Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In Garth Snow's Shoes

An interesting position for the poorer teams this year, meaning the teams that qualify for revenue sharing. The terminology used in the new CBA is Player Compensation Cost Redistribution, to me it seems easier to just call it what it is, revenue sharing.

In any case this is a big spring season for teams that rely on this income while they try to grow their businesses. As a condition of the CBA this money will be reduced by 25% next season unless the recipients increase their revenues by more than the league average (roughly 6% this year) and have solid attendance next year (the lesser of league average or 13,125 per game in paid attendance).

Then it steps up again the next year, with more cuts in funds and slightly higher standards to meet.

How many teams have seen a significant increase in revenues and attendance after a failed season? I dunno, but I would guess that unless there was a new building or some other peculiar event, the answer is zero.

So, this tells us that the Phoenix and Florida franchises are seven kinds of screwed. And it also tells us that for NYI, PIT, NSH, ATL ... the time to act is now. The value of a player like Forsberg to a team like Nashville has never been higher.

Poile really set the market with his bold move for Forsberg. I suppose he was less scared of Forsberg's ankle problems given that Legwand went through the same surgery after last season. Plus Forsberg started out just terrible (and usually Peter plays some of the toughest minutes in the league, but Nedved really was doing most of that work for Hitchcock early on ... sounds like madness I know, Forsberg must have been damn near dead). At any rate if the numbers are to be believed, then Forsberg is back on form. Playing against quality and putting up the kind of Wilson number since Xmas that only he could possibly sustain.

Then Atlanta makes the bold move for Tkachuk. He's a tremendous player IMO and as high as the price seems, Poile has set the market and Waddell surely realizes that Snow will be just as motivated to buy and is in on the bidding, and maybe even Shero in Pittsburgh (who also had just a terrific day I thought, is this guy any relation to Freddy?).

Now if you're Doug Wilson, Brian Burke or Ken Holland ... then you're probably going to sit pat at this sandwich auction until the starving guys with lots have cash have spent their money. It just doesn't make any sense to get into a bidding war with them.

If you're Garth Snow, why in god's name don't you get into the bidding for Guerin? He ends up going for less than Tkachuk, and he is a lesser player ... but in terms of value, and given the situation that NYI find themselves in with the CBA revenue sharing rules ... why in God's name do opt out of the Guerin bidding with just an hour or two to go before the deadline?

The correct answer is probably the simple one. That being that he already had a conditional deal with Lowe in place, and it was better than the Guerin deal at the price that Wilson had bid it to.

Lowe may possibly have been negotiating in good faith with Meehan until the last 20 minutes (all negotiations with Meehan were over the phone) but if he was then all that tells us is that guaranteed 'option 2' to Snow was something similar. Maybe Tjarnqvist and Sykora for a slightly different return. I suspect that Lowe needed to shed some salary yesterday to stay
on budget, so those numbers would add up about the same.

In any case a very good day for Garth Snow. Let's be frank, if the Oilers had been in playoff contention and Lowe had traded Niinimaki and Rita and 17ish overall pick (in a weak draft year) for Sundin ... we'd be building Kevin a statue and mocking John Ferguson Jr.

He wasn't a very good goalie, but it looks like he's a damn good GM, this Garth Snow.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ryan Smyth traded

Smyth for Nilsson, O'Marra, and NYI's 2007 1st.

On value, for a 20 game rental, this is fantastic value for the Edmonton Oilers. I was a hug fan of O'Marra at the 2005 draft (I'll have to look it up, but I'm pretty sure I had him 7th or 8th overall that year). I'd imagine Nilsson goes straight to Edmonton, O'Marra is still in the CHL but he's already signed his 3 year rookie deal, so there is no re-entry worry with O'Marra. O'Marra seems like a player MacT would particularly like, but I guess we'll see, and who knows how long it will take until he's ready to be a contributor. I hate cheering against Smyth, but a guy has to hope NYI goes into the tank the rest of the way to improve that draft pick.

But, man, it hurts.






I'll be providing very brief commentary on most of the deadline deals at my old site, leaving room at the top of the page here to comment on any Oilers deals that may go down today.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oilers/ Wings thread

Oilers get the win in the shootout. A guy hates to get hope and then have it crash away. This reeks of EDM coming close enough before the deadline to not sell, and then missing the playoffs anyways and getting nothing for their pending UFA's while drafting 14th. Blech. Well, we'll see I guess, I mean, if SJ beats CAL tomorrow and EDM beats MIN on Sun in reg that would leave EDM 3 pts behind CAL (CAL having a GIH vs. PHX MON night) and 6 behind MIN (with EDM holding the GIH). I don't think the Oilers would sell in that position. Of course, if MIN beats EDM on Sun in reg and CAL wins both games before the deadline EDM would be 9 pts back of both after MON night's games, the day before the deadline, and in that position I would suspect EDM would be sellers (undoubtedly not the same extent as if I were the GM, but they'd move a couple pending UFA's I would imagine).

Oops, forgot the Oilers had Sykora, lol. I'd have gone Smyth, Sykora, and Pouliot.

Pretty entertaining OT, for my 3 shooters I think I'd pick Smyth, Thoresen, and Pouliot, mainly because I'm getting sick of seeing Hemsky go in, shoot, and miss. If I decided to put Hemsky in I'd be taking Thoresen out.

I agree with that non-call, both players were jostling for the puck and Hemsky simply lost his balance.

Heading to OT, picking up one point in DET is huge. Ferraro is going on and on about how "one point isn't enough" at this time of year, and while that is in some ways true, I think it's pretty misleading. If there were one game left, including tonight's game, that I would consider it acceptable to "only" get one point, I think I would probably pick this game. Second game of a BTB against the best team in the conference, and the best home team in the NHL. One point is very nice, though of course two would be better.

Wow did Cleary embarrass Staios on that rush.

Really nice play by Pouliot to gain control of that puck, too bad he didn't convert that since it would have been a really pretty finish. Not much to dislike about Pouliot since recall. I've got to admit I wavered with him a bit earlier this year, but he was still, IMO, the best prospect in the Oilers system, or no worse than top 3 anyways. He's starting to show the offensive upside that I figured he had back at the 2003 draft, where I had Pouliot ranked ahead of Phaneuf (oops).

Kind of nice to see them limit Pisani's minutes, I'm assuming because he's a bit out of game shape? Wonder what Winchester thinks of all the roster activity going on while he keeps holding down the press box. I know if I were him, I'd be careful with my remaining paychecks, it's not looking like a given that he'll get a one way deal next year and his remaining salary for this year could go a long way for a guy if properly managed. Then again, with regards to money I'm sure I'm more cautious than most, lol. BTW, that's a nice way of admitting I'm cheap.

Not much going on during this PP, not great decision making by any of the Oilers on that man advantage.

Pouliot draws a penalty, nice move to force that play.

2nd period over: Great stop by Roloson late in the 2nd, hopefully that quality goaltending continues the rest of the night, EDM will probably need it to pick up a point. 3-2 DET after 2.

I don't know what it is about Torres, but he's got a real knack for being in the right place on weird plays like that. Tied game, pretty impressive given the penalty calls against so far tonight.

Really nice read by Roy with 8:40 left in the second, not an easy play on which to decide which option to take.

And Lupul out with a concussion. 4 players out with concussions within a pretty small period of time. Nothing new here, but I wonder how much of this concussion stuff has to do with a different standard for diagnosis vs. even 4 years ago, and how much has to do with bigger, fast players who aren't being slowed down to the same extent that maybe they were pre-lockout.

Some brief thoughts on the Laraque rumors. It's been said numerous times that PIT should go after Laraque, and in a somewhat rare occurance I agree with that general consensus, though not necessarily for the reasons the commentators mention. Sure the deterent factor is nice, but PIT has a crazy PP, Laraque will draw penalties. Hell, playing Laraque on a line with a solid puck control player like Crosby might be useful just in drawing penalties for the PIT PP to work.

***********

Kind of a make-up call on Lidstrom there, or more accurately, a very stringent standard is still being enforced. Not my cup of tea, but I like the NHL before the lockout. I also would prefer games end in ties after 60 minutes, no OT or SO, so I'm guessing that doesn't make me a typical NHL fan to begin with, nevermind a "new NHL" fan. And now into the 1st INT, with a DET 2-1 lead.

What a terrific heads-up play by Lidstrom, and why is Hemsky not on for a 4 on 3. And two calls on that Zetterberg rush, what the hell is Sykora supposed to do there? I didn't know that part of the "new NHL" was "no defence allowed, because that hurts scoring rates". Oh well, what can you do?

IMO that's a pretty decent check by Kronwall, certainly not crazy vicious or anything. But he did jump into it by the looks of it. I wouldn't have minded seeing Roloson and Hasek go, that would have been pretty interesting. A senior citizens fight, as it were.

Nice finish by Smyth, great pass by Thoresen. Not often you see Thoresen out with the more talented players, looked good making that pass.

Another PP, didn't really see what happened but sounds like it wasn't deserved, and with ace PKer Pouliot in the box a goal was certain.

Nice pressure from the Oilers after the 2nd penalty expired, but this is a rough looking game. If Det's top line can handle EDM's, then what happens?

Ah yes, Zetterberg. Good thing DET has this guy signed up for 2 more years at ~2.6 mil a year. That won't help them stay near the top of the standings at all ;)

Penalty against the Oilers, be interesting to see if Pouliot keeps getting so much PK ice time. And Pouliot starts, and now we've got a 5 on 3 against with 2 centers in the box, Stoll on the IR.

Nice save by Roloson, after Roy gets a nice shot somewhere in the leg. Haven't mentioned it yet, but Tjarnqvist is back. hopefully the aren't rushing him back, but if they end up as sellers it's definitely a plus if Tjarnqvist is shown as healthy before you (potentially) trade him.

19:30 left in the first:

And Horcoff is shaken up. Promising start, lol


PRE-GAME:

Alright, not looking promising here given this is the second of BTB games, and DET is the best home team in the league. Oh, and they are also 2nd in the NHL in points.

Starting goalies are, not surprisingly, Roloson and Hasek.

Oilers start with Horc's line, DET with Z, Datsyuk and Holmstrom.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Whoop-dee-doo, what does it all mean, Basil?"

I'm not sure.

One possibility is that Greene might be out of here as well before next season starts. I don't see how EDM can possibly run with Smid, Greene, and Grebeshkov playing next year, but that depends on the game of Grebeshkov as well as the perceived growth in Smid and Greene's games by the decision making staff of the Oilers.

This might also spell the end of Tjarnqvist's stay in EDM, but I will believe that one when I see it because, to me, Tjarnqist has played pretty decently when healthy. I really doubt if this year has played his value upwards, so if EDM likes what they saw, and don't see his injury as a long term problem (they might) Tjarnqvist seems to me like a guy you can bring back as a UFA and perhaps get a good deal.

There is also the possibility that they simply think, for next year and beyond, Grebeshkov will be better than Bergeron so why not?

I could see them moving any or all of Smith, Tjarnqvist, and Hejda at the deadline, but I could also see them keeping all 3 and moving Greene, either now or in the summer, and going with a D of:

Smith
Staios
UFA
Tjarnqvist
Hejda
Smid
Grebeshkov

I don't see as much of a possibility of them going with this defence next season:

Smith
Staios
Tjarnqvist
Hejda
Smid
Greene
Grebeshkov

But stranger things have happened, I'm sure.

Any other wild possibilities here on anyone's mind?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Oilers/Bruins: Injuries to Stoll. Pisani leave faithful holding out for some new old heroes

I think it's a little silly to say, as Shawn Horcoff did on Sunday night, that the seven game roadtrip the Oilers start tomorrow will make or break their season. The cynic/realist in me could point out that even running the table on this jaunt, quite unlikely I'll avow, might not get the Oilers that much closer to slipping into the eighth place in the WC standings. It certainly wouldn't do them any harm but the breaking point of this season's playoff chances may well have come with the Oilers subpar record within their own division and the latest such losses we remember happened in the last 11 days when the Oilers dropped two games to the Canucks and in the process saw the space between the clubs take an eight point swing. If the Oilers happen to go 3-4-1 in the next 13 days it certainly won't help their playoff chances but it won't wind up being the death knell either.

I must admit that I love these EC swings by the Oilers as it conjures up the days before I had the Centre Ice package when I could usually only catch Oilers games on TSN or CBC. So whenever the Oilers went east I had the chance to catch them on the Leaves old local affiliate, CHCH, as well as on Boston's local flagship station, WSBK. This is also not to forget to mention that RDS broadcasts every game the Habs play along with every Sakic Koivu bowel moment. Of course being somewhat of an old school fan I also get a kick out of seeing the Oilers play in places like Boston, Philly and even on the Island considering it once provided victorious spoils for Peter Puck's Prodigies. Lastly, and most certainly not leastly, these games provide a brief respite for the Newfoundland Oilers fan who's prone to feeling really really stupid and foolish when he's watching Matt Greene throw the puck away for the umpteenth time at 12:30am. If that was happening at say 11pm every night then it wouldn't be such a big deal. Well that's a lie but the difference in time would allow for more sleep once the subsequent tossing and turning had been completed.

Someone else who's probably looking forward to this trip is Ladislav Smid who in finally turning 21 just 11 scant days ago is now eligible to barhop in America and if he so desires frequent those clubs where ladies remove their clothing to hiphop songs and old metal powerballads for money. But enough about the age and ineptness of the Oilers young defenseman because that's old news. Yes it's an ongoing story that's as puzzling in it's lack of rectifcation as is the saga of Jewel's teeth but it's old nonetheless. The auteur of the Oilers '07 drama has introduced a new wrinkle to hurdle and in it's wake we see MacT asking what his motivation is;)

Damn the torpedoes and the rookie defensemen and the fact that the Oilers wanted Roloson to play all 82 regular season games the ticket, as Jon Lovitz would coo, to '07 Oilers success would be it's depth at forward. It would turn out to be a lie which would suit the old SNL regular just fine. It's hard to gauge just how much a young and skittish defense has hampered the Oilers forwards group but they haven't even gone gangbusters on the PP and that's a unit that usually sees four forwards in it's employ. I wouldn't consider the group to be a glaring weakness but it hasn't been a dominating presence either and now with it's ranks have recently been thinned by the nearly concurrent concussions of first Stoll and then Pisani, the result leaves guys that had been flying under the radar now finding themselves in the sharpest of crosshairs.

It was just the other night during a conversation with Riv and Young MC that I opined how funny it was that the Oilers were expected to win without receiving basically nothing from either of Sykora or Lupul. I'd throw Torres in there as well but he's managed to stay above the plus/minus line while playing tougher mintues than either of those guys and we know that counts for something. 71 had started out this season on fire and won us all over with some early Flame dousing and even his first stretch of coldness was pockmarked with scoring chances that just weren't finding twine. Usually when that happens it's just a matter of time before the goals come again but eventually he didn't even produce scoring chances and fell into oblivion once Hemsky was removed from his line. 15 really never enjoyed any kind of a hot streak and his Oilers claim to fame thus has been a woeful +/- road record or holding the record for fewest games sucking before having local columnists defend him.

The focus will now switch back to these guys because Pisani might not have been scoring a lot of goals but he was playing big mintues and he was doing a good job in that role not to mention he was also killing penalties. Stoll has been a jack-of-all-trades with the Oilers this year being their primary right-handed faceoff man, playing the left point on the PP, killing penalties and playing some tough minutes to boot. He's not expected back until Saturday in Toronto at the earliest and I'm guessing here but I'd imagine the quickest time we could see Pisani would be next Tuesday in Ottawa. There are holes to fill in the lineup and minutes and responsbilites that need new masters and any success the Oilers have on this trip will come from great performances by the netminding and/or the forwards. It's not like I'm going to stop talking about this mind you;) but the defense just isn't gonna get any better. Smid and Greene are good for a combined six-to-eight mindblowingly stupid mistakes a night, Hejda's being asked to play over his head and Bergeron is still Bergeron. So it is to the guys up front that we look and there's only so much we can ask and expect of the Oilers current Easter line of Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky.

During Sunday night's postgame scrum Sykora referenced the idea of secondary scoring as an important cog to continued success, they have won four out of their last six you know;) and I'm glad he's warmed to that idea because he's one of the guys on that hot seat. The Oilers are missing two important pieces but somehow somewhere there should still be enough goals to go around. The obvious and absolute must win game on this trip happens in 12 days in Minnesota but before that there are stops in somewhat friendly road locales like Toronto, Columbus and tonight's tilt in Beantown. The Oilers are looking for some additional protagonists and a win in Boston shouldn't require overly heroic efforts.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Whether you're walking a metre or a mile...


...You've got to do it one step at a time.

The young man in the Hawks jersey is (Winnipeg product) Cam Barker. If you trust quotes from HFB, Barker is the "best defenceman not playing in the NHL right now" and he represents one of many blue chip defensive prospects stabled in the windy city these days.

Edmonton hosts Chicago tonight amid all kinds of trade speculation (apparently we landed Pitkanen today - it was an exciting fifteen minutes of BS to say the least). A Chicago paper claims that the Oilers have sent scouts to recent Blackhawks games to ogle Duncan Keith among others, but tonight I couldn't care less.

If you were to look at Edmonton's place in the standings and the games they have ahead of them and follow that look by deciding that the Oilers *will* make the playoffs, you would be in effect taking tonight's win for granted. If Edmonton is to claw back into the playoff race, they are going to have to win an awful lot of hockey games from here on in.

And if that's the case, they absolutely cannot afford to leave 2 pts on the table tonight.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Canucks/Oilers: Save us Sergei Samsonov!

Tonight's game is all about the opportunity to bring the Canucks back into the fray and the general schmozzle that is the cutline for the Western Conf playoff standings. The Canucks currently sit in seventh place with 29 wins and 62 points which leaves them three wins and six points ahead of the Oilers. Van also holds the season series thus far with a 4-2 edge. If the Canucks win this game tonight, be it in regulation, overtime or shootout, the Oilers chances of catching them are pretty much over. The Oilers have two games left against the Dynasties and both of them are at Rexall and it would behoove the home-side to sweep the remaining series and to do it in regulation to boot.

However, if the Oilers win tonight then they're just four points back of Vancouver and all of a sudden Luongo's Lemmings aren't breathing all that easy.

Don't get me wrong, I've got much respect for the latest tender to walk through the West Coast's goalie graveyard but there's just something unseemly about the Canucks record. I'm not a newbie to this hockey watching business and I've seen plenty of teams that seemingly live on their goalie's wits alone but the Canucks, at least to my eye, aren't that far removed from an elongated hot streak that a prolonged stretch of mediocrity couldn't be seen as anything less than that squad regressing to the mean. Then again maybe that's just wishful thinking on my behalf as I'm the same guy who waited for the '02 Yotes to fall apart so that the Oilers could sneak into the playoffs and we all remember how that turned out.

There's really no secret to the Canucks success and in some ways it mirrors how the Oilers knocked off the Wings last spring. They get outshot and aren't humbled by it because they have a really strong top two pairs on defense who keep the shots to the outside and clear the rebounds. On the offchance you can get inside you've got arguably the best goalie in the world holding down the forth. The rest of the team, outside of the Sedins, are as Tyler would put it, "the suck." Sure, the Oilers closet is full of way more skeletons but at least they have the excuse of youth in the cases of Greene and Smid. The Canucks have vets like Morrisson and Cooke clocking in at a combined -26 not to mention this summer's free agent acquistion Bulis doing his own special kind of damage with a -11.

This is a point of Cam's that he made today while we were discussing the possibility of Samsonov coming back to Edmonton. The Georgia Peach;) opined that the Oilers have lost a lot of swagger since the departures of Pronger and to a lesser extent Peca. Where once they was legitimate star power and strut, now there's kids cutting their teeth and a brand new old culture of doubt. Moreau had some quotes in today's dailies and he portrayed the temperature of the team as one that ebbs and flows with each win and loss and that's to be expected for a team that's once again dug itself a hole big enough to bury an elephant. I don't believe in this team's playoff chances for a second but they have won three of their last four games and I'd be really curious to see how their mood and gait would change if they could somehow win again tonight. Then all of a sudden you've brought the Canucks back to into play and the Oilers would have two more home games left before hitting the East Coast for a seven game sojourn.

Of course Sergei Samsonov was part of the days when the Oilers felt like they could beat everyone even though I'll be quick to admit that he really only looked at his best when A: the Oilers played the Flames or B: when the Oilers played four-on-four and he was paired with Horcoff. The Oilers never did try and flesh out that possibility but it always seemed to me that the enigimatic Russian looked his best with the Oilers when he was paired with the old Spartan. Sammy never showed a whole lot in last year's playoffs unless you could the third period in G6 vs Det or G4 vs the Sharks. Himself, Stoll and Hemsky enjoyed the soft minutes matchup for the majority of last year's second season and really didn't do a whole lot with them. That being said I did raise an eyebrow today with the news that Sammy was placed on, and subsequently cleared, waivers. Things have never really worked out for him in Mtl and as much as I always saw the flaws in his game I think he's worth a shot if the Habs send him to Hamilton and then try to bring him back thus exposing themselves to the possibility another team would claim him and thus both squads would split the remainder for his stipend for both this season and next. I believe that's how it works but I won't mind being corrected.

I'm not saying Sergei's the answer for the Oilers because we all knew we need defensemen and the guy said he didn't like the travel in the WC and that was a major factor why he fled back to the EC. If you reclaim the guy though he'll only cost 1.75 mill for next season and I think that's still worth taking a chance on him. From the Oilers standpoint this would allow them to move one of Lupul or Torres for the defenseman they sorely need and you could plug Sammy into their old slot. I thought of this today with the news that Thoresen's been sent back to WSB even though that might be nothing more than a cost cutting measure necessitated by the fact that one of the EIG needs to make a trip to Canadian Tire.

In the meantime the Oilers are dancing with the ones who brung them but we all know how that's working out this far, right?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Next Year's NW Division

Lowetide was looking towards next season with a piece he posted earlier today largely regarding which cheap players Edmonton will have next season that can outperform their salary level and presumably help lead Edmonton back to the Cup finals.

In that vein, here's a quick look at the cap status of the NW division teams and how one can preliminarily project those teams for next season.

* Cap numbers are taken from this site *

(all numbers listed will be haphazardly rounded/estimated to the nearest 0.25 mil), Cap limit for 07/8 estimated at 47 mil for no particular reason.

Minnesota:

06/7 spending - 39.5 mil
cap value - 42.75 mil

raises on existing contracts for next season - 3.75 mil
Projected raises to RFA's (Bouchard, Booguard, Schultz, Foster, Koivu, Weinhandl) - 2.25 mil


UFA's (6 - White, Walz, Dupuis, Smith, Skoula, Backstrom) - 6.5 mil

If MIN spends 6.5 mil replacing the leaving UFA's their team would be spending roughly 46.5 mil on salaries while charged a cap value of 45 mil, probabaly reasonably estimates given what we've heard about MIN's ability to generate revenue. They haven't historically spent a lot of money, but they are spending almost 40 this year and jumping to 45 or so wouldn't be a crazy stretch if their revenues aren't understated and if the owners think it will pay off.

There isn't much reason to think MIN will take a step backwards next season, and although Gaborik's health is a worry he'll probably be able to play more next season even if he still misses 15 games with another groin pull. They've got players like Koivu and Bouchard apparently still progressing, so expecting MIN to be at least as good next season probably isn't unreasonable.

Vancouver:

06/7 spending - 42.25 mil
cap value - 43.25 mil

raises on existing contracts for next season - 0.5 mil
Projected raises to RFA's (Krajicek, Kesler) - 0 mil


UFA's (9 - Bulis, Pyatt, Linden, Green, Santala, Cowan, Salo, Sabourin, Fitzpatrick) - 6.5 mil

It kind of depends what VAN feels like spending as to whether or not they can be projected better or worse next year. If they decide to spend 10 mil replacing the 9 players they lose I think they'll have a tough time doing as good as they have this year on the same cost. Actually, I'm not sure how important that really is, because given the rise in expected UFA price this summer it's going to be hard for any team to equivalently replace any players via the UFA market, even if the players they are replacing were originally signed as UFA's themselves. But that aside most of these VAN UFA's are interchangeable fodder that they probably can replace effectively on the UFA market or with internal replacement. The exceptions will be pricey though, in Pyatt and Salo. If VAN replaces 5 of these players with players close to the league min that would leave them ~7 mil to fill the other 4 spots. It'll probably cost ~3-4 mil to replace Salo, leaving them 3-4 mil to spend on 3 players, probably one of which would be a backup goalie at ~1 mil a year.

Colorado:

06/7 spending - 43 mil
cap value - 43.75 mil

raises on existing contracts for next season - 1.5 mil (including 0.8 mil raise to Brunette which will also be a cap increase)
Projected raises to RFA's (Svatos, Vaananen, Leopold, Sauer) - 0.75 mil


UFA's (8 - Turgeon, Sakic, Klee, Brisebois, McLean, May, Laaksonen, Arnason) - 14.0 mil
Other ( Sakic and Blake's options, Konowalchuk retiring) - 6.5 mil

The Avalanche have a bunch of awful money coming off the books. 6.5 mil spent on nothing in the two options and Konowalchuk retiring in preseason. Sakic will probably re-sign for something near his current salary though surely he'll start to decline at some point, right? Hurry that up, will you Joe, as long as you want to play for COL.

COL is a team I would expect to improve next year provided Sakic's regression doesn't happen next year and provided their 2 rookies don't suffer through sophomore slumps, given how much money it looks like they'll have to spend and that they should have Leopold. Then again more should be expected out of Hejduk than we've seen since the lockout. Theodore is locked in way above what he's worth, but Budaj is underpaid for two more years to partially balance that off.

They don't have much underpaid offence leaving as UFA's (I'm assuming Sakic to be an easy sign for COL) and can probably afford to add at least one F to play in their top 6 or 9, and one D in their top 4, when you factor in their 6.5 mil spent on nothing as well as the cap increasing.

Calgary:

06/7 spending - 42.25 mil
cap value - 42.5 mil

raises on existing contracts for next season - 1.5 mil (including a 1.25 mil cap increase on Conroy's contract relative to CAL's cap charge for Conroy + Lundmark this season)
Projected raises to RFA's (Lombardi, Giordano) - 0.75 mil


UFA's (7 - Amonte, McCarty, Friesen, Nilson, Ritchie, Hamrlik, McLennan) - 8 mil

Nice position for Calgary to be in this summer, pretty easy summer by the looks of it for Sutter. They should be able to re-sign Hamrlik or an equivalent for at most a mil more than he's currently making, given their revevnues they should be able to spend to the cap, and they've got some deadweight contracts coming off the books as well so they can presumably add another scoring forward to their roster and replace McCarty, Friesen and Nilson either on the UFA market or internally for less money. Enough to make a guy sick.

Hopefully this madness will end the summer after with their crazy UFA season (Regehr, Iginla, Kiprusoff, Langkow, Yelle, Huselius, Conroy and Zyuzin, along with RFA's Kobasew and Phaneuf), but it's still better to be in CAL's position where you have to make tough choices than it is to be in the position of some other teams, money to spend on UFA's but can you convince them to come to your city?

Edmonton:

06/7 spending - 39 mil
cap value - 39.75 mil

raises on existing contracts for next season - 2.25 mil (including 2.25 mil cap and payroll increases from Staios and Moreau's extensions)
Projected raises to RFA's (Torres, Winchester, Greene) - 0.75 mil


UFA's (7 - Sykora, Smyth, Nedved, Petersen, Tjarnqvist, Hejda, Markkanen) - 10.25 mil

Not looking pretty in terms of UFA replacement for the Oilers this summer. Pretty unlikely they'll get the same amount of production via whatever guys they sign in place of Smyth/Sykora for 6.5 mil, the team's two leading scorers. There isn't much mispent money there either. Replacing Markkanen won't save much/any if they get a guy with his experience, and even going with a kid won't be much cheaper given how high Deslauriers and Dubnyk went in the draft. Not much reason to think they can replace Hejda or Tjarqvist for less than they currently cost, Peterson (if replaced by a guy from the farm) is probabaly cheaper than his replacement. Nedved isn't doing much, but any body wouldn't be much cheaper. If Smyth gets signed for 5 that leaves 5.25 to spend among 6 guys that will probably be worse than the guys they currently have if they get them from the UFA market, and if they get them internally who looks like they can match Sykora's production? Where's the money to upgrade the D - I guess it's coming from Sykora's salary but Sykora's salary is already going to Moreau and Staios so let's hope the budget is going up.

As LT mentioned having guys who outperform their contracts is the key to having a good team, and where will the candidates be on the Oilers. Smyth will cost 1.5 mil more next year and likely produce less, Moreau and Staios will cost an extra 2.25 mil, Lupul goes up a mil while Roloson goes down 1 mil. The rest of this year isn't looking so hot right now, but things aren't looking great next year for the Oilers either.


******************

I understand that you've got to fight the good fight for your fans and their perceptions, never giving up, providing your fans with hope, keeping your season ticket holders, etc. But even this brief glance at next year makes me wonder when the relief in difficult scheduling is coming for the Oilers in this division. Can one make a case that EDM's chances look better for the playoffs next year? Who is to say this early, it's tough enough to evaluate teams in October having seen the signings and preseason, so only a fool would do it now before we see any UFA signings/trade/budget announcements,etc. But is it crazy to speculate at this point that EDM will probably be the worst team in the division next season?

If that's the case, can selling, in addition to all UFA's at the deadline (should EDM be out of it), Smith be considered SUCH a bad idea if the price is high enough?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Oilers/Avs: Extra Extra, Oilers Death Rattle Heard Clear Across The Northwest Division!

This is an early edition of the IOF pre-game but hey my public called for it;) Actually it was Young MC who took a not-so-thinly-veiled shot, ok it was a head-on blast, at me over on his blog for not writing about yesterday's game in Van and then last night on MSN he mentioned to me that BOA's Andy G. was also disappointed that I didn't chime in before our latest loss so this tells me one thing: misery does indeed love company.

One last note on yesterday's pre-game and the lackthereof. I had a nice headline which was "The power of Harold Snepets compels you" and I was gonna ask Cam to round up a picture with the burly backender holding a demonic look which shouldn't have been too hard because Harold always looked evil to me. I could've also rolled with "What in the Thomas Gradin is Lowe waiting for" which I think works because Gradin just sounds like a swearword if you think about it.

Back to the present and I'm chiming in early with this joint because a perusing of my CI channels shows a Caps/Pens game at 2:30pm tomorrow so that coupled with the Oilers game at 4:30, this is all in NST and you should know that by now considering we've been part of the country since 1949;) means I'd rather do this now and get it over with. The team in it's current form looks positively unable to streak so everyday before I do the pre-game I check out a bunch of links to see if there's anything promising afoot in the trade market because that's seriously all we have to hold onto right now. Here's what I came up with today:

1. The flyers are talking about re-signing Kapenen and if you were thinking about him as a rental, because I certainly was, Holmgren's now saying that isn't a possibility.

2. Chicago's latest nutty GM has basically listed his entire team as untouchable yet he's looking to trade in order to improve his team. To be fair Khabby looks like he's out there to be dealt but Tallon's on the record as saying that all of Keith-Seabrook-Barker-Ruutuu-Havlat won't be moved. That makes me wonder just who he thinks he can pick up without giving anything in return. I think there's something to be said about the Hawks being the reverse Oilers with the windy city crew holding all kinds of rearguards but very little in terms of forwards. I guess they can try building from the backend up but they'd be wise to remember that if they want to start crying poor in the goals for department.

Sadly, there's nothing new to report from the supposed Boston Flee Party, at least not from the New England dalies, though I'd imagine everyone and their dog, and especially the dogs who are currently dressed in Bruin silks, are waiting for a shoe to drop that doesn't belong to Milan Jurcina. Bob Mckenzie, on the other hand, did address the Stuart/Edm rumors in his latest reporting and we'll get to that before long.

Anyway, the Oilers '07 Death March rolls into Colorado for a rare Saturday afternoon game and things are looking about as rosy as is the less than fetching female talking head that shares that name. Just a thought here but the last time I remember the Oilers playing a Sat afternoon game was in Dec of '99 in Jersey with Ranford pulling out the win. Anyone else remember that and does anyone else remember the Oilers playing on Saturday afternoon since then? And no we won't count the Oilers G2 win in Dallas in the '01 playoffs;)

There isn't exactly every reason to believe that the Avs are the Oilers superior but here's a couple of them just for shits and giggles. First off, this club is +8 in GD while the Oilers are -9 and there's also that bothersome thing called the standings which have the Avs and Oilers tied in wins and points but give the edge to Col because they have a game-in-hand. I think it's also worth nothing that while the Oilers are waiting on addition by addition in terms of trying to finagle a defenseman or two, the Avs have gone through an addition by subtraction with their rearguards considering the news that Patrice Brisebois is out for the season.

That detail only afford's the Oilers so much hope though because this team is fighting itself right now and honest to God it looks like one of those old Disney cartoons where you're on a sinking ship and as soon you plug one of the leaks you'll be damned to find another one springing with the ferocity of Peter North after a visit to a salad bar.

Last night was one of those games where you wonder how a guy like Marc-Andre Bergeron holds down an NHL job and while I've long trumpted his attributes, being a dollars and cents and sense guy I always mention that he's basically signed forever and basically signed for nothing, last night could try even the most patient hand and it's no word of a lie to say that outside of Craig Simpson, MAB was the Canucks best penalty killer in Thursday night's game. He attempted stupid pass after stupid pass and his attempts at defending were so bad that if you were to call them pathetic, pathetic would track you down and kick you in the nuts. But he wasn't alone in this regard because Jason Smith made a play, or didn't make a play, that made you wonder which Oilers defenseman was 20 years old. It came on the on the 3-1 goal with the Oilers harrassing the Canucks like a sex addict with a drunk girl at a sparsely populated tavern at 2:55am and just like that girl it looked like a lock for the Canucks to wind up on their back. Perviously, Bergeron had made a chancey rush into the Canucks zone but was tripped or fell and the puck rimmed back along the left wing boards. Smith had some pressure as he attempted to throw it back down behind the opposing blueline but he had well enough time to make the play. But somehow the simple measure eluded his wisened grasp and Marc "Jose" Chouinard galloped away on a breakaway and "sniped" his second goal of the season. Yes, the Oilers were also in the midst or a terrible line-change which gave him tonnes of open ice and yes his finishing move resembled the speed of an egg-timer and Roloson's in a stage where he's gonna allow three goals a game no matter what happens, but the former Wild should't have had that chance in the first place. So while we all hope and pray that Shaggy can de-ice his balls long enough to bring back some additional skill to this blueline and while we reflect on what was perhaps young Smid's best game of his young career, it was the grizzled vet that once again shot an Oilers foot that has been pretty well bereft of toes since mid-November.

As John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band once moaned, "things are tough all over."

Not to look past this Avs team, far are we and am I from the early days of this season when it looked like all games didn't require our rapt attention and accompanying worry, but with the Oilers nestled into 10th place you look ahead to eighth place and if we were to consider this team lost in the wilderness, and I assume we certainly can, then eighth place repersents the first cabin where we could find shelter. The Wild, I love it when an analogy comes together, currently hold down 8th place. The lead over the Oilers sits at just six points and with the Oilers also holding a game-in hand and the supposed advantage of having five games remaining against the Wild, it doesn't appear to be the numerical time to write off a season. All these facts though bring me nowhere else but to points of a most salient and searing nature.

1: Games-in-hand: You know something folks, these GIH are wonderful machines when you're say 10 games over .500 and your winning pct gives you a great chance at earning at least a point in such conditions and even affords you a better than average chance at actually bringing home two points. But when you're 9-13-2 in your last 24 games, that's taking the Oilers record since they reached their thus far seasonal high-water mark of 16-10-2 with a win in Dallas on Dec 8th, then what can you really expect from a GIH?

2: Head-to-head matchups: There's a reason why I can't get behind this as a reason why we'd be able to reel in the Wild. Minnesota plays in the Northwest division and the Oilers are just 3-9-1 in their last 13 divisional games so counting on taking a playoff spot because of success in head-to-head games when it's against a team from a division that owns your collective ass holds as much promise as asking an atheist to pray for you.

I hate to be the pied piper of pessimism here but the amount of information suggesting the Oilers are unable to blow hot long enough to secure a playoff spot is as dense as a potential Ken Dryden dissertation on blowhards. You don't become a porn star whilst possessing a three-inch dick and a beerbelly and you don't go from winning nine games of a possible 24 to all of sudden rolling off an eight game winning streak. I knew this roster emitted a hint of implosion back in the dark early days of the Pronger trade and I once again said as much on the night the Oilers blew the 4-1 home lead to the Stars. Everyone else remembers that night for the Hemsky miracle goal but I remember it as the night that a playoff-less reality struck me as succiently as a Dave Brown uppercut. The team in it's current form looked done and I've since spent ample time refreshing TSN.ca like a madman hoping to see Lowe finally evacuate his trade bowels.

Speaking of that site, McKenize gave us all some hope last night when he reported the names of Lupul or Torres plus JFJ as the possible bounty for Stuart. You know things are in the final stages, or that they've at least developed substantially, when McKenzie's throwing out a name like Jacques. Bob went on to suggest that's too rich for a rental and the Oilers might be better served going after Pitkanen who's under contract beyond this year. I most certainly agree with that sentiment and it's worth nothing that Matheson said scouts from both the Flyers and Rangers took in last night's game in Vancouver. If you were that Flyers scout and you had an eye for Torres before that game then I'd wager that upon it's completion you flew home and asked Pitkanen if he'd like help packing. Torres had a great game with at least two prime scoring chances, a Forsberg-ian counterpunch check that levelled Krajceck and an absolute demolition of Ohlund. Combine that with the fact he made just the one pass that painted him as a guy with limited formal hockey instruction and there was a lot to like about the Menacing Mexican. I'm on the record that I'd deal him for a signed Stuart or Pitkenen or whomever can fix the defense of this ship both short and longterm but there's a huge piece of me that agrees with MC's assessment that if it's Lupul or Torres to go for a dman, the Oilers will send Raffi packing. I think that's a mistake and if I'm Lowe I'd try and do everything to ensure that it's the local who's shown the door. Of course if I was Lowe I also wouldn't have started this season with such a defense but I'll try and stay on message for now.

As much as we've all bemoaned the lack of mobility on our defense and as much as we're waiting for some new guys to have a kick at making a first pass, I think Cam made a fair point to me last night when he said that players and fans alike might be using it as a bit of a crutch. For instance, the warning bells on Roli for both here and the future are now blaring at nearly intolerable levels. I was a baseball first guy and I never believed in clutch hitting so I'd like to think I don't believe in it's application to netminding as well but there's something about Roloson's game that leads you to believe he's going to crack at the wrong moment and that's something I haven't felt about him since he was shaking the rust off last March. How did he go from an early season stalwart to a mid season question mark? And what does his mean for '08 and beyond? That's territory, that while harbouring a teeming fertility I'd usually relish, that's even too dark and depressing for me to tread at this point. I think the forwards complicity in the whole mess is the hardest to gauge but the way Craig Simpson keeps his job amidst the PP's spectacular failure, which is an area where we can be sure the forwards drive the result, paints him as a patronage hire that would make even ancient monarchies blush.

It may well be that even a trade or two can't save this season but at the very least a change in the mix might provide the impetus for some kind of improvement. Not to overlook the next four games, the next two of them are those inter-divisional games where we fare so well, but once that's over the Oilers start an eastern swing that features visits to all of Buf, Ott, Det and Minny. Look at the home records of those four teams and you know that has the potential to be an unpleasent experience even with a slightly altered, if not totally revamped roster. But if we head into that stretch with the current crew then the season will be lost by the time we get to Minnesota for the trip's last game.

Every day and every game that Lowe lets the current group go to battle is a time ripe for ground to be lost. These Oilers have been treading water for so long that prunes would scoff at their toes. I've given up hope but I'd like to think he hasn't but one more week of inactivity will show us the real answer.