WHAT'S MY LINE?

Robin Brownlee
September 07 2010 06:08PM

During his transition from the coaching ranks to that of senior advisor, Pat Quinn saw fit to make Sam Gagner his fourth-line centre to start the 2009-10 season. I, and a lot of people, are guessing successor Tom Renney sees Gagner as his first-line centre when the 2010-11 season begins.

It doesn't take a vast intellect to deduce Gagner, the ink still damp on his two-year contract worth $4.55 million, will likely be the Edmonton Oilers top centre when the season begins. That it's crossed my mind is proof of that. Sam slots there a lot when Oilers fans scrawl their line-up and line combinations. What are the other options?

I could have asked about that obvious possibility when I spoke to Renney today for an NHL.com feature I'm doing on Taylor Hall, but it slipped right through the sieve I call my mind as I was scribbling superlatives about the two-time Memorial Cup MVP.

Duh!

Not long after I whiffed with Renney, Bob Stauffer became the 7,097th person to toss out the possibility Gagner will start at pivot on the top line on today's edition of Oilers Lunch on TEAM 1260. It wasn't so much that as the accompanying tidbits that grabbed my attention. We best follow along . . .

DRAWING IT UP

Those who haven't figured out that when Bombastic Bob suggests something it's likely because he knows something, haven't been paying attention.

So, while saying Gagner could (will) start the season as Renney's top centre is no revelation, I'm guessing the make-up of the first three lines Stauffer suggested might be.

-- The way Stauffer sees it, 19-year-old Swedish rookie Magnus Paajarvi, taken 10th overall in the 2009 Entry Draft, slots in on the first line alongside Gagner as his left winger, with Ales Hemsky on the right wing.

-- Hall, who played both left wing and centre with the Windsor Spitfires before the Oilers ran to the podium and called his name in Los Angeles this summer, will line up as the left winger on the second line with Shawn Horcoff at centre and Jordan Eberle on the right side.

-- Dustin Penner, who led the Oilers with 32 goals and 63 points last season, begins 2010-11 on left wing with Gilbert Brule at centre and yet-to-be-signed (soon-to-be-traded?) Andrew Cogliano on right wing.

WHAT SAY YOU?

Has Stauffer taken a peek at the white board in Renney's office? Is he simply making an educated guess? I don't know because I haven't asked him. Interesting take, though.

Is Paajarvi seen as a better complement to a puck-handler like Hemsky than Penner? Might not Renney at least take a look at Hall in the middle during the pre-season? Likewise, might he not do the same with Penner?

And, if we're scratching out our line-ups, isn't the speedy Brule a better fit between Hall and Eberle on the attack than Horcoff? Likewise, wouldn't Horcoff be more effective with Penner, and vice-versa?

One thing is certain: any line-up that keeps Cogliano away from the face-off circle is a good thing, so putting him on the right side makes sense from that point of view.

I want to get a peek at that white board . . . stay tuned.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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 third string plumber
September 07 2010, 06:16PM
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Good article btw

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#2 Ender
September 07 2010, 06:23PM
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I like the top three lines as outlined. A lot.

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#3 Manfly
September 07 2010, 06:28PM
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^^^ me too!

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#4 a lg dubl dubl
September 07 2010, 06:45PM
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MPS on the top line over Hall...Interesting, good read RB. I still think IMO Horcoff is better suited to the 3rd line he seemed better suited there last year, any chance Renney might try Brule as 2ND line center? or am i just talkin hogwash lol

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#5 DonovanMD
September 07 2010, 06:56PM
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Those lineups look great, just excited by the possibilities this season.

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#6 Souby
September 07 2010, 06:59PM
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Manfly wrote:

^^^ me too!

I third that! I don't believe this team will make the playoffs, but I am happy with the thought that the kids are going to get a chance to play NHL minutes and grow together. Definately a big step in the right direction.

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#7 Jerk Store
September 07 2010, 07:00PM
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While I have the same guys in the top 9, I would have the following combos:

Hall-Gagner-Hemsky

Penner-Brule-Eberle

Paajarvi-Horcoff-Cogliano

No specific reasons other than 1) I see Hall as more of a finisher than MP. Gagner and Hemsky both are reluctant to shoot at times 2) I like Brule in the middle, Penner seemed to play well with him and I like splitting up the rooks - Eberle should get a little room on this line 3) A couple of pretty speedy wingers that should compliment each other on Horcoff's line. Hopefully Horcoff finds two wingers that can help him re-discover his game. I am one of 317,000 other "experts" in the city and concede that Bob's ideas are certainly based on more information than mine. I am more than a little concerned about the lack of sandpaper and size in the "Top 9". Not sure how that will play out. So guys like Jones / Fraser could find themselves 'Movin on up". What everyone can agree on is there will be a thousand different combinations and a few different faces before the season is over, and almost certainly Game 1 will be seriously different than Game 82.

Edit* While I was "huntin' and peckin' I see I basically plagarized the double / double dude. Just waaaay more long winded.

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#8 Jamie B.
September 07 2010, 07:03PM
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I say MPS on the top line to start the year since he's played against men and I don't see any reason to immediately throw Hall to the wolves when he's going to end up there often enough. (Among ... the wolves, that is. That metaphor got away from me.) I don't like Gagner with Hemsky much but maybe Sam's reached the point where he can adapt his game enough to fit there, since god knows Hemsky adapts his game for no man - player, coach nor fan alike. I guess Horcoff plays babysitter to the two rookies, fair enough. And Bob's always liked Brule with Penner since they played well together in stretches last season. Add Cogliano and I say that's the line you try to teach how to backcheck effectively enough to play against the Sedins et al. 'Cause someone has to. We don't have a lot of options in that department.

Or, yeah, you're someone who says Horcoff should be doing that and Brule/Gagner/whoever should be far enough along in their career now that you can play them with two rookie wingers? Well, as far as rookies go, Eberle and Hall look to be two pretty darn smart ones.

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#9 Racki
September 07 2010, 07:18PM
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Agreed with Cogliano on the wing. We don't have much in the way of centermen here, but we've got Horcoff, Gagner, and Fraser all but guaranteed at center, and I think I'd sooner see any of Brule, Hall or Penner over Cogliano.. there shouldn't be much reason to see Cogliano at C this year.

MPS on the top line with Gagner and Hemsky is an interesting (odd) choice. I don't think these guys will pass the puck around until they fall over from exhaustion, but that said, I think they could stand to do with a better finisher. I'd say either Penner in place of MPS or Gagner (although I'm not so sure I'd put Penner on top line center though for reasons of not wanting to tire him out ~by game 3~), or Hall in place of MPS.

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#10 Oiler21
September 07 2010, 07:21PM
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I like the lines except i would have MPS,GAGS,HEMMER THEN HALL,PENNER,EBERLE, THEN BRULE, HORCOFF,COGS

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#11 Ducey
September 07 2010, 07:36PM
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The line combo's won't matter. Renney is going to have start the blender early and often...

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#12 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 07 2010, 07:45PM
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I like it, RB, if only because I'm curious to see what Hemsky can do with that kind of talent on his line. With that kind of line combo, though, it looks to me like the intent is to have a revolving door at 1LW.

Am I way off on this?

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#13 pelhem grenville
September 07 2010, 07:46PM
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Gawd how perfect is the art to match the article here...nice touch Robin...great piece2

...off topic but interesting check out how it is said Miss Killgallen died

http://www.jfkresearch.com/morningstar/killgallen.htm

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#14 Shadi
September 07 2010, 07:46PM
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I beleive Bob has seen the white board in Renney's office. Bob continues to say he wants the Oilers to finish neer the bottom so they can get a legit 1st line centre. Which leeds me to beleive someone told him Hall will only be a winger. Just an observation I could be wrong.

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#15 @NateInVegas
September 07 2010, 07:50PM
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All signs point to another lotto pick!

Hemsky @RW1 is the only guarantee, the rest is debatable...

Penner @ center on PP1 is 100% the way to go.

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#16 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 07 2010, 07:53PM
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@NateInVegas wrote:

All signs point to another lotto pick!

Hemsky @RW1 is the only guarantee, the rest is debatable...

Penner @ center on PP1 is 100% the way to go.

Do you really have the desire to watch Cogs streak in unassisted and flop a weak wrister from the goal line twice per game for another season?

All I can see with this line-up is that, or an unexplainable urge to screw up his trade value moreso?

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#17 Robin Brownlee
September 07 2010, 08:00PM
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@Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

History and common sense tell us there will be plenty of line combinations tried and that nothing is set.

Still, certain elements are interesting and maybe unexpected -- despite Ducey giving his obligatory thumbs down to the subject -- with MP getting a look on the top line, Penner on the third and Cogliano on RW.

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#18 Magnus P.I.
September 07 2010, 08:04PM
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I like those possible lines. All three feature a veteran presence with a good mix of skill, speed and goal scoring ability.

The one non-rookie I'm interested to see this pre-season is Giroux. 110 goals in his past 138 AHL games is no joke. If he comes into camp in shape and plays well I think he may cost Cogliano his job.

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#19 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 07 2010, 08:05PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

History and common sense tell us there will be plenty of line combinations tried and that nothing is set.

Still, certain elements are interesting and maybe unexpected -- despite Ducey giving his obligatory thumbs down to the subject -- with MP getting a look on the top line, Penner on the third and Cogliano on RW.

If they're looking at getting flashy in the first few games of the year to build hype, all it takes is one or two spectacular goals (which seem like an inevitability with MP(S), Gagner, and Hemsky skating together).

Like people have been saying for the past few weeks - it might not be a consistent winner, but this kind of a team is sure to get you on your feet a couple times per game, and for the right reasons.

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#20 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 07 2010, 08:07PM
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Magnus P.I. wrote:

I like those possible lines. All three feature a veteran presence with a good mix of skill, speed and goal scoring ability.

The one non-rookie I'm interested to see this pre-season is Giroux. 110 goals in his past 138 AHL games is no joke. If he comes into camp in shape and plays well I think he may cost Cogliano his job.

He sure is fun to watch. I've had the pleasure of watching him quite a few times on the road to the Calder with Hershey, and he's definitely talented.

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#21 Archaeologuy
September 07 2010, 08:14PM
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Cracking the 1st line at 18 is a tough thing to do, especially when there is another Rookie LW with Pro Experience who is older and performing better (as far as the dev camp goes).

It would be pretty hard to seperate Hall from the opposition's best and most physical defense if he's playing with Hemsky. Move him to the 2nd or 3rd line and one would assume that he would be facing comparable opposition.

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#22 Racki
September 07 2010, 08:15PM
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@magnus pi / OK'n'PT

You have to wonder though about a guy that is now 29 and has only 31 NHL games under his belt though (Giroux). So I don't really have any expectation for him. I consider him a long shot to make the Oil... which is good for someone like him. No pressure at all to perform.

Personally, I think our AHL team needs guys like him just as much (if not more), so I would just as much like to see him tearing it up in OKC.

But that doesn't mean I'm discounting him as an Oiler. He might come in and surprise us all. I think it's a win-win situation, as long as he doesn't suddenly lose his hands in OKC.

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#23 The Towel Boy
September 07 2010, 08:17PM
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Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things wrote:

He sure is fun to watch. I've had the pleasure of watching him quite a few times on the road to the Calder with Hershey, and he's definitely talented.

Makes you wonder what the rub is on that guy. He can obviously find the back of the net, but why hasn't he caught on in the bigs full time? ...until maybe this season, of course. Is it cuz he was stuck behind all that talent on the Washington depth chart?

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#24 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 07 2010, 08:21PM
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Racki wrote:

@magnus pi / OK'n'PT

You have to wonder though about a guy that is now 29 and has only 31 NHL games under his belt though (Giroux). So I don't really have any expectation for him. I consider him a long shot to make the Oil... which is good for someone like him. No pressure at all to perform.

Personally, I think our AHL team needs guys like him just as much (if not more), so I would just as much like to see him tearing it up in OKC.

But that doesn't mean I'm discounting him as an Oiler. He might come in and surprise us all. I think it's a win-win situation, as long as he doesn't suddenly lose his hands in OKC.

Haha, you're absolutely right. Being a Winnipegger, I can tell you that career AHLers are a godsend because you don't lose half your team when injuries hit. Guys like Hansen, Grabner, Schneider, Cullen, and the rest make for good hockey. It's the Girouxs and Krogs that can really put the team over the top, though.

That being said, though, I'd rather see him in the big club if it keeps some of the less-desirable fringe players that are still straggling from last year's disaster out of the bottom 6.

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#25 OilBaron
September 07 2010, 08:34PM
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Those lines as Stauffer suggest are sound. Although you could flip flop Gagner and Horcoff... and insert someone else other than Cogliano.

Anonymous

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#26 RossCreekNation
September 07 2010, 08:37PM
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I don't think Oil fan knows what they have in Magnus Paajarvi... yet. Boy I wish he was wearing red & yellow. You know... like Hulk Hogan... ;-)

Interesting to hear those combos from Bob. I'd still try Penner at center for at least the first half of camp, especially if he's up for the challenge.

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#27 Racki
September 07 2010, 08:38PM
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I can't wait for Cogliano to pull a Penner this year and stun people who seem to have forgotten he isn't all that bad of a player. But hey, he's no Todd Marchant though ;) I think this year they have no choice (unless he's traded) but to play him on a line with proper, skilled linemates.

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#28 philbert
September 07 2010, 08:45PM
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i wonder if the thinking behind hall with horcoff, will be a little of on ice protection. with hall out there with gagner and hemsky, hall may be targeted by the oppostition more so for some hits and nastieness, where as maybe with horcoff he is a little bit less of a risk if some push and shove happen on ice, and horcoff would be a better option, maybe to help hall out a bit, ie less concern over injuries.

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#29 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 07 2010, 08:47PM
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The other thing people are overlooking when they just look at the forward depth chart is that the blue line has toughened up a little bit over the summer.

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#30 Chris.
September 07 2010, 08:50PM
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I'm jaded. I've played the lineup game with this team for too many years...

Let's face it: ever since Slats left town every single successive coaching staff has assembled the game day lineups by way of a complicated drinking game using three sets of d20 Dungeons and Dragons dice stolen out of Tom Poti's luggage during a particularly trying eastern road swing.

SHUT UP Bucky and do another shot! The dice never lie! If we want to beat Detroit and save Pouliot's career; Smid MUST play left wing!

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#31 PabstBR55
September 07 2010, 08:59PM
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Somebody's got to break out and score 40. Cogs, Penner, one of the kids ... somebody. After last year's perfect storm, there has to be an upside.

Can anyone name the last Oiler to score 40? No, it wasn't Ryan Smyth. He scored 39.

A month's supply of Slim Jim's to the first correct respondant.

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#32 RossCreekNation
September 07 2010, 09:09PM
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@PabstBR55

Craig Simpson... now SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM!!

*OH YEEEEAH*

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#33 Chris.
September 07 2010, 09:12PM
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@PabstBR55

I think it was Petr Klima... yet everyone gets mad when I compare him to Hemsky... Why is that?

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#34 Archaeologuy
September 07 2010, 09:14PM
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@PabstBR55

Klima

Edit: Damn you Chris!

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#35 Willy fisterbotom
September 07 2010, 09:15PM
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PabstBR55 wrote:

Somebody's got to break out and score 40. Cogs, Penner, one of the kids ... somebody. After last year's perfect storm, there has to be an upside.

Can anyone name the last Oiler to score 40? No, it wasn't Ryan Smyth. He scored 39.

A month's supply of Slim Jim's to the first correct respondant.

The answer is Craig Simpson. I'll take those slim jims my dog Needs treats!

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#36 Chris.
September 07 2010, 09:16PM
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Willy fisterbotom wrote:

The answer is Craig Simpson. I'll take those slim jims my dog Needs treats!

Simpson did it in the 80's. Klima did it in the 90's.

Edit: Hat tip to you Arch... the baby must be slowing you down a bit though.

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#37 Chris.
September 07 2010, 09:19PM
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@PabstBR55

Do playoff goals count? Oh... Nevermind.

*sigh*

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#38 Archaeologuy
September 07 2010, 09:39PM
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@Chris.

True story, but she's been sleeping through the night since she was 2 months old. So at least I still get a decent night's rest.

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#39 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
September 07 2010, 10:12PM
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We all know how Mr. Quinn loves the crusty side of the game. It was only fitting that a big burly guy with a good shot caught Quinns eye rather than a slight 20 yr old kid who was pushed off the puck with relative ease during training camp. There was more than a few of us that thought if Jacques meshed/developed some chemistry with a couple linemates he had the raw ability for a 25 goal 25 assist season. With MacIntyre,VanDemeer and a few other ruffians here now maybe things could go different for Gagner this season under Renney.

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#40 OILERSORDEATH
September 07 2010, 10:17PM
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Way off topic but I cant believe they put those two fa&&ot cocknball Sisters on the cover of NHL EA 2011!! Bull$hit! I wont even touch that piece of trash now.

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#41 Team Hall
September 07 2010, 10:21PM
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Great article RB, excellent. You just single-handedly got Oilers fans thinking about this season already. When I heard that MP and Gags might start on the top line, I got a little scared and nervously excited about that first game against the Flames. Gags lining up against Iggy? Still a little scary to me. Lets stick with Horc, Hemmer and Pens on top to start, for old times sake, and to protect the kids for the first while. Shelter them, RB, shelter them. Not expose them.

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#42 spOILer
September 07 2010, 10:32PM
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While Bob's idea helps resolve the out of balance roster (for the 5th training camp in a row!), it doesn't make a lot of logical sense to me.

I would like to see Gagner master the position he played last season before jumping up a level. Isn't this the type of development we all wanted to see? Where guys weren't asked to tread in deeper water till they were ready for it? Where guys didn't lose their confidence (like Brule) when they're in over their heads? If Gagner's banging the hide of the ball at the halfway mark, great, but promote him up the batting order then, when he's deserving, and capable.

I would like to see a better shooter than MPS paired with Hemsky. Isn't that what we've been whining for all these years? A sniper for Ales? So why Magnus? Now, if Paajarvi shows up at TC with a rocket, I take it back, but the other two rooks are reknowned for their shooting, and Penner ain't half-bad either. So why Magnus? So they never have to worry about Gagner going offside on a rush?

And what kind of first line has Hemsky with a raw rookie and 21 year old not quite ready for prime time? These three are going to handle PvP? Bob's 1st line idea looks better in terms of names than it does experience.

And the one C we have who we know can handle PvP is riding shotgun on two more rookies... This could end up looking like the design plans for the Hindenburg.

Penner is relegated to the 3rd line, which got the Two-coaches-ago coach tarred and feathered (despite the fact the TC roster was unbalanced). But now it's cool if he plays there. Is that then really the 1st line? Like the other two lines, it sports one actual 1st line player--but has the benefit of no rookies!

What a schmozzle. Interesting idea by Bob, but what is becoming more evident to me is the amount of contortion required to make this yet again unbalanced roster work.

And that's not even counting Souray and reKhab.

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#43 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
September 07 2010, 10:35PM
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OILERSORDEATH wrote:

Way off topic but I cant believe they put those two fa&&ot cocknball Sisters on the cover of NHL EA 2011!! Bull$hit! I wont even touch that piece of trash now.

That's no way to talk about Danny Heatley and Joe Thornton man, that was over a year ago...get over it dude;)

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#44 esa tikkanen
September 07 2010, 10:45PM
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this is off topic but I was wondering if some cap geek here could help me out. The Oilers were apparently charged a penalty of a few hundred thousand for going over the cap last year, and that is being applied to them this year. Of course, it doesn't really matter as they are way under this year .

However, I don't understand why they were penalized. With Khabi out more than half the season, along with Hemsky and Souray, if they were on LTIR doesn't that in some way give them cap relief? Also, they traded Grebs and Staios and O " sullivan missed quite a few games at the end of the season with a thumb injury. Seems to me the injuries should have brought them well under any sort of penalty.

My God what if they were trying to compete and had to bring in actual high income players to replace the injured ones? Doesn't seem fair the way the cap is set up for injuries to be offset with cap relief.

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#45 David S
September 07 2010, 11:18PM
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I gotta give you guys credit. Positive Friday must have spilled over to today. Every other Oilers blog out there (including Lowetide) is not nearly as optimistic. More than a few commenters at LT's thinks another lottery pick is in the making.

I'm with spOILer here. It'll be fun for the first couple of months, but getting our butts kicked on a regular basis will get old fast. It would have been nice to have a Comrie or two mixed in there.

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#46 Racki
September 07 2010, 11:29PM
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OILERSORDEATH wrote:

Way off topic but I cant believe they put those two fa&&ot cocknball Sisters on the cover of NHL EA 2011!! Bull$hit! I wont even touch that piece of trash now.

???

It's Jonathan Toews that's on the cover of NHL 11...

I think the sisters are the covers in Sweden though.. who cares?

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#47 Oilemup
September 08 2010, 12:07AM
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I don't like penner on the third line at all. You have to put hall or pens on centre to make it work. I see it as Hall(penner)/gagner/hemsky Pajjarvi/hall(penner)/eberle Brule/horc/cogs Stort/Fraser/omark(Mac)

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#48 necrobot
September 08 2010, 12:46AM
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@esa tikkanen

Oilers spent the cap last year. Gagner and cogs hit their bonus'.

LTIR doesn't let you go over the cap by that players contract, rather it lets you replace them with a player with a lesser cap hit. Souray's contract won't come off the books, rather the replacement players contract will.

I'm only 90% sure about this. I could be wrong.

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#49 Hags9k
September 08 2010, 01:23AM
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I would roll em out as follows, and I think most of the forwards would be happy with their linemates. Except for maybe Cogs who has to get it through his head he is not a top 6 scorer and needs to check like his life depends on a Selke trophy. 1. Big Dusty - Gagner - Hemsky 2. Hall - Brule - Eberle 2A. PJs - Horcules - Cogliano 4. Big Mac/Jones - Fraser - HB

GO MIGHTY OIL MACHINE!

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#50 Hags9k
September 08 2010, 01:24AM
Trash it!
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trashes
Cheers
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cheers

I would roll em out as follows, and I think most of the forwards would be happy with their linemates. Except for maybe Cogs who has to get it through his head he is not a top 6 scorer and needs to check like his life depends on a Selke trophy. 1. Big Dusty - Gagner - Hemsky 2. Hall - Brule - Eberle 2A. PJs - Horcules - Cogliano 4. Big Mac/Jones - Fraser - HB

GO MIGHTY OIL MACHINE!

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