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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Smid is Ready for the NHL; Prospect, Player, or Trade Bait? Vol. 2

Bryan Young is an underrated defensive option who is seen hammering some guy to the ice. I think Bryan Young is the kind of player we need to call up to the team. More on that later.

The Oilers won 3-0 with Vancouver in town tonight in what was a bit of an unorganized game. What counts though is the 2 points in the standings, not the way you win the game. Though the puck movement was a bit off tonight, two things were noticeably improved tonight:

a) defensive zone coverage
b) intensity

With the exception of our lacklustre 5-on-3 powerplays, our intensity was consistent throughout the game with perhaps the end of the 1st period as the opposite. However, watching puck movement by defensive guys like Smid has made one thing apparent to me: if Strudwick and Staios could be considered expendable before, they pretty much don't contribute anything now. Souray can play defensively and offensively; Gilbert has held his own; Visnovsky and Grebeskhov are smooth puck movers. What does Staios bring to this team? He doesn't even lead the team in blocked shots or ice time. The warrior has been on this team a long time and is a leader in the dressing room.

But his time has come.

Bryan Young is a stay-at-home defenseman who might be described as a cross between Scott Ferguson and Colin White. If MacTavish is going to play anyone who does't contribute on the scoreboard (Staios), it might as well be someone who hits people and hits them in a devastating way. Bryan Young is well known for his open-ice hits.

As for Theo "the Sean Brown comparable" Peckham, who is either NHL ready or almost NHL ready, he too would be a useful addition to this team. But with all the offense being exhibited by the top 3, I would argue that Young is more needed at this moment.

Plus, we would save a ton of cash playing Young over Staios and Strudwick. Smid has shown he's ready in my opinion The organization gave up on Greene and if it was because they felt they had enough D depth in the system, then its time to hand Smid the reigns.

As a result of Nilsson reasserting the lock on his job against Vancouver tonight, he has proved that he is more valuable on this team than not. I don't think that Sam Gagner has done that yet, not the way that guys like Andrew Cogliano or Ladislav Smid play like NHL regulars. He still needs to show that he can do the job better than AHL callups like Schremp or Brule. The kid line experiment may not be over but the fact that the components are so replaceable means bad things for job security. At least it should in a fair world. Even poster boys like Sam Gagner should need to prove their worth once in a while.

Movement in the ranks...

Prospect, Player or Trade Bait?
NoneFranchise Player
Andrew Cogliano
Denis Grebeskhov
Jeff Drouin-DesLauriers
NHL Regular
Ladislav Smid
Robert Nilsson
Sam Gagner *
NHL Project
Rob Schremp
Gilbert Brule
Questionable Roster Spot Zone
Marc-Antoine Pouliot
Kyle Brodziak
Zack Stortini **
Prime Trade Bait
Liam Reddox
Theo Peckham
Bryan Young
Steve MacIntyre
Questionable Roster Spot Zone
Ryan Potulny
Carl Corazzini
Sebastien Bisaillon
Tim Sestito
Guillaume Lefebvre
AHL Prospect
Mathieu Roy **Dump Zone

* Sam Gagner - he's a clever one this Samwise and he makes all sorts of smart plays, sure. But he's still a work in progress.
** Zack Stortini - there are guys who can do his job on this team. His trade value might be low, but his value to this team is lower.
*** Mathieu Roy - I still think he's a great player but he is an NHL ready player who deserves a chance in another NHL city.

Note: for anyone unfamiliar with the rules of the list, listed players must have at least one game of NHL experience.

Full rules and notes here.

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December 14, 2008 at 8:57 AM

Blogger Bruce said...

Hey Raven, I can't agree that JDD (5 GP) is an NHL regular just yet, while the likes of Smid, Gagner and Nilsson (100-150 GP each) are projects.

As for your prime trade bait, patience is a virtue. All three of those guys are making progress, it's just rarely a smooth and direct path. Those guys are all in the 100-125 GP range, 23-24 years old, just nicely into their apprenticeship. Giving up on guys like that at this point in their careers is the type of move that comes back to bite you.

December 14, 2008 at 10:48 PM

Blogger raventalon40 said...

If you read my post that explains how the table works, you'll find this:

NHL Project:
A player who is undoubtedly going to be a (1) franchise player or (2) an NHL regular but still needs a lot of work. (Mid-to-High Value / High Return)

The values of players and their return on the trade market on the team as referred to by the table ranges from low-value low-return to high-value high-return. Franchise players rate as invaluable and with high returns.

Being in the prime trade bait zone doesn't necessarily mean

a) they have high trade return
b) the players can't make progress

It just means that at this point in their career, the grey zone is the highest. That's why Nilsson was in this zone in the last edition because his job was at stake and the amount of comparables on this team meant that his degree of "tradability" had skyrocketed, due to:

a) salary
b) production

But producing and solidifying his job status upon returning from injury was enough to relieve any doubts on job security.

As for the NHL project area, it is fair to say that Smid, Gagner, and Nilsson fit into this category.

Often you hear that people say: "go easy on Gagner, he's 2 years younger than Cogliano - he'll get there!"

And it's true. He's nowhere close to being at the same level of professionalism and the level of skating as the Cogliano's and Nilssons. I'm not saying anybody else on the team skates as well as Cogliano - certainly Schremp, Strudwick, and Stortini (other forward slot-ins) cannot skate better than Gagner.

But that being said, Gagner's skills and smarts are there. But this is more than a sophomore slump, this is MacTavish giving the kid line tougher minutes and seeing the results of the Gagners matched up with the opposition's tougher checking lines. Cogliano and Nilsson have reacted nicely. Gagner has not. Gagner is one of those players who hurt the team with his defensive play and don't really contribute offensively (at least this season) who hasn't had to face the music. That was one of the main criticisms of Schremp before - his skating, defensive play, and consistency at the big leagues. I think in order for Gagner to grow as a player, he needs to realise his place on the kid line is not a guaranteed privilege - he has to earn the spot the way he did coming out of the 2007 TC.

As for Nilsson, his professionalism and defensive awareness is there. He backchecks like a demon and he plays his ass off in the offensive zone. But the gap measured in the categories of skills and consistency between him and his main competitor - Schremp - is not that wide.

If Schremp plays a few more games and goes scoreless (3 points in 4 games so far this season) or if Nilsson goes on a tear, I'd say the consistency battle has been won. But alas, Nilsson is not that consistent. And neither of those things have been proven. Schremp has not played himself out of a job though, for the time being, Nilsson has played himself into one.

Smid is my favorite "fringe player". He has shown that he can handle tough NHL opposition, he can move the puck, and he can do all the dirty stuff like fight, clear the crease, and talk trash.

With that in mind, it seems his play hasn't been good enough to push him past the Strudwicks and Staios's on this team (and God knows why) but I think we'll need one of two things in order to move Smid into the NHL regular category:

a) nod of confidence from MacT and Lowe/Tambellini by dealing/dumping away a D-man
b) playing Smid against tougher competition

He is also in this category because right now his trade value is still high and the team hasn't given him these signs of confidence.

Both of these would be confirming Smid's graduation to prime time NHL player. All the stuff that makes him NHL ready is there but the coach hasn't given him the same nod of confidence as he has given, say, a Sam Gagner.

Smid deserves it though, he's there.

With regards to Gagner, Nilsson, and Smid - I'm big fans of all of them. But I think the way that the coach's confidence has been unevenly distributed amongst them, especially between Smid and Gagner. Nilsson's job security is the only issue, and I think consistency is the only problem there.

Cogliano is a good mould to follow for Nilsson - not in terms of style of play, but for consistency and professionalism. The style of play may evolve, but chances are they will always be in the same skillset.

Another important question: does Schremp have the stuff to catch Nilsson? If the answer is no, Nilsson's value to the team also increases by relative comparison.

It's not really a science nor is there a formula by which I determine this list. This list is mainly based on:

a) current roster dynamics
b) availability of immediately available comparables (job security)
c) consistency of production

Gagner only has job security on this team because of the lack of comparables (Brule isn't the same kind of player as Gagner) and I don't think that he's not NHL ready, but he's not as NHL ready as the other components on the kid line. He's the 3rd wheel on that line, unfortunately.

December 15, 2008 at 1:45 PM


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