Tambellin's New Culture... The Forwards

We began yesterday by taking a look at who might likely stay (keeper) and who might likely go (mover) in Tambellini's ideal new Oilers culture. Only one real player, Aaron Johnson seemed to be in the middle (tweener) because he seems the kind of player Tambellini would like, but if a better skilled and more proven blueliner comes in, could spell the end for Johnson on this team.

Let's look similarly at the fowards.

Dustin Penner

It's hard to imagine that Tambellini would have been referring to Penner when he commented on the year end meetings in which certain players talk about scoring 5 more goals and the team sucking, but Dustin Penner does fit the 5 more goals description before this past season in which he jumped from 17 to 32 goals. Penner seems to be finally understanding what using his size, skill and natural ability are all about and not coincidentally, players who played on Penner's line, played better. When he's not forced to play as much as he did, he should be able to better maintain his energy level and the Oilers lack 30 goal scorers.

He took the MacTavish years with professionalism, he seems to be a player his teammates respect and he's not once said a bad thing about Edmonton or the Oilers franchise, even though he's been given ample opportunity.


Ales Hemsky

He is easily the Oilers most skilled players and if he could have even one full season healthy should be an 80 point player. He works great with Penner, he'd be a treat for a player like Taylor Hall who wants the pass (if that's who the Oilers draft) or would finally have a possible number one centre in Tyler Seguin.

The problem, is that rumors are that the Oilers wonder if Hemsky would stay after his contract is up and with only two years, would that be enough time with this new draft pick to wet Hemsky's appetite to staying.

He's still a bargain at just over $4 million, but, he has trade value, is often injured and may not be known as the ultimate team player. So too, what good is a player who only has two years left, when the team is two years from being a competitive one.

Tweener (depending on the trade value coming back)

Shawn Horcoff

I believe that Horcoff can still be a 60-65 point regular NHL'er. No, he's not worth the $5.5 cap hit, but he does offer a lot of other intangibles. He's ideally what the Oiler management team wants to see from its players in terms of attitude, effort, leadership and determination to improve. Horcoff not only likes being an Oiler, but he's the first to call other players and possible signings and preach the organization and the city.

All that may be irrelevant, as few if any teams would consider taking his contract on until he gets another 65 point season, so whether or not Edmonton wants him, their stuck with him.


Sam Gagner

Young, talented, and just scraping the surface of what he'll become. He's got the right attitude even when delegated to the 4th line to start the year. Gagner simply knows he has to work his way back up to the top six. He's streaky, but he's also going to be a great 2nd line centre (with potential for top line time) for the start of what will likely be a long term contract.

A rebuild requires players that are young, have great upside and fall into the core group of where you want to go. That is Sam Gagner to a tee.


Robert Nilsson

He's got great skill, maybe second only to Hemsky; but he's streaky, he's paid too much and with similar players coming in, he's an odd man out when there are so many others like him. It doesn't help he's had a less than perfect relationship with coaches, his effort to improve his overall game and he seems to be a healthy scratch as often as a sure bet to make the line-up type player.

Side Note* Calgary will be looking for skill and with the tradition of trades between Calgary and Edmonton now started, perhaps he makes a move there. That is of course if Sutter is still in charge. Sutter seems to be keen on taking failed players in one environment and giving them a shot in another.


Andrew Cogliano

There's no way if I were Tambellini that I'd trade this kid. But, I'm not privy to the offers that come to him for Cogs and if the right offer is there, I suppose it would have to be considered. Cogliano does provide a lot of the same skillset that other Oiler players do and if there's one thing for certain, there are too many of the same type players here.

Cogliano still amazes me with his speed even though I know how fast he is. With the right linemates, he's an excellent offensive weapon and he's not afraid to get dirty, which Tambellini needs.

If he's cheap to re-sign and the offers don't make sense to move him...


Patrick O'Sullivan

He took the NHL trophy for plus/minus on the wrong end at -35. He scored a whole lot less than he was supposed to and he makes about $1 million more than he should.

I'm biased here, because I had huge hopes for O'Sullivan more than maybe any other Oiler to start the year. I now realize that a big problem exists and that is who would want him. He seems to be the exact "me first" type player Tambellini wants to move out (ironic since Tambo traded for him) and O'Sullivan has whined in the past about ice-time and position. Not a good combination.

He's a prime candidate for a buy-out or a big contract buried in the minors if the status of his deal allows for it.


Fernando Pisani

If and only if, the Oilers need roster players at league minimum in terms of salary, and Pisani would be willing to take it should he be considered. He's still bringing some traits to the table, he's simply not worth a high price tag and his health is a concern.


Mike Comrie

I like Comrie. I think his plan was to jump-start his comeback by signing in Edmonton where he'd have a chance to shine, lead, and enjoy himself after learning from past history. I'd make s bet he's also not opposed to finishing his career here. He's a good example of what being an Oiler means after learning the hard way what not to do and he still has great goal scoring skill from any line and with any players. Healthy, he'd have been on pace for 25 goals and 40 points.

You need a player like him at a smaller salary to plug holes and teams like Phoenix and others signed a ton of these type of UFA lates, showing how successful that strategy can be. Comrie makes sense from a mentor point of view and he's known as a guy everyone likes and one that purely loves to come to the rink and play hockey.


Ethan Moreau

The Oilers may ride out his contract and ask him to play a physical banger role the rest of his days as an Oiler. He still has the ability to play, as was evident with his newfound ethusiasm after realizing the Oilers couldn't trade him at the deadline because nobody wanted him; but I'd prefer him on the 3rd line checking role or 4th line grinder to a JF Jacques and since the Oilers won't contend next year and he simply comes off the books instead of a buyout.

I'd have said the same for O'Sullivan, but I think Sully more than Moreau is a negative in that dressing room. Moreau may run that risk too if he's acting as if he's not wanted and pouts his way to the end of his career instead of playing for a chance to continue it.

Tweener, but more Keeper than Mover

Zack Stortini

He's the perfect fit for this Oiler team right now. He understands his role is to stir things up and bang bodies. He has no problem taking it to the net, making the Oilers harder to play against and his ultimate goal is to be a regular third line player. You can't find a better example of what the Oilers should emulate in terms of heart. The Oilers just don't have enough of him.

He's not very skilled, but more-so than other 4th liners who only fight. Stortini can get you 7-10 goals if lucky and can actually burn the opposition if they see him as only a scrapper.


Ryan Potulny

He's done well to be asked to join Team USA, but he seems the odd man out if the Oilers are moving players that are too much like each other. His goal total was impressive considering no one expected it, and he's got mad offensive skill and puck moves, but much of that came on the power play in gravy type ice-time and during the shoot-outs where he looked better than just good.

I like Potulny, but as an RFA, I see his 15 goalsin 64 games more as a carrot to dangle in trade.


Gilbert Brule

This kid is part of the core going forward for sure. He's getting better and better and understanding the NHL game more and more. He's got the skill to play top six, but has the grit to fit in your bottom six too. He would have had 20 goals if not for injury at the end of the year and he earned a lot of those the hard way by crashing and banging and picking up the goals many forwards don't like to pay the price for.

What the Oilers sign him for will be key, as they need his style of play but can't afford to overpay for it, but my guess is he appreciates the team giving him a second chance after Columbus and he'll prove to be a strong Oiler.


Marc Pouliot

Pouliot has great skill, but I believe he's being mis-placed on this roster. He's been showing a lot more attention to earning his results with a strong effort to end the year and despite missing almost 50 games, had seven goals and fourteen points. Is that great? No, not compared to a player like Comrie who had 13 goals and 7 more points in only 8 more games; but Pouliot may now be showing signs of becoming the player the Oilers drafted so high.

It might be a shame to give up on him now if he's just starting to come into his own. Some players take a while to adjust and Pouliot's injuries had to help slow that process. I'd like to see the Oilers do with Pouliot what they did with Gagner at the start of last year. 4th line and make it clear, they expect him with his skills to elevate himself past that point if he wants to keep a job.

Ryan Jones

He's got an ability to score from the 4th line and doesn't lack the size or grit to be there. The Oilers picked him off waivers for a reason and they need a few guys who have defined bottom six roles on this team where Jones fits nicely. With only one year left at a low salary, he makes sense to keep around too.


Ryan Stone

I liked Stone and the element he brought, but he's another odd man out if he can't be a grinder on the 4th line. Is he a solid 4th line centre, who can bang but also play? Maybe, but he wasn't started there last season and he can't be a 2nd line guy since there has to be a place for players like Eberle and Hall/Seguin. While they aren't comparable style players, some bodies have to go.


JF Jacques

Tambellini likes him and so do I on the 4th line. He's not first line player like he was positioned for at the start of last year, but he needs to do what he did at the beginning which was hit everyone that moved on the other team. In that role he's effective and he's not expensive. He's also willing to fight but has more offensive upside than a fighter. Quinn and Tambellini both seem to like that about him.


Our next article will be to take stock of our advice and see what kind of line-up that gives the Oilers. Where does it leave room for incoming prospects or talent? How does Tambellini move some of the movers?

Tough call, but that too should be fun to speculate on.


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