Waiting for the Leftovers - Vancouver Canucks

With the recent additions Vancouver has made to bolster their blueline, something in Cancukland will have to give. Now $1.9 million over the salary cap, we can only begin to speculate who is on their way out. I see no better time than to focus our series called "Waiting for the Leftovers " on Vancouver. Unfortunately, there is nothing leaving Vancouver that would end up in Edmonton.

The Untouchables

The Sedins, which goes without saying for many reasons. # 1 and 2 forwards on the team with a salary that virtually doubles considering to trade for them, you have to take them both. Mikael Samuelsson, who was just signed to a very reasonable contract is going to be a go to depth scorer in Vancouver and Alex Burrows who just recently signed a four year $8 million extension seems to be the fit for the forseeable future with the Sedins. I'd also add Ryan Kesler, due simply to what he brings in an all around style for what they are currently paying him.

On defense, Schneider adds veteran leadership and while I consider his $2.55 million salary an overpayment, not so drastic that you'd want to move him and with him being just signed and the amount of time it took to finalize that deal, Vancouver wants him around.

The Unwanted

I don't see a lot here that Vancouver is eager to get rid of. Willing... perhaps, but rediculous salaries don't seem to be an issue other than that they have too many defenseman making over $1.5 million per year. That said, their highest paid d-man is Kevin Bieksa at $3.75, so they can afford to have more guys at higher wages since they don't seem to have that one superstar defenseman that gobbles up most of the money.

I can see a player like Willie Mitchell being the odd man out at a substantial pay scale, but there seems to be not too much on the roster they can't move or would have to.

The Undetermined

Roberto Luongo would be in my untouchables group if it were not for his current contract status and what is going to be involved in keeping him. I believe you have to build from the goal out, but I don't believe Luongo or any goalie for that matter to be worth a long contract at $8 - $9 million per year. That is the high end of what it could take to keep Roberto in town and if I'm Gillis and that number is accurate, I'm shopping him to see how many stars I can get in return. Edmonton just doesn't have the superstars Gillis would look for to even start a trade conversation.

Kevin Bieksa is an offensive defensman whose days in Vancouver are numbered. He has value and his name has popped up in frequent trade talks and at his current salary, I can see why. Edmonton won't need him, but another team sure would.

I see Demitra as gone if Vancouver can find a taker. To Edmonton? Perhaps, but I'd be leary of his $4 million salary, the one year left on his contract and his injury prone history. Not to mention, Edmonton has one area on their top line covered and it's at RW, where Demitra might be useful. A trade for him just wouldn't make sense.

My Wish List?

Ryan Kesler, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Kesler. Makes perfect sense for Edmonton. Has a great salary, size, style of play and the stats to fit in at almost any position the Oilers could find for him. Too bad Vancouver won't move him unless they simply had no other choice.

While I don't see Edmonton and Vancouver doing anything directly, I wouldn't be surprised if Edmonton benefits somehow by scooping the remnants of a bigger trade between two other teams - namely Vancouver and Ottawa. The Canucks have the defensive pieces to pull it off, depth at forward and Heatley is known to be ok playing in Vancouver. The money situation is the only thing that slows this trade down as both teams have cap problems.

I'd go as far as saying Erhoff is part of the deal should one happen since he wasn't the part of the Ottawa/San Jose trade Ottawa disliked. Erhoff, Demitra and Mayson Raymond? That might peak Bryan Murray's interest.

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Katz Has Not Signed Comrie and Never Will...

Mad speculation is a buzz on the internet, that Daryl Katz has personally taken some time and facilitated a UFA signing this summer with of all people, Mike Comrie.

I can tell you for certain, this is untrue. Daryl Katz did not go out and sign Comrie. If it turns out that the Oilers and Mike Comrie have worked out this supposed deal for $1.3 million this season and Daryl Katz was somehow in on the coversation that finally tipped Comrie back to Edmonton, there will never be one peep, iota or inkling that this was a Katz signing. That would be a PR move worse than possibly the Dany Heatley trade that never happened.

Katz has spent a lot of money to "restructure" management ala Detroit and the collaborative systems he feels will eventually benefit the Oilers in their quest to get back on top. Only an idiot (and Katz is not an idiot) would over-step that structure. If he has, I recommend Tambellini and anyone else who was hired since Katz purchased the team, immediately tender their resignations.

Whether I or many fans agree with what Tambellini has done so far this summer (which we don't), he can't possibly work within a system that allows for an owner, who has no direct hockey knowledge other than that of a fan; to derail any plan of action a hired GM like Tambellini might have in place. Even if that plan show no chance of success. In those cases, the GM should be relieved of his duties and another put in his place.

On the contrary, if Tambellini and Lowe asked Katz for a second assist in convincing Comrie to give Edmonton another shot, there is a large difference. This by all measures is not only acceptable, but common (as was seen in the Hossa and Laraque negotiations). It's a team concept both on the ice and within management for the Oilers and it could have taken a conversation from Katz to daddy Comrie to get this finalized -- if in fact a deal has happened.

If it has two things are going to happen going forward:

1) Katz will be mentioned if at all as a wing-man on this deal. The Oilers would be fools to give credit to the owner.

2) Someone in the Top 6 is on their way out of town. Whether it's Nilsson going to the minors or Horcoff to the 3rd line centre position, Comrie doesn't have the size, stats or character needed to play a full season as a 3rd line centre.

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Reasonable Expectations

So far we know that not much is changing. No new first line LW, no new 3rd line centre and no real moves other than the loss of a few forwards who weren't re-upped or were traded to clear roster space.

But alas, there is a bright spot that I think many of us have ignored thanks to our focus on other news consuming items. One area that hasn't changed and perhaps this is a good thing, is the Oilers defensive squad headed by Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov. These four have been and will continue to be looked to in many ways make up for what is a glaring lack of forward top 6 depth and underachievers in terms of goal production.

With that in mind, I was curious to see how the Oilers top 4 on defense might compare to the other teams we may be fighting for a playoff spot with and how much these four might actually make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

The teams I considered are:

Columbus, Nashville, Dallas, St. Louis, Colorado, Minnesota , Los Angeles, Calgary

I suppose to be fair I should/could have added Phoenix, Vancouver and maybe Anaheim, but I just see those teams as either out for sure or in for sure regardless of how well the Oilers play.

Top 4 D-Men By Comparison

Oilers 2008/2009
168 points in an average of 71.25 games played over the regular season.

Nashville 2008/2009
136 points in 77 games average

Columbus 2008/2009
100 points in 77.75 games average

Dallas 2008/2009
99 points in 73 games average

Calgary 2008/2009
120 points in 73.75 games avg

Colorado 2008/2009
92 points in 71.25 games avg

LA Kings 2008/2009
91 points in 76 games avg

Minnesota 2008/2009
125 points in 72 games avg

St. Louis 2008/2009
83 points in 69.75 games avg

What does this mean? If we account for the fact that a few of these teams made changes this summer, the Edmonton Oilers are leaps ahead of every other on the edge playoff competitive western conference team in terms of point production. Even more so, they did it by missing more games to injury than any other team (except St. Louis, who I think would have had much different numbers if Colaiacovo had played with them all season and Erik Johnson hadn't missed the entire season in a freak golf accident.)

This is big news for the Oilers and often overlooked in an otherwise dreary summer. Edmonton hasn't lost a single aspect of that defensive squad that was hands down better offensively than any team (4 players in the top 50 for offensive defencemen) and they'll be coming back healthy to start the year.

To me, no team really compares except Calgary, who added Bouwmeester (42 points in 82 games) but lost Adrian Aucoin who was their 2nd highest scoring defenceman last year. Sure, defensively there is a big difference, but it's pretty close to a wash on the offensive side in point totals. To boot, it cost them scoring punch in Cammalleri and Bertuzzi to bring Bouwmeester into the fold who is a good $4 million more expensive per year an option.

Teams like Dallas (Sergei Zubov) and LA (Jack Johnson) had their numbers affected by the sheer skill of the defensemen missing games, but it can be argued no more so than the Oilers whose numbers dropped drastically when Visnovsky (the Oilers best all around d-man) missed over 30 games due to shoulder surgery. Visnovsky will be healthy while Zubov for example will be in the KHL. Again a plus for the Oilers.

In total goals for, the Oilers ranked 18th in the league below only Calgary of the teams we looked at here. This despite not having a prominant point getting forward (Ales Hemsky led the team with score 66 points in the regular season) and a plethora of underachievers who struggled to put points on the board. The teams compared in this analysis had:

Calgary - 2 players with 80 plus points
Columbus - Rick Nash with 79 points
Dallas - Ribiero with 78 points
St. Louis - Brad Boyes 72 points

Teams that lacked the "superstar" as the Oilers did, placed much lower on the goals for chart. The closest being Minnesota ranked at 22nd with Mikko Koivu at 67 points. This seems to suggest that much of the reason Edmonton was able to seperate themselves from these teams without a "superstar" sniper was the contribution offensively from the blueline.

Ok, maybe this sounds obvious as we know the Oilers have a good core of offensive defencemen and likely why trade rumors involve moving one for a forward. But to me, I see why Tambellini wants to keep this group together and why our lack of adding a bonafide scorer hasn't gotten me down in the dumps like it has a lot of Oiler fans.

The Heatley trade would have been great in terms of on paper goals for, but believe me when I say what these top four d-men did last year is repeatable, and they'll have more games healthy to show it if the injury Gods are with Edmonton.

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Oilers Add Another Assistant Coach

So it lines up as follows:
Pat Quinn as Head Coach with Tom Renney as the Associate Coach. Kelly Buchburger is their Assistant Coach, and now so is Wayne Fleming.
According to Steve Tambellini, “Wayne brings an array of experience from both the NHL and International level," “We feel his knowledge of the game will be a compliment to our coaching staff.”
His resume as reported by the Oilers official website: Fleming previously was the Head Coach for the 2008-09 Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. He had been with the Calgary Flames as an assistant coach from 2006 to 2008 after three seasons as an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia posted a 130-67-39-10 during Fleming’s time with the club. He was also an assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes during the 1999-2000 season and prior to that he was with the New York Islanders for two seasons (1997-98 and 19998-99).
I would hope this isn't something that management feels will help the team and its fans cope with the lackluster summer thus far, but more something that was always in the works. Evidence would suggest as much since the press conference when Quinn and Renney were announced as coaches left room for another assistance to be added.
His role as coach or his area of specialty is not something that may be known at this point, but that news could come with time. He's also not coming without his own fair share of controversy. He's the only coach I know of to ever be fired in the middle of a game. http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=262540&lid=sublink09&lpos=headlines_nhl
Perhaps too, (and this is only speculation) Fleming adds a bit more to the Jagr conversation as he was close to him and has had the opportunity for plenty of one on one conversations. I'm sure brings connections along with him in that department, which doesn't necessarily translate into action. It's fun to speculate though.

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A Player Comparison: Richards vs Horcoff

With news that the Dallas Stars would like to shed salary this upcoming season due to financial troubles, one player who comes up frequently is Brad Richards. The Stars have Mike Ribeiro, so it makes sense that they see Richards as expendable and his $7.8 million salary makes him the logical choice.

Richards has been a star player for years. On a team loaded with offensive talent in Tampa he was still able to stand out as a 2nd line centre who should have been a #1. He was moved to Dallas to fill that role, but got hurt; thus we never really got to see what he could do on the 1st line for a full season. That said, in a limited capacity, he was still able to put up 16g and 32a for 48 points in 56 games. He ranked 3rd on the team in Short handed TOI, which is impressive considering he missed 26 games and he ranked 4th in Power Play time in that same short span. This tell us he can be a weapon at both ends of the ice. He takes a ton of faceoffs with a % over 50 and since the lockout been much closer to a point a game player than our number #1 centre.

Shawn Horcoff, who when you look at how often he's used short handed and in the defensive zone brings a lot of the type features Brad Richards does. Popularly known as a first line centre on a team that lacks a true #1, it is argued Horcoff is more a #2 sometimes #3 guy. This is almost a direct opposite from Brad Richards. Sure they are both relied on for more than just offense, but Richards seems to be able to produce the offense where Horcoff can't despite being used in similar roles.

Does that mean, that a Brad Richards for Shawn Horcoff trade would make sense? I might be the only person after looking at Richard's $7.8 million salary that thinks so. Both players are overpaid, that's no secret. But let me suggest that Richard's salary is not as scary as it might sound. Horcoff is being paid $5.5 million for the next six years, while Richards gets $7.8 for the next two. Long term, that's a much bigger issue for the Oilers.

We know this years cap won't be going down, so the Oilers would be ok if they could shed a little more salary than just Horcoff by moving an excess player to a different location. It would only be 2010/2011 that creates a small concern if the cap decreases. After 2011, I'd argue that Richards would see a decrease in salary smaller than Horcoff's $5.5, which might actually benefit Edmonton and make the tight salary cap for the Oilers less of an issue. If they don't keep Richards, they've still moved Horcoff's salary and opened the door to pay Gagner to be your new #1 (by then he better be ready for it), and can fill the number two role in free agency or trade at a much less expensive rate than $5.5 million.

Richards is steady. Much more so than Horcoff. Richards brings you experience at a younger age, a Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe trophy and a much better offensive record which would likely help Hemsky which is always important in Edmonton.

I like Horcoff and I truly believe he is much better offensively than his latest numbers suggest, however; my big concern is that his role will not lessen defensively with the loss of two-way players in Edmonton. As such, the Oilers need a guy that can still put up numbers while playing short handed and taking over 1000 faceoffs a year. Richards has that quality.

I don't know that Richards would waive his no trade to come to Edmonton, but if he would, I'd argue it might be worth a conversation.

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