Looking in the Crystal Ball

Well I had a good visit from fellow blogger Shepso last night.  It was really fun: he came to my class and afterwards well got really drunk.  So drunk that I might have failed my French test this afternoon, and I bruised my sternum by falling on my over turned tupperware container I use as a coffee table.  Why am I telling you all this, because we didn't talk about hockey that much.  Now this is a rare situation in our lives, but the 10-2 shellacking the Oil were subjected to killed our normal appetite to talk about the Oil.

Well, the supposed weakness that the lose displayed is between the pipes.  I stopped watching it shortly after the third goal and we didn't score on the two power plays we were presented with.  'Cause of this I am  not going to criticizes our tenders but instead look into the future.

What type of strategy works in the NHL today.  I will suggested there is the one which you get a big name goalie with a good track record and pay them a truck load: we can call this the franchise goalie model.  Or there is the fact you spend your money on the team and hire some slightly below average goalies to keep you in the game:  Detroit model.  Or lastly you have the tandem model where you get two decent keepers and run them as a pair: traditional teams with depth run this model, think Minnesota a couple years back. 

In terms of salary cap, the franchise model will cost you between 7 and 9 million (six or so for the number one, and another million for the backup), the Detroit model will cost about 2 million (one each for the two you get, both career back ups), and the tandem modal will cost about 4-5 million (a veteran that costs 2-3 and a relief pitcher that cost 1-2).  In any of these models using a young'en for the back up will save you between 0.25-1 million, the higher the draft pick the lower the savings.

Which one should the Oilers use?  This is relevant because at the end of the season they will have to make a decision on going forward.

I don't like the franchise goal strategy because if they have an injury or start playing bad the team is kinda fucked  Also there are only a handful of true elite tenders so not every team can go this route.  But it does have an advantage in the playoffs, when the difference in goaltending might decide the series.  The Red Wings don't use this method and they still win, so it is not a lock.  As a fan I like the tandem mode, but tenders like to be the number 1 so from a mental strategy approach it might not be the best idea.

I was hoping to get this guy for a cool million bucks (on a one year contract) in the summer.  I figured he be cheap and motivated to play, unless he really likes Russia.  But seeing that Lowe would not risk one of the old boys getting punched, I doubt they hire him.  But who else is available:

the 5 million dollar men
Niklas Backstrom: sporting a 2.19 GAA and 0.927 Sav%

Middle weights ( $2.5-4 millions men)
Manny Fernandez: 2.07 GAA and 0.928
Nikolai Khabibulin: 2.35 and 0.924
Tim Thomas: he might be on the 5 million dollar list, if not on the higher side of this one

the million or two guys
Scott Clemmensen: has played well in relief in NJ (2.25 GAA and 0.923 Sav%)
Brent Johnson: 2.74 and 0.909 in the Washington net
Manny Legace: 3.12 GAA and 0.888 on a terrible team
Joey MacDonald:  3.27 and 0.900 (I think he will get offers, since he has been one of the few non-disgusting things about the Islanders this year)
Dwanye Roli: if he is close to a million, I'd sign him no problem JDD is not the best positional goal and this man can teach him any Hasek tricks he picked up
Mikael Tellquist: not bad number in the desert (2.75 and 0.913)

the less then a million dollar men
Peter Budaj: 2.91 GAA and 0.899 Sav%
Marc Denis: only played one game in MTL , they have too many goalies, is a UFA and could be a good backup
Gerber: washed up? or just playing on a terrible team
Jason LaBarbera: terrible terrible stats
Curtis Sanford: career back up, might get a league minimum contract (which he will be happy about)
Andrew Raycroft: both COL goalies on this list, they are going to be big time buyers in this market (I am willing to take bets, that they over pay for a goalie in the summer)

(I left Joesph , Norrena, and Garon off because I don't think either could, or should be signed.)

The guys in grey text are the ones I think are of interest.  My solution: go out guns a blazing for Backstrom (if we pay too much, at least the Wild don't have him and maybe we can beat them one day), and back-up plan is either Roli or the Bulin Wall on ONE YEAR contracts (Roli for 1.7 Million and Khabibulin for $2.4-3 Million).

What do you think?

New Ideas on Scouting

This is Frank Musil: always a favorite of mine, since I saw him block a shot with his testicles.  His reply was something like: "I already have kids".  Gold, pure oilers' black gold.  Now if every Oiler had the heart and character this man had we would have a lot less problems this year.  But I am not going to talk about heart and the lack of it in our Captain (I'll save that for Shepso, cause his will be funnier).

Why I am bring up Musil is that he is the Oilers' professional scout in Europe, and Kent Nilsson (yes the great Flames' player and Robert's dad) is the amateur scout in Europe.  I was reading Lowetide before the Garon trade, he has an insightful post about drafting and scouting Russians.  Unfortunately no-one read this with all the excitement about a trade (I mean a real trading involving NHL players, well I mean one NHL player).  

But the Oilers till have trouble drafting from Europe, why?  The current Oilers have two Czech player (Smid and Hemsky), one Swede (Nilsson), one Slovak (Visnovasky), and one Russian (Grebeshkov).  That is five out of twenty five players (including all the ones on IR).  According to Mirtle, the NHL has 52% Canadian, 19.9% Americans, and 28.1% Europeans.  Again for the record NHL has 28.1% Europeans, and the Oilers 20% Europeans.  This might just be luck or the style of the team, but I think it demonstrates the Oilers' unwillingness to draft Europeans.

The Oilers have 8 amateur scouts, and 4 professional scouts: only one of each is a European scout scouting European leagues.  That is 12.5% amateur scouts being European and 25% professional scouts being European.  

I think we have discovered an untapped resource the Oilers are not fully exploring.  Katz and his bags of money could be doing more, since in the post-lockout you are limit on what you can spend on players but not limited to what you can spend on procurement.  I have four suggestions on novel ideas to increase our European procurement:

1) Buy a KHL team: Capitalize on the KHL losing money, buy a team, and funnel all the players of interest into and play them well untill their rights have no meaning and bring them over.  It is like a European farm team, but you might be able to make money of it to.  I doubt this would work 'cause the KHL or the NHL wouldn't be happy about a investment in a rival league.

2)  Positional Scouting:  Set up a system where each employee scouts by position rather then area: goalie scouts look at goalies, defensive forward specialist look at two way forwards, old super stars scout offensive players, etc . . . .  This means more travel costs but might be more effective and is worth a try (maybe).

3)  Shrink the Areas:  Divide up Europe like they do in North America.  Hire more scouts (n a full or part time basis) and give them a specific area to scout.  You can divide this on nationality and languages spoken.  For example, you hire a Fin to scout in the Finnish leagues (amateur and professional) because they have the contacts in their old stopping grounds, and have the language skills to talk to more people about each player: same goes with Russia, Sweden, and the Czech/Slovak republics.

4) Hire This man.  His name is Hakan Andersson:  he is the head of European scouting for the Detroit Red Wings.  His record speaks for it self (including that bobble he is holding, Datsyuk in the 6th round at 171st overall, Zetterberg at 210th overall, and Holmstom at 257th overall).  Laugh all you want, but Katz could simply wait till his contact is near expiring and send him a discreet message that the Oilers would like to give him a large pay raise. What is an extra $250,000 dollars a year to Katz  (just less then 1/8 of Moreau's salary, peanuts in the world of professional sports)?  Any smart individual, in a capitalist world, would at least listen, at worst it gives him leverage in his contract negotiations.  

Now these ideas separate seem either illogical (such as buying a KHL team), a long shot (hiring Andersson), or not cost effective (such as positional scouting).  But as always I have a better plan which is a combination of the middle two options:

1) If hiring Andersson can't be done, promote Musil to top European scout.  He is in charge of the rest of the European scouts, and reports directly to Prendergast.  He would remain the point man on all professional scouting, traveling across Europe focusing on men, not boys. 

2) Make Nilsson the point guy on amateur scouting: this means he would travel across Europe watching players that he has reports on and as the final evaluator on the kids.

3)  Get Help.   Hire more European scouts and divide them by area rather then by amateur/professional scouting.  Each scout would be a fluent speaker of the national language, and have worked in the country for a minimum of five years.  Each of these scouts gives a report to Nilsson (on all amateur players saw) and a report to Musil (on all professional players): actually they give it to number 4 and he gives it to them, but more on that later.
- Russia: one full-time scout and one part-time scout.  Each is in charge of a certain geographical area in Russia, but they work as a tandem with one of the scouts having an expertise on defensemen and the other on forwards.  The full-timer being the one in charge of reporting.  A special eye on the KHL.
- Sweden:  Hire a full-time scout.  He is in charge of evaluating all players in Sweden: I am assuming that Nilsson/Andersson can also do work in Sweden since he is based here and there are a lot of excellent players in the Swedish Elite League.  These scouts would also look at Norway (but not necessary speak Norwegian)
- Finland:  Hire one scout in this region.  He should be an individual with special expertise in goalies: I know this boarders on racism, but man the Finns are good at producing 'tenders.  This individual would be responsible on scouting professional and amateur player in Finland, as well as taking trips to see goaltenders high-lighted by other scouts.
- Czech/Slovak Republics and Germany:  Hire one scout to roam around central Europe.  The Czech league is pretty good, the Slovakian development program is improving, and there are some good players in the Professional German League.  Again, I am assuming Musil would be helping out in this region since he is based here.  The language requirement is complex here: German coaches and informants would likely speak English, so we would focus on getting Slovak or Czech speakers; either a bilingual speaker or a Slovakian speak since Musil is Czech. 

4) Hire a office guy.  His job would be to help Musil with the paper work, figure out budgets, and other odd jobs.  Most importantly run statistical analysis on European players, using any stats the individuals leagues collected.  This should provide another perspective on the players that the individual scouts could used to keep track of players between games they watch, and for Musil to use when giving his suggestions to the 'Brass' back home.

This would increase the Oilers European budget, and their staff, but the Red Wings have four European scouts (including Andersson) and we have two.  I see this as a problem.  The cost is partially prohibited, but really it is not that much: I am sure that the salaries of Russian scouts would not be excessive, while the Scandinavians most likely more (based on costs of living).  It is a change from having 2 full-time scouts to 7.5 full-time staff: if each staff is getting $80,00 a year it is only $600,000 a year (or 1/3 Moreau's salary).  With this increase in scouts, Andersson's crazy new salary, and their costs (flights, hotels etc . . . ) my rough guess is that it would cost just over a million dollars a year: or a Glenncross or Wanye Primeau (the only Oiler that has about the same salary, $1.3 million, is Cogs and I didn't want to make that comparison)

Some of these ideas might be considered crazy, but it is time to start thinking out side the box to improve the Oilers, even if it means spending a little more money on non-traditional ideas and process (I mean not throwing it at aging veterans, but using it to find the cream of the over-looked crop).

The Monster is Dead: Long live the Monster

Goodbye Matty. We will miss you... in the shootouts. You gave it a good run, and your last game as an Oiler will be remembered for a really solid effort and a 37 save win, while preventing Smitty from netting his 300th goal against us. Thanks for the memories, the flawless shootout efforts last year, and perhaps the ugliest masks ever worn by an Oilers netminder... vintage mask excluded...

The Oilbraintrust (Lowebellini) has just eliminated the three-headed monster that has been handcuffing our roster all year. The Monster is Dead! Long live the Monster.

Was it a good move? Well, compared to what LA got for LaBarbera from the Casucks, yup...we win. I'll take a gritty prospect, a minor league goalie and a 4th in 2011 for Matty. However it's clear, at least to me, that this was a short term move. Based on a significant amount of chatter on friendly rival blog Lowetide (perhaps the most informative Oliers Blog on the net...unlike this lovely little rag I call home, which features little more then my own bitterness, sarcasm, and bad jokes countered effectively with BCB's useful statistics and intelligent philosophical interludes) we now have a new roster problem.

Rather than three goalies, now we have too many forwards. Here is the current list: Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner, Cole, Nilsson, Gagner, Pisani, Pouliot, Cogliano, Moreau, Brodziak, Stortini, Potulny, Brule, MacIntyre, Reddox, with JFJ on a one way deal and set to come off of the IR pretty soon. Normally this doesn't seem so bad; send some forwards to the farm, right? Well, Brule has 7 games of waiver-free status remaining, Pots has been effective and clicking with Hamsterballs and the Hobbit, and also has a similar waiver issue. Sounds like a new kind of monster.

JFJ is on a one way deal, so the best we can hope with him is to send him for a conditioning stint and then bring him back to sit in the box with any two of Strudsie, Storts (when he's healthy again) or Smac. Now, with JFJ, do we even really need Strudsie, Storts and Smac? One of those guys is going to have to be let go, unfortunately, because the Macbraintrust is clearly sold on JFJ, despite his utter failure to be a productive NHL player at any point in his three years here, so of course he stays.

But what happens if Hemmer and Bobby Nil both stay on the IR longer then Brule and Pots are able to freely be with the big club? Take a gamble? Or send Brule back with 1 game of eligibility left and bring back the slumping, sulking hockey Jesus? Or does all of this spell the early end of the great Reddox experiment, giving say, Pots the chance to be this year's GlenX? 85 has been really solid as Pisani-lite, and he certainly goes down to the farm when Fernando returns regardless, but any time before that would be wretched player management, as the other two farmhands are not exactly known for their defensive play. This JFJ thing is really a bad handcuff, one that has been certainly buried under the radar while we collectively bitched about the other monster. Kind of like JDD, why on earth did Lowe(Bellini?) sign JFJ to a one way deal?

Lets be honest...all of these things were issues prior to the death of the monster, but the monster got all the press. I wonder what Lowebellini are going to do next? 17.5 forwards
, (Strudsie counts as the .5), 14 spots, 12.5 currently active. Either another trade is in the works, or well, we sacrifice somebody with more value than JFJ to the waiver wire gods and hope for the best.

By the way, the kid we picked up for Matty, Ryan Stone, taken 32nd overall in the 03 draft, is apparently a "player of interest." To me, he seems like yet another JFJ, who was tabbed to be another Moreau, and well, loyal readers, do we really want another Moreau? Do we really want to see another player waiving qualified centers out of the circle to do a job he has no business doing, stealing pucks from talented forwards to try the ill-fated 1 on 3 rush and then missing the net completely, eliminating the chance for the talented sniper to bury a rebound and taking the most undisciplined penalties at really bad times, a player who is revered for having a heart of gold yet hands of stone? I am beginning to have serious beef with our fearless leader, only because he's stopped leading by example and started leading by just doing everything himself and sucking at it...but that will be saved for another rant, post Allstar break, when I will have the time get into the history and philosophy of charismatic leadership and the epic failures of those types of leaders throughout human history...

Anyhoo...it's another must win situation against the desert dogs on Anderson night. Let's hope we can actually get a win on a retirement night. For whatever reason, the team always seems to come out flat after a party.

Go Oilers


Editor's notes: 1) I am dumb and don't do my homework enough. Brule's eligibility is done in 4 games. As a sociologist, I rarely have to do things that involve elementary level math, like counting.
2) In an ideal world, despite the 1 way contract and cap hit, JFJ stays on the farm after his conditioning stint. Then it's only a minor monster...quite frankly, maybe this post was completely irrelevant to the current situation, much like my last post, but I am procrastinating from writing my thesis and it seemed like a good idea at the time...and I really don't like JFJ...
3) My next post will be about the Moreau/Leadership issue I brought up here. Expect it just after the Allstar break, which conicidentally is just past my deadline. SWS

I Think I Am Getting the Fear

This post will be quick. There will be no pictures, no jabs at religion, no cleverly manipulated pop-culture references, title aside, no abstract social theory, as today those things no longer seem to matter. After riding the wave of some inspired, consistent play before and after the holiday break, the other shoe has dropped, and the bad oil has returned.

I blame this on my least favorite creature in the history of time. That creature is the Injury Imp. He hath returned from the depths of hell, first taking away St. Fernando, followed by Ales the Great, and now Huggy Bear (or Zorg, depending on which blogs you read) has a broken leg when he was just getting into the zone, and Sheldon all-star mega-shot Souray, say it isn't so? Tell us your upper-body troubles were only precautions to keep you from getting actually hurt if you kept playing? Nope, just checked the official team website and he's on the injury report.

So, just as it seemed like this team was getting over the hump, we are down our top two scorers, top two-way forward, and top ugly bearded toothless goon. Shit. That's not good news. Now we have to maybe rely on our much-ballyhooed depth.

1) S-mac for Storts. Fine, I can deal with that, but really not in the long term. I would much prefer to see Struds in Storts role and S-mac, for all his size, fists, and feel good prairie boy story of dreaming for the oilers charm, just isn't a great hockey player. BCB did a comparison a few months ago, and after watching a game that featured both goons in the line-up, well, yeah, I'll take Huggy Bear. No questions asked. So. S-mac is in the lineup by default now and the Bear goes on long term IR

2a) Ok, to replace Sheldon, do we move Struds back on D with Stevie and have to endure the slow, plodding and filled with giveaways all over again? Probably, because we lose an available roster spot if Sheldon doesn't go on IR due to the inevitable return of JDD on monday when the conditioning stint (and an unsuccessful one at that...) comes to an end. This makes for the pairings of 77-71 (great on paper), 37-5 (oh boy, it's gonna be interesting but I think they can I think they can) and 34-43 (oh crap we're screwed)

2b) Now that Strudsie has moved back to defence, what to we do about an auxiliary forward on the 4th line? Well, looks like we get the amazing combo of Brodz centering Reddox (Pisani-lite) and S-mac, with potentially Brule getting more playing time with some kids, or HorPen? But then we get into the question of Brule's waiver eligibility which is set to kick in 9 games from now. *Gulp* Do we want to be stuck with him for the rest of the year, eating up a valuable roster spot that seem to be only available to third goalies and second fighters? Guess we'll see what the MacBraintrust comes up with to solve this little conundrum.

3) Hemsky is on IR, which got SMac off IR, and now Storts is on IR. So, hypothetically we do actually have one more roster spot available that isn't reserved for a French-Canadian Goalie. What to do? Does this mean the recall of the great hockey Jesus? (Sorry, I couldn't resist...not even on Shabbos...) Or do we bring up one of our many defenceman in Springfield? And which one? Chorney for his speed and playmaking? Peckham for his mean streak? Young because didn't suck when he came up last year? or Roy because we don't actually care about him in the organization and if someone else picks him up when we send him back down, it might give more ice time to a great kid like Bissaillon, but Roy has NHL experience even though he's not great? Damn you Injury Imp!!!! Why, why must you hate our team so much? You're a bastard, Injury Imp and we all hate you!

These are my questions for the weekend, readers. Just venting, blowing off some steam, wondering what the heck the team is going to do. We need to figure out our shit and remember how to put puck in net without taking stupid penalties. The system that we played the last weeks of December (Calgary excluded, although that game was good, we just took too many penalties. In EV goals, we beat 'em 3-2) and the first week of January. Really, just play every game picturing the opposition in Dallas Stars jerseys and we'll do alright. Let us all hope and pray that the reserves we call up don't suck.

Go Oilers


Too many centers . . . I love Cogs (maybe?)

This is me in my new Oiler's jersey (ps: thanks Graeme and Dev).  That is right it is the Kevin Lowe jersey I always wanted as a child.  And now I have it.  And it complete with the captain 'C', which he did not have at the time

So back to doing, what I always do when I have writers block: being an armchair General Manager. But what to discuss? 

A few post back, me and my comrades attempted to come up with a lists of those Oilers that were untouchable, unmovable, on the fence, and trade bait.  But since then a lot has changed.

Some of the changes are these:
  • Poo isn't crap:  I know it is hard for me to admit this, but he is starting to look like a real NHL player.  He has the lowest GAON/60 of any forward on the team (at 1.65), has played in 34 games, and 6-4-10 boxcar numbers. Hope he can keep it up, because it looks like Lowetide was right again.
  • Eric Cole has landed.  What ever happen to Cole is great.  I am not going to question it, I am just happy.
  • Stortini (aka Zorg) is fighting/punching people.  I mean he would on occasion before, but now he demonstrating he is really good at it.  Oh, and he is playing every night and hitting more opponents then P-Funk has members in silly costumes.
  • and the biggy.  Cogilano is impressing me to death.  I was all in favour of trading him.  My reasons were:  1) we have too many small centers that can't take draws, and 2) his name is not Ganger.  But since he is our best offensive player (not named Hemsky) most nights, I have been slowly coming around.  And yes Kirsten:  you can take full credit for your puppy-love is slowly rubbing off on me.

In light of these new development, I thought I would reconsider the problems with the Oilers. But I think they are the same: 1) three headed monster in goal, 2) lack of defensive center, 3) more depth on the blue line, 4) a real first line LW, and 5) too many centers.  What is too be done fellow diaspora members?

A quick look at our centers, since it must be an area of strength if we have too many.  I am going to compare their faceoff %, the QualComp, GFON/60, GAON/60, Points, and their Aggressive and Lazy penalty (AP/60 and LP/60). (the number in the brackets is their ranking to each other, I case of a tie they get the same number).  Obviously for Faceoffs, QualComp, GFON/60, AP/60, and Pts, the player with the highest score gets the first ranking.  And for GAON/60 and LP/60 the player with the lowest score gets the top rank.  

*GFON/60, GAON/60, and QualComp is from Behind the Net.  Pts are from the Oiler website.  Faceoff % is from NHL.com.  And I have made up AP/60 and LP/60, but these numbers are a little older, since I haven't up dated them.*

1) Horcoff
Faceoff %: 52.0% (1)
QualComp: 0.05 (1)
GFON/60:  2.56  (2)
GAON/60:  2.31  (4)
PTS: 28  (1)
AG/60:  0.04 (1)
LP/60:  0.3  (5)

2) Cogliano
Faceoff %: 37.2% (5)
QualComp: 0.00  (3)
GFON/60: 2.24  (3)
GAON/60: 2.39   (5)
Pts: 19  (2)
AP/60: 0  (2)
LP/60: 0.19  (4)

3) Sam Gagner
Faceoff %: 44.0% (4)
QualComp: 0.02   (2)
GFON/60: 2.87  (1)
GAON/60: 2.30  (3)
Pts: 14  (3)
AP/60: 0 (2)
LP/60:  0.17  (3)

4) Marc-Antoine Pouliot
Faceoff %: 49.6% (3)
QualComp: -0.06  (4)
GFON/60: 2.02  (4)
GAON/60: 1.65   (1)
Pts: 10  (4)
AP/60: 0  (2)
LP/60: 0.04  (1)

5) Kyle Brodziak
Faceoff %: 50.7% (2)
QualComp: -0.07  (5)
GFON/60: 1.21  (5)
GAON/60: 1.90  (2)
Pts: 8 (5)
AP/60: 0 (2)
LP/60:  0.08 (2)

Now I am going to add up all the ranks and the lowest total rankings should be the best all around centerman, Right?

Horcoff: 15 
Gagner: 18  
Pouliot: 19
Brodziak: 23
Cogliano: 24

What?  How can this be . . .  How could Cogliano score so poorly on the all around rankings, when I saw him so good.  Maybe because all these categories are not equal?  So I will give each one a weighting and re-calculate them.  To make this easier on me: if a player scores a number one ranking they get a 5 and down to a number five ranking with a 1.  Also  GFON/60 and GAON/60 will have a weighting of 4; Faceoff % and Pts will have a weighting of 3; QualComp a weighting of 2; and AP/60 and LP/60 a weighting of 1.  Of course, in this case the centerman with the highest score will be the most well rounded center.

Horcoff: 70
Gagner: 62
Pouliot: 56
Brodziak: 45
Cogliano: 43

What the fuck!  All that math and I get the same rankings.  I don't know what this says about the Oilers centermen (or me, for that matter).  It does show that Pouliot is higher in the depth chart then I would have thought.  But it also shows that Cogs is lower.  Maybe I'll go back to "I saw him good".  

What do you think fellow Diaspora?