When the Oilers made it to the SCF in 2006 they had 6 players making $1 million dollars or less and delivering exceptional results for the money.
These players covered off (roughly) 1st line RW (Hemsky), 1st line center (Horcoff), checking RW (Pisani), 2line C (Stoll), 2line LW (Torres) and 5D with offense (Bergeron). That’s a helluva list folks, we shouldn’t expect that again for a long, long time.
But maybe we don’t need to this season. The Oilers have signed two huge free agents (Penner and Souray), plus they have everyone but Bergeron returning this fall from the list above. However, they’re all making more money.
In fact, let’s build a depth chart with the potential overachievers in bold and see how many holes there are in the roster. I am going to list the checking line as the top line, since (let’s be honest) there’s no way a MacTavish coached team is going to send Dustin Penner out to do Ryan Smyth’s job (at least not this year).
- #1 Line (checking) Pouliot-Moreau-Pisani
- #2 Line (2nd toughest) Stoll-Torres-Thoresen
- #3 Line (soft parade) Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky
- #4 Line (8 mins) Reasoner-Sanderson-Nilsson
- Top Pairing (tough minutes) Pitkanen-Staios
- Secondary (pretty tough too) Smid-Souray
- The rest Tarnstrom-Greene
I think that’s fair. Bob Stauffer has mentioned recently that Robert Nilsson should get top 6 icetime (or maybe he said he might, I didn’t hear the quote directly) but I think that’s one of those summer ideas that won’t pass the first pre-season game (call it the Jason Chimera rule). If Pisani goes to the checking line, then I’d say Thoresen gets the cherry 2line role until someone takes it.
So, let’s see if this makes sense. The 5 guys I’ve bolded and their NHL career games are below:
- Marc Pouliot (54)
- Patrick Thoresen (68)
- Robert Nilsson (57)
- Ladislav Smid (77)
- Matt Greene (105)
Okay, let’s compare those players to the 6 breakout players identified in the post from July and their career NHL GP total entering the 05-06 season:
- Ales Hemsky (130)
- Shawn Horcoff (268)
- Jarret Stoll (72)
- Raffi Torres (111)
- Fernando Pisani (111)
- Marc Andre Bergeron (59)
Horcoff was well clear of anyone the Oilers have currently in terms of dollars + experience, but you could draw a parallel between someone like Stoll in the fall of 2005 and Marc Pouliot right now. Pouliot is quite inexperienced for the key checking center role (going up against the best C’s in the west is something Stoll didn’t have to do) so we might want to switch him and Horcoff on the list above.
The next question is in regard to skill level. Is there a Hemsky on this roster making 1 million or less? Clearly there isn’t anyone, or at least anyone they can count on this fall. Overall, does the skill set of the current 5 (my 5, you may have your own) come close to the terrific 6 from 05-06?
The answer is no. Big time pressure on the kid Pouliot, the kid Smid and a search for someone who can play quality minutes and deliver on RW that begins first day of camp. Plus the Oilers will need Penner, Souray, Hemsky and others to deliver on the PP and soft parade while Pouliot and his 54 career NHL games faceoff against Joe Thornton opening night.
Perhaps (as mentioned) MacT will move Horcoff to the checking line and run Horcoff-Moreau-Pisani out there every night and hope that Pouliot or someone else can put up counting numbers with Penner and Hemsky.
I know Craig MacTavish is working through the roster in his mind right now. I am led to believe that he had a large amount of input into the roster makeup.
So what am I missing? Is there another trade coming?