EARLY RETURNS: USE PENCIL

Robin Brownlee
September 15 2013 04:27PM

As long as the off-seasons have been around here the last seven years and first impressions carrying the weight they tend to do, it’s easy to understand how Saturday’s split squad games against the Calgary Flames have fans of the Edmonton Oilers talking today.

So it goes after half of Edmonton’s training camp roster coughed up a 5-2 lead to the Flames on the way to a 6-5 shootout loss at Rexall Place, while the other half edged the Flames 3-2 down the road in Calgary as the Oilers kicked off their pre-season schedule against NHL competition, sort of.

How did Taylor Hall look at centre? Pretty good, actually, especially on the dot. Might Finn Jesse Joensuu be the big forward the Oilers are looking add to the mix? He looked like it Saturday. How much of an upgrade will David Perron be over Magnus Paajarvi in the top nine? What about Darnell Nurse and Andrew Ference on the back end and Linus Omark and . . .

We got a peek at all of them against the Flames, as did head coach Dallas Eakins and GM Craig MacTavish, but while the impressions made have been duly noted, it’s best, as always, not to make the leap to anything resembling conclusions. Small sample size, as the stats guy like to say.

That should be obvious enough, but even after having seen 25 or so NHL pre-seasons with a notepad in hand, I still find myself prematurely making that leap from time to time. “Hey, that Joensuu kid is exactly what the Oilers need on the wing . . .” or “Wow, if I was Eakins I’d play Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins one-two at centre all season . . .”

As you scratch out your line-ups today, use pencil.

BY MY EYES

Like you, I came way from Saturday’s games with my own impressions. I wonder how they stack up against yours, and those of Eakins and MacTavish, who watched the game at Rexall Place from the press box.

. . . Hall was front and centre, if you’ll pardon the play on words, at pivot against the Flames. Most notable, he went 11-6 (65 per cent) in the face-off circles, which isn’t insignificant given how bad the Oilers have been on the dot in recent seasons. Credited with a goal that never went in. The challenge for Hall as he fills in for Nugent-Hopkins will be throttling back his urge to lead the rush and use his wingers.

. . . Joensuu, who had a goal and an assist and five shots against the Flames, looks like he can be a handful around the net, a forward capable of leaning on opposing defensemen. Might he be eventually be an upgrade on Ryan Jones?

. . . Speaking of Jones, he looked pretty good in Cowtown on a line with Boyd Gordon and Perron. Jones, coming off a season in which he struggled mightily after eye surgery, scored on a deflection. He’s got to re-establish himself in the top-nine. A good first step. Perron also had a goal, a short-side softie.

. . . Nurse looked at home alongside Ference after feeling his way through shifts at times during the rookie tournament. Nurse moves very well for a gangly kid and it’s probably no coincidence he looked more settled with the steady Ference riding shotgun.

. . . Omark remains dangerous at both ends of the ice. Nobody questions his creativity on the attack and doggedness on the puck for a smaller player, but he was a culprit on two Calgary goals.

Again, use pencil. Next up, Winnipeg.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . .

Looked like the same old Denis Grebeshkov to me, and while I’ve said we shouldn’t read too much into one game, his performance against Calgary has me hoping somebody will step up and contest a spot in the third pairing.

It would help if Oscar Klefbom wasn’t out with a mild concussion and if Anton Belov can get his visa paperwork issues sorted out. Still no definitive word when Klefbom will be ready to go and Belov will arrive. Soon, I hope.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Harry
September 15 2013, 11:28PM
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DSF wrote:

Carolina is hardly a paragon of virtue.

Nurse is at least 3 years away from being an impact defence man.

I'd wager the Russian makes a big impact this season.

Good for him. I thought you were more educated about hockey than that DSF. Your basing a huge year by Nicushkin on one preseason game? Weak! Just like people calling Nurse a bust after on rookie tournament game. And now after one preseason game theyre saying he should be top pair alongside Ference.

Last I checked edm needs a big dman more than they need a top six forward. And what better one than Nurse. And what makes you so sure that hes three years away? A big junior year along with some physical gains and he could very well be in edm next year.

Try again

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#52 Harry
September 15 2013, 11:31PM
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DSF wrote:

Carolina is hardly a paragon of virtue.

Nurse is at least 3 years away from being an impact defence man.

I'd wager the Russian makes a big impact this season.

Lol!!!

Paragon of virtue!?

Someones using the thesarus they got for their last bday

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#53 uks ya
September 15 2013, 11:32PM
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uks ya! wrote:

id wager that on the Oilers he would not get the ice time / chances to rip it up "this season"...throw Nurse to Carolina, Colorado, Calgary etc.. HE PLAYS THIS SEASON!!!

the big russian kid is special dont get me wrong, but we absolutely needed good BIG dmen...

at the moment were very rich on the wings!

at the end of the day it came down to (what we needed) not the BEST player available...

that being said, Nurse will be a force on our backend in 2-3 words...>FORSURE!

how the f#ck i got (words) instead of (years) is beyond me...

cant blame auto correct on this one :-/

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#54 Walter Sobchak
September 15 2013, 11:49PM
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DSF wrote:

No.

I would have taken the Russian.

Drafting a D in the top 10, unless he is a slam dunk 1st pairing D who can step in right away, is just dumb.

You're just as likely to find a Nurse later in the draft.

Ya,

I would have taken the Russian too.

IIRC I think after the Oilers passed on the big LW Russian, I believe we both said that we would have taken Horvat instead of Nurse as well.

I think that's what has people confused...At any rate I would have taken Horvat instead of Nurse.

What’s done is done though; I’m throwing full support at Nurse even though it will take some time before we see anything resembling a NHL player.

still....Could have used that center or big LW.

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#55 steelymac
September 15 2013, 11:58PM
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DSF wrote:

Carolina is hardly a paragon of virtue.

Nurse is at least 3 years away from being an impact defence man.

I'd wager the Russian makes a big impact this season.

Nurse vs Nishukin will be a topic for years DSF but after their entry level contract Nurse will not be using the KHL for leverage but the big russian might.

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#56 Norm
September 16 2013, 04:39AM
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Quicksilver:

Can you really dance on your toes? Gnarly man! Maybe stick to ironing your tootoo on slow weekend nights and spare people the ridiculous comments you seem driven to share with the world.

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#57 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
September 16 2013, 07:24AM
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DSF wrote:

No.

I would have taken the Russian.

Drafting a D in the top 10, unless he is a slam dunk 1st pairing D who can step in right away, is just dumb.

You're just as likely to find a Nurse later in the draft.

weren't you the guy forever engrained in hfboards folklore for saying the Oilers should take Fowler over Hall?

edit: yup

It'll be a tough call. But I think I would take Fowler just based on how seldom that kind of player becomes available.
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#58 Spurzey
September 16 2013, 08:07AM
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RexLibris wrote:

Has anyone checked to see if Belov bears an uncanny resemblance to Edward Snowden? Might explain his getting hung up at the airport.

Haha! CIS reporting that Snowden was smuggled into the country in Belov's huge "Russian Olympic Team bag"

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#59 RexLibris
September 16 2013, 08:55AM
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Spurzey wrote:

Haha! CIS reporting that Snowden was smuggled into the country in Belov's huge "Russian Olympic Team bag"

So Belov had to come to Edmonton via Caracas, then?

That or Stephen Harper orchestrated a foreign service worker's strike to spite all NHL teams but the Leafs. Heard that Grabovski was still in Russia as well and Komarov left T.O. to go back to the Moscow Dynamo.

Harper: "If Grabo doesn't play for the Leafs, he doesn't play for ANYONE!"

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#60 RomZ
September 16 2013, 09:18AM
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Darren Dreger ‏@DarrenDreger 18m After lengthy Visa delay due to Cdn Foreign Service strike, Anton Belov has been cleared and landed in Edmonton last night.

He probably doesn't play until this weekend maybe?

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#61 Uks ya!
September 16 2013, 10:22AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

No "official" word from the Oilers, but my understanding is there's a "good chance" Tony T's eyes were not deceiving him at YEG tonight. We'll know for sure in the morning.

Robin..What time is oilers praky this morning & is it open to public?

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#62 916oiler
September 16 2013, 10:41AM
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I really hope Mac T didn't guarantee a spot to Grebs. If there is someone better (Davidson, Fedun, Larsen, Potter, Belov) give them the job!

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#63 Ari Gold
September 16 2013, 11:02AM
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DSF wrote:

No.

I would have taken the Russian.

Drafting a D in the top 10, unless he is a slam dunk 1st pairing D who can step in right away, is just dumb.

You're just as likely to find a Nurse later in the draft.

Have you noticed many Top pairing D-men that have been able to step in immediately and make a difference?

The only name I've found that fits this category is Drew Doughty. Pronger, Neidermayer, Lidstrom, Weber, Karlsson: they all took several years to develop in to the players they currently are. Though I don't think Nurse will ever be this good, great D-men rarely make an 'immediate' impact like you said.

As for calling the Russian's showing in his first preseason game a case and point for yourself, that's small sample size, champ.

I know you love attention DSF, but this is just weak, at best. Quality D-men almost never make an immediate impact. Nurse wouldn't have been available in the next round. There's a reason you're playing GM from your couch rather than the Canuck's front-office. Though you'd likely fair no worse than those clowns in Van.

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#64 Ari Gold
September 16 2013, 11:05AM
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RomZ wrote:

Darren Dreger ‏@DarrenDreger 18m After lengthy Visa delay due to Cdn Foreign Service strike, Anton Belov has been cleared and landed in Edmonton last night.

He probably doesn't play until this weekend maybe?

Get this kid on the ice ASAP. I want him in the lineup tomorrow!!

I'm smelling a home run with this pick-up. He and Yak will be Rusky-D-to-O duo.

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#65 RomZ
September 16 2013, 11:13AM
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Ari Gold wrote:

Get this kid on the ice ASAP. I want him in the lineup tomorrow!!

I'm smelling a home run with this pick-up. He and Yak will be Rusky-D-to-O duo.

I'm sure he has to go through the same testing all the others did, doesn't he?

That being said, I too would like to see what we have in Belov.

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#66 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 16 2013, 11:36AM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

weren't you the guy forever engrained in hfboards folklore for saying the Oilers should take Fowler over Hall?

edit: yup

It'll be a tough call. But I think I would take Fowler just based on how seldom that kind of player becomes available.

BRO FIST ✊! Slow Clap for Cable Guy 👏. 👏. 👏.

For the insight into DSFs character .......and showing us one more time why DSF stands for DOLLAP of SMILING FECES....💩. (And yes I used my thesaurus to look up dollap)

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#67 Quicksilver ballet
September 16 2013, 11:45AM
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Harry wrote:

I wonder why twinkle toews ballet never responds to well thoight out responses such as this one. Instead he trolls sites and picks his victims with a cowardly cunning only a school yard bully can have.

Weak effort tonight ballet.

6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

There's only one question mark in his statement, and that was more or less a statement he wanted to make. There's was little effort made by Brownlee that demanded a response.

This trolling thing you speak of. Is that not exactly what you're doing now, with your name calling an all?(not intended to solicit a response from you, faux question)

Try again, old weird Harrold.

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#68 Mike Modano's Dog
September 16 2013, 12:17PM
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RB - If you don't mind I'd like to make a trade suggestion to you, to see what you think.

I think the Oilers need one more (very) tough guy who can play as well - which is very hard to find. I say we trade for the best young one in the league.

At the risk of hearing ALL of the following...I will submit it to you anyway:

1. you're giving up too much! 2. You'd never get him for that - take off your Oiler glasses!

and the always lovable (and my personal favourite)

3. This isn't NHL-'10,'11,'12,'13,'14...!

I think we should offer David Musil to acquire Frazier MacLaren from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Why? They've got toughness in spades, already. They NEED defensive defencemen, and a young one with his entire NHL career in front of him would be pretty appealing I would think. (He is rather slow for a sure-fire NHL'er though, so he would seem to be just the right price, to me.) Frazier MacLaren did a nice job not only as the toughest new fighter in the game today, but also was able to score goals with surprising skill to go along with his imposing size and strength. With David Musil being yet another left-handed shot, I think we could afford to use this draft asset to acquire something else we badly need, in order to be comptetive now!

P.S. The Oilers have never won anything without some of - if not the best tough guys in the league, to compliment their amazing skill players...keeping them safe enough to actually be healthy, and score for us!

Thoughts...?

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#69 Uks Ya!
September 16 2013, 12:39PM
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Mike Modano's Dog wrote:

RB - If you don't mind I'd like to make a trade suggestion to you, to see what you think.

I think the Oilers need one more (very) tough guy who can play as well - which is very hard to find. I say we trade for the best young one in the league.

At the risk of hearing ALL of the following...I will submit it to you anyway:

1. you're giving up too much! 2. You'd never get him for that - take off your Oiler glasses!

and the always lovable (and my personal favourite)

3. This isn't NHL-'10,'11,'12,'13,'14...!

I think we should offer David Musil to acquire Frazier MacLaren from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Why? They've got toughness in spades, already. They NEED defensive defencemen, and a young one with his entire NHL career in front of him would be pretty appealing I would think. (He is rather slow for a sure-fire NHL'er though, so he would seem to be just the right price, to me.) Frazier MacLaren did a nice job not only as the toughest new fighter in the game today, but also was able to score goals with surprising skill to go along with his imposing size and strength. With David Musil being yet another left-handed shot, I think we could afford to use this draft asset to acquire something else we badly need, in order to be comptetive now!

P.S. The Oilers have never won anything without some of - if not the best tough guys in the league, to compliment their amazing skill players...keeping them safe enough to actually be healthy, and score for us!

Thoughts...?

David Legwand (nsh) or Brian Boyle (Nyr)

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#71 Romulus' Apotheosis
September 16 2013, 01:53PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Do the Maple Leafs know Musil probably won't be an NHL defenseman any time soon, if at all?

And McLaren won't be an NHL player ever.

The MacT/Eakins era looks to be a NO Face Puncher era.

The kind of guy they want is Clutterbuck or Clifford. Someone who is big (or at least biggish), rough/mean, but that can actually play and play a "puck possession" game (more or less).

No room for Carlyle's bag of meat.

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#72 Oilcruzer
September 17 2013, 08:13AM
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Hard to believe that a point was made about who is better of the 18 yr old forward v d man after one preseason game. Who knows what bums either played? Each is a different position, and ummm... they are 18.

Food for thought:

IF you land a fixture on defense, like a Peterangelo (sp?), Pronger, or Dowdey etc, then that guy will play the tough 35 m in every game in the playoffs. IE twice the ice time and effectiveness of your forward.

Same applies with a goalie. If you develop a Johnathon Quick, and he makes just one save every other game that 24 other league starters won't make, then that's like adding a 41 goal scorer to your line up.

Comparing Nurse to a forward, especially now, isn't worth discussing.

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#73 Mike Modano's Dog
September 17 2013, 06:54PM
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Okay, fair enough.

Swap Musil for another d-prospect, that we will agree can, and will play...then, would you make a deal for MacLaren?

(Even still I have a feeling that Musil the younger will have a career very similar to pops. Both solid, stay-at-home types...neither knock your socks off skill-wise, but reliable d-men. The old adage: if you don't notice him then that's a good thing...blah, blah, blah...)

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