Getting started: tell us when, Nik

Robin Brownlee
October 05 2009 04:31PM

Mistakes happen, so it's senseless to get overwrought about Nikolai Khabibulin's all-thumbs bungling on the winning goal by David Moss in the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place Saturday.

Of more concern for me, with the caveat it's still very early, is that GM Steve Tambellini's big off-season signing hasn't been very good at stopping pucks so far as a member of the Oilers.

I know, WTF Brownlee? It's been ONE game for crying out loud. True that, although I'm looking at pre-season as well as Saturday, and the concerns I've voiced about Khabibulin still nag me.

After shutting out an AHL team disguised in Florida Panthers uniforms 4-0 with 18 saves in his first pre-season appearance, Khabibulin has allowed 12 goals on the 72 shots he's faced since then, including four on 21 shots against Calgary.

That, by any measure and even if it's early, is atrocious. No?

Puck stops here

"It's unfortunate the way we lost, especially after coming back from being down," Khabibulin said of his last-minute faux pas on a loose puck. "In reality, it is one game."

Even with the shutout against the Panthers, Khabibulin finished pre-season with a 2.96 goals-against average and .884 saves percentage in 162 minutes through three appearances.

No worries, insisted many. A guy like Khabibulin will be ready when the puck drops with points on the line. He's a veteran. A Stanley Cup winner. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. Yes, he does. That's still the case.

"Exhibition, I never take it into consideration," Khabibulin said. "Quite honestly, I don’t even know what my stats are in exhibition. It's never on any hockey cards. You'll never find it in any hockey books."

While I'm not going to harp on the fact Khabibulin's saves-percentage through one game that matters is .810 -- I roll my eyes when numbers guys cherry-pick stats to make their case -- I don't think it's a stretch to say he has to be better than he has been. Sooner rather than later.

"We know he's a good player," coach Pat Quinn said today when Jim Matheson of The Journal asked about Khabibulin after practice.

"He's working his way to get his timing like all of our players are. There are a lot of guys who are trying to find their game right now. He's good. He's working hard at it."

Fine. Good. Results, please.

Around the room

-- Forward Marc Pouliot skated for the first time since being put on the shelf after three pre-season appearances with an inflamed pubic bone, also known as pubitis.

"A lot of treatments. I feel good," Pouliot said. "I'm day-to-day. Hopefully, by the end of the week."

Pouliot won't be ready to play against Dallas Tuesday, but he could be available for the rematch with the Flames Thursday or for Saturday's tilt against the Montreal Canadiens.

By the way, for the benefit of whoever it was who was arguing with Jonathan Willis and I about whether Pouliot was a "decent size" based on his vitals of six-foot-one and 195 pounds, an update.

Pouliot is playing this season at 205 pounds and he's actually closer to six-foot-two than six-foot-one. While I'm not going to argue Pouliot plays a robust game, he most certainly is a "decent size" compared to his NHL peers. Now, let's move on. Nothing to see here.

-- Captain Ethan Moreau didn't skate today. The ankle that was bothering him before the season-opener flared up again and kept him off the blades today. No firm word on his status for Tuesday.

-- Steve Staios was packing a lot of ice on his right knee after practice today, the result of being hit by a shot. Staios expects to be fine to play against the Stars.

-- Former University of Alberta Golden Bear Aaron Sorochan is the back-up to Devan Dubnyk with the Springfield Falcons to start the season. Sorochan saw his first action in a 6-2 loss to Providence Sunday, spelling off Dubnyk in the third period.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#52 RossCreekNation
October 05 2009, 08:27PM
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I didn't know Gene Principe was announcing MMA... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFzcySOjhhc&feature=player_embedded

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#53 rindog
October 05 2009, 08:28PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

He just hasn't looked right to me so far. I've been around since Nik was a rookie in Winnipeg and I've seen him play a lot of good goal. Knowing that, I don't for a second think he's going to spend all season giving up four goals a night or hovering around .810. The thing is, though, as the starter and the guy who got a long-term contract, he can't afford to feel his way into the season. If it takes him 10 or 20 games to regain his form it might not matter how well he plays after that. The Oilers don't have enough margin -- they have none, to be exact -- to have the luxury of having their starter so-so for any stretch.

So if the best goalie in the world can start the season with .857 GAA and an 0-2 record without any panicking, why are we even talking about this right now?

We have upgraded our goaltending...no question!

He is a veteran that had 2 unlucky goals go in and then made a bad mistake at a horrible time. He will win us hockey games. If after twenty games he doesn't; then we can start to get worried.

People can discount his shutout vs FLA in the preseason because it was against minor league competition. I am wondering why people can't use the same rationale to make an excuse for his GAA with minor league players lined up in front of him? To me, I put little (if any) stock into the preseason for a guy like Khabibulin. Therefore, I am not prepared to make any kind of judgements based on one game in which the goalie had our team in a position to win with 49 seconds left in the game.

I have no problem being negative or pessimistic when the situation warrants; but I hardly think you (and others) have given Nik (as you call him) a chance? Have you?

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#54 Skidrow Gutterbum
October 05 2009, 08:31PM
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In my humble opinion, I think what this team is truly missing, moreso than a faceoff/pk specialist or even a true first liner is a tough as nails, nasty shut down d-man. Think a Jason Smith/Mark Tinordi type in their prime. Maybe Peckham can be groomed to be this guy when he returns from injury? Who knows. The PK would benefit greatly. Obviously that would mean moving one of the top 4 D at some point but trades are unlikely till late November anyway. Grebs would be my most obvious choice based on his upside and 1 yr deal and could fetch what the Oil are lacking from a forward standpoint 20-25 games in.

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#56 quicksilver ballet
October 05 2009, 08:32PM
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Okay, now that we've gotten everyone off of Habbys back, what should we talk about now....kids.

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#57 Matt Henderson
October 05 2009, 08:34PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

The seats in the press box at Rexall Place are no great shakes, although you get a far better view than in places like Dallas, Nashville and San Jose. What makes the press box passable is the NoFoam 3000, a beer cart that dispenses free ale through numbered tubes at each seating position meaning reporters don't even have to leave their seats to enjoy a cold one, the gratis ice cream bars and the back massages provided by pre-med students from the UofA.

Mind = Blown

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#59 Librarian Mike
October 05 2009, 08:37PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Maybe Peckham can be groomed to be this guy when he returns from injury?

Once he comes back, he's my star for this year.

What makes the press box passable is the NoFoam 3000, a beer cart that dispenses free ale through numbered tubes at each seating position meaning reporters don't even have to leave their seats to enjoy a cold one, the gratis ice cream bars and the back massages provided by pre-med students from the UofA.

That sounds like the 'toilet/couches' in Idiocracy...awesome!

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#60 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
October 05 2009, 08:37PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

The seats in the press box at Rexall Place are no great shakes, although you get a far better view than in places like Dallas, Nashville and San Jose. What makes the press box passable is the NoFoam 3000, a beer cart that dispenses free ale through numbered tubes at each seating position meaning reporters don't even have to leave their seats to enjoy a cold one, the gratis ice cream bars and the back massages provided by pre-med students from the UofA.

is it weird that my mental image has brownlee shirtless and slouched in a chair with a tube pumping beer straight into his mouth?

**shudders**i gotta get off these pills

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#62 Librarian Mike
October 05 2009, 08:46PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I've been jimmying the dispensing system and re-routing the tubes for the past three seasons so that I get half the beer designated for seats #12, #16 and #18. Those boobs think a pint a period is the norm when I've been gulleting half their barley the entire time. Rookies.

The past three seasons of watching this team would drive anyone to drink.

Just curious, but what percentage of reporters on your beat smoke? I'm guessing it's around 75%, what with crazy deadlines, dealing with Marc Crawford, etc.

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#63 rindog
October 05 2009, 08:48PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

A chance? Judgments? Khabibulin has to be better. That's what he gets paid for. He's the first to admit it, so why can't you?

I just think it is premature to start doubting him? If you didn't like the signing and are looking to justify it - that's fine. I just don't know too many people that care to make judgements based on a single game?

Correction....a single game and a preseason playing against and with minor league players.

Garon was amazing the first 3 games last year and everyone had a "wait and see" attitude.

A proven veteran coming off one of his best seasons is already under the gun?

It just seems a little weird to me?

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#64 Matt Henderson
October 05 2009, 08:51PM
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How about the 12.9% escrow hit the players took last season? Yikes, that translates into 3 north-side houses (Or 4 Beer at Rexall)shaved off of Horc's salary this year.

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#65 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
October 05 2009, 08:54PM
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rindog wrote:

I just think it is premature to start doubting him? If you didn't like the signing and are looking to justify it - that's fine. I just don't know too many people that care to make judgements based on a single game?

Correction....a single game and a preseason playing against and with minor league players.

Garon was amazing the first 3 games last year and everyone had a "wait and see" attitude.

A proven veteran coming off one of his best seasons is already under the gun?

It just seems a little weird to me?

how were 'bulins numbers after his cup win?

coming off his most successful year and getting rewarded with a big money deal surely would have resulted in continued high performance.

so much so, the hawks had to sign Huet after years of waiting.

A 36 year old signed to a long term deal should be "under the gun" the whole way through. he falters and the oilers are screwed.

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#66 rindog
October 05 2009, 09:03PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

how were 'bulins numbers after his cup win?

coming off his most successful year and getting rewarded with a big money deal surely would have resulted in continued high performance.

so much so, the hawks had to sign Huet after years of waiting.

A 36 year old signed to a long term deal should be "under the gun" the whole way through. he falters and the oilers are screwed.

Yeah I guess you're right. One game is enough time to abondon ship. Maybe we can buy him out right now?

YIKES!!!

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#67 RossCreekNation
October 05 2009, 09:05PM
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;-) The first article of a new weekly series @ the Nation... STARS & GOATS - http://flamesnation.ca/2009/10/5/flames-stars-and-goats-opening-weekend

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#68 Chris.
October 05 2009, 09:07PM
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@Robin Brownlee

One thing I'm curious about is the status of Lubo. We were all so focused on the demotion of Sam Gagner (and his excellent response) that it has only been mentioned in passing that Visnovsky lined up on the bottom defensive pairing with Smid.

Lubo only played 12 minutes to Staios' 17. Is he being eased in? Or does Lubo lack the confidence of the coaching staff? How can the Oilers pay 5.6 million for a fifth or sixth defenceman playing limited minutes?

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#69 SirFozz
October 05 2009, 09:11PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

;-) The first article of a new weekly series @ the Nation... STARS & GOATS - http://flamesnation.ca/2009/10/5/flames-stars-and-goats-opening-weekend

*Sigh*

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#70 Matt Henderson
October 05 2009, 09:13PM
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We live in a bizarro world where JF Jacques plays on the first line, Staois is a 1st pairing Dman, Lubo is a 6th Dman, and Craig MacTavish works for the media. My whole world is crumbling around me here.

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#71 Librarian Mike
October 05 2009, 09:18PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

We live in a bizarro world where JF Jacques plays on the first line, Staois is a 1st pairing Dman, Lubo is a 6th Dman, and Craig MacTavish works for the media. My whole world is crumbling around me here.

No kidding...and that's all without even mentioning that Comrie's back.

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#72 RossCreekNation
October 05 2009, 09:19PM
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@SirFozz

Aww, c'mon ronaldo... all in the same fam ;-) I'm a Flames fan yet I enjoy reading up on the Oil. Its not as though I'm here givin Flames spam to other websites. Humour us.

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#73 Matt Henderson
October 05 2009, 09:21PM
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@Librarian Mike

oooooh, how did i forget that one?

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#74 Victoria
October 05 2009, 09:24PM
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Lol! Luongo is awesome.

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#75 RossCreekNation
October 05 2009, 09:25PM
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@Chris.

Not sure where you got your minute numbers, but Staios played 19:57 and Visnovsky played 17:01 according to TSN. Your point still stands, however.

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#76 RossCreekNation
October 05 2009, 09:27PM
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And I don't recall anyone mentioning Deslauries ORANGE pads here. I know Gregor and some other media members commented before Saturday's games, but I must admit, they looked sharp.

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#77 SirFozz
October 05 2009, 09:28PM
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@RossCreekNation

I know, I just like giving you a hard time. (Didn't mean anything by the *sigh*). :)

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#78 RossCreekNation
October 05 2009, 09:31PM
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@SirFozz

Didn't think so, but I know there are some tight ace's in here (I'm lookin @ YOU, Dallas). Nice avatar nicer tag line ;-)

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#79 Chris.
October 05 2009, 09:34PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

We live in a bizarro world where JF Jacques plays on the first line, Staois is a 1st pairing Dman, Lubo is a 6th Dman, and Craig MacTavish works for the media. My whole world is crumbling around me here.

I'm confused by the Lubo situation. If Quinn has decided that Lubo is too much of a "Fancy Dan" and doesn't intend to play him against top opposition; then Lubo needs to be moved.

So the way I see it either:

a) Lubo isn't fully recovered.

b) Quinn is making a mistake with a key player.

c) Management has overvalued Visnovsky.

I sure hope it's not option c. If it's a or b things will sort themselves out over time. Otion c would be a disaster. Lowe traded some quality players to obtain Lubo: a player who is already 33 yeras old and under contact untill 2013. In the current market, it's unlikely management could move Lubo for anything close to fair value.

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#80 Matt Henderson
October 05 2009, 09:37PM
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@Chris.

Lubo is hurt, everyone knows it, plus he played 17 minutes, its not like he played 12. He was the best overall defenseman on the team last season.

its option (a) all the way. That or Quinn wants Lubo to teach Smid some stuff by Osmosis.

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#81 Chris.
October 05 2009, 09:39PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

Not sure where you got your minute numbers, but Staios played 19:57 and Visnovsky played 17:01 according to TSN. Your point still stands, however.

Sorry. Those were EV totals.

Souray: 18:26, Grebs: 18:26, Gilbert: 18:00, Staios: 17:31, Visnovsky: 12:32, Smid: 11:11. (Source: The Lowetide Blog).

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#82 rindog
October 05 2009, 09:43PM
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I am willing to give the coaching staff a chance but I have to admit I am totally confused with the defensive pairings?

I have no idea why anyone (let alone knowledgeable coaches) would care to play Staios that far up the depth chart.

He is neither a shutdown defenseman nor a steadying influence?

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#83 Chris.
October 05 2009, 09:46PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

Lubo is hurt, everyone knows it, plus he played 17 minutes, its not like he played 12. He was the best overall defenseman on the team last season.

its option (a) all the way. That or Quinn wants Lubo to teach Smid some stuff by Osmosis.

Oh I agree. I'm a huge Lubo fan. I hope Quinn is just easing Lubo back into the flow of things after a serious shoulder injury (not that Horcoff got the same benifit from MacT)...

Lubo played only 12:32 evenstrength against inferior opposition as the fifth defenceman. To me that is a bigger story than Gagner, the 1.6 million dollar twenty year old, playing half the game on the fourth line.

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#84 Librarian Mike
October 05 2009, 09:47PM
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rindog wrote:

I am willing to give the coaching staff a chance but I have to admit I am totally confused with the defensive pairings?

I have no idea why anyone (let alone knowledgeable coaches) would care to play Staios that far up the depth chart.

He is neither a shutdown defenseman nor a steadying influence?

I wonder if they're putting Staios on display to see if anyone takes the bait. He's been a good player through thick and thin, but the fact is he's making big money and he's getting old.

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#85 Matt Henderson
October 05 2009, 09:51PM
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@Chris.

I dont disagree, i just think that as Lubo gets healthier he will naturally rise up the depth chart. My only other thinking might be that Quinn didnt want any glaring weakness in the d-pairings so he doesnt mind bolstering the 3rd pairing with a guy like Lubo, who obviously still got his PP time based on his EV time compared to Overall Time on ice. The D wasnt the problem last game, it was the sub-par goaltending. Its early, more games will tell the story about all these issues. I just wish I didnt have to buy/miss these PPV games coming up.

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#86 Chris.
October 05 2009, 09:52PM
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@Librarian Mike

You wrote: "I wonder if they're putting Staios on display"

Maybe. Somethings gotta give. They're all so busy trying to teach MacIntyre how to play, Pouliot is skating again, and Nilsson can't make $2M to sit in the pressbox for two more years...

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#88 jeanshorts
October 05 2009, 10:03PM
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Well, as bad as Khabbi looked on Saturday, he still looks better than Luongo. OHHHH BBBAAABBBYYY!!!!

*is immediately going to regret saying anything when Luongo posts 7 shutouts in a row*

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#89 RossCreekNation
October 05 2009, 10:05PM
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The Canadiens are talking to the Isles and the Oilers about D-men. And rumor has it that Kostitsyn could be part of a package. What do those two teams have in common? Well they house the two former d-pairing partners of Markov in Souray and Streit. I am not hearing that the Habs are interested, nor could they land either player, but I am hearing that they are talking defense... Eklund

From a cap perspective, Denis Grebeshkov would likely be the most attractive to the Habs. Obviously his behaviour in recent weeks suggest question marks, but would a package including former Gagner linemate Sergei Kostitsyn be of interest? What else would be?

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#90 Matt Henderson
October 05 2009, 10:05PM
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@Robin Brownlee

That's exactly what i was thinking

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#91 Matt Henderson
October 05 2009, 10:09PM
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@RossCreekNation

I think the Oilers should avoid cancerous players like Kost at all costs

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#93 RossCreekNation
October 05 2009, 10:15PM
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@Matt Henderson

I would tend to agree. Especially fringe skill guys. With the Gagner connection, I just figured I'd throw out a topic. Anyone in Montreal interest you for Grebeshkov? Any interest in moving Grebeshkov?

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#94 Eddie Shore
October 05 2009, 10:42PM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

I would tend to agree. Especially fringe skill guys. With the Gagner connection, I just figured I'd throw out a topic. Anyone in Montreal interest you for Grebeshkov? Any interest in moving Grebeshkov?

Travis Moen??

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#95 Eddie Shore
October 05 2009, 10:43PM
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Matheiu Roy is a regular in Columbus?

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#96 R-Man83
October 05 2009, 10:57PM
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@RossCreekNation

Kyle Chipchura. Good draft pedigree and size. Comes from Westlock.

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#97 Chamucks Deluxe
October 05 2009, 11:02PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Eklund? Please. The casinos in town might be salivating at the prospect of Kostitsyn ending up here, but nobody with half a brain is . . .

You're heavenly.

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#98 Sandra B.
October 05 2009, 11:03PM
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At least he is not Luaongo.

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#100 Scuba Steve
October 05 2009, 11:09PM
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R-Man83 wrote:

Kyle Chipchura. Good draft pedigree and size. Comes from Westlock.

Lol, a career minor leaguer/4th line player for a top two defenseman? That sounds like good value. You know who else has a good draft pedigree? Robbie Schremp.

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