The course is set

Jonathan Willis
February 13 2013 10:21AM

Thirteen games in, the Edmonton Oilers season has not unfolded as brilliantly as those optimistic about the team would have hoped.

If the team is to improve, however, it will likely need to do so from within.

While the early season hasn’t been everything the Oilers might have hoped, things really haven’t gone as badly as they have in the (not very distant) past, either. With a 5-5-3 record and a minus-5 goal differential, the Oilers sit 11th in the West and are more or less in the range of reasonable expectation.

It would be nice if general manager Steve Tambellini could correct some of the weaknesses that have been revealed at this juncture, but expecting him to do so via trade would be a mistake.

Midseason Trades

Photo: Resolute/Wikimedia

The issue is that teams rarely make big moves until the trade deadline nears. A look at the trades in 2011-12 confirms that; over the season’s first four months there was generally one significant trade per month:

  • October: Florida trades David Booth, Steve Reinprecht and a 3rd-round pick to Vancouver for Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm
  • November: St. Louis trades Nikita Nikitin to Columbus for Kris Russell December:
  • Phoenix trades Kyle Turris to Ottawa for David Runblad and a 2nd-round pick
  • January: Montreal trades Mike Cammalleri, Karri Ramo and a 5th-round pick to Calgary for Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland and a 2nd-round puck

Aside from the Kyle Turris trade (a unique situation), these are all like-for-like sort of moves. Florida sends a top-9 winger to Vancouver with a depth guy for a top-9 winger and a depth guy. St. Louis and Columbus swap young defencemen who need a change of scenery. Montreal trades a top-six winger, prospect and draft pick to Calgary for a top-six winger, prospect and draft pick.

Basically, last season, teams were stuck with the club they had built in the summer. Fringe guys cropped up on waivers, and sometimes teams bit, either to fill in for an injury or in the hopes of finding the next Rich Peverley (who scored 35 points in 39 games after being claimed off waivers by Atlanta in January 2009). Other than that, teams dealt guys who were struggling in a role for other guys struggling in the same role.

That changes at the trade deadline, where also-rans sell-off short-term help at inflated prices to teams hoping to win the Stanley Cup (or at least make it out of the first round). But at that point, much of the script has already been written.

The Summer

That’s why the most important period for building any hockey team is the time when hockey isn’t actually being played – around the draft and during free agency. That’s when each team can address its needs, when clubs actually make big trades, and when talent can be acquired without heavily mortgaging the future.

The Oilers took some calculated risks this summer. They gambled that their defensive group was strong enough for a run at the post-season, betting that a top-four comprised of some mix of Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry, Nick Schultz, Ryan Whitney and Justin Schultz would be good enough. They appear to have won heavily on the Justin Schultz gamble, and so far seem to be losing on the Whitney one. They also banked on their depth being good enough and made a trade – adding Mark Fistric for a draft pick – once Andy Sutton (who had been counted on) was no longer in the mix.

They also gambled on Devan Dubnyk stepping into the top job in net, and on their mix up front being good enough. Dubnyk’s been exceptional so far, and some of the choices made up front were just manifestations of the rebuild – there probably isn’t a Cup contender out there that would feel comfortable with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as its top centre or Nail Yakupov as a top-six winger in the here-and-now (St. Louis, for example, has deployed the older Vladimir Tarasenko largely in a third-line role at even-strength). Choices like Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov are understandable; they will grow into those roles eventually and rebuilds require patience.

The choices haven’t all been correct. To pick one obvious example, Darcy Hordichuk’s presence on the roster at the start of the season is hard to explain in light of Ralph Krueger’s unwillingness to use him. Whether Hordichuk’s role is important or not isn’t the key point here – the key point is that the coach obviously didn’t think so yet management had him on the roster anyway. It’s a small item but it is an example of a spot where some communication earlier in the year could have opened up a place on the roster for, say, a utility forward that Krueger would use.

The summer, though, was the time to address weaknesses. If the Oilers can make a trade to fill cracks in the here and now, power to them – but it’s a much more difficult thing to do now than it was in the off-season. The management group simply has to hope that they made enough right decisions at that time for the team to meet their internal expectations.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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denmcco wrote:

Rationalizing Tambo doing nothing isn't productive. The real stark , uneasy reality that is growing more evident every day is that the Oiler re-build is imploding. The "young talent" is a mirage. They may not be able to competer in the Western conference. Last night wasn't a one off. It is the new norm. Why can't Oiler rationalizers come to terms with this. 14 games is enough to actually score a goal - RNH.

Here's another "sky is falling" fan. I always wonder what the lives of some of the posters here are like. They must have a negative outlook on life and they have no idea why their life sucks.

The re-build is imploding?? Really?? The "young talent" is a mirage?? Do you watch any of the games at all?

If the way they played last night is the new norm for the Oilers, I guarantee you they make playoffs this year. That was the best the team has played all season by a mile. If they'd been playing that way from the beginning, they'd be on top of the division. Stop looking at the stats and try watching some games.

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#4 Old Retired Guy
February 13 2013, 11:23AM
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John Chambers wrote:

3 Trades to save the Oilers season:

Whitney to LA straight up for Dustin Penner

Hemsky + Musil to the Avs for Ryan O'Reilly

Eberle to the Habs for PK Subban & a 2nd Rounder

Sorry Wanye ...

YakCity Nuge Gagner Hall O'Reilly Paajarvi Penner Smyth Hartikainen Eager Belanger Petrell

Subban Smid Schultz Schultz Petry Fistric

Eager gets bumped when Jones comes back into the lineup.

The biggest advantage of the deals is that Hemsky ($5.5), Eberle ($6), and Whitney's ($4M) salaries are freed up in '13-'14 to make way for Subban $2.75, O'Reilly ($5M), a wage increase for Gagner (who is now a winger - $4M), and Penner (re-signed 2 years $2M per).

However, as Willis illustrates, one trade proposal let alone three are akin to gazing into one's navel.

@ #14 John Chambers

Although, as you say, they are all highly unlikely....I would consider them all...with the exception of moving YAK instead of Eberle.

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#5 TonyT
February 13 2013, 12:21PM
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I think a large part in management's failure to address team weaknesses is it's continued overvaluing of it's veterans. Sure useful size doesn't grow on trees, and defencemen are never cheap, however winning veterans are available. Gregor quoting Jagr in yesterday's GDB, perfectly illustrates what this young team needs; respected talent that has won before. Even on the downside Adam Oates contributed the ability to take draws to an Oilers team in a brief appearance. While most people see Smyth as a saint, the fact is Oiler veterans have never learned to win. I've followed this team for all my life and outside of the late 90s to now, the team has been hopeful to down right awful, the Oiler veterans have only experienced losing. I fear that with every season that management "waits", Hall and Ebs will learn the same...

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#6 denmcco
February 13 2013, 12:24PM
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Rationalizing Tambo doing nothing isn't productive. The real stark , uneasy reality that is growing more evident every day is that the Oiler re-build is imploding. The "young talent" is a mirage. They may not be able to competer in the Western conference. Last night wasn't a one off. It is the new norm. Why can't Oiler rationalizers come to terms with this. 14 games is enough to actually score a goal - RNH.

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#7 GVBlackhawk
February 13 2013, 01:17PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Outside of what I think is the inevitable Whitney trade I dont expect any drastic changes. The Oilers have the youngest team in the NHL. 8 guys are under 23 (if I remember correctly from the graphic in yesterday's broadcast). You CANT expect to win with that much youth in the lineup.

This is another year where the core gets experience. They are already better than last year's version of the Oilers with the switch to Dubnyk alone.

(1) Out goes Whitney. (2) In comes a top 3 defender. (3) Kids are a year older (4) ??? (5) Cup Contender.

See. It's all part of the plan.

The second youngest team: Chicago Blackhawks

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#8 Archaeologuy
February 13 2013, 02:17PM
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GVBlackhawk wrote:

The second youngest team: Chicago Blackhawks

I wanted to compare the Blackhawks and the Oilers in terms of age, so I decided to look at top 6 forwards and top 4 defensemen.

Since I dont regularly watch the Blackhawks I decided to base which players I would use by most average shifts per game for both the Oil and the Hawks.

The Oilers forwards were: Gagner, Eberle, RNH, Hall, Hemsky, Horc, and Belanger was 7th. Since Horc is out long term I decided to take him out and sub in Belanger. This would push the Oilers numbers up, but it would be more accurate.

For the Black Hawks the forwards were Kane, Toews, Sharp, Hossa, Bolland, and Kruger.

The avg Oiler was 24.8 years old, the average Blackhawk was 26.8 years old.

I figured, why stop there? So I did the defenses the same way.

Oilers: Petry, J. Schultz, Smid, N. Schultz

Hawks: Seabrook, Keith, Oduya, Hjalmarsson

Avg Oiler was 26. The Avg Hawk was 28

The Oilers are 2 years younger than the Hawks in all of their most important positions in the lineup. This even applies in net as Crawford is 28 while Dubnyk is 26.

2 years across the board is pretty significant IMO.

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#9 G Money
February 13 2013, 02:34PM
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1. JW is bang on - we need to remember the rational expectation for this team, which is to be in a fight to make the playoffs. That's where they are.

2. A point by point comparison of this team with last years 29th place team should form the basis of this years expectation. Lots of questions needed to be answered this year. Not a pro-Tambo guy, but I incline to thinking patience (not dithering) is still the right approach at this point.

3. Given how the Oilers have been playing (mostly poorly), I expect they'll get hot at some point and give [more] flashes of the team they're going to be in a few years. This will spark a bunch of unbridled optimism in the minute-by-minute fan base, only to have that optimism dashed later during the inevitable slump, leading to calls for firing of all staff, trading of all players, etc. Bank on it.

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#10 RexLibris
February 13 2013, 04:14PM
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I had a long conversation with a friend at work who falls into the camp of "they have to finish no worse than 9th this year". I'm in the other group that says "I don't care about the finish this year, provided I see some development and better decision making amongst the young players".

I expect the team to finish between 12th and 10th in the West. Trading a pick, because we don't have the surplus developing talent to part with, at this point would not help the team. It might get the Oilers from 10th to 8th, but it might not. And then the team is stuck with buyer's remorse at having squandered future assets for a very short-term lift that, in the end, accomplishes nothing.

This summer coming is when I expect to see some more minor changes, and, conversely to what the article argues, I would then expect to see at least one major change the following season (2013-2014) when this team must make the playoffs.

I suspect that next October we will be discussing the Oilers defensive depth as having added "only Oscar Klefbom" to the roster and perhaps another depth forward to the bottom six.

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#11 G Money
February 13 2013, 04:44PM
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Oilers 2011-12 vs Oilers 2012-13 - Questions Asked, Questions Answered

1. Can Dubynk be a #1 goalie? [Small sample so far, but given that his performance so far is perfectly in line with a multi-year trend and perfectly in keeping with his performance over the latter half of last year - a clear yes.]

2. Can Whitney rebound to become a 2nd or 1st pairing defender again? [Sadly, it appears to be no. The baffling part is that the latter half of last year he was at least a serviceable third pairing guy, and he's seen a significant decline this year. If he was at least a decent third pairing guy, we'd be a lot better off]

3. Is Yakupov any good? [YAK CITY, B*TCH. Yeah, lots of growing pains for a rookie on a team with heightened expectations. But he's already shown NHL-class speed, world class hand-eye coordination, and a cannon of a shot. A purpose-built lethal weapon. The kid will be GOOD.]

4. Is Justin Schultz any good? [Holy sh*t, are you kidding me?]

5. Can the Kidz handle being the first line? [The scoring results aren't there yet, but boy, some nights they've run rings around the opposition. Hall tilts the ice like crazy. Considering both Ebs and the Nuge appear to be in a bit of a slump right now, I have *no worries* that these guys will drive the Oilers first line offense for years to come.]

6. Can Gagner be a consistent second line centre? [Yup. So far so good. HOBBITSES!]

7. Can Hemsky be the Hemsky of old? [Still working on consistency, but when he's good, man is he good.]

8. Is Smyth too old? [Sadly, yes.]

9. Is The Dirty Russian(tm) too old? [Nope, still an important part of the team. Too important. This is a problem.]

10. Is the real Corey Potter the early-2011-12 Potter who looked really good, or the late-2011-12 Potter who looked really bad? [Really bad.]

11. Belanger - Bon-langer or Bad-langer? [C'est bon!]

12. Nordic grab bag - Harti, MPS, Lander, Petrell? [Yes, finally maybe yes, maybe next year, only on the PK]

Not all is sunshine and light. A few answered questions have turned back into unanswered questions. Petry. Smid.

Based on the answers to these questions, a few conclusions:

a. Relax. We're on track. Struggles today, arrows up. Expect a roller coaster, enjoy the ride.

b. Off-season shopping list: two veteran defensemen, one to move the puck, one big one to stop it. One veteran fourth line centre. Yep, that's all I'd do. One trade of drafts and/or prospects, and two UFA signings should do it. The rest is waiting for the youngsters to grow up. I do like the look of the latest version of the Nordic line as a third line.

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#12 5inatrailer
February 13 2013, 10:36AM
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I am concerned with this managements apparent lack of vision and/or ability to make a complete package.

The kids will grow into their roles and potential, yet I wonder if we don't retard their potential with the roles we've been thrusting them into. It seems we've been relying on kids to lead the team for the last 5 years: cogliano/gagner/nilson anybody?

The team lacks experienced players who lead and understand their role. Yesterdays comments about Jagr are a good example of this. I was surprised to see Robidas still playing for Dallas... I just don't think Jagr wanted to be the only one on this team to drag the horse along (like Pronger did when he was here)

Does anyone think Adam Oates had an impact on Horcoff/reasoner/stoll before we made our cup run?

Would it be possible to back a dump truck full of cash at Gary Robert's back door to get him to be our conditioning coach (or the hated Chelios even?) There is no salary cap on operations, and we certainly can't convince actual players to sign here.

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#13 Phixieus666
February 13 2013, 10:36AM
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I think Jones can make a difference once hes back in the line up. Whitney can play better because we all saw it at the end of last season. The team look pretty dominant last night and were actually throwing hits if any one could believe it. I say pull Potter next game and stick Whitney back in. Can't get better if he isn't playing.

In a prefect world N.Schultz wouldn't be in the top 4. If Whitney can regain his spot in the top 4 this team looks very different and actually would have an above average defense with pretty good depth. I can see why they didn't make moves.

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#14 Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement
February 13 2013, 10:36AM
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Derp

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#15 eastcoastoil
February 13 2013, 10:39AM
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Morning JW,

There has been a lot of talk of trades. I believe that this team just needs to tweak the lines a bit.

Putting Yak on the third line on the RW would be one but who do you move up?

Whats the latest on Horcoff and do you have a opinion on benching Smyth?

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#16 DSG
February 13 2013, 10:41AM
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So you are saying we are screwed...

hard to argue

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#17 eastcoastoil
February 13 2013, 10:52AM
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Is this line up good enough?

RNH-hall-Ebs

Gagner-Smyth-hemsky

Horcoff-jones-Yak

Belanger-MPS-Harti

I think Smyth needs a push and Yak needs the right side. What do you do with Lander-Eager-Petrell?

How soon is this line-up even possible?

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#20 michael
February 13 2013, 10:59AM
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The Oilers are we thought they would be. a .500 team struggling to take the next step. We knew it would it would be the next step in the progression. So when I look at the standings I am pleased with the results so far. The lack of offence from the top 3 will resolve itself sooner rather than later. The Team will trade Ryan Whitney regardless of how many wags click their tongues and cry foul. He has an expiring contract and has done zip to earn a new one. The Oiles are looking for an asset in return. A pick or a prospect I would think.

Horcoff and Smyth will be important players as the season wears on and Smyth's recent play will correct itself and a 5 day rest doesn't hurt neither does a game off or 2 if the coach thinks you've gone a little temporarily brain dead.

Nk needs another 4-5 starts before April 5th to ensure that some team offers us a pick for him. His first start in over a year went well. Hopefully he can follow that up. I would start him at least once this home stand.

The Oilers need to find out if Chris Vandevelde can play. I'd ensure he gets a good look. Ben Eager. Send him to Washington for Mike Green. Both are in need of a new home.

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#21 mr_nihilism
February 13 2013, 10:59AM
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DSG wrote:

So you are saying we are screwed...

hard to argue

The Oilers will dominate someday but once again it won't be this day.

Off topic (or maybe not), but is it just me or does it seem like Oiler players fall down on the ice (trip) a whole lot more than the other team?

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#22 Phixieus666
February 13 2013, 11:01AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I know it won't be a popular sentiment, but the Oilers worst D pairing last night was easily Petry/Fistric. Petry was all over the map and Fistric couldn't control guys at the front of the net.

Obviously, you aren't going to scratch Petry, but Fistric did more to play his way out of the lineup than Potter did. Maybe you just scratch Potter because you don't like the cut of his jib, but that doesn't seem to be an issue with this coaching staff.

I'd cut Potter just because i believe, correct me if I'm wrong, hes played more games that Fistric so far. And Kruger is trying to keep all defenseman playing. I've felt that since the first few games Potter has played pretty solid. With Peckham returning I would bench Fistric as he needs to get into the mix. But the one thing that is very important to this team right now is that Whitney either improve or gets shipped out and he can't get better from the press box. I like that he was benched but don't want to see him sit for too long.

To me the only defense man on this team that hasn't had a horrible game or two is J Schultz which is amazing since hes a rookie.

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#23 Tom
February 13 2013, 11:02AM
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Fistric/Petry not good. Petry was on fire. Yes, he was all over the place, offensively. Fistric was hitting anything that moved. I thought they were both great. Some people will find anything to gripe about. Great game from all last night, without bad luck we would have smoked those turkeys. Very encouraging signs last night.

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#24 John Chambers
February 13 2013, 11:10AM
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3 Trades to save the Oilers season:

Whitney to LA straight up for Dustin Penner

Hemsky + Musil to the Avs for Ryan O'Reilly

Eberle to the Habs for PK Subban & a 2nd Rounder

Sorry Wanye ...

YakCity Nuge Gagner Hall O'Reilly Paajarvi Penner Smyth Hartikainen Eager Belanger Petrell

Subban Smid Schultz Schultz Petry Fistric

Eager gets bumped when Jones comes back into the lineup.

The biggest advantage of the deals is that Hemsky ($5.5), Eberle ($6), and Whitney's ($4M) salaries are freed up in '13-'14 to make way for Subban $2.75, O'Reilly ($5M), a wage increase for Gagner (who is now a winger - $4M), and Penner (re-signed 2 years $2M per).

However, as Willis illustrates, one trade proposal let alone three are akin to gazing into one's navel.

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#25 Old Retired Guy
February 13 2013, 11:16AM
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Good Article JW...enjoyed it...gives a good perspective on the realities of the trade system.

Also like the stuff about Tarasenko playing on the third line and RNH and YAK not being First Line ready quite yet...it really puts things in perspective as to where this team is at.

Given what you said about the Trade Deadline, the Draft, and the UFA's in the offseason...which UFA looks the most intestesting to you (from an Oilers perspective) and which one or two Draft Eligible players look the most interesting...assuming a pick between 10th and 15th (or whatever range you think is most likely)?

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#26 TonyT
February 13 2013, 11:33AM
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If the Oilers finish in the lottery, do they dump Tambo? If that's the case, then I can live through elph for one more (shortened) season.

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#27 David S
February 13 2013, 11:36AM
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Make no mistake. Yakupov, while showing flashes of brilliance and tons of try is the fly in the ointment for the second line. At the same time it's obvious that if Yak/Gags/Hemsky had a season to work out the rookie tendencies and groove Hemsky (he's still an awkward fit with those guys and doesn't have near the needed consistency), they could be a deadly 1A line next year.

Yak has some rough edges to polish for sure. But anybody suggesting he be replaced with Smyth is not quite getting why he got benched in the first place. He's slow, borderline effective on a high octane line and prone to covering deficiencies with sloppy play that leads to penalties.

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#28 eastcoastoil
February 13 2013, 11:46AM
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@David S

Ryan Smyth is a saint.

I just think yak might be better on the RW, who else could take his place that we currently have.

I also thought this might spark some offence outside of RNH/EBS/Hall giving these guys a break from the hard match

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#29 Simpsonite
February 13 2013, 11:48AM
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No. We are not screwed. We just need to have patience. The team is super, super young. Last night was an outstanding game by the kids but they couldn't finish. They will learn to finish. They are already much better this year than last year and I still think whitney will become better.

And doobie Dube rules.

Smyth though...well, he's in tough...

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#30 CaptainLander
February 13 2013, 11:56AM
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@TonyT

GM Mac T?

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#31 Phixieus666
February 13 2013, 12:01PM
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David S wrote:

Make no mistake. Yakupov, while showing flashes of brilliance and tons of try is the fly in the ointment for the second line. At the same time it's obvious that if Yak/Gags/Hemsky had a season to work out the rookie tendencies and groove Hemsky (he's still an awkward fit with those guys and doesn't have near the needed consistency), they could be a deadly 1A line next year.

Yak has some rough edges to polish for sure. But anybody suggesting he be replaced with Smyth is not quite getting why he got benched in the first place. He's slow, borderline effective on a high octane line and prone to covering deficiencies with sloppy play that leads to penalties.

I would consider moving Harti up to the second line and Yak down to the third. Yak is just wild right now, need to reel him in a bit. Also that splits up the only two *big guys* worth anything the oil have in the lineup being MPS and Harti.

I also think its hard for most young guys to play with someone like Hemsky, that guy is a ball of crazy randomness as well. Belanger, MPS and Yak could be good. Especially since I'd rather have Yak trying to finish a play than Belanger.

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#33 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
February 13 2013, 12:05PM
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@John Chambers

Getting to be that time. Early returns on Hall and Hopkins aren't having the impact in games management hoped. It's unfortunate the shelves/support are so bare here and they're on their own so soon in their careers. Underachieving veterans is all they have at their disposal. Eberle is a keeper and Yakupov should be allowed a couple seasons. Hall would be the guy i'd make available first.

It's unfortunate management seems to be unaware of whats going on. A couple times this season already, the words leaderless,heartless and gutless can sum up their effort on those nights. With Lowe and Tambellini at the helm we'll be no better off when the new building opens.

We often see the phrase no excuses above dressing room doors around the league. Our Oilers seem to cater to the every excuse philosophy.The arrogance of management is catching up to them.

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#34 Hayek
February 13 2013, 12:08PM
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How about getting a soild 2 way puck moving defenceman. I think other GMs in the league overvalue someone like Nick Schultz, so how about something like Nick Schultz and a 4th rounder for Tom Gilbert?

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#35 TonyT
February 13 2013, 12:23PM
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*edit: outside of 2006

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#36 Walter Sobchak
February 13 2013, 12:32PM
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David S wrote:

Make no mistake. Yakupov, while showing flashes of brilliance and tons of try is the fly in the ointment for the second line. At the same time it's obvious that if Yak/Gags/Hemsky had a season to work out the rookie tendencies and groove Hemsky (he's still an awkward fit with those guys and doesn't have near the needed consistency), they could be a deadly 1A line next year.

Yak has some rough edges to polish for sure. But anybody suggesting he be replaced with Smyth is not quite getting why he got benched in the first place. He's slow, borderline effective on a high octane line and prone to covering deficiencies with sloppy play that leads to penalties.

~Actually David, it's Gagner and Hemsky making the majority of the turnovers and defensive errors, not to say Yakupov hasn't had his poinent moments out there, like missing about 20 seconds of his own shift while his line mates coughed the puck up ten times~

Edit; I thought the same thing, The advanced stats guys layed into me with there protractors and special ratio graphs, I as all but screwed.

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#37 ralph_u
February 13 2013, 12:32PM
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Well here's what I would do; O'reilly for Petry and prospect(Musil Marancin?) Whitney for Streit If Nuge proves healthy flip Gagner for one of Columbus first rounders. If Nuge goes down wait till draft then trade Gagner. You lose a cheap quality D in Petry but you get that elusive 2nd line center and you trade for a guy the coach knows and is a quality top 4 D.

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#38 Walter Sobchak
February 13 2013, 12:36PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Honestly, I'd have to look at the UFA's. I looked ahead in the summer but it's been a while so I'm not overly familiar with the market off the top of my head.

As for the draft, who knows. Lots of season left to be played, and my rule of thumb is (except for high-end picks) that you're looking at five years before you should be expecting those guys to contribute.

Ryane Clowe and Ryan Getzlaf are big UFA's that the Oilers should be extremely interested in.

Then trade for Weber.

Edit; that last one is a special wish and should be on discount from the Predators come summer ;)

As for draft picks my guess is the Oilers still pick in the top 8.......*cough Barkov cough*

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#39 DonDon
February 13 2013, 12:40PM
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Jonathan, your remark that: "the Oilers sit 11th in the West and are more or less in the range of reasonable expectation."

Other reasonable expectations: 1) The Oilers miss the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season. 2) Even though the lottery has been expanded from 5 to 14 teams, the Oilers will still get another high lottery pick. 3) The team is stuck with what it has as we shouldn't expect Tambellini to make a trade until after the end of the season. 4) So you are saying we are screwed... 5) We certainly can't convince actual players to sign here. 6) I bet you (Oilers) have more injuries. 7) The Oilers are (who) we thought they would be, a .500 team struggling to take the next step. 8) RNH and YAK not being First Line ready quite yet... 9) You can send Lander down to OKC. Finally, 10) If the Oilers finish in the lottery, they dump Tambo.

Other expectations, but unreasonable: Miraculously, Whitney will return to 2011 form? Jones can make a difference when he returns? This team just needs to tweak the lines a bit? Without bad luck we would have smoked those turkeys (Dallas)? Horcoff and Smyth will be important players as the season wears on? Peckham returning?

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#40 Time Travelling Sean
February 13 2013, 12:53PM
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@Walter Sobchak

Yak does some soft passes in the neutral zone to many times though, easy to pick off.

Why do you even want Weber? Look at Lecavlier or Heatley. They get their big contract then sail off into the sunset.

I love Fistric. IDC if he's a -20 for the season, those hits are nice to watch, and if the criticism is we're too easy to play against, well...

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#42 Jasmine
February 13 2013, 01:06PM
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Fans are a big problem. Once players start getting better, a minority of fans want them gone. Why else are there comments on here to trade Eberle, Hall, Gagner, Hemsky. Good players but a minority of fans want them gone as some fans only want the team to draft #1 overrall and will start being critical of the Oilers when the start winning. They are against winning and only want losses for high draft picks. Those aren't really fans.

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#43 Archaeologuy
February 13 2013, 01:14PM
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Outside of what I think is the inevitable Whitney trade I dont expect any drastic changes. The Oilers have the youngest team in the NHL. 8 guys are under 23 (if I remember correctly from the graphic in yesterday's broadcast). You CANT expect to win with that much youth in the lineup.

This is another year where the core gets experience. They are already better than last year's version of the Oilers with the switch to Dubnyk alone.

(1) Out goes Whitney. (2) In comes a top 3 defender. (3) Kids are a year older (4) ??? (5) Cup Contender.

See. It's all part of the plan.

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#44 GVBlackhawk
February 13 2013, 01:14PM
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Time Travelling Sean wrote:

Yak does some soft passes in the neutral zone to many times though, easy to pick off.

Why do you even want Weber? Look at Lecavlier or Heatley. They get their big contract then sail off into the sunset.

I love Fistric. IDC if he's a -20 for the season, those hits are nice to watch, and if the criticism is we're too easy to play against, well...

Actually, Yakupov is probably the hardest passer on the team. He does attempt a feather-saucer pass once in awhile but so does Hall, Eberle, RNH, and Hemsky. Is your bias rookie-based or Russian-based?

Oh and you love a player who contributes nothing offensively, is mediocre defensively, but can throw a decent bodycheck. Are you Don Cherry?

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#45 Phixieus666
February 13 2013, 01:27PM
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@GVBlackhawk

Only because of Bulin Smyth and Horcoff.

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#46 5inatrailer
February 13 2013, 01:30PM
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Anybody else notice the PP last night when all the young kids were on the ice together? Hall, RNH, Eberle, Gagner, JSchultz?

That my friends, is the future. Not the present unfortunately.

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#47 Oiler Al
February 13 2013, 02:04PM
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Call me crazy.... here's my blockbuster trade for Tambelini:

Hemsky and Paajarvi to Colorado for O'Reily

Whitney and Petry to Buffalo for Tyler Myers.

I know one is the dog house and the other not playing, but they are both young, talented and would compliment the OIlers and grow with the young guys here.

I believe Myers game will come back[ recall when a big dude named Chara was kicked around a couple of teams when he was younger]

Yakapov replaces Hemsky on the right side 2nd. line.

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#48 David S
February 13 2013, 02:13PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Lots of stuff in the comments here, so I'll hit on a few of the items being raised.

1) When I say the Oilers are in the range of reasonable expectation, I say that based on the fact that I predicted them to finish 10th in the West - they're currently tied - this year. I simply didn't feel they'd done enough to make the playoffs in the West. Maybe a bunch of stuff goes right and they do (in the range of possibility), maybe a bunch of stuff goes wrong and they tumble further (also possible). But I don't think anybody should be apoplectic about this team performing the way they should have been expected to perform.

2) Could the Oilers have done more this summer? Yes. I wrote about that frequently. They didn't. It's extremely difficult to improve the team now, though.

3) Is management a problem? I think so; I have trouble believing there's a rational argument otherwise. But I'm not going to hammer on Steve Tambellini if he isn't able to pull off a trade in the early season to correct problems - that's really hard to do. The (in my opinion) mistakes were made in the summer and it's difficult to correct them now.

4) I don't like the phrase "learn to win." Nobody learns to win. Winning is an outcome, not a process; only the process is controllable. Teams and players can learn good habits, but it's not like a player goes to Detroit and learns to win Stanley Cups or plays in Edmonton and learns how not to make the playoffs.

You're a good guy Jonathan, but having competed at a very high level in a sport I can tell you for a fact that "learning to win" is a VERY valid comment. True, a few athletes come by it naturally, but learning to balance agression, focus and handle pressure is something that has to be learned by 99.9% of athletes - even at the elite level. Don't forget, as savants at the lower levels these guys were so good they never really had to figure out how to compete past just being what they were - standouts in lower levels of competition. That extra edge they need comes by "experience", which for all intents is what learning is all about.

It's my belief that this team has forgotten what it really takes to win over the past few years. This is the unforeseen result of a team that had #1 picks as its only real objective (and don't think for a moment the players didn't know it either). This season is a trial by fire because every game means so much more. I consider it imperative in the develpment of the core group that they master their resolve to make it into the playoffs, if only to "learn" what it'll take for them to get to the next level.

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#49 Old Retired Guy
February 13 2013, 02:14PM
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Anybody else curious about our inability to use our speed to stretch the defense.....

We're supposed to be one of the fastest teams in the league (although I would debate this) and yet almost every other team completes a few (or several) stretch passes against us, and we can't seem to complete any....( maybe 3 or 4 this year in 12 games)....???

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#50 Old Retired Guy
February 13 2013, 02:17PM
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I'm dying to see Bure.....Uh....I mean YAK on a breakaway....!!!

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