The Edmonton Oilers will make their last major roster cut Monday and don’t have to name their 23-man roster until later in the week, but just about everybody has already taken a crack at spelling out what they think coach Tom Renney’s team will look like when the season begins against the Calgary Flames Thursday.
The list I’ve come up with isn’t necessarily what I think the Oilers roster should be, it’s what I think the roster will be. If the list was what I think it should be, then Nikolai Khabibulin wouldn’t be here in the first place, but I digress. The Oilers finished the pre-season at 4-2 after back-to-back losses to the Flames, including a 1-0 defeat in Cowtown Sunday.
They’ve still got 32 players for 23 spots, but that number is really 31 because forward J.F. Jacques will start the season on injured reserve. That’ll mean eight cuts, although it’s entirely possible somebody else might pull a hammy or turn up with a sore back and stick around town beyond opening night.
Anyway, here goes . . .
— Versatile and underrated Liam Reddox flat-out willed his way onto the roster with his balls-out, gloves-off performance in a 5-1 loss to the Flames. He’s also a very handy guy to have around because he kills penalties and can fill-in almost anywhere in a pinch. I think of Reddox as updated and speedier version of Rem Murray.
— Hall, Paajarvi and Eberle get in because the advertising campaign and new billboards are already planned, and because it makes sense, in the opinion of management, that the Big Three starts at square one of this rebuild together. How ready they are, especially Hall, will be a matter of debate for months.
— Linus Omark deserved a better crack at a job in the top nine than what he got. The skilled Swede doesn’t fit with the grinders at the bottom of the roster and he can’t ride shotgun for the kids, so he’ll get a ticket to OKC and dominate in the AHL and bide his time untl the phone rings.
— Renney tipped his hand on Peckham after Sunday’s loss when he suggested that Theo continues to play well. Pardon? I’m not so sure about that, although he was more of a factor on Sunday. With the Oilers apparently fearing somebody will pluck Peckham off waivers, he’ll stick.
— Unheralded journeyman Richard Petiot gets the pipe here. I think Petiot showed better and did more during camp and pre-season than Peckham or Shawn Belle, who saw limited duty because of a sore hand. He jumped several spots up the depth chart, but he was coming from a long way back.
— Gilbert didn’t do much for me in pre-season, especially when he didn’t play alongside Whitney, but it goes without saying that doesn’t matter and he’ll be in Renney’s first pairing when the puck drops Thursday.
— Khabibulin delivered about what was expected after 11 months out of action after his back surgery. He was pretty good in his first start, all things considered, but no better than OK overall. Khabibulin’s contract guarantees he’ll be the go-to guy until he gets hurt again.
— Jeff Deslauriers best shot at staying ahead of Dubnyk in the pecking order came and went in 48 apperances last season and he didn’t seize the opportunity. Dubnyk came in ahead of Deslauriers in the minds of the decision-makers and on the depth chart and he stayed there.
Once the cuts are dispensed with, it only makes sense the Oilers will unveil Horcoff as their captain and name his assistants before the Flames come calling. My guess is that’ll come Tuesday.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.