Respect the Cluster

Last night Kevin Prendergast gave the clearest indication yet that the Edmonton Oilers are moving on from the Dany Heatley soap opera. Quoting KP (courtesy Dan Tencer): “I think we’ve given up hope on the Heatley scenario; but, I guess it’s not dead in the water. But, at this point, it looks like we’ll go to camp with the same team we finished with last year outside of a new goaltender. I think at this point, it’s pretty evident what’s going to happen. But, we haven’t closed the door on the whole issue yet.”

Reading the tea leaves, I think we can safely say Heatley is staying in Ottawa or heading to an NHL city not named Edmonton.

Which is a really good thing. I’m not coming late to the party on this, in my opinion trading for Dany Heatley (by giving up important parts of the young cluster) would have been a mistake. I entered the summer hoping Edmonton would be able to add a free agent scorer (my hope was Gaborik) and then fill in with a veteran R and D plus suss out the goalie situation.

Steve Tambellini (so far) has acquired a goalie (Nikolai Khabibulin) and sent away Kyle Brodziak. This is not in keeping with my template and it’s sure as hell not in keeping with his (a new GM has a short window of opportunity to show his acumen and Tambellini looks for all the world like the kid driving the Ford Falcon and losing the girl to the guy in the Barracuda) based on his spring press conference that sent Craig MacTavish away.

The most important item as I see it is keeping the cluser intact. From Ales Hemsky at the top end to Sam Gagner at the bottom, the Oilers have a nice collection of players who could exceed their contracts in 2009-10. Added to the veterans who are getting paid (Horcoff, Moreau, Pisani, Souray, Visnovsky, Staios, Khabibulin) this club should be able to add a few parts and then contend for the second season. Let’s list the young cluster:

  • Ales Hemsky, Tom Gilbert (26)
  • Denis Grebeshkov (25)
  • Patrick O’Sullivan, Robert Nilsson, JF Jacques, Marc Pouliot, Zack Stortini (24)
  • Ladislav Smid (23)
  • Andrew Cogliano (22)
  • Sam Gagner (20)

Now, let’s compare that young cluster to the group in the same bracket who play for the Calgary Flames:

  • Jay Bouwmeester, Curtis Glencross, Eric Nystrom, Fredrick Sjostrom (26)
  • Marc Giordano (25)
  • Dion Phaneuf, Nigel Dawes (24)
  • Dustin Boyd (23)

The Flames have added heavily (and smartly) to this cluster during the summer and the Oilers attempted to subtract heavily. Over the last several years Calgary has been the superior club and they’ve most certainly had a superior summer.

Dany Heatley would be a short term fix and would subtract from the future. Not to the extent that Calgary adding Bouwmeester did, but certainly enough to tip the scales from the point they were before the deal with Florida.

Kevin Lowe set this team on a rebuilding course the moment he traded Chris Pronger for kids and had no plan to replace Pronger’s minutes on the big club. Moving off course, divorcing the kids aged 20-26 and the ones coming up now would be an extremely poor bet. We’ve seen what Jarome Iginla can do to a generation of Oilers-Flames games, but the promise of Gagner, Cogliano and Hemsky and Gilbert is that a new day is just around the corner. Start messing with that and we’ll be hoping for 8th place forever. Surely there’s a better way.

I’m fine with the Khabibulin signing–it’s just money. I’m fine with dealing Brodziak because he wanted more money–his skill set is replaceable. But leave the main components of the cluster alone: Hemsky, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, possibly O’Sullivan and certainly Cogliano and Gagner.

The Oilers have not had a good summer, there were better moves to be made. However, I’m thrilled that Cogliano is still an Oiler and look forward to seeing how much better he and the others will be when they mature into actual NHL players. The failed Heatley deal along with a solid draft featuring a “manna from heaven” moment in the first round are strong arrows in the right direction. These moves stand for staying the course, building through the draft and not sending away kids in the “Miro Satan as an Oiler” phase of their careers.

Respect the cluster.

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68 Responses to "Respect the Cluster"

  1. Mr DeBakey says:

    Once a player has gone to arbitration,
    is he still open for offer sheets?

  2. Lowetide says:

    Of course you're right. I'll correct it.

  3. boopronger says:

    And you've given me hope again LT. Damn you.

  4. B.C.B. says:

    I don't think so DeBakey, which is why the Flyers brought Pitkanen to arbitration before they traded him to the Oil.

    LT, the problem with 'respecting the cluster' is that that group will not reach their prime at the same time (say 27 to 30 years old). The gap between the oldest and youngest is just too great: i.e. when Hemsky and Gilbert are leaving it (31), Gagner will still be only 25 and Cogs will just be entering his prime (at 27).

    Tambo needs to identify what is the core of the cluster: where are the best players (qualitatively) and where is most of the core (quantitatively). I would put this at the group between 24 and 26: Hemmer, Gilbert, Grebs, Patty O, Nilsson, JFJ, Poo, and Zorg. Which has Cogs, Smid, and Gags looking into this window: one of these players needs to be held on to for the future, but the other two should be traded to bring in more talent into the 'core of the cluster'. If this high-impact player is between the ages of 24-26 then the window to win is in about 2 or 3 years (and should last another 2-3). If this star is between 26-27, then the window is 2010-11 to 12-13.

    The Cluster doesn't help us win, it is just to wide: either we need to build the core of the cluster around Hemsky or around Gagner. Not Both.

  5. Lowetide says:

    BCB: Then if you're going to make a deal that involves Cogliano or Gagner, then the player must have a wide range of skills. This is a supreme weakness on the current roster.

    I also believe the Oilers would be foolish to trade Gagner or Cogliano before we know their outer marker.

    Dany Heatley doesn't make this team a Cup contender. If they can find someone who can (a complete player) then the Oilers might have something.

  6. Schitzo says:

    B.C.B.: Like, say, Bouwmeester?

  7. Rick says:

    I'm all for leaving Heatley as it is, but the idea that the Oilers are going to camp with the same group of skaters that played so poorly last year is a massive cop-out by management.

    And that same group will be missing a 20 goal scorer in Kotalik.

    I can understand going after an impact player like Heatley, but when you don't get him, try to improve the team elsewhere, don't stand pat…

    Unless Tambo changes his mind or one of the kids or draftees steps up in a big way, this will be a long season.

  8. B.C.B. says:

    LT: while I have been in favour of trading for Heatley, my issues with the Cluster is not related. I was pointing out the issues I saw with the Cluster you identitfied.

    I think the Oil-Braintrust sees Heatley as a key part of a cluster. He falls on the upper end of the 'core of the cluster' I identified: which would push the window for competing in the second season to 2010-11 to 2011-12, since this would be the only opportunity that has both Heatley and Hemsky in their primes. This fits into their plan of getting the Bulin wall, since his contract expires near the end of the window. And fits their win now, while building for the future strategy: we, theoretically, make the playoffs with a real first line, but are not expected to compete for about two or three years (saving Tambo's job, and fitting a slightly-realistic timeline).

    I am not agreeing with this strategy, but just say what I see going on. I personally think the best strategy going forward is adding an elite (or close to it) player ages of 24-26 to grow with the 'core of the cluster' and try to win sometime after 2011-12. Players I think that would fit this category: Dustin Brown (24), Ilya Kovalchuk (26), Frolov (26), Derek Roy (26), or Nathan Horton (24).

    PS: My reasons for getting Heatley is solely to demonstrate to Hemskey that we are willing to get him a first rate line mate, and put him in a position to succeed. I just want to see them play together, and their is no long term strategy here at all. I live in southern Ontario and when Leafs fans make fun of you for losing it is hard to take.

  9. B.C.B. says:

    Schitzo: Yes, like, Bouwmeester!

  10. boopronger says:

    lets give Tambo till training camp though. Its better management says they stand pat, and then end up suprising by making the right trade, then Lowe saying stuff life "your going to see 6-8 new faces on the club" or "I can see us winning the division".

    Better just to keep your mouth shut and do your job.

  11. Lowetide says:

    I'm okay with a wide cluster (20-26) as long as the young end can contribute. We're not certain about Cogliano but based on Gagner's progress season over season I'd say he should be a positive player in the next couple of seasons.

    Gagner is a key component, in fact I'd stop just short (Hemsky) of saying THE key. When he starts punishing the lesser pitching he's seeing, Gagner will perform.

    The caveat is that we don't know how Quinn will use him.

  12. DanMan says:

    There are some pretty nice talents in this cluster.

    My only concern is the lack of size and toughness of our young guys in the top 9.

    If we could replace, say, Andrew Cogliano with a Dustin Byfuglien or David Backes, I would be extremely happy with our young forwards.

    Also Grebbert are lacking some physicality as well. The Oilers of the late 90's took pride in having some really punishing defenders like Mush and Richardson.

    Smid took some great strides in that area last year, but man do I miss Matt Greene. I went to the SJ-EDM game in 07-08 (the last game Horc played that year) and MG was our best player. But he wasn't really even playing hockey, he was just fighting players. He got away with punching guys in the head 3 or 4 times, I LOVED that!

  13. oilerdago says:

    If this team were just one piece away from really competing the trade for Heatley might have made sense.

    But there are so many holes to be filled that you have to protect your core assets (the cluster as you say LT). Well said.

    Right now I'm not convinced the team will be get to the 2nd season this year because other than the young kids maturing, nothing has substantially changed for the short term.

    But trading your future for a present that "might" get you to the first round and no further is bad management – and my big issue with the Oilers senior people the last 2 seasons. It really makes me question what anyone there is thinking.

  14. DanMan says:

    olierdago, you are almost contradicting yourself.

    If we are more than just one player away, why even try to win now?

    I would understand if we had a lot of cap room, by all means fill the roster with veteran NHLers.

    But we dont have the cap room. You HAVE TO bank on our young players developing, there is no other option at this point.

    Nobody wants to give up Cogliano or Gagner. But the harsh reality is if we make a trade for a proven veteran scorer, one of those 2 is gone.

    Other GM's aren't stupid. We cant trade Pisani, Staois, Nilsson, or Penner. It just wont happen.

  15. The Rage says:

    Great article but I vehemently disagree with the "just money" part. Is it just money when we have to jettison a member of that cluster because a retired or broken down Khabibullin is taking up cap space?

  16. Lowetide says:

    The Rage: Excellent point and I agree. Having said that, Khabibulin's contract won't be impossible to move even if he falls apart and requires a walker 18 months down the line.

    The NHL's cap basement means Khabibulin has a weird backwards value to someone.

  17. Muller says:

    We need changes or this team will not make playoffs.Simple.I'm tired of rebuilding, we need to find someone who can put the puck in the net up front

  18. Lowetide says:

    Muller: I think this team can make the playoffs with a couple of simple moves. If they went out today and signed Molhotra and Betts, then added an inexpensive veteran option at D I'd bet on them.

    If they dealt Smid for that veteran D and saved money elsewhere, adding Biron would be an excellent touch.

    Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky
    Gagner-Cogliano-O'Sullivan
    Malhotra-Moreau-Pisani
    Pouliot-Jacques-Stortini
    Betts-Brule

    Visnovsky-Souray
    Grebeshkov-Gilbert
    Malik-Staios
    Strudwick

    Khabibulin
    Biron

    The Edmonton Oilers management group is ruining an entire generation of fans because the only thing they do all summer is chase big names. If the Oilers management group was in a baseball roto league they'd finish last with 8 all-stars and 14 guys in the minors.

    And they'd be out of money by Mayday.

  19. Boris Frumball says:

    B.C.B. – I can see where you're coming from with regard to the age spread, but you also identified 8 players between 24-26 who you consider the real "cluster." How big does a successful cluster have to be?

    Since the lockout, no Cup-winning team has had 8 players in the 27-30 age group you identify play more than half the playoff games. In fact, only the '09 Wings and '06 Oilers even made it to the last dance with such numbers.

    Gagner at 25 might not have the seasoning of Hemsky at 31, but that hardly means Gagner won't be a valuable contributor. Hell, we just saw a team win the cup with 7 players 25 or younger dress for every game, save the one Letang missed.

    If your whole roster matures at the same time, that also means they all have to get paid around the same time. From where I sit, an Oilers fan shouldn't be too excited about watching the club manage that one.

    However, I agree with those saying that standing pat is a wiser move than taking out a third mortgage for the tail end of Heatley's prime…the Oil are no longer dependent on playoff revenue, they ought to be building a long-term foundation and running at championships a few years from now.

  20. ian says:

    It is entirely possible that Renney and Quinn have studied the current roster and feel that they can make it work and while some minor tinkering may still be involved maybe they are going to give the players the chance to succeed.
    At least until the trade deadline.

  21. Peter says:

    Lowetide: I concur 100% with your assessment. I'm delighted that we're keeping Cogliano. You identified the core exactly. I still have hope for Nilsson, and I'm willing to give Penner one more year. More than stats, I think Penner needs to show up to camp in shape and with some desire. If he's slow, overweight, and passive, he's good as gone next year. Hopefully Tom and Pat can light a fire. I think Nilsson can still be a 1st line winger, but this is his last season to prove it as an Oiler.

    Nilsson-Horcoff-Hemsky
    O'Sullivan-Cogliano-Gagner
    Penner-Pouliot-Pisani
    Moreau-Brule-Stortini
    Jacques

    Gilbert-Grebeshkov
    Visnovsky-Smid
    Souray-Staios
    Strudwick

    I like the balance these lines would have. Scoring throughout the lineup, with a focus on offence rather than match-ups. I realize this will leave us exposed at times, but with the roster as it stands, there aren`t enough true shutdown players to form shut down lines. To try to form a shutdown line without the proper personnel is foolhardy. Play hard, create offence, and provide ice-time for whoever becomes the core group of players, even if it`s at the expense of guys like Moreau and Pisani – great guys who have about 2 years left as useful Oilers before they get overtaken by younger prospects.

  22. oilerdago says:

    DanMan: I think the point I'm trying to make is that you have to give the kids time to grow and you can't keep trading the future for the present – especially when you more than one hole to fill and this one was not going to get you a long playoff run like 2005/06.

    The Heatley trade solves one problem – 1LW.

    But the move handicapped our ability to solve other issues (3C, vet-D) because of the salaries involved. And opens another hole in the roster (3RW or 2RW depending on where you put Cogs).

    It also does nothing to solve the PK.

    That's my frustration.

  23. spOILer says:

    LT, if we are respecting the cluster, I don't get why you would trade Smid, especially after all the at-bats invested.

    We already have 4 over-30s in our top 7 Dmen. And Smid is looking like he's going to be damn good defensively at least,physical and can skate and pass. He's at least a coule of years ahead of Peckham, and teams like the Hawks show you can have some moderate success with a lot of 20 yos on the blue line.

    My problem is that the veteran anchor on the D, Steven Steady, can't handle the big forwards or the big minutes well any more. I think he is going to hurt us on the PK going forward.

    Trading Smid for that guy who can, and retaiing both Staios and Studwick seems counter-productive to the cluster to me.

  24. spOILer says:

    Damn I hate thes laptp keybrds.

  25. DanMan says:

    But oilerdago, there is no perfect world.

    Trades, by their very nature, fill a hole(s) and create hole(s). The reason you make them is one of two things:

    1. You get the best player in the trade

    2. The hole(s) created have at least one guy waiting in the wings to fill it/them.

    The Heatley trade is a 1, and the Brodz deal is a 2.

    I wholeheartedly agree that we need to give kids time to grow, and not worry about winning right away. But then why sign a veteran 3rd line center? Let's develop our own 3rd line center.

    Brule has the entire make-up of a great 3rd line center, but he wont learn how to be one in Springfield.

  26. B.C.B. says:

    Frumball: I don't know if the 'core of the cluster' has to be eight players big, nor would I really consider that all eight of them are the core. I just used the names on LT' list that where between 24-26. But to your point that those eight would all be at payday at the same time is incorrect (IMO): JFJ, Nilsson, Poo, and Stortini will never have the same cap hits as Hemsky, Gags, or Cogs (so that should keep it down).

    Actually your argument against needing players in their prime to win the cup, is an argument against LT's original idea: if teams don't need to have a cluster of talented players entering their prime to compete for the Cup, then why keep the Cluster together at all?

    PS: I don't think comparing PIT to other teams is really useful. Where are the Oilers going to find two young players like Crosby and Malkin? PIT is in another (elite) galaxy right now: only WAS and maybe DET are even close in talent.

  27. PunjabiOil says:

    I hope the Heatley deal comes through. I just can't see Heatley staying in Ottawa. Can anyone?

  28. Lowetide says:

    spOILer: Smid's a guy I trade because he has value but the Oilers have shown an ability to replace that value whenever needed. They can't find a Gagner or a Cogliano easily imo, but a Smid pops up every once in awhile.

    Plus I'm not thrilled with his progress but D men are slow.

  29. rickibear says:

    LT: Thanks for writing on the age gap no one picked up on when I mentioned it end of march.

    Back when i said if we make that core call we should dump.

    Vish
    Souray
    Moreau
    Staios

    Target:

    Seidenberg
    Zannon
    Mara
    Tanguay.

    Ah well!

    Two years from now we will see were our newer prospects are:

    MPS: 17Pts @ 17 in SEL

    Lander: 10 PTS @ 17 IN SEL

    Omark: one of the 14 historical elite U22 SEL scorers.

    Hartikainen: 1 of 3 15+ goal scorers @ 18 IN SM_ligga history.

    Cornet: Leading 18 year old scorer in QMJHL and Top 15. Look at the names of 18 year olds who have done this. SICK!

    Pajarvi: Breaks Ovechkin's U18 record. Look at teh top 10 sorers each year. The nhl Success is sick!

    Eberle: point/GM AHL @ 18.

    How many are not on the team in 11/12.

  30. Black Gold says:

    MPS 6'1" 201
    Lander 6'0 194
    Omark 5'9" 168
    Hartikainen 6'1" 198
    Cornet 6'0" 173
    Eberle 5'10" 174
    Rajala 5'10" 163

    Thats the only problem I see with getting too excited about that group of kids.

    MPS, Lander and Hartikainen are fine, but as we're seeing now with Cogs, Gagner, POS and Nilsson, your top 6 can't be all smurfs. Assuming Gagner is here for a while, you'd have to see maybe all three of Cogs, POS, and Nilsson exit before there's room for any of Eberle, Rajala, Omark or Cornet.

    Nilsson I can see departing sooner than later, but are any of these guys going to be better NHLers than Cogs or POS?

  31. hunter1909 says:

    I've totally stopped worrying or caring about this Oiler team until I see Pat Quinn taking over in September.

    The previous regime didn't know how to tie it's shoes with anything resembling skilled players, as a result anyone with any modicum of scoring talent(read Schremp, Nilsson+ + ++ ) simply found themselves at odds with a coach who in a previous life might as well been the hard drinking defensive line co-ordinator for the Cleveland Browns.

    Thus leaving any of us cynical fans wondering, which one of these skill players are actually any good?

    PS: FUNNIEST JOKE – everyone who talks about finding a "Jarret Stoll" player for the Oilers.

  32. Black Gold says:

    I've totally stopped worrying or caring about this Oiler team until I see Pat Quinn taking over in September.

    You still care, you're still here. :)

  33. hunter1909 says:

    : p

  34. speeds says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that we need to give kids time to grow, and not worry about winning right away. But then why sign a veteran 3rd line center? Let's develop our own 3rd line center.

    Then why sign Khabibulin?

  35. Mr DeBakey says:

    Brule has the entire make-up of a great 3rd line center, but he wont learn how to be one in Springfield.

    Tambellini on Brule replacing Brodziak,
    "But I'm not sure that's exactly what's going to happen to that position"
    His facial expression was much less diplomatic

  36. uni says:

    It'd be funny watching a team of 3 scoring lines comprised of shrimps. If they're supremely skilled, I wonder how effective they can be before they get pounded into the ice.

    That said, here's hoping that Rajala loads up on wheat and Canadian bacon and has a good 4 inch growth spurt this year, and Cornet adds another inch and fills out his frame close to 200lbs.

  37. DanMan says:

    MrDebakey, I would expect that the 3rd line C position be left open and let them fight it out (maybe literally) in TC. It would be foolish for Tambo to write it in stone who his 3rd line C, or any position will be, other than the obvious ones.

    On the issue of our next wave of "the cluster". Our drafting has been pretty crappy. MPS was a great pick, Ann Landers not so much. I look at the guy Nashville took at #41: Zach Budish RW 6'3" 229 lb. This guy hurt his knee playing football and missed the season, but was still projected to go first round. Compared to Keith Tkachuk.

    We have way too many euro-pussies in the system. Black Gold listed most of them. We need some big North-American forwards. Bottom-line.

    I'll give a short list of these types of players that we should have tried to get our hands on:

    David Backes, Dustin Byfuglien, Milan Lucic, Kyle Beach, Budish, Brian Boyle, Akim Aliu (not big now, but has the frame for it), Shawn Matthias, Cal Clutterbuck, James Neal.

  38. DanMan says:

    Do you guys realize that Milan Lucic went 5 spots AFTER Jeff Petry?

    Doesn't that make you just a little bit nauseous knowing we couldv'e had him?

    I see the same thing happeneing with this Budish kid.

  39. Lowetide says:

    DanMan: It's not possible to evaluate Anton Lander at this point. It really isn't. Lucic is a wonderful player but the Oilers have picked a few gems (Hemsky, etc) along the way and imo their drafting is average plus a little bit.

  40. Gerta Rauss says:

    It'd be funny watching a team of 3 scoring lines comprised of shrimps. If they're supremely skilled, I wonder how effective they can be before they get pounded into the ice.

    The Montreal Canadiens play their first game againt Toronto on Oct 1.
    You'll have your answer then.

  41. DanMan says:

    Good point LT, it just becomes frustrating when we pick small euros, or non-physical players when big power forwards with scoring touch are available.

  42. Lowetide says:

    I don't think you can make blanket statements about "small Euro's" though. In fact, I don't think you ever could, anyone who saw Nilsson-Hedberg in Winnipeg knew Europeans had some stones.

    Hemsky isn't big but plays with some abandon and I've some of the North American Oilers curl from contact in my time too. So it's not a hard and fast rule.

    That said, I know exactly what you're talking about and agree this team needs more actual players with sandpaper.

  43. hunter1909 says:

    A 21 year old Marty McSorely would be useful.

  44. DanMan says:

    Your'e right LT, there are exceptions. I really think Hemsky is an abberation, he can take some punishment. I would actually go as far as to say the Sedin (sisters as they are callously referred to) are in that category as well. Forsberg was another guy like that, how his back didn't get broken in half in the late 90's-early 00's I'll never know.

    But on the whole, I would love to see more size up front. Maybe not so much size as toughness, or fearlessness, guys who are willing to pay the price to get the puck from the d-men.

    Although I do think Pat Quinn's ferocious forechecking style will negate some size issues.

  45. Lowetide says:

    DanMan: You would have loved Esa Tikkanen. :-)

  46. DanMan says:

    LT: I did, and I do.

    My favourite team of all time was the 93-94 New York Oile- er, i mean Rangers.

    Steve Larmer was my favourite player of all time. Hard-nosed, deadly wrist shot, stood in front of the net taking so much abuse. Yet he still player 884 consecutive games. Plus, he was good for 35-45 goals year-in year-out.

    I don't think we will ever see another like him.

  47. godot10 says:

    //Good point LT, it just becomes frustrating when we pick small euros, or non-physical players when big power forwards with scoring touch are available.//

    The Oilers have been drafting Coke machines steadily. They just haven't had one "hit" yet. Stortini has covered his selection in that he can probably fill the 4th line RW spot for an extended period of time, but he likely won't be more than that. Jacques is still the great CM hope. Now or never for JFJ.

    P.S. They drafted another Coke machine this year, and were roundly condemned in the blogosphere for wasting a pick. Drafting a Coke machine is almost always a projection, and the pick will almost always look awful at the time.

  48. Lowetide says:

    One of the things we as fans overlook imo is that players can emerge from almost nowhere to become major factors. Reasons include overcoming injury and being buried by an organization and then emerging elsewhere.

    A guy like JF Jacques gets laughed at over at Hockey's Future but this is a player who could most certainly have a career.

    His offense wasn't terribly far off Pouliot and Nilsson early in his pro career.

  49. steve says:

    just to add that Steve Larmer is only 5'10" even though he unarguably possessed the skills you are attributing to the elusive 'coke machine with hands'

  50. bookie says:

    If you go back and listen to Tambi's MacT Firing press conference and listen you can see that he was much less happy with how the team played then he was about how the team was designed. He mentions that they need to get tougher and have more 'compete', but that they can get some of that from the guys that are here.

    It was also clear that he felt that the team was terribly coached and that they needed to return to a more aggressive style of play.

    I think that the plan was/is to go ahead with this bunch, but if they get a chance for a superstar – go for it.

    Thats what I heard anyway…

  51. Lowetide says:

    bookie: They're not going to start the season with this lineup.

  52. Sean says:

    I agree with the overall idea of your post LT (even coming from a guy in the pro-Heatley camp).

    The problem with the Oilers small forwards is that they don't kill penalties that well or excel 5 on 5. That was a big problem for MacT to deal with last season. At the same time I think MacT over-coached a bit which despite last years lack of progress should make them better players long term. Hopefully Quinn/Renney can flip the switch for them because once Gags/Cogs can dominate soft minutes this team should be a playoff team. A solid 2 way forward (I dont even care if its a vet) is essential though. I'm actually thinking someone better than Malholtra so the trade route might be the best option.

  53. Woodguy says:

    The problem with the Oilers small forwards is that they don't kill penalties that well or excel 5 on 5.

    I agree that they were not good on the penalty kill. Part of that problem was rolling 4 forwards instead of 6 though.

    5v5 they were fine last season. I posted the stats below a few days ago in the Pouliot thread:

    Oiler's BTN ratings for 08/09 season

    Goals For/60 5v5 tied 10th w/ 2.9

    Goals Against/60 5v5 tied 14th w/ 2.5

    If you stop there, they are a playoff team.

    Special teams

    Goals For/50 5v4 tied 25th 5.6

    Goals Against 4v5 26th 7.6

    With Quinn behind the bench I expect the GF/60 and the GA/60 5v5 to both go up this year. Hopefully the GF go up more than the GA.

    With Renney here hopefully he can fix the penalty kill (insert 3rd line center comment here), and put up a better structure to the powerplay.

  54. Sean says:

    Woodguy: I was talking more specifically about Nilsson, Gagner and Cogliano not the team as a whole. And your right, special teams will be crucial to next years success. I'm expecting both to be better under the new coaches. The Oilers have the personnel to have a top-end PP and an average PK. If they can get that and assuming progress 5on5 from Gags/Cogs the team should be able to grab the 7-8 spot. Pending, of course, the addition of a solid 2way forward (replacing Penner or Nilsson).

  55. Sean says:

    I guess that's a lot that needs to go right. Betting on them all to happen is not likely but each of them on their own are reasonable. And I think they'll add a forward.

    Perhaps I'm a bit optimistic but overall I think they are close to playoffs… Improved coaching/development of the kids might be enough.

  56. geowal says:

    Let's not forget Penner in the cluster, unless he's been deamed "too old" at 26.

    At least until we've seen whether or not he can have a resurgence under a new coach.

  57. Boris Frumball says:

    B.C.B. – A few points in response as I admit my last comment was a bit distracted(ing?). My intent was not to make you think there is a "right" way to build a team.

    First off, I'm not crazy enough to think J-F Jacques will ever take get a Hemsky-like contract. The point was that you end up with a whole bunch of players earning pay hikes in rapid succession, and it stands.

    My main objection was to the suggestion that having six years between Hemsky and Gagner is going to ruin the chance of winning while they're both still in Oiler silks.

    Age 27-30 was your estimate of a player's prime and I simply don't agree with that. As I see it, there's no way of saying for sure when a player is at his peak.

    I know points don't tell the whole story, but when we're brushing with broad strokes most people don't mind looking at what popped up in the boxscores. Gilbert and Grebeshkov seem to be causing the least soul-searching here, so I'll use forwards to explain why this is such a difficult projection.

    A chart I recently drew up indicates the likelihood of a forward's best offensive production coming between ages 27-30 is 39%. That's not a bet I want my team making on too many players.

    (If you're wondering, the chart is based on adjusted points as per hockey-reference.com using players who have finished a post-lockout season at age 35 or older; 36% peak before 27, leaving 25% who peak after 30)

    You're certainly right that the Penguins of today are historically anomalous, but I was just going with recent Cup finalists for the sake of convenience – and under the assumption that's what every fan wants for his team :)

    However, as you point out, there is no formula for success – the last two finals have featured a pair of clubs that couldn't have taken more divergent paths to the top.

    There is no magic formula because there are no clean slates for NHL teams, so every club is constantly in flux when it comes to developing and retaining talent.

  58. Boris Frumball says:

    Sorry for the long posts guys, I'll go away now. Please, someone just explain one thing to me:

    Why do you all refer to Stortini as Zorg? I follow some of the Oilers blogs, but I'm really an Avalanche fan so I missed the birth of the Zorg thing…

  59. Baroque says:

    @ Boris -

    As I recall, the "Zorg" thing started when people were spelling his first name both Zack and Zach in the same thread, and then they got silly and started tossing out a bunch of other first names starting with the letter Z. Zorg was the one that stuck to him like velcro, so "Zorg Stortini" he became.

  60. Schitzo says:

    It helps that he looks like a caveman.

  61. Steve says:

    The Oilers of the late 90's took pride in having some really punishing defenders like Mush and Richardson.

    Are you expressing nostalgia for the Oilers of the late 90s?

    They're not going to start the season with this lineup.

    Whoa, we're half way there…

  62. bookie says:

    bookie: They're not going to start the season with this lineup.

    No, but they are likely going to start with a lineup that looks something like this lineup. I think we are going to see 1 primary player come our way and one player on the 3rd or 4th line. Thats a change, but we may still see Horpinsky.

    Some people were suggesting that we would see half the team wiped out. I wont be surprised to see Penner here come fall, nor will I be surprised if Gagner and Cogs are both back.

  63. Lowetide says:

    They'll add a role player at center imo and if they add Malhotra there might be two centers coming in. I'd say the Oilers are likely to sign a Boyd Devereaux type as well to cover off C.

  64. B.C.B. says:

    A 21 year old Marty McSorely would be useful.

    - we have Zorg
    - Actually Zorg is from the legendary wit of Bruce, check out this gem of a post to get the whole story:

    http://oildroppings.blogspot.com/
    2009/01/importance-of-being-zorg.html

  65. DanMan says:

    godot10: I said we should draft big players with SCORING TOUCH. Not "coke machines".

    Are Milan Lucic and David Backes coke machines to you?

    Im not talking about Cameron Abney, I'm talking about Zach Budish. Nobody compared Abney to Keith Tkachuck or Gary Roberts pre-draft.

  66. DanMan says:

    To me, it kinda reeks of lazy scouting when we draft a kid in the second round who las MPS's center.

    These power forwards with hands are out there, but our scouting staff ignores them.

    You can't trade for Lucic or Backes. You have to DRAFT that guy.

  67. steve says:

    @Danman it's a crap shoot. Any player drafted primarily b/c of their size can be considered a coke machine. Which ones progress is anyones guess. For example the draft years for each player:

    GP G A Pts pims

    Lucic 62 9 10 19 149
    JFJ 67 12 21 33 123
    Zorg 62 13 16 29 222

    I don't think it's reasonable to suggest the scouts are ignoring anyone. Zach Budish sounds like Colin McDonald.

  68. DanMan says:

    Budish is 229 and a sniper-type, that comp doesn't work.

    The thing about Lucic is that I watched some Giants games that year, and he was an absolute raging bull on the ice. Nobody would say that about Abney.

    If its such a crapshoot why even have scouts? you could just look at the players stats, meet with him to make sure he's normal and fire away.

    Other teams are just plain better at assessing young talent. You know the way Prentergast talks about Jeff Petry? It sounds like Bruce Boudreau talking about Mike Green.

    When it comes to power forwards, Anaheim has found 4 good ones recently: Getzlaf, Perry, Penner, Bobby Ryan ( and Mike Brown and Drew Miller have looked good in limited action last year).

    We have found zero. We got ours through an RFA sheet

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