There are basically two ways to build a Stanley Cup contender and it doesn't seem that the Oilers have been following either approach:
1) Suck for a pretty long time. Three years is a good start, but you might need an extra year or two depending on your drafting record.
2) Build a reasonably cheap team and collect some prospects and picks in the event that an elite player in his prime hits the market. Joe Thornton and Chris Pronger come to mind as examples and there have certainly been others.
I recall Tyler Dellow used the title phrase to describe this latter strategy back when the Oilogosphere was mostly on the messageboards and I think it's a good way to think about it. Plus with Pat Quinn as the new head coach old-timey phrases are de rigueur. (Although he might not approve of a saying that originated with Cromwell.)
Skip forward a few years and #2 seems a lot more like an actual plan than it did before. Thanks to the salary cap and more liberal free agency in the current CBA, it seems almost commonplace that elite-level players with years of prime production come available every offseason. However, you still have to keep your powder dry to take advantage and that happens to be the Oilers' problem.
Just the public list of available talent is tempting and we don't even know who teams like Boston are willing to move to open up cap room.
- The Sedins hit free agency and they're still only 28. The only catch is that you probably have to take them both.
- Bouwmeester is truly an one of a kind free agent as mentioned by speeds over at his site
. A legitimate #1 dman at the age of 25 available as free agent? Bonkers.
- Gaborik, Hossa and Havlat are all players with proven track records for driving results and should each be able to provide 4-5 years of quality production. The catch is that you probably have to sign them for 2-3 years beyond their best before date and Gaborik and Havlat have serious injury concerns.
- Lastly, there's Dany Heatley. He's an interesting player, mostly because the Oilers haven't had a player quite like him in a very long time and I'm not even sure what his value would really be, because he's not like the other players I've already listed.
Let's take a look at some of Heatley's selected stats:
The first thing to note is that he's obviously an accurate shooter. Four straight years since the lockout with overall SH% greater than 15%. That is impressive. The second interesting thing is that he has seen his PP icetime drop as a percentage of his total icetime over these four seasons. That doesn't necessarily mean anything but it probably explains why his shooting rate appears to be declining over that same period.
If you check out Vic's timeonice.com site, you can find the underlying stats for Heatley for the past two seasons.
The Corsi is good, but you'd expect that given the starting position of his shifts.
What jumps out at me is the differential in faceoffs starting and ending shifts. I would expect a coach to use a player like Heatley this way, but I'm a little shocked so many shifts ended in his own end. I haven't looked at this before, but is this typical for a serious offensive player like this? At 5v5 Heatley is still shooting the lights out and I'm guessing he's a pretty consistent 13-16% shooter at ES, which is again impressive. However, given the underlying numbers, it's probably safe to assume that Heatley has seen his regular season production as an NHL player driven by favourable starting position and high shooting percentages (and of course some pretty decent linemates). I don't think that's really what the Oilers need right now. They need more players that move the puck to the good end first. The problem with a player like Heatley (besides the fact that they're really really expensive) is that your team has to be pretty good already to make use of him. The Oilers aren't there yet in my opinion, so at least with Heatley maybe it's a good the powder is long gone.
As for the rest of the offseason, I'm hoping for a couple of players that drive possession, but I honestly don't know how Tambellini is going to make anything happen. Adding any one player of quality (that is paid commensurate with his ability) is going to require a minimum of 2-3 deals and that's a hard thing to count on. Two players is probably a pipe dream.