The Blue

On his blog yesterday David Staples comes to the defense of Matt Greene. And Ladislav Smid. Staples made some good points and I have to say that as a fan there’s nothing I’d like more than for these two defenders to be able to take on more of the tough EV and PK minutes in the future.

Let’s start by having a look at where they are now in terms of NHL experience. Matt Greene has now played in 146 regular season NHL games, or approximately two full seasons. His plus minus season over season has improved markedly (-22 to -2) and although much of that would be a team improvement there’s little doubt he’s a better player than he was during the SC run in 2006 or the 06-07 regular season.

Ladislav Smid has played in 137 regular season NHL games, a similar number to Greene. Smid’s plus minus season over season (-16 to -14) does not show the improvement we see in Greene and at first blush might indicate that Smid is not moving forward as a player.

Let’s run some of the Gabriel Deskardins EV numbers. I dislike comparing his “toughness of competition” rankings from team to team but it is a nice line in the sand for the depth chart the coach is using against the better opponents. Here are the latest Desjardins’ #’s on quality of competition:

  1. Steve Staios .05
  2. Tom Gilbert .04
  3. Ladislav Smid .03
  4. Joni Pitkanen .01
  5. Denis Grebeshkov -.04
  6. Matt Greene -.10

Basically that tells us that Smid (over the entire season) has been playing against tougher competition, and that MacT is making a concerted effort to keep Greene away from the best players in the NHL. Can we agree this would not be a random number? I think we can. Smid by the way is -1 since the beginning of February and looks to have traded spots with Grebeshkov to my eye.

Next we look at quality of linemates, guys on the ice when Greene and Smid are playing compared to the other defenders:

  1. Tom Gilbert .03
  2. Denis Grebeshkov .03
  3. Matt Greene E
  4. Joni Pitkanen -.04
  5. Steve Staios -.11
  6. Ladislav Smid -.12

Again I think these numbers would be different in the last month or so, but it gives an indication about what the coach is thinking. MacT was getting Gilbert and Grebeshkov out there to do damage at EVs, and Staios plus his partner were fighting an uphill battle with their group. Fair?

So with this in mind I think we can safely say that Smid’s plus minus number isn’t as bad compared to Greene’s when placed in context. Greene has had almost ideal circumstances in which to compile his -2 and Smid’s -14 is an indicator that he has been over his head for much of the year. No sin there, he’s still young and learning.

Finally, let’s run the age of each defenseman and their contract situation 08-09 forward:

  1. Sheldon Souray (31) 6.25M, 5.5M, 4.5M, 4.5M UFA 2012
  2. Steve Staios (34) 2.9M, 2.8M, 2.2M, UFA 2011
  3. Joni Pitkanen (24) RFA 2008
  4. Tom Gilbert (24) RFA 2008
  5. Denis Grebeshkov RFA 2008
  6. Matt Greene (24) 1.25M RFA 2009
  7. Ladislav Smid (21) .952M, RFA 2009

Let’s take this one summer at a time:

  • Summer 2008: Much of this summer will be spent figuring out what to do with the three restricted free agents. If the Oiler can get all three under contract the blueline looks much better moving forward, if they must trade someone because of dollars then a veteran blueliner in return would be vital. Let’s say they sign all three this summer to 3-year contracts, taking up a huge chunk of money for those three seasons.
  • Summer 2009: Matt Greene will be 26, one year from complete free agency, Ladislav Smid will be 23, several years away from the same negotiating position.

I had a discussion the other day in a thread below with David Staples. I feel that the Oilers will have to make a decision on one of the blueliners sooner than later due to:

  1. Peckham, Chorney and others continuing to develop.
  2. Matt Greene’s free agency coming so quickly relative to his established level of ability.
  3. The money problems caused by Souray’s contract.

The players being passed by others are the ones in danger. As of now, that is Matt Greene and Ladislav Smid. This summer may see the trading of one of the 2008 rfa’s to ease the numbers on the blueline but I’m convinced that will not improve the team. If the Oilers need to get relief in terms of roster spot, it’s Greene or Smid. If the Oilers need relief in terms of dollars, it’s Pitkanen.

The Oilers may not deal one of these defensemen this summer, but it’s coming and by summer 2009 something’s gotta give. Unless Matt Greene is willing to sign a long term “Marc-Andre Bergeron” contract that gives the Oilers his skill set for less than 100 cents on the dollar in exchange for long term stability (such as it was for Bergeron) then it would be my guess the one dimensional defensemen are in some danger moving forward.

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54 Responses to "The Blue"

  1. James Mirtle says:

    See, now I just wish there was analysis like this available for every team.

    Any chance you can do Florida next, LB?

  2. toqueboy says:

    i’ve stopped reading MSM sports because of the strengths of lowetide and mirtle blog among others and now with teams hosting their own audio/video, it’s really made so much of the ‘big time’ reporters seem like lazy tag alongs

    on that note…i want Greener to suceed but i think it’ll be on another team.

  3. Mr DeBakey says:

    Its hard to know with these young’uns – Grebeshkov looked poopy on Saturday afternoon, Smid not so hot last night. As I noted a couple of threads back, Greene has come in for some faint praise recently too.

    I’ve felt you’ve been a little tough on Smid & Greene. If they’re the third pairing, that’s not bad [albeit they’re a slightly overpaid third pairing]. They both bring a physical element, something the Oilers don’t have tonnes of up front. And both finally have enough GP – we’ve put up with the ugly part, now its time to start cashing in.

    My main concern for next year is that none of the Dmen born in ’87 is on the roster.

    Another concern is the apparent similarity between Chorney & Grebeshkov – I don’t see both on the roster as a positive thing.

    Now, if Greene were part of a package to Philly for Carter, I’d be OK with that.

  4. andy grabia says:

    God those are nice jerseys.

  5. Big T says:

    If this team is to truly compete for a cup or two there needs to be an upgrade to the top two pairings. Whether that comes from the development of current players or aquisition Staios – Pitkanen is not going to get it done as they are.

    We’ll need to see Joni develop further or upgrade Stevie. If we’re calling Gilbert – Souray/Grebeshkov our second pair we’re gonna need Gilbert to get back to early season form. I don’t see that being a problem jsut wondering if he can maintain that kind of performance.

    A third pairing of Greene – Grebeshkov/Smid looks pretty good to me as is though further development from both will be welcomed.

    More than likely one (and hopfully not more) of these current players are going to fall behind and that should be enough to make room for one of the young guys to come up.

    T

  6. Sean says:

    Lowe definitely has some tough decisions with contracts this summer. The only known commodity is Staois.

    With Sourays contract, the key will be to get D to out perform their contracts.

    Will Pitkanen outperform 4.5 over 5?
    Will Gilbert outperform 3.2 over 5?
    Who is the bigger risk?

    We’ve all seen what happened in San Jose with Matt Carle. I think Grebs might have the best chance to outperform a contract because he’d be most affordable. At the same time, Pitkanen would still likely be the better player.

    Green, Smid and Souray add toughness but neither is capable of top pairing shutdown minutes (yet). Right now, I’d say Pitkanen is our best option but he doesnt really play a shutdown role.

    So many factors… but Lowe does know D, so I think he’ll get it right.

  7. jon k says:

    I think in all the time we’ve been patiently waiting for Matt Greene to develop into Jason Smith, we’ve ignored the fact that the new CBA makes it impossible for the team who drafts these defencemen to enjoy them. Combined with a less than impressive rate of progression and an abundance of equally able defencemen and I think the writing is on the wall for Greener. (Similar argument can be applied to Torres).

    If we could get a 2nd rnd pick for Greene at the draft I’d do it and then target an UFA like Ruslan Salei or Mike Commodore, trying for a 2-3 year deal.

  8. godot10 says:

    //If we could get a 2nd rnd pick for Greene at the draft I’d do it and then target an UFA like Ruslan Salei or Mike Commodore, trying for a 2-3 year deal.//

    One can get Greene AND Smid, two D for the price of Salei or Commodore. And next year, one can have likely have Greene, Smid, and Gresbeshkov for about half-a-million more altogether than one of Salei or Commodore.

    Salei or Commodore will get $3 million…the Oilers can’t afford that for a third pairing defenseman. Commodore has been awful in Ottawa. Like Greene, he has to play with a competent puck handler. Ottawa is playing him with Richardson, and he has been awful.

    The decision on Greene and/or Smid doesn’t have to be made till the end of next season.

  9. dstaples says:

    Lowetide,

    I take your point that Greb, Gilbert, Staios and Pitkanen are all ahead of Smid and Greene now, that Smid and Greene truly are the Oil’s third line pairing based on ability, and they have holes in their game that need filling.

    As a fan of their play, I believe those holes will be filled, but that it is yet to be seen, and may not happen, I admit.

    But I still don’t see the need to trade one of them. Greene may well take a pay cut/hometown discount to keep playing here. He strikes me as that kind of team player.

    As for the prospects coming into the system, will it kill Peckhman and Chorney and others to spend two years on the farm? I’d rather see the Oilers take the slow road with a few young defencemen.

    By the time Chorney and Peckham are ready, by 2009-10 or 2010-11, the Souray situation will have resolved itself — in the Oilers’ favour — as I have a strong hunch that Souray, as strong a player as he is right now, is unfortunately heading in the direction of numerous comparable players to him (big, kinda slow, physical, offensively talented guys). He will soon be too banged up to play in the NHL. That’s what appears to happen to these big guys. And with his bum shoulder, I just don’t see Souray defying the odds in this regard and continuing to play past next season (as much as I believe he can help the team, if healthy_.

    At that point, his contract comes off the cap, does it not?

  10. doritogrande says:

    Very interesting article on Oiler Nation by Robin Brownlee. They signed a Golden Bear defenseman (Harlen Anderson) to a PTO Contract, and have recalled Jeff Deslauriers.

    http://www.oilersnation.com/index2.php/2008/03/25/golden-bear-anderson-now-an-oiler/#more-1545

  11. Bruce says:

    Wow, that’s exciting stuff to this longtime Golden Bear fan. This is not a token signing: Harlan Anderson is a hell of a player. I catch 2 or 3 or 5 Bears games most years, plus all of those two National tournaments that were played here in ’05 and ’06, not to mention the Oilers rookie game most years, and Anderson has been catching my eye for quite some time. He’s 25 which doesn’t make him Chorney or Wild, in fact a better comparison might be Tom Gilbert. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

    Anderson is a good skater and smart puck-mover whose excellent point shot might well be effective at the pro level. Defensively he’s more of a heady positional type than any sort of bruiser (see: my comparable immediately above). He will definitely need time in the AHL.

    Not to mention the fact he is captain of the National Champion University of Alberta Golden Bears!!! (something which I haven’t read enough about on the blogs, (way to) Go Bears!) A three-time national champion in fact, which is more than either Randy Gregg, Ian Herbers or Cory Cross can say. Former Oiler blueliners all … could Harlan Anderson be the next?

  12. Lowetide says:

    Anderson was a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors at about the same time as Brodziak. Fun stuff. With the team at 50 contracts, will it be a PTO?

  13. HBomb says:

    Similar argument can be applied to Torres.

    Am I the only one who doesn’t get the whole anti-Raffi sentiment around the web and elsewhere these days?

    The guy has been a 20 and 27 goal scorer, he’s shown improvement in his two way game, he brings a physical element we lack on some nights, and he can play tougher minutes.

    Everyone is ready to trade him right now to make way for Ethan Moreau, a guy who is 6 years older than Torres, is on the downside of his career, doesn’t have the same offensive upside, and is constantly injured just because of his leadership intangibles.

    Torres should be the one slotted in as the 3LW next year and Moreau is the one they should be shopping. Popular opinion seems to think it’s going to be the other way around. I hope Kevin Lowe can see past the “intangibles” and note which guy is more likely to contribute when this team is truly ready to contend again in 2010-2012.

    Same goes for the number of people who seem to want to see Pitkanen dealt – we want to deal the only guy we have on the blueline with true #1D upside, a guy who has played middling-to-tough minutes this year and is -3 raw plus/minus before filtering out empty net goal and shorthanded goal bullshit?

    Pitkanen and Torres are two guys you should be building around, not looking to deal. And if it has to mean you deal one or Moreau and/or Staios to keep them? I have deep respect for both those guys, but they’re not worth losing a guy like Torres or Pitkanen in order to keep around for the duration of their retirement contracts.

    Of course, the best thing would be if you had an extra 5.4 million in cap space and you wouldn’t have any issues period. However, the Oilers for some reason decided that they needed Sheldon Souray…..

  14. Dennis says:

    Lowe’s made a lot of good decisions on the backend — for instance no one talks about Tarnqvist anymore but he was doing a good job before he got hurt — but he’s also the guy who let Hejda go and deemed Souray worth such a big money deal so let’s not forget that, either.

    It’s great that so many of the kids look to be heading in the right direction but not ALL of them are going to be worth keeping and giving time to, either.

  15. Black Dog says:

    hbomb – with you on Moreau/Torres; a third line with Torres and Pisani would do a nice job, imo (argue about the possible centre if you would like)

    however politics, injury history and contract mean he is more likely to go then Ethan – doesn’t make it right, just is the way it is

    unless for some reason they don’t get Glencross signed which would be another kind of dumb I would say

  16. Bruce says:

    It’s great that so many of the kids look to be heading in the right direction but not ALL of them are going to be worth keeping and giving time to, either.

    Glencross 66 GP
    Pouliot 73 GP
    Gagner 74 GP
    Cogliano 77 GP
    Gilbert 89 GP
    Stortini 90 GP
    Brodziak 92 GP
    Grebeshkov 99 GP
    Nilsson 123 GP
    Smid 137 GP
    Greene 146 GP

    That’s eleven guys with <150 GP playing regularly throughout Oilers current 12-3 roll. Maybe only 8 or 9 of the 11 are worth keeping and giving time to. But while it's fun to speculate, Dennis, it's not so easy to say from this distance which of these guys isn't going to cut it; I would project that all of them will wind up playing regularly somewhere in the NHL, if not here in Edmonton.

    Given the almost completely unexpected contributions of guys like Grebeshkov, Stortini and GlenX, perhaps Lowe and MacT have proven they’ve got a pretty good eye for such things. And maybe Huddy, Moores, and Daum are excellent at developing young players. Their recent batting average appears pretty darn good from here; I’m prepared to trust their ongoing evaluation as these youngsters continue to develop.

  17. jon k says:

    Godot: If you think that Greene or Smid are as competent as Salei or Commodore right now you’re sorely mistaken. I don’t mind having to pair Commodore with a puck-moving defenceman because that’s not a deficiency on our blueline anymore, solid defensive play is.

    Hbomb: I’m not particularly down on Torres, but he’s going to make more money than Nilsson, Moreau, or Glencross on the LW next year. Moreau and Glencross arguably play the same type of game as Torres and I just don’t see the point in trying to force someone into the lineup when there are other players who can do the job for cheaper. If you were to argue for keeping Torres over Moreau, that’s something I could probably get on board with.

  18. Black Dog says:

    Except for young offensive talent, Bruce. MacT hasn’t a clue when it comes to that. ;)

    Wonder what the Schrempologists will blame now.

  19. Bruce says:

    BDHS: You talkin’ ’bout the Church of Schrempology? :D

  20. Asiaoil says:

    Agree that something has to give on defense this summer – and that most of it depends on what happens with Pits. Greene is the guy on the bubble for reasons already well stated. He’s older than Smid, not as talented, and closer to UFA. Another big reason to deal Greene is that his replacement is clearly in sight – Peckham – who has surprised the hell out of me this year.

    I agree that the Torres hate is strange – he really wasn’t that bad this year – but he had the misfortune to get hurt before it was generally recognized how bad Stoll is playing – and I think a lot of that stink rubbed off on Raffi. But still we are talking about the cap and tough decisons have to be made. Can Moreau actually be counted on anymore? Can GX be signed? Lots of key personel decisions this summer – but damn it would all be a lot easier without that Souray contract hanging around.

  21. Dennis says:

    Pat nailed the reasons why Torres will be dealt instead of Moreau and like the man said, it doesn’t make sense but you can see why Lowe would operate in that fashion.

    We see a lot of chem now with the kids and it makes me wonder — like Pat — and how the 14-34 duo could do with tough min in ’09 like they did a couple of springs ago.

    Bruce: I’m not saying there are guys among the list who’ll be junk or in the ECHL but if you feel the way I do about Greene, he could be a regular somewhere else but it doesn’t mean he should be a regular here.

  22. Bruce says:

    Dennis: Right now he IS a regular here, he’s probably our #6 but that’s OK, we need one of those. I’m not saying we can’t improve in that spot, but I am saying we could do worse. A lot worse. If Matt Greene is the biggest problem we got on defence, well, there’s a few teams that would like that sort of problem.

    And Dennis, FWIW I have to say I am usually more impressed with Greene when I see him live than on TV. Hard to put my finger on why that is, but it has to do with physical presence and standing up to the other guys and for his mates. I just get the feeling that anybody who wants to beat the Oilers has to be prepared to go through Matt Greene to do it. And that’s no easy task, he’s a great big mofo fo sho’, and I’m (usually) glad he’s on our side. Remembering the way he shivered Kesler’s timbers in Vancouver still makes me smile. Matt’s not the most refined D-man in the league, but you need a little crude on the back end too.

  23. Gord says:

    hbomb wrote:
    Torres should be the one slotted in as the 3LW next year and Moreau is the one they should be shopping.

    It is actually very simple why Moreau stays while Torres goes…

    Watch this then tell us what Torres does besides asking Regehr politely to please not do that again (November 10, 2007)…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esZi79o_OyI

    Exact same Hemsky hit by Regehr on February 9, 2008…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPUiDDXfwhw

    Totally different Oiler reaction with Moreau in the line-up… The reason Moreau could not help out is because he was in the penalty box after going after Phaneuf…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pm32NEKoJ_w

    Given the choice between a wimpy Torres and a warrior Moreau – Torres is gone….

  24. Bruce says:

    Greene’s stats since coming back from his busted ankle:

    27 GP, 0-0-0, +3,
    42 PiM (4 fights, 11 minors)

    Obviously, he’s not there for his offence. Equally obviously, he’s not hurting us in bottom pairing minutes (a little over 17:00 per game since his return). Greene also makes a solid contribution to the league’s fourth ranked PK unit, ranking third among Oiler defencemen (behind Souray and Staios) in SH TOI per game.

    Dennis, you probably don’t remember Don Jackson (as a player), but that’s the Greene comp for me. And Donny was a good guy to have on board.

  25. HBomb says:

    If you were to argue for keeping Torres over Moreau, that’s something I could probably get on board with.

    Jon K….that’s exactly what I’m arguing.

    Gord: Your argument would hold water if we could count on Moreau for more than 20 games a season. The fact is, the guy is made of glass.

    Outside of the knee injury, Torres has been healthy. Moreau is anything but.

    Inconsistency aside and forgetting about a negligible difference in cap hit ($250K), Torres would be the smart bet. He might have his off nights, but at least he’s a solid bet to play 75-80 games a year.

    You deal Torres, you’re suddenly looking at Penner-Nilsson-Glencross down the left side by the end of October when Moreau blows out his other shoulder or breaks his ankle. With the injury history considered, I don’t know how one could make a strong case for keeping 18 over 14.

  26. Lowetide says:

    Bruce: They’re going to have to pay people starting in the summer. You can ask Mathieu Roy to play #6D for $500k in the fall. That saves $750k in 08-09 over Matt Greene PLUS you need to sign Greene for 09-10 and oh by the way if you want to sign him deeper it’s going to cost you more because guess what those are his UFA seasons he’s giving up.

    A #6d making Greene’s current salary (1.05M) is an overpay, next year it will me $1.25M and after that it’s real money.

    I’m saying that the Oilers decide to go cheap on their 6D and spent the money elsewhere. Maybe they move Smid or Grebeshkov but imo someone is going.

  27. Ribs says:

    Equally obviously, he’s not hurting us in bottom pairing minutes (a little over 17:00 per game since his return).

    It’s nice to be able to hide Greene more by not matching him with Bergeron in that bottom pairing. Much less risky business.

    It feels as if MacT has handcuffed Greene a lot more this season and it’s a needed restraint in my eyes. He’s improved slightly but not enough for me to see any reason of hanging on to him if it means losing someone else.

    I’d still take a Sean O’Donnel on the roster over Greene, myself.

  28. Gord says:

    Gord: Your argument would hold water if we could count on Moreau for more than 20 games a season. The fact is, the guy is made of glass.

    I’ll take 20 games of an attack dog over 80 games of a chicken every time…

    Two years ago Torres had 2 fights…

    Last year, Torres had two fights…

    This year Torres had 2 fights…

    Torres did absolutely nothing when Regehr almost snapped Hemsky’s neck – my gut feeling is that Torres took Regehr out for a beer after the game & had a chuckle over Hemsky almost getting carried out on a stretcher….

  29. Dennis says:

    I’m going to go contrary to LT here and say that I hope the Oilers do decide to spend more money on their D and they do it with a 14/16 for Mckee deal and I only keep bringing that up because Stl’s starving for offense and they’ve still got a lot of D. Plus, McKee only has two years left on his deal and right now the biggest salary concerns for the Oilers are as follows:

    1: What Horc gets in his next deal
    2: What to do with Pitkanen and how much to pay HIM
    3: How much do you pay 13 and 89 for the seasons 2010 and so on.

    McKee’s pact would be off the books come 2010 which would leave the room for 13 and 89 extensions and by that time you hope that kids like Grebs-Smid-Gilbert are carrying the load and a McKee type isn’t as neccessary.

    On Torres not defending Hemksy’s honour: So you’d rather have Moreau willing to do that for the 20 games he plays a season? And before anyone starts inferring that Torres is a pussy, he just about killed half the Canes in the playoffs and that was after he knocked SJ back to a one line team when he creamed Michalek. Guys can be tough without fighting and Raffi’s one of them.

  30. Bruce says:

    Dennis: Sometimes I have trouble following your logic. You’ve probably shelled the Souray signing as much as anybody for being too expensive and too injury-prone. Now you want us to trade two guys for Jay (Wheelchair) McKee??

    Over the last 5 years (4 seasons) Souray has missed 80 games (the majority of those this season, unfortunately), and will reach 85 by season’s end. In the same time span McKee has missed 121 games so far, with a lingering foot injury liable to shut down the rest of the current season. Last year it was a knee, a hand, a hip … The year before it was an infection that sidelined McKee for his last game as a Sabre, Game 7 against Carolina (just those 4 words make me shudder).

    I like McKee as a player too, but I only like him when he actually plays, which isn’t that often.

    BTW, here’s a scouting report on McKee from The Forecaster:

    ASSETS: Plays a strong game from the back end. Isn’t shy about dishing out hits. Displays great poise and excellent form as a stay-at-home defender.
    FLAWS: Lacks offensive instincts. Is still prone to occasional lapses in judgment in the defensive zone.
    CAREER POTENTIAL: Defensive defenseman.

    Sounds like an old Matt Greene to me. An old, expensive, injury-prone Matt Greene.

  31. Oilman says:

    If playoff Raffi showed up for half the reg season games there’d be no question…if he ever finds some consistency in his physical game he’ll be a scary forward. But the season turned on Moreau’s return to the lineup this year…maybe it’s just coincidence, but the team became a lot more difficult to play against when Moreau came back.

  32. Oilman says:

    dennis – if St. Louis does a 16 for McKee deal because they are starved for offense, well, they just haven’t been paying attention.

  33. Bruce says:

    A #6d making Greene’s current salary (1.05M) is an overpay, next year it will me $1.25M and after that it’s real money.

    Certainly things are changing in the cap era and one strategy is the payroll polarization — a few real big contracts and a bunch of minimum wage grinders. It’s worked real well in Tampa. For sure most teams would like a few guys hanging around the minumum, typically forwards 10-14, defencemen 5-7, and perhaps the backup ‘tender as likely candidates.

    But … that is not the only approach. Looking at our neighbours to the south for example, they’ve already got 6 defencemen signed up for ’08-09:

    Phaneuf $7.0
    Regehr $4.5
    Aucoin $4.0
    Sarich $3.4
    Warrener $2.5
    Eriksson $1.5

    That’s a pile o’ dough, $22.9 MM committed, where even the bottom pairing costs a cool $4 MM. Greene and Smid at a combined $2.2 MM look like a relative bargain.

    Comparing the putative #6, Anders Eriksson is 33 years old, has scored 1 goal since the lockout, and has posted a -3 figure this season. He has also provoked a lot of whining and complaining from Calgary fans. Give me Matt Greene over Eriksson, thanks all the same. Younger, cheaper, way more upside, good character …

    Another option is to go the veteran route. Vancouver did that this year with Aaron Miller, 35 years old, $1.5 MM. 1 goal, -1 in 17:00 a game. If you’re counting, that’s five years in a row of 0 or 1 goal for Miller, and 5 straight years as a minus player; Vancouver knew what they were paying for and paid anyway. I’d rather grow my own, thanks.

    Elsewhere in the division, tonight’s opponent the Wild chose to go the cheap veteran route, signing 38-year-old Sean (‘Roids) Hill for the league minimum. Under the header “you get what you pay for”, here’s Hill’s performance in ’07-08: 30 GP, 1-5-6, -16. Uh, thanks, I’ll take Matt Greene over that, even if he costs me 2% of my cap instead of 1%.

    Finally, perhaps the ideal of what you might want in a sixth defenceman is Kurt Sauer of Colorado. Sauer’s 1 goal and 6 points in ’07-08 both match his career “highs”, so WYSIWYG. He has however rung up an impressive +16 in 18:00 per game, and has done so on the cheap for $719 K. But guess what, his contract is up and you can bet he will be looking for a significant bump in pay on the open market as an UFA. So it goes. He was a bargain this year, likely won’t be next.

    Greene is two and a half years younger than Sauer and his career record to date is strikingly similar to the first half of Sauer’s 6-year career. I wouldn’t bet the house that Matt’s got a +16 in his future, but I wouldn’t necessarily bet against it either. I do know these things take time, we’ve already paid the price for much of Matt’s learning curve, and I’m not too anxious to repeat the experience with, say, Matt Roy. Greene is now a reasonably-experienced NHL veteran who remains under contract for another year; he’s one contract headache we don’t have this summer. His salary may be a little more than some might like but when I see people throwing around numbers like $3.2 MM for Tom Gilbert, $1.2 for Matt Greene doesn’t seem like it’s our biggest problem.

  34. Devin says:

    Yeah I’ve said all along I think Lowe made a mistake with Greene’s current contract. I believe it was significantly over his QO. He should have paid Greene 700k or so on the 2yr deal, and saved the 1.2 for his upcoming contract (more in line with fair market value of a 6-7 RFA D). Now assuming he steadily improves through next season he’ll be asking for 2M or so come 09.

    But Bruce is right- we’ve gone through the growing pains and suffered enough, we might as well enjoy these guys if/when they turn the corner. It seems like Greene has matured significantly this year, his GA/60 is way down, and he’s PKing reliably. The puck isn’t finding its way behind him very often anymore.

    There is something to be said, however, for talent. It didn’t take Grebs or Gilbert long at the NHL level to develop to the point of reliability on the 2nd pairing, while it’s taken Greene and Smid 2 full years to be reasonable on the 3rd pairing. I give Smid the benefit of the doubt because he’s much younger and has more tools than Greene, but seriously, how long do you wait for these guys?

  35. Bruce says:

    seriously, how long do you wait for these guys?

    About as long as we have waited. These guys are ready now, and have been delivering the goods for awhile. They’re not perfect, never will be, but who the hell is?

    As an aside on the subject of perfection, even the wondrous Nicklas Lidstrom suffered through a stretch where he was -7 in 6 GP. (And don’t buy in to the “MVP” argument that Detroit went into the tank AFTER Lidstrom was hurt, btw; they lost all 6 of those games, before breaking their slump by winning 4-0 in Colorado … in a game Lidstrom left early in the first period with his injury. Having seen the play, I would argue the injury itself was a result of Lidstrom not being very sharp. Bottom line: Nobody’s perfect.)

    But I digress. In the GP list I posted above, Greene and Smid have more experience than 9 of their teammates. So they better be ready. I’m counting on both down the stretch, and next year as well. As 5-6 pairings go, I think we’ve got it pretty good, actually.

  36. Slipper says:

    Holy cow! And how many errors did Lidstrom get in that six game stretch, Bruce?

    If ever 2 or 5 have a six game stretch where they have half the responsibility of Lidstrom and they even put up a quarter of Lidstrom’s results, make sure to let me know.

    In other news, I think Matt Greene is at fault for falling on his own ankle earlier this season.

    HBomb: I’ve heard a lot of bullshit on yours and my favorite injured left winger and his cougar model dating best friend, and most of it revolves around their extra-currcular activities. There’s enough noise out there that one begins to wonder if there’s any merit to the rumours of their alleged activities.

  37. Master Lok says:

    LT, you complained at the start of the season that the defense was too young. Wouldn’t trading Greene and putting in a “green” Peckham or Chorney be doing EXACTLY that?

    I agree with staples. Keep Smid and Greene on the 3rd pairing – that’s not a bad thing. And if Lowe is paying Greene for $1.2 plus on his next contract, then I’m assuming that he doesn’t see Greene as a 5/6 defender. Keep Chorney and Peckham in the AHL and give them more games before you call them up.

  38. Slipper says:

    It all comes back to Sheldon Souray, doesn’t it. If you have good enough players at the top, you can hide any two ham huckers at the bottom of the line-up.

    Souray has never proven he can compete in the slot that his salary dictates he must play in (1-2). He was a third pairing D in MTL, based on the ice-time awarded and competition he face, and that didn’t go too well (- a billion).

    He had some short stints of spectacularly bad and suprisingly good in the minimal games he played. Nowhere near enough to get a good beat on him.

    Grebeshkov has shown tonnes of promise recently, but not over an extended period of time. Surely not enough to make critical decisions based on his ability to repeat.

    This team still has a goals against problem. They’re going to need an experienced d-man if next years is going ot be competetive. They’ll need one just because Souray could break again.

    Staios
    Gilbert
    Pitkanen
    Souray
    Smid
    Grebeshkov
    Greene

    Put aside the rose coloured glasses, and that’s a pretty thin core of defensemen. At the very least, there’s a million question marks hanging over that depth chart going into training camp next season. As much as this exceptional run has defied the odds, I still believe, to steal one from MC79, that hope is not a plan.

  39. Bruce says:

    Holy cow! And how many errors did Lidstrom get in that six game stretch, Bruce?

    I wasn’t tracking, Slipper, but I’ll bet you an Irish coffee that it was more than he usually makes. I saw replays of a couple of eyebrow-raisers during that patch, that’s for sure.

    Point being nobody’s perfect, even the very very best, and sometimes expectations of players can be unrealistic. Smid and Greene will never be confused with Lidstrom, they aren’t game breakers or difference makers, but as depth players go they’re pretty alright.

    If ever 2 or 5 have a six game stretch where they have half the responsibility of Lidstrom and they even put up a quarter of Lidstrom’s results, make sure to let me know.

    I can find a few 6-game stretches where they were a quarter of -7. Maybe even minus a quarter. Does that count?

    In other news, I think Matt Greene is at fault for falling on his own ankle earlier this season.

    Just a mild observation about the circumstances of the injury. Lidstrom, who is one of my favourite players in all of hockey lest you think I’m somehow picking on him, is such an expert at slipping checks, it just seemed surprising that he would get caught. That it happened during an exceedingly rare stretch where the game wasn’t coming easily to him, may be more than coincidence.

  40. Slipper says:

    Yeah, but it’s two different games of hockey when Lidstrom is on the ice compared to Smid and Greene.

    One’s a 25+ minute per game defenseman, who plays the most outstanding competition in the NHL and is on the ice for the most own zone draws on his team.

    The other two are not.

    One has a career +/- of more than 350.

    The other two? A collective -60 in their careers.

    Lidstom’s imperfections are like paper cuts compared to the eviscerations that hound Greene and Smid’s games. So he was -7 over six games. He answered that by being +47 over 64 games, I guess.

  41. Bruce says:

    No duh, Slipper. Can I make it any plainer that I’m NOT comparing them?? Obviously my idle remark about the impossibility of perfection has somehow rubbed you the wrong way, yet again. I seem to have the gift.

    Nicklas Lidstrom may be the best hockey player in the world. But he is not a god. When his game went south, however briefly, the team went south with him. No shame in that, it, uh, happens to the best of them.

    OTOH, “eviscerations” seems a mighty strong word for our two young defencemen. Kinda rubs this Oiler fan the wrong way. So it goes.

  42. Slipper says:

    Oh Bruce, if stating “that these kids are ready now, but nobodies perfect, just look at Lidstrom…” isn’t a comparison, then DUH! to me.

    Kisses.

  43. Bruce says:

    Hugs. GOilers!

  44. Dennis says:

    Bruce: I have mentioned McKee’s injury past but he’s going to play close to 70 games this year so I’d take a chance he’s rectified that problem somewhat.

    Looking at Slipper’s D chart with Souray’s inclusion brought me back to the ~60 min interview that Lowe did on the pipeline show. I’ve already listened to the first two parts and in the second part he talks about the potential depth the club has shown with this run and he says that in an ideal world, when you reach the limit of guys you can play, you take the surplus and deal them for picks. That’s what we’ve opined will happen to one of 2 or 5 and I still think that’s how it shakes out.

    24-44 won’t be moved, 77 should be a cornerstone even though he’s breaking down in the last quarter, 25 should only be moved if he out-prices himself out of the market so that leaves 2-5-37 as the possibles for movement.

    I think next year we see six of those seven in our starting six and the 7th is Roy until Peckham’s ready to step in and at that time we’ll demote Roy and take our chance that he’s not claimed. In the meantime, he’s a 7th D who only sees time due to injury. BTW, it’s not even like I’m saying that 2 or 5 aren’t capable, it’s just I’d rather bring in a vet so that the kids can drop down further in the pecking order.

    Oilman: I see your point on why Stl wouldn’t take Stoll; I just think of Davidson saying they’re focusing more on Stoll’s GPG and his PP ability in ’06 and ’07 then what he did this year.

  45. Bruce says:

    I have mentioned McKee’s injury past but he’s going to play close to 70 games this year so I’d take a chance he’s rectified that problem somewhat.

    Right now he’s at 60 and holding, pretty much average for an 11-year career that stands at 665 GP. At this point he’s one of those guys where “day-to-day” really means “week-to-week”, he’s damned expensive, and he’s 9 years removed from that wonderful defensive blueliner we all “saw good” in that 1999 Sabres run to the finals.

    I’d rather bring in a vet so that the kids can drop down further in the pecking order.

    And that’s where you and I have a difference of opinion, Dennis. I think the 5-6 spots are as low in the pecking order as I want to see those particular kids. They need to be in the line-up, playing regularly, and contributing. I feel they can, and that they’ve been proving it for the last couple of months.

    Meanwhile, your cornerstone guy, Gilbert, has been scaring me with his erratic play in the last half of the season, not just the last quarter. His play on the opening goal tonight was bizarre to the point of amateurish, effectively turning a 2-on-1 into a 2-on-0. WTF?

    And I’ll take pains again to say I’m not trying to dump on Gilbert, I’m just sayin’ what I’m seein’. I like Tom and I like his potential. I like all our defencemen, me and my rose-coloured glasses think it’s a damn promising group. But for the life of me, I don’t quite understand all the grief that gets poured on 2 and 5 while 77 seems to get this free pass. He skipped a grade early in the season and jumped way out front, but he’s failed a few tests recently and the pack is closing fast. Almost as fast as those forecheckers who seem to have been doing their own homework watching game film of Tom in action. Is it just me, or are opponents really pounding his corner these days? Whatever it is, he needs to figure it out between now and October, and maybe put on 10 pounds while he’s figgerin’. Oh yeah, and sign a reasonable second-level contract that gives him time to prove he’s for real and deserves the big coin.

  46. Dennis says:

    What I meant was if you bring in a vet to play the top four, that means that kids like Grebs and Gilbert drop down and they’re better lower options than Smid and Greene.

  47. Bruce says:

    Not sure I agree, Dennis, but then again, when do I? :) I like the skilled puck-moving style of D just fine, but it’s essential we have an element of grinding physical blueliner as well. Right now we got three of the former (25, 37, 77) and four of the latter (2, 5, 24, 44).

    Unfortunately I would say we got zero guys that are both, and certainly if we could bring in a studly all-rounder that would help both sides of the equation it would be a plus. But Prongers and Phaneufs don’t grow on trees, and even if we got a reasonable facsimile there’s still going to be room for a defence-first hard-rock or two back there. The third unit is a good place for that style of player. Whereas a guy like Gilbert is more likely to be successful in a Top 4 role in my view.

    But what can I say? My preference is to have the bottom of the roster filled with guys that aren’t fun to play against. Watching this 2-5-20-46-51 unit deliver the goods on this premise has been one of the great pleasures of the stretch run for this proponent of “old-time hockey”.

  48. Bruce says:

    Post script re: relative cap hits:

    2-5-20-46-51 = $3.589 MM total
    Jay McKee = $4.000 MM

  49. Dennis says:

    Well you’re already married to Souray so I can see why don’t want to see us paying anyone else:D

  50. Bruce says:

    Well we got Souray like it or not, Dennis. I don’t particularly like it, but it’s a fact for at least two more years, so Oilers will have to structure their blueline around that fact. And fans like you and me can build our expectations for the Oilers blueline around it, but complaining about it ten times a day won’t change a thing. It’s done. Let’s hope Sheldon regains his health and delivers 50 or 70 cents on that Big Buck.

    But why we would want to add another expensive veteran with a long injury record? We already got one. And I think you’ll agree, one is more than enough.

  51. Dennis says:

    No, I can’t really agree on that at all, Bruce.

    Knowing we have only so many dollars to spend, I’d still deal out 16 for a pick and use that money to bring in another real top 4 Dman; and no just one who you think is top four in the 26 games he played;)

  52. Oilman says:

    There’s so many d men available this year as UFA’s dennis, that dealing Stoll for the pick and signing one of those guys makes much more sense. If you’re going to throw $4mil at another D man – make it Ron Hainsey….if you want to give significantly less money, there’s lots of Jeff Fingers out there to be had as well…..a trade for a d-man won’t happen IMO (unless it’s a signed Bouwmeester for Pitkananen, Stoll, and Torres…I wonder if one of the mathy types can calculate the odds of that happening….let’s just say 1 to a really big number)

  53. Dennis says:

    OM: I don’t really care how it goes done, I just want another vet in the order come next season.

    Though, I would bet that Souray supplants one of Smid or Greene and the other’s out the door for a pick.

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