Expect the Unexpected Healthy Scratch

Jonathan Willis
December 04 2013 02:54PM

TSN’s Ryan Rishaug tweets that we should expect head coach Dallas Eakins to make significant change to Edmonton’s line-up against Colorado, with the potential for some surprising healthy scratches. Who might they be?

The Replacements

As it stands, the Oilers don’t have many options because most of the team’s spares are injured. Leaving goaltenders out of the mix, here’s the list of players on the roster that didn’t play last night:

If all Eakins has is Gazdic, his options are minimal. If Larsen and/or Gordon is ready to return, that list of choices gets a lot longer.

Gazdic

If Eakins wants to scratch a winger, who might he choose?

First off: not David Perron.

Of the big names, both Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are plausible choices. Hall has had a rough season but played reasonably well last night; Eberle’s had a better year but his defensive deficiencies popped up again against Phoenix. Either would be a huge surprise and fall into the “message sending” category of roster moves. Another option is Ales Hemsky, though that wouldn’t be as big of a shakeup and it’s far from clear he deserves it.

The rest of the options wouldn’t really count as surprises. Ryan Smyth has been a scratch before and is on the fourth line. Nail Yakupov has been a scratch before but his game seems to be coming around, however slowly. Ryan Jones has been a frequent scratch but again it’s unclear he deserves to be now. Jesse Joensuu richly deserves a night off, but that’s as unsurprising as it gets.

Gordon

If Boyd Gordon is ready to go, Eakins has some choices. Will Acton’s a fringe NHL player and an easy scratch; Mark Arcobello’s better but has also been a regular scratch for Eakins. Neither would be a surprise. At the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be a bizarre scratch.

But Sam Gagner? No other player on the roster better meets at the centre of “veteran regular who would be a surprising scratch” and “deeply deserving of a night off.” Gagner is always controversial, and deeply unpopular at this exact moment in time thanks to last night’s game. If Gordon’s ready to go, Arcobello could take Gagner’s second line spot and Gagner could find himself sitting out a game.

Larsen

Every defenceman on the team is a plausible choice here. Jeff Petry is the team’s best defenceman but made big mistakes last night and has been error-prone of late. Andrew Ference, his regular partner on the top pairing, hasn’t really looked like a top-four defender in Edmonton. Anton Belov has largely been good but has been wildly inconsistent from game-to-game and looked really bad against Phoenix.

Justin Schultz is the guy I’d target, though, because for all of his talent he seems incapable of switching to any mode other than ‘cheat for offence.’ It’s not just simple mistakes, it’s his whole approach to the game.

Denis Grebeshkov would be a deeply unsurprising scratch, while Nick Schultz has been scratched before but after playing much better the last while doesn’t deserve that treatment now.

The Last Word

Eakins comment about resetting a player? They were in answer to a question about Jeff Petry.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Alsker
December 04 2013, 08:46PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

2 games ago Gagner looked like he was "feeling it" again and I was excited that he was rolling back into form. After last night, I need to re-think my inks.

Petry would be sitting on a contender right now based on his play as of late, but our other options are really sad making him one of our top 2 d-men. Sad.

Last night was Gags "rolling into form" unfortuneately, get used to it. He's here for a couple more years yet....now that's SAD!!

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#52 SRELIOFAN
December 04 2013, 08:50PM
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@Ari Gold

"How about Lindy Ruff? Ted Nolan? I heard that AV and Torts were fired recently. Any of them available? I guess the ship has sailed on Ken Hitchcock since his firing in Columbus?"

Could you imagine how much more a coach like Tortorella could get out of our team!? He comes across as a coach that demands accountability and respect. I wish the Oilers would have went after him...hard.

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#53 Dog Train
December 04 2013, 09:16PM
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It's been a long time coming for message sending. This is the kind of thing that Eakins talked about before the season. At times injuries have prevented him from making the scratches but even then, he hasn't taken the opportunity to really get any of the key veterans' attention.

Bottom line, with where we are in the standings, nobody should ever truly feel comfortable.

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#54 FireKLowe
December 04 2013, 09:38PM
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A-Mc wrote:

Who knows! That's my point.

There is a fairly large group of fans that seem to think Lowe is responsible for everything these days, and they don't have 1 shred of evidence to support the idea that Lowe has anything to do with Anything!

Fans see that he's been here for a long time and that the oilers have sucked for a long time, and they equate the two. But in actual fact, none of us know exactly what he does, if anything.

So wouldnt it be horrific for most of you if you found out he really has nothing to do with personnel or coaching?

Boy you are one stupid moron!!! The fcukhead 6 ring circus hired a rookie GM who in turn hired a rookie coach. Kevin Lowe is the fcukin architect of this debacle!

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#55 vetinari
December 04 2013, 09:47PM
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FireKLowe wrote:

Boy you are one stupid moron!!! The fcukhead 6 ring circus hired a rookie GM who in turn hired a rookie coach. Kevin Lowe is the fcukin architect of this debacle!

@fireklowe-- listen Brainiac, if you can't disagree with another person without a personal attack, you're the moron... Put on your big boy pants, grow a pair and post like an adult or go back to your village because they're obviously missing their idiot...

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#56 Chainsawz
December 04 2013, 10:02PM
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A-Mc wrote:

I'm not convinced that the hiring of Mac T was a mistake. All sources say Mac T is a smart and capable guy, not some hot head living in the past. Also, Mac T provided more change in 1 summer than the team has seen in the previous 3. The changes that haven't worked out, were small risks that at worst would spend a rich mans money needlessly (ie: who cares). The changes that have worked out (Gordon/perron and IMO Belov) were excellent, especially the 2 forwards.

The only thing Mac T hasn't lived up to is his own ambitions, and I'm ok with that.

You don't know that he's responsible for scouting. for all you know, he could be responsible for booking hotels and flights and making sure TD Fores gets paid and has a steady supply of stitching.

Aside from hanging onto Tambolini longer than fans would have liked, what do you KNOW about what he's done that is negatively affecting the team today?

Tambolini looks like he was always meant to be the fall guy. His job was to sit patient, say the right (wrong) thing to the media, and basically BullShart his way through a few cellar years. He succeeded at that.

Your final statement suggests you know that presidents make a positive and direct impact on the on-ice product. Can you please share with us what you KNOW about other presidents and how they are helping the Wins column?

PS: I just want to add that i'm not at all defending KLowe. I'm simply stating that a good chunk of this community complains about a guy whom they know absolutely nothing about. Their gripes are pure conjecture and are not based on fact. They might be right! but they also might be wrong.. and that's my point

First off, I don't really know 100% for sure.

If Kevin Lowe isn't hiring GM's, giving input into scouting staffs, supporting the GM,and the like then who is? Who is left in the front office making these calls? Why is he telling us about what he knows about winning if he doesn't make a single decision in the organization?

If your answer is since we don't 100% know so we shouldn't speculate, then fine. But who in the organization should be the most knowledgable about the hockey operations and its many shortcomings and failures? So if Lowe isn't the man then he really should get the title of his position changed to President of Katz's Dinner Party Guest List.

As for other Presidents of Hockey Operations or similar that have made positive impacts on their teams, I'm going to puke a bit when I say this, but look a little south. Doubt Burke is just booking flights and rooms and buying suits. Think VP of Ops Sakic had nothing to do with bringing Roy to the Avs? Elementary stuff and I haven't even touched on the successful franchises like the Wings and co.

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#57 Oiler Al
December 04 2013, 10:06PM
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A-Mc wrote:

Who knows! That's my point.

There is a fairly large group of fans that seem to think Lowe is responsible for everything these days, and they don't have 1 shred of evidence to support the idea that Lowe has anything to do with Anything!

Fans see that he's been here for a long time and that the oilers have sucked for a long time, and they equate the two. But in actual fact, none of us know exactly what he does, if anything.

So wouldnt it be horrific for most of you if you found out he really has nothing to do with personnel or coaching?

Wronggo...its obvious Lowe has/had a lot to do with the building of this team... the living proof is on the ice.... Why.. because there is only one person that could build such a terrible team.. and that's Lowe.

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#58 Oiler Al
December 04 2013, 10:19PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

We still want him fired, if he does nothing like you suggest, even more reason to fire him!!!!!

You know what the standing joke is around the Katz household?............what is 18 inches long and hangs between Katz's legs?

........Klowe's tie.

Sorry Lama, that's not Lowes tie that's hanging, its Lowes old jock strap from the 80's.

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#59 GVBlackhawk
December 04 2013, 10:33PM
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pkam wrote:

The strange thing is the Coyotes have scored more goals than us and and let in more goals than us, despite we should have better forwards and they have better goalie and defense.

That is not true.

After tonight's 4-1 loss to Calgary, Phoenix has allowed 90 goals. The Oilers have allowed 101.

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#60 Scotty B
December 05 2013, 01:12AM
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Hopefully, Eakins is "resetting" Petry: On the second goal against Phoenix Petry was standing in front of the net, but somehow he let a soft pass from the boards go right through him for an easy goal.

That's almost impossible for Dubnyk to read because ten out of ten first line d-men would have easily broken up that pass.

On the Yandle goal, basically a two on two entry (though Doan wasn't moving much) with two Oilers trailing (who should be applying some back side pressure, but...) Petry, from a bad soft gap, takes a wild charge forward to Yandle's supposed entry lane, while crossing his feet with two hands on his stick--which sets his hips into the lane he is charging into, thereby, immobilizing him temporarily--giving Yandle a free lane the other way and eliminating himself as a defenseman.

His crazy charge forward also basically eliminated his D-partner from the play... and Yandle has a free lane to rip a laser past Dubs (but: for many fans Dubs is the "problem").

There was so much wrong at a fundamental level with Petry's play against Yandle that to me it points to a coaching issue: if he just stays in his lane, with one hand on his stick, and a tighter gap, and allows for some back side pressure and his partner to contain his own lane then Yandle has absolutely NOTHING. This is basic fundamental junior-level defensive hockey. For him to rush into a supposed lane while crossing his feet with two hands on his stick is ridiculous!

A) it's either not being coached; or B) it's being coached and certain players are not being held accountable to basic hockey plays

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#61 2004Z06
December 05 2013, 03:14PM
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rindog wrote:

Jonathan

Would you be able to explain Hall's "rough season"?

I am expecting a bunch of data to follow, but I just would like an idea of what you meant when you typed that???

Only need to look at one stat. Turnovers!

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