Last year I wrote a piece here on the beginning of the Oilers rebuild and how I thought management should act for the upcoming season. This year, I would like to revisit where the team is at and once again offer how I feel they should act in the coming year. It’s an Armchair GM article. This year I removed the salaries because let’s face it – they don’t matter nearly as much with the current team.
To quickly revisit last year’s article, my team would have looked like the following on opening night with additions to the team in italics:
· GOAL: Khabibulin; Deslauriers
· BLUE: Gilbert; Whitney; Shut-down guy (FA); Smid ; Chorney; Peckham; Aaron Johnson
· CENTER: Gagner; O'Sullivan; Horcoff; Pouliot; Potulny
· LEFT WING: Penner; Hall; Cogliano; Ryan Jones
· RIGHT WING: Hemsky; Brule; Colby Armstrong (FA); Eberle; Stortini
For comparison, here is the roster the Oilers started the season with:
· GOAL: Khabibulin; Deslauriers; Dubnyk
· BLUE: Gilbert; Whitney; Vandermeer; Smid; Peckham; Foster; Strudwick
· CENTER: Gagner; Horcoff; Cogliano; Brule; Fraser
· LEFT WING: Penner; Hall; Pajaarvi; MacIntyre
· RIGHT WING: Hemsky; Eberle; Jones; Stortini
I must admit that these two are not that far off. They signed Fraser instead of my suggestion in Armstrong. They flushed O’Sullivan, Pouliot and Potulny and added Pajaarvi, then brought in Vandermeer and Foster where I had a FA shut-down defenseman and elected to bring back Aaron Johnson. Overall, just some minor tweaks in both options.
Going into the 2010 -2011 season, I honestly thought this team would perform a lot better than they did. I wasn’t expecting a playoff team yet, but especially after that opening night win against Calgary, how could you not be optimistic? Sure the excitement and compete was much better than the 09-10 season, but the results were just as bad. They only had 25 wins and needed over 40 to get into the dance. That is a lot of improvement to ask for in one year, so I will be trying my best to temper my optimism and keep it in mind this year.
Having said that, I am still fairly optimistic about how the rebuild is going to date. We may be two or three years away, but I personally believe with the right additions, we could see a competitive team (e.g., in the 7-11 Western Conference range) as soon as the 2012-2013 season or if we are really lucky maybe this coming year.
The need to inject some veteran leadership should not go underestimated. Don Cherry mentioned this specifically referencing the Oiler’s on Hockey Night in Canada and I agree with him. The Oiler’s need to be careful they don’t allow a culture of losing to develop and therefore they must get in a competitive position as soon as possible.
Same as last year, I will start with the draft and then list the to-do items that may impact the opening night roster as the following:
- Draft Ryan Nyugent-Hopkins 1st overall. Skill, skill and more skill. Plus, the guy has played in Red Deer for 3 years and publicly stated he wants to play for the Oilers – you’ve got to love that! Sure he is only 165 lbs soaking wet, but there are many elite players who are small and getting stronger is a lot easier than adding speed or that uncanny sixth hockey sense.
- Explore the trade front for a potential big win-win deal. The focus of these big trades that need to be worked out before free agency should be on improving the top end talent of the team. In my opinion particular focus for the Oiler’s top end talent must be on defence. Guys like Bogosian and Weber keep coming up in blogs. Although this is unlikely, we have to explore these options to accelerate the team’s improvement. Sure we may see one of our prospects emerge but we may not and the risk of having another weak defence is too great to not address it. Also, this will not be fixed by adding depth defenders like Foster. We need a top sheriff back there to help out Whitney, because after him the talent drops way too fast.
- As Free agency opens, focus on a few key players and if unable to sign them, don’t settle. There are a few key needs for this team right now that are quite obvious. A top defender and a defensive center who can win face-offs. I know these positions can be hard to find, but the Oiler’s have cap room to spare, so they should not shy away from a lot of money over a short term to address these needs. I believe that once the Oiler’s get out of this rut of being near the bottom and actually competing for playoffs, they will have reached a tipping point and all of a sudden Edmonton will be a much more attractive team to play for. Players around the league will see the upside of the youth they have in Hall, Eberle, Pajaarvi and RNH. We should not rely on the excuse that the team can develop every need from within. Although filling these gaps are critical, I wouldn’t settle. You have to identify where the capability drops off in the free agent market and then decide to go with prospects rather than settling. I would look to sign up to four depth players, as per the following:
- A top end defender. This will be tough no doubt, but every possibility should be assessed to bring this guy in. If you can’t trade for him as per point number 2 above, then look to sign him here. I would keep this list short and I doubt any are available that really fit. I like Wisniewski and Bieksa, but I am not sure they have the potential to become a top defender.
- A potential high calibre goalie, while he’s still cheap. I originally was not on the Fasth train until recently reading this article with a quote from Pajaarvi of how good he is. That sold me. Sign Fasth and dump Khabibulin. Even if just for the fact that I won’t have to listen to the Sportsnet broadcasters call him the Oiler’s MVP anymore, it will be worthwhile.
- A bottom six Centre. Does Brooks Laich or Vernon Fiddler fit?
- A bottom six Winger. Does Scottie Upshall fit?
- Where unable to sign the targeted depth UFAs, look into making a positional trade. For example, move a player in a position of strength (skill forward) for a player in a position of weakness (bottom six forward). I believe trading for depth players can be worked out over a much shorter time scale then the top end players (point 2) and therefore may be completed if unsuccessful through free agency.
- If unable to sign or trade for the team’s key needs, then stand pat and provide opportunity for prospects to fill those voids. Hopefully, two or three of Hartkainen, Lander, Pitlick, Hamilton, Marincin, Tuebert, Plante and others can eventually fill out the bottom six and defence. However, this is not preferred over the short term. Bring in a couple of short-term contracts to make the team competitive now while waiting for some prospects to eventually deserve roster spots. If possible, let our prospects prove themselves as much as possible in Oklahoma City first.
My ideal team to start next year would be as listed below. However, this is obviously dependant on some key trades and signings to occur and as such the final roster may only have two or three changes and not all four that I have suggested.
· GOAL: Fasth; Dubnyk
· BLUE: Whitney; (1 or 1A Defenseman); Gilbert; Smid; Peckham; Petry; Foster
· CENTER: Gagner; Horcoff; RNH; (Laich or Fiddler); Brule
· LEFT WING: Hall; Pajaarvi; (Upshall); Cogliano; Jacques
· RIGHT WING: Hemsky; Eberle; O’Mark; Jones; Hartkainen
Here’s to another exciting off-season with a second first overall draft pick. I just pray that RNH and Hall can become those elite players we need and expect of them.
Dobber put out his top 300 keeper league players yesterday. As usual, its a solid list. We all have opinions and here are some of mine ...
- Ovechkin and Crosby are are no brainers. I'm not sure, however, that Malkin (3) is clear of Stamkos (4) anymore.
- Lecavalier (18) is too far removed from being a dominant player. I wouldn't rank him as high as he is.
- I think Iggy (29) is too high for a keeper league ranking. He's not the 50 goal scorer he was 5 years ago.
- Gaborik's (38) fall isn't surprising to me. He has injury risk and that has to be factored into his ranking.
- Is this the last time Kessel (35) is higher than Seguin(46)? I wouldnt give it long.
- I realize that Taylor Hall (44) isn't proven yet but given the success of recent #1 picks, I don't think there is a chance he slips to 44 in a keeper pool.
- The way he is playing, Chris Stewart (50) is going to shoot up the ranks. Does he have sustain? Dobbers +43 relects his surprise start acturately.
- Frolik (69) has potential but he hasnt brought at the NHL level. Id move him down.
- I think Frolov(76) is too high. His numbers have been steadily declining and after a falling out in LA 5 points in 11 games doesn't make a strong case that he'll find his old levels.
- Kyle Turris (80) is +103 in the rankings. Is this finally his year?
- Andrew Ladd (82) is a 2 time cup champ and excellent 2 way player. Probably ranked too highly offensively however.
- Tyler Bozak (84) has been disappointing so far in Toronto. How he is ahead of Rene Borque is beyond me.
- Marc Savard (91) could be a bargain buy if you draft counts playoff points. Picking him up will be very boom or bust but he has always been an underrated player. If he can avoid another concussion, Savard could be a valuable addition.
- Drew Doughty (102) appears way too low - I'd rather see his list split into forwards and defence.
- Ryan Callahan(119) and Brandon Dubinsky(120) have really stepped up for NYR this year. Good catch by Dobber on their rises.
- As an owner of Jeff Skinner (126) in my keeper league I've been pleasantly surprised. He is the biggest riser - up 335.
- I'm also an owner of Filatov (144) and like Frolik all we have left is potential to bank on.
- Tobias Enstrom (160) is still very under rated offensively.Evander Kane (165) actually moved down in the rankings with his start?
- David Booth (184) should be higher and the drop in Dave Bolland (185) is accurate. Bolland doesn't offer much outside the playoffs.
- If James Wisniewski (247) keeps going, you may see anouther big increase for him next month.
When your making 300 predictions, its easy to pick out a few of them and criticize. But overall is a good list an a must read for all you keeper junkies!
Every so often in professional sports there is an incident where an athlete apparently loses their cool and completely flips out. Often we attribute this to the over using of steroids or the under using of prescribed medications. More often than not, these incidents are shockingly absurd but mostly amusing for a spectator and do not result in much more than a weeks worth of headlines. The most recent example of one of these situations comes to us by way of the National Hockey League and Vancouver Canucks tough guy, Rick Rypien.
If you haven't watched the video that has made Rick Rypien a household name amongst the hockey loving public then you clearly have had your head somewhere that it shouldn't be. In my opinion, Rypien just might be the 'pound for pound' toughest guy in the NHL. Hockeyfights.com and youtube both have marvelous collection of evidence that can support this claim but even if you disagree, you still have to admit that the guy can chuck 'em. In a road game versus the Minnesota Wild, Rypien gets into an altercation with Wild forward Brad Staubitz. Rypien then attempts to reenacts his favorite clip of 'The Champ' as he SNAPS, LOSES IT and over reacts. The following melee ensues...
The obvious initial thoughts are that Rypien is a complete nutcase and has spazzed completely out of control. Watching it back, I even half expect Rypien to turn into a giant green hulk and lay waste to the entire stadium. Rypien obviously snapped but to label him the only nutcase in this situation would not be fair to the other parties involved. Not to be outdone by the seemingly frenzied Rypien, James Engquist the Minnesota fan in the video, has decided to lay his loony trump card and is seeking legal action against Rypien and the Vancouver Canucks. When asked about why he is seeking legal action, Engquist stated that he was, "assaulted, that's just the bottom line."
“ASSUALTED”!? Are you kidding me? For that you say you were “assaulted”? I suppose that there is the defense that Engquist has grown up in a society that condones suing for anything but this is unbelievable to me. I would pay thousands of dollars for the chance to be defense council for Rick Rypien in this situation. I my mind, it would play out something like this...
Prosecution: Your honor, as you can see from the peoples' evidence exhibit 'A', the video clearly shows the defendant Mr. Rypien is assaulting my client Mr. Engquist.
Defense(me): Objection your honor! The plaintiff is obviously a huge pussy and this is all a waste of everyone's time.
Judge: Sustained. The case is dismissed and the defendant is free to go. The plaintiff however will be forced by the court to shake all of the sand out of his vagina and encouraged to grow a set of balls.
It makes me embarrassed to be a hockey fan that this waste of skin Engquist is allowed to represent us in the newspapers. If I got shoved by a player at a game I would brag about it to all of my friends instead of getting all butt hurt and calling a lawyer. What an absolute disgrace. A friend of mine got pushed in bar once by Georges Laraque..... I thought that it was the coolest thing ever!
As hockey fans, we condone certain levels of violence in our game because it makes the game more exciting and we revere the players themselves for being tough. Shouldn't we the fans hold ourselves to some sort of similar standard? This incident has made me think back to all of the times the word 'assault' has come up in the game of hockey and allowed me to compile my top 5 'assault-able' moments...
#5 Marty McSorely
Aging tough guy Marty McSorely does his best Vladimir Guerrero impression using Donald Brashear's head as a 2-0 fastball.
#4 Todd Bertuzzi
I would personally like to thank Todd Bertuzzi for allowing me to use 'bertuzzi' as a verb. When I saw the video from the Jersey Shore where Snookie gets fed an ambien to the face... my first thought was “whoa, that chick just got Bertuzzi'd”
#3 Jonathan Roy
This prince of hockey shows some of the aggression that made his dad such a great player but comes off as a douche by fighting a goalie that clearly did not want to fight. Trying to make his own in the game, Jonathan was going for a Roy vs. Vernon type fight but ended up in hot water with the po-po.
#2 Rob Ray
This fan just didn't seem to get the point.... so he had to be told over, and over and over and over....... Now if our boy Engquist could take 10 to 15 good ones from Rob Ray then maybe I would understand him seeking legal council.
#1 The Boston Bruins
If fans are going to sue every time a player even looks at them funny then this brawl would've tied up the legal system for the next 20 years!! There is not a doubt in my mind that Ron Artest grew up a Bruins fan and drew inspiration from this fight for his own brawl with some fans.
This list is not anywhere near complete as there are plenty incidents of hockey players seemingly losing their minds and taking it out on someone. Honorable mentions go to Tie Domi for his squabble with a fan in the penalty box and Craig MacTavish for ripping out the tongue of Flames mascot Harvey the Hound. The point is that if some knucklehead fan like Engquist should find himself on the receiving end of another encounter with a hockey player, then at least take a look at similar situations before you start throwing out words like 'assault'. Rick Rypien is definitely an ass-clown for losing his temper on a fan but did he assault James Engquist?... Hell no! Get your head out of your ass and give it a shake Jimmy, you're an embarrassment.
Yours in hockey,
Here are the top 200 forwards this upcoming season, guaranteed or your money back. The first set of numbers is last years data, the second set is our predictions.
|Martin St. Louis||RW||82||29||65||94||1.15||23||63||86||-8|
|James Van Riemskyk||RW||78||15||20||35||0.45||22||27||49||14|
Yours in hockey,
Here is a collection of fantasy guides from various media outlets to help you with your drafting this year.