Monday, March 31, 2008

Too much to ask?

So.. I had a wonderful birthday today. Heard of steak and blowjob day, Men's response to Valentines Day?

Well times the first part by fourteen ounces, and the second part by two. Helluva day.

But that's neither here nor there, I just felt like bragging as I have one last (series of) request(s).


Oilers win in regulation (Oilers - 88 Points and 41 wins, Flames 90 Points and 40 wins)
Colorado wins in regulation (Vancouver 88 points and 39 wins)
Nashville beats St. Louis (89 points and 40 wins)


Chicago wins (86 points and 39 wins)


St. Louis beats Nashville in the Shoot Out (90 points and 40 Wins)
Minnesota beats Calgary in Regulation (90 points and 40 wins)
Edmonton beats Vancouver in regulation (90 points and 42 wins, 88 points and 39 wins)


Chicago beats Nashville in regulation (88 points and 40 wins, 90 points and 40 wins)


Vancouver beats Calgary in regulation (90 points and 40 wins, 90 points and 40 wins)


Chicago beats Detroit (90 points and 41 wins)


7. Edmonton (90 points and 42 Wins)
8. Chicago (90 Points and 41 Wins)
9. Nashville (90 points and 40 Wins)
T9. Calgary (90 Points and 40 Wins)
T9. Vancouver (90 Points and 40 wins)

.... please? Too much to ask? Nah...

Such great heights

Weeee!! This is the Oilers' 2007-08 campaign in a nutshell: dizzying highs, terrifying low(e)s. As the last grains of sand trickle down on this weirdo year, the Oilers find themselves in mix for a playoff spot, which is an achievement few people could have predicted. Lots of folks, including yours truly, had this club tagged as a lottery team. Too much youth and too many questionable moves (step right up Mssrs. Penner and Souray) spelled doom from the get go, a prospect made all the more certain by the mounting casualties. The mere fact that the Oilers have pulled together a respectable second half, thanks to the emergence of the kiddie corps, is cause for optimism. Of course there's the usual and well-trod questions around everything from the repeatability of the Oilers' shootout success to their lousy goal differential, but I'll leave all that to the stats-heads, and they are welcome to it.

Regardless of the why's and wherefores, the last couple of weeks have been fun for a fan, a damn sight more so than the suckfest that followed the Smyth trade last year. Even if the Oilers miss out (which is, let's face it, a highly probable occurrence), there's still a good chance that their late seaon surge will contribute to one of Vancouver or Calgary missing the dance: that in itself is something to cheer for. And there's a very good chance our team will be better next season: I'm not sure how much that applies to the Oil's Northwest Division foes.

The only dark cloud on the horizon is the possibility that Kevin Lowe will do something monumentally stupid in the off season in hope of shortening the timeframe between "rebuild" and "contender." It's a distinct possibility, given the rising cap, the influx of new money in the form of Katz's billions and Lowe's apparent love of shiny objects. personaly, I'd like to see Lowe get the house in order by signing the current crop of RFAs and UFAs and looking at a couple of cheap upgrades both up front and on the backend to take some heat off and to offer some depth for when (not if) Moreau and Souray get hurt. The bunch in place right now has all the makings of a helluva team: I'd hate to see Lowe blow it by deciding we need another five year plan for the third year in a row.

None of the above is all that new or visionary, I know. Many have expressed similar sentiments, so I guess I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus. On a final note, this season was my first outside of Edmonton, which means I actually got to watch very few games—I probably caught 30 on TV and a few more on internet radio—yet thanks to the Oilogosphere, I feel more connected to what's going on than I ever did back in the 780. The amount of good information, insightful commentary and funny shit on some of these blogs is often more compelling than the actual games. So I'd like to thank Punjabi Oil for bringing me into the fold as a bona fide contributor instead of random snarky commenter. GOILERS.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Geoff Sanderson = Career Over?

This is Geoff Sanderson. Behind him are two fans and a whole bundle of empty seats.

Empty as in "Geoff Sanderson had a feeling of emptiness climb upon him, with the realization that Thursday April 03, 2008 may very well be his shot at playing in an NHL game"


1103 GP, 355 goals 700 points.

But declining numbers. From 78 Games played two seasons ago to 58 last year, down to 40 this year. Goals followed a similar trail: 25, 11, 3.

At 36, remarkable is the fact that he's not lost much speed. The 6 time 30+ goal scorer (including 2 seasons with over 40 goals) seems to have lost his scoring touch.


Difficult to say. His numbers are all over the place (See link above). Absolutely no sense of flow or consistency. For all we know, he very well may pot 15 goals next year. Sanderson was limited to 40 games this season (Healthy Scratch, Back Spasms), posting 3 goals and 10 assists for 13 points. 5 of those points have come in his last 9 games. His last game played was on March 04, 2008 against the Nashville Predators in which he posted a -3 in a 5-1 loss.

Was this his last game as an Edmonton Oiler? As an NHL player?

Does he still badly "want it?"

"A throw-in? I don't mind that, at all. I'd like to be under the radar," said Sanderson.

"I was fortunate to sign a two-year contract in Philadelphia. I've seen guys with no options now (Mike Johnson, Jeff O'Neill, Jeff Friesen, all free agents waiting by the phone). I have another year to play," he said.

From that quote, he's exactly not the epitome of confidence. Nuh-uh.

The Oilers won't re-sign him. And there's a good possibility he won't be offered a deal this summer from the 29 other remaining clubs - at least not at a salary Geoff may feel comfortable playing for.

So, the question must be asked - should the Edmonton Oilers give Geoff Sanderson a proper send-off to retirement? Should they let him play on April 03, 2008, game 82 against the Vancouver Canucks? If so, at which teammates expense? Or should this question be answered after Tuesday, when there is a clearer picture of whether the Oilers have a shot at making the playoffs?

Saturday, March 29, 2008


To make the playoffs, the Oilers must go 2-0, and hope that both the Predators and Canucks do not have a better record than 2-2 in their remaining 4 games. Or hope that the Flames go 0-4.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Impact of the Oilers on the Local Economy

This is downtown Lacombe, Alberta. A growing town, with a population recently passing 11,000. It is Located ~125KM clicks south of Edmonton. It has largely an Oilers following. This ties into Colby Cosh's recent blog entry.

Colby Cosh, from the National Post, argues this on his blog, dealing on the question whether or not the Oilers draw tourists/out-of-towners that pump in money into the local economy.

Most buyers of Edmonton Oiler tickets come from Edmonton and the surrounding area; cash spent by them is merely moving from place to place within the metropolis. The CFR and the FarmFair add real money to Edmonton—money that comes from Calgary, and Rocky Mountain House, and Kindersley, Sask., and Texas and Wyoming and Nevada. For a whole week every year, the city is full of hundred-dollar hats and two-hundred-dollar shitkickers. Losing the CFR would devastate local businesses, and have an annual macro impact that you'd have to think would be equal to at least four or five Oiler home games.

*Note - This blog entry is steering away from the new arena debate. LittleFury has that covered a few scrolls below. PDO, another new member, also has a on-ice discussion below.

As someone who was born and raised an hour away from Edmonton, the argument seems a bit simplistic. From personal experience, there were/are lots of hockey fans in my community of 8000 who made sure to attend a few games every year. The Oilers are acknowledged to have support all over Alberta, including communities in the south like Lethbridge. The Oilers have also heavily promoted their product in communities across Alberta, including Lloydminister, Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie and other smaller communities - one would assume the Oilers are getting a level of return on these promotional/advertising/marketing costs.

The Oilers also attract to some extent, Calgarians in battle of Alberta games. Saskatchewan (Saskatoon is rumoured to host the Oilers rookie camp next season), NWT, and Manitoba are also assumed to have a solid Oiler following, with many fans making a trip or so every so often and injecting dollar into the economy in the same manner of the CFR. It would also be a fair to assume the hockey fan spends more so than a rodeo attendant, given the discrepancy of ticket prices.

Of course, this raises a few major questions - do a large majority of these out-of-towner hockey fans come to the city regardless of the Oilers (for shopping, other entertainment options, etc.)? Does the CFR draw a large majority of out-of-towners who visit Edmonton solely for the purpose of the rodeo? To what extent does non-ticket sales (i.e. Jerseys and other merchandise) find it's way into the local economy?

At the end of the day, however, it is difficult to precisely measure these numbers - at least not so without a properly researched study.

So let's get some informal discussion/opinions laid out. Are/Were you an Out-of-towner who attends/attended Oiler games? Have you sold tickets to an out-of-towner? Do you know any out-of-towners who attend Oiler games every so often? What is your general overall opinion on the Oilers drawing power?

Shell game

This is the Edmonton Gardens. The old barn opened on Christmas Day 1913 and would serve as the premier hockey venue in the city for the next 60 years, with the Edmonton Eskimos hockey club, the Allan Cup and WHL Championship-winning Edmonton Flyers, the three time Memorial Cup champion Oil Kings and the fledgling World Hockey Association Edmonton Oilers all calling the place home. The Gardens was shuttered in 1974 when the brand new Edmonton Colisieum opened up across the street, and it was later demolished to make way for the Northlands Agricom.

Now, it looks like the Coliseum­-known in today's corporate synergy speak as Rexall Place-is soon to join the old Gardens in hockey rink Valhalla. Despite operating for roughly half the lifespan of the building in superseded, Rexall has been deemed unsuitable for the needs of its main tenant going forward. The wise men and women tasked with deciding Rexall’s fate have concluded the rink where Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Coffey, Smyth and other titans of the game all plied their trade must be replaced by a facility that is moderately larger and a few kilometers down the LRT line in the heart of Edmonton’s downtown. This whole saga has been documented extensively both here at Punjabi Oil’s and elsewhere, most notably at the Battle of Alberta and, when its proprietors can tear themselves away from penning homoerotic slash fiction, Covered In Oil.

I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to add to the larger discourse on this subject that hasn’t already been covered by some of the aforementioned worthies (my personal take is that the Oilers’ billionaire ownership can build their new luxury box farm wherever they please, provided the taxpayer not be asked to assume any undue risk. Such as, say, taking on $300 million in civic debt to finance the motherfucker). I’m definitely not going to get into the issue of whether or not a new rink is even necessary right now.

Rather, I’d like to focus on a single aspect of the Summary Report of the Leadership Committee for a New Sports/Entertainment Facility for Edmonton (henceforth known as “the committee”) that would have me tearing out my hair were I not already one of the many unfortunate victims of early-onset male pattern baldness. And that’s the huge gulf between what the committee is promising and what it says it will cost. The committee makes it quite clear that the arena, if built downtown, must be part of a larger development project that integrates with and spurs on Edmonton’s ongoing downtown revitalization. Indeed, if the glowing prose of the committee’s report is to be believed, the new arena will do just about everything short of healing the blind, curing the sick and putting an end to boner problems forever. To wit:
The right development, in the right place, will not only draw millions of visits to the city annually from far and wide; it will revitalize our downtown.

The development of a new sports/entertainment facility and associated multipurpose activity area can be the catalyst for ensuring Edmonton’s downtown is successful and vibrant well into the future.
Doesn’t that sound just swell? To back up these rather grandiose claims, the report cites arena projects in such hot spots as Indianapolis, Indiana and Columbus, Ohio where, the story goes, construction of sports arenas helped “enhance…a city’s image and critical economic and community goals.” When considering where to build a new rink, Edmonton must look at what transformed places like Columbus the new Paris; thus, the committee recommends “a sports/entertainment facility be designed as part of a multipurpose activity district” that includes restaurants, bars, retail, cultural activities, brothels, casinos, hotels, spas and so forth. Since the report concedes that “sports/entertainment” facilities generate sweet F.A. on their own in terms of economic activity, these additional attractions are completely necessary for the project to succeed and provide the public with some return on its inevitable and not-inconsiderable investment in tax dollars:

A new sports/entertainment facility can capture and focus the city’s projected growth, revitalize our downtown core and generate tax revenue through new housing, retail and office space, hotels, restaurants and additional facilities.

And here’s the rub. There’s no costs put forward as to how much this new downtown funland will actually cost, what it will include, and, most importantly, who’s going to pay for it. The only numbers the committee bothered to look at (or at least release to the public) were the costs associated with the construction of the arena and the arena alone. The rest, one is left to assume, will simply spring up in the arena’s wake as businesses flock to bask in the awesomeness that is the downtown arena. Problem is, the committee’s own case studies don’t back that claim. In two of the three cases where the committee claims a sports arena helped spur additional development, that additional revenue generating development was actually part and parcel of the arena project. In other words, in the three cases the report cites, the development of a multipurpose activity district and all the attendant benefits was a precondition of the construction of a sports facility and not a consequence thereof.

Columbus-based Nationwide Insurance agreed to pay 90 percent of the cost of building the new arena with the ownership of local newspaper agreeing to finance the balance. Columbus would pay for all of the needed infrastructure improvements and fund the environmental remediation (with help from the state of Ohio). However, Nationwide wanted one other incentive before agreeing to pay for the arena. It wanted to be designated as the master developer of an area adjacent to the arena and to have the convention centre agency — use its power of eminent domain to acquire additional parcels of land.

Indianapolis had a similar story, with the public rejecting outright any public financing of a new ballpark there until the team’s owner guaranteed $450 million in new real estate development.

To be fair, the report does suggest (down in the Appendix and separate from the actual recommendations) that commitments for additional large-scale private sector investments be secured beforehand. But one gets the distinct impression from the tone of the text and the structure of the financial estimates that this is not priority one. Otherwise, wouldn’t we be talking about a $1 billion or so comprehensive downtown redevelopment strategy? Instead it seems to this observer that the committee does exactly what one of its own subcommittees cautioned against and treats the arena as an isolated project. It’s like the Underpants Gnomes from PDO's post below have struck again:

Phase One: Build arena
Phase Two: ????
Phase Three: Collect tax revenue

If this thing goes ahead, as it sure looks like it will, the good people of Edmonton need to ensure that the full scope and cost of the project be known, the strategy made clear and all parties made fully accountable to hold up their end of the bargain.

Get lots of Underpants and Ask Questions Later, Dammit!

Is Kevin Lowe a South Park Fan?

Can't say I imagine he is.

But I think this picture pretty much sums up the Oilers season. Unlike PJO, I don't think the Oilers season is over yet by any stretch of the imagination. They're playing good hockey right now, they're only 3 points behind Vancouver.. and most importantly Luongo is gone for a minimum of 2 games. They're ripe for the pickings, and in my mind at least the last game of the season is shaping up to be the "win and you're in" type of game. Something that I think every single fan here would've been happy with at the start of the season.

In reference to picture above, I think it sums up the Oilers season quite well. You can replace "Underpants" with "Shiny Things" and "Profit" with "Wins," but I think it all works out in the end. The Oilers have been all over the map since they dealt Pronger. From quotes saying that we should expect the team to compete while having 20 year old defenseman in the top 4, to saying we're going to rebuild and signing Sheldon Slapshot! Souray and Micheal Nylander to massive contracts. The Oilers just haven't had a consistent plan, at any point... there are a lot of theories as to why this has happened, ranging from Kevin Lowe being a dummy to the EIG orchestrating master plans, but I'm not about to get into those. What I am going to get into though, is the question mark. We're at the winning point, and winning and losing games that we should be winning... but how exactly did we get here?

#1) Luck. It scares the hell out of me... but when you've been scored on 20 more times than you've scored but are 10 points over .500... a lot of things, that likely aren't repeatable, have gone right. To be fair though, some of this luck, as in next season, should be evened out by health. Specifically the health of Horcoff, though a few more Torres' and Moreau's certainly won't hurt the team. Souray should be able to help the physical play of the team, along with boosting the ST's a bit as well.

#2) Opportunities. In Ales Hemsky's rookie season, he played 712 minutes, 153 of that on the PP. Tom Gilbert (1,728, 197 SH and 175 PP), Sam Gagner (1,171, 212 on the PP) and Andrew Cogliano (1,054, 60 SH, 159 on the PP) have all passed that, as have Denis Grebeshkov (1,113, 72 SH and 139 on the PP), Kyle Brodziak (987, 196 on the PK) and Robert Nilsson (923, 153 on the PP). That is 6 (!) rookies playing more than Ales Hemsky did. 6! And I doubt many here would compare anyone but Gagner as to having more potential than Hemsky... but all of these guys have been given opportunities. More amazing yet though, is that all of them have put these opportunities to good use. Pouliot can be added to the list of guys who have gained traction. Just stunning stuff.

#3) Horses. I don't think it can be stated enough how much Shawn Horcoff was helping this team before he injured his shoulder. As corny as it may sound, I wouldn't be surprised if he injured his shoulder just from trying to carry the whole damn team on it. He's a legitimate difference maker in this league, and one of the only ones the Oilers have at ES. He's not the only one though... Ales Hemsky took steps forward this season. I don't think it all showed in the counting numbers as much as it should have, but he matured so much as a player this year it's unbelievable. Currently third in the Oilers in shot taken. He's making the smart play in the neutral zone, being aware defensively, and playing against the other teams top line.... and he's of course getting it done on the PP. Garon also had a huge hand in helping this team get where it is, and hopefully he can do much of the same next season. Having above average goaltending is huge in this league. Fourthly... Sam Gagner. I'm separating him from the other kids, because he's truly stepped it up to another level since Horcoff went down... he has a long way to go, but the guy, at 18 (!) is already performing better on the PP than almost anyone else on the Oilers. Just fantastic stuff. I didn't list a defenseman here for one specific reason... every single defenseman on this team has struggled at times. I think that there have been stretches where Pitkanen, Gilbert, Staios and Grebeshkov have all looked absolutely fantastic - but they've also had times where they have been putrid, to say the least... so they get left off.

#4) Coaching. Look at the rookies. Look at the standings. Look at the point totals. 'nuff said. MacTavish has helped a lot of young players raise their games HUGE amounts in a very, VERY short period of time.

So.... what do we expect next year, in terms of repeatability? I think we'd all agree that the coaching is repeatable, and I think most of us would also agree that at least to an extent, the kids maturing (assuming no steps back are taken... which is of course a big assumption) combined with a healthy hockey team should make up for a lot of the luck that will bounce the other way next season. That leaves the Horses, and the D, as the question marks on this team. If the Horses stay healthy (Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner, Garon), and can play as well as they have this season, I think we look to be in good shape next year. Very good shape. We should have two lines that can play against anyone (27-10-83, one of 14/18, 16 (or his replacement), 34), and two lines that can beat up the other teams bottom 6 in the kid line and the $500k line... and a durable Pouliot as the 13th man. On the backend we have several guys who can move the puck (Pitkanen, Gilbert, Grebeshkov), and a lot of guys who are starting to become "defensemen" instead of "young defensemen."

I think, Kevin Lowe got away with one here. He had no plan, went in all sorts of directions, and it all worked out. I think someone could try that a thousand times and have 999 times blow up in their face... but it honestly looks like he got away with it. I don't agree with how he assembled this team. I think he took several huge, unnecessary risks. Penner is starting to look decent because the Ducks will not be picking in the lottery, and Souray is better defensively and more mobile than I thought he would be; but there are still questions ahead. How do you resign Horcoff if he wants $5,500,000? And Pitkanen? And Gilbert? And Nilsson? And Garon? And the list goes on. I think we're still a long ways from seeing just how successful this team will be, as we have a huge handicap against us in the Souray contract, and a sizable handicap in the Penner contract - but we also have the Roloson contract off the books in a year, and hopefully Stoll's contract can be shed all together in the near future. Still.. things are looking bright if Lowe can balance the books to keep the guys worth keeping (Horcoff), and get the soft guys signed to cheap contracts that can be out-performed (Nilsson).

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Little Fury & PDO now join this blog and will be contributing.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's Over

With tonight's loss to Minnesota, the Oilers are all but mathematically eliminated. Yeah, I know, I know. There's going to be a whiny HF voice in the crowd crying:


Despite the resounding reassurances, the Oilers are done. Put a period to it.

It's over.

At best they can play a spoiler role and help the Nashville Predators make the playoffs instead of the Vancouver Canucks.

Looking back on the season, on an overall basis, it was definitely disappointing. From an off-season with some terrible moves, injuries to key veterans, followed up with lottery bound status for the first 4 months - well, that's a bundle of disappointment. The final 2 months were encouraging, but next year will tell a story on whether this was just a bad team playing good hockey once the pressure was completely off them [See: Toronto, Florida, and in previous years Phoenix, St. Louis]. Nonetheless, there are legitimate grounds for optimism with the nucleus of good young players - whether that means the playoffs next year, I'm not sure.

On a personal level, the passion/emotional investment into the Oilers faded away. Akin to a struggling couple who couldn't make it work, on the brink of hiring flashy suit men to finalize the divorce.

I've missed between 30-40 games outright this season. All but 1 or 2 PPV games,a bunch of HNIC games (during the time in which I was PLAYING hockey) and a series of other games throughout the year during the time in which I took advantage of the athletic facilities at the University of Alberta, playing basketball, badminton, and soccer. With regards to attending games - just two - and 1 of them included free tickets from David Staples. This contrasting to 5 games in 2003-2004 and 9 games in 2005-2006. It was a year I was more interested in the business side of the sport (Salary cap, statistics, Katz, New Arena saga, etc.) rather than the on-ice play.

Even tonight's critical game - turned it on and once it became 2-0 then there left no motivation to complete the game. Perhaps I expected the outcome and didn't see a reason to waste time. Perhaps it's being disgusted with the annual, "Just watch next year!" mantra. Or perhaps it's just a sign of age and maturity - as a maturing young adult you begin to see sports as merely entertainment, not passion.

Which perhaps may just be a good thing. I love hockey, but no question that I've spent too much time reading/gathering information/watching hockey. Life is too short.

And Stuff like this is exactly why you won't see me posting at HF much anymore. You don't get ahead in the corporate world wasting too much time on nonsense like this.

You just don't.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Did Alberta Taxpayers fund the Oilers Dressing Room Renovations?

Edmonton Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk said financial support isn't out of the question, but he doubts Edmontonians believe the arena is a top spending priority for the capital, regardless of what the study concludes.

"The report is not looking at taxpayers' priorities -- it's looking from a Northlands perspective, from an NHL perspective, from a downtown revitalization perspective," the Tory MLA said.

The provincial government put up millions of dollars in grants to build the former Northlands Coliseum in the 1970s, and Calgary's Saddledome in the 1980s. And only last year, each venue got more provincial dollars for upgrades, including $10 million for Rexall Place that helped renovate the Oilers' and visitors' dressing rooms

Story can be read here


Absolutely ridiculous.

The Tough Questions With Kevin Lowe

Nope. Not me.

Robin Brownlee took up this task.

The Interview can be viewed on Oilersnation.


Monday, March 24, 2008

A Token of Appreciation

This is David Staples. A veteran writer for the Edmonton Journal, for 23 years now. A biography of him can be obtained here.

He was generous enough to invite members of the Oilogosphere to the Oilers game today against Minnesota. That too, executive style - the Edmonton Journal suites.

The game was great. As was discussing what hockey fans like to discuss -

The game of hockey.

Thanks David.

-It's been too long to call Sam Gagner's strong play a streak. This is what he is.
-Who honestly expected Andrew Parise (Cogliano) to be posting strong numbers in the NHL at 20? Not only the points, but his +/- rating of 0 is 5th on the Oilers.
-Chemistry is underrated. Some players just tend to click together (Nilsson, Gagner, Cogliano) (Brodziak, Glencross, Stortini)
-Pouliot is settling in the NHL. Stoll got a 2nd assist tonight (at EV) so he's up to a whopping 9 points on EV. Pouliot has 6 in his last 10 games.
-Roloson was OK. That's what defines the bulk of his career. It'd be great if Garon gets healthy to play on Wednesday, as implied by MacT.
-Arena study report comes out tomorrow. Will be interesting, although I suspect the findings will be as expected.
-The Oilers now have tied the Flames in Wins, and passed Vancouver, games in hand notwithstanding. Who would have expected this in January? It's difficult to find negatives these days, and the Oilers should benefit from 8 fewer games against division opponents next year. This team is heading in the right direction. Kevin Lowe has won my respect - at least for now.
-Nothing worse than a flu/cold/sore throat. Life needs a fast forward button.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Robbie Schremp

Robbie Schremp:

Age: 21 (turns 22 in July)
Height/Weight: 5-11, 200 lbs
Natural Position: Center
Converted Position: Wing

Total: 66-18-46-64 (8th in AHL Scoring) -9 rating
EV: 8-20-28 Percentage of Total points: 43.75
PP: 10-26-36 Percentage of Total Points: 56.25

*Thanks to Bryanbryoil from HF for the stats breakdown

I couldn't find any TOI statistics for the AHL - If they are available, please feel free to point them out. However, given the fact that the majority of players' minutes are played on EV strength, those numbers are heavily skewed towards PP production rates over EV production rates. Of course this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone - we knew from the London days that Schremp is a talented player - we also knew that he obtains a majority of his points with the man advantage.

It's reasonable to assert that Robbie Schremp will be a strong PP specialist in the NHL. From what we've seen in the AHL, he seems more of playmaker, but he doesn't have any trouble lighting up the red lamp 5 on 4. At EV, it's very questionable whether he'll be a guy that can hold his head 5 on 5 if pushed into a top 6 role. At least so in the near future.

What Schremp honestly needs to do this summer is work hard on his skating and on his upper body strength to win battles. Of course to win battles, there initially has to be a strong level of desire to do so. Which is why in Guy Flaming's recent top 20 Oiler prospects article, the following lines were troubling:

However, those who make the decisions on Schremp seek more. His skating is still considered a weakness but apparently the bigger concern now is his “low compete level.” One report described Schremp by saying “There are players who win battles in the corner and some who lose those battles. Rob Schremp has absolutely no interest in the battle.”

There's absolutely no question about it - Soon to be 22, and only 5 years away from unrestricted free agency, Robbie Schremp needs to make adjustments (and quickly) or his career as an Edmonton Oiler will end prematurely.

And that...would be a shame.

Reporting live from MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, PunjabiOil. Oilogosphere.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Tough Questions with Robin Brownlee

I recently approached columnist, Robin Brownlee for an interview. A veteran hockey writer who has covered the team with both the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun, is now contributing for the Canadian Press, Metro Newspaper, and Oilersnation blog, combined with the TEAM 1260 on air. Journalism awards include 1985 and 1987 MacMillan Bloedel Award for editorial and column writing, 1997 Associated Press Award for enterprise reporting, 2001 Ron Collister Award as Sun Media sportswriter of the year and 2003-04 Professional Hockey Writers Association runner-up award for best hockey news story. He kindly agreed to the interview. Below is the email transcript.

Thanks Robin for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions and weigh your mind. I've been impressed by your journalism over the years, which inspired me to have you as a Q & A guest. Let’s begin

1) Tell me a bit about yourself. Are you an Oilers fan? If so, how did you become one? How did you get in the journalism business and what is the best part of the job? What has been the highlight of your journalism career? What are some of your other hobbies and interests?

I'm not a "fan" of the Oilers, but I've certainly grown to respect the franchise and the tradition built before I arrived in Edmonton in 1989. Having had the opportunity to become familiar with every franchise and a lot of the people who run them around the NHL, I can say fans here have a lot to be proud of. There's some quality people here.

The journalism business? Once I realized lack of natural ability and work ethic, not to mention a broken back at the age of 20, would make it nearly impossible to continue my mediocre athletic career beyond the level of weekend warrior, I had to find a way to stay near the games I loved -- pretty much all of them, but especially hockey, baseball and lacrosse. That's it, really.

Best part of the job has been the ability to make a good living doing something I enjoy and have not yet lost my zeal for. Corny, but true.

Highlights? Too many to list. All those Oilers playoff series against Dallas. The 2006 Stanley Cup final. Covering the WHL in the 1980s and watching youngsters like Mike Modano, Mark Recchi, Joe Sakic, Theoren Fleury and Cam Neely long before they'd earned a dime playing the game. Covering the Trappers of the PCL. Lots of rising stars there during my time -- Alex Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Tim Salmon, Jason Giambi -- and a couple of PCL titles before I left the beat. Almost running over Ken Griffey Jr. while speeding through a parking lot at spring training in Arizona. Visiting Dodgertown. The circus that was any Mike Tyson fight in the years I covered boxing. There's a few.

Hobbies and interests? My wife Analyn and sons Michael and Sam, all of whom have come into my life in the last four years and changed it forever. I've got a weakness for cars and have owned 70-something of them. I'm an avid and ridiculously inept golfer.

2) Many people have alleged that the Oilers control the media? Having a wealth of experience covering the Oilers, do you find truth in this statement? Have there been instances where you've been forced to remain “hush-hush?”

Like who? That said, there's some truth in the statement.
When you travel with the team day-in and day-out for seasons on end, there's some issues there. Objectivity is the goal, but you get to know certain people over time and friendships are struck. The trick is not allowing any personal relationship to influence what you write or how you write it. It's easier said than done. Some guys you like, some guys you don't.
It's a stretch to suggest there's an ongoing attempt to control the media, but those who follow the team the closest are certainly made aware when something is written that's deemed overly negative. Sometimes it's subtle, sometimes not.
I've never once been forced to keep quiet on anything. I have, however, sat on information or not used it right away while a story develops. That's my call, not theirs.

3) Ryan Smyth was a great ambassador for the city. So naturally speaking, fans (such as myself - are curious and trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. How do you think the Smyth saga went down in terms of negotiations and eventually the

I know how the Smyth "saga" went down, but I'm not going to re-visit it. Information that's received with the understanding it's "off-the-record" has to stay that way -- unless you feel capable of doing your job without sources.

4) Did Kevin Lowe seek quantity over quality in the Chris Pronger deal to Anaheim? Is so, do you feel it was an adequate return, or should Lowe have waited out the situation a bit more? Was Lupul + Smith for Pitkanen + Sanderson an adequate recovery?

Not in my opinion. That Lupul was a mistake here is pure hindsight. Some of the other Ducks players who have turned into elite players weren't on the table for Pronger. Adequate return? At the time and under the circumstances, yes.
Waited? For what? Sitting on a player who has said he doesn't want to be here is a no-win proposition. Like he'll change his mind in six months? If anything, the value of what you can get back goes down the longer you wait when it becomes clear the impasse is permanent.
As for the Philadelphia trade, I was on the record leading up to it as not being the biggest Pitkanen fan, and that's an understatement. I wouldn't have made that deal. I still would not make that deal, although Pitkanen does tease you.

5) Speaking of Pitkanen, how are negotiations going with him? Has he shown enough consistency to warrant a long term contract? Is this a guy who wants to stay in Edmonton?

I haven't talked to agent Larry Kelly or Kevin Lowe about negations since before the trade deadline. I don't think Pitkanen has shown enough consistency to warrant the kind of dollars he wants. I'm not sold on him, particularly at anything over $3.5 million a season. I'll be convinced he wants to stay in Edmonton when he signs for 4-6 years for sane money.

6) Jarrett Stoll has had only 8 points on even-strength this season. He's eligible for Unrestricted Free agency in the summer of 2009. Given Stoll's declining play, do you feel the Oilers should commit to him long term? Or should they sign him for one year at lower salary, making him a free agency in the summer of 2009? Or should they move him this summer? What's the scoop on the Stoll front?

I'd sign Stoll for one year at this point. If he wants to leave for bigger money in 2009, and I suspect he might if a Californian team shows interest, that's fine. Can't move him this summer when his value is so low. It makes no sense.

7) Is there any chance the Oilers will be active in the unrestricted free agent market this summer?

Yes. But I'm not Bruce Garrioch, so forgive me for declining to throw out countless names so I can say I was right.

8) This past summer, many fans were upset with the Oilers passing up on Alexei Cherepanov in favour of project defenceman, Alexandre Plante. What is your opinion on that decision?

I thought it was a mistake and still do. I saw Sam Gagner as a sure-fire NHLer and a very safe pick. I'd have taken a chance with my other picks.

9) On February 20, 2007, Patrick LaForge was quoted in the Globe and Mail:

["The cap has climbed dramatically," said LaForge, referring to growth from $39-million a year ago to $44-million this season. "Much more than people thought it would or I thought it would.”

"We're in Year 2 of a six-year deal and we'll see where it goes. But if the cap was a few million dollars less it would change the world for us."]

Given the fact the Oilers ended up spending close to the cap in the summer of 2007 (perhaps in response to Katz ownership bid) and Katz pledged to spend up to the cap annually if successful in taking over the Oilers, can we infer that this statement was intentionally misleading? What are your thoughts on this statement?

I don't see anything as intentionally misleading, but I think LaForge should stick to shaking hands and selling tickets and leave salary cap comments to people on the hockey operations side of things -- as in Kevin Lowe.

10) Have you personally met Daryl Katz? What's the opinion on him in the media circles? Any mention on the players feelings towards this ownership change? How do you the Oilers will benefit from Katz presence?

No, I haven't.
As for the players, it's all positive, but what are they going to say? "I hate the new owner, bring back Cal?"
As for benefits, the most obvious one is the potential to get the new arena built with Katz's commitment to putting $100 million towards it. Money is influence and he's got plenty of both. He's driven and he's competitive. This won't be a hobby for him. I doubt very much he'll settle for mediocrity.

11) There have been rumblings of Edmonton being an undesirable place for NHL players in recent years. Do you agree with the notion that Edmonton is a fishbowl and/or undesirable? From your interactions with the team and players, do you feel there are any players currently on the team that wish to be playing elsewhere?

Edmonton is a fishbowl, but not nearly as much as Toronto or Montreal. Certain players don't like the media attention here -- Mike Comrie comes to mind. Undesirable? It depends what you desire. If you want to golf during hockey season and want to be left alone outside the rink, this isn't the place for you.

12) Sheldon Souray was quoted as saying:

[A day later, the Canadiens offered Souray a four-year deal commonly reported to be worth $22 million, numbers he says “are close.”

By then, he had similar or better offers elsewhere – eventually a half-dozen or so serious offers, Souray says, before Edmonton came out of nowhere, “not even kicking the tires” until July 11 – and felt he had slipped well down the Canadiens’ list of priorities.

“When Edmonton came into (talks), I honestly couldn’t believe that they’d be serious about spending that much money on a guy like me. It was a no-brainer. Everything was too good.

“It took me two minutes to say yes. I told my agent, ‘Have the papers faxed to sign before they change their mind.’]

Given this, does it seem as if the Oilers signed Souray for PR purposes (after striking out on forwards like Nylander, Kariya, Gomez)? Or was it indeed a legitimate hockey move to fill a team need?

PR? I think it was more a case of Kevin Lowe wanting to do something after the disaster of 2006-07 and not having a line-up of free agents begging to come here. I think it was a hockey move, but I thought he over-valued Souray -- my issue was with the length of the deal, given his injury history. As for the money, the Oilers came in heavy and offered more, substantially more, than any other team that kicked the tires on him.

13) Kevin Lowe made headline sports news with his RFA offersheets to Vanek and Penner. Do you feel there is possibility of "revenge" from teams like Anaheim or Buffalo? With Stoll, Gilbert, Nilsson, Grebeshkov, Stortini as RFA's this summer?

Yes. I'd be more worried about Pitkanen and Gilbert than anybody else. Stoll has little value right now. Stortini? You're kidding, right?

14) On the Oilogosphere, many references are made to advanced hockey statistics such as EV/60 (Even-strength points per 60 minutes), PPP/60 (Powerplay points per 60 minutes), EV+/EV- (+/- after filtering out empty net goals for/against situations). These numbers are updated daily How interested is the media in finding out more about these numbers? Do GM's take these numbers into account, or do they take more of a conventional "Eye-based" scouting approach when negotiating contracts and signing free agents?

I'm not the least bit interested in these numbers. I know what I see and I know what I think. I'll go with that over pages of statistics any day. As for GMs, that's a broad question. I suspect there's a wide range in answers for that.

15) What are your thoughts on the Edmonton Oil Kings inaugural season? Was it a successful season from a business point of view? Hockey point of view? Were the crowds underwhelming? Is Edmonton more of an Oilers town rather than a hockey town?

It went as expected. I don't know if it was succesful from a business point of view. From a hockey point of view, yes. The crowds were what I expected. And yes, Edmonton is more of an Oilers town than a hockey town.

16) Do you have any other comments you wish to add? Any message to fans who visit the Oilogosphere?

Keep reading. Keep writing. There's lots of insight, knowledge and talent out there and much of it has no formal journalism training. There's plenty of room for everyone.

Thanks once again for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with the Oilogosphere and Oiler fans. Keep up the good work.



Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Tough Questions with John MacKinnon

I recently approached Edmonton Journal columnist, John MacKinnon for an interview. He kindly agreed. His bio and Edmonton Journal page can be viewed here. Below is the email transcript.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions and weigh your mind. I've been impressed by your journalism over the course of the season, which inspired me to have you as a Q & A guest. Let’s begin.

1) How did you become an Oilers fan? How did you get in the journalism business? What's the best part of your job? What are some of your other hobbies and interests?

For starters, I am not an Oilers fan. I just cover them. Over the course of my career, I have also covered the Montreal Canadiens, for the Canadian Press, and the Ottawa Senators for the Citizen. I covered Ottawa's successful campaign to land an NHL franchise and the first two seasons of the expansion Senators as the beat reporter.

As for how my career unfolded, I wanted to be a sportswriter since I was a kid. I read the Montreal papers, French and English, as a kid, and also regularly read the New York papers, growing up.

My heroes were Red Smith, who won a Pulitzer Prize, Jimmy Cannon and John Lardner, son of the journalist and short fiction author Ring Lardner. Ring Lardner covered the 1919 'Black Sox,' in Chicago.

In John Sayles' movie treatment of Eliot Asinof's seminal book, Eight Men Out, Sayles himself played Lardner.
I always have been keenly aware of the tradition of sportswriting and read the work of as many of the greats of the past as I could.

I majored in journalism at Concordia University in Montreal, working part-time for the Canadian Press all through school. (I later obtained a master's in media administration at Syracuse University.)

For three straight summers (1978-79-80) I compiled the Expos home box scores for the Associated Press, for example. I also did some stringing for the CP, doing the occasional assignment solo and helping out at Canadiens and Alouettes games as a quotes runner.

My first full-time job in the field was in Montreal with United Press Canada, a wire service affiliated with UPI, back in the day. Both services are defunct.

I then worked for 10 years for CP, based in Montreal. Since then I have worked in Ottawa and here in Edmonton, with a two-year detour as communications manager for Hockey Canada (1996-1998) in Calgary, along the way.

I was Journal sports editor from 1999 — 2003 and have written a column from 2003 onward.

The best part of the job is being close to the immediacy and the human drama of sport and telling interesting stories about the people in that world. It's hard but rewarding to do it well and it rarely feels like work, in the 9-to-5 sense. Of course, the hours in the job are elastic, to say the least. Nights, weekends.

Apart from work, I like to work out.
I read as widely as I possibly can across a broad spectrum of interests. I try to sop up as much culture as I can — movies, theatre, dance, visual arts and lots and lots of music (I'm a jazz buff.)

2) On February 20, 2007, Patrick LaForge was quoted in the Globe and Mail:

["The cap has climbed dramatically," said LaForge, referring to growth from $39-million a year ago to $44-million this season. "Much more than people thought it would or I thought it would.”

"We're in Year 2 of a six-year deal and we'll see where it goes. But if the cap was a few million dollars less it would change the world for us."]

Given the fact the Oilers ended up spending close to the cap in the summer of 2007 (perhaps in response to Katz ownership bid) and Katz pledged to spend up to the cap annually if successful in taking over the Oilers, can we infer that this statement was misleading? What are your thoughts on this statement?

First, in reading the Naylor piece, it seems to me this was written not in Feb. 2007 but Feb. 2006. LaForge is quoted, for example, talking about an 89 cent dollar. But the dollar is at par with the U.S. greenback right now. And the cap is $50.3 million, not $44 million, which was the ceiling last season. Plus, this is season three following the lockout, and hence, it is now year three of a six-year CBA.

So, I think the comments are at least a year old.
The cap is no panacea to ward off economic trouble entirely. But I think it does level the playing field by narrowing the immense payroll gap that once existed.

As the cap climbs — owing, significantly, to full arenas north of the border — small-market teams still will be squeezed, particularly if they consistently miss the playoffs. That's where the big profits always have been, since the players' salary payments cease by season's end.

I don't think the Oilers have any urgent current issues owing to the $50.3 million cap, though.

3) Have you personally met Katz? What's the opinion on him in the media circles? Any mention on the players feelings towards this ownership change? How do you the Oilers will benefit from Katz presence?

I have crossed paths with Daryl Katz many times. He's a quiet spoken, decent, family man who is extremely bright and driven. And community oriented.

He knows many of the old-time Oilers, who count him as a friend. He also knows a number of the current Oilers, (Moreau, Staios, Horcoff) who regard him well and believe he'll be a good owner.

The biggest impact Katz can have in a pizzazz sense is helping to finance a new arena, then adding his marketing muscle to programming it for all events, not just the Oilers. Keep in mind, Katz made his billions by growing Rexall continent-wide. He is a 'branding' expert and sport is all about that these days.

For the team on an ongoing basis, I think having a decisive, deep-pockets business heavyweight in charge can help the club with intangibles, like attracting free agents, shortening the line between thought and action from owner to GM (and vice-versa), and so forth.

I also think he can fortify the Oilers front office, maybe try to replicate that Detroit set-up a lot more easily than the previous administration.

The EIG was right for its time and did a fabulous service for Edmonton, but it can be hard to maintain consensus as the years pile up and, some years, the losses.

4) Edmontonians are keenly interested in the new downtown arena project and public funding. How much of a role do you think the public will play in the funding process? Is the project in stages ahead of what the general public knows?

It will be interesting to see what, if any, public money (taxpayers' money) Mayor Stephen Mandel's feasibility study foresees.

The biggest role for the public will be patronizing the activities in and around the arena — the games, the bars, restaurants, shops, on and on. Depending on what the final project looks like.

I have no doubt the game plan is moving faster than information is flowing to the public. We'll know more later this month when Mandel unveils the feasibility study.

5) There have been rumblings of Edmonton being an undesirable place for NHL players in recent years. Do you agree with the notion that Edmonton is a fishbowl and/or undesirable? From your interactions with the team and players, do you feel there are any players, besides Roloson, currently on the team that wish to be playing elsewhere?

Pronger's abrupt departure, literally sprinting for the exit hours after a spectacularly successful season had ended, caused much damage to a city with an inferiority complex and one that is undeniably geographically isolated from the North American mainstream.

A superstar with a five-year deal bolting after one year from a Cup finalist raises eyebrows, for sure. It hurt.
Any Canadian city — and a few U.S. ones — put intense scrutiny on their hockey team. I come from Montreal, where the scrutiny comes in both official languages and is, if anything, far more intense and unrelenting than it is in Edmonton.

The upside to the scrutiny is the sheer, over-the-moon energy in the community when the getting is good. Not to mention the roar in the rink through a playoff run.

That said, there are some players who don't want to come to Edmonton, just as there have been many free agents (Shanahan, Smyth, and Briere) who spurned Montreal. Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa don't bat 1,000 in free-agent signings, either.

A big selling point for any team is the ability to win a Stanley Cup. Edmonton's chances are improving, if you ask me.
In the wake of losing Pronger, Peca, Samsonov, Spacek et al, the Oilers chances took an immediate, if not temporarily catastrophic hit. But things are turning around. It takes time.

I think Roloson's big issue is playing, not Edmonton per se. He came here — swapped for a first-round draft pick, remember — to be The Guy. He lived up to his end of the bargain back in '05-06.

To be supplanted as No. 1, to sit for long stretches and listen to trade rumors (or rumors that he is untradeable) isn't easy.

6) Do you feel the Sheldon Souray signing was a legitimate hockey move, or one that was inspired for PR purposes?

I think Souray's signing was an overpayment, which I wrote last summer. That said, I think it was largely a hockey move. The Oilers power play had suffered and Souray was perceived as something of a power-play stud, given his success in Montreal.

I also think Lowe overloaded on puck-moving defenceman — a widely acknowledged problem last season — with the view that he might move one of Pitkanen or Souray (or someone else) as the season wore on. Injuries to key dudes, including Souray, blew that plan up.

7) Kevin Lowe made headline sports news with his RFA offersheets to Vanek and Penner. Do you feel there is possibility of "revenge" from teams like Anaheim or Buffalo? With Stoll, Gilbert, Nilsson, Grebeshkov, Stortini as RFA's this summer?

There's no question Lowe now is a target for a tit-for-tat signing. I'm not sure the likes of Grebeshkov and Stortini are likely targets for offer sheets. A team overpaying for those guys would be mighty reckless, if you ask me.

Stoll might have been at risk, but if you were a rival GM, given his tepid season, would you break the bank to sign him?

I think Lowe will sign the guys he wants to sign from this group.

8) What do you think the best move Kevin Lowe has made since the lockout? Worst move? How did you feel with regards to the 4 year extension Kevin Lowe received back in October? Is the team destined for good things in the upcoming years?

Immediately following the lockout, Lowe was Tom Cruise in his early years — he made all the right moves.
Pronger, Peca, Spacek, Samsonov, Roloson, Tarnstrom all came for a reasonable, if not eminently affordable price. He was clicking and the club just about won the Stanley Cup.

Since then, life has been tougher, to say the least.
Worst move may be the failed offer sheet to Vanek and the successful one for Penner. Lowe felt he had to replace the goals lost when Smyth was traded (I don't count that as the worst move, by the way, because it was a hardball negotiation under pressure of deadline that didn't work out, pure and simple.).

As years go by, Oilers fans may regret the loss of draft picks far more than they celebrate the achievements of Penner.

But, as with the Pitkanen trade and the Souray deal, the Oilers were trying to fill the massive hole left by the damaging departure of Pronger.

9) On the Oilogosphere, many references are made to advanced hockey statistics such as EV/60 (Even-strength points per 60 minutes), PPP/60 (Powerplay points per 60 minutes), EV+/EV- (+/- after filtering out empty net goals for/against situations). These numbers are updated daily
How interested is the media in finding out more about these numbers? Do GM's take these numbers into account, or do they take more of a conventional "Eye-based" scouting approach when negotiating contracts and signing free agents?

I think the MSM is less interested in such stats than the bloggers, but the gap probably is narrowing.
GMs and player-personnel types look at all factors in assessing their people. Their work has become way more systematic and computerized over the years than people know.

One area they place emphasis on, one which is unavailable to those not close to the teams and players, is character, personality, human qualities.

Of course, human traits are key in any workplace, including pro sports.

10) What are your thoughts on the Edmonton Oil Kings inaugural season? Was it a successful season from a business point of view? Hockey point of view? Were the crowds underwhelming? Is Edmonton more of an Oilers town rather than a hockey town?

I did not attend any of their games, so I can't offer any comment. I'm sure that will change, going forward, and I certainly am a fan of major junior hockey.

But this year, it wasn't a priority for me.

11) Do you have any other comments you wish to add?

I peruse the Oilogosphere regularly, as you may know, and believe the bloggers make an important contribution to the hockey dialogue.

Thanks for the opportunity to make my own modest contribution. I enjoyed this.

Thanks once again for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with the Oilogosphere and Oiler fans. Keep up the good work with the Edmonton Journal.



Monday, March 17, 2008

Forgive and Forget


Some noteworthy excerpts:

" Aw, sometimes I exaggerated calls," he will admit. " It's not like you think about it -- your instinct just takes over. You are so into the game. And getting excited isn't a bad thing, is it? You get so wrapped up in the game, so ? into the moment."

McGeough's moments include that first playoff game: " I fell flat on my ass right off the draw."

That first Stanley Cup final, Carolina-Edmonton in 2006: " It took so long to get there. Probably the best feather in my cap.

" Edmonton is one of the best places to work in the league," he adds. " Anyone who cares that much about their hockey? How can you not love working there?"

McGeough thought he saw Horcoff pull the puck back with his hand. Replays showed he did not, and within minutes after the game McGeough 'fessed up that he was wrong. He manned up to the press, and the player. He felt awful then, and still does now, nearly 2½ years later.

"I screwed the call up. It was flat out wrong. Didn't see it the right way," he said. "Shawn Horcoff is such a nice man. I said, 'I apologize. I screwed that call up.' He said, 'You haven't made many mistakes in your career. Don't worry about it.'"

"Aw, he's a good ref. He's not retarded," MacTavish said, ridiculing his own ill-conceived remark. "You ref as many games as he has, there is going to be an incident here and there."

Ales Hemsky (In Pictures)

As a KID (Well, he certainly looks like one)

A Grown up Ales

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kevin Lowe likely has little input on draft day

As per Gare Joyce's book, "Future Greats and Heartbreaks," page 241.

Most general managers give total authority to their chief amateur scouts or scouting directors

In Edmonton's case, it's Stu MacGregor [Thanks to Lowetide for the correction]

Part 02 - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Defenceman

Part 02 of the 05 piece series.

1) Smid, Ladislav

The Good
-After a rough first half, has showed some progression in the new year. Since January 3, he's been holding his fort at EV (-2).

The Bad
-Failed to crack the team out of training camp
-Offensive numbers show little (no) progression. From 77-3-7-10 last year, he's at 54-0-4-4 this season.

The Ugly
-The stretch from December 2 to January 2 in which he was a -10, getting beat on the back door play repeatedly

Things to Ponder
-If the Oilers make no changes to the defense this off season, there will be 8 of them on one-way contracts. Could the Oilers use Smid as part of a trade package?
-Does he have any offensive potential?
-What is his single biggest strength on the ice? I'm stumped.

2) Greene, Matt

The Good
-The 2.36 GA ON /60 represents strong improvement, and is the team best
-Seems to have settled down 5 on 5

The Bad
-Like Smid, the little offensive game he had took a step back. 77-1-9-10 last year to 34-0-1-1

The Ugly
-Lower body Injury that sidelined him for 37 games

Things to Ponder
-If the Oilers make no changes to the defense this off season, there will be 8 of them on one-way contracts. Could the Oilers use Smid as part of a trade package?
-He will be a UFA in 2 years. Has he made enough progression to warrant keeping with Petry and Chorney close to graduation?

3) Roy, Mathieu

The Good
-In a limited sample size, has a respectable 3.14 GF ON/60

The Bad
-In a limited sample size, has a dis-respectable 3.14 GA ON/60

The Ugly
-It's been a season of injuries
-One way contract in which he will earn $500,000 next season.

Things to Ponder
-Does Katz bury his salary in the minors next season, or is he kept as press box material as a 7th defenceman?

4) Grebeshkov, Denis

The Good
-Strong two way play in 2008.
-10 of his 14 points have been in the new year. Good first pass, and offensive instincts
-GA ON/60 is a respectable 2.50
-Team leading Corsi number (omitting Roy) at 1.4

The Bad
-A bit of a tendency to pass when in a good opportunity to shoot.

The Ugly
-A rough start. -8 in the first 11 games of the season.

Things to Ponder
-Do the Oilers take him into arbitration to protect against any RFA Offersheets?
-Do the Oilers lock him up long term with hopes of contract over performance?

5) Staios, Steve

The Good
-Veteran presence, teaching rookies
-Effective PK

The Bad
-3.30 GA ON/60 and a -21 EV+/EV- perhaps could be an indication that he's a declining player
-His offensive numbers 70-7-7-14 are his worst totals since 2001-2002

The Ugly

Things to Ponder
-Does Kevin Lowe move Staios and his 3 remaining years of the contract this off season?
-Kevin Lowe got $1 for $0.30 in the Smith and Niinimaa trades. Is Staios a declining asset, or are his numbers significantly influenced by his defensive partners?

6) Pitkanen, Joni

The Good
-Strong corsi numbers based on team ranking
-Shows dominance and creativity on the ice at times
-Has logged up minutes on numerous occasions (>20 min TOI)

The Bad
-1.68 PPP/60 continue to illustrate that Pitkanen isn't a strong PP performer
-Inconsistent play. Had a good streak from Nov 30 - Jan 2 (+8, 10 points)
-Offensive numbers took a huge step back. From 46 points in 58 games in 2005-2006, to 43 in 77 in 2006-2007, down to 20 in 53.

The Ugly
-Questions about his heart and work ethic arising in the media circles
-Agent rumoured to be asking in the neighborhood of 4.5M range.

Things to Ponder
-Do you sign him long term if given the opportunity? Are the rewards worth the risk?
-Is he committed? Is he coachable? Is he durable?

7) Souray, Sheldon

The Good
-He hasn't been an EV nightmare, and has a respectable (team relative) 2.42 GA ON/60
-Logged up TOI (all games in which he did not get injured in, were above 20 min TOI)
-Veteran presence
-PR purpose

The Bad
-He was brought in to make a difference on the PP. His 1.72 PPP/60 is a big drop off from the 7.0+/60 posted last year. Of course it's a small sample size.

The Ugly
-Shoulder injuries that cut his season to 26 games.
-Injuries have been the story of his career

Things to Ponder
-Is his shoulder injury chronic?
-Can he stay healthy next year?
-Can he improve the PP significantly next season and provide some stability on defence?

8) Gilbert, Tom

The Good
-Strong EV scoring. Respectable PPP/60 (2.92) for a rookie.
-Ability to log minutes, keep penalties to a minimum (14 PIM)
-Showing potential to improve in upcoming years

The Bad

The Ugly
-Had a rough month in January. Expected though, with rookies.

Things to Ponder
-Does Kevin Lowe take him to arbitration to prevent an RFA Offersheets?
-Does Lowe lock him up long term, with the player 2 years away from free agency?
-Can Gilbert replace Stoll on the point on the PP?

*Omitted - Dick Tarnstrom (traded) and Alan Rourke (limited sample size)
*Numbers obtained from

Part 03 and 04 will tackle the forwards. Part 05 will tackle management/coaching.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Oilers Cap Situation for 2008-2009 as of March 12, 2008

YK Oil had a nice post on HF with respect the Oilers squad next year. This inspired me to analyze the Oilers cap numbers for next season. I will quote his post here, and then discuss the cap situation for 2008-2009.

The issues are many but the biggest one imo is Horcoff returning healthy.

- we know Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky is a good outscoring #1 line
- we know the kids should make a fantastic #2 soft minute line
- we know Torres or Moreau and Pisani make for a good 3rd line
- we know Glencross - Brodziak - Stortini make a good, competitive, 4th line

Hence it revolves, first, around Horcoff. If he is good to go next year then our forward lines, oddly enough, should take care of themselves.


It's no secret that we absolutely need Horcoff to be healthy. I don't think over the long run (as good as the Oilers have been recently), this team could survive without him.

While YKOIL's list seems great on paper, I wonder how the Oilers will fare next year with respect to injuries. On those hilly grounds, I sense we should bring back insurance in Marty Reasoner for another year at similar salary.


There's always the risk of one of the younger players hitting in a slump in their sophomore season. For that reason, it may be wise to add another top 6 player with more NHL experience. Cory Stillman, Brian Rolston, Martin Straka, Radim Vrbata, Brendan Shannahan, Vaclav Prospal, David Vyborny, Kristian Huselius should all be options looked upon in the UFA market. Is there enough room in the cap to allow such a move? Lets go on a voyage and find out.

The salary cap in 2008-2009 will be ~54-55M. Lets use the average and dub it 54.5M The Oilers have 33.714M committed, with Pitkanen, Grebeskhov, Gilbert, Pouliot, Glencross, Nilsson, Stortini, Stoll, Reasoner, Sanderson to sign (or replace). Of course this adds up to 16 forwards - so the Oilers will presumably let Sanderson and another forward go.


4.000M for Pitkanen, 1.750M to Grebeshkov, 2.500M to Gilbert, 0.650M to Pouliot (one way), 1.000M to Glencross, 1.750M to Nilsson, .700M to Stortini, and 2.500M to Stoll. If Reasoner is brought back, he's making .900M, and the unlikely event Sanderson is brought back, .850M.

Making the assumption the Oilers don't bring back Sanderson, and decide to keep Pouliot over Reasoner - we're at 14.850M to the RFA's/UFA's.

Lets assume my numbers are too generous. Gilbert gets 3M. Nilsson 2.250M. Stortini gets .715M. TOTAL: 1.15M net addition.

We're at 16.000M


That's around 33.714M + 16.000M + 1.000M bonus cushion (Gagner and Cogliano) = 50.714M with 14 forwards, 8 defenceman, and 2 goalies. You bury Mathieau Roy's salary in the minors, and you're left with 50.214M and a sufficient 7 defenceman.


Salary management must take into account of the future years' cap situation. Horcoff should be locked up this summer, and will likely receive north of 5M+. If the Oilers brass is confident in Garon, he too will get a sizable raise, perhaps in the Ilya Bryzgalov territory (4.25M). Losing Roloson's 3.6667M cap hit will help, but will not be enough on a stand alone basis.

All signs point out to Jarrett Stoll being moved. Other possibilities are Torres, Moreau, or Staios.

Stoll is set to become a UFA in 1 year, possibly long term injury issues, lack of offense on EV (only 8 points this year), and a good core of young centers within the organization. No sugar coating the fact that losing him hurts the PP - but at the same time, there are limited options - you either sign him to a 1 year deal, or 3+ year deal. Unless you can get him to sign a long term deal with a minimal raise, all signs point out to a shorter term deal being logical. Perhaps he WILL bounce back to the player he was pre-concussion - holding his fort at EV, though not taking advantage of the soft minutes. If he's traded, perhaps a draft day deal including him with the Anaheim's 1st to move up should be looked at.

I'd wouldn't mind moving Moreau. He's a quality player, but I don't believe that he's anywhere near performing his contract figure. It's been 3 years since the lockout, and he's had trouble staying healthy throughout those years. That 2M of cap space is better served with Glencross who is half the price,similar results, and half the number of "Lloyd Christmas-esque dumb" penalties.

Torres is an interesting player. He seems to have issues with consistency, but his production is mostly on EV. Something that's probably more valuable than the 2007-2008 Jarrett Stoll.

Staios is a veteran defenceman that I'd imagine Lowe wants to keep around for a little while longer before some of the younger defenceman prove night in and night out that he is redundant in the organization.

Whatever the case, I expect at least one of these 4 to be moved by the summer of 2009 (possibly 2) in an effort to increase flexibility for the Horcoff/Garon extensions, and then the soon to be "ineligible for team elected arbitration" Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano in the summer of 2010.


With an estimated 50.214M committed - that leaves effectively [54.5M CAP -50.214M committed - 2.5M (~5%) Cushion space for injuries/trades = a whopping 1.786M to spend ]

Certainly not enough to make a big play in July.

Unless the Oilers unload a mid-range salary (i.e. Stoll, Torres, Moreau, Staios), they simply won't have the flexibility to dip into the UFA market. If the Oilers do decide to move one of those guys and jump in the free agent market, they must stick to short term contracts (no > than 2 years) as they need to keep the flexibility for Horcoff/Garon/Gagner/Cogliano extensions.

Guys like Cory Stillman, Brian Rolston, Martin Straka, Radim Vrbata, Brendan Shannahan, David Vyborny, Michael Ryder, Ladislav Nagy *may* fit this catagory.

The Souray contract certainly isn't looking good at the moment. And right now you almost wish Kevin Lowe have signed Ladislav Nagy for a 1 year, 5.5M contract and kept the picks over Dustin Penner (who showed minimal progression over last season and is looking more of a complimentary player every counting day).

It will be an interesting summer. Salary cap (or budget) management is something all GM's must engage in. Manage it well, and you will likely see the results in the points column. Screw it up...and're screwed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Riley Nash - Curb that Enthusiasm...Just A Little


Men’s Ice Hockey 2007-08 All-Ivy

First Team
F - *Lee Jubinville, Princeton (Jr., Edmonton, Alberta)
F - Nick Johnson, Dartmouth (Sr., Calgary, Alberta)
F - Sean Backman, Yale (So., Cos Cob, Conn.)
D - *Mike Moore, Princeton (Sr., Calgary, Alberta)
D - Sean Hurley, Brown (Sr., Rutland, Vt.)
G - Kyle Richter, Harvard (So., Calgary, Alberta)

Second Team

F - Colin Greening, Cornell (So., St. John's, Newfoundland)
F - Brett Wilson, Princeton (Calgary, Alberta)
F - Riley Nash, Cornell (Fr., Kamloops, British Columbia)
F - Mike Taylor, Harvard (Sr., Maple Grove, Minn.)
D - Evan Stephens, Dartmouth (Fr., Bessemer, Mich.)
D - Dave MacDonald, Harvard (Sr., Halifax, Nova Scotia)
G - Zane Kalemba, Princeton (So., Saddle Brook, N.J.)

Honorable Mention

F - Topher Scott, Cornell (Sr., Buffalo Grove, Ill.)
F - Ryan Garbutt, Brown (Jr., Winnipeg, Manitoba)
D - Tom Dignard, Yale (So., Reading, Mass.)
D - Alex Biega, Harvard (So., Montreal, Quebec)
G - Ben Scrivens, Cornell (So., Spruce Grove, Alberta)



-Clearly indicates a weak conference. Hands up, how many players besides Riley Nash did you recognize?
-A further look reveals that only 5 out of the 18 above listed names have been drafted. Riley Nash (1st), Nick Johnson (3rd), Alex Biega (5th), Colin Greening (7th), Dave McDonald (7th).
-Nick Johnson put up 35 points in 35 games (1 PPG) in his 18 year old season. It appears his University career is almost over, and he may never play in the NHL.
-Numbers similar to Kris Chucko (24th overall, 2004 draft) at 17 years of age. Chucko then put up 21 in 43 at the University of Minnesota at 18 years of age. The question becomes - what sort of numbers would Nash post playing against the best in the NCAA?
-Riley Nash didn't make the Team Canada World Junior squad. Hell, he wasn't even invited to the try-outs. Andrew Cogliano made it at 18.

-The scouts. Many had him ranked as a 1st round selection, and that should speak for the confidence they have in his ability.
-Strong praise from his coach in Salmon Arm (BCHL) - lead team in scoring, albeit not to extent of Travis Zajac
-Hyperbole or not, he has impressed the Oilers brass, most notably Kevin Prendergast.
-An excellent ''all-around game'' from numerous sources.


Perhaps Riley Nash is just putting points (29 in 32 GP) against nobodies. Look, I'm not saying he won't be an NHL player - it's just that his numbers have to be looked at in context before declaring him guaranteed top 6 material. Perhaps he has the top 6 upside - I'd like to believe so. It will be an interesting development in the upcoming years.

How about Chris Higgins (Yale University) as a comparable? (Credit to Choppystride at Lowetide's for the suggestion) Higgins put up 31 in 27 games at 18. Then 41 in 28 games the next year. He followed that up with 2 years in the AHL, before finally finding a role in the NHL (Montreal). Given the fact Nash is clearly playing in a weaker conference, is it reasonable to expect him to be posting a PPG mark ''well north of 1" next year, akin to Chris Higgins? And make Team Canada World Junior Squad (he'll be 19)?

Your opinion is valued.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Goals For and the Standings

The Edmonton Oilers have scored 185 goals (including SO) thus far in the 2007-2008 season.

The following playoff teams are in comparable range:
Calgary has 188 (12 games over .500). San Jose has 182 (18 games over .500). Anaheim has 173 (13 games over .500). Minnesota has 185 (11 games over .500). Colorado has 186 (11 games over .500)

The difference between these teams and the Oilers?

The Oilers allow too many goals against. 206 to be exact. 2nd worst in the Conference, only behind LA.

What does this mean?/Other notes

-The talk of the Oilers needing more scoring to win hockey games isn't neccessarily true. What they need is more outscorers.
-What they need is more veterans like Pisani who aren't on the ice too much for GA. This is why many were advocating signing Mike Johnson
-Losing Pisani until December was a massive loss. Losing Moreau for all but 26 games has hurt the team. Losing Raffi Torres, who is a strong EV player as numbers show, is also not a good thing.
-It's also no coincidence that ever since Horcoff's injury, the 1st line has suffered (Hemsky -9. Penner -10)
-Goaltending early on contributed to the Oilers woes. On the flip side, there is a possibilty Garon will not match this season's performance level next year.
-The Gagner's, Cogliano's, Brodziak's, Grebeshkov's, Smid's, and Greene's, have up until recenlty, just killed the Oilers in the short run
-Veteran's in Stoll and Reasoner have been massive disappointments

Overall Delivering Message

-The Oilers being 26th in the league should not be surprising at all.
-Rookies rarely help your team win hockey games, and for a winning team, you typically bring them up slowly in singles rather than in bunches
-After around 50 games, the rookies and younger players have demonstrated improvement and an ability to tread water in the NHL.
-This will help next year, but there is still lots of work to be done to make this team a playoff contender. 2009-2010 is more realistic. It's simply put, not a quick process.

So what do we do?

We patiently wait.

Friday, March 07, 2008


NOTE: Click on the image if you can't read the words clearly.