Predicting the Oilers' 2009/10 line-ups

Jason Gregor
September 21 2009 11:18AM

lineup-whiteboard

After five games in six days, the Oilers will get a bit of a break before they continue their pre-season on Wednesday against the Flames.

The final three pre-season games should be better and more competitive than the first five because we'll see more NHL lineups this week. I don’t know if the first five games made the line combination picture any clearer.

Ryan Rishaug from TSN and I were debating what the combinations would look like come October 3rd. We both agreed that this year there doesn’t seem to be many spots that are secure. Ales Hemsky will be the 1st line right winger, and Stortini will play the right side on the fourth line, but after that the possibilities are endless.

I asked Rishaug to jot down his thoughts on the lines, and I’ll toss in mine as well. I’m guessing most of you will agree with some combos and disagree with others.

Ryan Rishaug's Oilers Lineup

Trying to piece together lines for the Oilers this season reminds me of looking through my closet for a suit to wear. I have the trusted "go to" combos that look relatively okay, and have worked in the past, yet they just feel a little stale.

I did find an old suit in the back of the closet that I hadn't worn in some time, and once I had it dry-cleaned and pressed, I remembered how nice it actually was, so it’s back in the rotation. Other than that, there are a lot of familiar looks.  Below is the mundane Monday to Friday look.

Penner — Horcoff — Hemsky

Comrie — Gagner — O’Sullivan

Moreau — Cogliano — Pisani

Jacques — Brule — Stortini

Pouliot Nilsson

But for the sake of this article, let's pretend for a moment, that I am standing not in front of my own closet, but instead that of Jason Gregor.  A closet filled with crazy colours, impossible combinations and endless options. And oh yeah, let's say it’s Friday night, not Monday morning. In this world, anything is possible, and like Gregor, I'm sure I will be mocked, but it is someone else's closet, so let's indulge.

Cogliano — Gagner — Hemsky

Comrie — Horcoff — O’Sullivan

Moreau — Brule — Penner

Jacques — Pisani — Stortini

Pouliot

MacIntyre

The first thing you'll notice is no Horcoff with Hemsky. It's time for Gagner to get some time with the big man and see what he can do. And enough of this talk of Cogliano being a third-line centre. He has a 25-goal and 60-point potential, but needs top-six minutes and some offence around him to make it happen.

Comrie and O’Sullivan have been great in pre-season together, why break up a good thing?  Brule is fast, and plays hard. A year of consistent minutes next to the captain would do him a world of good. In cases where the Oil need a shut down line, Comrie drops down to line three with Brule and Penner, while Moreau joins O’Sullivan and Horcoff as a shut down line.

There's been talk of Pisani perhaps not making this team, and while I believe he is in tough, I believe he'll be there, but perhaps as a fourth liner. He has played some centre, and even out of position is an upgrade on Pouliot as a fourth line centre. He's also a valuable penalty killer. Out of the mix in this scenario, is Nilsson and a savings of two million on the cap.

There are a few problems with this configuration. Penner is back on his off-wing, and the top line is pretty small, but the way this team is built, those two problems won't be avoided in any configuration. Also, Brule has to play extremely well to stay on that third line. If not, perhaps Pisani can bump up, but I'd like to see Brule get a shot.

So here I stand, in the middle of the busy bar on a Friday wearing light brown pointy shoes with dragons on them, tight blue jeans, and a shirt that looks like it was just torn off the back of Garth Brooks mid-concert. My glasses have bizarre bright green rims, but at least they match my earrings.

Go ahead, mock all you like. At least it’s not a boring black suit with a blue shirt and red tie; nice enough to wear on TV for a quick live hit or stand up, but not nearly nice enough to anchor Sportscentre, or for the VIP door at the bar. The defence by the way is already set, so no sense speculating.

My Oilers Lineup

I’m stunned that Rishaug’s combinations are a bit outside the box, because like his wardrobe, he rarely colours outside the lines.

I think it will take Pat Quinn and company at least ten regular season games before they know exactly what they have, but it's obvious that they want guys who won’t take short cuts anywhere on the ice.

I would like to see Gagner get a shot with Hemsky, but I see it happening as the season progresses, not from the start, so here goes.

Penner — Horcoff — Hemsky

Comrie — Gagner — O’Sullivan

Moreau — Cogliano — Pisani

Jacques — Brule — Stortini

Nilsson

MacIntyre

I think Penner is a better fit with Cogliano and Pisani, but I can’t justify putting Nilsson on that line to start the season, unless he rips it up in the final three pre-season games.

I also think Cogliano will eventually find himself in the top six, but not on October 3rd. I know these lines don’t look very different, but outside of Comrie and O’Sullivan no other combinations have produced so far. Hemsky likes playing with Horcoff, and since Gagner and Hemsky haven’t done anything yet, I doubt they will start the year together.

If — and it is a big if — Jacques plays more games like he did against Florida and less like his effort in Calgary, I can see him getting some shifts with the skilled guys. They will need some size and aggression in the top six at some point.

That's why I put Penner up top. Because they need some size in the top six, and even if he doesn’t use it all the time, he is still a better option than Nilsson at this point. Penner looks a step quicker, because he is actually moving his feet and if he continues to do that he will stay in Quinn’s good books.

What about Eberle or Stone?

Eberle has looked good in the pre-season, but how many points has he put up against NHL/AHL lineups? Zero. There is no point rushing the kid and he will be back in Regina by the end of the week I’d expect.

Stone has shown good energy, but he won’t be taking Pisani’s spot just yet. Stone has put himself in a position to be the first call up, when the injury bug inevitably shows up. Pre-season games against non-NHL lineups will not win him a job on the team, and while you might think it isn’t fair, the fact is Moreau and Pisani are more proven NHL third-liners.

Based on some short conversations I’ve had with coaches and some members of management, even they don’t know which combinations are the best. The whiteboard in the coaches’ office will have plenty of options, and we might get a clearer picture tomorrow when they return to the ice after their first day off since camp started.

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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 #13 The Rat
September 21 2009, 11:27AM
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Cogliano — Gagner — Hemsky

Comrie — Horcoff — O’Sullivan

I would love to see these as our top two lines. The only down side as you mentioned is Penner being on the 3rd line and on his off wing, otherwise it would be fun to watch.

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#2 Jimmy
September 21 2009, 11:29AM
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I wouldn't wear a blue shirt with a black suit.

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#3 jeff
September 21 2009, 11:29AM
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I don't even try anymore. Just find pairs that work well together at this point and add whoever for filler.

I heard lots about Stone and was not impressed with him Friday. Not sure if it was an off night or what. I thought he was the slowest skater out there friday.

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#4 Ogden Brother
September 21 2009, 11:37AM
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I'm basically looking for Rishaug line-up #1:

Penner — Horcoff — Hemsky

Comrie — Gagner — O’Sullivan

Moreau — Cogliano — Pisani

Jacques — Brule — Stortini

Pouliot Nilsson

With the exception of possibly SMac replacing one of MAP/Nilsson as the 14h forward.

Gagner/Hemsky sounds good, but so far they've been completly dominated when on the ice together... maybe they aren't a fit.

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#5 Asciutto
September 21 2009, 11:37AM
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I think you guys are selling Brule short.

With what he has shown so far in pre-season, top-6 easy.

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#6 Boris
September 21 2009, 11:39AM
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#13 The Rat wrote:

Cogliano — Gagner — Hemsky Comrie — Horcoff — O’Sullivan I would love to see these as our top two lines. The only down side as you mentioned is Penner being on the 3rd line and on his off wing, otherwise it would be fun to watch.

I agree with the Rat, these lines would be interesting to see but I think Penner has to be on his wing in the top 6...I wouldn't wear a blue shirt with a black suit either but then again, I'm not on TV

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#7 Ogden Brother
September 21 2009, 11:41AM
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Asciutto wrote:

I think you guys are selling Brule short. With what he has shown so far in pre-season, top-6 easy.

Who (else) gets bumped then?

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#8 Mike76
September 21 2009, 11:42AM
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They need to move some bodies out of here and ASAP.

Pouliot and Schremp or Chicken and Shrimp as I like to refer to them should be sent out for a late pick or two. Time to suck it up and realize that both those picks were a waste.

Pisani may fetch us a mid round pick. And would clear up some cap room.

This would give us room for everyone else and potentially keep allopw us to keep Eberle as the Journal is suggesting today.

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#9 BUCK75
September 21 2009, 11:43AM
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Talk of Pisani NOT making the team. Wow - where did all of this depth come from?

I like the talk of having a balanced line-up. Crash & Bang with a Big Mac or a Run'n Gun line-up having a guy like Nilsson in the box. Pouliot should be shown the door IMO.

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#10 Jason Gregor
September 21 2009, 11:44AM
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Asciutto wrote:

With what he has shown so far in pre-season, top-6 easy.

What has he shown to make him a top-six candidate? You need points to be on the top two lines, and while I like Brule, he has done nothing to show is worthy of playing on the top two lines.

Jimmy wrote:

I wouldn’t wear a blue shirt with a black suit.

Fashion has changed. It depends what colour of blue. If it is a sharp blue that jumps out, then there is nothing wrong with that. The tie can change the entire look.

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#11 swany
September 21 2009, 11:44AM
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No news flash but WE have to many forwards Gregor do you smell a trade yet or are they going to try and slip guys through waivers?

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#12 Jason Gregor
September 21 2009, 11:46AM
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Mike76 wrote:

This would give us room for everyone else and potentially keep allopw us to keep Eberle as the Journal is suggesting today.

Why keep Eberle? Are the benefits that much more than the downside?

They will be very cautious with him. Quinn has already stated he felt Columbus screwed up Brule's development and unless he is certain that Eberle will get consistent top-six minutes, I doubt he keeps him.

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#13 Mills
September 21 2009, 11:48AM
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Asciutto wrote:

I think you guys are selling Brule short. With what he has shown so far in pre-season, top-6 easy.

Yeah his 0 points so far have definitely proved enough to bump him over Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner, Gagner, Cogliano, O'Sullivan, and Comrie.

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#14 RossCreek
September 21 2009, 11:50AM
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RossCreek wrote:

#193 RossCreek September 20 2009, 1:30 am. Cogliano-Horcoff-Hemsky O’Sullivan-Comrie-Jacques Penner-Gagner-Pisani Moreau-Brule-Stortini Stone-Reddox-MacIntyre Schremp-Pouliot-Eberle Brennan-Potulny-Nilsson
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#15 godot10
September 21 2009, 11:52AM
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Hemsky and Gagner will never work well together 5-on-5. Power play yes. Even strength no. Both need to handle the puck to be effective. Hemsky is a bit of a puck hog. Gagner need a winger who where the give-and-go is in the wingers' DNA. Hemsky is a prima ballerina. Gagner is a ball room dancer. Hemsky is a standup comedian. Gagner needs a straight man to be funny.

Horcoff is Lemaire-lite to Hemsky;s Lafleur-lite. But if not Horcoff, Comrie would be a better fit with Hemsky than Gagner.

To start the season, I would be happy with:

Comrie--Horcoff--Hemsky O'Sullivan--Gagner--Penner Moreau--Cogliano--Pisani Jacques--Pouliot--Stortini Nilsson, Brule

Ideally, Nilsson would be traded, and Stone would get that spot.

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#16 Ogden Brother
September 21 2009, 11:52AM
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Wait, so Eberle has 0 points and their are this many people petitioning to keep him on the team?

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#17 RossCreek
September 21 2009, 11:54AM
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Asciutto wrote:

I think you guys are selling Brule short. With what he has shown so far in pre-season, top-6 easy.

Weren't you saying he shouldn't be here a week ago? Or were you being sarcastic?

I say sperad your top 6 thru your top 3 lines. Brule could then fit within the top 9 perhaps.

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#18 Jimmy
September 21 2009, 11:55AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Fashion has changed. It depends what colour of blue. If it is a sharp blue that jumps out, then there is nothing wrong with that. The tie can change the entire look.

I guess I could roll up the sleeves of the suit jacket, too. That'd be b*tchin'.

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#19 Mr. Pink 17
September 21 2009, 11:55AM
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I would like to see the top line as

O'Sullivan Comrie Hemsky

Not sure of the other lines, but i still think that Horcoff is a third line guy/penality killer/ face off guy. Give Cogliano a chance on the second line with Gagner

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#20 Jason Gregor
September 21 2009, 11:55AM
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swany wrote:

No news flash but WE have to many forwards Gregor do you smell a trade yet or are they going to try and slip guys through waivers?

Trade would be hard, unless it is with a top team, that wouldn't an early pick to get a guy on waivers.

Does Pouliot, Schremp, Nilsson or Reddox have any value? I doubt it. They will try to slide a guy through waivers, and hope for the best. There is going to be 100 or so players clearing waivers at the same time, are the Oiler cast offs that much more attractive than other teams' rejects. I guess we will see.

I'd think Pouliot would get claimed. Nilsson and Schremp, maybe. I've been told lots of team are waiting to see who comes available on waivers, so making a trade now would be even harder.

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#21 David S
September 21 2009, 11:55AM
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Comrie — Gagner — O’Sullivan

I really think this line has possibilities.

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#22 Reggie
September 21 2009, 11:56AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

What has he shown to make him a top-six candidate? You need points to be on the top two lines, and while I like Brule, he has done nothing to show is worthy of playing on the top two lines.

From what I've seen Reddox has been more effective than Brule. And Brule in the top 6 ? Can't see it happening.

As for Eberle, he will be back to jrs. Unless he pots 3 or 4 goals in the next three games, he has impressed people but still has zero points to show for it.

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#23 Scott
September 21 2009, 11:56AM
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With Penner off the sour-patch kids and drinking less, I like the outlook of him on the top line. 30+ is not out of the question.

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#24 Get All Up Quinn Dat
September 21 2009, 11:57AM
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Defence just going to stay the same or is anyone pushing for a spot?

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#25 jeff
September 21 2009, 11:59AM
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@ Jason Gregor: I looked up last week how many people were picked up on waivers, I think it was 5. Very rare if you do it when everyone else is.

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#26 jeff
September 21 2009, 12:00PM
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@ Get All Up Quinn Dat: Who do you push out. I rather have Strudwick at #7 then some kid that could be getting time in the minors.

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#27 Jeff
September 21 2009, 12:04PM
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As long as Comrie and POS are together and Hemsky and Horcoff are together I'm happy. I can't remember the last time Horcoff played well without Hemsky or Hemsky played well without Horcoff. Those two are made for each other so let's not fix what ain't broked.

As for the rest of the roster. I'll take stone over Jacques, Nillson, Pouliot. More importantly I'd rather Pouliot and Jacques never play for this team again. They've been given plenty of opportunities but continue to suck. Personally I'd take my chances with Eberle or Schremp. At least those two will provide something new.

Cogs Horc Hemmer POS Comrie Stone Penner Gags Eberle/Schremp Moreau Brule Storts

Nilsson Big Mac

I think Eberle is done with Junior and I don't think he can do anymore in the WJC than what he did last year. He owned that sh** and doesn't need it anymore.

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#28 Asciutto
September 21 2009, 12:09PM
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"Or were you being sarcastic?"

Yes, I was. Brule hasn't shown enough to be on the Top-6 in Springfield.

Winner of the 2009 Robbie Schremp Can't See 'Em Straight Award

Does Pouliot, Schremp, Nilsson, Brule or Reddox have any value? I doubt it.

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#29 Jimmy
September 21 2009, 12:11PM
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Are there any bubble-type players on other teams that might solve our 3C problem? With all this talk of so many players going on waivers soon, I haven't heard much about any scouting.

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#30 David S
September 21 2009, 12:16PM
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Asciutto wrote:

Winner of the 2009 Robbie Schremp Can’t See ‘Em Straight Award

I think the medical definition is "the Schremp blind spot".

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#31 David S
September 21 2009, 12:18PM
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Jeff wrote:

Cogs Horc Hemmer POS Comrie Stone Penner Gags Eberle/Schremp Moreau Brule Storts

Wow. Maybe its time to change the medication. 5 bucks says Eberle, Schremp, Stone and Brule don't make the regular season roster.

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#32 RossCreek
September 21 2009, 12:27PM
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Who has Nilsson played better with over the years - Cogliano or Gagner?

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#33 SkinnyD
September 21 2009, 12:31PM
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Cogliano-Horcoff-Hemsky Penner-Gagner-Eberle O'Sullivan-Comrie-Jacques Moreau-Pouliot-Pisani

Stortini Brule

Nillson is done...not sure what they'll do with Big Mac - does he have to clear waivers to go to Springfield? I think they're seriously considering keeping Eberle.

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#34 jeff
September 21 2009, 12:31PM
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@ RossCreek: I'd say Gagner, because last year they really weren't together.

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#35 Death Metal Nightmare
September 21 2009, 12:32PM
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the Eberle "points" argument is junk. if that was the case, why was Sam Gagner on the team last season? because sucking for 60 games is awesome? Eberle looks better than Gagner out there even against the SAME competition level.

Eberle has been pretty much outskating everyone on the team on a nightly basis, creating chances, being tenacious and most of all : LEARNING. Hemsky had it correct in his comments that having Eberle up here to learn and experience the NHL now will be more important to his career than whacking off in juniors for another year. as Hemsky said, "In junior, you'll be a star, but what's the point? Junior is done. That's how I see it, because I was in the same position."

Pouliot should be eliminated from this team immediately. cant believe Rishaug sees any productivity out of him at all. dudes an absolute floater out there. no identity, no guts, too passive. draft pick FAIL.

go with three scoring lines ala Buffalo 2005 and move ahead in team identity. sitting with the same lines is tired.

Eberle - Horcoff - Hemsky O'Sullivan - Comrie - Penner Cogliano - Gagner - Pisani Moreau - whoever can cause chaos - Storts

each line has a 2-way player or players and can score. balance, youth, vets and the ability to skate on each line. right about now, Betts would look so-so on that fourth line and for PK situations. or hell, maybe even Steckel could be pried from the Caps still for that fourth line.

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#36 jeff
September 21 2009, 12:35PM
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@ SkinnyD: I like your 4th line and I think it is something we have to look at. Have a line dedicated to shutting down some of the better lines in the NHL.

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#37 Ogden Brother
September 21 2009, 12:35PM
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Death Metal Nightmare wrote:

the Eberle “points” argument is junk. if that was the case, why was Sam Gagner on the team last season? because sucking for 60 games is awesome? Eberle looks better than Gagner out there even against the SAME competition level.

Hardly, he hasn't produced against quasi NHL/AHL/ECHL line-ups and yet people expect him to do it against full NHL line-ups.

And Gagner was on the team last year because he had to be. The year he made the team, he dominated pre-season (which Eberle would have to be doing to legitimitly earn a spot)

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#38 jeff
September 21 2009, 12:37PM
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@ Death Metal Nightmare: Gagner was on the team because when he made the team there was no one in the top six and he was on the team last year because he couldn't go anywhere else.

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#39 SkinnyD
September 21 2009, 12:39PM
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jeff wrote:

@ SkinnyD: I like your 4th line and I think it is something we have to look at. Have a line dedicated to shutting down some of the better lines in the NHL.

I think the team's definitely headed in the '3 offensive lines & 1 energy/shutdown line' direction...with a revolving door in and out of the pressbox for a few.

Will be interesting to see what Tambellini does with the chaff - waivers, trades...

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#40 Woogie
September 21 2009, 12:41PM
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So no SCREHMP anywhere?

What are they going to do with him? Waive him and say have fun on the Island?

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#41 OvenChicken8
September 21 2009, 12:43PM
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Woogie wrote:

So no SCREHMP anywhere? What are they going to do with him? Waive him and say have fun on the Island?

I've been wa(i)ving to him since his first preseason game. He's just not built for the Oilers.

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#42 TIM S
September 21 2009, 12:46PM
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Gregor is there any thoughts on exposing a couple of veterns to waivers to try and clear some roster/cap room? I am thinking a Pisani, Staios, or even more unlikely Moreau.

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#43 jeff
September 21 2009, 12:49PM
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Woogie wrote:

So no SCREHMP anywhere? What are they going to do with him? Waive him and say have fun on the Island?

Schremp is better off to pull the pin and go to Russia.

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#44 jeff
September 21 2009, 12:50PM
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@ TIM S: What are we going to do with that money?

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#45 MovingForward
September 21 2009, 12:59PM
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Jason, in the limited time Gagner and Hemsky have had a chance to play together they seem to not be the best fit. I am not sure if this is a product of not having enough of a chance to play with each other, or if it is conflicting styles?

I would tend to think that Penner-Horc-Hemmer would stick together and Comrie-Gagner-O'Sullivan would be the other line. Problem is I would like to see Cogs with top six minutes. I hope Quinn tries Cogs-Horc-Hemmer this week in one of the games!

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#46 Asciutto
September 21 2009, 01:01PM
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"Are there any bubble-type players on other teams that might solve our 3C problem?"

Dominic Moore

As for Eberle Before every major personnel decision the Oilers ask themselves, "Would the Red Wings do this?". And when the answer is "NO!" - do something else

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#47 Jimmy
September 21 2009, 01:07PM
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@ Asciutto:

If we've got players on other teams about to be waived that would fit our situation better than our players on the bubble, isn't that a no-brainer?

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#48 Andrew W
September 21 2009, 01:10PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Thinking outside the box, do you know if there's any chance the brass will surprise everyone and pick up a player on the waiver wire?

I'm not sure who might come along, but reading your comments it occurred to me that they could address the 3rd line centre role this way, and perhaps influence the size issue at the same time.

(And yeah, I know this seems like a stupid idea because of the glut of forwards, but none of the glut is really suited to this specific need.)

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#49 Morghasm
September 21 2009, 01:11PM
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MovingForward wrote:

I would tend to think that Penner-Horc-Hemmer would stick together and Comrie-Gagner-O’Sullivan would be the other line. Problem is I would like to see Cogs with top six minutes

I'm of the same mind-set - liking that selection for top 6, but struggling with where Cogs can fit in.

I actually have enough faith in Cogs and his future (if he can get top 6 minutes with decent linemates) that I would bump Comrie to a 3rd line role in favour of moving Cogs up to 2nd line winger.

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#50 Boris
September 21 2009, 01:13PM
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Jimmy wrote:

Jason Gregor wrote: Fashion has changed. It depends what colour of blue. If it is a sharp blue that jumps out, then there is nothing wrong with that. The tie can change the entire look. I guess I could roll up the sleeves of the suit jacket, too. That’d be b*tchin’.

Too Funny - Miami Vice, just need the rat tail and the thin leather tie...Sorry Gregor and Ryan, I usually agree with most or your observations but black suit, blue shirt and red tie?? In Ottawa they would call that a color blind liberal outfit...anyway I digress...

It will be interesting to see what Quinn will decide for the lines and who will hit the waiver list

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