Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Looking Ahead Through the Eyes of an Optimist

--by guest writer Dustin

The 2009/2010 NHL season has had few exciting moments for Oiler’s fans, who are some of the most passionate hockey fans in the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people in the United States were aware that Hillary Duff is now engaged versus even knowing what sport the Edmonton Oiler’s play. And the fact that I am even bringing this up is a little embarrassing but it also highlights what little there is of note on the Edmonton Oiler’s this year.

Trade deadline day 2010 has come and gone and I am in the camp that thinks Steve Tambellini (Tamby) did a decent job. Sure I would be happier if he was able to also move any of Pisani, Moreau and O’Sullivan. However, it was a good start for next year in making the team bigger, younger and cheaper. I am not going to discuss the trade deadline any further as an excessive amount of blogs already cover this topic well enough. Instead the focus of this particular article is going to look right passed the NHL playoffs [Could Pittsburgh really be there again? Amazing.] and ahead to the Entry Draft and Free Agency. I know it is early but I cannot resist thinking ahead already. Uggh – it si going to be a long off-season this year!

I listened to the audio clip of Tamby after deadline day and I recall him saying something along the lines of (I am paraphrasing here): “the team is different today, the team will be different this spring and the team will be different again by the start of next season”. I think we can easily assume that this means Tamby was not able to make all of the changes at the 2010 deadline that the Oiler’s had “hashed out” to do in the near future. Does this mean there were no takers on Moreau or Pisani? Also, I think many of us can agree that Souray would have been moved if he were healthy and he is a good option to move this upcoming spring/summer.

Lowetide wrote a recent article that broke down the Oiler’s salaries for next year and to start things off, I am going to excerpt his salary breakdown below.

· GOAL: Khabibulin (3.75M); Deslauriers (1.1M-est)

· BLUE: Souray (5.4M); Gilbert (4M); Whitney (4M); Smid (1.3M); Chorney (.942M); Peckham (.700M-est); Aaron Johnson (.600M-est)

· CENTER: Seguin (3.75M-est); Gagner (3.0M-est); Horcoff (5.5M); Pouliot (.850M-est); Potulny (1.2M-est)

· LEFT WING: Penner (4.25M); O'Sullivan (2.925M); Moreau (2M); Cogliano (1.45M-est); Ryan Jones (.975M)

· RIGHT WING: Hemsky (4.1M); Nilsson (2M); Brule (2.25M-est); Eberle (1.187M)

I am going to propose a few changes right off the hop and I have organized these in an order from the easier to achieve to the more difficult to achieve.

1. The Oiler’s draft Taylor Hall 1st overall and play him behind Penner on the left side. For now we will slide O’Sullivan into that vacant centre position and move Gagner up the depth chart one spot.
2. Tamby either trades Moreau and Nilsson for anything or buys them out. Then I would bring Stortini back into the lineup.
3. Tamby signs pending UFA Colby Armstrong to replace Bobby Nilsson. Armstrong is from Lloydminster so he may actually want to play for the Oilers and I think he would be a great fit for a young team looking to get bigger. Additionally, he should come at a reasonable price.
4. Tamby either trades Souray for a younger and cheaper hardnosed defenseman or if a younger and cheaper hardnosed defenseman can be obtained through free-agency (e.g., Volchenkov), he trades Souray for prospects and picks.

These changes would leave us with the following lineup:

· GOAL: Khabibulin (3.75M); Deslauriers (1.1M-est)

· BLUE: Gilbert (4M); Whitney (4M); Shut-down guy (3.5M); Smid (1.3M); Chorney (.942M); Peckham (.700M-est); Aaron Johnson (.600M-est)

· CENTER: Gagner (3.0M-est); O'Sullivan (2.925M); Horcoff (5.5M); Pouliot (.850M-est); Potulny (1.2M-est)

· LEFT WING: Penner (4.25M); Hall (3.75M-est); Cogliano (1.45M-est); Ryan Jones (.975M)

· RIGHT WING: Hemsky (4.1M); Brule (2.25M-est); Armstrong (2M); Eberle (1.187M); Stortini (0.7M)

The team above is approximately 3 Million dollars cheaper than what Lowetide originally posted and I tend to think this team is not that far off of being a playoff team. Although we still have some size issues up front that will need to be addressed, I can see them in that 7-10 Western Conference battle at the end of the year. I would love to see us move O’Sullivan and land a first line centre, but realistically that will not happen since not too many teams are looking to trade away their first-line centre. I really do not want to speculate any further on potential changes, as it ends up leaving things way too wide open since there are literally thousands of options that we could discuss.

I think the plan moving forward will and should be to bank on the kids getting better with experience. I pray that the Oiler’s management is not looking for any quick fixes this off-season, as it is pretty clear to me that a team gains the most long-term by having players get better within the organization. In a salary cap world the name of the game is to accumulate great contracts (e.g., in Edmonton you just have to look at Hemsky’s contract) and this is not done through signing the most coveted UFAs. I would like to see Gagner given every chance to become our first line centre and whether it happens next year or the following year, it does not matter. Even if two of our young prospects in Hall, Gagner, Eberle and MPS can grow into legitimate first-line players, I think we will have a very good team coming to Edmonton in 2011-2012 or 2012-2013.
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