September 23 2013 12:29PM
Marc Arcobello and Anton Lander received a wonderful opportunity yesterday morning, when it was announced Sam Gagner is out at least a month with a broken jaw. Had Gagner not been injured, neither one of them would have been playing on the top-three lines, and unless Craig MacTavish picks up a veteran off the waiver wire before next Tuesday, one of Lander or Arcobello will be in the Oilers top-nine on opening night against the Jets.
Boyd Gordon was going to be the 3rd line centre, and it looks like he'll get a chance to play with scoring wingers.
Taylor Hall has played with Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth throughout camp, and they will likely start the season together. So that leaves Jordan Eberle, David Perron, Nail Yakupov and one of Ryan Hamilton, Linus Omark, Tyler Pitlick, Jesse Joensuu and Ryan Jones to play the wings with Boyd Gordon and Arcobello/Lander.
It is not ideal to start the season with your first (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and second (Gagner) line centres in the pressbox, but that's life in Edmonton.
In a best case scenario Gagner will only be out a month, which means he'd miss ten regular season games, and return on October 24th vs. the Capitals. Nugent-Hopkins is shooting for the final week of October, but the Oilers will not rush him, so he might be able to return on Sunday October 27th vs. the Kings, which means he'd miss 12 games. Again, that is if everything goes well for both, and maybe one of them returns a bit sooner, but that seems unlikely.
Gagner will have surgery tomorrow, and he's going to have a few plates inserted into his jaw. If is mouth needs to be wired shut his recovery will be longer, so we won't know if he'll be out a month or longer until tomorrow or Wednesday.
What should Craig MacTavish do?
He can go with what he has and hope that Gordon, Arcobello/Lander can fill the void for the short term.
He can look at the waiver wire and grab a serviceable veteran, if one becomes available.
Look at a trade.
Making a trade from an obvious position of weakness isn't ideal. No team is going to trade him a legit top-six centre, unless he's willing to part with one of Eberle, Perron or Yakupov, and I doubt that happens. We rarely see trades in October, mainly because teams want to see what they have.
The waiver wire might be MacTavish's best bet if he is looking for someone with NHL experience.
Some teams have gotten very lucky with waiver wire pickups over the years, and most centres would love the opportunity to come to Edmonton and play with Eberle, Perron, Hemsky or Yakupov.
There is no guarantee someone more proven than Lander or Arcobello becomes available via waivers, so Dallas Eakins will use the next three games to figure out who deserves the best opportunity of their young career, Arcobello or Lander.
It is clear that Arcobello is ranked higher than Lander today after listening to Eakins. he'll have three games to show he's capable of filling the second or third line centre slot for the short time.
It looks like Gordon is going to get an opportunity to play with skilled forwards, and he'll centre Yakupov and Omark tonight.
RETURN OF THE SMAC....
The Oilers claimed Steve MacIntyre on waivers and he'll be back in Edmonton for the third time. There is no doubt MacIntyre can fight and intimidate, when he's on the ice, but if they only play him four minutes a game I'm not sure how impactful he can be.
I will say this; however, I had four different Oilers walk up to me with a huge smile on their face saying MacIntyre is coming back. There is no doubt the players respect his toughness, but unless the rest of the Oilers players are willing to play team tough, and that doesn't mean just fighting, then MacIntyre will have a hard time policing every player on every team.
Those who believe having a heavyweight on the bench will stop Zack Kassian from making a dumb play, are just as off-base as those who use Chicago and Detroit as examples of not needing one. The Hawks and Wings are great teams, the Oilers aren't, and until the Oilers start winning they won't get any respect, and teams won't be fearful of their powerplay, because the majority of the game is still played 5-on-5, and the Oilers don't scare anyone at even strength; at least not yet.
The Oilers need more team toughness, not one guy who plays four minutes a night, if they want to properly protect themselves. You can't expect Mike Brown, Ben Eager or Steve MacIntyre to police the opposition, because they don't play regularly enough.
The Oilers need to be more assertive, or MacTavish has to go find some players who have an edge, but also possess the skill to play in the top-nine or top-four. Until that happens, I believe teams will continue to take liberties with the Oilers unless more players decide to show they are willing to stand up for themselves, or have more of a pack mentality. You can't look the other way when one of your teammates is being harassed. It doesn't mean all the Oilers skilled players need to become fighters; they just need to have more players willing to defend one another.
Did Phil Kessel take one punch from John Scott last night? Nope, his teammates came flying in before any serious damage occurred. We all know Scott/Kessel situations are rare, but when all four of his teammates didn't hesitate and come to his rescue, that saved Kessel from a beating, and none of them got injured.
- Zack Kassian will likely be suspended for at least five games, because the NHL asked, although he didn't go, for an in-person hearing and that usually means a minimum five game suspension. There is no doubt it was a careless play, but I don't buy for a second that he did it because the Oilers don't have a heavyweight. Teams that have heavyweights still suffer injuries. Kassian made a dumb decision in the heat of the moment.
Hockey is a violent game, and when you have guys skating 30 miles an hour, with blades on their feet, sticks in their hands and body contact is allowed, bad decisions will happen. We need to stop being surprised when a player makes a dumb, split-second decision. We all do it in real life, and often in situations that don't involve competition.
How many of us have had road rage recently? You freaked, likely over a simple thing, and then started cursing and ofter threatening the person. We all know it is against the law, but that doesn't go through our mind when we are freaking out. We know it is illegal to text and drive, yet most of us still do it.
Hockey fans and pundits need to stop being shocked or surprised when a player makes a bad or careless decision. Usually they are split-second decisions, and even though the risk of suspension or possible retribution from a tough guy looms overhead, that doesn't go through a player's mind milliseconds before he hits a player.
- The most positive news for Oiler fans coming from the MacIntyre news, and Gagner injury is that Hall is going to play even more minutes according to head coach Dallas Eakins. If Hall is on the ice 21-22 minutes a night, that means the Oilers have a much better shot of winning more games.
- Despite all that I understand why the Oilers got MacIntyre, and I think it was necessary. We all know the Oilers have been pushed around for years, and if having MacIntyre on the bench makes every player even a bit more confident it will be worth it. The key is using him in certain situations to initiate physical play, rather than just respond when the opposition takes liberties on the Oilers. Reacting after the fact isn't going to change anything.
- Anton Belov looked very good in his first game on Saturday. He made some excellent passes out of the zone, and looked solid defensively. It was only one game, but I thought he made a very good first impression.
- Ryan Jones needs to play with more tenacity and competitiveness. Eakins has preached "compete" and Jones, Acton, Lander, Omark and Joensuu all need to show more of it, if they want to be here when the season starts.