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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

          • 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'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.

  • As fun as it is to watch 2 heavyweights go at it, you're right Brownlee…why is Big Mac still here? I think Stortini has been doing a good enough job that we don't need another tough guy taking up a spot on the roster. As for Gilbert, bon voyage…we need an upgrade.

  • willy fisterbotom

    Given that he's off to a slow start, don't you think you're hedging your bet just a little bet with your offering of a Gilbert bet?:)

    Also, instead of always wanting to trade 77, why don't you wonder aloud about getting rid of the injury-prone 44?

    • Except for the fact that 44's latest injury had NOTHING to do with his being injury prone. The guy got hammered face-first into the boards full throttle. I'd wonder who wouldn't be injured after something like that.

    • Rogue

      For one thing, Gilbert is the softest defenceman we have. Another Tom Poti. We have lots of puck moving defencemen not enough grit. Gilbert is constantly out-muscled. He will never get any tougher.Drives me nuts. Souray brings many more intangibles than Tom ever will.

      • I've made the Poti comparison and I think it's valid, although Gilbert is marginally more physical than Tom, who never got into a collision except by accident.

        Gilbert, like Poti has his place in the make-up of a defensive corps. He brings puck movement, decent positional play etc etc, and that's why, especailly in light of what I consider inflated points totals last season, he is the guy to move. Somebody will think, "This guy is good" and maybe give you something you need.

        Overall, Gilbert is not a bad player. Far from it.

  • Dan the Man

    "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?"

    I like that top 6 and I really like the skill on the Gagner line. They would look very good on the PP but I'd worry about them getting getting pushed around a bit.

    I heard Bob mention a "shut down" line of Moreau-Horcoff-Pisani as well which I think this team needs for those final minute fire drills.
    That leaves Jacques-Brule-Stortini for a "4th" line or energy line.

  • Leopard

    Anybody willing to bet Tom Gilbert will reach 40 points this season? You know what I think: not a chance.

    Wouldn't that mean the best time to trade him was this last offseason?

  • 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?

    Because Hemsky is the rabbit that attracts the wolves from the other team.

    Put him out there and he wll always attract the best defense pairing from the other team.

    So, put him out there against the other team's top line with a top 5 defensive forward in the game in Horcoff, and you can nulifiy (or even outscore, as they did last year) the best 5 players the opposition has to offer.

    Now that the Oilers have Penner, Gagner, O'Sully, Cogliano, Comrie and Brule to send out against the lesser lights of the opposition, this team has a real chance to win every night.

    Strategically you want Horcoff and Hemsky together so the other 3 lines can outscore the other 3 lines of the opposition.

    The Oilers haven't had this type of talent on the other 3 lines in forever. Nor have they had a coach who would play the other 3 lines as much as Quinn.

    Horcoff and Hemsky together is a recipe for success for the whole team.

  • Dennis: Get serious.
    I'm not hedging anything. I was on Gilbert all last season and nothing I've seen has changed my mind about him.
    Gilbert was not as good as his points totals made him look and I've taken that stance all the way along, so cut the selective memory.

    And start paying attention. I've talked about the possibility — pros and cons — of trading Souray more than once.

    One last thing: stop putting those smiley faces in your comments. I don't like them, especially from you. Got it?

    • Paq Twinn

      So, now you're also in charge of determining who gets to use emoticons?
      I would say more but it's really hard to know when you're serious.

      Also, I've paid as much attention as I can but what I mostly see is you looking for reasons to offload 77. Young 41 may look alright out of the gate but we're a long ways off from thinking he provides enough that you could move away Gilbert.

      I mean if you want to say we have similar guys making similar money and we could move from a position of depth to address one of dearth, then that's fine. But when I already know you've always been wary of 77's stats – it's the second assist project – and then I see a guy talking about a fellow not putting up 40 points when he's started off with 2 in the first eight games, then that's not exactly you going out on a limb.

      To the rest: there are lots of dmen who can be effective without being physical and the game goes for forwards. I don't think you look to turf Gilbert just because he isn't a smasher.

      • Yes. Yes I am in charge when it comes to comments on items I've posted.

        As for Gilbert, the Oilers were in a position to move him without Chorney in the equation because of Souray, Visnovsky and Grebeshkov, who represent the depth you refer to. I've made that point many times. The wildcard now is Souray's status.

        By the way, I didn't expect a sharp numbers man like yourself to suggest I was hedging my bet on Gilbert. Your man, after all, had exactly one point in his first 10 games last season and finished with 45. So, do tell: how is suggesting he won't hit 40 with two points in eight games "hedging?"

        And, yes, defencemen can be effective without being overly physical, but it's probably not a great idea to have three of them — Gilbert, Visnovsky and Grebeshkov — at the same time, especially if one can be moved to address other needs.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            No worries. Great minds think alike (and fools seldom differ).

            The other thing that enters into the equation on the back end is the emergence of Smid. Not in terms of style compared to the offensive guys, but if he keeps progressing he'll be worthy of some minutes even after Souray and Staios return.

            IF Laddy can show these first eight games aren't a mirage through 40 games or so, it might be time to start thinking of a top four of Souray, Visnovsky, Grebeshkov and Smid. That leaves Staios, Chorney, Gilbert, Strudwick and maybe Peckham battling for 5-6-7. For me, it makes sense to move Gilbert from that group to try to address other needs. He'd easily fetch the best return.

        • It's hedging because he's already off pace.

          But, I'm not worried about that anyway. If the guy only gets 30 points but he does a great job overall, I wouldn't look to move him because he doesn't pick up 40 points. I don't think his salary means he has to have a certain number of points – or even first assists as it were – and it only means he has to be one of the club's best dmen.

          Overall, I'm not above moving the guy because I would like to have one more skilled bigger guy and it's probably gonna happen because we do move a D. But when I look at the depth on D, I also look at moving some guys out as a way to clear money and if Katz is assured of soaking enough money for his building out of the respective Govts., then maybe on the on-ice side of things he can stash 24 down in the A.

          Then you could use that saved money to pick up your needed forward. Finally, I wouldn't be so quick to move 77 instead of a guy who finds himself oft-injured like, say, I dunno, Sheldon Souray.

      • Gilbert is NOT a bad dman….but on this team,Grebs,Vish and Tom are softies.3 is too many on any team in the NHL.So take your choice,Grebs is younger and Vish would be very difficult to trade with his contract. It has been demonstrated time after time that we are way too soft in the backside.I am sure that many teams would overlook his total lack of aggression for his puckmoving ability…if they need that type of a dman.I think if Peckham was NHL ready, he would be one of the pieces of the puzzle that we need. In a heart beat, I would trade Gilbert for Horton or Stafford.If all we had for puck moving dmen were Souray and Gilbert, than no way do we move him. We have that luxury so lets make use of it.

  • 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?

    I like it. I'm not sold on the "Jacques opening up ice for Hemsky to work his magic" bit. …and well, Horcoff…yah….Horcoff. *shakes head*

    I think it's pretty clear that Cogliano would do well with some offensive minded linemates too.

    • toprightcorner

      I would be fine even leaving Horc on the top and Comrie on the LW for defensive help and so they could at least win a draw in the offensive zone.

      Hemmer and Horc need a shot of adrenaline. Everyone who plays with Storts seems to have more jump in their step, why not put Storts on the top line for a couple games, not much difference from Jaques at this point.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    "I've heard the rumours about a swap with Buffalo for Drew Stafford."

    Peee-ewww!
    The Sabres better be topping up that trade.

    Essentially the same PPG and the same number of PIM.

    But, Gilbert is a RH puck-moving defense deity.

    • toprightcorner

      I like that trade when Souray comes back.

      6'1" 216 lbs – RW 20G/25A/45P – has grit – shoots the puck (180+) – 1.9 mill cap hit – 23 yrs old – first round draft pick (2004 13th) – takes the body.

      This sounds like a guy we could use. Gritty RW scorer, Ryan Stone with hands. We save 2 million cap hit. You don't need to have high PIMS to play with a little grit.

      Whats not to like?!?

  • This of course assumes our first line is functional. For whatever reason, it's been pretty much AWOL so far

    No question they are off to a slow start, but they will be better.

    Here are their BTN 5v5 numbers:

    Horcoff:
    Qual Comp .177 (2nd toughest on team)
    Goals For On/60 2.80
    Goals Against On/60 3.92
    -1.12 per 60 min played
    ave 5v5 minutes per game = 13.40

    Hemsky:
    Qual Comp .256 (toughest on team)
    GFON/60 3.13
    GAON/60 2.51
    +0.62 per 60
    ave 5v5 m/g = 13.69

    JF Jacques
    Qual Comp .171 (3rd toughest on team)
    GFON/60 4.27
    ave 5v5 m/g = 12.29
    GAON/60 3.66
    +0.61 per 60

    Horcoff is off to a tough start, hope he picks it up.

  • Chris.

    Brownlee wrote: "Gilbert was not as good as his points totals made him look and I've taken that stance all the way along, so cut the selective memory."

    This pretty much sums up the way I feel about Hemsky so far this season. I generally like what Quinn has been doing; but having Hemsky on the ice defending a one goal lead in the dying moments of a game is lunacy.

  • toprightcorner

    Robin, good write and I agree with your points today, do't always but today I do. Dennis, how many games did #44 play last year…maybe it was you that hit your head…..