Start engraving the Cup, ladies and gentleman, we've just replaced our number one defenceman! After Spacek left, we knew Lowe was going to do something to shore up our depleted defence corps, but I don't think any of us guessed it was going to be this big. In a move mirroring last year's 24-hour acquisition spree of Chris Pronger and Mike Peca, KLowe has signed Daniel Tjarnqvist, Swedish Olympian and the best player in the league named Tjarnqvist; I couldn't find how much the contract is, but the term is only one year (read: he's barely a stop gap, and we're going to be looking for a big, expensive number one defenceman in a year).
So, uh, yeah, Zdeno Chara this ain't—hell, Danny Markov this ain't. I think about all this means is that Dick "Tarnation" Tarnstrom has probably decided to return to Europe (making him Oiler number, uh, 15 to decide anywhere is better than Edmonton). Or, possibly, this means we've decided defensively passable, second-powerplay-unit Swedes are the ideal players to develop a blueline around.
There are a couple of things that jump out about Tjarnqvist, the first of which is his plus/minus, a suspect -11 for a fairly tight Minnesota team (he's -57 on his career, but the first three years were with Atlanta). Having said that, 18 points in only 60 games could mean he's somewhat capable with the puck, but the fact he's averaged about 68 games over his four-year career and scored 18, 15, 20 and 18 points in each of those seasons isn't terribly promising. He might be a late bloomer, though. Right? I mean, Pronger didn't even score 30 points until he was, like, 20. Or 19, depending on how you look at it. Anyway, looking at intangibles, he actually was an Olympian last year, which has to count for something, and according to this AP story, not only was he second on the Wild in ice time (with an incredibly paltry 19:26, mind you), but he comes highly recommended by Dwayne Roloson, which might be spectacular, or might mean they really dig listening to Boston and doing eye exercises together.
I guess Tjarnqvist is an alright depth acquisition, but our defence is starting to look like a damn bullpen—a bunch of decent players who can do fine in spot work, but who will be hard pressed to be impressive for a full 60 minutes. Maybe that's not fair, but a starting rotation of, what, Bergeron-Smith, Staios-Tjarnqvist, and Smid-Greene strikes fear into absolutely no one who isn't Charlie Huddy, and still dictates at least two of our PP pointmen are Jarret Stoll and Rob Schremp. Maybe TJ turns into a reliable third defenceman with more pressure put on him, but I'd feel more comfortable with at least one no-questions top-pairing guy, preferably with above-average passing skills.
UPDATE: Lowetide was saying we need to find the next Staios (scroll down a bit, since I can't figure out how to directly link the post); Tjarnqvist could potentially be that, if you consider what popular opinion was of Staios when we first picked him up. I still think we need more than six Steve Staioses, but a reliable 3/4 guy with 2nd powerplay potential is better than nothing right now.
UPDATE PART II: THE UPDATENING: James Mirtle has a more extensive history of Tjärnqvist than I would have thought possible for a man with a real job. I'm also pleased to find out there's an umlaut on Three Dots' name.
Secondly, in response to a comment by Grabia, I thought I'd compare our defence corps at this point with Carolina's opening day defence from last year. I will say that my Oilers pairings reflect who I assume will be ice time leaders, not actual pairings, and Carolina's pairings are based on ice time averages from last year, to try and keep it fair.
Differences? The most obvious is experience. The only people with less than five years experience for Carolina were the rookie Hutchinson (who played the least, by about 5 minutes/game, and only 36 games), and Commodore (four seasons, though not a whole lot of games in any of those, to be fair, but a significant Cup run). Smith and Staios, in contrast, are the only ones with at least 5 years experience; Smid, Greene and Syvret have yet to play even one full season (one could argue Greene's 40 games + playoffs equals about that), Bergeron only has one full season and a half-season, Tjärnqvist has four. The major worry as far as the Oilers D, though, has to be offence, and actually, things stack up with the Carolina eight fairly evenly. Looking at those eight, the only two who would have been considered legitimate offensive threats prior to this season were Wesley and Tverdovsky, both of whom have their best offensive years (58 and 55pts, respectively) well behind them (both were down to single-digit offensive output the season they played previous). Hedican has had a fairly reliable 20-25 points for the last several season, and Kaberle had slowly increased his point totals to 29 over a few seasons, so he could reasonably have been called an up-and-coming offensive defenceman (44pts this season). Commodore's previous high was 5pts, Wallin's 10 and Ward's 14, while Hutchinson had respectable minor league offensive numbers (24 in 46 games and 45 in 76 his last two AHL season) that could have been reasonably assumed to transfer over to maybe 20 points on a regular player.
The experience skews things, but the Oil aren't that far off; in fact, overall they might be better. Staios has had 25+ points every season as an Oiler except his first (analagous to our Hedican, I guess). Both Bergeron and Tjärnqvist (less so) could potentially be Kaberle, with 35 and 18 points (in 60 games) respectively, and both have slowly improved their point or point/game totals. Smith has been good for 15 points/year for about a decade now (Ward/Wallin), and Greene won't score unless people start bouncing pucks off him (Commodore, similar experience levels, too). Both Syvret and Smid look a lot like Hutchinson on the surface. Smid is pretty much the x-factor here: it sounds like he should expect to play 70 games, at least. If he can put up 20-25 points (become Tverdovsky, to keep these comparisons going), that probably means four defencemen with 20+ points (Bergeron, Staios, Smid, Tjärnqvist), with two potential 15-pointers (Smith and Syvret) or the exact same as Carolina had (though Kaberle had 44 last year, which is important).
Anyway, the moral is Grabia's comparison is entirely fair; in fact, it's almost eerily similar, save for the fact they were counting on the re-emergence of a veteran for some offence (Tverdovsky), where as we're counting on the emergence of a rookie (Smid). Just because opening rosters are similar, though, doesn't necessarily mean similar results. For starters, every single one of Carolina's D improved over their previous season's totals, which could be due to any number of things, such as the new rules, a year off for veterans to rest weary bones or rookies to bone up against weaker competition, or what have you, which you can't really expect to happen, especially since our defensive corps numbers were probably helped at least partially by the presence of the best defenceman in the league. Also, Carolina wasn't depending on learning (Smid, Greene, Syvret, maybe Bergeron) so much as staying the course, which has to count for something.
I don't know. In the end, after looking at these numbers, I feel a bit better. I would still, however, feel more better with another d-man whose pretty much guaranteed to score 25+ points and could kill penalties, if needed, especially after Bergeron's 5th defenceman/not playing in the Finals performance.