Saturday, December 16, 2006

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

Here's a picture of our good friend Ladislav Smid and if the Oilers are still running this team under a meritocracy, you won't be seeing him on the ice on Tues when the Avs come to Edm to finish off the home and home series.

I dare say the last two games have shown us the worst of Smid and have provided ample illumination of the absolute folly of asking a 20 year old to average just 1:10 less TOI a game than Jason Smith, ie Smid clocks in at 18:42 and you can do the math to figure what Smith's logging.

Andrew Brunette was the latest to victimize the youngster when he "how do you do'ed" him on the Avs third goal but to be fair that's not the kind of mistakes the kid usually makes. His gaffes of choice are losing his man in defensive coverage and throwing the puck to his D partner Staios whenever there's even a hint of trouble. Note: Mikko Koivu also toe-dragged Smid on Thurs night and he took a very poor penalty as well so let's say this blurb is certainly topical.

I'm not here to throw Smid under the bus but I think we're about to see just how much of his puzzling amount of playing time is development and how much of it is optics. It hasn't happened this week but not too long ago Smid was drawing mad praise in the dailies and if you watch the games it didn't make a whole lot of sense. Yes, he's playing on a tandem that draws the second toughest min but at this point, even as a 20 year old, there's really nothing to gush about when it comes to Ladislav Smid. But it makes for a better post Pronger trade plan to play him a tonne and pimp him in the papers than it does to suggest, even softly, that he's playing way too many mintues and that help is on the way.

Then again maybe Smid gets to play through this terrible stretch because the Oilers aren't happy enough with their depth on D and in particular this might be more of an admission on their lack of confidence in Bergeron more than anything else. Because if Smid's to be shown the pine the logical move should be to move MAB into the top four and bring in one of the scrubs to fill out the third pairing with Greene. So at the end of the day maybe this is about more than just being afraid of what the public will think. But then again I remember the Oilers being confident enough in Jan Hedja to bench MAB and bring him in and he went on to average 17:48 in 8 games.

Lupul was the other piece of the Pronger puzzle and his icetime and role has begun to lessen so I can't totally say the Oilers are afraid of how it will look if the bounty of the Pronger trade fails enough enough tests that even the lemmings will notice. Because Lupul has put up failing grades all over the board and when you see him playing with Reasoner and Thoresen, well you know MacT's not happy.

The forward depth had and has been thinned with the injuries to all of Moreau, Hemsky and Smyth but one of those guys are back now and another's returning soon, so the Oilers will soon have enough options that it won't look like lunacy if they sit 15. And if they do that then I'll have less of a concern about just how concerned the Oilers are with optics.

But that's a matter to deal with right now we'll look to see how the Oil deal with the recent awful play of their 20 year old defenseman. There are always different rules for different players but that never infuriates me more than when it can be applied to players acquired in a franchise altering trade. If the Oilers can sit down Bergeron for a couple of games then I can't think of one good reason why they can't do the same with Smid.


Blogger RiversQ said...

It's too bad that things have to go this way for these prospects right now. It's pretty simple - MAB needs to play on the 3rd pairing because he gets results and he can't really handle much more than that; Greene needs to get NHL minutes but he's not really ready for more than the third pairing; and Smid has made some mistakes but the guy can play on a 3rd pairing in the NHL as a 20 yr old.

The math just doesn't add up. There are three guys that need to play in the bottom pairing.

If they trade for someone, the only answer I can see is to go 5/6/7 with those three guys with MAB playing the most and the other two basically platooning at 6/7.

12/16/2006 12:25 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Yeah, that's as clear as can be RQ. You pretty much nailed it but even with your plan of rotating the boys 5/6/7, can you imagine Smid and Greene playing together?

At home yes but on the road it could be disasterous.

Bottom line is you cannot break in two dmen at the same time unless:

1: One of those two rooks is off the charts good

2: The other 4 D are beyond reproach.

12/16/2006 12:39 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

RQ and Dennis: right here you've illustrated why I continue to make the case that they need to bring in two d-men and that Bergeron is a likely target to be shipped out.

It's a given that they're going to go after a guy to play with Smith. We know that. Someone who can move the puck. Now, don't you think that Staios and Tjarnqvist would make a good 2nd pairing, espeically considering 29 is going to look REALLY good once he drops a couple weight classes and isn't playing the nastiest minutes anymore.

Now, Bergeron is no fit with Smid as a pair. Not by a longshot. He and Greene can keep their heads above water though, as we have seen in the past few weeks (I've actually been quite impressed with Bergeron as of late - no major gaffes, prior to a couple of brain-farts last night, for quite awhile).

Realistically, there's a need for a veteran number 5 as well; someone who can play with either Matt Greene OR Ladislav Smid. If the Oilers can get themselves into a position where they only need have one of those two guys in the lineup on any given night, Lowe has done his job.

The ideal scenario, IMO, is still trying to make a big splash and get both Visnovsky from LA and Jackman from St. Louis. Visnovsky is a puckmover who can play top-three minutes (he'd be a nice complement to Smith, IMO), and Jackman could play basically 3-4-5, with the make-up of the bottom two pairings depending on whether it was Smid or Greene in the lineup on a given night.

Jackman's interesting to me because, although he's not what the Oilers "need" in terms of being a puckmover, but he might fall into that class of young, still-affordable d-men that would be around as more than a rental. Yes, he's RFA this summer, but having him signed up for 3 years would be a nice insurance policy in case Jason Smith asks for the moon (i.e. Willie Mitchell money) prior to going UFA in July 2008.

That being said, there's plenty other names out there to consider for both spots, from guys like Brewer/Phillips/Stuart/Boyle (possible top-pairing partners for Gator) to depth fill-ins like Matvichuk and Vannanen.

12/16/2006 1:41 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

Why do you keep bringing up scenarios sweatyo that aren't realistic in the least? I mean I could see us getting Jackman or Brewer but the Vishnosky trade you keep pimping is pure fantasy. LA has absolutely no reason to move him. They have a stable of talented young forwards and he's far and away their best defenseman. (Blake is on his last legs)

12/16/2006 2:16 pm  
Blogger SweatyO said...

Chris: I've heard enough that LA is willing to move Visnovsky that makes me think they'd move him for the right price. They're not going to win this year or next year, which is pretty much a window I see for the Oilers (Roloson in net being the biggest key).

It will come at a premium, no doubt. But to say LA has no reason to move him, I beg to differ. In my mind, he's exactly what the Oilers need in terms of a higher-end blueline acquisition, and is more than just a spring rental, so I would support Lowe paying a premium to bring the guy in.

LA had no reason to move Tim Gleason. But they did. We'll see how it plays out, but I would say there's a legitimate chance someone ends up with Visnovsky on February 27th or sooner. Lubomir getting dealt is realistic, IMO.

Now, if you want to bash me for hoping they'd try and pimp Lupul for Seabrook...THAT one might be unrealistic. However, one thing I swear by is that "if Wayne Gretzky can get traded at age 27...ANYONE can get traded".

12/16/2006 2:30 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

Gleason got traded for what's generally considered to be a future franchise defensemen and one of the best defense prospects that's been seen in recent years. That's an entirely different scenario. They gave up a decent NHL defenseman to get one projected to be very good in the future.

As far as Visnosky being on the move, the only people I hear saying that are day dreaming Oiler fans whom are becoming almost as bad as Leafs fans in devising wet dream trades. Yes, anyone can get traded. On the other hand, the probability is sufficiently low that flogging that particular horse is more wishful thinking than useful.

12/16/2006 6:00 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Have to agree with Chris there Sweatyo - LA has a lot of what the Oilers are offering, young forwards, and not a lot on the back end.

You are right, anyone can be traded but things have to make sense from both ends. Its similar to the idea of Brad Stuart coming west. As long as the Bruins are in the mix, its not going to happen.

St. Louis makes a lot of sense because they are completely terrible. They're already done. Also they have absolutely nothing up front and some depth on the back end. Chicago makes sense as well although in their case they have actually snuck back into it a little. Anyhow, as we know they have admirable depth on the backend and not a lot going on up front.

Jackman makes a lot of sense but I'm not even sure if he is in play to be honest. If he gets moved and Brewer as well then that depth on D is suddenly not so deep.

Ideally they pick up someone who can play with Smith soon, see how Tjarnqvist does in the 3/4 pair with Staios and then follow up accordingly with someone to move into that spot if Shaggy fails or with someone to play with Greene or MAB come playoff time.

So who's out of it? Short list right now. Either then Pitkanen would you take out of Philly? Is Brewer a logical fit to play with Smith?

Other then that you're moving Lupul because nobody else is giving up on the playoffs just yet.

12/16/2006 6:17 pm  
Blogger Art Vandelay said...

Jackman has the whiff of old NHL to him and he's always been brittle. Don't know that I'd be pinning too many hopes on that guy. Jim Vandermeer in Chicago could probably be snagged for a pick. That's realistic. It would help shore up the defensive zone. And the Oilers could save their bullets for a puck-mover.

12/17/2006 4:12 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

art - I think i remember you suggesting Vandermeer in another thread - what's his deal - solid # 5 guy?

12/17/2006 8:32 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

I still can't imagine the Oilers getting a rental Dman so early. As much as I bitch about the rookie Dmen, they may as well play them so long as the team is still hanging in the playoff hunt. No sense in extending the suffering over two seasons, may as well just take the pain now.

12/17/2006 9:46 am  

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