Sunday, July 24, 2005

If I was Kevin Lowe...

... I'd be all like, "I'm dizzy. Why won't the world stop whirling past my eyes like some carousel of broken dreams? and why won't anyone help me?" And then I'd pat Kevin Pendergast on the back one more time and tell him to go out and decide which late-round-projected Finnish centre we should be wasting our first pick on. Sorry if I've been hammering the "Oilers draft terribly" point home a little too often lately, but seriously. Fuck.

Anyhow, yeah, I have to agree with Collin's comment to the previous post; that list is pretty fucking slim on players worth the kind of money they'll be looking for. But then again, the Oilers are a weak, desperate team, so it'll be interesting to see who they go for.

If you'll indulge me in some harmless speculation, if I was shopping for the Oilers, right off the bat I'd get the notion of picking up a first-line centre out of my head. We can't afford one, folks, pure and simple. Jason Allison? Ha. Doug Weight (if he gets bought out, which at $8 million in St. Louis seems entirely possible)? Super-ha. Hell, even dark horses like Cory Stillman (who by no means is guaranteed to repeat his 2003 numbers) and the likes of Joe Nieuwendyk are out of our league here. No, chances are we'll be looking for bodies in the $3 to $4 million range, and we still need a centre in a big way--as such, I'd be leaning towards either the chronically undervalued Greg Johnson or the extremely consistent but Marchant-esque Andrei Nikolishin for a second-line centre position, both of whom could probably be had for $3-3.5 million apiece. Hate to say it, but teams like us have to develop number-one centres, not buy them, and guys of these calibre at least strengthen the core long enough for a team to try and do so.

If there's money left over for a second forward, well shit, let's face it: we need a scoring winger, badly. And no, I don't care about how responsible their defensive play is, or whether or not they can grind it out on the boards--I want pucks in nets on a consistent basis. But, once again, who can we actually afford? While I'd love to watch Zigmund Palffy or Martin Straka bemusedly looking over his shoulder and wondering why the fuck his line can't keep up and laughing audibly at Shawn Horcoff's setup attempts, realism dictates we'll never see a player of that calibre in a home-team jersey this far north. If this was bizarro world and I didn't feel like a totally pathetic hopeful just uttering it, I think the Oilers should at least make a run for Martin St. Louis, the most skilled player on the list who would most easily fit into the team system, but yeah. Personally, I think the Oilers should seriously consider offering Valeri Bure a one-year contract just to see what happens. He has a strong skill-set (but not so strong that he'd cost more than $4 million in a new league) and I think people have forgotten what a consistent scorer the guy actually is.

Other than Bure, though, everyone else is woefully out of our league. Although, I could totally see Lowe giving Amonte a second lease on life. Would it work? Probably not. But that's what we do--right, Pat Falloon, Jiri Dopita, Adam Oates and company? Damn straight.

Finally, a defenceman. Since it's universally agreed upon that trading away Janne Niinimaa was one of the dumbest things the Oilers have done in the past few seasons, a responsible, puck-moving d-man who can quarterback a powerplay and put the puck on net from the blue line is sorely needed on the Oilers roster. Unfortunately, every other time in the NHL is usually looking for a guy with this package as well, and, again, our coffers won't allow a spending spree in this field either. Worst yet, though, the list of available players sucks. Brian Leetch? Chris Chelios? Scott Stevens? Don Sweeney? These guys are done (and considering the guy barely managed to keep his brain descrambled long enough to play 38 games in the last season, it's amazing that Stevens is even considered available at all). It's all about slim pickins here, but if I was looking for another $3-4 million, short-contract guy, I'd be trying really hard for Brian Rafalski or Teppo Numminen. Chances are they'll get better deals from other teams, though, so realistically I could see us going for a 30-pointer like Alexander Khavanov.

All this said, I predict that, instead, Lowe is simply going to blow $5 million realizing his "dream" of having Eric Lindros in an Oilers jersey, and then be forced to scramble for a skilled but lazy forward like Jan Hlavac or Andrew Brunette. Then he'll forget what he was doing and not bother looking for a defenceman or a goaltender. (Not that I think the Oilers need a goalie that badly, honestly; and who would we want/be able to afford on the list anyhow? Sorry Collin, but Snow is terrible.)



mike w said...

I'm not sure if you guys read this interesting bit from the SUN:

"With just under $13 million committed to a dozen players, Lowe will have room to move on unrestricted free agents - even after working out deals with the likes of Ryan Smyth, Eric Brewer and Mike York.
"'We'll have every opportunity to compete for the $7.8-million player,' Nichols said, talking about the maximum salary under the cap."

Incredibly, and against everything that the Oilers have said about being a small market team, we have a Cal Nichols quote about buying an $7 million player and spending near the cap. I still don't think of Edmonton as Big Market (suddenly under the new CBA 9 million extra the Rangers will spend means a lot), but it would make sense to capitalize on the big free agent pool since they're in good shape with what they have signed, especially with players salaries being artificially depressed by this rollback. The dark side of this new CBA is that as league revenues go up, so does the salary cap (because of linkage), so if the NHL ever does get a decent TV deal you'd have to wonder what the minimum/maximum salary might be in 5 years.

Anyway, the Oilers could get whoever they wanted really, but he'd have to be worth it. Word is hockey dinosaur Gary Roberts already has interest from Ottawa, Carolina, Florida and Anaheim, so you can't imagine he'd be worth it for what he'll sign. That's the problem with "the level palying field": 16 teams will be bidding when their used to be 3-4, so you have to be pretty sure your guy is going to help the team.

Scott Niedermayer would be my first pick, although we'd have to pay through the ass to get him. Again, I see the Oilers getting a good player but maybe not the biggest name. Almost EVERYONE will be looking for the big players. Gonchar seems like a good idea.

IF the Oilers are serious about signing a big name, which I think they aren't, then they would have to try to get a Modano or a Forsberg (I know it sounds crazy): The traditional, big spenders are somehwat hampered by buyouts and salary being tied up with newly overpaid players. What I think is likely is that Pavol Demitra becomes the new first line centre, maybe Zhamnov, maybe Allison at a reasonable price.

There's also a lot to be said for trading for a restricted free agent since we have a lot of good guys that are CHEAP. But it would also make sense to get a one-year solution for first line centre and wait until next year's crop of much better free agents.

collin said...

Zow Mike,
Jim Matheson has Demitra tops the Oilers list, but also mentions Tom Poti and Todd Marchant. Which is nothing short of baffling.
I'd be flabergasted if the Oilers master plan was a return to the 2001 lineup that missed the playoffs with 82 points, especially with two players who were eaten alive by the fans. Do the Oilers really need another mid-range two-way forward to step up and become team MVP?
Not in the new Space-NHL!

They need a "name" and he needs to be a European forward. As a European, his only job will be to score, period. Not check, not fight, not backcheck, nothing but fill the net.
Fans in Eddy expect every North American player to be a Cam-Neely-type, especially if he's undersized, like 3/4ths of the Oilers.

As for my earlier picks (Snow, Ozolinsh, Lapointe), I pretty much picked the most underwhelming trio I could think of, then assumed the Oilers would rupture a boner while gushing about them. Sarcasm doesn't come across while typing.

I guess I'm wondering if the Oilers can think big enough to really capitalize on the free agent bonanza. You have to be thinking well ahead during a market correction.

Defenceman? I don't know, Pronger. The line is that they need a puck carrying defenceman, but I think what they really need is a d-man who can finish offensively. They don't need another set up guy. Eric Brewer, I'm looking at you.

Also, the club shouldn't recycle. Poti, Gelinas, Allison, Guerin, Weight, Joseph, have baggage, and their return would make the last ten years seem much more pitiful.
Likewise Messier - unless it's a 23-game contract for the league minimum. Bring Gordie Howe in, raise a banner, then Moose retires on December 25th.


Dave (Berry) said...

I have to say, I agree with Mike here--the Oilers will have a chance to get at least one big name (though, really, they should probably be going more for 2-3 semi-big names). With the cap, the owners would have to be beating themselves senseless with retarded sticks if there were more than, say, 15 players making the league maximum--7.8mil is a quarter of any team's total, and with no "franchise player" rule or anything like that, even half the teams paying absolute top dollar seems kind of retarded.

Which should mean, of course, that basically the top two lines in all of hockey will be making that, with most of your stars likely in the 5-6 million range--which should mean we can sign one or two top-line, if not top-of-the-league, guys. And, really, the Oilers have generally been a game-breaker or two away from being a decent team in the last few years; imagine what we could do with someone who wasn't Ethan Moreau or Shawn Horcoff on our top two lines. Or somebody who could finish Ales Hemsky's passes. Or a centre who wasn't actually a team of squirrels cleverly masquerading as a hockey player.

Yeah, also, this club would have to be insane to get Poti back. He's a great defenceman, and sort of what the team needs, but Edmonton fans would boo him even if he was actually Wayne Gretzky circa 1985.

Also, and this is a bit of wild card, but Reasoner will actually be back from injuries, and he looked like he was ready to step up to, say, a second-line type centre. Hell, even if we get a couple quality forwards, he'd probably be an excellent third-line centre, giving us more depth there than we've had in a while.

But, uh, yeah, also, Lindros=no.

Chris! said...

I totally think it would be folly for the Oilers to blow their wad on a franchise-calibre player from this crop, even if they could afford it. I agree with Mikey that the real spending should happen next off-season when the selection is looking to be a lot better, but really, the bottom line is that this team is very lean on pure skill, and throwing a Gonchar or a Mogilny into the mix doesn't make a team good; it just makes them a mediocre team with a stranded superstar wondering who the fuck he should watch mishandle one of his passes this time.

A skilled goalscorer is sorely needed, sure (and I maintain that V. Bure's our best bet) but to sign a highly-skilled offensive player would be to proliferate the myth that Oilers hockey should be of a run-and-gun, shoot-'em-up style. Our team is not built for that. We should be going after free agents that will help us build up a solid, hard-hitting core based on positional play and defensive reliability, and that will be *supported* by decent scoring, not led by it.

Signing a superstar and surrounding him with our group of mid-skilled grinders will only create an absurdly unrealistic expectation for leadership that will inevitably lead to disappointment. And then merciless booing. And then a trade to the Rangers for a couple of well-groomed housecats and a $10 Blockbuster Video gift card.

Ultimately, winning will get the fans in the seats. We don't need a big name on the marquee for that.

mike w said...

>Ultimately, winning will get the fans in the seats. We don't need a big name on the marquee for that.

But you would agree that we need a centre with Nedved and Comrie long gone, no? Bure is RW which we actually could use, but last season, with injuries, we had two AHL level centres playing for us (Bishai, Stoll). This is an area, unlike a defenceman, where we need to basically purchase SOMEONE, new CBA or not. Demitra points per game is impressive and yet he's not overblown or overrated like some other much older stars.

mike w said...

By the way CBSsportsline has excellent stats for things I didn't know about for a long time, like TOI, or Total Time on Ice and also how well a player plays in a particular building or how he plays in March or something.

Chris! said...

I agree that we totally need a centre; though I developed somewhat of a soft spot for Bishai's clear over-achievement, I'd rather see proven talent on the ice than a bunch of question marks. But I think that the Oilers can't just buy a guy like Demitra and expect our fortunes to magically turn around. There are too many holes elsewhere, and only so much money to spend.

All I'm saying is that in a hypothetical world, if we could get two guys like Johnson and Nikolishyn for the price of one Demitra, I'd go for the former. They're not marquee talents, but they're solid players and they would help round out the core. (Also, Dave pointed out earlier that Reasoner is a wild card who looked poised to improve on himself, and I admit I'm intrigued to see what he could do. Not saying I expect him to turn into a top-two centre overnight, but maybe our situation isn't as horribly desperate as 03/04 made it seem, is all.)

collin said...

I'm confused.
Chris and Dave want a couple high-ish quality forwards ("semi-big-names") to augment their squad of hardworking, speedy, gritty checkers. Forgive me if I don't hop in my time machine and travel back to March 2004 when an absolutely astounding year-end run with Peter Nedved at the controls was needed to come within a last-game loss to Vancouver of making the playoffs.

This is a move from "Oilers hockey" with under-achievers to "Oilers Hockey" with players who can actually meet their potential.
Remember Nintendo Hockey when you could pick a team of just skinny guys, meduim guys or just fat guys.
Fill a squad with gutty overreachers like Fernando Pisani and a few supporting cast guys who are destined to be failures without a coattail to ride (Dopita, Oates) then watch the chemistry set bubble over.
Get a name who you can build around -- be smart about it, but build a team.
The Oilers have worked on that principle for as long as I've followed them.
You essentially have 2.5 forwards and 1.5 defenceman.
The hardworking, often two-way forward, your Moreaus and Marchants, plus the hard-working on-the-verge of overachieving try-as-they-might, suddenly on a No. 1 powerplay forward, the Isbisters, Comrie's etc, and George Laraque.
Six iron-workers on the blueline plus one be-all-and-end-all mid-level offensive guy.

Think about what was missing from the 03/04 crew. The much talked about No. 1 centre (Nedved) and a mobile D-Man (apparently not Brewer despite scouting reports otherwise).
But there's also a go-to goalie (Salo probably should get most of the blame), a "power forward" and don't forget specialty teams coach.
I hate to keep coming back to it, but,
is there one guy on the room who can domnate?


PS - Does anyone think that Steve Thomas has another good year in him? Cheap? Effective? Genuine character? Or Tugnett (retired?).

PPS - I'm talking with the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow. Anybody want to know about Steve Poapst or Deron Quint?

collin said...

Sorry, I'm confused about who I was arguing with, I guess it's just that unimaginative cunt Chris.

Think big you big cunt. Those dudes in the Braithwaite-Boyle muffler shops didn't wait a whole year for Andrei Nikolishin. Or did they?


Chris! said...

Yeah, those dudes also think we're one good centre away from five more Stanley Cups.

Hey man, I'd love to see what Demitra could do in an Oilers jersey. All I'm saying is that we shouldn't just buy one guy and hope everything works out. And I think it is big-picture thinking to say we should be spreading the talent out rather than lumping it in one place. Ultimately, I'd go for Demitra in a second if we could get him for five or even six mil, but any more and you start risking not being able to afford that one really dependable second centre, scoring winger or shooting defenceman, all of which the Oilers sorely need in addition to a top centre. It sounds like we all agree on this, really. I'm just exercising caution; we've all heard the Oilers blather about how they're going to break the piggy bank before. The guys I picked originally are people I know the team can afford and could totally use. And like I said earlier, when it comes to a top-level talent like Demitra, I'll believe it when I see it.

Masters games RuleZ!!! said...

Hmmmm, I hadn't really thought about the possibility that the Oilers would signed a really disappointing big name player, though that's totally possible. And more than likely, now that I think about it.

I guess I'm looking at Calgary as the model. One bonifide superstar, a fistful of mid- to high-range players, then a bunch of nobodies.

Also of note: Jason Smith has a full page ad in today's Journal thanking, apologizing to fans.
And canoe-polo is raging at Rundle Park! Old people are having fun at other places as well.


Chris! said...

The Calgary model should indeed be a source of inspiration for the Oilers to look to when constructing a team. They scouted their trades brilliantly and got some serious quality depth players who looked worthless like Ville Nieminen, Shean Donovan and Marcus Nilson for a song; they made their deadline moves count with acquisitions like Chris Simon, who I totally thought the Oil would go for. And when it came time to re-sign Iginla, they made the sacrifice and paid what they had to, knowing that a team of their calibre needs a player of superstar calibre--something the Oilers have always been too fiscally conservative to do.

But still, Demitra is no Iginla, and honestly, terrifyingly, I think there's a really good chance that Lowe will go for Lindros. He wanted him two years ago, despite all Lindros's baggage and brain injury, but couldn't afford him. Today, the product hasn't changed much, except now we've got money. I threw it out offhand earlier, but it's really a serious concern, in my mind.