• Next Year Country

    by  • April 11, 2013 • Uncategorized • 14 Comments

    Twitter’s speeds (an excellent follow if you don’t follow him) almost had me talked into hoping beyond hope for a pair of Oiler wins and a pair of Red Wing losses that would see Edmonton tied with Detroit by Saturday night but, unfortunately, that required Edmonton winning and with a 3-1 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night, the season is now well and truly lost. All that’s left for Oiler fans is to hope for an eight game losing streak (in regulation please), good luck in the draft lottery and that we have a name for Steve Tambellini’s successor by June 30.

    As we turn our minds towards next year and what the Oilers have to do, it strikes me that the biggest job is with the defence corps. In my optimistic post before the season, I highlighted this as a potential area of concern for the Oilers:

    The defence is awfully thin. The Oilers are obviously relying on one of Justin Schultz or Ryan Whitney to be able to play top four minutes. This strikes me as the thing most likely to blow up of the three areas I’ve identified. Schultz has had his defensive bad moments in OKC and Ryan Whitney has just finished his traditional pre-season explanations of how last year his ankle was affecting him even though he said it wasn’t but this year it’s totally cool…

    There’ve been a lot of foreseeable problems that have blown up in Tambo’s face over his time with the Oilers, most famously Nikolai Khabibulin. If planning to round out the top four of what could be a playoff contender with one of an immobile guy with chronic leg injuries or a rookie doesn’t pan out, he shouldn’t get a pass for it unless serious efforts were made to find a defenceman last summer. Considering that the Oilers had Justin Schultz and seven defencemen on one-way deals come July 1, it seems unlikely that that was the case.

    As it’s turned out, Whitney’s been horrible and Justin Schultz, while he’s done just fine for a 22 year old rookie defenceman, doesn’t really belong in an NHL top four. This has been compounded by the decay of Nick Schultz. I would assume that Whitney is finished in Edmonton and that he’ll leave this summer.

    That gives the Oilers the following guys under contract for next year:

    Petry-Smid
    Schultz-Schultz
    Potter

    Like Whitney, Mark Fistric is a UFA. Theo Peckham is an RFA but I would have to think that the writing is on the wall with him in Edmonton. Krueger’s reasonably aggressive at deciding who is and isn’t part of his plans; in the past, guys like Darcy Hordichuk and Ben Eager would have just festered on Edmonton’s roster and he’s moved them out the door. The fact that Peckham can’t get a game with the Oilers despite their struggles has to be a bit of a tell and I assume he’s only still on the roster because Tambellini thinks he can get something for him before the fall.

    There’s going to be an interesting summer in the NHL, as there are a number of teams that are going to have to move players in order to meet the cap next year. The Oilers, meanwhile, have $16.46MM in cap space according to CapGeek. Gagner and Paajarvi are going to need new contracts, but even if that costs $8MM, that still leaves the Oilers with $8.5MM with which to find a backup goalie and a couple of defencemen.

    I’m not convinced that there’s going to be a Pronger-type defencemen available to the Oilers for basically nothing, as there was in 2006. That was kind of a special confluence of circumstances, with the Blues not wanting to pay him, Pronger needing a new deal and every large market in which he might be interested being uninterested in him because they had their own cap issues. There probably will be a bunch of real NHL defencemen available from teams with cap problems though.

    Speaking of real NHL defencemen, I noticed the other day that old friend Tom Gilbert has been a healthy scratch for the last two Minnesota Wild games. Gilbert’s numbers are pretty hilarious when you look at them (admittedly, not for him). He has the second best Corsi% amongst Wild defencemen, which is good, and he has the worst PDO and second worst on-ice save percentage amongst D with 30+ games in the NHL, which is what coaches tend to notice in that goals against is what affects that.

    With Minnesota up against the salary cap next year and Gilbert dropping into third pairing/healthy scratch territory (and only having one year left on his deal), you wonder if the Wild will be open to moving him come the summer. Everyone’s going to want to shed the expensive pieces of their team that they don’t feel are providing them with value for the dollars spent.

    I doubt that the Oilers would bring Gilbert back but with their cap space and next year’s cap crunch, they should be able to have a defence corps that basically boasts six top four NHL defencemen – there are other Tom Gilberts out there, I am sure. (This would be easier if they could find a sucker to take Nick Schultz.) Finding a Pronger who’s being given away is tough; finding guys who can play to fill out your top six shouldn’t be in a summer like this. I, like all of you, have heard the legend of Oscar Klefbom but surely there’s nothing wrong with planning for him to start in the AHL and letting him force Corey Potter off the roster at some point.

    The time for guys playing in the NHL as of right has to be over in Edmonton.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com

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    14 Responses to Next Year Country

    1. Showerhead
      April 11, 2013 at

      I’ve said it before but to me, the weakness in the Oilers’ D is that every player plays one pairing higher than he would on a “good” team.

      Smid and Petry are good players. They’d do just fine as the 2nd pairing on a playoff team.
      Schultz and Schultz are players with some fairly easily identifiable strengths and weaknesses. Ideal for a 3rd pairing, with the elder playing on PK as needed and the younger clearly an important player on the PP.

      But what else? I’m sure Potter is a fine human being but the biggest argument in favour of him being an NHL defenseman is that a broken Ryan Whitney and an out-of-shape Theo Peckham are not better than him.

      Does Smid/Petry + Schultz/Schultz compare favourably to Staos/Spacek + Bergeron/Greene? I say it does, and I don’t think you need a Pronger on your top pairing to make the team work. I do think it’s obvious (to you, to me, and to everyone) that they need to add to their top 4. It’s about damn time, and I’m glad Edmonton has the cap space to do so.

      • Hammers
        April 11, 2013 at

        Problem is they haven’t spent to the cap the last few years . What lets you think they will next season?

        • Showerhead
          April 11, 2013 at

          Someday they will think they are trying to win again and spend some $, no? I’m not making any bets on when that happens, just saying they have holes and the cap space to fill such holes.

      • Triumph
        April 11, 2013 at

        The free agent market is dismal, though. It’s either players who are too old or not very good.

        • Amreen
          May 31, 2013 at

          Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it totehger when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.GD Star Ratingloading…

    2. FastOil
      April 11, 2013 at

      I sure hope to see that happen. Why do I think that we’ll end up with Regehr and Montador and Bergeron.

    3. David Staples
      April 11, 2013 at

      Showerhead makes a good point. Oilers need a top guy to come in and bump all other dmen down a roster spot.

      Of course, you make a good point, too, Tyler, in that this kind of player is hard to find and might not be out there this summer. I haven’t scanned rosters, stats and contracts looking for such a player, but will take a run at that soon ….

      Two solid guys in bottom pairing would shore up a lot of hurting, though. Whitney and Fistric certainly haven’t passed the test.

      Whitney, especially, leaked shots, scoring chances and goals against this season.

      • Showerhead
        April 11, 2013 at

        To be clear, I think I might be content with Smid and Petry clones but yes the idea is to bump everyone down and reduce the amount of minutes Edmonton plays with an overmatched pairing. This is easy for me to say, but the hard work is figuring out who can be had and who would help. I’d happily take a few hundred k to make that my year’s only purpose, but alas it’s not to be.

    4. Pete
      April 11, 2013 at

      Based on years of grim experience I would expect to see Klefbom start the season in the NHL, with Schultz, Schultz, Petry, Smid, and Potter as a 7th. Who’s the other D? Maybe a washed-up Regehr.

      Hope I’m wrong.

    5. Hambone
      April 12, 2013 at

      I was a Tom Gilbert fan and was mildly disappointed when Tambellini traded him, with no coherent explanation. I would like to see him back in Oilers colours even though he struggled in Minnesota.

      What are the chances the Oilers brass pulls a Moneyball-esque strategy and combs the league for guys with good Corsi numbers but, like Gilbert, are either undervalued or on the outs with their current team? If Tambo goes and we are left with MacT and his MBA, one can only hope….

      • Garnet
        April 12, 2013 at

        Please ask “Shouldn’t the Oilers do this …” rather than “What are the chances …” as the latter invites a hugely depressing answer.

    6. Pingback: Spectors Hockey | NHL Blog Beat – Friday, April 12, 2013.

    7. Bank Shot
      April 12, 2013 at

      Nick Schultz has the best corsi on the Oilers D-core, and has a terrible save percentage, and PDO while playing with a rookie who is in over his head.

      Statistically its the same situation as Gilbert.

      Anyhoo. The Oilers definitely need to find two top four defensemen in the offseason. It’s clearly the biggest need.

    8. Grabovski
      April 13, 2013 at

      I for one think former NHL All Star Mike Komisarek would look great in an Oilers jersey.

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