During last night’s HNIC broadcast, Elliotte Friedman informed us that we’ll “find out soon” about Craig MacTavish’s vision of the team. What does that mean? What changes will me make?
One expects several of the current UFA’s to be are playing (or sitting) their last games with the team. I would include Ryan Jones, Lennart Petrell, Jerred Smithson, Ryan Whitney, Andy Sutton (whose career may be over) and Nikolai Khabibulin. That’s 6 guys, and you could make the case that Jones should return and there are reasons for it, but for me the series of healthy scratches from the coach is a tell.
There are some difficult decisions for the Edmonton Oilers. Some of the evaluation (Fistric v. Peckham) will probably come down to coach’s preference and in that case I’d suggest Mr. Peckman is in a new town by fall. I don’t know that this is the right decision, but it’s hard to see player and team finding a way to make it work after these months of disconnect.
The other three rfa’s of note (Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi, Teemu Hartikainen) could be an “action area” for the new GM this summer. We’ve talked about Gagner as a trade option in the past, and it makes sense if the Oilers believe they can replace his position adequately outside the organization. The other question surrounds the kind of value you could get for him in a deal. The young man is having a fine year (despite a recent slump) and is clearly skilled–but he’ll be making a pretty penny because of the poor decision by the organization to sign a one year deal last summer.
For me, Paajarvi is set as a part of the future based on this season. When a coach asks a player to adapt and he does, I think that’s a sign the relationship is working. Why change that? Paajarvi should be an effective 2-way winger for years. Hartikainen remains a “bubble” player, although I suspect he’d be one of the 12 best options on any given night right now. His trade value is such that the Oilers are better off keeping him in a (at the very least) 4line role next season. I like him better than that, but he can prove his value from the 4line.
Anton Lander is a decision because the club will need to know if he can fill the 4line role (looks good lately) and Corey Power Potterplay is a decision because there’s a waiver risk if they choose to add 2 actual NHL defensemen (and I believe MacT will do just that).
The Oilers have already made their decision on Ladislav Smid, signing the reliable defender to a long term deal.
Likely trade option from this part of the roster: Gagner, Peckham.
In my time as an Oilers fan (the beginning), Ales Hemsky is one of my favorites, an absolute pleasure. Brilliant, free form, stunning–he’s a sight to behold. Hemsky’s only real crime is his birth certificate and the emergence of talents like Hall and Yakupov. Hemsky’s breakout ability, his wonderful passing, his vision and his skill–are incredibly in some abundance on the current Edmonton Oilers.
The one thing that could save him? Lack of trade value. If we are to believe sources–and there are a few–then Hemsky’s deadline value doesn’t match his true value and if that is also true in summer then 83 may well return and add to what is becoming a murderer’s row of talented wingman on the Oilers.
The rest of the veterans group is a mixed bag of overpaid and useful (Horcoff), not useful (Belanger) and somewhere in between (Smyth). Nick Schultz also belongs in this group and I do believe there’s a chance he’ll be dealt in the off-season (his money going to Mark Streit). Mike Brown.
There’s one great truth about veterans on losing teams: they take a big hit to their reputations, and sometimes a season or two spent in the basement means the end. Belanger may be there, sadly Smyth too. And Schultz the elder can see the sign post up ahead.
Likely trade option from this part of the roster: Hemsky, Schultz the elder.
NOTHING BUT FLOWERS
This is the part of the roster we should stare at all summer, in silent wonder. Steve Tambellini’s inertia weaved a future of greatness beyond wild dreams.
Taylor Hall is the 5×5 psycho killer other teams used to send there to put down our season. The support group includes a younger man who may surpass Hall, a sublime and cerebral center with the anticipation of Forsberg the great, a scorer/passer in Eberle and a wunderkind defenseman who flew in from Wisconsin on the red eye.
And let’s not forget about Jeff Petry, a young defender signed to a nice contract and on the way to a solid NHL career, and G Devan Dubnyk who has developed into an average or slightly above average NHL goalie.
Thank you sweet baby Jesus.
STUCK INSIDE MOBILE WITH THE MEMPHIS BLUES AGAIN
And now we are here. Craig MacTavish has a tough chore: improve the team without cutting too deeply into that wonderful youth cluster. Along with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, along with Nick Schultz and Theo Peckham there is one man listed above who “could” be included in a blockbuster, franchise changing deal:
- Devan Dubnyk. We’ve heard rumblings around Luongo and Ben Bishop in the recent past, and if the club is going to add a headliner like Luongo or even a solid backup like Bishop it may suggest the club is not completely satisfied with Dubnyk moving forward.
Note: I’m not suggesting it is a fact, just reading tea leaves.
If we’re talking about MacT making his mark, I think our agreed upon guesses (shoring up D, adding a veteran winger or two, backup G) are still the right ones. However, MacT’s quote given to Elliotte Friedman suggests we might want to look beyond for possibilities: a power forward, a big center, a #1 defenseman and as I’m suggesting this morning a new #1 goaltender.
Interesting spring and summer ahead.