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Off-Season Roundtable - Guest Edition! Part Deux

Yesterday's roundtable was all about evaluation.  One day later, we're ready to move on, which is about six hundred days faster than Steve Tambellini.  The lineup stays the same as yesterday: Pat McLean of Black Dog Hates Skunks, SumOil, Shepso from Bringing Back The Glory and This is Not a Love Song's Chappy.  After the jump, the panel will comment on what still needs to be done to make the Barons competitive, the Oilers something less than embarassing, and they'll finish off by offering their thoughts on the abomination that caused our desolation, Nikolai Khabibulin. 

The Copper & Blue: Steve Tambellini has signed Richard Petiot and Alexandre Giroux for the Barons, and I suspect he'll add a goaltender soon.  Should Tambellini add a couple more veterans or roll the dice with all of the kids?

Black Dog Pat: As long as he has room for the kids to play, I say add as many vets as you can. Getting smoked every night doesn't help a kid's development, his confidence or his feelings about the Oilers.

SumOil: Now he has signed Giroux, Petiot and Moran. I think he needs to sign a couple more veterans for the farm team. These three additions are just like Linglet, Minard and Arsene (the new forwards are better, but I think Arsene is a better player than Petiot). The AHL depth chart on defence right now is Petiot, Petry, Chorney, Plante, Motin and Bendfeld (assuming Peckham starts in the show). I think OKC could use another veteran D. A couple more veteran forwards should be signed too. As of today, management should work with the framework that Giroux and Moran are likely to push MPS and Eberle down. So if those two start in the minors, then some good minor league players are needed to help the kids develop and to make OKC a better team. I was expecting Tambellini to have signed about 5-6 guys for the A by now. I have to say I am a little disappointed. As for signing a goalie, that is a priority. Even if they expose one of JDD ot DD to waivers, there is a decent chance that the player they waive will get claimed.

Shepso: I truly believe that he should roll the dice with most of the kids, but not all of them. He could really use a legit 3C. That would come in handy. We have all been saying this for years, but I think Tambo will be patient and wait for the price on the Eric Belangers and Dominic Moores of the world to drop a little before he throws out another two-year value contract. The farm team could really use some more AHL veterans, particularly on D, but I also don’t know exactly what the roster in OKC even looks like at this point. Some kids will go; hopefully JDD will play there too. There are serious holes to fill and it looks like the new AGM will have some serious work to do to fill them. That being said, I really like the Petiot and Giroux signings a lot, but I hope to not see either of them in Oiler silks next season. Or at least not very often.

Chappy: Never underestimate experience.  While it's important to let youth develop, I think it's important for the kids to have a few vets on the squad.  I'm pleased with the signings of Brad Moran (who is 31) and Giroux (who is 29).  If Giroux starts the season in the AHL, I know he'll be working his tail off for another shot at the NHL, and those are the kinds of players that I'd like in my farm system. If a defensive vet can be found at a reasonable price, I'd say it'd be a great investment for the youth movement, especially  if guys like Martin Marincin are just cutting their teeth.



The Copper & Blue: What else does Tambellini need to do for the Oilers in the free agency market?

Black Dog Pat: Well it's not just free agency, but also how he deals with Souray and Cogliano (assuming he moves the latter). I would like an actual top four D man because I'm not sold on Smid and Foster as the 3/4, but I think that they are set there. Just a lot of 5s and 6s and 7s to my eye but of course it is a rebuild so....

And the idea of a guy like Niedermayer or Moore as the 3C, a guy to win draws and PK, well we've been talking about this forever. If Gilbert Brule is the 3C then a winger to replace Pisani would be a good idea. They have too many kids, as usual, and a vet or two would be good; there are a lot out there looking for work who could be had for cheap.

SumOil: The answer is clear and concise: Ilya Kovalchuk. I kid, I kid. In fact I am very very happy that the Oilers have stayed away from trying to sign Kovalchuk. I am sure that Katz would have no problems signing a 10 year 100 million check, but that would be the wrong approach and Tambellini recognizes it. It kind of makes me wonder whether this is the year he is doing whatever he wants and flirting with Heatley was more Lowe's idea than his. That being said, there is still work to be done. There are quality FA like Moore and Belanger still available. Tambellini should be talking to their agents. Furthermore, we also need another winger to play with "Moore," but I doubt "two new veteran forwards" is on the agenda. I have also started to come to terms with the fact that Souray will not be traded and might start the year in this organisation. I believe that is a good thing. If the Oilers are able to bridge the differences, Souray is still a quality player when he plays and his presence would strengthen our blue-line. But, if it's the case that Tambellini is sure he will send Souray to the minors if he's unable to trade him, then I believe he should sign another D-man. Someone like Andy Sutton makes sense.

Shepso: Not much that I haven’t already said. The Achilles heel of the team right now is the lack of proven defensive depth.  This is a serious issue considering how young and inexperienced the forward crop is going to be this year. More veteran defenders who munch minutes would make the life of whichever goalie is playing a whole lot less terrible. Vandermeer and Foster should help that problem a little, and Foster gets bonus points for being a really good human being, but the team currently has a solid top pairing and a bunch of 5-6 types. And Strudwick... I hope Smid is ready to make the jump, but who else will eat up minutes and still keep his head above water? In this current lineup, I just don’t see a solid 3-4 pairing out of Smid and Foster, especially if that means the bottom is the triad of Vandermeer/Peckham/Strudwick. Consider this: we thought "the shift" was bad last year--imagine the chaos of Struds and Peckham out against Chicago or Detroit’s top lines?! A 3C is critical, unless Cogliano has spent the summer living inside the hands and eyes of either Adam Oates or Joe Sakic circa 1997. I actually see that player as trade bait for something with less offensive upside but more defensive strength. Another player in the key 26-31 age cluster would be nice to have in the room and a Pisani replacement (or just Pisani) would also be quite useful.

Chappy: With the Khabibulin fiasco showing no signs of coming to close anytime soon, I think it would be wise for the team to acquire a puckstopper.  Wade Dubielewicz seems to be the only UFA on the horizon that would seem reasonable unless Jose Theodore would take a big cut in order to start.  Ray Emery could be an option, but who knows how that scenario could finish. It's also doubtful that we'll ever see Sheldon Souray again in an Oilers' sweater so I'd also be interested in another defenseman to round out the top 6.  I'd bet a ham sandwich that Marc-Andre Bergeron could probably be had for a nice price if Aaron Johnson won't be resigned.

Gilbert - Whitney
Vandermeer - Smid
MAB/ Johnson - Foster

I think we could run with that for the time being.



The Copper & Blue: Of the kids - Taylor Hall excepted - which, if any, would you like to see on the NHL team next year?

Black Dog Pat: Honestly, as long as they have made the team on their own merits and they are able to fill a role as a useful regular player, any of them. Eberle and Paajarvi if only to justify the hype. Omark or Peckham just to prove that they are NHL calibre players.

SumOil: Frankly, I do not want to see any one else on the NHL team at the start of the year. I would like to see Tambellini sign players like Max Afinogenov and Raffi Torres and bring the kids along slowly. Then let those veteran players play soft minutes, let them succeed and trade them at the deadline to gather some decent picks. By that time, players like MPS and Eberle would have spent ample time adjusting to the pros and hopefully dominating at the AHL level. Bring those players up at the deadline and play them the rest of the season. Starting the year with three rookies is not really an ideal situation. By introducing them one at a time, the coaching staff will be able to give them more attention individually and help them fast-track their development.

Shepso: I would really like to see Theo Peckham and MPS make the team out of camp. Peckham has been playing in the AHL for two seasons now and it’s time to see what he can do. MPS has been playing against men for a while now and in multiple tournaments of small sample size, he's excelled in the limelight. The only problem with him is where do you play him? Hall and Penner are the obvious top 2 LWs on the team. MPS should not be playing checking minutes and the idea of him riding as the 4LW with Fraser and Stortini just seems like a waste of talent, unless he also gets PP2 time. Much of this will depend on what Renney does with the lineup and style. If he runs with a 3rd line energy line with other scrappy offensive types like Brule, and a decent centre, then perhaps that is where MPS should be. Otherwise, I am curious about his ability to play on the right side, perhaps with Penner and Gagner. Does MPS have the ability to play both wings? Does Hall? The obvious choices for the 2RW role are Brule and Eberle, but I would rather see Clutch play the first 20-30 games in the AHL, just to get his feet wet for the challenge of playing against fully grown men and perhaps see about Brule in the middle again if a Belanger or Moore is not acquired. Aside from those two, I think all the other kids are best served to play in OKC, the SEL (in Lander’s case) or go back to their junior clubs if they are still eligible to do so.

(Oh, and Hartikainen should get a nice long look at camp. This is not his year to make the team, but it won’t be long.)

Chappy: Paajarvi. The Oilers almost have to score more goals in 2010-11 compared to last year.   Paajarvi will be a key cog in helping the team try to play a high-octane style offense this year, and I'm hoping that the fleet-footed Swede will impress in camp.  I want to see Jordan Eberle, but I'm really excited about seeing MPS.



The Copper & Blue: Finally, Nikolai Khabibulin seems to be six weeks behind schedule in his recovery.  You know, I really have no question here, I'm just looking for comments on the whole situation. 

Black Dog Pat: Well this is why people don't trust Tambellini to do a good job even though he has had a good summer so far. This signing was awful and it looks even worse considering the goaltending market this summer. Just terrible. And if he is out for a large part of this season then we can look at the lottery again. This team is going to allow a lot of shots - if it's DD and ADD then its going to be a mess.

SumOil: This is one place where I really do not know what else to say. The Khabibulin issue has been beaten to death since his signing and the whole year has been a write-off from his perspective. I have defended the signing before, but I don't think I can do it anymore. Seeing the goalie market, the signing was a bad one. But at least this mistake got us Taylor Hall. If we had signed a goalie with less of an injury history, then we might have still been mired in mediocrity and not be totally horrible. So in a way, that signing was responsible for an eye-opener of sorts for the management team, and it finally made them realize that we are not 1 or 2 players away from being a great team but more like 10. Back to Khabibulin, it's unfortunate that he is behind schedule, but it should not be a cause of concern if he is fit by training camp.

Shepso: Tyler has a really interesting take on the Khabibulin situation, much of it is based on his excellent legal mind. It just so happens that the letters he uncovered have some not-so-good looking dates for the sake of the Oilers potential fate this year. However, between his legal troubles and his back troubles, I eventually hope that Tambo uses the morality clause to weasel his way out of what was surely rated as the worst UFA deal of last season. The reality, however, is that the good and cheap FA goalies are now gone, any replacement for Khabibulin will likely have two Ds in his name. Even the less desirable players like Andrew Raycroft and Curtis Sanford are gone, leaving only Jose Theodore, Marty Turco and possibly Nabokov around. They cost too much and don’t deliver enough, plus I am certain all of them would rather bolt to the KHL rather than play in Edmonton, except maybe Theo. Khabi is in tough; he is clearly not healing quickly, he definitely has to go to trial, and he might be going to prison. Beyond these major problems comes the even greater problem of border crossing between Canada and the US with a criminal record. This is the real question mark that isn’t being discussed enough. If he’s convicted, it will take some serious legal wizardry to deal with that particular quagmire. Maybe Tyler should represent him. If not, I know a great immigration lawyer in Edmonton….

Chappy: Just let it be over already.  If he's going to do time - fine.  If he's going to go on IR permanently, I'd hate to see it, but fine.  I think we're all at our wits end as far as the Khabibulin scenario goes.  I'd just like to know what's going to happen so the franchise can plan accordingly.  There's a reason the team qualified both Deslauriers and Dubnyk.  They know about as much as we know.