You know that Bob Cole line from last year’s playoff, "Everything is happening"? Today, on the most over-hyped occasion of the year, someone should pull the esteemed gent away from his afternoon rum to declare the opposite, because if there was ever a day that seemed likely to leave people wondering where the time went, it will be this one. Thankfully, after the Jets, and most other teams, do absolutely nothing of consequence by 2 PM, we’ll have a game to watch featuring the return of Jets 1.0’s historic nemesis.
I’ll get to the game shortly, but first, a brief review of where the club should be adding depth, in the unlikely event of a trade that has any effect on the main roster. It’s been screamingly obvious for most of this season that the Jets were a couple of legitimate forwards short of a proper top nine. The GST line have spent the year stuck in Manny Malhotra land, playing the toughs, starting in their own end entirely too often, and by their sacrifice, allowing the Jets’ better players a crack at the high ground. That noted, those guys really have no business playing top nine minutes, earnest as they’ve been in their endeavours.
To be competely fair to Kevin Cheveldayoff, the roster holes in question that have forced this situation on Claude Noel should have filled by Fehr and Miettinen, since both had enough pedigree coming into the year that suggested they could at least hold their own playing top nine minutes. The duo make just under $4M combined, and the productivity Winnipeg has received from both guys has been sub-replacement level.
In Fehr’s case, this has been a season utterly lost due to injury and recovery. It would be one thing if he were generating opportunities and not cashing them, since variance can leave any player in a dry spell, but he’s driven nothing at all this year in some pretty soft minutes, and has been a deserved denizen of in the press box as of late. I can’t imagine Winnipeg qualifying him, and in all honesty, he should have been waived at some point during the season. I suspect if he weren’t a local, that would have been the case, but maybe that’s just my cynicism at work.
Miettinen was waived on Friday, and his tale is roughly the same as Fehr’s, although he’s had some tougher minutes in his stint with the team, and at least gives the appearance of a player that might create a bit of offence before I retire in 12 1/2 years. Still, he was another gamble to add cheap help that’s gone a glimmer, and that leaves the club where they are today.
As a result, a team that finds themselves on the edge of the playoffs could use a couple of live bodies up front. The issue, of course, is that the Jets have virtually nothing in the hopper that would get them a useful forward absent their first rounder, and selling that for the chaff that’s on the market today is likely to be a poor bet for a team that still needs to fill holes left behind by Don Waddell’s decade of incompetence.
The one player that could be moved for more than future considerations in 2076 is Johnny Oduya. He’s a bottom pairing guy at this point if the Jets have everyone available, but he’s a decent enough skater that he might be of interest to the teams that are short a D or two, and the fact that Winnipeg is alive in the race shouldn’t deter Cheveldayoff from moving him if a team comes calling. Chicago is the club that might be most interested, because they look dire right now, and I can’t imagine that Bowman wouldn’t like one more defender, even if that player is prone to the occasion mental lapse. Pierre Lebrun’s view is that the Swede is as good as gone, so we’ll see if 29 is headed elsewhere by mid-afternoon.
At any rate, I’m not really expecting much else of note to emanate from the team offices. This was always going to be a year of assessment and reflection for the club’s management, and although the air-tight nature of communication from True North leaves open the possibility of a non-trivial deal no one is anticipating, I’m not expecting much to be different when I head to MTS Centre this eveing to watch them joust with the evil-doers from Alberta.
Ah, the Oilers. Before they were the go-to team for jokes about management ineptitude and serial loserdom, the rotten bastards actually represented something of merit, and I’m not even talking about the glory days. In the NHL’s dark years before the salary cap, Edmonton managed to ice respectable teams on a shoestring, as they often constructed a roster in the late 90’s and early aughts that outplayed their pedigree.
The current version, of course, is all about the tank. Contrary to the nonsense that one hears from the ardent defenders of the Grease, the current rebuild is the second one they’ve undertaken since the summer of ’06. The Pronger trade was the opening salvo in rebuild Mark One, and it culminated in the abject failure of 2009/10, when the Oilers finished last while being a cap team. Rebuild two is underway as we speak, and although the young men the Oilers have drafted since 2009 appear promising, the outcome is still very much up in the air.
Looking from the outside, Steve Tambellini’s inability to identify useful veteran help on the back end appears to be the primary factor that has his squad in 29th place as of this morning. The Cam Barker signing last summer had only one possible outcome, and although he’s allegedly in the lineup tonight absent a trade, his year has revealed him to be exactly what everyone with any sense thought he was. He’s a perfectly nice young man that happened to belong to my golf club here in the Peg for a couple of years, but honesty compels me to note that he’s a slow footed 7th D that should be making much nearer the minimum, or maybe someone that should be playing one level lower.
It’s not all bad on the veteran front, though, as Ales Hemsky agreed to terms on Friday night to a decent deal for both sides. I like the guy as a player, and I think the Oilers did the right thing by holding the term down given his injury history. The over-under on that deal working in my estimation is about 130, as in games played. If he’s out there 65 nights a year or more, Edmonton will get fair value based on his likely production.
Should Hemsky’s contract end with a games played total much below that, it will appear as an overpay, but all things considered, the contract is a fair gamble on both sides. The Oilers aren’t exactly heavy on guys that can hold their own against good players, and Hemsky has a lengthy pedigree of doing precisely that. I know that playing young guys seems like a cool thing to do, but it’s a one way street to being in the lottery every year if the mix isn’t leavened with solid pros that understand the game without the puck.
The Oilers might get a bit of a break tonight if Claude Noel holds to his pattern of using GST versus the other club’s top scorers. The normal run of play for Edmonton on the road is for teams to play their best against Eberle and the Nuge, which exposes the holes in their games when they aren’t on the attack. The Oilers have struggled when teams have gone that route, and while most coaches don’t break their tendencies this late in the year, having Little-Ladd-Wheeler out there against those two would be wise, in my view. Wheeler is killing it as of late, and his size and speed would make a matchup against the Oiler kids a difficult one.
Game time is 7:30, with coverage on TSN Jets. The Nation will be providing deadline coverage as well, and I’ll have capsule reviews of any deals of note for the Jets as they happen.
Edit, 11:22 am: The Jets claimed Grant Clitsome via waivers from Columbus. He’s a useful bottom pairing guy on a relatively cheap deal, and if nothing else gives the team a bit of flexibility heading into this afternoon should they choose to unload Oduya or Jones. It’s a decent gamble on Cheveldayoff’s part.