Monday, December 04, 2006

Deja Vu

Today's quotes from the Edmonton dailies are awfully familiar to Oiler fans.

From the Journal:
"GM Kevin Lowe has made astute deals in his time, and could find a way to fetch a Dan Boyle, a Joni Pitkanen, a Brad Stuart or a reasonable facsimile thereof sooner than later.

But the timing is brutal, with the Oilers severely banged-up, slumping and therefore vulnerable to having to overpay for the puck-moving defenceman they so obviously need."

If you were an Oiler fan as recently as one year ago you remember their awful 7 game losing streak last fall and the doom-and-gloom that surrounded it. Igor Ulanov and Cory Cross were getting burned by RW's, LW's, and Centers; Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen were sharing a (just about) league-worst Sv.%; etc; etc.

The unfortunate thing about the situation was that though the problems were obvious to everyone, Edmonton was in a "position of weakness" to make the right deal. The Oilers brass as well as the press repeated often that the vultures were circling and Edmonton would need to overpay to get the pieces required.

As we all know, the Oilers leveled out to a more acceptable regular season mediocrety and were able to pick up some key pieces of their successful playoff roster as the year went on. A situation that could have easily ended with a fired coach, disappointed fans and poor owners became a successful model because it ended well. Not only that but some additional forgiveness was in order because as the season started it would have been difficult to predict just how poor the goaltenders were going to be or how obsolete Crossanov would become.

This season the Oilers have taken a very different path to get to the exact same place. Everybody following this team has known that the Oilers need a defenseman (or two, please!) to be a truly solid hockey club. Despite the club's modest success up until the quarter pole the holes were still obviously gaping, yet here we are again talking about a position of weakness and how difficult it will be to make personnel changes on the back end.

From here on out Edmonton will slump (or they won't), their roster will get healthy (or it won't), and they will recover and play well as the season progresses (or they won't). None of this changes the obvious MO.

Unless... this will become a rebuilding season?

Just looking at all the youth that will be floundering about tonight in Vancouver gives you the idea that the opportunity is there. If we ignore Dwayne Roloson and focus instead on Ales Hemsky's contract then Edmonton has a very obvious new long term plan. While I don't expect this to be the case, I personally don't care if this season is sacrificed for future success.

All this said, you can't have your cake and eat it too - buy a big truck if you want to haul loads and a sportscar if speed is your thing but to hell with SUV's that can't do either quite well enough. Kevin Lowe's actions over the next month will be just as interesting a story as the Oilers' reaction to their newfound position of weakness.

10 Comments:

Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Well why don't teams make deals when they're going good if they want to avoid the vultures;) For instance the Oilers had won five in a row and seven of 8 but they were still doing it with the occasional mirror. The whole circling vulure thing is one of the oldest excuses in the books anyway.

As for this season..it was an obvious rebuild the moment Smid was the defenseman coming back in the Pronger trade. That might not look horrible in '09 but it looks awful today and I'd wager a fair amount it won't look that much better in '08. So that was the first tip and the second was when Lowe didn't trade any of the forward depth for another D during the ex season. I sorta tried to ignore that and hope that all the offensive guys would roll at the same time and that we'd sneak out the divison crown and ride home ice to at least one playoff round victory. OR we'd wind up in 6th and pick up some more experience and skill on the backend and then take out Cgy in the first round.

But now the guy who'd drive the PP if the Oilers were sane is out and the guy who drives the team at ES out and Moreau's gone too. And there's enough kids with enough being ask of them that this team will be lucky not be in 10th place by the time both 83 and 94 return. And I don't know if that's really gonna choke Lowe because I think he had this planned as a building year anyway.

And the only thing that doesn't jive with that approach is the disconnect between the age of the forwards, some of the kids on D and how much they're paying Roli in goal.

Everyone and their dog knows the Oilers need more offensive from some of the slumping forwards but there's a bigger chance that core would improve then would the guys on D. So the Oilers need D but if they fall too far out of the race I'd just imagine Lowe does little and chalks this year up as experience for the Smid and the Greene's.

The thing is I think the Oil could've been dangerous if they hadn't gotten nailed with injuries to both 83 and 94 and if they could've picked up one d for the present and future and another one as a rental.

All bets are off at this point though and I don't know if that really really bothers Lowe.

12/04/2006 4:36 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

I think year to year is really a roll of the dice with parity. If you make the playoffs and things break your way you can do what the Oilers did last year. If they break the other way, well you can move Sykora and maybe another piece or two at the deadline, pick up some more chips and reload next year.

I know Dennis has said this is a rebuild all along and it has had the look of it - I think if the team is in the mix come February Lowe will deal for some experience on the back end and see what might happen but I don't see them moving Schremp or Pouliot or Cogliano - I think this is a team building for 09,10,11 really and it doesn't make sense to move a guy who may be part of those years or who you might want to move for a Dman or goalie or whatever you need when those years roll around.

On the job training for a lot of kids over the next few weeks.

12/04/2006 6:30 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Ya, for me I kept trying to talk myself out of the fact that this was a rebuild on the fly year. The signs were there, hell they were whacking me in the head, but I kept searching for other reasons to believe that this wasn't the case. Then in the preseason Lowetide speculated that Smid would play most of the season in the bigs and be paired with a seasoned vet ... and it just made too much sense, meshed so well with everything else. For me that was the day that hope died, at least hope for this season.

Thing is though, with Roli behind them, they always have a chance. And as pessimistic as I was about this forward corps before the season started, they are getting a decent number of goals at 5on5 without created a helluva lot of chances, and without spending a lot of time in the offensive end of the rink.

To steal someone else's baseball metaphor (probably your's or LT's) ... not a very good OBP but a lot of home runs. I think this team can make it to the playoffs and even while breaking in Smid and Greene, and depending on the night one of the young forwards with increased responsibility. Hell, I'm starting to think that when Hemsky gets back and is healthy, once he's back in the groove, and so long as they are in a playoff position, they should bump him back up there with Horcoff and Smyth and get him some time playing against the big guns from the other squad. Facing better competition makes better for players in the long I think.

12/04/2006 6:46 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Pat:

Ya, I think a deadline deal for a veteran Dman is a given, maybe even a couple. And an impact Dman as a rental if one is available. Failing that a vet D and an impact forward if they can find one.

If the deal is sooner than that then I would expect that it's for a defenceman that is in the long term plans.

12/04/2006 6:50 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Hey Dennis, off of the top of your head, which Oiler forwards have had kickass results against CHI and PHX?

I know you have a terrific memory for this sort of thing, and I'm too pressed for time lately to root through and check the numbers myself. So I'm just askin' instead. :)

12/04/2006 6:53 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Vic, its a rebuild on the fly but as you say anything can happen. The chances of everything falling into place are slim but add a Dman or two, get on a roll and if Roli gets hot who are you going to bet on against them? Maybe the Ducks but if the Anaheims ran into a hot goalie first round they might not even see them.

Or Niedermayer or Pronger gets hurt.
Anything can happen.

As for CHI/PHX (I remember your post from a while back) lets hope for Stoll.

I'm down on the guy in a big way lately.

12/04/2006 7:30 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

Vic...I'll say Pisani and Stoll. It doesn't strike me that any of the big guys really eat up the Hawks and but I can remember at least a couple of Hawks goals for Stoll.

12/04/2006 8:12 pm  
Blogger Asiaoil said...

Sure it's a rebuild - but the only problem with this is that we didnt win G7 - if that had happened I would have waved goodbye to Pisani as well in the off-season. Still not a bad strategy - FCP gave Lowe the ability to win later by being here last year - and the excuse to go young by wanting out. If we miss the playoffs last year no one would be amused by the kiddie corp - but we went to G7 so that forgives an abundance of profit-taking and rookie dmen.

I actually think Roli is the perfect guy for this - old enough to be stable and a leader - but never a true #1 - so the job will be interesting if a bit frustrating with Greene and Smid back there with him.

Lowe will not do squat until January or later though - its his MO and all the moves in the last month just SCREAM penny pinching (no one coming up to replace injured players - then guys like Stortini and Syvret getting the call). I really want a guy who is 25-27 right now to backfill the defense - we have the kids (Greene, Smid, Gilbert) and we have the grey beards (Staios, Smith) but nothing in the middle. A guy like Boynton would be fine (someone on that PHX defense is going to get traded and I doubt that it's Jovo or Morris) and there are lots of young UFA available in the summer to finish rebuilding the back line. Stoll is a likely candidate going the other way. He's dropped the ball so far in the tough minutes dept and MAP may do just as well on the secondary scoring line. His salary would also cover most of Boynton's but isnt that big.

Can't say I'm in love with this team as they are so clearly not ready for prime time - but a deal or two after Jan 1 may make it a bit better - but clearly the 08-09 season is where this gets interesting given the makeup of this squad.

12/05/2006 2:51 am  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

I really don't get the whole "Roli isn't a true #1" thing. I just can't let that pass there AO.

You gotta some splainin to do:)

12/05/2006 11:52 am  
Blogger Asiaoil said...

Other folks thought Roli was not a #1 - not me - he simply did the job that was asked of him in Minny.

12/05/2006 9:09 pm  

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