Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rita - the odd man out?

There's no question that over the past couple seasons I have been a Rita supporter; a guy who thinks he should have been given a better opportunity to stick in Edmonton. I can say that from what I've heard it sounds like he's done enough to not be farmed out, especially being on a one-way deal for the league min.

But if they have to clear a roster spot (and they will if they decide to keep Schremp, unless someone gets injured in the last 3 pre-season games) he seems like the likely guy given that they can ship him to Europe, but also because he might still have a bit of trade value. On a team like WSH one would have to think he'd easily make the lineup as a regular, he's still somewhat young, and makes the league minimum. Perfect for a rebuilding team, or maybe even a team tight against the cap who wants a cheap 13th forward that they think has some upside.

My vote is that he stays, and starts the year on the 4th line LW with Stoll and Laraque. I don't think that's in the cards, both because it sounds like they have been playing him mostly at RW to start the year, and also because I think the EDM coaching staff likes Winchester and Harvey a bit more. But supposedly he'll be on a line with Smyth and Horcoff tonight, so no time like the present to impress the coaching staff.

Speaking of, were I coach, I think I wouldn't mind seeing lines something like:

Smyth Peca Dvorak
Moreau Horcoff Pisani
Torres Reasoner Hemsky
Rita Stoll Laraque

Pronger Semenov
Smith Staios
Ulanov Bergeron

to start the season.

With a PP unit something like:

Smyth Horcoff Hemsky Bergeron Pronger

Monday, September 26, 2005

So, how does one pick players for a hockey pool this year?

So much has changed it feels impossible to get an accurate gauge on the players for the upcoming season. How has the missed season affected previous star players, now 2 years older? What about the 21 year olds now 23? Or 19 year olds now 21? How have teams themselves changed? How will that affect the production of players on teams that have undergone big shifts in player personel? Add to that the rule changes, which themselves will increase the value of some players, and decrease the value of others.

Tons of questions, no solid answers. Nonetheless, I'm compelled to enter some drafts for "fun" anyways, so I'll try and make the best guesses I can. Here are a couple names that I think might be worth watching, in any event:

Milan Michalek - My favorite player from the 2003 draft, has been plagued by injuries but reportedly has started well for the Sharks in pre-season. Who knows where to rank this guy, if he's worth a pick at all. I think I'll take a leap of faith though, if I can find him in the later rounds.

Jason Spezza - Is he ready to be a top 10 scorer? Would anyone be surprised?

Ziggy Palffy - Health is such a conern here, but IF he plays 70 games he looks like a good pick to me. A dynamo when healthy, he's now surrounded with great offensive talent, if a ton of PP's are awarded to PIT you have to like his odds of putting up some numbers, potentially on a PP with some of the likes of Lemieux, Crosby, Recchi, Gonchar, Tarnstrom, Leclair

HOMER ALERT - Ales Hemsky - I know, I know, risky homer pick, but by all accounts his game has improved since the last time int he NHL. With a more open game is there any way he doesn't greatly improve upon his previous totals?

Ilya Kovalchuk - if you knew he was playing he's a legitiimate candidate for the Art Ross, but how serious is he about playing in Russia? How much should he be discounted because of that risk?

Anyone else got some sleepers they don't mind disclosing ?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Oilers season opening roster

At the start of training camp, I'd have guessed they'd simply go with everyone on a one way contract, which convieniently broke down to 14F, 7D, and 2G - making it more or less seem as though the team was set before training camp. Which more often that not, it is, aside from a spot or two.

With training camp winding down (even though there are still 3 games to go) I'm not sure things have much changed. To me, the safest guess still looks very much like a 23 man roster to open the season, consisting of:

Smyth Peca Hemsky
Moreau Horcoff Dvorak
Torres Reasoner Pisani
Harvey/Rita/Winchester Stoll Laraque

extras: two of Harvey, Rita, and Winchester



IR: Markkanen

I'm not sure if EDM would mind an injury to one ofRita/Harvey allowing them to get a longer look at Schremp, but it wouldn't surprise me that they'd seen enough of Schremp to either send him back, or keep him. If they decide to keep him, it's hard to know who they'd move to do so. There's no one left who could be sent down without having to pay them their NHL salary, so a trade would probably be the best option were one available. In that case it depends on who's worth what to other teams, and who is more expendable, etc. My guess would be Rita as the odd man out, especially if no trade can be worked out and it's true that EDM could send him back to Europe while retaining his future rights.

I'm also hopeful that we'll see Pouliot become a permanent member of the Oilers by the end of the season, but this would depend both upon his performance with the Bulldogs and also how the 3rd and 4th line Oilers adjust to the new NHL rules, assuming they are called as they are being called now, going forward. Additionally, if they decide to keep Schremp, it's hard to imigine room being available for Pouliot as well, unless there are a bunch of injuries (knock on wood).

On defence, Syvret has had a solid first training camp, but would benefit from AHL time - if they can find a spot for him. I'd have to think they will find one for him now, given his performance in training camp. The Oilers certainly won't want to stunt his development if they can avoid doing so.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Semenov's Spot Up For Grabs???

Really? Anyone actually believe this? Every year you can count on a coach at training camp to say something like "Everyone will earn their spot onto this team." The truth is contract status matters.

7 D on one way contracts - 7 spots. But you need guys like Syvret and Greene to play their hardest, thinking they have a shot at making the team so that you can see them trying their hardest. Maybe their best is good enough to force the tem to trade one of the 7 D on one way deals? That's unlikely, but at least this way you get a better look at Syvret, Greene, etc against some NHL calibre players.

I'll be extraordinarily surprised if the Oilers don't start the year with the following 7 D on the roster (barring injury):


Now, of all the players, why has MacT chosen Semenov? Probably just because he thinks Semenov would get the most out looking over his shoulder a bit, a way of sending a message that you could be dealt/the 7th D if you don't change certain things about your game.

Pronger, Smith, Staios, Bereron are all on longer term deals, that leaves Ulanov, Cross and Semenov. MacT probably just doesn't think that kind of motivation would help Cross or Ulanov, but that it might with Semenov. That would be my guess, anyways.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Schremp? Really?

By all accounts Rob Schremp has had an impressive beginning to training camp. The question on the mind of Oilers management has to be:

Is Schremp enough of an upgrade to be worth keeping over any of the 14 forwards on one-way deals?


- seems like he can help the powerplay
- he may develop into a "better" player down the line if he plays in the NHL this season
- to make the team he'd have to be signed, it would be one draft re-entry worry avoided


- defense is his reported question mark (though he's supposedly not been near as bad in this regard as expected), EDM has reliable options already in the lineup and may not have time to develop him this year if they are competing for the Cup if he's not ready
- playing him this year would make him a UFA at age 26, while sending him back to junior would see him a RFA until 27

Additionally, it's worth asking whether he can help the PP more than, say, Pouliot would. Schremp had 23G,23A on the PP for London last year, on a team that scored 310 goals of which 97 were on the PP. By comparison Pouliot scored 22 PP goals (I can't find PP assists on the Q's stats site, or Pouliots PPA numbers anywhere. Schremp has 23 A on the PP, it seems reasonable to guess that Pouliot would have had more than 23 PP assists given that Schremp had 49 A on the year vs. Pouliots 69, but it would only be a guess) on a team that scored 333 goals of which 109 were on the PP.

It seems the Oilers value Schremp's PP skill set more so than they do Pouliot's, from the PP time they seem to be offering (again, from the hearsay I've read, haven't seen any PP IT stats) to Schremp, but I wouldn't mind seeing Pouliot be given the same opportunities in a pre season game or two to see how it goes.

I always like to look for complicated reasoning when the simplest is probably more likely - in this case the simplest being that MacT really does think Schremp can add to the team and honestly hopes he can force his way onto the team. One more interesting theory might be that the Oilers are concerned about Schremp re-entering, and want to get him signed before they send him back to junior. We haven't heard much on this front, but the Oilers would still need to sign him were he to make the team.

My opinion, from what I've read to this point, is that Pouliot is the better player now, and may not be any worse on the PP than Schremp would be. It seems to be commonly accepted that Schremp is the superior PP player, but I don't think it's clear from what I've read. Schremp as a better PP shooter, I could believe that, even better overall , sure, but is it truly a slam dunk that Schremp would be a significantly better PP performer than Stoll? Horcoff? Peca? Pouliot? Reasoner? He has to be to stick.

And should I be convinced that the Oilers coaching staff can perfectly identify the best PP players to begin with? The fact that they had an awful PP last season doesn't necessarily mean they don't know how to pick the right guys, but I can't say it excludes that possibility either.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ryan Smyth's contract

2 year deal, 3.5 mil per.

This deal amounts to something along the lines of Edmonton paying Smyth 2.9 this year, his last year as an RFA, and paying him 4.1 mil to buy his first year of unrestricted free agency. That's probably about fair. But, were I Smyth, I wouldn't have gone that route. I'd have either gone for a one year deal (and made sure I had it by filing for arbitration) or signed for 4 years. I think his best time to leverage a UFA deal will likely be next summer, not the 2007 summer when the UFA age has dropped to 28 and who knows who else is available.