September 16 2013 02:30PM
You know hockey season is back, when many are wondering about the status of Corey Potter. Potter is nursing a back injury and that's why he didn't play on Saturday and wasn't on the ice today.
Potter's injury couldn't have come at a worse time for him, because there is lot of competition for the #6, #7 and even #8 spot on the Oilers blueline.
It is obvious that Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference, Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry and Nick Schultz will make the team. Denis Grebeshkov has the inside track on the sixth slot, while recently-arrived Anton Belov, Philip Larsen, Oscar Klefbom, Taylor Fedun, Brandon Davidson and Corey Potter are battling for the final two spots.
Klefbom and Davidson won't be sitting in the pressbox as the 7th D-man, so they will likely start the season in OKC. Fedun has only played one year of pro hockey, so I'd expect he'll be going down as well.
Belov has a two-way contract, $1.5 million in the NHL, and $70,000 in the AHL, and that plus his late arrival to camp could see him starting in the minors.
If Potter can't get on the ice, then he'll start on the IR, while Larsen and Grebeshkov will battle for the 6th spot. If Potter isn't ready to start the season, that means three of last year's seven D-men won't be on the team. Ryan Whitney is on a tryout in St.Louis, Mark Fistric is in Anaheim and Potter would be on the sidelines. Theo Peckham only played four games last year, but if you include him, then half of their eight D-men are gone.
To be fair none of them played regularly in the top-four, but it is still a significant, and necessary, change over on the blueline.
As the preseason continues in Winnipeg tomorrow and Vancouver on Wednesday, the most intriguing aspect to watch about the blueline is how they are adapting to Dallas Eakins' swarm defence.
The Oilers have two morning practices this morning. These players were on for the first session, and there were whispers they will be playing in Winnipeg on Tuesday, but that isn't 100% confirmed just yet.
Potential Lineup for Winnipeg:
- Denis Grebeshkov looked good in the first 25 games on Saturday, but he struggled after that. His conditioning needs to improve, it isn't awful by any stretch, but a great way to improve it is to play right away. The best way to get in game shape is to play games.
- Davidson looked very good on Saturday. He'll need more seasoning in the AHL, but right now I'd rank him far ahead of David Musil and Martin Gernat. He's quicker than Musil, and he's more dedicated off the ice than Gernat. It is hard not to cheer for Davidson after his battle with testicular cancer.
- Lander needs to get quicker. I like most aspects of his game, but he isn't any quicker than he was last year. He needs to get a half step quicker to become an impactful NHL player.
- Eakins' practices are much more intense than I've seen in years. Lots of skating, one-on-one battles and very quick-paced.
- I don't mind Eakins changing the decor and pictures inside the Oilers dressing room, because it was time to turn the page. This team needs things to change, and if a new coat of paint and some new pictures on the wall can make the Oilers feel more like a team, then great. To me it shows that Eakins is a "Doer." Rather than just talk about things, he does things. I think it is a good change of leadership.
POTENTIAL LINEUP FOR CANUCKS...
*RNH will not be playing of course.***
- The Oilers announced another round of cuts, none of which were a surprise. The following players were assigned to the AHL.
- Goalies Bunz and Roy.
- Forwards Ewanyk, Ford, Fyten, Nesbitt and Stretch.
- D-men Gernat, Musil and Leach.
- The Oilers need a young goalie of the future, because Bunz and Roy are a long way, if ever, from playing in the NHL.
- It will be interesting to see if Ewanyk stays in OKC, or possibly gets sent back to junior to play with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
- Musil needs to get quicker, and Gernat needs to be more dedicated in the off-season if he plans on ever taking a run at an NHL job.
- I'm not a fan of the NHL's decision to ban players from tucking in their jerseys. This is not a safety issue, it is a potential money issue. The only reason they decided to do this was to open a spot for potential adverstising on jerseys. Either way, I'm not a fan of it.