Saturday, July 28, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

Our man Lowe is off the charts this summer. Though like, I'm not sure how much of the blame starts with the EIG's budget restrictions. I mean if the Oilers had been willing to take back salary in the Pronger trade, would the Oilers be in different circumstances right now?

And if Lowe had known that the Oiler budget would be this high last summer, would he have signed on Smyth to a long term deal in the $5 million per annum range, as was reportedly being requested by Smyth's camp? Would Lowe have been more open to a no movement clause?

If Smyth had known, with certainty, that the Oilers would be a cap team. Would he have been willing to be more flexible in negotiations?

If the Oilers had run a more veteran team last season, and enjoyed more success, and shown a willingness to spend ... would they have been a more attractive option for UFAs this summer?

The most reasonable answer to all the questions above is Probably. But we are where we are, this is out of control now. Lowe is chasing losses, and it isn't pretty to watch. Though strangely enough, these are the exact types of moves that seem to appeal to the listeners of talk radio. Go figure, perhaps these moves work well in video games, I dunno.

On to the mistake du jour:

This Dustin Penner is an interesting player for sure. He's really late on the development curve no doubt, but I remember seeing him play in the AHL before he started scoring, and he was just dominant along the boards against that level of competition. Extraordinary really. Torres was the only player in the game who was clearly better than him, I thought.

Still, this is a wild overpay. Penner's gaudy counting numbers won't repeat. He bleeds scoring chances against, and we all know that this isn't beer league man-on-man hockey... wingers have a huge impact on the number of scoring chances their goalie faces, probably greater than any other position. So Penner is a bad fit for the Horcoff/Hemsky line. He simply isn't good enough to face that level of competition without being exposed.

Apparently Penner took over Lupul's old gig as Carlyle's whipping boy. There is a reason for that.

Dustin** played about half of the time with Marchant as his centre last season and posted good results. Bear in mind that they had the benefit of strong goaltending and defense behind them as well.

Problem is: Marchant did a lot better in terms of GF and GA (puck has to be somewhere!) when he WASN'T playing with Dustin.

The other line that Penner played a bunch on was the Getzlaf/Perry line. They did very, very well together. Granted these two players are pretty special talents, and for the most part they didn't play against good opponents. Still, results be results.

Problem is: Getzlaf/Perry did a lot better in terms of GF and GA (puck has to be somewhere!) when they WEREN'T playing with Dustin.

This is, of course, eerily similar to the circumstances that turned Lupul into a hypnotic shiny object last summer.

I look at this roster and I can't begin to imagine how they are going to match up competitively against anyone in the NW. I pity MacTavish here, it's kind of like being dealt a terrible poker hand ... but on the back of the cards are pictures of the hottest women in the deck. That's going to make it even tougher to lose with them. Hell, there are very few teams in the league that they will match up well against. This is a lottery pick team IMO. And my gut feeling is that Lowe's next move is to make a trade that will make them even worse. And Lowe has mortgaged some of the future, in terms of future budget salary cap and draft picks also. Most notably a first round draft pick that should be 5th overall, or thereabouts, in a draft that is meant ot be heavy in high end talent.

On the RFA "raiding" issue, I don't think any GM wants to lose a player this way, just because he might be seen as a soft target for RFA offer sheets by other GMs in the future. Better to be seen as a crazy-eyed bastard who will match any RFA offer sheet, no matter how insane it may be. But in this case, it's just far too much. Burke has to walk away I think.

On the upside, this offer to Dustin Penner is sparkling genius compared to the asinine attempt at signing Vanek. And it beats the holy hell out of Lowe's proposed contract that Nylander used to leverage other suitors. And I have to admit, it is all very interesting to watch. Lowe's self destruction is like an oddly compelling serial drama right now.

** This icetime information for Penner, the results with and without linemates ... it comes courtesy of David Johnson's absolutely terrific stats site. This really is addictive stuff, and it makes you appreciate guys like Iginla and Sakic even more. I'll put a link to it on the sidebar.


Blogger Lowetide said...

Terrific post, Vic. The item on MacT and how he is going to roll out this mess is especially interesting.

Any thoughts? PDO mentioned Pisani on LW with Horcoff and Hemsky and then Penner with Stoll and Torres on a soft minutes 2line.

Something like that?

7/28/2007 12:43 pm  
Blogger MetroGnome said...

This is, of course, eerily similar to the circumstances that turned Lupul into a hypnotic shiny object last summer.

Great line.

Lowe's self-immolation certainly has been a fiery and public one. I can almost picture him standing in the middle of the street, pouring gasoline on himself and weeping.

7/28/2007 1:36 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Strangely enough, I think more of Lupul as a hockey player now than I did one year ago. He's going to be a decent player I think, if he's in the right room and with the right coaching staff, he'll be okay. Not a star or anything, but a good player.

7/28/2007 2:56 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


In poker you can bluff. MacTavish is hooped here.

I think that he went with that trio up front in the first game without Smyth, no? Maybe the next too, this before the whole team recognized the hopelessness of the situations, and vets with nagging injuries started heading towards the beach (sensibly).

Great line no doubt, and Hemsky is really turning into a player that makes a difference, or so I think. But the Oiler troops are going to be bleeding all over the battlefield while MacTavish reloads that musket. Just are. I'm open to reasoned arguments to the contrary. But this team has so much in common with the Colombus and Phoenix teams of recent years that it's spooky. Hopefully this is the bunch that beats the odds.

7/28/2007 3:58 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

Vic: Agreed. I don't know how good the PP would have to be in order to overcome the outscoring during normal time, but this is a dog's breakfast.

7/28/2007 4:02 pm  
Blogger Tyler said...

What's your objection to Vanek Vic? I liked that move a hell of a lot better than I like this one.

7/28/2007 4:06 pm  
Blogger Showerhead said...

It seems I'm too busy and exhausted enjoying the summer to spend much time in the blogosphere but I just want to put it on record that in the summer of 2007, the only people who were making any god damned sense to me were Lowetide and Vic Ferrari.

7/28/2007 11:31 pm  
Blogger Asiaoil said...

You know very well that with a guy who is this odd in terms of development that any of these statistical musing are basically worthless. Projecting ANYTHING about where this guy will be in 2 years is pretty much an exercise in total self-delusion - nobody knows where he's going or how he is going to turn out.

So fuck it I don't care what the stats say on this one - we all convinced ourselves that Conkanen was going to wonderful 2 years ago with our analysis and that turned out to be just so much bullshit. I like Dustin Penner, I like his story and his guts to make the show. Put down the calculator and be fan for a change - stories like this don't come along very often and I'll cheer like hell for the kid if he's ours.

7/29/2007 4:03 am  
Blogger mc79hockey said...

AO - I'm willing to say "I don't know" but do you really see that as a justification for spending $21.5MM? It seems to me that an awful lot of Oilers fans kind of approach spending money on FA's with a reverse onus - no matter who the player is, it's a fabulous idea unless there's evidence to the contrary. It strikes me as rather backward.

7/29/2007 11:18 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Part of what I'm hoping exists around here is an culture of rational debate. Not to be devoid of emotion, not at all, but a place to talk hockey with people that bring something to the table above and beyond 'gut feel'. People who further arguments with evidence and reasoned ideas, as opposed to a loud voice.

I think that really exists in the Oilers corner of the internet that I read. Some terrific blogs and sites around for this type of Oiler fan. Several other sites around the web as well. I'm loving this stuff, but it's not for everybody.

For people wanting to cheer for the home team, or pin the blame on some player hate, or dream of the potential of prospects ... that's terrific, they are a helluva lot more sensible than me, no doubt. And most coffee rooms, sports bars and internet message boards are going to work well for that.

I mean when a colleague at the water cooler talks about "Horcoff being useless and should be traded for a bag of pucks, that Schremp is a true number 1, but MacTavish can't coach talent, probably because he's jealous" ... well I'm going to think that they're wrong, but I'm not going to bother arguing about it. Maybe just a "I dunno, I think Horcoff is a good player" and walk away.

I mean reasonable poeple just don't go around arguing about this shit in everyday life. But all kinds of reasonable Oiler fans come to the Oilogosphere to do just that. That's the main point of it, as far as I'm concerned anyways. I rarely even bother reading the papers any more, just Mirtle and the Oilogosphere and a few other sites now and again. If it matters, I'll find intelligent commentary on it there.

It's not for everybody. And it shouldn't be.

7/29/2007 1:32 pm  
Blogger Asiaoil said...

I think we can safely state that stats and demonstrated results are important in evaluating players - but there are limits and we seem to have crossed a line with Penner given the limited database and his very unusual history. Running a few numbers on his last season in the NHL and then stating with any degree of certainty that this is what the future will hold in this case is folly or hubris - take your pick. Pretty much like looking at one year of stock market results in isolation and then suggesting you know where the market is going 3-4 year in the future - pure silliness.

MCs comment is valid - you can question whether this kind of move is justified given the paucity of supporting data. But I think it's obvious that more traditional avenues have been explored and have not born fruit. The UFA market will always be a problem for EDM - older guys have more on their agenda than dollars and EDM will always be a 3rd choice for most. The draft is a crap shoot unless you are picking top 3 and probably top 3 for several year - plus the predictable fallout of the new RFA rules and young UFA age are degrading this strategy. So after chasing the obvious guy in the RFA market (Vanek) then went to the higher risk play with Penner. Is this a good idea? - well it's a risk but you need a fantastic amount of luck to build a team unless you suck mightily for 5-7 years and draft high for that long. Let's look at the combination of factors that led to ANA winning the cup starting 2.5 years ago when they were a pretty mediocre team. Do you really think that Burke could actually plan the following?

- sign elite UFA Niedermayer (lots of competition
- sign UFA Selanne who suddenly finds the fountain of youth in his late 30s and starts popping goals like it 1993 (zero evidence in early 2004 that he was anything but done)
- have Chris Pronger fall in your lap because his wife hates EDM and want to live in LA
- find a team gullible enough to take Federov and then top it off by giving you Beuachamin
- have Dustin Penner emerge out of absolutely nowhere as a young UFA signing

The ONLY move that could be seen as mgmt brilliance was moving Federov - the rest was frankly fantastic luck and location - not any sort of evaluation of results or quantitative brilliance. Fuck any moron can tell you that signing Nieds and Pronger is a "good" idea and everyone would do it if they could - but most teams are not located in LA.

So back to the question - is signing Penner a good idea and what are the risks. I think Burke hates this decision for the same reason that it's risky for Lowe. Nobody knows where Penner is going or what his upside is because his development path is damn near unique. In this case stats are pretty much useless - it's up to your gut and you will need some luck - and luck still plays a very large part in this game as seen by the train of events that led to an ANA cup. Given the options available to the Oilers - I won't immediately dismiss this play. I hope they get Penner because it will be very interesting to see which contract is seen as value between 3-5 years from now: Smyth or Penner. If Penner can become a consistent 30 goal - 50 point guy and improve his ES play while Smyth slows down to be only a 20 odd goal guy who makes $2 million more a season then the Oilers win. If Smyth continues to perform at last season's level for 5 more years into his later 30s while Penner flops then EDM loses. If both guys excel over the contract period then EDM wins again because Penner is younger and makes less cash.

This play is a risk - and unlike the Souray contract which is similar to the bulk of UFA signings that are done every year - the Penner deal will be something that hangs on Lowe for a long time in a good or bad way. We will see how it pans out - but every once in a while you have to use your instrincts as a manager - because not every situation provides you with enough information and if you can't act without perfect information every time then you are a passenger not a manager. It will be interesting to follow - but anyone who thinks they know how this will turn out is fooling themselves.

7/29/2007 5:15 pm  
Blogger MetroGnome said...


Why's that? Is it you think Lupul was misused during his time in Edmonton?

7/29/2007 10:16 pm  
Blogger Jeff J said...

"...wingers have a huge impact on the number of scoring chances their goalie faces, probably greater than any other position."

I'd like to see some evidence and/or reasoned arguments for this.

7/30/2007 9:24 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I thought Lupul was over rated even before he became an Oiler. I'm no fan.

But he did put up outrageously bad numbers as an Oiler, and I have a hard time believing that he's quite that crappy. Just seemed to me that the failure of the team has been pinned on Lupul a bit too much, at least by the Oilogosphere.

7/30/2007 6:26 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I think that the wingers are at the decision making side in their own end. They aren't going to have to battle for the puck as much, but they have to make the decision when to jump forward or when to drop back to the high slot.

And to a baby with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

You could argue that coaches like Sutter and Hitchcock take that decision out of the hands of the wingers (except maybe one or two players, and even then maybe only when they're trailing in the last half of the third period) ... and I wouldn't argue that.

But on a team coached by the guys at the other end of the spectrum ... Ruff, MacTavish, Quenneville, etc, then if there is a good scoring chance off of the cycle, there is a really good chance that it happened because the player in the weak side winger position got caught cheating for offense. Guessed wrong, anticipated wrong, whatever. Same difference. And most coaches do give players opportunity to react to plays now (thankfully).

It's a bit of a peeve of mine as well, this nonsense that wingers are less important than other positions on results is pure crap. You look at most teams and the guys that are most likely to be out there for a shitload of scoring chances against (Nash, Bertuzzi) ... more often than not they're wingers.

Smyth was terrible for this last year on the Oilers, though it was easier to pick on individual gambles than the chipstack with him and Hemsky. As were most of the Oiler wingers in stages ... you expect better from your leaders though.

7/30/2007 6:51 pm  
Blogger rstahl said...

Well said Asia. In regards to the Penner signing, I'll mangle a poker analogy. The NHL is more like tournament play than a cash game because there is a clock (retirements, UFA) and escalating blinds (RFA salaries). You can sit on your ass and wait for pocket aces (Crosby, Pronger) and most likely blind yourself off, or take a gamble with a suited connector and hope it hits. Yes, the aces are a lot better bet, but you get dealt 56 suited a lot more often. Knowing when that 234 flop is coming is the trick :).

I'm not going to pretend to be a mind reader, but there appears to be a lot more pre-supposition of conclusions in the Oilogosphere this off season than usual. It's leading to some interesting contradiction's that nobody has been able to explain away; such as its a bad idea to sign Souray after he posts a record shooting %, but a good idea to sign Smyth. Or how the Oiler's weakness last season was games played by rookies, and then they go and fill those holes with 9 better than average NHL players with experience (6 acquisitions, 3 returning from injury), yet are still a lottery team.

7/30/2007 10:03 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

rstahl: 6 better than average acquisitions? Do tell.

7/30/2007 10:13 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


It's about the context in which the points were garnered. Smyth plays against the other team's best players a bunch, boith their defense and forwards. And he drives positive results. Hell, the only time Lupul put up decent results was when he played with Smyth/Horcoff, and that was also when he was playing against better opposition.

It's a matter of deciding who you think is driving the results and who you think is riding them.

Just adding up goals for the roster, based on prior year's stats ... well to me that is madness. If that worked then Phoenix and Columbus would have been kicking ass over the past few years.

And as an Oiler fan it's a bit concerning to see the team heading in that same direction. These are bad odds that Lowe is taking on these bets.

But since you seem to be thirsting for positivity:

Personally I liked the Pitkanen deal though, it clearly makes the Oilers worse for this season, but in the long run it should bode well I think. He bought low there. And mudcrutch has convinced me that Garon is a pretty good bet, plus he's in at a good price, that looks like a good pickup to me as well.

7/31/2007 12:05 am  
Blogger mc79hockey said...

such as its a bad idea to sign Souray after he posts a record shooting %, but a good idea to sign Smyth.

I'll explain this one. Smyth has other facets to his game that Souray doesn't. If the PP effectiveness disappears, Souray is the suck. If Smyth's shooting percentage retreats to normal for him (and I'm not conceding that it was abnormal last year; ES S% was up but PP S% was nothing special for him, IIRC), he's still a good hockey player.

I didn't realize that I'd commented on Garon but I thought that was a smart move too. The Oilers are basically paying top dollar for backups but I think that they got a good one. I'd have preferred that they swap one of their oodles of B prospects for Toivonen but I think if you're looking for optimism next year, the Oilers should expect 82 games of reasonable goaltending. I don't know the last time that they could say that - the 80's maybe? I don't know if I wrote it anywhere, but Colby and I were kicking this around and we figure he's the best backup on paper since 1986-87.

So Lowe's got that going for him, which is nice.

7/31/2007 12:36 am  
Blogger rstahl said...

6 better than average acquisitions? Do tell.

1. Garon had the 30th best SV% in the league - better than average back up.

2. Pitkanen - poor results to start the season, but did a lot of heavy lifting for Philly.

3. Souray - say what you will about his EV results last year, but based on the coaching staffs recent success in turning question marks into at least passable NHL defenders (Hejda, Smid, Cross, Ulanov, Smith, Staios) he'll be better this year. Plus, he's got skills on both the PP and PK.

4. Penner - the guy played middle of the road competition for Anaheim last year, and scored 29.

5. Tarnstrom - Has his defensive zone liabilities, but has elite PP skills.

6. Sanderson - ok, I'm reaching on that one.

8/01/2007 8:14 am  
Blogger rstahl said...

These are bad odds that Lowe is taking on these bets.

I'm not convinced they are. The problem with the Oiler's defense last year was skill, and they've addressed that. I think Huddy is a fantastic coach - when the Oilers got Pronger all the talk was about how many undisciplined penalties he was going to take, but never did. To a small degree, he fell back into old habits with Anaheim this year.

With regards to Penner, I don't think you can come to any meaningful conclusions by looking at his stats. His career has taken such an unusual path, I think you have to leave the evaluation to the 'hockey people'.

Garon is a great bet, as is Pitkanen. Tarnstrom is a pretty safe wager, and again fills a hole the Oilers had last year.

8/01/2007 9:12 am  
Blogger rstahl said...

If Smyth's shooting percentage retreats to normal for him (and I'm not conceding that it was abnormal last year; ES S% was up but PP S% was nothing special for him, IIRC)

Smyth has shown that he is a 20-25% shooter on the Oilers PP, which has been tailored to his skill set. Will he continue to out-shoot Thornton and Iginla by 10% on a Hejduk-Sakic centered PP? It's a bet I'd take if he signed on with the NYI, but Colorado has had success on a PP that doesn't feature a tipper/screener in front of the goalie, and I don't see why they'd change that. I wouldn't be surprised to see Smyth shoot anywhere between 15-30% next year on the PP, because I don't have enough information to make any sort of guess.

8/01/2007 9:24 am  
Blogger Dennis said...

I'm going against the grain here but I don't think the Penner signing is all that bad. I didn't like the Souray move, not in the fucking least, but once they did that, I think they improved their PP to that point that they took themselves out of lottery contention. And once they did that, then I didn't mind giving up the 1st rounder for Penner.

Now that being said, I have to admit that I'm lacking in my prospect knowledge but is there enough depth that you're getting a kid at 8th or 9th who's better than the 24 year old Penner?

8/03/2007 3:28 pm  
Blogger Jay said...

sorry to leave this comment here, but i could not find a way to private message any of you who write on this blog.

i was wondering if/when you guys will set up this page for rss feeds so readers don't need to keep randomly checking the page.

your guys' stuff is really great. thanks

8/07/2007 6:26 pm  

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