Friday, July 14, 2006

Arrested development

Just a quick post here, but f you haven't checked it out already, Lowetide points to an article by Jim Matheson in the Journal today about the Oilers's tiny little problem of having, oh, absolutely no farm system in which to place their prospects.

As some may know, with the AHL's Toronto Roadrunners having been relocated to Edmonton in 2004 and then purposefully run into the ground by the end of the lockout year by an Oilers PR department that was terrified that people might never go see an Oilers game again in their lives if they ever caught wind of this "minor league" thing, Edmonton has no choice last season but to do sharesies with the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens' affiliates — Iowa and Hamilton, respectively — just to find a place for their junior-ineligible prospects to play.

This worked fairly well for skater development, as both teams were happy to get a boost from Oilers prospects like Matt Greene and MAB, but, predictably, our lone goalie prospect Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers languished behind the main team's tandem and is certainly worse off for it in terms of his confidence and development. Guy Flaming touches on this in his 2006 Oilers prospect review for Hockey's Future, noting that JDD was so miserable riding the pine in Hamilton that he was actually relieved to be busted down to Edmonton's ECHL affiliate in Greenville just to get some playing time. In the story, he goes so far as to call it the happiest time of his year. Yikes.

Now, last year's situation was far from ideal, especially in this NEW NHL where the teams that can develop talent the quickest and get the most out of a player before they go UFA at age 27 will be rewarded. But if that situation was inconvenient, this year looks to be a disaster, as Matheson reports that both Dallas and Montreal have told Edmonton that they won't be sharing their AHL teams this season, which is bad news for all those skaters who aren't good enough to make the big club out off camp this year. And for goalies like the unfortunate JDD and recent WHL graduate Devan Dubnyk, the news is even worse, for as you may have heard, our team in Greenville kind of folded last year.

Lowetide says the Oilers are apparently in the midst of working out an AHL sharing deal with either Nashville or Phoenix, and will also have to find an affiliate ECHL team so thin in goalie prospects that our guys can get 60 games — at a level that is still far, far from ideal for development purposes.

At any rate, getting this set up by opening night will take some finesse, but it's only a stop-gap solution to a serious problem. Obviously, unless we can convince the league to let us carry a roster of 40 with five goaltenders, we need our own farm team to develop our own players at our own pace. Somewhere. I'm astounded that this hasn't been priority number one during the off-season. Are there any other teams in the same situation we are?


Steve said...

I assume you mean MAP, and not MAB? The latter spent the entire season with the Oilers, I think.

But yeah, I've been sort of stunned at the Oilers' delinquence in not rectifying this problem. Maybe they figure that in the new NHL they'll just build teams from other people's UFAs every year, or something.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure deliquence is the right word. "Cheap" would be better. The Oilers keep looking for a deal that is the same as they had in Toronto - the owners of the AHL team absorbed all losses. Not surprisingly, there are not a lot of guys out there willing to enter into such an arrangement. There are also not a lot of places where an AHL team is likely to make money that have not been developed by some other team.

From one perspective, the business of just dumping a few guys here and there is justifiable. Most teams only have 10 - 15 prospects on the farm with the rest being filler like Rocky Thompson. Hard to justify losing money on the overall operation to employ a bunch of has beens and never-will-bes. The Oilers tend also to draft more College boys who come out at 22 and need less AHL time. I bet if you check, there won't be more than 15 "prospects" in the Oilers system that would have played in the AHL this year anyway.

However, the goalie situation is troubling. Maybe they can send them to Sweden or somewhere in Europe. Goalies don't need to learn systems or how to take a hit or toughness etc that guys learn in the AHL. They might be uniquely suited to a transfer overseas.


Anonymous said...

Whoops, I did mean MAP. And come to think of it, Matt Greene played in college last year, not the AHL.



Doogie2K said...

I thought Greene played for the Iowa Stars last year.

Anonymous said...

Huh. I was right the first time. That's rare.

Two goals, seven points, 27 games for the Stars.

Randy in the Med Hizzo said...

It'll be phoenix. Can't imagine Gretz and Kevin not being able to work something out. Also did anyone else notice that Keith Gretzky is now the Coyotes head scout?
Also notice that Justin Keller's rights were picked up by Glen Sather's WHL team in the Expansion draft.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Barry, that's a good point that Lowetide made as well a couple of months ago. I think it was him, anyhow.

Don't know - still think that it would be best to have their own team - although it does seem that recently we've seen more youngsters arriving and making an impact - is that just better drafting or proof that it doesn't matter if you have your own farm team or both??

goilers said...

a left handed goalie...sweeeeeeeeeeeeet

d-lee said...

Carolina doesn't have its own farm team. It shared Lowell with Colorado last season and shared Lowell with Calgary for a few seasons before that.
Next season, Carolina will be sharing Albany with Colorado.

As long as you have something in place by August, I wouldn't worry about it one bit. Teams can (and have!) done just fine doing the "sharesies" thing.

Randy in the Med Hizzo said...

This is a chicken and the egg argument: do the Oilers prospects suck because they aren't developing, or do they just suck (poor drafting)? That said, it's extremely important to get your minor league goalies into 40-50 games a year. That simply doesn't happen when you're stationing prospects on someone else's farm team.
I also believe that the Hurricanes owned Lowell (AHL) before selling them to the devils this summer.
In 2004 Ward was the clear No.1 over Brent Krahn of Calgary (which by the way needs to buy a new backup goalie every few months rather than elevate Krahn).
And Calgary started up Omaha (a money pit) this past year.

Steve said...

Well, we didn't get Lindros. On the one hand, that's unfortunate because I think he'd provide a lot of bang for what he's getting paid. On the other hand, now that he's with one of my two most hated teams, my hatred of him can continue unabated.