Deep thoughts XIII: Brass tacks

Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009 03:14PM

Samurai-quinn

Don't expect a sneak peek at Pat Quinn's season-opening roster when the Edmonton Oilers wrap up the pre-season against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday because he made it clear today that's not what we’re going to get.

Under Craig MacTavish, the last couple of games of pre-season usually provided a look at his 23-man roster, but having endured a stretch of five games in six nights and with injuries to Ethan Moreau and Marc Pouliot, Quinn won't be showing his cards against the Canucks.

"We've played some guys five times," Quinn said after practice at Rexall Place. "Rather than grind them, we'll look again at some others who are in the competition up front."

The way I see it

While I'm late to the guessing game when it comes to my take on what the roster will look like when it's submitted by the 3 p.m. deadline Wednesday, here's how I see things stacking up.

FORWARDS (14)

Shawn Horcoff, J.F. Jacques, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Patrick O'Sullivan, Mike Comrie, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Zack Stortini, Ryan Stone, Gilbert Brule, Marc Pouliot, Ethan Moreau and Fernando Pisani.

CUTS

Kip Brennan, Liam Reddox, Jordan Eberle, Rob Schremp, Robert Nilsson, Steve MacIntyre.

DEFENCE (7)

Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Ladislav Smid, Steve Staios, Jason Strudwick.

CUTS

Taylor Chorney.

GOALTENDERS (2)

Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeff Deslauriers.

CUTS

Devan Dubnyk

Finding a fit

Pisani returned to the ice today after taking a few days off to rest the cranky back that's had him on the shelf. Moreau and Pouliot didn't take a twirl because they're still resting injuries.

Pisani indicated he'll be ready to play against the Canucks, if needed, but Quinn didn't commit to putting him in the line-up. Here's the most common lines and the defence pairings Quinn used today.

FORWARDS

Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky

Penner-Comrie-O'Sullivan

Stone-Brule-Stortini

Cogliano-Gagner-MacIntyre

Brennan-Schremp-Nilsson

Reddox-Brule-Stortini

DEFENCE

Souray-Staios

Smid-Visnovsky

Grebeshkov-Gilbert

Strudwick-Chorney

"Up front, we still have continuing evaluation," Quinn said. "The hard decisions are going to come either after the game when management sits down or Monday morning."

-- I'm convinced Stone and Brule have made the roster because they bring a physical element and are suited to play in the bottom six. I think them sticking makes Nilsson expendable because he's not suited to play in the bottom six and one good performance isn't going to vault him into the top six at this point.

-- Nilsson could get a reprieve on cut down day if either Moreau or Pouliot are put on the injured reserve list, but we don't have an indication at this point that's going to happen.

-- With the physical presence provided by Jacques, Stortini, Stone and, to a lesser degree, Penner, I don't see a roster spot for MacIntyre. Based on what Quinn has said, I don't think he sees one, either.

-- As for Quinn keeping Pouliot ahead of Nilsson, that's just a gut-feeling on my part. It's one that's based on the same premise as Stone and Brule -- Pouliot is a better fit in the bottom six.

-- The defence is a no-brainer. Chorney is a year away from challenging for a job. Theo Peckham, who has missed all of camp with a sprained ankle, hasn't been a factor.

In the room

-- I've asked stupid questions before, but I've seldom intentionally thrown a player a grenade meant to put him on the spot. I've certainly never done it with somebody I respect like Pisani.

But I did exactly that today when I asked Pisani: "Do you feel behind the pack? Do you feel like you've got to make this team?"

While so-so performances and the bad back have hampered Pisani, he's not in danger of being cut. But that's how it sounded the way I clumsily framed the question.

What I wanted to know is if Pisani was disappointed he hadn't shown the new coaching staff more to this point. To his credit, he shook off the implication, resisted the urge to poke me in the eye with his Easton and answered anyway.

"Everybody, when they step on the ice, wants to prove themselves," Pisani said. "That's the situation I'm in. I want to get out there and play. I want to show that I can play."

-- Quinn gathered the team around him late in the practice and was very animated in letting his players know he wanted intensity and execution during drills.

He obviously wasn't happy with what he was seeing. He slapped his stick on the ice more than once to get his point across. Today isn't the first time Quinn has done that during this camp.

-- I don't often disagree with Jim Matheson, a friend, a HHOF writer and the guy who broke me in on the Oilers beat when I arrived in 1989, but I think Matty and I have a side-bet going this season. He's picking the Columbus Blue Jackets to miss the playoffs. I'm saying they're a lock to make it.

Just asking

-- Whatever happened to addressing the need for a centre to win face-offs and take the heat of Horcoff, who led the entire NHL in appearances on the dot last season?

I'm guessing Quinn will lean heavily on Brule and Gagner to remedy the situation, but failing to address the need by way of a personnel change makes we wonder what GM Steve Tambellini is doing.

-- For all the so-so performances by veterans (hello, Mr. Hemsky) to this point in pre-season, are you wondering about Khabibulin after his sieve-like performance against Calgary in a 5-3 loss last Wednesday?

Khabibulin allowed four goals, and looked bad on at least two of them, on 24 shots against the Flames before he gave way to dehydration and Deslauriers. After Khabibulin made 18 saves in a 4-0 win over Florida, I'll reserve judgment despite his hummer against the Flames. Still, I'm uneasy.

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

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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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#151 Robin Brownlee
September 28 2009, 07:42AM
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@ trying to be a fan: That's a helluva post. Well said. The game is so easy from where we sit and we are absolutely guilty of forgetting, or are unable of comprehending, how difficult it is to play a game like hockey at the NHL level. Most of us commenting on this or writing about that wouldn't have the slightest chance of making what looks like the easiest, most routine play -- pass, shoot, check -- at the pace NHL players do. No chance. None. MacT always talked about the game looking easier the further you get away from it, and nobody is further from the action on ice-level than us media guys. As for Gilbert's goal, let's just say he got all of it. Tom has a lot of subtle skills, but that shot was just all-out grunt-and-fire. Nice rub on the second-assists reference, though (it's still true). Second assists should not be discounted, but they, like everything else, should be viewed in context.

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#152 Rick
September 28 2009, 09:25AM
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I admit I was not a fan of the move last year when they picked up MacIntyre but I will say that if they sent him down this year I would be disappointed.

The nuclear deterent thing has been hashed and re-hashed so there isn't a lot more to add there but beyond that doesn't it make sense to have your 14th guy a player that is cheap (MacIntyre) and can sit long stretches in the press box without worrying about his "skill set" getting rusty (MacIntyre)and not have to deal with the guy becoming disgruntled in the process (MacIntyre)?

We talk about the final 14 as if all 14 will be dressed. Clearly they won't so surely part of the equation has to be who is best suited to play the role of the black aces as opposed to who is better than the 15th ranked guy but not as good as the 12th ranked guy.

In addition to that it seems that more teams are trending in the direction of only carrying 13 forwards as opposed to 14 on the final roster. Obviously those situations are cap related but it also shows that the 14th spot is being seen as an expendable peice, atleast in the season's early going.

I don't know, I just don't get that move if indeed they make it.

Question for you Robin;

Quinn has made more than a few references about management making decisions, working with what management gives him and so on. Even when talking about final cuts being made.

What are the chances that management may actually "recommend" a guy like MacIntyre for the end of the roster spot? Atleast management shouldbe able to remember how badly the Oilers seemed to get pushed around in the post-Laraque, pre-MacIntyre seasons.

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#153 Robin Brownlee
September 28 2009, 09:41AM
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@ Rick: I can't see management siding with MacIntyre, given Quinn's stated preference for players who can do more than just sit until they get the tap on the shoulder.

As for the post-Laraque days, that's a good reminder the Oilers shouldn't abandon the toughness angle altogether, but this team -- with Stortini, Jacques, Moreau, Souray, Strudwick etc -- is way tougher than the roster was right after Laraque left.

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#154 swany
September 28 2009, 11:18AM
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Robin after JFJ's preformance so far do you still think they are "show casing him" or could he turn into a Lucic type player he sure did a good job last night. Maybe Mact just didn't see the upside in this kid, I say the first 2 lines are set with JFJ, Horc, Hemmer and second line of Penner, Comrie, PattyO. The third line is going to be Cogs, Gagner, and Pies the 4th line of Moreau, Brule, Storts. what do you think, I'm I close.

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#155 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 11:44AM
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@ swany: Looks about right. 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

Right roster, wrong lines from over a week ago ;-) And Brownlee says why predict the future. Psssshhhh! jk

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#156 Robin Brownlee
September 28 2009, 01:03PM
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@ swany: The idea the Oilers might be showcasing Jacques was in response to his getting more ice time alongside Horcoff last Thursday -- on past performance he didn't seem to warrant the look on the top line. I was told in the wake of my suggestion that wasn't the case then, and it's certainly not the case now with the way he's playing. Lucic? Let's not turn Jacques into a player of that quality just yet after 60 games of next-to-nothing and about 15 minutes of really solid play.

@ RossCreek: Picking 15 forwards when only 14 will stick and having half of them in the wrong spots means you guessed -- emphasis on guessed -- right? OK. Let me forward your name to Pat Quinn so the Oilers can hire you.

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#157 swany
September 28 2009, 01:12PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ swany: The idea the Oilers might be showcasing Jacques was in response to his getting more ice time alongside Horcoff last Thursday — on past performance he didn’t seem to warrant the look on the top line. I was told in the wake of my suggestion that wasn’t the case then, and it’s certainly not the case now with the way he’s playing. Lucic? Let’s not turn Jacques into a player of that quality just yet after 60 games of next-to-nothing and about 15 minutes of really solid play. @ RossCreek: Picking 15 forwards when only 14 will stick and having half of them in the wrong spots means you guessed — emphasis on guessed — right? OK. Let me forward your name to Pat Quinn so the Oilers can hire you.

I think he will turn into that it's just a feeling and from what I've seen in his games the tougher the competition the better he has been. My lines are the ones I've been on for about a week but I thought Nilsson would be on that 3rd line not Pies, I think Cogs and Gagner play better with Nilsson ,they had there best game with Nilsson on the Left side. Can Pies be effective with Cogs and Gagner, he will be the defensive guy on that line but can he score with them?

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#158 iswowydrjiz
October 10 2009, 06:11AM
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