Saturday, March 31, 2007

A New Day?

Since the trade of Ryan Smyth the Oilers have been in a tailspin of monstrous proportions. If you had asked me a month ago where the Oilers would be sitting if they had garnered three points in March, I would have figured second last overall.

But teams like the Coyotes, Hawks and Capitals have this losing thing down to an art. I guess when you're that sad sack its just in your nature. Wow. Are they ever shit.

Anyhow, posted a few days ago about the plan going forward, in my eyes, and my conclusion was that this team is going nowhere next year - too many holes to fill. Lowetide responded in his own post about the same subject that while in general agreement about the Oilers' situation, he felt that Lowe was going to try and use his plethora of picks and prospects to try and address as many problems as he could.

The response in the comments in my post below was pretty positive about the Oilers - a lot of ideas and a general feeling that the Oilers are not in as bad shape as I make them out to be.

So, lets put our positive hat on and see what we can come up with.

Need - Two more defencemen who can play top four minutes.

Solution - Well, first of all sign Hejda. That's simple enough. Secondly, there are two options. Go after a high end guy like Redden. Or failing that, a guy who falls into the midrange of guys. He has to be a puck mover though. If Nashville manages to sign Timmonen maybe they will make Zidlecky available? (Although I will be honest here - I have no idea if he fits into our needs - just a guy who I have heard may be on the block). As I said a few weeks back - I think bargains will be out there. Teams up against the cap. Teams that make deep runs in the playoffs who suddenly have to pay a bunch of guys a lot more money then they would have otherwise. Teams that fall out of the playoffs early and are looking to change their teams in a big way (Ottawa again?). Teams that are looking to dump salary because they want to take a run at a UFA or because they are bleeding money.

Players will be there. Hejda is going to cost nothing but a contract. Lowe has to try and acquire the second guy for as little as possible. I'm thinking a midlevel guy. Because:

Need: Scoring. With Smyth gone there has been a little bit of an issue with putting the puck in the net. One answer may lie within - your man Ales Hemsky.

This is his team now. And maybe, just maybe, what we have seen this past week might be a sign of things to come. With three goals in three games it looks like someone may have twigged to the fact that he is the man now and that its up to him to elevate his game.

I like Hemsky a lot and I think he understands what has to be done. If he can take that next step then suddenly the Oilers look a little better.

Put it this way - if Hemsky becomes the type of guy who can play tough minutes next year and produce while doing so then you have one less guy you need to hide.

Secondly - they need to pick up a left wing to take what was Smyth's spot. Who and how - I haven't the foggiest - but that's what they need. And taht's why I'm thinking a cheaper option then Redden on the backend.

Ideally their roster looks something like this:

94 (:))/10/83 -94 being Smyth's replacement - this line is your power v. power line as Dennis calls it - in the roadtrip before Smyth was traded he, Horcoff and Hemsky dominated the best other teams could send out against them.

18/16/28 - this is obviously dependent on Stoll's health and also whether or not he can play this role (tough minutes) - if Stoll is still out then they have to pick someone up to play this role.

14/78/34 - a line that did well together - Pisani seems to make everyone better. And once again a line that can take care of its own end and chip in some offence.

Now in this scenario you have three lines that can do a reasonable job in their own end. Offence will come from Hemsky's line with the other two chipping in.

And your fourth line is the one that take the really soft stuff and PP time as well - I'm thinking along the lines of Getzlaf and Perry two years back.

So there you have your Nilsson . Maybe Pouliot if you choose to bring Reasoner back for that line. Lupul if he still is sticking around.

You'd barely see them on the road though.

Need - cap room. You always need cap room. Trade Lupul. It will never happen. But trade him somewhere warm to a team that needs to reach that salary floor.

Need - puck movers on the back end - well, one of those is acquired for the top four. Gilbert is your second. Maybe Grebeshkov is in your third pair as well.

So here's my team. Its nothing like Lowe will put together but so it goes.

94/10/83
14/78/34
18/16/28
Nilsson/Reasoner/Brodziak

(with Nilsson to get PP time and Reasoner/Brodziak PK)

MysteryDman/21
25/24
29/Gilbert

I have JFJ, Storini and Grebeshkov filling out the roster with Roy your first callup from Springfield.

Gone: Lupul, Winchester, Greene, Smid, Sykora, Peterson

More likely I know is that Smid will be where Shaggy is and Toby will likely be back too but who knows?

Anyhow, is this a great team? No. But its the same team as the one that was in first place in December -just a deeper and better D. Counting on Moreau to be healthy, Thoresen and Stoll ot play some tougher minutes (and for Stoll to be healthy as well of course) and on Hemsky to raise his game. So maybe not so bad after all.

The key to me - not the fourth Dman - I think they can pick up one pretty easily (although that's what we thought last year too, eh?) but getting that man to play with 83 and 10. If they can do that then I think things may fall into place.

There - sunny again! :)

20 comments:

Lowetide said...

Great post BDHS. You and I seem to be riding the different crests of the wave lately lol (I just put up a downbeat post about "how many NHL players do the Oilers have for next year").

Oh well, we've got all summer. I like your ideas, but after watching Smid learn on the job am hopeful he steps up next year and plays with a veteran on the third pairing. They've invested a full season in the kid, no use stopping now.

Black Dog said...

Its funny - you take a step back and listen to a little bit of the dialogue going on and you realize that if they keep Hejda, add a fourth Dman and find a replacement for Smyth then its a team that was in first place and not every one of these guys can have an off year again next year, right?

Right?

And I don't think Smid or Lupul are going anywhere, partially out of politics. Although if Lowe had a killer deal and Smid was a part of it I would think he would make it.

Ideally Shaggy would be the # 5 next season but likely it will be Laddy's spot.

Chris said...

Yea, I agree Blackdog this team isn't as bad as it seems. The slew of injuries has resulted in a rather depressing showing that doesn't reflect on how this team would be performing with something resembling a healthy line up.

We need someone to step in on the first line at left wing - or we need to pick up a first line center and move Horcoff to left wing (he has a left handed shot). After that our forwards should likely be more productive than they were this year, barring injuries. It might be nice if we could pick up a second forward that could handle tough minutes but hopefully one that could score at a fairly decent clip.

Beyond that we need that First Pairing Defenseman to be Announced that we've been lacking. We definately need to resign Hejda as he's been a steady player for us and if the rest of the defense hadn't gone down faster than a porn video to injury he probably would have helped us along. I can't see Smid going anywhere, given that the team will want to see something as having come from the Pronger trade. He also hasn't been that bad. I'd suggest that MD - Hejda, Smith-Staois and Smid-Grebs/Gilbert with Grebs/Gilbert as the extra man probably winds up being out defense.

Not exactly a defensive group that will blow you away, but if you can shelter Grebs, Smid and Gilbert on the third pairing for a season or two while Staois and Smith still have gas in the tank we could have some players going forwards.

Kyle said...

Honestly, if the Oilers are looking for an impact player for the wing, I wouldn't worry about slotting that player in with Hemsky. The beauty thing about Hemsky is that he puts up points regardless of his linemates, but whoever gets slotted in on his LW always seems to have a sudden point increase. What I'm saying is, you can get some mediocre second liner (a Sykora type guy), put him with Hemsky, and he'll do fine.

It would be nice to see a second legitimate impact forward on that second line though, ala Huselius in Calgary.

LT is right though, this team needs to assess how many legit NHLers they can ice come September. Trades need to happen.

Gord said...

Let us be blunt here. We played with a defensive lemon (Bergeron) for most of the year. Now that he is gone, our team automatically improved.

As far as the rest of our NHL experienced defensemen goes – Tjarnqvist missed half the season, Staios missed more than a quarter of the season; Smith was the only healthy one…

Going into next season, Smid (the 20 year old rookie) has a full year under his belt; Hejda (years on international experience) only played 39 games this year but proved he is NHL ready.

Not sure if you noticed but Gilbert & Grebeshkov will both be 24 years old. Gilbert has already shown offensive flashes while Grebeshkov played in the NHL for two different teams before quarterbacking Lokomotiv’s power play. Grebeshkov also led the AHL defensemen in assists two years ago. These two youngsters will quarterback our PP next year.

Throw in Matt Greene as our 7th defenseman and we have Smith, Staios, Gilbert & Greene on the left plus Hejda, Smid & Grebeshkov on the right. This whole package will cost less than $11 million.

With an inexpensive (but healthy) defense, we can splurge on a high scoring forward...

Anonymous said...

BDHS "So here's my team. Its nothing like Lowe will put together but so it goes.

94/10/83
14/78/34
18/16/28
Nilsson/Reasoner/Brodziak

(with Nilsson to get PP time and Reasoner/Brodziak PK)

MysteryDman/21
25/24
29/Gilbert

I have JFJ, Storini and Grebeshkov filling out the roster with Roy your first callup from Springfield.

Gone: Lupul, Winchester, Greene, Smid, Sykora, Peterson"


I've tweaked my lines, again.

1)??UFA??-Horc-Hemmer
2)Torres-Stoll-Pisani
3)Moreau-Pouliot-Thoresen
4)Nilsson-Reasoner-Lupul (hide us!)

-Stortini, JFJ(plays the role of pest), Mikhnov (?).

The only question mark aside from getting a 1st liner is how the 4th line will hold up. The 2nd line will be solid defensively, and have the ability to score. 3rd line will able to play the hard minutes, and pitch in here and there with scoring.

I would be fine if we traded Lupul for a young warm body that has the ability to pot 20 goals and can play decent in his own end. In fact the more I look at our guys, I see no room for Lupul, considering he's Torres extra-lite. Lupul's becoming expensive, can't see him earning his 2.5M next season unless he gets at least 25 goals and 50 points, which seems unlikely seeing as how much he needs to be sheltered.

I heard somewhere that Mikhnov is doing well in the playoffs for Yaroslavl (sp?), is that true? We have Grebs coming over this season, so maybe Mikhnov will give it another go? We've got 3 Oilers on their team right now (counting ex-Oiler Ulanov).


Gord "Throw in Matt Greene as our 7th defenseman and we have Smith, Staios, Gilbert & Greene on the left plus Hejda, Smid & Grebeshkov on the right. This whole package will cost less than $11 million.

With an inexpensive (but healthy) defense, we can splurge on a high scoring forward..."


I agree Gord. If anything, these past 15 or so games have shown us that we don't have enough scoring. Our defense has played reasonably well all things considered. It was, and is, our lack of scoring that has been hurting us this past month or so.

A few weeks ago I was wondering if Greene was going to be re-signed, but he's picked it up these past two weeks. Aside from Smith, Greene's our only true stay at home D-man. I think we do need him. I buy into the idea that Greene can someday replace Smith (maybe not in leadership, but he's got all the physical tools).

-ChrissyT

Black Dog said...

chrissyt - well, Lupul is going nowhere, as much as we'd all like to see him go and if he were to be traded he would bring very little - likely a draft pick or a similar (underachieving, high priced) player in return; I think Lowe will hold onto him and hope he gets it together this summer and comes into camp prepared

As for the D - well I have to respectfully disagree with you and Gord - they need a guy to play top four with Smith, Staios and Hejda and he has to be a puck mover. He doesn't have to be Wade Redden but he has to be good.

Smid, Gilbert and Grebs as the bottom three. Ideally a vet like Shaggy would be there as well. If one of those three or Greene are in the top four then they can write off next season as well.

The forwards were brutal but when you're spending 3/4 of the game in your own zone and you're not getting the puck when you've got speed then you're not going to generate much.

I do agree that a first line forward is the priority but they have to spend some cash on the D as well.

Lowetide said...

The problem with this lineup for 07-08 is that it's not going to be very good no matter how you slice it. Let's take the defense out of it (the dip in quality from April to April is like watching WW2 footage there) and talk about the F's:

Smyth-gone
Stoll-injured
Samsanov-I don't think he made much of a difference but he wasn't Lupul either

Projecting a lineup for the fall is difficult because imo Kevin Lowe is about to make a 12 player deal (anyone remember the Lonsberry-Bernier trade? Bueller? Bueller?) and Joffrey Lupul ISN'T going to be part of it.

If I was drunk I'd laugh.

Black Dog said...

You're not drunk? What the hell kind of hell hole are you working in? What the hell?

Plus, Peca and Dvorak.

Agreed though - I think this will be a significantly different team in the fall.

Mr DeBakey said...

I keep fiddling with this, trying to balance off the various elements and stay in the $43mm range.
It boils down to:
They need 3 Forwards & 1 Veteran D
They have $10,000,000 to fill those 4 spots

They have for next season:
2 Left Wings, 4 Centers, 3 Right Wing, 2 Pressbox, 3 Veteran D, 3 Young D, 2 Goalies
I haven’t included Lupul, Greene, Sykora, Nilsson, Tjarnqvist.

Mix n match:
Lupul must stay? OK – then 2 F and 1D are needed with $7.7 to spend.
Kariya $5, Tjarnqvist $1.7, Nillson $1.0
Or
Phillips $4.25, Dvorak $1.2, Calder $2.2
Or go really cheap with the D, Pratt at .75 [he’s won two Cups] and spend $7 on two forwards
If Lupul’s gone, the choices become a lot more interesting

My favourite is a variation of a post on Lowetide [I think]
It had UFAs Hartnell, Calder & Fedotenko added as forwards.
Those three would deepen the Oil’s forwards a tonne.
And leave room for a $3mm-ish defenseman – Havelid, Boynton, Salei, Zidlicky obtained in trade.

Gord said...

black dog wrote: "As for the D - well I have to respectfully disagree with you and Gord - they need a guy to play top four with Smith, Staios and Hejda and he has to be a puck mover."
****

Is it just ChrissyT & I who are watching Gilbert play??? Gilbert is the guy to play top four with Smith, Staios & Hejda.

Gilbert played almost 30 minutes last game and almost 29 minutes two games before that. Every time he touches the puck, he knows what to do with it and always seems to do it. Gilbert has 4 assists in the last 5 games since he came back from injury - that is 4 assists out of the 10 goals scored.

Gilbert and Grebeshkov are not 20 year old rookies (i.e. Smid) - they are 24 years old; both have high offensive capabilities. Considering that Hejda, Smid & Gilbert just played their first NHL games this year on an injured team with no scoring forwards - get one explosive skater to get breakaways plus one pure goal scorer (and a healthy team) - we have absolutely nothing to worry about on defense...

Black Dog said...

I love Gilbert, Gord, I do - and your points about he and Grebeshkov are right on

But they'll still be rookies. And teams with a couple of rookie D in the mix don't generally find their way deep into the playoffs. As an example take a look at San Jose last year.

How about I put it this way - I would much prefer these guys in my 5/6 slots and another vet in the top four. If they are as good as you are thinking they will be next year then we have a six pack of Dmen who are more then capable. I'd rather they get some easier minutes as well.

We got burned this season trying to go way too young on the back end - I'd rather not see it happen again.

Gord said...

I do not disagree that in a perfect world - Gilbert, Grebeshkov & Smid would be 5/6/7 on the depth chart.

If "poaching Restricted Free Agents" was acceptable - I would look at Volchenkov from Ottawa who has is +37 since Ottawa has no cap room to compete. We could get him for about $2.2 million annually...

But if we shore up our defense with a #1 UFA defenseman ($4 million minimum) that would leave less money to sign the #1 forward we desperately need.

Given the choice, I'd prefer a Briere or Sakic over Preissing, Phillips or Rafalski - while we have a need on defense, we have a VOID up front.

Anonymous said...

I would honestly be happy with a defense like this next season(age/games played):

Staios(34/677)-Gilbert(24/12)
Smith(34/865)-Hejda(29/39)
Greene(24/105)-Smid(21/77)
Grebeshkov(24/0)

The idea being that the minutes can be more evenly distributed. Gator's good but drops off when he gets more than 22 minutes or so. Stevie will be even better with Gilbert, I think. He won't have to worry about Gilbert panicking and trying to get him the puck, like Smid did earlier this year. Greene and Smid will only get 18 minutes or so, although Greene is pretty good on the PK. Gilbert might get more than 22 minutes, but he'll get all the PP time out of that group, maybe Grebs, and occasionally Hejda, but I honestly see it working. The only raw rookie is Grebs, and he's playing in what some call the 2nd best league in the world.

I'm hoping Grebs turns out to be better than Hejda (which I assume he'll be). He could easily take top-pairing away from Gilbert if it all goes as planned.

All Lowe's effort needs to be on replacing Smyth. If he can reasonably do that, then spend the leftover money on D.

BDHS " But they'll still be rookies. And teams with a couple of rookie D in the mix don't generally find their way deep into the playoffs. As an example take a look at San Jose last year."

Yes, very true. But I think we'll just be looking to make the playoffs period. The top 9 teams in the West shouldn't be expected to have a huge letdown next season. Maybe Dallas and Detroit, but I said that this season too :)

Lowe probably knows that, which is why I have come to conclude it will be better in the long-run if Gilbert, Grebs, Smid, and Greene get all the experience they can. If we really are tooling up to win in 09 or 10, then we need to develop our own players, and these 4 inexperienced D-men are the best we've got now. Although I'm reading/hearing good things about Chorney and Petry (is it?). But they're at least 2 seasons away.

Gord "Given the choice, I'd prefer a Briere or Sakic over Preissing, Phillips or Rafalski - while we have a need on defense, we have a VOID up front."


I agree. Gord and I are on to something :)

-ChrissyT

Gord said...

ChrissyT & I agree so much that I'd start dating her if my wife wasn't the jealous type...... LOL

We agree except for "The only raw rookie is Grebs"... Because the following should be taken into consideration:

Denis Grebeshkov is 6-foot-1, 200-pound first-round draft pick of the Kings (18th overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

Grebeshkov led all AHL defensemen during the 2004-05 season with 44 assists. He had two goals and 25 assists in 48 AHL games for Manchester in 2005-06. He played in the AHL All-Star Classic in 2005 and 2006.

He played 4 games with Los Angeles in 2003-04 plus split 29 games between Los Angeles & the Islanders in 2005-06.

From: http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/9478 (March 4/2007)

After not being able to arrive at an agreement with the New York Islanders, now an Edmonton Oilers prospect Grebeshkov signed a deal with his Russian home club HC Lokomotiv. The young defenseman has consistently been one of the Russian club's top four defensemen, skating on a pairing with former Boston Bruins prospect and Olympic team member Sergei Zhukov. The club underachieved earlier in the season, but has picked up recently after the second coaching change, and Grebeshkov has become more aggressive and assertive in the latest games on both ends of the ice. His performance did not go unnoticed, and Grebeshkov represented Russia at the LG Sweden Games and delivered a spirited and strong performance. At the tournament, under an offensively-minded head coach, the New York Islanders prospect has become more willing to shoot the puck. He has also become more assertive at the boards, and defensively sounder, though still occasionally prone to an occasional turnover. Overall, Grebeshkov is an NHL-caliber defenseman who belongs back in North America next season.

Black Dog said...

Wait a second - you guys are in cahoots! ;)

Naw guys - sorry but if this team has either Gilbert or Grebs in their top four next season we're looking at finishing way down again. The RSL may be the second best in the world but Mikhnov is dominating there apparently. And Igor Ulanov is playing big minutes. In other words I would not expect Grebs to be lights out based on his play there.

I agree that they need help up front, big help, and they have to balance their cap room, but they need another top four Dman, I'd say. They have to put Gilbert and Grebs in a position to succeed and the best place for that is the bottom pairing.

I know what you're saying, believe me.

I wish I shared your enthusiasm for the kids on D (and I do think Gilbert has a bright future) but its pretty well been smashed out of me this season.

We'll have to agree to disagree and see what comes this summer.

Black Dog said...

gord - I will agree that his AHL numbers are impressive

but so are JF Jacques :)

I'd be happy with a guy who can play the PP and the third pairing - anything more will be a bonus -

Gord said...

I am not saying Grebeshkov is a #1 defenseman - I am saying that he is comfortable playing North American hockey plus has shown some offensive talent both in the AHL years ago plus in the recent Russian playoffs.

You noted that Mikhnov is dominating over there - Grebeshkov plays on that team.

The third piece of my Russian power play is supposedly a free agent - if he is available (and we sign him on a 3 year contract) will make our powerplay one of the top in the NHL - I'd invest $4 million a year if he is available...

http://www.eurohockey.net/players/show_player.cgi?serial=1545

Why can't we have Mikhnov on the left, Morozov on the right plus either Schremp or Nilsson in the middle? Put Gilbert on the left & Grebeshkov on the right - hmmmmmm......

Anonymous said...

BDHS "I agree that they need help up front, big help, and they have to balance their cap room, but they need another top four Dman, I'd say. They have to put Gilbert and Grebs in a position to succeed and the best place for that is the bottom pairing."

I think putting Gilbert or Grebs with Staios or Smith would be putting them in the position to succeed. IMO Gilbert would perform much better with Staios than Smid did this season. Gilbert 10 games into his NHL career looks very promising. He's easily our most offensive D-man, and doesn't make the mistakes of an MAB (plus he's like 6 inches taller). At this point he's better than Smid.

See the game tonight? Our D played good. Only 26 shots against and the Wild had 5 PPs I think. Yet again we failed to score, although Thor had a goal but the ref was superfast with the whistle :(

Young played 10:18, all ES. Syvret played 12:00 with 1 min PP time. Both were even. Smith played 17:39 ES and 5:31 SH and finished even, but was on for 2 PP goals. Greene played 16:06 ES, 5:46 SH, and got 1:25 on the PP. Finished -1, was on the ice for all 3 goals. Smid played 16:05 ES, 3:13 SH, and 2:42 on the PP, finished even and wasn't on the ice for any GA. Gilbert played 17:33 ES, 1:42 SH, and 3:13 on the PP. Finished -1, was the only goal he was on the ice for.

To be fair to Greene and Gilbert though, the ES goal was the result of a bad turnover by Torres. He was like inches from the blueline and instead of getting it out, he tried to pass it across the middle, it stayed in, eventually got rung around the boards by Greene (iirc), Torres missed chipping it out and Foster scored from the point.

That play and the Thor "goal" sum up our season in a nutshell.

Gord, I want Mikhnov to get another shot. Its his size that intrigues me. I mean if Mikhnov was given the Lupul treatment, I think he might just impress. He can't do that much worse, anyways. If we did sign Mikhnov, I wouldn't want to take a chance on Morozov too, especially at 4M, too much risk involved. Pens fans don't seem too impressed with him, but I'll definately check that link out.

-ChrissyT

Gord said...

About Morozov: http://www.eurohockey.net/players/show_player.cgi?serial=1545

Looking at the Pittsburgh statistics does not tell the whole story since Pittsburgh used to be a really, really bad team. However in 2001-02 he was 4th in scoring; 2002-03 he was 4th in scoring yet only played 27 games; 2003-04 he was 2nd in scoring.

After going back to Russia, he slowly improved over the next two years until last year when he got 13 goals & 13 assists in 13 playoff games. This season, he finished 18 points ahead of the next closest scorer in the regular season plus had 10 points in the 3 European Champions Cup games.

Not only does Morozov know how to play North American hockey but he is probably the most talented hockey player in the world not playing in the NHL.