We coulda told you so

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Hindsight, the staple and sustenance of know-it-alls, I-told-you-so guys and talk radio, is a piece of cake.

Obviously, Edmonton Oilers' GM Kevin Lowe overestimated Michael Peca, thinking he'd be able to shed the shackles of his primarily defensive gig on Long Island and become the 70-point centre the Oilers needed.

Clearly, Lowe was mistaken in thinking Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen, neither of whom had established a record as an NHL starter, could carry the mail when the season began.

Likewise, coach Craig MacTavish made a mistake in not keeping rookie Robbie Schremp, who has 32 points in seven games with the London Knights since being returned to the OHL while the Oilers powerplay has reeked like rank cheese.

That's the, ahem, insight that's been percolating since the Oilers made a left turn after three straight wins. All three points have some validity, but when I look past the immediate uproar surrounding the team and second-guess, I'm looking elsewhere.

I'm talking about the Oilers decision to suspend operation of the Road Runners and go without an AHL affiliate in 2005-06, instead relying on placing players with other teams - Hamilton, operated by the Montreal Canadiens, and Iowa, run by the Dallas Stars.

As if it isn't bad enough, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, the first blue-chip goaltending prospect the Oilers have had in what seems like forever, is stuck behind Olivier Michaud in Steeltown.

Now Conklin, demoted for a two-week conditioning stint, is in the mix. What's next for Drouin-Deslauriers, a ticket to the ECHL?

Smooth move.

"It's not an ideal situation, no," admits VP of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast. "We just have to make the best of it."

OTHERS CALLING THE SHOTS

With the Habs and Stars calling the shots in Hamilton and Des Moines, the Oilers don't have much say as to who plays and when. Counting Conklin, they have eight spots in Steeltown and seven in Iowa. Until Conklin arrived, Drouin-Deslauriers had the lone spot reserved for an Oiler goaltender.

The Oilers immediate concern is getting Conklin back on track.

That's a process that begins tonight when the 29-year-old starts against the Syracuse Crunch at Copps Coliseum.

Just like that, and for as long as two weeks, the 21-year-old Drouin-Deslauriers becomes third in the pecking order and even more of an afterthought than he was in the mind of Hamilton coach Don Lever.

"At this point, he's got to establish himself as a really good AHL goalie," Oilers assistant GM Scott Howson said of Drouin-Deslauriers."We have to see how Ty does in his first couple of games," said Prendergast, who'll be at the game in Hamilton tonight.

"The thing with Jeff is we don't want to see his development hindered."

If Conklin gets in a groove in a hurry, maybe there's no problem. If he doesn't and needs more games, Deslauriers could find himself sent to Greenville of the ECHL filling the spot left open by Mike Morrison.

With their own AHL team - something the Oilers intend to have again in 2006-07 - this logjam wouldn't exist. The Oilers could've started with Conklin and Markkanen on top and Drouin-Deslauriers and Morrison as a tandem on the farm. Flipping Conklin for Morrison would be no problem.

Instead, Michaud, and now Conklin, are retarding the progress of Drouin-Deslauriers. As a secondary concern, Morrison finally gets his NHL shot without the benefit of having prepared against AHL opposition. The ECHL is a long way from staring down Paul Kariya, Mike Modano and Bill Guerin.

DOING SOME SNIFFING AROUND

Of course, none of this even begins to address how the development of non-goaltending prospects, like Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Dan Syvret and J.F. Jacques, to name three, will be impacted this season.

"I know Kevin and our ownership group is sniffing around as far as (an affiliate) next year," Prendergast said. "When you're not in control of your own players, it's a little difficult."

No poop, Sherlock. We told-you-so guys knew that months ago.


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