It’s not a fun picture this morning for the Edmonton Oilers. Although 15th in the west is a distant bell, they certainly have a nice shot at 13th before Christmas and could spend the back half of the season failing for Nail. On what planet is this acceptable?
The Oilers never make a significant change at this time of year. During the Kevin-Lowe-in-management era, Edmonton has made exactly one big December trade: in 2003 they cut the Comrie cord on December 16th, acquiring Jeff Woywitka and two draft picks (which Kevin Prendergast turned into Robbie Schremp and Danny Syvret).
In November of 2000, Lowe dealt Bill Guerin and the Oilers 2001 1st round pick (Boston selected Shaone Morrissonn) to Boston for Anson Carter and the Bruins 1st rounder (KP selected Ales Hemsky).
Edmonton Oilers fans awake today to the sounds of Sonny and Cher on the radio and a repeat of Groundhog Day. I don’t know if this is the day we drive the truck off the cliff or the day we spend all of our efforts getting into Andie MacDowell’s pants, but to say the bloom is off the rose is pure understatement.
Among the rational things the Oilers could do are the following:
- Sit Teddy Peckman. The lesson I’ve learned watching Laddy Smid develop is that the old estimate of 200 NHL games for a defenseman to find his way can be more like 300. The old clutch and grab days are gone and Teddy’s “gone fishing” plays are still there–and getting worse. You can’t develop all of the NHL’s defensemen but I think there’s a player here. So I’d suggest a long spell in the pressbox. Six games, something like that.
- Play Horcoff and Belanger at center. I understand moving Sam Gagner back to center, makes complete sense. However, there’s no harm in running Belanger on a 4line and then PK duties. Hell the 4line is getting killed out there, they could use a veteran hand in the middle.
- Stop shaking up the lines every night. Look, last night’s top 2 lines were both good ideas, but let them play for awhile together. Gagner and Hemsky have had chem in the past and I defy anyone to find a player who Ryan Smyth can’t work with out there.
- Send down Anton Lander. We all agree this is a quality prospect, but some time in the AHL to find whatever offensive game he’ll bring is a good idea. Right now that 4th line is good for one enima every third period. Anton Lander will be here a long time, let’s no rush it.
- Play the hell out of the kids. Why not? If you’re going down in flames, at least get these players icetime and see what they can do. How High the Moon? Give them 20 minutes a night, especially at home.
- Trade Nikolai Khabibulin. I’m not saying do it tomorrow, but if this team continues to slide then a January deal that sends the Russian away (say, TBay) to another NHL city should be worth something nice for the rebuild.
- Decide if the club needs another coach for the next phase. Tom Renney’s reputation is as a solid teacher and instructional coach, and a player’s coach. Do the Oilers want him for another two years, or is it time to go out and get a new age coach? Mike Yeo wasn’t famous and has a weird name, but the Wild are kicking out the jams. This is the time to decide, and if he is your guy perhaps someone who can help with line matching should be procured as an assistant. Coach Renney often has a mismatch out there.
- Solve the Hemsky riddle. I don’t think you could get 50 cents on the dollar for him right now, so whatever his deal Steve Tambellini has to sort this out quickly. Should the organization sign him to a shorter term deal, say 2 years? Or trade him at the deadline despite his reduced value? The rebuild can’t afford a “Curtis Joseph” walk situation. They have to get something or sign the man.
- Coach Renney must solve the games where the team shows up flat. I’ve started planning things outside Oiler games and pursue them based on the first 10 minutes. It’s a busy time of year, if the Oilers aren’t going to show up why should I?
- Don’t lose that great start in a sea of winter losses. During their generation in the cellar, the Oilers have had some hot streaks and some winning months. It is often followed by a step into the elevator shaft and we’re seeing that now. However, the team could still right the ship, end up with 40 wins and consider the season a success. At some point, you have to stand and deliver.
I’m tired of knowing all the names of the really good draft picks by Christmas. Does everyone agree? It’s time for the Oilers to do something. I know it’s too much to ask for a trade that addresses balance, that’s the kind of thing other teams do in order to improve. The Oilers aren’t like that, I get it.
But for heaven’s sake do something to let the fans know that losing isn’t the goal here. Phoenix and Ottawa hooked up yesterday and a pretty damn good defenseman was in the equation. I’m not suggesting the Oilers do that, it’s too much to hope for under the Lowe regime.
Maybe Daryl Katz will throw the fans a Christmas bone and text “there will be changes” or maybe they can send down three guys and call up three other guys.
Something. Something before Baby Jesus gets here in 7 days.