As an Oiler fan, I’m thrilled to leave 2007. The promise of that beauty 2006 team vanished so quickly it defies description. I think it will take years to properly appreciate that 2006 spring team and the efforts of Fernando Pisani, Dwayne Roloson, Ales Hemsky and others.
The SCF final team proved a lot of things. The CBA and stronger Canadian dollar meant that the Oilers could compete for the Stanley if management played their cards right and the players delivered.
Since the Pronger trade, I think we can agree the decision making process of the organization has at times run at cross purposes. Signing Roloson, Penner and Souray to massive free agent contracts speaks to winning right away, while dealing off Pronger and Smyth for young prospects and unproven NHLers runs counter to winning right away.
As of this morning, the Oilers position in the standings reflects exactly the moves above: they are close to the basement in the standings, which can happen when you are developing young players. They are also 7 points out of the playoffs, which a veteran team can claw back in a month or less if they get on a roll and avoid injuries.
I think Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish can save this season. I think they should. I’m just a fan but there are a few ideas worth discussing:
- Play Garon until he gives you a reason not to play him.
- Give Gagner a few games in the pressbox before bringing him back as a PP specialist and 4line guy. Play him more in home games and spot him in away games.
- When Hemsky gets back, give major minutes to Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky. Move that line up this list.
- Replace Stortini with a veteran RW from the Mike Johnson tree. A top 4RW of Hemsky, Brodziak, Pisani and a veteran two-way player is a much better option for the coach when Nilsson struggles or when an injury happens.
- Move Stoll down to the 4line and give him pressbox time when Gagner is effective. I understand he makes 2M large but he can’t play right now. A top 4C of Horcoff, Cogliano Reasoner and a combination of Gagner/Stoll can’t be worse than what we’re seeing now.
- On LW, if Torres is gone for the year then it’s time to cash in someone to get a more proven performer. If Torres is coming back, Penner and Moreau should do all of the heavy lifting with Nilsson and perhaps Thoresen or Gagner options in the short term against the soft parade.
- To make room for the incoming RW from the Mike Johnson tree, and the possibility of a trade for a veteran LW, see if there is interest in several players making over 1 million dollars and not delivering to their cap number. These may include Geoff Sanderson, Robert Nilsson, Jarrett Stoll, Dwayne Roloson. If not, then consider buying out the rest of the Stoll contract.
- Stop playing Grebeshkov and Smid ahead of Tarnstrom.
- It sounds like Pitkanen should be back soon. A top 4 of Pitkanen-Gilbert, Souray-Staios may be the best option moving forward despite Souray’s mobility and recognition problems.
- If another team offers a more veteran defender for Smid or Grebeshkov, consider it. You can’t develop this many kids on the blueline in one or two seasons anyway.
- The powerplay is predictable and no one is moving their feet. In my living room in St. Albert I can tell what you’re going to do when Stoll and Souray are manning the PP point, so it’s fairly certain another NHL team has been tipped too. Perhaps use that as a decoy and work something down low.
- Stop calling out Horcoff. Jesus.
I understand the “stay the course” group and if this team is still the suck at the deadline then trading Roloson, Staios and others is still an option. Hell the Oilers only have one draft pick in the deep 2008 edition that has any worth, so I’m hoping a few picks are added.
However, bringing in a Mike Johnson for the next 20 games or so to grab Gagner’s or Nilsson’s minutes doesn’t mean you are abandoning the rebuild. It just means you’re giving the coach and the veterans a chance to save their sanity and a bit of pride. Right now it’s a train wreck.
If you listen to Craig MacTavish’s postgame comments last night you can hear the frustration in his voice. At some point don’t you have to give him more horses? He endured a season of being undermanned last season and this year it’s more of the same.
Are we going to have another Edmonton Journal article this summer where Kevin Lowe says he tried and couldn’t get anything done? Why didn’t Mike Johnson get claimed by Edmonton on waivers? Couldn’t they have added Johnson and released another player? I’m not talking about Hossa.
Some may argue the Oilers aren’t good enough even with an added Mike Johnson and or Radek Dvorak. I would argue they aren’t THAT bad, they’re not losing 5-1 every night. They lost last night’s game 4-2 (on an empty net goal) and previous losses were by scores of 5-4, 2-1, 3-2, 3-1 and 2-1, and each of those games featured rookie mistakes like the one Sam Gagner made against the halfboards with Rick Nash.
Add a veteran or two. For 20 games.