OK so on to the blue. This was supposed to be a strength of this club but whether they are missing Charlie Huddy or they are not as good as we thought or if its a case of injuries and lost confidence, this group has not got it done. So, how do we fix it?
I didn't like the Souray signing but I have to admit its turned out better than I thought it would. He had a terrific year last year and .... oh well, low expectations, right?
Anyhow, the big guy is ready to go and it sounds like there is interest in him despite the remaining two years on his contract. If he had been moved last summer there might have been a nice return but his mediocre season has lessened his value. What will they get for him? Really its clearing the cap space that is important but what I'd like to see is an NHL ready prospect, preferably a forward, to fill a hole that the Oilers have. In other words a guy who they can slot into their top nine, a bigger kid, someone who may score a dozen but more importantly can PK, check, do the little things. Is that a reasonable return? Its definitely a need.
Strudwick, well he just has to go. Great guy and all blah blah blah etc. Ship him out already.
And Staios? Well his time has come as well and apparently there may be a market for him, even with the year left on his deal. Whether the rumours are true or not about the veterans on the Oilers being a big problem he has to go, if just to clear the cap space. I've always liked Staios but he's paid too much for what he does. Send him out. You'll get nothing for him but who gives a damn.
Your Mileage May Vary
Full disclosure, I've always been a Gilbert man, even when he has struggled I've been on his side. He's no thumper but he's a heady player, he can skate and he can move that puck. He's been a guy who's been playing tough competition on and off since the beginning when injuries forced MacT to put him in that role. And for the most part he has kept his head above water.
He's signed longterm to a good contract, he's the only defenceman on the club who has any sort of durability, he has played through injury (bad back last year) and illness (this fall) which makes me a little sour on the idea that this guy lacks toughness.
Plus he's a righty.
Now I'm not saying that the Oilers need to choose between Gilbert and Grebeshkov but with Visnovsky and then Chorney coming on I think that this club has enough guys who have the same skillset. To me there is no choice between the two, you go with Gilbert. If you feel otherwise then go for it but Grebeshkov's best work came paired with Lubo and away from him he has been nothing great, in my opinion.
If you can't do better than him then keep him. He's not terrible and he's certainly better than a lot of alternatives. Having said that due to his history (great w/ Lubo, not so much otherwise), his skillset (replicated) and the fact that he probably has some value I think he's a guy that you can move.
Lubo and Laddy
Lubo has struggled lately but other then Gagner the list of those who haven't is pretty short. When Lubo is on the ice things generally go the right way, indeed he outstrips everyone when it comes to generating scoring chances. And as an added bonus whoever is his partner generally looks like a worldbeater. Grebeshkov last year. Smid this year.
Can you say pump and dump?
Having said that I think that we can agree that Smid has improved from last season. When he's away from Lubo he's not great but he's not getting pulverized either. And paired with Lubo he has done a fine job. He has size and he still has some upside (he's still a kid) and he stays.
There's Chorney and there's Peckham and then you have Plante and Motin and Petry. Plante actually survived his first callup (he certainly looked better than Matt Greene did at the same stage of his career) pretty well and with the Swede and Peaches things certainly bode well for the blue in the future.
I think the Oilers have to start by picking up a Strudwick ++ this summer. Not a swingman, not a seventh Dman. A solid six is what they need. A vet who can kill penalties and clear the front of the net and hopefully make the first pass. This is the type of guy I think they can actually pick up as a UFA.
If you keep Grebs then you run:
X - Gilbert, Smid - Lubo, Grebs - this vet, Chorney or Peckham
If you do not keep Grebs then you're looking at the same except you're running Chorney or Peckham out in the third pair with your new vet. If either cannot do it then you grab someone off the waiver wire. I'd think that one of them can though, handle the soft stuff paired with a vet.
What about X though? Who is our mysterious Mr. X?
Searching for Nick Tortelli
The most discouraging thing for the Oilers is that Jan Hejda is the guy that they need. A guy who can play in the top pair, a defence first guy, a guy who doesn't make a lot of money. !!
Really this is job one for Oilers' management this season, imo. They have holes up front as well but I think you can pick up guys who can check, tough minute munchers. There were a few of these still available when camps opened this fall and I think that you can move a smurf with offensive upside or Grebeskov or even Souray for that type of player. But a defensive defenceman who can do the job for you?
A little tougher.
And lets be honest here, no guy of quality is signing in Edmonton this summer. Nobody wants to be part of an organization that is such a disaster.
So beat the bushes. I have no idea who is available. I have no idea who fits the mold. But X is the guy that they need and they need to figure out a way to get him. Remember my list of untouchables ( a very long list, yes)? Here is where you might need to dip into that list if you can get the right guy.