Go Away For 5 Days and Everything Changes. Tons of News

Why is it when you're around and trying to come up with things to talk about, nothing happens? Of course, when you leave for a few days there is all sorts of news to share.

The Oilers followed five straight road wins with seven straight losses. How nice.

The Olympic team for Canada and the rest of the world gets set, and there is big rumblings from all sorts of people that something big is coming for the Oilers.

First off, what about the dreary Oilers? Is it me, or when you finally needed your team to plummet to the bottom of the NHL, thus almost solidifying a decent draft pick, the draft is thinner than in years past? Imagine last year, had the Oilers finished bottom three (which it looks might be a lock the way they're are playing), Edmonton could be home to Tavares, Doughty or Duschene.

One of those players just made the Olympic team and is argueably the single biggest reason the LA Kings are a competitive squad.

Instead, the Oilers pick a year where the biggest name in the draft is Taylor Hall, and he'll likely be grabbed by the Carolina Hurricanes who somehow, are hands done worse than Edmonton.

Add to that players like Dustin Penner who were incredibly hot and now not even at a point-per-game pace and with Hemsky, Comrie, and Khabibulin out, and for the forseeable future, the Oilers are going to get much worse before they get better.

They play Toronto tonight, which normally would be good news, but Toronto has been a decent team and are clicking far better than an Oilers group who can't seem to find any chemistry.


Team Canada was named and there were major surprises. Of four Flames rumoured, only one made the cut, that being Jarome Iginla who has been named as an Assistant captain. Bouwmeester, Phaneuf and Robyn Regher all were absent from the list.

Not surprisingly, Dustin Penner, who had once been given some consideration is not on the list. That said, how can you put Penner on, but keep Lecavalier, St. Louis, Jeff Carter and others off?

For the rest of the Olympics, Visnovsky, Grebeshokov were named to their respective Slovak and Russian sqauds. One deserves to be there and I'm sure you can guess who I think that is.

Tom Gilbert and Patrick O'Sullivan have a chance of making Team U.S.A, but my guess is based on their play, not a very good one.

Of course, amidst all of this is the rumours surrounding some big trades coming in the NHL as teams hit the half-way mark of the season and some injuries have occured on teams in serious contention.

The Oilers who will need a small miracle to make the playoffs, are sure to be sellers at the deadline and trades are already making the rounds including moving Ethan Moreau, Patrick O'Sullivan and Andrew Cogliano.

At this point, and has been noted by even the most patient of writers (ie. Robin Brownlee) die-hard fans all over are suggesting a blowing up of the team and if Tambellini can pull it off, moving over 75% of the team.

Brownlee even goes so far as to suggest that should Tambellini not pull it off, that he, Kevin Lowe and others in management say goodbye or be told to leave allowing Pat Quinn the opportunity to run things.

I'm not totally against it as I find Quinn's approach to how he'd like to build this team much more appealing than I do Tambellini who seems to be a lot of talk and no action. Even his talk has changed from where the season started.

Edmonton plays on PPV tonight and the way this team has played, I'd sit back and let others order it while I find a more constructive way to spend my money. However, Christmas brought our household full HD everything, and I'm interested to watch the Oilers in higher quality.

I'm sure it will out-do the quality of the play on the ice, but hey, it's the last game before New Year's...maybe the Oilers will surprise me.


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Could Five Wins Be Followed By Five Losses?: Oilers Lose Badly to St Louis.

The Oilers won five in a row on the road. No one can take that away from them. That feat, was likely a great thing for their confidence. What's happening now shows that confidence for the Edmonton Oilers can quickly shatter.

The Oilers have turned five straight wins into four straight losses and it could get worse before it gets better.

In what can only be described as a lashing, the Oilers showed again that they can't sustain more than 20-40 min. of high energy, skilled all-around hockey against not only good competition, but similar dwellers in the west, as the Blues slapped a 7-2 loss on the Oilers.

The Oilers had one period in the first where things seemed ok. They held off for a while in the second, but as they always seems to do, things quickly fell apart and whatever confidence Edmonton might have gained with five straight road wins, meant nothing compared to the sheer fear they show in many of their recent losses.

It's like the Oilers feel bad news is coming before it does and react accordingly. Why try when the outcome is inevitable? I say that hoping it's not true, and I certainly don't think that way. From what I can tell, Pat Quinn doesn't seem to think that way. But, it's evident a lot of Oiler players might think that way.

Of course, with the chance that Edmonton could lose five in a row after winning five, fans will jump back on the tear apart the team mentality and quickly jump back to praising Ales Hemsky, who is obviously missed, but was the last name on the list of those players not needed while the Oilers were hot.

Well, the Oilers are currently anything but hot and the reality is, this team and its missing pieces simply isn't good enough to compete with many, if not most of the other 29 teams in the NHL. Even with a healthy roster, they struggle against most of the western conference. The Oilers knew this before the injuries. They knew it before the season started, and they knew it before the last two seasons started.

They just refused to admit it.

At what point will management say, "well, we're too close to the bottom to mistakenly think this team will be competitive. Let's see what we can get for picks at this coming draft and start to build that way."?

I hate to see the Oilers lose, but something has to trigger management away from the previous approaches that have left this team with major holes, overpaid and under-performing talent, who can't seem to find chemistry with each other.

The Heatley's, Hossa's and Jagr's of the world are not coming here, and the sooner the people in control of this franchise realize it, the better the future of the Edmonton Oilers will be.

To most, there are obvious elements or centre-pieces if you will on this team that should be considered the core of the Oilers moving forwards. That said, the list is small, and none of them would be considered NHL superstars. Penner, Hemsky, Gagner, Brule, Stortini and Smid are the players I'd keep. I'd consider moving them too if the return were right, but let's suggest right now fair value doesn't exist.

Everyone else should be examined and options considered to improve this team 2-4 years from now. Immediately, that means Comrie, O'Sullivan, Pisani, Moreau, Staois, Souray, Strudwick, Nilsson and others are brought up any time a trade is possible.

Players on the bubble are guys like Visnovsky (who I really like), Horcoff, and Tom Gilbert. If a trade exists that either rids you of salary effectively and gets you high picks in return take it. Even better, if moving them is part of a deal that includes a better, more proven star than those three, consider it as well.

Successful teams, and those at or near the top of their respective divisions like New Jersey, Colorado, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Pittsburg, sit there looking down at everyone else for one reason, and one reason only. They were poor enough teams for 2-3 years, or drafted well enough in the first round that they roster those players who are the main contributors to their teams success.

Only San Jose seems to have defied the odds by making a couple successful trades, thus making them attractive to players around the NHL. San Jose is the new Detroit in that if you want to win, you give the Sharks a good glance. The only difference being the Sharks haven't won in the playoffs for everyone to consider them the "team to play for".

For the Oilers, Edmonton has a few keepers on their way to the NHL. Wouldn't it be nice if they could pick up one if not two bonafide soon to be superstars from the draft to play along side these keepers? Since it won't be through free agency, the draft is the only place left.

Unless the next Eric Lindros is about to be drafted, the draft would mean no issue over convincing a free agent to play in Edmonton, no issue in overpaying to attract or keep top talent, and finally no reason for this and next season to keep fans blindly believing that this team will do anything but scrape into a playoff spot (if they can do that) and get booted immediately.

Oiler fans are dying for wins. Not 82, but just enough to see this team in the playoffs. To me, that is the wrong way to go.

I say forget it this year, and forget next year. Decide, keep and develop your core, dump your assets at the next two trade deadlines, and hope you draft high. Get a couple good draft years in a row, with what I believe to be a couple good draft years for the Oilers in the past two years and then you'll see a winning tradition back in Edmonton.

In the meantime, fill your team with spare parts from free agency. There seem to be plenty of deals available about 1-2 weeks into July. Take advantage of it.


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The 8th or 7th Day of Oilers Christmas: The Definition of Patience

Busy weekends means I miss a couple opportunities to write. However, being a couple days behind on the 12 Days of Oilers Christmas is not much of an issue since I want the same things for Day 8 as I do Day 7.

On the 8th and 7th Days of Christmas, the Oilers gave to me, a prayer at either 8th or 7th in the western conference.

Most of us knew going into this season, that should the Oilers make the playoffs, they'd be barely scraping in. There wasn't much reason to look past the 8th and final playoff spot for Edmonton since the holes in the roster were glaring.

Thanks to such a weak team and major injuries to key components of the Oilers lineup, Edmonton now sits at 14th in the West and one game under .500. With only 47 games left, Edmonton would need to go something like 30-17 in their remaining games to have a legitimate shot.

Based on the injuries and play over the first 36 games, not likely is a term that comes to mind.

On the Oilers after show following Edmonton's loss to Washington, Dan Tencer was asked what he'd like to see with this team and his answer was patience. In fact, he called that the only logical response.

Tencer followed with explaining that the only way teams build a contending team is from within and through the draft and that Oiler fans should look to turn this ship around that way. Bob Stauffer followed up by suggesting the reason Edmonton's failed to do so despite missing the playoffs for consecutive seasons, is that "when the Oilers have been bad, they just haven't been bad enough to get a top five pick".

He's right, only Jason Bonsignore was drafted in the top five by Edmonton. Not exactly a stud.

So If my request for Christmas on the 8th and 7th days represents an 8th or 7th playoff spot, what would the Oilers need to do?

First, if they actually believe and agree with Tencer that building through the draft is smart, stop pretending to contend every summer and look to make the playoffs next year, not this one.

Understand that this team is a few steps away from fixing it's problems. Trading for Heatley gets you 50 goals, but it doesn't improve your team overall. Signing Nikolai Khabibulin gets you a proven goaltender, but one that maybe only steals you 5 games a year and as we've seen has injuries and age problems that come along with it.

I'm not suggesting tanking or not competing as a team night in and night out, but futile attempts to move up a few spots in the conference when you're not only a few spots away from the playoffs, moves you up only enough to not be a lottery pick.

In the end, you miss the playoffs, but you are also just good enough that the draft drops off.

Tell the fans, you expect to build through the draft, but will compete every night. Don't sign one or two medicore free agents and tell the fans you are a playoff team.

Take your lumps, get the draft pick that will help and maybe, your team in the meantime surprises and does well without adding overpriced pieces that do nothing for the real future of this team.


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There’s Something Different About the Oilers: an article by the Prof

I cannot say for certain what it is, but something is different about the Oilers these days. Even though they lost the Kings’ game, I didn’t despair. I don’t know what it is, but I think they are playing better. I think the goalie pulled a “Quick one” (I know – cheap) on them and stole the game, actually – as goalies sometimes do.

The Oilers played up tempo most of the night and perhaps the only glaring difference between the Oilers’ play and the Kings’ play was that the Oil didn’t seem as willing to throw the puck on the net from anywhere as the Kings did. They actually waited to have shots, which I am starting to think is not that wise a tactic. When someone scores the winning goal after being blanked for almost 160 games, you know lightning can strike. I half wanted Smid to score the tying goal – but, of course, he didn’t.

Here is what I saw. Cogliano was a water bug – everywhere. Nilsson looked as if he is a threat every shift he is on the ice. Souray can shoot – which is hardly news. Penner is a bull – so much stronger than anyone else I have seen. In his almost dust-up with long-time friend Matt Greene, he made Greene look tiny. And Gagner, while he needs to get stronger – he barely squeezed through the sideboards with the puck in the Third Period, can play. He looks like he is one smart kid. Brule and Penner really do have some chemistry – how many times did they “just miss?” And, Deslauriers seems to be gaining confidence every game. I am not that concerned if Khabibulin doesn’t come back – although I don’t want anyone to have a bad back, the money is an issue, and I suppose Deslauriers has to rest sometime.

Anyway, it was one of those games when you saw the Oilers dominating, but somehow just knew a goofy goal would decide it. And, Quick was really the difference.

Although I never played hockey myself, and can hardly serve as an expert, I seem to be seeing more lucky bounces score goals than I have ever seen before. Perhaps, this has always been the case – but, being an Oilers’ fan suggests that I watch mainly Oilers’ games. One difference I see between the Oil this year and last is that they are scoring more close-in goals – more shots that seem to not be as much set up by good plays as the result of lucky, untimely bounces for the other team. Certainly, that was true of Potulny’s goal.

I am thinking that perhaps the kids should start beating the puck to death towards the net – every time they can. If the average scoring percentage is 10% (actually it is 10.3 %) ten more shots per game will score one more goal per game. The puck has to bounce off someone for Cogliano one of these times. I hope it is twice or even three times the next game.

Here’s a daring prediction – Cogliano with at least 35 points. Right now, the season is almost half over and he has 8. Anyone else believe that Cogliano will end up with 15 goals this year?


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The Oilers 9th Day of Christmas

On the 9th day of Christmas, my Oilers gave to me...

Some point production for Andrew Cogliano.

There is something about the way Andrew Cogliano has played over the last few games that suggest to me he's on the verge of breaking out and going on a hot streak. Unfortunately, he can't buy a point.

The worst part is, if Cogliano could buy a point, he'd spend every penny he had thanks to this being a contract year for him and the Oilers ready to say goodbye should he be asking for too much without the numbers to back him up.

Tuesdays game against L.A. was a perfect example. Cogliano was a plus 1, he worked hard, he was in on a lot of action, but he just couldn't seem to get on the board. He even had what looked to be an assist taken away from him on Sheldon Souray's goal.

Edmonton fans know Cogs as one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. He's made for an excellent penalty killing weapon for Pat Quinn and he wreaks havoc on the forecheck with his speed, but this year, he reminds me of the guy in your office that deserves a promotion but never gets one because he's too valueable where he is.

Pat Quinn likes the chemistry of Cogliano, Moreau and Potulny. Frankly, he likes the combo of any of the guys on the 4th line with Cogliano with them and as such Cogs gets very few opportunities in offensive roles.

On pace for 7 goals and 19 points, Cogliano is also on pace for a very small contract as an RFA and for the Oilers, they can't afford to have what was supposed to be a 20 goal per year prospect not producing.

On the 9th day of Christmas, I'd like to see Cogliano get at least 9 more goals that his projected pace of 7. Even that's not enough.


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A Lot of Questions for Oilers Heading Into Game Against L.A.

Despite a few days off between games for the Edmonton Oilers, there's been no shortage of news.

Starting with the rumours surrounding the status of Nikolai Khabibulin, the news is anything but good. There has been no confirmation of any sort of scheduled surgery, but the rumblings at this mornings presser was the he was having a "procedure" to fix a "spinal" issue.

If you're an Oiler fan, a teammate and especially Steve Tambellini, this is about the last thing you wanted to hear outside of "Khabi is done for good".

Should a surgery take place and one that could end Khabibulin's career, the Oilers will be on the hook for every penny of Khabibulin's 4yr $15 million contract. With all the choices available during this past summer, this would prove to be the biggest gaff by Steve Tambellini and co.'s tenure as management and hurt the organization moving forward unless they can find a loop hole.

Denis Grebeshkov will make his return to Rexall Place against the Kings and speculation exists that Pat Quinn might choose to run seven d-men instead of six and let a forward sit.

Patrick O'Sullivan was moved down line and it sounds as though a message is being sent that while he's still getting his chances he needs to be more productive in burying them. It's obvious O'Sullivan misses Mike Comrie who he developed some chemistry with at the start of the season.

Speaking of Comrie, he still isn't skating with the team and a return isn't expected before Christmas. In fact, many seem to think he's out for possibly close to another month.

The L.A. Kings with their loss last night are tied at the top of the Pacific standings with San Jose and look to rebound against an Oiler team who was hot, but has a tradition of stumbling when returning home from longer road trips.

Edmonton had a team meeting to address the start they'd need to have to maintain their momentum against a much stronger team than any of the teams from which the Oiler took their last five victories.

Look too for the Oilers to rough-up one Michal Handzus or anyone defending him. After hitting Hemsky from behind and ending his season, Handzus has a few players looking to send a message. If Strudwick plays tonight, you may see early sparks as he had something to say the last time these two teams met.

It should be an interesting game and while the Oilers are coming off of five straight wins, a must win in terms of telling us exactly where this team sits against tougher competition and at home with a couple days rest.


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On the 10th Day Of Oilers Christmas...

On the 10th day of Christmas, the Oilers gave to me...

#10 from the Chicago Blackhawks - Patrick Sharp

I am a fan of Patrick Sharp. Those that read this blog frequently, probably already know that.

I love the way he plays hockey, I love the the skill he brings and the element of success on both ends of the ice and the fact that he's done all this without the expectation of a top pick (he was taken 95th overall in the 2001 entry draft).

Patrick Sharp plays in a land of great skill in Chicago, yet he seems to be able to set himself a part and standout. He's making more than fair money for his production, he's young and willing to do the things most players won't and in short, he's everything the Edmonton Oilers could use.

I did a quick article on the Bleacher Report about a caller to one of Edmonton's local radio shows, who suggested Ales Hemsky for Patrick Sharp and Dustin Byfuglien.

While I'm not an advocate of moving a good contract (which Hemsky's is), or Edmonton's leading scorer over the past three to four years (which Hemsky also is), I have to admit, at the thought of adding a Patrick Sharp, I'd be willing to say adios to Hemmer.

In 31 games this season, Sharp is a plus/minus +10 with 9 goals and 15 assists for 24 points. Nah he's not a point-per-game player right now, but he brings so much more than just offence, that you have to account for it.

Sharp is over 50% on faceoffs, he kills penalties and plays monster minutes on the powerplay, and he's a versatile forward who can play wing or center if the need exists.

On the 10th day, I'd love to see Patrick Sharp as an Oiler.


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What did Pat Quinn Want to Be When He Grew Up?: an article by the Prof

I was thinking about Pat Quinn today – comparing him as head coach to MacT. It intrigues me that Quinn is also a lawyer – having received his law degree (actually it was a J.D., the abbreviation for juris doctor or doctor of jurisprudence, the formal name given to a university law degree in the United States) at the University of San Diego – obviously between hockey games and during summer breaks while he coached for the Los Angeles Kings.

Interestingly, Quinn’s legal education didn’t seem to teach him to stay out of legal trouble. In 1986, he violated his contract with the Kings to secretly sign as the general manager and president of the Vancouver Canucks for the 1987 season.

Obviously, Quinn’s signing was an egregious (this is the kind of legal description a lawyer might use) conflict of interest, and when the Kings made his signing public he was banned from NHL employment until 1990. But, that’s another story.

Anyway, the fact that Quinn was trained to a lawyer caused me to ponder two questions. First, why does a hockey player become a lawyer? Second, in a face-off between the skills of a hockey coach and a lawyer, how do they match up? In other words, are comparable skills needed to be a good lawyer and a good hockey coach? To this second question, I think the answer is yes.

Here are some skills lawyers need. First, you must be good at disputing and proving your points. It also helps to be competitive. You have to be able to persuade people, be quick to observe things, and you must have people skills. As much of any argument is won on the personality of the presenter as it is on the presentation of the facts. You also need to know the rules and be able to apply them.

To become a lawyer, you study business, communication, journalism, reading, researching, analyzing, and thinking logically. Excellent writing skills are also a must – the point is that you have to make your points succinctly and directly. These points have to be clearly communicated and without nuance – you have to be a straight-up guy.

To me, these are some of the same skills I think hockey coaches must have. There in the scrum of a game, within the heat of complex and dynamic action, players are waiting to be convinced. Watching Quinn stick handle on the Oilers’ bench, it strikes me that the communications he has with his players – except for the extended time of a called time out or a TV commercial – are exceedingly short. You have to say what you have to say in a short amount of time. We’re talking a sentence, tops.

Furthermore, hockey coaches have only the flash of a moment to convince people to accept their ideas. There is no time to debate or compete for attention. Quinn seems almost ultra-competitive in a patient sort of way. He seems quick to observe things, has people skills, seems straight to the point, and I know I wouldn’t want to argue with him. He scares me.

Are all coaches like Quinn? I think not. Law and hockey are so diverse that it is probably impossible to describe a typical lawyer or hockey coach. Each lawyer or coach works with different clients/players and faces different problems. I cannot, for instance, even start to get my head around the different needs of coaching Shawn Horcoff, Patrick O’Sullivan, Ladislav Smid, or Robert Nilsson. But I can imagine that coaching each player is different – and not having English as one’s first language also causes a communication issue. Strudwick is different than Stortini, who is different than Visnovsky, who is not at all like Gagner. All this takes some sense of insight.

So, that Quinn has been schooled in the skills of the legal profession – analyzing issues in light of existing situations, synthesizing ideas in light of different facts and multifaceted issues, and combining diverse ideas into a coherent whole – has to help. Then he has to advocate these ideas to individuals with different agendas, offer intelligent counsel on a game’s requirements, speak clearly, and negotiate effectively. These are skills of both the law and of hockey coaching.

I cannot imagine the pressure of coaching NHL hockey. But I bet that reading situations, listening to the insights that arise, analyzing and synthesizing the sights and sounds of a game and the needs of players, advocating one idea over another, and counseling, speaking, and constant negotiating are keys. Quinn, and perhaps all good hockey coaches, must be smarter than the average bear.

Given this set of smarts, why again would Quinn sign a secret contract in 1986? Perhaps the answer is that it was 20 years ago! Being Quinn’s age myself, I hope I am smarter at 60 than I was at 40.


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On the Oilers Eleventh Day of Christmas...

In this continued series on what is on my Christmas list for this years Oilers team, we take a look at Day 11. On the 11th Day of Christmas, my Oilers gave to me...

11 more faceoff wins per player on the Oilers roster who has taken more than 100 faceoffs this season.

Right now, the Oilers sit a horrid 28 out of 30 NHL teams in faceoff percentage this year. There is evidence in this still young season, that lost faceoffs have directly resulted in losses for the team and cost the Oilers crucial points in what is always a tight Western Conference.

If the players who take the majority of the faceoffs on this team (we'll count for the purpose of this example only those who've taken over 100 this season), won only 11 more faceoffs each, the Oilers would vault from 28th to ironically 11th place in the league at 50.9%.

What sounds like a small number, if done by only 7 players would make such a big difference the results would be amazing.

If Horcoff would have won 233 out of 456 instead of 222, Gagner would have won 171 out of 325 instead of 160, and Penner 114 out of 215 taken instead of 103; all three of those players would then sit over 50% for a faceoff percentage joining only Gilbert Brule who is currently winning more draws than he's losing.

While it still wouldn't put players like Patrick O'Sullivan and Andrew Cogliano over the 50% mark, it would make their percentages more respectable than the 39.1% and 39.6% they sit at respectively.

11 more faceoffs per forward who takes a lot of draws would make Edmonton a more confident team in their own zone. They'd feel the confidence to take control over a forward who faces them in the dot and effectively clear the zone. In the offensive zone, especially on the powerplay, it would give Edmonton literally an extra few seconds to a minute every game of opportune scoring chances.

For Shawn Horcoff, it would mean less double shifting, less pressure on his injured shoulder, and more opportunities for offense. He needs those opportunities if he's ever going to live up to his whopping contract that fans just won't let him live down. They don't notice how much he brings without big offensive stats, so for a player like Horcoff 50 points a season is crucial.

At his current pace, Horcoff is set for 19 goals, 16 assists and a total of 36 points. Not nearly good enough for a player making his kind of money and not currently at 50% on the dot. His maintaining a solid 20 minutes of ice-time every game, just won't be enough to justify what he makes in a salary cap NHL.

11 more faceoffs in this example would likely have given the Edmonton Oilers two more points this season, which would place them in tie for 10th in the West. If we really examine it, who knows, we might find 4 possible missed points thanks to faceoffs, which would place Edmonton inside the playoff picture looking out, instead of from the outside looking in.


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How Can Ugly be Beautiful, or Are the Oilers Learning Something New?: an article by the Prof

I really didn’t think that the Oilers could pull out a 5-3 victory, especially when down three goals with two minutes left in the second period. But, they did it; and it was ugly!

Let’s review the goals.

Goal One: At 19:49 of the Second Period, Gilbert Brule gets number 8 from Dustin Penner. Penner is behind the net, digs it free to somewhere towards the front of the net and there is Brule to smack it two times and eventually somehow slide it in. If I saw the goal right, even Penner’s pass bounced off a St Louis stick. Ugly!

Goal Two: At 8:31 of the Third Period, Gilbert Brule gets number 9 from Sam Gagner and Dustin Penner. Penner is on the sideboard, slides it to Gagner, who hits Brule coming toward the net. It was a goal that the Oilers actually looked as if they knew what they were doing – still, all in the close quarters of a 20-foot space on the ice. Not beautiful or highlight reel, by any means; just really hard work – what I would call white collar ugly and blue collar gorgeous. Only sort of Ugly!

Goal Three: At 11:19 of the Third Period. Sam Gagner gets number 7 from Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule (here are these names again). Penner fights and fights behind the net and, like the first goal, doesn’t even look at the net. Somehow he gets it out there and, for some reason, Gagner is NOT hanging back but moving toward the net and (did he mean to do this or did it just hit his stick) it slides in. Really UGLY!

Goal Four: At 13:52 of the Third Period, the Oilers score my favorite goal of the night. Shawn Horcoff gets number 7 from Robert Nilsson and Lubomir Visnovsky. Two things make this my favorite goal – one I am a huge Nilsson fan (I think he thinks the game better than any other Oiler except perhaps Visnovsky) and second it was the little battle Horcoff won to get turned around toward the goal that was the key. Within a two-foot space, Horcoff fights to turn around with #15 of the Blues all over him, gets his stick on the ice – where Nilsson hits it and the puck goes in. Beautiful in an ugly way! It was the battle Horcoff won in that confined space that sealed the goal for the Oilers. Sure, Nilsson made a great pass – he can do that. But, again, it was the little battle won by Horcoff. Blue collar UGLY!

Goal Five: At 17:03 of the Third Period, just for good measure Dustin Penner gets his 18th unassisted. He just goes – strong and fast – up the right sideboards and towards the net. Can he lift the puck over the goalies blocker? Nope. Can he deke and slide it in the open net? Nope. What he can do is somehow charge straight at the goalie – can you imagine what Conklin was thinking? – and somehow push it literally through the goalie. Nothing pretty at all – just ugly strong! UGLY strong.

The Oilers’ Insider noted that perhaps Penner is on the radar for the Olympic team – well perhaps the bigger ice space on the Olympic sheet will be his nemesis. Perhaps not – but he led the Oilers in UGLY on Friday night. But he wasn’t alone. How many blind pushes of the puck toward the net just go free because no one is going to the net? How many battles get won and the puck slides to nowhere? How many times does Gagner go to the net, get nothing, and circle back and go to the net again? I would like to count the number of times Brule’s bus route ran to the net with empty seats.

Obviously, these UGLY things win games – winning battles in the smallest of spaces. Not giving up the puck – somehow pushing it toward where someone might be. An Oiler teammate – great. But a bounce off an opponent sometimes does the trick as well.

The Oilers didn’t win pretty because they didn’t spend much time in open ice where passes look crisp and plays seem decided. They beat the puck to death and put the Blues on their heels. Once this started to happen, the rest of the game just seemed to open up.

The next step is not waiting until Souray gets tossed from the game to make up your mind. Can you imagine if the Oilers started to do this ugly grunt work from the start of a game? I am starting to – well, almost. I am not jumping on the Oilers’ bus route just yet. I am beginning to like UGLY!


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The Edmonton Oilers 12 Days of Christmas

In keeping with the festive season, I felt the need to do something "Christmasy". I attempted the mall to pick up some gifts, but got side-tracked in the local "Sports Closet" store while my son and daughter sat on Santa's lap and my daughter told Mr. Claus how she wanted a new book for Christmas. She's only two and can't read yet, but that kid loves books. (not sure where she gets it from cause the last thing I read was the front page of Star magazine and Tiger Woods latest fling.) * Special Note * mentioning Tiger Woods affairs or sex scandal is a sure fire boost for internet traffic... Tiger Woods.

So, because I won't be posting on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (that is, unless my family drives me nuts and I need to vent), I figured starting today Dec 12, 2009 would get us right down to the wire for the 12 Days of Christmas.

As an Oiler fan, I'll be posting my twelve wishes for this team to lead them into the Christmas season. Each day will consist of the items I think this team or its players need to continue to be successful as they head into the Olympic break and look to make ground in the Western Conference and a possible playoff spot. Today, we start with the 12th day.

On the 12th Day of Christmas, my Oilers gave to me...

12 more points for Dustin Penner

Dustin Penner sits at a terrific 36 points in 32 games. With 18 goals and 18 assists, he's a team leading (along with Ladislav Smid) plus/minus +13. As such, has been added to the short list of candidates for Canada's Olympic team.

With no All-Star Game this year, it's tough to really recognize Penner's achievements unless he's asked to the Olympics and I think the only way he gets there, is with at least 12 more points before Christmas.

Sure, Penner will have a small window to earn more points before the Dec 31st deadline, but if Penner can put together 48 points in 37 games, (a 2.4 ppg pace) it will be hard for Yzerman and company to ignore what he's done. Especially if of those points, six or seven are goals.

Penner would bring a fairly unique element to Team Canada beyond just his point totals. His combination of speed, and hands for a big man at power forward position would be something that attracts Penner to the Canadian group. He's willing to stand infront of the net and he's a very solid two-way forward.

At this point, Penner is a long shot. But with every game, including his four point performance against the Blues on Friday, Penner has to be gaining more and more consideration. He's doing everything he needs to oustide of knocking out another candidate that may be slipping in consideration due to poor play. Should Penner be around the 50 point mark by the deadline, he will be hard to ignore.

At this stage, there are only two players from Canada with more points -- that being Joe Thornton and Sidney Crosby. Add Dany Heatley to that list and those are the only three players who have more goals to date than Penner.

So for the first of my 12 Days Of Christmas, I would like 12 more points for Penner before the 25th of December.


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Oilers Stand a Good Chance to Win 5 in a Row on Road Trip

The Edmonton Oilers will finish a six game road trip in St. Louis on Friday as they take on a similarly hot team who is also 6-3-1 in their last ten games.

The biggest thing the Oilers have going for them is their momentum leading into Fridays contest and the fact that this game is in St. Louis where the Blues are simply not very good.

The Blues are a bismal 5-9-2 at home while a much more respectable 8-2-3 away. The Oilers on the other hand are 6-8-2 away, which while not great sits that way because Edmonton has won four straight.

The Blues are a relatively healthy team missing only Eric Brewer and the Oilers are banged up with some obvious missing pieces, but with missing ingredients, the Oilers have figured out a way to simplify their play and it's paying off.

Add to that the likely return of Denis Grebeshkov and the Oilers have found some decent motivation to make it a clean sweep.

Where the Oilers will need to capitalize is in the first period. Thanks to St. Louis being the worst team in the NHL on the powerplay, the Oilers can afford to play a more aggressive style game and really open the game strong, taking it to the Blues and getting the lead after 20 minutes. Based on this years numbers, Edmonton is a much better team at taking home a first period lead than St. Louis is.

5 on 5 play will be critical as well as St. Louis is a terrific penalty killing team and the Oilers are still lacking, but are doing much better sitting 12th in the NHL. For Edmonton, it will be about the quantity of powerplays to gain the edge in that department.

Should the Oilers be able to pull off five straight wins, this team is a far cry from the the same group fans were calling to see blown up. There is always the possibility that the Oil are giving fans false hope and that this road record against somewhat pooroer NHL caliber teams is deceiving, especially considering the two shootout victories, but how can a real fan be upset with Edmonton winning in any way they can.


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Will the Real Robert Nilsson Please Stand Up?

Making trades in the NHL is all about getting the best return you possibly can for an asset going the other way. When it comes to superstars, more often than not, those trades are pretty one-sided, if for the simple reason that no team really wants to trade a superstar. More often than not, that superstar wants out, which lowers his value.

While Robert Nilsson isn't a superstar, he's got the skill and shows glimpes of the possibility, that one day he might be. What makes a superstar a superstar, is their ability to be better than effective almost every game and while Nilsson's natural gifts rival many NHL players, his consistency is always a concern.

Case in point, Nilsson, who has been terrific since his return from concussion is giving Oiler fans hope that his lazy, inconsistent, sloppy days are behind him. The problem is, his play is bound to slip if his history as an NHL player tells us anything.

So knowing what we know about Robert Nilsson, when would be the time to trade him, if as a GM you'd want to trade him at all?

It's no secret that the Oilers are on a constant lookout for ways to free up cap space, trim contracts and pick up future pieces that can help their team. Robert Nilsson is one of those names linked to all sorts of rumors and speculation.

When Nilsson plays his "we can't believe he got paid $2 million a season for this crap" type game, his value is virtually nill and no team would touch his contract with a 10 ft pole.

But, when Nilsson puts on the type of performances he's been putting in the past 4 games, are a few different teams interested? One might logically assume so, especially if his play continues beyond just a few games.

Should the Oilers then still be willing to move Nilsson if by the 10 or 12 game mark of his return, he has 12 points and is a plus/minus + 3 or +4? I suppose that depends on who you ask.

For those that see the Oilers as a team that needs rebuilding, it's likely Nilsson isn't part of that rebuild. Moving him for a 2nd round draft pick o r a higher end prospect would be a minor miracle and done immediately.

For those that cling to the hope that the Oilers will make a playoff push this season, sans Hemsky, Nilsson has maybe the most skill at the forward position on the current Oilers roster. They'll need every inch of the offense he provides.

If you're on the fence like I am, thinking move for the right return, keep if the values not there, the question becomes when do you move him?

Do you wait for his play to slump? Thus lowering his value and any possible return other than a 5th round pick?

Or while he's hot, do you call 29 other GM's and say "look at this guys play right now. He can be a key ingredient to take you where you want to go but we need to move a contract and we'd like a decent draft pick."

Interesting question to say the least and one that I'm sure the Oilers are considering. Meanwhile, if Nilsson continues his pace, no matter what happens, the news is good if you're an Oiler fan or in Oiler management.


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Will Watching the Game Tonight on My PC Mean I'll Miss Gagner's Defensive Mishaps in HD?

Sam Gagner needs to go back to the 3rd and 4th line like Tiger Woods needs a second cell phone. Both Tiger and Gagner have been exposed as playing terrible defense against a barrage of offensive threats.

Sure, while the threats are quite different in their nature, both Tiger and Gagner could stand to take a step back from the picture of themselves and realize, what could I have done differently here?

For Tiger, it's simple. Either don't cheat on your smokin' hot wife, or if you're going to, get a second cell phone that your influx or fugglies can call you on without risk of your smokin' hot wife catching on.

For Gagner, take a step back and realize what Pat Quinn was trying to tell you when he started you on the 4th line this season.

I'll assume Pat Quinn was thinking Gagner is a great talent, but one dimensional. He's been given too much, too soon and he hasn't earned it. His one dimension served him well for about 50% of one season, but it's time to learn to play the harder lessons in hockey. The 4th line should teach him.

The funny thing was, it did.

Sam Gagner was great for the first few games of the season. As he worked hard, played better defense and played physical to get noticed, he also happened to find ways to put the puck in the net thanks to opportunities he created for himself and his linemates.

As time went on and as Gagner showed he should be given consideration for a higher responsibility type role with a greater upside for offensive numbers, his offense dipped and his defence vanished.

It's time to get Gagner back to a spot on the roster where he can relearn why he was given the first-line ice in the first place. His success and the Oilers ability to continue to string wins together as they face tougher competition, depend on Gagner getting it figured out quickly.

She he not and his one dimension still be missing, his defence still as brutal as it's been over the last five or so games, Gagner will be doing anything to get himself out of the Edmonton negative spotlight.

Another thing one might not want to have in common with Tiger right now.


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Oilers Won't Move Visnovsky, But They Might Move Souray

There is a bit of speculation that the Oilers are currently shopping Sheldon Souray and an eastern conference team has interest.

First off, considering the source of where these rumors started, I don't put much weight behind it being true. That said, if the Oilers are in talks of any kind to trade a big name, big money defenceman; it will be Sheldon Souray who gets asked to waive his no trade clause before Visnovsky goes anywhere.

Lubomir Visnovsky is now second in Oilers scoring with 22 points. He has 7 goals, a terrfic plus/minus - + 11 rating, and he's playing over 20 minutes a game. Lubomir Visnovsky has been everything the Oilers had hoped he'd be and more when they moved Stoll and Greene to obtain him from the Kings.

Last year the Oilers felt the same way, but when Visnovsky went down to injury, the Oilers didn't get to bask in the glory of a great trade, but instead saw how quickly the team took a downward spiral when he was absent from the roster.

Add to that Visnovsky leads the Oilers in shots on net and that's no small feat considering he's picky about when he releases his canon of a shot. You can tell by his 17.9% shooting percentage that he's not just raining bombs that aren't hitting the target.

Visnovsky has found a favorable d-man pairing in Ladislav Smid and while Smid has improved leaps and bounds as a defenceman, I attribute a lot of that success to being paired with Visnovsky. You can tell these two have found chemistry and the Oilers would be silly to break that up.

Meanwhile, Souray has come back from his injury and played well. He's not been the Souray that dominates and scares the opposition on the powerplay like the Souray we know, nor the Souray fans crave for, but I have a feeling that time is coming.

The problem is, the Souray everyone is waiting for, is one dimensional. The Oilers know where they need him to contribute, and teams know where they need to be to stop him. Souray doesn't come close to having the foot speed, quick thinking, offensive talents that Visnovsky does. It makes Visnovsky much harder to contain and as a result a better overall weapon.

One thing Souray seems to have that Visnovsky might not (at least not as much) is trade value. So despite Edmonton wanting both defensemen, Souray will be the one the Oilers explore in possible trades, knowing by moving him, they stand to get the most return.

If you're Sheldon Souray, what do you do if the Oilers come asking? With a no trade clause, he has a great deal of control, but he's also been outspoken in his critiscm of coaching, fans and his teammates. His comments haven't been disrespectful or mean spirited, but represent what can only be a truth as he knows it about the situation he sees himself in.

Perhaps convincing him to waive his clause if the right deal presents itself won't be as difficult as people think.


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The Edmonton Oilers Just Won, But I Didn’t Recall Anyone’s Name Being Mentioned. an article by "The Prof"

Well, the Oilers are one game under 500. I just finished watching the game between the Oilers and the Stars, and here is my dilemma. I don’t know who led the Oilers to victory. Honest. I heard Dustin Penner’s name often – but perhaps I am biased. I really want him to get points – something to do with that Heatley “thing.” But Penner got no points and looked dis-jointed in the shootout. Cogliano seemed to be leading the charge up and down the ice, but he too had no points.

I did notice that Souray blasted some shots on goal during the power play. I see from the box score that Brule and Gagner had lots of time on the ice – and Horcoff had almost 22 minutes; but, I barely heard their names. Honest. The only Oiler’s name I heard consistently was Jeff Deslauriers – who, according to my ears, was the best Oiler today.

So the Oilers got a victory in Dallas – a place where they have only won 4 times in their last 26 games. But, what really am I to make of the game? That the Oilers don’t need Hemsky all that much? That their goal tending is workable – except for an odd off game or two? That a TEAM – not a group of individual stars – can actually win games? I have a lot of questions, and perhaps it will take a couple games to actually see a pattern.

Even the person who named the game’s Three Stars picked Neal, Smid, and Benn. Obviously, he didn’t hear many Oilers’ names either; and, like me, got caught up in the fact that Ladislav Smid – and how can you not love this young guy, really – got his first goal in like 150 games. I got caught up in that!

Anyway, knowing the Oilers, my guess is that they will break my heart over the next week or two by going into the dumps. Then again, there is a chance that I might be wrong – just this one time. Perhaps the fact that I didn’t hear any Oilers’ names is a good thing. Maybe everyone is beginning to play with some spunk – and specific Oilers are not named – either in a good or bad way.

I did notice the play in the Stars’ end a lot today – especially during the last two periods. By the end of Period One, I was thinking – here we go again. But during Period Three, I somehow just expected the Oilers to score – they were playing in the Stars’ end that much.

Ok guys! You are making me think that something good might be starting to happen. I hope I don’t hear any more of your names over the next week – and you keep winning. I know these are games on the road – but Florida, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis at least give you a shot at being above 500 when you come home!

Could this be the start of a run? GO you No-Names, GO!


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Oilers Shoot from 15th to 12th in the West. What's Next?

The sky is falling in Edmonton, or at least that's what fans, writers and popular opinion around the city seems to suggest.

That is until the Oilers laid a beating on last year Stanley Cup finalists the Detroit Red Wings.

Edmonton was simply a better team, out-shooting the Red Wings in every period, out-working the Red Wings and their players, especially their goaltending, was better. This looked like a Detroit team that is currently sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in. But this did not look like an Oiler team a the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

So what gives?

How can a team full of injuries, lacking superstars, and full of AHL players beat a team with elite level talent like that of the Detroit Red Wings? "Crust".

It's been a long time since the Oilers can say they produced the kind of "crust" Pat Quinn said this team would have. With the return of Ryan Stone, JF Jacques and the emergence of Ryan Potulny and Gilbert Brule, the Oilers finally seemed to come out with the attitude that to win this game, they'd have to do the things Detroit wasn't willing to.

For Edmonton to be successful in spite of the hurdles facing them, that attitude will not only have to continue, it will have to become their montra.

Players like Robert Nilsson, who returned to the lineup after missing significant time with a concussion, will have to play more than the skill he was gifted with. He'll need to use that skill (which he did, scoring one of the prettiest goals so far this NHL season), and find a second gear in terms of overall teamwork and effort and bring it to the rink every night. He did that against Detroit and it showed.

Patrick O'Sullivan will have to continue to get lucky bounces to get him off of the snake-bitten path. Even lousy goals can boost a players confidence and overall output. Thursdays game showed just how much. He showed effort which was virtually invisible over the past five or six games.

Others will need to continue to step up aswell, because despite how little it would take to go from 15th to 12th, and then say 12th to 8th, with a 5-1 or 6-2 run, the Oilers with lacking games at hand could see the opposite happen if they stand-pat and others develop streaks of their own.


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Realistic Options for Next Season: Is a Team Blow Up Easier Said Than Done?

David Staples brought to attention an interesting scenario should the Oilers decide that a rebuild becomes priority #1. I'm not sure I'm necessarily ready to write-off this season yet, but in all reality, one has to notice that the Oilers chances of a post-season spot get slimmer and slimmer each passing day.

Staples talked about how, should the Oilers choose, to move contracts the average fans seems to call impossible to move. Most think that high-priced, long-term contracts in todays NHL are something each team will be stuck with. Staples makes a case that we may be assuming too much.

What I found most interesting about David Staples "expired contract" theory, is that in his list of players for each team whose contracts are coming due, there are a number of players that might be possible, if not easier more attractive targets for the Edmonton Oilers next season than what this season offers.

Most of us shutter at the thought of moving Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Nikolai Khabibulin or others, simply because on an Edmonton team full of rookies and inconsistencies, they seem the most stable.

Staples did an excellent job at explaining how it would be possible to move those names, so I won't get into it here, but would you feel more at ease with their exits if players like Joe Corvo, Adrian Aucoin, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Anton Volchenkov, Evgeni Nabokov, Martin Biron or others became available to take their place?

I'm not suggesting by any means that these players are shoe-ins as available to Edmonton, nor will their respective teams not do everything in their power to keep some of them. In fact, I'll be honest, many of them are not really options here in Edmonton.

That said, some of them are bound to find new homes and for Edmonton to be more successful than they are now, they don't need to attract all of those players. They need one, maybe two at best to compliment a group of young prospects that could be close to making the jump to the NHL, while at the same time making salary space for the many expiring contracts the Oilers currently see coming due.

Consider what happened this past summer with teams who filled their rosters with what many considered "spare parts" after the initial crop of big name free agents moved. Phoenix, Colorado, Atlanta and others have made the practice of waiting not only feasible, but successful.

Consider too that a lot of those teams that made big splashes over the past couple years no longer have the room to make splashes again. Those teams that drafted well are now paying for the skill they've drafted and other teams can't afford to keep expiring contracts because they have too much tied up in their current rosters.

Case in point in San Jose. Unless either Marleau or Nabokov are willing to take larger pay-cuts to stay with the Sharks, the potential for San Jose to afford both players becomes difficult. They have Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, Rob Blake and others they'd either have to work out deals with, let go or trade to make it work. Of course, Marleau and Nabokov are having stellar years so they'll be worth top dollar on the open market.

There are other teams in a similar situation, but my point is more if they Oilers can clean house or at least move one or two big money contracts at the deadline for expiring deals, who might I consider a good pick for Edmonton once the dust settles?

Ray Whitney

He's a short-term solution at his age, but that's exactly what Edmonton needs at this juncture. While the young guys develop their game, who better than a local veteran like Ray Whitney, who might be allowed to slip away from a team in Carolina far worse off than the Oilers are.

A local product, it might make sense that Whitney spend the last one or two years on of his career in his home town. The team that picks up Whitney should get him at a discount if he doesn't stay with the Hurricanes and he's bound to net you 15-20 goals a season easily.

Carolina won't make the playoffs and they'll be a seller at the deadline. Pick up a player like Whitney and convince him to sign for one year at an affordable rate.

Tomas Holmstrom

I made a case a while back that it would have been nice to see the Oilers make a play to trade for the grizzly forward. Holmstrom was coming off a poorer season and might have been had for a good price thanks to Detroits desire to make Johan Franzen that guy.

However, with the injury to Franzen, Holmstrom has stepped up and proved how valueable an asset he can be.

Still, with a returning Franzen and a crop of young kids in Detroit's farm system, Holmstrom may choose to either a) finish his career in Detroit at a discounted rate or b) go for one or two more good years of revenue with a team willing to pay something for what he brings.

Detroit seems to be a team that takes on short-term inexpensive contracts to compliment a core of long-term players. At Holmstrom's pace, he'll get offers higher than $2.25 million and it won't likely be Detroit offering it. Edmonton could pony up $3 million per and for a guy with the size of the heart Holmstrom has, he'd be worth it.

Holmstrom won't be going anywhere at the deadline, but at the start of free agency, he could be one of those surprises that takes a while to get signed.

Marc-Andre Bergeron

No one seems to want to keep this kid, yet every year he proves that in the right situations he can be a real asset to a team. He was good in Edmonton on the powerplay and he's been good there in Montreal since they picked him up last minute thanks to injuries.

People seem to think Bergeron is a terribly horrid defensive player, and it might be true that he's not considered a shut-down guy, but he's a respectable plus/minus -1 on a Montreal team that gets scored on frequently.

Frankly I find Bergeron a better investment for my money at $750,000 than I do Gilbert at $4 million and Grebeshkov at $3.2 million. When Bergeron signs again for less than $1 million for whatever team he's shipped to next, I'll still feel that way knowing a reliable offensive d-man at his price allows for investment in other areas.

Martin Biron or Evgeni Nabokov

If the Oilers can successfully move Khabibulin, perhaps they can get the goalie situation right this time around. It's not that I don't like Khabibulin. I have to admit, much like Roloson before him, he's done his job and then some to keep the Oilers in games.

However, by next season the Oilers should know if either Dubnyk or Deslauriers are items you keep or items you discard. If they discard both, make your big splash in net with a tender like Nabokov. He turns 35 literally 24 days after free agency opens, so his cap hit won't hurt the Oilers if he retires early and he's still good for a 4 or 5 year contract. Offer more money than San Jose can afford and he might be attainable.

If you keep one of Deslaurier or Dubnyk, go with another starter/back-up who can compliment who you keep but at a less expensive rate than $3.75 million per season.

Staples mentions Vesa Toskala, Marty Turco, Dan Ellis, Chris Mason, Jose Theodore, and Biron as potential goalies to hit the market. Like this past summer, there may be more goalies available than there are spots to put them and while many of the goalies on that list haven't played the amount of games Khabibulin has, their numbers are as good or better in many cases.

Other Notables:

Robert Lang and Manny Malhotra - Should have been offered a try-out by Edmonton at the very least. Perhaps Edmonton will realize that ignoring a need to start next season isn't wise. A partial blow-up to give them room to even do that is a valid reason.

Doug Weight - Seems to like NYI, but might make a move for a few extra bucks. He's still extremly valueable and a great mentor with a team first attitude.

Adrian Aucoin - Veteran d-man who can play defence, but has a rocket of a shot from the point. Great example for others in the lockerroom too. Potential captain if the Oilers could move Moreau and Souray.

There are a lot of options out there to end this season and start 2010. Should the Oilers not unload some players and big money contracts, options won't exist in Edmonton.

But then again, what do I know. The way Edmonton currently runs this team and how I would are two completely different things and have been for a long time.


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Did the Oilers Keep the Wrong Piece of the Cole Trade?

At the deadline in last seasons race to the playoffs (which the Oilers missed), Erik Cole was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Patrick O'Sullivan and a 2nd round pick.

That 2nd rounder was then moved to Buffalo for Ales Kotalik.

During the offseason, the Edmonton Oilers had some tough decisions to make. With too many contracts, not enough salary cap space and a team in the New York Rangers who were willing to offer up more for Kotalik than the Oilers figured he was worth, Edmonton chose to keep Patrick O'Sullivan for his skill as a shooter, versatile style and two-way defensive play.

By all accounts, moving Cole was the right thing to do even though it fell under some harsh criticism. Cole was becoming a UFA, there was value for him on the trade market and he was having a less than stellar year for Edmonton.

Take a look at his numbers in Carolina this season, and you'll quickly realize dumping Cole for what the Oilers were able to obtain was impressive.

The problem is in Patrick O'Sullivan's play. To say the least, he's been less than what the Oilers expected from a shooter, having scored to date only 4 goals and 13 points in 27 games. To boot, for a defensive specialist, O'Sullivan's plus/minus - 11 is cause for concern.

O'Sullivan looked to be ready for a great season having sparked chemistry with Mike Comrie in pre-season, but Comrie has run into illness issues for most if not all of the regular season, so that chemistry never carried over. O'Sullivan has been unable to find that kind of chemistry with any other current forward on the Oilers roster and Edmontonians seem to be just waiting for something positive to come from O'Sullivan's game.

Meanwhile, over in New York, Kotalik is making a case that the Oilers made an error in judgement. Kotalik, who took off on a tear to start the season, and while he's since slowed along side the rest of the Ranger (less of course Gaborik, who's been a stud) still has 6 goals and 18 points in 26 games.

Those numbers themselves are not all that impressive and an argument can be made that Kotalik's 0% faceoff percentage can gladly stay in New York as can his plus/minus - 12. The difference I suppose being that Kotalik was never seen as a strong defensive presence, while O'Sullivan was to provide that style of smart two-way hockey.

Knowing what the Oilers seem to see now, would they have been better served to keep a proven one-trick pony in Kotalik?

It's a debate that likely wouldn't find many people in agreement, but it strikes an interesting question.

What is it about tracking back the pieces of that trade, that make everyone involved in it's plot-line a much worse player for having been connected to it?


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What Does Savards Contract Tell Us About the Oilers?

As is being reported by TSN, The Boston Bruins and forward Marc Savard have agreed on a seven-year contract extension with an annual cap hit of around $4.2 million per year.

By all accounts, that is a terrific deal for the Boston Bruins, who now have on a long term deal, one of the top set-up men in the league. Savard has averaged 67 assists and almost 90 points per year over the last four seasons.

If we can switch gears and use this news to read into the Oilers roster, what does a signing like this tell us?

One, it seems as though Savard likes it in Boston and wanted to stay there. He must know, that this contract is valued lower than he could have received on the open market. We'll keep that in mind as we look a little closer.

Two, it tells us, that in an NHL that is leary to continue to hand out bigger contracts, Savards deal may be more the furture of the NHL, than the Pronger, Gaborik or Ovechkin type deals.

With the sheer amount of contracts coming due for the Edmonton Oilers, should the Oilers be happy that Savard signed at such a low rate? Unless they wanted to grab Savard off the free agent list this next summer, absolutely.

Edmonton doesn't haven't have a single player at the level of skill that Savard provides the Bruins. With every player that signs a contract with a team at a lower rate, Edmonton's chances of keeping players like Brule, Gagner, Cogliano and others within the organization and at affordable rates increases.

When in the past keeping a Brule would have been like keeping a Nilsson, perhaps now a reasonable number might be $1.3 - $1.6 million a season. When keeping a Gagner would have been like keeping a Patrick Sharp (I'm not comparing these two players, just possibly their importance to their respective teams), what would have cost the Oilers $3 million a season, might only cost them $2.4-$2.6.

All of this is of course guess work and depends a lot on the seasons that these players in question have through the rest of this year. It also matters how other contracts around the league are handled (ie. Chicago and Kane, Toews and Keith), but for every Savard contract that comes to the forefront, the Oilers should be able to negotiate a much fairer value for the players they would like to keep.

Of course it makes trading the crappy contracts harder, but that's another story for a different day.


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When Do The Oilers Look at Their List of RFA's?

Jay over at lowonoil.com brought up an interesting point that I was already starting to wonder about. With the rash of injuries to some of the Oilers top players, new faces will be playing major roles in any success the Oilers might have.

As Tambellini said at practice on Monday, this is an "opportunity" for some of the young core. But at what cost does this opportunity come?

Players like Gilbert Brule, who after coming to Edmonton in a trade with the Blue Jackets, was given time to progress his game in the minors at an acceptable rate. It's a good thing he did, because as we can all see, having Brule at the top of his game is now of critical importance for the Oilers to have any success and turn a sinking ship around. No Hemsky, Comrie and a weak Horcoff, make Brule much more important offensively.

The problem becomes Brule's contract status at the end of the year. Excellent offensive numbers breed a big fat juicy contract and this relationship isn't something the Oilers are new to.

If Brule gets key ice time in important situations and first line time on the powerplay, it's bound to show an improvement in his final season offensive statistics. Much higher than he would have if players like Hemsky and Comrie who'd have taken his place in those roles weren't injured.

Brule seemed to be the type of player that might get Edmonton 20 goals this season on the third line. If he stays top line with Penner, he could get 30-35. Look around the NHL and you'll start to get an idea of what a 30 goal scorer might make.

Of course, with one good 30 goal season, a $3 million player isn't a given. At least not in todays tightly wound salary cap NHL. Even better, at least not anywhere but Edmonton.

Fernando Pisani got 14 goals in the playoffs after an 18 goal season. Even though he had never scored more than 16 goals in any other season previous, the Oilers rewarded him with a fat contract. We wish Pisani the best in his recovery, but the Oilers are likely waiting to get that contract off the books.

Shawn Horcoff provides a lot more than offense. I understand that when I say the following, yet Horcoff had one season where he was almost a point-per-game player. He also had one half a season along the same lines until he went down with a massive shoulder injury that still plagues him. Instead of playing it cautiously, the Oilers went ahead and rewarded Horcoff with a massive overpayment that is of course, still topic of conversation around Edmonton.

Tom Gilbert had one 13 goal rookie season as a defenceman. He was rewarded with a six-year $24 million contract.

These and others could be examples of either bad management decisions, or they could be a sign that all of these players play in a city that has trouble keeping players. Whatever the case, even with a blatantly obvious NHL that is scared to death of the salary cap, the Oilers overpay.

What should we expect for players like Gilbert Brule, Ryan Potulny, JF Jacques, Sam Gagner and others who are all RFA's at the end of this season and finding the perfect timing to earn bigger money contracts?

To this point, only Andrew Cogliano seems to be going at a slower pace than in previous years, but his play has started to pickup a bit too. There is no way, that with what the Oilers have committed to players currently on the roster, they can keep all of these RFA's should they have career years. And, career years are exactly what almost all of them will have.

Injuries aren't just bad timing in terms of wins and losses. They can be terrible timing in terms of players progressing at a typical NHL rate if they play where they should play on their teams depth charts. With the Oilers depth charts all out of whack, the salaries players will "earn" are headed in an odd direction.

The Oilers are going to quickly need to decide which of the many contracts they'll want to keep and which they can afford to let go. Which should be priority and which will not. Which players currently under contract can go and which must stay.

The Oilers have been faced with these decisions before and players with the success of a Curtis Glencross, have come back to bite Edmonton in the keester.

More importantly, the Oilers will need to decide when to get these contracts signed so as best to get good value for their dollar. If they do this incorrectly, players like Svennson, Eberle and others, who in 3 years will be worth something, are going to be looking at the same situation.


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Time to Think and Back to the Drawing Board for The Edmonton Oilers

While the shot counter was deceivingly close, the Oilers were bombed in a 7-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on the first of a long road trip. This loss, puts the Oilers at an embarassing third from last in the Western Conference above only Anaheim and Minnesota, both of whom have 3 games at hand on Edmonton.

This has not been the best of times, as the Oilers are now 4-11-3 in their last 18 games. Add to that, in those last 18 games, the Oilers have lost the services of Ales Hemsky, Nikolai Khabibulin, Fernando Pisani, Mike Comrie, Denis Grebeshkov and others who are important pieces to most Oiler victories.

So what can Edmonton do? Well they can take 5 full days before they head into Detroit (a team they were able to get two points against), to take stock of what this team is actually made of.

This isn't just a time for the players to reflect and look at just how much each individual will have to step up their game to pick up the slack left by the missing ingredients, but a time for management and coaches to really have a good talk about what this team isn't.

The Oilers, even without key injuries are not a complete team. They lack major pieces that allow them to be a competitive squad.

Even in some of the few hard fought victories the Oilers have managed to squeeze out, they continue to get out-shot, lose faceoffs, get out-chanced and play catch up in terms of special teams. Management did very little to address those needs over the summer and 5 days, is a long time to make a lot of phone calls to see if that can be changed.

Where do the Oilers look for solutions? Is it there goaltending? Deslauriers is now playing as many games as a starter would and he's showing he may not be able to handle the load. There are viable goalies out there to be had that weren't scooped up over the summer and a few teams like the Islanders who picked up one too many, knowing that at some point a team might come calling.

How about the team depth? The Oilers are made up of half a team of proven vets, many of whom are either too old or too highly paid, the other half is an AHL team getting an opportunity to show their stuff in the bigs. Good for the kids, but maybe some of that veteran depth has to go. If you're forced to go youth, go youth all the way.

Maybe, the team takes stock of their long term injury situation and judges how far they can possibly climb up the standings once those injuries heal. Will it be too little too late? If so, does a team plan for a high draft pick by making subtle moves to ensure it's a lottery pick?

I hate the idea of tanking a season, but you have to examine the reality of a situation.

Or, perhaps the Oilers take 5 days and get themselves pumped to turn this sinking ship around.

There is still plenty of hockey and a 12-4-2 type roll, which is close to how a young, injured group of players finished a couple of seasons ago isn't out the question and would put the Oilers back in the mix.

There are some positives. Penner hasn't stopped being this amazing turn-around story. He's still a point-per-game player and he's bringing up players like Brule to his level. Gagner could shine in a more involved first line role and their are subtle trades that exist in todays NHL that could make a world of difference.


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The Oilers Silver Lining: Ryan Potulny

This is Ryan Potulny. He's only played 10 games for the Oilers, but during those 10 games, he's been argueably one of the Oilers top 3 players.

In 10 games, Potulny has 5 goals and 2 assists for 7 points, yet still, a lot of fans and media think he'll be heading back to the AHL when some of the Oilers key players come back from illness and injury.

I might suggest not so fast.

Hemsky will be undergoing surgery to repair his shoulder and is done for the season. Comrie is still a lengthy time away from returning, and players like Patrick O'Sullivan, Robert Nilsson, Sam Gagner and others are just not providing a consistent enough effort to warrant removing someone like Ryan Potulny, who is.

Potulny has been brought on to play in all situations. At a strong plus/minus +1, he's done it successfully despite little NHL experience. On the powerplay, he's been one of Edmonton's more consistent threats and short-handed he's ranked in the top seven players for time-on-ice per game.

Potulny is quickly moving up the shot total ladder as well with a total of 24 shots in 10 games and a team leading 20.8% shooting percentage. He's taken 108 faceoffs, which is seventh on the team, but in only 10 games and while his percentages aren't great, they're better than a whole lot of other players on this team at 41.7%.

A rash of injuries got Potulny his shot at the NHL. It's a safe bet, that even when the injuries lessen, Potulny's play is what will keep him there.


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How Much Does Heatley's Debut in Edmonton as a Shark Really Matter?

(I felt so strongly about writing this piece, and how big this game is for the Oilers, that I posted it twice on two sites I write for... this and lowonoil.com)

On Friday night at Rexall Place, Oiler fans will jam-pack the building with fans who have one thing on their mind. Thousands of people who watched the summer roll by and couldn't help but hear about the Oilers and their inability to land one of the NHL's best snipers, are prepared to make it known that Dany Heatley's antics weren't greatly appreciated.

Every time Heatley touches the puck, fans will yell. When he enters the ice surface, fans will boo. When his name is announced should he score a goal, fans will lose their lunch. However, in the grande scheme of things, I wonder... does it really matter?

In reality, Dany Heatley is old news. The Oilers tried to make a move to improve their first line and the superstar status of their team. It didn't work and the Oilers looked foolish waiting as long as they did, literally begging one player to come change the fortune of a 23 player hockey team. The end result is that Edmonton Oiler fans are still watching Dustin Penner, Ladislav Smid and Andrew Cogliano in Oiler uniforms.

It's easy to understand why Oiler fans feel snubbed. I too, am no longer a Dany Heatley fan (to be honest I never was one since the accident that killed then fellow Atlanta Thrasher Dan Snyder. Something about Heatley's lack of punishment still irks me).

But, for the same reasons I see no point in losing sleep over the success of Chris Pronger, the double-signing of Michael Nylander -- heck, even the failure to lure Marian Hossa, I find any attempt to make one players experience more important than the result of the game itself, a waste of time and energy.

But, I am not an NHL hockey player. If I were, and I played for the Edmonton Oilers, I might suspect there are plenty of reasons for me to have motivation. Heatley in my building, the last game at home before a lengthy road trip, to beat a team that is clearly head-and-shoulders better than we are, or, for three players who had their names in the NHL headlines for weeks as unwanted assets that stayed put. Specifically, I'd find motivation for Andrew Cogliano, Ladislav Smid and Dustin Penner. If I'm an Edmonton Oiler, there is a lot on the line in terms of pride and respect and somebody must pay.

So when I ask, when Heatley makes his debut in Edmonton as a San Jose Shark, does it matter? Hell yes. For three players, all of whom will be in the lineup, Heatley's presence against the Edmonton Oilers makes all the difference in the world.

Hockey players are a prideful group. The Edmonton Oilers, despite not possessing the most skill or talent to win on a nightly basis, are a team that care a great deal for each other. As good friends and close teammates, Friday night, they have reputations to fight for and allies who need vindication.

Cogliano didn't take being traded well and his lack of point production this season undoubtedly has something to do with it. Cogliano is close to many players not missing action on Friday. Those players have a friend to defend.

Dustin Penner was ridden hard by MacTavish. He was counted out and was a throw-in as part of a trade that would have brought Heatley to Edmonton. Unlike Cogliano, who is having troubles adjusting, Penner has something to prove and is lashing out in a positive way.

He's not just the guy that pulls pranks on the Oilers roster during road games or team-building exercises (although he's known for it). He's a guy that has plenty of friends on the Oilers squad and is currently the Oilers best player. Penner along side close teammates and friends will be gunning to show everyone, he's not just a throw-in and that Heatley can stay in San Jose than come to a team he didn't want to play for.

Ladislav Smid is quickly becoming one of Edmonton's better shut-down defencemen. If there was ever a time to have a good game, sticking it in the face of a player you were going to be traded for, this is it.

Dany Heatley coming to Rexall and Edmonton means a lot for the Oilers, or at least it better. If it doesn't, one has to wonder what could possibly pump this team up. They're struggling and they need an excuse to win when they shouldn't. This is that game. It's the tide-turner of the season.

Fans will make noise against the player that treated the city like garbage. My hope, is that fans make more noise for the players that are still here. That they use their energy to root on the three players who are actually a part of this team, and players who will care about the reaction of the fans far more than Dany Heatley does.


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Are the Oilers and Blackhawks Talking?

Despite the fact that there were some 14 games in the NHL, only a couple relevant things happened on Wednesday night if your an Oilers fan.

First, is that the Oilers lost a stinker 3-1 vs the L.A. Kings. We knew they'd need to be stronger than they were against Phoenix. They weren't, so they lost.

The other possibly relevant news if you're an Oiler fan is that Marian Hossa returned to the Blackhawks and made a splash.

You may be asking why that might be relevant. If so, here's my theory.

Rumors are all over the place that Chicago is poised to make a move or two to clear cap space to get Kane, Toews and Keith all signed to the long-term contracts coming their way. To do so, Brent Sopel and Patrick Sharp have been brought up as possibles on the way out.

Marian Hossa coming back and playing well gives the Blackhawks a green light to make a move.

Brent Sopel would be Chicago's obvious first choice, but that all depends on possible takers. When it comes to Patrick Sharp, there are plenty of NHL teams that would jump on that train. I would include Edmonton in that list.

One such other team has been rumored to be the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is being reported that while other teams would have interest in Sharp (including Edmonton), Burke would make a strong push in an attempt to land a first line one-two punch with Phil Kessel. Burke would be right in assuming that Sharp and Kessel together would immediately bolster the Maple Leafs first line.

In return, Burke might be willing to part with Alexei Ponikarovsky. For all intensive purposes, Ponikarovsky could be gone from Toronto next season as a pending UFA. So, while Burke will undoubtedly attempt to land a bigger fish if he's unsuccessful in his bid to get Patrick Sharp, he might as well move Ponikarovsky now if he intends not to keep him.

Ponikarovsky, would solve the cap issues for Chicago as it allows the Blackhawks to shed enough salary to sign all three big name players. What it doesn't do, is leave room to re-sign Ponikarovsky long-term, which means he could be flipped for younger contract expiring talent, prospects or picks. Edmonton has those to give.

One rumor has Edmonton willing to part with Cogliano and a pick for the big goal scoring left winger.

While I'd do so for Patrick Sharp in a heartbeat, Ponikarovsky begs to ask a few more questions and might not be a move I'd jump into quickly if I'm Tambellini.

The positives are that Ponikarovsky is a big left winger. At 6 ft and 220 lbs, he offers goal scoring that Edmonton lacks outside of Dustin Penner who has size. In 22 games so far this season, Ponikarovsky has 8 goals and 3 assists for 11 points. Not great when you consider his total point production, but pretty good for goals as he's on pace to hit 30 markers this year.

Add to that, is that Ponikarovsky leads Toronto in hits with 45. That would put him second behind only JF Jacques on the Oilers.

He's also second in Toronto with time on ice on the powerplay. It's no secret the Oilers could use some assistance in that area. Relying on Dustin Penner every night to be that presence in the goal crease can be taxing.

The most obvious plus, is that Ponikarovsky is a career 20 goal scorer. He's reliable in that area and the Oilers need reliable goal scorers.

The downside, is that Ponikarovsky doesn't address the Oilers faceoff needs. The thing is, I'm not convinced the Oilers care.

All signs leads to the Oilers seeing that with 3 or 4 players right near the 50 percent rate in the dot, Edmonton centers on this team (including Penner whose been undeniably strong for a winger in faceoffs) are capable of handling the load.

The other problem, is that Ponikarovsky (while not similar in play, but more in terms of contract status and perceived value) reminds me of Ales Kotalik.

The Oilers can use him now, but will they keep him? If they don't intend to, because he'll expect a $3 million contract, why move Cogliano to obtain him?

While the possibility exists that this is all wild speculation and just another team added to the many rumored to be in on any action Chicago chooses to take, I don't mind the idea of either Sharp or Ponikarovsky.

If it's Ponikarovsky, I'd be more hesitant on who goes the other way. When it comes to Sharp, I'd move almost anyone.


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Leaders Respond and Losers Sulk: Edmonton Improves Effort Against Phoenix Coyotes

When a player or player(s) in this case are called out, there are two ways in which they'll respond. Either taking the subject of the issue to heart and putting in the extra effort to improve, or pouting, which in turns provides the team with a less efficient player.

When Pat Quinn called seven players into a closed-door meeting on Sunday morning, the Oilers could have gone two ways. Their effort against Phoenix could have plummeted showing everyone the Oilers are a group of underachieving cry-babies, or, and was the case on Monday, the Oilers could have come out with a much better effort taking the play to the Coyotes.

This is an issue that surrounds this team in spades. The skill on the Oilers is obvious. It's the want or desire to put in a sold effort per 60-minute game. Mondays game goes a long way to showing that if nothing else, the leaders on this team give a crap.

All four goals were scored by players in that closed-door meeting. Moreau, Hemsky, Souray and Horcoff needed to show the rest of the team not part of the open forum that they were prepared to listen to their coaches.

Had they not, it would have been a horrible lesson for the rest of the team just 25 games into a still young NHL season.

Hopefully the team responds on Wednesday vs L.A. and Friday vs the Sharks where a 100% effort might be the only thing that gets the Oilers back above the .500 mark.


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Do the Oilers Have Any Untouchables?

You can't go far on the Oilers blogosphere these days without reading about the impending moves that must be coming to an Edmonton Oilers team that has struggled.

Pulling off their first shut-out of the season last night against the Coyotes, the critics might be silent for a couple of days, maybe even a week; but it won't take long before the rumors once again begin to swirl.

With that in mind, if a big trade is coming, which members of this team above all others should stay?

In any trade negotiation, there are players that a GM might deem "untouchable". Many might argue that the Oilers don't have any of those players. Some might argue only Ales Hemsky. Others might now add Dustin Penner to that list, even though last year fans prayed at night to see him moved.

I'm of the impression, that while this Oilers team needs a lot of work, there are some key pieces I would be very sad to see go:

Ales Hemsky

I selected Hemsky for two reasons. Despite how frustrating it can be to watch him fiddle around and act as if he'd rather be playing cards than hockey, he's still the most skilled forward the Oilers have. In fact on many NHL teams, he'd be the most skilled player.

He's not yet hit his peak in terms of point production and this could be the year we see the first real signs of what Hemsky could be for this team. With coaches like Renney and Quinn, I think this is the right place for Hemsky to push past that hump he's yet to reach, developiong a more overall game.

I also love his contract and how it's one of the few on the team that actually helps a salary cap situation. You don't give that away without a tremendous return. Hemsky is complete value for his dollar and that doesn't often happen in todays NHL.

Dustin Penner

Despite how fairweather this sounds, I've liked Dustin Penner since he came to Edmonton. Like many of you, I've been frustrated with his lack of production, but I saw it more as a mental issue and the wrong environment as opposed to Penner lacking the skill-set needed to be effective.

I believed that Penner would struggle at first as a player who'd been told he wasn't worth the contract he was given by almost everyone. He was under immense pressure in one of the most crazy hockey markets in the NHL and on a team that badly needed him to contribute. It was a recipe for disaster.

This year, he seems to have put the expectations behind him (being that no one really expected much) and he's playing like the player people thought he was when offered that big time contract.

He's a big body with great hands. He's faster than people give him credit for and he's willing to go to the hard areas (not too many people willingly stand infront of a Souray slap shot 5 or 6 times a game). He's been a strong two-way presence even when his offensive numbers were lower and when told to add elements to his game like penalty killing and faceoffs, he's done it... and successfully.

This year, Penner has added a play-making side to his game few knew he had. He's quickly making the statements Kevin Lowe said when he obtained him accurate. "We feel we're paying in part for potential with Dustin. He might not be fair value this year at $4 million, but we see him as a great deal in the next couple of years and worth more than we're paying him towards the end of his contract." (or something along those lines...)

Who'd have thunk that might actually have turned out to be a fair statement.

Lubomir Visnovsky

This was one of the better trades the Oilers made in the last few seasons. Saying that, I'm a fan of both Jarrett Stoll and Matt Greene.

Visnovsky is a fantastic all-around defenceman. He moves the puck well and while not a stay-at-home type, he's sound positionally on the defensive side. He's possesses a canon of a shot and the best part is, knows when to fire it.

Visnovsky has been about a dozen points shy of a point per game pace in a few seasons and this year, coming off shoulder surgery, he's poised to do it again.

He's a veteran presence, that makes the power-play and five-on-five situations better, but he also works hard to be a good teammate and leader with a great attitude.

He's paid well, but when he's on, the Oilers are a much better team. When he's not in the lineup, they can be outright lousy. That makes him worth his paycheck any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Gilbert Brule

Gilbert Brule has the potential to turn into one of the best trades the Oilers have made in a decade,when you consider what was given up to obtain him. Moved for Raffi Torres, it was a trade in which both teams involved had somewhat given up on the players they moved. Torres had proven and shown what he could do. Brule was a diamond in the rough, but somewhat of a gamble.

It's gamble that is starting to pay off for Edmonton as Brule is doing the things most players won't, but contributing on the offensive side as well. When it comes to physical play, he's third on the team in hits with 37. In terms of players who have taken more than 100 faceoffs this season, he's the team leader at 51.2%. He's not a minus hockey player, he has 13 points with 6 goals and he's getting stronger and stronger every night.

Brule has a tendency, as many young players do, to lapse in judgement which can lead to turnovers. With that comes his insatiable willingness to make up for it by doing two positive things for every negative.

For some reason, he's yet to convince the coaching staff that he's that go-to-guy, but it won't take long.

JF Jacques

You can't say enough about a player that knows his role and does everything in his power to exceed expectations in that role. Jacques leads the team in hits with 62 (amazing considering he's only played 17 games).

He's got better hands than people think, but he knows he's not a scorer. He's willing to throw down with almost anyone and his presence can change the course of a game, despite the fact that he's not a heavyweight.

I get the impression that JF Jacques is one of the few players on this team that would resign for less than he's worth, but I think the Oilers will find he has great worth and will make him a priority even though it shouldn't take a lot to get it done.

Of course, past experience with players like Glencross and Reasoner suggest otherwise, but perhaps this time, the Oilers get it right.

Ladislav Smid

This kid is going to be a great defencemen. He's got the potential to make the Pronger trade not look like a total disaster. That along side his reasonable salary put him on this list.

Sheldon Souray

This should be Edmonton's team captain. He's not, because the Oilers don't know how to remove it respectfully from Ethan Moreau while he's still an Oiler.

Sheldon Souray should be a lock for 50 points every year and while he's older, here's to hoping his injuries are behind him. Fans consider his salary to be up there in terms of money spent on defence, but when you consider or compare the elements he brings to an Edmonton roster, like a Chara in Boston would or a Pronger in Philadelphia does, he's up there.

No, he's not on the same level as those two defencemen are. What he is though, is as valueable to Edmonton as those players are to their teams. He's just a whole lot less expensive in the grand scheme of things.

Outside of those players, the Oilers can move anyone on this team and I wouldn't mind. Granted, it would be nice if the return justified the moves, but if a shake-up is coming, some players will be moved just to move them.

I'm not holding onto the urgency to get Gagner, Cogliano or Grebeshkov to long terms deals because I feel, in todays NHL, there will be contracts out there every year that are bargains. Each of those contracts should be able to match the production those names will bring the Oilers..


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