Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Love & Hate


This is my first post in 6 months. I have been trying to embrace the positive and to be patient with a team of young men learning on the job, but there is not much to feel positive about.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Call Me Ishmael

"From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!"

Ok, so this is getting to be humiliating. It is beyond pathetic to pursue this matter any further than where it has been pursued already. Look where that kind of thinking landed poor old Ahab (above...well actually it's Gregory Peck playing Ahab, but same diff).

The Oilers really need to move on and sign a 3rd Line Center. I can rationalize Penner deserving a fresh start under the new coach, unless of course the Oilers are now dead to him and he demands a trade out of town. Hopefully similar bridges have not been burned beyond repair with Smid or Cogliano, either. Unless the Oilers retract the offer to the Senators for Heatley, this is going to get really ugly and possibly even do irreparable damage to both the organization's and the city's already tenuous standing as a potential destination for free agents. If the Oilers cannot even trade for a player that has demanded a trade and named them as a preferred destination, then they might as well pack up their stuff and go home. This franchise will never be able to compete in this league if shenanigans like this are allowed to continue.

Sign Nik Antropov first thing Thursday morning, and as a wise man from the East wrote many years ago, "The Moving Finger writes, and having writ, moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a Word of it."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dewey Defeats Truman



I simply do not have the words to express right now my complete and utter sense of disillusionment and dismay with the NHL, its players, and the once-proud Edmonton Oiler hockey franchise.

The mood in Calgary today is one of celebration and hope. While there is the expected amount of gloating, finger-pointing, and trash-talk going around relative to the polar opposite situations in which the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames now find themselves, one of the things that is really freaking me out is that there is also a lot of smug condescension, and even a large and genuine outpouring of sympathy for the Oilers and the city of Edmonton. Some of Flames Nation is laughing at us, but most of them seem to actually feel sorry for us.

Wow. This sucks.


Dispatches from Mordor Part 1


And I thought 2004 was rough.

It was.

In fact, the Calgary Flames improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals that season likely took years off of my life.

It took nearly as many years off my life as the Edmonton Oilers similar, but heartbreakingly disappointing run to the Stanely Cup Finals two years later.

Now this.

So this is what feels like to live in the 9th Circle of Hell.


Jay Bouwmeester is now a Calgary Flame.

Next year he will be wearing the Flaming Gay C along with the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Robin Regehr, Jarome Iginla, and Mikka Kiprussoff. The Calgary Flames just took another step closer to winning another Stanley Cup. Just when I thought their small window was once again closing, Darryl Sutter found a way to keep it open for one more year.

OK, so apparently Darryl Sutter may have went golfing with Jay Bouwmeester's dad the other day, much like he allegedly did around this time last year with Curtis Glencross's dad. Hmmm...

Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province did a pretty good job the other day of summing up my feelings on Mr. Sutter's general approach of late to managing his hockey club. Although the piece is from primarily a Canucks POV, I think Oiler fans can certainly empathize or at least feel equally bitter. I do.

Yesterday on The Fan 960 Sports Talk Radio in Calgary, the hosts discussed Mr. Sutter's lack of popularity among other NHL General Managers dating back to several trades and free agent acquisitions ago, including the aforementioned signing of Curtis Glencross (or GlenX as he is apparently now known), the burying of salary in the minor leagues during the stretch run, and a slightly suspicious seemingly one-sided trade with New Jersey which allowed the Devils to move up in the first round last weekend (compensation for signing Brent Sutter as head coach perhaps?). During the broadcast it was mentioned also that several NHL General Managers have approached Gary Bettman and the NHL in the past few months to complain that the Calgary Flames are over the salary cap.

And perhaps the greatest irony is that the Bouwmeester deal apparently was consummated earlier this evening in Bouwmeester's hometown of Edmonton.

City of Champions?

Please.

City of Chumps might be more accurate - especially if Danny Heatley refuses to waive his no trade clause. What a humiliating mess that will be - the latest in what has been a series of many.

If the deal does go through, then the Oilers will have finally landed a sniper the likes of which has not been seen in Edmonton (playing for the home team anyway) since the glory years. If you go by the old and overused truism "whichever team received the best player won the trade" then the Oilers may well come out on top in this deal in the end, but they gave up an awful lot of youth and talent and development, leaving the fan base scratching their collective heads and maybe even feeling as if they have been sold a bit of a bill of goods for the past few seasons.

I can see moving Dustin Penner and his inflated contract, but it does amount to basically admitting failure with the forays into the RFA market a few years ago. Put another way, it essentially admits that Brian Burke was right after all, which really pisses me off.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. "Ladislav Smid is going to be a superstar." Watching him come into his own in Ottawa is going to hurt given all of the "development" Oiler fans have had to put up with for the past few years.

The one that absolutely kills me is Cogliano. So what if he can't win a faceoff to save his life. This kid is going to be great. He was a big part of the hope for the future we all bought into when we thought the team was rebuilding. Now he's gone.

Heatley had better be good. I mean really good. 100 points good. And Hemsky, too. And Heatley had better want to play in Edmonton. And Steve Tambellini had better prove to be some kind of evil genius wizard Jedi tomorrow in terms of having several things up his sleeve to address the salary cap, the Center position, goaltending, and winning NOW!

Bring on the Battle of Alberta, because winning now seems to be what the Flames are gearing up to do.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Magnuss Paajarvi-Svensson


Interesting. I think I like this pick. Tambellini and Lowe must have been shitting their collective pants with this kid, Ryan Ellis, Dimitri Kulikov, Jordan Shroeder, and others all being still available at #10.

This pretty much says it all:


More to follow...


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

1979

Shakedown 1979, cool kids never have the time

On a live wire right up off the street

You and I should meet

Junebug skipping like a stone

With the headlights pointed at the dawn

We were sure we'd never see an end to it all

And I don’t even care to shake these zipper blues

And we don’t know

Just where our bones will rest

To dust I guess

Forgotten and absorbed into the earth below

Double cross the vacant and the bored

They’re not sure just what we have in the store

Morphine city slipping dues down to see

That we don’t even care as restless as we are

We feel the pull in the land of a thousand guilts

And poured cement lamented and assured

To the lights and towns below

Faster than the speed of sound

Faster than we thought we'd go, beneath the sound of hope

Justine never knew the rules,

Hung down with the freaks and the ghouls

No apologies ever need be made, I know you better than you fake it

To see that we don’t care to shake these zipper blues

And we don’t know just where our bones will rest

To dust I guess

Forgotten and absorbed into the earth below

The street heats the urgency of sound

As you can see there’s no one around

("1979", The Smashing Pumpkins)

Ah, 1979. Disco reigned supreme. Alien and Apocalypse Now played in movie theatres alongside  Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Amiteyville Horror, The Jerk, Meatballs, and The Muppet Movie. Joe Clark was Prime Minister, and then he wasn't. 

A young Pat Quinn took the reigns of the Philadelphia Flyers for his first full season behind the bench as an NHL head coach. He would go on to win that season the first of his two Jack Adams Awards as the NHL Coach of the Year.


After appearing in only one game during his rookie season the year before, Steve Tambellini was working hard on his conditioning back home in Trail B.C. during the off-season in an effort to make the roster of the New York Islanders, the prevailing hockey dynasty of the time. He would go on that year to play in 45 regular season games, scoring 5 Goals and adding 8 Assists for 13 Points to go with 4 PIM and no playoff appearances, but good enough for a Stanley Cup Ring just the same. He would later be traded in mid-season in 1980-81 to the Colorado Rockies.

The Edmonton Oilers joined the National Hockey League for the 1979-80 season along with fellow WHA teams Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets. Of these four teams, the Oilers are the last one standing. The others are the forerunners of Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, and Phoenix Coyotes.

The NHL Expansion Draft took place on June 13, 1979 with the Oilers able to retain Wayne Gretzky via a priority selection. The 1979 NHL Entry Draft took place on August 9 (an interesting date for Oiler fans, to be sure), 1979 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec. It is generally considered one of the deepest draft classes on record, featuring in the first round future hall-of-famers like Mike Gartner, Ray Bourque, and Michel Goulet. 

With the 21st Pick Overall in the 1st Round General Manager Glen Sather and Chief Scout Barry Fraser selected from the Quebec Remparts the first English-speaking captain of a QMJHL team, a blue-chip defenceman named Kevin Lowe.


In the 2nd Round of the 1979-80 NHL Entry Draft, Sather and Fraser traded down to acquire Dave Semenko from the Minnesota North Stars. The GM/Scouting tandem would strike gold again with the 62nd Pick Overall in the 3rd Round (from Minnesota) when they selected from the Saint Albert Saints of the AJHL  a solid two-way centre with a mean streak named Mark Messier.
 

In the 4th Round of the 1979-80 NHL Entry Draft, Sather and Fraser selected from the Burnaby Winter Club, the University of Denver, and the Canadian National Team, a rugged and speedy scoring RW named Glenn Anderson.


I was six years old in 1979. It is the first time I really watched hockey on television and followed the fortunes of my heroes in the newspaper and on the radio, as the speedy and skilled group of youngsters put together a dramatic late-season winning streak to make the playoffs in their first NHL season. My heart broke when they were swept in three games by guess who? Pat Quinn's Philadelphia Flyers.

A year later, I would again celebrate the Oilers fortunes as Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, and Andy Moog joined the ranks of my heroes, and Wayne Gretzky continued to set records as a teenager. The young Oilers would go on to stun the hockey world by sweeping in three games the heavily -favoured Habs, before pushing the New York Islanders Stanley Cup Champion Dynasty juggernaut to six games.

I'm not sure what any of this means other than here I sit, 30 years later, looking forward to this weekend's NHL Entry Draft and toward the future...  

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

HEYYY YOU GUYS!


Calgary Flames general manager Sloth Fratelli named his brother Francis as the team's head coach on Tuesday. Francis, who left the New Jersey Devils earlier this month, takes over from Chester Copperpot who was fired in May after the Flames (AKA The Goonies) lost in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. He is the fourth head coach in five years for the beleaguered NHL franchise. Francis' appointment brings the number of Fratellis working in the Flames organization to four, including Ma Fratelli, Jake Fratelli, Sloth Fratelli, and now Francis, but Sloth said Francis' last name had nothing to do with him landing the job.



The new assistant coaches Mikey Walsh, Clark "Mouth" Devereaux, and Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen have virtually no NHL coaching experience, but Mikey was most recently the head coach of the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, "Mouth" was the coach of the Flames top affiliate for the past four seasons, and "Chunk", a former Flames goaltender, has been working in the Flames scouting and player development areas.



The new coach with the familiar last name intends to have his new team back playing a familiar style of boring, clutch and grab hockey requiring little or no skill but ample grit and toughness. “Defensive hockey for a coach is the easiest part to teach, it’s about everybody being on the same page. Defensive hockey isn’t just about how you play in your own zone, defensive hockey is about how you play in the neutral zone, defensive hockey is how you play in the offensive zone, defensive hockey is a about puck possession time. That starts in practice and you need everyone committed to doing it,” said Francis Fratelli. “A good defensive team doesn’t mean you can’t be a good team offensively either… Players can still flourish offensively but there is high responsibility defensively when you don’t have the puck in how you do things. That’s their job to make sure it’s implemented.”

Flames General Manager Sloth Fratelli sat next to his brother at the press conference beaming, unable to hide his pleasure and optimism about the team going forward, at one point donning a pirate hat and brandishing a cutlass, he blurted out, “Heyyy you guys!" Later, at a pivotal moment, he ripped his outer shirt open, revealing a t-shirt with the Superman logo underneath, and indicated that the S stands for Sloth before screaming, "Sloth loves Chunk!" 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Armchair GM








So, let's just say for the sake of argument that the salary cap holds firm at around $56 Million per team for next season. Wouldn't it be great if the Oilers could ice a team that looked like this:

Heatley Horcoff Hemsky
$7.5    $5.5     $4.1

Cogliano Gagner O'Sullivan
$1.133     $1.625  $2.925

Moreau Madden Pisani
$2.0   $3.0     $2.5

J.F.J. Brodziak Stortini
$.525 $1.0    $.700

Bouwmeester Gilbert
$6.5 $4.0

Smid Grebeshkov
$3.0 $3.5

Staios Peckham
$2.7 $.600

Garon
$2.5

JDD
$.625

It's time to purge the system. Package Nilsson and Penner with Schremp and one of Souray or Visnovsky to land Heatley and a 1st Round Draft Pick from the Senators. Move the remaining high-priced puck-moving D-Man plus your two First Round Draft Picks for a shot at moving up to get either Tavares or Hedman. Dump Horcoff, Moreau, and Pisani at the Trade Deadline or next offseason to make room for Tavares/Hedman, Eberle, Nash, and Brule, as well as new contracts for Cogs, and Gagner.
In this scenario, the future would indeed be very bright.

And if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle.

Behold A Pale Horse

And I looked, and behold a pale horse:
and his name that sat on him was Death,
and Hell followed with him.
Revelation 6:8


OK, so I admit I've never really been sure what in the hell that means, but I have not yet commented on the new coaching staff, and to be honest, I'm not really sure what in the hell we have. 

Quinn is nothing if not a leader of men, and he has had a lot of success as a head coach. He has proven he can coach youth as well as veterans, and he has done well on the international stage, but he has yet to prove he can win a Stanley Cup.

Renney is obviously the heir apparent for when Quinn (who is not getting any younger) eventually retires or wears out his welcome. He is also an excellent tactician, and should help the PP and the PK, as well as overall player development. He might also prove valuable in luring potential free agents named Niedermayer and Jagr, although I'm not certain such players bring much at this stage of their careers or that they would be affordable.

Buchberger is...I don't know what Buchberger is. It felt like Quinn and Renney had maybe met and spoken to him for the first time in their lives right before the press conference, if at all. I'm not sure where he fits in, but the former Captain of some of the worst Oiler teams in franchise history is the last link among the coaching staff to the Oilers Dynasty of the 1980s, and he is sure to be Kevin Lowe's eyes and ears among the prevailing Canuck regime. If nothing else, maybe Bucky can slap the bejesus out of anybody who steps out of line in the locker room.

The bottom line is that Quinn and Renney are both good coaches, but so were MacTavish, Huddy, and Moores. What is needed is size, speed, grit, and leadership, face-off wins, puck possession, a forecheck, a powerplay, a penalty kill, a goalie under 40, and a complete attitude adjustment for some of the players.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Craig, YOU'RE FIRED!



Well, so much for Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish working together to turn over the roster...

After watching the press conference, I think it's pretty clear that the new boss  is less than impressed with more than a few of the players on the roster. I found it particularly interesting when he said, "This does not absolve the players for their performance or lack thereof..."

Maybe it was the emotion in Steve Tambellini's voice, but something tells me all of this should make for a very  interesting summer.

Heads are gonna roll...

And in case you're worried about Craig MacTavish, don't. He has faced in his lifetime much more serious and difficult situations than this, including this pummeling...

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Like he said at the time, "It's a little embarrassing, but what can I say? It's part of the game...It's a tough situation for me, but I guess you just have to man up and take it."

Amen to that.

Thank you Craig MacTavish.

And good luck.

You might just win another Stanley Cup before these Oilers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

MacTavish: "There Were A Lot Of Nights Where As A Coach I Had To Ask For More And The Tank Was Pretty Empty"


MacT looks and sounds like a man who loves his job and wants to succeed. I'm not so sure he's going anywhere, or that there is another coach out there who is a better solution for this franchise. If ownership and the management team shares my opinion,  then the next few days and weeks and months should be very interesting, as MacTavish basically called out the players and questioned the player procurement strategy. 

If MacT does not resign or is not fired in the next week, I'd say there is a really good chance of him working together with Tambellini to turn over this roster yet again. My bet is Penner stays. Nilsson goes, maybe too Cogliano, Souray, Staios, and/or Visnovsky. Both Pouliot and Brodziak are on the bubble and on notice. JFJ is here to stay, at least for a little while. Schremp is done. Gagner is a future captain of this team. Brule, Stone, Nash, Eberle, Plante, and Potulny all will get a long look at training camp. Roloson and Kotalik are both far from being sure bets to re-sign. Marion Gaborik, Marion Hossa, Jay Bouwmeester, Martin Biron, and Mathieu Garon are all key free agents who will be on the Oilers' and every other team's radar.

The Oilers will be involved in at least One Big Trade and One Big Free Agent Signing this summer. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

5 Out Of 7

Fans of the Edmonton Oilers take great pride in the 5 Stanley Cups won by the club over a 7 season span in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990. Coach and General Manager Glen Sather put together piece by piece a team of superstars and gritty competitors the likes of which has never before or since been seen in the NHL. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Charlie Huddy, Andy Moog, Bill Ranford, Kent Nilsson, Esa Tikkanen, Ken Linseman, Petr Klima, Craig MacTavish, Craig Simpson, Marty McSorley. You get the picture. 

On August 9, 1988 Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley, and Mike Krushelnyski were traded to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first round draft picks, and cash. The Oilers would win another Stanley Cup in 1990, but the Gretzky trade marked the beginning of an exodus of talent from the so-called "City of Champions" that would eventually include all of the aforementioned names plus many new ones. Arnott, Corson, Weight, Guerin, Marchant, Niiniima, Hamrlik, Grier, Joseph, Comrie, Salo, Pronger, Smyth, Smith, Stoll. Again, you get the picture - a veritable trail of tears.

From the challenging economics of a small market team to the changing value of the Canadian dollar to various marital infidelities, many reasons have been given for this constant parade of players leaving the Oilers to contribute to championships elsewhere. With the exception of the improbable and ultimately heartbreaking and disappointing run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, the Edmonton Oilers have not been even close to contending for a championship in nearly 20 years. Through it all, the loyal and faithful fans of Oiler Nation have been content to live and die with a team that sometimes seems more focused on reliving the glory years and retiring jerseys to the rafters than it is focused on winning championships in the present.

That is, until now. Oiler fans are pissed. They are tired of the constant rebuilding. Tired of hearing about players that don't want to come to Edmonton. Tired of an indifferent stretch run. Tired of seeming to care more than the players, who lose puck battles and faceoffs and games. Oiler fans are tired of a bad power play and worse penalty killing. Tired of mixing up the lines. Tired of losing at home. Tired of losing in Minnesota. Tired of second periods, and tired of struggling to clear the zone. Tired of not scoring. Tired of not winning. What other so-called "Puck Possession Team" is routinely hemmed into its own zone and outshot by a margin of 2-1 night in and night out? Not Detroit. Not San Jose. 

Oiler fans are tired of being asked for patience with a young team. They see younger and more talented teams in Chicago, Columbus, and St. Louis getting better results. They see younger and more talented teams on the rise in Los Angeles and Phoenix, poised to surpass the Oilers within a season or two. They see a solid team in Nashville and a re-loaded contender in Anaheim. They see the enigmatic Canucks somehow doing nothing except win. They see Minnesota and Dallas in their worst nightmares, when they close their eyes and try to sleep at night. San Jose and Detroit inhabit some sort of Valhalla fantasy realm, and can likewise be seen only in their wildest dreams. Oiler fans see hometown discounts in Calgary, where a grizzled team of tough veterans is poised to make another run deep into the post season, where they just might...

Most of all, Edmonton Oiler fans see a team that has missed the playoffs in 5 out of the past 7 seasons, and 3 years in a row. 

Many are blaming the coach. Many are blaming the players. Many are blaming the management team that hired the coach and the players.

I am not. I am blaming myself.

I expected too much from a young team in the middle of a rebuilding cycle. 

After falling short in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2005-2006 season, and subsequently losing Chris Pronger in the summer of 2006, the Oilers went into a major rebuilding mode that kicked off with the Ryan Smyth trade in March 2007. Immediately following that trade, the Oilers went 2-17-1 to finish the season. The team was not much better at the beginning of the 2007-2008 season, and when injuries started to mount it looked as if the Oilers were a lock to have a lottery pick in the draft. But then last season's squad of kids and injury replacements caught fire down the stretch to finish 14-5-1 with 88 points on the season, failing to qualify for the playoffs by a mere 3 points while staying in the playoff hunt right to the bitter end. They outplayed everyone's expectations - including their own, and we the fans began again to hope. The off-season acquisitions of Lubomir Visnovsky and Erik Cole sparked genuine excitement among the fanbase for a return to the playoffs, and possibly a return past glory. 

We fell in love again, but alas they broke our hearts.  

Here are the numbers:

2006
41-28-13 256 251 95
Last 20 = 9-7-4

2007
32-43-7 195 248 71
Last 20 = 2-17-1

2008
41-35-6  235 251 88
Last 20 = 14-5-1

2009
37-34-9 228 243 83
Last 18 = 6-9-3 (2 Games Remaining)

Only 6 players remain on the roster from the 2006 squad: Hemsky, Horcoff, Roloson, Moreau, Pisani, and Staios. In fact, there are about a dozen new faces between this year and last year: Visnovsky, Cole/O'Sullivan/Kotalik, Pouliot, Jacques, Strudwick, MacIntyre, Deslauriers, Reddox, Peckham, and Chorney. If we treat last season's surge as an anomaly - as nothing more than an ahead-of-schedule flash of the potential of Hemsky, Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Smid, and others moving forward, then perhaps this season's disappointing result can be better put into perspective. 

Make no mistake, the Edmonton Oilers squandered an opportunity to make the playoffs this year by being terrible on home ice, relying too much on great goaltending, and failing to beat teams below them in the standings. 

That said, I believe the rebuilding plan is right on schedule, and there is a lot to look forward to in the future from this team. 

Here's why:

1. There is a nice mix of youth, size, skill, and grit at forward. Hemsky (6-0, 195, 25), Gagner (5-11, 191, 19), Nilsson (5-11, 185, 24), Cogliano (5-10, 184, 21), and O'Sullivan (5-11, 190, 24) are all smallish, but very skilled. Penner's (6-4, 245, 26) potential remains as enormous as his frame, and Jacques (6-4, 217, 23), Stortini (6-4, 220, 23), Brodziak (6-2, 209, 24), and Pouliot (6-2, 200, 23) are all big bodies who bring to the rink solid two-way games.

2. There is a nice mix of youth, size, skill, and grit on defense. Gilbert (6-3, 206, 26), Grebeshkov (6-0, 209, 25), and Chorney (5-11, 182, 21) are all smart, smooth, puck movers. Smid (6-3, 226, 23) can do it all. He has one shift per game where he looks like Bobby Orr with the puck, and his mean streak is getting wider by the minute. Peckham (6-2, 223, 21) is a solid stay-at-home type who isn't afraid to drop the gloves.

3. The veterans are all solid players, strong leaders, and good teammates. If their play drops off and/or their leadership becomes expendable, each of these players becomes instantly a solid asset in trade negotiations with other teams.   Horcoff's (6-1, 208, 30) contract will provide short term pain next year for long term gain down the road, as the future captain has a lot of good years left. The current captain, Moreau (6-2, 220, 33) is in decline, but still brings a lot of grit and sandpaper, although his value to the team is questionable. Kotalik (6-1, 227, 30) is a big body with a wicked shot. He is absolutely deadly in the shoot-out, and I hope he re-signs with the team in the off-season so we can all see what he is capable of producing in a full season of playing with Hemsky. Pisani (6-1, 205, 32) is probably as overpaid as he is universally loved and respected by fans and teammates alike, and he still has a few good years left in him. Souray (6-4, 233, 32) has a big contract and he has lived up to it 100%. Staios (6-1, 200, 35) is getting older, but remains an absolute warrior, although for how long remains to be seen. Strudwick (6-4, 225, 33) is an inexpensive and flexible option to eat up some minutes - a spare and replaceable part, nothing more. Visnovsky's (5-10, 188, 32) best years are behind him, and he is expensive and injured, but when he plays, he is a real difference maker. Roloson (6-1, 180, 39) will have to sign for less money should he return to the team next season, and there is no guarantee if or for how long he can continue to play at such an elite level, but he was clearly the teams MVP this year, although he faltered during the stretch run.


5. Next year's team has the potential to boast as many as 6 or 7 or more players scoring 20 or more goals. If this year's totals are anything to go by, then Hemsky (23G 42A +1 65Pts), Souray (22G 28A -2 50Pts), Horcoff (16G 34A +5 50Pts), Kotalik (19G 23A -5 42 Pts), O'Sullivan (15G 27A -7 42 Pts), Gagner (16G 25A -2 41 Pts), Cogliano (18G 19A -3 37 Pts), and Penner (17G 20A +6 37 Pts) all stand a good chance of reaching the 20 goal mark with only minimal to moderate improvement.  Nilsson (9G 20A 0 29 Pts), Visnovsky (8G 23A +6 31 Pts), Pisani (7G 7A +1 14 Pts), Pouliot (8G 12A +1 20Pts), Brodziak (11G 14A +2 25 Pts), and Moreau (14G 12A +1 26 Pts) would all have to pick up the pace considerably to score 20 goals, but some of these players have done it in the past, and all of them are capable of doing it in the future. Likewise, Schremp (7G 35A 42 Pts), Potulny (35G 23A 58 Pts), Brule (13G 11A 23 Pts), and Stone (16G 35A 51 Pts) have all shown enough on the farm to be considered potential 20 Goal Players in the bigs. My point is that 5 or more 20-Goal-Scorers on a roster usually equates to a deep playoff run if not a Stanley Cup Championship. 

6. Jordan Eberle (5-11, 170, 18). The kid is a sniper. He is still a couple of years away, as he needs to get bigger and work on his skating, but his hands are second to none as anyone watching the WJC can attest. This is a prospect with 50-goal potential.

7. Riley Nash (6-1, 173, 19) is a solid two-way centre whose college numbers compare more favorably to Shawn Horcoff's than to Joe Nieuwendyk's. He is still a couple of years away, but when he arrives should fit right in on the second or third line.

8. A pick somewhere between 7th and 14th in what promises to be a deep draft could yield a player along the lines of Brayden Schenn (C 6-0, 192, 18), Evander Kane (C 5-11, 160, 18), Jared Cowen (D 6-5, 215, 18), Nazem Kadri (C 6-0, 175, 18), Jordan Schroeder (C/RW 5-8, 175, 18), Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi (LW 6-1, 195, 18), Landon Ferraro (C 6-0, 170, 18), Ryan Ellis (D 5-9, 183, 18), Simon Despres (D 6-4, 214, 18), or Dimitri Kulikov (D 6-0, 190, 18).

9. Jay Bouwmeester (6-4, 212, 25) is coming home.

10. Back-to-back wins over the Flames to close out the season would put the Oilers 1 point behind last season's somewhat inflated benchmark of 88 points. It would also all but guarantee the gay Flames a date on the road in Chicago for the first round of the playoffs, and what is hopefully a very short post-season for Sutter, Iggy, Kipper, Keenan, and company. 


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