While fans could probably use all their fingers and toes when it comes to questions about the Edmonton Oilers as training camp approaches, I can think of at least 10 relating specifically to player personnel I don’t have the answers to.
As always, if you know, or think you know, the answers to any of them, feel free to pass them along.
YOU TELL ME
1. The most pressing question for me has two components. First, will Ryan Whitney’s surgically repaired right ankle be ready for the start of the season? And, if it is, how long will it hold up?
2. Will Ales Hemsky be here after the trade deadline? Assuming Hemsky can stay healthy, he’ll be a potential trading chip, and a big one, until GM Steve Tambellini gets his name on a new contract.
3. I don’t think there’s much question Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will start the season with the Oilers, but will he stay beyond nine games, which would eat up a year of his entry level contract?
4. If Nugent-Hopkins does stay beyond nine games, does it do him any good to play bottom-six minutes or should he be returned to Red Deer of the WHL if he isn’t used in a top-six role with offensive players?
5. Who will Ryan Smyth play with? No chance Smyth slots in with Shawn Horcoff and Hemsky because that’s putting too many veteran eggs in one basket. I’m wondering where his best fit is.
NEXT 5 . . .
6. I think Devan Dubnyk should play more games than Nikolai Khabibulin this season — I think 45-37 is a reasonable split — but will he? How much rope does Khabibulin get from coach Tom Renney if he doesn’t bounce back from a lousy 2010-11?
7. Will one or more of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Magnus Paajarvi fall victim to the dreaded sophomore jinx? For the record, I see all of them surpassing their rookie points totals, even if that’s fudging because Hall and Eberle missed a significant number of games with injuries.
8. Is former No. 3 overall pick Cam Barker on his way back or on his way out? After struggling mightily with Minnesota and having his contract bought out, this is the most important season of Barker’s career.
9. Speaking of important seasons, will Sam Gagner bounce back from back-to-back injury shortened campaigns and give management a clear indication of where he fits, and if he fits, moving forward?
10. Do Ben Eager, Eric Belanger, Andy Sutton, Darcy Hordichuk, Smyth and Barker constitute significant upgrades over departed players Steve MacIntyre, Zack Stortini, Andrew Cogliano, Colin Fraser, Kurtis Foster and Jason Strudwick?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.