September 29 2011 10:42PM
It's a big weekend for the Oilers bubble boys. Thirty-two names are still in the hat, but this time next week the Oilers 23 man roster will be set. Here's a guideline of things to look for this weekend.
THE BLUE: MAKE IT STOP!
The Oilers "saloon door" blue we've seen over the last few seasons appears ready to go. Ryan Whitney's injury troubles have him a question mark for the beginning of the year and the rest of the group will have to pick up the slack. I'll guess that the opening night roster looks like this (these are NOT the suggested pairings):
- Tom Gilbert- he'll play in all situations
- Ladislav Smid- big minutes at EVs and PK
- Cam Barker- PP minutes and a ton at evens too
- Jeff Petry- I don't think this blue is strong enough to hold him back
- Andy Sutton- lots of work at evens and monster PK minutes
- Theo Peckham- struggled this TC and may be more vulnerable than one would think.
- Corey Potter- Oilers 7D are soon top 4D based on injury history.
That means Chorney will have to clear waivers and Fedun is the final cut. I'll guess Whitney starts the season on the IR.
THE FORWARDS: SOME FINE VETERANS ADDED
I think we're going to look back on 11-12 as a season that saw improvement in the forward group, and much of the improvement will come from veterans easing the kids into the big leagues. I think the additions of Smyth & Belanger, along with a healthy Horcoff & Hemsky is absolute gold for the Oilers. The opening night top 14F might go like this:
- RNH- He's going to play at least 9, my guess is he plays all year.
- Smyth- Mentor role plus miles and miles of savvy play.
- Hemsky- If he stays healthy the Oilers should have some real power this season.
- Horcoff- Steady veteran has more help this season.
- Hall- He could score 30. Or more.
- Eberle- Outstanding young player can do a lot of things.
- Belanger- A very astute addition.
- Paajarvi- Young man has a bright future, but is he a scorer or a 2-way player?
- Omark- Fine young playmaker should score more goals this year.
- Brule- Has to impact the game and stay healthy.
- Jones- Will see big minutes this season on the PK and be counted on for secondary scoring.
- Hartikainen- Finn did everything he could do to make this team.
- Petrell- I think he won a job 4x5, a helluva feat.
- Hordichuk- WIll be counted on heavily to play the enforcer role.
I'll guess that Gagner and Eager start the season on IR, meaning the club will cut Anton Lander, Ryan O'Marra, Josh Green and Ryan Keller.
GOAL: THE ODD COUPLE
The young man and the older gentleman form an unusal duo, and the kicker is that no one is certain of the starter. I suspect the Oilers would like to see Devan Dubnyk earn more playing time over the veteran Khabibulin, who in turn would offer the coach a strong veteran presence for nights when things go off the rails. Kind of a hockey version of Warren Moon-Tom Wilkinson for those who would remember those two players.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Dance numbers. Lots and lots of dance numbers. This weekend, the Oilers will do two things: take a final look at the Chorney's, Fedun's and Lander's while also beginning to figure out their lines and pairings. I imagine we'll see some semblance of the 1 & 2 PP's and the PK 4's. It'll be interesting to check out the TOI over at NHL dot com too.
Coach Renney didn't line match much a year ago (although he keeps saying he did, which is a concern) but those kinds of things we'll have to wait on. The regular season is almost in sight.