Sniper


















It was the two-way play of Buffalo Sabres like Craig Ramsay, Don Luce and Danny Gare in the 1974-75 semifinals (when Montreal was eliminated by Buffalo) that showed Scotty Bowman his team needed two lines that could keep an opposing team at bay.

-Douglas Hunter, A Life in Hockey

I think that this line of thinking is central to Edmonton’s current situation. Kevin Lowe wants two lines for the opposition to worry about so one of the puck wizards (Hemsky, Gagner) has the soft parade.

The checking line for the Sabres mentioned above was a solid unit of forecheckers with hands. They weren’t terribly big or tough but they could scoot and score, and they pursued the puck like no line I can recall. You can still see them every once in awhile skating miles in playoff games from 30 years ago.

We’ve discussed at length Kevin Lowe’s summer plans and I think we’ve probably got this summer surrounded with this statement: a scoring top 3F. For the most part the Oilers have in the meat of their batting order young men who are extremely creative with the puck and can beat people silly off the rush. But they aren’t snipers. They have Don Luce (Shawn Horcoff) and they have a version of Craig Ramsay (Fernando Pisani) but those Danny Gare energy snipers who have a dogged persistence don’t grow on trees.

Let’s say the Edmonton Oilers do acquire a top drawer offensive talent this summer. Let’s say for the hell of it that they acquire Jaromir Jagr (it’s easier for our purposes than someone like Spezza because Jagr is a UFA).

Let’s say Jagr comes to camp and the Oilers decide he should play with Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner on the 1line. That would leave Dustin Penner to play with Shawn Horcoff and Robert Nilsson on the 2line and perhaps give Jarret Stoll a chance to play on the “tough minutes” line with Fernando Pisani and a few options on LW.

Could the Oilers line up this way? Remember MacT’s comments in regard to Horcoff a year ago? With Kevin Lowe’s comments this spring about adding a top line forward and a scorer, I think one of Horcoff or Stoll are going to be counted on to play huge, tough minutes in the Don Luce role.

Will that make them a playoff team? It might. Two scoring lines are a distant bell in the tight NW division, where the Oilers were the top scoring team in 07-08. It seems like Kevin Lowe has decided to bring a “west coast offense” to the NHL, a run and gun bunch who can outscore the opposition and make up for the errors on the blueline.

They need a hired gun, and I think that’s what the next three weeks are all about in Edmonton.

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14 Responses to "Sniper"

  1. Black Dog says:

    How many hired guns are there out there is the question and who is available?

    I don’t see Cogliano’s name on your list, LT. Do you think he’s trade bait?

  2. Lowetide says:

    BDHS: I think he could be. I was talking to Stauffer the other day (he needed 10 minutes for his show, so I was filler) and we talked about the price for Spezza and Cogliano’s name came up.

    I sure wouldn’t like to see him go but you need to give something in order to get quality in return.

  3. spOILer says:

    Good post, LT. But 10 things to consider…

    1. I think the game plan for the Oilers was, is and always has been 2 scoring lines. Going back to like 1979, at least. However, this goal hasn’t always been achievable.

    We can see the success of the multi-line system in both SCF finalists. TBL, BUF, CAR have used this concept to some success recently too.

    It is the only way to go. The lack of a 2nd scoring line is the usual downfall of teams expected to do better in the playoffs.

    So, I think you’re stating the obvious to some degree. Nevertheless a valid point.

    2. The Oil already have 2 scoring lines, and have since Feb/March. All we can do now is make them better. The most glaring weaknesses are 2C and 1LW. They’re serviceable, but weaker links than the rest.

    Keep in mind we don’t know what this team really looks like with the Kid Line intact and Horc in the line-up. How well could we have rolled lines in March with Horc at 1C and Stoll at 3C?

    3. Jagr idea… I have no doubt that a line with Jagr will score like a first line while playing the third toughest minutes, but if they’re playing weaker minutes than Horc’s AND Stoll’s line, they’re the de facto 2nd line, IMO.

    4. When Horc went down, don’t we remember how well Stoll did against the toughest minutes, when he was still supposed to be learning the 2nd toughest role at 3C? Stoll will play 3C next year, and take the 2nd hardest minutes. He needs to master that step first.

    5. I reiterate: J. Staal and J. Carter are the two players the Oil should be keying on this summer for their top 6 need. Such an acquisition will impact the team positvely for years to come. I do not want to go to battle 5 years from now with Sam Gagner as my #1 centre, no matter how seasoned he’ll be then. Staal also protects depth better against Stoll and Horc injuries, than Cogs and Gags do at the moment.

    6. I want to go to battle even less so with Cogliano at 1C. Cogliano has to be considered the best worm the Oil can bait their rods with this summer, Penner next best, to fill a top 6 need.

    7. “Hi, Mr. Shero. What would it take to get your Jordan Staal cap problem off your hands? Cogliano and Torres and a good pick you say? Done.”

    8. High profile UFAs always mean overpay. Jonathan had a great post about this earlier, and I concur fully. Assuming they can even be enticed. Would Rolston come here? Ryder isn’t in that top echelon and might actually come here since half the damn island already is, but lacks the intensity of a Gare. Now if he turns out to be like Rene Robert… hehehe, I’m in. (I was jumping around like a maniac when he scored… god I hated the Habs back then)

    9. Hired guns… If we’re going to go for underpaid old guys who are available, I think Smid for Knuble might do the trick. He would give the second line some much-needed board presence. He’s a non-stop worker, likes the tough areas, boasts an historically unbelievable shooting percentage IIRC, and makes less than 3M a year. He’s gotta be 35, but his counting numbers haven’t waned a bit. He’s not a true sniper, but he gets the puck in the net.

    10. Just say no to Spezza. Why would anyone get him to play with Hemmer? He’s a RH shot, and thinks pass first. He’s a good fit for Penner, who is no Heatley. Trading for Spezza would be a massive error.

    I woud like to take this opp-ortunity to thank the gods at Sportsnet for choosing Quinn over Loubardias next year.

  4. Ducey says:

    Half of this team just got out of diapers. The goal has to be to build a contender for the cup 2 or three years from now. I don’t mind adding a young player that will develop along with the rest. I will be real confused if they trade core young guys for a Jagr type.

    Unless it is a free agent, it is better to add a “hired gun” at the deadline. At that time, Lowe will will know better if its necessary and what he needs – grit, sniper, goalie, Dman? And it will cost less than it will right now.

  5. Black Dog says:

    agree with you Ducey – only reason to trade a kid is for another kid – goal here is 2010-2012 springs

  6. Dennis says:

    The main reason to believe that Lowe doesn’t fully believe in the kids is that he’s talking all this “one-shot scorer” smack.

    The only way Cogs ISN’T part of this package is if we pick up a suspect contract. OTOH, if we’re picking up a legit guy, we’re sending out legit guys in the process. Cogs will be first and then it’s Raffi, Stoll or Pitkanen depending on the depth chart of the team we’re dealing with.

    And you know, I’m as sick and cognizant as the next guy of how we’ve missed the playoffs in three of the last four years and four in the last six but I don’t want to jump and move Cogs unless we’re getting back some real value. I ride LT’s coattails when I talk about how many years 83 has left; but, fuck, we can afford to go one more year on a partial rebuild.

    Besides, I don’t think there are a lot of these one-shot scorers kicking around.

  7. ClaytonMagnet says:

    Cheechoo anyone?

  8. Kara says:

    Cheechoo is 27. J. Staal is 19. Staal is going to be Zetterberg 2.0. And he’s only turning 20 this summer. When does he enter his RFA year? Next season?

    I would love to see Lowe push hard for him. Move Stoll, get Staal.

  9. Lord Bob says:

    7. “Hi, Mr. Shero. What would it take to get your Jordan Staal cap problem off your hands? Cogliano and Torres and a good pick you say? Done.”

    A cap problem is only a problem if nobody else wants him, and there are probably twenty-nine GMs who’d be quite happy to trade for Jordan Staal. Let’s not kid ourselves that we could lowball Shero on a promising kid just because the finances don’t add up.

    Yes, I think we’d all like to see the Oilers get Jordan Staal for a bargain price just because he’s coming up on a paycheque. While he’s up, maybe he can bring in Mike Richards for Mathieu Roy and the rights to Gord Mark.

  10. Ribs says:

    Geez LT. I almost pissed my pants when I saw the Jagr pic up there. He’s been my favourite NHL player for a long, long, time now and seeing him in Oiler silks would be fantastic.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to throw Gagner in there at center on that 1st line with Jags and Hemmer. A center who can win draws is very important for any line with Jagr on it (I’m sure Hemsky likes puck posession as well).

    I’ve often wondered of how Jagr would impact an Oilers team. On the downside he needs to eat up minutes to be most effective. This last season he’s shown that he can play a different game though. Renney got him to buy into a team game and I’m sure MacT could do the same (he certainly has a way with players). Whether or not he’d try it again after he was the only Ranger not named the King to show up for the playoffs is another question.

    Jagr has been trying to lead a team to the Stanley Cup for a long time now. He refuses to be purely complimentary ala Teemu Selanne. How many cups could he have won with better teams? So, would he fit in the dressing room? I’m not sure. His leadership role would fall in line with a guy like Kovalev for Montreal….Well I guess that is turning out not too bad for them…

    Hemsky could learn a great deal from Jagr. Including when to shoot the puck. That alone is worth something.

    The power play would be sick. Jagr and Hemsky manning the side boards and Souray and Stoll on the points would be deadly.

    I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but damn. It doesn’t sound like his woman would favour moving to Siberia anyway.

    Three cheers going out to Fernando Pisani. He may have not won the award but his achievements are surely appreciated amongst all of Oildom.

  11. RiversQ says:

    …and Souray and Stoll on the points would be deadly.

    I doubt that. A pointman who can do little else but shoot the puck isn’t really very effective at all.

    Personally I don’t think either player handles the puck well at the point. Stoll probably takes and gives a pass better than Souray does, but he’s still no better than middle of the road.

    I think MTL has spent two years showing you can can shelter one guy that’s solely a shooter and excel on the PP, but they haven’t shown you can hide two.

  12. RiversQ says:

    Two scoring lines are a distant bell in the tight NW division, where the Oilers were the top scoring team in 07-08.

    Wrong.

    The Oilers were not the top scoring NW division team.

    They were tied for third with Minnesota with 220 GF.

    CGY had 226 and COL had 224.

  13. Ribs says:

    Personally I don’t think either player handles the puck well at the point. Stoll probably takes and gives a pass better than Souray does, but he’s still no better than middle of the road.

    With Jagr and Hemsky along the boards I doubt they’d have to do much more than shoot the puck.

    I suppose if you really needed to shelter them the worst you’d have is two power play lines with two excellent play makers and two guys who can boom it.

  14. Master Lok says:

    I agree with the others – I see very little point in trading away Cogliano for a veteran this season. I think there’s upside to Cogliano – and as more than Marchant, and I’d to see how that develops for him as an Oiler.

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