At random: eight games in

Now that we have reached the pivotal 1/10th mark of the NHL season, it’s safe to make some assumptions and observations about this edition of the Edmonton Oilers, no?

The biggest surprise from where I sit — aside from a 5-2-1 record in the wake of Monday’s 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks and the corporate gouge at the gas pumps we woke up to today — has been Nikolai Khabibulin.

I’m not surprised that he’s playing as well as he has in his last four outings because he’s played at this level before, but I am surprised he’s looked so sharp so soon after looking like another millstone contract in pre-season and in his first two starts.

While Khabibulin did little to inspire confidence in pre-season, he’s been the difference in his last four starts — a stretch in which he’s stopped 135 of 144 shots for a .937 saves-percentage.

My biggest worry about Khabibulin wasn’t that he couldn’t find his game, but that it might take him a month or so to do it, which could have put the Oilers in a hole they’d spend all season digging out of.

That concern, it’s clear, was unfounded.

After eight

  • Maybe the most impressive thing about that 5-2-1 record is that the Oilers have managed it largely without Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios, essentially their No. 1 defence pairing to start the season.
  • In the absence of Souray and Staios, Taylor Chorney has stepped in and vaulted himself ahead of Theo Peckham on the organization’s depth chart. Peckham couldn’t challenge for a job at training camp because of an ankle injury. While he’s back on the blades in Springfield, Chorney hasn’t looked out of place since being summoned, which signifies a nice bounce-back after a tough 2008-09 AHL season.

    Now, with speculation Souray could be out as long as a month with his concussion, Chorney has a chance to make hay.

  • No, Shawn Horcoff can’t take a salary cut under terms of the new CBA, even if he should. With just 1-1-2 for boxcars, it doesn’t take a vast intellect to see Horcoff is struggling mightily. His one saving grace had been his work in the face-off circles, but that hit the ditch against the Canucks.
  • Who is the dolt who came up with the moniker PDP, as in Poor Dustin Penner? The only thing I don’t like about Penner’s game right now is that he’s not lining up with Horcoff and Ales Hemsky (and J.F. Jacques is).
  • Anybody willing to bet Tom Gilbert will reach 40 points this season? You know what I think: not a chance.

Just asking

  • Bob Stauffer and I were talking about this the other day: How about a first line with Mike Comrie at left wing, Sam Gagner at centre and Hemsky on right wing. Then, a second line with Penner on the left side, Andrew Cogliano at pivot and Patrick O’Sullivan on right wing?
  • If Chorney continues to show he’s ready to play, does it make sense to trade Gilbert? Yes, I’ve heard the rumours about a swap with Buffalo for Drew Stafford.
  • I’m not going to take on Pat Quinn over not dressing guys simply to fight, especially given this tidy little start, but if Steve MacIntyre hasn’t dressed for games with Calgary, Vancouver and Minnesota, why is he here?

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

  • What about Frolov in LA? There is talk that he may be available. Would the Oilers look into it? He's fairly big and has excellent skill. He's a right handed shot and can play left wing (a'la 1st line).

    I would offer Robert Nilsson, Cody Wild and a 4th round pick. Thoughts?

  • Oilman

    Yes, you are correct sir, but would you trade PDP for a Nilson type player and Cody Wild type player and a 4th round pick?

    Too lazy to do Dustin Penner average.

      • Good point. But doesn't every team need quality for quality? How often does that actually happen, especially when a team has a guy on the outs like a Frolov or a Smyth or a Pronger?

        Out of those four guys, I'd give up Brule.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          Even when those guys were on their way out they got great return. We got 3 15th overall picks for Smyth. We got 2 first round prospects and two 1sts for Pronger. And I know Heatley didn't get the best package but that was because he would only go to a handful of teams and of those teams only 1 was able to make room for him.

      • Summer 08 Cammy and Tanguay both brought back last 1st rounders for a year of their service.

        The rental market last year was cheaper then usual with Antropov returning a 2nd and Gurien returning a 4th with conditions to move up based on what round the Pens went to (really puts it into perspective what a fleecing the O'sully+2nd for Cole deal was from the Oilers perspective)

        Based on the circumstances that puts Frolov on the market, I'd guess it would cost somewhere in between the Cammy/Tanguay and last years rental in returns. A late 1st or an early 2nd, or maybe a mid 2nd + 3rd.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          With injuries occuring around the league and Frolov being 2.9mil cap hit, I think there could be quite a few teams with interest. Which in turn should drive up the price, that is if he is even on the market.

          • GM Dean Lombardi had this to say about Frolov, "He’s either going to get on board or we’ll go in another direction with him. It’s as simple as that. I like a lot of the things I’m seeing, with what we’re trying to establish here. Get or board, or there’s another way too. But like I said, this is not a knee-jerk reaction.’’

            So I'd say if he's not on the block now, he will be shortly if he doesn't improve.

      • The Kings have about 4.5 million in cap space right now. Frolov is a cap hit of 2.9 million. So with him off the books, the Kings have about 7.4 million in cap space.

        So really… the Kings COULD take all those players.

        But let's be real.

  • Paq Twinn

    I'd really like to see Frolov here. Nilsson is just a starting point, but everyone seems hung up on him. So what if the Oilers offer Staios, Reddox, and a pick its seems to me they'd be good fits for the Kings, who could use some banging and defensive pressence. Maybe even Comrie could go, so its easier for him and Ms. Duff.

    • Oilman

      Maybe Comrie because of his one year contract, but he's the only guy I've seen lately that can shoot the puck top shelf.

      Would trade him & Staios for Frolov though…..Only when I know Souray is coming back soon.

  • regarding 44's injury, yes, it isn't like anyone else wouldn't incur the same injury from that same play. But, the guy has a knack for getting hurt and missing games; no matter how or where the maladies occur.

    I understand what 44 can do sometimes when he's healthy but now we have yet another reason to doubt him; plus, it would be nice to have an offense oriented dman like 77 signed longterm in case 37 walks.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I've stood up for Frolov, but unless we are moving one of current smaller roster forwards I don't see the point. He is also a UFA at season end so that is another thing that might scare me away. If he is still availble at the deadline and we are a contender then I do it, but why do we need him if we aren't a contender? Let the kids play.

  • Paq Twinn

    @Ogden Brother jr

    Yes 1st rd picks are the most over rated team asset, esspecially for the Oilers who have had a bad history of 1st rounders. Minus reccent history with Gags and Cogs.

    As far as being contenders. Why wait to get him, if he can make this team better now. Maybe we win the div if we get him early enough. Then at the trade deadline we go and get something we'll need for a long playoff run. Its only one player coming in with possibly two going out, so the kids are still going to play.

  • Paq Twinn

    I hear that the Oilers are kicking tires about Stafford from Buffalo. We have enough crust, what the Oilers need and have need for a few years is someone to play lw with Hemmer. That should be priority, not another 3rd line grinder, even if he may be better then the 4-5 3rd line grinders we got. Frolov makes this team dangerous, Stafford doesn't.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      That is one of the reasons I would like Frolov. I guess it depends what you have to give for him and whether or not he re-signs with us.

  • Paq Twinn

    @Ogden Brother jr.

    When it comes to him re-signing, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. We have a good core of players, and we also got Visnovsky, which they know each other from the Kings. If we can get Frolov for say Comrie, Staios and Nilsson, then we're not really giving up anything from our future. We have the pieces to move so I think its worth investgating.

  • MrOiler

    As for the surprise that Khabibulin has been, I think it's really easy to forget that hockey is a job for these guys. The man is 36 y.o., so you can't tell me that the preseason and first weeks of the regular season aren't anything but a grind for guys like him. He's no wide-eyed rookie.

    I also think that Khabibulin's statistical record with Chicago played into the fan suspicions of uneven play. Let's face it, for the first couple of years that N.K. was in Chicago, the Hawks were an absolute brutal team. The numbers are misleading.

    What I've seen so far is that Khabibulin is a very smart goalie who doesn't rely on reflexes. He is great on positioning and reading plays. This bodes well for the Oilers as age is less of a limiting factor for this type of goalie. Roloson had many of the same characteristics.

  • Paq Twinn

    @Ogden Brother

    Frolov's potential is higher then 25 goals, esspecilally if he's playing with a passer like Hemsky. I think 40 Goals would be more accurate but not guarantied, everything would have to click right away. If we waited until the deadline that leaves less time for Frolov to learn the system and become fimilar with his new teammates. Waiting to make a trade at the deadline never has made any sense to me for that reason alone.