Thursday, July 10, 2008

The cupboard is full

As a result of a combination of excellent scouting and a couple quality for quantity moves (Pronger and Smyth), the Oilers depth is at a level I haven’t seen it before. Its interesting that several of their prospects/players who are developing are doing so ad different ages.

- Oilers have guys like Tom Gilbert (2002), Kyle Brodziak (2003) and Robert Nilsson (2003) entering their second NHL seasons who appear to be locks for roster spots in key development years.
- Oilers have guys like MAP (2003) who hasn’t done much at the NHL level yet but seems poised to earn his one way deal.
- On the other end of spectrum there is soon to be 19 year old Sam Gagner (2007) who is entering his second NHL season and could end up a star in the league.

The Oilers also have several decent prospects who potentially could force themselves onto the roster like Gilbert did last year. Peckham, Chorney, Hrabel, Schremp and Brule are candidates this year. The signing of JFJ is an indication the Oilers still have hope in him too. Despite this, even if one of them shoot the lights out, there isnt much room to fit in the roster and the player will end up in the minors anyways.

As a fan I can’t help but be excited because when players (young and younger) develop together the result is almost always positive. Usually when it fails, there is a lack of experience/leadership but I am a believer in the leadership ability of Morreau, Staois and Horcoff. The youngsters also have a skill player in Hemsky to learn from as well. Potentially with this many prospects developing this could be a great season for the Oilers as players grow from each others success.

Lets look at the Oilers current roster. These are my lines.

Nilsson - Horcoff - Hemsky
Penner - Gagner - Cogliano
Cole - Brodziak - Pisani
Morreau - Pouliot - Stortini

13th forward - Reasoner

Extras: Schremp, Brule, Reddox

Gilbert - Grebeshkov
Souray - Visnophsky
Staois - Smid

Extras: Roy, Peckham, Chorney

Right now there are some gaps in the Oilers roster such as more experienced 3rd line centre and a shutdown D. As Jonathan points out here , here and here Marek Malik is a good shutdown option but other than that there aren’t any many UFA options that are guaranteed upgrades.

That leaves the trade option. I'd love to get a guy like Regher out of Calgary who is desperate for forwards (that will never happen by the way so please ignore me even mentioning it). The question then is who would we move? We've already gotten rid of the expendable assets in Piktanen, Green, Stoll and Torres. I don’t see much flexibility in the roster for trades. As I've recently posted on, I'm not a fan of trading 2nd year players. In the comments at Lowetide's site, several posters mentioned the possibility of moving Nilsson for a player and replacing him with Rob Schremp who seems to be turning the corner as a player but has the odds stacked against him for making the team. I don’t think Nilsson has enough cachet around the league to justify his return. Furthermore, I don’t consider the Oilers a contender (yet). Does it make sense to risk trading Doug Weight to get Esa Tikanen or Todd Marchant for Craig MacTavish when we won’t realistically have a shot at the cup next year? Dibs out.

Conclusion: Unless they completely tear it up in training camp leave Peckham, Chorney, Schremp and Brule in the minors. Let the players decide who develops and who becomes expendable. Once you can identify who is Jani Rita or Tony Salmelainen then make your move. There should be tons of cheaper rentals available if this team is in a playoff position. Agree?