The Rebuild Part 1: Introduction
“One, they’re probably going to beat you by eight goals and two, they’re going to kick that crap out of you too if you want to challenge them that way. “ – Steve Tambellini
Edmonton is a well educated hockey town and you don’t have to go very far to find out what state the Oilers are in, and for that matter what it is and what it means to be in a rebuild. What is a rebuild anyways? The dictionary defines it as:
- verb (used with object)
1. to repair, especially to dismantle and reassemble with newparts: to rebuild an old car.
2. to replace, restrengthen, or reinforce: to rebuild an army.
3. to revise, reshape, or reorganize: to rebuild a shattered career.
Now of course there are varying degrees of rebuilds and every season every team in the league is sure to make at least one roster/on-ice movement which will hopefully improve or re-strengthen the on ice performance of their franchise. These degrees of “rebuilds” can vary, from more subtle movements/transactions (Detroit Red Wings) to full on scorched earth type rebuilds (Edmonton Oilers).
It is possible for teams to be successful, competing in the playoffs year after year, to still have the opportunity to rebuild their teams, to a lesser extent of course, without falling to the bottom of the NHL standings. Most recently we’ve witnessed this with teams like Boston (Seguin, D. Hamilton) and Philadelphia (Couturier, Schenn) acquiring key players for their core and future of their team while successfully signing players which will have impact on how their team does in the standings (Campbell, Horton, Jagr, Bryzgalov). To attain this degree of rebuild the team usually already has a stable foundation with valuable roster players, and blue-chip prospects in the system acquired from various outlets of the market whether it be draft, free-agency, waiver claim or even signing a player from the conclusion of scouting work (Tim Thomas). A team doesn’t have to necessarily depend on the draft to be rebuilt, the Boston Bruins have shown us this (Peter Chiarelli: Boston’s Unsung Hero? – Good Article) however, when you have little to work with some time there is no other way than to rebuild the entire organization from the ground up.
This degree of rebuild, the type that Edmonton is going through, is more of the scorched earth in nature, meaning you tear away the team to their very core and begin to build outward. Even though success is not certain, we’ve seen teams built from the ground up make a solid run to the Stanley Cup Finals (Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago) and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, raising lord Stanley’s mug.
This degree of rebuild heavily depends on solid drafting to establish the core and foundation of the team along with a few key trades and sly acquisitions via free agency and or even, to some extent, waiver claims. Like mentioned earlier we’ve seen teams follow this model before, Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago and now the Oilers are also following in a similar fashion.
Rebuild Examples: Post from HFboards (Credit: TheNumber4 and Hemsky_83)
2000 – Pick #18 – Orpik
2002 – Pick #5 – Ryan Whitney
2003 – Pick #1 – Marc Andre Fleury
2004 – Pick #2 – Evgeni Malkin, #99 Kennedy
2005 – Pick #1 – Sydney Crosby, #62 Kris Letang
2006 – Pick #2 – Jordan Staal
Key trades: Neal, Dupuis
Key FA’s: Michalek, Martin
2002 – Pick #13 Alex Semin
2004 – Pick #1 – Alexander Ovechkin
2005 – Pick #15 – Sasha Pokulok, #29 Mike Green
2006 – Pick #4 – Niklas Backstrom
2007 – Pick #5 – Karl Alzner
2008 – Pick #21 – Anton Gustafson, #27 John Carlson,
2009 – Pick #24 – Marcus Johansen
Key Trades: Laich, Chimera
Key FA’s: Hamrlik, Knuble, Vokoun
2003 – Pick #54 Duncan Keith
2004 – Pick #15 Brent Seabrook
2004 – Pick #3 – Cam Barker, #32 Dave Bolland
2005 – Pick #7 – Jack Skille, #108 Niklas Hjalmarsson
2006 – Pick #3 – Jonathan Toews
2007 – Pick #1 – Patrick Kane
2008 – Pick #11 – Kyle Beach – Officially Out of Rebuild, Pushing for Playoff Spot
Key Trades: Sharp, Leddy
Key FA’s: Hossa
For the season opening roster the Oilers iced a team that consisted of the following lines:
JFJ – Horcoff – Hemsky
O’Sullivan – Comrie – Stone
Pnner – Brule – Cogliano
Moreau – Gagner – Stortini
Souray – Visnovsky
Grebeshkov – Gilbert
Smid – Staios
In season key additions:
March 03 – Ryan Jones claimed off waivers from Nashville.
March 04 – Lubomir Visnovsky traded to Anaheim for Ryan Whitney + 2010 6th Round Pick
Quotes from the Oilers organization following the Oilers 2009-2010 season:
“No doubt the chemistry had deteriorated to the point where are team was like teams that I use to look at that I just despised in terms of the attitude in the dressing room…” – Kevin Lowe
“You don’t win. It’s hard on people, it’s hard on people. The positive side is you get to find out a lot about people. Not only when you win but when you don’t. And you see the people that can hang in there and stick with and be professional be prepared and be a good teammate.” – Steve Tambellini
“What happened this past season, made it very clear to me that now is our opportunity to rebuild, when I say rebuild, this is a major rebuild.” – Daryl Katz
In essence, following the dismal 2009-2010 season, sparked the rebuild in its entirety, on and off the ice. Over the summer Kevin Pendergast was fired and a sideways move sent former head coach Pat Quinn to front office with Tom Renney assuming the duties of head coach. Earlier in the year the organization had established and relocated their AHL team to Oklahoma City and Katz wasn’t afraid to put money into the team.
The 2010-2011 sold “H.O.P.E.”, icing an opening night roster of:
Penner – Gagner – Hemsky
Hall – Horcoff – Eberle
Paajarvi – Cogliano – Brule
MacIntyre – Fraser – Stortini
Whitney – Gilbert
Smid – Foster
Vandameer – Peckham
In season key transactions:
February 28 – Dustin Penner to Los Angeles for Colten Teubert + 2011 1st Round Pick (#19 Oscar Klefbom) + Conditional 2012 Third Round Pick
Even with the youth and hope that the management was selling the Oilers finished 30th overall yet again, although this year the silver lining appeared to be much thicker.
The Oilers were fairly busy this past offseason acquiring some grit, depth and attempting to fill a few other holes. (Eager, Hordichuck, Belanger, Barker, Potter, Fedun) They also sent Cogliano to Anaheim with a 2013 2nd Round Pick coming our way. Most notable was probably the return of Ryan Smyth, which sent Colin Fraser and a 2012 7th round pick to Los Angeles.
The Oilers added two first round picks this past off-season in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom.
For the 2011-2012 season the Oilers iced a team of:
Smyth – Horcoff – Hemsky
Hall – RNH – Eberle
Paajarvi – Lander – Omark
Petrell – Belanger – Jones
Barker – Gilbert
Smid – Petry
Sutton – Peckham
Injured Opening Night: Gagner, Eager, Whitney
Even with a questionable blue line the Oilers surprised, or at least should have surprised, everyone coming out of the gate. The Oilers have iced a team this year with a young and dynamic offensive core however much of their roster still seams incomplete, especially when it comes to the blue line. How was this team suppose to compete for playoff contention with having a questionable defensive group and shaky goaltending coming into the season? Even though they started off with a superb record the on ice woes are more than glaring now. There are still bright spots, hell possible shining stars in the making, but this team still has a bit to go yet.
2004 – Pick #14 Devan Dubnyk
2006 – Pick #45 Jeff Petry
2007 – Pick #6 Sam Gagner
2008 – Pick #22 Jordan Eberle, #163 Teemu Hartikainen
2009 – Pick #10 Magnus Paajarvi, #40 Anton Lander
2010 – Pick #1 Taylor Hall
2011 – Pick #1 Ryan Nugent Hopkins, #19 Oscar Klefbom
Key Trades: Whitney, Smyth,???
Key FA’s: ???
It’s hard to call the Key Acquisitions (Trades/FA’s) listed above as so because I would consider these players helping us at least contend for a playoff spot but you can argue, at least with the Key Trades that Whitney (when healthy) and Smyth have made an impact and positive contribution to this team. As for the free agents I would list Khabibulin, Belanger and Eager as notable but I wouldn’t quite list them as “key”. As for our organization and prospects in our system I say the Oilers are fairly wealthy on this front and it’s been some time. Listed above are players I think will most likely be here and have an impact on our future of this rebuild.
What history tells us is that the Oilers will most likely be active around the trade deadline this year and we may be able to use it to judge where the team is and are heading in the rebuild. Are we going to move players to acquire more draft picks or are we going to acquire players who are going to take on a roster spot and or make an impact in the very near future? These types of moves can tell us a lot where the team is and where the Oilers are heading. Even though the Oilers are most likely going to be getting another top five pick this season the deadline may give us a hint in what direction the team will be heading this offseason what we may be gearing up for next fall. I don’t think rebuilds should judged based on time but by how much an organization matures.
The Rebuild Part 2: Trade Deadline – Coming Soon.