Oilers Go Wood over Leather

This is Bob Bailey. He could hit the ball a long way. Gene Mauch once said “Bailey means wood, Bailey doesn’t mean leather” and that sentiment could be applied to the 07-08 Edmonton Oilers.

Although we don’t know the actual makeup of the roster, it would appear that the Edmonton Oilers will be lacking in leather. Word today in the Edmonton Journal that Patrick Thoresen is likely to be sent out means that the Oilers are going “high event” up front and on the blueline.

I don’t really see that it fits the coaching style of Craig MacTavish. His best teams have usually have the EV advantage and solid PK numbers, while struggling mightily (and hilariously) on the PP. One could argue that the SCF team had plenty of firepower but they could play the game straight up too.

The Oilers currently boast a nice “roto” roster of powerplay options, including Hemsky’s puck wizardy, Souray’s rocket launcher and Dustin Penner’s ability to block out the sun. Some of these guys, like Bob Bailey, are less impressive when the other guy is at the plate.

They have a terrific group of kids with huge futures, including the impressive Andrew Cogliano and the ridiculous Sam Gagner. Robert Nilsson lit it up in pre-season too, and there’s a general giddiness about the team’s future because of these kids. However, much of the giddiness has to do with the wood, not the leather. The Oilers rookie crop boasts some big time home run prospects, but can they pick it?

For the second season in a row, this Edmonton Oiler team doesn’t seem to fit a Craig MacTavish template. On top of that, the old double play combination (Smyth, Smith) is gone this fall.

I’m hoping Craig MacTavish will surprise and amaze. Batter up!

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12 Responses to "Oilers Go Wood over Leather"

  1. John says:

    Most excellent analogy. Bob Bailey was tried at a number of positions to hide his complete lack of leather. It was also the reason that the early Montreal Expos were so incredibly bad….either no leather or, equally, no wood.

    It was not until the Expos developed their own young players that had good wood and excellent leather…. Dawson, Carter, Valentine, Parrish and later Wallach that they started to contend in the NL East.

    I can see that with Cogs, Samwise, Nillson and, hopefully, Truhkno, Gilbert, Chorney and Plante that the Oilers can have good wood/leather teams such that we can beconme perennial top 5 teams in the west

  2. John says:

    While we wait for the very young well rounded players to round into form, I would love to see the Oilers bring back Gator as an UFA to fill the “lack of leather” hole in our lineup

  3. HBomb says:

    What do you guys think of this as an opening night starting lineup, in terms of forwards?

    Penner Gagner Hemsky
    Moreau Horcoff Brodziak
    Torres Cogliano Nilsson
    Sanderson Stoll Pouliot

    Reasoner as the 13th guy.

    Gagner gets his nine game look, and at that point, you make a decision on him and which seven d-men you’re going to keep. I think it’s a given they start the season with eight on the roster to avoid a waiver loss.

    I sure as hell hope Gilbert somehow makes it into the lineup on opening night. By my accounts, he was better than all of Smid, Tarnstrom, Greene and Roy during camp, and deserves to play.

    As for Grebeshkov…is he waiver-eligible or not? He’s got a one way deal, but in no way deserves to make this squad. He’s the anti-Gilbert, so to speak (Gilbert deserving to be here, but being saddled/cursed with a two-way deal).

    Thoughts? It’s pretty obvious to me that with nine NHL defenders and sixteen signed forwards (the 13 above plus Jacques, Stortini and Thoresen), this is a team that needs a 2-or-3 for 1 deal ASAP.

    Could Jacques plus Greene land us Jason Smith from Philly? Yes, that is a serious question.

    Oh, get well soon Fernando….

  4. PDO says:

    I was talking with Dennis earlier..

    What about the idea of trading Torres and Greene for Jackman? Jackman is signed for 2.2 and then an RFA, and is the exact type of D that we need.

    The F’s would still need some work, but a top 3 at evens of Staios – Pitkanen – Jackman is pretty acceptable, and then we have a bottom 3 of Smid, Souray and Tarnstrom. Gilbert gets the PBox duties…

    Just looks much stronger, even if it does weaken up the F’s. Who knows, maybe after a deal like that, we can move one of the extra F’s and Grebeshkov for a decent LW? Maybe a Marcel Hossa if the F is Schremp?

  5. Dennis says:

    We’re in year three post-lockout and with the tables a bit more levelled and the Oilers spending more, more and more excuses are being removed from Lowe’s defense.

    He got it very much right in year one and very much wrong in year two and year three looks more like last year than two seasons ago.

    I feel confident in the forwards corps, I mean, they’ll be high event but you’ve also got some kids who’ll be better next year around for it, but the D is super suspect.

    Let’s just overpay for Markov and dump Greene for a pick and have it over and done with

  6. HBomb says:

    What about the idea of trading Torres and Greene for Jackman? Jackman is signed for 2.2 and then an RFA, and is the exact type of D that we need.

    Simply put, “hell no” to the idea of trading Raffi Torres.

    All apologies to Dustin Penner, but this guy is our team’s best LW and a more likely bet to eventually be somewhere in the same area of player that Ryan Smyth is right now.

    Unless we’ve got a deal lined up for Ilya Fucking Kovalchuk, Torres is a keeper, IMO.

  7. BROOKLYN_oiler says:


    I posted last week that the exhibtion games this season were akin to episodes of American Idol – every show (game) had a major impact on how the judges (coaches) perceived the prospects, and certainly had a profound effect in terms of influencing line combo ideas. After MacT seemed to find love for the chemistry of Cogliano and Nilsson on the PP in the Vancouver game, my thoughts were exactly in line with your opening night forward lineup proposal (assuming that we get Gagner signed without incident).

    Additionally LT, I think MacT is trying to embrace the “not sticking with the status quo” notion as it relates to his coaching philosophy this season as well – comments in the vein of having no qualms about putting five rookies on the ice at the same time seem to support this “adaptive thinking”. I believe we see some things from MacT that will definitely be considered a departure from his past m.o..

    And, yes, I think this line-up results in Reasoner as the 13th forward – with Jacques, Thoreson, and Stortini on the (long) flight to Springfield…

    I also doubt this will be the exact roster as of game 15-20, but I don’t see a trade coming for a while… not until the assessment/experimental period has passed for the Oilers and any potential trdaing partners, which I think takes maybe up to a third of the season….

    BTW, sorry if this post is slightly redundant – I know there have been some huge threads the last couple of days scrutinizing all of the same things – but I am now actually fueled by a slight sense of vindication as it seems my prediction many weeks ago about both Cogliano and Gagner making the team for opening night seemed to be mostly scoffed at… :-)

    P.S Dennis> The Devils are desperately trying to sign Markov now, as White is out (eye injury), Oduya is hurt, and hoping to create cap room (so THEY can overpay) by putting Langenbrunner, Janssen, and White on the Long Term Injury exemption list…. I think Markov becomes a Devil soon.

  8. Lowetide says:

    Brooklyn: If I’d predicted Cogs and Ganger to make the team, there’d be a thread on the subject daily. :-)

    At this point, I’m just hanging on to the hope Pouliot makes it. For the record, here’s my predictions for opening night F (early Sept):

    Shawn Horcoff
    Jarret Stoll
    Marty Reasoner
    Andrew Cogliano (*Sam Gagner)
    *Gagner is a significant enough wildcard at this point that you’d have to consider him a possibility to make the club, at least for that several-game tryout at the beginning of the year. Is it 9 games?

    Dustin Penner
    Raffi Torres
    Ethan Moreau
    Patrick Thoresen*
    *Thoresen is listed 4th here, but I think he’ll get a lot of minutes at the other wing too. Craig MacTavish gave Thoresen more playing minutes than every rookie save one since he arrived in Edmonton (Stoll).

    Ales Hemsky
    Robert Nilsson
    Marc Pouliot
    Geoff Sanderson
    (PB) Kyle Brodziak

  9. Vic Ferrari says:

    Not to put too much weight on one training camp, but the Oilers have some promising young forwards, especially in Gagner, but Cogliano, Pouliot and Trukhno as well. And a few guys who might just become players (Schremp, Nilsson, Brodziak, etc. … every team has a whack of these types though).

    And on the back end, Smid was in over way his head last season, but he looks like he’s going to be a very good NHL defenseman one day. And apparently a few of the young guys in the US (Petry and Chorney I think) are promising, we should take a wait-and-see approach on that though :)

    As well as the young players that have already established themselves in the NHL, the future for the Oilers looks promising if they hold them together.

    The problem with the wood vs leather analogy: in hockey you need to have the puck to create offense, and only one team can have the puck at any one time.

    Opportunists won’t score goals if they don’t get opportunities. Will the Oilers get two at-bats per inning while the bad guys get four?

    Hockey is a simple game, and yours is a simple analogy … I just can’t get my head around how it makes sense though.


    Now I’ll digress:

    I’ve been following the Islanders as well, hockey message board groupthink really is team-independent. ‘Nolan hates young players’ ‘Nolan is a defense first coach’ gets repeated over and over. Neither is true. Dissertations are written on what a ‘Nolan-Type Player (TM)’ is. The importance of which seems wildly overstated to me.

    A couple simple points: They want to play an assertive game, so he needs guys who can win possession of the puck one way or another. He doesn’t have star skaters so he can’t afford to have weak links … that’s the simpler explanation methinks.

    And there are about five skaters that will be on the Oilers roster this October than wouldn’t have much of a hope of cracking the Isles roster. Truthfully.

    That doesn’t mean the Oilers youngsters aren’t talented, or that they won’t have good careers. Just that they wouldn’t be good enough to play on most NHL teams this season.

    Hell, Cogliano’s Michigan teammate TJ Hensick got sent down by Colorado the other day. The question isn’t “would he make the Oilers?”, the real question is “How many players on the roster would Hensick be ahead of if he were and Oiler?”.

    MacTavish is spinning the roulette wheel on some of these kids. And if some of them falter, well there are more to replace them.

    The HF boarder’s nipples must be hard, surely there hasn’t been a time like this, a time that the young guns have had a chance to step up and shine! Well, not since Smyth was traded and a couple of veterans decided to rest their injuries instead of playing through it.

    They are in danger of becoming the Blue Jackets here. Throwing promising young players like Fritsche and Brule in over their heads. Building the gameplan around Nash’s and Zherdev’s personal success at the expense of the team. It’s been a gongshow there for years. Where would Hemsky be in his career if he had been drafted by Doug MacLean’s band of merry men? … Probably about exactly where Zherdev is I think.

    Turns out that “hope” wasn’t a very good plan. In fact hope isn’t a plan** at all. Let’s hope that Lowe, MacTavish and company saw this and took notes.

    ‘hop isn’t a plan’ copyright of mc79hockey.com

  10. Bank Shot says:

    I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable to expect better even strength play out of Gagner and Cogliano then we’d see out of the guys they replaced.

    Perhaps not this season, but very soon and over the course of their careers.

    Gagner isn’t going to be a Hemsky. He’s a two-way player.

  11. RiversQ says:

    Bank Shot said…
    I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable to expect better even strength play out of Gagner and Cogliano then we’d see out of the guys they replaced.

    Oh well, this is huge strawman isn’t it?

    Sure they might be better than JFJ and Stortini, but that means little doesn’t it? This is an enabling sort of justification.

    Gagner isn’t going to be a Hemsky. He’s a two-way player.

    Who says Hemsky isn’t a two-way player anyway? By the numbers, he gets pretty good results at 5V5. To my eye, his only problem is with the turnovers up high – he does not cherrypick, he backchecks hard and he’s regularly the first forward out of the zone. This belief about Hemsky not playing the whole game is a total myth IMO.

    If Gagner becomes a Hemsky, we should be ecstatic.

  12. Bank Shot says:

    Cogliano and Gagner will be likely post better even strength results over their careers then Thoresen and Pouliot is what I was getting at.

    Hemsky is passable in the defensive end. He’s a two-way player in the sense that Petr Sykora is a two-way player.

    I think Gagner has a good chance to be a player that plays in all situations, and plays well in all zones. Mactavish has already commented on gagner’s superb positioning, I don’t recall hearing the same about Hemsky at 18.

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