Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Get a lottery pick

Over the past couple days, I dug through some of my "post ideas" that I had partially written. One of the most interesting ones was focused on the idea that the best thing that could happen to the Oilers is an injury to Khabibulin. The basic premise was that, similar to what Colorado did last season, it would allow the Oilers to ride average goaltending (JDD/Dubnyk) to a lottery pick. Now that Khabibulin is hurt along with their best forward its pretty clear the Oilers should be aiming for a 2010 lottery pick.

I'm a firm believer in Stu MacGregor and the scouting department. They have delivered solid return in the first round with Gagner, Eberle and MPS but the franchise caliber players are gone at the position they are drafting at each year. The Oilers aren't that bad of a team. With a bit of luck or by winning a trade or 2 they could in fact make the playoffs. But its not likely and I'm sick of finishing in 9th place.

That being said, I dont think the Oilers need a full blown rebuild. The injuries allow them to tank and keep enough veterans around to remain competitive. Like every year, its important to decide which players to keep in the short and long term. Word recently from the Ottawa Sun is that the Oilers are looking to move some larger salary cap hits. It could be a bogus rumor but it fits along nicely with my opinion that the Oilers should be lottery bound so I'll play. The article mentions Souray, Horcoff and Visnovsky as players the Oilers are shopping - players who can help a team win now and in the short term but are also well paid.

Horcoff - Apparently he is hurt but his effectiveness is really only when he is at 100% and can out battle players all over the ice. He is a valuable player and I don't mind keeping him but he isn't covering the bet nor do I think he will. For this reason, in a cap world, he has to be considered movable if anyone would possibly take his contract.

Visnovsky - I wouldn't move him. He is too good and makes others better.

Souray - His injury history and possible high return make him a guy I would dangle. Love the player but and what he brings but would be accepting phone calls about him.

The Oilers are also burdened with too many non-value contracts. Several of which are for players who are on the downside of their careers and a couple others whose skillset is duplicated on the roster. I also believe a team looking to rebuild should be under the cap to be able to afford emerging players and open trade opportunities.

Staois - I'd probably keep him. He is slightly overpaid but is capable to handle top 4 minutes over the short term and is a good leader. You need to keep guys like him around for his experience and I believe in having because its the hardest position to learn and lets players learn slowly. That being said, he is far from untradeable I'm just not shopping him.

Moreau - I'd move him. I believe the guy doing the talking needs to be able to lead by example. Moreau hasn't been able to do this for a while and a change of leadership should be made.

O'Sullivan - I was wrong. O'Sullivan must have rode Kopitar to make his numbers look good but he doesnt appear to be half the player I anticipated. Given that the Oilers have too many small forwards, I'd move O'Sullivan. Coupled with his salary, I'd move him for a hockey puck.

Nilsson - I was wrong again but Vic Ferrari does a good job explaining why. Nilsson's skill level is high but I think Omark or Eberle could replace him for half the cost next season. We already have Comrie who can replace him soon for half the cost. Another player I'd move for a hockey puck.

Pisani - His reputation as a clutch player could give him some cachet. Pisani's contract is off the books next season but I have my doubts after 2 years of injuries/health concerns that he'll ever be the same player again. But he is also the kind of player Detroit would sign for 900k. If Pisani is willing to return at half price, I'd keep him.

All in all, if the Oilers get a lottery pick and clear cap space I'm OK with the job Tambellini did this year. The best time to clear cap space is at the deadline. Being a team at the cap in a lottery position says a lot about the job management has done. While most of the contracts aren't Tambelinni's fault, this team needs some smart contracts and cap flexibility.

There are positives like Penner and Gagner but this team has been lacking traction most of the past decade. Changes need to be made. Progress needs to be made. A lottery pick would be a good start.
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