We Have Seen the Enemy

Holy hell, what a day.

It began with the morning newspaper and radio reports that Kevin Lowe admitted to making a mistake (a money mistake btw, as detailed by Mudcrutch at his site) and then going downhill to the point where Lowe started to sound like Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (sans the booze but with the same despair) or Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice (her choice being decidedly more difficult than anything that’s going to face any NHL General Manager).

Hope, it seems, is gone.

Which is, of course, ridiculous. The Oilers have a bright future unless the man in charge does something stupid. RFA offer sheet on the verge of an historic draft stupid.
This is an extremely dangerous time for the future of the Edmonton Oilers. Kevin Lowe followed the Pronger trade (which clearly didn’t work out) by identifying his key players moving forward (Ryan Smyth wasn’t one of them) and then entered the 06-07 season with a poorly balanced team (there weren’t enough NHL defensemen). The team suffered, Smyth was dealt and Lowe entered the offseason overpromising.

And now he’s under-delivering.

His job is on the line, and there is growing unrest in Edmonton. Lowe knows it, and is extremely likely to make a bold move which may or may not involve an offer sheet to a young rfa. Although it’s a move that has merit in most seasons, it’s a poor bet for next year when the Oilers first round pick may well be an impact player.

Is Zach Parise worth more than the 3rd pick in a deep, deep draft? Are the Oilers close enough to the playoffs so that one player is a difference maker? Is Parise that player?

I hope you enjoyed the playoff run to the final in 2006. It might be the last one we see in a long, long time. Kevin Lowe is about to mortgage the future in a search for mediocrity.

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28 Responses to "We Have Seen the Enemy"

  1. Showerhead says:

    I am looking at this with the same dread you are, LT. The offer sheet ideas seem to have gone beyond the rumor phase and into mainstream press (which usually seems to mean Lowe is at least tinkering with that sort of idea) and it’s the last thing Lowe should do to rebuild this club IMO. As I posted at HF there is no player available worth trading a top 3-ish draft pick in 2008. If Lowe follows up his trading of Edmonton’s 2nd rounder with a trade of their 1st I will be flat out angry… even after what these past 13 months have done.

  2. PDO says:

    LT, one question:

    RFA offer sheet on the verge of an historic draft stupid.

    Looking at the RFA’s – the only one that makes any sort of sense is Thomas Vanek. If it’s Parise – I’m with you, but a Vanek frontloaded contract could absolutely handcuff Buffalo, and the Oilers have the pockets (whether they choose to use them or not, of course, being a completely different question) to make an offer that averaged to $4,700,000 but could pay in the $8,000,000 range in the first year.

    If that’s the plan – and the cost is a 1st, 2nd and 3rd in ’08 (which would leave us with just Anaheim’s 1st, correct?), is it acceptable? Are we going to get a better player than Thomas Vanek from this draft?

    I don’t think Vanek alone would make this team good enough, but if we added a couple of veterans on one year deals (lets say Markov and Johnson), then we’re left with two options:

    #1) Vanek and Hemsky mesh, Horcoff holds them together defensively and the veterans pull their weight and the Oilers make the playoffs in the 5 or 6 seed with nothing but a very bright future with Vanek, Hemsky and Pitkanen all signed long term and guys like Gagner and Pouliot still in the fold.

    #2) It’s still not enough to drag this team into the playoffs, but we can deal off Johnson and Markov for picks at the deadline, and we’re essentially in the same place we’d be without the offer sheet, except that we have Thomas Vanek and slightly lower picks instead.

    Eh?

  3. momentai says:

    pdo:

    Well, worst case scenario is that we overpay Vanek based on a season where he played minutes behind Briere and Drury and he struggles next season with the increased responsibility.

    Then we’re left with what? No first rounder for the next 4 seasons and Buffalo ending up with a top 5 pick for at least the next 2 seasons. Can you stomach that if Buffalo somehow manages to end up with Stamkos and Taveres? I don’t think I could. There’s just no big point in doing this.

  4. Lowetide says:

    pdo: Vanek is clearly the guy to go for, but I don’t think the Sabres let him go to be honest. They MUST have cap room after losing Briere and Drury, right?

    Also, the Oilers aren’t just one player away from being a strong contender. They might give up a bunch of picks and have their first rounder be in the lottery WITH Vanek.

    They’re just not that good. They need Pronger and Smyth and they’re not coming back soon.

  5. uni says:

    I still don’t believe Lowe traded a 2nd rounder (and likely a high 2nd round draft pick as well in a very very deep draft) for a career minor leaguer depth D-man and a 3rd rounder.

    Couldn’t they just sign a career AHL player or a European vet?

    Ah well, I believe in miracles. Nilsson will bottle his father’s offensive magic and play hard defence, 100 point season and good times had by all.

  6. PDO says:

    Momentai:

    That’s a very different question – but Vanek is still all of 22 years old. Are we okay with Hemsky being a soft minute guy? Or can a combination of 10 and 83 make up for Vanek being so poor defensively?

    It’s certainly a risk – but there’s also a massive reward there if Vanek can become even decent defensively.

    LT:

    I agree they’re not one player away – but Vanek is a long term solution, not a short term solution, is he not?

  7. Asiaoil says:

    People are talking like our picks in the next 4 years mean something at this point – they don’t. In fact you could say the status quo is on-going mediocrity as our existing young talent packs up and leaves in disgust just as a new crop of young talent gained from those years of poor finishes is ready to contribute a little.

    At best – any player drafted in the next 4 years will be ready to contribute in 5 years – so what – and how does that help the cluster of Hemmer, Pitkanen, Stoll, Torres, Greene and Smid who are all about 23. No we need to get a player of about Vanek’s age, position and ability now and lock him up long term. The whole cheap 2nd contract scenario for RFA’s is about to go in the dust bin IMHO – elite guys will get their dough and age will make no difference. Some teams will pay wisely – some will make mistakes – but making the right call is what GM’s get paid for (and fired for if they f -up).

    UFA will not get it done for EDM – too many geographic handicaps.

    Drafting in the mid-rounds will not get it done – no elite players.

    We can suck massively for the next 4 years to get elite early round picks – but our existing good players will probably want to leave ASAP in this strategy

    Trade and RFA raid are the only options – we MUST build the 23 year old core right now – there is no other way. We need another young elite player or two and I don’t care what we liquidate to get them – existing prospects, picks, vets – it doesnt matter. But we have to get at least one more young scoring forward ASAP to make the fans and team think there is a plan going forward.

  8. Asiaoil says:

    Let me also say that Pitkanen was a perfect player to get if you are using a build the 23 year old core strategy. We have a boatload of complimentary dmen and centers coming up – but no elite first line scoring forward. If we get one more elite young guy who can score – we are actualy in pretty good shape as the other holes can be filled through our system or lower-tier UFA signings.

    Pitkanen was a huge win – but we need one more big move for a young forward this summer to keep the plan moving ahead.

  9. namflashback says:

    I look at the running cap numbers for Buffalo and NJD and it just doesn’t fly — both those teams can easily match. They might not like it, but they certainly have the resources to match. Buffalo is net savings of pretty close to $10M without Briere and Drury, and a fan base that has THEIR president and GM making public apologies too.

    Lou has plenty of elbow room now, with a 1M savings over Gomez in Zubrus and Rafalski’s savings too. Even with a lengthy list of RFA’s to sign, he has probably 10M in room.

    He gave up 2 assets to get Parise; why would he him up now?

  10. Dennis says:

    Lain, tell me more about this bright future. I must be missing something.

  11. Ted says:

    I don’t know, but I’m kind of wondering what signing a player of the Vanek or Parise variety might do for the Oilers. During the next UFA window a lineup that includes Vanek, Pitkanen, Hemsky, Stoll, and, say, some kid who steps up might make it a little easier for a big UFA to sign.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with Edmonton that winning a few games can’t easily fix… A creative GM would figure out how to be competitive and rebuild at the same time, wouldn’t he?

  12. choppystride says:

    I like Parise & Vanek, but not at the price we would have to pay in an RFA raid. They are good, but not THAT good.

    If Lowe & Co. have any sense, they should wait til next year when the core of the 2003 draft will be coming off their initial contracts. Personally, I would not mind seeing us offering the world to Getzlaf, if he’s available then.

    Surveying the current landscape, the pickings do look very slim. I think we might be able to land Ribeiro if DAL decide not to retain him. But I would only want to see that happen as an absolute last option.

    However, one guy whom I would absolutely like to see Lowe get is Marcel Hossa. I’ve always (kinda) like him and thought he played pretty well in the playoffs. But more importantly, I see him as a pawn to land Marian who is UFA-bound after this coming season. If I’m not mistaken, I think the Hossa brothers played with Horcoff in Sweden during the lockout year. So Horc might be on friendly terms with those two as well. With Lundqvist + several other prominent vets yet to be signed, NYR should be pressing the cap limit soon. Lowe should get on the phone with Slats ASAP to see if he will throw us another bone.

    In general, I think that acquisitions based on personal relationship payoffs is something that this org should consider as a serious team building strategy. For instance, if we had any sense that Handzus and Nagy would like to play together, perhaps we could have, for a reasonably low price, acquired the out-for-the-year, UFA-bound Handzus who was on a team that was going nowhere with the goal of attracting Nagy in the summer. I’m sure that we can set up some “alternative scouting department” to track such information.

  13. Black Dog says:

    The Sabres have plenty of room to match on Vanek and the Devils have same for Parise. I’d worry more about Lowe trading young guys who can play like Pouliot for guys on the way down like Murray.

  14. Lowetide says:

    Dennis: There’s a lot of young talent here. The two things that could mess it up are a panic move and having ALL of these kids with top 2line potential bust.

    imo the cluster around Hemsky (Stoll, Torres, etc) and the kids on the blueline (Pitkanen especially, though I think Smid will be a player) is very good moving forward, they just need experience.

    The problem is that they’re going to be losers for at least two seasons in a row, and sometimes when kids lose a lot and don’t have veteran help (and some wins) they end up being those players who have one year’s experience twice instead of two year’s experience.

  15. Dennis says:

    There’s “talent” all over the league, Lain. The same thing goes for “promise” and while I like 10-16-14-83 going forward, along with Pitkanen, a lot more than that’s going to have to turn in our future for us to have a good future. Par example, I like MP-Thor going forward as guys who can keep the puck out of our net but how much offense will they create? Will Gagner ever be productive on the same team as the aforementioned four core?

    I think you’re fooling yourself again, as we can remember with the Pronger trade;)

  16. mc79hockey says:

    I’m inclined to side with Lain here. While I don’t think see any elite talents in the pipeline, the Oilers have a sufficient quality of guys now who could well make a career of soft ice time and PP TOI. They’ve got guys who look to be solid third liners. I don’t think that it’s a stretch at all to say that Gagner, Nilsson, Schremp, Cogliano and O’Marra can all play in your top nine within a couple of years. Add in MP and that’s two lines worth of cheap forwards. Loads of cheap D who look like comers too – Gilbert, Chorney and Grebeshkov all seem to have serious promise, and that’s with Smid and Greene already in the NHL. None of these guys will be Thornton-esque stars, perhaps, but there’s enough there, IMO, that the Oilers will be in a fine position once they come of age – assuming that they can find a superstar or two somewhere else.

    It might be the one thing that I’ll say in their favour about this entire fiasco – they’ve added an awful lot of guys who have the potential to outperform their contracts, if not next year then in the coming years. They need to find that superstar to cap it off but I’d still be optimistic that such a player could be found, if not this year than at some point in the future. The problem is, it’s not something that you can just decide to go out and get – you need to get lucky. Luck might be the residue of smart planning in those instances, but you still need some GM who gets himself into a cap mess or some star who isn’t happy where he is.

  17. momentai says:

    pdo: I won’t rehash my arguments. (I think I’ve made them on here and on HF already.)

    Let’s just say that if the RFA target was a guy like Patrice Bergeron, I’d deal the 4 picks because that kid is mighty good. But Vanek? Good numbers for a guy behind Drury and Briere… If he struggles to find his game in Edmonton, we’re fucked.

  18. Black Dog says:

    Agree with Ty and Lain – I think that three years down the road, maybe four, this is a pretty solid team. The question is whether you have guys who can become elite players out of the bunch they have now – Pitkanen and Hemsky are probably the best bets.

    If that happens or if they hit the jackpot with lottery picks over the next two summers then we’re cooking with gas.

    And with all of those cheap kids you should be able to move a couple for the help you need when the time comes.

    Its going to be a long year this year though. And probably next as well.

  19. mc79hockey says:

    They need to find that superstar to cap it off but I’d still be optimistic that such a player could be found, if not this year than at some point in the future.

    And when I say “…some point in the future”, what I mean is “…in an hour or so.”

    Buffalo has to match that. They just have to.

  20. Lowetide says:

    Buffalo will match, they have no choice. I’m relieved they went for Vanek, but still think it’s unwise to do this summer. Wait until next year, guys, we’re not going anywhere anyway.

  21. Barry says:

    Come on Buffalo, match the offer boys.

  22. Black Dog says:

    A bold move that probably will amount to nothing.

    Again after a centre – if I were Shawn Horcoff I’d probably be getting a real estate agent.

  23. momentai says:

    Quick question boys:

    Does the signing bonus enter into the equation for the cap hit? I think it does but I’d just like to be sure.

  24. Black Dog says:

    momentai – yes, I’m almost 100% sure that’s the case

  25. momentai says:

    Thanks Black Dog. Looks like it doesn’t really matter anyways.

  26. Dennis says:

    Good points MC but the prospect of winning a playoff round in 2010 rests on Garon or someone else shoring us up in net and one of those kids turning into a soft min and PP monster. I just really don’t see that.

    As for Vanek, I had no problem with the salary they were offering him. I mean it’s probably about 1.25 mill more than I’d like to see offered , plus I don’t like giving up four 1st rounds but giving up two wouldn’t bother me, but if say the EIG had a Vanek clause where without him or a RFA they’d commit to spending 48 mill or without him it would be 49.25 then I’d be all for it. And if the Sabres didn’t match the offer, it would almost mean we’d have to be tight to the cap every year and I’d get a kick out of that.

    We knew this was coming though. Lowe’s a very desperate guy who’s without a contract extension so this won’t be the last brazen and/or stupid move he makes.

    Then again, maybe he was just posturing too. There’s no way Buf could walk away from Vanek after both Briere and Drury left and Lowe had to know this. So maybe it’s just another PR move for the lemmings.

  27. Vic Ferrari says:

    Black Dog said:

    Again after a centre – if I were Shawn Horcoff I’d probably be getting a real estate agent.

    Ya, I was thinking the same thing. Probably Horcoff and one of the million dollar salaried rookies would have to be sacrificed to fit in that kind of coin for Vanek anyways.

    It seems reasonable to me that the Oilers have a good chance of being a good squad in a few years though. Assuming that they get two or three more top ten draft picks in the coming years … if one of those turns into a star, then a very good team.

  28. Big T says:

    Eklund has an interesting take on this. Lowe may actually perform better in a world wher other teams don’t have much room.

    We’ll see if this actually works out the way Eklund hypothisizes.

    T

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