HEAD-TO-HEAD 2013-14: GRIFFINS V. BARONS

We discussed the gap between Detroit’s development system and what the Oilers are doing a little yesterday afternoon. I wanted to look a little deeper to see if we can identify the gap in another way: actual NHL prospects. In order to qualify, players have to be going in a good direction—that’s all. I’ve allowed a couple around the fringes of each side, but these are trending men we’re dealing with here.

THE GRIFFINS

  1. R Gustav Nyquist, 24. 15GP, 7-4-11 and 57GP, 28-20-48 with Detroit. Slightly undersized winger who is brilliant and has an amazing future. How in hell they kept him on the farm for 137 games is beyond me. The best prospect on either team.
  2. C Riley Sheahan, 21. 31GP, 8-10-18 and 42GP, 9-15-24 with Detroit. Big two-way center, a first-round pick in 2010 (ten selections before Tyler Pitlick) and he looks like a winning bet from here. Scored better in the NHL than The Hockey News suggests he will long term.
  3. G Patr Mrazek, 21. 32GP, 2.10 .924 and 9GP, 1.74 and .927 with Detroit. The Hockey News marked him as a quality prospect and he sure has the look based on numbers. He was chosen 20 slots after Tyler Bunz, 2010.
  4. R Tomas Jurco, 20. 32GP, 13-19-32 and 36GP, 8-7-15 with Detroit. The Hockey News tells us he’s a talented scoring winger with speed and size. That’s a universally valued player no matter the range of skills. The Hockey News says he has some maturing to do without the puck, but this is an excellent prospect.
  5. L Teemu Pulkkinen, 21. 71GP, 31-28-59 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (3 games). The Hockey News describes him as an extremely skilled winger with slick moves. He can play either wing, the ? is size but he looks very good from here. The last 21-year old Oiler prospect to score close to 30 in the AHL? Jason Chimera popped 29 at the turn of the century.
  6. D Ryan Sproul, 20. 72GP, 11-21-32 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (1 game). This is a 6.03, 185 offensive defenseman who could be a very good two-way player over time. Had a solid pro debut after playing in front of Darnell Nurse at SSM. I’d say he’s a quality prospect.
  7. D Adam Almquist, 22. 73GP, 4-49-53 and 2 games (with a goal) in Detroit. Undersized puck mover drafted in the bowels of the 2009 draft enjoyed an exceptional season in the AHL. No idea if he’ll make it, but he’s a real prospect.
  8. G Tom McCollum, 23. 46GP, 2.30 .922. A first round pick in 2008 (chosen eight slots after Jordan Eberle), he’s losing ground to Mrazek but I included him because he had the fifth-best SP in the AHL last season.
  9. R Landon Ferraro, 22. 70GP, 15-16-31 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (4 games). Fell off offensively this season, he isn’t a big player and appears to be something of a tweener. I’ve included him because of his draft pedigree (No. 32 overall in 2009, eight selections ahead of Anton Lander).
  10. R Mitch Callahan, 22. 70GP, 26-18-44 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (1 game). The Hockey News describes him as an energy guy with skating issues. A guess would be he’s a Pitlick comp, but that’s a guess.
  11. D Xavier Ouellet, 20. 70GP, 4-13-17 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (4 games). Another puck mover, The Hockey News says he can run a power play but he didn’t in his first season pro (and that happens a lot). Average size, who knows? But he’s a prospect going in a good direction.
  12. R Andrej Nestrasil, 22. 70GP, 16-20-36. Another 2009 draft pick (No. 75 overall, four picks after Troy Hesketh), he has size and took a very nice step forward this season. I don’t think there’s a long NHL career here.
  13. D Alexey Marchenko, 21. 49GP, 3-15-18 and a cup of coffee with Detroit (1 game). Bigger defenseman with puck-moving ability, his boxcars are nothing special. Too soon to know, he could surprise.
  14. R Martin Frk, 20. 50GP, 3-9-12. Like Ferraro, he’s included due to draft pedigree but had a poor season. Two items come to mind: playing time (like Pitlick as a rookie) and the quality of RW above him. I’d suggest we should expect a spike in the coming season.

This is an organization that develops talent in a very effective manner. If my son was an NHL prospect, I’d light a candle every hour on the hour leading up to the draft and hope the development team in Motown got him. Few till the soil with the touch of these Detroit wheels.

pitlick ferguson griffins

THE BARONS

  1. D Martin Marincin, 21. 24GP, 3-4-7 and 44GP, 0-6-6 with Edmonton. 6.04 and nearing 200 pounds, he was a sight for sore eyes when he got off the plane and showed he was in fact an actual defenseman. The Hockey News: Is quite lanky, with a very projectable 6-5 frame. Boasts great puck-moving qualities and offensive acumen. Also displays plenty of shutdown upside. I like him better than Klefbom, but suspect the organization prefers Treble Klef.
  2. D Oscar Klefbom, 20. 48GP, 1-9-10 and 17GP, 1-2-3 with Edmonton. Klefbom gets nice words from The Hockey News: Owns massive shutdown upside, thanks largely to great size (6-3, 204 pounds), a physical edge to his game and mobility. Also possesses a little puck-moving and offensive potential. An Oilers first round pick who turns out well after spending time in the AHL? That my friends is what we call a unicorn.
  3. C Mark Arcobello, 25. 15GP, 10-18-28 and 41GP, 4-14-18 with Edmonton. A truly wonderful story, he overcame bias and his own organization to post a terrific season in both Edmonton and Oklahoma.
  4. C Anton Lander, 22. 46GP, 18-34-52 and 27GP, 0-1-1 with Edmonton. Two-way center with average size, scored well at 19 in the Swedish league and then again last season in OKC at age 22. Other than that, crickets with the bat and truly ghastly in the NHL. A grand opportunity awaits him this season.
  5. R Tyler Pitlick, 22. 39GP, 8-14-22 and 10GP, 1-0-1 with Edmonton. A versatile forward who has enough size and speed to play in the NHL, but may lack enough offense to hold on to an NHL job.
  6. D Martin Gernat, 20. 57GP, 4-71-21. 6.05 and now over 200 pounds, he’s a big, raw defenseman with two-way ability. Similar in style and appearance to Martin Marincin, his rough edges may mean he’s a three year AHL defenseman. He shows potential as a complete defender.
  7. D Taylor Fedun, 25. 65GP, 10-28-38 and a cup of coffee with Edmonton (4 games). Undersized two-way defender who seemed to get more attention for his offense than overall play.  RH, reliable and a hard worker.
  8. D David Musil, 20. 61GP, 2-12-14. Physical stay-at-home defender overcame lack of mobility and had a strong pro debut. Musil is so good at reading sorties that he can make up for other deficiencies. The question becomes ‘can he do it in the NHL?’ and at this rate he’ll get a chance during his entry-level deal.
  9. L Roman Horak, 22. 53GP, 21-27-48 and a cup of coffee with Edmonton (2 games). A nice pickup in mid-season, he played very well once he move over to the wing. I don’t know if we’ll see him again, but there’s evidence he can play.
  10. D Brad Hunt, 25. 66GP, 11-39-50 and a cup of coffee with Edmonton (3 games). Puck moving defenseman who is challenged without the puck for several reasons, including size. I think he’s at the very end of the show business rung for Edmonton’s blue, but his arrows are pointed in a good direction.
  11. D Brandon Davidson, 22. 68GP, 5-8-13. Slow start to the season, but pulled away mid-year and had an effective second half. Regarded as a two-way defender at the time of his draft, as with most defensive prospects the lack of pro power-play time has turned him into a one dimensional type.
  12. R Andrew Miller, 24. 52GP, 8-26-34. Two-way winger had a nice second half of the season. I would guess he is among the least likely prospects to succeed on either list, but he is headed in a good direction.
  13. L Curtis Hamilton, 22. 43GP, 8-8-16. As with Landon Ferraro, I’m including Hamilton due to draft pedigree. His scouting report via The Hockey News (“Displays good size (6-2, 206 pounds) and solid two-way capabilities. Proved capable of producing good offensive totals in the junior ranks, but he’s also a very responsible winger”) makes his lack of progress in pro hockey even more frustrating.
  14. C Travis Ewanyk, 20. 68GP, 7-5-12. Checking center makes the list because (according to reports) of improved play during the season. I’m not bullish on his long term potential to stay in pro hockey with these kinds of boxcars, but the Oilers like him plenty.

The Oilers have two outstanding prospects in Marincin and Klefbom, followed by Mark Arcobello who we can rank as bona fide. After that, there’s a group of several who are going to get a chance, and we’ll see.

CONCLUSION

The Oilers are not in Detroit’s league in terms of development, but they are improving. This isn’t a MacT versus Tambellini issue, both men had the task of crawling from the wreckage of the team put to sleep a decade ago. That kind of shortsighted move by ownership (EIG) cost Edmonton a generation of talent, and impacted kids from 2002 to 2007. Not having structure, having to rebuild what other teams had established and cultivated for decades, had a tremendous impact on the prospects and the NHL team.

How many times did Edmonton make the call to the farm and receive dust and tumbleweeds in return? How surprised were the Oilers and their fans to see Martin Marincin’s electric performance after recall? It had been so long, so very long.

There’s no secret here. Draft and develop. The Oilers could make a trade this year, a “dealing from strength” trade that addresses need. When that day arrives, when a Colin McDonald is sent away for value instead of signing elsewhere and beginning his NHL career, another corner will have been turned.

The actions of the EIG effectively turned the Oilers into an expansion team, and the work done by Steve Tambellini, Todd Nelson and Craig MacTavish is only now beginning to turn things around. I remember Guy Flaming ripping the EIG’s decision to put the AHL team to sleep when it happened, and the cost has been tremendous, in young people and in competitive balance.

If shooting yourself in the foot was a skill, the EIG Oilers would have been Gretzky.

LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE

dog crosses the street

At 10 this morning, we hit the air on TSN 1260. Dennis King begins the proceeedings at 10:05, followed by Jeff Krushell who is back from Europe and ready to talk pennant race and training camp. At 11, Kady Hobbins from Puck Rant and Hockey’s Future will be by to discuss Oilers prospects (and which ones may make the Oilers) and Dave Jamieson previews the NFL games tonight at around 11:40. I’m attempting to get Rider Prophet on at 11:25 to talk about the Dressler, we’ll see if we can get that rolling. See you on the radio!

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49 Responses to "HEAD-TO-HEAD 2013-14: GRIFFINS V. BARONS"

  1. supernova says:

    As I have stated on here before I feel a lot of our problems circle back to ownership from the EIG.
    Ultimately in any business that’s where it lies anyway.
    As a long time fan, I am very thankful that EIG stepped up and kept the team in town.

    The issue was they where way over their head.

    Closing down the farm has had implications for years. In my opinion it wasn’t until the 2010 draft hit the farm where we could start to see some light. Now that draft maybe should have been different maybe not but that was where we could see actual prospects on the farm.

    The next time frame to me was last season. Maybe that’s more drafts in the system maybe that’s direction from management or both. The farm and big club finally worked together to give opportunity to our true prospects.

    The time frame of these changes are frustrating but I believe we are finally on the right track and will see both the farm and big club work together and they are finally at a stage where farm players can push for actual jobs not just spot duty.

    It’s on you Eakins, it’s on you Nelson, it’s on you MacT.

    It’s on every player on the 50 man list.

  2. Hammers says:

    Totally agree on Tambellini’s contribution re OKL only trouble was it was his only contribution . Lowe had no backing before Tambo because EIG but he didn’t push hard enough and as you said the Oil payed a heavy price .Always felt sorry for a guy like Dubnyk basically floated with no direction or push .McT seems to be more inclined to developing while Tambo thought winning was all that mattered . As for players listed I think at least 6 will get there NHL games only problem may be on what team .. I still feel Lander will have a breakout year as much due to his character and effort . I also see Fedun getting his opportunity in a Shark uniform .Nelson may very well be the key to improvement for the Oilers .

  3. Frank The Dog says:

    Finally we have a cogent reason outside of “Lowe/Tambo’s an ass that screwed up the Oilers with their incompetence”. And, that the constant of Katz’s ownership parallels the period of failure.

    The EIG was by no means a bunch of stupid people, they were a shrewd, driven collection of mostly self made men that had the best interests of the City of Edmonton at heart.

    But as Supernova said, they were in over their head. Financially, that is. Put simply, they were collectively not in the financial league that is required to fund a Stanley Cup winning team nowadays.

    Under the circumstances they did exceptionally well, taking us to G7 of the SCF. But at terrible cost, but hey, what would you prefer, that trip to the SCF or a perpetually underfunded development team?

    For once, they were able to compete on level ground with the rest of the league and look what happened. But the cost was a gutted development system which doomed the team long term.

    Under these circumstances I can feel a bit better about the long cold Winter of failure that may blossom into early Spring this season. Katz may not have delivered the $100m cash he promised for the arena, but he has delivered the funding this team requires to become a SC contender.

    This team has, in effect been an expansion team, where the development system has had to be built from the ground up. Tambo was a terrible trader but did well with the development system. MacT is improving on Tambo’s area of major weakness.

    Outside of all of that though, the coaching has been deplorable. We all have our theories, mine is that we had personnel in place that lacked the necessary aptitude, skills and experience for their roles, that nonetheless had the ear of senior management, who allowed cronyism to cloud good judgement and in the process let the wrong people go. But, we also had an appalling roster thanks to Tambo.

    So now the development system is starting to show signs of success, our roster is better than last years, and that was arguably better than the year prior, which means we can reasonably expect to see less of the shirt shows we have become accustomed to.

  4. rickithebear says:

    LT:
    List me the prospects depth that would have built an AHL team during EIG.

  5. Ducey says:

    Taking a quick peek at Capgeek it looks like the a number of guys on the Detroit list will have to clear waivers, including Ferraro, Nestrasil, Callahan and McCollum. Alquist is an RFA. He would have to clear too, I would think.

    NB: I didn’t take the time to try and figure out if they actually have to clear waivers, but none of these guys is on an ELC anymore, so I assumed they are subject to waivers.

    Waivers is one of the impediments to trying to marinade your players on the farm. I am guessing DET takes advantage of the college and European systems to buy extra development time.

  6. Lowetide says:

    rickithebear:
    LT:
    List me the prospects depth that would have built an AHL team during EIG.

    Just going on air, will get to it later. You could probably look at hockeydb draft lists 2001-07 or so.

  7. rickithebear says:

    Lowetide: Just going on air, will get to it later. You could probably look at hockeydb draft lists 2001-07 or so.

    I know we have looked at it and created lists.:)

  8. supernova says:

    rickithebear: I know we have looked at it and created lists.:)

    rickithebear,

    Aside from the draft lists. How about this?

    Why draft players if you can’t develop them ? Or have no place to develop them?

    If we know the draft shakes out at between 8 and say 30% success rate, it is really a combination of quantity and quality.

    If you only have 8 spots for a farm development why have 30 picks ?

    You know you can’t develop them, you can’t afford to pay other teams to play on their farms and they likely won’t get a fair shake.

    Why not trade the picks away or take big gambles. The draft lists only tell part of the story

  9. rickithebear says:

    Frank: 100%

  10. Bag of Pucks says:

    I don’t think many would be inclined to dispute that Detroit is an excellent organization when it comes to developing their prospects, but I’m curious as to why this comparison seeks to lay the blame solely at the feet of the development process?

    Is it not wholly possible that Detroit was simply better at drafting than the Oilers as well?

    The Red Winds have the odd whiff (Ferraro, McCollum) but not nearly as many as the Oil, who until very recently under MacT, were still guilty of overrating size and intangibles while it’s clear from the Red Wings prospect list, that actual hockey playing skill is always paramount in their considerations.

    We’ve seen encouraging signs with picks like Slepyshev and Roy that the tide is turning on this of late – and I fully agree with the assertion that matching system play between the minor and pro clubs will have a hugely beneficial impact.

    We can blame EIG until the cows come home, and killing the AHL club was a BRUTALLY shortsighted decision. But it was the Prendergast regime who thought Alex Plante was a legitimate 1st rounder despite the fact he could only turn in one direction, while passing on Couture to draft Gagner in the same draft. All the development in the world can’t fix that kind of mediocre talent appraisal.

  11. Ducey says:

    Bag of Pucks: I But it was the Prendergast regime who thought Alex Plante was a legitimate 1st rounder despite the fact he could only turn in one direction, while passing on Couture to draft Gagner in the same draft. All the development in the world can’t fix that kind of mediocre talent appraisal.

    No argument from me about the poor drafting under the previous regime. However, the Couture/ Gagner criticism is pure hindsight.

    I can only imagine the screams around here had the Oilers skipped over a smaller guy with 118 pts in 53 games for the guy who had 78 in 54.

    Further, you let Gagner grow up playing with Jumbo Joe et al and I doubt he has as many problems away from the puck as he currently appears to have.

  12. G Money says:

    Detroit as a development organization does a lot of things well, but I still believe 75% of their model is “depth on the NHL team”. For years now, they’ve had Datsyuk and Zetterberg as the anchors at forward, and Lidstrom calming everything down for 22 minutes a night on defense.

    That means they can leave players on the farm until they are ready, and then plug them into the lineup with lots of mentoring and lots of sheltering. (And it’s worth noting that Datsyuk himself had Yzerman, Fedorov, and Larionov to mentor him early on).

    That defensive pipeline started to crack with Lidstrom’s departure, and the Red Wings have not been anywhere near as dominant a team.

    That crack will extend further when 36-year-old Datsyuk starts to decline (he’s held up pretty darn well so far but Father Time is relentless).

    The lack of depth on the big club will mean an accelerated timeline (less AHL time, less sheltering and mentoring at the NHL level) for prospects.

    It will be interesting to see how that shakes out for Detroit over the next five years.

    I also think we now have our anchors at F (RNH and Hall).

    Developmentally speaking, it’s important to remember that RNH this season is still a year younger than Datsyuk was in his rookie season in the NHL.

  13. Bank Shot says:

    I’m always a little torn on the nature vs. nuture element of developing NHL players. I always end up leaning towards the side of nature. It seems to me that the good players will persevere and make the show, and the other guys will fall away.

    Guys like Brodziak and Gilbert developed without a dedicated farm team. Many guys that came through after the Oilers restarted their farm system did not.

    If the Red Wings had some kind of advanced developmental system, the other teams would pick up n it. I think they pretty much just pick good players in the draft and then don’t risk putting them in over their heads. Besides that I doubt there is anything else going on.

  14. godot10 says:

    supernova:
    As I have stated on here before I feel a lot of our problems circle back to ownership from the EIG.
    Ultimately in any business that’s where it lies anyway.
    As a long time fan, I am very thankful that EIG stepped up and kept the team in town.

    The issue was they where way over their head.

    Closing down the farm has had implications for years. In my opinion it wasn’t until the 2010 draft hit the farm where we could start to see some light. Now that draft maybe should have been different maybe not but that was where we could see actual prospects on the farm.

    The Oilers didn’t have control of a farm team for one season. The Stanley Cup final season. The next three years they didn’t own it but were the controlling franchise in Springfield under Katz, Lowe, Prendergast, and MacT and they did eff all with it. The farm team wasn’t sexy. MacT never let his best prospects go to the farm (Hemsky, Gagner, Cogliano). Anybody he liked, he preferred developing himself. (Hemsky never reached his full potential. And he didn’t make Gagner or Cogliano players even though he was their coach for two full seasons. If Gagner didn’t learn how to play D, we know exactly who to blame.

    Hard to blame any of that on the EIG.

    MacT also came in dissing everything Tambellini, Scott, and Nelson did in OKC, totally misrepresenting the fact that they were both winning and developing prospects.

  15. russ99 says:

    Ducey,

    It’s going to be really interesting to see if Gagner is going to have the same problems without the puck in Arizona with a top 15 goalie, a solid defensive corps and a quality coaching staff using a proven system.

  16. godot10 says:

    Hammers:
    Totally agree on Tambellini’s contribution re OKL only trouble was it was his only contribution . Lowe had no backing before Tambo because EIG but he didn’t push hard enough and as you said the Oil payed a heavy price .Always felt sorry for a guy like Dubnyk basically floated with no direction or push .McT seems to be more inclined to developing while Tambo thought winning was all that mattered . As for players listed I think at least 6 will get there NHL games only problem may be on what team .. I still feel Lander will have a breakout year as much due to his character and effort . I also see Fedun getting his opportunity in a Shark uniform .Nelson may very well be the key to improvement for the Oilers .

    The Oilers farm team in Hamilton/Toronto under the EIG when Julien and Ward were coaching was a very solid operation in the early eighties. They produced Horcoff, Pisani, Chimera, Winchester, Murray, Lynch (prior to the injury), Stoll, Greene.

    The void was the neglect under Katz, Lowe, and Prendergast when they went to Springfield.

  17. Ryan says:

    Hey!!!

    Anybody need a defensive prospect with a left-hand shot?

  18. Lowetide says:

    godot10: The Oilers didn’t have control of a farm team for one season.The Stanley Cup final season.

    No, that isn’t correct. Edmonton had no control in 2005-06, as you say. However, they “shared” their players with Hamilton (Montreal) and Pittsburgh (SWB) in 2006-07

    Hamilton:

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/seasons/teams/0007912007.html

    The players who didn’t play there during that season were in SWB

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/seasons/teams/0019802007.html

  19. Ducey says:

    godot10: P>MacT also came in dissing everything Tambellini, Scott, and Nelson did in OKC, totally misrepresenting the fact that they were both winning and developing prospects.

    That’s not even close to the truth.

    What’s wrong? Now you don’t like MacT’s hair either?

  20. jake70 says:

    G Money: Detroit as a development organization does a lot of things well, but I still believe 75% of their model is “depth on the NHL team”. For years now, they’ve had Datsyuk and Zetterberg as the anchors at forward, and Lidstrom calming everything down for 22 minutes a night on defense.That means they can leave players on the farm until they are ready, and then plug them into the lineup with lots of mentoring and lots of sheltering. (And it’s worth noting that Datsyuk himself had Yzerman, Fedorov, and Larionov to mentor him early on).That defensive pipeline started to crack with Lidstrom’s departure, and the Red Wings have not been anywhere near as dominant a team.That crack will extend further when 36-year-old Datsyuk starts to decline (he’s held up pretty darn well so far but Father Time is relentless).The lack of depth on the big club will mean an accelerated timeline (less AHL time, less sheltering and mentoring at the NHL level) for prospects.It will be interesting to see how that shakes out for Detroit over the next five years.I also think we now have our anchors at F (RNH and Hall).Developmentally speaking, it’s important to remember that RNH this season is still a year younger than Datsyuk was in his rookie season in the NHL.

    Good post. How does it go?-every dog has their day. Well Detroit is now starting to experience a trend toward mediocrity (key word toward). We are now entering the 10th season with a salary cap. Detroit can ‘t back up the Brinks truck to pay for half the Red army to play for them. Now you even hear the trade deadline and free agent day panelists pointing at Detroit as a team that “didn’t” have a good day”. Everything in cycles I guess.

  21. Ducey says:

    russ99: Ducey, It’s going to be really interesting to see if Gagner is going to have the same problems without the puck in Arizona with a top 15 goalie, a solid defensive corps and a quality coaching staff using a proven system.

    Yes. The Gagner for Purcell trade could look real bad in a year or two – although I think the Oilers had no option but to make it.

  22. rickithebear says:

    The chicago Blackhawks were out of playoffs 8 of 9 years from
    97-98 to 00-01
    02-03 to 07-08

    There 2010 cup win roster with 1st full CHI NHL season.
    05-06:
    Keith #54 2002 Dft +4
    Seabrook #14 2003 DFT +3
    Sharp Trade 05-06
    06-07:
    None
    07-08:
    Kane #1 2007 DFT +1
    Toews #3 2006 DFT +2
    Byfuglien #245 2003 DFT +5
    Burish #282 2002 DFT +6
    Ladd Trade 07-08
    Sopel Tryout
    08-09:
    Campbell UFA
    Bolland #23 2004 DFT +5
    Brouwer #214 2004 DFT +5
    Fraser Trade 03-04
    Versteeg trade 06-07
    Eager trade 07-08
    09-10:
    Hjarlmasson #108 2005 DFT +5
    Niemi UDFA 2008
    Hossa UFA
    Kopecky UFA
    Madden

    2 drafted played before DFT +3
    Kane, Toews top 3 picks

    2 Drafted DFT+3 to +4
    Keith (45), Seabrook (#14)

    5 Drafted played DFT +5
    Bolland, hjarlmasson, Brouwer, Byfuglien, Burish

    6 UFA
    Sopel, Campbell, Niemi, Hossa, Kopecky, Madden

    5 traded
    Fraser, Sharp, Versteeg, Ladd, Eager

    The current Edmonton roster.
    10-11:
    Hall #1 2010 DFT +1
    Eberle #22 2008 DFt +3
    11-12:
    RNH #1 2011 DFT +1
    Petry#45 2006 DFt +6
    12-13:
    Yakupov #1 2012 DFt +1
    J. schultz UDFA
    13-14:
    Perron Trade 13-14
    Hendricks Trade 13-14
    Scrivens trade 13-14
    Fasth trade 13-14Ference UFA
    Gordon UFA
    Jeonsuu UFA
    Gazdic Waivers
    14-15:
    Marincin #45 2010 DFt +5
    Nikitin Trade 14-15
    Purcell trade 14-15
    Arcobello UDFA 14-15
    Fayne UFA
    Pouliot UFA
    Aulie UFA

    3 drafted DFT +1
    Hall, RNh, Yakupov

    1 drafted DFt +3 to +4
    Eberle

    2 drafted DFt +5
    Petry, Marincin

    2 UDFA
    J. schultz, Arcobello

    6 UFA
    Fayne, Ference, Aulie ,Pouliot, gordon, Jeonsuu

    6 trade
    Perron, Purcell, hendricks, Nikitin,Scrivens, Fayne

    top 3 are often DFt +1
    bottom 1st and exceptional 2nd dft +3 to +4

    Dft +5 is a seasoned player.

    we talk about rushing players.

    we do not vary from the league.

    DT +1
    draisatl #3 2004

    DFt +3
    Moroz,
    Khaira,
    Zharkov,
    Mc Carron

    DFt +5
    Pitlick
    Marincin
    Davidson
    Lander

  23. Lowetide says:

    godot10: The Oilers farm team in Hamilton/Toronto under the EIG when Julien and Ward were coaching was a very solid operation in the early eighties. They produced Horcoff, Pisani, Chimera, Winchester, Murray, Lynch (prior to the injury)

    The void was the neglect under Katz, Lowe, and Prendergast when they went to Springfield.

    The team was a mess in Springfield BECAUSE the group spent two seasons (plus the Edmonton Roadrunner season, which is a book on its own) being overlooked/undervalued. The entire decade was a complete CF, and that’s on the EIG.

  24. godot10 says:

    Lowetide: No, that isn’t correct. Edmonton had no control in 2005-06, as you say. However, they “shared” their players with Hamilton (Montreal) and Pittsburgh (SWB) in 2006-07

    Hamilton:

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/seasons/teams/0007912007.html

    The players who didn’t play there during that season were in SWB

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/seasons/teams/0019802007.html

    OK, for two years, but Katz had launched his hostile takeover of the team.

    Before the shutdown, under the EIG, the farm operation actually was pretty successful under the EIG and Scott Howson and Lowe.

  25. godot10 says:

    Ducey: That’s not even close to the truth.

    What’s wrong? Now you don’t like MacT’s hair either?

    Colin McDonald, Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz, Marc Arcobello, Magnus Paajarvi, Martin Marincin are all NHL’ers.

    Lander, Pitlick, Musil, Gernat, Klefbom are all tracking fairly normally. Lander and Pitlick are a smudge behind, Lander because of misuse by the Edmonton guys, and Pitlick because of injury. But Pitlick is NOT significantly behind the majority of players drafted around him in his draft class.

    Omark and Hartikainen, low round draft pick, where played a lot and developed into borderline NHL players.

    Alex Plante was selected to play in the AHL allstar game, and Taylor Chorney became an even plus minus D.

    MacT was just trying to justify his inexcusable act in not interviewing Nelson for the headcoaching job.

  26. Lowetide says:

    godot10: OK, for twoyears, but Katz had launched his hostile takeover of the team.

    Before the shutdown, under the EIG, the farm operation actually was pretty successful under the EIG and Scott Howson and Lowe.

    The minor league system should have gotten way more than they did, including Pouliot, Schremp, Deslauriers, Chorney, on it goes. I think we can absolutely staple the amateur scouting department during that time for Niinimaki, Plante and others.

    But the Oilers minor league system failed a lot of kids miles before Katz took over the team in 2008.

    http://lowetide.ca/blog/2008/02/big-money-in-our-town.html

  27. Bag of Pucks says:

    Ducey: No argument from me about the poor drafting under the previous regime.However, the Couture/ Gagner criticism is pure hindsight.

    I can only imagine the screams around here had the Oilers skipped over a smaller guy with 118 pts in 53 games for the guy who had 78 in 54.

    Further, you let Gagner grow up playing with Jumbo Joe et al and I doubt he has as many problems away from the puck as he currently appears to have.

    Absolutely, Gagner vs Couture is hindsight, but this is WHY you pay scouts.

    The Gagner pick is by-the-book Central Scouting drafting 101. A monkey could’ve made that pick. In fact, one did.

    We don’t want the monkey pick. What we want is a professional caliber talent assessment paradigm that can actually look at Gagner vs Couture and realize that one player has skills (skating, faceoff acumen, defensive play) that projects him as a far more multi-dimensional players in the bigs. If they can’t weigh all these factors, nothing evolves since Bonsignore.

    What we’re essentially doing here is letting scouts off the hook whenever they make the CS, Mackenzie ‘safe pick’ I don’t think you win championships with that as your standard. How does that philosophy outperform the pack?

    Fully appreciate there is a lottery/luck element to this and prognostication results will vary wildly. But capable talent professionals have to be able to, at the very least, avoid the ‘bust’ picks when better options are available. Prendergast didn’t just fail with Plante and Nash in that draft. He failed with Gagner as well imo. That 2007 first round is so indicative from a historical perspective. Good teams picking good players. Bad teams picking bad players. World keeps spinning.

  28. godot10 says:

    Lowetide: The minor league system should have gotten way more than they did, including Pouliot, Schremp, Deslauriers, Chorney, on it goes. I think we can absolutely staple the amateur scouting department during that time for Niinimaki, Plante and others.

    But the Oilers minor league system failed a lot of kids miles before Katz took over the team in 2008.

    http://lowetide.ca/blog/2008/02/big-money-in-our-town.html

    But that is because Lowe and MacT became obsessed with big game hunting after the lockout and the team had money. They had so much early success with money (Pronger, Peca) that they forgot about the farm system. But the Oilers had a pretty good farm system before the shutdown under Lowe and Howson and Julien and Ward. I listed a bunch of the players in a previous post.

    After the shutdown, and Stanley Cup run, Lowe and MacT focused on signing free agents, and NOT on the AHL franchise. Howson ran a pretty good operation prior to the shutdown.

  29. Lois Lowe says:

    godot10:

    MacT was just trying to justify his inexcusable act in not interviewing Nelson for the headcoaching job.

    We’ve been through this.

    MacT was interviewing for an assistant/associate coach to help Krueger. Nelson has expressly stated that his next position in the NHL as a coach was going to be a head coaching gig. MacT didn’t interview Nelson because Nelson didn’t want the job that was being offered. Eakins, during the interview, convinced MacT that he was more of a head coach than an associate and offered more than Krueger did long term.

    I know you have a narrative and you’re married to it, but you can’t revise history to suit it.

  30. RexLibris says:

    This Detroit series has brought back some memories of my old ON rebuild posts about the Oilers.

    I recall going through edits I had done on the Oilers rebuild article and Jonathan and I had discussed establishing the levels of responsibility for the situation at the time (Sept, 2012).

    Here is what I wrote back then: the EIG made business decisions due to financial constraints and that the collapse of the 2009-2010 season was a result of those problems coming home to roost.

    I had actually written something in another format two years earlier to that same effect when the wheels fell off in 2009. As much as I discount Prendergast as an evaluator of hockey talent, when he did get it right, the Oilers often pulled the rug out from under the prospects once they turned pro.

    I’ve often wondered if Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers could win a civil suit against the organization for costing him a professional career.

  31. godot10 says:

    RexLibris:

    I recall going through edits I had done on the Oilers rebuild article and Jonathan and I had discussed establishing the levels of responsibility for the situation at the time (Sept, 2012).

    Here is what I wrote back then: the EIG made business decisions due to financial constraints and that the collapse of the 2009-2010 season was a result of those problems coming home to roost.

    There were no financial constraints after the lockout. The EIG let Lowe spend (on Pronger, Peca, Penner, sign Moreau and Staios)

    It was a hockey operations decision to focus on free agent spending, and not on refocusing immediately on the AHL.

    In the darkest days, the EIG guys had cash calls. There is an extreme revisionism going on here.

    The Oilers and the AHL teams were competitive for a playoff spot under the EIG, and their AHL teams produced players, the base of players that contributed to the 2006 run.

  32. godot10 says:

    The blackhole that led to the collapse is post EIG.

    The Sprinfield fiasco. The gutting of the middle-age core of the NHL squad, Stoll, Torres, Greene, Hejda, Glencross, Pitkanen. The coach failing to teach the first-rounders he kept (Gagner and Cogliano) how to play a two way game, even though he had two seasons to do so.

  33. commonfan14 says:

    Ducey: Now you don’t like MacT’s hair either?

    Not possible.

  34. Lowetide says:

    RexLibris:
    This Detroit series has brought back some memories of my old ON rebuild posts about the Oilers.

    I recall going through edits I had done on the Oilers rebuild article and Jonathan and I had discussed establishing the levels of responsibility for the situation at the time (Sept, 2012).

    Here is what I wrote back then: the EIG made business decisions due to financial constraints and that the collapse of the 2009-2010 season was a result of those problems coming home to roost.

    I had actually written something in another format two years earlier to that same effect when the wheels fell off in 2009. As much as I discount Prendergast as an evaluator of hockey talent, when he did get it right, the Oilers often pulled the rug out from under the prospects once they turned pro.

    I’ve often wondered if Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers could win a civil suit against the organization for costing him a professional career.

    Not a word out of place.

  35. Lowetide says:

    Regan Bartel ‏@Reganrant 23s

    I spoke to Oilers d-man Justin Schultz about contract talks with team. “It is pretty close. We should have something done pretty soon here”.

    Bartel does Kelowna Rockets PBP.

  36. G Money says:

    Lowetide:
    Regan Bartel ‏@Reganrant 23s

    I spoke to Oilers d-man Justin Schultz about contract talks with team. “It is pretty close. We should have something done pretty soon here”.

    Bartel does Kelowna Rockets PBP.

    That’s right, Jultz was born in Kelowna and raised somewhere near Vancouver. Makes sense that he (along with a zillion other Western NHLers) spends his summers in the Okanagan.

    Remember when Jultz signed with the Oilers, he not only enraged Ducks fans for spurning Anaheim, but also Canuckleheads for spurning his “home town”?

    Good times.

  37. Bank Shot says:

    Lowetide: The minor league system should have gotten way more than they did, including Pouliot, Schremp, Deslauriers, Chorney, on it goes. I think we can absolutely staple the amateur scouting department during that time for Niinimaki, Plante and others. But the Oilers minor league system failed a lot of kids miles before Katz took over the team in 2008. http://lowetide.ca/blog/2008/02/big-money-in-our-town.html

    I can get onboard with JDD. He didn’t get enough games that he needed in his early pro career.

    I’m not sure you can put any blame on Schremp’s failures except Schremp himself. He just wasn’t willing to work on rounding out his game and he didn’t have the offence that he thought he did.

    Pouliot is in a little bit of the same boat as Schremp. He didn’t want to be a checker but he had tweener offence. Had he been more eager to skate through walls for his coaches he might have had a better career.

    Chorney was probably failed by being forced into half an NHL season too early. Pouliot to some extent there as well. I would say that was a failure of management to aquire 20 NHL skaters with experience going into training camp. Is any developement system going to be effective if you don’t use it? The Oilers routinely started season after season with 3-4-5+ rookies on the roster who weren;t impact players. It’s no wonder they couldn;t keep anyone in the minors.

    They are still doing the same thing to some extent. Detroit would be sending back Nurse, Leon, Marincin, Lander, and Pitlick this year.

  38. Bag of Pucks says:

    For me, Sam Gagner is like a Johnny Manziel pick.

    The consensus, the fans, the press, the pundits, all scream for orgs to draft these kind of players cos they have that dreaded ‘name brand recognition’ Every year, these consensus ‘safe’ picks are taken, and every year a big chunk of them bust. And more often than not, it’s the bad teams that are so enamoured with these ‘name prospects’

    Meanwhile, the smart orgs are doing this.

    http://deadspin.com/leaked-internal-scouting-report-the-patriots-do-not-li-1574040417

    Messier, Anderson, Moog, Kurri, These were not consensus ‘follow the leader’ picks. This was an org that had the courage of its convictions to find value where other teams didn’t see it. Sure, Fraser lost the plot, But for a short, glorious time, he was a contrarian and a brilliant one at that.

    The problems with crowd sourcing your draft pick to arrive at Gagner over Couture is twofold. Not only do you miss the better player in the shorterm, now you’re wasting valuable time, energy and money to develop a player that doesn’t meet the need. And so you end up drafting Dr Drai 7 years down the road to try and fix the mistake.

    For me, this is exactly where the rubber hits the road in regards to analytics vs saw him good. The analytics only approach makes the value pick on the basis of the MacKenzie list. Saw him good drafts Abney. Somewhere in the middle is where the best drafting teams live. They’re smart enough to consider the consensus, but also smarter than the competition and thus able to define where the Gagner/Manziel landmines lie and the Couture value awaits.

  39. Melman says:

    One thing that caught my eye amongst the Detroit prospects is that other than Sheahan most of the guys at the top have size as a ?/issue. Something that tends to raise howls of angst when it applies to our prospects.

  40. Ca$h-Money! says:

    Melman,

    Small isn’t a huge issue (see what I did there?) as long as the player plays with some fire. See Perron, David or Richards, Mike.

    Arcobello is bigger than Gagner, I don’t care what anyone says.

  41. Ca$h-Money! says:

    Also some players aren’t really small so much as medium.

    See Perron, David or Richards, Mike.

  42. RexLibris says:

    Lowetide: Not a word out of place.

    Yeah. I must’ve been pretty smart back then, huh?

  43. Melman says:

    Ca$h-Money!:
    Also some players aren’t really small so much as medium.

    See Perron, David or Richards, Mike.

    kind of like jumbo shrimp :)

  44. gr8one says:

    The thing about the Detroit model that I’m interested in seeing is whether or not they are able to stick to it going forward.

    For many, many, many years they had such a ridiculous amount of talent that they had the luxury of being able to invest more time into their prospects development. To my eye they are already starting to not have that luxury nearly as much anymore, especially with their D-corps. There’s also speculation that Anthony Mantha has a pretty solid chance of making the team this season, I know he’s a pretty high end prospect but that would never have been been discussed a few years ago in that organization.

    With Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Kronwall nearing their twilight, there are going to be some awfully big shoes to fill there soon, and as good as Nyquist looks and Mantha’s potential, I just don’t see them maintaining this model’s success to the degree we’ve become used to.

    I guess what I’m really trying to say is I think these things are cyclical and smart teams like Detroit are able to maintain the cycle for longer and minimize the lean years but I think they have some pretty lean years on the horizon.

  45. Deadman Waiting says:

    That kind of shortsighted move by ownership (EIG) cost Edmonton a generation of talent, and impacted kids from 2002 to 2007.

    I’m not going to go on a forensic expedition into historical narratives, but let me frame this another way: there were a number of years under the EIG where letting go of a single fifth-liner from the opening-night NHL roster could have spelled the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs.

    1996/97–1998/99 we finished the season with 81, 80, and 78 points. Miraculously, all three of these years were playoff years, and we actually got two playoff series victories out of the deal: twenty-eight playoff games in total, a little under half in our own barn. Divert an extra million bucks into the farm system, and risk losing a chunk of vital playoff revenue? May I humbly suggest that would qualify as stiff competition in the short-sightedness derby.

    We talk about “shooting ourselves in the foot” when we actually have two feet, and they are both easy to hit, especially when the downward facing pistol barrel was tangled up in some mighty-short purse strings.

    Furthermore, the loyalty this team earned during those lunch-bucket, David-against-Goliath triumphs is still paying dividends. Witness: people continue to fill the stands on the current product.

    Now, if the procurement pipeline had been better resourced, we wouldn’t have needed to trade on the loyalty chips—actually, what I mean is, the Boise Bulldogs wouldn’t have needed to trade on their franchise’s shuttered heritage.

    ———

    A week or two ago, I had the idea I was going to address a post of Staples’ on the instalment program, only it never transpired. Today I realized my failure was a simple matter. In the heat of the moment, the most I’m liable to burp up will still fit inside a single, jumbo-meal styrofoam container. Forty-eight hours later, my mind has organized itself to treat the subject with a small novella—at which point my yeast is just getting properly warmed up, and yet more futuristic-society cake dough is ballooning out of the Sleeper cake pan faster than I can prod, bludgeon, and cajole it upon my keyboard, though it buzzes under the onslaught like angry wasps press-ganged into a rectilinear tenement (honey bees recognize the swastika for what it really is on first sight—eight diabolical right angles).

    Today I have an idea fermenting which is as yet too immature to treat as I wish to, yet too soon too large to treat in any capacity at all.

    ———

    Yesterday, over coffee (nice day, long coffee) I ploughed through the entirety of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, not expecting much from it, as fiction is not my bag (though precisely why fiction is not my bag fuels endless fascination—it’s almost the belly-lint equivalent of smelting coke).

    This is an older publication from the “we practiced/taught this forever” school of wisdom. Because of my fiction hang-up, I had hardly written a line of dialogue in my life until one day here on LT, I started to put words into the mouth of some GM or other who was the flavour of the moment. I was pretty sure I sucked at writing dialogue—and I was right. Writing good dialogue is terribly hard. I’ve subsequently discovered that my low estimation of my ability was much to my credit: it’s common among genre hacks to tread upon this minefield way too lightly.

    In my fear of coming across as a carpenter with two swollen thumbs, I actually nerved myself into doing a few things right, right from the get go. The big one is not presuming that people hear each other as intended.

    Another technique for loosening up your dialogue—one well known to successful screenwriters—is misdirection. In formal dialogue, questions are always clearly understood and answers are complete and responsive. Real life is rarely that neat. … So have your characters misunderstand one another once in a while. Have them answer the unspoken question rather that the one asked out loud. Have them talk at cross-purposes. Have them hedge. Disagree. Lie. It will go a long way toward making them sound human.

    “Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity. Two weeks from everywhere!”

    I mean, consider this for a wee microsecond: what in human nature allows a person to sit down to create a ‘thick’ portrayal of human interaction, whose narrative instinct is to sanitise and bleach out all of the above? A person who would then need to schlep off to the local library and borrow a book such as this one to deliver the kicker-epiphany: that humans bicker.

    I read an essay at the onset of the Botox era which argued (convincingly, I felt) that for a woman of a certain age, having a Botox treatment deprived her of her most formidable power: the motile eyebrow. Such a woman still in possession of her supple scowl commands an entire room without so much as getting the first word in edgewise; how much more so if she but uttered her first contentious syllable. Most of us are are familiar with Zhou Enlai’s trenchant observation: All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means. So, too, with human cooperation (of which diplomacy is but one boisterous urchin housed in a very large shoe). Add to this the truism that “love is war” and we’ve pretty much covered the bases on human harmony.

    The other day Bruce wrote:

    Everywhere else you look, the organization has been remade by Craig MacTavish. His mandate was to surround that core group with Actual NHLers™, and it’s hard to argue that significant steps haven’t been made.

    Did he mean “hard to assert” or “hard to dispute”?

    1. Give reasons or cite evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one’s view.

    2. Exchange or express diverging or opposite views, typically in a heated or angry way.

    What a geographical oddity! North equals south! Crafty Bruce has covered his bases ever so slyly.

    ———

    Chapter Eleven turns its attention to “sophistication”. My ears perk up. There’s a mild tremor in my desultory slouch against the hefty naked-concrete pillar shading me from the wrath of Sol.

    There’s a sharp lampoon pointed at such a writer as would digress into the geometrical semiotics of honeybee culture for no good reason—on the precept that the sophisticated author is not supposed to call attention to the man behind the curtain. We’ll ignore this page.

    When it comes to sex scenes, the last thing you want is to seem to be working hard to achieve your effects.

    Is that actually true? Let’s put it to the test:

    When it comes to sex, the last thing you want is to seem to be working hard to achieve your effects.

    Um, on that point I’m pretty sure different folks come down on opposite sides of the pommel horse (or Mallakhamba).

    But in a day where photographs that once would have been sold under the counter are used to advertise blue jeans, this approach has lost its power to shock or titillate. ¶ The subtle approach, on the other hand, engages your reader’s imagination and so is likely to be far more effective. This is an area where it might be a good idea to bring back an old-fashioned narrative convention: sexual encounters that take place in linespaces. … A linespace may be a far more erotic place for two characters to make love than a bed. [By "linespace" he means an artful typographer's gap inserted between adjacent paragraphs.]

    Here my navel lint is glowing orange. This is the whole problem with fiction. I was thinking about the Kama Sutra the other day in which (legend has it) some poses differ by so little as a bent pinky finger (presumably, having been described as of “little” import, a pinky finger artfully outstretched to nowhere in particular). I was reading Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind on the day, suitably infuriating, as promised. “Do. And do not. But beware: Bad effort is dualistic.” Zen master Shunryu Suzuki set up shop in San Francisco in 1959. Coincidence? I think not.

    I suspect the Kama Sutra must be shaded with a little bit of Zen humour: the pinky-finger joke to provoke the limber athletes to achieve the self-revelation that true variety in love making must originate from within.

    And yet here we have a guide to writing fiction, in which the dutiful author offers up, here and there, an adjustment to the attentive-reader’s pinky finger (though the stimulus of character and conflict) at which point the author politely steps behind the velvet curtain of the reader’s habitual yearnings.

    More on that in just a moment. First we’ll take our leave of sophistication.

    The surest sign that you are achieving literary sophistication is when your writing begins to seem effortless. Not that it will be effortless, of course—crafting good prose is hard work. … Fred Astaire worked tirelessly to make dancing look like the easiest, most natural thing in the world. And that’s what you’re trying for—a level of effectiveness that can make what was hardest to achieve look effortless.

    True enough, if women swoon over Fred Astaire because they’re entirely duped on the matter of his tireless work ethic. Yes, some women are. These women we call “girls”.

    ———

    My lemon tree passed me a copy this morning of George Orwell’s famous essay, Politics and the English Language. I’ve seen it before, in fragments oft repeated, if not as a whole. She was handed this by an office mate who’s a closet Marxist—I suspect it’s an especially secure closet.

    The book I cited in support of Woodguy’s simple directness, Style: Toward Clarity and Grace sounds a terribly false note early in the first chapter, when he cites a paragraph from this Orwell essay as Orwell failing to heed his own advice. So what do I find in Orwell, reading his essay in whole for perhaps the first time?

    Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against.

    The forces of weakness in writing are truly insidious. Orwell gets this, because for him, the weaknesses in writing can not be fixed by a good copy editor (sorry, Woodguy) but by failures of mind.

    Had Orwell himself avoided making a verb a phrase, had he avoided the passive voice, had he avoided noun constructions, he would have written something closer to this []

    Orwell in his own essay renders the famous passage from Ecclesiastes “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift …” into “Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities …”

    For all Williams accomplishes in rectifying these three petty rules, he damages Orwell’s style in likeness to Orwell’s gutting of Ecclesiastes. There’s no problem with Orwell’s original prose—despite his forsaking the mandatory handrails of the nattering nabobs—because his idea is solid.

    While bad prose routinely veils bad thinking, a solid idea is less easily concealed by hammering one or two bent nails into the picture frame. Orwell in his essay writes:

    Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.

    This is the problem with all of these books that purport to teach writing: one becomes confused about which is the hammer and which is the anvil. [TOPIC SENTENCE ALERT]

    ———

    Clarity also tells me to frame my issue more quickly than I have just done here. For all my complaints, the hammer is often right.

    ———

    Here lies the main problem: much can be taught about the art of the hammer, while the anvil is ever the inscrutable beast. The “anvil” in my micro-Orwellian allegory represents strength of mind.

    I remarked to my lemon tree this morning that were it truly all about the hammer, Austen would not have drafted Pride and Prejudice at age twenty-one, nor Tolstoy have written any of his great works at any age at all.

    The quickest cure for bad writing is not a book about bad writing, but a sturdier anvil (which will soon break you of any and all bad hammers). Unfortunately, obtaining a sturdier anvil is easier said than done.

    Self-Editing has an early chapter on “Proportion” (during which time my slouch reached its desultory apex, as I am not enamoured with proportion as such).

    The authors particularly deal with excess of description, admittedly an extremely grave fault—if the description merely serves a single master. The problem with much descriptive prose in fiction is that it amounts to lipstick on a pig: it’s not serving any idea at all, but merely patronizing the mind’s eye.

    The true problem here is actually one of mental weight: loose description doesn’t convey enough freight.

    Orwell’s essay argues above all for precision in mental imagery—he believes that imagery is harder to corrupt than language (he also didn’t watch the first Gulf war as presented on CNN). It is, however, true that the human visual capacity is less easily seduced by euphonious bloat [recently I made a failed effort to come up with a good replacement for Deadman Waiting; empty-handed though I remain, I'm going to turn down this particular nugget of manna—dare I say "effulgence"?—offered up from my subconscious mind].

    Where Orwell falls short is in not recognizing that there is also a hazard—one less commonly encountered—in rendering one’s thoughts too precisely.

    Just as with humans who never mishear each other, the certainty of our own minds is an epic fiction. We grope our way—if we are truthful about it—ever so tentatively to the merest modicum of unshakable, Finchian conviction.

    Description, as such, is not the problem. Proportion, as such, is not the problem. I would follow to the ends of the earth the writer who can lard his descriptive prose with his or her entire weight of being—carps, cavils, convictions, and the kitchen crock.

    ———

    Chapter 12: Voice.

    Aha! I lean forward on the edge of my seat. I have no need of the concrete pillar now. We have finally arrived at the Delphic temple. Voice is, after all, the closest approximation we have to the unbreakable hammer: the one hammer the anvil doesn’t break, for ever so many years.

    A strong, distinctive, authoritative writing voice is something most fiction writers want—and something no editor or teacher can impart. There are, after all, no rules for writing like yourself. Voice is, however, something you can bring out in yourself. The trick is not to concentrate on it.

    Well, to hell with you, Zen master Suzuki!

    Checklist and Exercises

    Realistically, we can’t really come up with a list of things to watch for as you improve your voice—there are no rules to becoming an individual.

    And so the book ends: me perched on the edge of my chair—beside my long empty coffee mug and long empty baguette bag—dumped unceremoniously back to reality more than merely a c-hair short of nirvana.

    Well, Alvin, what did you expect? Just two hours ago you were serenading your lemon tree concerning this very point.

    ———

    Here’s what I’ve learned: any word is a good word if you can put enough anvil behind it. How do you do that? No one fucking knows. Despite all we’ve learned about the human brain and the psychology of mind, we remain as ignorant as mewling babies about the mating habits of the anvil thought with the tongs of language.

    ———

    I have, however, though my dabbling here on Lowetide, taught myself a little something about weight.

    Terror.

    When one enters fully into risk, many of these grade-school problems with sentence construction simply fade away.

    It’s important not to underestimate risk. In Stephen King’s On Writing he has this biographical passage about bullying in his high school, where nobody had much, and some had a great deal less:

    We watched in amusement and horror as Bill’s sport shirt faded and began to unravel from the short sleeves up. He replaced a missing button with a paperclip. Tape, carefully coloured black with a crayon to match his pants, appeared over a rip behind one knee. Dodie’s sleeveless white blouse began to grow yellow with wear, age, and accumulated sweat-stains. As it grew thinner, the straps of her bra showed through more and more clearly. The other girls made fun of her, at first behind her back and then to her face. Teasing became taunting. The boys weren’t part of it; we had Bill to take care of []. Dodie had it worse, I think. The girls just didn’t laugh at Dodie; they hated her, too. Dodie was everything they were afraid of.

    After Christmas vacation of our sophomore year, Dodie came back to school resplendent. The dowdy old black skirt had been replaced by a cranberry-colored one that stopped at her knees instead of halfway down her shins. [] The ancient sleeveless blouse had given way to a soft wool sweater. She’d even had a permanent. Dodie was a girl transformed, and you could see by her face that she knew it. I have no idea if she saved for those new clothes, [or if ..., or if ...]; It doesn’t matter, because mere clothes changed nothing. The teasing that day was worse than ever. Her peers had no intention of letting her out of the box they’d put her in; she was punished for even trying to break free. I had several classes with her, and was able to observe Dodie’s ruination at first hand. I saw her smile fade, saw the light in her eyes first dim and then go out. By the end of the day she was the girl she’d been before Christmas vacation—a dough-faced and freckle-cheeked wraith, scurrying through the halls with her eyes down and her books clasped to her chest. … Someone made a break for the fence and had to be knocked [down].

    Now consider what Orwell had to say:

    In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing private opinions and not a “party line”. Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style.

    I had a similar experience to King’s, concerning a girl in my grade eight class who had been badly burned in the lower lip, jaw, chin, and neck. I think I’ve mentioned this before. It was worse on one side than the other. It looked like someone had tugged and stretched one side of her lower lip and stapled it to the bottom of her chin, with the angry-red flesh normally hidden inside the mouth exposed to all the world. She was right out of central casting for the acid-burned big bad. She came to our school that year and after a timid week, when the teasing was far less than she feared and expected, she began to act like a human being. One day, maybe a month into the school year, some pustulent peckerhead sucked up his fear (like Ted Bundy) and lobbed the first public insult; then the deluge, the entire damn broke, flash flood in High River. By the end of the day she was the girl she’d been before changing schools. I saw every glorious minute of hope she’d experienced over the past month of false détente unwind across her face.

    Like King, I sat there recording the proceedings in my own mind, without actively opposing them. The hammer of outrage soon breaks on the anvil of prejudice. I knew this by then well enough. I also knew I had no anvil of my own—stemming from a family feud we won’t get into at this late pixel.

    In my opinion, any novelist who abandons his protagonists to fornicate under cover of linespace will never grow any real hair on his anvil. The novelist is desperately trying to put flesh on his imaginary creations, and then the advice is to bow out of the fleshing process at potentially the most revealing moment. Here’s the real problem: there’s no cover for the writer. A revealing detail in the bedroom of your novel is also a revealing moment from the bedroom of your real life; there’s no other way to acquire the insight. Even if you install a secret mirror-window into your college room-mate’s boudoir, what you observe will come from the wrong vantage point; you won’t catch the telling flick of expression at the poignant moment. For cripes’ sake, the actual participants are soon lying there asking each other “was it good for you?”

    Every word I’ve written in these climes concerning sexuality was certainly biographical (or it was false). Even when I’m possessed of my peak capacity to artfully sanitise, what remained struck me as dreadfully revealing. Terror. But here’s the thing: the writer who does force himself or herself to inhabit this pinprick of terror, has no need of a single one of these damn books.

    Terror is the ultimate anvil.

  46. Lowetide says:

    That’s a masterpiece. Lordy.

  47. bendelson says:

    Lowetide:
    That’s a masterpiece. Lordy.

    You read and absorbed that masterpiece in 2min LT? Lordy.

  48. Lowetide says:

    bendelson: You read and absorbed that masterpiece in 2min LT?Lordy.

    It flowed!

  49. Melman says:

    Lowetide: It flowed!

    downhill? :)

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