October 03 2010 11:47AM
It's last chanceville for Richard Petiot, Theo Peckham and Shawn Belle as they will battle the Flames and each other for the final slot on the blueline. Ryan Whitney, Tom Gilbert, Kurtis Foster, Ladislav Smid, Jim Vandermeer and Jason Strudwick have the other six spots.
While Petiot has played very well in his first two games, he will need to be just as good, if not better, tonight if he wants to complete the Cinderella hometown-guy-makes-Oilers scenario. The harsh reality is that if Petiot stumbles a bit tonight, that will open the door for the Oilers to keep Peckham and send Petiot to the minors.
The Oilers are leery that if they make Peckham available someone will claim him on waivers. They thought the same thing last year with Liam Reddox, and it didn't happen. I'm not saying it won't this year, and I have invested nothing in Peckham, but if Petiot deserves to be here I'd like to see him stick.
Peckham was okay against the Flames on Friday, but we've yet to see much of his physical side. I'm not talking just fighting, but he needs to lean into a few Flames tonight and get noticed. I don't think Belle has much of a chance. He's only played one game so far, and was okay at best in that game. He is an incredible skater, but his decisions with the puck aren't great. He is a good depth guy, and we will probably see him in Edmonton at some point this season, just not to start the year.
Even when you look at the pairings tonight, you wonder if Peckham is not still slighty ahead of Petiot.
I will be curious to see how they distribute the minutes on the blueline tonight. Petiot has played well when he has played a lot, but when the regular season starts he'll be in the 3rd pairing and be playing less. It is hard to be as effective when you play fewer minutes. It is hard to stay in the game when you sit on the bench for longer stretches, so watch for how much icetime Petiot gets tonight. If he shows he can be just as effective with reduced minutes, he might just make the team. But if Peckham plays well tonight, I think he will be sticking with the big club.
I'm not sure who will start in goal, because yesterday Dubnyk mentioned to me that he thought he was starting. At this point, I don't think it really matters. No one within the organization has told me this, but I think Dubnyk will be the backup.
Up front I don't see any surprises.
Jones was okay his first game, despite being -3, and they like that he is a thick body, but I'm guessing he starts the season in the pressbox. I'll bet that MacIntyre starts opening night, and then Reddox plays against the Panthers on Sunday. I think Reddox and Jones will be the two extra forwards.
O'Marra has gotten better every game, but if Jones didn't have a one-way deal at $975,000 he might stay just because he can play centre. He and Chris Vande Velde will battle to be the first centre called up once the season starts. O'Marra's problem is that he is big, but doesn't use his size often enough. He needs to lean on some guys a bit more often. I just haven't seen enough "I want to really be here" from him during camp.
Omark has really impressed people with his offensive skill, but he'll most likely start the season in OKC. If he gets off to a great start down there, I think we will see him in Edmonton by December at the latest. They want him to be less of a freelancer in his own zone, and if he can show that in 15 or 20 games in the AHL he will get the call. Renney loves his determination to battle for lose pucks.
Cogliano was 50% in the dot on Wednesday, but he had Brule take the draws on the right side of the ice. Tonight he will probably take all of them, and we'll see if all his off-season work will start to pay off. If he is around 50%, he and the coaches will be happy.
Some are worried that JDD could get claimed on waivers, but I don't see that happening. The Sharks will waive Thomas Greiss and the Kings will expose Erik Ersberg. Ersberg makes $750,000 while Greiss is a $550,000 cap hit. Deslauriers makes a cool $1,050,000 and I don't think he has shown much more than either Ersberg or Greiss at this point.
The Wild signed Jose Theodore this weekend, so that one less team that might be interested in grabbing a goalie. The Nashville Predators seem the most likely to grab someone. I don't see them taking Deslauriers when he is the most expensive.
Some fans wondered if Shane O'Brien would have been an upgrade. If he was a better puck mover they might have put in a claim, but they have enough rugged guys in Vandermeer, Peckham and Strudwick that they didn't need another. If a team exposes a puck mover this week, then Oilers might think about it. If they get an injury to one of their top-four D-men they will be in trouble.