Friday, June 6, 2008

KLo this offseason

Last year Kevin Lowe came out publicly and said how the Oilers were going to add 5-7 players and that they had to improve the team. When I first heard this I was excited but also skeptical that we'd be able to get that many players of value. As it turns out, Lowe was left chasing and made some moves that were lateral at best. This year, the team is in a much better position but I also like how his approach much different. KLo seems to be holding his cards closer to his chest. I think thats the way to go. You dont want to have 29 other GMs sitting out there knowing that you have to back up your claims.

Todays quote:

I would like a top-end forward but we're not in a situation where we have to do something to really improve our team. If nothing happens, we'll go to camp with what we have and we'll see what unfolds. I don't feel like I'm under pressure to do something.

He was a lot more descrete about what he is planning on doing. For all we know he has game on the go right now. Frankly I'd be ok if Lowe went out and said "we're going to do what we can to improve the team, maybe add a forward and/or a defender". He doesnt really need to promise anything because it all depends on who is available and what the price is. Considering money doesnt really buy you goals and that it appears to be a sellers market, I think its best to sell off replaceable assets and bank on the development of the kids. The UFAs outside Hossa are average (I think Hossa is going to re-sign for one season in Pittsburgh anyways) and will be overpriced. If you can get a Lecavalier or Gaborik by all means do so, but I think the best option is to build some consistency in the lineup and, assuming we are in playoff contention, add players at the deadline - when the price of talent is cheaper and we have a better idea of who in the playoff run last year was for real and who is Scott Fraser.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Congratulations to Detroit

Congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings on winning their 11th Stanley Cup last night. They were far and away the best team in the playoffs this season. Pittsburgh prooved to be very resilient which is a good sign for their future. Despite being largely overmatched the series was still entertaining right until the end. I had expected Crosby and Malkin to learn a ton of lessons in a sweep to Detroit. Given that the Penguins had no business winning game 5 I wasnt far off. Crosby seemed to adapt quicker than Malkin who was obviously frustrated with the lack of space. Malkin did however have his best game last night.

Another special congratulations to Nicklas Listrom and Hank Zetterberg. Zetterberg was unreal, he outplayed Crosby in the series and that says alot. Lidstrom was well Lidstrom and would have also been a good Conn Smyth candidate - led by #5, Detroits D was amazing throughout the finals. Finally we can rid ourselves of the notion that a European cant captain a Stanley Cup winning team. That should have happened last year because IMO Anaheim won the series vs Detroit despite getting outplayed (captains would have been Alfredsson and Lidstrom).

Pittsburgh is in very good shape for next season as they still have Malkin and Staal in entry level contracts. Detroit also looks like a team that could repeat. They only have 39 million committed for next season but do have Zetterberg and Franzen to extend. If I were to bet today, I'd bet on a Detroit-Pittsburgh final next year too.

What does the finals say for the Oilers? I've already spent some time comparing Edmonton to Detroit here http://puckdonkey.blogspot.com/2008/05/comparisons-to-detroit.html. I'm not going to compare Edmonton to Pittsburgh because I dont think any team should try to duplicate building the way Pittsburgh did and expect the same calibre picks. 2 things I noticed were that that Pittsburgh got a lot better when Roberts and Sydor were back in the lineup and that having Georges Laraques was invaluable vs Philly but didnt play against Detroit. So based on this years playoffs (and numerous injuries in the last 2 seasons), the Oilers need to get tougher by adding an enforcer - even in the 13-14 forward spot (more on this later). Even Detroit has Aaron Downey. Over the course of a season, players appreciate the protection an enforcer provides. In a 7 game series against a goon squad like Philly, Anaheim or Calgary that protection is even more valuable. Also, if we are in a playoff position around trade deadline, we could also use some veteran depth. Otherwise, overall I like the direction the Oilers are heading - building a team that is skilled and can move the puck.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Regarding Bucky

This is a spinoff of a HF post I just made. Thought it was worth elaborating on.

Much has been made of the decision of MacT to bring in Bucky as an assistant coach of the Oilers. The most common bashing I've heard has been that "he was a grinder and is going to lock down our skill players" and the other revolving around the general dislike the old boys club. I disagree on both fronts and I'm sick of hearing these arguments over and over.

First and foremost, I think we need to realize what Bucky is being brought in to do. On the coaching depth chart he is behind MacT, Billy Moores and Charlie Huddy. He is being brought in as a complimentary coach. He is a lot more likely to help players with their workout schedules and diets than to run the powerplay. IMO its actually better for the organization to have Bucky as in a apprenticeship role than as a head coach. In this position, he will learn more.

"Bucky was a defensive grinder who cant teach skill"

I dont really think many coaches have a large impact on skill. I think skill is taught by osmosis from other players. I'd argue that Filppula learns a lot more from Zetterberg/Datsyuk by watching them, practicing against them and playing with them then anyone of Detroit's coaches. Same with how Anderson, Kurri and Messier became much better players because of Gretzky. It wasn't because Glen Sather was a mastermind creative coach.

Secondly, defense wins championships. I have no problems with coaches who demand their players be defensively responsible. I also dont think that because your a defensive player it means your team will lack creativity. Guy Carbonneau was one of the most defensive players ever to play the game yet Montreal had the top power play in the league. Defensive players typically have long careers because of their hockey brains rather than their slap shot, skating ability or passing vision. That is why these guys make good coaches. Another good example is Jacques Lemairre.

My only concern is there will be a bias towards grinder type players. Last year, I think the Oilers coaching staff evolved quite a bit with the development of Gagner, Cogliano and Nilsson. Although I think it was a combination of change in coaching philosophy and having better players. I think the vision for the Oilers is to have skilled players who work hard and compete. Crosby, Zetterberg and Datsyuk have all look like grinders at times in the finals and to me it reflects well to the type of team the Oilers are building. I dont think you can win a playoff series with players who dont know how to work hard and compete.

"I'm sick of the old boys club"

I'm less against this argument because I can see the value of new ideas if you can find the right people. But I dont have a problem with MacT/Huddy hiring a guy who they've worked with for 5+ years and know will illustrate the type of characteristics they want in their players. Bucky was one of the hardest working players to ever put on an Oilers jersey. He's not being brought in to teach Sam Gagner to fight tougher players as Bucky often did throughout his career. I've stated what I think his role is several times already and its not to teach players to play like him.

If I'm ever hiring a guy, the first thing I do is ask around the people who I have worked with and know are good and ask them if they are looking for a job. It can take months or a year before you know capable or compatable in the work environment. If MacT wants to hire a guy he knows then I go no qualms - especially in a complimentary role.

Bucky did a lot more (18 years in the NHL, 4 as captain and 2 Stanley Cups) with a lot less than many other guys have. Not a horrible choice for 4th assistant coach IMO.