All Hail the Divining Rod

The news is all around us: from Terry Jones venom-filled diatribe’s to Jim Matheson’s “hey, what do you think of this?” approach all is becoming clear: the Edmonton Oilers have settled on the future.

It is in fact a two-pronged “divining rod” future: a reasoned build via the draft in which the team sucks pond water until well after I’m eligible for the pension. This approach will be a coupled with a “this old man, let’s sign him” assault on the salary cap that will allow Edmonton to one day rival southern Alberta as a place to find dinosaur bones.

The Oilers have a long and rich history of calling up the media with ideas and having them “run it up the flagpole to see who salutes.” The current plan has Steve Tambellini selling off veterans 6 at a time, Jaromir Jagr coming to town as the next Nikolai Khabibulin and then allowing Stu “Magnificent Bastard” Macgregor go to town at the entry draft.

The problem with this idea (as presented) is that in order for us to believe this we must agree that the Oilers can’t sign free agents. No one wants to come here because it’s too cold, the arena is old, the cars get frozen and the wives won’t like it. I would suggest that “winning” would cure a lot of that, and also would like to point out that the Oilers have in fact signed many free agents since the lockout ended. Overpaid? Yes. Underdelivered? Oh my God. But they’ve come here because the cheques cash.

The problem is that management can’t identify need, doesn’t have a clue about finding balance and are prone to ignoring items of huge importance (faceoffs, veterans, 12 small angry men up front at a time, a daycare up front) even when it is staring them in the face. The Oilers as they stand don’t need a 5-year rebuild and in fact there’s every chance this bunch will blow it anyway.

There is another way: while Stu “Magnificent Bastard” Macgregor is building through the draft (and he’s already doing it) the Oilers need to:

  • identify their keeper list of veterans (Horcoff, Hemsky, Penner, Visnovsky, Khabibulin)
  • identify areas of weakness (a co-#1 G, veterans up front at all 3 positions)
  • identify the small F’s they’re keeping (Gagner, O’Sullivan, etc)
  • identify that mid-level group of D they’ll keep (Gilbert, Grebeshkov)
  • trade and buyout everything else
  • do the work required to identify solutions via free agency and trade to address needs.
  • realize subtle moves can have massive results.
  • stop trying to develop the world every season.

Jaromir Jagr was a great player and he’d be a welcome addition if this team was in contention (and he still “had it”) for a playoff spot. But what they really need is a trio of veteran two-way players (remember the old Marchant-Moreau-Grier line?) added to Hemsky, Penner and Gagner up front and then wise choices from the current roster and available resources to fill out the 12F’s. This team doesn’t need to be blown up, it needs a surgeon who can make precision cuts in a timely fashion.

Does Daryl Katz have the stones? the horses? the management team?

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