A couple days, on my birthday, I sat down to watch Game 1 of the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals: the Bruins and the Mighty Oil. I have referred to this series as the Badiouian Event that allows us to be Oilers Fans. This is not because I remember this Cup Victory better then any other one, but because it allowed us to believe in a truth that we could be champions without Gretzky. I believe it is the sole defining moment of any Oilers fan: it dictated who we were during the 1980’s and who we could become in the nineties and into the twenty-first century.
Well it was a rather long game, and a damn good way to spend the afternoon of my birthday. It got me thinking about the Oilers’ up coming season, and a wonder which of these teams could the Oilers eventually look like (I know it is crazy, but I have a dream about making the playoffs and doing well in them). The 1989-90 Oilers were a dynasty playing out its swan song: in a few years the great Boys on the Bus team would be completely dismantled and ship out for a bunch of baubles and a couple nice pieces. It is a little crazy to compare the holy trinity of the 21st century Oilers (Hall, Jordan Eberle, and the Pääjärvi ghost) and company to possibly the greatest hockey team ever, so it would be fool hearted to compare the new kids to that great team at its end. That only leaves the 1989-90’s Bruins to look to.
The Bruins team was quite young compared to the Oilers, but not overly young in relation to history. Obviously Craig Janney (21) and Randy Burridge (23) were the babies of the group, but not really part of their proper cluster. This core group of forwards included Cam Neely (24), Bob Sweeny (25), Lyndon Byers (25), Bobby Carpenter (26) & John Carter (26). These men where just entering their prime, and included some damn fine players outside Neely redefining the ‘power forward’ style of the late 20th century and early 21st century. The pivots Carpenter and Sweeny both had over 20 goals and 20 assists in the regular season (while Sweeny had a underwhelming post-season, Carpenter played a tough nosed second season and ended up with another 10 pts and 39 PiMs). Carter was another very good 2-way winger with a bit of a mean streak, and he had a decent playoffs as well. This core was supplemented with veterans (if Tambo is reading, please slow down and look up the definition of veteran now please) and did this ever turn out well. Brian Propp (30) did a fantastic job bringing production and stability to the first line, while another three veterans Dave Christian 30, Dave Poulin 30, and Bob Gould 31 rounded out the defensive players. There was a reason Crazy Mike gave Poulin, not Sweeny, the task of defending The Moose and I think experience might have played a big part.
Even with an all-star goalie like Andy Moog back stopping the Oilers forward core, they are a few years away from looking like a Stanley Cup Challenger. The trinity is far too young at 18, 20, and 19 years old. Hell they would be the youngest players on this incarnation of the Bruins that we are talking about. But if you add Lander or Vande Velde and Ganger to that group and you have the beginnings of a respectable core of forwards. Now we just have to age them and find the veteran pieces to put around them. This cannot happen soon enough! Keeping Pääjärvi in the minors will keep him for going to UFA another year early. Having a couple veterans would make Eberle and Omark to fight their way on the line up, and having them marinate themselves at the AHL level for at least a season. Plus it would allow Hall at little bit easier ice time, if there were an old man to throw to the Lions while Taylor is finding his feet.
The 1989-90’s Bruin had a young cluster of defensemen: Glen Wesley (20), Greg Hawgood (21), Bob Beers (22), Allen Pedersen (24), and Don Sweeney (23). This fresh meat was mix up with the old veterans of Garry Galley (26), Jim Wiemer (28), and Ray Bourque (28). Wesley was playing a great game at such a young age, but his defense partner was Ray Bourque! That is all I have to say for a comparison: just Ray Bourque. I doubt there is any way you could compare this bear of a line up to the future Edmonton Oiler (until the Oilers find there stud defensemen there may be trouble in Kansas).
There was a couple other thoughts about the Oilers that occurred to me while watching this game: a) what is going on with the Oilers European scouting, b) Esa Tikkanen is missed and never been replaced, c) I had almost forgot that Klima played for this Oiler team until he scored a fantastic overtime goal with a 45 foot stick, and d) cap space, oh cap space. Since most of you have come to some kind of peace regarding b & c, I am going to talk about the other two ideas.
In recent days, we have learned who is replacing the old European scouting staff: Pelle Eklund and Matti Virmanen. My questions is really who is in charge over there? Who do they report to? I would assume that the amateur scouts report to Stu MacGregor and the professional scouts report to an assistant GM. Virmanen is both a professional and amateur scout, while the Oilers have not replaced Prendergast’s Assistant GM position. I don’t understand why the Oilers don’t have a ‘Director of European Scouting’ position like Hakan Andersson does in Detroit (man Andersson also has 3.5 scouts under his direction in Europe). I know it is kind of cutting it close to complete restructure the European scouting system now, but the Oilers had a golden opportunity to do so this summer. I wouldn’t have a problem with Eklund and Virmanen (and I think the second is a particularly good choice) as a stopgap this year, if the Oilers had a long-term strategy in place for the next few years. Why not use MacT last year under contract for him to head up a search committee to locate a Director of European Scouting, and have him do some professional scouting for the Brass?
Speaking of long-term European projects I have one for the Oilers: get more involved in European hockey. Instead of spending money searching for future stars in Europe, why not try to make some money in Europe? I for one would be looking to buy a team in Finland or Sweden, not Jokerit or Frölunda, but one of the smaller teams. You would get the big league team plus their respective junior team, which would provide more opportunity to look at and examine draft eligible players with more eyes. If the Oilers really desired, they could also bring in the European players they drafted to their European team (at a cost of course: I am assuming they could do it with transfer fees, not player trades).
The best part would be the Oilers unique ability to start up more international club team competition. They could hold a junior tournament with the Oil Kings, the junior European team, plus invites before the season starts in September. I am sure one of the OHL teams would like to come, then toss in a junior team from Russia and a high school team from Minnesota. A four or six team tournament in Edmonton would do great on ratings, sell out seats, and build the European franchise brand in Canada (all before NHL training camp opened). Plus there is the abyss of the NHL All Star break: who would not rather watch an international club team tournament instead of the two-day freak show of uncaring & uninspired NHLers. Switch the venue between Edmonton and its European franchise, to help build the brands across the pond fro each other. Think of it as the Edmonton version of the Davos Cup, but we call it the Gretzky Cup and hand out cash prizes to the team and players that win. Start it out small, with a six team tourney and invite another NHL team, plus at least one from each of Finland, Sweden, and Russia (add the two Oiler teams and you have six).
The Oilers would own five hockey teams (the Mighty Oil, the Barons of the AHL, the Oil Kings, the European franchise, and its junior team). I think this would make the Oilers a bigger player within the NHL (since they have more fingers in the hockey pie of the world). It would cost a lot of money (the purchase price of the team, the cash prizes of the international tournaments, and the transfer fees of a couple players to make the Euro team respectable), but it could pay off in the long run: especially if the Oilers could start up meaningful inter-league play because of it.
With Souray and his 5.4 Million dollar cap hit still on the books the Oilers have over 11 million dollars of cap space (and only Gagner and Cogliano still to sign). Barring any long-term contract for Gagner (which I would suggest, in the neighbourhood of an eight year contract at around 4 million a season), the Oilers should have about 8 million dollars in cap space. The other interesting thing is Chicago (> 4 Million), Boston (>3 Million), Vancouver (>2.5 Million), and Calgary (>2 Million) are all over the cap. Plus NYR will be once they sign Marc Staal. Then there is Atlanta and Colorado clearly beneath the floor, and the Islanders hovering just above the floor.
Why do I bring this up? Cause this means that teams are either going to be trading players or waiving some very good players before the training camp beginnings. The Oiler would have first chance at any player place on waivers since we finished last next season. Is this why Tambo is refusing to sigh veteran forwards, since he is sure someone he likes is going to be available for free within the next two months? Well I hope that is a plan, since I am beginning to believe Benjamin Massey and think he doesn’t have one.
Rangers are looking to move Rozsival and his 5 million a season over the next two years and Redden’s 6.5Million over the next four years. Calgary is looking at Kotalik’s two year 3million dollar contract and maybe one of their UFA dmen as solutions to their cap troubles. I can’t help to think that Chicago would like to move Hossa’s or Campbell’s contracts as well. Van and B-town don’t have the crippling contracts that the others have and most likely will make hockey trades.
No one wants a bloated over priced contract, so those will be the first ones that the big spenders will attempt to get rid of. Tambo should be going fishing these days, but make sure it is not just an old boot he is reeling in but also one that is full of pearls. I am thinking of the Alexander Mogilny trade circa 06-07; what would be the price of a first round pick? Moglinys 3.5 Million dollar one year contract cost a first round pick so what would a Redden’s contract be worth?
I don’t know if I am crazy but I would be trying to get Marc Staal form the Rangers . . . what you say that is impossible. I am sure Slats would at least listen if the deal was something like Marc Staal and Wade Redden for Cogliano, Whitney/Gilbert, and second round pick. That is Reddon’s 6.5 Million a season plus Staal’s 4 million a season for 1.5 million Cogliano's contract and 4 million for one of the two defense men (or at least 5 million a season in cap relief). The Oilers would have the Redden Problem, and he would mostly have to play next year before being bought out, but it fixes the problems of not having a stud defenseman for the future.