GETTING TO CRUNCH TIME

Jason Gregor
September 28 2010 02:35PM

WIth only three preseason games left, the bubble boys have precious time to try and convince Tom Renney to keep them here or receive, what is most likely a one-way ticket to the OKC. Depending on injuries, most of the remaining cuts won't see the light of Rexall Place again this season, so they need to be at their best Wednesday and Friday.

The reality is that even their best won't be good enough.

The Oilers were on the ice for just under two hours this morning at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park, and here's how the lines look to shape up for tomorrow's tilt v. Phoenix.

Ales Hemksky/Sam Gagner/Magnus Paajarvi
Dustin Penner/Andrew Cogliano/Gilbert Brule
Liam Reddox/Colin Fraser/Ryan Jones
Alex Giroux/Ryan O'Marra/Colin McDonald

Ladislav Smid/Alex Plante
Taylor Chorney/Tom Gilbert
Richard Petiot/Kurtis Foster

Jeff Deslauriers
Martin Gerber

TALKING LINEUPS

Look for Deslauriers to play the entire game. He has only faced eight shots so far this preseason and the Oilers need to see how he looks. Renney liked how he played in his 30 minutes against the Canucks, but this will most likely be Deslauriers only chance to shine. He needs to play well tomorrow, but even if he does I still think it won't be enough. Renney said he has tried to evaluate his goalies based on how they play this camp, so JDD needs to play well tonight of Renney will have an easy decision on his backup.

The top two lines seemed destined to start the regular season together, and don't be surprised to see Brule and Penner take some of the draws in place of Cogliano. Brule will most likely take the draws on the right side of the ice, because he'll be on his backhand, while Cogliano/Penner will take the draws on the left side. Renney will give Cogliano a chance to show he can win draws, but Brule told me today that he and Cogliano have already discussed some faceoff strategy that should put both of them in a better position to win draws.

It will be interesting to see how Reddox and Jones play. Only one of them will make the opening night roster, and maybe neither if Renney's dresses Steve MacIntyre v. Calgary, but Jones and Reddox are battlling for the RW spot on the 4th line. Ryan Rishaug mentioned on my show yesterday that he thinks there might be a slight disconnect between the coaches and management when it comes to Reddox and Jones.

Renney really likes Reddox, while management picked Jones off waivers last year so they would like to see what he can do. Ultimately it will be Renney's decision, but I can see how the politics/protect assets argument will come into play. Reddox is a better penalty killer, and at this point I'm not sure what Jones does better to be honest. He isn't an agitator, he isn't big enough to be a banger and he doesn't fight. He might be better suited as a 3rd line winger, but that won't happen on this team.

I don't see Giroux, O'Marra (sorry LT) or McDonald being in the mix at all. Giroux hasn't shown the offence needed to stick, while O'Marra and McDonald have just been okay. Neither one has stood out to this point, and I don't see them sticking through the weekend.

The blue line has three pairings with guys who are locks to make the team in Smid, Foster and Gilbert, while the other three are longshots. Petiot played well with Gilbert last Thursday, and he needs to continue playing the same way. "He can play. If we can see some consistency in some of the things that have been lacking in the past, he's got a shot to play in the NHL. I like his mobility, he passes it well, he shoots it well and I think what he has to do is be real confident and assert himself," said Renney.

Plante has shown lots of improvement since last year, but he is still a year away from really pushing for a job. Chorney, in my mind, has fallen down the depth chart and I don't see him being a part of the future of this team. Jeff Petry has surpassed him as a puck mover, and Chorney isn't big enough to play a physical game. You can never have too many puck movers, but Chorney hasn't stood out at all in this camp and is probably 10th or 11th on the depth chart now.

QUICK HITS

  • Ryan Whitney didn't skate today. He rode the bike for brief stint before practice, but he still has a slight headache from taking that puck in the face on Sunday. He doesn't have a concussion, but they are going to ease him back in to the daily routiine. Renney expects him to be fine by the weekend.
     
  • Renney hinted that he'd like to give JDD, Khabibulin and Dubnyk a full game each in the remaining three. I wonder if he'll play Khabibulin on Friday and if he plays well go to Dubnyk on Sunday, but if Khabibulin struggles maybe he'll get a third start just to be sharpen up for the season. We will see.
     
  • Steve Tambellini didn't want to discuss if he's had conversations with Minnesota regarding goaltending, but Jim Matheson asked him so I wonder if the Wild are sniffing around now that Josh Harding is out for the year.
     
  • Renney is really big on leadership, so expect Jason Strudwick to make the team. It is an intangible that many don't understand, but Renney loves how Strudwick can make the rookies feel welcome and comfortable, but also help the leaders lead.
     
  • Shawn Belle and Theo Peckham will most likely play Friday v. the Flames. Both guys need to play better than they have, but I still think Peckham has a slight edge as the number seven.
     
  • There has been so much focus on the rookies so far, and they have delivered, but I can't help but think Gagner is a guy who needs to emerge this season. It looks like he'll start with Hemsky and Paajarvi on his wings. He has slimmed down and looks quicker, but he needs to make an impact on the ice this year and he won't get a better opportunity than starting with Hemsky.

FINAL WORD

I was scanning the blog world yesterday and came upon David Staples article that referenced this article on MC79hockey.com I've seen many bloggers question the thoughts of other bloggers or MSM guys, so I thought I'd chime in on Dellow's idea to send down Hall and Paajarvi.

I had tried to go to his site this morning and read the article in it's entirety but kept getting an error message saying that the bandwidth for the site had been exceeded. I guess writing a bunch of inaccurate statements and having it referenced at the Journal brought the house down.

Anyways, here is his opening line courtesy of Staples' site.

 "I’ve made the argument about burning years off the entry level contracts of rookies before. It’s a simple enough proposition: you only get three years with these guys on entry level contracts and you might as well use them when the player in question is a stronger player.

As I’ve pointed out before, on teams like Detroit and New Jersey, teenagers virtually never make the team. There was lots of talk, when the Oilers installed Tambellini as general manager, that they were moving towards more of a Detroit model. I made this point then, but there’s more to doing what Detroit does than having a lot of people in your management group. They do smart things, like not forcing teenagers into the lineup and wasting their cheap years on 45 point seasons."

Comparing what the Devils and Red Wings have done with their kids to Hall and Paajarvi is inaccurate and completely off-base. Since 1992 the Wings haven't had one pick in the top twenty, Jakub Kindl went 19th in 2005, while the Devils have only had one Zach Parise, 17th overall in 2003, top twenty pick since 1996. And FYI, Zach Parise spent one year in NCAA and then his ECL kicked in when he played in the AHL during the lockout. So I can't help but think that  the Devils did the exact same thing with Parise that the Oilers are going to do with Paajarvi.

And come on - of course the Wings haven't rushed any players, because none of them were ready to play in the NHL at 18. A perennial top-five hockey team is blessed with lots of talent and then can bring along players slowly. Bottom feeder teams don't have that luxury.

Suggesting the Oilers send Hall down, and Paajarvi back to Sweden so they get a more mature player is nothing more than speculation. 

Sure players will be a year older, but by playing in lower leagues will their games get better and prepare them more for the NHL? I don't see how Hall would be able to adapt to the speed and quickness of the NHL next year any better than this year. He needs to experience it first hand and adjust accordingly. And if he is ready now, let him play.

And can anyone name the last top-ten pick who stayed a year in Europe after being drafted, then came to camp as a 19-year-old, had a great preseason, but then was sent back to Europe, just to delay the start of his ELC? It doesn't make sense on so many levels. You don't send a player back to Europe who is better than the guy you would keep in his place, just to delay the start of his contract.

Another FYI...Datsyuk scored 35 and 51 points his first two years in the league. So even having him come over as 23-year-old didn't prevent the Wings from avoiding wasting his "cheap" years on 45-point seasons. Zetrterberg was a 22-year-old rookie and tallied 44 and 43 points his first two seasons. Again those "cheap" years still garned around 45 points.

The last forward who was taken 1st overall who didn't play in the NHL in his draft year was Eric Lindros. He didn't play because he wasnt' good enough, it was because he refused to go to Quebec. And playing that extra year out of the NHL didn't make him realize he needed to keep his head up anymore now did it!

The reason first overall picks go straight to the NHL is because they can compete and are better players than guys picked late in the first round like or later rounds like the Wings have drafted. Not to mention the the teams that get the first pick rarely have more talented players to keep ahead of them.

Suggesting that the Oilers would get more bang for their buck by sending Hall and Paajarvi away just to delay the start of their contract in an attempt to stretch a dollar is just nonsense.

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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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#151 Saved by the Hall!
September 29 2010, 03:19PM
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dawgbone wrote:

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

Perry Put up 54 points in 07-08 and was signed July of 08 to his current deal (5 years 5.325 mil).

Getzlaf put up 39 points and was in the middle of a season where he scored 58 when he was signed to an extension in Nov 2007 (5 years 5.325 mil).

And just because the team won't be competetive doesn't mean that by the end of the contract he can't put up good personal numbers.

So are those contracts good deals in your mind?

So if Hall gets a similar deal to Perry, he'll be about a 1.6 million cap hit more then his ELC is right now.

So you're saying that this team has a better chance of being a cup contendor because they will save 1.6 million 3 years from now if they hold Hall back?

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#152 dawgbone
September 29 2010, 03:31PM
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Saved by the Hall! wrote:

So are those contracts good deals in your mind?

So if Hall gets a similar deal to Perry, he'll be about a 1.6 million cap hit more then his ELC is right now.

So you're saying that this team has a better chance of being a cup contendor because they will save 1.6 million 3 years from now if they hold Hall back?

What does $1.6 mil in cap space represent to you?

That could be a veteran centre (similar to Madden in Chicago last year). Maybe it's a deadline rental of a pretty good player.

And if MPS is also as advertised (remember, the argument is to hold him back as well), that could be an additional $3.5mil or so in cap space.

Going further ahead. What if Hall does way better than Perry? what if instead of $5.2 mil he gets $6.7 mil (ala Backstrom)? That's even more money we are talking about saving here.

Hey, if Hall is a 50 point player 4 years from now it's a moot point. But if he is that franchise player, it can make a world of difference.

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#153 Chickenplucker
September 29 2010, 03:48PM
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dawgbone wrote:

That's year 2.

How much worse off would he have been if that was his rookie year?

How much worse would Tampa have been if that was his rookie season?

The answer to both is probably none. So what if Stamkos only scores 30 his second year, does that hurt the lightning at all?

Probably not. In fact it probably helps them more in 11-12. Where instead of being on the first year of a new deal paying him in the neighbourhood of $7 mil he'd be on his ELC. That could have represented an opening the Lightning could have shot for to make another cup run. Allowed them to add couple of key veterans.

Your speculating. It didn't happen so we won't know. At this point Tampa know they have a superstar in Stamkos and can build their team accordingly. If he was sent back he would still be an unkown commodity.

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#154 dawgbone
September 29 2010, 10:36PM
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Chickenplucker wrote:

Your speculating. It didn't happen so we won't know. At this point Tampa know they have a superstar in Stamkos and can build their team accordingly. If he was sent back he would still be an unkown commodity.

Of course it is speculating.

Any time you talk about the future, or doing something different it's speculating.

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