it could prove a fatal flaw. I know that wasn’t all that ailed them last year, but MacT is just an average coach at best when he doesnt have the right troops to execute his plans.

    I think this team signing Peca back would be the difference maker needed right now. If we send Peca/Pisani/moreau out against the best, and let Shawn/Stoll/Hemmer lead their fight against the bottom 9, we may be suprised.

    One thing is clear, MacT needs that shutdown roster to thrive, and I think we are about 2 additions away from having that right now.

  15. digger says:

    So, anyone else notice that we have a new head coach for the Springfield Falcons?

    http://www.masslive.com/sports/republican/index.ssf?/base/sports-0/1185924614253660.xml&coll=1

    Boy, Ward booked it outta here in a hurry, eh? I suppose he figured that any coaching gig at the NHL level was not going to happen with the Oilers anytime soon, if ever.

    I hope the practices will amount to something more cerebral than “This is how you take ‘em wide!”, but I remain skeptical.

  16. Jesse says:

    LT:

    Every example you give of either a ‘MacT player’ or a ‘non-MacT player’ are forwards, and then you cite Souray as an aquisition that doesn’t fit the mold. Isn’t it possible that since Huddy drives the bus on D that MacTavish isn’t as worried about getting his type of players in there.

    Then again, that doesn’t explain the Nylander offer, so I have no idea what’s going on with those guys.

  17. IceDragoon says:

    digger…

    Bite your tongue… er… fingers.

    Ya think Rob Daum might be available?

    ………

    jesse…

    You’re right, the D is Huddy’s domain. They still have to mesh with the forwards, tho.

    The Nylander attempt strengthens the ‘designated checking line’ argument. no?

    I’m not the only one that started thinking this way after the Smytty trade. Ryan is an absolute ES horse. He consistently contributes regardless of the strength of his competition and that is a very rare ability.

    aside –
    Yesterday a Flames fan/friend tried to tell me that Smytty would be on the Avs 2nd line because they had so much offensive talent. I made a friendly bet and laughed. Joel Q. is no idiot.

    ………

    Lain…

    I’ve listened to my share of Neil Young in my many a day… but, Jerry Jeff Walker always comes to mind when I think, “pissin’ in the wind”.

    http://lyricsplayground.com/
    alpha/songs/p/pissininthewind.shtml
    (bah… when I first posted this the end of the url was cut off. I’ve split it to fit on 2 lines)

  18. Dennis says:

    A lot of years that we didn’t make the playoffs under MacT, it was because Tommy was there stinking the joint out. So if you want to blame MacT for that one, then I guess you can see he should’ve stapled him to the bench and forced Lowe to buy him out at one of the season’s ends.

    The only two guys that left and who became better afterwards, at least the ones I can pick off the top of my head, were Poti and Cleary. Poti’s a lot better now then Oilers fans remember him but when he was dealt the Oilers had more pitching than hitting and there comes Poti for York.

    As far as Cleary goes, he was on his way to an effective checking forward before the Oilers got rid of him so I, for one, saw that potential that stretch of games he played tough min with Marchant and Horcoff.

  19. digger says:

    Louise:

    It’s irrelevant if Daum’s available or not, since Buchberger’s already been given the keys to the Falcons.

    A jarring promotion, to say the least.

    Would it have been so bad to spend 2 weeks in August on an interview process?

  20. IceDragoon says:

    digger…

    OH… !@#$%^&*()_+!!!

    I heard on the radio that Geoff was gone. Guess I should’ve checked out the url you posted.

    They better be getting Bucky another assistant with lots of experience. We don’t want him resorting to teaching our boys how to change the momentum of a game by throwing your face in front of some guy’s fist.

    Yeah, the kids already know him, but… good grief.

  21. Jesse says:

    Louise:

    Good point. If that is the case, do you think that they split up Horcoff and Hemsky to keep #10 out against the tough guys?

  22. Lowetide says:

    Buchberger’s resume:

    1. Heart as big as all outdoors.
    2. Former Oiler.
    3. Good, good guy.
    4. From Saskatchewan.

  23. ClaytonMagnet says:

    I see Parise is off the market now, so we won’t have to worry about that offer sheet if the Penner offer is matched…

  24. digger says:

    5. “He knows the players!”

  25. IceDragoon says:

    jesse…

    Nope.

    imho – Hemsky is in his 5×5 element with him. They read off each other very well.

    I’d actually love to see what Horcoff shows against secondary competition. I think he’d shut a few yahoos up about his abilities as a #1C. ;-D

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