Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Look at me now

Today Lowetide illustrated out how good the Oilers scouting department has done since 2001 - the draft year of Ales Hemsky. While the 6 year window from 2001 to 2007 had its blemishes (ie Niinimaki and Pouliot) it was full of good picks. The point LT made isnt really news to me but it got me thinking once again about the Dustin Penner offer sheet. I've always struggled with assessing the value of the 12th overall pick the Oilers gave up to get Penner (acknowledging that, without Penner, it also would have been much better). Would it be closer to Hemsky or Niinimaki? Would it be better than Penner and in how many years? Either way, I doubt that the Penner move will ever look great for the Oilers. At best it probably looks like an OK move because it will be hard to cover both the salary and picks. In the past, I've defended the move as "ok or not being horrible" by applying the following context to the trade.

At the time of the Penner offer sheet, the Oilers had just traded Pronger and Smyth in "player for assets" moves. The Oilers had too many assets and not enough players and had just struck out on the UFA market. They needed a player like Penner to assist in the development of younger players. I'm of the belief you need to shelter young players as you develop them. The chances of Robert Nilsson succeeding on the first line would have been much less than where he was on the second line behind Dustin Penner. Penner had just played 2nd line LW on a Stanley Cup winner and would definitely have been capable of top 6 on a shallow looking Oilers roster.

When reading the post by LT, I thought of a new context that could be applied to the Penner move. I don’t think there is any chance we'd be throwing around compliments to the procurement department at this time last season.

1) Sam Gagner hadn’t played an NHL game
2) Andrew Cogliano hadn’t played and NHL game
3) Pouliot didn’t really look NHL ready
4) Schremp was looking suspect
5) Dubnyk was looking suspect
6) JDD was looking suspect
7) JFJ had no points in 41 NHL games
8) Many fans were trashing the scouts for not taking Cherpanov and taking Nash.
9) Brodziak looked NHL ready
10) Stortini looked like a bum who wasn’t near being an NHL enforcer

Could the Oilers have possibly valued the picks as highly as they would today? I'd say no. Fast forward a year and

1) Sam Gagner was an NHL top 5 rookie as an 18 year old
2) Andrew Cogliano was a top 10 NHL rookie
3) Pouliot looks ready to make the NHL
4) Schremp was top 10 in the AHL in points, NHL capable and a decent trade asset
5) Dubnyk is still unproven
6) JDD has a bounce-back season a one way contract
7) JFJ still has no points in 41 NHL games
8) Avoiding Cherepanov looks better and Nash looks to be a good pick
9) Brodziak was indeed NHL ready
10) Stortini looks to be effective in the 4th line agitator role and good value at 700k

The point of the post isnt to justify the Penner offer sheet. I don’t think it’s a good long term strategy in today’s NHL. But it’s quite amazing how quickly ones opinion on something can change.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Oilers hire Tambellini

When I first heard about the hiring of Tambellini as GM of the Oilers I was surprised to hear about it and instantly a couple questions came to mind.

Is Tambellini the replacement of Kevin Lowe or a compliment to Kevin Lowe?

Every quote I find indicates to me that its more of the latter.

Quote from Tambellini (per TSN.ca)
"This is a management team". "We're going to work together as a group. I don't want Kevin Lowe going anywhere. He's one of the reasons that I came here. He'll be involved as much as he wants to be involved and I look forward to that."

Kevin Lowe
"We all like to think that titles are irrelevant," says Lowe. "We want to just get the job done collectively as a team so that the Oilers organization can be successful."

"Steve will end up doing more of the day-to-day stuff of the General Manager's role, which is a lot. That's what was wearing me down personally. The major decisions are going to be made collectively with the management group with me ultimately having the final say."

Based on these quotes, to me Katz wanted to add a top-end NHL mind to the management team and the shuffle of positions was done to allow Tambellini to come on board. To me, KLo still has the power but will be less involved in negotiations and more involved in decisions (with the input of Tambellini and the team). This is Katz' second stamp on the team and a good one. Not that I'm an expert on this but you dont become a billionare by working for yourself. There just isnt enough time. You make decisions (alone or as a group) and have capable people implement them. Running an NHL team is an increasingly harder job each year and a cohesive team is a more effective than one person. A management team can self destruct quite easily but given that KLo and Tambellini have worked together before (as shown in the photo of the 2002 Olympics) the risk of this happening should be minimal. Overall, I see this as a positive.

How good is Tambellini as a GM?

This one will have to be answered over time. My preference was to add Doug Armstrong who had a proven record but he was hired by St Louis months ago and I never considered Tambelli an option. The Canucks have been unable to make the right moves to take the next step as a franchise. Before the lockout, the Canucks were unable to add the pieces to make a push when the had a strong team led by Naslund-Bertuzzi-Morrison. More recently, they've had the best goaltender in the league but been unable field a decent lineup in front of him. Is that a reflection of Tambellini? I dont think you can fairly pinpoint that on him if he isn't the man in charge. I wonder if the name Rich Winter ever entered discussions ...

One of the reasons I started blogging was so that I could help track my opinions and changes in Oilers direction. This is a fairly significant change and it will be interesting to see how it pans out.