How has the Edmonton Oilers' roster changed from last year?

Jonathan Willis
July 31 2013 09:18AM

While Craig MacTavish may have failed to make all the bold moves he wanted to get done, he has been very active in his first summer as the Oilers’ general manager. How does the roster he’s assembled compare with the one Steve Tambellini put together for the start of last season?

Forwards

Players in grey represent players in Edmonton to start the 2013 season; rather than going off the opening night lineup I’ve ranked them according to their ice-time over the year. This has resulted in the odd positional liberty – Magnus Paajarvi as the third line right wing stands out – but for the most part these players should be more or less in the role they played on balance over the course of last season.

Players in white are this year’s group. Players in red are ones I perceive as clear upgrades over their equivalent from the year before.

The top line is young, and certainly it would be unsurprising if a 21-year old Taylor Hall found another gear. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who just turned 20 in April, is so early in his career that he seems likely to be improved, particularly with surgery taking care of the shoulder problems he had last season.

On the second line, an established David Perron seems a clear upgrade over last season’s version of Nail Yakupov. Some might argue that Yakupov in 2013-14 is likely to be better than Hemsky was last year; that’s certainly possible but I don’t think it’s completely certain.

The third line is a different group, but expectations should be similar. The wild card is Hemsky; I expect he’ll offer more than Paajarvi did last year.

Beyond that group, I see Smyth as a better player than Lennart Petrell, who seemed totally lost when not killing penalties; beyond that I don’t see a whole lot to choose between the Tambellini group and the MacTavish group.

Defence & Goal

On defence, three of the presumed top-four are holdovers from those roles last season. Justin Schultz, off a whirlwind rookie campaign, should be better while Andrew Ference is coming off a stint as a top-four defender with one of the best teams in the league and can in my view be reasonably seen as an improvement on Nick Schultz.

The third pairing, likely comprised of Denis Grebeshkov and Nick Schultz, seems obviously better than Ryan Whitney and Corey Potter. Whitney was a disaster for the Oilers last season and if Grebeshkov’s anywhere near the form he left the NHL in he’ll be an upgrade. While I have time for Corey Potter, Nick Schultz is a bona fide NHL defender and Potter’s a ‘tweener.

On the third pair, I prefer Anton Belov and Philip Larsen to Mark Fistric and Theo Peckham overall, but they’re obviously different layer-types. Fistric did solid work in the number seven role and might be better or worse than Belov, a top KHL defenceman who at this point has serious potential but is also a significant question mark. Peckham and Larsen are both flawed in different ways.

In net, Devan Dubnyk returns as starter. I like Jason LaBarbera the player over Nikolai Khabibulin by a significant amount, but Khabibulin’s coming off a superb season as backup so I don’t see this as a big upgrade over what was accomplished last season.

Recently around the Nation Network

At Jets Nation, Kevin McCartney breaks down Zach Bogosian's seven-year, $36 million extension:

Again - Bogosian has all the tools to be a top-pairing defenceman within a few short years. Right now, he helps the Jets win and that can't be denied. Nevertheless, he's being paid to be a Top-4 (though not elite) level defenceman after a very short audition in that role, and without the kind of success to show he can do it for the next 7 years. At best, we can hope that he lives up to his cap hit.

Click the link above to read more. Otherwise, feel free to read some of my recent pieces:

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#1 DSF
July 31 2013, 02:27PM
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Sorry kids...no Clifford...no Steckel...no nuthin.

http://oilers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=679345&navid=DL|EDM|home

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#2 **
August 01 2013, 12:27PM
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why is the trash it button twice as big as the props button?

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#3 Oilergasm
July 31 2013, 08:43PM
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I really don't understand how MacT's "monkeyball" tactics are going to improve our team, fighting about how far down the depth chart Grebeshkov and Belov are means the outlook is grim.

Is Perron truly an upgrade over Hemsky on the 2nd line? NO

Is Boyd Gordon a better 3rd line C than Horcoff? NO

Is Ference better than Ryan Whitney? Yes! haha, for 2013 for sure, but when they were 29th and 30th overall? Probably not.

This roster has more gaping holes than a night of surfing porn, I think we're hooped!

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#4 Manfly
July 31 2013, 09:22AM
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FIST!! i've said it before, i think the Oilers have only made marginal improvements....hopefully the kids will show more development this coming year and help us move up the standings.

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#5 Quicksilver ballet
July 31 2013, 04:36PM
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SrCain wrote:

Im tired of reading all the whining about what MacT hasn't done this summer. Why don't all you armchair GM's wait until we see what the opening lineup is at the very least before you crucify him for what the roster may be lacking. Not one commenter on this site has an effing clue about what goes on behind closed doors, why some moves are made, and why others aren't. Those of you who keep repeating the same crap over and over as if you know actually know whats going on, are downright embarrassing.

A real fan of any sports team goes into each season with an optimistic view, and hope for an entertaining season, not preaching doom and gloom.

I see you're doing crack again....

26th, 30th, 30th, 29th and 24th these last 5 yrs isn't the Disneyland we thought it was going to be cain. If that is above questioning, then I apologize. Lowe created this stench himself, what part of this are you struggling to grasp? If they deserved accolades as you feel they do, they'd be getting them.

Back away from the crack pipe dude.

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#6 Citizen David
July 31 2013, 09:54PM
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I don't see what everyone sees in Hemsky. He certainly could rebound, but the past few seasons he's been a dud. Yakupov was our best or second best player down the stretch. He'll be a massive upgrade on Hemsky.

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#7 Paul
August 01 2013, 04:32PM
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Nik Antropov. Big body, shoots, fits Russian movement, Hemsky would play well beside him.

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#8 TigerUnderGlass
July 31 2013, 11:59AM
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I can't even explain how much I love that fact that people believe Clifford is the player to get Edmonton into the playoffs.

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#9 SrCain
July 31 2013, 03:59PM
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Im tired of reading all the whining about what MacT hasn't done this summer. Why don't all you armchair GM's wait until we see what the opening lineup is at the very least before you crucify him for what the roster may be lacking. Not one commenter on this site has an effing clue about what goes on behind closed doors, why some moves are made, and why others aren't. Those of you who keep repeating the same crap over and over as if you know actually know whats going on, are downright embarrassing.

A real fan of any sports team goes into each season with an optimistic view, and hope for an entertaining season, not preaching doom and gloom.

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#10 madjam
August 01 2013, 06:48AM
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WHAT GOES UP , MUST COME DOWN -SPINNING WHEELS GOT TO GO ROUND . Oilers new division has had it's rivalries remain stagnant in comparison to what Oilers have done this off season . Most everything for Oilers looks to be going in an improving way . Others are still clinging to aging and slow diminishing veterans who look to be declining more than improving . L.A. still has best balance , but Oilers rapidly emerging as a group with upside being progressively upwards . Where do we pass them going up , when they will be going down ? This year ?

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#11 Spydyr
July 31 2013, 09:26AM
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So far the bottom six has not approved near enough. They have no center depth . They still need two top four defencemen. Not sold on the two goalies much either. Otherwise all is good.

If they go into the season like they are now it will be year eight outside the playoffs.

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#12 TigerUnderGlass
July 31 2013, 12:16PM
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Hair bag wrote:

I don't think any one player will get you into the playoffs but you need different types of players to fill different roles - Clifford is a bottom six guy with size that fills a physical role - currently someone that we don't have in the organization.

Clifford is Ben Eager v.2. Turns out we have Ben Eager so....

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#13 Quicksilver ballet
July 31 2013, 07:06PM
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@SrCain

Truth has its day, kinda weird eh.

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#14 Jimmer
July 31 2013, 08:19PM
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Let's be honest. Almost everyone on the first two lines has to have a career year next year for us to be a playoff team.

Also...Dubbie needs to take the same big step forward that Mike Smith did in Phoenix.

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#15 GVBlackhawk
July 31 2013, 09:34PM
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nuge2nail wrote:

Oiler Domination To Follow

Richard Cloutier says we would have 14 mil in cap space if we traded Hemsky and N Shultz. His calculation is based on the fact that bonuses do not count against the cap until the following year.

Is this correct?

I've been asking this question for awhile. Would appreciate one of the experts on this site to respond if no one else knows.

From the CBA (a 540 page legal document):

Section 50.9 h) However, while such Player is in the NHL, the Entry Level Signing Bonus, Performance Bonus, Roster Bonus or Reporting Bonus shall count toward the Averaged Club Salary for such Player's NHL Club, calculated daily.

The answer is no. Bonuses count toward the current year. Teams get relief to just less than 50% of entry level contract bonuses.

The Oilers currently have $1.35M in cap space. Trading Hemsky and NSchultz would give them an additional $8.5M in cap space for a total of $9.85M. However, that does not take into consideration the salary of a returning player in said trade.

Don't listen to Richard Cloutier -- he types a lot but is not a fan of doing research or getting his facts straight.

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#16 Citizen David
July 31 2013, 10:00PM
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Add JW to the list of people who are undervaluing Belov. Good to be cautious I guess but I think there's no way he's not on the opening night roster and a mainstay there. Not only was he by several accounts the best defencemen in the KHL but he was also very good for Russia at the World Championships which has mostly NHLers. The interviews paint the picture of a player who is exceptionally motivated.

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#17 Nightman
July 31 2013, 10:04PM
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@Jonathan Willis

So, aside from Hemsky having a rough year, Perron-Hemsky is pretty much a wash.

Thanks

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#18 Citizen Alpha
August 01 2013, 04:16PM
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** wrote:

why is the trash it button twice as big as the props button?

So the haters can get on a hatin'

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#19 HugThePost
July 31 2013, 09:33AM
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They might not be the Blackhawks at this point, but they are closer without Khabby and Whitney.

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#20 Cowbell_Feva
July 31 2013, 10:01AM
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If MacT isn't done then we are 8 yrs out as mentioned above....I heard Franson is looking for more cash than TO is willing to dole out....he would be perfect here...get him Craig!!

Get Clifford from LA and now we have a slim chance.....otherwise I don't like our chances.

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#21 Quicksilver ballet
July 31 2013, 10:11AM
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Move Hemsky out of the picture, bring in Steckle, Clifford and Boyes, and call it an offseason. That's plenty of change for one season. Until they show they're capable, Jones, Joensuu, Smyth and Eager don't need to be everyday players.

The plan for the blueline is rather simple it appears. Grow your own 1 and 2 from within. If Klefbom, J.Shultz, and Belov are better than expected this coming season, this could be a playoff team.

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#22 LinkfromHyrule
July 31 2013, 10:28AM
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@tileguy

because yak playing with our wonderful third line does not equal production. Hemsky is a soloist, he will likely be able to produce regardless of his linemates (sometimes it seems like he forgets they are there). Other than some defensive shortcomings I have zero issue with yak playing second line. He will be, and to some extent already is, better than Hemsky

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#25 TonyT
July 31 2013, 01:18PM
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I understand that MacT was in on alot of deals, but having said that I will be shocked if this is a playoff team. As the poll and overall commentary on the current state of the Edmonton Oilers suggests the Oilers did little to nothing to address to toughness/grit which plagued their lineup the last few seasons. Especially in the top 6, I find it hard to believe this team will finish in the top 4 of a larger, more defense oriented division. How deep is next year's draft...

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#26 SrCain
July 31 2013, 06:56PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I see you're doing crack again....

26th, 30th, 30th, 29th and 24th these last 5 yrs isn't the Disneyland we thought it was going to be cain. If that is above questioning, then I apologize. Lowe created this stench himself, what part of this are you struggling to grasp? If they deserved accolades as you feel they do, they'd be getting them.

Back away from the crack pipe dude.

Why am I not surprised that you are the one who responds to my comment. Weird.

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#27 GVBlackhawk
July 31 2013, 09:13PM
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Oilergasm wrote:

I really don't understand how MacT's "monkeyball" tactics are going to improve our team, fighting about how far down the depth chart Grebeshkov and Belov are means the outlook is grim.

Is Perron truly an upgrade over Hemsky on the 2nd line? NO

Is Boyd Gordon a better 3rd line C than Horcoff? NO

Is Ference better than Ryan Whitney? Yes! haha, for 2013 for sure, but when they were 29th and 30th overall? Probably not.

This roster has more gaping holes than a night of surfing porn, I think we're hooped!

The defense has been improved from last season.

The Young Gunz are another year older.

Ralph Krueger's crazy systems are gone.

The Oilers will definitely be better than last season and should battle for a playoff spot.

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#28 nuge2nail
July 31 2013, 09:17PM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

JW,

Is Cloutier right, do elc bonuses no longer count on the cap upfront giving the Oilers over 6+ million in cap space?

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#29 Devolution
July 31 2013, 10:00PM
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Oilergasm wrote:

I really don't understand how MacT's "monkeyball" tactics are going to improve our team, fighting about how far down the depth chart Grebeshkov and Belov are means the outlook is grim.

Is Perron truly an upgrade over Hemsky on the 2nd line? NO

Is Boyd Gordon a better 3rd line C than Horcoff? NO

Is Ference better than Ryan Whitney? Yes! haha, for 2013 for sure, but when they were 29th and 30th overall? Probably not.

This roster has more gaping holes than a night of surfing porn, I think we're hooped!

Gaping holes. That's pretty funny.

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#30 Manfly
July 31 2013, 09:30AM
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^we'll never hear the end of it if we miss the playoffs for the 8TH year in a row!

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#31 Manfly
July 31 2013, 09:43AM
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^Khabby, Whitney and Horc were good deletions from this team, and their replacements, LaBarbara, Ference and Gordon were done well. i'm pleased with these moves!

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#32 Hammers
July 31 2013, 09:50AM
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Feel Belov will be higher in the grading and you left of Klefbom who still may make the team even though a couple of months in OKL won't hurt. Think you change Jones & Joensuu as that 3rd line may need a banger & crasher.Remember he ain't done yet . Still waiver wire or potential trade to come.

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#33 LinkfromHyrule
July 31 2013, 09:56AM
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This roster is clearly not complete, but it is vastly improved; especially on D. I think macT is playing the waiting game now. I'm sure there are teams out there in need of D prospects, we have lots of them...

Plus, Omark! lol

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#34 tileguy
July 31 2013, 10:22AM
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sorry for the re post from previous blog. Why has Yak been gifted the 2nd line RW spot over Hemsky? Has he earned it? Is there no chance in this world #83 can win that position? Is it because we are afraid that Yak will sulk and defecate to the khl? Is there a spot on the top 6 for 83 if RNH is a late starter or are we going to waste his talent (and value) playing him on the 3rd line?

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#35 JDog17
July 31 2013, 10:26AM
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I think the changes made so far are the kind this team needs. We don't need massive contracts or game-changing stars-we have those already. What this team needs is a decent supporting cast to put behind the kids. I like Jones, Smyth, and Gordon where they are, but until the team proves that they can play together and for each other this team will continue to flounder. We need to make MUCH better use of the team we have got rather than keep looking for a solution elsewhere.

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#36 Ducey
July 31 2013, 10:30AM
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Bettman is looking to put an expansion team in Seattle soon

http://www.sportingnews.com/nhl/story/2013-07-31/nhl-expansion-seattle-gary-bettman-phoenix-coyotes-board-of-governors

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#37 Vaclav
July 31 2013, 10:50AM
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tileguy wrote:

sorry for the re post from previous blog. Why has Yak been gifted the 2nd line RW spot over Hemsky? Has he earned it? Is there no chance in this world #83 can win that position? Is it because we are afraid that Yak will sulk and defecate to the khl? Is there a spot on the top 6 for 83 if RNH is a late starter or are we going to waste his talent (and value) playing him on the 3rd line?

I'd rather Yakupov defecate on the KHL.

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#38 Vaclav
July 31 2013, 10:55AM
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Even if MacTavish goes into training camp with the current lineup it would be worthwhile for him to send out a couple of training camp invites to unsigned players like Malhotra and Steckel.

At least this provides some security going into the season for a delay on RNH's healthy arrival and some legitimate competition for Lander and Arcobello.

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#39 Nightman
July 31 2013, 11:00AM
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JW,

I think that the second line is going to see a decent improvement. Yak being a year older, not playing his off wing, bit more toi, not getting paired with belanger is going to make a big difference. I'd say perron is going to be a slight upgrade over hemsky (to be conservative). Yak to yak comparison seems more ideal, considering the change is going to be more than just getting older.

Thoughts? Even on a perron hemsky comparison.

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#40 Lochenzo
July 31 2013, 11:29AM
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You have to feed Yak the minutes. He just might be the best pure goal scorer out of this group of gifted kids. Phenomenal hand eye and I'm sure we all noticed how much he likes to score. His celebrations on assists are pretty good too.

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#41 Hair bag
July 31 2013, 11:53AM
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tileguy wrote:

sorry for the re post from previous blog. Why has Yak been gifted the 2nd line RW spot over Hemsky? Has he earned it? Is there no chance in this world #83 can win that position? Is it because we are afraid that Yak will sulk and defecate to the khl? Is there a spot on the top 6 for 83 if RNH is a late starter or are we going to waste his talent (and value) playing him on the 3rd line?

I don't think anything is a given but based on how inconsistent Hemsky is and how Yak finished last season as well as his raw talent combined with sheer desire - it isn't unreasonable to place Yak ahead of Hemsky in the depth chart. Yak is like a race horse who can't wait for the gate to open, with Hemsky you never know if he will even come out of the stall...

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#42 Benny Botts
July 31 2013, 11:54AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Move Hemsky out of the picture, bring in Steckle, Clifford and Boyes, and call it an offseason. That's plenty of change for one season. Until they show they're capable, Jones, Joensuu, Smyth and Eager don't need to be everyday players.

The plan for the blueline is rather simple it appears. Grow your own 1 and 2 from within. If Klefbom, J.Shultz, and Belov are better than expected this coming season, this could be a playoff team.

I am a fan of this comment. I am still perplexed at why the oilers haven't signed steckle (maybe they have tried). But I think him and Gordon would be a great 3 & 4 centre combo.

I also would love to see clifford and boyes here as well. That would be a huge overhaul and upgrade on our bottom 6.

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#43 Hair bag
July 31 2013, 12:08PM
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@Lochenzo

I don't think any one player will get you into the playoffs but you need different types of players to fill different roles - Clifford is a bottom six guy with size that fills a physical role - currently someone that we don't have in the organization.

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#44 2004Z06
July 31 2013, 12:22PM
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tileguy wrote:

sorry for the re post from previous blog. Why has Yak been gifted the 2nd line RW spot over Hemsky? Has he earned it? Is there no chance in this world #83 can win that position? Is it because we are afraid that Yak will sulk and defecate to the khl? Is there a spot on the top 6 for 83 if RNH is a late starter or are we going to waste his talent (and value) playing him on the 3rd line?

See my response in the other thread.

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#45 Benny Botts
July 31 2013, 12:26PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

Clifford is Ben Eager v.2. Turns out we have Ben Eager so....

Clifford Age 22, Eager close to 30...so..

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#46 Benny Botts
July 31 2013, 12:33PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I can't even explain how much I love that fact that people believe Clifford is the player to get Edmonton into the playoffs.

I think you are misunderstanding some "people"s take on clifford. From what I read in the comments, and in my opinion as well, clifford adds a much needed element at a young age to grow with the rest of this young group. In my opinion very valuable.

I dont think anyone is saying clifford pushes this team into the playoffs, I believe "people" are saying that clifford plus some additional pieces give us a great opportunity to get it.

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#47 Lochenzo
July 31 2013, 12:54PM
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I like Clifford too, but I don't think we can add him unless Hemsky's contract is moved. Need some cap flexibility over the course of the season. If they do spend what is left, it should go to a depth centre.

You can add a Brule or Steckel to the training camp roster to compete with Arcobello and Lander and tell them that the NHL roster spot goes to the best player. And if Brule or Steckel do enough to win a job, then sign them.

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#48 Oiler Al
July 31 2013, 12:58PM
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MacT made some decent moves this summer. The top six are in place., and defense has been reshaped even though there is no real stud on the backend at this point... but alot of prospect waiting in the line as well, they will have to play by committee and keep that puck moving up ice quickly all night long. They are not going to win a lot of physical battles back there.

Other than Brown, and depending what they do with Eager, there is zero toughness on the bottom six, and thats concerning.

There no toughness in the top six either, but as I said elsewhere, time for this group to pony up and make the play offs.... Oilers forward payroll is at $43 million, higher than Hawks, Kings, Penquins, and Bruins.. Boys look in the mirror.. time to make the move..

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#49 Spydyr
July 31 2013, 01:03PM
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Oiler Al wrote:

MacT made some decent moves this summer. The top six are in place., and defense has been reshaped even though there is no real stud on the backend at this point... but alot of prospect waiting in the line as well, they will have to play by committee and keep that puck moving up ice quickly all night long. They are not going to win a lot of physical battles back there.

Other than Brown, and depending what they do with Eager, there is zero toughness on the bottom six, and thats concerning.

There no toughness in the top six either, but as I said elsewhere, time for this group to pony up and make the play offs.... Oilers forward payroll is at $43 million, higher than Hawks, Kings, Penquins, and Bruins.. Boys look in the mirror.. time to make the move..

All that a high payroll and the poor results show is bad management. Do you think that maybe a team seven years outside the playoffs might have bad management?

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#50 WhattaMike
July 31 2013, 01:32PM
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IMO, two to three contracts have to be traded off from the Oilers before gaining new additions of upgrades. I say that trading Hemsky, N. Schultz, then putting Potter or Larsen on waivers (to get picked up by another team) brings back about $9 mil roughly in cap space which then guarantees the Oilers getting (A) a top big tough 3rd line winger who can skate well and play two way hockeyand (B) the very decent not too young veteran type 3rd/4th line centre..

Players I like for the 4th line centre position with the Oil are Zack Smith (trade req), Steckel (UFA), Konopka (trade req) and/or then even by trying Brule at centre first on PTO. The type needed big winger could be one of Clifford (heard he has issues), or Pinizzotto, etc...however, these could be still equalled by those now already with the Oilers who are wanting to play their best hockey such as Eager, Joensuu, Ryan Hamilton,etc.

All in all, MacT has started to make several changes already and while they have yet to be "BOLD" these have been refreshing, good and positive thus far.

Replacing the skill levels of Khabby, Whitney, Peckham, Fistric, Petrell, Horcoff, etc, have been either definitely met and/or improved with exception to being tough and mean. In fact we even got younger (not too much). I congratulate MacT so far but keep it going and please go out and get that big tough meanness the Oilers still need.

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