season has been over for about a month now.
Despite a miraculous late season charge, the team failed to reach the
postseason and are now forced to endure what could be an extremely extended
summer. Who can help next season? What does the future hold? These questions
and more were put to some of
Future postseason roundtable.
Robin Brownlee is the senior hockey writer at The Edmonton Sun newspaper. Brownlee, one of the most respected sports
journalists in the city, has been writing at the Sun for the past three years
after previously spending 11 at the other local daily paper during his now
Jason Gregor is the host of ‘Just A Game’ heard
weeknights from on
the TEAM 1260 radio. Gregor also covers
a myriad of sports including the NHL and the CFL for his column ‘Game On!’ in
the monthly Edmonton Sports Scene newspaper.
Bryn Griffiths is a veteran sports broadcaster with over 18 years of TV and radio
and was also the voice of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL in the late 80’s.
Currently he is the sports director and one of the Morning Hosts at the TEAM
1260-Edmonton’s Sports Radio.
Ron Rimer hosts the radio show that bears his name on the TEAM 1260
from 9-Midnight every Saturday and Sunday.
Rimer has worked for both the Oilers and the CFL’s
Edmonton Eskimos on top of a plethora of broadcasting history on his resume.
Bob Stauffer is the Communications Officer and the Broadcast Director
including hockey and football.
University and local professional sports are Stauffer’s stomping grounds
for his ‘Stauffer Stuff’ column in the Edmonton Sports Scene
newspaper. Stauffer can also be heard
from weeknights on Total Sports, his radio show that runs on the
Topic #1: Which first year Oiler
made the most significant impact on the team this past season? (Bergeron, Stoll, Torres, Conklin).
Stoll. His maturity and ability to play a
regular shift and kill penalties wasn’t expected. He played a way more
significant role than people thought he would when training camp opened. With
Todd Marchant and Mike Comrie gone and Marty Reasoner injured, the Oilers would
have been in big trouble down the middle without Stoll.
JG: Clearly Raffi Torres made the biggest impact.
Scoring 20 goals in today’s NHL is an accomplishment especially from a guy who
was only expected to be a fourth line energy guy. Stoll will have the biggest
impact within the next three years.
BG: Raffi Torres was my sleeper pick at
the start of last season and I really felt he made a tremendous impact on the
team. I was surprised at how fast he developed and it makes me hungry to
see him in action again soon. Hopefully it will be next season, if you know
what I mean.
RR: A tie between Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll.
We expected grit and toughness from Torres, which we got, but 20 goals
including three game winners. He was huge! As for Stoll, the confidence Head
Coach Craig MacTavish showed in him says it all. As the season wore on
MacT would put him out there in more and more
"game on the line" situations. He was solid defensively, very
strong on faceoffs, and also chipped in with two game-winning goals.
BS: Conklin proved he was at minimum a solid NHL
back-up. I’m still not sold on him as a full-fledged starter though, but in
spite of an overachieving year from Torres and a solid season from Stoll, I
would have to say Conklin.
Topic #2: Has Jani Rita
been mishandled and what should be done with him now?
RB: No. The problem
for Rita has been that every time he’s called up the Oilers seem to be involved
in a fight for their lives in the standings. That’s not the time to bring a
prospect along. Rita’s been the victim of circumstance more than anything and,
quite frankly, he hasn’t done enough in the limited chances he’s been given to
make a real impression. He’s not a prolific offensive player, so he needs time
to impress. He’s not going to knock your socks off in short looks here and
there. He needs to win a job out of training camp and stick around. I’d like to
see him play a regular shift for 20-30 games before he’s deemed a flop.
Either give him 10 games on one of the top
two lines to see if he can produce at the NHL level or trade him. Playing him
five minutes a night on the fourth line doesn’t help him or the team.
to mishandle a guy who doesn’t show you anything. Trade bait.
I don’t know if mishandled is the right word here.
I’m a firm believer that individuals have to work for and create their own
breaks. He’s got to do more when he’s here to insure he sticks around.
I think the Oilers saw Rita as a guy who had to play on the top two
lines. I sense they saw no benefit to him playing four to six minutes a game on
a fourth line. Now he has gone from being a prospect to a suspect. If I were
the Oilers I would peddle him to the New York Rangers and the man who drafted
him, Glen Sather. My sense is that Sather has lost a grassroots level touch,
and look at his track record here in
traded for a lot of other teams’ former No. 1 picks.
Topic #3: Which prospect(s) are you the most eager to
see more of?
RB: Doug Lynch and
Jeff Woywitka. I don’t think Lynch is that far away from earning a roster spot.
In my mind, he can develop into a No. 3 or No. 4 defenseman on this team in the
next couple of years.
Doug Lynch. He does everything well. Moves the puck, a good passer and
plays with a bit of an edge. I would also like to see rugged d-man Matt Greene play in
Greene is the toughest d-man the Oilers have had since Bryan Marchment.
If there is a season… I’d like to see more of Doug Lynch.
Goaltender Jeff Deslauriers. He’s had a good season in the
"Q" and even beat and outshone Marc Andre Fleury in one round of the
playoffs. He seems eager to prove he’s another good one from the
Marc-Antoine Pouliot. I applaud the Oilers for drafting a skill guy out
of the Quebec League. In my mind there is an understated bias against skaters
from the Q with a lot of NHL organizations (though not necessarily the Oilers),
and I am hoping that Pouliot makes Lowe, Prendergast and company look good in
Topic #4: Do you think Alexei Mikhnov will be playing
For the Oilers sake I hope so. He has the size they are lacking on the
top two lines and a year in
should help him learn the North American game and hopefully he will be able to
play in E-town in a few seasons.
BG: Uh, no. I don’t even think the
Oilers know if this guy’s the real deal right now.
No, especially if there are no NHL games next season.
Yes, in the American League.
Topic #5: Should the Oilers move up or down at the
draft this year?
RB: They won’t move
up. They never have. With this draft crop, it won’t hurt to move down if they
can get future prospects or another draft choice for doing so. There’s no
difference between picking 14th and 34th this year.
Depends on who is available. If they can move up a few spots and grab a
big scoring forward then definitely yes, but if not, make the two first round
picks count. The Oilers drafting has really improved since Kevin Prendergast
came along so I would expect both first-rounders to
be good picks.
BG: Don’t do anything stupid since we
have zero clues about the next few seasons. Let the scouts do their
thing and draft as “normal”, unless some team absolutely makes the team a deal
the Oil cannot refuse.
This is not supposed to be a great draft so they’re fine where they are
unless they can get a starting goalie in a deal to move down.
They should use both first-round picks on skill guys. The Oilers have an
abundance of character defenseman (Woywitka, Lynch, Greene), who will be in
next couple of years. They need a power play quarterback. They won’t get Cam
Barker at 14 overall but may be able to get the second or third best offensive
defenceman in the draft. With the other No. 1 I would take the best skilled
forward you can find that is left in the draft.
Topic #6: Will the Top Prospect
mini-camp run this summer?
I’m told it’s
back on. It’s a good idea.
JG: All depends on the finances of the club. It
was great to see the young prospects last year and it really benefits both the
Oilers and kids. So I think they will find a way to have a prospect camp.
idea. Don’t care really. It’s hard to get excited about anything right now with
the CBA mayhem on the horizon.
RR: Uh…. maybe.
BS: If we weren’t going into labor
strife I would suggest it is a must, but business decisions might have to be
made and so as a result this might not be the summer for a mini-camp.
Topic #7: Who is
RB: Jeff Deslauriers, hands down. If you want a sleeper, go
with Matt Greene.
Jeff Deslauriers; goaltending has become so important in today’s game.
If the Oilers had even decent goaltending earlier on last year they’d have made
the playoffs. Deslauriers is the real deal and could be here in two years.
BG: Got to think they’re pretty pumped about Lynch and
Woywitka. I’d view it the same way since they didn’t really make any moves at
the trade deadline for a young defenseman. By the time hockey returns (if it
does) those two should be well positioned to make a move.
Goaltender Jeff Deslauriers.
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. The Oilers need him
to turn it their No. 1 goaltender within two years.
Topic #8: Do you expect veteran Oiler
players to be traded at the draft or during the next training camp to make room
for the rising prospects in the organization?
RB: No. But that
doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Trades are more likely after training camp,
assuming there is one. If Semenov can overcome all the press box time he got
late last season, if Bergeron continues to develop and Lynch or Woywitka is
ready to play at this level, Lowe will have the option of moving a veteran like
Jason Smith or Steve Staios.
They have too many forwards cut from the same ilk. I’d expect to see at
least one moved and/or one won’t be qualified and would become a free agent.
too many variables and too may CBA questions. Things will happen once the CBA
debacle is solved. Why take a chance?
Maybe a small deal here or there (to get a veteran goaltender) but
nothing like what we’ve seen the past few years.
Nobody that is a core guy. The Oilers have put themselves in a good
financial position for the years to come with their core guys.
Topic #9: Is the tandem of
Conklin/Markkanen good enough to backstop the Oilers to the playoffs next
RB: Yes. Assuming, of
course, Conklin sticks to stopping pucks rather than snapping metacarpals on
the mugs of opposing goaltenders.
I believe so but are they good enough to not
lose a playoff series? That
remains to be seen.
BG: NO. They’ll have to make a move
and once the CBA is solved, there may be some pretty good (and suddenly
cheaper) netminders out there to pick from. I love both guys… but they’re both
No. 2 guys.
They could probably squeak in with Conklin/Markkanen but why take the
chance and sweat it out, as they always seem to do every season? Get a
starter, sit back, and relax.
No. I would be calling
if I were Lowe, they are big on Ryan Miller and they
also like Mika Noronen and Martin Biron
may be available.
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