Saturday, April 12, 2014

My best memory of Ryan Smyth

It was 2006.  I had planned the trip of a lifetime to go to the world cup.  That year I had also decided it was a good idea to buy playoff tickets to the Oilers.  Back then you could only buy all the games or none.  So I had tickets to the finals during our trip through Europe.  As an Oilers fan whose first memory of hockey was pretty much when Wayne Gretzky got traded, I've suffered through a lot and didnt want to miss the finals. I believe we left for London and it was 2-0 Canes.  We watched a couple games in London and Amsterdam, by fluke seeing several of the same people each game.  The only night I didn't watch the game was game 5, I fell asleep at a hostel in the red light district in Amsterdam that night.  It was OT, I said to a buddy "If the Oilers win I'm happy, if not I cant stand to watch.  If they win, I'm going to Brazil vs Australia in a couple days.".  The extra game meant I could sell another ticket on Kijiji and afford to go.  Fernando Pisani scored in OT and the girlfriend (now wife) and I were able to find scalper tickets.  The picture here is of our last night in Munich which was also game 7.  Its myself and some dude I never saw again.  Our train left Munich at 7am the following morning, and as a barely out of school newb to the workforce budget was a priority. The natural choice was to watch soccer all day in the fan zones and stay up to watch Game 7.  That day we met a ton of Canadians who wanted to watch the game as well as a crew of 8ish Aussies who came along. The Aussies all day sang this song, that always started out with the word 'Aussies' ... and it was to the tune of the song go west.  After a while, I noticed that the words were never the same. I asked him how he decided the words. He said, they are several staples but for the most part we just make them up kinda like the ole Chicago store song. I told him we needed to make an Oilers one and he was on board the process.  He said tell me something about the Oilers.  Our first story was about Ryan Smyth and how he lost his teeth from a shot by Pronger and how he picked his teeth up off the ice and didn't miss a shift.  I dont remember the words to that song.  I wish I did.  All I remember was 'Ryan Smyth he has no teeth' (to the tune of go west).  That stupid song was stuck in my head as well as our 2k6 travelling crew's head for several days.  What a great memory for a suffering Oilers fan.  Ryan Smyth was front and center, not the best player but the heart and soul of the team.

Off to the game tonight.  You'll be missed Smytty.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Draft a center

The Oilers lost 3-2 to the Ducks last night. It was a good game last night despite the result. As Lowetide points out, Taylor Hall is on a nice run with 17 shots and 5 points in the last 2 games. Its nice to see the kid line dominate despite it being almost all Taylor Hall. He sure makes Ebs and Nuge better but they compliment him nicely. Last night, I spent some time comparing Edmonton to Colorado. I'm still at a loss to explain the Oilers this season and the general idea behind my thoughts was to figure out what it would take for the Oilers to have an Avalanche type break out season. The obvious answer is luck. The Avs are riding good goaltending and thus their percentages will likely cause them to regress next year. This has been covered by others like MC79Hockey so I wont go into that. But the fact remains, 102 pts vs 61 pts is night and day especially given that the Avs drafted Mackinnon first overall last year. I'm gonna start with identifying areas that the Avs have done better at compared to the Oilers.

1) Goaltending

 As mentioned, the obvious difference between the Oilers and Avs is goaltending. Varlamov has been great and the Oilers goaltending was horrible until recently. That appears to be somewhat resolved now with Scrivens and Fasth.

2) drafting outside the first round

The Avs have drafted and developed O'Reily and Barrie in recent years as well as Stastny and McGinn prior to that. The Oilers deserve some credit for drafting Eberle but Musil, Lander and Pitlick dont appear to be impact players while other teams that have worse picks are getting better value. This is something that cant be fixed instantly.

3) Number of 2 way players in the top 6

Yakapov is a work in progress and Sam Gagner is a liability defensively. The gap between Gagner and O'Reily or Stastny is pretty large 5 on 5. O'Reily is one of the more underrated players in the league. Statsny is overpaid but still highly effective.

4) Strength at center

Nuge, Gagner, Gordon vs Mackinnon, Duchene, O'Reily, Stastny is a daunting difference.  Gordon was a great add by MacT. I like him a lot but he doesn't deliver a ton offensively. The really good teams have 3C who can deliver points and are effective 2 way players. Both Gordon and Gagner are fairly one dimensional. Nuge struggled this year and I still expect big things. One a side note, if Paul Statsny becomes available as a UFA, the Oilers should go after him. The end result is likely an overpay but he'd cost nothing to add.

5) Eric Johnson

As a 1st overall he's been a bit of a bust but he is still playing top pairing D in Colorado. Despite the missed season due to the golf injury he is still a 2006 draft pick who has finally become an impact player in the last couple years. The Oilers are going to need Darnell Nurse to arrive prior to the 2018 season. The other top pairing defender in Colorado is Jan Hedjda who I don't consider a huge upgrade on Petry.  Oilers lack a clear top pairing D.

 

Overall, I think the biggest gap between the clubs is the center position. The defense also needs to be addressed but they do have cap space and assets required to land one via trade. The Oilers pipeline is also full of dmen. There are no top 6 forwards ready to challenge for minutes while the d pipeline has Klefbom, Marincin (who is here to stay), Nurse and Simpson. If I'm MacT, I'd be looking at drafting Lion Draisaitl. He has decent size and his scouting report reads as a 2 way C. This type of player I think would compliment Yakapov well. Yakapov did will last year with Horcoff on his wing and I think he will be most effective playing with 2 guys who are responsible defensively who look to get him to shoot in the offensive end. As a likely top 3 pick, Draisaitl will bring a lot of offense as well. The other argument for drafting a center instead of say Ekblad is that D take a lot longer to develop. Eric Johnson is likely the high end in terms of development length but even the shorter term (3 years) is too long given that Taylor Hall is ready to lead the team. He was probably ready last year. He just needs a supporting cast.

The quickest way for the Oilers to improve is to draft a center. Its also the Oilers biggest need.

Draft a center.

Friday, March 30, 2012

10 Oilers thoughts


Its been a long time since I have written here. I have tickets tonight so hockey is on the mind and I had an uber long Lowetide post which I thought I might as well turn into a blog post. Just like Elliot Friedman's 30 thoughts or Jeff Angus's 10 fantasy thoughts I figured I would do a similar post - Oilers edition.

I'm really interested in the Oilers rebuild over the next 6 months. More then normal. In previous years the moves were important still but we were so far off it seemed like "as long as they draft well its ok they're gonna suck anyways". Next year I actually think the team will step forward. Here we go...

1) Much of the Oilers talk is about the draft but if the Oilers rebuild is dependent on the 2012 1st its in trouble. Boston is a good team without Seguin or Dougie Hamilton for example.

2) In the drafts 2002-2009 (see the list below) there is drop off after the 2nd pick quite often. In 2002,2005,2007 the drop off is after the 1st pick. It sounds like its Yakapov and a drop this year. Our first for OEL anyone?

3) 5 of the 7 dmen taken in the top 3 (2002-2009) are players who have yet to establish themselves as their pick should warrant. JBo isn't as elite as people thought and in Doughty's case I'd consider Pierangelo or Karlsson to be comparable or better. If I'm drafting I take the best player available with a preference towards forwards - so likely Grigorenko (assuming we don't win lottery). There is less risk and defense is a hard position to learn.

4) Luke Schenn could really use a change of scenery? The Staal brothers are all good players. Developed properly. Could Luke catch up to his brother in Philly?

5) If Bob Mackenzie is correct in that Justin Schultz is a decent bet to sign here then Oilers are in a much much better position defensively. A player who should be able to play next year would allow the prospects (Musil, Klefbom, Gernat, Marincin) to develop.

6) I know many of the stats guys hate the Gilbert for Nick Schultz trade. But he's looked great and provides some stability on the back end so far.

7) Personally I think the Oilers biggest need is a Backes, Lucic type forward with size. I think the D can be addressed with a capable top 4 player and our prospect pipeline. Mike Gillis is a great GM and moved Hodgson for Kassian. A playoff move. The Oilers will hopefully add a player like this before learning the lesson in the playoffs. Its a lesson I'm 100% sure you don't need to tell Kevin Lowe. Adding such a player isn't easy to do.

8) Laddy Smid has quietly emerged as a great shutdown player. It took 6 years for the Pronger trade to look ok. It was a brutal trade, why give up 6 years? But now that the suffering is over, Smid and Eberle look fine.

9) I'm not as concerned about Hall's injury but a summer without training is gonna set him back. His shoulder will heal but I'm not looking for Hall to be the same player until Nov-Dec. He's gonna need a healthy season soon or injuries will stunt his development.

10) Renney is in an interesting spot where he doesn't have a contract so has to play for wins. I probably resign him unless Dave Tippet becomes available. Todd Nelsson is another good option but I think Renney deserves a shot to coach the team in a year that matters.

2002 - Nash,Lehtonen, JBo, Pitkanen, Whiteny
2003 - Fleury, Staal, Horton, Zherdev, Vanek
2004 - Ovechkin, Malkin, Barker, Ladd, Wheeler
2005 - Crosby, Ryan, Johnson, Pouliot, Price
2006 - Johnson, Staal, Toews, Backstrom, Kessel
2007 - Kane, JVR, Turris, Hickey, Alzner
2008 - Stamkos, Doughty, Bogosian, Pieterangelo, Schenn
2009 - Taveres, Hedman, Duchene, Kane, Schenn

(I ignored 2010 and 2011 because its too early to make conclusions)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rebuild 2.0

Rebuild 2.0

Last year I wrote a piece here on the beginning of the Oilers rebuild and how I thought management should act for the upcoming season. This year, I would like to revisit where the team is at and once again offer how I feel they should act in the coming year. It’s an Armchair GM article. This year I removed the salaries because let’s face it – they don’t matter nearly as much with the current team.

To quickly revisit last year’s article, my team would have looked like the following on opening night with additions to the team in italics:


· GOAL: Khabibulin; Deslauriers
· BLUE: Gilbert; Whitney; Shut-down guy (FA); Smid ; Chorney; Peckham; Aaron Johnson
· CENTER: Gagner; O'Sullivan; Horcoff; Pouliot; Potulny
· LEFT WING: Penner; Hall; Cogliano; Ryan Jones
· RIGHT WING: Hemsky; Brule; Colby Armstrong (FA); Eberle; Stortini


For comparison, here is the roster the Oilers started the season with:


· GOAL: Khabibulin; Deslauriers; Dubnyk
· BLUE: Gilbert; Whitney; Vandermeer; Smid; Peckham; Foster; Strudwick
· CENTER: Gagner; Horcoff; Cogliano; Brule; Fraser
· LEFT WING: Penner; Hall; Pajaarvi; MacIntyre
· RIGHT WING: Hemsky; Eberle; Jones; Stortini


I must admit that these two are not that far off. They signed Fraser instead of my suggestion in Armstrong. They flushed O’Sullivan, Pouliot and Potulny and added Pajaarvi, then brought in Vandermeer and Foster where I had a FA shut-down defenseman and elected to bring back Aaron Johnson. Overall, just some minor tweaks in both options.

Going into the 2010 -2011 season, I honestly thought this team would perform a lot better than they did. I wasn’t expecting a playoff team yet, but especially after that opening night win against Calgary, how could you not be optimistic? Sure the excitement and compete was much better than the 09-10 season, but the results were just as bad. They only had 25 wins and needed over 40 to get into the dance. That is a lot of improvement to ask for in one year, so I will be trying my best to temper my optimism and keep it in mind this year.

Having said that, I am still fairly optimistic about how the rebuild is going to date. We may be two or three years away, but I personally believe with the right additions, we could see a competitive team (e.g., in the 7-11 Western Conference range) as soon as the 2012-2013 season or if we are really lucky maybe this coming year.

The need to inject some veteran leadership should not go underestimated. Don Cherry mentioned this specifically referencing the Oiler’s on Hockey Night in Canada and I agree with him. The Oiler’s need to be careful they don’t allow a culture of losing to develop and therefore they must get in a competitive position as soon as possible.

Same as last year, I will start with the draft and then list the to-do items that may impact the opening night roster as the following:

1) Draft Ryan Nyugent-Hopkins 1st overall. Skill, skill and more skill. Plus, the guy has played in Red Deer for 3 years and publicly stated he wants to play for the Oilers – you’ve got to love that! Sure he is only 165 lbs soaking wet, but there are many elite players who are small and getting stronger is a lot easier than adding speed or that uncanny sixth hockey sense.

2) Explore the trade front for a potential big win-win deal. The focus of these big trades that need to be worked out before free agency should be on improving the top end talent of the team. In my opinion particular focus for the Oiler’s top end talent must be on defence. Guys like Bogosian and Weber keep coming up in blogs. Although this is unlikely, we have to explore these options to accelerate the team’s improvement. Sure we may see one of our prospects emerge but we may not and the risk of having another weak defence is too great to not address it. Also, this will not be fixed by adding depth defenders like Foster. We need a top sheriff back there to help out Whitney, because after him the talent drops way too fast.

3) As Free agency opens, focus on a few key players and if unable to sign them, don’t settle. There are a few key needs for this team right now that are quite obvious. A top defender and a defensive center who can win face-offs. I know these positions can be hard to find, but the Oiler’s have cap room to spare, so they should not shy away from a lot of money over a short term to address these needs. I believe that once the Oiler’s get out of this rut of being near the bottom and actually competing for playoffs, they will have reached a tipping point and all of a sudden Edmonton will be a much more attractive team to play for. Players around the league will see the upside of the youth they have in Hall, Eberle, Pajaarvi and RNH. We should not rely on the excuse that the team can develop every need from within. Although filling these gaps are critical, I wouldn’t settle. You have to identify where the capability drops off in the free agent market and then decide to go with prospects rather than settling. I would look to sign up to four depth players, as per the following:
a) A top end defender. This will be tough no doubt, but every possibility should be assessed to bring this guy in. If you can’t trade for him as per point number 2 above, then look to sign him here. I would keep this list short and I doubt any are available that really fit. I like Wisniewski and Bieksa, but I am not sure they have the potential to become a top defender.
b) A potential high calibre goalie, while he’s still cheap. I originally was not on the Fasth train until recently reading this article with a quote from Pajaarvi of how good he is. That sold me. Sign Fasth and dump Khabibulin. Even if just for the fact that I won’t have to listen to the Sportsnet broadcasters call him the Oiler’s MVP anymore, it will be worthwhile.
c) A bottom six Centre. Does Brooks Laich or Vernon Fiddler fit?
d) A bottom six Winger. Does Scottie Upshall fit?

4) Where unable to sign the targeted depth UFAs, look into making a positional trade. For example, move a player in a position of strength (skill forward) for a player in a position of weakness (bottom six forward). I believe trading for depth players can be worked out over a much shorter time scale then the top end players (point 2) and therefore may be completed if unsuccessful through free agency.

5) If unable to sign or trade for the team’s key needs, then stand pat and provide opportunity for prospects to fill those voids. Hopefully, two or three of Hartkainen, Lander, Pitlick, Hamilton, Marincin, Tuebert, Plante and others can eventually fill out the bottom six and defence. However, this is not preferred over the short term. Bring in a couple of short-term contracts to make the team competitive now while waiting for some prospects to eventually deserve roster spots. If possible, let our prospects prove themselves as much as possible in Oklahoma City first.


My ideal team to start next year would be as listed below. However, this is obviously dependant on some key trades and signings to occur and as such the final roster may only have two or three changes and not all four that I have suggested.


· GOAL: Fasth; Dubnyk
· BLUE: Whitney; (1 or 1A Defenseman); Gilbert; Smid; Peckham; Petry; Foster
· CENTER: Gagner; Horcoff; RNH; (Laich or Fiddler); Brule
· LEFT WING: Hall; Pajaarvi; (Upshall); Cogliano; Jacques
· RIGHT WING: Hemsky; Eberle; O’Mark; Jones; Hartkainen


Here’s to another exciting off-season with a second first overall draft pick. I just pray that RNH and Hall can become those elite players we need and expect of them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

13 thoughts

Its only a week till the NHL entry draft and I'm sick and tired of debating what the Oilers will or will not do - most importantly the never ending Seguin vs Hall debate. I hate reading about how Seguin might be Yzerman or how Seguin might be Legwand. Seguin is Seguin. Period. I remember reading a quote from Mr Bugg on Lowetides site. It was in response to a Seguin comparison to Toews (who without saying had an unreal year and is a player you want to build your team around). His comment was:

On the contrary, I don't know how anyone could possibly pick Seguin between the two if you were taking odds on 'most likely to become a Toews':

Toews: U17 Gold, 2 X U20 Gold, WCHA MVP, WC Gold, Olympic Gold, Stanley Cup
Hall: U17 Gold, 2 X U18 Gold, 2 X Memorial Cup, 2 X Mem Cup MVP


Hall is a winner. He has that Messier element to his game. He is the flashy pick and the Oilers need to unveal their #1 stud and get some positive press. IMO the Oilers will take Hall unless Boston knocks our socks off. But I'll trust MBS.

I really enjoy Elliotte Friedmans 30 thoughts so heres my shortened version all Oiler specific:

1) I expect a bounceback season from Horcoff. All reports have him working his bag off which isn't uncharacteristic of him. But he needs to stay healthy. He'll probably never cover the bet at 5.5 million but he is a useful player and the Oilers need another Horcoff or 2 in the lineup, not less.

2) My brother worked the NHL combine in Calgary and told me the Panthers were all gushing over Gudbranson. After taking Kulikov last year they will go for size and take him #3.

3) I had an interesting conversation with a multi-gazzionaire accountant in town about the rink project. He told me how Katz wasn't in a position of strength with the rink because the city knows he'll never play the "give me money or I'm moving the team" card. But he told me Katz was a schrewd negotiator and a business man and that we may see some "negotiating tactics". Its not a simple task to get everyone to agree and it takes time. This isn't a conspiracy post and we arent the Seattle Supersonics but its interesting how many rinks built recently had relocation threats.

4) O'Sullivan and Nilsson will be gone. They had a great opportunity to establish themselves last year and completely soiled themselves. Linus Omark is likely a better player than both. If I had to pick, I'd take Nilsson. I've seen him play well in a contract year before.

5) Mike Comrie may be back. Outside of the bought of mono, he played well and is a well liked player.

6) The return on Souray is so key to the team going forward. Souray is a useful player but the Oilers will be selling low. I'd love to see a deal getting a player like Dubinsky. The Oilers also need capable defensemen in a bad way. Lowe and Co have had a history of finding quality D and Souray is a valuable chip to use in finding them.

7) The Oilers will get decent return for Ethan Morreau. He's taken alot of abuse in town here but is well thought of and respected around the league. Plus he did play well down the stretch.

8) Gilbert, Gagner and Penner form the new leadership core on the team. Shawn Horcoff might get the C but he is the current whipping boy in Edmonton. I'd like to see the Oilers start the year without a captain and let the dressing room re-establish itself.

9) I've always been a firm believer in building around a stud defender. Call it the Pronger factor but Detroit has been good for so long and I see the Kings and Hawks being strong for many years. How to find the next Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith is beyond me but a top 2 draft pick isnt the only way to do so.

10) The Oilers already have 10 draft picks this year, 2nd most of all the teams in the draft. I'd bet they end up with the most picks in the draft by the time its all said and done.

11) The return on Halak was surprisingly low. Many people in the Oilogosphere are of the opinion that goalies are a dime a dozen but its easy to argue that the only difference between the Oilers this year and the Oilers 2006-2009 has been Dwayne Roloson. Now that the Oilers have committed to rebuild, it makes sense to prioritize other needs but the Flyers are a team who prove the need for quality goaltending. Could we have acquired Halak for Cogliano? Its still worth a shot.

12) The Oilers had success drafting in Sweden last year. We may see this trend continue. Lowetide loves Dylan McIlrath, I'd still push for skill. If Jeff Skinner can be picked up somehow, he is a guy I'd target.

13) I wouldn't be surprised the see the Wings sign Pisani on a one year 1 million dollar contract. Its a low risk high reward move and Pisani was a playoff gamer. After the number of man games the Oilers have lost in the last couple years I see them passing on Pisani but its a move I can see panning out for a contender. Heck, Pisani could be top line RW in Pittsburgh come playoff time.

That is all for now. Lets get this right Oilers!

I'm going to start using this blog to talk about my side project.

There are some valuable tools and information sources for fantasy hockey fans coming. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This and that

On Pat Quinn

The Edmonton Oilers finished last in the NHL. There are plenty of issues and its easy to blame Quin. But the roster he had plus given the injuries (Hemsky, Khabibulin, Souray particulary) I'm not sure many coaches would have done much better. You could also add that Gagner, Lubo, Staois, Grebs were hurt much of the year. I liked how OTC didnt rely on the vets, they sucked. Penner and Brule had good seasons and Smid might have if not for his inability to skate with his head up (cue the Hall is going to be Lindros discussion). You can make the argument that he may not be the best coach to lead the team going forward but not that he was the reason for the Oilers failures last season.

Hall vs Seguin

Taylor Hall is having an amazing Memorial Cup. My opinion on who the Oilers should draft has gone back and forth in the last couple months. I think its obvious to take the best player available and the only reason to consider Seguin is under the assumption that Hall and Seguin are equal players and that centers are more valuable than wingers. I believe this to be the case but that Hall is a better player. Oilers need a center to compliment Horcoff and Gagner but shouldn't pass up on Hall. That being said, the Oilers scouts are having a good run and I haven't seen either player enough to be a reliable source. Stu "Magnificant Bastard" MacGregor will get it right.


Is Malkin Available?

There are rumors out there that Pittsburgh may move Malkin to get some quality wingers to play with Crosby and Staal. Im with Jonathan Willis when he says there is no need to move Malkin". In the next 20 years, I wonder how many 23 year old Art Ross winning, Conn Smyth winning, Stanley Cup champs will be available. My guess is none. I'm all for an Oilers rebuild internally but if Malkin is truely available, I cant see why you wouldnt inquire.




When your so bad its good

Back in December I was pushing for a lottery pick as I'm sick finishing around 9th place for much of the past decade. This years team was bad, so bad it makes me wonder if it was part of the plan. There were so many obvious needs for this team which were not addressed the easiest to fix being a healthy goaltender once Khabibulin was injured and a center to help on the PK and who could win faceoffs. After failing to get Heatley, it almost seems like management decided to tank. I wont give the management team that much credit but the end result is promising.

The future is brighter

MPS and Eberle have had quality seasons and are a source of optimism for the Oilers. A young core of Gagner, MPS, Eberle and Hall or Seguin to go with Penner, Hemsky and Horcoff (who Im hoping will bounce back next season) should make forward a position of strenth for the Oilers. Like Derek Zona, I am also high on Teemu Hartikainen although admittedly not as much. All in all, I dont see the Oilers sucking much longer. We may not be a playoff team next year but if they can address the defense properly in the next year and have one of the young goaltenders step up the Oilers should be playoff bound in 2012. After 5 years off, we'd be long overdue.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Rebuild

This post should probably have been made before the deadline but has been inspired by a recent post by a friend on the same topic. Im gonna spend some time to talk about how I would go about the rebuild, how long I expect the rebuild to take and so on. First of all I'll start by saying that I thought Tambellini did a good job at the deadline. He moved a lot of salary, made a steal of a deal moving Staois and as much as I like Vishnovsky, I don't like paying 5.6 million to an again defender who doesn't play tough minutes. The return may of been less than expected but when you factor in his age/salary I'm ok with the return. As for the Grebeshkov deal, its the worst of the 3, I like Grebeshkov the player and likely would have passed on the trade. But 3+ million in cap space plus a 2nd round pick are valuable assets for a rebuilding team. The general impression about the deadline that I am getting from the Oilogosphere has been quite negative but personally I think they are just piling it on - the deadline results were ok. You cant fix a 30th place team in one day and progress was made.

As for the rebuild, I've had a hard time coming up with a concrete plan because I was torn about how to handle next season. On one hand, I really like the idea of burning the season to get another lottery pick - preferably Adam Larsson. If I'm GM of a team, I want to build from the backend out and a player like Larsson/Doughty would impact a team more than a dominant forward. At the same time, your offseason plan cannot be to lose. Your wasting the development of Gagner and Hemsky/Penner would be gone in a season or two. Plus, as as Jonathan Willis points out building a team requires more than a couple good picks. Parity has made it easy to rebuild in the NHL. The Oilers are to shambles. When your 20 points back of the 14th place team in the West, lots of changes need to be made. But the Oilers also were quite unlucky from injuries. They also lacked chemistry due to a bad mix of small players with duplicated skillsets and a leadership core of veterans whose game has left them. In my opinion, fixing these roster issues should be doable in a year or two.



Here is my plan:

1) Draft Taylor Hall. Loosing the lottery would suck but the compensation (Tyler Seguin) is no slouch. This is a no-brainer, get either one of these players and don't go off the board.
2) Move our buyout Ethan Moreau. Similar to 1999 when the Oilers were a bad team and Kelly Buckberger's game was fading, I think the changing of the guard will come. Maybe even make Sam Gagner the next captain. I would say Shawn Horcoff but he has had an off year and has lots of pressure due to his overpaid contract. Moreau has been a good soldier but move on.
3) Move one of Nilsson or O'Sullivan.
4) Play Jordan Eberle at least 40 games in the AHL. As good as he is, Eberle is slow and small. His best asset is his game smarts and learning in the AHL will IMO accelerate the learning process.
5) If you can, move Sheldon Souray. My ideal trade is Souray and Cogliano for Logan Couture. Couture is more of a 2-way player who last year had the highest QCOMP in the AHL (source Derek Zona). I doubt San Jose makes this trade and maybe we need to take salary back to make it happen but I'm just calling shots from the internet here, cut me some slack!
6) Unless an agreement can be made around 2 million/season, resign Brule to a one year contract.
7) Sign a shutdown defender (preferably Dam Hamius) and Aaron Johnson.
8) Make Chorney play in the AHL, dont resign JFJ or Strudwick.

The end result is:

Penner (4.25) - Horcoff (5.5) - Hemsky (4.1) (13.85)
Hall (2.5)- Gagner (3)- Nilsson (2) (7.5)
MPS (1.5) - Couture (0.8) - Pouliot (0.8) (3.1)
Comrie (1) - Poltuny (0.7) - Stone (0.7) (2.4)
Jones (0.7)
Stortini (0.7)

Gilbert (4) - Whitney (4) (8)
Smid (1.5) - UFA (Hamius 3.5) (5)
Johnson (1.0) - Peckham (0.7) (1.7)
UFA (2)

Khabibulin (3.75)
JDD (0.7)

Total of 49.4 but thats optimistic in the Souray trade assuming we dont have to take any salary back.

Comrie has become a versatile player who although small, isn't that soft anymore. I dont mind keeping him around. For some reason, the faith in Pouliot is still there but I doubt he can stay healthy for a whole season. He'd be a player to upgrade. If the Oilers could somehow land Dam Hamius, he's the UFA I'd target. This roster is very best case scenario with cap space to add if needed. The last item is goaltending - the most important position in hockey but also the easiest to fix. If Khabibulin remains healthy, I think this is a playoff team. Otherwise, we could be in a similar situation where poor goaltending gets us in a lottery position. And after-all whats a "Chicago rebuild" without finishing 5th and winning the lottery. Like the Khabibulin contract, its far from ideal but ultimately, with a little luck, I think the playoffs are attainable.