As the Oilers and Caps battle it out in The Doughty Bowl tonight, trading goals while Oilers D fall one by one (just turned on CHED and the first thing I hear "Another bad giveaway by Grebeshkov"), my thoughts turn to next year.
What, we don't have our first round pick this year? Wha!?
Interesting listening to MacT's pregame podcast where he confirms a couple of things for us dummies - they're going to play the kids and Dick Tarnstrom is going to be traded. Oh yeah and they're going to play the kids.
Now the Oilers have been hanging around and considering what MacT has had to work with its been a reasonable year. What is also becoming clearer is where things are going, meaning more of the same I would say. Lets take a look shall we?
Goal - Mathieu Garon is going to be given a chance to run with the starting job. If he can prove by this time next year that he can handle it then they will extend him as a starter. And with the Caps just scoring from behind the goalline you can see why Roloson is likely going nowhere, as much as Oiler fans would like Lowe to shed that contract. If this was the last year of his contract then some team would pick him up for insurance, sure, but nobody has the room to suck up 4 million of cap space next year for a backup goalie. I don't think Lowe is going to make any big moves this summer anyways. He has to sign Pitkanen and Gilbert but other then that there are no big raises to hand out. In other words they can eat Roli's contract for one more year. Maybe they waive him and give JDD a chance but he's on the books next year somehow.
D - The last two years have seen the Oilers shake things out and I really think this summer nothing is going on unless they have made decisions on Smid and Grebeshkov. There are no kids coming up from Springfield next fall. It will be the following season where we might see guys like Chorney or Peckham begin to make a push. So out of the nine Dmen who started the season we know that Tarnstrom is gone and Roy, as well as Rourke, are the injury callups. Pitkanen and Gilbert are the top pairing and having two guys under 25 to play that role - that's damn good and Lowe should be commended (although nobody expected this from Gilbert, lets be honest, certainly not this soon). Souray and Staios are the second pair and that's fine now. Greene is being groomed to move up the chart and replace Staios. So, its between Smid and Grebeshkov for that sixth spot and a future with the Oilers between now and April of 2009. Loser is gone and the winner might be too unless one of these two shows some bit of sense sometime soon.
Forwards - Here is where we may see some interesting battles next season. The Oilers presently have a pretty good number one line in Penner, Horcoff and Hemsky with the latter two justthisclose to being PPG producers and Penner exceeding expectations and looking really good. Then you have your old pros in Moreau and Pisani flanking Cogliano. Torres is going nowhere, even if they want to move him, until he shows he is recovered from his injury, just as Stoll was going nowhere last summer. As for Stoll, I think he returns. He may be tradebait soon but they have to make sure that they can extend Horcoff and that Cogliano and Gagner can play before they move one of their two guys who can play centre in the NHL (no offence to Marty Reasoner).
So as mentioned in my last post the Oilers need someone else to play in the top nine and here is where it gets interesting. Will it be Nilsson? Will it be Gagner? Will it be Rob Schremp, who I think has earned his shot for next season? Or will they go with the Anaheim model from a couple of years back, having two lines to grind it out, one big line and then a line with a couple of kids (a la Getzlaf and Perry) and a vet who get soft minutes and learn the ropes. It looks like Pouliot and Jacques have played themselves out of the organization. My guess is that Nilsson is running out of time.
I'm also thinking its going to be another long year next.