How will Dallas Eakins run his special teams?

Jonathan Willis
August 01 2013 07:49AM

A little over a week ago, with the Oilers seemingly done making significant changes, we looked at how the Oilers might run their even-strength lines. But what about special teams?

While we can’t know what Dallas Eakins has in mind for special teams, we can look at the personnel on the team and make some guesses.

The Power Play

One of the things I’ve tried to do is keep lines together; thus the presumed top line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle forms the core of the first unit power play while David Perron, Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov are all on the second unit.

I’m unfamiliar with how Dallas Eakins ran his power plays with the Toronto Marlies; initially I thought about sticking with the 1-3-1 setup the Oilers ran for much of last year but instead decided to model these units off San Jose’s fantastic group. From what I’ve seen of the Sharks (arguably the league’s best power play over the last few years) they typically have Logan Couture and Joe Thornton on each wing with Joe Pavelski in the slot and Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau on the points.

The first unit power play above features Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall on their off-wings, putting both in position to take a lot of shots and work the puck down low. Justin Schultz, unsurprisingly, takes one of the point positions while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins slides into the other. On the whole, that’s a quartet I really like – it would be nice if Nugent-Hopkins was more of a shooter, but this power play model is built more around puck movement and a variety of options rather than a big shot from the point, so it’s not a critical failing.

As strange as this sounds, I think the Oilers’ power play is going to miss Shawn Horcoff a little. Looking through potential candidates for power play work, it’s hard not to be struck by the lack of net-front players – ideally you want someone with size and strength and decent hands, and the Oilers don’t really have that guy. Horcoff had first-unit duty a year ago, and Magnus Paajarvi and Teemu Hartikainen also played the role at times. That’s where Ryan Smyth comes in: he’s built a career in that role, and given his presumably reduced responsibility at even-strength he can sub-in on the first unit power play in that net-front role.

The second unit has a very similar structure. Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov play either side up front here, while Sam Gagner mans one point and either Denis Grebeshkov or Anton Belov handles the other (Grebeshkov has had success on the Oilers’ power play in the past). All four are on their off-sides, encouraging shooting. David Perron isn’t really an ideal candidate for the slot role, but the trouble is that a) the Oilers don’t really have a lot of natural options for the job and b) Eberle, Hemsky and Perron are all ideally slotted along the left wall; one of them can’t be there. Besides, Perron’s no smaller than Joe Pavelski, and the Sharks have done just fine the last few years.

Naturally, this is just my read and I’m open to others. I was very tempted to put Hall in the slot and Yakupov on the right side on the first unit, bumping Smyth down to the slot position on the second and flanking him with Hemsky on the right and Perron on the left; it’s an arrangement I actually like a little better (because it loads up that top unit) but it breaks up the even-strength forward lines and introduces another element for the coach to juggle. I’m interested to see what the comments think; we have some bright readers and this is an interesting topic.

Also, I picture a line of Boyd Gordon, Ryan Jones and Jesse Joensuu for the first even-strength shift after the power play.

Penalty Kill

No major surprises here. As with the power play, I have endeavoured to keep even-strength combinations together.

Boyd Gordon centres the top penalty killing forward pair, along with either Ryan Jones or Ryan Smyth (depending on which player one sees winning the battle for the open third line wing job). Both players will be experienced veterans in the role.

The other of Smyth and Jones will join presumptive fourth-line centre Anton Lander on the second penalty killing unit; again, it’s a case of sticking the veteran defensive forwards in the primary penalty kill roles.

Generally two units will do the bulk of the work, but Sam Gagner and David Perron have both filled in on the penalty kill in the past and can either provide a third forward pairing or fill-ins for the first two pairings. I have Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins listed as a potential fourth pairing, with the thought that they can take over in the last 20-30 seconds of the penalty and provide some offensive push and a smooth transition back to even-strength play. I also see both players as strong fits talent-wise for the penalty kill; it wouldn’t bother me at all if Eakins chose to break them in as a regular third unit (though I prefer Gagner and Perron because they have an edge in age/experience and their responsibilities at even-strength and on the power play are less).

On defence, Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry reprise their role as the team’s top duo, while the other two logical candidates (Andrew Ference and Nick Schultz) take second pairing duty. The other defencemen on the team are somewhat problematic, but Denis Grebeshkov would be my choice for the number five role – he killed penalties for Craig MacTavish and is more of a known factor than either Anton Belov or Justin Schultz.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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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#1 DSF
August 01 2013, 06:51PM
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Good grief!

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#2 Senhora
August 01 2013, 07:56AM
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Maybe Eakins will run special teams how Billy Moores tells him to. And if Moores is the guru of coaching why is he not the head coach?

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Thank you ON! The trash button is awesome. It's like bubble wrap. I just trashed every comment including this one. So much fun.

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#4 Smokey
August 01 2013, 01:28PM
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I've got nothing of substance to add. I just came here to get TRASHED.

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#5 tom.MTL
August 01 2013, 01:32PM
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I don't think Hall should get any PP time so he can save his energy for 5x5, where he dominates. I also think Grebs has a chance to be one the 1st pairing.

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#6 Tom
August 01 2013, 09:38AM
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Senhora wrote:

Maybe Eakins will run special teams how Billy Moores tells him to. And if Moores is the guru of coaching why is he not the head coach?

Who the $?!# is Billy Moores?

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#7 Twoskidoos
August 01 2013, 10:39AM
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I don't even read the posts anymore, I just look to see how many trashes there are.

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#8 Reahumatoid Arthritis
August 01 2013, 10:59AM
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I just got back from Red Lobster

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#9 Reg Dunlop
August 01 2013, 11:04AM
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So, where does Weber fit in? Gotta be 1st pp point.

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#10 book¡e
August 01 2013, 02:41PM
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WHAT the hell is going on - A trash button - AWESOME!!!

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#11 book¡e
August 01 2013, 02:58PM
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I used to try to be witty to get Props, but really negative attention is just as good and seems way easier to get.

RNH's upside really pales in comparison to Kyle Wellwood who has way more potential.

Chris Pronger's wife really was correct about Edmonton.

Ales Hemsky is a great player with a good attitude

The Oilers blew it with Eakins, they should have hired a former Oiler like Messier to coach.

Has anyone ever pointed out how great DSF is?

The Oilers will probably finish last this year and Craig MacTavish will be promoted.

I sure am glad the Oilers kept their assistant coaches - it was the nice thing to do.

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#12 tileguy
August 01 2013, 09:58AM
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@Jonathan Willis

No skating involved once you finally make it to the front of the net. I guess the Oilers can play catch around the perimeter until 84 gets there.

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#13 tileguy
August 01 2013, 12:44PM
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Lets just mark this one down about Smitty playing the PP and compare notes come Nov. See who is blowing smoke and where its going. Although the notion of 84 turning into Holmstrom is storybook, I really don't see that happening.

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#14 tileguy
August 01 2013, 09:42AM
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That’s where Ryan Smyth comes in: he’s built a career in that role, and given his presumably reduced responsibility at even-strength he can sub-in on the first unit power play in that net-front role. Smacks forehead, rolls eyes. Let's get this farewell tour over with and free up some cap room. The PP would have to wait 15 seconds for Smytty to skate in place, hell lets try Ben Eager there, at least he can skate fast.

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#15 DieHard
August 01 2013, 02:41PM
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What's going on here? I had 8 trashes before I submitted my comment!

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#16 Twoskidoos
August 01 2013, 10:39AM
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I don't even read the posts anymore, I just look to see how many trashes there are.

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#17 Archaeologuy
August 01 2013, 08:13AM
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What is this Trash it! button?

Is this the negative props we've been dreaming of?

Wanye/Citizen Alpha, well played.

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#18 JeffG
August 01 2013, 10:30AM
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The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33 wrote:

Thank you ON! The trash button is awesome. It's like bubble wrap. I just trashed every comment including this one. So much fun.

Good job wasting the value of the Trash button.

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#19 jonny94
August 01 2013, 01:26PM
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You definitely get a better perspective on how many ON readers read the comment section and now have the option to prop/trash comments.

I concur with Oilcan... bring on DSF his Trash hits are going to be through the roof... He just might be the most popular commenter on this website (please trash my comment for even saying that)

GOILERS! Go Oilers Nation!

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#20 Archaeologuy
August 01 2013, 09:07AM
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How close are we to having a lifetime Props/Trash it! leaderboard up now?

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#21 tom.MTL
August 01 2013, 09:19PM
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DSF is a tall, dark & handsome gentleman. He probably has a full head of hair, six pack abs and drives a killer whip. Also, his wife is smokin' hot.

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#22 Klima's Mullet
August 01 2013, 07:55AM
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JW, in your PP scenarios, who takes the faceoffs?

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#23 David S
August 01 2013, 10:05AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

How close are we to having a lifetime Props/Trash it! leaderboard up now?

I can't even imagine the significance of such a thing!

*Tries to imagine*

*Fails*

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#24 oliveoilers
August 01 2013, 11:19AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

That was exactly the example I had in mind - fourth line EV, first line PP.

I agree, but trashed it. Nobody gets away with 4 props and no trashes!

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#26 dawgbone
August 01 2013, 08:28AM
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I wouldn't worry too much about splitting lines 1 and 2 and mashing them together on the PP. Once the PP is over you can put out your 3rd line and then get your lines back together the way you want.

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#27 They're $hittie
August 01 2013, 09:04AM
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They're $hittie wrote:

Considering last years p/60 I hope Eakins doesnt put the so called first pp out first all the time. It was the second unit that got it done all last year and that was because Kruger put Hall Eberle and Nuge out even if they were tired.

Who ever is the freshest should go out.

Also someone start getting a running (corsi) total on DSF trash props +-

Sorry for replying to my own comment but the corsi total I am talking about should include any comments; props and trashes, for any comments directed at DSF or made by DSF

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#28 Smythyyy
August 01 2013, 04:52PM
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@sizzler

I think I just found a bug with the buttons. Once I give props, it removes the props button so that I can't send multiple props --- that's great, that's how it's supposed to be; however, it keeps the trash button enabled so I can both give props and trash a comment.

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#29 madjam
August 01 2013, 07:49PM
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One area of our team that looks like a disaster waiting to happen , it is the PK . We let Horcoff get away , and he was our stalwart on the PK. Is Smithson still an Oiler ? Better hope Hall and Eberle turn out to be defensive PK personnel like Datsyuk and Zetterburg pronto . Maybe Perron can try it . Not much if we have to use SMYTH and JONES . Landers is a possession nightmare . Gordon at least might be of help . We are thin at PK -real thin .

No problem , we just won't take any penalties . MacT. got some work to do to get a couple of respectful PK units .

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#30 Rama Lama
August 01 2013, 10:23AM
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I thought Ralph Krueger was suppose to be the "systems" man............turns out he did'nt much of any system, except playing his favourites.

Dallas Eakins is suppose to have multiple systems for all three zones with a focus on transitioning .........not sure what that means but I get the sense that he expects a greater focus on players covering their man.

If there is one thing that will become patently clear about DE's systems play its, moving the puck out of danger and into the nuetral and offensive zones..........sort of like what Detroit does, regardless of their personnel.

If he coaches like Mac T .........I will be worried! Under his system pucks were always brought behind the net before launching an offensive attack. This always led to opposition teams pressuring us to cough up the puck, and then one of our defenseman shooting it down the ice.

I hope we can finally get and keep a coach that has a plan.

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#31 They're $hittie
August 01 2013, 08:42AM
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Considering last years p/60 I hope Eakins doesnt put the so called first pp out first all the time. It was the second unit that got it done all last year and that was because Kruger put Hall Eberle and Nuge out even if they were tired.

Who ever is the freshest should go out.

Also someone start getting a running (corsi) total on DSF trash props +-

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#32 David S
August 01 2013, 11:25AM
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You gotta love the little garbage truck that comes up when you scroll over the Trash It! button. That's all-world selling out.

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#33 TayLordBalls
August 01 2013, 07:20PM
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Sure glad the oilers didn't hire Todd Nelson as head coach. In fact I think he should be and will be fired in the next few weeks.

Reason is that he is responsible to bring up and teach the younger players and for that he is a fail.

Would also not be surprised to hear the head scout and lesser minions are fired as their track record is no better than a blind person at a dart board.

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#34 John Chambers
August 01 2013, 09:38AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

How close are we to having a lifetime Props/Trash it! leaderboard up now?

I think we all know a certain someone whose trashes would've exceeded the maximum count by now.

Kind of like MacDonalds' over 1 Billion asinine comments served.

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#35 Taylor Gang
August 01 2013, 09:44AM
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Woah when did the trash button get here? Me gusta... :)

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#36 sizzler
August 01 2013, 10:31AM
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Trash button is going to come handy when the season starts

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#37 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
August 01 2013, 10:38AM
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JeffG wrote:

Good job wasting the value of the Trash button.

i think the value will still show itself, even with the odd rogue trash it vote.

im more wondering the over/under on number of days before DSF breaks the 100 mark for trashes on a single post.

3? 4?

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#38 Archaeologuy
August 01 2013, 08:11AM
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I wouldnt be surprised or upset to see Gagner and Hemsky switched in your list. I know Gagner has played the point before, but I think Hemsky is more comfortable with the puck up near the blueline than 89. With his puck carrying and passing skills he would have a lot of options from the point that might not be there on the wall.

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#40 SincetgeWHADays
August 01 2013, 08:44AM
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I think we'll see all these combos plus some if the coach is true to what he said about having multiple systems. Why not change the look of the PP regularity? It would make pre-scouting a nightmare for the opposition. Why not run both the 1-3-1 and the SJ method. I really believe this coach will have a very fluid style for all situations in the game. Deploying personnel depending on whos got the hot hand on any given night and any given period and any given shift. Just wait and see!!!

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#41 The Soup Fascist
August 01 2013, 10:46AM
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Tom wrote:

Who the $?!# is Billy Moores?

He is the "Yoda" equivalent within the organization, presumably to advise Edmonton Oilers Coaches ..... Minus the light sabre, of course.

But the hairline is similar.

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#42 TigerUnderGlass
August 01 2013, 10:46AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

This is ludicrous.

How much skating do you think is really involved in being the net-front guy? Really?

As for Eager, I assume you're being sarcastic, but wake me up when he scores 20 points in the AHL. Physical abilities are all well and good, but Smyth's far, far smarter on the ice and at some point converting that skill-set to results matters.

Smyth can complete the transformation to becoming the Oiler's Holmstrom.

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Posts I WILL trash on a regular basis:

1. Anything by DSF, and

2. Any post by New Age System that is MORE than 2 lines long...keep it brief my man, brevity is your friend, and

3. Any post that just doesn't make sense, and finally....

4 failed Fist posts...if you think you are clever, but wind up 2nd, then use the EDIT button (and be quicker on the draw next time)

That is all.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled commenting.

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#44 rickithebear
August 01 2013, 04:36PM
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Oiler G:

Your post was more than 2 lines! one of those do as i say not..............

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#45 BeerLeagueLegend
August 01 2013, 06:25PM
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Can we PLEASE have a golden helmet (like the leading scorer in the Euro leagues wears) avatar for the comment with the most props and a dumpster for the one that receives the most trash votes in any given article....

PLEASE!?!?! I would ask Santa for Cbismas but I don't want to wait until December!

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#46 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
August 01 2013, 08:03AM
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Senhora wrote:

Maybe Eakins will run special teams how Billy Moores tells him to. And if Moores is the guru of coaching why is he not the head coach?

just spitballin' here, but maybe it is because he is 65 years old and couldnt/wouldnt want to handle to grind of an 82 game NHL season?

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#47 geoilersgist
August 01 2013, 11:27AM
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David S wrote:

You gotta love the little garbage truck that comes up when you scroll over the Trash It! button. That's all-world selling out.

I can't wait to props/trash comments in the POLLZ

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#48 Oilcan
August 01 2013, 01:20PM
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This "trash it" button is like a nation Christmas miracle...can DSF ease comment soon I want to see triple digits in the trash column.

My first thought was BUTTONS!!!! and my enthusiasm has remained everytime I log on.

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#49 DieHard
August 01 2013, 08:51AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Absolutely, that's certainly a possible switch. I put it the way I did because it looked last season like Gagner had really worked on taking the big shot, and I don't mind having that option available to the point man.

But if Gagner's more willing to shoot, maybe it makes more sense to stick him on the wall and bump Hemsky back to the point.

I think Hemsky on the point works better as he can get back faster if a break down occurred.

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#50 Hammers
August 01 2013, 09:35AM
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My gut is Eakins staff will be more conventional on at least one of the PP units and use 2 "D" . Justin & Grebs .Belov also played the point in the KHL ? I also read something that Eakins if down in the 3rd with less than 10 to go and gets a PP he may pull his goalie and run 5 forwards & 1"D" .He did this with the Marlies. Not sure yet what to expect from this group . Also expect Acton to run PP. At this stage not sure if McT makes any more moves ie N.Schultz may not be on PK ?

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