The real deal

Jason Gregor
September 28 2009 11:59AM

salt-mines-regular-season

The pre-season is done, and outside of JF Jacques and Mike Comrie there haven’t been any major surprises. The most pressing question still hasn’t been answered: Will the Oilers send a proven vet to the minors?

Last night’s re-assignment of Rob Schremp, Taylor Chorney, Kip Brennan, Devan Dubnyk and Jordan Eberle wasn’t a surprise to anyone who has been watching. The Oilers have the day off today, before they start working on their PP, PK and deciding who will be on the opening-day 23-man roster.

The final cuts have to be made by 1:00pm MST on Wednesday, and the Oilers could easily take every last second to decide who stays and who goes. We’ve debated for weeks who should be here, and shockingly, up until last night some actually thought Jacques shouldn’t be in the top 12.

Well, he’ll be in the top three come Saturday.

Jacques will start the season with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, while Dustin Penner, Comrie and Patrick O’Sullivan will be the 2nd line. The defence has been set since the start of camp, and the only minor surprise is that Lubomir Visnovsky and Sheldon Souray won’t be paired up together. It looks like the pairings will be 44/24, 77/37 and 71/5 with Jason Strudwick the extra guy.

Andrew Cogliano will start on the wing with Sam Gagner, but who skates with them will be decided this week. Ethan Moreau is the leading candidate, and he practiced yesterday so his health isn’t a question mark. Ryan Stone, Fernando Pisani and Robert Nilsson are the other options, and Pat Quinn’s comments about Stone last night lead you to believe that Stone will be one of the 14 forwards come Saturday.

Gilbert Brule and Zack Stortini will be on the 4th line, while their left winger will be Pisani, Nilsson or Stone.

I still don’t see Stone as a long-term solution in Edmonton, but I give him credit for working his way into the conversation. I think Reddox will be re-assigned for sure, and while Quinn hinted last week that Marc Pouliot and Pisani might get the “veteran-benefit-of-the-doubt” stay of execution, he can’t keep to that if Stone makes this team. The numbers just don’t add up then.

That leaves Steve MacIntyre, Liam Reddox, Nilsson, Pisani, and Pouliot to battle for the final two spots. Steve Tambellini will be working the phones in the next 48 hours to try to get something for one, or possibly two of these four players. If he finds a taker, he’ll jump at it. The Oilers love Reddox’s versatility and his compete level, and while he is a long shot, if they can get a deal for Pouliot, Nilsson or Pisani they’d keep Reddox. Some in the organization think he is a cheaper version of Pisani.

What did we learn?

I can’t get a clear read on what the Oilers will do with their final two cuts, so let’s turn our focus to some things that have been overlooked.

Comrie had 10 points, in five games. Pre-season points mean nothing now, but it showed his offensive instincts are still there. Many wondered why the Oilers needed another small forward, but so far Comrie has shown he is much different than Gagner, Cogliano, and Nilsson. He can produce, which is the most important factor. Comrie and O’Sullivan had instant chemistry and if they can get off to a decent start that should take some pressure of the first line.

After only scoring five goals last year, Tom Gilbert vowed he’d shoot the puck more and he did scoring three times in five games. Tom Renney wants his defence to be more aggressive in the defensive zone and he has been pushing Gilbert to jump into the rush a bit more. Two of his goals came when he was the late guy into the offensive zone, and he skates well enough that he should do that more often.

Jacques was given an opportunity and so far he has taken advantage of it. Tambellini said he wanted this team to get bigger, and they did by promoting Jacques. If he continues to play tough, and shows the soft hands (pass to Horcoff last night) he’ll become a fan favourite very quickly.

Anyone who thought Hemsky wasn’t about the system should have watched last night. I sat in the crowd, row nine, and saw up close how sick this guy is. His vision, foot and hand speed is incredible. He didn’t get an assist on Jacques’ goal, but he started the play with a great pass back to Souray. He was dangerous all night, and he might be a better skater than Cogliano. This system demands more skating, so Hemsky should flourish.

I like Penner better with 91 and 19. They play a bit more a cycling game than 10 and 83 and that plays more into Penner’s game. Plus Jacques skates better and is more aggressive, so he’ll protect Hemsky more.

They still haven’t improved in the dot, so that will be a work in progress, but moving Cogliano to the wing automatically makes them better in the draw.

What needs to improve

Their special teams.

Last year the Oilers were competitive five-on-five. They scored 152 goals five-on-five and gave up 150, but they lost the battle on special teams.

They gave up 76 PP goals, and scored 60. The Oilers had the 11th most PP opportunities last year with 354 chances. They finished 22nd on the PP at 17%.

On the PK they were way worse. They were shorthanded the 16th most, 338 times, but only four teams gave up more PP goals than the Oilers’ 76 and they were a woeful 77.5%.

If they improve their special teams by a combined 6% and get to a 100 between the PP and PK then they should be in the playoffs.

Practice on both units will intensify this week, and it will go a long way in deciding if the Oilers end their three-year drought of not getting an invite to the post-season dance.

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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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#51 ScubaSteve
September 28 2009, 12:47PM
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@ venue:

MAP can play wing as well, whereas Reddox does not play center. MAP is the more versatile player, making him ideal for a 14th spot, since he can be slotted in anywhere in the line-up.

I don't see either of these guys making any kind of impact on the team anyway, but from a skill, experience, money, and waiver perspective, MAP is the obvious choice.

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#52 Tayranchula
September 28 2009, 12:47PM
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I think if JFJ can play like he did with Hemsky and Horcs in the preseason in the reg. season that will make the oilers top 2 lines alot bigger and alot more dangerous. Having him crash and bang and grit it up (unlike Penner)will create alot more turn overs for Hemsky and Horcs. If JFJ can play a full season with te top line i could see him getting 15 goals and 40 points. Just a prediction. Also having some pressure off Penner and a new coach might make him turn back into Anahiem form when he had no pressure or anything on him, plus POS and Comrie are dynamite together so far. I think the bottom 2 lines should be Cogs gagner Nilson Moreau Brule Stortini

trade pisani for something and get rid of his contract. also have stone the next in line for a call up.

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#53 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 12:47PM
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@ ScubaSteve: @ venue: Reddox has better wheels and way more tenacity than Pouliot. Pouliot has the size advantage, but doesn't use it. The problem Reddox faces is that he's the only forward with a 2-way contract without waiver implications. Pouliot wins. At this point, both are poor-mans Pisani.

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#54 ScubaSteve
September 28 2009, 12:48PM
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RossCreek wrote:

At this point, both are poor-mans Pisani.

Lol, maybe a homeless man's Pisani.

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#55 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 12:50PM
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ScubaSteve wrote:

whereas Reddox does not play center

He played a few pre-season games at center, and if I'm not mistaken, played center in jr.

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#56 Matt
September 28 2009, 12:51PM
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@ Gregor

If you look at the skill set on both forward and defence. Should this team not be good 4 on 4 with all the open ice? Seems as though there are a few good pairings that could really do good with the open ice to work with.

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#57 venue
September 28 2009, 12:53PM
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RossCreek wrote:

Reddox has better wheels and way more tenacity than Pouliot. Pouliot has the size advantage, but doesn’t use it.

My point exactly.

I never thought about the contractual implications. In that case, sadly we will be stuck with MAP.

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#58 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 01:00PM
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From our buddy Ek...

One of the more dynamic players you will ever see is on waivers. Robbie Schremp is available for any who would like to grab him. While some say there is interest, one GM told me today when I asked him if he might have interest he responded. "None. Zero. He will sail on through." Yet it is hard to believe with teams out there like Nashville, Atlanta, and the Isles, that someone wouldn't take a shot.

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#59 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 01:00PM
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@ RossCreek: Everyone played center in Junior.

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#60 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 01:01PM
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@ Ogden Brother Jr.: LOL. Touche.

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#61 LBH
September 28 2009, 01:05PM
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@ RossCreek

Really? Ek has a GM contact? Interesting, but I don't believe him still.

However, it will be very interesting to see what happens to Schremp

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#62 oilman007
September 28 2009, 01:07PM
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I'd say line 3 should be Cogliano-Gagner-Pisani. Monkeying around on hockeyanalysis.com looking at average GF/20-GA/20 with Cogs/Gags shows Moreau is the worst option out of Pisani (+.541), Nilsson(-.06), Moreau(-.081). Obviously no stats on Stone but we all know Pisani is the better player.

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#63 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 01:09PM
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@ LBH: I wouldn't doubt that he has contacts with eithe Holmgren or Poille, the problem is he also has contacts with the janitors of the Wachovia and Sommet center.

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#64 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 01:11PM
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@ Ogden Brother Jr.: Whats his connection to Nashville?

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#65 Ogden Brother
September 28 2009, 01:12PM
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oilman007 wrote:

I’d say line 3 should be Cogliano-Gagner-Pisani. Monkeying around on hockeyanalysis.com looking at average GF/20-GA/20 with Cogs/Gags shows Moreau is the worst option out of Pisani (+.541), Nilsson(-.06), Moreau(-.081). Obviously no stats on Stone but we all know Pisani is the better player.

I think Pie makes alot of sense with those two. Give them soft minutes and they should be very productive in the goals for/against catagory.

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#66 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 01:17PM
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@ RossCreek: I don't know, something when they were going to be moved he did a lot of work with them.

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#67 LBH
September 28 2009, 01:18PM
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@ Ogden Brother Jr.: and we all know how well connected the janitors are to the top brass within organizations

see: Fortune starring in "Rudy"

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#68 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 01:30PM
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Anyone catch Quinn mention "Morning Glory's" yesterday? (In reference to certain types of skill players not being gamers, just practice players) Robert Nilsson anyone?

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#69 LBH
September 28 2009, 01:31PM
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@ RossCreek: ya i heard that, don't think it was just nilsson though, i think schremp fell into that category

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#70 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 01:37PM
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Randy Jones vs Steve Staios

??

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#71 Hemmertime
September 28 2009, 01:38PM
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Bill Rizer wrote:

Forsberg? Really Forsberg? Wow I hope I am not alone in terror that an Oilers fan actually wants Forsberg on this team.

A one foot, one leg Forsberg would still be our #2 Scorer behind Hemmer.

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#72 SkinnyD
September 28 2009, 01:39PM
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Pisani isn't going anywhere...

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#73 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 01:41PM
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@ RossCreek: Randy has cleared waivers so it would have to be some sort of a trade now.

I guess the bright spot would be Jones only has one year left on his current deal. It would open up a spot if there were someone to make the jump next year.

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#74 RossCreek
September 28 2009, 01:42PM
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@ Ogden Brother Jr.: Didn't realize he cleared. Wasn't sure he was even officially waived yet.

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#75 swany
September 28 2009, 01:42PM
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SkinnyD wrote:

Pisani isn’t going anywhere…

I don't know about that, someone will go and it will be a vet. We have traded away every captain we've had can anyone say Moreau, I think with Quinn saying Stone is here Pies or Moreau are on the block.

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#76 LBH
September 28 2009, 01:45PM
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@ swany: if we move moreau, we kill multiple birds with one stone.

1) get rid of a contract that burdens our cap 2) it allows Quinn to choose his own Captain without being "the bad guy" for stripping the C 3) it allows a younger, cheaper version of Moreau the opportunity to play

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#77 Tommy
September 28 2009, 01:46PM
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@Gregor or anyone really

Is there anywhere we can check on the status of the waiver wire or is it all behind closed doors?

I checked NHL.com but don't see anything.

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#78 Ogden Brother
September 28 2009, 01:48PM
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LBH wrote:

3) it allows a younger, cheaper version of Moreau the opportunity to play

Sadly we don't have that guy.

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#79 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 01:49PM
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@ RossCreek: I don't even Schremp listed on Transactions anywhere yet either.

How about Pisani or Moore? Why would you pick up Pisani if you could probably sign Moore for 1-1.5mil?

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#80 SkinnyD
September 28 2009, 01:50PM
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swany wrote:

SkinnyD wrote: Pisani isn’t going anywhere… I don’t know about that, someone will go and it will be a vet. We have traded away every captain we’ve had can anyone say Moreau, I think with Quinn saying Stone is here Pies or Moreau are on the block.

Meh, that was just a sad attempt at a Daryl Katz text.

But really - I don't see Moreau or Pisani being shipped out - or Staios for that matter. If the Comrie signing is any indication, Katz has a mandate to give the impression that we treat players well here. Similar to Draper in Detroit - he'll retire eventually, on his own terms, as a Red Wing. I'd be surprised if Moreau, Pisani or Staios weren't allowed to do the same.

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#81 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 01:52PM
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@ Ogden Brother: I thought that was Eberle last week

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#82 LBH
September 28 2009, 01:52PM
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@ Ogden Brother: so a guy who has decent speed, throws the occassional body check, can PK, average defensively...

i think that sounds like a Red Ox to me. Not saying reddox is at moreau's level as we speak this season, but in a limited role, like moreau will play, reddox can fill that void.. or maybe a stone? i'm not 100% on stone myself

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#83 Woodguy
September 28 2009, 02:03PM
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RossCreek wrote:

Anyone catch Quinn mention “Morning Glory’s” yesterday? (In reference to certain types of skill players not being gamers, just practice players) Robert Nilsson anyone?

Pretty sure that pertained to Gagner as well.

He called out both "London Knights" earlier in the pre-season for not playing both sides of the puck.

He has also talked about "2 year vets not showing up"

Pretty sure Quinn wouldn't have Gagner on his team, and based on how Gagner has played (except for stripping the puck from Lecavalier) I wouldn't blame him.

Looked a little better playing with Colgliano, but hasn't looked great.

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#84 Ogden Brother
September 28 2009, 02:18PM
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LBH wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: so a guy who has decent speed, throws the occassional body check, can PK, average defensively… i think that sounds like a Red Ox to me. Not saying reddox is at moreau’s level as we speak this season, but in a limited role, like moreau will play, reddox can fill that void.. or maybe a stone? i’m not 100% on stone myself

Reddox has no where near the size/physical play/tenacity that Moreau has. You'd be purposely downgradig the roster (of a bubble team that desperately needs to make the playoffs) to save a few dollars.

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#85 swany
September 28 2009, 02:26PM
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SkinnyD wrote:

swany wrote: SkinnyD wrote: Pisani isn’t going anywhere… I don’t know about that, someone will go and it will be a vet. We have traded away every captain we’ve had can anyone say Moreau, I think with Quinn saying Stone is here Pies or Moreau are on the block. Meh, that was just a sad attempt at a Daryl Katz text. But really – I don’t see Moreau or Pisani being shipped out – or Staios for that matter. If the Comrie signing is any indication, Katz has a mandate to give the impression that we treat players well here. Similar to Draper in Detroit – he’ll retire eventually, on his own terms, as a Red Wing. I’d be surprised if Moreau, Pisani or Staios weren’t allowed to do the same.

It' been noted that Nashville has asked about Pies and Nilsson (the team 1260) with Quinn likeing Stone so much it could be there is a deal comming, While I agree with you on treating players well here, but time catches everyone and we are seeing youth pass them by. This organization has traded alot of players that we thought would never move after all it's still a buisness. I have to think as you do it will be Nilsson to get traded or sent when Pies is ready to play. Can Pies get 20 goals playing with Cogs and Gagner?

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#86 snoodles
September 28 2009, 02:28PM
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mmmm pies....

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#87 swany
September 28 2009, 02:30PM
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I don't want to sound cold hearted but with all the injuries Pies has had of late maybe he should retire. Colitis, broken leg now a bad back, who knows how much he can even play this year, and I love the way he plays, hopefully he can stay healthy and be productive on the 3rd line with Cogs and Gags

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#88 I'm a Scientist!
September 28 2009, 02:35PM
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swany wrote:

Can Pies get 20 goals playing with Cogs and Gagner?

I think so, but not with third line minutes. That is a pretty big demand for anyone on the third line.

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#89 Jimmer
September 28 2009, 02:37PM
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Gregor, would a guy like Jarred Smithson(NAS) help the Oilers PK? In him I see a 6'3 200+ pound C/RW that has a right handed shot and was Nashville's go to guy in defensive zone and short handed face offs last year.

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#90 BarryS
September 28 2009, 02:39PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

swany wrote: Can Pies get 20 goals playing with Cogs and Gagner? I think so, but not with third line minutes. That is a pretty big demand for anyone on the third line.

One of the problems with the team I think is many players have to long of shifts. shorter shifts mean better results from all lines in my opinon

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#91 swany
September 28 2009, 02:45PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

swany wrote: Can Pies get 20 goals playing with Cogs and Gagner? I think so, but not with third line minutes. That is a pretty big demand for anyone on the third line.

I don't think you can rweally call Cogs, Gagner, Pies a 3rd line they will get the soft min and I think they can really produce (if pies can stay healthy). They should all get around 12-14 min a night with the 4th line of Moreau, Brule, Storts all around 10 min. The rest give to your top 2 lines. The way Quinn is rounding out the lineup you can see he wants to spread out the scoring so Horc and Hemmer don't play 18-20 min a night more like 16-18 min a night that will save them for the end run and the Playoffs (knocks wood repeatedly)

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#92 rimjob
September 28 2009, 02:46PM
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Can anyone honestly say they feel the team is a contemder for the cup this year, and on that note who else thinks both sharks and flamers will choke first round come post season?

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#93 Jimmy
September 28 2009, 02:51PM
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@ rimjob:

I don't think anyone's expecting a cup run. Most people seem to be cautiously optimistic in thinking we'll end up as 8th seed and get knocked out early.

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#94 Phil
September 28 2009, 02:51PM
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If Visnovsky and Smid are paired together come Oct.3, I will be ABSOLUTELY ECSTATIC.

Smid is ready to take that next step and quite frankly, as good as Gilbert and Grebeshkov are, Edmonton should be looking to move one or the other at some point during the season for either picks or some grit/scoring up front.

I'm very high on Ladi, he is the EXACT type of guy this Edmonton Oiler roster needs, another piece of the puzzle if you will, would bring much stability/balance to the back end. Intensity, compete, grit and size also combined with silky smooth puck handling ability and excellent skating.

Smid is a potential stud and playing with Visnovsky would be absolutely huge for his developement, these 2 are like ying & yang for each other.

Souray and Staios pairing looks like it has horrible potential, Stevey Stay-At-Home needs to be bannished immediately, as good a character guy as he is.

Souray-Gilbert Visnovsk-Smid Grebeshkov-???

Extremely solid D-core.

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#95 Fish
September 28 2009, 02:53PM
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@ rimjob: I don't think anyone suggesting the Oilers are going to win the cup this year, but I do believe they will make the playoffs.

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#96 jake
September 28 2009, 02:55PM
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Chris. wrote:

@ Gregor: I totally agree with you about Hemsky’s skating. In an interview last year, Steve Serdachny said that Hemsky was the Oilers “best” skater. Glad to see him finally turn on the jets a bit.

I think/hope the systems that Quinn is trying to get his players to buy into will result in better organized defensive zone coverage and break outs from D-zone. This will allow Hemsky et al. to use their speed more in transition throught the neutral zone and put the D back on their heels. When Hemsky is skating at top speed, he is much more dangerous than those dipsy doodles at at offensive blue line. What I like too is Jacques will be able to keep up with him and do some crashing and banging. (all theoretical of course, need to see it on the ice)

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#97 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 02:57PM
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@ swany: I said since the end of last year he has to prove himself to be healthy. I really don't care if they are freak accidents. To me he is injury prone until he proves otherwise.

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#98 rimjob
September 28 2009, 02:58PM
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has anyone else noticed the winds of sh it?

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#99 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 02:58PM
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Jimmy wrote:

@ rimjob: I don’t think anyone’s expecting a cup run. Most people seem to be cautiously optimistic in thinking we’ll end up as 8th seed and get knocked out early.

x2

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#100 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 28 2009, 03:00PM
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@ rimjob: From the east? Must be all those buses that went back to Sask, all that hot air and exhaust is giving us those winds you speak of.

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