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.