Wednesday, 30 December 2009

(New) Last Post of 2009


My apologies to those who thought I was done for the year.

Blame Scott. His response to my 'Last' (now '(Second) Last') post of the year got me to thinking; first, his post verbatim:

"We can only hope that the result of the low finish is a change (hopefully for the better) in upper management of the hockey club. Unfortunately, I figure Tambellini will get one more year no matter the finish this season and will feel that he needs to make the playoffs to keep his job (and he'd probably be right) and do further damage to the long-term future of the team."

Mostly right Scott.

There are three possible ways for Tambellini to keep his job longer than the end of this year (in no particular order):

1. Katz mulligans Tambellini for Lowe's team build and his own (Katz's) sanctioning of Tambellini's management strategy; major changes could take place but this would be the put-up or shut-up year for Tambellini and Jagr (you heard me)

i.e. everyone agrees it was a f^&ck-up by all and Tambellini gets one more year to turn it around; note that this

2. The team goes on enough of a tear in the new year that the team sacrifices some young talent (not named Eberle or MPS) in order to secure enough veteran talent to make a run that takes them into, or just barely out of, the play-offs

i.e. this cluster-f^&k that we call a roster gets another year older but not another year better and Tambellini will dodge the bullet for one more year

3. Tambellini starts the rebuild; in this case the blame falls on Lowe's team build and all agree the team needs a rebuild. Moreau, Staios, Souray and others head out the door while Horcoff goes in for surgery and gets the 'C' for 2010-11

i.e. what should have started in 2006-07 (Pronger) and must have started in 2007-08 (Smyth) will finally start now and Tambellini will get to do it

Dammit

The problem with these scenarios are three fold:

1. in each case Tambellini, and Lowe, get to keep their jobs

2. the obvious scenario is the third

3. in the case of third scenario Tambellini, and Lowe will get far more than one more year in which to produce results

I may not think much of Lowe and Tambellini's managerial skills but they aren't stupid people.

-- Lowe was smart enough to get out of the way just before it became obvious to joe-everyfan (not just the Oilogosphere) that he was the problem and

-- Tambellini was smart enough to pull the trigger on MacTavish while the paint used to draw the face was still fresh

Think about that for a second. The rebuild is becoming obvious. So much so that it may be impossible, even for those with the hubris that is the calling card of Oilers team management, to avoid.

Do you know any GM's who only get one year to rebuild a team? When it is universally acknowledged as being one?

I don't believe there are any such names out there.

And that is the problem.

Lowebellini will start the rebuild, be lauded for seeing the light and for being courageous enough to do so - despite the rabid fan base the Oilers have - and it will be years before their failings will be found out.

Again.

You don't always get what you want.

And sometimes when you do, it isn't what you need.

I think this team needs a seachange in its management group. If they take the path of the rebuild, something I have wanted them to do for a while now, I won't get to see it.

For years.

My great fear is that they try to short-circuit the whole thing. Draft top-3 this year and then spend all their money on Jagr, Redden and whoever else they can max Cap on. My call? It won't work... it may get me the management turnover I want but it will set this team far, far back of where a proper rebuild would take them.

We are about to see our very own, homegrown, version of Mike Milbury in action. Draft well and then shit the bed, rinse, repeat.

wheeee

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Have a great evening everyone. And a wonderful new year :-)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

(Second) Last Post of 2009


Before the year began most Oilogosphere posters had the Oilers as placing out of the play-offs with some, myself included, positing that they had a chance IF everything (in my case: EVERYTHING) went right for them. There were a few who pegged this for a team that could, on its own merits, finish 6th to 8th but even those posters didn't sound too enthusiastic about it.

Kind of a sad thing when internet bloggers have a better grasp of the capabilities of a team than masters of the trade like Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini. Let me come right out and say this clearly:

I don't actually think most NHL general managers are all that good at their jobs.

A Qualification

The one qualification I will allow for being this: I don't always know what those jobs are. Some GM's live to serve their master and if their master values ticket sales over all else then expect big names, regardless of team fit or need, to feature prominently on the menu.

The same sort of mechanic will follow depending on the goal - whether the goal be a new arena or the maximization of profits or just being able to meet the budget.

So maybe a GM is, actually, good at their job - we just don't know what that job is all the time.

And How it Applies to the Oilers

One can laud the competitive instincts of Tambellini, Lowe and Katz all they want, it doesn't really matter, competitive instinct doesn't mean dick when two lack capability and the third has other agendas in play.

For the record - while I believe the Oilers may have lost money last year I also believe they would only have done so in an accounting sense (wherein Katz is using the dollars generated by the team to pay himself back the purchase price of the team thus generating a 'loss' by the team) and in my world, only a weasel pulls that trick with a straight face.

There is, absolutely, nothing wrong with such an approach. Just don't try to tell me that fielding a winning team is your priority. Apparently the priorities list like so:

1. new arena
2. recoup investment through team generated cash flow
3. field a winning team

Back To Point

Spend enough years watching the NHL management teams at work and two things come quickly to the fore:

a. to become a GM in the NHL you generally have to be part of the family to start
b. as noted, most of these guys should not be GMs

Look. When I see a guy like Dawes, who had some very good underlying numbers the last few years, sign with a team, WITHOUT obvious holes that he would fill, for minimal money, at the end of the offseason, then it is clear that many of these guys don't know jack shit about putting teams together.

And you see that every year.

There are some good GMs out there. We know who they are. We also know who are not.

Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini are not good NHL general managers.

The Runs

Had a quick case of the runs recently. Luckily, as we know these things go, the runs usually - no pun intended - run their course fairly quickly and the body recovers. Painful and inconvenient? Yes. But only for a short while.

The Oiler will have another good run or two in them. In the long run this will not be a good thing. The team needs a rebuild in the worst way but I fear that won't happen with these jokers in charge.

For 2010 I predict the only runs you are guaranteed to continue to see are these:

1. The Oilers won't make the play-offs
2. Lowebellini will not turn this team around
3. Those inherent in my sentence structure

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Have a great evening and a wonderful holiday season everyone.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Seriously


I used to live and die by the Edmonton Journal sportspage so, in that spirit, and knowing the photo is actually from there (I do try to credit where credit is known btw - though I should be more diligent in doing so):

Photograph by: Chris Schwarz, Edmonton Journal

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So.

Being Serious

If you were serious about rebuilding this team would you not - and I am looking at this in a RIGHT NOW kind of way:

a. Waive Robert Nilsson and, also use re-entry waivers? Basically use every avenue available until he is gone?

b. Use Cogliano and Grebeshkov in an upgrade trade? Together or alone.

Of course, one would dump any of Moreau, Khabibulin, Staois, Strudwick and Comrie first chance they got (think trade deadline).

How long would it take you to slam the door on Brule?

And Pisani?


Being Absolutely Serious

If you were absolutely serious about making the play-offs and you were GM of the Edmonton Oilers would you not:

a. waive Robert Nilsson

and

b. (seriously) make a pitch to Burke along the lines of:

Cogliano, Brule and picks
FOR
Ponikarovsky & Stajan

If you had to pick up the salary of a Wayne Primeau or a Garnet Exelby - would you blink?

And if 'picks' meant a 2nd and 3rd instead of a 4th and 5th would you do it?

And if 'picks' meant a 1st... would you still do it?

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IMO, Robert still being here has more to do with Kent than anything else; also, I would actually offer Pisani another contract - 3 yrs at $600,000 /year - if he genuinely wanted to retire an Oiler and I thought guaranteeing his pension was something one did for loyal, hardworking employees who didn't make a career out of taking aggressive penalties.

Which I do think is something one would do.


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Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Who Needs 'Em?


Conventional wisdom generally holds that there is little value in a team tanking a season. It doesn't guarantee a Cup win, it aggravates a fanbase and leaves the players disillusioned and unmotivated.

Fair enough.

Last 10 Stanley's

2009 - Pittsburgh
2008 - Detroit
2007 - Anaheim
2006 - Carolina
2004 - Tampa Bay
2003 - New Jersey
2002 - Detroit
2001 - Colorado
2000 - New Jersey
1999 - Dallas

Nice list of teams.

A Road Less Travelled?

Interesting thing though, of those teams that have won the Cup in the last 10 years, no less than 6 teams owe significant debt to having been horrible teams at one time (or several times as the case may be):

2009 - Pittsburgh ... Crosby, Malkin, Fleury
2006 - Carolina ..... Staal ....... 2003, 2nd overall
2004 - Tampa Bay .... Lecavalier .. 1998, 1st overall
2002 - Detroit ...... Yzerman ..... 1983, 4th overall
2001 - Colorado ..... Forsberg .... 1991, 1st overall (Lindros)
1999 - Dallas ....... Modano ...... 1988, 1st overall

So that is 6 of 10.

Sidedoors

Of the other 4 teams:

2007 - Anaheim ...... Pronger (1993, 2nd overall) & Niedermayer
2003 - New Jersey ... Niedermayer
2000 - New Jersey ... Niedermayer .. 1991, 3rd overall


So, even if by way of Hartford and Toronto, 3 more teams needed players picked high in draft by teams that had, once upon a time, horrible, horrible seasons.

Righteousness

That leaves the 2008 Detroit Red Wings. They would be the anomaly.

They are the only team that has won the Cup in the last 10 years without a player who was chosen in the top-4 of a draft year.

Good for them!

Well, except for Brad Stuart maybe (1998, 3rd overall, San Jose)?

As he wasn't a key component of that team making the play-offs, winning a round or winning the Cup I guess we can ignore his contributions in the context of this post.

So. Still. Good for them.

Mostly.

Morality Play?

Don't kid yourself. Sometimes it takes a crawl through a river of shit.

While poor timing, poor drafting and poor management can ruin a good wallow in the muck of awfulness NOTHING can goose a team's chance to win it all like having one, or (even better) multiple, top-4 draft pick selections on the roster.

It's almost a pre-req.

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Have a great evening everyone.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Swimming in Cash


You are a billionaire who has decided your team needs to be gutted and started from scratch.

So, from one billionaire to another...

Khabibulin
FOR
Theodore and Nylander

While you may have to swallow Nylander's salary for this year and the next you do get out from under Khabibulin's next three. In the mean time Washington shores up their long-term goaltending and cuts cash outlay in prep for the Semin/Backstrom contracts.

What do you know - there ARE trade options for this team that might make some sense.

Just gotta be swimming in cash and be ready to dive. Wasn't that one of the perks that came with having a rich owner?

Oh right. I forgot. This is a real estate play. Sorry.

Maybe it'll come with a pool?

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Have a great evening everyone.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Not a Joke


A few posts ago, before it became a rather heated topic over at LT's even (in a calendar sense), I mentioned a trade:

Hemsky & Grebeshkov
FOR
Weiss & Ballard

For the record. Not joking.

The fact is that this is an 'okay' team IF everything is firing. That means key players have to remain healthy AND they have to performing to, or above, spec.

The Oilers lack quality depth. From what I have seen over the years only a few things overcome a lack of quality depth on the skating roster; some of those include:

1. Phenomenal talent at key positions (see also: Buffalo, Hasek)
2. Phenomenal luck from key players (see also: LA Kings, Potvin)
3. Absolute crap for opposition (see also: SE Division)

Goaltending can mean a lot.

If Horcoff really is injured then this team is in a great deal of trouble. In years past there was always a Stoll or a Reasoner around to carry the heavy freight for a while; not so much in 2009-10. A few more weeks of this and 'rebuild' becomes the operative word (you know... except maybe for that whole Khabibulin contract thingie).

So back to the trade idea. The key words being: 'trade idea'.

I named the names I named for two reasons:

1. They weren't completely out of the realm of reason insofar as the value is there on both sides, and
2. There comes a time when teams have the change direction, sometimes drastically, and this trade would do that

Think about the 2nd line of the roster for second. Probable/possible candidates include Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, O'Sullivan, Comrie and Brule. Of those Gagner OR Cogliano (at this stage in their careers) OR Comrie OR Nilsson make a lot of sense if the pieces are there for a soft-minutes scoring line or if a babysitter is secured to watch over them when playing tougher minutes.

But the pieces aren't there. Hence Jacques is on the 1st line.

heh

Think about the O'Sullivan trade for a second. Makes a lot more sense if the team is willing to trade some combination of Cogliano and/or Nilsson in a package for a 2nd line cornerstone doesn't it? Not in Edmonton.

Is this about a sports team or a fucking real estate development?

Oilers team management left MacT to hangdry. Looks like Quinn is holding on to leftover line.

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Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Another Mish-Mash of Stuff


DEFENSE! . . DEFENSE!!

I have always categorized defensemen into four broad categories:

1. Those who play best staying in defensive position
2. Those who contribute most leaving defensive position
3. Those who try to do both
4. Those who can do both

Simple enough. There may be a hundred descriptors I can graft onto to those categories but it all starts there. The trick, imo, is to always have a 2 or 3 playing with a 1 or 4. When teams screw these combo's up they generally get into trouble.

The 2nd group is the most varied of the four categories as it includes offensive defensemen (say, Ozolinsh) and 'hitters' (say, Ulanov). This is the chaos group because players in this category tend to leave position in order to make their play.

Chaos doesn't necessarily mean 'bad' btw. Gains made can be worth losses incurred. I would suppose the 3rd group is generally the 'most bad' group. Not sound enough defensively to hold the fort and not good enough in other areas to make up the losses. Lots of rookies in that group.

That said, Seidenberg has rounded into a decent defenseman by my eye.

As you can imagine, the 4th group is (by far) the most rare. And please note, except in the case of the 4th group, I have not made any indication of ability.

Thinking of all of that the other day I spared a thought for Phaneuf. Group 2 player who is a threat to leave position at any time as he is both a hitter and an offensive defenseman. That isn't going to help Kipper any.

LAFFS AND LAFFS

Following up on a David Staples post (Cult of Hockey) that echoed my own empty headed thoughts - that post is here - I am one of those who think Burke started his rebuild way too soon.

He didn't quite have the wonderful off-season I predicted for him (or, at least, that he should have had)**.

This isn't rocket science folks.

Valuable pieces available to unload? Check.

Bad goaltending? Check.

Patient fan base? Check.

Full budget and full Cap capability? Check.

A few good young prospects/players already in place? Check.

Damn. I cannot think of a higher profile team that had a better opportunity, in my lifetime, to enter a rebuild and come out of it pre-forgiven and shining like roses. Even Blake's contract was finally getting to the point where it was a value asset (next year the Cap hit is a cool mill higher than actual salary).

It's like Lowe and Burke got together in the little boys room, kissed and made up and somewhere in the spit they exchanged mojo's. The risk factors for the Leafs are all so high it beggars my imagination.

Kessel was the wrong the move to make THIS year. That 2010 1st rounder should be a top-8 marker and it will, of course, be paired with a 2nd rounder in the top-38. Barring a great off-season in the summer of 2010, the second (2011) 1st round pick should be in the top-10.

And that is WITH Kessel, Beauchemin, Komisarek, et al added to the team.

Think about that for a second. It isn't a matter of Kessel outperforming what Boston receives in the trade - it's about Kessel outperforming what Toronto would have gotten if they hadn't done the trade.

Burke's real mistake was that of putting too much value on the incoming defensmen. Niether Beauchemin nor Komisarek was a driver back there on defense - on those teams it was Neidermayer/Pronger and Markov - but Burke treated them as being such.

Then made all his bets accordingly.

Oops.

If he had just stuck with a rebuild plan:

- stay with Toskala for 2009/10 (at least) and bring the new guy in slow;
- do NOT pick up Komisarek
- pimp Stempniak and Blake near the deadline
- if the price is right find a taker for Poni and Kaberle
etc

Then two top-3 picks over the next two years aren't out of the question; good draft year or bad, top-3 is generally where you get your winners.

Given Toronto's ability to pay for trade deadline mercs, and pick up UFA's when ready, there is no reason why Toronto should not have been a major force as early as 2014/15. Maybe even earlier given the right UFA signings.

You think Kovalchuk's agent wouldn't have pointed a finger at Toronto's marketability, Cap space, ability to spend, Burke's track record and the fcat that the team would have more talent faster than Atlanta could ever hope to produce?

And now? With the rebuild ending with Kadri?

The Laffs never end. Hyuck Hyuck.

PROMISE AND PROMISES

One part of me says: 'homegames' and 'shooting percentages' and nothing changes.

Another part of me says: 'Penner is ready to play this year', 'Smid has graduated' and 'We just might have a scoring line featuring Gagner as center'.

Oh yeah: 'small sample sizes'

heh

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** Also feel free to read this post on rebuilding a team and this post on the Kings (Lombardi to be specific).

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Have a great evening everyone.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Early Returns


It's how you finish that matters. Fair enough.

A season start is what it is and, given the laugh-a-thon that was the netminding in games 1 and 2, it can be said that the points were, at the least, earned. Well-earned being a label to save for another day.

Some thoughts.

Do You?

An interesting thing, for me, is the play of Horcoff and Hemsky. Dudes are having some issues. Can't all be JFJ. Question becomes, if (and this is a 'just saying' moment) a package like, say, Weiss and Ballard came available for, say, Hemsky and Grebeshkov with draft picks to balance - do you?

I don't believe the Oilers are going to get any 'luck' - in terms of trades of spare pieces (teams really shouldn't waste gift-of-god trades like Hejda and Glencross, they just shouldn't) for usable pieces - to come their way anytime soon so a sideways swing may be needed.

So, do you? Swing that way? Do you at least start thinking about it?

Consider, at this pace Gagner will be a legit #2 center, able to score points and handle defensive duty, by the end of NEXT year.

Powerplays

Seems to me that when you take a legitimate shooter (Stoll, Souray, Streit, Phaneuf) and combine them with a legitimate puck-mover/passer/all-around smart-guy (Pronger, Markov, Bouwmeester) you have 2/3rds of a dominate powerplay ready to roll. All that is left to be decided, imo, is what approach the forward ranks will take.

Surprised we don't see more of it. Surprised at any who didn't think Calgary would be a top-4 team this year. They won't sustain their current pace but that powerplay will cause all the damage that team will need. The forward depth that Sutter built up is just the icing on the cake.

I have said to more than a few - Calgary 2009-10 reminds me a lot of Edmonton 2005-06.

Penalty Kills

Edmonton's is a freakin' monstrosity of hope-shattering soon-to-be-in-a-net-near-you disappointment. Only hope we have internal is a rising-from-the-grave performance by Pisani.

For the record - be nice to see him get his 400 games in.

Be nicer if those games are good ones.

Montreal

For the second year in a row we know: no Markov equals death for this team.

You know, if a team could sneak Latendresse out of there, even if at the cost of picking up a Laraque and/or a Gill, the team that did so could do fairly well. His Desjardins EV numbers say I should like him and so maybe I do.

That would be a steal eh? JFJ, Nilsson, Strudwick and Staios for Latendresse, Gill and Laraque. You know. Because they need another defensemen.

I keed. I keed!

Crazy

Who do we actually match up well with for a trade?

Hrmmm... therein some distress.

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Have a great evening everyone.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Plans Gone Awry


Thinking about the whole Phoenix Coyotes / Gretzky thing a bit.

There is no nobility in the eating of maggots spawned off a body that rots yet has not yet died, and even less if some of its wounds you have, yourself, inflicted.

Phoenix was dead, financially, years ago. As an owner there is no way Gretzky could not have known this. For him to insist on earning $8 million /year, an amount which is:

1. at least $6 million more than the average going rate and
2. probably $7 million more than a coach with his record deserves

it only means that the team, really, meant less than nothing to him. imo.

Gretzky has always had the halo. I know. I am ones of those who has polished it on occassion. But the Gretzky brand has always been one of how he trancends the game, not just a great player but also a great person; he knows this full well.

It is why he wanted his money.

Big halos get lots of polish.

What gets me is that he was/is a founder of this team. Were he just a contractor, or an employee, or even the sole owner (respectively: get mine / get mine / stupid greedy bastard) I could understand it but when the majority owner is, legitimately (not the accounting trickery that Katz is getting LaForge to peddle), losing his shirt, then sticking another sword in the back of the child you helped birth...

... when you are, expressly, NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THE GUY WHO WOULD DO THAT SORT OF THING...

... and then trying to feast on the flies as it dies. Well.

Even Coyotes don't do that.

Somewhere. A couple of years ago. He really should have got out. Or taken a severely reduced pay package perhaps.

I don't like thinking about him in this fashion. I think tonite, I'll spend some time thinking about the way back when. 1979. The Lord Nelson Apartments. And heroes I actually thought I knew.

Heroes are human. They don't have halos. I tell myself.

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All drama aside.

There have been some GREAT posts/threads over at Lowetide's lately.

I am well represented on the record as saying, and saying so in many ways, that this teams lacks both managerial acumen and a plan. To those who think differently I can only ask this:

Are you, rightfully, telling me that, with pre-season coming to an end, the fulfillment of the Oilers master plan this off-season, was to sign Comrie and then (maybe) trade Nilsson for a draft pick? Really?

Not only was Plan A a little less than brilliant but f^%k me, methinks they have to work on their Plans B through Z as well.

But thats just me.

(Doesn't Tampa Bay need a RW? Find $1 million or so in salary to take off their roster for this year and maybe that can happen. And no. That doesn't mean they would trade us Ranger. Probably starts with Hale. And yes. A trade with Nashville for picks is better financially... but competitively? Debateable.)

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Have a great evening everyone.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

New Year New Attitude


heh

Oilers are losing money again? Old new I know, but still... WOW! They really don't think much of us do they? Maybe the EIG will take them back. Katz would have to sell at a loss of course. Team being a money loser and all.

Anyways. So.

Comrie may be a value signing, Penner may be in shape, Motin may be a player*, Cor-NAY may be Pisani v1.2 in a coiple of years and Grebs may be about to hit another plane of being but, imo, what matters is this:

1. Can Khabibulin stay healthy and keep his save% over .910; and


2. Can Quinn and Renney make a difference with this roster

Either one of those go south and this team is no better than 4th in its division and out of the play-offs. New Year meet Old Year I guess.

To be honest I have written this team off for a long time now** but then I read/heard it.

Something promising. Something that makes sense. Something that agrees with what I already thought***.

(Oddly enough,) the most promising thing I have seen or heard out of this team all off-season actually came from outside the organization (pulling this from
Copper & Blue who pulled it from TSN):

We had high expectations going into the year. For the most part of the year we were in a playoff position and we were in pretty good shape. At the end we really didn't fulfill those expectations and when that happens changes are made. I think the players lost their trust and faith in me and my ability to get the job done, and for a large part I think that was the same for me, that I lost faith in the players."
Craig MacTavish (TSN interview)


That quote pretty much echoes everything that I, and a few others, were saying last year. And it hurt because I (and 'we' in some cases) am a MacT fan. Guy is a great freakin' coach but he got thrown under the bus by this team's player procurement department too many times and finally lost it.

I can't dismiss the fact that MacT may have said all that so as to take a fall for the team. I can't. My third favorite Oiler ever, everything I have ever seen from the guy indicates that his first instinct is to take the hit to make a play.

So maybe he did.

But for now. Perhaps for me. I'll take him at his words.

If true it means that Quinn and Renney may be able to get a lot of mileage out of this roster and if so maybe they take 3rd in the division and if they can do that then maybe 7th or 8th is a possibility. 6th if another team completely falls off the map (it happens).

Look. I'm trying to be positive here okay?!?

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In terms of long-term planning? Well, the ability to build tomorrow's team is hobbled by the weight of its yesterdays. Barring a whole bunch of surprises this team just doesn't/won't have a critical mass of talent all hitting its stride. Together.

So best case scenarios, for the future, from the right now, are these:

1. The team sucks total ass and it forces the rebuild.

2. Tambellini starts thinking future-now and slowly unwinds these legacy contracts.

If #2 is an option then maybe its time to get Lowe to call Sather and find out just how bad the Rangers need a steady ol'd-man to balance the boat. The Rangers being one of the few teams with both budget and Cap space (they can manipulate it if need be) to take on steady.

The third option is to hope that this year will be all full of sunshine and lollipops and rainbows and Stanley Cup play-off runs and the kids will learn so much that it was worth putting it all off until next year!

Or something like that.

After all. They really are, all of them, new years.

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* Would make me very happy if true. Have always liked that pick. Go Kytnar!
** That whole 'could' post I wrote a few posts back.
*** That's how it works, right?


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Have a great evening everyone.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Sunshine


So he's back.

I remember the buzz about Comrie back in the day. I remember the Van Ryn ruling and how it affected the signing. Didn't mind it so much. The super-huge ego, apparent even then, was a little worrisome but thems the rules so no harm no foul.

Pretty obvious the team didn't have the cash for it though.

When it did start to bug me was during his rookie year. It was pretty obvious that Comrie was getting some pretty easy minutes but there was everyone - even MacT - blowing sunshine up his ass. Talking about 'how defensively responsible he was'.

Which was all poppycock to anyone with an open eye.

But what do you do? The team had just spent a mint on the kid and he WAS the hometown hero... so... well... hero the man already! And so they did. Looking back on it now I no longer wonder about managements motives. It has always been all about the sell.

Winning cost extra back then.

Even so. What got me wasn't the reflections of the down deep and the passing through - it was how much he (Comrie) seemed to believe it. Must have paid up early because everything he got he was owed.

I lost it there. There. Just before the end.

'There' was when he was injured for a bunch of games and then got himself back on the roster. Wasn't even fully healed. Team was in the play-offs without him. Got his point though. Useless little assist and he got his bonus money.

But hey. There he was. Owed.

So fair enough. Team was dumb enough to play him and dumb enough to pay him. It wasn't a lot of fun. Watching Kevin Lowe die a little on the inside when it came time to negotiate a new deal. I treat you with respect and. Heh.

He forgot, Comrie had already paid.

I remember being really unimpressed. He wasn't helping the team win. It was all bonus. Money. Keep the star happy. Team chemistry is what its all about with the Oilers you know. Sacrifice for the team. Sacrifice for the win.

And win what you can.

Then the drama. Then the trade. Aborted. As much as I didn't like what Lowe was doing I have to admit I liked Comrie even less after all of that. Still don't. I didn't need him to go all Ruettiger for me.

Some fucking appreciation for his circumstance would have been nice.

So he's back. And, you know, humbler. Wiser. Must have learned a lot playing shinny hockey in New York and Ottawa. Contract is mostly okay. Finally force some roster moves I guess. Why waste money?

Thank God though. We could have ended up with a self-serving asshole like Dany Heatley.

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Have a great evening everyone.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Fascinations


Growing up I gained a great deal of appreciation for certain bands. Mostly Rock bands. My ex-wife liked country. I started with a (great) respect for Johnny Cash and a wierd enthusiam for Kenny Rodgers 'story songs' and then found reasons to like the genre. Some of the songs are very watchable.

It was a fascinating time.

In Other News

Tanguay just signed a very (imo) reasonable contract with the Lightning.

I would have gone into rebuild mode with that team going into the draft, and hoped to scoop as many prime draft picks and prospects as I could to go with Hedman and Stamkos but, that said, the Eastern Conference isn't a stacked deck and if Lady Injurybug doesn't find this team it could surprise by both making the play-offs and making some noise in them.

The only sure team to miss in the East is the Islanders, and the most probables are the Thrashers and the Leafs, so the Lightning are in the thick of it with the whack of other teams that rely far too much on a goalie, or star forward, to make their team go.

Despite their ownership troubles the Lightning are making a solid push to put a solid team together, and management has done pretty well there (imo), individual contracts notwithstanding, so it will be fascinating to see if it amounts to much.

Still liked the full-rebuild model, for this team, better.

In the East:

Teams that will make the play-offs: Pittsburgh, Boston, New Jersey.

Teams that should make the play-offs: Washington, Philadelphia, Carolina

Teams that could make the play-offs: anyone not yet pegged plus the Lightning

Also, Sather may be stuck with Redden's contract but he did a nice job of picking up McDonagh (and Higgins) for Gomez. If we see Dubinsky sign a decent contract and Drury moved next year we will know that Sather has been given the green-light to rebuild the team.

Speaking of which...

The NBA

I have, I must admit, been fascinated by the NBA for the last couple of years. Not by the game itself but by the management moves that happen in the game.

i.e. twice, in the span of four years, Bryan Colangelo (BC) has completely re-worked the roster of the Toronto Raptors. I know that it is far easier to rework a roster in the NBA than it is in the NHL but still - that's pretty farkin' impressive.

Of course, it isn't like BC has ever had to unload players like Dustin Penner or Robert Nilsson.

Now THAT would be hard to do.

All kidding marginally kicked aside there are two teams that, to my eye, have a very bright future ahead of them: the New Jersey Nets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Nets are particularly interesting because they have the look of a team that will be successful, in the NBA, without any recognizable superstar

I won't do many (honest) NBA articles but there will be the odd mention here and there (given how my interest has been piqued). I am a Raptors fan (kindof) but this is about the:

New Jersey Nets

Playing Assets w/ Real Value

Devin Harris (PG) and Brook Lopez (C) anchor this team. As Point Guard is the most crucial position to get right and Center is the hardest position to adequately fill I have to say that, right off the top, they are doing well. Courtney Lee (SG) is a crucial fill here, he had a great play-offs with Orlando and if he can continue that level of play then the Nets are 3/5ths of the way there.

Terence Williams (combo-G and SF) projects to be a decent stopper across a few positions, and Chris Douglas-Roberts (SG) and Josh Boone (C) both look to be guys who can play their position effectively - which all means that the Nets should actually be stacked at the 1, 2 and 5. A lot of teams out there are lucky to have decent starters in two of those three spots (let alone have 'depth').

That leaves the Small Forward and Power Forward positions.

Of the two positions, the 3 should actually be easier to fill as the Nets don't really have any 'keepers' incumbent at that spot. Williams could play the spot (pretty athletic guy by all accounts) but he would need to dramatically imrove his offensive skills in order to be a solution there.

The 4 is a little tougher to deal with as Yi Jianlian (PF) is slotted in there right now. He has a long way to go to get to the level of 'effective' but his draft pick means he will get a lot of chances.

How the Nets fill the 4 will be key to the team's success going forward - the longer it takes them to get an effective player in there the shorter the window for success for this team will be.

Other Assets w/ Real Value

Budget Space - for 2010/11 the Nets have ~ $32 million committed to 10 players and most of them are on longer-term contracts. Barring the acquisition of a max-contract player this team doesn't really have any budget issues.

Draft Picks - the Nets have two 1st round picks in the 2010 draft. Their own and that of the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs pick is no big deal (in the 20-24 range?) but their own pick could easily be top-6.

Expiring Contracts - the Nets have ~ $26 million in expiring contracts (5 players) this year. Given the value of expiring contracts in the NBA (its huge) the Nets have fantastic trade flexibility.

Even Better - most of those expiring contracts are attached to players who other teams, come trade deadline, may actually want. This means that the return on those trades should actually be a little better than dollars alone would dictate.

Meh

Sean Williams (22 yr old PF) and Eduardo Najera (33 yr old PF) would have to have big bounce back seasons to be worth their contracts, that said, neither guy is making big dollars so their contracts could be unloaded in the right trade. As well, Williams is young enough to still learn and Najera is a veteran competitor so it isn't like they are stuck with a guy like Marcus Banks on the roster.

Keyon Dooling (combo-G) - admittedly I don't have a great handle on his value as a player but he seems to fit the role of 'mentor/decent depth player'. If so, an extension in the $2.5 to $3.5 mill range (after next year) would make him a useful, on-going, asset. Had hip surgery lately so recovery is an issue.

Disclaimer

I have to qualify this section by stating that I just don't know basketball well enough. What players work/would work best in what system? Don't know. I know the basics of full court and half court play but the nuances of each system isn't something I know, or even care to know, on anything but the most general level.

It does seem interesting that one of the big determinates is who the shooter is. Teams can be broken down by options: who is first option for a shot, etc. It is why the latest news out of Sacramento (truth to be determined) is that there may be an developing issue between Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans. It isn't be a personal issue (not even between them per se), it is an option issue. Tyreke, the ostensible 'new' point guard, isn't a distributor of the ball while Kevin is a guy who needs the ball distributed to. It isn't hard to see where that could be considered an 'oops' at the draft table.

Right Now and 2010

A lot is made of the 2010 free agent grouping but, myself, I don't see a lot there that fits for this team. All the big money guys (LeBron, Wade, Amare and Bosh) will be going to where the heart/wallet is and the Nets, while not a backwater, won't be that interesting to them (imo). Don't see Boozer as an option.

So that makes the 'right now' a little more interesting. I have to admit I was a little surprised that they didn't go after David Lee. A rebounding powerforward looking for a big payday, but being completely undercut by his current team in terms of term, may have been a great opportunity for the Nets.

It isn't impossible to see where the dangling of a long-term deal would have gotten Lee on board and an offer to pick up Jeffries contract may have enticed the Knicks into a sign and trade. The trick would have been that of getting Lee at the right price point but if the deal started at $7 million** and looked like (in millions):

D. Lee (5 yrs, start at $7.x), J. Jeffries ($6.5 / 6.9P) and cash
FOR
B. Simmons (exp. $10.5) and S. Williams ($1.6 / 2.5T / 3.5Q)

it could make a lot of sense. The Knicks dump Jeffries salary without taking on any that compromises their 2010 UFA spending spree. The Nets get, at a very reasonable price, a PF entering his prime and it only costs them Jeffries contract (which they dump next year anyways). Lee gets a contract that may look pretty good given the Cap contraction anticipated next year.

So, IF Lee fits the Nets profile: do they target him and get the 4 they need... at the cost of a (probable) top-6 pick in the 2010 draft and money to spend on the 2010 UFA class?

(It is important to note that NBA rookies drafted in the low first round have guaranteed contracts and earn substantial dollars so unless you are getting a guy who can outright play (like Blake Griffin) it is often better to be drafting LATER in the round.)

Maybe I do. Even with the Lee and Jeffries contracts the team would have ~ $44 million allocated to 11 players; in the NBA that is a pretty efficient contract ratio. If they wanted to upgrade at SF in 2010 they could afford to do so. Also, as much as Lee could make them a play-off team they still have some valuable contracts they can dump at the trade deadline - pieces can be acquired as needed.

But here is where it gets really fun (and again, remember, I fully admit I don't fully know what I am talking about) - what about Eddy Curry? If the Knicks drop his contract then it doesn't matter how far the Cap drops in 2010 - the Knicks could afford two superstars if they wanted them.

So how about:

D. Lee (5 yrs, start at $7.x), E. Curry ($10.5 / 11.3P), W. Chandler ($1.3 / 2.1 / 3.1) and cash
FOR
B. Simmons (exp. $10.5), T. Battie (exp. $6.3) and S. Williams ($1.6 / 2.5T / 3.5Q)

Wilson Chandler can play good defense, if he can also play the 3 (I have seen some conflict there as some sites have him as a 2 and some as a 3) then in one trade the Nets could have a line-up kinda like so:

PG ... D. Harris / R. Alston / K. Dooling
SG ... C. Lee / C. Douglas-Roberts
SF ... W. Chandler / T. Williams
PF ... D. Lee / Y. Jianlian / E. Najera
.C ... B. Lopez / E. Curry / J. Boone

That's pretty sweet. Salaries aren't too high, still lots of expiring contracts available, play-off probable, still getting two draft picks in 2010, Alston is a desirable asset regardless of contract status and if Curry learns how to play again he becomes worthy trade bait in his own right (trading Curry is a must).

Like I said - fascinating. Fantasy gaming on steroids. Almost every rumour has to be seen as credible because almost every trade can happen or can be made to happen - and most of them can be made to make sense. The Hedo Turkoglu trade was off-the-charts.

heh. Anyways, that's it for my NBA posting for now. Maybe something next off-season.

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**Cribbing from the Stephen Jackson contract a viable David Lee contract could look like so (in millions):

$7.14 / 7.65 / 8.45 / 9.26 / 10.06

With his numbers that is a VERY reasonable contract.


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Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

A Plan


In the comment section of the post titled "Can't Have It Both Ways" (directly below this one) Gord's summation is, essentially, that I am saying the Oilers have no plan.

I mostly agree.

I think they do have a plan, I just don't think they know what it means nor how to implement it.

See, the Red Wings are the kind of team where any non-contrarian observer can honestly say that:

"The Red Wings should make the play-offs."

The Oilers however are the kind of team where a large number, maybe even a majority, of non-contrarian observers can only, honestly, say that:

"The Oilers could make the play-offs."

In the same way, the Kings are the kind of team where any non-contrarian observer can honestly say that:

"The Kings have enough top-end young talent that they should be one of the next top-teams in the NHL."

The Oilers however are the kind of team where a large number, maybe even a majority, of non-contrarian observers can only, honestly, say that:

"The Oilers have some nice young talent and they could one day form the core of a top-team in the NHL."

Again, one could say that:

"The Blackhawks are the kind of team that the loss of any two of their top three forwards (lets say Kane, Hossa and Toews) could prevent them from making the play-offs."

And, in turn:

"The Oilers are the kind of team that the loss of any two of their top three forwards (lets say Horcoff, Hemsky and... ummm... Visnovsky? yeeesh) should prevent them from making the play-offs."

The differences in reality and perception are staggering when you work your way through it. Only the requirement to play games, wherein luck CAN giveth without taking away, saves the future year for this team.

Yet the team is near full-Cap for a reason. And the team has sloughed off two years of RFA status for Gagner and Cogliano for a reason. And the team and almost emptied the Hemsky magazine for a reason.

Obviously, the Oilers have executed a plan. So to speak.

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My problem for me, beyond that of following a team constructed in a fashion wherein the results are consistent with that which one would get from a blind and thumbless monkey working with a pail of lego**, is that I don't really know what my plan would be to fix it.

This season can be saved. Swallow a salary or two, sign Hilbert, one from the Malhotra/Betts tree, get another veteran defender and keep Strudwick off the defense... and VOILA! The Oilers should make the play-offs.

But that isn't going to happen, and so the combination of coach approach and luck will have to suffice. Other teams have done so with less so all isn't lost however it does obviate the obvious.

It is only a fix for this year.

Three big problems exist:

1. fewer stupid teams (Snow is better than Milbury and Toronto may finally have a plan);
2. fewer teams with the Cap and budget OR plain old budget space to work deals with; and
3. there has been no evidence of Katz being willing to blow substantial dollars on salary swallows

Options get limited quick when ego, stupidity and money aren't wandering around hand-in-hand.

A couple of extra points:

a. All that talk of a d-man going to Columbus for a forward is just silly, so please, stop it. What we would really want they probably won't give and a one-for-only complicates our surplus forward issue (please re-read points made, #1 through #3, above).
b. Any talk of unloading a front-loaded salary for a Cap/budget exchange is also silly. Stop it. Main issues being - most of front-loads the Oilers have don't supply the Cap pay-off needed to make it worthwhile AND getting to the Cap floor isn't THAT hard

It all makes me think a long term fix is a long ways off.

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Now, despite my protestations, the Heatley deal (if he had deigned to come to Edmonton) may have helped IF it had been:

Penner, Smid, Nilsson, 2010 1st and conditional 2011 1st
FOR
Heatley

At least he would have given us the third piece of a French Connection-lite line and with that in place, with Cogliano, Gagner, Gilbert and Grebeshkov there is some hope that, short-term, this team should be a winner.

As well, one could hope that Souray, et al could have been turned (in time) into other pieces that would have matched the younger core better and maybe a champion could have been developed from that.

However, five assets IS a lot to give up. No question about it.

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Lacking the means to pick up an asset like Heatley there is still some hope that the Oilers could make the lateral moves that still remake a team. Movement in that fashion is harder than it looks (I say without actually knowing), because the first demand of that kind of a remake is this:

Honesty.

Even were a team willing to trade a worthwhile asset - are the Oilers honest enough with themselves to take a slight step back (i.e. trade Souray or Visnovsky) in order to make a big step forward a year or so later?

I am not talking rebuild here. Just straight up maneuvers.

To answer my own question: No.

The Kahbibulin signing really does tell you all you need to know.

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So if one takes fortuitous circumstance and good planning off the table then all one is left with is stupidity and luck.

I don't see this management team having the wherewithal to benefit from stupidity so that leaves luck.

But they don't know that. And what they made is something wherein they can't really see the real faults in it.

So.

If the Oilers manage to avoid serious injury to any key parts (Horcoff, Hemsky, et al), have their young players continue to develop (Gagner, Smid and Cogliano) apace, get the season they need out of their older players and have someone step up and take on the defensive responsibility commensurate with leading a line (like the 3rd line for instance) and anchoring the 2nd penalty-kill unit then I can honestly say:

The Oilers could make the play-offs.

Way to execute a plan boys, way to execute a plan.

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** Does that even make sense? Wit be not my friend this harrowing eve.***

*** There. That's it for Shakespeare now too.****

**** F you too English, I don't need you.


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Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Can't Have It Both Ways


Finding out you can't have it both ways is usually something you figure out right after you find out you can't have it both ways.

We's a funny bunch of humanity.

Twice The Pronging

Think about the Chris Pronger trade for a second.

If that trade is about the 'now' then there is no way Ryan Getzlaf isn't part of that equation. Even if it is done Iginla style: i.e. Pronger for Getzlaf straight up.

If that trade is about the 'future' then Bobby Ryan and Ladislav Smid are your two must have targets and if you can get a 1st round pick to round out that package you take it.

And you make Brian Burke make that choice.

But when you try to have it both ways then you get less. Plain old less.

Doubles Your Fun

Of course, as free-thinking people, it is our right to double our fun. Think about the Smyth situation for a second.

If you aren't going to trade him then you sign him. Early. Even if at a slight premium.

If you are going to trade him then you hold an auction and get the best package out there.

But to go into a negotiation, without time or leverage, having acted in a manner that says you kinda-wanta-but-maybe-not-so-much, then maybe, just maybe, acting as if you are the one holding the gun is a bit much.

Which is how one winds up with a package of Nilsson, O'Marra and a 1st instead of a guy like Okposo or some other worthwhile asset from another team that BID HIGHER THAN THE ISLANDERS.

Trying to have it both ways. Maybe not so good.

If Your Protected

And it isn't just about the trades. Think about the product for a second.

If it's about being competitive 'now' then veteran players get signed to fill holes on defense, or on the forward lines, or wherever you need them to play.

If it's about developing a team for the future then none of Smid, Gagner and Cogliano play when they did. And Penner and Souray don't get signed.

But If Not

Think all that through real careful like. Go deep.

Say Pronger gets traded for Bobby Ryan and Ladislav Smid and a 1st (which is still #30) and say the team dedicates, right then and there, to a rebuild situation. Not a liquidation per se but no half-measures either.

Tjarnqvist is still a probable signing but does Roloson get a 3-year deal? Maybe Roloson does. Hard to deny the heroes so lets say that everything else remains the same

EXCEPT

that Smid is played as a call-up (or stays in the minors another year) and if Smyth isn't signed then he is traded for 'best' package available. We'll call that package 'Okposo' equivalent.

With the season more or less playing out as it did the team is down a Plante but up a Ryan and an 'Okposo'.

Getting a little more speculative now but lets say that in 2007-08 Smid plays his first year and Gagner and Cogliano do not. Pouliot gets full play (for better or worse) and a couple of Sanderson's are playing in place Nilsson and Penner.

Does Souray get signed (better question - does Horcoff? I believe he would actually but you may think differently)?

So where does this team end-up in the draft? Worse than the Blues and Islanders but not as bad as Atlanta? Is Luke Schenn now an Oilers draft pick?

Finally we get to the end of the 2008-09 season. Gagner and Cogliano have played their 1st year and maybe even Ryan and 'Okposo' have as well. Regardless of how well they do that is an awful lot of rookie minutes to shelter. If Souray isn't signed a couple of years back then odds are good we finish below LA and maybe even Atlanta - is Braydon Schenn now an Oiler prospect?

Gagner, Cogliano, Smid, Ryan, Nash, 'Okposo', Eberle and Schenn(s) make for an amazing future line up. Time to start signing guys like Glencross.

And it didn't take incredible leaps of logic (timewarps aside) to get there.

Reverse it all and think of what coulda woulda shoulda if this team had gone the competitive route (Getzlaf, Smyth signed at $4.75 million when he should have been, Glencross on the team, etc).

EITHER WAY - it is better than what we have now.

You Could Be Screwed

Which is where we are now I think. This team, as constructed, could make the play-offs. 'Could' is not spelled 's-h-o-u-l-d' in this case however and that is the essential problem with trying to have it both ways.

The future is bright, but not so bright I gotta wear shades, and the 'now' is overpriced and 'iffy' competitively. Hell. Our future will be overpriced too.

You want to know what the most interesting thing about the Heatley saga was (did he send Patrick Kane a 'thank-you' note btw?)? For me it was Bryan Murray pushing the Oilers to the point where the package for Heatley included Cogliano.

Somehow I think that were the roles reversed the Oilers would have accepted Nilsson instead of Cogliano in the package.

Which would have been a package I could live with.

Because I wanted it both ways. Or perhaps I knew I could not.

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Have a great evening everyone.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Some Recent Past


This is a picture of my wife's belly, from a few weeks ago, when she was pregnant. I started writing this post about then, but things got a little busy and so, press conference aside, I am just getting to posting it now.

Her, and my boy, are well and healthy and beautiful beyond all reason. For me, at least, it has been a great off-season.

:-)

UNLIKE

Mr. Tambellini I guess.

So... let me be clear: Dany Heatley is a top-5 LW in the NHL.

He has a willingness to shoot and the ability to shoot well, he has skating speed and the ability to use that speed well, he has just enough size, plays a smart enough game, can handle the puck passingly well and can make a pass when needed. His focus is on the attack and it is in the offensive zone that he puts his effort; his powerplay game is quite good.

While he isn't a complete dodger or quitter, no one will ever confuse him for a hitter, mucker, crasher or glue guy and there is nothing in his game that suggests he is capable of imposing his will on a game when needed. Even if he has the brains for the defensive game there is no indication that he wants to play it at a level above that of 'meh'.

To be fair, his point production is high enough, and his skills good enough, that most of his deficiencies are covered. Quite well at that. As a gun for hire he is an excellent choice.

Teamed with Horcoff and Hemsky, at regular strength, he should do very well as all three players have interlocking skill sets.

A power-play unit of Heatley, Horcoff, Hemsky, Souray and any one of Visnovsky, Gilbert or Grebeshkov should be both effective and efficient as the mix of shooters and passers is excellent. Only weakness I see here is that there aren't any true puck wizards in the group (a la Kovalev). There are quite a few puck movers however and the other skill sets are off the charts when considered in their combination(s).

Edmonton is a better team with Heatley on the roster.

But how you get there, and what it means once you are there, matters.

Money

In terms of paycheque, Heatley is an overpay.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, for the money he makes, Heatley HAS to perform to expectation to earn that paycheque. I would, conservatively, put 'expectation' at:

- point-per-game
- positive corsi
- can tilt the ice (i.e. as above but allow for zone starts)
- positive +/- EV vs good competition
- can carry the line (i.e. as above but allow for linemates)
- team leader or glue guy
- difference maker on pp or pk (compared to league and not to team)

Any deficiency in one area requires more from others.

So while Heatley did cover most of those bets in 2008-09 he failed on at least two of them (ppg and carry the line - Alfredsson is the difference maker there) and we don't know about the team leader/glue guy thing*.

How often do you think he will cover those bets in future years?

Yeah. I am thinking that the 'team leader' option is a non-starter at this point.

Talent

Cogliano is a superb young talent, Penner should be and Smid will be okay.

Penner is, like Heatley, an overpay. I expect to see a good season out of him next season (the redemption effort) and the second season after that (the contract effort) but, given that he will be an UFA after his current contract there is little value in keeping a guy who only plays for the contract.**

On the flipside it is hard to see where Cogliano and Smid's work won't be a bargain next year. They will have had their education paid for by Edmonton and Ottawa would then get to cash in on the resulting performance-to-contract differential.

Ideally a trade should return a break-even or a win result. Peckham may help us forget about Smid but I don't see where anyone will be stepping up and replacing Cogliano.

Heatley's performance should exceed that of the parts going the other way but from where I sit the trade equation, just in terms of talent, isn't guaranteed. Cogliano will get better and the extent to which that happens can change everything.

I have no urge to make Bryan Murray look smart.

Integrity

Heatley's integrity has been, quite rightly, been questioned in many a forum. Fair enough.

What is troubling for me is the fact that this isn't a matter of a man misunderstood or needing a helping hand - I am quite willing to make a call based on granting second chances (see also: 1985 - MacTavish, Craig) - this is a matter of owning it.

I simply don't believe that Heatley takes full ownership of the decisions he makes. A listing of his 'questionable decisions made' is long, and undistinguished, but for my purposes it is as simple as not being able to live up to a contract signed, yet still acting as if you are owed.

Human frailty is a condition all owned, but I find it more forgivable in some. How empty the vessel?

Which brings me to the Oilers. The team and the management. This team has been leaking integrity for a long time.

As detestable as I found Mike Comrie's actions, Lowe's response did not do the team any favors. What has followed since has been a gradual transformation of team image from that of scrappy-underdog-in-a-hockey-mad-town to that of doomed-to-fail-roster-in-an-undesirable-destination.

The Nylander incident is/was, in and of itself, the kind of thing that should never reflect poorly on a team. Yet, as a sequence of events unfold themselves (Comrie, Pronger, Smyth, Nylander, etc), a narrative is formed.

"No? Just wait. Word gets around. The Sisters have taken a real shine to you, yes they have. Especially Bogs."

The Heatley situation, especially the begging in Kelowna, is one that pretty much confirmed this team as everyone's bitch.

Stop It

I don't know what else to say about this situation. Team building isn't THAT hard. If the team already has good fundamentals just reduce risk wherever possible and you'll pretty much have the situation handled.

Need a player to fill a spot that is important but not critical? Sign what you need or trade for it.

Screwed up your roster/salary cap equation? Swallow it or trade it away.

Too many rookie's? Play them fewer minutes or replace with veterans.

If you already have serviceable parts in place a competitive roster isn't rocket science. It only gets hard when:

a) you make it hard

i.e. by trying to shoe-horn a superstar onto the roster

b) circumstance is out of your control.

i.e. when there aren't any 'good' 3rd line centers available

c) or your mistakes all coalesce at the same time

i.e. probably the Oilers Cap situation 2010-11

d) it is time to make the push or time to blow it up

i.e. situations that require rock-solid planning and/or some 'luck'*** in order to ensure success in dealing with them

And even then, in the case of 'c' - there are always solutions out there (see also: New Jersey Devils 2005-06).

So. Please. Guys. Stop it.

Stop trying to be brilliant (adding a superstar won't solve all your problems) and just start doing that which just makes sense (adding a veteran 3rd line center will help win games).

Stop trying to win the Cup yesterday (there is no Messier on this team) and just try to win those games that come with the morrow (there is a great guy named Horcoff who needs more support).

Stop trying to find Waldo (Smid is not a winger and Pisani is not a center) and instead just try to work with what is obvious (Pouliot should be playing at center and Cogliano should be playing on the wing while he tries to find the handle on the dot).

We'll all be happier for it.

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Quick note on Khabibulin. Don't like it.

Okay. One more comment on Khabibulin (kinda).

As much as I (almost) always agree with LT I do recall he said at one point that Khabibulin would be tradeable later on in his contract.

Not at 3.75 / 3.75 / 3.75 / 3.75 he won't be.

Were the contract shaped 8.00 / 4.00 / 2.00 / 1.00 then maybe.

Sorry LT.

The $1.40 million contract for Biron is freakin' amazing.

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* I believe he was an Assistant Captain but I don't know if that letter came via the lockerroom or the contract.

** There is nothing wrong with a condottiere who is actually willing to fight the war for which he was hired. Given his cost of contract and acquisition, the selling of Penner will hurt but his contract is one that has to go.

*** As in, the trade for Goring leading, almost directly, to a string of 4 Stanley Cup victories... yeah... sharp trade but they did get a little lucky there.


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Have a great evening everyone.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sad


Oiler team management is screwed loose. And not in the good way. The Heatley trade, as proposed, is one of the worst I imagined.

Again and again and again we see this team's management transfer ALL of the risk onto the home team.

On a day where Calgary signs a bedrock defenseman for the next 5 years - for all of the cost of a Cameron Abney (think about that for a second) - the Oilers offer up 5 years of development time, SPENT ON TWO QUALITY PROSPECTS, and one middling-poor-but-the-jury-is-out contract for an overpaid, if legit, sniper who has now whined his way out of two different teams.

Remember when Souray signed? Back then I said all the risk was on Edmonton - why? Because Souray HAD to have a career year, pretty much every year, just to be worth his contract. It was the same story with Penner - but with him it was worse because of the assets given up to sign him.

Not an average year.

Not an okay year.

Not a good year.

No.

A freakin' GREAT year.

We sit at 0 for 2 for Penner and 1 for 2 on Souray so far. On a roll baby! On a roll!

How well would Heatley have to play for the Oilers to earn back the $7.5 million in salary AND the loss Cogliano AND Smid (and even Penner for that matter)?

He scored 72 points last year and wasn't all that great defensively (less Alfredsson anyways). Horcoff may have only scored 53 pts last year but we know he, at least, was carrying the rest of the forward core around on his back.

Why are so many of the Oiler faithful peeved at Horcoff? Because at $5.5 million he needs to be both great defensively AND score 65+ pts (my number) to make the optics work. Horcoff gets 25 goals and 40 assists and I promise few would be complain about his pay. As understandable as it is, 53 pts from Horcoff both looks bad and IS bad.

Does Horcoff need a career year every year? No. But he does need a good-to-excellent one.

As with Souray, and Penner before him, Heatley's price would require him to have phenomenal years every year. And since we know he can't carry a team, he is a complementary player afterall, that also means Horcoff and Hemsky or Gagner (if going pure soft minutes outscoring line) HAVE to remain healthy (who else would he play with?).

The risk is all on the Oilers in this one. Again.

Do that enough times and a team becomes the New York Rangers (Hey! I know! Let's sign Kamensky - we'll be GREAT!).

It's bad enough to watch Pronger and Smyth walk for, basically, nada. To then overpay for Penner and Heatley is just too much. THINK ABOUT THOSE FOUR NAMES. Can you see the difference? This team is sending out quality for dross (even if it is shiny shyte like Heatley) on a regular basis.

Had it just been Penner, Nilsson and Smid in the trade, I could have swallowed my dislike. But two quality prospects? Nuts to that. Didn't Ottawa want a puck moving defenseman? Smid?

That Heatley would then turn around and take time to 'think' about it only accentuates the hilarity.

Here is the thing. Players don't want to come here? Fair enough.

At what point in time do we realize that maybe it isn't the city that is to blame? Maybe, just maybe, players, and their agents, know that a winner won't be built here anytime soon. Forget Detroit. This group can't even compare to Columbus.

At what point in time do we maybe realize that team management is a joke.

And everyone knows it.

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Have a great evening everyone.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Edmonton Oilers - 2009 Off-Season



I started writing this post a few months ago (end of March or so) and updated to today JUST SHORT of the whole Heatley 'thing'. We know changes are coming so take this post for what it is worth.

Funny thing though - anyone but me notice that NONE of Moreau, Staios or Pisani was involved in that trade?

In some ways this team is quite predictable.



Immediate Notes

The chart shows that Edmonton has, in 2009/10, ~ $45.89 mill of next years Cap space allocated to 11 forwards, 4 defensemen and 1 goalie. This leaves 3 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie to be signed.

The 2009/10 Cap has been set at $56.80; the difference being ~ $10.91 mill.

The RFA's

Brule, Reddox, Grebeshkov and Smid

Brodziak, ostensibly, was moved to make space on the roster. Brule is one of the guys who should benefit from that. Given that he couldn't even dominate the AHL I think he should, and does, get a paycut - a 2 year deal in the mill-a-year club would be more than enough.

Without MacT to champion his cause, Reddox is on the bubble. Depending on his remaining waiver eligibility we will be looking at a Roy-type deal where the second year is one-way (~ $650k).

Grebeshkov got the contract he wanted last year (the one I feared) and will get a big raise now. With any luck he is okay with getting less than what Gilbert did but I still don't see a smart agent letting him sign long-term. All signs point to a 3 year deal for $3.5+ million.

Smid is turning into a decent #5 and looks to have #4 upside. If Burrows is willing to sign for 4 years and $8 million there is no reason why Lowe can't try to get Smid into the same kind of deal - maybe even longer. I expect, however, a shorter deal and $1.65 million a year for two years sounds about right.

As with last year, one of the keys for Tambellini will be to keep inflationary effects out of the contracts he signs the players to. For example, a contract for Smid at 1.65 / 1.65 is much better for the Oilers than one at 1.30 / 2.00.

The UFA's

Kotalik, Strudwick and Roloson

Kotalik is a situation player. I'm not sold on him and neither are the Oilers (as they never made an offer apparently) but I expect he gets proffered a contract somewhere. While I do think that Kotalik is a useful player and would have signed him if he was willing to take a paycut (say $2.0 million) he isn't THAT important a player that he can't be replaced fairly easily*.

As it stands I will put a low-level replacement salary in that spot for now.

* However, if Souray is traded then the team would be well-advised to get a big shooter for the powerplay... oh... wait

I like Strudwick (more as a 4th line winger than a 7th defenseman though) but with Tambellini running the show now it isn't a sure thing as to whether or not he gets picked up again. If so, I have him down for another year at the same rate as before.

Roloson probably earned himself an extra contract. Won't be for what he made before however. Sounds like Edmonton has offered something in the $3.0 million range so I will go with that - this franchise has a history of rewarding its veterans.

Cap Flex and Maneuvers

Add it all up and the Oilers sit at ~ $56.84 million in Cap salary next year. The team is over the Cap by some $40k (way to save that 10%).

In terms of Cap flex, as with prior year, I don't see a lot. The easiest thing to do is drop a player or two into the minors and do the old up-n-down trick until waivers become an issue. That should take care of a $1 million or so and allow the team to make Cap.

More probable is that some combination of Penner, Pouliot and Nilsson is traded and the salaries coming back are low enough to allow the team to slide just under the Cap.

Apparently we are an option for Bouwmeester [Editor's Note: Not anymore apparently]? That'll be interesting.

Finally, don't expect to see any of the veteran core of Staios, Moreau and Pisani get traded. I think at least one should go but I don't see it happening. Loyalty trumps all in Oilerville.

For The Defense

With Grebs new contract incoming the defensive core is getting a bit pricey. This is okay if the names are spelled P-r-o-n-g-e-r and N-e-i-d-e-r-m-a-y-e-r or L-i-d-s-t-r-o-m and A-n-y-o-n-e-h-e-p-l-a-y-s-w-i-t-h but that is not the case here. Visnovsky and Souray are both injury prone and neither is elite level so at some point the law of diminishing returns will kick in.

Best case scenario for a Souray trade has San Jose getting booted early** and them being interested in a Souray-type to give them a better bomb option on the powerplay (they already have the puck-movers and passers). I wouldn't expect a miraculous return but moving the Cap hit is the main objective regardless.

** Really, I did write that before the play-offs, now if only I had mentioned how Souray would be willing to do to be closer to his family. At least then I would have been right.

Moving Visnovsky presents some of the same problems (big salary, aging player, injury filled past) as moving Souray but moving either of them is preferable to moving Gilbert imo (FTR, I would hate to drop Visnovsky from this defense core).

That leaves Staios and Smid. Staios is the obvious option and I remain in favor of trading him. Fat chance of that. Smid is, to me, the next Scuderi***. As long as he remains cheap why, excepting in a clear upgrade for an on-ice player, move him?

*** To whit, a long time ago I said that one should scout Pittsburgh to see who was the guy to target - Scuderi or Melichar. The reasoning being that both were starting to show decent results and it is always a good thing to get players who other teams have spent time and money molding them into useful players.

Going Forward

The forward group needs to be blown up real good. Or given a hug. Just too many players need to be hidden for this to form a cohesive group.

Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner and Stortini are about it on my list of untouchables while O'Sullivan and Cogliano populate the list of mostly useful and probably keepable.

Note, if Cogliano doesn't have markedly improved face-off numbers next year he either moves to the wing or gets moved.

Moreau and Pisani are probably overpaid for what they deliver but at least, when playing the minutes and position God made them for, they do deliver the goods. Reddox is cut from their mold but it is hard to say whether or not he makes the grade on a non-MacT team.

Penner's asset value has never been lower but with a new coach coming in it is hard to say whether or not he gets moved. I have been one of those who have always thought Penner was a great building block towards a Kovalchuk type deal but after MacT threw him under the bus (multiple times) there is nothing there left to trade.

Right now the better move is to keep him.

Nilsson is inconsistent yet too far down the veterans road to think bright lights await while Pouliot, apparently has decide whether or not he should be a goalie.

Think about all of those players for a second.

Of those listed I see only three that don't require sheltering or special treatment (Horcoff, Hemsky and O'Sullivan), one that is on the cusp (Gagner) and four that are good at what they do (Moreau, Pisani and Stortini). The last group of names belong to players who are 3rd or 4th line guys (at best) and of the rest only one (Hemsky) could qualify as having elite level skill.

Quite a few spots to fill and most of what is filling those spots is questionable (to some degree). And small. Can't ever forget how small this team is.

Except for doughnut boy anyways.

Some of those pieces have to be blowed up. My guess would be that it will start with Pouliot and Nilsson. Penner is an outside shot but again - for what? That said, Tambellini will never be safer than now in trading Penner so you never know.

Going Back

Goaltending remains an issue. Fernandez is out there but once that name gets dropped then real money is on the table. Tyler likes the idea of a Harding offer sheet and I can't say that I'm opposed. I have a feeling we are looking at a higher number than proffered however.

Hard to believe that the Oilers are now wandering the goalie barrenlands on full-time basis. All this time I had hoped we were only visiting.

Summary

Last year I said a lot of good, smart decisions needed to be made to lock in the gains made 2007-08. So much for that.

Yes, MacT misplayed what had been mismanaged and so he, quite rightly, took the fall... I learned a lot from watching Lowe operate the last few years.

I like how Hemsky started to speak up, I like how Gagner grew his game, I like how Peckham emerged I liked how Smid showed some jam more often than not and I like that the team is now, possibly undisputably, Tambellini's.

Yay.

Overpriced contracts remain a huge issue and how Tambellini resolves that issue is the big ?. He has more flex than many give him credit for but wholesale change will remain difficult.

New coach has his work cut out for him.

Here's hoping.

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Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Calgary - Kudos


Calgary picked up the rights to negotiate with Bouwmeester for a 3rd round pick.

Is it a big price to pay given the odds of signing a guy committed to UFA? Yes.

Is it a big price to pay if they do sign him? No.

And for all who think the salary is an issue (I expect 6.75 and a retirement contract) I give these 3 words:

Vandermeer
Primeau
Jokinen

Vandermeer is already gone so that is $2.3 million in Cap. Primeau is another $1.4 million and Jokinen is $5.25 million. That is, in total, $8.95 million. More than enough for Bouwmeester and a couple of fillers for the other spots. If they pick up Malhotra they score this off-season big time.

Now if only they can solve the Kiprusoff problem.

When you have a chance to get a difference making talent like Bouwmeester - you do it. If Brent Sutter can turn Phaneuf around Calgary will be a scary team for years to come.

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Have a great evening everyone.

Friday, 26 June 2009

NHL Entry Draft (2009) - Review


Very deep draft. Could be 2003 all over again. One big trade came early (affecting draft order):

TRADE: Philadelphia trades Lupul, Sbisa, the #21 pick, their 1st round pick from 2010 and a conditional 3rd round pick from 2010 (or 2011) to Anaheim for Pronger and Dingle. Anaheim now has the #15 and the #21 while Philadelphia is out of the 1st round.

01 ... NYI ... Tavares
02 ... TAM ... Hedman
03 ... COL ... Duchene
04 ... ATL ... Kane


The first 4 picks are all as advertised. As much as I can appreciate the talent this draft has all the drama of a day-old Timbit. If it wasn't for the trade of Pronger... nuthin'.

As with every year there is one team, picking early, that I think should trade down and this year, for the 2nd time in the last 3 years, that team is the LA Kings. Not because their pick was a reach (like Hickey was) but because this team HAS to be competitive and getting a play-now asset for the 5th was a better way to go (imo).

Schenn was next on the board and that is where the LA Kings go. [Editor's note: Burke... not happy. YKOil... happy. I'm cheap that way.]

05 ... LAK ... Schenn
06 ... PHO ... Ekman-Larsson


A quick look at the aggregate scoring list shows that Phoenix is the first team to take a guy out of order - leapfrogging Paajarvi-Svensson and Cowen to take Ekman-Larsson. Great pick imo, just outside the 10 point jump rule but really, how could they go wrong at this spot in this draft?

TRADE: Howson continues to show us what he can do as a GM: Columbus trades the #16 and #77 to the NY Islanders for the #26, 37, 62 and 92. For a drop of 10 spots the Jackets get 2 extra picks; of which one is really high quality. That said, if the Isalnders get what they want they do well here as well.

This is what I said in my aggregated ranking post: If anyone ranked below Schroeder is chosen in the top-8 it SHOULD be a major surprise and if anyone ranked below Kadri is taken in the top-9, the team making that call probably just made a big mistake

Well. Okay then.

07 ... TOR ... Kadri
08 ... DAL ... Glennie


Kadri was ranked 11th (23 pts), Glennie was ranked 15th (10 pts) and they both jumped Paarjarvi-Svensson (6th w/ 48 pts), Cowen (7th w/ 40 pts), Kulikov (9th w/ 27 pts) and Schroeder (10th w/ 26 pts). If the Kadri pick is a surprise, the Glennie pick is BIG surprise. I like Glennie but... wow.

Maybe the Oilers get Kulikov? Will they risk the Russian steppes?

09 ... OTT ... Cowen
10 ... EDM ... Paarjarvi-Svensson
11 ... NAS ... Ellis


Ottawa gets back on script so Edmonton had an interesting choice to make. Kulikov is still my choice but Paarjarvi-Svensson is tempting in a Jani Rita sort of way; they take the Swede (who is half-Finn apparently; its a twofer!). Too bad in a way, Cowen would have been a no brainer.

I like the pick. Kulikov is the better player but Paajarvi isn't chopped liver either. Speculation is that Kulikov will drop because of the 'Russian' factor - be interesting to see how far. Nashville takes Ellis and it's a little funny isn't it? No one is mentioning how far Schroeder is dropping.

TRADE: Minnesota trades the #12 to the New York Islanders for the #16, 77 and 182. Nice trade by both teams as Minnesota gets a bounty of picks and the Islanders get aggressive.

12 ... NYI ... DeHaan
13 ... BUF ... Kassian
14 ... FLO ... Kulikov
15 ... ANA ... Holland
16 ... MIN ... Leddy


Well. Okay. A good trade for Minnesota. Islanders take DeHaan too early but I suspect they were spooked by the Ellis pick (and Kulikov drop) and figured they would get their d-man while they could. Big stretch by the Islanders.

Buffalo stretches a bit in taking Kassian (let's face it - they needed the size and grit) and then Florida, soon to be down a J-Bo, takes Kulikov. Great pick by Florida. Great pick.

Anaheim takes Holland and Minnesota takes Leddy (teams are all over the map now)... who the H%LL is Leddy? They couldn't trade down any further? Leddy might turn out but this is a horrible use of the pick by Minnesota. Schroeder continues to drop.

17 ... STL ... Rundblad
18 ... MON ... LeBlanc
19 ... NYR ... Kreider


St. Louis and Montreal help get the top-15 lists back on track but then the NY Rangers take Kreider. Fastest skater in the draft apparently... Barry... is that you?

TRADE: Calgary trades the #20 to New Jersey for the #23 and 84. Calgary pulls one out of the Kevin Lowe hat. Good trade for New Jersey.

20 ... NJD ... Josefson

TRADE: Anaheim trades the #21 to Columbus for the #26 and 37. Howson stays frisky. Should have been talking to Calgary apparently. It's a room full of gnats and Lou has a newspaper.

21 ... CLB ... Moore
22 ... VAN ... Schroeder
23 ... CAL ... Erixon


Moore is a solid pick even if the price is high and Vancouver gets Christmas a little early as Schroeder falls all the way to the 22nd. Luck is blind. Calgary picks up decent talent in Erixon.

24 ... CLB ... Johansson
25 ... VAN ... Caron
26 ... ANA ... Palmieri
27 ... CAR ... Paradis
28 ... CHI ... Olsen


A whole whack of picks that jump ahead of three guys who actually made a top-15 list: Despres, Roussel and Morin. Despres is the surprise here.

TRADE: Detroit trades the #29 to Tampa Bay for the #32 and 75. For a team on the verge of falling apart it is nice to see Tampa make a move.

29 ... TAM ... Ashton
30 ... PIT ... Despres


I like Tampa's draft day but I can't help but wonder how Pittsburgh got Despres this late in the draft. Great value for Pittsburgh at the #30.

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The winners are (in order):

-- Philadelphia (CFP),
-- Anaheim (How to Get Value for an Asset 101),
-- Tampa Bay (a franchise d-man and a decent wing),
-- Columbus (built depth and got a highly rated player),
-- Florida, Vancouver and Pittsburgh (great value picks),
-- Despres
-- New York Islanders (great maneuvers but De Haan?),
-- Minnesota (great maneuvers but Leddy?),

The losers are (in order):

-- Anaheim (Lupul?),
-- Toronto (all that air wasted),
-- Los Angeles (team needs real players)

Philadelphia, in getting Pronger, does really well here. Good thing for the rest of the East that Philly can't secure solid goaltending to save their life.

As for the Oilers:

I like Paarjarvi-Svensson. Nothing wrong with that pick at all. I do get tired of the tire-kicking though. If you are going to move up then do so; quit dicking around.

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Have a great evening everyone.