With seven games to go until golf season kicks off, the Edmonton Oilers are now officially eliminated form the playoffs. Obviously this comes as no surprise, since all-star break it was apparent that the 2011-12 edition of this team was not a playoff team. So what changes have to be made is still up in the air, but it does appear Steve Tambellini will be busy this Summer.
This afternoon I'm going to step into Tambellini's shoes and play God with this city and team. Before I talk about the players, I first want to resolve our issue with Tom Renney. People forget that Renney's greatest asset is his teaching ability along with his patience with young players. The Oilers are still rebuilding and although they should be a better team next year, they still have to develop players. Sometimes change is needed but not in this case; not resigning Renney would only add speed bumps to the rebuild. I would sign Renney for another two years. If the Oilers don't have a winning record by Christmas, I'll be telling Tom to take a hike up Mt. Trump. Why do I care that Renney has another year left on his contract, it's not my money!
Now onto the players, who will be remaining with the Oilers:
Taylor Hall; Jordan Eberle; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; Ales Hemsky; Teemu Hartikainen; Magnus Paajarvi; Shawn Horcoff; Ben Eager; Lennert Petrell; Eric Belanger; Anton Lander; Jeff Perty; Ladislav Smid; Ryan Whitney; Nick Schultz; Taylor Fedun; Any Sutton; Corey Potter
Looking at the players that would have a roster spot, there is only one real surprise and that's Taylor Fedun. Taylor exemplifies perseverance, heart and soul, he is exactly what this team needs on the back-end. Come training camp, a roster spot will be his to lose. Petry and Petrell will need to be signed this Summer.
Players who will be gone:
Ryan Jones; Linus Omark; Darcy Hordichuk; Cam Barker
Now don't get me wrong, I like Jones but the time has come for the Oilers to play Hartikainen and Paajarvi. I love Omark, but with the Oilers signing Hemsky, Omark is redundant. Hordichuk and Barker were experiments and this Summer the Oilers will probably try a few more.
Players with question marks:
Ryan Smyth; Sam Gagner: Theo Peckham
What to do about Smyth and Gagner all depends on how much money they want? Smyth would be a great third line player but the question is will Ryan accept third line money? Sam Gagner is a must sign but what if that 8 point game has gone to his head and he asks for the moon? Last and least is Theo Peckham, I like what he brings to the ice but it simply isn't enough. He has played well as of late but does it warrant another contract. At just over a million dollars, it might be worthwhile to gamble on him and see what he brings next fall.
Have I forgotten anyone? Yes of course the goaltending. I saved the goaltending for last because I like where the Oilers are with Dubnyk and Khabibulin. No I haven't lost my mind and feel free to flame away, but I have faith in Devan Dubnyk. Even when he struggled in December, I knew he would bounce back and he has; the time has come to let Dubey take the reins. The Oilers will have to resign Dubnyk where Khabibulin still has one year left on his contract. Playing around thirty games, Khaby is good enough to play the back-up roll.
So there you have it Oiler fans, a brief overview of next years team. I'm not going to bother trying to anticipate the draft, free agents, trades and player values. I'll leave that to the professional arm-chair general managers, but I would consider acquiring a top 4 defenseman.
HALL - RNH - EBERLE
HARTIKAINEN - GAGNER - HEMSKY
SMYTH - HORCOFF - PAAJARVI
EAGER - BELANGER - PETRELL
LANDER - ???
SMID - PETRY
WHITNEY - POTTER
SCHULTZ - FEDUN
DUBNYK - KHABIBULIN
Time to step out of tambellini's shoes, it was fun while it lasted but I'm not fond of loafers!