Monday, October 29, 2007

Sam Gagner

Sam Gagner officially played his 10th NHL game Saturday night at Staples Centre in Los Angeles, thus stapling his stay in the NHL for the rest of the season. There has been some concern on the Oilogosphere and by Oiler fans in general, that the Oilers are burning a year of his entry-level contract by keeping him up with the men. This side feels that Gagner should spend another year developing in Junior, thus helping the Oilers in his most productive, most salary-restricted years (19-22) in his entry-level contract. In other words, ''milk every production out of him before he gets the big bucks.'' Fair enough. I completely understand the reasoning behind this argument.

On to another issue...

Regarding the development, some feel Gagner would better develop playing against men at an earlier age. It's difficult to say. Guys like Eric Staal and Patrice Bergeron gained valuable experience as 18 year olds in the NHL. On the flip side of the coin, Wotej Wolski's 9 game stint with the Colorado Avalanche in 2005-2006 (6 points) before being sent back down to the junior certainly didn't seem to hurt his development. He came back to the NHL at 19, and posted 50 points in 76 games. 10 games into this year, he has posted 8 points. Some point out to Schremp's years as an 18 & 19 year old in Junior were a waste of time since he didn't develop the defensive side of the game. Perhaps the argument has merit. Or perhaps he just wasn't a very good hockey player. It's truly difficult to say.

Another concern among these skeptics however, is not as understandable.

Another concern is one of which that stems from the possibility of Gagner being signed to an RFA offersheet. Under the current CBA, arbitration rights do not exist for both the player and the team, should a player have less than 4 years of professional hockey experience. This means Gagner will have full unrestricted ability to sign an RFA offersheet after his entry level contract expires. Of course that is irrelevant to the decision to send him down to the juniors or not, but noteworthy to discuss.

So far, two years removed from the new CBA, we've only seen 3 RFA offer-sheets in the NHL. Two of them were by a very desperate Kevin Lowe. However, it is under my opinion the recent influx of longer term contracts to young players have little to do with the RFA Game. Players such as Nash, Staal, Cheechoo, Hemsky, and Beregeron, etc. all received long term contracts well before Lowe's RFA offersheets. It's a solid tool for teams to lock up their rising stars. For players, they receive the comfort and security of longterm guaranteed money, enough so to feed their dogs and their grandchildren. The key is, both sides bear the risk of the contract. That is, teams overpay in the earlier years of the contract with the hope that the player will elevate on the ice, while the players give up a few of their UFA years.

So, based on the brief post-CBA history, why the concern of Sam Gagner getting raided by a GM? Will he be the only young player in the league who will have posted solid numbers? Will he be the most attractive target to raid? Will all GMs be even in a position of holding the necessary draft picks to sign him? Do all GMs even believe in the RFA game? I'm not so inclined to believe that RFA offersheets are set to become a common theme.

Then, above all, is the "human element." The Oilers developed loyalty with Sam Gagner by keeping him up in the Majors. Is he, going to take the first opportunity available to sign an RFA offersheet? Or will he give the Oilers a chance to make a fair offer before considering external influences? A bit difficult to say, but the trend of younger players signing 6 year contracts with their only organization inclines me to believe the latter.

On to another issue...

After the draft, Lowe was quoted as saying he believed that Gagner could be in the NHL in 1 or 2 years. Some have accused the Oilers as keeping him up for PR reasons. In other words, "A reason for Oilers fans to believe in the future."

I can't share that assessment. I believe Sam Gagner earned his way to the NHL. He spent the summer in intense workouts. He posted 15 points in 8 games in the 2007 Super Series (next closest was John Tavares with 9 points, followed by Kyle Turris with 8). He followed that up by a strong training camp and pre-season, surpassing the likes of Pouliot and Schremp in the depth chart. The just-turned 18 year old didn't stop their either - he went on to post 7 points in his first 9 NHL games. I don't believe the Oilers kept him up for PR reasons - Sam Gagner left the Oilers with no choice but to keep him in the big leagues.

Perhaps the best Oiler draft pick since Captain Canada, Ryan Smyth. Sam Gagner will develop and grow in Edmonton.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Type of Fan Are You?

Hunt, Bristol, & Bradshaw’s (1999) classification scheme:

1) Temporary
- “fan” not part of self-identification
- time constrained
- BIRGing (Basking in Reflected Glory) motivation
- CORFing

2) Local
- identifies with geographic area
- devotion leaves with displacement

3) Devoted
- increased degree of attachment
- “fan” a closer part of sense of self
- not most critical or central part of self-definition

4) Fanatical
-being a fan an important part of self-identification
-has other means of self-identification that are more important
-engages in behaviour beyond normal devoted fan-behaviour accepted by significant others

5) Dysfunctional
-being a fan primary method of self-identification
-may engage in violent or disruptive behaviour
-identification interferes with normal life

I consider myself number 3.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Big Foot

Alexei Mikhnov is like Big Foot.

You hear about him. There are occasional reported sightings of him. But despite that, you still can't verify that he exists.

The latest rumbling suggest that he has put up 18 points in 17 games in the RSL. Just 4 points behind his career high.

Is this the case of actually progressing his game? Or do the numbers merely reflect his experience (at-bats)? The time is running out before he becomes a UFA in 2008. There are really only 3 options for the Oilers next summer:

1) Trade him if a market exists for him.
2) Sign him to a 1 way contract, and hope he improved his 2 way game.
3) Sign him to a 1 way contract with an opt clause to Russia if he doesn't crack the team.

Personally, I'm a fan of Mikhnov. Soft hands, fairly good skating for a big guy, protects the puck well down low. I believe he can play at least on the 4th line in the NHL. Option 3 makes sense in my opinion - you find room for him.

What Kevin Lowe and MacT will do is a different story.

Have we seen the last of Big Foot?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Getting It Done On The Powerplay

Before I begin for my valuable readers - sorry, just so busy. So please excuse this half-hearted piece.

6 games - 18 goals, 9 on the powerplay.

1 of the ES goal just as the penalty expired

Yes, that is the early edition of the Vancouver Canucks 2006-2007 NHL club, which sit at 3-3.

Don't expect that trend to continue.

At the same time, it gives Oilers fans reason to believe it can improve in the standings (2-4) once the PP starts gelling and starts getting results.

Just some food for thought.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Prediction: Raffi Torres will be traded

Joffrey Lupul's 3 year contract was structured at 1.5M year 1, 2.535M in year 2, and 2.9M in year 3.

The benefit of an contract with escalating dollars is clear. You can move a player with question marks after deriving the most value-per-dollar in earlier years. For the receiving (higher budget) team, the cap hit is less than the actual dollars being paid out.

Looking at Torres's contract structure:
Year 1 - 1.6M
Year 2 - 2.4M
Year 3 - 2.75M

With the dollar being high, you'd have expected the Oilers to front-load the contract. Or even a clear-cut 2.25M across the board.

Not so.

With his salary rising by 800,000 next year, Penner making him somewhat redundant, unless he takes the next step in his career with regards to consistency, I think he's a prime candidate to being moved either at the trade deadline (if the Oilers are out and Lowe wants to stockpile yet even more assets) or in the summer.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Smid and Grebeshkov to get a bird's eye view of the season opener


While Ladislav Smid and Denis Grebeshkov were a little risky in their own end in training camp, Tom Gilbert picked up right where he left off late last season, when he stood out in an emergency relief effort.

That's why Gilbert is skating with Dick Tarnstrom as Edmonton's third defence pair, while Smid and Grebeshkov will likely start the season as Nos. 7 and 8.

"You have to say that Gilbert deserves an opportunity," said MacTavish.

"And he'll likely get that Thursday night."


I understand Grebeshkov, who will get better as the season progresses, but I just don't understand what the bag of suck (as a player, not as a person) in Matt Greene is doing over Ladislav Smid on the depth chart.

Size in hockey is akin to left handed pitchers in baseball, it seems. Opportunities, sometimes undeserving.

Or perhaps Greene is being showcased for trade?

Monday, October 01, 2007

New Kid On The Block

Punjabi Oil has underwent successful expansion.

PDO will now bring his insights to the blog.


To make a long story short, PDO fit in the organization's budget

Anyone else wishing to join the organization, drop a PM on HF or post here. We are "Willing To Overpay" and will throw out some "pretty lucrative offers."



Opening Season Roster

Haven't had the time, nor the desire to watch or listen to the pre-season games.

Just been reading newspaper articles, glancing at boxscores, and catching the highlights on Sportscentre.

Not exactly in-depth analysis and ''eyeball observations,'' but who is paying me?

Without further ado, below is my informal hypothesis on the Oilers opening roster against SJ.

Penner Horcoff Hemsky
Torres Stoll Nilsson
Moreau Gagner Pouliot
Sanderson Reasoner Cogliano
EXT: Brodziak

*Thorosen sent to the AHL
*Storini Sent to the AHL
*Pisani on the IR

Staios Pitkanen
Souray Greene
Smid Tarnstrom
EXT: Grebeshkov, Gilbert

*Note - Trade Greene + Schremp (both overvalued) for a decent goaltender prospect.
*Roy on the IR


Playoff bound roster?

Lets just say I'd be much more comfortable if Pisani comes back earlier than expected, or Mike Johnson is signed upfront. The defence looks like a mess - collection of bottom pairing defencemen that need sheltered minutes. The defence also needs another shut-down defenceman (I'm looking at your, Danny Markov) who can kill penalties and play on ES. Simply put, Matt Greene just doesn't have it in him at this point of his career to log top 4 minutes.