Over the last several years, three different hockey men have approached ‘functional toughness’ in an effort to save the Oilers children. Pat Quinn took the direct approach, gifting Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff with Jean-Francois Jacques. Steve Tambellini went to the 2011 July 1 free agent frenzy and shopped down every aisle, coming home with Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk and Andy Sutton (via trade).
Craig MacTavish went another route. Instead of signing three-year-deals, MacT addressed the need for truculence by:
- attempting to sign David Clarkson.
- attempting to trade for Braydon Coburn.
- signing Ryan Hamilton to a 2-year, 2way contract paying $600,000 in Edmonton and $300,000 in Oklahoma City.
- signing Jesse Joensuu, who clearly has attitude in at least one game a season to a two year contract (1way) for a $950,000 cap hit.
- kept Ben Eager for the final season of his contract.
A lot of Oiler fans are unhappy about this area of the club, but for me this worked out pretty damn well. He avoided the big mistake (Clarkson), likely avoided an overpay for Coburn and then found two inexpensive possibilities for that elusive size/skill winger. Please understand: I’m all for MacT getting a big forward with skill, gives the opposition something to think about (although it does NOT prevent injuries to skill guys. Marc Savard’s teammates on the night Matt Cooke ended him included Chara, Lucic and several other big men) and there’s no doubt fear is part of the game. The trick is to find skilled men, MacT said exactly that during his opening press conference this spring. Ryan Hamilton and Jesse Joensuu are inexpensive auditions, should they work out MacT will have solved a problem that dates back to Billy Guerin.
The most important thing is that MacTavish will have hung on to one idea like grim death: improve the back half of the forward roster. The REAL item for the Edmonton Oilers this fall is overcoming this:
This is a Travis Yost item (found here) that I’m stealing (so please go read it); it shows the difference between Hall’s group (EDM T1) and the rest of the team, culminating in one of the truly pathetic ‘stick your dick out’ performance of the 4line. That’s what MacT was talking about, that’s the crime in a nutshell. You can dress King Kong if you want, but Marc Savard is still going to get run over and those mountain men can’t play the game. And as we discussed yesterday on the show, Steve MacIntyre was on the Oilers roster when Regehr ran over Hemsky in Calgary, didn’t do much beyond giving MacIntyre a bird’s eye view.
No sir. Attracting another enforcer for the 4line is not the move here. Ryan Hamilton running over Sean Monahan in period 1, game 1? Yes sir, that’s my baby! IF HE CAN PLAY THE GAME! If he can’t, run Smyth or Jones or whoever can keep up, knows what to do without the puck and can take and make a pass.
It’s all about the zones. If you have even one player who can’t get the puck out and help maintain possession, that black disc is coming back in the zone. Surely we’ve seen it enough in this city to recognize the ‘losing oxygen’ 4th line shifts. It’s like witnessing a train wreck, and it happens because inexperience, because lack of talent, because tough guys need also to play the game.
When Gretzky was headed for the coast, he made damn good and sure Mike Krushelnyski went with him. I don’t know that Ryan Hamilton and Jesse Joensuu are from the Krushelnyski family, but do know they’re a helluva lot closer than Steve MacIntyre.
- MacT: “The year we went to Cup final  we had lots of guys who could contribute offensively and last year we really didn’t. We had a lot of one or two or zero goal scorers who were out there a really the best you could hope for was they were a non-negative factor. We have to let the core players continue to develop a and we have to build that supporting cast around them.”
Craig MacTavish kept Hemsky, added Gordon, Hamilton, Joensuu, Acton and re-signed Jones and has Smyth, Lander, Brown and Eager hanging around. Seems no one is really happy: the enforcer people don’t see an enforcer and the skill people don’t see a saviour. I’d argue Hemsky could be just that, especially if he and Gordon can find some chemistry with Hamilton or Joensuu.
Sometimes effective players arrive and we don’t know it until they show it. Perhaps Jesse Joensuu solves the problem, or maybe it’s Ryan Hamilton. We wait.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Today on LDWLT we feature mostly hockey, some football and a little bit of soccer. Scheduled to appear:
- Alan Hull from Copper and Blue. Truculence, center ice and a playoff prediction.
- Matt Gresiuk, soccer insider. Bale on the move, Spurs in the transfer window and FC in the second half of the season.
- Noah Love from National Post. Kadri and Franson, Leafs nation mood, Olympics and a couple of Ryan Hamilton questions.
- Corey Graham, Oil Kings play by play man. Update from camp, including Moroz’ progress and some of the new faces we might see this season.
Your comments and questions make the show (sure did yesterday!) so text 10-1260 or you can tweet @Lowetide_ any time. Tune in, it’ll be a great show!