Just when you thought nothing was going on this summer, once again the Nation proved us all wrong:
- The Nation sends me to the NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, which was awesome. Although the best part was watching bingofuel and Lynda Steele flirt with one another during a segment on Global. She is one sassy lassy.
- The Colossal Fossil left town, only to be replaced by a tad younger fossil.
- Heatleygate pushed us through the dog days of summer.
- I watched in agony as Jason Strudwick put on possibly the worst hitting display ever by a professional athlete, when I crushed him in a hitting contest at Telus field (see the video above).
- Then Wayne breaks a story on the only day all summer that he didn’t crush 18 beers. And the crack team of audio wizards at The TEAM 1260 put these gems together: Comrie’s Back. Back Again.
- We unveil my favourite new segment on Just A Game, Brownlee’s Irritants of the Week (You don’t want to miss this every Thursday).
- Willis lands a new gig.
- Finally the Oilers are back on the ice this weekend.
Sure there was the Coyote saga, but that has been as annoying to follow as when you see your buddy continue to get back together with a flaky ex-girlfriend.
Ch-ch-ch-changes… for the Oilers, that is
Training camp will be much different this year. For the past few seasons the players scrimmaged on day one, two and three and then went into pre-season games. Pat Quinn and his coaching staff will be focusing on getting the players comfortable with the new system on the first few days of camp, so there will be more technical elements and less scrimmage time.
With the addition of Comrie, the Oilers have 19 forwards in camp who have played in the NHL. Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner, Gagner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Comrie, O’Sullivan, Moreau, Pisani, Pouliot, Stortini, Brule, Jacques, MacIntyre, Stone, Potulny, Schremp and Reddox. If you toss in Jordan Eberle, who looked great last night in the rookie game, that is 20 guys battling for 14 spots.
Potulny, Stone, and Schremp are out for sure, and I think Eberle is a long shot. I still think Pouliot is going to the odd guy out and probably Reddox, but we will see what transpires.
The big question is who will play where?
Will Pat Quinn have three scoring lines and a checking/energy line? After a conversation with some Oiler brass in Leduc last night, I don’t think it’s cut and dry that they’ll go with two scoring lines, a checking one and an energy line. Quinn might look for three balanced lines and then an energy/checking line.
Would these line combinations work?
Comrie — Horcoff — Hemsky
Comrie has skill, and Hemsky might have more confidence dishing the puck to him than some of the other guys he has played with in the past. Horcoff can be the defensive conscience on this line.
Nilsson — Gagner — O’Sullivan
Not a big line, but there isn’t much size to go around amongst the skilled players. Nilsson had his best stretch with Gagner, and O’Sullivan is the sleeper heading into camp. He won’t be nearly as bad as he was since coming over from LA, and he sounds ready to make a statement with the Oilers this year.
Penner — Cogliano — Pisani
I know Cogliano sucks in the dot, but he should improve strictly because he’s stronger this year. If he struggles again, Penner can take the draws.
Penner is more comfortable when he isn’t on the supposed top-line, so he could flourish here.
**I saw him yesterday for the first time this year, and he looks in decent shape. Maybe around 240, which for him is a good weight**.
Pisani has a great shot, and he might be the smartest positional player on the team, so his defensive awareness could allow Cogliano to take a few risks with his speed, and try to get the jump on some loose pucks.
Moreau — Brule — Stortini
Moreau and Brule can get minutes by killing penalties. Stortini is great at creating havoc on the forecheck — maybe the best on the team — and all three can crash and bang. Of course these lines will vary due to injury and such, but Quinn will try lots of different combinations starting Tuesday in Calgary.
Extra forwards are Jacques and MacIntyre. (I’m not a Pouliot fan, and while it makes more sense to have one of the extra forwards be a guy who can play wing or centre, I’m still not keeping him.) MacIntyre will be needed for a few games against the super heavyweights, and Jacques will push players to be consistent.
I don’t see any battles on the blueline or in goal.
Souray, Visnovsky, Grebeshkov, Gilbert, Smid, Staios and Strudwick will be the seven, while the younger fossil and JDD will tend the twine.
Quinn wants this team to push the pace and be aggressive on the forecheck, which means more skating and using more energy. He might want a better distribution of minutes amongst more forwards, rather than have his fourth line play eight minutes of less.
The only player I see with a chance shock some people and crack the lineup is Eberle, and if he does then I can’t see anyway that Nilsson sticks around.
Questions that need answers
What makes this training camp and pre-season more entertaining than the past eight I’ve covered is that we really don’t know where players will play and who they will play with.
- Horcoff is probably the best fit for a traditional third line centre, and if the Rangers paid Bobby Holik $9 million to be a checker, can’t the Oilers pay Horcoff to do the same?
- Can Comrie return to his 30-goal form or are his best days behind him?
- Is Cogliano ready to become a top-six forward?
- Can Gagner get off to a good start for once?
- Will Hemsky become a point-a-game player?
- Will Wanye continue to break stories? Hell will he write more than one a month?
- Can Quinn use his old man strength and wisdom and convince Penner to show up most nights? (Ditto for Nilsson.)
- Has JF Jacques realized what he needs to do to become a regular NHLer?
- Which poster will Brownlee carve first?
- Will the Oilers have a 30-goal scorer?
- Will Stortini fight more than 25 times?
- Can Tom Renney get their special teams in the top half of the league?
- How many games will Bulin Wall play before he tweaks a groin?
- Will girls make out on the smooch cam and get banned for six months? I sure as hell hope they don’t get banned.
- Will beers cost $8.50 this year? They sure as $&*#& better not!
- Will the Oilers suck the big ones on Tuesday home games again?
- Will scalpers get more for Ovechkin or Crosby games?
- Will the Oilers win more than 23 games at home?
- Who will be the Nation’s whipping boy this year?
MacT coming to your house
Former Oiler bench boss Craig MacTavish will be coaching Canada’s team in the Spengler Cup, but you’ll see him much sooner than that.
He has agreed to be an analyst on TSN.
You might not have liked his coaching style, but MacT was great behind the mic. Hopefully he’ll bring that same quick wit and dry sense of humour to the camera.
I’ll take him over another goalie any day, and I suspect he’ll be very good at that gig.