Kings' ransom too much for Oil?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

There's an old Japanese saying that it takes two people to prune a shrub -- one to do the pruning and one to pull away the shears.

It's supposed to be a commentary on man's irresistible urge to tinker when it's time to leave well enough alone.

Just one more snip here, another cut there, maybe a little more off the side, oops, I'll just even it up over here, until the poor plant winds up getting scalped.

Which brings us to the Edmonton Oilers, who've shown the consistency of a bad haircut all season long.

And you have to wonder if the grief and frustration they're putting fans through now isn't the direct result of one too many off-season clips.

At the end of last year, when the kids took over the team and the Oilers were charging hard down the stretch and the future looked as bright as it had in decades, Kevin Lowe had to be thinking about leaving well enough alone.

If the youngsters picked up in 2008-09 where they left off in '07-08, and the veterans didn't upset the balance when they returned from injury, there was no reason to think Edmonton couldn't contend for the division lead, just as they were.

But the temptation to tinker proved too strong, and Lowe swung a deal that, six months later, you have to believe he would dearly like back.

Because as good as Lubomir Visnovsky has been in Edmonton -- and he has been very, very good -- the trade that brought him here is beginning to look like a terrible mistake.

Never in their wildest dreams did the Oilers imagine they would miss Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene as much as they do.

But they do. The Oilers are a disgrace on the penalty kill this season (it's the single biggest reason they're last in the Northwest, 11 points behind Calgary), and part of the problem can be traced to the June 30 deal that sent Stoll and Greene to the Kings.

Or is it just coincidence that L.A.'s penalty kill, dead last in the NHL last season, rocketed to seventh when they arrived?

Or that Edmonton's, fifth last year, plummeted to 29th?

There are other contributing factors, but there's no arguing that Stoll and Greene, two of L.A.'s primary penalty killers, would really help Edmonton right now.

"(The PK) killed us all year long and it killed us again tonight and it killed us last game," said MacTavish, after Edmonton gave up three power play goals to the Flames on New Year's Eve, a day after giving up the winning goal on a late third period power play against Ottawa.

"It's gone poorly from the start.

"We can't win a critical faceoff at a critical time. Somebody has to step up and be able to kill a penalty or we're going to have to try and find somebody who can."

Fans ripped Stoll for not scoring and not playing tough enough upon his return from a head injury, but his contributions in other areas, we are discovering now, were vastly underrated.

The new rule where all power plays begin with a face- off in the shorthanded team's zone makes Stoll, a clutch guy on the draws, all the more valuable.

And in addition to his PK work, wouldn't Greene's muscle come in handy on a team that's soft in front of its own net and had no response when another one of its top producers had to be helped off the ice with an injury after an opposition hit?

Instead, they both went to L.A. for a mobile, puck-moving defenceman.

Now, Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov are redundant. You don't need three puck-movers --especially when it's not translating into offence (Edmonton remains in the bottom third in the league in goals).

This is all hindsight, of course, but it doesn't make it wrong.

Visnovsky is excellent, a great guy, creative player, wonderful skater, and there's no undoing the deal.

But it's time management started patching the holes they created in getting him here.


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