The D-man situation

After their biggest home win of the season, the Oilers’ players will enjoy a day of golfing with Daryl Katz and some of his friends in Palm Springs, but I’m guessing for Craig MacTavish and Steve Tambellini they will be sweating more from the Denis Grebeshkov injury than the desert heat.

Grebeshkov is out a minimum of two weeks with a high ankle sprain, and probably longer. Talk about baaaaaaaad timing for #37 and the Oilers. Two weeks ago the depth of the blueline was the best asset Tambellini had if he was seriously considering acquiring a scoring forward, but now it looks like a weakness, especially offensively.

Now the Oilers will have to go get another D-man. Smid can move into the top-four and play with Gilbert, or maybe they re-unite Staios/Smid and Gilbert/Souray, but either way the Oilers second-line PP unit won’t have a threat from the blueline.

Staios, Smid, Jason Strudwick and Theo Peckham — who MacTavish said was the obvious call up — are not going to quarterback the second unit. They might play Souray and Gilbert close to the entire two minutes, but that could be costly if they get lots of PP time.

The other option is having Sam Gagner play the point again, with Cogliano, Nilsson and Cole up front on a second unit, but even then you’d still have to use one of the defensive defenceman. Taylor Chorney is not ready to play, so does Tambellin look to acquire a puck mover who could also play on the PP?

The list is pretty short. I wrote last week about who might be available at the deadline, and the list of puck-moving D-men wasn’t very long. It might not be their first choice, but Mathieu Schneider looks awfully tempting now.

Who else? Filip Kuba? Jordan Leopold? The list isn’t very long. I even searched the AHL for someone of interest, but I don’t think Danny Syvret is the answer. I doubt the Sabres would want to move young Marc-Andre Gragnani from their Portland affiliate.

You wonder if the Bruins would be interested in parting with Edmonton native Johnny Boychuk out of Providence. Boychuk has 41 points in 50 games in the AHL this year. He was a former second rounder of the Flames in 2002, and has played four NHL games with Colorado and one with the Bruins this season.

Clearly these aren’t great options, and might not be better than what the Oilers have, but it doesn’t look like there is a long list of D-men who could fill the gap left by Grebeshkov and Visnovsky.

Gilbert will have to play 27-28 minutes a night now, and Souray might be close to 30 if the Oilers are going to stay competitive. Smid’s play has steadily improved all season, but he will need to be even better now. Staios plays best between 17-20 minutes a night — anymore and he struggles. He can play a few games in the 22-24 range, but if they ask him to play that for the next three weeks he will inevitably struggle.

Cole banged up

Ales Hemsky opened the door for his teammates in the third period, while Shawn Horcoff was rested to avoid re-aggravating his charley horse, and Erik Cole sat on the bench for the first eleven minutes of the third before leaving early.

I asked MacTavish why Cole was rested, considering he has been in a slump — pointless in seven games now — and he said that he is banged up. Of course he wouldn’t elaborate on what the bumps and bruises are, but it’s fair to say he is less than 90 per cent healthy. This might explain why in the past three weeks he has gone back to looking like the Cole of the first twenty games this season. Cole said the rest should do him good the next few days, and feels it is nothing more than the usual wear and tear. But, rarely do guys sit out in “point night” games if they are just a bit banged up.


Rob Daum didn’t have much time to go over a game plan last night when he stepped behind the bench in Manchester, but he might have given a good opening speech because the Falcons scored :34 seconds into the first and led 2-0 at the 8:34 mark. Unfortunately for Daum and his team, they weren’t able to maintain their strong start and lost 5-2 to Manchester.

Daum’s job becomes even harder with Peckham coming back to Edmonton, and unless Tambellini makes a move before Sunday, he will lose another D-man when the Oilers go to Phoenix.

With the Oilers playing back-to-back in Phoenix and San Jose on the 16th and 17th, they will want an extra D-man there just in case someone gets hurt against the Coyotes. The plan was to bring in Peckham, but now he is coming early, and might be joined by Mathieu Roy or even Sebastion Bisaillon. Either way Daum will be hard pressed to turnaround a Falcons’ team that just doesn’t have that much skill.

Numbers games

With Fernando Pisani set to return, the Oilers will have to make some decisions. When they activate Pisani that gives them 14 forwards, six D-men (with Peckham, Grebeskhov will go on IR), two goalies and JF Jacques on conditioning stint.

If they bring in another D-man via trade or call one up, someone has to be sent down. Liam Reddox doesn’t have to clear waivers and would seem the likely choice. They could try to sneak MacIntyre through waivers, but that would be risky. So expect Reddox to be sent down if they bring in another D-man.

  • speeds

    Why can't Peckham play on the 2nd PP unit?

    The Oilers are infatuated with the "big point shot" on the PP, Peckham has one. He also leads Springfield's D with 3 PP goals, and from what I've read (can't find ice time stats for the AHL) he plays significant PP minutes in the AHL.

  • Chaz

    Too bad for Grebs. Guess he won't make it for the golf game today. Hey Katz, I'm free if you need someone to fill in!

    I got a laugh out of how Plekanec complained about getting the call too. A very dirty play and possibly very damaging to the Oilers playoff hopes, Wayne's opinion aside. Hope he's a quick healer, and so much for the Oilers barganing from a position of strength at the deadline…

  • Rick

    On the defence, how healthy is Smid right now? He took a hit last night and spent a few minutes on the bench with his head down and some time with Ken Lowe. From the looks of it they were addressing either his neck or head in general, lingering effects from his concussion maybe? I know he finished the game after that but it's still left me wondering if there was a little more to it.

    As for Daum, Stauffer said last night that there was a delay at the airport and Daum missed his connector outta Chicago so he wasn't actually behind the bench last night.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    @ Jason:

    I remember you mentioned Mathieu Schneider in a previous update. What's his contract situation like? Is it worth it to pick him up as a rental? What would it take to land him?

  • Losing 2 very usefull DMen in the last couple of games has put the management in a bit of a pickle. If you can manage to get into the play-offs you can maybe catch lightning in a bottle again.

    What about a guy like Dan Hamhuis? You might have to give up a few more players but he is a prttey solid guy.

  • Colin

    @ Gene Principe:

    I don't think a 2 point night = doghouse. Either he has a lingering injury or MacT wanted to rest him, I don't think he's in the doghouse(He should have had 4 points!).

  • Colin

    I don't understand why we need another d-man, instead of worrying about short term problems, let's build the team long term.

    Then again I'm not one of the people who thinks this team can make a playoff drive(other than on the golf course). If you are one of those and demand the playoffs at all costs than Gregor is of course correct.

  • Mike

    I don't think it makes sense to bring in reinforcements this year – why burn assets just to sneak into 8th place and get killed by San Jose or Detroit?

    I mean, if you can get Schneider for a 4th rounder or something, of course you do it. But if we start throwing around 1st rounders or real prospects just to buy two home playoff games, we're basically the Maple Leafs.