The Oilers Centre Depth Chart

Jonathan Willis
May 17 2014 01:34PM

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins2

A year ago, the Edmonton Oilers entered the year with a centre depth chart featuring Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner (both injured) in the top two jobs, Mark Arcobello as a fill-in, Boyd Gordon in the third-line job and Will Acton on the fourth line.

The results weren’t pretty. Where do they go from here?

The Givens

93-RNH-11

The first-line job seems destined to remain with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’ve heard some complaint about that from Oilers fans – the consensus seems to be that he isn’t big enough – but this is what happens when a team does the kind of scorched-earth rebuild the Oilers have engaged in. Young players get pushed into hard jobs before they’re really ready for them.

Nugent-Hopkins is a special player; I think everyone realizes that. He’s a good bet to grow into the role and it’s difficult to see the Oilers finding someone better than him over the summer (Jason Spezza, to pick the obvious choice, would be a nice fit but he’ll be costly to acquire and he’s a year away from free agency). Barring something very unexpected, the Oilers’ best play is to leave Nugent-Hopkins in the top slot.

27-Gordon-1

Boyd Gordon did a nice job in a tough role last season, but in a perfect world he slots in on the fourth line next year. The Oilers need to get some offence from their third line, and that would be helped immensely if the fourth line can take a pile of defensive zone draws and take some of the ugly defensive work away from the top-nine. With Gordon and Matt Hendricks, that’s a real possibility.

Unresolved

89-Gagner-7

Sam Gagner has been traded on the internet countless times over the last couple of years, and this summer it seems a good bet that he’ll be traded for real. He’s a better player than he sometimes gets credit for, but he has significant issues and an injury at the start of last season helped highlight those.

In the unlikely event that Gagner stays, he’ll centre a protected scoring line. If he’s dealt, it will likely be to a team with a surplus of checkers and a need of some scoring. The names generally mentioned in rumour are guys like the Islanders’ Josh Bailey (6’1”, 194 pounds, career-high 38 points) or Nashville’s Colin Wilson (6’1”, 216 pounds, career-high 35 points).

The upshot is that the Oilers could end up with a second-line centre, a third-line centre, or something else entirely there.

26-Arcobello-5

Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander were both re-signed by Edmonton. Arcobello is a gifted offensive centre who showed a capacity to do a lot of different things last season, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if there was some hesitancy by the Oilers to pencil him into their top-nine. Lander is a gifted defensive centre who has struggled to convert his game to the NHL level; if he’s in the starting-12 it will likely be on the fourth line.

The Oilers also currently hold the third overall pick in the 2014 Draft, and the most likely selection is a centre. If the Oilers come away with any of Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett or Leon Draisaitl that player would likely be bumped immediately to the NHL as the centre of a protected scoring line – perhaps with Nail Yakupov on one wing and a veteran defensive winger on the other side.

So What Happens?

Craig MacTavish9

Edmonton won’t be able to finalize their plans until after this summer’s entry draft. If they add a centre, there really isn’t much room for Gagner, and trading him for a third-line pivot (and bumping Boyd Gordon down to the fourth line) makes great sense.

If, instead, the Oilers add a defenceman via the draft, things get more complicated. My guess is that they would still attempt to move Gagner for a third-line pivot and then try to find a replacement second-line centre via free agency.

The only certainty here is uncertainty. As Kevin Lowe might put it, expect the unexpected.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Daryl
May 17 2014, 01:38PM
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Expect the unexpected ok fire Kevin Lowe

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#2 Taylor Gang
May 17 2014, 01:45PM
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Daryl wrote:

Expect the unexpected ok fire Kevin Lowe

Beat a dead horse a little more why don't you.

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#3 The artist formerly known as Harry
May 17 2014, 01:47PM
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Whoever they draft shoukd stay in the CHL for at least one more season. This trend of throwing a raw 18 year old into big time minutes has to stop.

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#4 Taylor Gang
May 17 2014, 01:52PM
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Could C possibly be a greater need on this team than D? If so, forget drafting a center, sign/trade for one. I just don't see how Bennett/Draisatl could help the team next year.

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#5 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
May 17 2014, 01:57PM
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Taylor Gang wrote:

Beat a dead horse a little more why don't you.

That horse raised its head

looked left then right, and whinnied...

"I'm not quite dead yet*"

-------------------------------------------------

*I mean, Kevin Lowe STILL has a job,right?

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#6 Sevenseven
May 17 2014, 01:57PM
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Oh, dont forget right wing too. There is a huge hole after eberle and yak.

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#7 The artist formerly known as Harry
May 17 2014, 01:58PM
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Brian Boyle would be a perfect fit between yak and perron. If Mac can land a him and draft one of the centers I see no need to rush a Gagner trade which will will allow the pick some valuable seasoning time in the CHL.

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#8 a lg dubl dubl
May 17 2014, 02:01PM
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Taylor Gang wrote:

Could C possibly be a greater need on this team than D? If so, forget drafting a center, sign/trade for one. I just don't see how Bennett/Draisatl could help the team next year.

they could if the Oilers want to go after McDavid. In which case we start hearing rumblings of Hall wanting out and everybody from Lowe down should be fired.

Playoffs or damn close next yr, that's what has to happen imo.

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#9 Sevenseven
May 17 2014, 02:01PM
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http://lowetide.ca/blog/2014/05/barons-snapshot.html

0 right wingers on the farm team.

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#10 Taylor Gang
May 17 2014, 02:11PM
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a lg dubl dubl wrote:

they could if the Oilers want to go after McDavid. In which case we start hearing rumblings of Hall wanting out and everybody from Lowe down should be fired.

Playoffs or damn close next yr, that's what has to happen imo.

Agreed. This team simply cannot afford to have another dismal season. If that did happen, you couldn't possibly expect Lowe and co. to keep their jobs.

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#11 RexHolez
May 17 2014, 02:11PM
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Taylor Gang wrote:

Beat a dead horse a little more why don't you.

the horse isn't dead, Lowe is still here

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#12 Sketchy
May 17 2014, 02:17PM
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Taylor Gang wrote:

Agreed. This team simply cannot afford to have another dismal season. If that did happen, you couldn't possibly expect Lowe and co. to keep their jobs.

if this team isn't atleast within 8-10 pts of a playoff spot next year and Lowe still stays, their's just no possible way for me to stay an oiler fan. lifes too short

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#13 Reid Snider
May 17 2014, 02:19PM
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Daryl wrote:

Expect the unexpected ok fire Kevin Lowe

Let's get over this already. We have been told several times that Kevin not going anywhere. Do you really think Katz is going to suddenly listen to you and do something he said he wouldn't . Find something more interesting to say or please stop eating your time and ours with these kind of comments

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#14 RexHolez
May 17 2014, 02:26PM
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Reid Snider wrote:

Let's get over this already. We have been told several times that Kevin not going anywhere. Do you really think Katz is going to suddenly listen to you and do something he said he wouldn't . Find something more interesting to say or please stop eating your time and ours with these kind of comments

a 7 word comment wasted your time?? how long did it take to type out that response? im guessing that was a bigger waste of time.

this fan base has every right to call for change.

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#15 Oilerboy1112
May 17 2014, 02:38PM
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RNH should have been one of the best centers in the league right now if he was developed properly.

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#16 Al Low
May 17 2014, 02:42PM
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I think Arcobello ends up in that 3rd line spot. Gagner should be gone but we'll find out what he gets moved for. They need some scoring touch on that 3rd line and if they can bring in a couple of wingers to play with Arcobello, it would be huge and allow Gordon, Hendricks and possibly Pitlick to play the 4th line.

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#17 godot10
May 17 2014, 03:05PM
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Gordon is paid like a high-end 3rd liner. And Hendricks like a 3rd liner.

They will play on the 3rd line. If you are playing 3rd liners on the 4th line, of course, it will be a good 4th line, but you aren't going to have enough money to pay for enough 3rd and 2nd liners.

A better strategy is not to think 1-2-3-4, but build two tough minutes line, one soft minutes line, and build a 4th line capable of D-zone faceoffs against everyone except the opposition's best line.

Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle (tough minute line) Perron, Gordon (Kulemin-type-signing) (tough minute line) XXX, Gagner or replacement, Yakupov (soft minutes, protected line) Hendricks, Lander, Arcobello (4th line capable of D-zone draws) pressbox (Gadzic, Joensuu)

That 4th line has 3 players capable of taking a draw. They can be aggressive in the circle, and they can chose the best matchup to take the draw.

With a 4th line that can ease the D-zone faceoff burden on Gordon, Gordon's faceoff ability can be used more in the offensive zone, to try and maintain ozone time.

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#18 Lucian
May 17 2014, 03:25PM
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Reid Snider wrote:

Let's get over this already. We have been told several times that Kevin not going anywhere. Do you really think Katz is going to suddenly listen to you and do something he said he wouldn't . Find something more interesting to say or please stop eating your time and ours with these kind of comments

Just because the owner is fine with incompetence doesn't mean the fans have to just bend over and take it!

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#19 #ThereGoesTheOilers
May 17 2014, 03:35PM
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Iginla would be a hell of a fit, but he wants a cup and lord knows Edmonton is not anywhere close to one yet.

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#20 Fresh Mess
May 17 2014, 03:47PM
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Sevenseven wrote:

Oh, dont forget right wing too. There is a huge hole after eberle and yak.

There is a huge hole after Eberle. Yakupov is a horrendous NHL player.

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#21 Danger Pay
May 17 2014, 03:53PM
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LOL Depth Chart? Good one.

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#22 pelhem grenville
May 17 2014, 04:43PM
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...is Draisaitl too young to play in OKC for a season?

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#23 Bucknuck
May 17 2014, 05:05PM
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I sure hope that the Oil start winning this year. The cesspool of negativity is so deep that even optimistic patient fans will drown in it.

I'm still disappointed that they didn't make Gagner EARN his ice-time last season. It made a liar out of Eakins as far as I am concerned. I wonder if that came "from above" or what.

I'm not saying Arco is a #2 centre, but he played a lot better than Gagner last year and there is no reason he should have been demoted ahead of Gags. It was inexplicable... especially with Acton still playing.

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#24 Grounded Star
May 17 2014, 05:34PM
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This inspired me to do a little armchair GMing, and come up with a list of potential free agents to suit.

First of all, I perused the list of D-men scheduled to have their contracts expire, and though I don't see a lot of potential targets who look like good fits here, there are a few if they aren't resigned by their teams.

1. Andrei Markov - most likely gets resigned by the habs, I think, but who knows, anything is possible. 2. Matt Niskanen - his numbers are inflated by the luxury of whom he gets to play with, but they're also hard to argue with, certainly worth a look if he's not extended by the Pens. 3. Brooks Orpik - can't stand the guy personally, but would be a great addition to the Oilers seriously lacking d-corps.

There's a laundry list of others who could be intriguing but are unlikely to still have UFA status when the window opens: Stralman, Diaz, Hainsey all have merits if they do hit the market, but it isn't overly impressive to be someone who might help out the Copper and Blue's d-corps.

Now at forward there are actually a few names that would moderately intrigue me:

1. Paul Stastny. - he was great for the Avs in the playoffs, and though he doesn't play the physical style we all want in a complimentary C to #93, he's the best free agent available who plays the position.

2. Thomas Vanek/Marian Gaborik - a boy can dream can't he? -- Both these guys are likely to command huge deals in the off-season, but I'm led to believe Mr Katz has deep pockets. The signing of one of these two would open the door to a multitude of options for trading to acquire a (hopefully actual and not "potential") top-pairing d-man. Possibly available at a perhaps slightly lower cap-hit: Matt Moulson, Milan Michalek.

3. Steve Ott - likely to be highly sought after if not retained by the Blues, but would look great as a 3-line C who brings a touch more offense than Boyd Gordon and drives opposing players and fans absolutely nuts. Other potential options here: Mikhail Grabovski, Marcel Goc

There are multitudes of players who could fill in spots on the 3rd and 4th lines between prospects moving up in the Oil organization and free agent bottom 6 forwards.

But just as a potential unlikely to happen scenario, check out this theoretical roster!

Hall - Stastny - Michalek Perron - Nuge - Yakupov Pitlick - Ott - *FreeAgent* Gazdik/Pinizotto - Gordon - Hendricks

*top pair d-man through trade* - Schultz Ference - Marincin Klefbom - Diaz

Interesting to ponder. Unlikely to come to fruition... if only the real NHL was governed by EA Sports Xbox/Playstation Logic.

Though on the bright side, I did leave out anything to do with a draft pick, although that was mostly thinking it would take Eberle, Petry and the pick to get a bona-fide top pairing D man, which is probably the most unlikely part of my fictional scenario here

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#25 bazmagoo
May 17 2014, 05:35PM
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Arco/Lander should battle for the 3rd line slot, with Gordon as a 4th line pivot who can play extra minutes throughout the lineup would be a positive step. Hendricks, Gazdic and Joensuu are 4th line players at best.

In my opinion the 2nd line center position and both wings on the 3rd line are holes that need to be filled with decent players for us to be successful at forward. On defense we need a left sided veteran d-man on a short term deal (3 years or less) or we essentially have to go with our youth which is a scary proposition. Our lack of depth on d has plagued us for years, and still continues to be our main obstacle.

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#26 bwar
May 17 2014, 05:35PM
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I think the offseason plan really hinges on who we end up with in the draft. Ekblad really forces MacT to address the 2C issue. Rienhart or Draisaitl probably force MacT to keep Gagner around for another season or someone else as a temporary fix. Bennet might be able to make the jump into the NHL and would make Gagner even more expendable allowing MacT to focus on other holes in the line up.

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#27 Hoss83
May 17 2014, 05:50PM
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Oilerboy1112 wrote:

RNH should have been one of the best centers in the league right now if he was developed properly.

Yea because of all those "best centres in the league" that were the best when they are 19-20 and all.

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#28 bazmagoo
May 17 2014, 06:05PM
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bwar wrote:

I think the offseason plan really hinges on who we end up with in the draft. Ekblad really forces MacT to address the 2C issue. Rienhart or Draisaitl probably force MacT to keep Gagner around for another season or someone else as a temporary fix. Bennet might be able to make the jump into the NHL and would make Gagner even more expendable allowing MacT to focus on other holes in the line up.

100% correct. Looking at it objectively, I don't really see any way we can go wrong with any of Ekblad, Bennett or Reinhart. All 3 look like studs and all 3 could go #1 overall. I think the only mistake we could possibly make is drafting Draisaitl in the #3 spot, but that's just my opinion. If we end up drafting Draisaitl, I'm praying it's because we swap picks with the Islanders and not because we draft him 3rd overall.

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#29 Britts94
May 17 2014, 06:23PM
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Taylor Gang wrote:

Could C possibly be a greater need on this team than D? If so, forget drafting a center, sign/trade for one. I just don't see how Bennett/Draisatl could help the team next year.

Drafting doesn't have anything to do with improving the team next year.... It is for the long term.

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#30 bwar
May 17 2014, 06:33PM
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@bazmagoo

If it came down to choosing between Reinhart and Draisaitl, I could see the Oilers going with Draisaitl just because the Oilers feel he adds something to the team that we currently lack where Reinhart largely looks to be similar to the Nuge.

I'm not saying this is the right decision but I'm just posing a scenario where the Oilers might end up choosing Draisaitl.

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#31 Taylor Gang
May 17 2014, 06:46PM
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Britts94 wrote:

Drafting doesn't have anything to do with improving the team next year.... It is for the long term.

Teams should draft to improve the team, full stop.

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#32 Sorensenator
May 17 2014, 06:55PM
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Yeah we all know Kevin Lowe needs to be fired. Almost instantly, management will be able to sign a centre like Paul Statsny without even blinking an eye, solely because that player will know Kevin Lowe won't be in charge anymore.

Piece of cake.

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#33 Jackson
May 17 2014, 08:02PM
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A little premature talking about the depth chart . Oilers are not even a NHL team.

Have you looked at their record for the last 8 years?

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#34 DonDon
May 17 2014, 08:11PM
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"A year ago, the Edmonton Oilers entered the year with a centre depth chart featuring Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner (both injured) in the top two jobs, Mark Arcobello as a fill-in, Boyd Gordon in the third-line job and Will Acton on the fourth line.

The results weren’t pretty. Where do they go from here?"

You neglected to mention the failed experiment to convert Hall to centre to replace RNH due to injury. It was a major distraction to say the least that led to the impossibility of making the playoffs.

As noted in the discussions, there is a likelihood of picking up a centre from UFA; not so much with a 1/2 D.

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#35 Sorensenator
May 17 2014, 08:25PM
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DonDon wrote:

"A year ago, the Edmonton Oilers entered the year with a centre depth chart featuring Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner (both injured) in the top two jobs, Mark Arcobello as a fill-in, Boyd Gordon in the third-line job and Will Acton on the fourth line.

The results weren’t pretty. Where do they go from here?"

You neglected to mention the failed experiment to convert Hall to centre to replace RNH due to injury. It was a major distraction to say the least that led to the impossibility of making the playoffs.

As noted in the discussions, there is a likelihood of picking up a centre from UFA; not so much with a 1/2 D.

Yes it wasn't pretty, also we had the worst goaltending in the NHL, tough to start a season with what they had

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#36 DAVE
May 17 2014, 08:32PM
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pelhem grenville wrote:

...is Draisaitl too young to play in OKC for a season?

I believe based on his birth date he can play in OKC next season.

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#37 madjam
May 17 2014, 09:19PM
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Lets see who plays . Who get rid of Horcoff , Hemsky , Smid ,etc. for basically nothing as someone determines we do not need them and can be replaced with current roster or AHL member ? Yet those 3 can play good roles on better clubs than we can produce .I wonder why a new coach was bought in in thr first place ? To make matters worse ? It would appear so in hindsight . Now is Gagner going to be dealt for basically nothing as they were , and the next one inserted be worse than him ? Probably . People wonder why this club is getting worse instead of better ?

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#38 Racki
May 17 2014, 09:23PM
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DAVE wrote:

I believe based on his birth date he can play in OKC next season.

If you played in the CHL, you have to be 20 by the end of the year in order to play in the AHL. So on that note, Draisaitl won't be old enough to play in the AHL by that rule. There is some sort of exception though, and I'm not sure the exact details. I think it is for guys that aren't drafted into the CHL. I don't think Draisaitl qualifies here (to be exempt from the NHL-CHL transfer agreement) since PA drafted him in 2012, but someone can correct me if wrong. Pretty sure it's CHL or NHL for Draisaitl next year, definitely the case for Bennett, Ekblad or Reinhart though.

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#39 GoofyGoon69
May 17 2014, 09:46PM
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The Oilers has alot of needs. A 2nd line C, 3rd line wingers, a #1 d man and a depth d man. For tye draft I think they should draft either Ekblad, Leon, or Bennett. Whoever it is should be sent down to the CHL.

Options for a 2nd line C are Anisimov, Hanzal, Wilson and Stastny.

For 3rd line wingers are Moss, Downie, Boyle, and Winnik.

For the #1 d man we just need minute eaters like Ehrhoff, Markov, Orpik, Muzzin or Niskanen.

The depth d man should be a guy who can handle 3rd pairing min. and step up to the 2nd pairing when needed. could be Hainsey or Greene or someone from the farm like Klefbom or Fedun.

Lines: Hall-Nuge-Ebs Perron-Wilson/Hanzal/Anisimov-Yak Winnik-Arco/Boyle/Ott-Moss/Downie Hendricks-Gordon-Pitlick Gazdic

Ehrhoff/Orpik/Markov-Schultz Marincin-Petry Ference-Greene/Hainsey

Scrivens Fasth

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#40 etownman
May 17 2014, 10:03PM
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Daryl wrote:

Expect the unexpected ok fire Kevin Lowe

So uninformed with a knee jerk public reaction, get a grip & add some substance to your comment! So childish a comment!

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#41 Sketchy
May 17 2014, 10:20PM
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etownman wrote:

So uninformed with a knee jerk public reaction, get a grip & add some substance to your comment! So childish a comment!

Knee jerk?? I'd say its a long time coming. And what's so childish about an observation that Kevin Lowe is not good at his job and deserves to be released?

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#42 v4ance
May 17 2014, 10:27PM
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http://triblive.com/sports/joestarkey/6101920-74/crosby-penguins-game#axzz3224t8CHc

They're throwing Crosby under the bus in Pittsburgh now. If a miracle happened, he'd look nice in Oiler colors...

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#43 David S
May 17 2014, 10:39PM
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v4ance wrote:

http://triblive.com/sports/joestarkey/6101920-74/crosby-penguins-game#axzz3224t8CHc

They're throwing Crosby under the bus in Pittsburgh now. If a miracle happened, he'd look nice in Oiler colors...

Only way it's gonna happen -> http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/6Y4KNx7cY58/maxresdefault.jpg

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#44 henry
May 17 2014, 10:55PM
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@The artist formerly known as Harry

Boyle can't skate with those guys. He has some qualities, but he is slow.

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#45 madjam
May 17 2014, 11:00PM
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LOOK AT OUR LINE COMBINATIONS ON OILER SITE : Legit NHL'ers by position that we are probably keeping . Only 2 left wingers , 3 centers if we keep Gagner , 2 right wingers , and only 3 defencemen . The rest are either not being kept or are AHL'ers or rookies . A couple we just desperately need an upgrade on and should not be kept . At least 8 new bodies by combinations lineup on Oilers site.

Either Mact. makes a big slash with 8 or more new players somehow , or we are stuck with AHL'ers and rookies to go into the season . Not much optimism exists under those types of circumstances . You wondered how bad things might get under Tams , well you might be seeing someone even worse . We may need another 5 years to clear up the mess left from last years failed turnaround . Looks like NURSE will be pressed into action with Klefbom and Marincin .

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#46 henry
May 17 2014, 11:06PM
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v4ance wrote:

http://triblive.com/sports/joestarkey/6101920-74/crosby-penguins-game#axzz3224t8CHc

They're throwing Crosby under the bus in Pittsburgh now. If a miracle happened, he'd look nice in Oiler colors...

Thornton and Marleau are under the bus too. More realistic gets.

Joe would solve Yak's scoring problem quickly.

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#47 Taylor Gang
May 17 2014, 11:24PM
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v4ance wrote:

http://triblive.com/sports/joestarkey/6101920-74/crosby-penguins-game#axzz3224t8CHc

They're throwing Crosby under the bus in Pittsburgh now. If a miracle happened, he'd look nice in Oiler colors...

No truculence, I'll pass

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#49 crabman
May 18 2014, 12:42AM
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I'm not a huge fan of having such a high paid 4th line with both Gordon and Hendricks adding up to almost $5 million but if they do get bumped down to try and get more scoring from a 3rd line having a cheap defensively sound player like Lander on the other wing could be the way to go. Lander is a good penalty killer and an extra center on your shutdown line. Most people will agree it is probably time for Gagner to move on and if we can get a real NHL 3rd line center who is a solid 2 way guy I could live with that trade. That leaves a big hole at 2C. If we draft Bennet and he earns a spot in camp like Monahan did with the Flames last year he could be a good fit on a very protected 2nd scoring like. My concern here is we have an injury or 2 and we are now relying on another kid to carry a heavy load. With any luck we can sign a competent 2C and let our draft pick develop in junior.

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#50 crabman
May 18 2014, 12:57AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
godot10 wrote:

Gordon is paid like a high-end 3rd liner. And Hendricks like a 3rd liner.

They will play on the 3rd line. If you are playing 3rd liners on the 4th line, of course, it will be a good 4th line, but you aren't going to have enough money to pay for enough 3rd and 2nd liners.

A better strategy is not to think 1-2-3-4, but build two tough minutes line, one soft minutes line, and build a 4th line capable of D-zone faceoffs against everyone except the opposition's best line.

Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle (tough minute line) Perron, Gordon (Kulemin-type-signing) (tough minute line) XXX, Gagner or replacement, Yakupov (soft minutes, protected line) Hendricks, Lander, Arcobello (4th line capable of D-zone draws) pressbox (Gadzic, Joensuu)

That 4th line has 3 players capable of taking a draw. They can be aggressive in the circle, and they can chose the best matchup to take the draw.

With a 4th line that can ease the D-zone faceoff burden on Gordon, Gordon's faceoff ability can be used more in the offensive zone, to try and maintain ozone time.

I really like your thinking on how to structure the forwards line. I don't like Gagner and Yak playing together even on a sheltered scoring line. They played that role this year and still got eaten alive. Even on a soft minutes line Yak needs a more defensively responsible center until he can learn to be better in that way himself. Swap Gagner out(as you eluded to) for that type of center and I think this has the makings of a competitive offensive group.

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