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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#101 pkam
September 10 2013, 02:21PM
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Coppperhead wrote:

Is there anyone on the Flames that we could offer sheet?

I think we are better than them in most areas except the bottom 6.

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#102 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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#103 D
September 09 2013, 08:29PM
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RB,

What would need to change on the roster for your definite no to morph into a possible maybe or definite yes?

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#104 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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#105 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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#106 Cody anderson
September 09 2013, 08:50PM
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From Eakins comments about Acton he is actually one of the players I m most excited about in the bottom 6. I think if Eakins likes him that much there is a good chance he works his way onto the 4th line eaither as a replacement for Lander or as a winger.

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#107 D
September 09 2013, 09:49PM
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David S wrote:

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

He looks perpetually pissed off and that is a good thing for the Oilers.

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#108 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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#109 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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#110 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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#111 The Oilers Shot Clock
September 10 2013, 08:01PM
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@RexLibris

Office space, and the jump to conclusions mat. I've been working and living overseas offshore for ten years now. There's always someone on a hitch that suffers visa, immigration, work permit issues and that's with the company doing all the leg work. It happens.

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#112 cccsberg
September 11 2013, 10:15AM
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The Oilers Shot Clock wrote:

Haven't had a season with this many variables and wild cards for as long as I can remember. With so many unknown factors playing a role, it's easy to lean on either end of the spectrum of optimism and pesimism when in all probability, like every thing else, the season will probably fall some where in the middle. Optimistic view: Oilers grab that eight spot. Pessimistic view: They go back to the lottery. My middle ground is an improvement on last year with important and meaningful games played right to the end of the year.

Sensible assessment at this point in the season, as there are too many variables i.e. new coach, probable injuries, player additions and etc to get a good grip on the full season. Any group of players can win if they are committed and work together as a TEAM, and there's many examples going way back. Its not only talent that wins... I'm guessing your new coach will be able to instil that in your young players. As a Flames fan, I would agree Oilers trending upwards and hopefully will continue with a strong season and push for a playoff spot right to the end. Believe a strong Oilers will add incentive for Calgary to keep pace so here's cheering for you guys!

What I can't figure out is how Oilers were looking so good last year at the trade deadline, then went on that 10 game losing streak. Hopefully the team/leaders have learned something in the process, or new ones have arrived to instil a different mindset for the future. Flames have similar issues, i.e. dealing with a little success without a let-down and hopefully each can learn to grow through it to be able to stay on an even keel and work through the issues. I would guess the addition of your new 2-3 vets will help considerably in that regard.

All the best on the season, let's see what you've got come Saturday...

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