As rookie camp opens it signals the beginning of that wonderful period of time when the leaves turn and the town team arrives from all corners of the globe.
The Oilers were supposed to be “bigger and tougher to play against” this winter but look like the same popgun bunch they were in the spring. Edmonton has an amazing collection of people with the same skillset, something you don’t see often in sports because it doesn’t work.
About two decades ago the Kansas City Royals had a team made up entirely of hitters who refused to take a base-on-balls. Seriously. The 1988 outfield featured Bo Jackson (25 walks, 146 k’s), Willie Wilson (22/106) and Danny Tartabull (76/119) and the club also employed men like Steve Balboni (1/20), Jim Eisenrich (6/31) and Frank White (21/67). It was painful to watch, the team k/w total for the season was 944/486 and this was a good ballclub (84-77). The team that won the division that season had a k/w number of 926/580 and their OBP trumped the Royals (.336-.321) too. The Royals of that era had too many free-swinging right handed bats in the middle of the lineup.
The Oilers right now have too many undersized skill men with an indifferent attitude toward the finer points of the game or a lack of experience or both of those things. As Pat Quinn arrives on the scene and begins to see the talent in front of him, is he going to find enough men who are willing to do the things required to work his game plan? It’s one thing to say the club will be more uptempo and aggressive on the forecheck, but has Robert Nilsson shown an ability to do this? Andrew Cogliano?
Quinn will need to find somewhere to play Dustin Penner and reports have the canvas blank at this time. He could be 1line L or 3line R and anything in between. Quinn apparently wants to see several players at 1line L (Penner, Cogliano, O’Sullivan, Nilsson) and there have been hints that the only certain positions up front are the 3 and 4 line wingers (3: Moreau, Pisani and 4: Jacques, Stortini) although we’ve also heard Penner could be on the 3line.
Let me ask you a question: how many responsible men with a wide variety of skills are there up front for the Edmonton Oilers 2009? How many complete players?
I see Horcoff and Pisani, with Moreau to help some and O’Sullivan a guy who might be very valuable if he can play that uptempo style. Pouliot has shown some signs he’s getting there and Stortini remains a low event phenomenon. I’m not giving up on this team, but can we agree that Steve Tambellini must add some veterans to this group? Either a waiver toss from another team or a free agent signing even if it means burying a contract in the minors. Or a trade.
Because if the Oilers don’t improve in some important areas in the next 4 weeks, I think we’re going to hear things like “Steve Staios will take some shifts on RW tonight” and “we’re going to move Jason Strudwick to LW tonight.” Which is the kind of thing Craig MacTavish did not too long ago. I’m beginning to think the lesson for us this season is going to be that sometimes one man’s junk is actually another man’s junk too. The Edmonton Oilers are suffering from a terrible case of not enough NHL players.