Saturday, 7 April 2012

Playoff Primer: Boston Bruins

Boston
Bears are awesome

The Goods
Ask any guy which team most resembles a bear, and, besides the above picture, they'll pick this one.

They've got a soft "honey" heart with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. They dazzle you with speed and their plus-minus. They've got skill to boot. 

But the exterior of this team is built like a tank. Lucic. Thomas. And "Tiny Norris" CHARA. They'll maul you if you get close (i.e. Vancouver last year), and hell, they're very good at it. The core of this team is the same that lifted Lord Stanley last year, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

This bear is not broken.

The Bads
But there's a small problematic question that much of the universe is dying to answer: What did Boston do to keep up with the rest of the league?

Vancouver adapted to Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh did too. New York became the new Boston, and St. Louis is trying to too. 

Is this team still the watermark for success? Or is this team, just a year old, a relic of the past? May the Bruins have lost at their own game?

Tuuka Rask's injury, after he outplayed Vezina Trophy holder Thomas most of the year, does not bode well. Marty Turco, here we go.

The Bruins win the Cup if...
Thomas still has enough in the tank to play like last year, Philly/Pittsburgh beat each other up enough to be weak in the East, and the Western representative isn't a particularly physical one.
The chances of all three happening are rare, to say the least, but history does occur in patterns.

Playoff Primer: Vancouver Canucks

Van City
Did not know about the bottom one. On the fence about it...

Vancouver came within three periods of lifting the cup last season. They had more skill than essentially rest of the league. Unfortunately, they ran into a wall. A very physical wall that broke them in half. And had a highly unorthodox style of goaltending.

The Goods
Henrik Sedin! Ryan Kesler! The scoring ability on this team is ridiculous. Seriously, it's disturbing. The twins operate on another level, then they send out their second line and then they send out their fourth line against your top line, and they're the best shutdown line in hockey. This forward corps is likely the best in the West. They've also got depth in large amounts with the acquisition of Pahlsson.

They realized the twins got ran by Lucic and Bergeron (Bergeron! Running people!), so they went and got Zach Kassian. Boom. They'll float like a butterfly, and then sting like a 4 by 4.

Also, the defence and the goaltending hasn't changed from their stature last year - it's either better or at the same level of excellence it was in the Cup Run.

The Bads
The pieces have gotten a little better... but is this team any different, or any better, than it was last year? The major difference through the season was three bonafide scoring lines, with Sedin, Kesler and Hodgson, but Vancouver clearly believes it was the lack of physical toughness, not the lack of scoring, that beat them in Boston last year (it was neither - it was Thomas outplaying Luongo) and traded Hodgson, who some people saw as the next Linden, for Kassian, whom the jury is still out on.

Schneider's gotten better. Luongo's still Luongo. The defence is healthier - but Daniel Sedin, half of the twin dynamos, isn't. That's very very bad.

They win the Cup if...
Daniel Sedin returns heroically in at least the second round, if not the first, and puts up staggering numbers alongside Henrik Sedin again. Luongo/Schneider need to bring their best, especially against Boston, Pittsburgh and Philly, if they make it out of the West.
All in all, this team should beat everyone in the West - on paper, it's got the elements to do it. The question remains if they will.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Playoff Primer: St. Louis Blues

Blues
I didn't know such a logo existed. Now I do!

This is one of the other 3 teams in contention for the President's Trophy. Astute fans will remember their last run to the President's Trophy, that was followed by a first-round playoff exit and years of wallowing in the also-ran pile.

Goods
Things clicked when Jack-Adams obviousnominee Ken Hitchcock looked at this team and quite plainly said - "You guys shouldn't suck". This team has David Backes, David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman, and in the ludicrous trade with the Avalanche, Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart. Just looking at that list, it's formidable.

But the St. Louis Blues would not be where they are without what might be the best single-season tandem in history, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot. You think I'm being generous? Both players are top 5 in GAA (5th and 1st), top 7 in Save Percentage (7th and 1st), top 5 in shutouts (5th and 2nd)... They may be the best two goalies since Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante... on St. Louis.

St. Louis is so fricking deep in goal they sent away Ben Bishop for peanuts just because.

Bads
They've cooled off.

I wish there was more to say, but they've stopped utterly dominating the rest of the league. Halak has had a stretch now where he's been bad-ish. This team plays a choking defensive style, waits for the mistakes and spins the game right back at you, scores and waits again.

Will win the Stanley Cup if...
Halak and Elliot return to their form, and Backes dominates the board play like he has done with exceptional skill all of this year. They have had the ability to beat almost every other team in the league this year, with their choking style. But they've began to choke - is this a lull before the domination? Or something more sinister...

Playoff Primer: New York Rangers

NYR
I always liked this logo

(If you're wondering why there are no Oilers blogs, try watching some of their games. Aside from Nugent-God-Hopkins and Eberle, as well as some inspired moments by Devan "Ohh" Dubnyk, there's close to nothing redeeming about the team. I'll have another off-season primer or two, plus a draft day analysis after the lottery)

I'm starting a series of 16 posts that detail the goods of each playoff bound team, and where I expect them to finish.

New York is one of three teams with a chance at the President's Trophy, and they've been at that pinnacle for most of the season. A team that played in the Winter Classic, celebrated a full adulthood since their last cup championship, and has been playing at a level that doesn't seem to correlate to the play of the superstars present on this team.

Goods
Depth, like no other team, and a willingness to work harder than any other organization in the playoffs right now. Nobody's scared of the hands that Callahan has, they have Gaborik for that. What they are scared of is his willingness to go to the tough corners, the front of the net, take a beating, score a goal and shove it in your face. These Rangers are oxen that don't give up. They just don't. And that's scary.

Also - it can't hurt that your goaltender is the unsung Henrik Lundqvist, who should win the Vezina almost every year prior for making this team competitive. Now that the coaching is preaching a blue-collar game, Lundqvist is having a career year. The irony is he may yet have the Vezina stolen from him by Quick.

Bads
I've got to come up with a better name for this section.

If anything is bad about this team, it is because it is plain. They signed Brad Richards to a massive contract. They expected him to rip up the league, play with Marion Gaborik and overall destroy this league like he did in Dallas last year. He hasn't. Gaborik has been deadly, but you put defenders on those two and this team is, well, plain.

Simply put, they lack the star-pedigree of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Los Angeles (Heh. Hollywood).

Time will tell whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Will win the Stanley Cup if...
The hard work they bring comes up in spades. Heh.
Lundqvist can be better than any other goaltender in the league. Richards and Gaborik could be the most dominant pair in the playoffs. Dubinsky and Callahan can pace, check and score better than other teams.
Can they beat Crosby/Malkin/Staal or Giroux/Hartnell/Jagr? Erm...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Problem with Linus

Omark


Alright - his comments have sparked a needless debate about his character. Dan Tencer, pre-eminent Oilers commenter and trustworthy soul, used the new Reuters, Twitter, to express this: 

Linus Omark does not want to play for OKC in the AHL playoffs. "I play better if I'm happy and I'll be more happy at the World's." 
Here's the actual quote from the Edmonton Journal:
"Not really. I want to compete for a spot in the world championship in Sweden and I will go to the (Swedes') camp if they (Oilers) let me.
"Of course, I would like to win something down there (AHL), but I play better when I am happy and I'm more happy at the world championship."
This, by the way, is in response to news that he's being shopped around as well as he'll have to hit the waiver wire. Just goes to show you can't always take anything with the word "twit" in it at face value.

Yes, but wait a second... This is a good time to discuss something, something that is essential to the progress of the team.

He's not waiver eligible anymore (we can't send him down without other teams being able to put a claim on him), he can go back to Sweden anytime he's assigned, and this is not the guy we can scratch every night a la Hordichuk. Depth is good, but this is a touch different - what on earth are we supposed to do with this guy?

Question: What do our lines look like right now?
When healthy, the first line is Hall-Nuge-Eberle.
Second line, all of a sudden, is Hartski-Gags-Hemmer
Currently, the third line is Petrell-Horcoff-Smyth, but Omark's been in Petrell's spot - the line HAS been clicking - Jones is currently doing a stint on the first line, but he's either here or in Hordi's spot one line lower.
The fourth line is Hordi-Belanger-Eager. Let's be honest, as much as I like Eager, this line is moot.

Where does he fit?

Omark is not a career third liner, let's be honest. Smyth - he's a guy who has played in the Top 6 for the majority of his career, but his illustrious career is winding down. Horcoff - he's been up and down the lineup but his faceoff ability and relative inability to bury rebounds makes him a third line centre, in competition with Belanger.

Does Omark fit there?

Perfect Omark Situation - THREESCORINGLINESBIOTCH
So say Lowebellini chooses to draft a defenceman. We're likely going to finish with at least the third overall pick, so lets go with Ryan Murray, who by all means looks like a Scott Niedermeyer/Mark Howe hybrid. That's very very good.

And then suddenly gets a concussion and signs (read) nobody over the offseason.

Our top three lines will possibly be:
Hall-Nuge-Ebs
Hartski-Gags-Hemmer
Omark-Horcoff-Smyth

For the first time in a long time, that's three scoring lines. No Oilers group has done that since... 1991.

The first line, with a little bit more size on Nugent-Hopkins and with Hall not consistently falling, will be s-i-c-k.
That second line, if they continue their first-line style play over these past few weeks, will give second pairing defencemen heck.
That third line, which has really been clicking, through all the combos, for probably the first time this year, could be pretty sick. It's got two shutdown guys in Smyth and Horcoff and a pretty good offensive guy in Omark.

This, of course, is assuming Omark gets his defensive game together and works to be a better player.

Mediocre Omark Situation - Welcome to Paajarville
We still draft Ryan Murray.

And we still don't sign anyone.

Instead, we believe that a deep playoff run helps Paajarvi progress into the player he should be according to his rookie stats.

Hall-Nuge-Ebs
Hartski/Paa-Gags-Hemmer
Paa/Jones-Horcoff-Smyth

That's some kind of semblance of scoring depth. If Paajarvi can get his act together, he's a good complement to the speed of Horcoff (he can do somethings right) and his defensive game is severely underrated.

Omark? He's in the press box. They keep switching Paajarvi, Jones and Omark out like a circus. It's this organization. We've seen stranger things.

No Omark Situation - Goodbye Ikea-Built Road
Sorry, Omark. Our run puts us out of the draft lottery (partly due to Omark's resurgence) and puts us at 6th position. We draft Filip Forsberg, and the collective Oilers fans across this good nation chuck various objects at their televisions.

Hall-Nuge-Eberle
Hartski/Forsberg-Gags-Hemmer
Forsberg/Jones - Horcoff - Smyth

Now this is a situation - this is also a situation that will happen if we sign any free agent with a decent amount of skill - that Omark superfans want to avoid. It very well should not be Forsberg, but could be any free agent that Katz throws money at to add some size and depth to our front 9. Omark's days in an Oilers uniform are, well, finished.

Did he just lose the numbers game?
Whether by his own downfall via injury, or by his lack of solid play in the top 12 games (I blame Renney for screwing us out of depth here - he should have stayed longer than Paajarvi up here), Omark's played himself out of the top 9.

He's got 5 games to change their mind.

I hope he does - this kind of talent that this guy has does not grow on trees. Coming back from an injury, with meaningless games in front of him, he's played better than a solid half of this team.

All you people with the argument "He can't crack a 29th-place team's lineup", tell me how more infinitely talented Matt Frattin (TML), Michael Rupp (Rangers) or Dale Weise (Van) is. Or, how about telling me how Mikka Kiprusoff is an awful goalie because he couldn't beat out Evgeni Nabokov or Vesa Toskala at age 23. Or how Ray Whitney totally deserved to be flushed out of the Oilers system.

He won't get much, that's for certain - maybe a second-round pick from a playoff team desperate for offence, more likely a third or fourth rounder. But this is just the kind of player that will burn you in a trade.

Whatever it may be, at the end of the playoffs, this team has got to make a decision. They can't please everyone.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

At what point is it the coach's fault?

A brief rundown of the game first - Oilers blew a 2-0 lead and lose the game 3-2 in a shootout against Phoenix.

Our inability to hold leads is legendary. The Oilers are 29th in the league holding a lead they get in the first period, while they are 23rd in the league after two.

That's a marked improvement over last year, where we were (shockingly) last in the league.

We're 26th in the league when it comes to winning games after scoring first.

We're 28th in the league when it comes to winning games after letting the first goal in. We've won a pedestrian 8 times after letting in the first goal.

We've scarcely won on the road after scoring first, or after trailing. We're very good at losing on the road.

Is that the coach's fault? Should we burn his effigy and run him out of town for his seemingly inept decision making and his inability to inspire his troops to win? Or is it not his fault? Are there teams that we can compare ourselves to?

Apologist Reasoning
Well, the coach can only do what he does with the players he's given. He's only ever as good as his players.

Then they shouldn't exist. Great players should be great coaches because, hey, they understand how players play the best. See Gretzky, Wayne in Phoenix. The argument can't be made.

Let's find a control
Compare the line-ups of the Oilers and a comparable team, the Colorado Avalanche. We play in the same division and have almost an identical schedule.

Would you take O'Reilly, Landeskog, Hejduk, Stastny and Downie over Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner and Smyth? Er, no.

How about goaltending? Nik Khabibulin and Semyon Varlamov are virtually tied at 2.64 and 2.61 goals against. Dubnyk and Varlamov are tied in terms of save percentage 0.912, while Khabibulin is at 0.911.

Erik Johnson is their leader on the blue, with comparable stats to both Corey Potter and Jeff Petry. Schultz and Smid are much better than any Avs player in the shot blocking department (170 and 140 >> 121).

These teams have excellent offensive players, average goaltending, and comparable defending. They're remarkably similar.

Well then, how on earth is Edmonton 14th and Colorado 8th in the West?

What does the coach even do?
Much like the captain, the coach is supposed to iron out the team's problems, send out guys who will play competently against their competition, and, well, win games.

It's a player's responsibility to get the game's first goal, get the whole game under control for their squad.
But it does become s a coach's responsibility to win games after blowing leads - calling a timely time-out to calm the troops or putting your offensive guys in the offensive zone to even the score, hell, even gain back a lead.

The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers have virtually identical stats in winning games after the first and second period, as well as after scoring first - which correlates with my idea that the talent of the team is ridiculously comparable.

The biggest difference here lies in the ability of each team to win after trailing 1 and 2 periods, as well as coming back after letting one in.

Edmonton is 28th after letting a goal in, and 23rd/14th after one and two periods.

Colorado? 12th after letting in a goal, and 12th/9th after one and two periods. It's also great to note that Colorado is 4th best in the league at closing out leads after the first period. The Oilers are 29th.

Wait, so what does this prove?
The Oilers have not been able to hold leads. Teams comparable to the Oilers have been excellent at holding  a lead, as well as coming back when fate throws them a curveball.

Players are game-changers, but what controls them? Who tells them to go out and drive the right? Who inserts a fighter at a critical moment to change the momentum of a game? That, sir or madam, is the coach.

The coach has to command a team to win games on the road, execute line changes, pick the right guys for the shootout and overall have a mastery of the player's mindset.

The Oilers are a sub-par team, average at best, with illogical coaching. We're 29th.
The Avalanche are a sub-par team, average at best, with decent coaching. They're 12th.

With a scorer like Eberle, a dynamic player like Hall, an excellent all-round talent developing in Petry, as well as Dubnyk and Khabibulin giving you an average shot every game, not to begin to mention his highness the Nuge, this team shouldn't be losing like it is now. Especially to teams like Phoenix and Colorado, who succeed not because of their all-world talents, but because of a hard work ethic and a system that seems to garner wins.

The coach is very much like a chess player, knowing when to move and when to hit.

This year and last year, dealt with an average scenario, Renney has been out-chessed by almost every coach in the league. His methods have proven inferior to inferior teams on a night-in night-out basis. Hell, some of us pine for the days of MacTavish, who's no-nonsense method somehow made a team with a first line of Smyth-York-Carter make the playoffs.

As much as I love the guy and his passion for the game, it's time we found a better chess player.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Mar 14: Tiger vs Sherman, SNET-EDM, 8:00

  v

Columbus News
This is the epitome of a team trending upwards.

No Jeff Carter? No problem!! It seems he was the only player preventing their successes with his lacklustre play. Jack Johnson's loving Columbus, Mason is playing a tad like his old rookie days, except for the fact he's injured, and Rick Nash looks like a player who wants to stay captain! Trending up, this team is doing anything but tanking. 

I'd call it roaring like a Tiger. No, not the tank. Fooled ya!

Edmonton News
This team is an unmitigated disaster.

Everyone in Oilerville has been spitting backwash at the unlucky few whose names are not Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, Eberle, Smid, Petry or Schultz (it'll begin, don't you worry.)

Whitney? Washed-up. Dubnyk? Can't stop a volleyball. Smyth? Can't skate. Hemsky? Overpriced. Horcoff? Not a ***king leader.
We get it, Oilerville's pissed.
And so are Oilers. Renney called them out, Horcoff called them out, Eberle, silly little I-don't-talk-to-anybody, called them out.
Cue the second phase of the rebuild. The double rebuild. Oh dear god.

Call in the marines. Send in the army.

We've got a loose tank in our midst.

Lines
Jones-Nuge-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Omark-Horcoff-Smyth (Look ma! No hands!)
Hordichuk-Belanger-Petrell (You say they have no hands? Challenge accepted)
Hartikainen has been called up. He'll likely take the spot of Hordichuk, but I'd love to see the drag race between Omark and Hartski (and I guess Jones) for the top LW spot.

Smid-Petry
Schultz-Whitney
Barker-Sutton

Dubnyk? Khabibulin? I have a feeling its gonna be Dubs. Just because.

Predictions
Glorious Prediction - WE'RE GONNA WIN! Nugent-Hopkins catches fire and up to Henrique with an excellent 6 point night. Eberle gets that hat-trick I've been pegging him for since mid November. Omark with two goals and finally, he gets some time on the top-line after the Jones experiment fails. 7-1 Oilers!
Realistic Prediction - One team is hungry to get out of the basement. One team loves to be there. Columbus brings their A-game, and the Oilers, so disinterested in the rest of the season, only wake up in the third period to salvage a little piece of the game. 4-1 Columbus, Hall, who never quits, with the goal.
LPH Prediction - We take last place with this game. I know that's impossible, but if you lose 8-0 to Columbus, perhaps Bettman can use his ultimate powers to make that happen.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Mar 12: Edmonton at San Jose. 7:30, TSN

Shark attack!
I google "Sharks and Oil" and I get this...

The Sharks were a powerhouse team of the past. The Oilers should be a powerhouse team of the future. Both of these teams presents look murky, with the Sharks looking to get back into the playoff hunt and the Oilers attempting to keep that good ol' lottery position.

The time of the shark waning?
The Sharks were once the best regular season team in the business. Let's face it, they didn't always win the President's trophy, but they're almost always the best team in a usually semi-tough Pacific Division, and that's got to be something.

Now, they're on the outside of the playoff space looking in for the first time in a long time. From third to 10th, these Sharks are no longer what they were - unbeatable.

The time of the Oiler waxing?
Hah, no. Who am I kidding? We sucked last season and we look to suck again. 1-3-1 in the last five, but boding well for us, the last win came against the Sharks! We always play against the Sharks, it seems. If you'll remember, we beat these guys in 2005-2006, and we seem to at least make a game of it.

We don't beat them like we beat Chicago, but if we can win, it would sure throw a logjam into the playoff race again. That's always fun to look for.

Lines
Hall-Nuge-Eberle
Omark-Gagner-Hemsky
Smyth-Horcoff-Jonesy
Hordi-Belanger-Petrell

Petry-Smid
Whitney-Potter (sigh....)
Schultz-Sutton

Dubnyk(?)

I surmise Dubnyk will get the start over Khabibulin, but then again, we are dealing with Tom "Lines-are-decided-by-roulette" Renney.

Predictions?
Glorious Prediction - OILERS GOOAAAAAAL. Nuge with 4 points to get back into the Calder race, and Hallsy's hat trick to get closer to eclipsing Ovechkin's total this year (says all of you who asked to trade Hall for OV). 6-2 Oilers.
Realistic Prediction - Oilers still throw a wrench in things, but the Sharks get an almighty point. The Kid Line unites, plus Omark in OT (he'd prefer the shootout, but he'll take it) for a 4-3 OT win. Omark enjoys his last game in Edmonton.
LPH Prediction - Haha. Columbus wins their next game and we lose again. Hoorah. 5-1 Sharks. Jones gets yet another monkey off his back, but the Sharks storm back and forget they're playing the Oilers and never let off the gas.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Armchair GM 1 - Draft Day

Armchair GM
This, this is not an armchair. How it
masquerades as one is beyond me.


Alright, it's draft day.

Guess what pick you've got? SECOND OVERALL!!!

I can hear the crickets. The pain is palpable - I mean, this team was once sitting at a 91% chance of making the playoffs - Khabi was playing lights out, Dubnyk was playing lights out, RNH was some sort of divine creation and Smyth had returned home. It was good. Life, life was good.

Then something struck - it was a combination of the CFR road trip that somehow killed the team morale and, as I giggle typing, losing Cam Barker. We're now sitting at the draft table, staring at Montreal - because, well, look at them. They're so sad because they need(ed) the offence. They've got a superstar goalie, they've got a fantastic D-corps, and a healthy Markov! They simply have nobody to pass to besides Pacioretty. And we're going to pick either Grigorenko or Yakupov. 

Let's assume Yakupov goes first overall. You've got the pick to pick Grigorenko - knowing he's probably not going to play this season. Besides, you have the Great 8 Gagner as your second line centre. What are you going to do? There's Ryan Murray. And he could very well be Scott Niedermeyer. But that would be giving MTL what they want. You couldn't do that, right?

Enter armchair GM.

I'm going to propose two trades - one of which I prefer, but both of which I do. Montreal is damn desperate for the number 1/2 centre. In fact, they might skip over Murray and take someone like Galenchuyk - who may well be Marc Pouliot 2.0. Enter Edmonton, with loving arms.

Trade 1
To MTL - 2nd overall pick, 2012, Linus Omark, Eric Belanger and a conditional pick
To EDM - P.K. Subban and a 6th round pick

Wait, I hear you crying - where's our draft pick? WHERE IS IT?

I'll be releasing my own top 15 of the draft later, but here's the bottom line - there's no guarantee that Dumba, Murray or Reinhart, any of those D-men, ever get to the level of Subban.

Why would MTL do it: Montreal is definitely facing the music for their poor showing this season. A Grigorenko and then a Dumba will go miles towards basically replacing Subban and getting a lot of offence. Besides, I wouldn't rule out Subban demanding a trade from Montreal (with the current state of the team, he's unhappy), in which case, Belanger is staying put.
And just imagining Omark feeding bombs to Pacioretty is pretty scary in itself. Omark-Desharnais-Patches would get dominated physically, but, you know, that doesn't look that far away from the Kid Line here.

Why would EDM do it: Holy kerfuffle, Edmonton gets a game-changer on D. He's had great successes with Eberle and Hall at the WJCs, and this team would become extremely difficult to play against with Subban's ability to make open-ice hits and otherwise intimidate.
Besides, he's ****ing PK Subban.

Why MTL wouldn't do it: PK Subban is a pillar on their D. They would be oh-dear-god a lot worse if not for his dynamic play (oh, and that Carey Price). There's no guaranteed marquis players heading that way, and that could be testing for a fan-base easy to get angered.

Why EDM wouldn't do it: Because Barker's just as good as Subban and has higher draft pedigree!
Besides that, I don't know whether giving up Belanger, who's been very good on the dot this year, Omark, who could be a dominant force, and a lot of potential is worth the big PK.
Trade 2
To MTL - 2nd overall pick, 2012 + Ryan Martindale
To EDM - 3rd overall pick, 2012 and Nathan Beaulieu

That's a blockbuster if I ever saw one.

Why MTL do it?: They get Grigorenko, the player they desperately wanted!

Why EDM would do it: Absofreakinglutely - yes, the lose Ryan Martindale, who could yet be a player, but they get Nathan Beaulieu, who could be sent to OKC next year and continue the impressive pipeline that includes Klefbom(b), Musil, Gernat, Marcinin and Fedun. One of these guys could easily crack our line-up next year.
This would also free up the third overall pick to select either one of the dynamic few defencemen or Filip Forsberg, who basically is MPS.

Why MTL wouldn't do it: Because they really really really like Beaulieu? French-Canadian player, leadership qualities - after the Cunneyworth fiasco, there might be a little bit of a hullaballo.
But really, that's it. They'd do this trade in a heartbeat.

Why EDM wouldn't do it: Because they don't want 3rd overall and a defenceman. They'd rather get a dynamic winger and a pick than a defenceman and a pick because this year is thin up front and loaded down back. With that many defencemen coming up the depth chart, why do we need another two?

Bottom line?
Love me or hate me, I'm taking deal one.

Oilers team into free agency?
Hall-Nuge-Eberle
Smyth-Gagner-Hemsky
MPS-Horcoff-Jones
Eager-Lander-Petrell (UFA)
Extras: Hartikainen, Pitlick
Petry-Subban
Whitney-Smid
Schultz-Sutton
Extras: Potter, Peckham, Barker, Fedun...

Khabi and Dubnyk.
Extras: Danis (UFA), Bunz (straight outta junior, right? ;) )

We're missing a decent goalie and we're missing some size up front, but that defence doesn't look half bad.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Rating the re-build: Roots and Year 1

Rebuild: The Roots
The trade, version 2

The roots of the rebuild began with the trade of the core of this team since 1995, Ryan Smyth (Pronger being a foretold conclusion). On pace for 30-something goals once again in his illustrious career, he was traded to NYI for picks after a dumb-ass contract dispute. Nope, not a trade for players, but a trade for picks. This likely marks the first misstep in the organization and the first moment where the Oilers could have done something to become a contender and relapsed into being a pretender - a major reason this team lapsed into a rebuild. His goal-scoring abilities were attempted by Penner and have only been replaced, many years later, by Jordan Eberle. His star quality and ox-like ability to lift this team into playoff contention, however, has arguably never been replaced, even by an older version of himself. Hall's trying.

The Oilers finished with a win more than Chicago and ended up in 6th place, out of the draft lottery. What could have been Patrick Kane became Sam Gagner, arguably the second most successful forward in the first round (after said Kane - not a bad consolation prize, haters!). In a draft year full of busts and missed opportunities (et tu, Jamie Benn?), Sam Gagner remains second in games played and points scored for a forward. 

The year after very well should have been our first year drafting first overall, had it not been for the powerful line combination that seemed to solve every single one of our problems, the Cogs-Gags-Nils line. Flashy, dashy, and incredibly small, they pulled us within 3 points of a playoff spot, that belonged to the sophomore Shea Weber-featuring Predators. We had a bonafide superstar all-rookie line! The future was ours!

Or was it? Aging goalie Roloson desperately needed a decent back-up. He simply couldn't play every game, and if they did, they were doomed to be mired in mediocrity. The Oilers made another mistake of searching within the system for a goalie that hadn't materialized.

The season after featured the moves of acquiring Erik Cole-Patrick O'Sullivan and Lubo and shipping out serviceable loyal Edmonton players like Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene, and Raffi Torres - players whose grit and hard work ethic we have likely just replaced in 2012 - (Belanger, Schultz, Eager). The Cogs-Gags-Nils line, not suspectingly, were shut down by dominant blue liners who simply pushed them around. The search for grit *cough cough* was on.

After this, the Oilers refused to commit to a rebuild or to a playoff spot, standing rather pat at the deadline - another big mistake. They believed in the team being able to push for the playoff spot that most observers noted was well out of their reach. Should have traded Souray to a contender... here. The Oilers would finish in the worst spot - out of a playoff spot and out of the lottery. 

The roots of the rebuild were marred by injury (Hemsky), idiotic contracts (Horcoff), and pursuits of high-profile free agents that made Edmonton look like a desperate ol' hick town (Marian Hossa). The bright spots of the future from this time period include Sam Gagner and Ladislav Smid, acquired from the Pronger trade. And some guys named Paajarvi and Eberle.

Rebuild: Year 1
 His face, after every game.

The second-most successful coach in Oilers history was shipped out (Craig MacTavish, love him or hate him). Our first legitimate starter since Tommy Salo who had brought us all the way to the Cup Finals was not tendered a contract (Dwayne Roloson). 

On the front? We signed Pat Quinn, a trade lauded by critics around, and Tom Renney, something many people considered a steal as an assistant coach.
For goalie? We signed the 3-year younger Nikolai Khabibulin, the man who had clearly stoked Oilers hearts by beating Calgary for the cup in Tampa. 

Sure, at the time, he was the best goalie on the market. And sure, we had Jeff Droin-Deslauriers, as well as Dubnyk, who should have and could have taken the reigns.
And who can forget Dany Heatley's surreal rejection of the Oilers trade proposal, which included a basket of Oilers memorabilia. I wish I was making that up.

The Oilers could have done a lot better by signing Roli and keeping Craig MacTavish. At the very least, they could have kept Pat Quinn's stellar career away from this mess. 

This team, the Oilers 2009-2010 version, was stricken with a plague - only Dustin Penner would play 82 games in the whole season. Khabibulin, the prime offseason signing, was injured and later spotted extreme drunk driving, which sounds mildly exciting. Souray broke his hand on Iginla's face. Hemsky was Hemsky and could not remain healthy.

But it wasn't simply just that. The Oilers set into the season most likely never to compete in it, let alone do damage in the playoffs. It was built like a team in a non-hockey market, a Phoenix or a Carolina, that had perhaps one star (Sam Gagner) and the plugs who would hope for the best. No star, like Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Los Angeles, or even fricken Minnesota.

This team, had it been completely healthy, perfectly healthy, would have failed. Tambollini failed the team and its fans by refusing to ship out the parts that had failed a year before (Moreau and O'Sullivan) and standing pat at almost every opportunity.

Teams with injuries often seek out parts to fix them. This team didn't. But no amounts of band-aids or gauze strips could have saved this stinking ship. Delauriers wasn't the goalie of the future, and Dubnyk seemed to be empty of confidence. 

 But Khabibulin would be back next year! And it was going to be impossible for this team to lose that many games to injury, we swore, crossing our fingers. Besides, there was light at the end of the tunnel in the form of wunderkind Taylor Hall, a goal-scoring machine out of the Spitfires, and all-around playmaker Tyler Seguin, whose overall centering abilities made him another potential first-overall pick - both of which forced into the gulag of Edmonton by force of the draft. Huzzah!
Not to mention some guy named "Cardiac" Eberle, a kid who had a knack of scoring big goals.

Next year couldn't possibly be this bad, right?

2009-2010 is the year of the injury. Rebuild Year 1.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Feb 8: Edmonton at Detroit, 5:30 PM, TSN

Game Day

Injury Voodoo Required:
The Oilers continue their remarkable streak stretching back early into last season for having not a single game with the entire line-up, top to bottom, healthy for at least one full game.

RNH, that rookie phenom, popped his shoulder and is now out for a week. He's likely to return against *gasp* Toronto next week. That's lol-worthy.

To add, not surprisingly, insult to injury, Tom Renney wasn't at last game because Ladislav Smid, obviously unhappy, made like Lee Harvey Oswald and smacked a puck off the coach's face. Both parties were incredibly apologetic, but we all know Smid was secretly angry. Don't we, Smid.

Detroit News
The Detroit Red Wings do not know how to lose at home. 20-2-1. That's incredibly ridiculous.

That being said, however, this team is only at .500 on the road. To make matters worse, they're on a two game losing streak, and we're part of that losing streak! HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND.

To compound matter on matter, they don't have all-star goalie Jimmy Howard, who's presence in net is really being felt in his absence. Ty Conklin has been out for precisely one period, where the Gagnertrain destroyed him. Guess who just entered the market for a decent backup goaltender?

Edmonton News
As with tradition with the fanbase, a 5 straight game point streak had many fans chanting Playoff Run before you could even think about one.

A very Oilersesque performance in Toronto resulted in a 6-3 loss, and those same fans are now chanting MURRAY MURRAY. Look, I understand you guys are temperamental, but I don't believe any of us* could have thought this team was going to go after the all-star break undefeated. Live on the win streak. It's a lot better to watch than the losing ones.

These Oilers are significantly different than the one before the break. The cautious, powerplay pouncing, neutral zone trapping RNH-style Oilers have been replaced by the quick, fast-paced talent-laden defense-forsaking Hall-led Oilers. Who knows why?

Doesn't matter that Eberle led both systems in points. The man is a machine and a stud and can play in any situation and get you goals. He just exists.

Whatever it is, this team is dynamic and a lot more fun to watch than the first half team. In fact, I would argue that they're a little bit better with the defensive gaffes than they were before. We're not losing 1-0 games anymore. I like it.

Lines
Hall-Gagner-Eberle
Paajarvi-Horcoff-Hemsky
Smyth-Belanger-Jones
Eager/Hordichuk-Lander-Petrell

Barker-Whitney
Gilbert-Smid
Sutton-Petry

If anybody is going to profit from this run-and-gun offence, it's ... I'd really like to say Paajarvi, but I just don't think he is. He's much more defensively responsible than I'd like. 

To be quite honest, I'm hoping that Petrell gets sent down as soon as Omark gets two games under his belt in the AHL. That kid, there's someone who will flourish in this system. Doesn't know a thing about defensive hockey. Put him on a line with Lander and Paajarvi, and you have yourself two incredible lines.

By the way, these past few games, Hall-Gagner-Eberle have been the best line... in hockey. Move over, Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan. A team that can play defence as well as Detroit, as well as Toronto that gets ripped apart EVERY shift by these boys... they play hockey indeed.

Predictions
Glorious Prediction - TY CONKLIN gets the start. Gagner has more fun than before, getting 4 points, but its Petry, the boy from Michigan State, that gets his first career hat trick after a career night in Toronto, who surprises all. Oilers take this one and restart the push for 8th in spectacular fashion, 6-1.
Realistic Prediction - I can see the Oilers salvaging a point out of this one, but I physically can't see any team beating Detroit at home. In fact, unless Howard gets injured, if these guys get home-ice advantage in the playoffs, they're going straight to the cup.
Oilers 3-4 Detroit (OT)
ELPH Prediction - Nobody's getting a shutout. We're too runandgun for that now. But they do lose big.
6-3 again, Hall and Ebs getting the goals, likely Ebs with significantly more frustration being stuck at 2.

*33-0-0. You did *not* see that here.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Feb 6: Edmonton at Toronto. 5:00 MT. RSW.

Game Day
No, the game is not featuring Lenny Kravitz. 
But he's stuck in my head.

Are you gonna go my way?
Injury bug? It hasn't.

The advancement of Dubnyk? It hasn't.

Khabibulin and consistency? Hasn't.

February? Totally has.

Toronto News
The Maple Leafs are coming off of two straight shut-out victories against high octane offenses - they shut out the best forward in the league (Evgeni "Who-needs-Crosby" Malkin) and then shut out the slickest passing defender this year (Erik Karlsson). 

Whenever you can do that away from home, you're in good shape.

Even better - Optimus Reim has finally got back into shape, coasting Toronto to those back to back shutouts. It's nice to see him back - Toronto might be off the market for a goalie if he plays like this. They are still looking for that number one centre. Jeff Carter, anyone?

Edmonton News
Hah. Hah. Hah.

As a big driving-finger to the league, the Oilers have proceeded to defy all expectations of "rolling-over-and-letting-the-playoff-race-be-interesting" by getting 9 out of a possible 10 points in their past 5, including wins against Colorado, San Jose, Detroit and a hillarious win against Chicago.

To be quite honest, they look like a cup contender - any team that beats Detroit looks like that. They simply lost too many men and thus games in November, December and January to make a difference. But you never know... 33-0-0 is still in reach...

The way Wayne Gagner is playing, they might have a shot at meaningful games in March.

What did they feed Gagner?
Likely 6 of those pucks. Every morning.
Here's the thing:
It's not entirely unexpected.

Before you say "whaaaaaat" and accuse me of the lottery ticket formula syndrome, hear me out.

No, I didn't expect Gagner to have 8 points all in one night. If I did, I would quit blogging and probably become a professional fortune teller. 

He's returning from an injury. He had incredible linemates, and Hall's unreal CorsiRel stat (22.4 = superhuman) and Eberle's knack of scoring goals was going to catch up with him sometime.

His own CorsiRel stat is third best on the team, better than Eberle and His Highness Nugester.

Offence was going to start. No plebian, however, could have predicted that.

That being said, the next player I see having a big night? Ales Trade-Me Hemsky, who sits second on the CorsiRel docket. I believe in him, but moreover, I believe in Hall's ability to make anybody look good.

Lines
Logically, you'd think that they wouldn't separate Hall-Gagner-Eberle, but even Renney knows RNH needs linemates that can shoot. This is what you'll likely see...
Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Smyth-RNH-Eberle
Lander-Horcoff-Jones
Eager-Belanger-Petrell

Smid-Gilbert
Whitney-Barker
Petry-Sutton/Peckham
Potter

The Oilers are probably shopping either Peckham or Sutton. Whoever they're shopping, he's in. You give him time to shine, then they'll trade you. 8 d-men is great for depth and all, but I just don't see this team carrying three people as baggage (Hordichuk, Potter, Peckham). You never know though...

And that's right. No injuries to report. For the fist time this season. WOOOOOOOO.

Gilbert draws back, most likely. That's a decent top four, lads and ladies. 

Prediction
Glorious Prediction - Optimus Reim meets MeGagnerTron. And, unlike the comics, guess who destroys who? Gagner gets another multipoint night, but it's Hemsky who dazzles with a 4 point night. Oilers take this one in GLORY 6-1. Kessel scores on Dubnyk.
Realistic Prediction - Understanding Dubnyk's "one-bad-goal" policy and the potency of these Maple Leafs, I see another high-flying, exciting game. I'm loving these Oilers, but against a tough, hard-hitting, Phaneuf-featuring defence? I don't like their chances... until overtime. Oilers pull this one through, a crazy 5-4 win, with the final goal scored by *legasp* Eric Belanger Taylor Hall.
ELPH Prediction - These Oilers are way too much fun to watch... against sub-par goaltending. Let's face it - would the Oilers have burst for 3 goals against Jimmy Howard? Maybe one. Corey Crawford has anti-Nicklas Backstrom disorder against the Oilers, he always seems to suck. Against Luongo? We actually lost. Oilers can't handle a decent goalie, but they do end Reimer's shutout bid. Oilers 2-5 Leafs

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Feb 4: Detroit at Edmonton, 8:00 PM, HNIC

Game Day

Yeah. If you're wondering why I didn't post a WOOOOO post after, I thought silence after that kind of night was the best kind of reverence.

If you live under a rock, or not in a hockey city, you wouldn't know that Sam Gagner, that guy who was on Trading Day as well as various numerous hate lists, scored 8 points... on 8 goals.

Finishing the night with 4 goals and 4 assists, he paced the Oilers to a 8-4 win, as well as a place in the Oilers record books beside Paul Coffey and some guy named Gretzky.

Both of whom called to let him know that he's awesome. Nuff said.

Detroit = Killjoy?
If you want to look for a team that would possibly equal a killjoy after that kind of a game, it's these guys. Or the Flames. But mostly these guys.

Detroit News
Detroit beats us like they beat the rest of the league - soundly and with little difficulty. They're the best team in the Western Conference, and have been so since around 1992. They're so freaking efficient, Lidstrom only needs to replace his batteries every few weeks instead of every day.

A good thing for Oilers fans is the lack of All-Star goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has broken his finger - he'll be out for likely the next two meetings against the Oilers, which could be, well, a savoir if you want wins.

Detroit looks to be starting 2006 Oilers second-string goaltender and likely the second-most hated Oiler in a generation Ty Conklin. Let the battle begin!

Oiler News
Some guy named Gagner did something that was big and it looks like the league hasn't shut up about it. 

Also, the MASH corps has finally gotten almost everybody back. We might be healthy for the first time this season. Heard of Nugent-Hopkins? He was so far ahead of the other rookies that he's still in the lead for rookie points 13 games later. He's back. And he wants blood.

Lines
Hall-Gagner-Eberle
Horcoff-RNH-Hemsky
Smyth-Belanger-Jones
Petrell-Lander-Eager

Whitney-Barker
Gilbert/Potter-Smid
Petry-Sutton

Dubnyk will get his fourth straight start. He was overshadowed by Gagner's magical night - he had 43 freaking saves. As you know, that's kind of ridiculous. The Fuhr, if you will, to the Gretzky.

Gilbert is likely still a game away - but if he takes the drop-off test in the morning, like Cam Barker did, he could very well be ready to go for the game. Potter should come out.

If the D-Corps stays healthy, I believe Peckham's days in an Oilers uniform are numbered. He'll bring possibly more return than Andy Sutton - a young defencemen with a nasty edge. And we like Sutton's leadership and will likely tender a contract to the man after the season.

NB: Barker, if you remember, comically fell over in the first period, which gave Oilers fans either epic giggles or a minor heart attack. He ended the night +3 and with a goal that 29/30 goaltenders should have stopped - continuing the belief that a "bad" defenceman is contributing to more and more wins. 

Predictions
Glorious Prediction - I was simply not glorious enough last night. But I don't expect anything close to that with Nicklas Lidstrom, Nicklas Kronwall, Jakub Kindl and such on the ice tonight. But with the Nuge back - anything is possible. Four point night for Mr. Hopkins, 2 on the powerplay as the Oilers take this one 5-2. Eberle with two goals.
Realistic Prediction - Oilers fans are really excited about watching a game for the first time in a really long time. And really, this is a game we have no business being in. Dubnyk will let in a soft one in the third, and this one will head to overtime... where Gagner puts away a Hall rebound. Oilers 2 - 1 Detroit (OT)
ELPH Prediction (the E is back as long as we're tied for not-second-last) - We ditch all semblance of defensive hockey. This comes to bite us in the rear as Dubnyk/Deities cannot stop the thunder of Datsyuk. 5-3 Detroit, but we sure as hell make this game exciting.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Feb 2: Chicago at Edmonton, 7:30 PM, TSN

Game Day
The City of Champs at night, apparently

Can we do it again?
Throughout the season of inconsistency, there has been one little blip in the logic train.

The Oilers can beat the Blackhawks.

Doesn't matter if we play Detroit the next game. Doesn't matter if it's the October of wonder or the December of blunder.

The Oilers know how to beat the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks now sit in 6th place in the Western Conference. The Oilers (hah) try to make a playoff push (sniff hah) from 14th spot, red hot* in their last three games, picking up 5 of 6 points. Let's face it, they're spoilers. And they play very well against playoff teams. Let's see what happens - they might just pull an upset.

Lines/Injuries
Hall - Horcoff - Hemsky
Cornet - Gagner - Eberle
Smyth - Belanger - Jones
Eager - Lander - Petrell

Whitney - Potter
Smid - Sutton
Peckham - Petry

Dubnyk gets the start tonight - he's been red-hot, although he has not changed one bit (still lets in 1 bad goal/game. It's incredibly consistent.)

The injured corps is returning VERY soon, in fact, you might even see the one they call "Nuge" show up tonight. If he is, expect Gagner to suit up on the top line, RNH to slip in with Eberle and Cornet, Horcoff and Belanger in some combination to the third and fourth lines, and Lander in the press box.

Gilbert and Barker remain 3-4 games away, although Barker says he could be in against Detroit.

With a healthy D-corps, I see no reason why this team couldn't go 33-0-0 with the rest of their games**.

Predictions
Glorious Prediction - OILERS GOOOOAL. The return of Nugent-Hopkins is deadly, as someone tells him that he has been eclipsed in the rookie scoring race (which, ridiculously, he hasn't been). Not to be outdone, Nuge chalks up an incredulous 5 points, a goal and 4 assists, as the Oilers take this one 5-1. Chicago, Edmonton, and the collective universe scratch their heads as Belanger gets a goal on the powerplay again.

Realistic Prediction - Nuge doesn't make the line-up, but the M.A.S.H. corps somehow ekes out a hard-fought, talent laden, sweet victory. Hall and Eberle score again, as well as Andy Sutton, who gets a dandy feed from two Ryans.

LPH Prediction - Toews and Kane on the top line? Don't even bother.
We play defence for three periods and lose this one 2-0 in the third. Dubnyk's fault on the second as it just goes past his glove hand off a juicy rebound.




*Red-hot in Pittsburgh or Nashville is winning 8 in a row.
Red-hot in Edmonton is not losing miserably every game.

**Denial. It's one of those steps in admitting you have a problem or something.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Trading Day - 3/5 Shawn Horcoff

You're joking.

No, I'm not.

There's interest in this player. We'll just have to swallow up an awful contract to do it.

Pros?
He's one of the best third-line centres in the league.
Knows how to win a face-off, great leader on and off the ice, once had a point-per-game season, plays powerplay minutes and penalty kill minutes.

The effeminate everyman.

Cons?
His contract, as you may have heard, is incredibly overpriced. He's paid like a first line centre. He plays like a third line centre. Maybe even a second line centre.

We'd have to swallow up a contract to make this thing work.

Beyond that, I don't think that trading Horcoff would be the best bet for the Oilers. Is Belanger an upgrade over him? Isn't his leadership an essential part of moving forward?

Proposals?
I could see teams that are struggling with depth at cente, successes on the road and/or in need of leadership and an everyman. Think Winnipeg or New York ...

I'm not going to even explain - this is preposterous and you know it. We'll have to swallow a bad contract, but we'll get rid of him. Sorry, Scorecoff.

Winnipeg doesn't really have anything that we could trade him for...

New York? Redden and picks? You never know...

Let's face it. He's not going to get traded, not right now. Because the team I see trading with us for Horcoff is Columbus, and they're not buyers. 

Friday, 27 January 2012

Trading Day - 2/5 Sam Gagner

Different look? Same Gagner.

Pros?
He's a legitimate player.

Let's look at the draft pedigree of this character. Taken at 6th overall in past drafts include esteemed players such as Paul Coffey, Ryan Smyth, Vincent Damphousse and Mikko Koivu. Other "decent" players include  Derick Brassard and Cory Stillman.

Oh, and some guy nicknamed Foppa. 

Beyond that top 5, I would say Sam Gagner is the 6th most talented and proven player to play at his draft pedigree. He occupies that spot in terms of points per season.

He also happens to be only one year older than Jordan Eberle. He's 22.

He can play all spots on forward, he's improving at the wings, and he could definitely be a serviceable second line centre now, and as a "prospect", a first line centre in the future.

The fans also inexplicably want to trade him at every opportunity. If we're going to draft Grigorenko, who is in all ways an upgrade of Gagner, I sympathize.

Cons?
He's tiny. He's not the biggest guy, and he's never been to the playoffs. Is he cursed or something?

Beyond that, I don't really think the Oilers want to trade this guy - he's developed some chemistry with Hall, and it's fantastic to have two scoring lines in the NHL. He'd make a great second-line centre after Nuge.

Who's interested?
Well, tonnes of teams, I'd think - for sure, teams lacking offence and/or depth -- Florida, Montreal, Dallas, and even... Calgary.

Florida - this team could and will make the playoffs... but after that? Is there any hope in the Sunshine State?
Well, outside of the top line of Fleschmainn, Versteeg and the other guy, they don't have much depth-scoring. And they certainly have the assets to pry Gagner out.

Montreal - Any team that employs Gomez for scoring is in dire need of scoring. As a quasi-Montreal fan, I want to see this team succeed, but they don't have the scoring. Pacioretty needs someone to feed him the puck. Playmaker, that tis what Gagner is.

Dallas - Their core is aging. Do you think they could use more scoring? Absofreakinglutely. This team needs a kick to get into the playoffs, and Gagner would be it.

...

Calgary - Heh. We wouldn't...

Proposals?
Florida - Gagner for Kulikov. Straight up.
It would address our need for defence and their need for scoring. Giving up Kulikov is a steep price for success, however. But with him injured and the team still winning, I could see this happening.

Montreal - Gagner and our first next year for PK Subban 
They don't like him right now - and trigger happy Gauthier might just buy this deal.

Dallas - Sam Gagner for Jamie Oleksiak.
Proven talent for potential destruction here. Oleksiak is a monstrosity. Imagine that on our blue line...

Calgary - Sam Gagner for ... ...
They seriously have no one we would want, as of right now. They're all too old and not-our-style to play. Sure, they're talented. But they don't buy into the speedy Oilers model of the future.

Coming up soon... 3/5 Shawn Horcoff

Monday, 23 January 2012

Jan 23: San Jose at Edmonton. Another one

Game Day

Pictured above is the void.

The void is occupied by blank space, a vacuum of nothingness, and, if you're into that kind of stuff, everything.

Or, if you are an Oilers fan, the void is the place Belanger's offence exists within. The void is the place where uninjured Oilers go.

The void is the place where the Oilers make the playoffs. Solitary tears, ladies and gentlemen. Solitary tears.

Lines/Injuries
Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Eberle-Horcoff-Smyth
Hartikainen-Lander-Paajarvi
Eager-Belanger-Petrell

Chorney/Whitney-Petry
Smid-Peckham
Sutton-Potter

Khabi? Dubs?

Predictions
Glorious Prediction - Oilers break out of the slump. 5-1.
Realistic Prediction - Oilers don't break out of the slump. 3-1 Sharks.
LPH Prediction - Whitney slots in and out in record fashion. Oilers lose him for the season. Hah. *sniff* Hah. 6-0 Sharks.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Trading Day - 1/5 Nikolai Khabibulin

First things first, let me preface this:

This is not a list of players that I want gone. This is a list of players that the Oilers will get a return for/the Oilers would be willing to trade.


The Lowdown
At first, it looked like this was going to be the year that Khabi broke down and gave the reigns to Dubnyk.
But after October, it looked like this was going to be the year, where Khabi poured vodka over his detractors and set them on fire and won the freaking Vezina.

Now, it looks like it might be the first. Again.

After a stellar showing, Khabi breaks down. Makes us play a game where we had no business playing in St. Louis, and then lets the whole team down with goals 3 and 4 last night in Calgary.

He hasn't won in the New Year. Then again, have we helped him?

The Pros
His GAA is through the roof for a (virtually) last place team. Without a semblance of defence, he has a 2.45 GAA. That's right, that's only 0.02 behind Pekka I-make-7-million-dollars Rinne and ahead of standouts like Mike Smith, Jose Theodore and Tomas Vokoun -- all playing on teams that are in the playoff hunt and considerably better than us.

His save percentage? 0.918, good for 18th in the league. Better than all-star Carey Price and usually all-star Roberto Luongo.

The Cons
His age and contract, previously considered the biggest problems to his movement. He's 39 now, and he's at the second last year of a hefty contract that pays him 3.75 million for a cap hit.

Not to mention the fact that Khabibulin still makes most games exciting in Edmonton. He's often (Read: St.Louis) the only reason that we have any chance in a game - trading that away means we're definitely heading in the direction Steve Tambellini said would not happen ... another first overall pick.

Beyond that, he's played poorly as of late - do you think he'd make it based on his previous season play alone?

Who's Talking?
Teams that - with solid goaltending - could actually win the freaking cup.

Don't shoot me, but I'm talking about Toronto (I know - don't break yourself laughing there), Winnipeg (see the Toronto note), and by all means lesser, Tampa.
Lol all you want. Fact is, they were second last when we drafted Hall.
Look where they are now.

Toronto - James Reimer would take them into the playoffs. But he's hurt. And a concussion isn't the kind of thing you can shake off - he's a significantly worse goaltender now than he was last year.
Toronto fans, watch him play and watch him during his worst games last year. You'll see the similarities.

Jonas Gustavsson is not the goalie of the future they were hoping he was. Watch the game last night against Montreal, the team that employs Scott Gomez to score goals. His short-side is wider than a Zamboni. And teams know that. They definitely do.

Toronto has solid defence, the most dangerous duo outside of the twins in Lupul and Kessel, and could actually do some damage in the playoffs.
The thing preventing them from getting there? A decent goaltender. Oh, and the lack of CapSpace.

Winnipeg - What a surprise - a quasi-successful rebuild. Yeah, yeah, you naysayers. It is, after all, Atlanta in silk stockings. They have a home-ice advantage now, that's got to mean something.

They have one of the league's unheralded superstars in Evander Kane. He's like Hall when he gets on the ice, you can't take your eyes off of him.
They have one of the league's underrated talents in Andrew Ladd. Horcoff should take notes from this guy, a talented leader, dammit!
They have Burmistrov, the epitome of an enigmatic Russian. Shows up one game, leaves the next.

What they don't have is quality goaltending, night in and night out.
Pavelec is decent, not fantastic. They need a legitimate starting goaltender, not an up-and-comer, to make the first round and beyond. 
Khabibulin might just be their guy - remember, he started his career there.

Tampa - this season is a write-off, just like ours, because the Eastern Conference is a lot less tight in comparison to the West.

But they have Stamkos, they have Hedman, they have St. Louis, they have Lecavalier. This team shouldn't suck. Hell, it almost made the big dance last year. Could Khabi do it? It would improve over Roloson...

Possible Trades?
For his age and contractual size, don't expect the moon. And if I know Tambellini, he's not shopping him for some reason about pride and yatta yatta- one of the other reasons the chump needs to be fired.

But let's look arbitrarily. Big deal time.

Toronto: Nikolai Khabibulin, Curtis Hamilton and a third round pick for Jussi Rynnäs, Mike Komisarek, Cody Franson and a conditional second round pick in 2012. (Condition being a place in the conference finals). Blockbuster

Why? The only player who's proven anything for either team is Khabibulin. Hamilton is a sacrifice, a great prospect. The pick is for Toronto - they don't have many. We have Los Angeles'.
Komisarek is a flash in the pan and a salary dump. 
The real deal is for Jussi Rynnäs, quite the good goaltending prospect that's ready to make an impact now, and Cody Franson, a decent prospect who's found himself in the doghouse in T.O too many times and wants out.

Winnipeg: Nikolai Khabibulin and a second round pick for Ondrej Pavelec and Paul Postma. Likeliest

Why? Goalie swap at the top --> Winnipeg gets the goalie to win now. That's a steep price, but Khabibulin has been an elite goaltender on a crappy team. That's the kind of return we're looking at.

Tampa Bay: Nikolai Khabibulin for Eric Brewer and picks.

Why? Former players go home to the places where they had the most success - Khabi had a cup here, and Brewer was a Top-2 defenceman here.

Beyond that, we better be getting picks.

Trade or no trade?
His value is never going to be higher.
TRADE. Thanks for the year, Khabi, and best of luck where you go. May you assist the rebuild by not being here.