The Big Picture View of the Small Forwards

Jonathan Willis
September 25 2009 05:00AM

Small hockey player

The Oilers, as of right now, have nine forwards under 6’ tall on their roster. Four of those forwards are locks for the team, and two more are likely.

Locks

  • Sam Gagner: 5’11”
  • Patrick O’Sullivan: 5’11”
  • Andrew Cogliano: 5’10”
  • Mike Comrie: 5’10”

Likely

  • Robert Nilsson: 5’11”
  • Gilbert Brule: 5’10”

Possible

  • Rob Schremp: 5’11”
  • Jordan Eberle: 5’10”
  • Liam Reddox: 5’10”

Of that group four of those guys (Gagner, Cogliano, Comrie, Nilsson) are not a fit anywhere but on a scoring line, although Gagner and Cogliano might be able to grow into two-way players.

Additionally, Patrick O’Sullivan is probably best utilized in a scoring role against less than stellar opposition, and Gilbert Brule hasn’t shown that he’s capable of playing a defensive role; in other words, everyone but O’Sullivan needs to be put in a position to succeed – not too many own-zone starts, and not too many shifts against the Getzlafs and Iginlas of the league.

This is all relatively common knowledge, and has been discussed ad nauseum on message boards, radio, TV, and this site.

Let’s Step One Year Forward

Does anyone here believe that Jordan Eberle isn’t going to get a push next season, or that he’ll be anywhere other than on the Oilers’ roster? He should go back to junior this year, but the fact that he’s pushed his way into the conversation at this camp, combined with his draft pedigree means that he’ll almost certainly be an Oiler in 2010-11.

Let’s not forget 5’9” Linus Omark. Omark is coming off a tremendous season in Sweden, and so far has apparently had some issues with his KHL team. Maybe he makes the team, maybe he doesn’t; either way, it seems very likely that he’s going to challenge for a spot on the roster next season.

Next, we consider Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. Paajarvi isn’t in the same range size-wise (6’1”, 201lbs) as the other players we’re considering, but his skill-set certainly is: he’s a young player with offensive talent who needs to round out his defensive game and probably needs some shelter from his coaching staff when he comes to North America. Maybe he starts next season in the AHL, but it’s easily within the realm of possibility that he pushes for a roster spot.

The Oilers are going to need to make decisions on all three of these guys, and it’s very difficult to imagine that either Eberle or Paajarvi are going to be tossed aside. Based on what he did in Sweden, it also seems like it would be a shame to send out Omark without taking a look at him.

In Other Words…

The Oilers are over-stocked with small players with a largely offense-only mindset. They have three remarkable prospects coming in next season, all of whom are going to be (at least initially) of much the same skill-set.

Individually, there’s an argument to be made for every one of these players. Gagner and Cogliano are obviously valuable players. Robert Nilsson, coming off a bad season, continues to show flashes of brilliance and is a guy who would be nice to keep. Mike Comrie’s had a strong preseason, and brings some experience and edge that the other players don’t. Patrick O’Sullivan has a few skills (shooter, penalty-killer) in short supply on the Oilers, and on top of that has put up better totals in the NHL than any of the other young guys. Gilbert Brule was a 6th overall pick in 2005 and has untapped offensive ability and a physical edge.

The fact of the matter though, is that however valuable these players are individually, there isn’t room for all of them. Certainly one, probably two and possibly as many as three are going to be shipped out by the start of next season.

Barring an outstanding return, Gagner, Cogliano and O’Sullivan are the three currently on the roster that I would keep.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 Chris
September 25 2009, 11:16AM
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@ Jay:

Chris wrote:

scorecoff hemmercules wrote: I didn’t think Bule looked good for most of the game. I agree. What’s worse is that he was skating his guts out, was physically involved, and battled hard for the puck: yet remained very ineffecive. Brule is simply not stong enough to play on an energy line.

I already gave him props for his grit and effort level, that's why it's so sad that he remained ineffective. Bottom six players need to be able to retrieve the puck or make a physical impact. There is no room for Brule in the top six unless Quinn really shakes things up.

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#102 Jay
September 25 2009, 11:19AM
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Chris wrote:

Bottom six players need to be able to retrieve the puck or make a physical impact. There is no room for Brule in the top six unless Quinn really shakes things up

Don't forget that Quinn has considered using 3 scoring lines and one 4th line that checks and brings energy. In theory, that could open more roster spots for "small" forwards

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#103 Chris
September 25 2009, 11:19AM
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@ RossCreek:

Theo is done. I wonder if this entire exercise was about getting publicity for his book... and he just came a little closer than expected....

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#104 RossCreek
September 25 2009, 11:21AM
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Flames release statement: "I believe Theoren did a great job and should be proud, especially considering all the factors including age, time away from the game and lifestyle change," said general manager Darryl Sutter in the statement. "This is not a hockey story; it's a life story. Our agreement with Theoren was that he had to be one of our top six wingers and there were never any intentions of assigning him to the American Hockey League." tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=292512

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#105 Snoodles
September 25 2009, 11:21AM
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Is his book about dancing with hoes coke and liquor.

As well as his crazxy liquor and cheese burger parties?

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#106 BingBong
September 25 2009, 11:22AM
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Jay wrote:

Chris wrote: Hell, all Grebs used to do is turn the puck overblockquote> Not to nitpick, but Grebs had a few brutal turnovers last night as well. I think one came right before Brule made another turnover. But man the guy can pass...he had some great ones last night.
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#107 Chris
September 25 2009, 11:22AM
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@ Jay:

I'm not saying Quinn won't keep Brule. I'm saying I wouldn't. I don't think Brule will ever be more than a marginal NHL player, top pick or not.

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#108 RossCreek
September 25 2009, 11:22AM
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...from Theo:

Fleury was gracious in his response.

"I am very thankful to Darryl and the Flames organization for following through on the commitment to provide me with this opportunity," Fleury said in a statement. "I said in the beginning that no matter what the outcome, this would be a success story. I intend to take the next few days to review this experience and make decisions with my family regarding next steps in my life." Fleury said he will have a press conference on Monday but would not commit on whether or not he was retiring from the game. "I need a couple of days," Fleury told TSN.

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#109 BingBong
September 25 2009, 11:22AM
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Damn quotes.

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#110 roughneck
September 25 2009, 11:35AM
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maybe fat head burke can tie theo into a future shop promo

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#111 smiliegirl15
September 25 2009, 11:37AM
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Igor Ulanov wrote:

There still is a faceoff king left out there that is a UFa and has been skating. Mike Peca.

Because Edmonton needs our reputation battered again don't we? Signing Comrie has been a good start in repairing that bad rap but Peca made no bones about his thoughts on Edmonton. Maybe it was more MacTavish than Edmonton but he badmouthed Edmonton more than Pronger's wife. Maybe he'll play for Quinn and shut up about it.

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#112 RossCreek
September 25 2009, 11:39AM
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Marilyn Manson has swine flu?

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#113 Andrew W
September 25 2009, 11:40AM
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@ RossCreek:

I'm not sure what you mean by less competitive: that the leagues would be less competitive with each other (ie OHL vs AHL) or that they would be less competitive within themselves (ie WHL Giants vs Hitmen). In either case, and especially the latter, it hardly seems fair that the result of these rules is to the detriment of the North American players. For the best players it hurts both their earning potential and their development. A true top end player like Tavares would have more to learn as an 18 year old in the AHL last year, and could have commanded a six figure salary, too. For 19 year old second tier prospects, like Eberle, it's similar: he doesn't have as much to gain experience-wise from another season with the Pats as he would with the Falcons. (As a side-note, he would still be eligible to leave the Falcons to play in the World Juniors, just like under-20 NHLers can leave their teams for this tournament.)

The free flow of high end players between leagues without age restriction is in place in every other professional sport that I know of, both in North American and abroad. There's nothing to stop young baseball prospects from bouncing between A, AA, AAA, or the MLB (other than their success rate, of course), nor are there such regulations in basketball or football. They only have to declare whether or not they are professional, which prevents them from playing in college leagues while making a professional salary. There are also no such age restrictions in soccer leagues in Europe. Can you imagine the outrage if a phenom player like Mario Balotelli had been denied the right to play on a Serie A squad in Italy because of his age? Obviously, there aren't similar restrictions in European hockey leagues, either.

Sorry for the rant, but the structure of CHL - AHL - NHL development has been confusing me for a while, and it seems that the more I find out about it the more it bothers me.

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#114 scorecoff hemmercules
September 25 2009, 11:40AM
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Chris wrote:

but it is interesting how automatically optimistic everyone is about Gagner/Cogliano when either player could very well end up as just another twenty-nine year old UFA with two sixty point seasons looking for an NHL contract in August.

Why not be optimistic about them? It sure beats expecting them to fail.

Chris wrote:

Comrie was once held in very high regard here also, but time has shown us that his league wide value was never very high.

Comrie has always been a 3 mil+ player. His last couple of seasons decreased his value a bit because he didn't play much, then he found himself in a capped out league looking for work like alot of other players. A couple pre season games don't automatically put him higher on the food chain of this team IMO either. Gagner and Cogs could explode in the regular season and Comrie could fail miserably, time will tell.

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#115 Travis Dakin
September 25 2009, 11:46AM
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smiliegirl15 wrote:

Peca made no bones about his thoughts on Edmonton. Maybe it was more MacTavish than Edmonton but he badmouthed Edmonton more than Pronger’s wife.

Wow you can talk out of your ass really loudly. Where did he say that and when?

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#116 Ender the Dragon
September 25 2009, 11:55AM
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In case we don't have enough small forwards, it looks as though Theoren Fleury is available.

We should probably hurry . . . oh, wait. Maybe not.

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#117 Chris
September 25 2009, 11:57AM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules:

Cogliano and Gagner are somewhat overhyped IMO. Neither player brings a tonne of dimension to their game, and neither player has been that consistant. Given time, both players will improve, but neither is likly to be franchise type players... I don't see what all the fuss is about.

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#118 offside
September 25 2009, 11:57AM
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So will Fleury be put on waivers? ~The Oilers should pick him up, they have too many 5'10" and 5'11" forwards, they need to diversify the size up front~

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#119 scorecoff hemmercules
September 25 2009, 12:00PM
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@ Chris:

I get ya, I have to agree that I thought they would have done better by now but I still think they will come around.

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#120 Jimmy
September 25 2009, 12:01PM
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@ offside:

Fleury doesn't have to be put on waivers, does he? I didn't think they had him on any kind of a contract - they just invited him to camp.

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#121 Ender the Dragon
September 25 2009, 12:04PM
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offside wrote:

So will Fleury be put on waivers?

Jimmy wrote:

Fleury doesn’t have to be put on waivers, does he?

He's released. He's a UFA.

P.S. Don't tell the Oilers.

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#122 Ender the Dragon
September 25 2009, 12:07PM
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In case anyone thinks I'm cracking on Fleury, I'm not. He did far better than I expected and I'm almost surprised he didn't pull it off after all. Almost. He should be proud; he looked better out there at 41 than most hockey players in the AHL. My comments above were directed as commentary at the Oilers and their tunnel-vision. As for Theo, good try, buddy.

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#123 Porter
September 25 2009, 12:10PM
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smiliegirl15 wrote:

Igor Ulanov wrote: There still is a faceoff king left out there that is a UFa and has been skating. Mike Peca. Because Edmonton needs our reputation battered again don’t we? Signing Comrie has been a good start in repairing that bad rap but Peca made no bones about his thoughts on Edmonton. Maybe it was more MacTavish than Edmonton but he badmouthed Edmonton more than Pronger’s wife. Maybe he’ll play for Quinn and shut up about it.

Peca didn't say anything bad about E-town at all... All he said was that the travel schedule was tough and he missed his kids. He was really gracious about it.

You're way off base.

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#124 EddieEdmonton
September 25 2009, 12:16PM
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my yesterdays rumour went to shnits

here is todays

staios or strudwick, nillson, and chorney or schremp for jason arnott

pisani on waivers

then we sign peca

Hate Hate Hate

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#125 knobert
September 25 2009, 12:20PM
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Eddie you are acomplete retard, go spread your dumb rumors elsewhere

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#126 RossCreek
September 25 2009, 12:22PM
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@ EddieEdmonton: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA your hilarious buddy. best poster ever.

You do realize that when you make up your own rumors, they are in fact actually not a rumor at all, but a figment of your imagination. Right?

Enough already. If you want to pose "suggestions", by all means go ahead. But don't pose it as "rumor".

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#127 EddieEdmonton
September 25 2009, 12:31PM
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knob i just put that up there to fcuk with a few of these annalyzers ross creek being one of them but i think arnott for one of our d a lw and prospect would be a good trade i just called it a rumour to get a rise out of these fools no more name calling

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#128 Jimmy
September 25 2009, 12:34PM
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EddieEdmonton wrote:

but i think arnott for one of our d a lw and prospect would be a good trade

Of course it would be a good trade for Edmonton. They're not parting with Arnott unless the D we're sending is either Souray or Visnovsky, though.

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#129 The Menace
September 25 2009, 12:36PM
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@ EddieEdmonton: RossCreek is right - that doesn't count as a rumour. If you make it up, it just counts as you being a goofball.

@ RossCreek: Nice work making your ahahas go right off the page. that adds a nice effect.

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#130 RossCreek
September 25 2009, 12:38PM
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@ Eddie E. Glad I could entertain you there pal. Although I do believe that is the definition of a troll.

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#131 EddieEdmonton
September 25 2009, 12:39PM
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@ Jimmy: really? i dont think so arnott is a ufa at the end of the year the dont have much up front and i think they are going into rebuild mode so a wise old man like steve and a few prospects would help them out i cant see them resigning him

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#132 Stuart
September 25 2009, 12:41PM
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I hope Omark stays in Russia this year. I'd like to see him dominate another league. And maybe he can hone some skills that are lacking on the current crop of smallish forwards. He chose Russia. Now he should finish what he started. Kick butt, and we'll see you in training camp next year.

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#133 Al
September 25 2009, 12:44PM
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Theo Fluery just Released by the FLAMES

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#134 Chris
September 25 2009, 12:45PM
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EddieEdmonton wrote:

knob

and then...

EddieEdmonton wrote:

no more name calling

That is all.

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#135 EddieEdmonton
September 25 2009, 12:46PM
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@ Chris: his name is knobert

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#136 Jimmy
September 25 2009, 12:47PM
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@ Chris: #125 knobert September 25 2009, 12:20 pm.

Eddie you are acomplete retard, go spread your dumb rumors elsewhere

@ EddieEdmonton: Even if they're looking to unload him before free agency, a player like Arnott fetches more than Staios and a failed prospect like you're suggesting.

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#137 EddieEdmonton
September 25 2009, 12:48PM
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@ Jimmy: nillson and chorney wouldnt be bad prospects

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#138 Jonathan Willis
September 25 2009, 12:51PM
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Can we all agree that Steve Staios has negative value right now, given his cap hit and length of contract?

I think we can, particularly when there are rumours floating around that the Flyers are going to waive the similarly priced Randy Jones.

In other words, if he's added to a package, Edmonton would need to increase their offer, because he reduces its value.

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#139 Jimmy
September 25 2009, 12:52PM
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@ EddieEdmonton:

If they were shopping Arnott, though, you don't think there are teams out there that would be willing to one-up Edmonton's bubble players from an admittedly weak showing in this year's preseason?

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#140 Snoodles
September 25 2009, 12:52PM
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Mr. Willis...

Any word on the next cut for the team? Or will it likely be after sunday?

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#141 Chris
September 25 2009, 12:53PM
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@ EddieEdmonton:

My mistake. Then how about using: @ knobert: ?

Last night you told me to "get off Pisani's penis"...

You can see how it's funny to me when you call into question the manners of others.

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#142 RossCreek
September 25 2009, 12:53PM
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Jason Arnott has this year AND NEXT YEAR left on his deal that pays 4.5. Can't see the Preds moving him in the near future.

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#143 Jonathan Willis
September 25 2009, 12:56PM
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@ Snoodles:

I'd expected it to be today, but I haven't heard anything.

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#144 EddieEdmonton
September 25 2009, 12:57PM
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@ RossCreek: thank you i was mistaken well there goes that rumour what do you guys want to argue about now? Don Cherry? man, i hate that guy

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#145 Chaz
September 25 2009, 01:11PM
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Porter wrote:

Peca didn’t say anything bad about E-town at all… All he said was that the travel schedule was tough and he missed his kids. He was really gracious about it. You’re way off base.

Not only that, but when he returned to play against the Oilers he was quoted as saying Mac T was the one of, if not the best coach he ever played for. Maybe not a popular opinion here in ON, but a classy statement none the less.

The guy was pure class and a huge factor in the '06 run. Does all the little things that no one on our current roster seems able to do. I'd love to see him back.

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#146 Dominoiler
September 25 2009, 01:20PM
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Anyone think that schremp and nils could be shopped together... they showed good chemistry that first year together in springfield...

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#147 Porter
September 25 2009, 01:21PM
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Chaz wrote:

Porter wrote: Peca didn’t say anything bad about E-town at all… All he said was that the travel schedule was tough and he missed his kids. He was really gracious about it. You’re way off base. Not only that, but when he returned to play against the Oilers he was quoted as saying Mac T was the one of, if not the best coach he ever played for. Maybe not a popular opinion here in ON, but a classy statement none the less. The guy was pure class and a huge factor in the ‘06 run. Does all the little things that no one on our current roster seems able to do. I’d love to see him back.

I wouldn't mind Peca back either, but injuries would be a concern. It's tragic that his name is not on the cup IMO.

He is one of the best playoff warriors ever.

I would hope Tambo would try to find someone younger with a similar skill set, first though.

Jerred Smithson from Nashville, anyone?

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#148 Ogden Brother
September 25 2009, 01:23PM
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Chaz wrote:

Porter wrote: Peca didn’t say anything bad about E-town at all… All he said was that the travel schedule was tough and he missed his kids. He was really gracious about it. You’re way off base. Not only that, but when he returned to play against the Oilers he was quoted as saying Mac T was the one of, if not the best coach he ever played for. Maybe not a popular opinion here in ON, but a classy statement none the less. The guy was pure class and a huge factor in the ‘06 run. Does all the little things that no one on our current roster seems able to do. I’d love to see him back.

~Peca might have thought MacT was a good coach, but this training camp should be proving to us that he was a terrible coach~

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#149 knobert
September 25 2009, 01:27PM
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@ EddieEdmonton:

I may be a knob, but I am definitely not a website troll like yourself. Why the hard-on for every ex oiler that you can think of?? Who's next on your imaginary list........ ummmmmm Guerin for Shremp? Get a grip already

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#150 Jimmy
September 25 2009, 01:30PM
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@ knobert:

Hopefully he doesn't realize Gretzky's got a little more free time on his hands these days.

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