Since G7, SCF the Oilers have been making two cardinal errors consistently. First, they are putting young players in a position to fail; when you do that, young players can often stall in terms of development and this certainly has been the case on several levels for the Oilers since the lockout ended. Second, the roster lacks consistency, there are fewer well defined roles.
Do you remember the old Oilers of Weight/Marchant? This was a team that had certain traits and the coach could plug people in as needed. When these players established themselves as able to perform at a certain level, they moved up. Examples include Steve Staios, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and many others. Each season three or four key areas would be turned over and the team had sustain overall because much of the roster remained the same.
The problem this team has had since the Pronger trade has been an extreme lack of established NHL players and too many young players in positions of importance they are not yet ready to handle.
It NEVER works.
For three summers running, Kevin Lowe has not been able to put together a roster that addressed needs without making the team weaker in another area. Let’s quickly list the weakness of each team in the last three Octobers:
- Fall 2005: Questions in goal (addressed Roloson)
- Fall 2006: Questions on D (never addressed properly)
- Fall 2007: Too many unproven kids (it’s gotten worse)
So I think beginning the off-season now (at the deadline) is an excellent idea for Kevin Lowe. Instead of dealing for prospects and picks, why not also add in a veteran player who will be useful in the fall?
If we make a list of players who are established enough to return next season (and are either under contract or RFA’s) we get this:
- GOAL: Garon, Roloson
- DEFENSE: Pitkanen, Souray, Smid
- DEFENSE: Gilbert, Staios, Greene, Grebeshkov
- CENTER: Horcoff, Stoll, Cogliano
- L WING: Penner, Torres, Moreau, Nilsson
- R WING: Hemsky, Gagner, Pisani, Brodziak, Stortini
Let’s say one of the teams out of the race is shopping a useful player for next season. Possible player types EDM could use include responsible forwards in the 1.5M range signed through summer 2009, and a veteran center who could replace Stoll if they trade him. If a veteran player is available for Rob Schremp or Marc Pouliot, why wouldn’t you take the deal? The Oilers already have a plethora of RFA’s this summer (forwards include Stoll, Nilsson, Pouliot, Stortini, Thoresen, Jacques) and may have already decided that someone like Pouliot is no longer in the long range plans why not pull the trigger?
Or what if a team out of the race is offering a reliable, veteran defender with a year on his deal and is interested in one of the young, unproven D talents. Why wouldn’t you make the trade? You’ve got a bunch of kids and not all of them can make the grade, F or D.
Why wait? I think Kevin Lowe has proven that turning over huge portions of the roster while not addressing need with established solutions is a poor bet. Why not trade a kid or two now for a veteran with a year left on his contract?
The kids aren’t going to be worth any more this summer. And the Oilers can’t play them all.
God knows they’ve tried.