Monday, December 06, 2010


Monday Baseball Standings

Been thinking about windows lately. Not the things my dog stares out of all day, or the juggernaut out of Redmond, but windows of Cup opportunity in the NHL.

Darryl Sutter's stewardship of the Flames franchise is becoming less and less forgivable by the month, but one of the things I quite liked about his reign was his aggressiveness about getting better now. The Lombardi+1st for Olli trade -- and far too many moves since -- was a poor way of executing that vision, but the fact is that when the NHL locked out the players in September 2004, Jarome Iginla was 27 years old and probably the finest all-around forward in the game. If Sutter looked at Jarome, and the also-27 Miikka Kiprusoff (who had just set a record for lowest GAA in a season), and said to himself
When this lockout is over, I think it makes sense to mortgage the future a bit to maximize our chances for the next 3-4 seasons

I would consider it eminently sensible. Now maybe that's what he did. Or, maybe he's just a chucklehead who likes having future cap space tied up in the replaceable likes of Wayne Primeau or Tom Kostopolous. But whatever -- I'm glad that the club wasn't half-hearted about "building for the present" while Jarome Iginla was a premier difference maker.

Flush with adrenaline from the Oilers' 4-game winning streak, I'm going to say this out loud: I think it's possible that the Oil's best opportunity to win the Stanley Cup in the foreseeable future is the 2011-2012 season. It's a basic two-step deduction:

1. What gives you the best chance of being at or near the top? Having a bunch of guys outplay their contracts.
2. In what future Oilers season is that most possible? Next one, IMO.

Hall, MPS, and Eberle may turn out as fantastically as the most rabid fan can imagine, but from 13/14 on, they're going to be paid ~ accordingly (with the possible exception of Hall, if he reaches the 1st All-Star level). Those same three will presumably be better in 12/13 than 11/12, but at least they'll still be on their entry-level contracts. Penner and Hemsky, on the other hand, are UFAs after 11/12, and I think most people fail to appreciate that it will be difficult for the Oilers to replace them for equivalent dollars. Also, Gagner's current deal is up after 11/12; if he continues to develop on a positive arc (and in accordance with his draft pedigree), he's going to be a lot more expensive thereafter.

Is this a prediction? Well, no. But if I was GM of this team (or one just like it in a parallel universe), I would be watching my rolling averages closely (e.g. goal and shot differential). If by the end of this season (or late in it) I feel like I'm approaching the top half of the conference, I take aim at the 2012 Stanley Cup, because I'm pretty sure a lot of my squad is going to continue to improve organically. That means:
I don't need to win the 2012 President's Trophy, but I need to be comfortably top 8 in the conference, standings-wise. And for the last 25-30 games of the 11/12 season, I want to feel like I'm as good as anyone.

Again, this isn't a prediction in the sense of, "I think the Oilers can challenge for the Stanley Cup next season", just a basic observation that they have certain things going for them in 11/12 that they don't have in 12/13 or 13/14. And if Taylor Hall = Eric Staal, then it really would be unwise to sacrifice his 2nd pro season to the gods of "building for the long term", wouldn't it.


I think I wrote somewhere awhile ago that going for it was certainly a sensible mater plan for Sutter to employ.

But by god has the man ever bungled things.

"What gives you the best chance of being at or near the top? Having a bunch of guys outplay their contracts."

So true. But I'dd suggest incomplete:

You also need guys who outplay the opposition's best, and one doesn't necessarily need to be the other.

Leveraging every dollar available to you is more like it. You pay Laraque 1.5 mil, you just burned 1.5 mil and a roster spot. You pay Gomez 7.3 mil (an overpay, sure) and he threads water when everything goes wrong and actually outscore top-tier opp the rest of the time; say this is worth 5 mil... You are down 2 mil, but you still have the "hold even with the opposition's best" figured out and then your contract out-performers are to be, say, able to outplay 2nd tier or 3rd tier opp.

I wrote Gomez but Horcoff might be another example. My point is: what makes the Oilers (and made the Blackhawks) so precocious is that their kid on EL deals might turn into tough comp out-scorers in said deals.

That, to me, means they must be careful not to put some Laraque on their rosters; paying for quality is fine, especially RFA quality. Hell, you may even over pay a bit, you still have a beast on your roster. Just don't pay 2.3 mil for Vandermeer.

Anyhow, it's a stream of consciousness rant, hope my point comes across...

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The 12-13 season has the following possible resigns:


Considering we have ~13M in space right now and no big signings next year I consider 12-13 to be fairly safe from a cap perspective. The only problem is you may have to make premature decisions on Penner and Hemsky if the rooks look like good bets to get big pay days.

Recently Chicago did it with Toews and Kane on the last year of their ELC, and the Pens did it with Crosby on 4 and Malkin on 3.

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