Monday, 5 January 2009

Oilers - An Off-Season Review - 2008 Edition

I remain the ultimate fanboy of Kevin Lowe's career as GM of the Edmonton Oilers.

The Good

Visnovsky for Stoll and Greene is an excellent trade to make. Greene is still years away from developing the positional game he will need to be effective while Stoll needed powerplay time to be an effective scorer. Visnovsky is coming off a poor year, after playing second fiddle to Blake and being forced to play off-wing, but he is the most talented player in this deal by a fair bit and so Lowe won the trade handily.

The only issue is that of the salary cap, given the Visnovsky and Souray contracts total some $11 million in Cap dollars the risk impacts are high if performance isn't up to snuff.

Cole has long been a player I have coveted for the Oilers. Hemsky followed by Cole followed by Pisani makes for a team that has the potential to ice three outscoring lines. That is a rare, and good, thing to have.

Without getting into the 'was-it-a-good-trade?' specifics (I will do so later in the post) the only issue I have here is this one: who centers this guy? We have a lot of young, talented C's but right now the emphasis is on 'young'.

Greene was doing nothing here. Given that a defenseman came back in the trade we aren't really losing anything here. Greene may get it together in LA and if so, good for him, but for the Oilers this should be an addition by subtraction kind of deal. Really. His numbers were that bad.

The Meh

Brule is a good kid. Bunch of NHL games under his belt he was/is a highly touted draft pick who plays with fire in his belly. What's not to like? Maybe the fact that he has a LOT of NHL games under his belt and it looks more and more like his game will have to be rebuilt from the ground up? Yeah. Maybe that.

Stoll could play the PK, man the point on the powerplay and take face-offs. He also had a year, back in 2005-06 that was going to make him a rich, rich man. His on-ice production, in Edmonton, with Souray and Visnovsky getting the lionshare of the PP toi, would not have justified those dollars. I will say it again - good trade.

Strudwick looks to be able to fill the role of 4th line winger (read: fighter) and/or #7 defenseman. While his skills aren't up to snuff, getting a 2-for-1 deal makes this a likable pick-up.

The Bad

Glencross and Torres. Either one, by themself, no big deal. Both? With no incoming, position specific replacement (a la Greene)? This is really, really bad. In combination the moves shift undue risk onto the team. Rookies, sophomores (and maybe Cole?) will have to pick up the slack and there is no proof any will be able.

Also note: both guys were proven EV performers (albeit small sample size per Glencross). Maybe if both players were sheltered I could see the wisdom in this but that isn't the case here.

Finally, both Torres (conference) and Glencross (division) went to immediate rivals ; teams that just got harder to beat. With the trade of Torres, not signing Glencross - given the make-up of the current roster - looks like a big miss for Lowe.

Reasoner. Normally, not signing a player like Reasoner isn't that big a deal; 3rd line PK and face-off specialists should be a relatively easy pick-up and ofttimes a young prospect, with veteran support on the wings, can also fill the spot, but with Stoll also gone the probability that the Oilers will not be able to fill the hole rises dramatically.

Since we know that Lowe didn't pick a veteran up, via trade or signing, we know that it is up to the kids.

On Cole-Pitkanen

It really doesn't matter how poor Pitkanen may be in the dressing room. Unless he is a outright disruption (fighting with his teammates bad), trading a defenseman who:

- has two RFA years left;
- plays 25+ minutes a night;
- should be good for 40+ pts in a bad year;
- is a decent EV player even when his head isn't in the game; and
- already has 269 games in the NHL

for a guy who is an UFA at the end of the year, and unaffordable as a long-term signing regardless (anticipated salary, imo, is $4.75 million if he has a bad year and as much as $6 million on a good year), this was a horrible trade.

Sure, our forward depth is increased - but not where we need it. As much as I like Cole, and I love his game, this was a poor trade in terms of team assets. Unless Cole signs here for a salary roughly equal to current year then everything that was gained in the Lupul trade is lost here.

On Brule-Torres

As much as I like Brule, the problem is that we already have one of these - his name is O'Marra. How many reclamation projects does one team need? Forget reclamation - how many young forwards needing to find their game do we need? Heh - how many undersized forwards do we need?

With Gagner, Pouliot, Cogliano, Brodziak, et al all looking for sheltered time finding a spot for Brule won't happen any time soon.

Why did the pursuit of Hossa entail trading Torres before Hossa was signed? This is simple - a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush - stuff. Even IF Hossa is signed and Lowe is forced to dump Torres just to make Cap space, it is a far better fate than that of having no one incoming on the left wing.

Finally, if you know you aren't bringing back Reasoner then why are you trading for Brule when a good 3rd line PK center is there? Even if you have to throw in a late round draft pick bringing a guy like Malhotra back makes it a much better trade.

As far as Hossa goes... 9 years at $9 million a year? I think the world of Hossa but thank-god we missed on that one.


Visnovsky and Cole are nice additions to the team. I may not like the asset management involved per the Cole trade (a conditional pick based on signing should have been included at the least) but there is no question the team added two players who bring a lot to the team.

Much like the miss on Hejda last off-season, the 'not' signing of Reasoner and Glencross makes little sense. Team depth, at those positions is weakened for no, imo, reason.

Unless, of course, you think that Lowe is, again, trying to have it both ways. Adding Visnovsky and Cole means a push for the playoffs while not signing Glencross and Reasoner means a development year.

Good luck with that.

There Is a Difference

I think Lowe may just pull it off (making the playoffs despite spending a year on development that is) but it is important to note that this review is about the moves made.

On that front this was not a good off-season. The risk factors are through the roof:

- Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, et al will all have to continue to improve at a warp-speed rate;
- annual LTIR candidates (Souray, Moreau, Pisani) will have to stay healthy for 70+ games;
- someone will have to pick-up the hard minutes Stoll and Reasoner took at center;
- someone else will have to slot in, sucessfully, at the LW spot;
- Garon will have to maintain his status as a top-20 starter and remain the gold standard for shoot-outs;


That is a lot to ask of a season.

To top it all off a significant asset was spent on what will be, at best, a 6th place finish. Yay.


Heh... a full 11 days earlier than last years post... wheee! Have a great evening everyone.

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