Apparently Eight wasn't Enough: Wild/Oilers and everything inbetween, ie Eric Duhatschek as Alicia Silverstone, March Sadness and the future, Conan?
I know that last proclamation is gonna hurt Mirtle but he doesn't read this page anyway so I guess it really won't hurt him after all;) A few of us have spent the days post 94 bitching and complaining and flat out demanding that the local media take an objective look at all things Oilers and while I think that's a lost cause I still think it's a battle worth fighting. And while it's frustrating enough to read people from Edmonton fucking things up or just being plan wrong it's yet another to read a local guy getting it wrong and even worse again considering this guy's beat is Western Canada.
The Pronger trade demand is listed as the beginning of the end of the '07 season and I'll agree with The Hat on that one but for different reasons then him and seemingly every columnist and beatie agree upon. There's some talk there of how the Oilers lacked a puck moving D all season and how picking up a guy like that is like finding a unicorn drinking from the fountain of youth, OK he didn't frame it as being that impossible mind you, but I just had a wicked idea of how the Oilers could've plugged that hole. What if the Oilers had picked up this puck-mover in exchange for Pronger!! Or failing that how about they picked up a real difference making forward!! Yes yes I know that no one wanted Chris Pronger and the four years and approx $25 mill that remained on his contract because the cap was stuck at 30 mill and the NHL had said the cap wouldn't rise so how could you ask someone to fit him into their budget? Plus he wasn't that great anyway and the NHL had passed a rule where GM's weren't allowed to make players that had requested a trade sit out a few months or perhaps even the full season. Wait, everything I just said was wrong.
And so was the way Lowe handled the entire Pronger situation.
So right off the bat the Oilers were fucked if they thought that Smid was more than a young cat who was likely to struggle playing as a 5 or a 6 dman let along in the top four. And apparently Kevin Lowe doesn't have access to NHL shift charts or plus/minus stats because if he did he would've known that Lupul would have to score 40 goals every year to be even worth a mention in a Pronger package. Once again the league was against Kevin Lowe in this regard just like they are every June when he tries to move up in the draft and Bettman and his minions mass txt all the other GM's and tell them they're not allowed to deal with him.
But as bad as it was that Eric D gave Lowe another free pass on the Pronger DISASTER, it was even worse when he threw out these two lines:
1: Only nine months ago, his team was the talk of the league — an eighth seed that had slipped into the playoffs in the final fortnight of the season, only to record three consecutive upset wins and advance to within one game of a Stanley Cup championship.
2: As a team, they were probably never as good as that miracle run to the Stanley Cup final suggested. But it is hard to imagine that they are as bad as their current woes imply either.
As I mentioned this guy covers Western Canada for the Globe and yet he feels like falling in with the masses and painting the Oilers as a team that was lucky to be in the playoffs in '06. I'll be one of the first ones to say that they struggled like MoFo's down the stretch but for a huge section of the season the Oilers were a bought and paid for contender that was only being weighed down by what can be accurately described as just hideous netminding. It pains me to read writers and fans from all over the league talking about how this spring could paint them as the next Oilers because I get the feeling they believe that MacT woke up in the middle of April to find a fairy had left a bag of magic dust at the foot of his bed and that the coach sprinkled accordingly and ta da you have a Cup contender. The Oilers had two lines that could shut you down and then they had a soft min line featuring mostly Hemsky-Stoll and Samsonov. They didn't do a heckuva lot but that's damn fine third line in terms of ES TOI wouldn't you say? They had a PK that would rather take a puck in the mouth then give up a chance from the slot and their PP was damn good until the Finals. On the backend they had a damn solid top four featuring one of the best defensive dmen in the league, Smith, a tough cat who makes a decent first pass, Staios, a guy who had all around good numbers before the Oilers picked up him in Jan, Spacek, and one of the league's top two dmen, Pronger. In goal they had a guy who'd posted some great years of Sv Pct prior to the Oilers picking him up at the deadline. But yeah other than that they were junk and if say the Rags or Leaves grab the 8th spot in the EC then damn right they could get on a similar run. So yes Eric you might have a presspass but I have two eyes and access to numbers that you either don't know exist or don't care to examine and all of those say the '06 Oilers were as good as last spring's run suggested. Put that team back on the ice in '07 with the same level of fitness and they're winning the first round for sure and are a good bet to make the final four. And one last thing, and I'll hit this a little bit later, comparatively the Oilers are indeed as bad as they're playing right now. For the most part they're getting outchanced every game and though we're getting a look at a bunch of kids not many of them project to be differencemakers and on the backend you've got at least two and maybe three guys that don't even belong in the league. Put all that together and they suck.
On to last night's latest loss and I can't describe how odd it is to watch this team right now. I'm a love and death guy with all the teams I root for, granted the intensity of said emotions ebb and flow depending on the squad and time of the year but if I'm in for a penny I'm pretty much in for a pound. March Madness began yesterday and my Hoyas look like a good bet to at least make the regional finals. They're a 2 seed so they took on a 15 yesterday and blipped early but then were downright workmanlike for the duration of the game. I've followed this group pretty closely for the last three years and it's fun to think that it might pay off so that's what I'm focused on right now. Of course there's still time for the Oilers and with Nilsson making his debut that gave me even more of a reason to watch. But the weird thing is I was openly rooting against them. I don't have anything against this team winning a game or two down the stretch and I can certainly feel for the players because the only thing they have going for them currently is a fat paycheque but as a schadenfreude addict I certainly didn't want to see them beat the Wild. One of the things that will make me feel better about this year is if all of the Habs, Leaves, Flames and Canucks are out of the playoffs by the second round and given the Oilers position in the NW division they have a hand in how the standings finish so if the Oilers are to win any remaining games I guess a win tomorrow night against the Blues would be best though that could impact the draft pick so fuck it let's lose them all:)
I can imagine this losing streak is taking the absolute piss out of Kevin Lowe and I'm getting a big charge just thinking about that. The guy is an egomanical hardass, and maybe I just decribed the majority of all NHL GM's, and this has to be absolutely killing him and that pleases me. This is what you get for fucking up first Pronger's demands and then the 94 negots. That thinned the depth of this team and while no one could anticipate a run of injuries this significant it's almost like karma's teabagging Lowe on a nightly basis. The killer is that for all the talk about the future and how everyone, including me, is enjoying getting a look at the kids it's becomng clear that most of them are nothing worth getting excited about.
Let's pretty much skip last night's ninth loss in a row altogether and just talk about the kids because it's their influence on the lineup that's lead us down this path and it's to them we'll look to for hope when the summer's passed and no one signed here;) Nilsson looked good last night and not to throw back a goal but the most impressive play to my eye was a saucer pass he sent to Pouliot. He's also a great skater who sometimes looked like he cared about his own end and knew what to do when he was back there but it was one game and looking at his size and the first game reports there's a lot of reasons to believe he plays on the outside and just how many of those guys can one team house and still be successful? We've already got a Hemsky, we're giving Lupul more rope to hang himself than Manute Bol and Schremp's down in the A forgetting to do shrugs, shoutout to Mike W from CiO;) It certainly is true that young Pouliot's an NHLer and he's hitting a lot of doubles right now that will eventually start to go over the fence once we give him the same set of linemates and a dyed in the wool rule but what else do we have? Brodziak could be a 4th liner but what difference does a guy in that role make unless he's an out of this world penalty killer? I love Jacques nearly as much as his parents do but enough is probably enough with this guy. He's gotta go back and work on so many things before we should start to believe that he's a top niner and as soon as you start to speak about a prospect as a 4th liner then the shine is off. Stortini has a tonne of heart but as a fighter is a lightweight in a heavy's body. Once again a 4th liner. Syvret is at best a bottom pairing guy and Young needs at least two more full seasons in the A and most likely three. We're holding more auditions than a guy who just got funding for his first porn shoot but what are seeing that provides us with any hope? Not much as far as I'm concerned. Pouliot is the only guy that should be able to make a difference in the top nine and maybe Nilsson as well if we can totally shield him but we're already doing that with Lupul and how is Hemsky gonna look in a power vs power role without good old 94 on the opposite wing?
One of my favorite lines when it comes to the Lowe's bluster about the Oilers stockpiling prospects and depth is there's actual depth and then there's perceived depth. Lowe once turned Brew and two prospects into Pronger and that looks like a once in a career move and I hoped you enjoyed the fruits of that move before they rotted to Smid and Lupul. Can Lowe do it again? I doubt it and I hope there's another Pleau out there without a satellite dish, or without great scouting or with a contract that he can't handle because I've seen the future these past few games and outside of Pouliot and maybe Nilsson it doesn't look that bright.
I don't think Lowe's gonna have any great success come draft weekend, July 1st and beyond because even though I'm leaning towards the idea that no one seriously does want to play in Edm I can also lead to the side of the guys that say an overpay will indeed bring people north. Of course when the Oilers are niggling with Smyth, what's the chance they'll toss out some extra K for Briere? And I don't want to damn the '08 season just yet because Roli has had a good year amidst the shit storm, Hejda looks like a player if we can get him back and perhaps this injury decreases his visibility league wise and a kid like Smid should only get better from this experience of top four min. Plus I'll put money on a bounceback year for Torres and one of these days Hemsky's gonna show up and go over a PPG as well. But the defense is still suspect and no one knows how to make a PP work and/or keep it humming and some of the skills guys are ones that need to be babysat. And as LT says we need some cheap guys somewhere as to level out the guys who are already making the big paper. To that end there doesn't seem to a lot of help coming from the farm and this is what we're learning down the stretch. That and don't anger the hockey gods by counting your spring playoff revenue and going on the cheap the next year and then screwing over your best player and having management lie about how it all went down.