In a recent article, the incomparable Jonathan Willis spoke about the use of five-year plans among NHL General Managers, and prepared a high-level plan for the Oilers. Of course, this got me thinking about what a more detailed General Manager's plan may actually look like and what specifically would be included in a plan for the Oilers.
Since Lowe, Tambellini et al are unlikely to share their plan publicly (if indeed one exists), I thought it might be a worthwhile exercise to brainstorm such a plan here at Copper & Blue.
In the coming weeks I will attempt to develop a plan for the Oilers in the years ahead. After the jump I will outline exactly what form my analysis will take.
Based on initial feedback to the idea, I have elected to shorten the timeline for what I have termed the Oilers' "Organizational Development Plan" to two years in order to eliminate the need to deal with hypotheticals. The idea here is not to get into attempts to correctly guess which new players the team may acquire, but to use historical precedent and statistical evidence to develop reasonable expectations for the team's current assets, determine how the pieces fit together, as well as identify any holes that will need to be filled and the best approach to doing so.
One caveat here is that I will be taking Steve Tambellini out of this equation. I've already written numerous articles stating my less than positive opinion of the GM, but my goal here is not to predict what Tambellini would do, but to suggest what I believe to be the best course of action for the franchise.
Here are the different areas that I have included in my analysis to-date:
1 - Player Development - This section will examine the anticipated progression of the team's young players over each of the next two seasons along with the expected performance of the team's veterans. I will look at how players' roles may need to evolve over the passage of time and if the team should have reason to expect regression in any of their aging veteran talent. I will also include an analysis of the team's prospects at all levels (Junior, NCAA, Europe and AHL/ECHL). I'll conclude this section with an overview of what the team's longer-term needs may be in order to develop a gameplan for future drafts.
2 - Roster Gaps - A logical follow up to section one, this analysis will attempt to identify the holes that exist in the current line-up, as well as those that may arise through the expiration of contracts or changing roles of current players. I will attempt to determine where on the depth chart the gaps are created by these events and a timeline for when those needs are most likely to require action from the GM. Once the gaps have been identified, I will profile the skill-set of the ideal player to fill that role (without getting into specific player acquisitions) and examine the organization to see if the role can be addressed internally (and if so, by whom) or would require a trade/signing. This section will end with a look at which players the Oilers should be most open to making available on the trade market and even a look at if a coaching change is in the cards over the next two seasons.
3 - Salary Cap Management - Here, using the information garnered from the first two parts of this project, I'll look at the coming contract demands/attrition over the next two off-seasons...which players the team should commit to re-signing, those they should allow to leave (or trade prior to their deals expiring) and when these decisions will arise. I will employ the use of comparables to estimate the value and term of potential contracts that may be required for key players and examine the implications of potential buyouts in situations where that option warrants consideration. Finally, I will attempt to determine if it is possible to effectively game-plan for the next CBA (which must be negotiated prior to the start of next season) in order to ensure the team is not put at a financial disadvantage no matter what the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement may be.
4 - Team On-Ice Performance - At the end of the day, all of the preceding details are an attempt to improve the team's on-ice performance. Here, I'll look at performance milestones the team should aspire to in each of the next two seasons in a number of areas, with an obvious focus on the most important stat...winning games. I'll attempt to identify realistic expectations for each season and include a look at what expectations the team should have for continued success in Oklahoma City.
5 - Summary and Bonus - While this outline is still subject to change as this project moves along, the final stage in this process will be to summarize what determinations have been made through this process and create roadmap for the team to use as a guide heading into the next two seasons. As a bonus, I'll include up to three "missing piece" players. What I mean by this is that, as Elliot Friedman noted in his "30 Thoughts" column this week about the Vancouver Canucks, there is value in identifying a particular player that you feel adds a specific element that your team needs. I won't get in to trade possibilities, but I will identify a few select players that fit the timeline, age range and skill sets the team should be in search of. This information is something that any team should have available, and therefore I felt it was worth including, although in a limited capacity.
This initiative will take some time, and will be posted in stages over the remaining weeks of the playoffs, but hopefully should add value in the lead-up to the draft and free agency season by helping to highlight the team's immediate needs as well areas of focus at the draft table for the Oilers.
I welcome your feedback and recommendations throughout this process and hope you'll come along for the ride.
The first post should be up after the weekend.