Deslauriers' due

Jason Gregor
October 17 2008 08:03AM

It looks like the second head of the Oilers’ three-headed goaltending monster will make an appearance in Calgary on Friday.

Earlier this week, Craig MacTavish hinted rookie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers would get his first NHL start on the road. “I think it is probably better for a young goalie to get his first start away. It might be a little easier to get that start on the road, but it is not essential.”

That comment combined with a conversation I had last night leads me to believe Deslauriers will get his first regular season start in Calgary on Friday.

This is a tough decision for MacTavish for many reasons, and raises a few questions:

  1. Is it worth it to risk avoiding a 3–0 start if the kid struggles?
  2. Wouldn’t a road start in Chicago or Colorado next week be an easier place?
  3. Are we just trying to find out what the kid is made of?

These are all fair questions, but I think they want the answer to #3 sooner than later. If JDD plays like he did in the pre-season, it could easily start the ball rolling to find a new home for Roloson. If he struggles, that clouds the situation even more. Right now MacTavish and goaltending coach Pete Peeters have loads of confidence in JDD and are curious to see what he can do.

One bad game won’t scare teams from grabbing him off of waivers.

****I know this is a hockey site, but I was watching the Sox/Rays game as I wrote this, and what a comeback for the Sox. Down 7–0, they just completed the comeback and won 8–7. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Now we will see what the Rays are made of in game six. I love the playoffs, regardless of the sport. Watching this game makes me drool for another Battle of Alberta playoff series. That would be awesome for the fans who have never experienced one. Let’s hope the teams can finally match up in April....****

The Avalanche currently has Budaj ($700K) and Raycroft ($800K) in goal, and neither has been stellar, so picking up Deslauriers ($625K) wouldn’t be that risky financially or position-wise.

Joey Macdonald hasn’t been very good for the Islanders in place of the injured Rick Dipietro, the Leafs could take him and say goodbye to an aging Curtis Joseph, and, even Chicago might look at him and part with Khabibulin.

MacTavish has also stated many times that Garon is not going to play every game, so they might as well keep their back-ups sharp. In their first 15 games the Oilers have five back-to-back situations, so they could see a fair amount of ice time. Look for Garon to play ten or eleven of the first 15, with Deslauriers and Dwayne Roloson splitting the rest.

The fact is Deslauriers needs to play for the Oilers, and they need to find out how good he might be. They also don’t want him sitting out almost three weeks between games—his last start was Oct 3 in Calgary. A start on Friday is the most fair for the former second rounder.

It sure sounds like Deslauriers will start, and if he does, the Oilers should then dress Roloson as the backup, and send Garon home after the morning skate so he is well-rested for the rematch. It makes no sense to have your number-one goalie sit on the bench when he could watch the game from home and hit the sheets early.

Extra D-man

While it isn’t as urgent as Deslauriers, you have to wonder when Ladislav Smid will get on the ice. What’s even more interesting is who you would take out to get Smid in. Three weeks ago many thought Jason Strudwick was automatically the number-seven D-man. However, through camp and the first two games, he has been better than Steve Staios. Would MacTavish make his assistant captain a healthy scratch to play Smid? Unless Staios picks up his game, he would have to be the guy.

A more realistic situation is if Strudwick has an off night, then Smid draws in the next game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Smid continues to munch on popcorn for a few more games. When he does get in, Smid needs to play well. His contract is up at the end of the season, and with Taylor Chorney and Theo Peckham ready to make the jump to The Show next season the time is now for Smid.

—Listen to Gregor weekdays from 3 to 6pm on the TEAM 1260 or online at www.justagame.ca.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 New Guy
October 17 2008, 08:08AM
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That was an awesome Sox game. Not as awesome as the game tonight though...

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#2 Jonathan Willis
October 17 2008, 08:21AM
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...even Chicago might look at him and part with Khabibulin.

I doubt it, given that they brough Niemi over from Finland to fill the backup role, and he played very well last year.

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#3 R-Gib
October 17 2008, 08:55AM
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Re: Extra D-man:

Sit Staios? If they are basing who to sit on recent performance, then I'd sit Tom Gilbert. I don't know if another blow to his confidence is what he needs right now tho... Maybe they could have a Guitar Hero comp to boost him back up ;)

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#4 Tombo
October 17 2008, 09:18AM
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I agree about the extra D-man, the second Strudwick shows a sign of weakness Smid will draw in... and man he'd better bring it.

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#5 Gord
October 17 2008, 09:41AM
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They can't afford to sit Strudwick - they are already short on d-men who can bang bodies. If Smid draws in, I would imagine it would come at the expense of one of the younger players. Gilbert or Grebs would likely be the odd man out and based on the performance over the past two games, I choose Gilbert to sit in the press box.

That being said, if tonight's game is as physical as it nees to be, there will be one or two d-men who might be a bit banged up and Smid could draw in for Saturday's game.

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#6 jdrevenge
October 17 2008, 10:09AM
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Mac T doesnt change his lineup when the team is winning. Expect to see Smid draw in after their first loss or if one of the players has a really bad night. Staios was horrible at the beginning of last year too so him drawing out at this point isnt very likely I would think.

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#7 doritogrande
October 17 2008, 10:19AM
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So we're comfortable in letting Roloson have a month between games played, but not Deslauriers? Dwayne can't be happy with the goings-on, nosiree. Now that you mention it however, if Dipietro's going to be out for a while, NYI seems like the ideal place for Roloson. I'd take a 4th rounder for him just as a measure of addition by subtraction (from our Payroll, not necessarily from our on-ice product). Getting Roloson's salary off the books might be enough to land a pure sniper at the deadline to play with Hemsky (Kovalchuk?) Dare to dream.

Regarding the D situation. I've liked the play of Strudwick. He's bringing exactly what needs to be done from a bottom-pair guy. Smid's going to get his shot when the injuries come, and he'd better stand up and be counted, not take a number and wait patiently. I mentioned it in a previous thread over at Lowetide's blog that his development curve is actually quite similar to one Mike Komisarek, and I'd love to see what he can do at age 25 when real shut-down defensemen seem to emerge from the smoke. He needs to show enough to earn that second contract from the Oilers, or we may give up on him too early.

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#8 Ales in Chains
October 17 2008, 10:50AM
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I agree with R-Gib, Gilbert's playing absolutly hideous out there. He looks as though he is a little "special" out there. I never thought Grebeshkov would be carrying that pair.

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#9 Chaz
October 17 2008, 10:55AM
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It's a tough decision for Mac T.

I say risk it and put J Double D in tonight. Hopefully the kid will respond well to the pressure and we can steal a W from the Brokenback dome. We'll then have a well rested Garon-teed ready for the rematch tomorrow, and Mac T, and Gregor will both look like geniuses. Not that they don't already!

BTW: I love that I hung in there for the Sox game last night. What an awesome game to witness. My buddies and I were riding some of the Boston fans who were leaving in the 7th when it was still 7-0. You've watched a team for 162 games plus playoffs, and you can't wait it out for two more innings?!? Give those tix to some real fans and go rent some Ben Affleck movies you losers!

Go Oil! Can't wait for tonight.

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#10 Stef
October 17 2008, 11:17AM
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I guess another thing in JDD's favour this evening is that he had a pretty strong game in Calgary during the pre-season.

Oh and Roloson would look good in Highliner, er, I mean Islander blue. They have plenty of cap space, even if they did only sends picks and/or prospects back for him. He would be a nice veteran tutor for Dipietro too in the long run... if he re-signed there afterwards.)

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#11 Ender
October 17 2008, 11:20AM
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I don't get why everyone is so surprised about Strudwick. I mean, it seems like every year that Lowe brings in a cheap defenseman who's quite unheralded that is surprisingly good. It's a knack he has. Same with the endless supply of intelligent grinders, and (usually) face-off men. Lowe and MacT are great at spotting themselves in other players.

Every year it's a huge surprise though. Just like, I'm sure, it'll be a huge surprise when the team is well over 50% on the dot overall by the end of the season. It boggles the mind.

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#12 Dennis
October 17 2008, 12:07PM
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I'm no longer a huge Roli fan but it's a big gamble to get rid of him and have JDD as the backup.

I know it's not the BCS to have three goalies but I like the insurance provided by DR and it's not like we really need Roli's cap hit saved so that we can pick up a guy.

We've got, what, ~2.5 mill left under the cap? And in actual contract that gets bigger and bigger as the games go by and the pro-rating kicks in further and further.

An interesting time to start the kid and there are a myriad of ways to look at when and how you give the guy the bump and I'll look at this one as testing his mettle and/or half-conceding the first half of the BOA with Garon resting up for the home game.

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#13 Chris.
October 17 2008, 12:33PM
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When Roli played down the stretch last year (excluding an awesome performance in San Jose?) the team needed to score 5 or 6 goals to win. Deslaurier may have already slipped past Roli on the depth chart based on pre-season alone. Tonight is a big test for Jeff; the results of which may slay this Three-Headed-Goalie-Monster.

P.S. Calgary Sucks!

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#14 RobinB
October 17 2008, 12:50PM
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Jason: Good call. Just got it confirmed from Rod Phillips in Calgary that Deslauriers get the start tonight.

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#15 Ducey
October 17 2008, 12:59PM
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Roli isn't going anywhere until the trade deadline - nor should he.

Some of you fellas make it sound like if JDD has a good game the Oilers should unload Roli. Lets see him have 10 good games before we get too excited. If Garon gets hurt, I sure wouldn't want to be starting JDD every night.

The current situation sucks for Roli but is good for the team.

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#16 Ender the Dragon
October 17 2008, 02:16PM
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Rampant speculation here, admitted, but rumour has the Minnisota Wild quietly shopping Marion Gaborik. With lineups already set through most of the league and teams pushing against caps, there is understandably not nearly as much interest in absorbing Gaborik's salary right now as there might otherwise be later in the year.

Let's suppose the Oilers could unload Roli tomorrow and take a chance that JDD can pull his weight in the bigs. That would free up a lot of salary room. Does this give anyone an idea on who we might be able to bring in with it?

(And yes, I realize that the Wild are probably not keen about trading to a divisional rival. But we know for a fact they've done it before, and they're not bargaining from a position of strength right now, so I stand by my assertion that it's still theoretically possible)

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#17 Antony Ta
October 18 2008, 02:34PM
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DesLauriers needs to hug the post more. Other than that, he's a stellar draft pick and hopefully will take the reigns some day. And hopefully, Devan Dubnyk follows in his footsteps.

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