September 16 2011 07:46AM
It's easy to describe the leaves in autumn and it's oh so easy in the spring
But down through January and February is a very different thing
Sometime this morning, we'll get an idea about the Oilers training camp roster. Jason Gregor told me yesterday afternoon not to expect surpise names we haven't heard of, so Kirill Tupulov is about as exciting as the names are likely to get. There are three things to keep a close eye on in training camp and the early part of the season:
Nikolai Khabibulin enters TC as the starter, but his age and injury history means this is a fluid story from the beginning of the season. We could get through the physicals, Joey Moss, pre-season, October, Christmas and the trade deadline without an injury, and he could channel the Bulin Wall one more time for a short period.
But the future may belong to Devan Dubnyk, and that future could be now. The battle for the starting job is unlikely to be a bitter battle, mostly due to the fact that a veteran player is trying to catch a swansong and no one really hopes against it. The best thing for the Oilers future? Dubnyk grabs this job by the brass and kills it.
Yes, I did hear about the photos and no I won't post them. I got about 15 text messages from people about the Johansson photos, meaning a lot of people read ON and LT. I won't post them because it seems to me that any photo released by a movie company or a publicity department (or the paps can drag up) is one thing but taking advantage of a (stupid, stupid) mistake is beyond the pale. I'm also amazed the FBI has time to fight the globe's evildoers AND find Ms. Johansson's diabolical offender.
Anyway, defense. I think we'll see some moves at the deadline depending on the progress of Peckham and Petry, along with some of the more advanced kids like Fedun and Teubert. Trade deadline deals involving Andy Sutton, Laddy Smid and Tom Gilbert all seem possible. Look for Jeff Petry to kill the competition for the last job opening and force Sutton (or a struggling D) down the depth chart.
I expect there will be a battle or two, involving Brule, RNH and Lander. The organization needs to find out if Nugent-Hopkins is ready to make the NHL grade, and that could force Lander to the AHL for at least 9 games. After that, the club may send RNH back to junior and then callup Lander.
Brule is a complete wild card. I expect Tom Renney is going to make damn good and sure he doesn't see a repeat of last season, when Brule was badly needed (the team was very thin up front due to injury) and could not answer the bell. This is an extremely tough business, and not being able to play (whatever the circumstances) when needed is a massive negative arrow.
The Oilers up front who are shoo-ins in my opinion:
- Taylor Hall
- Jordan Eberle
- Ales Hemsky
- Sam Gagner
- Magnus Paajarvi
- Linus Omark
- Ryan Smyth
- Shawn Horcoff
- Eric Belanger
- Ben Eager
- Ryan Jones
- Darcy Hordichuk
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gilbert Brule, Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen would seem to me the strongest candidates for addition to the dozen listed. There are battles, and they will go all season long. I'd expect all 16 of the names I've listed at forward to play at least some with the big club this season. I'd also expect that Lennert Petrell, Chris VandeVelde and Curtis Hamilton will get at least a cup of coffee in the show.