The Windy City: not blown away

Nice job, kid. Take a seat.

Jeff Deslauriers came up with exactly the kind of performance the Edmonton Oilers needed from him with 40 saves in a 6-1 waltz over the Nashville Predators in Music City Monday, but he’ll be back on the end of the bench cheerleading for Nikolai Khabibulin when the puck drops against the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday. That’s exactly how it should be.

As good as Deslauriers had to be as the Oilers played free and easy in front of him after building a 4-0 lead in Nashville, there’s no sensible argument to be made, contrary to what some fans might think, for him getting the start against the Blackhawks.

According to radio play-by-play man Rod Phillips, coach Pat Quinn reiterated that sentiment today after he put the Oilers through their paces in practice at the United Center. Khabibulin’s the No. 1 guy, and he’ll get the start against his former teammates.

That much we know.

Second banana

After writing about how mediocre Khabibulin looked in pre-season and his first couple of regular season appearances, it’s only fair to point out what’s been obvious to anybody with two eyes and half-a-brain — he’s been better each time out. Likewise, the 3-1-1 Oilers, despite some unlucky bounces here and there and a little too much loose play in Nashville.

Part of keeping Khabibulin on top of his game, and he’s not there yet, will be having the luxury of spelling him off with Deslauriers rather than riding him too hard, as was the case when Dwayne Roloson made 1,038 consecutive starts last season. It proved a recipe for fatigue with Roloson and rust for Deslauriers and was a situation that did neither one of them any good.

Quinn is slotting Khabibulin for 55-60 games this season, which seems a reasonable number for a 36-year-old goaltender.

So, while Deslauriers likely hasn’t bought himself any more starts with his sharp showing in Nashville, he’s earned Quinn’s confidence and will no doubt be slotted in again after four of five more starts by Khabibulin. The reward for a job well done is being kept in the rotation, not getting gravy starts.

This and that

— Quinn skated the same lines today as he did against the Predators, so, barring a last-minute shuffle, it’ll be status quo against the Blackhawks, assuming the old coach doesn’t move Zack Stortini to the first line in place of Ales Hemsky. Well, no.

Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky

Stone-Gagner-O’Sullivan

Penner-Brule-Comrie

Moreau-Cogliano-Stortini

— Steve Staios skated again today, but he’s still feeling the effects of the concussion that kept him out of the line-up against Nashville. He’s travelling with the team but is listed as unlikely to play tomorrow night. Expect to see Taylor Chorney again.

— Sheldon Souray isn’t with the team and there’s no firm word as to when he’ll be ready to play.

Say what?

— This Marc Pouliot item from somebody named Derek Zona at The Copper And Blue: "Well, Pouliot has gone from full-blown "pubis thing" to a sports hernia, according to Pat Quinn.

"It is convenient in that this helps the Oilers manage their contract situation and may get them relief on LTIR. It’s yet another injury setback for Pouliot and likely spells the end of his time with Edmonton. I’m betting that he ends up in Columbus next season."

Really? Is that right? Is that so? Certainly, Pouliot’s injury and upcoming surgery buys the Oilers some time, at least until Fernando Pisani’s bad back comes around, but I’m not hearing from anybody in the know that this spells the end of his time with the Oilers.

When somebody’s got to go, and that time is coming, Robert Nilsson or Steve MacIntyre will draw the short straw before Pouliot does.

— Is it just me or are we seeing captain Ethan Moreau fade away as a force on this team right before our eyes? Some people have made a case Moreau hasn’t been a real factor for a long time. I’m having a difficult time coming up with a compelling argument to the contrary.

— At the same time, who is that fast, big guy wearing No. 27? Yes, it’s early, but more of the same and Kevin Lowe might yet escape the offer sheet cold sweats he’s endured the past two seasons.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • Chaz

    Can't see Ethan being stripped of the C and I don't think it's necessary. Leaders lead, regardless of having an extra letter on their jersey.
    I've liked Visnovsky's game for the most part, although it's understandable if he's tentative at times with his shoulder not 100 per cent.

  • Chaz

    BTW, I didn't touch the "Lowe with possible redemption" idea because right now there doesn't seem to be much point in arguing it.

    I mean, the Oilers have missed the playoffs three seasons in a row so what more evidence does the anti-Lowe side need, really?

  • GSC

    Wait-a-minute… Questioning Moreau's efficacy right before a game against Chicago, who, if memory serves me, drafted Moreau and have typically elicited good games from him in the past?

    I think I read a comment about this type of article in Wanye's last GDB!

    "HA! Silly Wanye, everybody knows these types of columns are written with the exrpess intent of triggering a faceplant by the subject of same. An experienced journalist writes this kind of column when meaty material is thin or optimism is too high. Penning it requires only a combination of chicken blood, an old Lisa Bonet poster, a wicked hangover and a functioning laptop — all of which a seasoned scribe such as Barnes has at the ready. Tap this baby off while throwing in a couple of hoogida-boogidas, and it's off the tracks, baby. "Is Quinn the right man for the job?" column to come."

    Now subsitute "faceplant" with "redemption" and "Quinn" with "Moreau"… and VOILA!

    This whole post (ok fine, second-last bullet point)was written to de-goat Moreau and make him back into a lazy-eyed hero!

      • Eric Johnson

        Mr. Brownlee. Given Moreau's declining role on the team, and the somewhat general view that Staios's most effective days are behind him. Does this pave the way for a new leadership to emerge on and off the ice?

        Do they become expendable?

        And who do you see as the young players that display leadership qualities?

        • GSC

          I think new leadership is already emerging. The most obvious case of that is Souray, but I also see it happening, at least in the room, to varying degrees with Strudwick, Stortini and even Penner. As for the very young players, I don't have a read on that yet.

          I think Moreau is expendable, given decent depth up front, but his contract is a problem. As for Staios, I'd hesitate to move him right now because of the mix of offensive-minded guys who aren't physical — Gilbert, Visnovsky and Grebeshkov. Take away Staios and it's a soft group outside Souray, Strudwick and Smid. If Peckham was ready to go as I thought he would be before his injury, I'd feel better about moving Staios.

      • Chaz

        No, but I actually got the joke last time when you were referencing Wanye's article and wanted to throw it back. (I really hope it was a joke last time or now I look the fool… again.)

    • Chaz

      Agreed Word. I hope our Captain rebounds. But what if he doesn't? If he remains a non-factor or a detriment (not saying he has been) do you take away the C? It's a tough call.

      * Realizes that maybe he doesn't have all the answers and that maybe he couldn't run the team better than the current brass…Wha..?

  • Chaz

    Great article Robin. JDD looked great and I'm sure all the guys in front of him will be more confident playing in front of him for his next start.

    What is a club to do in the case of a fading player like #18, when he's also the Captain? Stripping him of the 'C' seems like a drastic move, but I also don't like the thought of letting him keep it if he's not a force on the team. Do you think his character and effort are enough to justify the C for the rest of the year? Maybe it's time for the Oilers to pull a Dallas (Modano –> Morrow)?

    One last point I feel the need to make; I've heard some criticism of Visnovsky on the Nation as of late, and I must admit he's been tentative, especially in traffic near the boards. Having been to a couple of games though, I honestly think he's one of the best skaters in the league, and once he gains some confidence with his shoulder I expect him to be one of if not the best player on this team. Am I out to lunch here Robin / Nation?

  • Victoria

    Oh, and I also have to say I agree on Moreau. Used to be a big fave of mine, but he's been nearly non-existant this year so far. Same can be said about Hemsky though… but Hemsky gets a free pass because he's got more skill in his pinky than most of the players on the team.

    Stortini has taken over what Moreau used to bring. I wonder if the eye injury is an excuse. That thing is still as wide as the moon. Think it causes him any problems out there? Then again, Dany Heatley seems to have no problems with his perma-dialated eye. I guess either way, he's starting to prove a little less needed.

    I wouldn't be too upset to see him replaced by Pisani when he is back, or even another offensive forward. Hell, maybe even Nilsson. Stortini is all the bruiser we need on that line.

  • Victoria

    What's with the hate-on for Copper & Blue? That was a little random, albeit true.

    Anyways, "He's travelling with the team but is listed as unlikely to play tonight" should read "tomorrow night", unless they've got some night time skate planned.

    • GSC

      Hate on? How is that? The opinion offered — and a strong one, at that, in suggesting his career is likely over as an Oiler — isn't what I hear from people with the team. Got a problem with that?

      Tomorrow night. Duly noted.

  • IvyEyezPK

    Fir– nah

    I'm not one to bash our players – I know, and Oilers fan that doesn't criticize all the time – but I don't see anything in Moreau to warrant a spot on this roster. Yes, maybe he adds veteran leadership in the room, but to what extent?

    As for Penner– how good has he been on the PK? Offense aside, he's hustling and making smart plays.

  • "Yes, it's early, but more of the same and Kevin Lowe might yet escape the offer sheet cold sweats he's endured the past two seasons."

    After the way Kevin Lowe single-handedly f**ked this team over every single day since the end of the 2005-2006 season, I don't really care what he endures. Why he even still has a job with this organization is beyond me.

  • It's nice to see folks willing to entertain the idea that 18's time with the Oilers may be coming to an end.

    Quinn already called him out for the kind of play that was normally glossed over by MacT so, right off the bat, we could see that Moreau had to earn his stripes with the new boss.

    Combine that with the factor that the once relied-upon PKer is trailing the likes of 10-27-19-32 in terms of current shorthanded responsibility and we can see that he's longer on the front page of the good books.

    I'm sorta conflicted on how to feel about this development, to be honest. I remember his first game as an Oiler – a HNIC tilt vs the Canucks – and if you didn't love the old Moreau-Marchant-Grier line, then I don't want to know you. Plus, the guy seems like he's a good teammate off-the-ice and seems like a stalwart in the community. Plus, I remember the day Salo was dealt and he was basically the only guy who called it down the middle as just how much Tommy was hurting the club.

    But, on the other side of things, he can't back up what his salary promises and it gets tiring seeing him taking the same O-zone penalties and never being accountable for it.