Perhaps life in Edmonton is cold in winter, but I am one Oil fan who would rather live without a Heater.
There is no way to know just what exactly the Oilers and Dany Heatley are waiting for. Media reports suggest that Dany hasn't given a definitive yes or no to playing in Edmonton - That his reaction to the attempted trade was on hold until more teams made offers to Ottawa. For some unexplainable reason, the Oilers appear to be holding on to hope that Dany in his wisdom will go to Edmonton, once it is discovered that the Oilers are the only team willing and able to make a serious offer for him. It is fairly obvious that Dany is not exactly jumping at the chance to become an Oiler. And that in itself should be reason to walk away from the deal.
The Oilers might have a new GM and Coaching staff, so they can be forgiven if they don't have much memory of team woes last season. What fans witnessed during the last campaign was a team that appeared to have enough ability and talent, but not enough heart and chemistry. There were a few players, Nilsson, Cole and Penner most notably, that should have been offensive leaders, but didn't seem devoted to the cause. Others, Horcoff in particular, was played in a role he is not cut out to be in. Shawn is the hardest worker in hockey, but he is not a top line offensive talent. And then there was a third group, including players like Pouliot, Jacques and Reddox, who don't belong in the NHL. How the team could play those three ahead of Brule and Schremp is anyone's guess.
Dany Heatley would be, in terms of scoring ability, an upgrade to any other player on the team, Hemsky included. The question is, will adding him do more long-term harm than good?
First consideration has to be where the team is now. Tambi, Quinn and Renney have their work cut out for them, as they need to reinvent a team that has, let's face it, stunk for the last 15 years. They do have much to work with: Khabibulin is the best goaltender they've had since CuJo in his prime, the Oilers have perhaps the best offensive Top 4 defensive group in the NHL, and the team has significant young prospects in the system. Cogliano, Gagner, Chorney and Peckham are already with the team, and Eberle, Omark, Nash, Petry, Plante, Paajarvi, and Vande Velde will all be NHL regulars in a few years. Think about it...11 players; almost half a team already in the system. Of those 11, five players are forwards who have strong offensive potential.
One look at the Oilers roster reveals great optimism for the future, but no potential to win a cup in a few years. Heatley or no Heatley, this team is a few years away. Why? The above mentioned group does not have size at the forward position. Eberle, Omark, Cogs, and Gagner can all light it up, but they need to be surrounded by people who can bang and crash. Vande Velde shows signs of being a power forward, and Paajarvi is big enough to crash to the net, but won't scare anyone in the corners. There is still hope that Brule can turn into a power forward of substance, and the Oilers acquired O'Sullivan because he plays with a little sandpaper in his game. But how many games did the team lose last season because the team could not physically stand against others? Many. Dany Heatley is a great scorer, but he isn't going to run anyone over out there.
A look at the Oilers roster and stable of talent reveals potential NHL players who are young and impressionable. Edmonton...let's be honest here...is a last choice for players. No one seems to want to play there. Is the key to winning brining in star players, or is the key to develop a core of young players who grow up together; grow into the community and become territorial about the team and the town? Gagner, Cogliano and Gilbert are examples of people who are just as excellent off the ice as they are on. Would you rather bring Jordan Eberle into a team where his main influence will be a team-guy like Gagner, or a seemingly self obsessed player like Heatley? Do you want your young talent to build loyalty to the team, or to be just there to earn a pay cheque?
The bottom line here folks is that the Oilers need to look at the bigger picture before making any moves. I am not referring to the salary cap here either. Even a player like Penner, who was a goat for MacT last season, could become a leader on this team for many years in the right environment. He could be a force as a power forward if he was motivated to become one. And in signing with Edmonton, he did demonstrate a willingness to play there. Perhaps before trading Penner's problems for the ones we all know Heatley will bring, we should try to see if Quinn and Renney can turn him into a 30+ goal guy who can hit. I'd rather have his 30+, team chemistry, and a focus on developing youth from within, than Heatley, who will likely be presenting the Oilers with a similar train wreck come next off-season.