The Oilers are at this point in time a very unique team. They most closely resemble a club like the Rangers in summer 1975, who had a ton of good young talent (Ron Greschner, Rick Middleton, Dave Maloney, Pat Hickey, Wayne Dillon, John Davidson, Bob MacMillan) and then a ton of old players who should have been offloaded in order to start a new era with the players listed above. They had (and the Oilers have) relatively few players heading into the heart of their careers.
I think the best plan for teams like this (unbalanced ones) is to keep one veteran goalie, two veteran defenseman and your best veteran C, LW and RW plus a couple of pluggers with experience up front. That kind of thing, and maybe deal one or two away at the deadline if need be or pick up one or two if you feel there’s a chance at the second season.
However, the Rangers that summer boasted the following old farts:
- G Ed Giacomin (36)
- G Gilles Villemure (35)
- D Gilles Marotte (30)
- D Ron Harris (33)
- D Dale Rolfe (35)
- C Jean Ratelle (35)
- C Peter Stemkowski (32)
- L Bobby Rousseau (35)
- R Rod Gilbert (34)
- R Bill Collins (32)
Young veterans included Brad Park (27), Walt Tkaczuk (28), Steve Vickers (24), Greg Polis (25) who would reasonably make up the heart or center of the roster for years to come. The Rangers buggered it up badly (traded Park 13 games into the 75-76 season) but the young group would form the nucleus of the team Fred Shero took to the finals by the end of the decade. So the Oilers are kind of there too, with lots of 20-year olds and several guys who are long enough in the tooth and a group that is way too small around the heart or center (we’ll call it Ales Hemsky). Here then is my ideal deadline:
- Trade Marc Pouliot and Denis Grebeshkov to Pittsburgh for Erik Christensen and a draft pick. I saw the Penguins the other day and they need some help on D. Grebeshkov seems to be coming on. The Oilers already have too many young defensemen with another wave coming and trading both these kids means fewer rfa worries in the summer. Christensen is a nice affordable option who has MacT traits and is a shooter. Plus he is an established NHL player (very important).
- Trade Rob Schremp to NYR for a pick. He’s been passed by enough people that dealing him and then having him score 25 goals won’t look like a bad bet. Gagner and Cogliano are better at a younger age and Nilsson has shown enough for another contract. Getting a nice pick in the top 50 in a deep draft year has value.
- Trade Jarret Stoll to Dallas for Jussi Jokinen. The idea here is to add a guy who can put up points at EVs and still play for this coach.
- Trade Dwayne Roloson if you can.
Then in summer the Oilers will need to add a scoring forward and a veteran D if possible. Here’s the depth chart:
- G-Garon, Deslauriers
- LD-Pitkanen, Vet D, Souray, Smid
- RD-Staios, Gilbert, Greene
- C-Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano, Christensen
- L-Penner, Jokinen, Moreau, Glencross, Raffi
- R-Hemsky, Nilsson, Pisani, Brodziak, Stortini
So it might be Raffi + for a scorer and sign Jason Smith or a “Kevin Lowe” special from the same tree that brought in Staios, Tjarnqvist and Hejda. I’d like to see the Oilers gather up more MacT types, defined as players who are skilled but cheat a little more towards saving goals than scoring them. Give the coach a few more Pisani’s and a few less Comrie’s. This experiment with cheating for skill has been a miserable failure. Time to shoot it and back up the department of youth a little too.