Saturday, February 24, 2007

Could this be any tougher right now?

...Now what?
I like Kevin Lowe. I've been impressed with how well he has handled retiring from hockey, learning how to run a team and then taking the reins of what is likely the toughest team to steer in the NHL. That's just behind the pressure cookers of Montreal and Toronto, I'm sure.
He has made some great deals (getting Pronger last year) and had some challenges (Pronger asking to leave with the ink still drying on a six-year deal). He had to manage a small-market team that simply couldn't afford to keep any great players.
This year is another challenge as the new CBA and salary cap system is now into its second full year and deals are becoming harder to make.

Right now, Lowe's team has put him in a tough spot: They're still a small stretch away from grabbing one last playoff spot and not out of it by any means. But they are still a distance away. Making the playoffs will require effort, luck and timing.
So, decision and deals made right now will either increase the team's odds of seeing post-season play or scuttle it. Toughie.

Pick an option:
1- Make a couple deals. It is trade deadline time after all and as far as I can see, it's the most exciting time to be a GM. And Lowe has usually been a player at deadline time. I can't imagine he will do little or nothing. He's a competitor. Deadline day is a big day for GMs to show their stuff and make a difference. I can't picture Lowe just sitting on his hands and not getting the same hands dirty.
He can dump some salaries (Sykora, Markkanen) to make room for contract negotiations (free agents in July and Smytty) and maybe make a couple deals to change the dressing room. On every team, there are always leaders, followers and troublemakers. We don't know where every Oiler player fits, but the coaches do. This is also a time to shape the dressing room and address any personnel-ity issues.

2- Gut the team. Dead weight is out. Prospects and picks are in. Hope that the remaining core of the team has enough tools to continue with the momentum built in the last few days and a playoff run is still in the cards.

3- Do nothing. Hope that Smytty can be resigned - maybe he knows it will already - and work with what the team already has. Make the deals after the season is done and find other GMs, under less pressure, will give more up. Sign some free agents.

The fact that the team will be about 10 points out at worst or as close as three points out by Tuesday changes everything. Then, right after deadline day, the Oilers face Minnesota and Calgary at home. Those games will be even more important than this road trip has been.

So, we know Lowe's options. What would Dave do? Here's my plan. Obviously I don't have 29 other GMs on the phone or Don Meehan so a lot of assumptions are being made.

1- Ryan Smyth situation. Sign a deal. The only way you could call a Ryan Smyth deal an overpayment would be if no other GM would do it. If Edmonton has to pay Smytty $5.5 million a season because other teams are willing to do the same, take it. If the rest of the league considers Smyth worth that much, it's not like the Oilers will be stuck with that contract. He can be traded later on if it seems too heavy a commitment. A signed Ryan Smyth (especially with a long-ish term contract) has more trade value than a Ryan Smyth without a contract.

2- Trade Jussi. I suggest Montreal or Tampa - two teams who are in or near the playoffs and need a decent backup goalie. Get a third round pick and a middling prospect. Then bring up one of the young goalies and let them play a few games in the playoff run. This experience will pay off later on.

3- Trade Sykora. This frees up money for the Smytty Kitty and will likely net a decent return. I'm guessing that Dallas, Detroit or even Jersey or Carolina may bite, although New Jersey are up to their nads in cap spend already and would have to unload salary to fit anyone in. Carolina just added Anson Carter and Jim Rutherford has proven that loading up before playoffs has paid off for him. Get a young player in return. Someone cheaper and someone to build with.

4- Trade Winchester. Because he obviously isn't playing. Get a fourth/fifth round pick and/or another equivalent player that Lowe and MacT don't hate. A lateral move at best.

With the exception of the Sykora deal, none of these decisions would do too much to distinguish the Oilers as either outright buyers or sellers. There really is no reason that the Oilers couldn't go on a competitive run without Sykora or Markkanen. The play of Pouliot, Thoresen and Reasoner especially (the rookies and character players) has shown that energy and determination will not be missing. Even Smid is showing new fire and determination.

These deals should not slow the little flash of progress we've seen on this road trip, yet will help set things up for the off-season and next year.

Oh. And once 1:01 PM has come around on Tuesday, go sneak off with Moose and crack open a few beers before the game.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bergeron = Err(or) Be Gon(e)

The trades are starting to heat up.
Maligned scapegoat du jour Marc-Andre Bergeron, an undrafted free agent, has been traded to the Islanders for Russian reverse-defector Denis Grebeshkov.
I wonder if Garth Snow had much to do with it or if he just rubber-stamped the deal and went back to sleep in the GM's comfy chair? I haven't been following that shitshow of an NHL office since that crazy-ass move on a crazy-ass team (retiring a goalie and naming him GM).

Grebeshkov is currently playing with two-time Oiler Igor Ulanov, Oiler-for-a-millisecond Alexei Mikhnov and another player who appeared twice with Edmonton - Brett Hauer - in Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. He chose to play there rather than bounce up and down in the minors with the Islanders.Will he appear with the Oilers this year? With the Russian transfer system so goofy, we'll have to wait and see. We should know soon.

Grebeshkov was drafted in the 2002 cattle call 18th overall with the LA Kings' first pick. This was the same draft that the Oilers drafted Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. The Oilers actually picked Jesse Niinimaki two picks ahead of LA's choice of Grebeshkov with the 16th pick.
The 2002 draft was also the year that Anaheim selected Joffrey Lupul.
Grebeshkov was the 18th pick and the 6th defenceman picked that year, behind blueliners like Jay Bouwmeester and Joni Pitkanen (both coveted by Oilers fans and possibly already courted unsuccessfully by Kevin Lowe - might as well head further down the list).

The Russian should be an improvement on Bergeron - at some point. He is 22 and is said to have great puck skills and some aggression.

So...that's the facts. My opinion? I'm sure everyone is waiting for this. You never get opinions in the Oilogosphere, do you.

I'll miss Bergeron's shot. You know, the one that worked. The shot he takes from just outside the faceoff circle. That one seemed to be struck from the right distance to allow the puck to rise to a height just under the crossbar. If he shot from the point, the puck was usually too high if it made it to the net or a defender or blocking forward would be lucky enough to catch it on a shin before it would make it to the net at all.

I'll miss the fact that a guy who was overlooked in his draft year managed to distinguish himself enough to be considered a real NHL player. I love the underdog.

I'll miss having a speedy player on the team. The Oilers are just a little slower as a team right now. Toby Petersen is now the de facto speedster.

The Oilers also gave up a bargain basement player. His low-ish salary, combined with the fact that he is capable of scoring made him useful. The depth chart, unfortunately, required the team to overuse Bergeron and more ice time just unmasked his faults. When he started with the team, he provided some energy, some speed, a decent shot and one really kick-ass open ice hit on Brenden Morrow. Bergy also will require all those minutes replaced by someone. I imagine Mathieu Roy will fill in on the roster, but who will be on the powerplay? More Petersen?

I will not miss his passes to no one or his passes to the opponents or the fact that he had speed to spare but wouldn't use it when it was needed. Didn't seem to have the judgment to come with the speed.

This trade seems like it could be the first step in Kevin Lowe's series of deals Version 2007. Lowe is reported to be meeting with Don Meehan today and then flying to Naples, Florida for a round of GM meetings.
I imagine that deals have been brewing for awhile and the GMs are waiting to see who moves first. The big deal between Nashville and Philly for Peter (Foppa) Forsberg may have cracked the dam a bit. In between golf games and Everglades tours, I'm sure a lot of kicked tires could result in deals down in FLA.

We'll see what happens next. The Ryan Smyth contract is probably holding up other decisions. The Oilers losing two of three road games so far is probably forcing some decisions.

NOTE: While researching Grebeshkov's numbers in Yaroslavl, I noticed that Mikhnov has three goals in four games so far.

NOTE 2: 8 of 51 respondents to our poll (who will be the first Oiler traded?) selected Bergeron. Time for a new one....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Nothing to do with hockey...


But pretty damn hilarious. Thanks to mi amigo TB for pointing this out.

Unless, of course, this is really Glen Wesley with sunglasses.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Enjoy this week's latest issue of Vue Weekly, featuring everyone's favourite Oiler column found in an entertainment paper - In The Box.
A little bit of excuses for some maligned Oilers are featured this week.
As well, an interesting stat about the Oilers and Canucks that I think none of the "big guys" found.
Next week, maybe TB and I will temper the apologies with some tough criticism.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Two-Headed Monster Slays Oil

Crap. After a pretty good first period, those dirty Swedes owned us. Daniel netted 3 goals and 2 assists, while Henrik got 4 helpers. And Torres. Sweet Christ, what the hell was he thinking? Twice? Although I would have been OK with his shenanigans if he at least beat the living shit out of Cooke. Wow, that guy is gutless. But effective.

Here's some basic stats to depress you:

Assuming 93 points is a bare minimum to get to the playoffs, the Oilers need to accumulate 37 points in 28 games. That means winning better than 2 out of every 3 games.

So, who you pulling for when the playoffs come??

Monday, February 05, 2007

"You know, when Young gets back from injury, I'm sure he'll help the club. I think. He hasn't played in a while, though."

Team: While I'd prefer to be an Oiler due to Being-Born-And-Raised-In-Edmonton-Itis, it would have to be a team desperate enough to need me, poor enough not to be able to sign someone better and good enough not to get an early draft pick.
Uniform number: 71 or 77. Used to like wearing #7 until Jason Arnott tarnished the number.
Position: Usually in an agitator role. Kind of Tikkanen speaking English, "The Rat" but better looking or Buchberger but more erudite.
Nickname: Who's that? Game Day Decision. Write-In. Emergency Call-Up. Not him. Dave Young (knee) Dave Young (upper body injury) Dave Young (concussion)
Dream linemates: Someone good enough to pass the puck off my ass into the net, a la Gretzky/Semenko. Gretzky is retired so that won't happen. Someone tough enough to finish the fights I start.
Rounding out the PP: Someone fast enough to catch the players that strip the puck from me. Someone smart enough to notice players streaking past me and check them.
Job: Opening the door on the bench when needed. Or not opening the door when needed. Making the really emotional players (Torres, Hemsky types) mad at me and start playing with emotion. Above all, basically finding a way to get on the team and then doing all I can to avoid actually playing and getting found out, thus ending a brilliant career.
Signature move: Tying up opponents at our blueline hoping for an offside call. Signing charity autograph items for the star players for beer money (signature move, ha ha ha). A limp. Subtle enough to suggest that a return is coming soon. Strong enough to keep me off the ice.
Strengths: Fierce determination, funny comments to opponents hoping to throw them off, learning to do fake Russian, Czech, Swede accents hoping to anger Euros. Having such a lopsided shot that goalies have no friggin' idea where or how the puck will come off the stick, thereby fooling them. Getting into fights I have no hope of winning to fire up teammates (and also keep me off the ice - the less time on the ice means the more time on the team - don't want to be exposed too quickly).
Weaknesses: Not actually believing it when the coach lets me hit the ice ("You're kidding Coach!).
Injury problems: Not staying injured long enough or seeming too injured and being written off. Perhaps a disease of some kind can "happen" so if and when I have to play again, it will be with huge fanfare and low expectations.
Equipment: Determined ferocity. Cane.
Nemesis: Anyone who thinks "talent" or "skill" or "ability" make them better. Trainers and doctors who know what they are doing.
Who I’d face in the Stanley Cup Finals: Whoever else is in the press box. "Cory Cross?! You're still here?"
What I’d do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: Beg the team brass to let me get my name on it too. Then pay off selected media hacks to do the same.
Would the media love me or hate me?: I'd be iconic - and usually available in the press box faking a limp and carrying an (completely unecessary) cane or something. (You know, to stay on the roster but off the ice.) Keeping my name out there (doing every interview, going to every team function or photo-op, being the NHLPA rep) will make fans and team brass assume I should be there just through constant visibility and repetition - I'll create my own mythology. Like Tie Domi did.

Alright. Tag received. Now I'm handing off to Art Vandelay and Sideshow Raheem of OSHL Hockey.

Can-openers, cherry-pickers and turning right

Looks like I've been tagged by Chris! at Covered in Oil to do the hockey blogger chain-letter thingy. It's Monday, so I've got nothing better to do...

Team: Cleveland Barons ("Best Logo to Include a Map of Ohio" as voted by the logo-voting media)
Uniform number: 10, after boyhood hero and chain-smoking beer-guzzler Guy Lafleur (see earlier post)
Position: Rover
Future Considerations, Floater, Cherry-Picker, Mr. Opportunistic, Pud (from the Bazooka Joe comics)
Dream linemates: Chris! and Pleasure Motors (Called, of course, the PMTBPC! line. This shit writes itself...)
Rounding out the PP: U-Boat 55, Spaz
Job: Getting the crucial seventh goal in an 8-1 drubbing (a la Anson Carter). Filling the water bottles.
Signature move:
Waving stick in the air at opposing team's blueline, yelling "I'm open, I'm open." Mis-handling puck on breakaways. Getting off the ice when the puck goes into our zone to avoid bad plus/minus rating.
Strengths: Strong skater (in a straight line or turning left). Master of 17 different variations of the "can-opener"
Weaknesses: Shooting, passing, positioning, turning right.
Injury problems: None. Tend to avoid corners, front of net, slot, and any other place with high traffic.
Equipment: Yes.
Nemesis: Head coach, line-mates, whoever does the music at Rexall.
Who I’d face in the Stanley Cup Finals: The 17th hole at Sawgrass.
What I’d do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: Buy an engraver and add Pocklington to the end of every winning team,
Would the media love me or hate me?: Hate me on the outside, but love me on the inside, because I'd refer to Don Cherry as "a badly-upholstered know-it-all loud-mouth only-one-game-playing no-point-getting jerk", because we were all thinking it anyway.

And that is what they call that. I hereby tag Young D In The Box.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Pictured is Petr Sykora and the scoring line that he was part of when the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000.
Sykora is the only Oiler on the roster right now that has a Stanley Cup win in his hockey resume (or CV - he is a Euro).

I forgot about that Cup win - mainly because it was an Arnott winning goal that won the Cup for Jersey - and the interesting story about Sykora from that series against Dallas.
Petr was not playing in the winning game six as he was in the hospital after a dirty hit by - who else? - Derian Hatcher knocked Sykkie out of the game by stretcher. Larry Robinson and Patrick Elias draped Sykora jerseys over their shoulders while celebrating the Cup win. Then they brought the trophy to Sykora in the hospital.

TRIVIA QUESTION: Before Sykora joined the Oilers this season, who was the last player with a Stanley Cup ring (won before he joined Edmonton, not after) to play on our Oilers?

A little hint here: The last season that the Oilers had an actual Stanley Cup winning player on the roster (before Sykora) was also the last season that the Oilers had a member of the 1990 Stanley Cup winning squad suit up for the Oilers.

Extra Trivia Question: Who is the last remaining active NHL player who has won a Stanley Cup with the Oilers?

I was a bit surprised how little Stanley Cup-winning experience has been on the team in recent years. Small-market teams can't buy Cup winners, can they?

Apologies if my late-night research was flawed and I missed someone.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I was going to do a pros/cons good/bad positives/negatives list on tonight's game and the general state of Oil-fairs.
Today's list will be more cons/bads/negatives I have a feeling.

-Roli looks off. Way off. He looks mad, off his game and not like a leader. Jussi has looked better - at least Jussi has a two-game win streak. But Roli is capable of better. Jussi will have to overachieve.
-I'd like to think that Toby Petersen was being shopped tonight and his play was adequate - what with 18 minutes playing time and about eight minutes of PP time - but coaches don't put players out on the ice to support some master plan of the GM. He did get a goal.
-Bergeron had a good game last night (against Columbus) but looked shaky tonight. The Oilers need someone on the back line who can keep the puck in the zone on the PP. Start with that. Peterson was no better.
-Stoll got hurt but should be OK. Took a shot to the head and he was still ringing after getting his nose broken earlier.
-All the wrong teams are winning. Eight place is getting further away.
-Is Kevin Lowe just hitting brick walls when he tries to make trades? Is he still waiting? Will we see one soon? Will there be a deal tomorrow or after the Saturday afternoon game? Will there be a deal?
-Can Lowe politely ask Mess to visit the Oiler dressing room and start punching lockers? Or players?

-It's nice to see young Marty - he's 30? - Reasoner get some ice time. He did all he could tonight to prove that he deserves it. He will be this year's Fernando Pisani - if the Oilers make the playoffs. I've always liked Reasoner. The reliable players have always been my faves.
-Laddy Smid is still having problems finding a way to prevent opponents in his own end from scoring or nearly scoring, but he actually got a little pushy-shovey with Matt Cooke tonight (not the first NHLer to do that) and showed a little flash with his huge foray into the Canucks zone resulting in a Toby Petersen goal.
-Lupul got a goal. The rest of his game, however.........

No more.
Too disappointed.

This week's Actual In The Box Column

Here it is. In The Box.
We tried something a little different this week. Something a little more ADD-friendly.
Enjoy. Don't be afraid to check out the rest of the longtime weekly entertainment paper that saves some space for the hockey fans along with the music geeks and the movie geeks. I think there's room for a little of each in all of us, isn't there?

Watching the Oiler game right now, BTW, Marty Reasoner came soooooo close to scoring a shortie. Rang it off the post. He's so unlucky and works so damn hard, young Marty.