9 Lives, 1 Goal and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

With the summer here and plenty of action involving new faces, rookies, trades, signings and future plans, whenever one needs to get a reaction from a veteran of any team involved in said maneuver/transaction, where does one head? To the golf course.

It never ceases to amaze me that in almost every interview with an already proven hockey player, that interview takes place on a golf course. I tell you, that's the life. When you suck, your reward is one of the best games in the world. If I could be a professional hockey player I'd do it for two reasons. First, to be involved in a game I love to watch as a fan which is hockey. Second, to spend my off time doing something I love almost as much, which is golf.

I said today, when I spent the morning golfing with my Dad that if someone offered me enough cash to buy my business from me, the first thing I'd do is purchase a membership at about three different courses and play everyday. My Dad's reaction? "That's nice son, anything good happening with the Oilers?"


With my dreams dashed just a little, I replied to my Dad, "just when you think it's slow, hockey gives you something to talk about." That was very true today as officially a few things happened.

Tom Renney and the Oilers Hire Steve Smith

The reactions I've been reading are about 50/50. Some people think it's a great move, others kind of meh. When you subtract the morons who site this as a bad move because Steve Smith is often remembered as the Oiler who scored on his own team in the 1986 Battle of Alberta versus the Flames, you quickly realize it's more like 65/35 for.

I'm in the 65% group. I think Steve Smith was an extremely good defenceman. He made a lot of other defence partners appear better than they were nd that says something about one's knowledge of his game and position.

Steve Smith has been in the game a long time after his playing days were done (even some as a coach before his playing days officially ended) and while perhaps his coaching experience is a good decade old, Smith has been in an argueably better position as a scout with the Chicago Blackhawks. Smith knows the game, he knows young talent and he was a leader for the Oilers. All good things for this young group

Tom Renney and the Oilers Keep Buchberger

Talk about your cat with nine lives. Buchberger has just about sped them all and he's still here. He was rumored as a name to go back to the Barons, but it looks like Todd Nelson gets the job and Bucky stays with the big club. I'm not totally disappointed as Kelly is a leader and defines quite nicely the attitude management and coaches want the "new Oilers" to have.

I'm sure they'll be at least one more coach added.

Oilers Bring Back J.F. Jacques

If you're a stats geek, there are probably a million reasons why you're saddened by this news. Jacques has been largely unhealthy, he's been given almost as many chances as Pouliot who was shown the door but produced more offensively, and he's not anything more than a 14th forward which the Oilers already have.

Still, there's something about Jacques I like. He learned last year what it was that he'd be needed for. When he was healthy, something about his presence on the ice made me notice him. He took no guff from opposition, he was willing to drop the gloves on a dime to stand up for someone and he was a hitting machine.

Jacques may never be a stats favorite, but that whole "saw him good" thing really applies here.

I think he can change a game and I think if he's healthy he'll change it more for the positive than the negative.

Oilers Sign Dubnyk

Is this the end of Deslauriers? I doubt it and we'll know more on the 22nd when Khabibulin goes to trial, but I think if JDD is done, Dubnyk was the right choice for the Oilers.

His potential for growth seems much higher for me and of the two he's bound to become a NHL goalie and produce far greater results for his value contract than Deslauriers ever will.

Nelson and the Farm

OKC has a new coach in Todd Nelson. They also have what looks like the start of a good team. Shawn Belle is the latest and greatest of the group. He ranks up there with Giroux for me, but I see Belle as a potential for more with the Oilers than anyone Edmonton or the Barons have signed so far.


Post a Comment

Rob Daum Should Be Pi$$ed

The Oilers are set to name a new head coach for the Oklahoma City Barons. From the sounds of it Todd Nelson is the man who'll take the reigns.

Nelson has some experience in both the AHL and the NHL (as an assitant coach with the Thrashers) and from all accounts while he seems qualified for the role, isn't likely the first choice of Oilers GM Steve Tambellini. I have no good authority on this mind you, but it seems as though a bigger fish was on the radar and wasn't landed.

Who that bigger fish is or was we may never know, but according to the Edmonton Journal, Todd Nelson, who most recently was known in Edmonton for not getting hired for the coaching job with the Edmonton Oil Kings, will now be named as the first head coach of the Oklahoma City Barons tomorrow. I guess when you can't land your first or second choice, go with a backup plan for another team?

The end result is that Todd Nelson is about to inherit a much more quality team than any of his predecessors. The squads coached by Rob Daum, Jeff Truitt or Kelly Buchberger were just not very good. The way Steve Tambellini has been adding talent to this roster almost daily, Nelson may have fallen into a terrific situation.

Contrary to how it may sound, I have nothing against Todd Nelson. In all honesty, I know so little about him it would be unfair to pass judgement. What I do know is that it seems odd to me that if hiring for OKC wasn't a priority (it took quite some time to finally land a coach) or it was a priority and obtaining a viable head coach who was willing to relocate to OKC was going to be tough, why not give Daum one more season with the fresh new faces the Oilers have added to their minor league affiliate? It was bound to be that the team would see more success.

The only answer is that the Oilers saw Rob Daum as a problem and that no matter what team was iced and what coach was brought in to coach them, the Oilers wanted out. Adding the likes of defenceman Shawn Belle, Ben Ondrus who is a big AHL winger, Jake Taylor a solid minor league blueliner, and an abundance of minor league skill in Brad Moran and Alexandre Giroux, meant Daum and anyone else, including Nelson, would actually have the talent to give the Oilers AHL team a fighting chance.

Instead, it leaves Daum in a tricky place. He was let go too late to likely find a job to replace the one he though he'd be keeping and he's sitting at home watching his former club stack itself for a season in which the head coach, who likely wasn't the first choice, will have a long long leash.

Great for the Oilers, their farm team and Oklahoma fans. Probably not a great summer to say the least for former coach Rob Daum.


Post a Comment

Available PK Machines

The Oilers have made a lot of changes. They were soft, they added toughness. They had players who lacked effort and character and they added character guys. They had issues with morale in the dressing room and they cleared out almost everyone who trained, managed or could influence the team in that respect.

The Oilers still have a few puzzle pieces left to fit into place.

On that list is a need for a penalty killing machine. Losing Pisani and Moreau may not mean much in terms of offensive production, but in the case of playing one man down, both players were relied upon to pull much of the heavy weight.

The Oilers could fill one or two more spots. Comrie seems to be one that makes sense in terms of a top six forward with experience, but on the blueline (an area that I think Edmonton has really improved) one more experienced defensive minded blueliner could help. That they can also kill penalties will be a must and Comrie isn't really that guy.

Right now the Oilers only have Tom Gilbert (2:39), Ryan Whitney (2:30), Colin Fraser (1:26), Jason Strudwick (2:33), Shawn Horcoff (2:22), Sheldon Souray (2:12), Ladislav Smid (1:51) who have played any time on the kill. Souray likely won't be here and Strudwick's numbers are deceiving because he won't play 60% of the games.

There are a few defensemen and forwards available on the market still who can fill that role quite nicely. The Oilers might be smart to go after one. There is no telling what these kids (MPS, Hall and Eberle) can or can't do on the kill and finishing worse than where the Oilers did last year (26th in the NHL) would mean trouble.


Willie Mitchell

Mitchell won't be going back to Vancouver. Gillis has said he'd wait until he was aware of what health issues were still of concern for Mitchell before ruling out bringing him back, but the moves Vancouver made during the draft and free agency means there is absolutely no room for him.

Mitchell is a question mark because of his health. If he's ready to go for opening night, it might be worth taking a chance. The Oilers could use a veteran defencemen if they were to add someone and Mitchell led the NHL last season in time/game on the penalty kill at 4:04. That's almost a minute and a half more than anyone on the Oilers roster.

Mitchell made about $3.5 million last season. There is no way he makes that again. If the Oilers offered $2.5 -$3 on a one year once they knew he was healthy, they might have a good chance of landing him.

Mike Weaver

Weaver is a blueline UFA from St. Louis who finished second in the entire NHL in terms of penalty kill time last season with 3:59 per game. The bonus with grabbing someone from St. Louis is that they were the best team in the NHL shorthanded last season, so if Weaver led the way, we know he must be good at it.

Weaver made $800,000 last season. I don't think he gets a lot of time as a high ranking defenceman for you, but at $1 million bucks, you could play him in the #5 or #6 spot and use him primarily on the kill if you needed. It would still be money well spent. Weaver is 32 and has NHL experience dating back to 2001. Otherwise, I don't know a whole lot about him.

Ian Laperriere

Truly a grit and character guy who makes for a great fourth line right wing. Problem is Laperriere is still under contract for one more season with the Flyers. The Flyers however are in a situation where they won't be able to keep everyone they want to and there might be a situation where Laperriere becomes part of a trade between the two teams.

Lapperriere spent 2:50 per game on the kill last season and likes to block shots with his face. I strongly emphasize the word like. While noone really enjoys it, I can't remember the last time someone smiled after it happened -- Laperriere did. He reminds me of Jason Smith, just as a forward. He might not be captain material, but his actions speak loudly in a teams dressing room.

Craig Conroy

Veteran center who could fill in well on that fourth line and played 2:13 per game last year in Calgary on the PK. You wouldn't want anything more than a 1 year contract with Conroy thanks to his age, but he seems quite durable.

Calgary had a few forwards who were strong on the kill last season. Langkow, Higgins and Conroy led the team and with that many strong guys to play a similar penalty killing role it is possible Conroy is being overlooked in Calgary. He could be had to a very fair price and is definitely a leadership and character type guy the Oilers have been going after this off-season.

John Madden

The Blackhawks are still stuck in cap hell and are in the midst of trying to figure out what to do about an recent RFA offer on Hjalmarsson. Madden quietly was the leading forward for Chicago on the kill averaging 2:18 per game. Madden could be a 3rd or 4th line center for the Oilers and the added bonus is that he was 53% on faceoffs last season adding 10 goals and 23 points while doing so. Killing two or three birds with one stone is a good strategy here.

$2.5 million for one year or if you want to take a chance $1.8-$2 over two years would get it done. Madden is 37 though, so the Oilers would want to be careful with dishing out more than one year contracts.

Fernando Pisani

The Oilers and for that matter any other NHL team have yet to make a call. Pisani's injuries and health are of major concern and Pisani likely won't be offered a contract. It means that either a) Pisani can be had for league minimum and surprise a few people or b) will be offered a tryout by some NHL franchise.

If Pisani is healthy he's a deal at $500,000 - $700,000. Perhaps he might even accept a two-way contract to keep playing and show he has something left to offer. In either case, his skill on the kill is reason enough alone to warrant consideration.

Going back to the well is something Edmonton seems to be avoiding, but if other short-handed options aren't available Pisani fits.


There are others, but this list is a start. The longer free agency goes on, the more likely some of these players go unsigned. It becomes a matter then of who offers the only contract these guys are going to see versus offers the first tryout to an NHL camp.

Players like Blair Betts slipped through Edmonton's fingers last season. I don't suggest the Oilers let it happen again.


Post a Comment

Cooling the Jets But Looking at the Blue

The title of this post makes it sound like I'm going to give my two cents on the Winnipeg talk. I'm not. Instead I'm giving my three cents on the newfound and possibly unwarranted enthusiasm in Edmonton.

It's easy to get excited. The Oilers just came off a prospect camp where rookies looked great against other rookies. Edmonton also has the first overall draft selection and two top end prospects looking to crack the roster.

With all that going on, fans are starting to get an idea of how this team is going to shape itself up and often people get a bit carried away as if all of a sudden the Oilers could be a playoff team.

I'm not saying Lowetide is one of them, but he recently did a depth chart examination for the Edmonton Oilers. In there he suggested with a few possible changes the Oilers could be a playoff team. He's right -- they could be. But the Oilers may not make those changes and if they don't, it might be best not to get too carried away.

Every once and a while I throw out possible combinations and a quick glance at the Oilers depth. I tend to reserve a full examination and an up close and personal look at the roster until much closer to opening day because there is simply so much that can still happen. I'm changing my approach a bit because it occured to me that maybe this newfound excitement warranted a bit closer than a general peek at the roster.

Overall, there is a chance that the Oilers surprise everyone (much the same way Colorado did). Theoritically, they could have one of the better records to open the season and the kids light it up. The logical approach however would be to suggest that there will be some major bumps along the road.

Kids tend to tire over a long NHL season and the Oilers will have a lot of kids playing major roles. Injuries play their part and the Oilers have a vast history of injury concern. Finally, while different, the Oilers are not proven to be vastly superior than they were last year. With every young prospect we have high hopes for, that same prospect could do little to nothing.

The goaltending is still a mess and may not get sorted out for a few weeks. Even if the Oilers keep all three (Bulin, JDD and DD), two are unproven and one is injury riddled. With how often goaltending can steal a victory this lineup of netminders suggests the Oilers might not steal too many.

The forwards have major promise but outside of Penner and Hemsky offer no real guarantees for production. MPS, Hall and Eberle (if they play) could have 40-50 point seasons. They could also easily have 20-30 point seasons. Penner seems to be the best weapon, but he's streaky and Hemsky is on the verge of being a superstar but never quite gets there for multiple reasons. Both have also been trade rumor for over a month.

The defence might be the area that surprises a few people. The lineup is quite different and still has some question marks but also has a proven track record of performance. This could be a real shining spot for the Oilers.

The Oilers have Gilbert, Whitney, Souray, Foster, Smid, Vandermeer, Strudwick. I don't include Peckham or Chorney because I'm not sure either start the year here and I think the Oilers move Souray, but I go back and forth on it the longer this soap opera plays out.

Ryan Whitney had a shaky 2008 campaign but is a proven 40-60 point defencemen. That shouldn't be overlooked. Whitney rejuvinated himself with the Oilers and I think is serious in showing people he's not the guy you trade away -- he's the guy you trade for.

Tom Gilbert hasn't had a season with less than 30 points and has been known to go on massive point producing runs. He's also known to have poor spurts throughout the year, but it seems it's when he's partnered with someone forcing him to play a role he's not comfortable with. Playing with Whitney, Gilbert was red hot. We can expect that the hotter rather than the colder is a fair assumption.

Ladislav Smid is still a tad unproven but he's Edmonton's new shut-down kid and he's good at it. He's never going to get you much in the way of offense but it looks like he'll be relied upon to shutdown the top end guys. Whether he can do it might be a question mark and he should be a good 3 or 4 blueliner, but it's up for debate.

Kurtis Foster could be the real surprise for me here. His injury history is a concern but if he plays close to a full season, Oilers fans should prepare themselves for a 40-50 point offensive weapon. We shouldn't underestimate how quickly he can put up points if he's used on the powerplay and his ability to get that puck on net creating goals for other players.

If Souray comes back, we all know what he provides. Multiple 50 plus point seasons, powerplay threat and size are all things he has going for him. His attitude and a mutual desire to be somewhere else by both parties? Not so good.

Vandermeer is a more defensive tough man not suited for anything beyond the 5 or 6 slot. If he's asked to play more than that it could be a problem for the Oilers. Along side his partner Strudwick big minutes of ice-time could be an issue. Vandermeer could prove me wrong though. I don't think Strudwick will.

Overall the Oilers have a strong case for a good blueline. Their top four (especially with Souray) is as good as many. It's more offense than defense, but all four aren't the worst defenders by any means and Smid is a key player there.

Let's look quickly at the other teams in the Northwest to see where they rank. (I'm not a big stats guy so this is a pretty rough look and should be in no way taken as more than my opinion).


Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regeher, Ian White, Corey Sarich, Steve Staios, Adam Pardy.

Despite the fact that the Flames came off poorly from free agency, the Flames have seven viable options on their blueline. Whether they start the year with all seven remains to be seen and with the Flames as close as they are to the cap, one of these players will likely go. One would think Calgary will try to make room to get Ian White under contract which at this point he isn't. That won't be easy considering White will be due a large raise over last years $800,000 salary. (13 goals and 38 points from the blueline will do that). Keeping him means likely moving another defenceman because the Flames are weak at forward depth.

Giordano, Bouwmeester, and White are all offensive threats. Bouwmeester has to be considered a huge disappointment having his worst NHL season to date along side his most expensive one, but the odds he'll be that poor offensively again in 2010 are slim. Regeher, Pardy and Staios are more your defensive guys, but Staios as Oilers fans know is providing less and less value vs what he brought teams in years past.

To me, Calgary still has a strong blueline. Much stronger than the Oilers if you consider the "superstar" factor associated with Bouwmeester and Regehr. I think Bouwmeester, who can still be played in any situation, will need a bounce back year though to keep that status and if one of the big names is traded, the Flames blueline is much weaker since losing Phaneuf and whomever else might go.


Scott Hannan, Kyle Quincey, John-Michael Liles, Adam Foote, Kyle Cumiskey, Ryan Wilson

Colorado's blue is much less proven. Adam Foote is a soldier, Liles is a good but overpaid offensive threat and Quincey had a breakout year. Beyond that, one has to think that defence will be an issue for the Avs this coming season. It's somewhat well rounded, but still contains a lot of question marks.

While Ryan Wilson came in a showed he had the chops to play in the NHL and Quincey was much better than people had expected and played a more prominant role, Foote is like the Staios of Calgary and on his way down in terms of effectiveness. Hannan and Liles are both on trade watch in Colorado.

There are no real star threats on defense with the Avs. No defencemen that an opposing team really needs to watch out for and no offensive threats so big that a team is at a disadvantage while they are on the ice. Quincey and Liles might be close, but no more than Gilbert or Whiteny who I'd give the edge to.


Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Shane O'Brien, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Andrew Alberts.

The Canucks became an offensive threat overnight. They were already pretty good, but one would have to classify them now as scary. Adding Ballard and Hamhuis did wonders for their perception around the NHL, but with about $25 million tied up in 8 defencemen, the Canucks will have to move someone. Popular belief is that the someone is either Kevin Bieksa or Sami Salo.

Salo has major injury concerns and like Souray from the Oilers is somone few teams might be willing to gamble with. Salo is a less expensive option than Souray so he has that going for him, but Bieksa might be the player that gets the most value in return for the Canucks.

That still leaves them with at least four 20-40 point defencemen, some poop disturbers and some strong defensively minded players. Outside of Hamhuis, the Canucks are more offense than defence, but they are extremely strong. Easily the best blueline in the Northwest division.

Minnesota Wild

Marek Zidlicki, Brent Burns, Nick Schultz, Cam Barker, Greg Zanon, Nate Prosser

Minnesota's top 4 could be a sleeper pick on defence. Zidlicki has proven his worth and Brent Burns is somewhat of an inigma. Burns had one great season, but injury seems to have hurt his progress and he hasn't been quite the same since his one 43 point season in 2007/2008.

Schultz and Barker are average to better than average, but I'm of the opinion Barker benefited from playing with the Blackhawks and his production in Minnesota is more reflective of his true value. He's still a pretty strong player with upside at a young age.

Zidlicky seems to only real comparison defencemen with the upside of the Gilbert's, Whitney's and Souray's of the Oilers. He hasn't reached the same offensive heights as any of them though. It seems the peak of each Oilers player is higher than any on the Minnesota blue.


In terms of where the Oilers sit, I'd put their blueline at the #3 spot of 5 in the Northwest. I think however if Gilbert and Whitney click and Foster stays healthy, they could be #2. But, this is the area I consider the strongest for the Oilers.

If I rank them 3 out of 5 and that's their strength, it tells me perhaps I don't want to get too carried away. That would be good for about 18th to 22nd in the NHL if that trend throughout the other divisions continues.


Post a Comment

More To Read