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Oilers Roundtable Discussion, 1/3 of the way through the season - Part III

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Can this thing be fixed?  Can the Oilers turn it aound this year?  Is this something that Tambellini can rescue?  The Copper & Blue's roundtable is back to answer those questions. 

Our lineup includes: the prolix Shepso, combining modern western philosophy and hockey at Bringing Back The Glory; Chappy, owner of This is Not a Love Song; HBomb, everyone's favorite bartender in the Oilers' 'sphere;  Dawgbone, the pragmatic commentor that writes too infrequently at After The Green Light; Doogie2k, the go-to guy on physiology working at Still No Name; everyone's favorite antagonist Ender, Doogie's partner in crime at Still No Name; and SumOil, a frequent commentor here and the biggest optimist that any of us know. 

Find the entire series here, tagged 2009 midseason roundtable

5. The fan poll in the preseason roundtable called this team a playoff team.  Without roster changes, is there a even the slightest chance that this team makes the playoffs?

Shepso:  I think this team is a still a work in progress that is missing too many key pieces, either due to injury or not having them to begin with, and as such they likely won’t make it again this year. They’ll be too high in the standings to get a lottery pick too, unfortunately. I say this is a 10th place team, 3 down from where I ranked them in the last roundtable. And on that note by the way, Robert Nilsson is not a tradable asset at the deadline, unless it’s for 3 goats and a virgin to be sacrificed in order to appease the sky wizard and give the Oil the 1st overall pick next year. I want to believe this team can do better, but I just don't see them as any more than a .500 hockey team at best right now.

Chappy:  At this point, we'd need a clear run with no injuries.  If the team can stay healthy and go gangbusters throughout the remainder of the season, then YES, there is a chance.  I don't think that 6-2-1 at the beginning of the season was a fluke.  Unfortunately, the team is down a few forwards, a defenseman or two, and a number one goalie right at the minute.  There can't be any more serious injuries if the team is going to have a shot.

HBomb:  Not unless they somehow get the percentage train going in their favor like it was the first 8 games or so and carry that through to April.   They've changed GM's, they've changed coaches, but the player personnel remains much the same.  Serious help is needed at forward to the tune of at least two decent veterans.   Have fun trying to add them without any cap flexibility, Tambellini.  You can send Kevin Lowe a Thank You Card at Christmas ("Dear Kevin, I appreciate you giving me a shot to finally be an NHL GM, but do you have any idea the mess you've left me?   2.7 million a year for Staios?   2 million a year for Moreau?   Another 2 million to Robert Nilsson to sit in the pressbox?   WTF?????)

Dawgbone:  I think there is a chance.  A big hotstreak can be the difference between finishing .500 and 10 games over.  If Penner continues to play well, Hemmer stays healthy, Horcoff gets better and our blueline gets back to 100% there are enough pieces to snag extra wins.  It is going to take some luck on the Oilers side, combined with things to go wrong with other clubs, but if the 07-08 team and the 03-04 team could nearly sneak in, I think this club could as well.

Doogie2k: Slightest chance?  Sure.  We're 25 or so games in; there's lots of time for things to change.  Is there a realistic chance?  I'm not so sure anymore.  Unlike Colorado, the Oilers didn't bank a ton of points off their percentages before they started rolling snake eyes and had half their Real NHLers on the IR.  Now, they're five points out of the playoffs already and have played more games than any of their direct competition.  The only teams with worse road records are Minnesota and Carolina, the basement teams of their respective conferences.  Again, injuries are a factor, particularly with that road record, but it's a lot harder to be optimistic now than it was two months ago.  And with Hemsky out, I think that unless Tambellini can find someone to stop the bleeding, it's going to be a very long six months from here to mid-April.

Ender:  I said a few weeks back that this team makes the playoffs if they're healthy by the end of November.  That doesn't look like it's going to happen, so while I'm hopeful that Cogliano or Nilsson jump up, at this point I'm more or less writing off the season.  I think the injuries have dug a hole that they're unlikely to recover from.


SumOil:  In the pre-season I had even flirted with the idea of this team winning the division, but it all has come down crashing. There is an obvious lack of NHL players on this roster. We don't have enough skilled players. We don't have many good checking line forwards. With Hemsky out for the season, even the most optimistic of fans should have thrown the towel. This team was flawed at the start of the season and the situation has gone from bad to worse. I don't think that certain players have it in them to drive themselves hard and are happy under-performing.

Let me rephrase this question. How does this team sans any changes reach playoffs this season?
a.  Defense will have to be extremely stingy(cue to Staios) and will have to support the goalie. While doing this, defense has to be responsible for at least replicating last season's offensive production(cue to Gilbert).
b.  Patrick O'Sullivan will have to wake up and start playing ice hockey again. He will have to be defensively responsible (which he currently isn't) in a shut-down role with Horcoff while producing consistent secondary scoring (which is non-existent too)
c.  Pisani's return is imminent to form the 3rd part of the shut-down line and relieve JFJ from that assignment.
d.  Nilsson and Cogliano will have to return to their form from 2 season's ago.
e.  Nikolai Khabibulin will has to return to the net and carry the team on his not so healthy back.

While a couple of these may happen, but all of them isnt. I have never felt so hopeless about this team's chances of making playoffs as I feel now. But hey, I am a huge believer of rebuild and Taylor Hall will look great in Copper n Blue.



6. If you could make a trade, what assets (non-toxic assets) are you willing to put on the table?  What type of player would you be looking for in return?

Shepso:  I am not sure what a non-toxic asset is at this point, but the only untouchables in my world are Hemsky, Penner, Gagner, Ladi and Lubo. Everyone else can go. Ideally, I would love to package Grebs and Moreau for a James Neal/Dustin Brown type player and a cheap center that can win draws, even if he can’t score. I would kill for a 2nd line Winger with some size and real, NHL calibre hands. As much as I hate to lose Cogliano and all of his upside, they way he’s being utilized makes me feel as though he should be cut loose. I really like the kid and I think he deserves the opportunity to play top 6 minutes somewhere, or at least top 9 and pp2 minutes and he could bring back something great (young, but great) in return. I'd love to get someone like Nik Backstrom or Alex Semin out of Washington too, given half a chance.

Chappy:  If I'm pulling the trade trigger here, I'm going to ship out a defenseman (Grebeshkov) for a fourth line centre who can hit and win a faceoff or two.  Give me Blair Betts. Grebs is in a one year deal with a 3.1M cap hit, and the Oilers are going to be needing all the help in that area that they can.  Let go of Moreau and Nilsson for pick or two, it'll surely free up some space. What's Mike Peca doing these days?  I'd pick him up for the remainder fo the year and let 'er rip.

HBomb:  The guys I am shopping are Grebeshkov, O'Sullivan, and, if the return is favorable enough, Cogliano (Moreau, Staios and Nilsson are assumed as throwaways at this point).  I'm looking for a top-six forward and a third line center in return, players with "wide ranges of skills".   This team could use a Brenden Morrow or a Patrick Sharp.   Some skilled size for the LW would be ideal (to ride shotgun for Gagner and whomever remains out of Cogliano and O'Sullivan).

Dawgbone:  I think if we are talking about the Oilers moving valuable assets in the season (i.e. a guy like a healthy Souray), it's not to fill holes but to gather assets.  Aside from that, there are guys like Cogliano and O'Sullivan who may still have lots of interest from other clubs.  If one or both of them are traded I'd like to see a decent RH centre come back.  It also frees up cap space for the summer, where the Oilers can try and concentrate on bringing in veterans who fit specific roles (which is what they failed to do this year).  Guys like a Dvorak or a Betts... the key is to get 2 or 3 of these guys in order to provide a lot more balance throughout the line up.

Doogie2k: Ugh, I've always hated these conversations, and tend to avoid them, simply because they always degenerate into HF-esque pie-in-the-sky dreaming.  (In fact, trade talk is second only to line combinations on my list of "shit I just can't be bothered to read.")  Plus, I've proven to be a thoroughly mediocre fantasy GM over the years,and that's a lot less work than being a real NHL GM.  Fortunately, most of the guys we see as "toxic assets" seem to have value in the world of NHL GMs.  Nilsson probably won't be popular, but closer to deadline time, Ethan Moreau and Steve Staios are exactly the sort of player a lot of contending GMs look for to fill in gaps in the bottom half of their roster for playoff time.  Of course, they're also both signed through next year, which makes the whole "playoff rental" thing a bit hard to do, but I digress.

I think Tambellini needs to decide what, exactly, he wants this roster to do.  We know now that it's never going to be completely healthy, so the question becomes: rebuild or go for it?  If he wants to still go for it, he needs to deal for some cheap to moderately-salaried veterans who know what the hell they're doing in the defensive zone, and who can maybe teach the kids the same thing for their future development.  (I'd bet there aren't many available at this point, except from the two or three death-spiralling teams, but it's worth trying.)  If he decides to tank for the draft, though, he'll need to get rid of an expensive contract or two and let the kids run wild.  Sitting and doing nothing won't move this team in any direction in particular.


Ender:  I don't know how a roster move will help enough to trade assets.  For all the talk of faceoffs - as Scott and I discussed at some point last week - they don't make much of a difference unless you're already being dominated on possession.  At some point you have to accept that the majority of this team's problems right now are defensive miscues by the forwards and while some veteran presence might help that somewhat I don't think there's anybody on the market or anybody that we could afford to tilt the ice enough.  Unless you want to replace 3-4 players, anyway, and at that point you're losing a lot of your young, low-cap options.  I don't think it makes sense moving forwards..


Sumit: How much difference does a couple of week make. Just 2 weeks ago I was thinking about trades to upgrade the skill and grit level of our team. I was ready to move prospects and young players to get more veterans or players in their primes. I was targeting Gagne, Stafford, Lang, Horton, However, now all I am doing is praying that Oilers dont make any such trade. A full rebuild is on the cards and it is time to protect and develop young assets. Lets go about this question in a more more organised manner. Which players(age 25+) will be extremely beneficial(experience, skill-set and salary cap hit) to the club 2-3 years from today?  Hemsky, Penner, Horcoff, Gilbert and Grebeshkov. I will protect these players. Other than that Souray, Visnovsky, Moreau, Pisani and Comrie are not going to be a big part of this club moving forward. So dealing of any or all of them over time for prospects and picks will be the ideal situation.

However If you are asking what trade now to fix our situation. I propose the following:
Grebeshkov and O'Sully for Tyutin and Umberger
7th round pick for Adam Mair
Cogliano, 2nd for Frolov.