I think it’s time for the Oilers to correct a mistake they made in training camp. It’s time to recall Liam Reddox from the minors.
Reddox is having a strong season in Oklahoma City. He sits one point back of Alexandre Giroux for the team scoring lead, with 27 points in 31 games. He leads the Barons in goals (15) and in the plus/minus department (plus-12). He’s also a key member of the Barons’ successful penalty kill. We’re familiar with Reddox’s work ethic, and his willingness to play a defensive game.
Taken against that is the fact that Reddox is undersized, that his scoring touch probably isn’t going to translate to the NHL level, and that he plays wing when ideally he would play centre.
Putting that all together, one thing should keep Reddox in the conversation: he’s a hockey player with a range of skills. The lower end of the Oilers’ forward corps is littered with one-dimensional players: Zack Stortini, the most versatile of the lot, a player who appears to have fallen out of favour with the coaching staff, Jean-Francois Jacques, a strong skater and hitter who lacks offensive touch or defensive acumen, and Steve MacIntyre, a true heavyweight without other skills.
There isn’t a situation where all three should be dressed at the same time, given that their skills overlap and that none of them have shown ability to play above the fourth line.
Further, I wonder whether Stortini/Jacques would be more effective if they spent less time as members of the same line. Certainly, the highlights of Stortini’s NHL career have come on lines where he’s the least talented member – he had success with Glencross and Brodziak, as well as when paired with Nilsson and Stone.
I suspect there’s a little too much redundancy when Jacques and Stortini form the bookends of the same line.
The addition of Reddox would give Tom Renney some options to mix his forward group. As it stands, if Renney wants to scratch an underachiever – say Cogliano or Brule – he is forced to ice a line that has two of Stortini, Jacques and MacIntyre. None of those three are realistic replacements for a player like Cogliano or Brule, while a player like Reddox could take their spot.
The Oilers penalty kill has employed seven forwards regularly this season. Two of them – Horcoff and Hemsky – are injured. Two more – Penner and Eberle – are playing upwards of 18 minutes a night, and it’s possible the team would benefit from having them spend more of that time at even-strength or on the power play.
Reddox, along with Ryan O’Marra, have been successful in a penalty-killing role in the AHL, and Reddox has previously spent time on an NHL penalty kill.
If I had my way, this move would come at the expense of Jean-Francois Jacques. The oft-injured forward has not had a strong season, but there was a time when his AHL performance indicated a player who could do more than crash and bang. I’d like to see what Jacques could do with heavy AHL minutes; it’s been a long time since Jacques was asked to be that player, and the coaching staff in Oklahoma City seem very capable. He might surprise us.
Postscript: This was meant to be a two-part article, with an emphasis on both Reddox and Devan Dubnyk, but I didn’t have anything of significance to add to Robin Brownlee’s take on the Oilers’ young goaltender.