Edmonton’s Dirty Little Secret



The following is a Public Service Announcement from the fans of the Calgary Flames… “EDMONTON is the worst thing since Hepatitis!” Wow…That’s kind of harsh isn’t it? But… that is what I read the other day. And, it came from a fairly respected source. However, just to be fair, let’s take an in depth look and see if indeed the Oilers are worthy of the reference.

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Rexallitis A: Oilers’ Goaltending

The Oilers’ goaltending has been a position of contention, arguably since the days of Bill Ranford. Going into this season, Edmonton is going to face a gruelling learning curve that might turn out in their favour, but is more likely yet another source of frustration for the young club. Devan Dubnyk increased his work load by 84% from the 2009-10 season, but made little impact on the team considering he is going to carry the majority of the mail this year. 

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Player GP GA GAA W L SOL Svs Pct
Devan Dubnyk 35 93 2.71 12 13 8 1010 0.916
Nikolai Khabibulin 47 153 3.40 10 32 4 1236 0.890

Despite Dubnyk playing 12 less games than Khabibulin, he actually boasted a decent GAA and Sv%, especially for a second year goalie. It was actually his best numbers since 2006-07, when he posted a 2.56 GAA and 0.921 Sv% in 43 games with the ECHL Stocton Thunder. Then again, is there any real reason for optimism with this guy? The numbers seem fine until you come to the realization that he only played 35 games. Can Dubnyk pull out these same kinds of numbers when he is playing 60 + games? Despite the high aspirations the Oilers had in bringing Nikolai over from Chicago, he has been more of a liability for the team, than the asset he was once known as. Add to the fact that he is most likely one more back spasm away from Margaritaville, and the writing is pretty much all over the “Bulin Wall”. Was he too old to play the style he was known for and praised for on highlight reels? Maybe Nik was struck with a little bit of Rexallitis B?…What’s that?

Rexallitis B: Oilers’ Defence

Hey, don’t laugh. These ladies might have distracted opposition enough to have prevented more goals than the Oilers defence corps. Flat out, the Oilers D-men were brutal last year… and the year before that too. No doubt losing Ryan Whitney to injury was significant. He was the only D-man to have a positive +/-, at +13. Of course that may be misleading in that he only played in 35 games. Here is how the back end looked.

Player GP G A Pts +/- Corsi/60 GVT 2011 Sal
Ryan Whitney 35 2 25 27 13 -11.86 7.6 4 M
Tom Gilbert 79 6 20 26 -14 -3.36 3.4 4 M
Kurtis Foster 74 8 14 22 -12 -7.55 1.3 N/A
Jim Vandermeer 62 2 12 14 -15 -4.63 3 N/A
Theo Peckham 71 3 10 13 -5 -12.18 1.7 1.075 M
Ladislav Smid 78 0 10 10 -10 -6.03 -0.4 2.25 M
Jeff Petry 35 1 4 5 -12 0.11 -0.2 1 M
Jason Strudwick 43 0 2 2 -16 -19.37 -1.9 UFA
Taylor Chorney 12 1 3 4 -5 -15.02 0.3 735 K
*Cam Barker 51 1 4 5 -11 -14.12 -1 2.25 M

Hmmm, maybe it was the Edmonton defence that was distracted by the “flag bearers” above, because these are the kind of numbers that get your hockey card shoved into the spoke of some kid’s bike tire. As their Corsi shows, they were completely inept at driving the play north while on the ice. They were marginally significant offensively, and as their GVT rating shows, it wasn’t a stretch to replace these guys if need or want be. The addition of *Cam Barker to this squad leaves little hope to solve this issue either. Even though he wasn’t on the squad last year, I have included his numbers in the chart above, to show the Oilers lack of progression in this area. Barker becomes an RFA next season, so clearly this is an audition year to see if Barker can get his career going in the right direction.

Rexallitis C: Oilers’ Remission

Obviously the big white elephant here is the omission of the fab five of Hall, Paajarvi, Eberle, Omark and RNH. It’s the topic that has Oil fans dancing in the street. It’s the justification and vindication they’ve needed in light of the Oilers last place finishing over the past two years and the 10th worst team in the 2008-09 season. It is also going to be the strife and letdown for the future of the Oilers.

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The way I see it, the Oilers took a dramatic step backwards in the 2011 draft. Many will say that is an absurd comment, but before you do… there is a method to my madness! There was no doubt that RNH was going to go first overall. Any team with the first pick would have been out right stupid to not draft Hopkins. So how did the Oilers make a miscalculation in indeed taking Hopkins first overall? They never should have drafted first overall. If the Oilers had taken off the RNH blinders and considered what an asset he could have been to their future, they would have traded the first overall pick.

The Oilers have a very formidable set of young forward prospects now. Why add another one, when the team is so desperate for help on the back end? Had the Oilers traded the first pick, they could have had extreme leverage over any team that came inquiring. They would have had teams lined up around Rexall to get that first pick. Basically, the Oilers could have used the availability of the pick to fix what was wrong with the team now and save what they will be in a few years.

I once heard that teams should never draft defensemen. The reason is that by the time they develop into their full potential, they are finished their entry level contracts, end up costing a fortune to re-sign and are usually lost to free agency. I agree with this and I don’t think the Oilers made a mistake in not drafting Larsson for this exact reason. Instead they drafted Klefbom later in the first round and they still get a solid defensive prospect they develop over time. However, if they had traded the first pick? They could have landed an established high-end #1 D-man. As we saw from the chart above, the Oil don’t have the luxury to develop a #1 D-man, they need help ASAP. With all of the moves made during free agency, the Oilers could have landed themselves immediate help on the back end, and that includes the possibility of landing Shea Webber.

Rexallitis D: Oilers’ Future

What happens when these entry level contracts all expire and these young superstars want to start seeing some real money? There are going to be a lot of tough decisions because the Oilers are not going to be able to sign and keep all these forwards. As I stated before, Edmonton doesn’t have the luxury of time to develop a #1 or #2 D-man. So if the goal is to fill this void immediately, they are going to have to buy them through free agency. According to CapGeek, the Oilers have four players signed through the 2013-14and just under $52 Million in cap space. Those four players are not Hall, Eberle, Omark or Paajarvi. Going by the chart above, the Oilers will have to fork out for probably two high end defensemen, to even give the corps a chance. That is going to run them somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10-15 Million for the pair, depending on who they try to sign.

If Dubnyk can’t carry the load of a 60+ game season, they also are going to have to look, once again, for a goaltender. Before anyone attributes Edmonton to the latest trend of signing goalies for cheap, keep in mind Edmonton is not Washington. They are not going to get Tomas Vokoun for $1.25 million. They are not Stanley Cup contenders; they are going to have to lure a top end goalie with money, not potential and opportunity. Teams like Chicago made successful runs with cheap goalies like Niemi, because they had the defence to keep the pressure off. Edmonton lacks this, and goalies know it. Look for a decent goaltending option to run them $4-5 million per.

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Edmonton’s cap space now reduces to $38-32 Million. This number is reduced again because Omark actually becomes an RFA the previous year. Say Omark signs for even $2 Million? You also have to account for Hopkins being a full time player on the team; his entry level contract is $3.775 M, but becomes an RFA the next year. That leaves the Oilers an average of $30 Million to sign Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi.. and now factor in Klefbom.. Not to mention 13-15 more roster positions. Now there is no way to predict what these kids are going be offered or what they will expect. It will largely depend on their performance over the next couple of seasons.

However this leads to the conclusion of the Oilers’ problems. If the kids are a bust, then so will be the team and they will remain amongst the basement dwellers of the NHL. BUT… If the kids are “nice”, then there can be little doubt that they will want to be paid as such, and Katz and Lowe will find themselves in a severe Cap strain, with some tough decisions. Who will stay and who will go elsewhere Time will tell.

In the meantime Oilers fans; keep dancing in the streets. After all, ignorance is bliss… and well, its happy hour and that city is blissed out of its mind.

  • icedawg_42

    spoken like a true flames fan….IGNORANCE is bliss, but then again misery loves company, were with you right now or should I say your with us. Let’s wait and see if Edmonton is Hepatitis ville in 2-3 years or if flames fans are secretly wanting there hated oil to go all the way.

    suck it vintage flame

    • Vintage Flame

      Thank you. I’m glad I can live up to what my Bio reads πŸ˜‰

      As to 2-3 years down the road.. well that was the point of the article. As it stands the Oil have 1 guy signed through 2014-15, and that’s Shawn Horcoff at $5,000,000. Good grief! If that slug makes 5 Mil, how are the Oilers going to afford the “Fab 5”? Blood from a stone my friend!

      P.S. Thanx for the warm welcome! It’s good to be wanted.

      • #1 – We have a plethora of talent, its not just about 5.

        Our best prospects are playing already but we have PLENTY to come… That’s what flames fan has NO IDEA about though!

        Its gunna be WAVE after WAVE of talent coming through, we’ll lose MPS after our first cup, then have Pitlick or Lander or Hamilton to still go along with Hall, Ebs, RNH, Hartikainen,Hemsky. Its not like we wont get anything for Omark and Gagner if they had to leave, while the flames will be BEGGING Sutter (AKA The Jolly Rancher) to come back and bring you losers back to 8th place where you were having SUCH a good time losing in the first round year after year.

        Defense – Whitney is 28, under 25/6, Gilbert, Smid, Peckham, Petry, Marincin, Klefbom, Musil, Teubert, Simpson

        Goaltending – Tyler Bunz just attended the World Junior Camp and the reebok goalie camp. The only bad thing was that Luon8o was there. But he’s a beauty, between he, Dubnyk and Roy it should be a similar situation to LaBarbera, Bernier and Quick.

  • icedawg_42

    point #1…this is FLAMESnation. …ahem!

    point #2…I’d do ALL of those cheerleaders.

    point #3 you’re bang on – Edmoncharf’s D blows

    point #4 you’re bang on again – MASS exodus at the end of all these ELC’s. – they’d better get that defense sorted out QUICK if they want the team to ‘gel’ enough to post a winning record, and bid to keep any of those kids around.

  • TAE0145

    lap it up hemrhoids. lets pretend for one minute that it is true. check out the depth chart in waiting on hockeyfutures.com, surely not all of them will be a bust. Then again maybe our top prospects will demand trades to the Rangers..

    Lap it up, enjoy another year of moral victories over the baby oil. After next year it is going to have to rain allot in Calgary so know one can see you crying! haha

    p.s. great article I just hope one time both teams can be good at the same time so we can get some real battles brewing again.

  • icedawg_42

    while were at it lets talk about how we actually won the cup in 04 and how theres a conspiracy in the NHL against Calgary and you can post it on canucksarmy also because they believe the same thing,

    • icedawg_42

      well i’ll agree with you on one thing Shaner – a REAL battle of Alberta is LONG overdue – the WORLD needs to see what a true rivalry is all about. Ok i’ll agree with you twice, but only because your post convinced me – the Flames won the cup in ’04

      • Wanyes bastard child

        Oh not bad, not bad, still trying* to be my sarcastic witty self here on the nations. Working construction with no computer access during the day by the time I get on I usually find all the smart stuff has already been gone through so theres no point in my going over it again, hence why I never generally have anything usefull to add to any given blog eh πŸ˜›

        *I did say I was trying…

  • So VF, tryin to start a fight right off the hop, hey??

    As mentioned, the sad part about this is that our stock is rising constantly, all we do is aquire more strong assets (Google) where the flamers are in a serious downswing with not much hope. They could remain relevant for a long period of time but never win anything (RIM).

    The last time there was a chance for a Battle of Alberta, the flames choked, as usual. Maybe in 3 years you guys can sneak into 8th and play the 1st place oilers.

    I know that you guys like our castoffs (Glencross, Staios, Lombardi) but I think the only guy that we have left that we’d be happy to ditch in a couple years might be Sutton after his stint in OKC. He might still be too young though at the time, he’ll only be 39!

    Enjoy your last year ahead of us in the standings (maybe)

    Cheers on poppin your cherry

  • First I AM NOT A FLAMES FAN!! Second, when I can’t cheer for my Habs I am cheering for the Oilers. Regardless of how great they are (ahem – Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr days) or how disappointing a certain shot swigging goalie is, I still love them.

    Finally, I voted for Vintage Flame and am glad I did. While I may not agree with all that he says, or the fact that he is a Flames fan, he is articulate and unlike most people, has a flare and talent for writing!

    I look forward to future articles even and the Habs winning the Stanley Cup!!

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Well at least over at Oilersnation we don’t have to stoop to hiring from the commentators and have actual credible and talente… oh wait… we have Wanye, NVM carry on πŸ˜›

  • Robert Cleave

    I’ve been out of pocket for the last couple of days, but first off, congratulations, VF, and welcome aboard.

    Second, I can’t begin to express how happy I am that you used your first real post to troll our friends from Stinktown, or as a co-worker of mine once referred to it, “The Pas with parking meters.” Keep up the good work.

    • Vintage Flame

      “I’ve been out of pocket for the last couple of days, but first off, congratulations, VF, and welcome aboard.”

      Cheers Bob. It’s great to be here!

      “The Pas with parking meters.”

      Lol.. I know EXACTLY what you are talking about! That is an OUTSTANDING comparison!

      “Keep up the good work.”

      I’ll do my best!

  • DieHard

    Actually, I don’t see a problem. It’s actually a very nice position to be in. Lots of young high-end talent in the early to mid years of RFA. Nice looking prospects in the pipe line as well with probable one more lottery pick next year in a deep draft. The new CBA next year should provide clarity with regard to the CAP and maybe other things. Worse case – Oilers make trades to solidify additional future dominance. Just wish that your Flames would be competitive in a few years but alas I believe it shall not be. I really enjoyed the 80’s rivalries.

    • Vintage Flame

      Keep in mind the future of this team [Flames] will look dramatically different after next year. With roughly 20-25 million coming off the books in cap space, who knows what direction they will persue?

      • TAE0145

        It will be interesting to see which way they go. I’m guessing throwing way too much money at an overrated player like they tried with Brad Richards this year.

          • TAE0145

            True. Webber would have to be the first choice. As long as they pick someone like them and not a 30+ player who’s best years are behind them. I agree with your point about the Oilers should have traded the pick for a defenseman. Whether RNH turns out or not!

          • Vintage Flame

            Oh for sure! The Oilers could have REALLY leveraged that 1st pick [RNH] for an elite D-man. Would have taken alot of pressure off. They can score all they want, but they have no one to keep the puck out of their end or their net.

          • DieHard

            “When you keep collecting high level talent and year after year do nothing with it, you have to think the long term effect is not going to be good.”

            If this was 2 years from now and the Oil were still bottom feeders I can agree with your statement. But this year after year is only 2 years. You make it sound like years and years have gone by.

            And by the way what team/player was available to be traded for the 1st overall (RNH). I didn’t hear any offers for that elite D-man. And how do you know there wasn’t an effort?

          • Vintage Flame

            “And by the way what team/player was available to be traded for the 1st overall (RNH). I didn’t hear any offers for that elite D-man. And how do you know there wasn’t an effort?”

            Come on man…

            I have little to no doubt that if the Oilers had even told ONE team they were willing to deal the 1st overall pick, then word would have spread and the other teams in the league would have been setting up war rooms in Edmonton.

      • DieHard

        That direction will be dictated by where the Flames are prior to the trade deadline and not really with the cap space at seasons end. If in a solid playoff spot they might trade a asset for a boost but that may not be wise – who knows. If they are out of it they could unload some players and grab a few 2nd and/or 3rd rounders in a deep draft. That would be your best case scenario. If on the bubble (most likely) you will do nothing. This will lead to 14th or 15th pick with no 2nd rounder and no picks for the players who just finished their contracts.

        • Vintage Flame

          Yeah, I wouldn’t disagree with that line of thought. I think it will also be dependent on the development of guys like Backlund this year and the growth of Giordano as a 1-2 D-man.

  • Vintage Flame

    Well Done VF, and congrats.

    Its funny how oil fans are always telling us to wait and see. Back to Back basement finishes for that crap town , and still “wait and see” Really ?

    It’s Comic relief when you clowns get your “future” aka Hall to celebrate the number one pick at a lottery party. Heres to RNH celebrating top pick 2012.

    PS whats up with that torn up dump you guys call downtown ?

    • Vintage Flame

      Thank you!
      Yeah, I get a little tired of the wait and see attitude being spouted year after year as well. Part of the reason I wrote this article is because I think the Oil fans are so blinded by the talent pool filling up that they don’t see the consequences of the spill over effect.

      When you keep collecting high level talent and year after year do nothing with it, you have to think the long term effect is not going to be good.

      If the team is telling fans to wait and see, what are they telling these young players? If it’s the same thing, they are in for a rude awakening come contract renewal time. Especially for a guy like Eberle. You don’t think he’s worried about seeing the same crap in edmonton that he was part of in Regina?

      • Its not a wait and see, you watch it grow from the ground up. You’ll see the Barons progress by a year or two ahead of the Oil. We have our elite players, they just arent gunna take you to the cup in a year! The Barons made the Playoffs last year.

        The rebuild started last year. Just like Baertschi (however its spelt) will be your Gagner, its all downhill from here for the flames, you just dont accept it yet. I wont fault you though because oilerfan was blind in those days as you are now. The thing is, that it takes luck to finish in 30th. Seriously. You can tank, no problem but its tough to win the lottery

        Kane was the last piece in the Chicago puzzle, Staal was the last piece in the pens puzzle, Backstrom was the last piece in the Caps puzzle. Oiler fans are realistically optimistic. They dont think its a playoff guarantee this year, they think 10-12, they think that after this year, the playoff drought is over for a long time! If you choose to believe otherwise, you sir are in the large minority from commentary around the league, not just where the koolaid is sold. The Oilers system is DEEP, even with the likes of Hall, Ebs, MPS & Gagner not even listed as “prospects” anymore

        • Vintage Flame

          No one, least of all me, is questioning the depth of talent in the Edmonton prospect pool. The questioning starts when the pool overflows and becomes a waterfall.. or an oil-spill if you will. If the Oilers are incapable of showing the young talent anything more than a wait and see attitude, then they are going to see them leave faster than the Israelites following Moses.

          This is why I made a point of referencing Vokoun and the Capitals. The Oil need help in all areas that are not forward. They won’t be able to lure these guys with hopes of a Cup run, with young dynamic forwards, they are going to have to pay, and pay huge. This cuts into the ability to be able to sign these kids when they come out of their ELC’s.

          How much are Hall and Ebs and Paajarvi going to want when Horcoff is making $5 Mil?? The problem continues for guys like RNH and Klefbom coming up right behind them. The Oil have talented prospects, they don’t have that midrange supporting cast that allows them to sign the big tickets in the future.

          • Core Players – Estimated $ based on a complete guess and a couple yrs out.

            Hall – 8M
            RNH – 6M
            Ebs – 6M
            MPS – 4M
            Whitney – 4M
            Petry – 5M
            Bunz or Dubnyk – 4M
            7 players = 37M

            Cap Limit likely in 3-4 years = $70M

            Remaining Roster = 23-7 = 16

            33/16 = $2.0625M per player remaining. Even if you think the estimates above are low, an avg of over $2M per player leaves you quite a bit of room. Especially when alot of players will be on entry level deals on the 3/4th line for a couple years

          • Vintage Flame

            Add into that Klefbom and the fact that you still don’t have a #1 or #2 D-man. You are assuming that Dubnyk is your solution at goaltending when he’s only played more than 50 games 3 times, none of which are in the NHL. Add to that, Jamie “Sticky” Bunz who has never played an NHL game. Still sounds like a lot of hoping and betting chips you don’t have on the table.

            You might want to shave a decade or two off that cap space you are projecting.

          • Klefbom is at minimum 4 years away from a contract, probably 5. Whitney is a #2 Offensive defenseman. The players right now that have Top pairing potential are Marincin and Petry. Worst case both would be #4s. The team which shall not be named made it to the final without a #1 or 2. They had like 4, #3s which worked fine. Pitt had Gonchar in their run and basically nothing else of note on the back end. Orpik, Gill, Letang??

            Key being, there are many ways to accumulate talent and win. The key words being accumulate talent. You can trade for what you need. See Whitney for Kunitz, Pronger for package. You need young assets to be able to deal, you just hope you dont turn those young assets (Phaneuf AND Aulie) into that scoring machine Matt Stajan.

          • Vintage Flame

            ” You need young assets to be able to deal, you just hope you dont turn those young assets (Phaneuf AND Aulie) into that scoring machine Matt Stajan.”

            That’s about enough of that. There will be NO talk of Matt Sta… in my articles.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            I’m impressed with how far you are willing to push the fairytale. You don’t know $70M will be the new cap in a few years, and considering that the CBA is up this year, I doubt your right. You may also consider that as the cap goes up, so will player expectations for bigger contracts, in other words their agents will ensure that each player reaps their fair share of cap space regardless of what that number is.

          • So the cap went from $39M to $64M in 5 years and you believe that its a stretch to go from $64-70M in 3 or 4 years? I underestimated for that reason that I wasnt making it unrealistic.

            I expect this CBA negotiation to be about contract structures more than the cap. The last CBA worked well for everyone, the main sticking point is cap circumvention.

            Id say that Im already being generous in the salaries above. Iginla set the bar at 7M, very few players still are over that, 4 or so years layer.


            I can easily chirp the flames, Its called a rivalry for a reason. I dont like their team, its nothing personal, ill still go for a beer with a flames fan whose a good sport

          • RexLibris

            I wasn’t really thinking of you EcB, but the yahoos I read on other forums (read: HB). Don’t get me wrong, my dearest hope is for the Flames to spend an eternity in sporting limbo, never too good, never too bad. Perpetual mediocrity. Like you said, it’s nothing personal, but when the comments get personal that’s when I draw the line. Like Mr. Kinney’s article about the arena debate last week, it was over the top and unprofessional, even for a fan site.

            I think you’re probably right about the cap-ceiling, but there’s one aspect that nobody has mentioned yet: with the cap-floor being an issue, and presumably it will to some extent in the new CBA as well, a contract like Horcoff’s with a high cap-hit and lower salary, for a good second/third line centre begins to have some value to it. As long as Tambellini can work around the NMC’s in it, it isn’t necessarily the albatross that many people make it out to be.

            I’ve never gone for a beer with a Flames fan, but then I’ve never found a bar that had those spill-proof sippy cups to accomodate them, so that’s probably why.

          • LOL – I believe that the domebeers come filled to the sippy-cup brim!

            I agree with it all above. The oilers have zero cap restraints and a ridiculous amount of talent with which they can choose their core. For those who don’t fit, package them and bring in someone that does fit. As far as D goes, they can be purchased. Yes, you need to overpay but teams are always looking for scoring young players with potential to do more. You dont need to go the UFA route.

            Heck, looks at Cogs even! If a team is willing to pay him >2.5, imagine if we traded Gagner/Omark/Hemsky/MPS? Obviously those will be tough decisions and clearly they arent shipping all those guys out but when the time comes, they will see good return on assets they cant sign or dont fit