The Forwards

TORONTO - MARCH 7:  Ales Hemsky #83 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the game at Air Canada Centre on March 7, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Over at his other place, Lowetide has been spending the last few weeks going through the Oilers’ forwards and establishing benchmarks for the performance of each of them. He does it every summer, and then reviews those projections throughout the year. Because his estimates are conservative, as a rule they get argued with when they’re made and then start looking better and better as the season goes on.

His final list of the Oilers forwards went up today, and it’s a roster that screams one thing: this is another rebuilding year.

It’s way, way too early to be putting together line combinations, but it’s a fun exercise and makes it easier to picture where everybody might fit in. The following is how I’d do it, based on today’s roster and today’s assumptions, but it’s intended as a rough outline to give us an idea of what we’re looking at rather than an actual plan:

  • Hall – Horcoff – Hemsky
  • Penner – Gagner – Brule
  • Paajarvi/Eberle – Fraser – Jones
  • Jacques – Cogliano – Stortini

In this scenario, Steve MacIntyre and one of Omark, O’Marra, Giroux would serve as the extras, with the loser of the battle between Eberle and Paajarvi getting sent to the minors for lots of minutes (and tagged as the likely first call-up). There are other scenarios possible; for example, one could envision Hemsky, Penner and Gagner as a power-vs.power line, with Horcoff, Fraser and Jones becoming a shutdown trio and with a sheltered kids line in between centered by Brule or Cogliano. Like I said, it’s less about the actual lines than getting a better idea of what this group is going to look like next year.

It isn’t a contending team. Neither Colin Fraser nor Ryan Jones has a track record above the fourth line (although both performed well in that role), the kids are all question marks, Horcoff and Cogliano are coming off awful seasons, Brule’s coming off his first good season, and guys like Jacques, O’Marra and MacIntyre aren’t likely to outperform NHL competition.

And that’s just fine. Chalk me up as a fan of rebuilding; another bad year and another good pick are things I can get behind. The important thing is to have the title of Lowetide’s series: reasonable expectations. It’s a great year to watch the kids for improvements, enjoy the debuts of some fantastic rookies, and see whether guys getting slotted in new roles can perform. If the team surprises and starts winning games, it’s all gravy.