GDB minus-2: It’s crunch time

capn-quinn

Tonight is the last chance for players to impress the coaches, and when you look at tonight’s roster it is pretty clear which players are on the bubble.

Nilsson — Brule — Stone
MacIntyre — Reddox — Stortini
Moreau — Gagner — Cogliano
Penner — Schremp — Eberle

Grebeshkov — Staios
Chorney — Gilbert
Smid — Visnovsky

Deslauriers and Dubnyk

Stone, Brule, Nilsson, Reddox, MacIntyre, Schremp and Eberle are all on the bubble. And so is Pouliot, but he is out with a slight muscle pull.

Quinn hinted today that if Pouliot and Pisani don’t get into Sunday’s game, they might get veteran status and be on the 23 man roster. Pisani is shooting to play on Sunday so we’ll wait and see.

It sounds like Quinn is leaning towards moving Cogliano to the wing and will keep Gagner and either Comrie or O’Sullivan and Horcoff as the other top three centres.

It is also interesting to look at the D-pairings for tonight. I don’t think it is a guarantee that the top four will consist of 44, 71, 77 and 37. Renney wants his defense to be more aggressive, especially at the blueline. But they can only stand up the opposing forwards if the Oiler forwards are backchecking.

The story so far…

Through six pre-season games the forwards and D-men haven’t been that cohesive yet. Quinn said it was almost like they were playing as two separate units, and there was too much space between them, especially in the neutral zone.

I’m curious how long it will take for those who ripped MacTavish for sucking the offence out of young Oilers to say the same about Quinn.

Quinn is adamant that this team will be better defensively before they work on their offence. Doesn’t that sound a lot like MacTavish? The difference is that this coaching staff has a different approach in how they are selling that message.

According to the players, the coaches have consistently relayed the same messages every day. Last year, after many games MacTavish and the media and the fans complained the team wasn’t physical enough.

But a player, who agreed they weren’t, said it was never a message the coaching staff hammered home every day. As strange as it sounds, if a coaching staff isn’t constantly focusing and reminding players how they should play, then the players won’t play that way.

The messages to the players have been clearer and right now they are being hammered home on a daily basis, and I’d expect that to continue all season. The players who buy in will play, and those who don’t won’t play and ultimately won’t be here very long.

This power struggle will be won by the coaching staff, and for some veterans and young players, they’d better realize that quickly.

The best fight I saw today

Who would have thought the best fight of the pre-season would have occurred at practice, and at Eskimo practice?

After leaving Rexall I went to watch the Eskimos practice and I witnessed the most one-sided football tilt I’ve seen in a long time.

During scrimmage, O-lineman Aaron Fiacconi and D-lineman Xzavie Jackson got into it. They threw some punches and then Fiacconi showed his hockey background: he ripped off Jackson’s helmet, pulled his head down and fed him two huge uppercuts, the second one dropped Jackson.

Jackson picked himself up off the turf and stormed off to the sidelines. Meanwhile Fiacconi went back to the huddle and got ready for the next play. Not one player said anything to Jackson. He was on the far sidelines, and then he proceeded to throw off his gloves, take off his practice jersey and walked towards the north end zone of Clark field. He walked across the endzone and towards the gate. Only receiver Maurice Mann came over to try and get him to not leave practice. Jackson barked something to him, and then proceeded to continue walking towards the dumpsters.

Thirty seconds later he returned with a shovel that he had found. He was slowly walking back towards the field when trainer TD Forss and Danny Maciocia stopped to talk to him. Jackson was visibly upset, and after some talking he left towards the locker room with Forss.

His left eye was swollen shut and had a cut on it. The strangest part for me wasn’t that he found a shovel and contemplated going WWE on someone, but that not one of his defensive teammates did anything on the field, or said anything to him on the sidelines.

Their silence told me he isn’t that respected in the locker room and I can’t see him sticking around very long. Rarely is a football fight more entertaining than a hockey fight.

***UPDATE***

I got some confirmation that the Oilers and Predators are kicking each other tires. Nilsson would seem like an obvious choice, but I’ve heard whispers about Pouliot and Pisani as well. Nashville has lots of cap space if they want to acquire either Pisani or Nilsson.

I know the Oilers have lots of D-men, but would Hamhuis be of interest to them? We’ll see.

It sounds like there might be some interesting names across the NHL that might land on waivers as early this weekend.