A room divided?

In 2006 the Oilers made a thrilling run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. It was a veteran group: 19 of the 25 players who dressed during the playoff run were aged 27 or older, the other 6 age 25 or younger.

Fast forward three years, and just 6 players remain from that Cinderella crew. 5 of them were, and remain, veterans: Dwayne Roloson, age* 39; Steve Staios, 35; Ethan Moreau, 33; Fernando Pisani, 32; Shawn Horcoff, 30. Of the youngsters, only the enigmatic Ales Hemsky, now 25, remains an Oiler.

( * - "hockey age" as of Feb 1, as per Hockey-Reference.com)

Brad Winchester and Marc-Andre Bergeron were in the pressbox during those Stanley Cup Finals and were gone within a year. Of the four key youngsters of that run, last summer's trades of Raffi Torres (now 27), Jarret Stoll (26) and Matt Greene (25) gutted the squad of three of them. One of the departed players was moved for yet another unproven youngster, the other two netted a valuable but now injured veteran. Whatever the return, what was lost was an important link between the older and younger members of the team.

The 2008-09 Oilers are rumoured to be a fractured squad, with a significant group of 30-something vets, a larger group of youngsters with collectively little success in their pro careers, and not much in between to bridge the gap. Here's a breakdown of the 33 players who have suited up for Oil this season:

Group ..... # ..... GP
36-39 ..... 1 ..... 61
33-35 ..... 3 .... 217
30-32 ..... 8 .... 332
27-29 ... 1 ... 20
24-26 ..... 9 .... 443
21-23 .... 10 .... 343
18-20 ..... 1 ..... 72
Total .... 33 ... 1488

That's right, a great big hole right in the centre of the Bell curve, which even the gigantic Steve MacIntyre cannot begin to fill. Other than SMac and his 67 minutes of ice time, there's not a single player on the roster in the prime age bracket of 27-29.

And when the likes of Ethan Moreau -- or Craig MacTavish for that matter -- looks around the room, he sees a bunch of 30-something guys who have been through the wars, many of them together, and then a bunch of youngsters whose history with the Oilers is one of failure. Is it any wonder there are rumours of a disconnect in the room?


David S said...

Very interesting Bruce. I wonder if it even goes deeper. While our vets have "been through the wars", there aren't a whole bunch of Stanley Cup rings coming into the room every day. I remember hearing that Cole was really liked by the young guys, and I can't help but wonder if his winning aura wasn't part of the equation.

You see a guy who won a cup and I bet you'll take what he says alot more seriously than the bunch of role players we have as vets. I can't imagine how it must be for a young guy in Detroit. I'll bet they don't have the communication problems we might have here.

Bruce said...

David: The Stanley Cup ring certainly has a cachet to it, but whether there's a big difference between Eric Cole who won Game 7 vs., say, Fernando Pisani or Shawn Horcoff who lost it, who knows. They've all been to the Big Dance.

Your comment about Cole being liked by the young guys is significant; my big concern here is that you have a group of 30-plus guys who are naturally going to gravitate together and another group of 26-minus guys who are likely to do the same. It seems to me the missing link in the 27-29 bracket is likely to exacerbate the separation of those two groups.

Ribs said...

Well, I hope the boys put the clubs to use often together in the offseason for some team building.

Or are the young guys not into that anymore? Does Staios need to practice his Guitar Hero skills before he can hang with Gilbert?

I wish Stoll was still around to bring the team on a big cougar crawl.