Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some Disjointed Thoughts About The Oilers Defense

At the end of last season, EDM's defense looked something like (if all players were healthy):

Hejda-Smith
Smid-Staios
Tjarnqvist-Greene
Gilbert
Roy
Grebeshkov (ineligible for the season, playing in Russia)

The Oilers probably decided to let Hejda and Tjarnqvist go before UFA started, so we can alter the depth chart, on June 30th, to look something like:

Smith
Staios
Smid
Greene
Gilbert
Roy

On July 1st, the Oilers made multiple changes on defense, announcing the signings of Grebeshkov and Tarnstrom.

When these signings were first announced, I thought this was a good way to address the PP (speaking of Tarnstrom specifically) without having to shell out long term big money for a guy like Souray.

A few hours later the Oilers traded Lupul and Smith for Sanderson and Pitkanen. This deal seemed somewhat strange to me, in that the balance of the D had seemingly switched from not enough offence to not enough defence, but I reasoned that it was still pretty early in the FA season, and EDM could probably replace Smith (to some extent) via the UFA market.

The Oilers D chart looked like:

Staios
Pitkanen
Smid
Greene
Tarnstrom
Grebeshkov
Gilbert
Roy

with Grebeshkov a wild card, but since he's on a one way contract I'll leave him above Gilbert and Roy until it is shown otherwise.

This looked like a D that could use a defensive D, sure, but workable. A guy like Hejda didn't seem like he would be terribly expensive (and didn't turn out to be, either).

Then, come July 12th, the Oilers decided to sign Souray. This seems like a strange decision to me, in that I had figured one of the purposes in trading for Pitkanen and signing Tarnstrom was that they didn't want to spend a huge amount of money to address the PP. Having already acquired Tarnstrom and Pitkanen the Oilers don't receive the same boost in adding Souray that the Oilers would have had the decided to resign, say, Tarnqvist and Hejda instead of Tarnstrom and Pitkanen.

As a sidenote, I'm not convinced EDM wouldn't have been better off signing Nagy for 9 over 2 years, and Hejda for 1.2 mil. The numbers for Nagy and Hejda are both made up, but I don't think there is any reason to think them unreasonable. Hejda ended up signing for 1.0 in CLB, and Nagy for 3.5 in LA. True, Nagy may have looked at LA's roster, and decided to opt for a one year deal in a warm sunny city trying to play his value up for next season. But he'd be turning down, essentially, a guaranteed 5.5 mil salary the next season if he were willing to sign at 9 over 2 years with EDM.

Given that chain of events, EDM could be looking at a lineup of:

Nagy Horcoff Hemsky
Torres Stoll Penner
Moreau Pouliot Pisani
Thoresen Reasoner Sanderson

Pitkanen Staios
Hejda Smid
Tarnstrom Greene
Grebeshkov

VS

Penner Horcoff Hemsky
Torres Stoll ???
Moreau Pouliot Pisani
Thoresen Reasoner Sanderson

Pitkanen Staios
Souray Smid
Tarnstrom Greene
Grebeshkov

In any case, EDM is now left with the following 9 defensemen that the Oilers brass feel can be NHL level defencemen:

Staios
Souray
Pitkanen
Tarnstrom
Greene
Grebeshkov
Smid
Gilbert
Roy

Of those 9, 6 are on one-way contracts, and are thus near certainties to be on the roster at the start of the season. Those are:

Staios
Souray
Pitkanen
Tarnstrom
Greene
Grebeshkov

Of the remaining 3 defencemen, one cannot be sent to the minors without clearing waivers, Mathieu Roy.

That leaves only Gilbert and Smid eligible to be sent to the AHL without having to be paid an NHL salary or having to clear waivers. It would be surprising to see Smid sent down, even with a poor training camp, given his potential, but it also probably doesn't make sense to lose Roy to waivers if, for instance, Roy is clearly better than Smid at camp and the Oilers don't want to carry more than 7 defencemen.

At this point, I would imagine that Pitkanen, Souray, and Tarnstom are seen as the main PP defensemen, with one Staios/Smid/Grebeshkov filling out the fourth PP spot (if there is one, it may be that EDM uses a F as one of the pointmen on the PP.

On the PK one would imagine Staios, Greene, Souray playing a bunch, with Pitkanen and Smid seeing some time as well.

Grebeshkov is a total wild card, it remains to be seen how he reads the play at the NHL level and thus where he might play for the Oilers.

I would guess that the most likely scenario (excluding trades) would have the Oilers breaking camp with 2 G, 13 F, and 8 D, Gilbert being the only D of the 9 sent to the minors. I suppose they may try to sneak Roy through waivers, but it seems kind of risky to me given his (probably) cheap salary. Of course, it's only an issue if Roy is a guy not worth risking. I'm guessing EDM might feel that way about Roy since that they apparently gave him a one way contract for the second year of his new two year deal.

7 Comments:

Blogger Lowetide said...

Very good summary of the situation. For the last two TC's (and now this one) the Oilers seem unafraid to enter the season seriusly of of balance at a specific position.

Two years ago, it was the goaltending, last season the blueline looked wonky.

And this season BOTH the D (not enough natural RD, not enough Don Awrey's) and the F (not enough established NHL players and no clear #1 option among the new kids on the block) seem to be unsettled.

The management is once again relying heavily on MacT to suss things out in a quick hurry. Which is fine, he's a very good coach, but why make things so G.D. difficult?

The Oilers are a funny organization now: they DRAFT for need, and TRADE/SIGN for BPA no matter the position.

Bizarre.

8/30/2007 7:31 am  
Blogger Slipper said...

Hypothetically, when the Colorado Avalanche are in town and MacTavish has last change, which Oilers defence pairing gets thrown out there when Smyth-Sakic-Hejduk come over the boards?

8/30/2007 5:04 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

It seems even madder when I see it ladi out like this, speeds. Trying to find the thread of reason in this is no small task, but I'll take a kick: I remember a podcast at the Oilers site last year, about this time, and Lowe pondered a scheme of puck moving Dmen on the left hand side. Odd I know, but he said it.

Maybe Lowe is thinking high theory here, Barnet style. I dunno, that's all I've got.

8/30/2007 7:33 pm  
Blogger choppystride said...

Nagy would have been an excellent addition. But I think he and Handzus went as a package. And if the Oilers had been able to snag them, I would have been ecstatic. But oh well... Dean Lombardi certainly had a heck of a summer.

As for all the erratic Oilers spending, I think a lot had to do with Katz. The EIG were most probably feeling the pressure in the PR dept. I wouldn't be surprised if Lowe were actually under orders to make a few big signings.

8/31/2007 12:23 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

good post speeds - you lay out exactly the mystery of the summer - what was the plan?

especially once Lowe had Pitkanen and Tarnstrom there was absolutely no reason to bring in another LH Dman whose claim to fame is the PP

That 5M against the cap precluded acquiring a top six forward.

And it means Lowe will have to move a Dman (who?) or he will lose Roy on waivers.

The Souray signing was a PR move plain and simple, imo. Hopefully he can put up some decent numbers in the next year or so and then they can move him.

8/31/2007 11:26 am  
Blogger Bank Shot said...

"I remember a podcast at the Oilers site last year, about this time, and Lowe pondered a scheme of puck moving Dmen on the left hand side. Odd I know, but he said it."

Maybe he wants his best breakout passers on their forehand when passing to Hemsky??

His leftwingers tend to be all brutes so the puck handling challenged right D can just smash the puck in the direction of the left winger and that guy can charge through a wall to get the rubber back.

or something.... You'd think having skillset matching pairs/triplets on either side of the ice limits your team's options somewhat.

Souray plays a different role then Pitkanen and Tarnstrom on the PP. He plays the right point and shoots. They play the left and don't. The Tarnstrom signing seemed to be the "if we can't get anything else accomplished" fall back plan. Pitkanen makes him redundant in a big way, but at least Lowe was covering his ass.

Souray does indeed seem to be the "Oh crap noone will sign here" move which would be more tolerable if Tarnstrom was instead Hejda.

8/31/2007 5:51 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

bank shot:

You've probably never followed the Isles board, but it's worth a look. By and large they are young fans, 22-ish sort of thing, but where else would you learn that Christie Brinkley is a diehard Isles fan, season ticket holder and promoter, and that her daughter has grown up to look like Billy Joel? The correct answer is "nowhere".

Plus you get an insight into the old legends. And Al Arbour, who is seven whole new kinds of 'quietly reasonable'.

Arbour (who will be bench coaching a game next year BTW) is very much from the "just keep adding good players, you'll win games soon enough" school, in fact I think he invented it, well his ideas fly in the face of the chemistry kit kids. And Lowe seems to be the lead guitarist for that band.

We'll see how the season plays out, but at this point I'd want to check COL GM Giguere to make sure he's not a bastard child. And I'd like to see if Arbour and Lowe can in fact occupy the same physical space (just a theory of mine).

9/01/2007 4:29 pm  

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