Monday, June 30, 2008

What, No Rabbits?

Considering what happened with Ryan Smyth these days are a little bittersweet for many but there is no denying that the acquisition of Visnovsky and the repeated talk of a veteran forward coming in has Oiler fans all atwitter like coeds at a pajama party.

Excuse me while I get a hold of myself, so to speak.

Anyways seeing as Lowe is going to dip into the free agent market or trade Joni Pitkanen for Hossa, Jagr, Havlat, Kovalchuk, Demitra, Spezza, Fisher and Vermette, Bouwmeester, Hull, Howe and Orr in their prime (total cap hit - 500 grand!), the ghost of Howie Morenz, Alaska, Louisiana, an original print of Citizen Kane, a copy of Ulysses signed by the author, Guinness for life, a trip to Bud Camp, the key to success, Paris Hilton's virginity, Natalie Portman's phone number, tigers, lions, elephants, buffaloes, donkeys, giraffes, octopuses, rhinoceroses, and moose, one wonders, what, no rabbits are available?

I can only imagine what happens when Lowe's acquisitions turn out to be Kyle Calder, Duvie Westcott and Ian White but for now we will dare to dream. The next twenty four hours or so will, as always, be insane.

Lets just hope that Kevin Lowe keeps his head whilst those around him lose theirs.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oh My


Well, didn't see that one coming.
Lubomir Visnovsky is a guy whose name was bandied about a year or so ago as someone who would fit nicely with the Oilers. And now he is an Oiler - so long Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene.
Quick look at Visnovsky - he is a good bet to stay healthy. A little bit of an offyear this past season but he was playing for a pretty poor Kings' team. Prior to last season he was a plus every season and put up some nice numbers - 58 points in 69 games two years ago, 67 points the year before that. Last season 44 points, half of that on the PP.
If I recall correctly he plays pretty tough minutes for the Kings.
He's a damn nice pickup, I would say, and here is the elusive quantity for quality deal we have been waiting for.
The big question is where does Lowe go from here. Here is the lineup up front presently:
27-10-83
89-13-12
14-78-34
18-51-46
No Glencross. No Reasoner. I would think Stoll being moved might be good news for Marty though.
At the back:
17 (Vishnovsky)-77
25-24
37-44
5
I think Joni is going going gone. I think that coming back is a top six forward or an experienced defenceman who can bring what Greene did (toughness/size/PK) but without the youthful mistakes or a young shutdown centre to play on that third line. If its option A then Cogliano is pegged as the third line centre. If its option B then I guess they go with Pouliot as the third line centre or they dip into the market for someone. If its C then its to the market for a veteran Dman to pick up the slack.
I liked Stoll and I liked Greene but I think this is a terrific trade. Even if it means Joni going I think that Vishnovsky is a proven player and that with him and the return from a Pitkanen trade this will be a better team next season.
Here is what Rudy Kelly at Battle of California thinks.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Madness

Souray giving McCarty a pounding.

Check out Mirtle's list of prominent UFAs and RFAs.

Pretty weak for the most part as teams sign their big names long before they hit the market, Vinny the latest to get the lifetime deal.

Coveted UFA (allegedly) Ryan Malone with two more points then Sam Gagner, this despite playing with Malkin or Crosby.

I'm reading Gare Joyce's book on scouting now; I believe LT did a post on it around Christmas. Really interesting stuff. Very early on he talks about Bonsignore and Ryan Smyth and the Oilers' thoughts when they drafted them and how one became a very good NHL player and the other ended up a total bust. One of the things that has struck me so far is a comment that the scouts' goal is to find a guy who can help their club win a Stanley Cup. Thats it. Of course this sounds quite obvious but I think its relevant to the foolishness that is going to happen on Canada Day.

A lot of happens on July 1st has nothing to do with accomplishing the goal of winning a Cup. Sometimes its PR plain and simple. Sometimes its a GM trying to save his job. Sometimes its just plain filler.

I think how a team behaves in the FA market, just as it does at the trade deadline, should be determined by context. At the trade deadline (or during the season) you shouldn't sell your future just to make the playoffs. The Oilers trading Brodziak, Pouliot and Chorney for Hossa and Dupuis would have been silly. They may have made the playoffs where they would have gotten waxed. Hossa would have left and the Oilers would have been short three young players who may have played a role three years down the road. On the other hand Pittsburgh making the move was a brilliant one, especially now as their roster looks to get ravaged. This seems like common sense but I think Don Waddell would be pretty happy to still have Coburn on his roster.

Presently the Oilers should be looking for filler, if they are looking for anything at all. Last summer they should have done the same. Signings like Garon, Tjarnqvist, Sykora - one or two year deals. That's all.

I can live with the Penner deal if he pots thirty a year for the next four years. Looking at this club the fact is there is weakness on the wing, especially LW, on the big club and on the farm. If this team is going to contend in 2009/2010 and in the following two years (this is the window I see) then Penner can play a role in that, I believe.

Which brings us back to Souray. Souray for two year or three years - filler until the kids matured - would have been ok. If you have the cap room and you want to blow it on Sheldon and that's not going to effect retaining other assets, then go to town. Waste of money, I think, but at least the contract is off the books quickly. Garth Snow has done a nice job keeping the Islanders competitive with this type of contract. Give a guy a good payout for a year or two and then let him move on when hopefully you have a young cheap alternative arriving from your farm syatem.

This is what worries me about the Oilers' new found wealth. Spending it on a five year contract for Mike Commodore or Ryan Malone isn't smart, not when you have guys who can match what they do for half the price. Bring in Mike Commodore to play second or third pair makes no sense when its going to cost 3M plus, likely, and you already have Gilbert, Staios and Greene. If you don't like Greene, fair enough, trade him but don't replace him with a guy making three times what you need to pay for a third pairing guy.

If I am Kevin Lowe I am trying to move Roloson and getting Horcoff to sign a contract like Langkow's. I am passing on Wade Redden, a second pairing Dman in a weaker conference. I'm passing on everyone.

I have Pitkanen and Grebeshkov on LD, two youngsters with a nice upside. I also have Smid and a bunch of other kids bubbling under, especially on the back end. Up front I am standing pat as well unless I have tagged Cogliano as my third line centre. If that is the role the organization sees for him then blow your brains out on a one or two year deal for Demitra or his equivalent.

Myself I would see if Nilsson, Cogliano and Gagner are the real deal. Personally I would give Pouilot a whirl as the third line pivot between Torres and Pisani. Of course that means Stoll is gone.

If Glencross goes then I bring in a tough guy to play some minutes on the fourth line when Moreau inevitably goes down.

Filler.

Nothing more.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stand Pat





The guy with the ball is Pat Gillick.

Gillick was the architect of the great Toronto ball teams that had a nice run from the early eighties until the early nineties, a team of kids that became a contender, had its share of disappointments and then finally won a couple of World Series in 1992 and 1993.

Gillick built through the draft, slowly but surely. So slowly and so surely in fact that he garnered the nickname "Stand Pat" from the Toronto media as his club fell short year after year from 1985 on and Gillick refrained from signing free agents or making big trades. His first foray into the free agent market for a closer (I believe this was before the 85 season) was a disaster as Bill Caudill was ineffective and then ended up injured. His replacement, a homegrown solution, Tom Henke, would end up being an effective major league closer for a decade, most of that with the Jays.

Now, not sure if Gillick was once bitten, twice shy but it wasn't until the late 80s when it became clear that the team that he had assembled didn't "have it" that he began to make some moves. And what great moves they were. First he traded homegrown stars Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter in a move that changed the franchise - Alomar was the best player to ever put on a Jays' uniform. He added Devon White, a noted malcontent before and after his time with the Jays but a guy who flourished under Cito Gaston. (Gaston never ever got the recognition he deserved for those clubs - guy is a terrific manager) Then he picked up hired guns Dave Winfield and David Cone in 1992 and Paul Moiltor and Dave Stewart in 1993.

Two championships resulted.

This summer it looks like Kevin Lowe will be standing pat and if he does so, that's alright with me. The UFA market is a mug's game for the most part. Its rare that any of the high end guys outperform their contracts. Years from now the Rangers and Flyers are going to be shackled by the contracts they gave to Drury and Gomez and Briere and Timmonen, nice players all in their own way but not worth the cash or term they received. Already the Flyers had to move a nice young player in Umberger and rumour has it that they will move someone else and they still need to address their back end.

If you can get your low cost guys and find a gem (Garon, Tjarnqvist, Hejda for the Jackets, Dan Cleary, Dallas Drake) then you can impact your roster in a positive way. Same if you can get a guy for a year or two - like Guerin in New York, Sykora in his last two contracts, Sundin wherever he goes this year - but giving Malone a seven year deal for 6M per, which is what he will get from someone, leaves you like the Leafs. Dead money from guys you have to buy out. Dead money from the guys you cannot buy out.

Presently the Oilers are the Jays of the early 80s. Adding another Souray is going to hamper this team when they are the Jays of the late 80s and they need to acquire a player or two to augment what hopefully will be a nice core. At that point hopefully Lowe will take a page from Bob Gainey's book and pick up a veteran or two with a year or two left on a contract to beef up his roster and take a run of it.

Mike Peca on a four year deal moping through the regular season would have been a disaster. Mike Peca with a year left on his deal was a beauty for what he added in the playoffs, even though his regular season was lousy.

As little dead money on that roster as possible please. Giving Pavel Demitra two years might work. Giving Pavel Demitra five years means in three years you're trading Chorney or Grebeshkov or Cogliano or some kid who needs to get paid.
Oh and Rachel McAdams? Just because its summer.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Learning To Love Porridge



Draft weekend goes by, mostly with a whimper from our point of view. As LT says the Oilers are (remain) porridge.

Coming out of the lockout and right up until June 19th 2006 the Oilers had their identity. Even the big money guys they picked up, Pronger and Peca, fit in with the post dynastic Oilers' ethos, the hard working (well maybe not Peca during the season, yeah), solid, willing to get your hands dirty, hard driving team symbolized by Smyth and Smith. Always underdogs, usually driven by a bunch of hardworking kids making relatively little money, these, ladies and gentlemen, were your Edmonton Oilers.

The team coming out of the lockout almost redeemed all of those long years of falling short of the playoffs, losing to Dallas, just not having enough to get there. Some would say that that team, despite falling short, did do just that. What a beauty team. Things looked great for the future of the franchise.

Then the wheels came off. Pronger asked to be traded and the centrepiece of the return was a disaster. Laddy Smid and the kids in the system may someday make Lowe look good but the removal of Pronger set the team into a tailspin that they only began to emerge from in February. Lowe jumped back and forth with no apparent plan in place. 2006/2007 lacked D from the get go and the vaunted offence never got off the ground as players underachieved right across the board. Injuries derailed some players, in Stoll's case, maybe permanently. Even the rare good move, trading for an unknown Czech defenceman, Jan Hejda, unravelled when they let him get away last summer for nothing. Hejda is now signed long term in Columbus, playing top two minutes, coming out on top in that situation, and doing so on the cheap. Having that type of guy on your roster (like Garon last year) is golden. A guy who can play those type of minutes for relatively nothing leaves cash open elsewhere. Some people think that the Hejda issue is a bit of a joke, not worth mentioning. To me that loss was one of the worst mistakes of an organization that was paralyzed and clueless after Pronger's departure.

The trade of Ryan Smyth for prospects and a pick signified the end of the old Oilers and that the Oilers were truly rebuilding. Last summer they had a nice draft and picked up another nice piece in Pitkanen, moving Jason Smith and Lupul to get him. The jury remains out on Joni but Lowe showed that if he knows one thing its when to pull the trigger on a declining Dman. Smith has gone from being a top two Dman on a SCF team to struggling playing second pairing minutes for Philly in the playoffs. That move and the one for Grebeshkov made it look like maybe Lowe had his mojo back.

And then came Souray and Penner. Penner is still to be evaluated. The Oilers' surge meant the Ducks stayed out of the lottery but Penner's cost left the Oilers rather quiet on draft day. I think that Penner may still work out. If he scores thirty a year for the duration of the contract it may be a winner. Look at what Ryan Malone looks to be in line for.

I was onside with the Smyth trade because paying an over thirty guy a ton of cash doesn't strike me as particularly bright. The Oilers then paid an inferior player to Smyth with a terrible injury history the big money. PR move or not, it remains a stupid move. Jan Hejda isn't going to put up the PP numbers but he's a better Dman at a fraction of the cost. Oh well. Spilled milk, right? The Leafs have nearly a half dozen Sourays.

Anyhow, this leadup brings us to where we are now, which is ten years ago, really. I think the Oilers may be in the lower end of the playoff mix this year. They may make it, they may fall short. The good thing is that Lowe sounds like he is not diving into the shallow UFA pool this year and it appears like he is not moving Pitkanen. I am happy that he didn't dump a good cheap player like Pouliot or Brodziak for a pick. The fact that Camallerri and Tanguay were had for so little is a bit frustrating but imo the Oilers have their top six already. Lets see if Gagner, Nilsson and Cogliano have it in them to beat up on soft opp over a full year. Why move one of them for a five million dollar player who will be gone in two years?

There is still a logjam in the bottom six although Jacques' surgery and the resolution of Glencross' status in ten days will begin to make this clearer. With Pouliot staying I would say that out fourth line will have him as the centre between Brodziak and Glencross or Moreau.

I also wonder if Marty's days are done.

We're porridge - the last two summers made the Oilers that. But out of the porridge we're seeing the team emerge. Young, fast, skilled. Eberle ( a terrific pick I think) fits in with Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Hemsky, Horcoff, Brodziak, Pouliot, Gilbert, Grebeskov, Pitkanen, Smid and the raft of prospects coming up - Nash, Peckham, Petry, Chorney, Wild and so on.

There remain a lot of holes and another pick or two would have been nice but I am happy with this team. The Oilers are building. Trading picks and prospects for grinders is not the way to build. Doing it from within is the way to go.

I think in two years we'll see this start to pay off.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How I Learned To Appreciate Draught, Er, The Draft



If you frequent the Oilogosphere then you have seen the work that LT has done this week leading up to the draft. He is truly a machine when it comes to this stuff and he has all you need to know, including some terrific links, if you are interested in the goings on tomorrow night.
I used to be a bigger draft guy then I am now; kids and work have made perusing draft previews secondary to having a pint at my local whenever I have free time. Last year I was up in Goulais for a reunion and didn't even know the draft started on the Friday night. Returned to where we were staying good and drunk (we McLeans know the importance of throwing a party) and said Gagner over Jakub? WTF!? And who is this Nash kid?
This year, however, I am going to probably be in front of the TV checking it out. The success of the Wings has convinced me that the Oilers have to make hay this weekend and likely in each draft over the next four or five years if they want to join Detroit as a leading franchise in this league. Someone heard an interview with a Red Wing exec (might have been Jim Nill) and posted some of the comments earlier this week - I think it was a thread on LT's site. Nill or whoever it was stated that their goal was to have two NHL players coming out of every draft. If they have that success rate then they will be a winning franchise. Checking out the Wings' enviable draft record you can see that they are second to none and that is why they have been on such an extraordinary run.
For perspective take a look at YKOils unbelievable work on the Oilers' draft history. In their first three drafts the Oilers picked Messier, Lowe, Anderson (out of six total picks in 1979!), Coffey, Kurri, Moog and Walt Poddubny in 1980 and Fuhr, Steve Smith and Mark Habscheid in 1981. I believe LT referred to this run as out and out buggery of the remainder of the league.
Then check out the shit that passed for drafts in the following decade. It was that bad and there were a lot of mediocre years in the 90s as well. This team struggled financially but in a lot of ways they had nobody to blame but themselves for the franchise's fall from grace.
Since 2000 things have gotten better, a lot better. 2001 brought Hemsky and Jussi. 2002 had Stoll, Greene and one more who might still make it in Deslauriers. 2003 has Brodziak, Stortini, Pouliot, Roy, Jacques, Hrabel and McDonald. No stars and the last three may not make it (although I think Hrabel may be this year's surprise out of camp) but there are at least four NHL players here. Nobody has made it from 2004 yet but there are Schremp, Reddox and Dubnyk as well as a couple of possible dark horses.
Now here is where I start to get an exceptional boner. 2005 includes Cogliano (45 points as a rookie), Chorney, Jean Vande Velde and Truhkno. 2006 has Petry, Wild, Peckham and Pitton (out of only five picks) and 2007 has Gagner as well as Plante and Nash.
Now, a lot of these guys who are still prospects are never going to make it but the arrows for many of them are pointing in the right direction and as a result the same can be said for the franchise. There is a lot of skill and a lot of guys are starting to come out of later rounds. This bodes well for the club.
So what can we expect this year? Well there will be some action but not as much as the hype machine leads us to believe. The draft is deep and I think the Oilers are going to get a very good prospect at 22. I don't see them trading up really.
I could see them dropping down a couple of spots in order to garner a later pick. I could see a vet or two get moved (Stoll, Torres, Smid, Greene??) as they try to get more picks. Remember the goal - two players at least. Presently they haven't a second or a third rounder.
Tom Benjamin, who does terrific work, has said that since the lockout the draft has become less important. I see his point but I believe the opposite to be true. As a franchise you need a stream of cheap young players coming in constantly to take over as you move veterans along. The arrival of Gagner, Cogliano, Pouliot and Brodziak means that Marty Reasoner will likely be out of a job and Jarret Stoll's days may be numbered unless he gets it together. I like both of those players and I recognize that they, as veterans, can do things that the kids cannot do as of yet but three years from now when the Oilers are hopefully contenders once again I'm thinking a 26 year old Marc Pouliot as my fourth line centre might be a better bet then Marty Reasoner. Using a sledgehammer to kill that mosquito here I know with that example but I think its a moot point anyways. Draft schmaft gets you the Leafs. The Oilers do not want to be the Leafs.
The Oilers' drafting has become quite good. If it continues to do so then this team is going to be in the upper echelon of the league very soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Anderson


The Oilers won all of their Cups when I was between the ages of 16 and 22. I remember watching the clinching game of their first Cup up at our camp on the smallest TV ever. My Dad had this little black and white running off of a car battery. The screen was not much bigger then a postcard, seriously. My Mom is into gadgets and I would bet that at the time this TV would have been state of the art, sort of a precursor to the portabl;e DVD players you see today. So I saw that first championship win in miniature. I remember being happy. Despite being a Chicago fan I liked the Oilers and their youthful elan, especially when contrasting them with the grizzled Islanders.
Let me tell you something about those teams and the talent assembled - at the time Glenn Anderson didn't take a backseat to anybody but Gretzky. What I mean is this - you had Gretzky whose genius was acknowledged (remember these are the years when he was scoring 200 points) and then you had the stars - the sneering bullish Messier, the calm sniper Kurri, the smooth Coffey (greatest skater I have ever seen), the cool and athletic Fuhr and the mercurial explosive Anderson. Then you had the supporting cast - the steady Dmen Lowe and Huddy, the chattering Finn Tikkanen and so on.
My point - a simple one. Anderson did not take a back seat to any of the other stars because he was one with them. This guy was arguably the most dangerous individual Oiler - out of nothing he could explode past the D and score. He didn't score his goals tipping in point shots, knocking in Messier's rebounds or getting Gretzky to bank shots off of him. He created a lot of his own offence from nothing.
A great great player. In an elite HHOF which is often discussed at LT's site, he likely does not get in but there are plenty of present members who do not. In this HHOF he should be a lock. One of the great players in the game for over a decade and six Cups, five which he was a big big part of winning. For anyone who watched hockey in the eighties and early nineties the answer is a simple one. Glenn Anderson belongs in the Hall.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How Rumours Get Started


Lowetide is at it, as always, as he ponders the Oilers' stated goal to find a top three forward.
So lets talk about the Pittsburgh Penguins who are several ways fucked. It appears that Malkin is about to sign a longterm deal with the Pens which means that Pittsburgh is going to have a pile of money tied up in two excellent young centres for many years. This is good news. The bad news is that amongst their free agents are Hossa, Malone and Orpik and down the road you can bet that Fleury is going to get paid as well. One other guy who needs to get paid - Jordan Staal, a kid who scored twenty nine goals as an eighteen year old rookie. He also plays centre.
The kid is a player. My guess is his idea of a career is not going to be playing whatever minutes are left over after Crosby and Malkin get off the ice, killing penalties and scoring a goal here and there.
And Pittsburgh doesn't want to be the Lightning.
Bear with me here. The Penguins are going to get butchered this summer. If they don't keep two of their three big UFAs they are going to have some pretty big holes to fill. Orpik played with Gonchar on their top pair. Hossa and Malone are two of their best five forwards.
Now, if I am Kevin Lowe I am calling Shero and offering a solution - some cheap young talent for Jordan Staal. If it comes down to Crosby, Malkin or Staal which one is going to get dumped? Does Shero want to risk an RFA sheet next summer? Or does he maximize the trade value of a terrific young player who plays a position which is already full?
He can pick up someone to kill penalties and play tough opposition either through trade or with a clever UFA buy. He can get a young winger under contract who can play with Crosby or a collection of prospects/young players. The Oilers have plenty.
It would have to be a killer package, not Matt Greene and Rob Schremp. We're talking a collection of players - damned if I know what would get Staal, I would say a couple of Cogliano, Nilsson, Stoll, Grebeskov, Smid plus a very good prospect or pick or a role player like Pouliot or Brodziak.
So then you have your forwards looking like this (lets say the package centres around Cogliano):
Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky
Gagner-Staal-Nilsson
Torres-Stoll-Pisani
Moreau-Pouliot-Brodziak
Am I dreaming in technicolour?
- Pens have tons of money wrapped up in two guys playing Staal's position
- Paying a bottom six guy a ton of cash makes little sense; heck the Oilers pay a bunch of them ~2 and it drives us all nuts
- The Pens need the space to sign Fleury and to try and keep at least one, if not two of their UFAs
- this is a team that needs the quantity of young cheap assets in return for the quality
- the Pens could be the class of the East for a while or they could be Tampa - if they turn Staal into three NHL players, use the money saved on him wisely and find a good cheap vet (or another kid) to play that three hole behind Malkin and Crosby, then they are looking a lot better, imo
As LT would say - yes, no, take a nap?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Planning To Beat Detroit


A lot of scuttlebutt arising out of Brownlee's post at Oilers' Nation the other day which surmises that the Oilers are indeed looking to do quantity for quality and that Lowe's target has gone from a top six forward to a top three forward.
Top six forwards, which the Oilers allegedly need, range from Crosby and Zetterberg to Nagy and Jason Blake, so in other words the Oilers could be giving up every kid on the roster or they could be taking a kid from the Leafs to make the Blake contract a reasonable one to take on. (btw - the Leafs have no kid who would make that happen)
Now, Jason Spezza is an attractive player, an elite offensive player at a very young age and, if the Sens are dangling him then the Oilers should find out what they want for him. Truth is though that even with the rumours about Spezza being part of the Emery crowd on that club I can't see the Sens moving him. They just signed him to a longterm deal - is it probable that they soured on him that quickly? Unless they are going to blow it all up, which would mean moving Alfredsson as well, then moving Spezza makes no sense. And if they are blowing it up then you had better start with Pitkanen and Gagner or Cogliano as your starting point for a deal. Top ten offensive players under the age of twenty five don't fall off trees.
Your second tier guy would be a guy like Carter. Once again though the Stoll, Greene and Schremp deal likely won't get this done. One possibility though - a collection of prospects plus maybe Grebeshkov. The Flyers are a mess on the back end.
Personally I think the plan is to drop Cogliano to the third line and that Stoll will be moved. I think that they do sign Horcoff because he was on track for thirty plus goals last year and he can play both ways and he can win draws and he is great on the PK. Is he Zetterberg, Crosby or Malkin? No. But he is a better player then say, Oli Jokinen, whose failure to score an ES goal in 19 straight games during the spring caused Jack Martin to call him out. Jokinen is on his way out but if Gagner is the guy who is going to be your scorer down the road why bring in another guy cut from the same cloth?
I think the Oilers are looking at 2010-2012 as the years they contend. Moving one of three young defencemen who can possibly play top four minutes doesn't make sense to me when that window is not here yet. I've said it before and I will say it again. Next summer they sign one of Pitkanen or Grebeshkov longterm and move the other.
Maybe they bring in a Sykora type for this year but imo that makes no sense unless they move Cogliano as mentioned before.
Here's the deal - remember Detroit and their contracts. No underperformers, plenty of overperformers. Last season the Oilers had plenty of the former. Talking about negotiations with Glencross Olyzyk says they don't need a guy making big money in their bottom six. No kidding, they already have four.
So here is the plan:
- keep Pitkanen and Grebeshkov and evaluate them, when all is said and done sign one longterm and move the other
- evaluate Garon and sign him if he passes the test; its becoming clearer and clearer that an elite goaltender is not necessary to win the Cup
- sign Horcoff; his skillset is one that is tough to find, replacing him with a kid scorer means you have three kids down the middle
- is Cogliano the second or third line centre? I would play him on the second line and see if he has what it takes, then you can let Stoll try and recapture some of his lost magic
- begin to move the bad contracts - Moreau? Roloson?
- position yourself to move Souray, paying a guy that coin is ridiculous
That's a start. Its pointing towards 2009/2010. This year try and compete for a playoff spot. Unless a Pronger type deal comes available again then see what you have and make the moves next offseason.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Beat Detroit


Lowetide has a great post about Dan Cleary and his journey to Wednesday night's Cup win. Last week I was rereading Bill Boyd's Hockey Towns, which is a nice read if you can pick it up. In the book Boyd travels around Canada, talking hockey with scouts, players, ex NHLers, management of local teams and so on. A lot of great stories. One of the first chapters finds him in Peterborough where he watches the Petes play the Belleville Bulls.
Belleville's Daniel Cleary, a Newfoundlander, and highly thought of, disappointed Barrie and the other scouts tonight. "They say he came to camp fat and out of shape," Barrie says, "and he still shows it ... I can't understand a kid doing that. I wonder if they realize it's such a fine line between making the NHL and not. You won't always have your best game, but you've got to work hard out there, work hard every night. If not, you'll spend your career, if you have one at all, in the minors."
After the Cup had been awarded Cleary was being interviewed and referred to the fact that he came out of the lockout without a job, his career on the brink. If you remember back to April 2006 he played against the Oilers on the fourth line with Franzen and Maltby. Two years later he is a Cup champion, has two straight twenty goal seasons and a five year contract.
Detroit always had the money before the lockout but unlike the Leafs and Rangers, for example, they had the smarts too. Their drafts in the late eighties and early nineties laid the foundation for what is now a sixteen year run of excellent results. The money allowed them to keep their homegrown talent (if Lidstrom had been drafted by the Oilers he would have been long gone) and to sign those who they traded their young players for, for example Chelios and Shanahan. But it was the smarts that put together an organization that is second to none in terms of drafting and player development. Of the twenty players who were in Game six, plus Chelios and McCarty, fourteen were drafted by the Wings. Throw in Cleary, Samuelsson, Draper and Maltby as guys who were not highly sought after (you could likely add Osgood, McCarty and Drake in there as Wings' picks who were brought back). Who is left? Deadline pickup Stuart, oldsters Chelios and Hasek and one big UFA signing, Brian Rafalski.
The Wings have only Stuart as a guy who they might miss who will be a UFA this summer and Filppula as an important RFA. They have tons of cap room and plenty of young players on their way up. Next summer they will have to worry about Zetterberg and Franzen. Any doubts that Zetterberg will be signed by Labour Day?
Really until Lidstrom retires can anyone see this team fading? Even then? They don't win every year but in the last six seasons they have won the Cup twice and the Western representative in the Final has beaten them to get there. Last year they almost beat the Ducks despite losing two of their best three defencemen.
They don't win every year but this is the team to emulate. Excellent drafting and player development ensures a pipeline of good young, cheap talent, which is necessary these days. Success year after year makes your franchise a desired destination for free agents and means you can get players to take the discount.
Quick, is there anyone on the Wings who is overpaid? Is there anyone who they don't get value for? Maybe Hasek but he had good numbers and his contract is up anyways.
How about guys who are underpaid? Guys who outperformed their contracts? Osgood, Kronvall, Lidstrom (seriously), Zetterberg, Holmstrom, Draper, Cleary, Franzen, Drake, Samuellsson, Hudler, Filppula ... am I missing anyone?
That's how you build a winner.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Mental



Went on a field trip as a chaperone for my four year old's kindergarten class. Over forty little kids going to the farms and of course as anyone who has kids knows at that age they are mental. Completely nuts. It was fun, completely chaotic and weird, but it did go really well until they butchered the steer.
Speaking of weirdos, did you know that I actually have a super power? Seriously. I can find stuff. The boy is looking for a potato chip he lost a few days ago. I can track it down. Immediately. Its like I have a sixth sense or something. Not sure how I can incorporate this into a tight pleather costume so I can fight crime but I'll figure something out.
And finally, how awful must it have been for Wings' fans Monday night. Thirty five seconds away from the Cup and then ...BOOM. The saving graces - they have two more shots at it and they won it recently. Don't get me wrong, if they lose tonight and again on Saturday that will be a moment they agonize over forever but imagine if the same scenario had played itself out when the Canucks were pressing at the end of G7 in 1994. Then you can really talk about curses. At least they are not trying to break fifty years of frustration. Still, thirty five seconds....
When freaky Maxime Talbot came into the picture as the sixth attacker I scratched my head. Turns out he had not been used in that role all year. Imagine that. Crazy stuff.
A game seven would be a lot of fun but I think the Wings finish it tonight. They have nobody to blame but themselves for G5. A poor first period and they could have been down three or four really. I think they come out and do the Pens in right away tonight.
Worrisome if you are a Wings' fan? I might bet on Fleury over Osgood in G7 and Malkin finally showed some life in G5. If he were to finally wake up and help out Crosby and Hossa things might get interesting.
I don't think so though.