The Big Picture View of the Small Forwards

Small hockey player

The Oilers, as of right now, have nine forwards under 6’ tall on their roster. Four of those forwards are locks for the team, and two more are likely.

Locks

  • Sam Gagner: 5’11”
  • Patrick O’Sullivan: 5’11”
  • Andrew Cogliano: 5’10”
  • Mike Comrie: 5’10”

Likely

  • Robert Nilsson: 5’11”
  • Gilbert Brule: 5’10”

Possible

  • Rob Schremp: 5’11”
  • Jordan Eberle: 5’10”
  • Liam Reddox: 5’10”

Of that group four of those guys (Gagner, Cogliano, Comrie, Nilsson) are not a fit anywhere but on a scoring line, although Gagner and Cogliano might be able to grow into two-way players.

Additionally, Patrick O’Sullivan is probably best utilized in a scoring role against less than stellar opposition, and Gilbert Brule hasn’t shown that he’s capable of playing a defensive role; in other words, everyone but O’Sullivan needs to be put in a position to succeed – not too many own-zone starts, and not too many shifts against the Getzlafs and Iginlas of the league.

This is all relatively common knowledge, and has been discussed ad nauseum on message boards, radio, TV, and this site.

Let’s Step One Year Forward

Does anyone here believe that Jordan Eberle isn’t going to get a push next season, or that he’ll be anywhere other than on the Oilers’ roster? He should go back to junior this year, but the fact that he’s pushed his way into the conversation at this camp, combined with his draft pedigree means that he’ll almost certainly be an Oiler in 2010-11.

Let’s not forget 5’9” Linus Omark. Omark is coming off a tremendous season in Sweden, and so far has apparently had some issues with his KHL team. Maybe he makes the team, maybe he doesn’t; either way, it seems very likely that he’s going to challenge for a spot on the roster next season.

Next, we consider Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. Paajarvi isn’t in the same range size-wise (6’1”, 201lbs) as the other players we’re considering, but his skill-set certainly is: he’s a young player with offensive talent who needs to round out his defensive game and probably needs some shelter from his coaching staff when he comes to North America. Maybe he starts next season in the AHL, but it’s easily within the realm of possibility that he pushes for a roster spot.

The Oilers are going to need to make decisions on all three of these guys, and it’s very difficult to imagine that either Eberle or Paajarvi are going to be tossed aside. Based on what he did in Sweden, it also seems like it would be a shame to send out Omark without taking a look at him.

In Other Words…

The Oilers are over-stocked with small players with a largely offense-only mindset. They have three remarkable prospects coming in next season, all of whom are going to be (at least initially) of much the same skill-set.

Individually, there’s an argument to be made for every one of these players. Gagner and Cogliano are obviously valuable players. Robert Nilsson, coming off a bad season, continues to show flashes of brilliance and is a guy who would be nice to keep. Mike Comrie’s had a strong preseason, and brings some experience and edge that the other players don’t. Patrick O’Sullivan has a few skills (shooter, penalty-killer) in short supply on the Oilers, and on top of that has put up better totals in the NHL than any of the other young guys. Gilbert Brule was a 6th overall pick in 2005 and has untapped offensive ability and a physical edge.

The fact of the matter though, is that however valuable these players are individually, there isn’t room for all of them. Certainly one, probably two and possibly as many as three are going to be shipped out by the start of next season.

Barring an outstanding return, Gagner, Cogliano and O’Sullivan are the three currently on the roster that I would keep.

  • Hippy

    @ Johnathan Willis:

    It's like you wrote a whole article in response to my drunken, post midnight rant just last night:

    (Comment #363)
    This was probably adressed earlier in the thread but:

    The TSN panel offered some pretty stinging critism of the makeup of the Oiler roster. I can’t say I disagree. The Oilers have too many of the same type of player… Like Barnaby said, “They look almost interchangeable out there”… then something like, “Having a small skilled player or two is great if they are scoring seventy or eighty points a season, but filling out the bulk of your roster with a bunch of small guys who get you only forty points is a recipe for disaster.”
    *(not an actual quote… more of a remembered jist)

    This entire thread has been about Pisani, Staios, Moreau, or any other goat du jour… but aren’t we all ignoring the principal flaw of this team? When will Tambellini choose between Gagner and Cogliano? Or is it wise to keep both? If O’Sullivan and Comrie play well together, should Tambellini offer Comrie an extension? How do the Oilers integrate Eberle into an already undersized group next season? Is Brule and Reddox just more of the same… I mean gritty or not these guys just bounce off thier checks…

    Just food for thought.

    Read more: hxxp://www.oilersnation.com/2009/09/gdb-minus-2-its-crunch-time/#ixzz0S7zifSNo

    Thanks J.W.

  • Hippy

    I could see Ebs or Omark challenging for next year. MPS may be the Eberle of this year. Either way some contracts are coming off next year(Pies, Comrie, Big mac) so there will be space.

  • Hippy

    As for Eberle, MPS and Omark making the team next year. Do we really even know if any of them will be ready next year? I wouldn't mind all three getting a year of the AHL before the NHL.

  • Hippy

    What did Ray Ferraro say yesterday, if the hockey card says he is 5'10 then he is 5'10, although he said something about standing on phonebooks.

    I know what we are getting at with size, but guys like Brule, Comrie and Reddox play bigger then they are. Brule goes out and hits just about anyone. Comrie digs into the corners and Reddox will he is a combo of both.

    Going forward I don't know who we keep. If by same possibilty Cogliano and Gagner both get 70 points this year then we will probably have to make a decision on one of them next year.

  • Hippy

    Off topic and I know it's been discussed ad nauseum in ON since last year, but the lack of a reliable faceoff man is a huge concern with this team, and was painfully obvious last night. Lost faceoffs in our own zone directly led to the tying and winning goals by Tampa. I know Horcs wasn't dressed, but come on! This team has to address this need now IMO. Hoping some of the current roster just magically improves in this dept. seems very risky to me.

    Haven't been doing the online thing with the other pre-season games, so I'm not sure if this was normal. Is this the way it's been so far? Hope last night wasn't a microcosm of how faceoffs will affect this team all year. If it is, it's going to be painful…

    * Tries to shake it off and tries to stop being such a Negative Nancy.

  • Hippy

    Before I decide who to keep on the 2010-11 Oilers I need to know:

    -Did Penner last on the 1st line?
    -Does Jacques finally turn into a NHL player.
    -Does Ganger show up for a full season?
    -Can Cogliano play wing?
    -Can Nilsson show up every day?
    -What type on $ do Cogliano and Ganger demand in the off season?
    -Will Mike Comrie become the most loved Oiler of all time by re-signing a 1.125 mil contract again after putting up 30 goals this season.

    Yes many of the young/small guys on the team are soft and need sheltered minutes, but maybe, just maybe, they will learn something over the next 82 games and be able to play less sheltered minutes.

  • Hippy

    Great article Jonathan.

    I also read your "Edmonton Oilers Rumours: Jaromir Jagr, Linus Omark and the Nashville Predators" post on your Hockey or Die site.

    I think you're doing a good job of writing for your target audience. That is, your HoD post is a bit more of a high level view of the Oilers situation while this one delves deep down into the nitty gritty details.

    Keep it up!

  • Hippy

    yikes. can we at least get through THIS SEASON'S PRESEASON before we even consider who MIGHT be challenging for a spot at NEXT YEAR'S ROOKIE/TRAINING CAMP?
    So uh, if Kip Brennan gets sent down this year, do you think he could wind up playing enforcer on a Hartikainen/Eberle line?
    lines aren't even set this year.