Saturday, January 27, 2007

Trade Winds of Sadness

Taking a survey of the Oilogosphere, the mood has certainly turned sour: Lowetide is taking inventory of the grim facts; Black Dog is equally somber; Grabia sounds like he's about to throw in the towel; MC79 is in intarweb limbo; at IOF Dennis is making peace with "the fact that the Oilers most likely won't be participating in the playoffs" and Kinger hasn't been heard from since he lost to a stock photo in the last round of Hot Oil's Blogger Hot Off.

Few people, least not the Oilers themselves, like the team's chances with what they have. And it's easy to see why: the Edmonton Oilers are an unhealthy hockey specimen, completely out of whack with what a normal, playoff-ready team should look like. With their top-heavy abundance of forwards and a solid ballast of good goaltending, the Oil are completely undercut by their immobile, loosey-goosey defence. It's delicate balance that can't be taken too lightly -- like building a championship bodybuilding physique, even the greatest pecs in the world won't win you Mr. Universe if you have puny little wheelchair legs. The emaciated, Fawn-like strugglings of Mathieu Roy and Ladislav Smid might be amusing at times, but I hate hating them so much, especially since it really isn't their fault that they're playing 20 minutes a night.

To get a defenceman now, when the Oil could really use two or three, will either be costly, underwhelming or both. At this point in January, there's maybe four true bottom feeders in this league willing to blow up their team: Philadelphia, L.A., Chicago and Columbus. Everyone else kinda has a shot, including -- lord kill me -- the Phoenix Coyotes. The Oil can't trade for just a decent D man, they need a tape-to-tape D-man with offence, like John-Michael Liles or Tom Preissing (a great signing for Ottawa), and there aren't many around. In other words, we're screwed.

I doubt that Kevin Lowe will completely give up on the season, and still see him making a trade for a defenceman. Maybe not a big trade, but something. It's retread, but my thoughts on the options available:

Joni Pitkanen is the best choice, even with his defensive lapses, as he still puts up big points. Like most early trade bait, he's a free agent at the end of the year, albeit restricted.

People scoff at Eric Brewer, as a UFA making a $1 million-ish left on his contract, but he's still a better band-aid than Matt Greene playing 25 minutes a night. It'd be worth a second round pick [cue people throwing rotten vegetables at me].

The Boston Globe had some buzz on Alberta boy Brad Stuart, with a rumoured deal sending Jason Smith and MA Bergeron for Stuart and Marco Sturm, which would shave $1.5 million off of Boston's salary cap (Stuart and Sturm total $4.5 million versus Smith and Bergeron's $3 million in salary). Normally, I'd actually like the deal, except that Stuart and Sturm are UFAs at the end of the year -- a costly price that may not feel worth it if we still miss the playoffs. Buh.

It'd be nice to see the Oilers break the bank and go for a player like Lubomir Visnovsky and then find a spare part D-man in a separate minor trade. Last year, when the Oilers were desperate for a goalie, fans were content to speculate on the prospects of Kevin Lowe acquiring Marty Biron and Curtis Joseph. In making a big trade for Dwayne Roloson, Lowe wasn't afraid to pull out his balls and splay them on across the negotiating table (in the form of a first round pick), and I'm willing to bet he'll do it again.


Black Dog said...

I think Pitkanen is actually an RFA this summer, Mike.

Lowe should have made this trade a long time ago, which is easy to say in hindsight. I was one of the guys saying "be patient" as they actually were tops of the division (oh, those heady days!) but with Shaggy and Staios out time has grown short for Lowe to make a deal.

And St. Louis is only two points behind the Oilers now so ....

It has the makings of a disappointing spring.

Andy Grabia said...

With their top-heavy abundance of forwards and a solid ballast of good goaltending, the Oil are completely undercut by their immobile, loosey-goosey defence.

I disagree. Its not like they spend all night in their own end. The forwards do dick all to generate offence in the offensive zone, and Roli is letting in one to fourl bad goals a night depending on whether or not someone has bumped into his consistently bruised ego. I'm currently torn on whether this team gave up on this season they night they lost game seven, or the night Pronger demanded a trade.

mike w said...

>I think Pitkanen is actually an RFA this summer, Mike.

Shit! Thanks, Black Dog.

It wouldn't be a CinO post without at least one error in it.

mike w said...

>I disagree. Its not like they spend all night in their own end.

NO, I disagree! There's no offence to be sure, but I really think of this team as a 3-line forechecking team (there's no Joe Thornton-calibre player to speak of) that relies on it's defenceman to keep the play boxed in at the point. How many points did the defence get in the playoffs last year? Bad chips, poor shots, and lack of mobility on the back end are pretty much goal killers.

Of course, not having Ryan Smyth and Hemsky didn't help a lot.

As for Roloson, statistically he's been decent. I turned off last night's game in disgust, but he was the best thing for most of it. We all can agree that Markkanen needs more starts though.

Anonymous said...

This team's such a mess I don't know what is. But I think there are systemic issues at play here. This organization strikes as a "square pegs" into round hole type of organization. They plug in whatever players they have on their roster into "the system" and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that they may not have the players to properly implement "the system". The thought that the system may need to be modified to better utilize the roster never seems to occur to anyone in management.


Black Dog said...

Which brings us to another problem Dano - no farm team.

While the Devils, as an example, or of course, famously, the Habs, have always had their kids drinking the organizational Koolaid almost immediately, the Oilers have their kids scattered to the winds.

Meaning, they learn no system. They are not in the organization so to speak. They are not playing with their future teammates or for future coaches in a lot of cases.

Bad way to run a railroad.

Andy, your point is correct but it does stem from the D. Why is Roli flagging? Well, in a week he will have matched his career high in starts. Is the offence a disappointment? Yes. And you can't lay it all on the D but when you have one part of the team that is a complete sinkhole it is going to drag down the forwards in ways tangible (bad decisions, poor passing etc.) and intangible (lack of confidence in the blueline means guys trying to compensate in some way, not a good thing)

Anonymous said...

Agreed on the farm team point BD. Still, I can't help but regard this team as tactically average. I confess I'm not a huge fan of MacTavish as a coach. I was disappointed with his appointment as coach at the time. Not so much because of his track record (because he really didn't have one as head coach) but because I felt the Oilers needed to go to someone outside of the organization. Fresh blood (thinking), in other words.


Black Dog said...

Well Dano as a general rule hiring or promoting friends and family doesn't work (see the Eatons, the British Army in WWI etc).

I'm torn on MacT - if the Oilers hadn't made the playoffs last year he is likely gone. But he did a great job last spring, he really did, imo.

I know some people are on MacT for this year's performance but other then the PP (Simpson?) and overplaying Roloson I have few qualms with his coaching. I know a lot of people would disagree and that's fair but I think he's been asked to make chicken salad from chicken shit on the blueline. Its like blaming Smid for being 20 and playing top 4 minutes. Whose fault is that?

Anonymous said...

I'm not hanging the blame on MacT nor advocating firing him. The only reason I would consider legitimate would be if management felt he was past his "best before date" and players were tuning him out. Having said that there's a lot more serious problems here than coaching.

One thing I find frustrating and puzzling about Oilers teams are flaws that never seem to go away that have extended over multiple coaching regimes and periods of time with varying quality of personnel. Flaws such as:

1. gassing games to inferior (in the standings) opponents
2. very little killer instinct
3. reacting to what the opposition does rather than initiating what happens in a game


Anonymous said...

I'm not even going to wait until the official game post.



Anonymous said...

Carolina has 9 dmen and will definitely be trading one or two for one more forward.