After an increasingly hostile exchange with my webhost, I think I’ve got the site working again. Any problems, please email me at mc79hockey at gmail dot com. For all your webhosting needs, do not use whoever my site provider, which basically acted like I was crazy until I said that I was getting complaints from everyone and that either I and a bunch of people have suddenly forgotten how the internet works or the problem was on their end. At that point I get a cryptic email saying: ” We have updated web server Intrusion firewall rule to fix the issue” and things started to work again. For the love of god, do not use www.canadianwebhosting.com.
Some quick thoughts from a terrible week for the Oilers:
Forget the playoffs: As of this writing, the Oilers have 23 points in 27 games. They can basically forget about the playoffs. 93 points (which looks to be a decent estimate of the cutline as there are more three point games this year) would require a 104 point pace over the remaining 55 games. It’s over. Before the start of December.
Backup goaltending: I was not impressed with the plan that installed Nikolai Khabibulin as the starting goalie for the Oilers on a four year deal. I made that pretty clear in July. I was also less than impressed, if that was going to be the way things were, with the idea of running with JDD and DD as the backups. Goalies were cheap. To date, this is a bet that seems to me to be turning out about as could have been expected: the backup goalies have (almost certainly replacement levelesque) save percentage of .900.
Moreau, Staios and Nilsson: I know that there are people screaming for the trades, buy-outs or disappearnce to the minors of these players but I’m reasonably certain that that’s not going to happen unless there’s a general manager out there who is misguided as far as the relative worth of these guys. There seems to be some thinking that Moreau and Staios might have value to other teams as veteran leadership type guys but those types of guys don’t tend to get moved at the trade deadline when they’ve got an additional season remaining on their deals. I’m not sure, if I’m Darryl Katz, why I would want to send any of them to the minors unless there were options available to make the team a contender now. As I have a hard time envisioning how, exactly, that would work out, I’d be inclined to just eat their money and let them play. I’m not really sure what else can be done.
PDO and Corsi: The thing that’s a little frightening about the Oilers is how much worse it could be. Of the ten forwards who’ve played at least twenty games, six of them are significantly in the black in terms of PDO, including four guys (Andrew Cogliano, Ethan Moreau, Zach Stortini and Gilbert Brule) who are getting murdered in terms of Corsi (Cogliano, Moreau and Brule are getting killed in pure shots as well). If and when the roof caves on in those fellows, things could really get ugly for the Oilers.
If you’re not paying attention to Corsi, the Oilers basically have two groups of forwards (ten game minimum). Hemsky, Penner, Potulny, Gagner, Horcoff and Comrie are holding their own. Everyone else is getting gutted like fish. JF Jacques, for all the praise he’s had, looks to me like he’s complete deadweight. I was looking at Dennis’ scoring chances for the first 24 games and he was sinking Horcoff and Hemsky every time he got on the ice with them; they were considerably better wtihout him.
The “Plan”: Matt at BOA had a fine post late last week in which he tried to get inside Darryl Katz’ brain. The key part was this:
So I think what I’d do at that point is this: (1) assure [Lowe] that he had complete freedom to run his hockey operations in accordance with his own philosophy, and (2) have him explain to me in a fair bit of detail what that philosophy is.
And then (3), which is the key: I’m going to have to sign off on any moves with financial significance. Look, per (1) I have no interest in interfering with your philosophy, Kevin. Just explain how various moves fit in with that philosophy, and I’ll sign off. If they do not, I won’t.
I’m seriously not trying to be snarky here either. I think I’d give the guy (say) $120k earmarked for two assistants. “I’m a businessman, so I like numbers. Here’s salary for two people, to help you provide them. If you like, you can use them exclusively to support your own point of view and defend it to me.”
For the life of me, I can’t figure out what Lowe’s philosophy is and how it will turn this team into a Stanley Cup contender. I can’t understand how Katz could be signing off on these moves if the rationale that Lowe is giving him is the same as the rationale presented to the fanbase. With most NHL teams, you have some sense of what they’re trying to accomplish and how they might get about going there. The Flames are in a win-now phase, built on an expensive top end and then buying cheap pieces elsewhere. The Canucks have built around long term contracts to Luongo and the Sedins, with cheap, relatively short-term contracts elsewhere. The Oilers?
The Oilers are just completely screwed up. For all the praise of Dustin Penner this year, the fact of the matter continues to be that his addition cost them a pile of draft picks, including what would likely have been a high end pick – they finished nine points out of the lottery. Sure, the Oilers would probably have pissed away part of the advantage that accrued from that by dropping the guy into the NHL in the following season but they gave away the opportunity to get an elite player for the marginal advantage of getting all the way to 18th in the NHL. Where was the philosophy there?
I’m not one to think that a total rebuild, or planning to suck, is necessarily the route that teams have to go. The hockey gods have jurisdiction outside of the arena and if they want to bless you with a draft like the Red Wings had in 1989, they can. So long as you aren’t desperately doing everything you can to avoid it by giving away your picks. If you’re going about things the right way, they can still bless you with a bounty. Heck, even when you’re trying to sign Michael Nylander, they sometimes take pity on you.
What’s the right philosophy for the Oilers right now? Just start cleaning up the mess. I’ve got some difficulty seeing what the Oilers could do to contend in 2010-11 with the bad contracts that are on the books and the current status of the bottom nine – it strikes me that there’s just too much that needs to be done and too many millions tied up in players who aren’t worth it. If that’s a viewpoint that the front office shares, they should be actively seeking to transfer value from the next two years to 2011 and further into the future.
Spend the rest of the season giving lots of minutes to the forwards on whom decisions have to be made in the summer – there are a lot of them (O’Marra, Brule, Jacques, Potulny, McDonald, Stone and Reddox) – and then create some space to bring in some new guys by not qualifying everyone en masse as they usually do. The top four forward spots are taken in Edmonton for the foreseeble future by Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner and Gagner; there simply isn’t going to be room for a lot of those guys, so start clearing them out at the end of the year. Keep the ones with promise for the bottom lines and then bring in a new crop of players to sift through looking for the gold amongst the dross. It’s not sexy work but it’s part of rebuilding a forward corps that looks absolutely brutal outside of the top four.
Something about the current problems that the Oilers are experiencing feels different to me than the problems in the recent past. Both Dan Barnes and Rob Tychkowski took shots at the Oilers and Tambellini this week, something that’s virtually unheard of. Even the relentless optimists have become a lot more cynical about the team’s prospects. I don’t know what kind of stomach Katz has for listening to that stuff but he’s clearly got rabbit ears to a certain extent, as evidenced by the MacT/Stauffer business last season.
You can only sell the same stuff to people for so long – there’s an exchange, somewhere in the comments on this site, between me and Vic, before the playoffs in 2006. I made a comment to the effect that the Oilers had finally done it – people were going to be wise their nonsense and the idea that it wasn’t just the lack of a salary cap that kept from being an elite hockey team. Vic, who’s more cynical than I, figured that as long as they showed alright in the playoffs, everything would be fine. Shows what I know, although I still wonder what would have happened with a playoff miss in 2006, MacT’s resignation and Lowe’s trade of Pronger for nothing. Would Lowe still be in the management picture?
If the mood has changed, I don’t know how the same front office, fixing messes that it created as recently as this summer with the Khabibulin deal, can realistically be sold as hope for the future. I don’t know a ton about selling sports but it’s always struck me that you’re ultimately selling is hope. Some years, it’s easy to sell because you’re selling a hope that the consumer thinks is reasonable; other years, it’s not. This is three years in a row that the Oilers have sold hope while asking the patrons not to look too hard at the hope – for all I know, that’s Lowe’s philosophy – and it’s starting to wear a little bit. If they’re going to be selling hope next summer, it’d be a lot easier to do with a new front office in place.