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.>

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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#1 Word
September 26 2009, 03:23PM
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Favourite picture all time.

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#2 Word
September 26 2009, 03:24PM
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Wanye, can you put this on the shirts when you release new ON gear? I will buy a "Oilers Nation '09-'10: Quinn Dynasty" shirt with that logo.

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#3 Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009, 03:29PM
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@ Word: If I'm not mistaken, I believe I saw Quinn wearing that exact outfit down on Rush Street in Chicago in 1996.

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#4 Word
September 26 2009, 03:32PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

I read that too fast and thought you said you saw Quinn wearing that exact outfit at a Rush concert in Chicago. Almost peed a little.

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#5 Ogden Brother
September 26 2009, 03:32PM
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Robin, if/when the potential IR guys come back, would you expect Stone to then drop into the 13th/14th forward spot?

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#6 Word
September 26 2009, 03:33PM
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Further, RB, do I have blinders on when I think that letting Nilsson go could haunt us? I understand the importance of icing each part of a balanced breakfast, but I just have a sick feeling that he would become a great second line player for another team.

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#7 DangerMan
September 26 2009, 03:36PM
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I agree with your assessment on MacIntyre. Although I'd feel more at ease if Peckham was in the top 6. With Jacques, Stortini, Stone, Moreau,Penner, even Brule, to go along Souray and Peckham, we have a lot greasiness in a lot of the weight classes, and have more of a gang mentality as opposed to the nuclear deterrent.

I have a hard time thinking Nilsson will be sent down, at least not this early in the year. We'd be at the mercy of recallable waivers and have to eat half of his contract over the next 2 years. I still think Pouliot will draw the short straw if he's not put up on the IR.

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#8 Ogden Brother
September 26 2009, 03:37PM
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Word wrote:

Further, RB, do I have blinders on when I think that letting Nilsson go could haunt us? I understand the importance of icing each part of a balanced breakfast, but I just have a sick feeling that he would become a great second line player for another team.

How many do we need though? We've already got 5 with potentially 2 more ready to come up in a year or two.

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#9 butterific
September 26 2009, 03:40PM
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One of the greatest things about Quinn is that he's been around so long that he provides almost endless opportunity for people with mad photoshop skillz.

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#10 Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009, 03:40PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Robin, if/when the potential IR guys come back, would you expect Stone to then drop into the 13th/14th forward spot?

Perhaps, but I say he sticks, even if it's in the press box to start the season.

DangerMan wrote:

I have a hard time thinking Nilsson will be sent down, at least not this early in the year. We’d be at the mercy of recallable waivers and have to eat half of his contract over the next 2 years. I still think Pouliot will draw the short straw if he’s not put up on the IR.

Most people probably agree with you. I see it differently.

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#11 DangerMan
September 26 2009, 03:43PM
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It seems the turning point in Pouliot's career was during last preseason he scored a goal and promply got into a fight with Vandemeer. I thought the Pouliot that we'd been waiting for had finally arrived even though he had blood streaming down his face. I thought he'd eventually take a liking to getting punched in the face, but I guess he never did, and I'm not sure he ever will.

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#12 David S
September 26 2009, 03:43PM
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While I understand your logic in the Pouliot over Nilsson discussion, I've always believed talent and skill is far harder to come by than just plain effort. Nilsson had a crap year last season and knows this is is last chance.

He's motivated and has the tools when he chooses to use them. And lets face it, this team needs to put the puck in the net more often. Assuming motivation isn't an issue, who helps you do that more, Pouliot or Nilsson?

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#13 Word
September 26 2009, 03:44PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

How many do we need though? We’ve already got 5 with potentially 2 more ready to come up in a year or two.

Yeah, and that's the biggest problem.

It's also why I acknowledge that I have blinders on to an extent. It's the same mentality of not wanting someone else to sleep with your ex-girlfriend.

Sure, the Oilers might not need Nilsson, but I don't want him playing for anyone else!

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#14 Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009, 03:44PM
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@ David S: But you're not calling me an idiot, right?

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#15 Alex Selivanov
September 26 2009, 03:47PM
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Pouliot making this team over Nilsson would be a mistake. We lose nothing with Pouliot but Nilsson could really hurt you a couple of years from now.

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#16 RossCreek
September 26 2009, 03:47PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ David S: But you’re not calling me an idiot, right?

LOL

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#17 Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009, 03:51PM
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Alex Selivanov wrote:

Pouliot making this team over Nilsson would be a mistake. We lose nothing with Pouliot but Nilsson could really hurt you a couple of years from now.

How so? Even if Nilsson was to end up playing for a division rival -- assuming all other 29 teams don't cringe at the $4 million left on his contract -- there's a good chance games against the Oilers would be among the 40 or so nights Bobby takes off a season.

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#18 David S
September 26 2009, 03:53PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

But you’re not calling me an idiot, right?

Far from it. Just trying to understand.

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#19 Boundz
September 26 2009, 04:03PM
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I still see Nilsson ahead of Stone. Tambo has to make some sort of trade so we don't lose our invested time/$$ in a couple players...

That said, I guess we'll all find out shortly and this guessing game is a futile exercise...

Boundz in T.O.

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#20 Jonathan Willis
September 26 2009, 04:17PM
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To the surprise of nobody, I agree with Brownlee on Pouliot over Nilsson.

It's a simple question of team needs now and in the future - a decent-size, RH faceoff guy who can kill penalties and play a bottom-six role vs. a smallish, talented, offense-only forward.

Still, I'm a little surprised by the idea of Stone over Nilsson, especially when the latter seems like such a good fit for Nashville.

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#21 Hemmertime
September 26 2009, 04:34PM
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Boo-urns on the slight to Pisani. Who was the last Oiler player to retire an Oiler of their own volition? I cant think of one (Ulanov went to Russia, not his choice). This also makes it hard for us to sign Free Agents I am sure, we have no loyalty. Pisani is over paid yes, but next years contract should be lighter (plus he will be under 35 when it comes into effect so we should do the Detroit long term thing and have cap hit of 700k with him if it were my choice).

Pisani should retire an Oiler, or at least Moreau or Staios. I been advocating dumping Staios all summer because he has 2 years left on his 2.6 cap hit deal, but even if we re-sign him for less the year after and he retires here I'd be happy. But Pisser has spent his entire career in the Oilers organization and screw all the Comrie + Lupul lovers, Pisani is the home town boy who made good. Detroit will allow Maltby and Draper to retire on their own terms without rumors over their head or reporters asking questions that are just plain insulting to them (you did admit it was honest mistake RB, so all is well heh).

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#22 Victoria
September 26 2009, 04:48PM
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Omg, I love that picture.

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#23 Gunner
September 26 2009, 04:48PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

To the surprise of nobody, I agree with Brownlee on Pouliot over Nilsson. It’s a simple question of team needs now and in the future – a decent-size, RH faceoff guy who can kill penalties and play a bottom-six role vs. a smallish, talented, offense-only forward. Still, I’m a little surprised by the idea of Stone over Nilsson, especially when the latter seems like such a good fit for Nashville.

I was under the impression this team wasn't going with the "top six" and "bottom six" scenario. Nilsson plays on my team any day over Pouliot. Like David S said, for the most part skill trumps hard work. We need to score and I think Nilsson will score you more goals than Pouliot.

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#24 Gunner
September 26 2009, 04:50PM
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I'm baffled with this Stone experiment. Sure he finishes his checks, but he is a step behind which makes him a non-factor for me.

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#25 Gunner
September 26 2009, 05:01PM
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Gunner wrote:

for the most part skill trumps hard work

I'm not sure I like the way that sounds. Hard work is important but all things being equal, I want the guy with more skill than the guy who relies on hard work.

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#26 Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009, 05:02PM
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Gunner wrote:

We need to score and I think Nilsson will score you more goals than Pouliot.

What was the bigger deficiency last season, goals-for (17th) or goals against (22nd)?

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#27 Gunner
September 26 2009, 05:09PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Is Pouliot really that much of a defensive upgrade? I don't think so.

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#28 Zamboni Driver
September 26 2009, 05:13PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

Pisani is the home town boy who made good

The hometown boy who made good...for three weeks once.

Four years ago.

Good on him for overcoming this-that-and-the-other, but he brings, what, exactly?

Twelve goals at +$2 mill....I actually hope he goes. Will be a good sign for this admin "We don't care how good you were once..." (and for me, Pisani was okay once.)

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#29 David S
September 26 2009, 05:15PM
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Robin - see my post in Jason's thread below. Thx.

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#30 David S
September 26 2009, 05:17PM
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Gunner wrote:

I want the guy with more skill than the guy who relies on hard work.

I want the guys who'll bring both skill and hard work. That's what I think Nilsson will bring this year. There's too much upside with him to not see if it'll happen. If not, I agree - throw him over the side.

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#31 Colin
September 26 2009, 05:19PM
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Gunner wrote:

for the most part skill trumps hard work. We need to score and I think Nilsson will score you more goals than Pouliot.

Goal Differential is what is important here. Not goals scored or prevented but the overall conmbination. The Question is which provides a better contribution to that.

To be honest I'd probably keep Nilsson and see how it goes, Pouliot's are easy to pick up later if necessary.

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#32 Gunner
September 26 2009, 05:23PM
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Gunner wrote:

I’m not sure I like the way that sounds. Hard work is important but all things being equal, I want the guy with more skill than the guy who relies on hard work.

David S wrote:

I want the guys who’ll bring both skill and hard work

And by all things equal, I meant an equal work ethic. Something Bobby must improve if he intends to stick.

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#33 B-rad
September 26 2009, 05:24PM
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I agree with you Robin. I was wondering who of the cuts do you think will be claimed on the wire?

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#34 Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009, 05:40PM
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@ B-rad: I think MacIntyre is the likeliest to be claimed. A bottom-feeder with holes in the top six and cap space will look at Nilsson.

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#35 Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009, 05:43PM
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Colin wrote:

Gunner wrote: for the most part skill trumps hard work. We need to score and I think Nilsson will score you more goals than Pouliot. Goal Differential is what is important here. Not goals scored or prevented but the overall conmbination. The Question is which provides a better contribution to that. To be honest I’d probably keep Nilsson and see how it goes, Pouliot’s are easy to pick up later if necessary.

How many teams and how many chances does Nilsson get before you know how it goes? He's a tease. That's his MO, and you're buying his act because he dangled some the last time out.

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#36 B-Rad
September 26 2009, 06:13PM
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It's to bad, would have liked to see Mac stick around.

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#37 Joe
September 26 2009, 06:13PM
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I think RB is right by picking Stone and Pouliot over Nilson and Shremp. RB was just hired as an accountant by D. Katz. Robin we like you but if you will keep asking if we call you an idiot for articles like that then sometimes the answer will be "yes".

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#38 Ogden Brother
September 26 2009, 06:34PM
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David S wrote:

Gunner wrote: I want the guy with more skill than the guy who relies on hard work. I want the guys who’ll bring both skill and hard work. That’s what I think Nilsson will bring this year. There’s too much upside with him to not see if it’ll happen. If not, I agree – throw him over the side.

I'm coming around to the motivated Nilsson scenario, he (or his agent) must know if he can bust his butt and put up 20 goals/55 points over the next two years he'll earn himself another 5 - 20 million.... if he doesn't he'll be lucky to make another 2 million playing hockey. He's got alot to lose.

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#39 David S
September 26 2009, 07:03PM
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Joe wrote:

Robin we like you but if you will keep asking if we call you an idiot for articles like that then sometimes the answer will be “yes”.

FTR. I didn't intend calling Robin an idiot. It was a bad choice of words. See comment #35 in Jason's post directly below.

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#40 Robin Brownlee
September 26 2009, 07:17PM
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David S wrote:

Joe wrote: Robin we like you but if you will keep asking if we call you an idiot for articles like that then sometimes the answer will be “yes”. FTR. I didn’t intend calling Robin an idiot. It was a bad choice of words. See comment #35 in Jason’s post directly below.

Relax (did I really say that?). I was just having some fun with the reference from another post that anybody who wanted a hard-working guy over a naturally skilled guy is an idiot. It wasn't directed at me, but it came right before I wrote in this item that the Oilers will be keeping Pouliot ahead of Nilsson.

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#41 MattL
September 26 2009, 07:19PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

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.

Yeah, I don't mind the veterans taking it easy in the pre-season, but shouldn't a goalie be able to "give'r" for a couple of pre-season games? I'm not a player so I don't have a clue, but it's not like goalies have to skate and hit...

Also, if Nilsson is gone, and Pouliot stays in his place, my car flag is going back in the trunk until Christmas. That's the last thing I want to watch: more Pouliot, less Nilsson. Magic Man Jr. vs. Bland Man.

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#42 Superkk
September 26 2009, 07:37PM
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As much as it pains me to say if they keep both Pisani and Pouliot the Oil don't have a hope in hell of making the playoff!s!! Neither of these guys bring any thing to the table and are a waste of a roster space!!! I'd much rather keep MacIntyre over either of these these guys. At least Pouliot's cheap, Pisani's the most over paid player in the NHL!!!!

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#43 Fiveandagame
September 26 2009, 07:42PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

To the surprise of nobody, I agree with Brownlee on Pouliot over Nilsson. It’s a simple question of team needs now and in the future – a decent-size, RH faceoff guy who can kill penalties and play a bottom-six role vs. a smallish, talented, offense-only forward.

For the love of Brownlee Jonathan, Pouliot does NOT have decent size! He's a lanky 6'1 under two hundred pound kid. THAT is not decent NHL size. If he was pushing 215 you'd have the size argument.

Comparing Pouliot's size to some of our other forwards he may seem Decent, but don't let the Oiler roster skew your perspective.

A player of Pouliot's calibre is a dime a dozen with a few still looking for NHL contracts this season. He doesn't hit, he doesn't score, he's expendable.

After seeing what Malholtra has signed for? Come on. Pouliot is history.

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#44 Joe
September 26 2009, 07:46PM
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Robin, like I said we like you! You started covering Oilers in 89. I started waching Oilers in 82 and I remember when they used to say to oposing team "you score as much as you can and we will score as many as we want". Well, they won 4 Cups before you started and 1 more after and they only had 1 or 2 tough guys because they used to win on skill. Now they have 5 players that can fight. How many Cups did they win lately?

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#45 Jonathan Willis
September 26 2009, 07:52PM
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As for the 'skill over will' argument, I don't buy that Nilsson's skills are better - they're just different.

Pouliot has two-way ability. Nilsson has one-way ability.

Which does this team need more?

Fortunately, the guy making the call is Pat Quinn - the same guy who has been complaining all training camp that his players 'only want to play offense' and that he doesn't have a guy who can 'centre a shut-down line'.

Quinn's stressing defense, and he has for all of training camp.

I can't imagine that isn't going to impact his final roster.

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#46 Jonathan Willis
September 26 2009, 07:53PM
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Fiveandagame wrote:

After seeing what Malholtra has signed for? Come on. Pouliot is history.

Malhotra turned down a 4yr/8MM dollar deal from Atlanta to sign a 1 yr/700K deal with San Jose.

The only reason I can think of for him doing something like that is because he wants to win.

Which end of the scale (Atlanta or San Jose) do you think Edmonton is closer to?

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#47 Jonathan Willis
September 26 2009, 07:57PM
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Superkk wrote:

As much as it pains me to say if they keep both Pisani and Pouliot the Oil don’t have a hope in hell of making the playoff!s!!

Absolutely. Generally, I find that the third-line RW and a 4th-line/press box guy are the key reasons a team wins or loses.

Neither of these guys bring any thing to the table and are a waste of a roster space!!!

Their combined 503 NHL games implies that coaches (and the rest of us) are seeing something you aren't.

I’d much rather keep MacIntyre over either of these these guys.

Except of course that MacIntyre's only skill is hurting people. Pouliot and Pisani play hockey.

At least Pouliot’s cheap, Pisani’s the most over paid player in the NHL!!!!

As Steve Staios shows, Pisani isn't even the most overpaid player on the Oilers' roster.

Also, given that Pisani takes up just over 4% of the team's cap space (1/25th, in other words) he's only being paid to be an average NHL player.

While I think he should be cheaper (since as a rule, offence gets paid and defence does not) he's not outrageously priced.

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#48 Jonathan Willis
September 26 2009, 08:00PM
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@ MattL:

How many small, offense-only forwards does this team have? (hint: a lot)

How many defensive centres who can win a faceoff does this team have? (hint: Horcoff)

Which deficiency needs addressing?

And I'm not advocating waiving Nilsson (since I'd either make a trade or ship out Stone) but it's pretty clear which this team needs more.

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#49 ronaldo
September 26 2009, 08:03PM
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If the choice was Nilsson vs Pouliot, disregarding who else is on the team, you pick Nilsson. But you have to look at the overall piture, the Oilers already have many Nilsson's, with more coming down the pipe. Pouliot is cheap and can play on any of the for four lines in a pinch, sort of like Joe Reasoner. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of Pouliot's play, although there is potential if he would strengthen up and be physical, but on this particular Oilers team, he is the better choice.

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#50 David S
September 26 2009, 08:10PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Which does this team need more?

I'd like to think the team needs to win more games. Whatever players help you do that should be the only thing at question.

There's two ways to go about it I suppose. Score more goals or lower GA's. So it comes down to which of those two options are we more likely to succeed at with the men available. The bet is: can a guy like Nilsson score more goals than a guy like Pouliot prevents? That assumes Nilsson can't add some defensive skills (which are learned rather than being god-given). I seem to remember he hustled back quite a bit during the latter part of the year last season. If he did a slightly better defensive job and still scored 20 or so, it would have to make you wonder.

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