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.


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.


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

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.


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:


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.


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.


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.


** 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.


Have a great evening everyone.


RiversQ said...

First off, I love the blog. I always read it but rarely comment. Clearly I'm not alone. ;)

Anyway, I don't think the Oilers make the playoffs by adding a couple of bottom sixers like Hilbert or Betts. Those are players that are likely to come cheap and outperform their contracts and they're also vets. All of those are good things but the Oilers need top sixers - players that can compete against the best and have a legitimate chance to outscore them. Those guys don't fit the bill at all. (Tanguay is now not available, but he would have done it. Malhotra is borderline - he'd probably be good enough if they then added one of the bottom sixers too.)

Without the arrival of 1-2 quality forwards, the hopes and dreams of the Oilers rest with Gagner and Cogliano. If they can do it, this team makes the playoffs. (The assumption being that Horcoff and Hemsky do what they do and the team as a whole has reasonable luck.)

Jonathan Willis said...

I'll second everything RiversQ said, although I do think that a solid 3rd line would go a long ways to fixing the team.

I especially want to second this:

"First off, I love the blog. I always read it but rarely comment. "

Hilbert is, as always, underrated.

YKOil said...

Thanks for the kind comments. For me, when I look at last years team, I see a team that had a decent core-4 on defense and a decent 1st line capable of holding the other teams 1st line even.

Now, from where I sit, most teams can afford to have one bad line and a lack of depth at the #6 or #7 d-spots but...

3 sub-par lines AND no quality depth on D?

That is called out-of-the-play-offs.

Make the fixes I suggest and this becomes a team that should make the play-offs... but... that doesn't mean it is a team that can survive injury, or off years, and still do so.

It just means that if all goes according to Hoyle - nothing too bad and one or two things moderately special - then the team should make it.

I can admit however - still be a duct-tape kind of fix all said and done. Hilbert et al aren't foundational pieces.

Black Dog said...

Good stuff.

Depressing but good stuff nonetheless.