Lowe's finally dealing for the present instead of the future.
At first I found it quite unusual that the Oilers signed Adam Oates and then a couple of days later signed a contract extention with Steve Staios. I mean.... how often do the Oilers part with that much money in one week? The more I thought about it though, the more it started to make sense to me. If the Canadian $$ hovers at around $.77 US for the whole season rather than the $.65 that the teams budget was designed around, it should free up close to 5 million extra dollars on the Oilers roughly $30 million dollar budget. (Do the math) Lowe most likely realizes that this team is scoring as good as any other 5 on 5 and if it continues to do so, they only have to shore up their ailing powerplay and woeful face off circle performance to consistently be one of the leagues highest scoring teams. Adding Oates should help the scoring on not only the powerplay, but 5 on 5 as well. The offensive totals will only get better with him in the lineup. The injury to Salo also has given him the opportunity to see what Conklin can do at the NHL level, and no doubt at this point he's impressed. If Conklin can continue to play the way he is, it's easy to imagine that the Oilers could lower their goal against average to not much over 2 goal per game. My thinking is that it's suddenly occured to Kevin Lowe that he might not actually have to wait until after the CBA agreement has been settled for the Oilers to become a serious contender and do some damage in the post season. This year, if they continue to score at the pace they are, and if Conklin can keep playing the way he is, they could finish well up in the standings and playoff success could follow. Plus, he still has Comrie as trade bait to further strengthen the team. Lowe most likely sees all of this as a window of opportunity and has decided to make his move now, rather than later. If I'm right in my thinking, it makes sense that Lowe, when he finally does the Comrie deal, will trade him for someone that not only will help the team in 2005-2006, but will help also help the team this year. It won't be for future prospects only. There will be a 'here and now' player somewhere in the deal. I also wouldn't be suprised if there were a couple more deals made as the season progresses and Lowe sees a hole or two that needs filling before playoff time, remembers how well Anahiem did last year (coincidentally with Oates in their line up) and digs into a few of those extra dollars to try to make a serious run at the cup this year. From a marketing point of view this also makes sense, because if the Oilers do have some post season success this year, it will be far easier to sell seasons tickets to what will be optimistic Oiles fans in 2005-6 than it would be trying to sell tickets to fans that haven't watched hockey for a year and their last memories were of a team that scrooged and lost another first round series. Well, that's just my 2 cents Thoughts?
Well, if we can keep scoring at this pace, and if Oates can noticeably improve our PP and faceoff percentages, what pieces of the puzzle are left to look at?
Most people would say defence, where Brewer's struggled mightily so far, and Staios is our best 'stud' back there.
Goalie could be next, but Conklin has definitely looked good since taking over (well, a little shaky/nervous his first start, but great since).
Dealing Comrie for a stud defenceman might be a good move, then, for some possible success this year and in the future.
So...yeah, Lowe is trying to do that delicate juggling act of fielding a competitive team every year (at least making the playoffs) while also building for the future (post-CBA). This current lineup looks like it should make the playoffs if things keep going as they are (big if!), so Lowe may not make a big move with Comrie for this year already.
It's great to think about having a serious chance at a Cup THIS year, and the Oates signing is more of a NOW thing than anything else, but I don't know how realistic it is.
Well to me I see a team that hasn't really played good for a while. THey have played so-so, but are still putting points on the board and getting lots of goals. So..... I ask..... What happens when Reasoner is back and this team gets better that way? What happens when Oates is ready and the team improve in all the areas he'll help? What happens when we add an asset for Comrie? Most teams couldn't survive if they had all those assets or plusses not availabe. I think that when they get back we challenge for the division and for home ice advantage!
Some other things that may be affecting Lowe's decision making:
1. The top teams (Detroit, Colorado, and Dallas) are not dominating at all this year. Maybe Lowe is taking the chance that if he improves the team that he has, he can get into the second round of the playoffs or further. The playoffs make the team TONS of money.
2. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that Oiler fans are not going to be content with 'just making the playoffs' anymore. The fans are expecting more, and to keep fan interest high, he has to spend a little money to show the fans he is commited to winning.
3. The staios signing is a very good move. Staios has been very consistent over the last couple years, and Lowe wants to make sure that he doesn't get some ridiculous offers in the off-season. I do sense that this is Jason Smith's last oiler season though. I don't see the Oilers paying around $4.5M to keep both those guys around.