The boys are back in town

The Oilers are finally back, as the players were put through their annual medicals today. All the vets came in healthy and will be on the ice tomorrow. The same can’t be said for their head coach, as Craig MacTavish had his right hand bandaged after having surgery to repair some damaged tendons on his hand. MacT joked that hopefully it will just be the coaching staff on the injured list this season.

Some interesting points from Day 1

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It sounds like MacTavish has his top three line combinations set, and there was one major surprise. Oiler fans, your third line centre will be…

Marc Pouliot? No…
Kyle Brodziak? Not yet…
Dustin Penner? Negative…

It will be none of than Fernando Pisani.

MacTavish said he is leaning to trying Pisani in the middle with Moreau on the left side and Dustin Penner moving to the right side. This is a shocker, but to me it shows that right now there isn’t much faith in Pouliot being a centre on this team. Brodziak has a lock on the 4th line centre and if the Pisani experiment doesn’t work, he will get a shot on the 3rd line.

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MacT also said you can pencil in Zack Stortini to be the 4th line right winger on opening night. So that leaves the left side of the 4th line as the only position up for grabs heading into camp. Meaning Marc Pouliot, Gilbert Brule and Rob Schremp are the three leading candidates to get the job. J.F Jacques’ back has acted up again and it sounds like he is destined for surgery more than a spot on the roster.

As expected the kid line will play together and MacT is curious to see how they look. “We have to give them a chance to grow together, and put them back in a position to succeed.”

The defence will be paired by the Alphabet

The “S’s” will play together, Staios and Souray.
The “G’s” will start beside one another, Gilbert and Grebeshkov.
And the “L’s”, Lubomir and Ladislav will be a pair. This pairing will depend on the health of Smid, who still isn’t 100% healthy on his surgically repaired knee. He says it’s about 85% and needs to see how it responds in one-on-one battles.

Horcoff in great shape

Shawn Horcoff has added five pounds to his upper body, and it showed during the fitness testing. While we aren’t privy to the exact numbers, during one strength test that involves essentially spinning a wheel that is loaded down with weights, Horcoff ripped through it while some teammates struggled. Horcoff seems determined to pick up where he left off last year, and will play and produce like an All Star.

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Check in all weekend to read my reports from the first one-ice sessions through to the Joey Moss Cup.

You can hear Jason weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. on the TEAM 1260, or listen online at

  • Those defense pairings sound better than the ones that Charlie Huddy talked to Dan Tencer about a few weeks ago (Souray-Staios, Gilbert-Visnovsky, Grebeshkov-Smid).

    Pisani up the middle? Very interesting, and the adaption to a checking line will probably be easier for Penner if he stays on the wing – and if and when he displaces someone on the top two lines, it'll probably be easier for that player to play on the wing as well.

  • Barto

    Maybe the Pisani-as-center thing is due to a lack of faith in Brodziak being able to handle 3rd-line center duties right from the get-go… I would've been surprised to see Pouliot to get that over Brodziak anyway, based on how well Kyle did in the latter half of last season. He's probably the guy they (eventually) want to take over from Stoll as the 3rd-line checking center, with Pouliot finding his niche on the 4th line as center or winger.

    What's the waiver situation on those 3 fighting for that 4th-line spot (Pouliot, Brule, Schremp)? Do any of them have to clear waivers to get sent down to Springfield?

  • Jason Gregor

    Pouliot has to clear waivers, but the other two do not. So you can expect him to start the season in Edmonton, either on the 4th line or in the pressbox.

  • namflashback

    Well, this does two things — puts his second toughest line of players together and allows the less experience 2 and 4 line to get more shelter.

    You know — the kids shift on as Iginla, Gaborik, Sedin lines leave the ice. Either the Horcoff or the Pisani centered lines get the tougher matchups.

    It allows him to give Moreau a bigger heaping of icetime than he would otherwise get nestled into the 4th line.

    I anticipate that he will break camp with this alignment, but ease off of it after the long road trip once 51 and 78 are in the swing of things.

  • gord

    ''You guys should do a write up on how Dustin Penner spent all summer clowning around learning how to juggle instead of excercising. That would be a hoot.''

    haha no doubt.. i read that too.. "I can juggle twenty in a row, got some tennis balls around? … No?"

  • Pisani?? I love the guy, but he has little experience on the dot, and what he has done on wave-outs isn't exactly stellar: he was an "awesome" 2 for 7 on FOs last yr. Previous yr 4 for 12, 05-06 8 for 35, 03-04 2 for 10… and, well, you get the picture.

    I agree with namflashback – it does make for a solid third line… I'm guessing that Penner would be taking at least half of those draws?

    I did like Penner on the kid line tho.

  • Pisani?? I love the guy, but he has little experience on the dot, and what he has done on wave-outs isn’t exactly stellar: he was an “awesome” 2 for 7 on FOs last yr. Previous yr 4 for 12, 05-06 8 for 35, 03-04 2 for 10… and, well, you get the picture.

    Although, IIRC, somebody put some numbers together that showed that the replacement player on faceoffs was much more likely to lose the draw – and that makes sense, partially because whoever it is probably doesn't take a ton of draws, but also because of the potential for a delay-of-game penalty if that second player is tossed out.

    In other words, I'm going to take Pisani's record to date with a grain of salt.

  • Fiveandagame

    //In other words, I’m going to take Pisani’s record to date with a grain of salt.//

    Jonathan this comment almost made me cry with joy..insight over stats…well I guess you used a Stat to argue a stats validity…but either way. I'm smiling:)

  • Ryan

    I wrote a little blog on this as well:

    The Oilers feel they can build from within the system. However, I've been reading "respectable" bloggers in regards to the 3rd line centre void. They have been bantering up ideas to bring in a Smolinski or a Marchant. So in my effort to silence the critics, so to speak, I for one strongly feel those statements are poorly executed. "IF" that were to be the case, why did the Oilers let Reasoner walk?

    I was reading into the words of MacT, who recently stated that he will in fact be starting PISANI at centre; and as for PENNER, a left handed shooter will be placed on Pisani's right wing.

    Yesterday Pisani made his way at centre ice to start off training camp. "I felt pretty good on the faceoffs," said Pisani. "I was a little nervous to be honest but I thought I did pretty well.

    And as far as Schremp goes, "This is the first year I can say that Rob has a real legitimate chance of staying here,"

    "Obviously that will be proven through training camp. But he's given himself the opportunity, and we're going to give him every opportunity to prove he belongs here." encouraging words from Coach Craig Mactavish.

    These statements really are in Rob Schremp's benefit… it seems there is no reason why he won't be making his way to the NHL. The door really began to open last year when Schremp was moved from centre to left wing; a move that was pushed by the Oilers upper management in an attempt to strengthen his chances of cracking the Oilers line-up.

    Schremp spent the majority of his off season hard at work in L.A, "I focused pretty hard in the summer, went down and saw (strength and conditioning coach) Chad (Moreau) and I think I've put myself in a pretty good position, probably the best since I was drafted."

    Hopefully all the hard work pays off…I fully expect to see Schremp donning the Oilers uniform at the start of the season.

    So why not Brule or Pouliot? They are centre men, both with a Right hand shot. It's not in good practice to have two wingers on the same line playing there opposite side; it eliminates the playmaking winger and results in a line with poor puck control.

    However, it should be a concerning for Pisani; if not motivation. If he can not lock up that centre position…he likely will be moved. Lowe stated the other day that he has no issue moving a veteran to make way for the young guy. Brule, Pouliot are looking to battle Pisani for that job.

    Time will tell, it will be an interesting few weeks.