Tonight Oiler fans will be lucky to watch your team from the comfort of your couch on your big screen TV, rather than your laptop, and the game should be more enjoyable.
I can’t stand watching a movie on my laptop, nevermind an NHL game, and even if I have to listen to a goalie analyst on TSN tonight I’ll still be happy.
Here’s what I saw from last night’s game, and I’ll bet some of you saw it differently.
- JF Jacques has finally realized what he needs to do to be an effective NHL player: hit, move his feet, protect the puck, be physical, lay some greasy/questionable hits and shoot the puck. Jacques has been the biggest surprise of camp and he played solid again last night — 16:11 of icetime, with a goal, two shots on net, three hits and a fight. He probably won’t stay with Horcoff and Hemsky (more on that later), but right now he has moved ahead of Ethan Moreau on the LW depth chart. I think Moreau is on the 4th line and Jacques will be in the top nine.
- Dustin Penner can be effective when he moves his feet. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but the big man didn’t do it last year, and he didn’t do it consistently in 2007/08 either. But he has been very solid in every game so far this preseason, regardless of who he has played with. He hasn’t looked slow alongside Cogliano or Brule, and I’m betting it’s only a matter of time before he finds himself back with Horcoff and Hemsky. But could this team be better if he plays on a different line? If Penner is going to be this effective with Cogliano, maybe it’s best to play him there and spread out the scoring. I’ve always liked a Penner/Cogliano/Pisani combination, and I think it could work well. But that can only happen if Jacques continues to play like he has so far, and that is a BIG if.
- Does Hemsky look frustrated or is he hesitant? In talking to him it would seem to be more of the latter. Sure, he’d like to score more, but he is focusing on understanding exactly what Quinn wants from him. Last night, he didn’t see the ice much in the first, due to the five Flames’ powerplays, and he never seemed to get on track after that. On the PP, the Oilers looked lost, but since they haven’t practiced the powerplay yet, that isn’t a surprise. I can tell you this, that Quinn wants to see more dedication from Hemsky on the ice, and a bit more leadership off of it. He wants Hemsky to work a bit more with the young guys, and I think we’ll see that once the team is picked.
- I never saw why many thought Ryan Stone was going to make this team. He can’t skate well enough to be a regular in my mind. Last night, his footspeed, or lack thereof, was obvious. He is gritty, and doesn’t shy away, but against regular NHL defencemen he wasn’t a factor. I would take Reddox over Stone, because Reddox works just as hard, and while he can’t hit guys as well, he skates better and can cause more havoc.
- Kip Brennan was a nice story, but he’ll be in Springfield. He isn’t better than Stortini, and isn’t as tough as MacIntyre.
- If Gagner plays with Comrie and O’Sullivan will they be effective? Comrie and Gagner are fairly gritty for their size, but neither will wow you with their speed and they won’t knock many guys off the puck. Quinn has stated many times that this team loses too many battles, so I wonder if he’d consider using them as a trio.
- Smid, Grebeshkov and Visnovsky struggled mightily last night. Smid handled the puck like it was a hot potato. Grebeshkov made many bad reads, and got out muscled on Glencross’ shorthanded marker, while Visnovsky really struggled along the boards, and lost too many battles. In Visnovsky’s case I’ll give him a break because he hasn’t played much in last seven months, but Grebeshkov and Smid need to pick up their game.
- Do you think that Staios might be a calming influence on Smid, and not a detriment like many fans feel?
- Gilbert Brule will be here to start the season. Quinn is warming up to him more every day. Brule was very effective last night. He needs to move his feet consistently and if he continues to be close to 58% in the dot, he’ll get even more icetime.
- I can’t believe that some people think Stortini is on the bubble. Wake up people he brings much of what Quinn wants. Tenacity, wins battles, makes smart decisions and is a good forechecker. I think a Moreau/Brule/Stortini line could make life tough on opposing d-men.
- Pouliot and Pisani were both scheduled to play tonight, but both will sit out due to minor injuries. Pisani pulled a muscle in his back at practice on Tuesday and it tightened up on him. He is hoping to play on Sunday. Pouliot has a slight leg issue, but again it doesn’t seem that serious.
- Many have wondered if Pisani is on the bubble, and I’d agree he hasn’t done much in his two games, he rarely loses one-on-one battles on the boards. Quinn knows he needs more guys like that in the lineup, and I think on that reason alone Pisani will stick.
- Is tonight the last game Rob Schremp plays as an Oiler? I can’t see any scenario that doesn’t involve him being sent down. Will another team pick him up, or will Schremp have to prove himself in the minors? I sure don’t think it is a guarantee another team will pick him up.
- Nilsson played okay last night, but was it enough to keep him around? My gut tells me no.
- Theo Fleury, God bless you for straightening you life out, because the bottle has damaged too many good people, but you don’t have the foot speed to play in the NHL. Your hockey sense is still there, but your speed isn’t. If playing in the AHL helps with your healing process good on you, and if you just needed to see for yourself that the NHL is in your past, I respect that. A LOT. I hope you stay clean.