D is for decision - D is also for Dithers

Well, here it is everybody; Decision day 2010. Today is when we the faithful followers of the Oiler cult get to see what our future begins to look like. It is the monday after the draft and the sweet smell of hope has already been soured by the turgid stank of reality. At 5PM EST tonight, the team must make a decision about qualifying offers to a host of RFA players, while the countdown to deal with the dead weight hanging around Tambo's neck is reaching a critical point. As I write this, it is barely more than 2 hours away from qualification time and not a thing has come from Oiler land. Daryl Sutter has made a decision today by placing Ales (3 million Dollar Man) Kotalik on waivers. Jim Vandermeer, a steady, veteran D-Man is also on waivers. The $2.3 Million cap hit is an overpay for him, but he's worth looking into if he comes back on re-entry and is certainly better than Jason (future coach of the Edmonton Oilers) Strudwick, particularly with just a year left on his deal. Hell, even last year's ditherer, Dale Tallon, has been active in cutting some more Panther related bad contracts. As usual though, all is quiet on the western front. Mr. Dithers appears to be dithering again. Are we surprised? Maybe...On the other hand, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Tambo 3.0 has done some very surprising and impressive things in the last few months on the job, most notably acquiring a legitimate 4C option for the Oilers and their wretched PK, axed the onion toting coach in favour of a man whose two best attributes are teaching kids systems play and making sulky Czech wingers perform to the best of their abilities, and drafted Taylor Hall, which may or may not turn out to be the wise choice long term but sure looks good right now. Oh, and that whole killing of the training staff and culling the minor league caching team from the team was at least a signal that perhaps he actually has the ability to make a decision. Yet still nothing.

The list of players that need QOs is long and feature the former future faces of the franchise, Sam(wise) Gagner, and Andrew (tradebait) Cogliano, not to mention former first round picks Marc Pouliot and Gilbert Brule, Mr. versatility Ryan Potulny, Theo (Wreck 'em) Peckham and some other players that this team may or may not need down the road, like their two young goalies. These are not players that we want to let walk away for nothing, particularly Gagner and Cogliano, though if somebody threw an offer sheet in his direction, I would definitely take the 1st and 3rd it would give the team back in return. By the way, still nothing...

Suddenly I get the feeling that Tambo 2.0 is back, or perhaps he never really left. The dithering seems to be on pace for the usual lack of action. The talk all off-season has been about getting tougher, about change, renewal and optimism, yet the indecision on such an important day leads me to believe that the more things change, the more they actually stay the same. The desire for strength, toughness and character has to come from the top as well as from within as a fluid, organic process. Leadership is a funny thing, particularly when the supposed leaders are characterized by their inability to make the tough choices. Why is Ethan Moreau still around? Why hasn't one or two of the dead weight contracts been placed on waivers or simply bought out? Why is it that with less than two hours from a deadline that cost Dale Tallon his job in Chicago last year over a major RFA snafu, it looks like the Oilers are headed towards a similar fate?

D is for decision, it is also for Dithers...it is also for Dumb...

UPDATE: Qualifying offers came in, about 20 minutes before the deadline. Currently the Oilers have 38 contracts signed or waiting to be signed by RFA players. Another curious move is the decision to merely qualify Gagner, opening him up to the possibility of an offer sheet come July 1st.

Go Oilers


Well the draft is coming to an End . . .

I accidentally double booked myself tonight, so I don't get to watch the draft. I am not really upset or anything, the Taylor or Tyler debate is pissing me off. Does every conversation have to be about this, with a generous sprinkling of trade rumors. I am off to eat dinner with my friends, and I am sure by the time I get back there will be blogs of analysis and interesting comments. It will be like I was a kid, and had to wait for the Edmonton Journal to be delivered to my parents acreage the next morning. Here are some predictions and ideas:

  1. The Oilers keep the first overall pick.
  2. IF the Oilers trade up to the top 15 picks and take Dylan McIrath or Brett Connolly, it is the beginning of the end. Kinda of like sleeping with your mother, and the Oilers have been incestuous with Niinimaki and Pouliot in the last decade. They should be looking for picks such as Gromley or Gudbranson if they get on of those early picks that TSN says could be traded. Or Camplell, Neiderreiter, or Granlund if they fall out of the top ten, and the Oilers get the number 15 overall pick.
  3. I would consider trading Penner(if we choose Hall) / Gagner (if we pick Segiun), Cogliano, Nash, Lander, plus any number of pieces of crap for real NHL players or first round draft picks. Those top ten picks that could be had will cost real talent to aquire, and I would love a real top pairing NHL defensemen coming to Edmonton. I would not trade Hemsky unless the deal was unreal, and one sided to the Oilers.
  4. The Oilers need to keep the 31st overall pick. This will be a first rounder that falls out of top thirty who will get a smaller entry-level deal. This hopefully will be a good pick that needs to help the Oilers in the next 4 to 5 years.
  5. I am still hoping the Oilers' move up from 48th instead of moving up in the first round. it will cost less, and there should be a few good players in the beginning of the second round. I am thinking another 4th should get this done, but I might trade a 3rd if Nemeth is still there. I doubt this will get done tonight, but maybe
. . . by the time I check this again, it will be all over and the excitement of the remaining draft choices will have started. This is exciting.

Thank you KLowe and Tambo for not fucking that up.
Please keep up the good work tomorrow.

The Prophet Speaks!

This is our friend Oedipus Rex talking to the Sphinx and answering his riddle. The more I think about being flippant the other day, the more I think I was right. The NHL draft is similar to Oedipus and the Sphinx, if the soon-to-be-patricidic Tambo chooses right then he gets the throne of the Kingdom of Thebes (the franchise player) and if he doesn't get it answer he gets eaten (see Alexander Daigle and Tambo gets fired). The problem is if you get the Kingdom, you end up sleeping with your mother, killing your father, and eventually blinding yourself before they stop writing plays about you. In this analogy, I still don't know what all these steps but I think it will end with Tambo being fired.
So, Oedipus spoke of the oracle that claimed he was going to do bad, bad things:
"The god dismissed my question without reply; he spoke of other things. Some were clear, full of wretchedness, dreadful, unbearable: As, that I should lie with my own mother, breed children from whom all men would turn their eyes; and that I should be my fathers murderer. I heard all of this and fled. And from that day Corinth to me was only in the stars descending in that quarter of the sky, as I 

wandered farther and farther on my way to a land where I should never see the evil sung by the oracle…" (Oedipus Rex, 41)
Earlier this spring, I asked some questions into the blogosphere of hockey and, finally, the prophet Bob MacKenzie has spoken to answer my questions. But he spoke of other things, not my direct questions about the Oilers and drafting Defensemen. Here are his choices with the Oilers picks, and of course it all can be found here:

1-TAYLOR HALL (Winger)


48- JORDAN WEAL (Centre: 5'9" and 162 lbs.!)

61- MAX GARDINER (Left Wing)

73 (?)- MATT MACKENZIE (Defense)

Interlocutor: You dumb wanker, the Oilers don't have the 73 over'll pick. That is the Flames choice! Why aren't you watching the matches of the World Cup, who cares about the NHL draft and talking about Aussie kissing your ma?
Well, Calgary does own the 73th pick in this years draft, but it is one of the possible draft picks in the Staois deal; Either we get the 73th overall pick this year or what ever they get in the third round next year. While this year the 73th overall is the first Calgary pick, they have their first round pick next year but not their second rounder. If Sutter trades for a first or second round pick, on the draft floor, he could let the Oilers take this pick to save next years for trades (to make the playoffs) or to rebuild (if they tank) in the 2011 season. The Oiler scouts need to have a good read on this area of the draft just in case we get that pick, and Tambo needs to working the phones to see what that is worth (Bergeron went for a 3rd round pick in 2008).
Interlocutor: Piss off, you missed Portugal beat seven shades of shit out of your beloved 'Degenerated workers state'. That is what the Oilers need: more offensive forwards that flop around to get penalty calls. None of this tactical defensemen you keep talking of, stop it you bloodly idiot.
Well, I have my fetish for big defensemen . . . but we need logic in dealing with this. I am completely in disagreement with trading up into the first round of this draft: that includes Dylan McIlrath. If dealing down to Boston gets us another 1st rounder, I do it and take the BPA regardless of position. But I think the first of the two 2nd rounds will (if we still hold it) and should (if I was in charge) go to a defensemen or goalie. The sage says Pickard should be there, but I like Nemeth: 30 games in Swedish junior with 0.526Pts/G, 20 total Pts, and 120 PiM, plus international & second division club games. Mr. Alexander Petrovic is ranked 36th by the sage, and the Oilers should have had a good look since he is just down highway two.
Interlocutor: All your mates think supporting the Oilers choosing goalies is like bending the elbow of a mate who's axe is gagging for it back home. That is just wrong. What else did your 'oracle' tell you about Defensemen: I read that stupid play you gave me, and the bloody magician tells me the oiler are bugger.
In the bible of best players available, MacKenzie has an interesting cluster of players: 41. Stephen Johns, 42. Patrik Nemeth, and 43. Kabanov. A tall USA defender, whom I am sure got a bunch of looks my most scouts considering the other USA defenders in the draft; a giant mean Swede (please, pick him Mr. Dithers and I'll defend you religiously for a couple years); a strange super talented Russian, who could be worth a risk. All interesting players for a rebuilding team. What would it cost to move up from 48th to 39th-41st overall? Another 3round pick, maybe a fourth? Could we trade the conditional 3rd rounder from Calgary or do we keep it for next year? I would attempt to move up from Nashville's and target a player, because it is cheaper in the second round to move up and I want the Oilers to stock pile as many picks in the top 90 as possible see rebuilding teams in draft years.
Interlocutor: You gas about nothing. On moment it is 'trade up from 48-overall and target a specific fella'; the next breath it is 'get as many top two round picks as possible and choose best player available'. Just tell me your bloody plan, if your where the gaffer.
1- Attempt to trade down or pass on Hall to Boston. Aim for another 1st round pick or a high end prospect like Joe Colborne, and maybe take a little salary back in return.
2- If I get this years' 15th then pick best player available regardless of position, but if it is either TO's or Boston's first rounder next year I hold on to it.
3- Use the 31st overall to pick the best defensemen or goaltender that fell out of the first round. Dependent on which player, not the position, we like better overall.
4- Attempt to trade up the high 30's or low 40's overall picks: while at Wild at 39th, the Rangers at 40th, and Ducks at 42th are all recent trading partners, I would part with more then a 3rd rounder to move up 10 spots, would try to get it done for a 4th.
5- If Martin Marincin is anywhere past 31th (and Nemth is not), taking him while is is still there. I don't care if the prophet thinks he go 71st and I might not have a early third round pick.
6- Attempt to trade roster players for more picks: I don't think we are willing to give up the quality or youth to get another 1st rounder so I would focus on the second and third rounds. Would Brule, Poo, or JDD get you one of these? Would Nilsson get you a fourth? Moreau a sixth?
7- See what veterans are out there for a fourth or fifth pick, and hope they are centres or defensemen.
Interloctur: So which is those is bugger your ma and stabbing you pa'?

"No. From now on, where oracles are concerned, I would not waste a second thought on any." (Oedipus Rex, 43)

Drafting during the Rebuild

This is Max Ernst's Oedipus Rex. He is one of my favorite artist, of all time, and I have been attempting to figure out how to incorporate his art into my hockey blog. I just am not feeling witty or clever today, so there is no connection, I just added it cause it looks cool. We can only hope the Oilers don't act like the subject of this painting: I don't quite know what the hockey equivalent to killing your father, fucking your mom, and then blinding yourself is. But I do not want the Oilers to attempt this at the draft.
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Yesterday, I made a flippant comment, at one of my favorite Oilers' blog, about not wanting the Oilers to draft a goalie early in the draft. My logic: that seems like a way to continue the rebuild for many more years, and this is unacceptable to be ('cause I can't take watching this team to continue to loss). This morning, I slowly have come to the realization that this is not the end of the rebuild but where are the Oilers in the process?
To judge this, I think we need to look at the draft practices of both the Oilers and the teams that have had successful rebuilds in the last few years. I have looked at the drafting practices of the Penguins, the Blackhawks, and the Capitals during there rebuild in relation to player position to help judge this.
Methodology: * means 'Player of Quality', or a player that has played a significant role in the teams fortunes over the last couple years. This is not a mathematical cut off, like LT's 200 game marker, and it does not distinguish between the Crosby's, Talbot's, and Whitney's of the world (each of these players helped the team achieve their success or are a quality player on another team). Also, I included the concept of a Centre in the numbers because of the arguments between Hall/Seguin often come down to this.

Pittsburgh Penguins 2002-2006

2002- 1st (D*), 2nd (D), 3rd (C), 4th (D), 5th (LW, C, G), 6th (G), 7th (F), 8th (C*, D), 9 (G)

2003- 1st (G*), 2nd (C), 3rd (RW, LW*), 4th (D), 5th (LW), 6th (D), 7th (G, C), 8th (C), 9th (LW)

2004- 1st (F*), 2nd (F, D), 3rd (RW, C), 4th (C), 5th (D), 6th (RW), 7th (D, C), 8th (G), 9th (C)

2005- 1st (C*), 2nd (F), 3rd (D*), 4th (D), 5th (RW), 6th (D), 7th (C)

2006- 1st (C*), 2nd (D), 3rd (D), 5th (G), 7th (D)

'Players of Quality': Staal, Crosby, Letang, Malkin, Fleury, Carcillo, Whitney, Talbot

Notes: They managed to pick a player of quality in each of their 1st rounds, and between 2002-2004 they had at least one pick in each round and then continued to stock pile other picks. Other then their 1st round picks they added another three ‘Players of Quality’ outside the marquee round. Out of their 45 picks during the rebuild: 32% were Defensemen, 53% were Forwards, 28% were Centremen, and 15% were goaltenders. In total 17% of all picks became ‘Players of Quality’ and they averaged 9 picks per draft during their rebuild.

ChicagoBlackhawks 2002-2007

2002- 1st (D), 2nd (D*), 3rd (LW), 4th (RW), 5th (D), 6th (D), 7th (G), 8th (RW), 9th (RW*)

2003- 1st (D*), 2nd (G, D), 5th (D, C), 6th (C), 7th (G), 8th (D/F*), 9th (D, C)

2004- 1st (D*), 2nd (F*, LW, C, C), 3rd (LW), 4th (D, LW) 5th (RW, C), 6th (LW), 7th (F, RW, C), 8th (C, RW), 9th (RW)

2005- 1st (RW), 2nd (RW, RW), 3rd (F), 4th (D, F, RW), 5th (D), 6th (G, D), 7th (RW, C)

2006- 1st (F*), 2nd (RW, D), 3rd (C), 4th (D, G), 6th (C, C),7th (C)

2007- 1st (C*), 3rd (D), 5th (D), 6th (D, RW, D), 7th (D)

'Players of Quality': Kane, Toews, Bolland, Barker, Seabrook, Byfuglien, Keith, Burish

Notes: Between 2002 and 2004, The BlackHawks accumulated a large number of picks (averaged out more then one each round) and in each year they pick at least two ‘Players of Quality’. In four of their six, 1st round picks they choose ‘Players of Quality’, and added another 4 ‘Players of Quality’ outside the first round. Out of their 64 picks 33% were Defensemen, 61% were Forwards, 20% were Centres, and 6% were goalies. In total roughly 13% of their picks ended up as ‘Players of Quality’, and they averaged roughly 11 picks per year during their rebuild.

Washington Captials 2002- 2006

2002- 1st (D, LW*, RW*), 2nd (G), 3rd (D, C), 4th (LW, C), 5th (G), 6th (F), 7th (F), 8th (F), 9th (F)

2003- 1st (RW*), 3rd (RW), 4th (LW), 5th (C), 8th (C), 9th (RW)

2004- 1st (LW*, D, D*), 2nd (C, F), 3rd (D, D), 5th (D, F), 6th (F), 7th (RW), 8th (G), 9th (C)

2005- 1st (D, D), 4th (D, D), 5th (G), 6th (LW), 7th (D)

2006- 1st (C*, G*), 2nd (G, RW, D), 4th (LW, F), 5th (LW), 6th (C, C)

Total 49(13 D, 30 F, 9C, 6G)

'Players of Quality': Backstrom, Varlamov, Ovechkin, Green, Fehr, Semin, Gordon

Notes: In four of their five rebuilding years, the Caps added a ‘Player of Quality’ in the first round of the draft (and amazingly they added multiple ones in three of the five): but they did not draft one ‘Player of Quality’ outside the first round in their entire rebuild. During this period they had a total of 49 picks: 27% were Defensemen, 61% were forwards, 18% were Centres, and 12% where goaltenders. In total about 14% of these picks were ‘Players of Quality’ and they averaged close to 10 picks per year of the rebuild.

Edmonton Oilers 2007 - Present

2007- 1st (F*, D, C), 4th (F), 5th (C), 6th (F)

2008- 1st (C), 4th (D), 5th (LW), 6th (C), 7th (D)

2009- 1st (LW), 2nd (C), 3rd (D, RW), 4th (D, RW), 5th (G)

2010- 1st (?), 2nd (?, ?), 3rd (?), 4th (?), 5th (?), 6th (?, ?, ?), 7th (?)

Notes: It is quite difficult to assess if most, or if any, of the Oilers’ picks will become ‘Players of Quality’. The only one we know of is Sam Gagner, and there is a bunch of potential in there (Eberle and MPS need to become this type of player for the Oilers). Of their 18 players draft so far; 28% have been defensemen, 67% have been forwards, 28% have been a pure centre, and 6% have been a goalie. Interestingly the Oilers have only averaged 6 picks per year during this part of the rebuild.

Percentage of the Number of Players taken by Position

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  1. In the beginning of each of the three examples of a team in a successful rebuild, have stock piled picks in their first couple of years, and they drafted a lot of players with these. The Oilers did not do this: the lack of 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2007 and 2008 is a shocking difference between the Oilers and the other three teams drafting strategies. It is near the end of the draft that teams stop going with the shotgun approach and focus their sniper rifle on specific players: I guess once you got a full stable of prospects it is easier to trade up at the draft. The Oilers have seem to do this in reverse order, to fill out the key race horses first (but they might not have done this) and then add a bunch of fillies and colts and hoping one is a surprise thoroughbred.
  2. Goalies. Both Pittsburgh and Washington drafted their goalies of the future in the frist round (Fleury and Varlamov), while Chicago did not draft a goalie of quality during the rebuild. Reflecting this is that Chicago used about 50% less draft picks on goalies then the other two teams. Edmonton is tracking closely to the Chicago model, so don't expect us to draft the goalie that will be our future starter this year either (unless we get him in the late round of one of these drafts).
  3. While people tend to point to Duncan Keith as an example of a not first round pick that is instrumental to the rebuild process, most 'players of quality' were drafted in the first round. Of the 23 'players of quality' identified, 16 of them were drafted in the first round and only 7 in the later rounds. Chicago had an even split of 4 in the first round and 4 in the later rounds; Pittsburgh had 5 in the first round and 3 in the other rounds; while Washington pick all 7 of their 'players of quality' in the first round and none in the later rounds. While the Oilers are going to need to pick up a couple 'players of quality' in the later rounds, it puts even more pressure on the need for our first round picks to develop (especially Plante or Nash).

A Long Look Back

While the rest of the Oil Diaspora was watching the NHL playoffs, I was traveling through Alberta and Saskatchewan with my friends and comrades. A total of 2812 km in six days, with stops in such illustrious urban centres such as: Regina, Craik, Wayne, North Battleford, Cochrane, and Mortlach. I guess I have missed a good show in the finals. But I did get to see the official founder of Bring Back the Glory (sachia) and our lovely & talented graphic designer (zhro: pictured with me to the left).

But after the Canadians fell out of the playoffs, I really didn't care about watching anymore games. I was actually convinced that my late Uncle was willing Halak to play that well (since he was the ultimate Habs/Dryden fan). As a good secularist, I finally came to my senses as Halak came back to earth against the Flyers.

It has been a long season for this lone Oilers fan: watching the Oilers lose over and over, while living in the East. We didn't even do better then the Leafs which made it even harder.

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During my time in Oil Country, there was a lot of hockey talk, not about the playoffs but the next season of our mighty oil. It was about if there should be a mighty oil next year, or if the goal should be to shit the bed again. Most everyone I talked to thought the Oilers should tank again next year on purpose and 'do this rebuild right'. I disagree, and here are my reasons:
  1. I can't take watching this team continue to suck! Seriously, all you in E-ville have a support structure with your friends to cheer for another lottery pick, while the rest of the diaspora have to put up with the mocking that comes with loving the worst team in the league. Our co-workers and friends have 82 time a year to mock us (well maybe 60 times since the Oilers will win a few games).
  2. I had to live through the early nineties, with my little brother cheering for Mario and the Penguins, and I can not take another year out of the playoffs. I do not want to watch the Oilers finish last or finish 9th in the West. We can not continue this lack of the playoffs any longer, it is embarrassing! Finishing last would be even more embarrassing to me at least. Now on to some hockey reasons:
  3. We need to get some of the young'ens some playoff experience! Gagner, Smid, Cogliano (if he is here next year), Gilbert, and Brule have never played an NHL playoff game. While I agree that this core is still a couple years away from completing in the playoffs, it would be a good idea to allow these players a taste of what is expected of them in advance.
  4. Making the playoffs would be beneficial to convince players to sign or re-sign here. Over and over, the mantra has been that good players (and possibly elite players) will only sign here if we are winning. I think that means more then one year in a row. So making the playoffs after being the worst team in the league seems like a good place to start. Plus players such as Penner and Hemsky will be more likely to resign if they do not think the team is an absolute cluster fuck. Making the Playoffs while rebuilding (and developing the players we already have) makes us more likely to resign and sign veterans when the core comes into its own.
  5. The new guys (aka MPS, Eberle, and the 1st overall pick). While I do not think these players should be on the Oilers next year (but in the AHL or OHL, plus a cup of coffee in the show), I have a feeling that all of them will see significant time with the big club. I do not think bring these players up in a losing atmosphere is good idea. What ever team these young'ens are on should have a chase of making the playoffs (if that is the AHL team or the NHL team). Not playing on a crappy team is beneficial to there development, and those that argue differently are false prophets!
Well this is all I got this time of the year. As I have been away from the computer (and hence my source for all that is the Oilers) and that I am suppose to be writing my thesis. I'll try and contribute a few philosophy pieces over the summer, but I am waiting for next season to get my engine started again. Now off to looking for the future.