First Annual Oilers Insider NHL Draft

We're taking the first 20 entrants. Contest only open to those who can attend in person this Tuesday (Sept 29) night at 6:30pm in Sherwood Park (venue to be announced once the 20 have been selected). $20 entry fee with all monies going out as prizing. If interested email Contest rules will be sent to you as well as location.

Here are the rules we know so far:

* Snake draft starting at 1 and going to 20, then from 20 back to 1
* Selections will include a specific number of forwards, defensemen and a goalie
* Points only awarded for assists, goals, wins, shut-outs. Penalty minutes and other minor stats will not be considered.

Email and we will send the 20 entrants locations, times and final rules.

You can leave comments here if you'd like to be contacted and don't have email access.


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Trade Brewing Between Edmonton and Columbus?

I have it on absolutely no good authority, I've heard no little birdy or read between any lines. I'm simply suggesting the following and did a little proactive reasoning as a solution to a glaring hole in the Oilers line-up. To me a trade between the Edmonton Oilers and the Columbus Blue Jackets makes a lot of sense. They are logistical trade partners (sure they're both in the West but at least not within the division), have something the other wants and would be moving parts they can spare (at least in some cases).

So, what would that trade be?

If I was in control and Scott Howson was willing to give up value for that puck moving defenceman he covets, the trade would look something like this:

To Edmonton - Antoine Vermette and Jason Chimera

To Columbus - Denis Grebeshkov, Robert Nilsson and Marc-Antoine Pouliot

Whether Columbus chooses to accept the spare parts and then immediately waive them or stick them in their bottom six forward group is not really the gist of this trade. Where this trade works, is for Columbus who badly needs a puck moving defenceman and have gone on record as saying as much. They tried to pluck Erhoff from San Jose, they were in on the Kaberle talks and the Edmonton Oilers Denis Grebeshkov fits that bill. Vermette seems like a lot to give up, but on a team that has the depth at centre Columbus does, maybe not.

At $3.15 million, Grebeshkov is a tad overpaid and each year his one year term comes due, it seems like a challenge for Edmonton to re-sign him. The Oilers have players like Taylor Chorney, Dean Arsene, Alex Plante and Theo Peckham (after injury) waiting in the wings, and with three other puck movers in Visnovsky, Souray and Gilbert, Grebeshkov is in some ways overkill. He's got what Columbus needs in a potential top two puck moving d-man, they can take the cap hit and he has some cache that can fetch a fair return.

Robert Nillson is on the bubble as is, and his two years at $2 million per might be hard to move if not for the Blue Jackets $11 million plus in cap space still available. He shows glimpses of being the most skilled and offensively potent weapon the Oilers dress in any given night and Columbus might be willing to take a chance on him. He's inconsistent, but in the right location might flourish.

Pouliot is a throw in and contract clear for the Oilers that the Blue Jackets might be willing to take on out of their sheer desparation for a top four puck mover on the blue line and their want to move Chimera. It's not as though Pouliot doesn't have some value, it's simply that he's comparable in terms of a gritty 3rd or 4th liner like Chimera (only less) and hasn't shown the consistency to get dirty. They may pop him in the bottom six, they may not use him at all, but Columbus seems to have a knack for or at least a willingness, to make something out of the Oilers little or nothing. See Jan Hejda and Raffi Torres if your looking for examples.

For Edmonton, both Vermette and Chimera provide something the team needs. Chimera was actively shopped with no takers so the asking price isn't steep. He's much more willing to go to the hard areas of the ice and work for his production. In fact, he's made a career of it. Vermette while not the most likely candidate to leave Columbus and part of the Pascal Laclaire trade, could be considered spare parts with the likes of Derick Brassard, RJ Umberger and Sammy Pahlsson ready to step in and fill all the roles at centre including faceoffs. Hence the reason Columbus didn't lose sleep over letting Malhotra walk.

Speaking of faceoffs, Vermette is a killer in the dot. He has wheels which is something the Oilers have always looked for in a run and gun style and while small is a much better fit for the Oilers in a group of smaller forwards than Nilsson or Pouliot would be right now. Columbus has too many good top six players ready to play top six minutes and perhaps the Oilers can find a place for this trade to work. We know that conversations between Howson and the Oilers happen frequently, so there is no reason to suggest the two haven't already talked about Chimera and we're finding out quickly how hard it can be for some teams to move extra bodies for value.



The Oilers still don't have a great deal of faceoff strength, but it's miles better with this line-up and takes major heat off of Shawn Horcoff. There is a group of versatile forwards able to play more than one position. These forwards have speed, a very strong potential to fill holes due to injury and the Oilers keep value to make further trades as Moreau and Jacques at this point still might be attractive for other teams.

Think I'm way off? What would your trade look like?


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Horcoff Set to Earn Every Penny in 2009/2010

If the outrageously bad faceoff skills of the remaining players on the Oilers team is any indication of what is to come, Shawn Horcoff will earn every penny of his $7 million ($5.5 cap hit) this coming season. Better still, fans will forget just how valueable he is when while earning it, he can't put up more than 50 points.

Shawn Horcoff's lack of offense won't be his own fault. As was evident in his production last year, he'll be so busy taking every key faceoff for the Oilers that much like last year, he'll be gassed before he gets the chance to put the puck in the net. I mean truly, can fans now understand after watching last nights game; that with the exits of Stoll, Reasoner, and Peca in just the last few years, how important it truly is have someone who can do more than just put the puck in the net?

The Edmonton Oilers lost Thursday nights game to Tampa for one reason. Faceoffs. The equalizing and winning goals came as a direct result of the Oilers inability to win the draws they needed to. Because no team ever wants to assume a faceoff loss, the rest of the team was out of position to counteract after each loss positionally, directly resulting in Lightning goals.

Either the Oilers have to figure out a way to improve their faceoff numbers, or they'll needed to practice what to do after each loss; because if they don't, every cent the Oilers pay Shawn Horcoff will go to practice time learning to be better than just good, but the best faceoff guy in the NHL. That's quite the task considering he's up there for faceoffs taken, but not nearly as high for faceoffs won amongst the tops in the league.

I see only two real solutions. A faceoff coach needs to be hired. Someone who can come in and work exclusively with each player under 50%. In this case, almost everyone. Teach them how to line up their feet, distribute their weight, or moreover, cheat to win a draw more than half of the time. This means adding an extra 30 minutes to an hour to each practice for guys like Cogliano, Brule, Pouliot, Gagner, Stone and others. They'll hate it, but in the end, should make them more valueable commodities in a very competitive for jobs NHL.

The other solution? Waive at least two forwards with skill. Let them get through waivers or be claimed by another team. Immediately when those contracts are off the books, go out and sign the top faceoffs guys still left in the league, still looking for an NHL team to give them more than a tryout. Don't let another Malhotra opportunity pass by.

Off the top of my head, Robert Lang and Mike Peca. Neither may want to play, but for a one year deal better than league minimum, you can bet both would consider a healthy job offer.

The Oilers are working on systems. Great. But they better find a solution to the faceoff dot, because come October 3rd, they can expect to lose at least one goal a game to their lack of faceoff ability. This team has enough trouble scoring goals as is, for that to be an option.


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Oilers Get Much Needed Penalty Kill Experience

In a very lopsided outing, the Oilers got some terrific NHL caliber penalty killing experience in a preseason game. Despite the loss, I can't think of a better scenario for a team that was absolutely horrid on the kill last season; than game time experience in a contest that means nothing other than a quick shot to player pride. Therefore, if we forget the fact that it came at the hands of some awful officiating to start the game, there are some great positives here.

The Edmonton Oilers were short-handed 9 times on Wednesday night against the Flames and almost every player on the roster spent a significant time on the ice down one man. The list looks like this (each time frame is how long the player spent killing off at least one or more penalties):

Gilbert: 7:40
Souray: 6:17
Strudwick: 5:42
Smid: 5:26
Moreau: 4:52
Cogliano: 4:45
Horcoff: 4:13
Brule: 3:34
Grebeshkov: 3:11
Penner: 2:54
O'Sullivan: 2:14
Stone: 2:09

I've not included players under 2 minutes of short handed ice time such as Visnovsky, Comrie and Hemsky even though they're on the list too. The whopping stat is that Khabibulin, who left the game after two periods and 24 shots on goal, was playing short-handed for 13:02 of the 40 minutes of game action he saw. That's about 1/3 of the time facing shots on net and seeing the Flames in the Oilers zone on the man advantage. No wonder he felt dehydrated and left before the 3rd.

Here's the good news. The Oilers killed off 8 of those 9 penalites and only allowed a goal by Jarome Iginla in a 5 on 3 situation. That speaks volumes for a team that was known as one of the poorest penalty killing squads in the NHL last year.

These kills were not against week talent either. Much of this time was spent with players like Phaneuf and Bouwmeester launching from the blueline and Iginla with Jokinen and Langkow among others, picking up the pieces down low and in tight on the Oilers goalie and defenders.

Players like Cogliano and Brule did well and were aggressive on the puck, which is great for their confidence trying to show they are not one trick ponies. The defense did well to keep the shot total to only 36 over the 60 minute game considering the sheer amount of penalites and 5 on 3 situations and Tom Gilbert, who played the most time on the kill and received the most overall ice time in the game on the blueline was a plus player over 60 minutes. That speaks highly of a player known more for his offensive ability that he defensive skills.

The bad news, is that it didn't allow much for players like Hemsky and Comrie to do much damage. Their ice time limited and their opportunities to show their offensive skill lowered, these are not the best style of games for these two players. Let's hope this many penalties is a rare instance more than the norm.

That said, if the Oilers can keep up efforts like this, they'll be taking great strides in their PK over the 2009/2010 campaign. If they can't, I'm sincerely glad to see such poor officiating and resulting need to kill penalties in a game that doesn't hurt the Oilers in the Western Conference standings. At least they got some practice where it was badly needed. I know I'm being snarky when I make the following remark, but maybe Quinn hopped that AHL ref a hundy just to give the Oilers some time getting used to the kill.


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Why Jordan Eberle Shouldn’t Make the Club by Justin Lepper

A flashy, confident and young goal scorer. That sounds like a puzzle piece that’s been missing for a long time. But I believe that it shall go missing for awhile longer.

For the Edmonton Oilers who have many questions, Jordan Eberle is not this years answer. Moreover, if he makes the club, it will be due to the brain trust’s inability to do their job. A proven 25 goal scorer has been sorely needed for a long time in these desperate parts, but when all else fails can you really fall on 19 year old kid?

Jordan Eberle is not a wunderkind along the likes of Filatov, Hodgson and even Sam Gagner. When Lowetide ran Eberle’s numbers from this past year through Gabriel Desjardin’s NHL Equivalency it was nothing earth shattering.

Per 82 games: 14 Goals 16 Assists 30 Pts

Now before I continue, a quick snippet of Desjardin’s beauty work.

Desjardin’s NHL Equivalency (NHLE) is a comparable for a prospect’s or general player’s NHL potential based on a prior season in a different league. His equivalencies with NHL prospects from North America border on witchcraft, they’re scary accurate. Lowetide did a piece on NHLE for 07-08 and 08-09’s rookie crop and here they are:

Patrick Kane, OHL: 26-36-62 (ACTUAL: 82gp, 21-51-72)
Sam Gagner, OHL: 16-39-55 (ACTUAL: 79gp, 13-36-49)
David Perron, QMJHL: 13-14-27 (ACTUAL: 62gp, 13-14-27)

Steve Stamkos, OHL: 23-19-42 (ACTUAL: 23-23-46)
Drew Doughty, OHL: 6-23-29 (ACTUAL: 6-21-27)
Luke Schenn, WHL: 3-9-12 (ACTUAL: 2-10-12)
Mikael Boedker, OHL: 12-17-29 (ACTUAL: 11-17-28)
Josh Bailey, OHL: 11-24-35 (ACTUAL: 7-18-25)


Now in a results driven world, that’s exactly what I’m talking about! But back to Eberle.

Based on NHLE we can expect a fairly accurate assessment regarding Eberle’s potential. We come to the conclusion that 14 goals from a sub 6ft forward whom is not great defensively is in no short supply. Who would Eberle be really upgrading on the roster? Most people would say Robert Nilsson, but the fact remains those kind of numbers are exactly what we could expect from whipping-boy Bobby.

Eberle is a confident kid. He will come in with the expectation to be a 20 goal scorer. It's not fact and it's not feasible. At 170-180 lbs he’s not built for NHL duity, and despite a squeaky clean injury history (in regard to major injuries), he’s at risk to get hurt. Feeding him to the wolves while there are equally talented (at this point) players on the roster is not the best option.

The smart play is to send Jordan Eberle either back to Regina to star for the Pats or make him an integral part of a rebuilding Springfield Falcons squad (at his age how long that might happen is another topic for another day), but at his talent level he is bound to perform at an extremely high level anywhere except the NHL.

Allow him time to learn how to be a pro from the guys in the minors who have grinded it out for years with micro pay compared to NHL cheques. If making 65 thousand dollars a year in the AHL and staring across the locker room at a first round bust in Rob Schremp doesn’t light a fire under his ass I’m not so sure anything will.


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Possible Surprise #1 J.F. Jacques? by Justin Lepper

At 6’4 and 220+ lbs Jaques is the kinda guy you don’t want to piss off. He throws around his big frame in traffic, is like a school bus in front of the net and has shown the ability to skittle with the puck and make some plays from time to time. But lets face it- he isn’t burning anyone. To make a fair comparison, Jacques is like a Penner clone without the offence. All that said, should we expect Jacques to surprise a few people in terms of offensive production?

A tad slow in a line but yet surprisingly quick off the hop, Jacques’ biggest asset to making this club is his size. He’s an average skater, average stick handler and an above average minor leaguer. His injury history holds nothing major to worry over, but overall he's missed a fair share of time during his pro career -- the most games he’s ever played was 75 with Edmonton/Hamilton in 05/06.

Further to that, Jacques has scored 20 goals and 52 points in 68 games over the last three seasons in the AHL. On the other hand, his NHL production has left something to be desired, with a single goal in 60 career games. So if he makes the big club, how much production can we expect?

Even though Jacques will crack the line-up against the Flames on Wednesday playing along side Hemsky and Horcoff, we shouldn't jump the gun and expect him to produce with top 6 minutes based on the numbers he's provided thus far. Jacques wasn’t a point-per-game guy in juniors until his last season with Baie-Comeau Drakkar and that won't change playing first line minutes in the NHL.

A third line role is a ceiling expectation for Jacques with an optimistic 6-15 goal potential for offense. If he displays a knack for winning puck battles and being conscious in his own zone, he could very well win a spot on an Oilers squad that’s desperate for grit and size, but it's much more realistic to expect the following in terms of production.

Optimistic Potential:

65 GP 10 G 15 A 25 P +/- -5 PIMS 120

On a side note, what potential waiver wire castoffs would you like to see the Oilers pick up? With most teams pressed against the cap there are sure to be some surprises as teams optimise line combinations and roster spots for October.


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“Star-chitecture:” Not as glittering as it seems? by: The Prof

As reported, the Katz Group is trying to win support for the public funding of a proposed downtown arena and the district around it by combining the word ‘star’ and the word ‘architecture’ into a new concept called star-chitecture. But, come on! Is this concept something that demands my support? Is it something that ought to, as they believe, define our city?.

Let’s think about it. As the Katz group notes, “You want to make it something that drops your jaw.” Yes, I suppose “jaw dropping” is one way to look at it. But I happen to think “money-dropping” is really the issue, and here’s why.

Hockey writer Stan Fischler of New York says it clearly. “The salaries of players are insane and, as a result, the owners have to compensate any way they can with the amenities.” “They’re trying to keep up, make a buck,” Fischler says. How do you pay off a guy like a Dany Heatley (who makes upwards of $7.5 million per year) or Shawn Horcoff ($7 million), Lubomir Visnovsky ($5.6 million), or even Sheldon Souray (at a mere $5.4 million)?

Those kinds of salaries – which we have come to almost accept without question – make the Oiler’s total budget $55, 708, 000 – more than I will ever earn in five lifetimes of being a University of Alberta professor. Such a budget, Fischler says, demands a certain higher level of money making. As Fischler adds, it’s dollars and cents (or sense) that are missing and needed. If you are going to pay the salaries, you’ve got to get the income. As a result, the owners are exploring all sorts of ways to “make their money.”

This is me whining, but let me ask two questions: Is this making money? And, is it their money? How different is what the owners are doing with these so-called “star-chitectures” than a panhandler on the street asking me for “spare change?” Certainly, any new arena with all the bells and whistles reeks of luxury, while the panhandler might reek of something else – but we should not lose our focus. In many ways, the activities share the same goal – to shake free your money and my money so that someone else can gain more money (the players) – even in a time of recession.

Is this really only a question of amenities and luxury? Or, are deeper questions involved? And, if so, what are those questions?

I am gladly part of the problem – I love my Oilers. And, it is not like I don’t have a choice. Obviously, I can pony up or not. But, let’s call the new arena project exactly what it is – an opportunity for rich people to get richer. The money that they make is my money, and yours.

And, while I don’t necessarily want to stop this project or any other from going ahead, I don’t want the builders of this “star-chitecture” arena to be so fast and loose with other people’s money. I don’t want them to feel so entitled as it seems they might. So, don’t just expect all of us to pony up so that you rich folks can become even richer. Appreciate, in real ways, that the money you make was first money that most of the rest of us, with far smaller incomes, first made with probably more expended labor than those of you who will be receiving it.

There are two sides debating the issue, and I don’t think they yet understand each other. On one side are those, like University of Michigan professor Mark Rosentraub, an expert in arena districts, who wrote a report on successful arena districts for the Edmonton arena committee and Patrick LaForge, Oilers’ president and spokesman for the Katz Group. Basically, both are saying that, to draw people into arena districts, cities need to build sensational arena structures, such as the all-glass Sprint Center in Kansas City.

In Rosentraub’s words, “You build something that is like a star.” It’s exciting architecture, and the last thing you want is bland. LaForge adds, “The arena side of the development is the opportunity to create something very special for the people who live in Oil Country” – their stamp, their icon. “We (Edmontonians) could use it, I [LaForge] can tell you that.”

In other words, on the one side are those buying us a gift with our own money; on the other hand are most Edmontonians. And, public opinion surveys have consistently shown that Edmontonians have little appetite for publicly finding a new, $400-million-plus downtown arena. Why is this? Oilers’ president Patrick LaForge says that, before any decisions about the project are made, people should first see the plans, and that these plans will be innovative – a visual icon. Implicit in this statement is that we will all be persuaded by the glitz of the new. As he notes, star-chitecture is part of the deal.

Compare this with a recent survey that showed that the University of Alberta is Edmonton’s most important institution when it came to civic pride. The difference seems obvious – world-class education or dazzling colors?

LaForge is quoted as saying: “They [interesting use of the word “they” – not “us”] haven’t seen anything else that has come around that's got this kind of chutzpah.” Look up the definition of the word chutzpah: it means “boldness coupled with supreme self-confidence” and “impudent rudeness combined with a lack of respect.”

This is not the attitude I want from my Oilers. I, for one, want more respect – not less. I want the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup; and I want the organization to flourish. But, I also don’t want those in control of the Oilers simply to expect us to hand over our money because it is their right to have it. This is not a question of entitlement; it is a question of how a community works together to build something important and strong.

So, if I don’t simply give in to your requests, it is not that I don’t care about my Oilers – it is that I want you to care more about your community.


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Why O'Sullivan and Comrie Can't Split Up

As it stands right now, the Oilers haven't shown a lot in preseason. Ales Hemsky hasn't done much other than to suggest he's rusty. Penner has been a much slimmer, faster and more lively version of his former self, which is great but he still hasn't produced outside of one easy looking goal; and players like Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Pouliot and others haven't given many signs that they've excelled past their disappointing showings last year. Even Horcoff who has been alright and relied upon as the only faceoff weapon the Oilers have, has seen most of his offense come thanks to the easy scraps left by the production of the following two players.

Patick O'Sullivan and Mike Comrie in one word have been magic. Their chemistry together so far is down right scary, with Comrie having produced 7 assists in 3 games and O'Sullivan 4 goals and 1 assist in the same time frame. It seemed obvious that O'Sullivan was going to bounce back from a poor end to his 2008/2009 NHL season after being traded to Edmonton, but if his pace so far suggests anything (and yes I know it's preseason) he could get 30 goals in his sleep if Comrie and O'Sullivan are pegged together for much of what's left in hockey for the Oilers in 2009/2010.

O'Sullivan in 3 games has taken an amazing 43 shots. 43! I thought I read it wrong and if so, I've wasted a few minutes of your time as the reader here; but when I first saw that, I couldn't help but find out just how many shots that is. 14.3 shots per game puts him at a pace which is more than twice Alexander Ovechkin's numbers from last season.

I know, I know... how can I compare the two? I'm really not trying to here, but if you think about the fact that Ovechkin's shooting percentage last season was 10.6% and O'Sullivan's is 9.3 so far this preseason; if O'Sullivan kept up this pace and shot 14 times a game (which he's doing right now), he'd have 1148 shots in an 82 game season. That's amazing! If I'm not reading or calculating incorrectly with the stats sheet, that's about 106 goals in 82 games.

Dropping his totals to 10 shots per game and 8%, he'd have 65 goals. Even further to 8 shots a game and a 5% shooting percentage, (which is kind of low for goal scorers), that's 32 goals, which the Oilers haven't had in years.

With that kind of production, I wouldn't split these two up with for any reason outside of a trade for Ovechkin himself, who seems to be able to produce similar numbers no matter who he plays with.

I'm more than interested to see just how much this production will drop and who the Oilers choose to put with these two to start the regular season.


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