CAMP PRIMER: THE WAY I SEE IT

Robin Brownlee
September 09 2013 08:06PM

Aside from when, exactly, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be ready to return to action from shoulder surgery, there isn’t a whole of intrigue to contemplate going into 2013 edition of training camp for the Edmonton Oilers, is there?

Really, aside from the exact date RNH is ready to roll, be it in the pre-season or once the Oilers start playing for points, Edmonton's roster looks pretty set from where I sit, give or take a few spots on the line-up card of new coach Dallas Eakins.

For me, the questions aren't so much about who the pieces will be on the 2013-14 edition of the Oilers, but how Eakins will put those pieces together in the form of forward lines, defense pairings and special teams.

We'll see about that through the pre-season schedule, of course, but as far as the roster goes, I think I can pretty much pick it right now – and so can you. Please tell me if I'm wrong. I'm sure you will.

HOW IT LOOKS TO ME

Assuming Eakins chooses to open with 13 forwards, I see 11 of those spots already filled by Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Jones, David Perron, Ryan Smyth, Boyd Gordon and Mike Brown.

The last two spots will be contested by Ben Eager, Will Acton, who has a bit of an inside track because he's familiar to Eakins and associate coach Keith Acton, his father, Anton Lander and Jesse Joensuu. There's another spot there to start the season, of course, if RNH isn’t ready to go.

If Eakins goes with eight defensemen, I expect the first six – stop the presses – to be Andrew Ference, Ladislav Smid, Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry, Nick Schultz and reclamation project Denis Grebeshkov. Oscar Klefbom, given his SEL experience, is the best bet to grab the seventh spot and could push for a spot in the third pairing, platooning with Grebeshkov.

Beyond Klefbom, I think it's a stretch to expect Anton Belov, who'll miss the start of camp because of visa problems, or Taylor Fedun to push for a roster spot for opening night Oct. 1. Corey Potter is the most likely insurance policy, and the most experienced, outside the top six.

Goal? There is nobody in camp capable of pushing Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera for the starting and cheerleading (aside from 15-17 games) spots.

FROM THE INSIDE (OR NOT)

For what it's worth, the Oilers website staff has the following depth chart posted (with a caveat at the top the chart is unofficial) as of right now. By position and in order, it reads as follows:

  • LW – Hall, Perron, Jones, Smyth.
  • C – RNH, Gagner, Gordon, Lander.
  • RW – Eberle, Yakupov, Hemsky, Brown.
  • LD – Smid, Ference, N. Schultz, Belov.
  • RD – Petry, J. Schultz, Potter, Philip Larsen, Grebeshkov.
  • G – Dubnyk, LaBarbera.

A FEW QUESTIONS

Jason Gregor posed seven questions in an item he posted earlier today. I have a few of my own, although they're a bit more frivolous than his.

  • 1. On what date will Eakins expose Wanye to untold ridicule for his story that Gagner will be named the next captain by announcing that Ference will wear the C this season?
  • 2. Will Yakupov begin this season on the same torrid pace he ended his rookie campaign? More important, which team will be the first to piss and moan about one of this 25 goal celebrations this season?
  • 3. How many minutes into his first game will Grebeshkov have a monumental brain fart in his own end that has fans recalling the reasons the Oilers bid farewell to him in the first place?
  • 4. Ken Hitchcock had his hands full with the talented Perron in St. Louis in terms of getting him to play within the system he wanted. If Hitch couldn’t do it, what makes Eakins think he can?
  • 5. Will Hemsky script an epic SIUTBOHC in a third-line role to start the season or will reporters be scribbling "Hemsky Wants Out" pieces six weeks into the season? Both?
  • 6. How many points for Justin Schultz this season? And, after running out of gas during his rookie campaign, can he play the point on both power play units this season?
  • 7. Playoffs this season? After last season's spasm of optimism, mark me down for a definite "no."

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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#1 Ivan Drago
September 10 2013, 07:53AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

One and all: disagree with the points and opinions raised in any given item. Find flaws in the logic. Take an opposing view. Disagree.

But save the personal remarks and sarcasm. If I feel that line has been crossed and ask you to back off, then back off. You don't have to like it, but that's how it works. It's very straightforward.

I absolutely agree personal remarks shouldn't be allowed. However, I have personally seen you dish a cpl out. As for sarcasm, it's done between posters on here all the time, shouldn't be an issue. Sarcasm is also easy to misinterpret in text format.

As a newspaper columnist, people couldn't reply to you personally if they disagreed with your column. On a blog they can, imo you don't handle it well. However this is simply my opinion, if you ban me or erase my post for expressing it, then that's all the proof needed.

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#2 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
September 09 2013, 11:57PM
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I understand booting NewAgeSys, the guy was a windbag. But I've seen people get away with posting a lot worse than this OilClog fella.

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#3 OilClog
September 09 2013, 09:54PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

A couple of things . . .

-- I don't have an Oiler badge to turn in.

-- Don't tell me to cheer for anybody.

-- One more time: stow the "Good Grief" bit and, while I'm at it, the tone you're directing my way or you won't be posting here again. Understand?

Well, then I'll take your view of the team as I would a Canucks fan then, thanks for clearing that up.

So sorry sir, cheer for who you wish

You don't like disagreements much do you?

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#4 Batfink
September 10 2013, 07:56AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

One and all: disagree with the points and opinions raised in any given item. Find flaws in the logic. Take an opposing view. Disagree.

But save the personal remarks and sarcasm. If I feel that line has been crossed and ask you to back off, then back off. You don't have to like it, but that's how it works. It's very straightforward.

Personal remarks, yes I agree with, and we don't get to see the posts you moderate. You have the right to not have what you deem as hurtful remarks put your way. But......I have noticed you have used sarcasm more than once to put down guys with ridiculous trade speculations/unlikley line combos/ just plain nut jobs. What's good for the goose...

And your above post.....well, a side of humble pie would seem to be in order. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So, if you disagree with this post, am I banned? The next guy? That's why one-upmanship is a dangerous game. You have used the threat.

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#5 Ivan Drago
September 10 2013, 07:18AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I understand booting NewAgeSys, the guy was a windbag. But I've seen people get away with posting a lot worse than this OilClog fella.

I don't understand the problem with his comments either. Seems everytime Robin writes an article, later in the comments he's threatening to ban someone.

I don't notice that with Gregor, Lowetide, or Willis articles. Posters disagree with their opinions, and they always get a classy response, stating their case. Robin gets huffy and bans ppl. Not very professional imo.

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#6 Racki
September 09 2013, 10:06PM
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At what point did we time warp back 30 years and start using the expression "good grief" again? I'm pretty sure DSF is 65 years old, so it's acceptable in his case.

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#7 Mj
September 09 2013, 10:47PM
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Mr brownlee I totally understand the need for respect when posting but through oil cogs disrespect he did still have a point. The team is trending up and have made significant changes why such a low expectation? They were in 8 th at the deadline and lost 10 straight that's hard to repeat...

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#8 Citizen David
September 09 2013, 08:17PM
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I'm expecting Belov to be very good. Wouldn't be surprised if he's a top four d man by the end of the season.

Hall is a left winger, Gagner is a center, and Yakupov is a right winger. I'm looking forward to seeing if Eakins will understand this. I'm ok with temporary fixes if Nuge is out for a short term for Hall to play center but if Yak is playing left I'll have a meltdown.

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#9 David S
September 09 2013, 09:41PM
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Is it just me or does Dallas Eakins look perpetually pissed off?

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#10 Citizen David
September 09 2013, 08:30PM
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I'm to young for the Oilers glory days so I grew up loving Smyth and placing most of my hopes in him. The guy was a legend, the player that symbolized the best the Oilers had going for them. Funny thing is people actually seem to forget that he was actually a really good player. A 39 goal season and a 36 goal season. ten 50+point seasons.

I say all this to try to avoid all the hate that's going to come my way when I say last season and the second half of 2011-2012 make me believe he's done. I think he can be a good fourth liner. But if he's taking time away from Omark or he's a boat anchor on Eb's line or Yak's line it's wrong. Great Oiler, but he's past his time.

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#11 Ivan Drago
September 10 2013, 08:56AM
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David S wrote:

You can always try Hockeybuzz or HF Boards. ~I hear those are quality reads.~

*puts finger in mouth*

That better not be sarcasm I'm detecting lol

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#12 TOM//MTL
September 10 2013, 05:56AM
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Klefbom ahead of Belov? You're dreaming in Technicolour, Brownlee. The kid needs some seasoning in OKC before throwing him into the deep end. Guess you didn't catch the Rookie Tournament...

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#13 OilClog
September 09 2013, 09:40PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

No, I don't see this team as a bottom-feeder or even a lottery team. If all the wildcards -- Eakins, Perron, a return to form by Jones and a better showing by the defense -- fall their way, I can see the Oilers hanging in and finishing 10-11th.

You're just the most darn tootin' optimistic person to ever! covering the Oilers aren't you ;)

I see this team finishing 10-11th if all the wildcards, Eakins, MacT.. Fail to do a damn thing. Like Come on.. Hanging on for 10-11th.. LIKE COME ON MAN! Lets just completely Deny Taylor Hall's emergence, Eb's steady presence.. and everything else that has been taking the right progressive steps forward.. You think this team will do no better, with Whitney no longer patrolling the rear guard in a Captain Hook like way... RIDICULOUS! 10-11th.. Turn in your Oiler badge and go cheer Feaster on.

Good Grief.

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#14 Oilerz4life
September 10 2013, 02:25AM
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Bit of a soap opera today on Oilersnation.

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#15 Robin Brownlee
September 09 2013, 08:16PM
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freelancer wrote:

I'm not huge on him myself Robin, but do you see any scenario in which Omark cracks the lineup opening night?

Sure. If Omark has a good pre-season and Hall is moved to center with RNH out, he's an option with more offensive pop than Jones or Smyth on LW.

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#17 Woodguy
September 09 2013, 09:46PM
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If Eakins goes with eight defensemen, I expect the first six – stop the presses – to be Andrew Ference, Ladislav Smid, Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry, Nick Schultz and reclamation project Denis Grebeshkov. Oscar Klefbom, given his SEL experience, is the best bet to grab the seventh spot and could push for a spot in the third pairing, platooning with Grebeshkov.

I see two things different on defense.

1) I like Klefbom a lot and think he'll be a good D for the Oilers for a long time (barring injury), but even MacTavish has mentioned that the rookie camp were his first games in a year and that the AHL is an option.

Belov was the highest scoring Dman in the KHL and was also on the Russian WHC team.

Since they brought all the way over from Russia and given his pedigree, I think he makes the team out of camp and would have to play his way off of it.

2) MacTavish hired 3 LHD men this summer in Ferrence, Grebeshkov and Belov (although Belov plays right as well)

Add to this LHD Smid signed to a long term contract and N.Shultz on his last year and I think N.Shultz may be moved sooner rather than later.

Some team will have an injury and need a D, and he's the odd man out.

Also,

I think the Oilers finish 4th or 5th in the Pacific and it might be good enough for the last playoff spot in the West.

Past CHI and STL no one is particularly strong in the Central and both 4th and 5th in the Pacific might be good enough for both wildcards.

ANA will also step back from last year's points/gm. They played out of their heads percentage wise and Big Sexy almost had a career year and now he's gone for over half the season.

I think 8th-11th is a reasonable range for the Oilers.

I also agree with the poster who mentioned Eberle at C might be worth a look.

It makes some sense for Eberle to play C.

Eberle, Yakupov and Hemsky can all play top 6 minutes, whereas there isn't much on the left side past Hall and Perron.

I think Hall would be fine at C, would just like to see more balance on the lines and Hall at C puts it out of whack a bit.

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#18 Jake59
September 09 2013, 08:35PM
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I think Belov plays. He's Mac T's signing and he was very high on him

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#19 OilClog
September 09 2013, 09:34PM
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Grebs over Belov? Aside from the Visa issue, not a chance of that happening. Or are we going to completely ignore Belov being the dominate player..

Good Grief

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#20 Woodguy
September 10 2013, 06:58AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I'll also have some of what Woodguy is on.

C'mon big guy, don't be holding out on us now.

What did I write that indicated I was on glue?

The 8th-11th prediction is Western Conference standings, not overall.

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#21 Hrm
September 09 2013, 09:23PM
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Hauk15 wrote:

Anyone other than me hate the idea of having Omark back? Omark sucks. I'd give big Jesse Joensuu a roster spot before Omark.

You mean Jean-Francius Joensuu?

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#22 Quicksilver ballet
September 09 2013, 08:53PM
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Hope to see the Eberle to the middle experiment happen at some point this season. Probably won't happen till after the hopes of this season have long faded.

Eberle from day 1 in the middle makes more sense than plucking the only dominant left winger this team has from his post. Hard to imagine that left side if Hall moves into the middle.

Oilers will be in great shape this season with their new rookie coach at the helm. If Eakins "guys" come in and perform like career AHL'ers, this could be over sooner rather then later. The fittest 25th place team in recent memory as the infinibuild years take hold.

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#23 Puritania
September 09 2013, 10:34PM
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OilClog wrote:

Well, then I'll take your view of the team as I would a Canucks fan then, thanks for clearing that up.

So sorry sir, cheer for who you wish

You don't like disagreements much do you?

Reuben and Willis aren't Oiler fans, they are professional writers. I'll take their objectivity over rose coloured goggle wearing, cheer leading any day. To equate their pieces with Nuck fan homers is laughable.

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#24 Bucknuck
September 09 2013, 11:13PM
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I don't see Klefbom making the team out of camp, I put Grebeskhov, Belov and Potter ahead of him on the chart right now. I think they send him to the AHL to prime his game, then when the inevitable injury happens he will get a look.

I hope that they try Hall for a few games, but if it doesn't work that they just call up Arcobello for second line duty. I daydream that Hall will be amazing at centre, but I suspect he's more a winger.

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#26 BillHK
September 09 2013, 08:32PM
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I hope that Belov will be a regular in Edm by mid-season.

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#27 Robin Brownlee
September 09 2013, 09:45PM
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OilClog wrote:

Grebs over Belov? Aside from the Visa issue, not a chance of that happening. Or are we going to completely ignore Belov being the dominate player..

Good Grief

Contrary to the inside information you must have, there is a chance of Grebeshkov starting the season ahead of Belov because MacTavish wanted him back (even though I don't see the attraction). If Grebeshkov struggles to regain NHL form (and I think he might) then Belov could be in the mix before the end of October.

And skip the "Good Grief" bit at anything you direct at me.

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I'll take your sarcastic refusal to straighten out after I warned you as an indication you no longer care to post comments here. Done.

And the wrath of Bronte is felt by a noob poster once again.

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#29 Citizen David
September 09 2013, 08:38PM
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Oilers42 wrote:

Instead of hall playing centre I would get Perron to play centre Hall-Gagner-Yak Omark-Perron-Eberle

If Omark's good enough I like those lines. I always liked Omark though. I thought he did more good than bad and was never given actual good situations to flourish. He's a tough little bugger to knock off the puck and very crafty. Remember when he stepped on the puck on the corner and skated it away from two players? Great passes too. If he can commit to better Defense and less turnovers that line would be great.

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#30 OilClog
September 09 2013, 09:41PM
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Craig1981 wrote:

Exactly how much have you seen Belov play? I'm guessing you have watched him in zero games. What makes you sure enough Belov is the dominate player that you can add a snobby "good grief" at the end. With my knowledge my might have a top 4 dman for a playoff team or an absolute useless scratch.

Actually in person.. Zero.. On youtube.. plenty. Stat sheets in the KHL for last season.. Lots.. All of the gleaming overseas media reports about him being the "Best" in the KHL.. Lets ignore all of this evidence.

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#31 book¡e
September 09 2013, 10:08PM
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David S wrote:

Is it just me or does Dallas Eakins look perpetually pissed off?

You should see him when he gets his chainsaw and boomstick out

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#33 Racki
September 09 2013, 08:43PM
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I'll predict a return to form for Hemsky. Can't possibly do any worse than last season, and he's got some better talent to play with now, most likely... unless he gets stuck with Jones or Joensuu or something. I assume he'll play with Gordon centering him, at worst, and he might have a more capable guy on the left wing than he had last year when he was struggling.

I'm not really a big fan of his, but I'm all for making the most of what we've got.. so as long as he's in the lineup, I'd love to see him do really well and regain the excitement fans used to have for him.

Very interested to see how Hall does at center, and who he will play with.

Can we find someone to marry Belov before camp starts?

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#34 Citizen David
September 09 2013, 08:48PM
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The most promising thing about the Oilers is Dallas Eakins. The reason that the Red wings stay so good no matter how many times people predict them to die is because Mike Babcock understands that the number one priority in a game is possession. You need to have possession of the puck. It sounds like Eakins is a disciple of this truth and if so this will have great affect on our performance.

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#35 Robin Brownlee
September 09 2013, 09:50PM
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OilClog wrote:

You're just the most darn tootin' optimistic person to ever! covering the Oilers aren't you ;)

I see this team finishing 10-11th if all the wildcards, Eakins, MacT.. Fail to do a damn thing. Like Come on.. Hanging on for 10-11th.. LIKE COME ON MAN! Lets just completely Deny Taylor Hall's emergence, Eb's steady presence.. and everything else that has been taking the right progressive steps forward.. You think this team will do no better, with Whitney no longer patrolling the rear guard in a Captain Hook like way... RIDICULOUS! 10-11th.. Turn in your Oiler badge and go cheer Feaster on.

Good Grief.

A couple of things . . .

-- I don't have an Oiler badge to turn in.

-- Don't tell me to cheer for anybody.

-- One more time: stow the "Good Grief" bit and, while I'm at it, the tone you're directing my way or you won't be posting here again. Understand?

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#36 Serious Gord
September 09 2013, 10:40PM
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Looking at the roster prediction I wonder if there is another team less physically imposing?

Could be a very long season.

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#37 Woodguy
September 10 2013, 08:00AM
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MacTavish on Belov the day he signed him:

“I expect him to make the team. We’re planning on starting the season with him with us next season.”

6'4" 220lbs hits hard and can score.

Good bet to make the team.

Link to article: http://www.edmontonsun.com/2013/05/30/edmonton-oilers-gm-craid-mactavish-signs-russian-national-team-and-khl-defenceman-anton-belov

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#38 JesusJuice
September 09 2013, 08:42PM
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Camp wild card: Philip Larsen. He was a legitimate top 4 option with the Stars in 2012, but regressed last year. If he returns to his rookie year form, he could crack the top 6.

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#39 Butters
September 09 2013, 09:50PM
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"More important, which team will be the first to piss and moan about one of this 25 goal celebrations this season?"

Do you mean Yak will only score 25, or will he have 25 over-the-top celebrations?

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#40 Craig1981
September 09 2013, 09:57PM
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OilClog wrote:

Actually in person.. Zero.. On youtube.. plenty. Stat sheets in the KHL for last season.. Lots.. All of the gleaming overseas media reports about him being the "Best" in the KHL.. Lets ignore all of this evidence.

You actually think youtube highlights are a good way to judge a players?!?! I got some robbie schremp, and Linus omark clips that clearly show just a highlight reel isn't indicative of a player's nhl quality. I also have some Roman Cervanka stats (omark stats as well) that show khl stats don't translate all the time. I'm not saying he is a bust, but just not a for sure.

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#41 Robin Brownlee
September 09 2013, 10:07PM
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OilClog wrote:

Well, then I'll take your view of the team as I would a Canucks fan then, thanks for clearing that up.

So sorry sir, cheer for who you wish

You don't like disagreements much do you?

I'll take your sarcastic refusal to straighten out after I warned you as an indication you no longer care to post comments here. Done.

Disagreement and disrespect are two different matters.

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#42 David S
September 09 2013, 09:49PM
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OilClog wrote:

You're just the most darn tootin' optimistic person to ever! covering the Oilers aren't you ;)

I see this team finishing 10-11th if all the wildcards, Eakins, MacT.. Fail to do a damn thing. Like Come on.. Hanging on for 10-11th.. LIKE COME ON MAN! Lets just completely Deny Taylor Hall's emergence, Eb's steady presence.. and everything else that has been taking the right progressive steps forward.. You think this team will do no better, with Whitney no longer patrolling the rear guard in a Captain Hook like way... RIDICULOUS! 10-11th.. Turn in your Oiler badge and go cheer Feaster on.

Good Grief.

We'll have Taylor Hall playing woefully out of position for a month during a hellacious away schedule.

When Nuge gets back he'll still be feeling his way back until at least Christmas.

Ryan Jones and Ryan Smyth (need I say more).

D that "still needs work".

A starting goalie our GM still doesn't have confidence in.

Yes. By all means the Oilers will at the very least challenge for conference title.

*Slap*

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#43 Fisher
September 09 2013, 09:51PM
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David S wrote:

Is it just me or does Dallas Eakins look perpetually pissed off?

I kinda hope he is. And then I hope that that rubs off on the players. And they can stay pissed off, every game day that the Cup isn't over the heads. On that day, they can smile.

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#44 Walter Sobchak
September 09 2013, 09:57PM
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The Oiler's....Where do I begin?

Last year in a shorten season the Oilers were statistically worse in a variety of areas.

If the Oilers would have lost those last two games, they would have, should have, been a lottery team again.

I just can’t see the Oilers being better the 22nd to 24th in the league.

Taking a hard look at the other teams in the west rosters, and trying to be non-biases towards the Oilers, I have the same concerns as almost every hockey magazine, media, and fans who are not Oilers fans.

The fourth line is a hot mess;

The 3rd line is not what I would consider a true “checking line”, a line that will shut the other team’s big boys down in the defensive zone while intimidating and being hard to play against…… butter soft 3rd line.

Center depth is a massive concern, not just minor, but massive.

Having Hall move to center just ruined his chance at being on the Olympic team. …..Just plain stupid!!! If I was Hall I would be more then pissed!

If the forth line is a hot mess, then the defense is just woefully inadequate!! On any other team Petry - Smid is a 2nd pairing, Schultz Jr - Ferrance is a 3rd pairing , and Shultz Sr is a 6th -7th on any playoff team.

Grebeshkov who might get a spot despite not scoring a goal in two seasons in the KHL.

Belov might not be able to do anything on a smaller, faster ice surface.

Larsen couldn’t make the Stars fulltime and Klefbom should be in the minors for at least a year, but may in fact play on the Oilers this year.

Sorry for the rant, this is how I see the team, I don’t have any optimism left, I am at a show me now point, and I no longer get that giddy feeling about the rebuild, everything is now under scrutiny.

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#46 Dan 1919
September 10 2013, 10:58AM
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My favourite over-hype of this offseason is how big and invincible Ana, SJ, and Van are. They Oilers team is pretty much hovering around 6' in the front.

That's plenty enough size to compete with these teams if the Oilers can gel their game (speed, possession, and skill). Useable size is always a great thing, but it's certainly not as big of a concern as it's being made out to be.

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#47 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
September 10 2013, 02:14PM
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@Coppperhead

I'd offer sheet just about anyone on the Flames just to see Burkie's pudgy little face turn beet red while he sputtered away on Sportsnet.

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#48 David S
September 10 2013, 02:28PM
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Uh guys...we have pretty much ZERO cap space left. The only offer sheets we'll be sending out will be to Flames washroom attendants (I hear they're the best in the league).

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#49 Citizen David
September 09 2013, 08:34PM
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Jamie B. wrote:

Nuge's face in that picture is about how I feel about the roster: eh.

All we need is Joensuu and one of the new defencemen ex. Belov to play above expectations and the roster looks pretty good. Of course all we need is an injury to Hall or Nuge to miss a lengthy amount of time and the roster looks bad.

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#50 Hauk15
September 09 2013, 09:15PM
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Anyone other than me hate the idea of having Omark back? Omark sucks. I'd give big Jesse Joensuu a roster spot before Omark.

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