Sunday, 15 April 2012

On winning the lottery


a.m.k. has found something he can really believe in.

I was reading pub trivia questions Tuesday night while the NHL draft lottery was on. I paused longer than usual on the questions, with one eye on the TV, neglecting my troupe of followers as they impatiently doodled on their question sheets. The fifth team came up, then the fourth team, and no one got promoted -- the chance of the Oilers winning the lottery had gone up ever so slightly. The third pick went to the Canadiens as scheduled, so it was down to either the Blue Jackets or my precious Oilers for top pick – but the chances were still in Columbus' favour. But when the bald man turned over the large piece of cardboard with the Oilers' symbol, I held back a shriek into the microphone. I started visibly trembling and exclaimed to the crowd that the Oilers had won to pick. The restless souls in my audience couldn't have cared less, but it didn't matter. I texted my girlfriend in jubilance. My heart flooded. I sat down and wept.

OK, I may not have actually wept, but I did tremble a bit at the thought of adding Nail Yakupov in two and a half months. It felt like Christmas morning; except I never celebrate Christmas – for the last three years, the draft lottery has been Christmas. I couldn't sleep that night because my mind was flooding with potential line combinations. I am going to share with you a couple of my favourites, just because I can hardly subdue my excitement:

Choice 1: The Obvious

Yakupov - RNH - Eberle
Hall - Gagner - Hemsky
Smyth - Horcoff - Paajarvi
Hartikainen - Lander - Jones
Petrell, VandeVelde

Let our offensive dynamos light up the top two lines and complement them with a bottom two that has good two-way ability with guys who put up respectable points (aside from the centres, but we're not getting rid of Horcoff and Lander will be better next year). This top line is exciting because Yakupov is a left-handed shot so left wing is his natural side, but Eberle looks comfortable when he lines up on left for powerplays, so they could do some fun criss-cross patterns.

I'm going to have Petrell in each of these examples because I think he is a good 13F who should improve next year and put in work even if he keeps getting scratched. I put Vande Velde as the other extra because I don't think another year of the AHL is going to help him any more than being a sometimes player in the NHL, and we could use a healthy scratch guy who can take face offs.

Choice 2: Fun with mixing

Hartikainen - RNH - Eberle
Hall - Gagner - Yakupov
Smyth - Horcoff - Hemsky
Jones - Lander - Pajaarvi
Petrell, VandeVelde

He'll go good on the second line.
Each of these lines has some size and scoring ability. We could roll four lines, reunite the vet line as our 3rd line. Lander and Pajaarvi play well together even though they both need some more time, and their size and Pajaarvi's speed could help give Jones a bit of room to score 15-20 goals from up close. If your 4th line scores 40 goals in a year I think that's pretty good, and I think this 4th line can do that, even given that they won't have as much ice time. How are teams going to defend against this? Who do you put your toughs against? You take out one line and you have three more that can score. I don't believe much in the need for grit, because I haven't seen evidence grit-first actually working, but this configuration still has two guys in this top six (Harty and Hall) and all but one of the bottom six (Hemsky) who can play big – which is pretty good for having so many capable goal scorers on each line.

What, you're not ready to give up on Pajaarvi as a top 6 winger? We don't really need him to be a top-6 winger anymore, and I think he could be useful somewhere on the roster -- I also don't think he has much trade value this year, though I could imagine losing him + Gagner to get a top-2 defenceman.

Other plans for the Oilers

It's time to sign Justin Schultz. Why wouldn't he want to come to a team whose forwards look like this, particularly if he'll get play in the top 4? Yes, we could still use a top-2 D, but maybe now we can attract a free agent or pull off a trade with someone if we give them like 10 decent players who we don't need. Of course don't give away the whole farm team, but right now we have a ton of prospects and picks we could give away even for one more top 4 D. Eager, Belanger, Hordichuk, Whitney, Peckham, Teubert, Chorney, Hamilton, Rieder – none of those guys need to come back. We have other enforcements for those positions who won't be much of a drop-off in my opinion. If we could sell all those guys and some picks for even one top-4 D (and I know it would never work quite like that, but after several deals perhaps), I think we're suddenly in a pretty good position. All of a sudden we have a lineup that could attract Josh Harding to be 1B goaltender, and we're rolling.
1B and we're rolling.

With this kind of windfall, the biggest problem I see with the forward group is Gagner at 2C, and that man scored eight points in a night not too long ago. I have a feeling him plus, I don't know, Gernat and Bigos could get even us a bigger 2C who scores 50-60 points a year instead of 40-50. But if he gets to play with Hall and Yakupov, I don't see how Gagner doesn't hit 60 points next year anyway. Work on your faceoffs, young man, and you'll be that much more valuable, maybe we don't even need to get rid of you. Even though you are somehow the oldest player on our top 2 lines.

I don't like losing more than anyone else but this talent is hard not to get excited about. I can picture at least a playoff push next year, and the year after that I think the Oilers can be contenders. Sometimes incompetent management and luck can breed the building blocks to a great hockey team, even if they can't turn those building blocks into a cup contender. Have I mentioned how we need to get rid of pretty much the entire front office? Another time. For now, let's enjoy winning the lottery.

a.m.k. is pretty sure he could score twenty goals if he played with Eberle and Yakupov.

[Images grabbed from IceJerseys.com and Oilers Nation.]

1 comment:

  1. This looks kind of like a.m.k. wrote it and kind of like someone else wrote it who isn't very smart. Did A. get hit on the head or something?

    ReplyDelete