Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Oilers - An Off-Season Review - 2007 Edition

Not a great off-season for Lowe. I cannot say it more clearly.

The Good

Garon was a great signing by Lowe. He had injury issues last year but in the games he did play his Sv% was a respectable .907%. He will provide excellent back-up goaltending for Roloson and can step into the #1 role if Roloson falters.

Pitkanen will always be an exceptionally talented defenseman. Getting the best player in a trade usually means your team won the trade and Lowe won this trade. The only problem here is that Pitkanen is even more Hemsky than Hemsky is.**

** With Hemsky we only wonder if he will ever take the next step up, Pitkanen is fully capable of taking a step back - that would make him a very expensive mistake given his numbers justify a $4.5 mill+ contract. For those kind of dollars you want a guy who can do more than score.

The Meh

Tarnstrom is a guy I have ALWAYS supported. Normally I would consider this a great move. Problem is that Lowe also added Souray and we already have Stoll - that makes three players who rely on PP results, generated from the point, for their scoring. And where does Pitkanen fit in there?

The rest of the Pitkanen deal (as a group):

-- Sanderson is deadweight who will probably last the year with us. Lowe MIGHT be able to dump him (deadline) for a late pick but miracles are not for us.
-- Lupul wasn't a good fit here. The Oilers just don't have a line where they can hide him. He might do okay in Philly given that they have more centers capable of babysitting him.
-- Smith is a HUGE loss for the Oilers. One of the few players on the team who is capable of making any player he plays with better.

I like Pitkanen enough that I can avoid giving this deal a thumbs down but mark my words - Smith was team super-glue and I am legitimately scared for this team without him back there. To be frank, if Lowe had had the option to send Greene or Grebeshkov instead, it would have been a better move (even if we then had to throw in the draft pick).

The Bad

Penner should settle in as a decent #2 winger for the Oilers. Problem is that the Lowe picked him up at a much higher price than he should have. The team will easily be one of the worst in the league and top-5 picks in deep drafts are almost a gimme when it comes to drafting IMPACT players. This one hurts.

Souray is the kind of defenseman who should be playing on the 3rd pair at Even Strength, the 1st pair on the power play and the 2nd pair on the penalty kill. In those spots he should be a difference maker. The problem is that, at that pay ($5.4 mill/yr and 3yrs NMC) he:

a. will not be playing a lesser role (at EV) that maximizes his skill set, and he
b. takes us right to the Cap limit (crippling the teams ability to make trades), and he
c. has to perform at an elite level just to justify the dollars, and Cap space - the contract is essentially unmovable.


e. there is no proof Souray is a driver of PP results (the stats only show that he can score), and
f. the team already had a PP pointman with a big shot in Stoll, and
g. the team had already added Tarnstrom, and
h. the addition of Souray just further unbalanced the roster (too few players good at EV).

All in all - a complete disaster in the making. Of all the bullets posted it is 'c' that matters - at 5.4 mill /yr the Oilers can't afford to have Souray perform at anything less than an elite level. There is no room for margin in this contract.

Hejda, on the other hand, is the sort of defenseman you only dream of (as a GM). Last half of the year he played like a legit #3 guy. Given that he is a VETERAN player from the Euro leagues I find it hard to assume that his level of performance could/would backslide much. Absolutely collosal blunder by Lowe.

Johnson and Dvorak are the kind of forwards a team needs to sign during rebuild years. They provide veteran play on the 3rd and 4th lines and can shelter rookies as they develop and learn the game. If the team is lucky they can outperform their opposite lines and provide a boost to the entire team in doing so. Too bad Lowe didn't sign ANY of those kinds of players.


The signing of Garon makes sense for any team at any time. Good back-up goaltending, signed for cheap, is... just... well... it's every good thing. Kudo's to Lowe.

The 'not' signing of Hejda makes no sense at any time for any team. Cheap, reliable, young. It doesn't get any better than that. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

After that, the problem is that Lowe's moves, as a whole, don't make sense. Edmonton is NOT a contender. Contending teams come in several flavors and Edmonton is none of those. Hence, this is a rebuild year. Given that then:

-- Pitkanen is a great player to trade for. Young, can produce, could be dominant, didn't give up too much for him. Losing Smith hurts but for a rebuild this is as good as it gets.
-- Tarnstrom was an excellent signing. Short-term deal, veteran player, deadline trade-bait all the way. Unfortunately, this is the last move Lowe made that makes sense.

-- Penner was a horrible signing to make. By all means, PUSH Anaheim on the dollars, but giving up a 1st, in a draft like the 2008 will be, given how bad the team is, insane.

-- Souray is not a player that a rebuilding team signs to a long-term deal with a NMC. Overpay for one or two years and trade at the first deadline the first chance you get. Or don't sign at all.

One might think that three positives (Garon, Pitkanen, Tarnstrom) and three negatives (Hejda, Penner, Souray) makes for neutral - the team is no worse and no better. Problems are that neutral still means a REALLY bad team, the team is in a long-term rebuild cycle hindered by medium-term contracts and there is no long-term upside (the 1st rnd pick).

Not a great off-season for the Oilers at all. A tremendous number of things will have to break in our favor just to ensure we aren't giving Anaheim a lotto pick. Ouch.


Have a great evening everyone.

No comments: