Upgrade the Blue

Yesterday (in the post Playoff Team?) I posted “Denis Grebeshkov is going to be very important to this defense. With Sheldon Souray and Ladislav Smid playing LD, Grebeshkov is likely to be the top option at EVs and will be paired with either Staios, Viznovsky or Gilbert. Another D should be on the shopping list.”

Now that Marian Hossa is in Detroit (and this is still Hemsky’s team), it’s time to take a long look at this team moving forward and ask a question:

Which column will keep this team from the second season: GF or GA.

I think it’s goals against. The Oilers have some nice things offensively and have two more weapons (Visnovsky and Cole) to use with the man advantage. If we make a quick depth chart by forward position, like this:

  • C: Horcoff, Gagner, Brodziak, Pouliot
  • L: Cole, Penner, Cogliano, Moreau
  • R: Hemsky, Nilsson, Pisani, Stortini

There are some concerns but they’re not on the wings anymore. My main issue was health on LW, but Cole addresses that and Moreau will last until he gets hurt and the Oilers will have to make to with a 3line of Brodziak-Cogliano-Pisani or move Cole to the 3line (which is what I’m hoping for in the fall). Center lacks experience but my guess is Marty Reasoner gets signed when the Oildrop, so up front they look pretty damn good idling in the driveway. Fair?

The blue is the spot that needs the green. The depth chart has two nice younger regulars (Grebeshkov, Gilbert) along with two veterans (Souray, Staios) who can play minutes outside the powerplay. The new PP monster (Visnovsky) will play a lot at EVs but I don’t see a history of toughline minutes. Smid is a guy who is working his way up the depth chart by sundial but I like his future.

Craig MacTavish was talking to Jason Gregor today and (among other things) said that he was fairly set in his D pairings. Here are the LD-RD estimates:

  • Grebeshkov, Souray, Smid
  • Staios, Gilbert, Visnovsky

My own feeling is that the Grebeshkov-Gilbert pairing will end up being the de facto #1 group against heavy lifting, but there’s no replacement for NHL experience and Souray and Staios are the longest serving NHLers. Visnovsky is likely to play plenty of PP minutes obviously get plenty of time at EVs.

The Oilers puck movers (Grebeshkov, Gilbert, Visnovsky) now equal the tough nuts (Souray, Staios, Smid) and I think we can agree that the defenders with the widest variety of skills (Grebeshkov, Gilbert) are at a nice age and will be the leaders of this blueline in a very few years (should they stay).

Anyway, I think they need help on defense. In a way, not signing Hossa may have been dodging a bullet. Among the UFA’s, Desjardins suggests we look at Marek Malik at Jaroslav Modry and Jason Smith would be a popular choice, but it’s probably best to pursue some help via the trade route.

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37 Responses to "Upgrade the Blue"

  1. andy grabia says:

    Smid is a “tough nut?” Relative to what? Stortini?

  2. andy grabia says:

    but it’s probably best to pursue some help via the trade route.

    This just makes me think of Tyler’s criticism, that Lowe makes great trades and terrible free agent offerings.

  3. Lowetide says:

    Smid is a tough nut, but only after the whistle.

  4. misfit says:

    Re: Smid
    It’s like someone hypnotized him, and now every time he hears a whistle blow, he thinks he’s a badger.

  5. CrazyCoach says:

    LT,

    I keep closing my eyes and hoping that when I open them the nightmare known as Sheldon Souray will disappear.

    Please make it stop now……

  6. Lowetide says:

    I think Smid’s problem is that he has no one dominant skill. He’s a good skater, can be tough but only when it occurs to him (it’s clearly not a natural reaction), can lug the thing and he can pass the puck.

    He’s getting over his little “I’m in over the blueline now what the hell do I do” but it’s a pretty slow process.

  7. misfit says:

    Smid has improved quite a bit since his first year in the league, but IMO, he’s still about 2 years away from being a guy we can really start to count on.

    He won’t be playing with Gilbert, and having a vetran guy like Staios or Vishnovsky to his right can only mean good things for his development.

    However, it’s CRITICAL that we get the Grebeshkov from the last half of the season all year, or we’re going to be in a lot of trouble.

  8. DBO says:

    So with the love in at the press conference should we just sign jason Smith, get a veteran heavy lifter in the Peca mould to play the thrid line (not named Marty Reasoner) and go to war with this team? If Stortini wants too much then sign a true tough guy (Mathieu Roy maybe?). MacT had glowing comments about Schremp and how he’s finally doing the things he needs to make the step. So maybe a third line with Brule, Pouliot and Schremp wouldn’t be horrible and have a Stortini/tough guy who can step in to play 40-50 games when needed.

  9. RiversQ says:

    The Oilers could use a dman, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat defensively. Personally I’d like to see the forwards get a little more solid first.

    They gave away Torres, lost Glencross and sent Stoll out the door. So far Erik Cole is the only acquisition up top. As much as the kids are a year older and better, Moreau is a year older and if Reasoner comes back he’s a year older too.

    I just worry that they won’t have the puck enough and keep it in the other end long enough for the dmen to really matter that much.

  10. Lowetide says:

    MacT did say something nice about Schremp, I forgot about that. Schremp’s a guy who really has a chance to grab that 4line LW job that belonged to Glencross imo.

    I think Moreau starts the season there, but Schremp might be perfectly positioned to grab it if/when Moreau is injured.

  11. Lowetide says:

    RQ: That ship has sailed. The Oilers have the following forwards who are locked in for next season:

    1. Horcoff
    2. Penner
    3. Hemsky
    4. Gagner
    5. Cole
    6. Nilsson
    7. Cogliano
    8. Moreau
    9. Pisani
    10. Brodziak

    Pouliot isn’t a lock and Stortini apparently think’s he’s Gretzky. But that’s your 9 right there.

    Very young faces in Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson and Brodziak. I think Cogliano and Brodziak are going to be excellent two-way players and Gagner is going to be outstanding in his way but much of this season is going to be about the kids.

    No getting away from it.

  12. DBO says:

    They are going to replay the MacT interview on team 1260 in the next few minutes.

  13. Islandlife says:

    misfit said…
    Re: Smid
    It’s like someone hypnotized him, and now every time he hears a whistle blow, he thinks he’s a badger.

    Hoping to be a Wolverine?

  14. HBomb says:

    Here’s a couple ideas:

    1) Brendan Shanahan
    2) Ruslan Fedotenko

    Gritty LW’s, both with a bit of scoring pop. Or, in Shanahan’s case, a Hall of Fame level of scoring pop.

    Either in the 3LW spot with Cogliano and Pisani to their right would be a nice UFA add.

    I say chase Fedotenko and try to track down a UFA d-man bargain while you’re at it.

    And if not one of those two games, there’s plenty of options out there for the LW. Unless it’s Jagr, I do NOT want one of the high end guys, that’s for sure.

  15. Jonathan says:

    It’s pretty much a toss-up as to which hole is bigger right now: 3rd line centre or tough-minutes defender. Malik and Sauer were the two guys I wanted on July 1st; someone from that mold (and the meaner the better) would be great on the backend, but I think whoever we get needs to play LD, making Smid the #7D.

    Curtis Brown would be an interesting bargain signing for a 3rd/4th line role, but any kind of Peca-style vet (again, the meaner the better) would really solidify this team. With that lineup, I’d say there’s four lines capable of outscoring or at least breaking even, and a nice balanced defensive group.

    Not that any of that will happen, as Lowe inks Huselius to a 6-yr/36-million dollar contract and ships Pisani away for Petr Taticek.

  16. Jonathan says:

    If, on the other hand the Oilers pick up a RW, what about slotting Gagner between the RW and Cole and facing second toughest minutes, while leaving the Horpensky line to face the real power?

  17. Lowetide says:

    Jonathan: The problem is what if he struggles? Last season MacT let the horses run free and damned if they didn’t catch lightning in a bottle.

    But when kids slump they go backwards in a quick hurry, especially if they’re being asked to do things they’re too inexperienced to do well.

  18. Coach pb9617 says:

    I think Smid’s problem is that he has no one dominant skill.

    Which means that with his overall skill level he’s going to be a dominant d-man when he grows up.

  19. RiversQ says:

    Lowetide said…
    RQ: That ship has sailed.

    Probably true.

    Unless I’m massively underestimating the improvement of the kids then this isn’t really a playoff year. (I’d have to be wrong about their -27 GD last year reflecting reality more than the accumulated points)

    Of course if that’s the argument for not improving the forwards, then it works equally well for leaving the D as is. Might as well throw another rook in the deep end on top of it.

    Like I finally mentioned over at IOF – at least everything is still in line for 09/10 after the major deals. As long as Lowe keeps that together I won’t be terribly disappointed.

  20. Lowetide says:

    coach: That’s why I think you keep him until he absolutely fails. Oilers track record under MacT hasn’t been stellar when developing young D imo but this guy has all the tools.

    RQ: How many young D can you develop properly at one time? Gilbert is through to the other side and Greene is gone (previous generation of D under MacT would be Bergeron and Semenov) with Smid and probably Peckham or Chorney next in line.

    I think the Oilers could easily add someone and still see the 7D (Smid) play 50+ games.

    Injuries have killed this blueline over the last couple of years, and it started with a lack of depth and experience entering TC.

  21. Coach pb9617 says:

    coach: That’s why I think you keep him until he absolutely fails. Oilers track record under MacT hasn’t been stellar when developing young D imo but this guy has all the tools.

    I honestly look at the kid and see Timmonen when he’s all grows up. Do not let him go.

    As for bringing in another Dman, that was my line even during the Hossa signings and I still like it.

    Considering the frailty of blueliners in this league, the 7th guy gets around 40 games a year on every team except those that get deep in the playoffs. So you bring someone in and let Smid get his time, or he doesn’t and the team gets deep.

    Win win, especially with the cap room to play with and Roloson’s cash coming off next year to use towards reups or extensions, plus you have a real asset in Staios that you can move if necessary, since a young Smid should be equal to Staios before he matures. Then bring on one of the younguns to fill Smid’s spot.

    Lordy, that Sauer deal looks sooooo sweet. So does the Melichar deal and the Eaton deal.

    BRING BACK JAN HEDJA!

  22. RiversQ says:

    RQ: How many young D can you develop properly at one time?

    I dunno, how bad does it have to get before they stop learning?

    Would better forwards make it easier on the young dmen in question?

    Visnovsky, Staios, Gilbert and Grebeshkov seems like a workable top two pair to me. I don’t disagree that Jason Smith or someone like him would make the team better, but I think a larger impact would be made with a decent forward than another 3rd pairing dman.

    I can’t stand Smid down low without the puck, but he’ll be fine in the 3rd pairing. As long as he’s sheltered a little he probably won’t need a babysitter anymore either.

  23. DBO says:

    So looking at third line centre/w and tough defenseman does anyone have someone they want without breaking the bank? I guess if you sign Jagr, you can move Cole to the third line with Cogs and Pisani, then all is well, but no money for a vet dman.
    So that in mind this is who I would like to see:
    C/W – Jason Williams from Chicago. he’s coming off an injury but he had a solid year going, and could be a player that fits the Stoll role for close to $2.5 million (or will he get more?)
    D – I still like the idea of 2 years of Jason Smith teaching Smid how to be a nasty SOB all of the time, not just after the whistle. I think you can get Smith for $2 million.
    then no Reasoner, the kids still get a shot (in Schremp and Pouliot for a 4th line role) and Stortini can sit at home for all i care.

    So lines being:
    Horc – Hemsky – Penner
    Gagner – Nilsson – Cole
    cogs – Williams – Pisani
    Brod – Moreau – Pouliot/Stortini

    Smith – Vish (Smith’s best year was with Pronger, who made all the offensive plays)
    Greb – Gilbert
    Souray – Staios
    Smid

    I think that is a playoff team, injuries aside of course.

  24. DBO says:

    Columbus desperate for anyone, has signed Huselius to a four year deal worth $4.75 million per year.

    Howson has to spend money to get to the cap floor, so I guess overpaying for Huselius can be somehwat excused. Guess he learned too much from kevin lowe in the UFA signings,

  25. Lowetide says:

    Well there’s one guy you trade Souray for now.

  26. Dennis says:

    My Mourning Jackets?;)

    It’s probably somewhat to the point where hardly anyone wants to go to CBJ in the first place but with news that Howson vowed not to be outbid for Redden, today’s offloading of Zherdev and the awarding of the moon to Huselsis, well I just don’t know anymore.

    The two things the Oilers could use right now are a second tough min pivot to compliment Horc — Peca would be the obvious choice — and someone better than Souray at evens and for about two mill less or more.

    The edm papers and radio shows are on fire but no one’s talking about the fact that we don’t have an experienced centre to go behind Horc.

    JUst to finish on the D, I doubt the Oilers would start the season with Smid as a 7th but Gator back half-cheap wouldn’t be a bad idea because you know that Souray’s a pretty good bet to miss time and thus necessitate having another D around not named Roy.

  27. YKOil says:

    I like Tjarnqvist.

    And Malik.

  28. RiversQ says:

    What is Morrison going to sign for?

    Vasicek would be a good one I think, although I imagine Hunter was stirring the drink because he’s a very good player.

    YK, why do you like Tjarnqvist so much, besides the price? I assume he’ll be looking at no more than $750K/yr. His numbers do look Thoresen-like in that he’s very low event.

  29. James Mirtle says:

    What is Morrison going to sign for?

    Too much, apparently. Some teams are dropping out already.

  30. RiversQ says:

    James Mirtle said…
    What is Morrison going to sign for?

    Too much, apparently. Some teams are dropping out already.

    That leaves Vasicek I guess.

    YK: I read your entry on Tjarnqvist on your blog. I guess I was right about where you were headed – he’s basically Thoresen and dirt cheap.

  31. Mike says:

    Dennis,

    Nice MMJ reference. Z is a phenomenal album. I hear their new one is an acquired taste…

  32. Asiaoil says:

    Smid will be fine and it’s clear that this mgmt team think so as well given who was traded this week. I have my beefs with how ht eteam is run but anyone who thinks they know more than Lowe/Huddy/MacT about dmen is delusional. In one more year Smid will be a very nice compliment to Lubo. Defensemen like Smid who don’t bring offense take a lot of crap early in their career – mostly because learning to be a top pair shutdown guy takes time – no getting around it. But Smid has a huge head start as he’s going into his 4th pro season and he’s still only 22. I figure he needs one more year of bottom pair time – but at some point early in the new year I predict the light goes on. He’s a beauty….but you’ve got to be patient with this type of player.

    As for the forward – sure overpay Peca for one year or just run with the kids. We have a massive amount of depth at center – but a lot of it is young or at the cusp:

    Horcoff
    Gagner
    Cogs
    MAP
    Brodziak
    Schremp
    Brule
    Nash
    Eberle

    Peca on a one year is fine or just bring back Reasoner for mostly PB duty as insurance – but it may be a good year to find out what MAP or Brodziak can do between Pisani and Moreau.

  33. YKOil says:

    On Tjarnqvist rivq:

    Here is the big trick – he is a 6’2″ and 200lb version of Thoreson.

    So he is big. He is solid defensively. He is cheap. Is 29 years old, has 173 NHL games played now and a whack of international stuff as well.

    The potential for him to be a 4th line outperformer is almost guaranteed but what is important is that he has a real chance to do more if called upon (say 3rd line stuff) and STILL do well.

    I really, really like players who show that kind of profile.

    And, to add my voice to a choir – Vasicek is also the real deal imo.

    I am becoming convinced that Lowe and Co. are so into the flash that they are starting to not mind the store. I expect that Howson would be well primed to sign a pair like Vasicek and Tjarnqvist.

  34. Dennis says:

    Mike: The first time I saw MMJ, they were doing “One Big Holiday” on Conan. After that, I got into them but I haven’t heard their new disc yet.

    I liked Backman more before he became a Rag and Tyutin has some impressive numbers but when you look at guys like Hejda, Finger and Sauer, it’s easier to find a D to keep hsi head above water than to find a scorer and playmaker like Zherdev.

  35. dwillms says:

    Veteran center, solid two-way player, looking to sign a 1 or 2 year deal. As a sentimental favorite of mine, how about Sergei Fedorov?

    He had a nice run with the Caps after being picked up at the deadline, and played well in the World Championships for Russia.

    Too bad he’s looking for something close to $4 mil, because he’d be a nice pickup at half that price.

  36. Lowetide says:

    dwillms: Fedorov’s a beauty player.
    Desjardins says he was playing against mid-level talent, but had awful linemates.

    Would he be any good with Ethan and Moreau? Is it too late for him to fill that kind of role?

  37. five says:

    First off as it stands, the oil should stay set on how it is
    line-up being
    Horc-pen-Hem
    nil-gag-cog
    cole-brod-schremp
    more-reas-pis

    i tried it in Nhl08 and the chemistry seems to work.
    there will be no more trades to come unless maybe adding a jagr to the top line and putting a few contracts on waivers or even trading the rights of Brule, Pouliot and stort for some draft picks. our defence is solid… and i dont think mact’s intenet is to put Souray handling nothing less then top 2 line responsibilities

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