Shoot the Moon

The Edmonton Oilers under Steve Tambellini play their cards closer to the vest than we’re used to but they’re not going to be a boring management group. In fact, I believe they’re about to shoot the moon. I’m not certain it’s the wise decision but today’s events probably lay the groundwork for one or two big moves in the next couple of weeks.

Steve Tambellini’s trade of Kyle Brodziak for picks addresses the end of the roster. We’re talking about forwards 10-14 here, with the team still having plenty of candidates for the roles (Stortini, Pouliot, Jacques, Brule, MacIntyre, Reddox, Potulny, Schremp) although none are as qualified as the man they sent away.

I think Quinn’s 4th line will be an 8-minute a night “energy line” with Brule, Jacques and Stortini doing the job Bob Kelly, Don Saleski and Orest Kindrachuk did 30 years ago. Aggressive, demons on the forecheck, explosive hitters, contact-finishers. Pouliot might be a better candidate for the Kindrachuk role, but then again maybe he isn’t.

The 3line is probably going to be someone like Blair Betts centering Ethan Moreau and Fernando Pisani, which get us to the top 6 forwards. The Oilers have plenty of candidates:

  1. Ales Hemsky
  2. Shawn Horcoff
  3. Dustin Penner
  4. Sam Gagner
  5. Andrew Cogliano
  6. Patrick O’Sullivan
  7. Robert Nilsson
  8. Ales Kotalik (UFA)

I’ve listed Nilsson here but he’s in real trouble. My guess is that he has negative value now, not quite the “garbage barge” the city of New York sent out to sea under cover of night but not exactly in a good place either. Kotalik could be brought in if the Oilers send away a couple of players from the top 6 (above) but it’s not a certainty.

We know from discussions over the past week or so (Heatley sweepstakes) that the team is hesitant to deal Gagner or Cogliano. We also know the team has stated on numerous occasions they’re looking for a complementary player for Ales Hemsky so that’s three players who are in. Dustin Penner probably has value in some deals (Bryan Murray likes him) but it’s a tough nut to crack in the cap world.

Which leaves us with Shawn Horcoff and Patrick O’Sullivan.

The Oilers also have a huge hole in goal. Jason Gregor and Guy Flaming have both talked in recent days about the organization’s belief in Jeff Deslauriers as an NHL goalie. Reading the tea leaves, it seems as though they’re going to count on him for 20+ games this season and the new starter is unlikely to be a $3M+ option. Josh Harding may be too inexperienced to be part of a tandem with the extremely raw Deslauriers so there’s a chance we’re looking at a Martin Biron or a Craig Anderson.

Here’s a really quick glance at the Oilers picks in the 2009 entry draft.

  1. RD1, 10th overall: L Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson. Top winger available in the draft fell into the Oilers laps at #10. Immediately the best player in the system and represents a big part of this team’s future. Already playing pro hockey.
  2. RD2, 40th overall: C Anton Lander. Two-way center is Magnum PS’s linemate and a quality prospect. Words like “character” and “work ethic” are woven into his scouting report and overall this is viewed as a quality pick. Already playing in pro hockey.
  3. RD3, 71st overall: D Troy Hesketh. Defender grew a couple of inches late and rode a gathering buzz into the 3rd round. From Minnetonka HS, he will eventually find his way to Wisconsin (NCAA) but has to be considered a long term project. Unlikely to see pro hockey until 2012 (or later).
  4. RD3, 82nd overall: R Cameron Abney. Knuckle-dragger. He can skate and is an exceptional fighter. If this was the 1970′s he’d have a career. Turned 18 in May, unlikely to see pro hockey until 2011.
  5. RD 4, 99th overall. D Kyle Bigos. A big, bruising defender who is strong along the wall and in front of the net. Has an exceptional shot. He’ll attend Merrimack (NCAA) this fall and is 20 years old. Could turn pro in 2011 or 2012.
  6. RD 4, 101st overall. R Toni Rajala. 19 points in 6 games at the U18 WJC’s. Fiesty player, scored well in Fin (Jr) and he sounds like a better Tony Salmelainen. Plays tough despite lack of size. Turns 20 in 2011, but could turn pro in the SM-LIIGA much sooner.
  7. RD 5, 133rd overall. G Olivier Roy. Fine athlete, quick glove, extremely competitive. Despite draft position looks like a quality prospect. Should turn pro in 2011.

I like this draft very much overall. The two Swedes, the Finn and the kid from the Q is a nice haul and the two defenders (Hesketh and Bigos) are long shots who could work out. Abney provides a specific skill and as such has value, my issue isn’t with his selection but rather the round his name was called by the Oilers.

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