For everyone asking if I’m threatened by new flow or a LW coming in. No cause Smytty can give me flow advice and I played RW all last yr
If it was up to me, the left side of the Oilers would include Taylor Hall, Magnus Pajaarvi and Ryan Smyth (not necessarily in that order) with Ales Hemsky, Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark on the right side. It’s not a particularly big top nine and Steve Tambellini does have a fetish for size. If Jones has a shot at cracking the top nine, it will be in place of Omark, I assume. I’m also pretty sure that I’d rather see those minutes given to Omark, who just seems to me to be a much better hockey player. Injuries will happen and there’s not really a lot that Jones can say, but I suspect he comes back to town as a presumptive fourth liner. Here’s a comparison of the ESTOI for Omark (left) and Jones (right) (corrected because I’m awful at left and right; thanks Adam D.) from March 1 onwards:
5:53 – 13:06
9:22 – 11:41
14:22 – 14:26
12:54 – 12:08
13:12 – 12:34
11:32 – 18:14
12:03 – 11:41
7:03 – 11:40 (Omark played more than 8 minutes on the PP)
18:13 – 16:04
16:29 – 16:55
15:01 – 10:57
16:34 – 17:09
13:44 – 10:48
13:03 – 10:40
18:06 – 14:55
13:54 – 12:50
18:40 – 14:23
14:06 – 11:44
18:44 – 15:28
It sure looks to me like one of these guys was making some gains on the other guy in the coach’s estimation. The Oilers top nine was hardly physical last year and Renney still seems to have a revealed preference for Omark over Jones by the end of the year. If I was a betting man, I’d bet on Jones starting the season on the fourth line. More time to work on his flow, I guess.
While Jones is a perfectly cromulent fourth liner by recent Oiler standards (he can skate forwards and backwards, isn’t one of the most useless players in NHL history and isn’t known as “Huggy Bear”), he’s nothing particularly special. Raffi Torres, to pick but one example, is twice the player that Jones is. With what we know now, in terms of Smyth having requested a return to the Oilers at the end of the Kings season and Lombardi presumably talking to Tambellini fairly shortly thereafter, the decision to sign Jones to a two year deal at the end of May at $1.5MM per season seems sort of bizarre. $1.5MM per season is an awful lot of money for a player who doesn’t project as part of your top nine.
Steve Tambellini is getting an awful lot of praise for the Smyth deal and it’s true that he made the team better and got rid of a bad contract. It’s worth noting that he’s the guy who gave out the bad contract though and that he has a variety of bad contracts that he’s signed that can be made available to teams looking for one. Concussion prone small forwards at $1.85MM? Sure, got one of those. Broken down goaltenders with legal issues at $3.75MM who can’t be removed from the cap? Check aisle two. Defencemen coming off a tragic series of events? Sure, we can do one at $1.8MM. Guys with Twitter accounts and nice flow? We just got one in. Centres that we bought because we were blinded by their Cup rings? Sorry sold out, although check back in November – we’ll see what we can find this summer.
Tambellini’s had the reins since the end of the 2008-09 and, as far as I can tell, the only really useful player he’s acquired outside of the draft, which he doesn’t really run, has been Ryan Whitney, who’s got serious health issues and is a question mark for the future. Other than that, it’s a string of stupid contracts, small and big. I noticed a bunch of the media guys lining up to praise him for the way he ground Lombardi on this; that’s all fine and well but like dumping Staios for a third, he took advantage of a guy in a bad spot. You can’t make a living as an NHL GM if that’s your only skill; it just doesn’t happen often enough.
With all of that said, there’s going to be lots of opportunity to worry about Tambellini in the next few years as he screws up all sorts of other things. This is a really good day for the Oilers, who’ve acquired a really good player who is a piece of the soul of the franchise. I spent some time looking the other night at where Smyth sits in terms of various franchise records. The most impressive thing (to me anyway), is that he’s only nine goals behind Glenn Anderson for the franchise record for power play goals; he should break that late this year or early in 2012-13 (assuming that one of the things that Tambellini screws up isn’t letting Smyth go after one year). If he plays all 82 games this year, he’ll move into second all-time in games played for the Oilers. He starts the season 267 games behind Kevin Lowe for the franchise lead – four years at 67 games per season will get him there. It’s tough to see him moving up the all-time goals chart – he sits fifth, 127 goals behind Messier – but it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll ultimately end up in 7th for assists, with an outside shot at sixth. Fifth all-time in points is reachable too – he’s currently in seventh, 80 points back of Paul Coffey. When all is said and done, Smyth could easily retire as the most significant non-dynasty Oiler in history. If he helps move the next generation forward, his place in Oilers history will only be more significant.
More importantly from the position of having a watchable hockey team next year, there’s only one really big hole in the top nine now – they could use another centre for next season to go with Gagner and Horcoff. I’ve had a quick look at the UFA list and there doesn’t seem to be a ton there, so Cogliano will likely get another chance. As we look to next season though, you start to have the feeling that the Oilers are starting to assemble a pretty credible corps of forwards for the next few years. If Hemsky can be kept around (and in one piece) and Horcoff and Smyth kept healthy, a bit of development from the young guys and the forwards are suddenly pretty good.
Now to just find some defencemen and ensure that Khabby doesn’t start 60 games…