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.

  • 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?

    Because they haven't had to move him off the roster. They are giving the guy an NHL paycheck for as long as they can. Classy. He was all over Edmonton during the summer at every charity event possible.

    The second they need that roster spot, he is the waiver wire so he can report to Springfield.

    • I'm a Scientist!

      Thanks.
      FYI, I've grasped the roster and waiver situation. My point is that if MacIntyre isn't needed against these teams, when will the Oilers needed him?
      I'm all for keeping and dressing a guy like this, but if you don't want/need him to punch guys like Regehr or Boogaard in the nose, he isn't being utilized properly.

      • Robin,

        I'm saying they don't need him. Coach doesn't want him (has said out loud many times that every player has to play and a designated fighter has no place on his team) but the roster spot he occupies isn't under pressure to have a "player" on it, so they are paying him an NHL paycheck as a thank you for all he's done instead of cutting him loose and having someone like Reddox sit in the press box instead of getting minutes on the farm. (although I think hockey wise I'd much rather have REDOX sitting and waiting that MacIntyre)

        The Minny game was a watershed for #33. The Oilers beat Minny and Big-Bad-Boogaard without having to have him in the line up. Maybe that was Quinn showing management that he wasn't needed.

        • You are probably right, even though I like the idea of having a big hammer like MacIntyre around. That said, as long as the team gets results, it's difficult to argue the line-up should change.
          And I do like it that he's making some decent money after slugging it out in the minors for so long.

          • BarryS

            As I recall Frolov is in the dog house in LA at the moment. Why would we want another problem child at the moment? Let us just continue to raise our own problem children properly like the Coaching staff is doing at the moment.

          • I'm not sure he's a problem child. From what I gather, he's been a 1st line guy up until Ryan Smyth's arrival. Now he's not and he's probably upset. Hemsky would do the same (and we all know it). I'm sure he wouldn't be classified as a problem child though for acting that way, more like just Hemsky being Hemsky. *deposits quarter to Man Ram* Frolov has size and a RH shot that can play LW. He has similar numbers (best year was 35 goals and 71 points) as Hemsky so who knows, they may mesh well together. But they may not. I thinks it's worth finding out.

          • Frolov has skills, without question, but I'm not big on taking chances on somebody with baggage unless the potential payoff is just too hard to resist.
            I didn't see that payoff with Dany Heatley, so it would take a helluva deal before I'd roll the dice on Frolov, who is clearly a tier or two down from DH.

  • I wonder if you should be posing that question about MacIntyre to Tambellini instead of Quinn. Something tells me the coach would agree with you, then turn around and start mumbling some sage old man sayings as he walks away and kicks a garbage can.

    • Tight Lips

      That is good stuff; but to stay on topic (*slopping drool everywhere at the thought of mint chocolaty goodness*) I believe that S Mac still has some value to the team as a reserve player who can step in if one of the bigger guys gets hurt and fill the role of a crash and bang player.