Thursday, July 6, 2006

Dashing Daniel Tjarnqvist

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.

EDMONTON
Smith-Staios
Bergeron-Tjärnqvist
Smid-Greene
Syvret-???

CAROLINA
Hedican-Kaberle
Ward-Wallin
Tverdovsky-Commodore
Wesley-Hutchinson

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.

20 comments:

Rod & Morley said...

Can someone who owns a newish copy of the Media Guide look up how to pronounce "Tjärnqvist"?

Andy Grabia said...

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.

If I had shown you Carolina's defensive starters a year ago you would have said the same thing.

James Mirtle said...

Tjarnqvist: THAHRN-kwihst

Anonymous said...

good god.. have we fallen that far that we're asking for 6 Staios? don't we already have 1 too many?

- Oilguy

Colby Cosh said...

Are you winging it? I was curious about the 'ä' sound, but you've thrown a total curve with that rendering of 'tj' (which should sound very close to 'sh', not 'th').

Matt said...

>>The major worry as far as the Oilers D, though, has to be offence..

I hate to kick anyone when they're down, so, uh, let's just consider that assessment "bookmarked".

Jeff J said...

It's unwise to measure your D against the '06 Hurricanes just because they won the Cup. They were/are a very average bunch. You could take the D from the '06 Hurricanes, the forwards from the '95 Devils, and the goaltending from the '98 Wings, and I don't think you'd have a playoff team much less a Cup winner.

Steve said...

I don't think anybody's suggesting that our defensive corps is a deceptively awesome group (or that Carolina's is). Rather, the question is whether, given excellent forwards and goaltending, the defensive corps is bad enough to topredo our Cup chances. Grabia seems to be saying no; in that respect, a comparison to the Carolina corps is entirely fair.

James Mirtle said...

Are you winging it? I was curious about the 'ä' sound, but you've thrown a total curve with that rendering of 'tj' (which should sound very close to 'sh', not 'th').

I found it in the pronunciation guide, but it had his brother's name spelt out differently, with an 'S' at the beginning. So, one of those two is correct; SHAHRN-kwihst was what they had for Mathias Tjarnqvist.

Alana said...

"Dashing"? You've seen a picture of the guy, right Dave? I suppose his mullet is fluffy and well styled, but it is still a mullet. I can't abide hockey hair.

My boyfriend Roli has a weird and most definitely un-stylish coif, yes, but it is not a mullet.

Pleasure Motors said...

Roli's also got a touch of the crazy eye in that photo; looks a bit like the guy who works in accounts receivable that nobody talks to and who eats his lunches alone. Maybe it's those exercises he does.

Also, the dashing was more of a throw-away nickname than anything, though I will say his hair is definitely more along the lines of "hockey hair" than the true mullet, and frames his face rather nicely. I don't think he'll be posing half-nude in next year's Oilers calendar, or anything, but he's a reasonably handsome man.

Alana said...

'tis a fine line between hockey hair and mullet, indeed. I'm not a fan of either - that old lady that actually touched Smytty's ape drape is a stronger woman than I.

Doogie2K said...

Staios sez, among other things, "Chill." He also seems to like Tjarnqvist (I think they played together a year in Atlanta), so that makes two endorsements from ex-teammates.

Adamn! said...

Presumably the Oilers are still at least trying to sign Markov, too: he "only" makes ~2.5 mil, less than Spacek was commanding even... Should we still dare to dream of a B-list signing such as this?

Steve said...

How come nobody's mentioned Ken Klee? Just because he's old and not really very good? Pfft.

lowetide said...

steve:

Well that and he's played in Toronto so he's damaged.

Anonymous said...

Why spend any time looking at Carolina's defense? It was serviceable, sure. But they won they Cup with their power play, did they not? How friggin' terrifying was that thing, even when they didn't score? They roasted the Devils and Sabres with it too.

Find a way to copy that, viola. Success in the new NHL.

Steve said...

It's funny, because you said "viola" when you meant "voilà", thereby adding considerable credibility to your point.

Anonymous said...

That IS funny. Hilarious, even. Thanks, pedant.

Anonymous said...

And I delight in pointing out that you, Steve, wrote "topredo" just a few posts up. :)

Anyway, don't misunderstand me - I wasn't saying that it is a waste of time to write about the comparisons with Carolina's D - just that it wouldn't be advisable for management to see Carolina's D as an avenue for success, when clearly it was their 9-deep forwards and specifically their power play which did far more to win them the Cup.