Friday, March 12, 2010

The Rebuild

This post should probably have been made before the deadline but has been inspired by a recent post by a friend on the same topic. Im gonna spend some time to talk about how I would go about the rebuild, how long I expect the rebuild to take and so on. First of all I'll start by saying that I thought Tambellini did a good job at the deadline. He moved a lot of salary, made a steal of a deal moving Staois and as much as I like Vishnovsky, I don't like paying 5.6 million to an again defender who doesn't play tough minutes. The return may of been less than expected but when you factor in his age/salary I'm ok with the return. As for the Grebeshkov deal, its the worst of the 3, I like Grebeshkov the player and likely would have passed on the trade. But 3+ million in cap space plus a 2nd round pick are valuable assets for a rebuilding team. The general impression about the deadline that I am getting from the Oilogosphere has been quite negative but personally I think they are just piling it on - the deadline results were ok. You cant fix a 30th place team in one day and progress was made.

As for the rebuild, I've had a hard time coming up with a concrete plan because I was torn about how to handle next season. On one hand, I really like the idea of burning the season to get another lottery pick - preferably Adam Larsson. If I'm GM of a team, I want to build from the backend out and a player like Larsson/Doughty would impact a team more than a dominant forward. At the same time, your offseason plan cannot be to lose. Your wasting the development of Gagner and Hemsky/Penner would be gone in a season or two. Plus, as as Jonathan Willis points out building a team requires more than a couple good picks. Parity has made it easy to rebuild in the NHL. The Oilers are to shambles. When your 20 points back of the 14th place team in the West, lots of changes need to be made. But the Oilers also were quite unlucky from injuries. They also lacked chemistry due to a bad mix of small players with duplicated skillsets and a leadership core of veterans whose game has left them. In my opinion, fixing these roster issues should be doable in a year or two.

Here is my plan:

1) Draft Taylor Hall. Loosing the lottery would suck but the compensation (Tyler Seguin) is no slouch. This is a no-brainer, get either one of these players and don't go off the board.
2) Move our buyout Ethan Moreau. Similar to 1999 when the Oilers were a bad team and Kelly Buckberger's game was fading, I think the changing of the guard will come. Maybe even make Sam Gagner the next captain. I would say Shawn Horcoff but he has had an off year and has lots of pressure due to his overpaid contract. Moreau has been a good soldier but move on.
3) Move one of Nilsson or O'Sullivan.
4) Play Jordan Eberle at least 40 games in the AHL. As good as he is, Eberle is slow and small. His best asset is his game smarts and learning in the AHL will IMO accelerate the learning process.
5) If you can, move Sheldon Souray. My ideal trade is Souray and Cogliano for Logan Couture. Couture is more of a 2-way player who last year had the highest QCOMP in the AHL (source Derek Zona). I doubt San Jose makes this trade and maybe we need to take salary back to make it happen but I'm just calling shots from the internet here, cut me some slack!
6) Unless an agreement can be made around 2 million/season, resign Brule to a one year contract.
7) Sign a shutdown defender (preferably Dam Hamius) and Aaron Johnson.
8) Make Chorney play in the AHL, dont resign JFJ or Strudwick.

The end result is:

Penner (4.25) - Horcoff (5.5) - Hemsky (4.1) (13.85)
Hall (2.5)- Gagner (3)- Nilsson (2) (7.5)
MPS (1.5) - Couture (0.8) - Pouliot (0.8) (3.1)
Comrie (1) - Poltuny (0.7) - Stone (0.7) (2.4)
Jones (0.7)
Stortini (0.7)

Gilbert (4) - Whitney (4) (8)
Smid (1.5) - UFA (Hamius 3.5) (5)
Johnson (1.0) - Peckham (0.7) (1.7)
UFA (2)

Khabibulin (3.75)
JDD (0.7)

Total of 49.4 but thats optimistic in the Souray trade assuming we dont have to take any salary back.

Comrie has become a versatile player who although small, isn't that soft anymore. I dont mind keeping him around. For some reason, the faith in Pouliot is still there but I doubt he can stay healthy for a whole season. He'd be a player to upgrade. If the Oilers could somehow land Dam Hamius, he's the UFA I'd target. This roster is very best case scenario with cap space to add if needed. The last item is goaltending - the most important position in hockey but also the easiest to fix. If Khabibulin remains healthy, I think this is a playoff team. Otherwise, we could be in a similar situation where poor goaltending gets us in a lottery position. And after-all whats a "Chicago rebuild" without finishing 5th and winning the lottery. Like the Khabibulin contract, its far from ideal but ultimately, with a little luck, I think the playoffs are attainable.

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.