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Thoughts on the Oilers


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A few random thoughts after watching the Oilers play the Wings today

First time I have watched this Schultz kid on the ice for a whole game, my God what a shot he has. He flicked it, didnt tee it up even and from the blue line it was in the net before Howard could move. Plkus he looked rugged out there. I watched him quite a bit today, and honestly, I was not buying the hype, I am more of a show me person but for today he was the best player on the ice for either team.

I felt Yakupov carried the puck too deep on the Wing and took too many low percentage shots, the type of thing a young kid does when he is pressing.

Khabibulin was great in net, but honestly, neither he nor Dubnyk could carry a team to the playoffs, The Bulin wall is a has been and Dubnyk is a never will be. Howard to Edmonton in July? I would not be surprised.

The power play other than the blast by Schultz looked out of sorts, and Hartikanen on the Power play?? REally?

Over all, the wife and I were impressed with the team speed, the way the young kids fly down the ice in waves. If they can hold the core together and add a few nasty veterans to put them over the top, they will be fine. I think a year from now, if they get a goalie and the kids continue to develop they will be challenging Vancouver along with the Wild as well. It wont be long before it is no longer a one team division.

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Ironic you posted this as I was just about to post a trade rumor of the Oilers and Islanders, E4 by Eklund. Instead I'll post the comments of Cloutier's blog here.

It seems the Islanders are looking to make a move to push them to the playoffs this year while the Oilers are building for next year. Here is most of his blog.

So what are the problems? Perhaps let start with what we know isn't a problem:

1. Line 1 with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn't a problem, although they aren't playing great due to Nuge's injury. There's no need to tinker with this line at all.

2. Line 2 has played brilliantly this season. It's no coincidence that Sam Gagner's point streak was snapped against the Wings, because Oilers Head Coach Ralph Krueger broke up the line. Nail Yakupov plays like a very gifted rookie, so he's not completely developed yet. Still, the talent is there. Ales Hemsky has finally returned from the very bad place he was for the last few seasons.

I don't see any real reasons to monkey with the Oilers Top 6...yet. I think they need more size, but there are much greater issues on the roster that need to be dealt with first.

3. Justin Schultz is definitely "right". Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid belong. Nick Schultz is a very decent defenseman and leader, and I like what I've seen so far from Mark Fistric.

4. Teemu Hartikainen definitely stays. Ben Eager has shown some flashes, although he's hardly played due to injury. Magnus Paajarvi is definitely developing.

5. The goaltending has not been an issue in Edmonton this season.

So that's what's right. Here's what's wrong:

1. Oilers terrible at face-offs. Eric Belanger and Shawn Horcoff, who are decent at this skill, are both hurt. Sad things is, that's really all either player adds to the roster. In my long-term plan, neither guy is part of the team.

2. After the Oilers have completed their compliance buyout of Horcoff, they could use their second one to buyout Ryan Smyth, who looks completely done as a hockey player. He's been brutal all season.

3. The 3rd defensive pairing of Ryan Whitney and Corey Potter is one of the worst pairings in the entire league. I thought they would be bad. Actually, they're horrifying. Nick Schultz and Mark Fistric are probably the correct 5/6 pairing, so the actual issue we're talking about here is the need to add a legit Top 4 defenseman.

4. The Oilers lack functional toughness. This is not a new issue.

Why have I went through all of this, yet again? So we can discuss the Eklund trade rumor that the Oilers and Islanders are talking. I'll first list some theories I've heard, and then I'll offer my opinion as to what could happen.

- Marty Reasoner. Eklund mentioned that the deal between the Oilers and Islanders would "shift the balance". Reasoner, a 4th line center, shifting the balance? I don't see it.

- Kyle Okposo. Big-ish right winger who's had a bad start to the season. I've heard he wants out of Long Island, but I could say that about half of their roster. I'm not sure how adding him solves anything.

- Lubomir Visnovsky. This is one of the more interesting suggestions. We know about Visnovsky in Edmonton...extremely skilled Top 4 defensemen. Left handed too. Adding him could make some sense. Only problem is, he hated Edmonton by the time he left. The chances he'd want to return now? Pretty damn low.

- Josh Bailey. The Islanders just activated Bailey yesterday. He was injured in Germany during the lockout, but is set to return to play soon. He's a center, and the Oilers need one. I'm not sure Bailey is all that welcome with the Islanders anymore.

- Matt Moulson. Moulson gets mentioned in rumors all the time. He's one of those decent scorers nobody believes is good enough to be a decent scorer. A left-winger, so I have no idea where he could fit into the Oilers roster.

- Mark Streit. Streit is the Islanders most important defenseman at this time, but he's old (35) and he's in the last year of his contract. You'd think the Islanders would rather extend Streit than deal him, but whatever.

Now that we've spit that all out, let's read the tea leaves...

Nino Niederreiter - A young power forward the Islanders are keeping in the minors for some reason. Niederreiter doesn't understand it either, and has asked for a trade. Some people don't see why the Oilers would acquire this guy, but it makes perfect sense to me. Consider the Oilers Top 9 as the team moves forward:

L1: Hall/Nuge/Eberle

L2: Niederreiter/Gagner/Yakupov

L3: Hartikainen/Lander/Paajarvi

That's the Oilers top three lines set for the next 10 seasons. Niederreiter is a gritty forward with scoring touch and size. What's not to like?

A Center - Pick one...If the Islanders have anything, it's centers. Bailey is perhaps the most likely suspect. But what about Frans Nielson? Or Brock Nelson? John Tavares is untouchable, Ryan Strome should be untouchable, and Reasoner wouldn't really help the Oilers at all to acquire. So Bailey, Nielson or Nelson makes more sense.

Visnovsky - I hate to admit it, but Visnovsky would immediately help the Oilers in all sorts of ways. I'm assuming if they add Visnovsky, the Oilers have a deal for Ryan Whitney. Make the Oilers Top 4 Visnovsky/J.Schultz + Smid and Petry. 5/6 pairing N.Schultz/Fistric, with Corey Potter there as the #7 guy. But the question is, would Visnovsky actually come here?

Anders Nilsson - This is another player I've heard the Oilers rather like. Dubnyk-like tall goalie who could be a perfect back-up for us after this season.

So what is my theory?

I don't know why the Oilers would deal for anyone who doesn't somehow fit into the long-term puzzle on the team. Visnovsky would immediately make the Oilers better, but I don't believe for a minute management is worried about 2012/2013. The focus is entirely on next season in Edmonton. If anything, the Islanders are the more desperate club to make it into the playoffs, as financially, they don't have support from their fan base the way the Oilers do.

I don't know if this is the plan, so I apologize if I'm completely wrong on this...If I'm Steve Tambellini, I'm trying to acquire some combination of Niederreiter, de Haan and Nelson. This are moves for the future, so Oilers fans might not like it immediately if it happens. Have faith, friends. We're working towards something.

I really doubt Brock Nelson is available. Josh Bailey is absolutely possible. But Nelson? Islanders GM Garth Snow would be loopy to deal him.

So that's the Oilers end of the equation. What Oilers players/assets could be available?

Ales Hemsky - He's playing great, but he might not be part of the long-term future here. If the pressure is on for the Islanders to immediately improve, a Hemsky for Niederreiter straight across deal could make sense for both teams. (I realize in saying this, the 80% of you who think Hemsky is overrated will lose their minds. But seriously, Hemsky is proven and Neiderreiter has yet to establish himself as an NHL player)

Ryan Whitney - Once again, the Islanders would do this so they could get better now. I've heard Whitney wants to be dealt, and wants to go to the east coast. But does he really have any trade value? Yuck.

Magnus Paajarvi - Aw yes, it wouldn't be an Oilers trade rumor if I didn't fit Paajarvi's name into the discussion. I don't think the Oilers want to move him at all.

Draft Picks - Because we're sick of the draft in Edmonton

So all of this being said...

IF there is a deal between the Oilers and Islanders, you could see Hemsky, a draft pick, and maybe even a third asset (a prospect, let's say) for Niederreiter and Josh Bailey.

When I hear something a little more solid, I'll post it. The Islanders are playing this evening, so it's likely a deal (if it happens) won't occur until after the game or on Sunday morning.

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@hf101 I like the way this guy broke down the Oilers, agree with most of that. Seems to know his stuff. I only question his final analysis, why would the Islanders give up on Niederreiter (although, it is suspicious that a kid that talented is riding the bus in the AHL....but maybe they are just being patient, ala Leafs and Kadri, his time in the A helped him out immesnsly. If Bailey and Nieds are going to Edmonton, there has to more coming back I think. I don't think Bailey has ever hit his stride on the Isles, but he still has a high ceiling as a nice second line center IMHO....this kid scored 100 pts for the Spits as a rookie...an unheard of feat. He can pass the puck....period. So playing with Edmonton young snipers would be a real nice fit....so the Oilers would have Nuge, Gagner and Bailey up the middle....talented, but no size....not so good.....but a viable trade candidate nonetheless.

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Cloutier knows his stuff, he wrote some of the most entertaining blogs during the lockout as he tells it like he sees it.

I thought I read where Niederreiter wanted to be traded. But I could easily see Hemsky traded to the Islanders. Okposo is also struggling so I could see him a potential trade option as well.

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