With the news this week that Darryl Katz will be the owner of the Edmonton Oilers before the draft (unless something unusual happens) I think it’s fair to begin discussing changes in philosophy and direction.
The Oilers under Kevin Lowe have basically had three distinct styles: the pre-CBA “make 8th and it’s a good year”, the “come out of the CBA with a young inexpensive team”, the “Stanley run” beauty team and then the two year post-Stanley experience that cannot be described in less than 4,000 words.
Maybe we could call it “if Mork ran hockey” but other than that I’m drawing blanks.
Kevin Lowe probably felt he could quickly rebuild a roster around young, underpriced players like he did in the pre-CBA era and have a nice run with that group. There is a lot of evidence around the Pronger trade suggesting he planned doing just that, although it’s doubtful he imagined going all the way to the “scorched earth” outcome that became obvious the day of the Ryan Smyth trade.
It’s hard to imagine Lowe having 6 contracts outperforming at the level the Oilers enjoyed in 05-06. Let’s list them again with their stats and then list this season’s value-wise contracts:
- Shawn Horcoff ($1M) (22-51-73)
- Ales Hemsky ($901, 740) (19-58-77)
- MA Bergeron ($931,000) (15-20-35)
- Raffi Torres ($875,000) (27-14-41)
- Fernando Pisani ($611,800) (18-19-37)
- Jarret Stoll ($501,600) (22-46-68)
Those are just the boxcar numbers, if you want to delve deeper into that season these guys were playing at a level that outpaced their cap number by a ridiculous amount.
- Mathieu Garon ($1.1M) (2.38, .920)
- Tom Gilbert ($907,000) (8-12-20)
I could have included Andrew Cogliano but other than that no one is close to dizzying heights. Also important on that team of 05-06 was the lack of wasted dollars (Peca?) and there are a few contracts on this team (notably Roloson, Souray) that make the need for value at the other end of the scale even more important.
So if you’re Darryl Katz and you want to begin evaluating Kevin Lowe, what is your starting point? The current season? The last one? I suspect it will be the 2005-06 season, there will be a general discussion about how long it’ll take to become a contender (answer: two years at transwarp) and then Katz will lay out a budget and Kevin Lowe will lay out his plan.
From what we’ve heard already this might include:
- A scoring winger
- A healthier team
- Tweaking as opposed to huge roster turnover
- Enough bargain contracts to contend
Looking at the current roster and the large group of rfa’s who will be looking for significant raises (Pitkanen and Gilbert among them), the bargain contracts will need to come from a group that includes Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Brodziak, Rob Schremp, Liam Reddox, Tyler Spurgeon and Ladislav Smid.
The 05-06 team had plenty of failures (such as Jani Rita, in photo) but the collective resume for the bargains that season tower over the current group listed above. The Edmonton Oilers are already paying Sam Gagner (with bonuses) at a level that makes him unlikely to outperform his contract next season (if he reaches certain levels his salary will be $1,625,000) and the guys on the farm who could help are blocked by higher-salaried employees (Deslauriers vs. Roloson, as an example).
The one small ray of hope are those rfa’s who the Oilers may be able to sign reasonably. This group would include Robert Nilsson, Marc Pouliot, JF Jacques, Patrick Thoresen and Denis Grebeshkov. If two or more of these players surprise and outperform their (approx) $1M contracts then the Oilers may indeed have a roster with enough bargains to survive the Souray and Roloson contracts.
Darryl Katz is likely to give Kevin Lowe one full season to show improvement. That would be my guess, Lowe is well thought of pretty much everywhere outside the blogosphere and he still has some support on this side of the line (me and David Staples). I expect those 5 Stanleys will not go gentle into that good night and that the new owner has ties to Lowe and MacT that will keep them safe during the transition period.
Did we really expect a different result right away?