Don’t expect a sneak peek at Pat Quinn’s season-opening roster when the Edmonton Oilers wrap up the pre-season against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday because he made it clear today that’s not what we’re going to get.
Under Craig MacTavish, the last couple of games of pre-season usually provided a look at his 23-man roster, but having endured a stretch of five games in six nights and with injuries to Ethan Moreau and Marc Pouliot, Quinn won’t be showing his cards against the Canucks.
“We’ve played some guys five times,” Quinn said after practice at Rexall Place. “Rather than grind them, we’ll look again at some others who are in the competition up front.”
The way I see it
While I’m late to the guessing game when it comes to my take on what the roster will look like when it’s submitted by the 3 p.m. deadline Wednesday, here’s how I see things stacking up.
Shawn Horcoff, J.F. Jacques, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Patrick O’Sullivan, Mike Comrie, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Zack Stortini, Ryan Stone, Gilbert Brule, Marc Pouliot, Ethan Moreau and Fernando Pisani.
Kip Brennan, Liam Reddox, Jordan Eberle, Rob Schremp, Robert Nilsson, Steve MacIntyre.
Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Ladislav Smid, Steve Staios, Jason Strudwick.
Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeff Deslauriers.
Finding a fit
Pisani returned to the ice today after taking a few days off to rest the cranky back that’s had him on the shelf. Moreau and Pouliot didn’t take a twirl because they’re still resting injuries.
Pisani indicated he’ll be ready to play against the Canucks, if needed, but Quinn didn’t commit to putting him in the line-up. Here’s the most common lines and the defence pairings Quinn used today.
“Up front, we still have continuing evaluation,” Quinn said. “The hard decisions are going to come either after the game when management sits down or Monday morning.”
— I’m convinced Stone and Brule have made the roster because they bring a physical element and are suited to play in the bottom six. I think them sticking makes Nilsson expendable because he’s not suited to play in the bottom six and one good performance isn’t going to vault him into the top six at this point.
— Nilsson could get a reprieve on cut down day if either Moreau or Pouliot are put on the injured reserve list, but we don’t have an indication at this point that’s going to happen.
— With the physical presence provided by Jacques, Stortini, Stone and, to a lesser degree, Penner, I don’t see a roster spot for MacIntyre. Based on what Quinn has said, I don’t think he sees one, either.
— As for Quinn keeping Pouliot ahead of Nilsson, that’s just a gut-feeling on my part. It’s one that’s based on the same premise as Stone and Brule — Pouliot is a better fit in the bottom six.
— The defence is a no-brainer. Chorney is a year away from challenging for a job. Theo Peckham, who has missed all of camp with a sprained ankle, hasn’t been a factor.
In the room
— I’ve asked stupid questions before, but I’ve seldom intentionally thrown a player a grenade meant to put him on the spot. I’ve certainly never done it with somebody I respect like Pisani.
But I did exactly that today when I asked Pisani: “Do you feel behind the pack? Do you feel like you’ve got to make this team?”
While so-so performances and the bad back have hampered Pisani, he’s not in danger of being cut. But that’s how it sounded the way I clumsily framed the question.
What I wanted to know is if Pisani was disappointed he hadn’t shown the new coaching staff more to this point. To his credit, he shook off the implication, resisted the urge to poke me in the eye with his Easton and answered anyway.
“Everybody, when they step on the ice, wants to prove themselves,” Pisani said. “That’s the situation I’m in. I want to get out there and play. I want to show that I can play.”
— Quinn gathered the team around him late in the practice and was very animated in letting his players know he wanted intensity and execution during drills.
He obviously wasn’t happy with what he was seeing. He slapped his stick on the ice more than once to get his point across. Today isn’t the first time Quinn has done that during this camp.
— I don’t often disagree with Jim Matheson, a friend, a HHOF writer and the guy who broke me in on the Oilers beat when I arrived in 1989, but I think Matty and I have a side-bet going this season. He’s picking the Columbus Blue Jackets to miss the playoffs. I’m saying they’re a lock to make it.
— Whatever happened to addressing the need for a centre to win face-offs and take the heat of Horcoff, who led the entire NHL in appearances on the dot last season?
I’m guessing Quinn will lean heavily on Brule and Gagner to remedy the situation, but failing to address the need by way of a personnel change makes we wonder what GM Steve Tambellini is doing.
— For all the so-so performances by veterans (hello, Mr. Hemsky) to this point in pre-season, are you wondering about Khabibulin after his sieve-like performance against Calgary in a 5-3 loss last Wednesday?
Khabibulin allowed four goals, and looked bad on at least two of them, on 24 shots against the Flames before he gave way to dehydration and Deslauriers. After Khabibulin made 18 saves in a 4-0 win over Florida, I’ll reserve judgment despite his hummer against the Flames. Still, I’m uneasy.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.>