NEW LINES, OR JUST KEEPING THINGS FRESH?

Jason Gregor
October 19 2010 01:40PM

Tom Renney juggled his top three lines in practice this morning at Millenium Place, but was this just a way to get the attention of his players, or will Renney keep these new combinations in tact for Thursday's game v. the Wild?


 After practice Renney hinted this might have only been to keep guys fresh, and to get a chance to see how guys reacted and played with new linemates, but I don't see why after being away from the ice for two days Renney would just put together lines for the sake of it.

The Oilers aren't generating enough shots of scoring chances, so it doesn't seem like a stretch that he would try some new combinations.

Ales Hemsky will have Shawn Horcoff in the middle and Magnus Paajarvi on the left side. Horcoff and Hemsky haven't played that much together over the past two seasons due to injury, but they know how to play with one another, and Paajarvi has the speed to play with both of them. I'm curious who will shoot the puck amongst the three of them though?

Dustin Penner will stay with Sam Gagner, but now they will have Jordan Eberle on the right side. This combination intrigues me. Wayne Gretzky used to say this game is all about finding two-on-ones on the ice, and Gagner and Eberle think and play the game in a similar fashion.

Neither of them is overly fast or strong and they have to rely on their instincts and use their linemates to create chances. They might lose the odd battle due to their size, but I'm curious to see how they work off each other. Eberle and Gagner need to read off each other, use quick give-and-goes and distribute the puck quickly to have success. Gagner is the natural passer and Eberle likes to shoot, so we'll see if they can build some chemistry along with Penner.

Taylor Hall will now play with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule. They have speed to burn, but will they move the puck quick enough and will they stay close enough so they can support the puck properly?

One practice doesn't show you much, and Renney did suggest he switched the lines to change things up and get a look at different combinations. But speaking to the players after practice, they all seemed to think these would be the new line combos come Thursday.

With so many days off between games Renney does have the luxury of trying some new looks, but I suspect this was more than a test run, and we will most likely see these combos on Thursday.

Yesterday Renney hinted that it might be easier to have two "veterans" and one rookie on each line, so it shouldn't surprise us that the new line combos have exactly that. I suspect this will be the first of many "line juggling" from Renney this season. I doubt he will find three combos that all produce at the same time, and in a season where the Oilers are trying to develop six forwards, I think new line combos will be the norm rather than the exception all season long.

FINE CAUSES BARBS 

Tom Gilbert has never been considered a physical defenceman, never mind a cheap shot artist, so his $2,500 fine surprised quite a few people. Gilbert was careful with what he said about the fine, but you could tell he didn't really agree with it. He thought he was just making a play on the puck.

His teammates had some fun with him today with Ladislav Smid announcing that he will probably see a lot more wingers come down his side in order to avoid the "dirty" Gilbert. During interviews Gilbert had a hard time not laughing as Jason Strudwick walked by giving him the gears about his new reputation.

I don't think the fine will affect Gilbert other than in his wallet. He rarely is a physical presence, so I doubt he will think twice the next time to goes to hit a player, and I don't see him garnering any sort of reputation around the league either. The fine looked to be a weak attempt by the league to get a player's attention.

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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 Team Hall
October 19 2010, 09:08PM
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Yes, as JG himself pointed out, the indirect headshot should be looked at seriously as well. You hit a guy from behind and his head bounces off the glass, but, that's ok, because you didnt hit him directly in the head? Come on, Smid could've been concussed on that play just as bad as a headshot.

I think that unless some specatacular person goes on the waiver wire, we just hold our cards. We would all be fuming if we dealt Cogs and he developed into a good player. Maybe he will mesh with Hallsy.

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#52 Rogue
October 19 2010, 09:35PM
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Maybe KLowe can hand his nick to Gilbert. "Vicious". Personally I like "The Garrote"

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#53 SK Oiler Fan
October 19 2010, 10:11PM
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So who are the two vets on the Hall Cogs Brule Line?

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#54 C-DOG
October 19 2010, 11:05PM
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David S wrote:

I'm stunned. Cogliano isn't working out at C, so why not try him back on the wing and let him fly. Worst case is Brule sucks on the dot too while Cogs backs off the opposing D with his speed. I mean, what have we got to lose? I'm not quite sure what the rationale behind keeping him at C is when its painfully obvious he'd be better on a wing.

At least it will help the draft position!!

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#55 C-DOG
October 19 2010, 11:08PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

We'll never know who would struggle more. His F/O % isnt good so far this season (as expected for an 18 yr old) but so far he seems to shoot more than Hall with much less ice time and HAS scored his 1st NHL goal. But it's really too early to make judgements.

Seguin 9-4 in faceoffs tonight.

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#56 Wanyes bastard child
October 19 2010, 11:17PM
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When did they hold the practice at Millenium place today? I was there until 10am this morning working on the new bulkhead in the front reception area and never saw them. Just curious.

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#57 Oilertown
October 19 2010, 11:25PM
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Have to agree with those hits from behind into the boards they are way more common IMO. And just as or more dangerous ie. More assortment of possible injuries IMO. ;)

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#58 book¡e
October 19 2010, 11:59PM
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C-DOG wrote:

Seguin 9-4 in faceoffs tonight.

To be honest, he could have had a hat trick tonight and it still would mean nothing in terms of long term outcomes.

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#59 DN
October 20 2010, 06:47AM
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What can folks tell me about Brad Moran.. leads OKC statistically right now. What is his % on the dot ?

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#60 OttawaOilFan
October 20 2010, 08:08AM
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It could just be that I'm an uninformed Ottawa Oil fan but is it possible that the reason Brule hasn't been moved to center (even though it's only been 4 games) other then taking draws on his backhand, is that he's told Renney he prefers to play wing over center? Any chance of this Gregor?

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#61 hoil
October 20 2010, 09:16AM
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MPS/Horcov/Hemsky is should be OK, but I have some doubts.

Penner/Gagner/Eberle should be money. Of course Penner works on any line.

Hall/Cogliano/Brule is supposed to let Hall get a chance at third pairing Dmen. It also lets other teams get a chance at three of the weakest defensive players in the Oiler top 9. I don't see this line looking any better with Hall than it did with Paajarvi. Especially since Paajarvi's backchecking was one of the only bright spots for that line in the first few games.

Another option?

Hall/Horcov/Hemsky Paajarvi/Gagner/Eberle Penner/Cogliano/Brule

This is decidedly unfair to Penner, the best of the LWers at this time, but it stabilizes the 3rd line and he has worked well with Brule before. The PGE line should be competitive with some relatively softer minutes. Hall is a scorer and with Horcov riding shotgun to cover for him he could click with Hemsky. Running him out there against top line competition is probably not going to be pretty in the short term, but if they are going with a rookie on each line, someone has to go first.

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#62 Wiggleswag
October 20 2010, 09:33AM
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Hall, Cogs and Brule line could see Hall taking some draws.

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#63 D-Man
October 20 2010, 10:02AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

We'll never know who would struggle more. His F/O % isnt good so far this season (as expected for an 18 yr old) but so far he seems to shoot more than Hall with much less ice time and HAS scored his 1st NHL goal. But it's really too early to make judgements.

Of course it's early, but we also have to remember the supporting cast he's around. He may seem to shoot more because there isn't nearly as much pressure on him. Seguin has a better supporting cast to play with and can have easier minutes than he would in Edmonton.

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#64 Archaeologuy
October 20 2010, 10:48AM
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@D-Man

Sure, but he was a shooting, goal-scoring, Centreman in juniour and it SEEMS he's continuing that trend in the NHL.

He definitely has a better supporting cast. Too early. I hope I'm wrong that the Oilers selected Hall because his TEAM was good instead of taking the best player.

I'm sure this is something I will be watching for the next 10 years.

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#65 dohfOs
October 20 2010, 11:09AM
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The "new" top-lines didn't last long. Or well, guess Renney's just mixing it up trying different lines to see what goes best.. Personally, I kinda liked the depth on yesterdays practice lines more. But Renney ought to know better then me I suppose. Our 4 games old top-line is back, the only change from the "original" lines now are that MPS and Hall have switched lines with each other.

From the official Oilers twitter: Oilers switch up top two lines again this morning: Paajarvi - Horcoff - Eberle / Penner - Gagner - Hemsky.

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#67 Cowbell_Feva
October 20 2010, 04:06PM
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Horcoff back riding Hemsky's coat tails. I can't wait to hear all the Horc lovers talking about how he is a PPG player. HAHa. Only in Edmonton.

Poor Ales, if he had someone who could score on an empty net with a defenseman playing goal, he would average 60 apples a year.

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#68 hoil
October 20 2010, 06:17PM
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@Cowbell_Feva

I hate to use facts on a Cowbell, but what the hay:

If you had been paying attention so far this season, you would have noticed Horcoff hasn't been playing on Hemsky's line. He has been between Hall and Eberle most shifts. His 2 goals weren't assisted by Hemsky, and his 1 assist wasn't to Hemsky. By the way, that is 3 points, 4 games, so no PPG.

Nice try with the blindfolded assumptions about Horcoff "lovers", Hemsky "coat tails" and "only in Edmonton", but you are pretty much demonstratably wrong on all counts.

Everyone is free to express their opinions (within reason and website rules), but you might want to actually watch a game before you share your next one. Or not, it might make it tougher to fit your conclusions to the actual facts.

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#69 Wanyes bastard child
October 20 2010, 06:25PM
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@hoil

Its no use dude, I don't think i've seen one post out of that guy that isn't an inaccurate bash on Horcoff. Actually, thinking about it, I think all his posts are inaccurate bashing of Horcoff.

It's easier to just do as I do, recognize the posters that are insightful/fun to read and then recognize those that aren't and just skip them.

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#70 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 20 2010, 10:14PM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

Horcoff back riding Hemsky's coat tails. I can't wait to hear all the Horc lovers talking about how he is a PPG player. HAHa. Only in Edmonton.

Poor Ales, if he had someone who could score on an empty net with a defenseman playing goal, he would average 60 apples a year.

Hey it's the raving lunatic beating his one trick pony!!

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#71 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 20 2010, 10:29PM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

Horcoff back riding Hemsky's coat tails. I can't wait to hear all the Horc lovers talking about how he is a PPG player. HAHa. Only in Edmonton.

Poor Ales, if he had someone who could score on an empty net with a defenseman playing goal, he would average 60 apples a year.

Just heard Renney talking about Hall needing to play up to Horcs level.

But I guess the lunatic has outsmarted another pro-coach.

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#72 Lochenzo
October 21 2010, 09:48AM
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I think changing lines keeps things fresh. For the fans and the players. I think Taylor could use a look on a different line. He has the puck on his stick lots. But he's needs to learn to protect the puck better and just seems to be a stride out of position when he doesn't have the puck. I see the ability and his reads are good. He just needs to get there faster. These things will fall into place for him very soon.

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