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..


I think your picks are perfect. I would however add Stortini to the list. Even through all the lazy games and terrible efforts, hes the guy that is always going hard after the puck. He loves his team and those are the guys that need to stick around.

November 24, 2009 at 7:20 AM comment-delete

I would tend to agree about Stortini with one exception. And this also applies to my theory on Gilbert Brule in that Quinn just hasn't found the right use for him.

Stortini seems to be getting less ice time per game than he is more of it. He started the season in situations like the powerplay and more, but last night for example he played 8:55 min, which is good for almost 5 minutes less than every player on the team.

This unfortunately isn't the exception lately and while he did get a 5 minute major last night for fighting, something seems fishy there.

November 24, 2009 at 8:00 AM comment-delete

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