Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Calvalry Isn't Coming Over the Nearest Hill For Awhile

The Edmonton Oilers have fulfilled the prophecy I made 3 years ago of a steady decent into the basement of the league. The lack of talent on their roster is so horrendous that even their AHL and ECHL teams are in the basements of their respective leagues. The starting six on defense (making a combined 22 million this season) is one of the worst unit's collectively in the league and their most steady performer, Ladislav Smid, is reviled by local fans due to his forever connection to the fleecing that was the Chris Pronger trade. Up front Ales Hemsky, while overrated, is the team's best playmaker and is out for the season with a shoulder injury so the team relies almost exclusively on Dustin Penner for consistent offense. The developement of the young players such as Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson, and Andrew Cogliano has completely stalled or has regressed unbelievably. Shawn Horcoff and his contract has become a running joke, akin to Tiger Woods, around the league and Patrick O'Sullivan is performing a dissapearing act in Edmonton that would put Joeffry Lupul to shame. But maybe no position is in worse shape then the goaltenders. Nikolai Khabibulin has serious back issues that limited him to only 18 games this season and now require surgery. At 36 years of age not only is their no guarrantee how he'll be when he comes back but his contract with 3 years left on it at 3.75 millon wouldn't come off the cap if he retires now because he signed the contract after the age of 35. Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk are two young, inexperienced goaltenders who's intro to the league has basically become like being Christians handed to the lions in the Roman Coliseum. However the thing that has given Oiler fans hope is that the management team can no longer live in the dark about how bad the team is. That along with prospects who starred in the World Juniors (Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paarvi-Svensson, and Anton Lander) and a probable top 3 draft pick, maybe even Taylor Hall at first over all, must mean that a full blow up of the roster is imminent right? Not really.

Beyond those three mentioned prospects there's nothing of note beyond maybe Jeff Petry coming up the pipe first of all. Secondly the contract situations of almost the entire roster. They are a last place team with a first place payroll. Out of all the players featured frequently in the trade rumor mill (i.e. Steve Staios, Ethan Moreau, Sheldon Souray, Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert, and Patrick O'Sullivan) only Cogliano will probably draw serious interest at the trade deadline. If coached properly Cogliano could probably be an elite checking forward in the league with his speed. He doesn't have the hockey sense or hands to be a consistent goal scorer. The other players all have at least one season left after this one their contracts for money that they are not worth. Moreau and Staios are making 2 million and 2.7 next year respectively. Souray is a 5.5 million and a NTC next year. O'Sullivan is making around 3 million next year while Tom Gilbert has four years remaining at 4 million per season. No one is going to even think about trading for those contracts until the draft in June. So don't expect a major housecleaning until June.

And of course there's the draft. The Oilers have succesfully continued to plummit down to the basement and are now only 2 points up on the Carolina Hurricans and with the 'Canes playing some halfway decent hockey right now the Oilers will probably take a stranglehold on the 30th place position soon. This would give them a 50% chance of winning the draft lottery and getting the first overall pick in this years upcoming draft. The last place team doesn't always get that pick though. In 2004 the Washington Capitals moved up from #3 and got the right to take the current best player in the NHL, Alex Ovechkin, while in 2006 the Chicago Blackhawks moved up from #5 to #1 to be able to take Patrick Kane (as a side note the Edmonton Oilers were in that slot until their last game of the season where the defeated the Calgary Flames). The furthest the Oilers could fall would be the #2 slot and if indeed this comes to pass then taking Windsor Spitfires defenseman Cam Fowler ahead of Plymouth Walers centre Tyler Seguin. While both look like great picks, a star #1 defenseman is more important then a #1 centreman so Fowler should be the pick. Naturally if they get the first pick then Taylor Hall is a forgone conclusion.

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