TRAINING CAMP THOUGHTS

This is the type of promotional video the Oilers should have. That is former NHLer Pasi Nurminen, who once fought Ty Conklin, driving the Zamponi.  I love that they call it a Zamponi. 

My Finnish buddy and NHL correspondent for Helsingin Sanomat, Jouni Niemimen, translated what Pasi was yelling. "THAT (The Zamboni) BARELY MOVED! DO I HAVE TO DO THIS MYSELF TOO?!" 

Gold, Jerry, Gold.

I like the spunk Antti Tyrvainen showed in the rookie tourney, and look for he and fellow Finn, Lennart Petrell, to grab Tom Renney’s attention during main camp and into the preseason.

The Oilers will be huffing, puffing, biking and jumping their way through physicals tomorrow. Outside of the usual VO2 tests, they get their eyes and ears checked, the lovely body fat test and other fun things. Brandon Davidson tested the best out of the rookies, so I wonder which vet will test the best. Any guesses? I’ll go with Ladislav Smid.

The Oilers have three days of camp before their split squads host Minnesota in Edmonton and Chicago in Saskatoon on Tuesday. The Oilers have eight days between their final preseason game, Oct 1st in Vancouver, and their season-opener v. the Penguins on Sunday the 9th, so Renney will have ample time to fine tune his system.

He won’t spend as much time on system play early camp this year like he did last year, mainly because most of the guys who have a realistic shot of making the team know his system, while the new vets; Belanger, Sutton, Smyth, Barker, Eager and Hordichuk have enough experience that they should pick it up rather easily.

"Guys should be comfortable in our system. What they need to learn quickly is how uncomfortable it feels when you don’t execute it properly," Renney said.

I’m sure many of you were thinking "How can we keep the same system when we finished 30th?" It is a valid point, but it is clear from Renney’s comments that it is more about understanding and executing the system. Renney will be a different coach this season. He won’t be, and can’t afford to be, as patient as he was last year.

The Oilers don’t need to make the playoff for him to keep his job longterm, but he will want to see a major improvement. This team needs to be close to the playoffs in the middle of the playoffs, and by close I mean six to ten points out.

LINE COMBOS

I’m interested to see what line combinations Renney will start with. Based on past history, the lines we see for the first preseason games won’t be the same as opening night, but Renney has some ideas based on last season, however, he wasn’t willing to divulge them on my show yesterday.

The best part of the preseason are predictions. Who will make the playoffs, who will score the most goals, have the most points, which coach gets fired first, how long before fans start calling for a coach/GM’s head, who will make the team and who will play together?

It’s fun stuff because there are rarely any wrong opinions, unless you pick the Islanders to make the playoffs. Some guesses are more educated, some filled with blind-faith, most are lucky, but all of them contain one consistent ingredient; Passion.

Between now and opening night, October 6th, the fanbase in every city believes their team has a shot. "If we can stay healthy we have a shot." "If our young kids take the next step we look good," are some of the usual phrases fans blurt out discussing their team at work, on the Nations, on radio, in their men’s league dressing room, at their kids hockey practices, with their buddies, and sometimes with their spouse.

Here’s some combos I’d like to see early in preseason.

Ryan Smyth- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Ales Hemsky
Taylor Hall- Sam Gagner- Jordan Eberle
Magnus Paajarvi-Shawn Horcoff-Linus Omark
Ryan Jones- Eric Belanger-Ben Eager
Lennart Petrell-Gilbert Brule-Darcy Hordichuk

I like Smyth to protect Nugent-Hopkins early on just like Horcoff did with Eberle and Hall last season. Let’s see if Gagner can keep up with Hall and if he is ready to make the step to becoming an impact top-two centre. The Swedes had some chemistry last year, and Horcoff can act as their security blanket.

If Jones, Eager and Belanger are the so-called 4th line, then maybe the Oilers can compete. Renney made it clear to me yesterday that he wants a 4th line that he can rely on. The Oilers top-thee lines aren’t good enough or productive enough, yet, to play 53 minutes a night. He needs, and expects, a reliable, energetic and productive 4th line. 
 
The blueline pairings are also intriguing. Will Ryan Whitney will likely be on the ice to start camp, but I’d be surprised if he played on Tuesday. His health will have a major impact on D-pairings, but if he was healthy I’d like to see these to start:

Whitney-Petry
Gilbert-Smid
Peckham-Barker
Sutton-Chorney

I’m still not sold that Petry wouldn’t benefit from some more seasoning in the AHL, but if he is here I’d play him with Whitney. The obvious risk to that philosophy is it means Gilbert and Smid will face the opposition’s first line. In the longterm I don’t see them as a #1 shut down pairing, but I’m not sure the Oilers have any tandem that would fall into that category, so that honour falls to them.

I’d bring Barker along slowly and let him build his confidence in the 3rd pairing. Peckham was the Oilers 2nd most consistent D-man last year, so play him with Barker and let them battle the 2nd and 3rd lines. If their confidence grows and they become consistent Steve Smith can give them more difficult matchups as the season progresses.

Who would you like to see together?

Let the games begin baby….Hockey is back!

DRIVE SAFE KIDS

The good news about that video is that they shot it before Finland won the World Championships this past Spring. Nurminen was much more sober during this shoot than he was a long-night of celebrating. (Shout out to mister_plow for the reminder. 

  • Craig1981

    I looked at your forward combinations at thought “wow we have an pretty solid young team”. Then I saw the defense…..then I remembered out goaltending

  • sofarsogood

    Somewhere down the line I think eberle will benefit most from rnh, pitlick second as they are the snipers. hall will get more of his goals from the rush. RNH will be sent down after 9 and anytime after WJ may be brought back. Just a thought, it would be nice if the oil kings traded for RNH, Bunz, and Pitlick (get him for a song as he would be in okl anyway). With there defence they could then make a run for it. Sorry for getting off topic.

  • The 1st mistress is saying that we might see a McCabe PTO tomorrow. Getting another veteran on the blue line would go a long way to making this team consistent and competitive. Given Tambo’s record, however, I am not optimistic that it will happen.

    That ‘Zamponi’ commercial is fantastic.

  • OilLeak

    Hmmn. I’m not sold on that first line. RNH and Hemsky should be separated as they are both pass first players. I see would like to see:

    Smyth – Gagner – Eberle

    2 way winger/Net Presence-Play maker-2 Way winger

    Hall- Horcoff/Belanger – Hemsky

    Shooter – Two way Center – Play maker

    Paajarvi – Horcoff/Belanger – Omark

    2 way winger – 2 way Center – Play maker

    Jones – Brule/Rookie – Eager/Hordichuk

    Shooter/D liability- Shooter/Rookie-Agitator/Goon

    RNH

    Playmaker

    IF RNH makes the team he will be slotted in various lines and will play sheltered minutes and get some PP time. Once injuries take over look for a bigger role as the season wears on.

    Horcoff and Belanger are interchangeable; Lander will replace Horcoff when he eventually goes down mid season to injury. Brule may get a chance on the fourth line(injured reserve?) or one of OKC guys will get the spot. Eager and Hordichuk will get rotated, with Eager getting the bulk of the playing time.

    The First 3 lines are balanced with a vet and up and coming young players. Each line has some scoring ability and a defensive conscience.

    4th line is kind of iffy, but will depend on who wins the day in training camp.

    • OilLeak

      Also, to clarify the 2 – way players are the likely the candidates for PK duty and some PP time. Jones will also get pk time, but to this point is not a great defensive player and doesn’t have the best skating ability or mobility.

      Play makers are also the PP specialists and will see the bulk off PP time, along with Hall.

      Yes, I’m hating on Jones again, he’s not a good hockey player, but I still like the guy.

  • Truth

    If I was making the lines I would try this first:

    Hall – Gagner – Hemsky Smyth – RNH – Eberle, Paajarvi – Belanger – Omark, Jones – Horcoff – Eager

    Whitney – Gilbert, Petry – Smid, Peckham – Barker, Sutton – Chorney/Fedun

    Edit: if only I knew how to put spaces in there…

  • OilLeak

    As an experiment would love to see RNH and Omark together. They both have a different way of seeing the ice (although RNH is by far better with that), and may have some different chemistry than we’ve seen in a while.

  • JJmorrocco

    Whats the chance of Hartikainan making the squad this year? Or will he be a be a call up for injury? I am guessing he does not have to cleat waivers this year? I liked his game when he was here last year, always hungry for the puck, and liked the front of the net.

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      +1

      This kid needs to be given the same opportunity as Petry, Teubert, and Chorney are on defence – a chance to make the team without some washed up vets eating up spots.

      ST will have to find a spot for him by “moving guys around” if he’s ready. Last year he looked like he was.

        • I’m thinking the guy in question is Horcoff, but that’s a guess. I wouldnt say he’s washed up, just not able to produce the quality of play needed from someone with his salary. If he treads water in terms of performance he isnt washed up, but he isnt very good. If Father Time starts eating away more of his ability like I think it will then he wont be far away from washed up, but not yet.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            So we are moving Horcoff to “make room” for Hartikanen?

            Lets keep in mind that Horc was arguably (very strong argument)our best center last year, and that he will probably be the best or close to the best center this year.

            Theirs also a really good chance he’ll be one of the best 4 or 5 forwards on the team.

          • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

            I’m using the term loosely. How many of the bottom six guys set to make the team (based on the one way contracts) would you put ahead of Harti?

          • Belanger, Omark, Paajarvi, Eager, and Jones. Three just signed contracts this off season, two just finished rookie seasons. 4 are occupying the bottom 6 winger spots.

            All Hartikainen has to do is beat out RNH, Lander, and Brule for the last Centre job and he has a spot.

          • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

            I put Lander in the same boat as Harti – capable of playing here but likely going to OKC because of the recent signings.

            RNH goes back to the Rebels after 9 games, IMO. Lander and Harti go to OKC until then. Likely one of them will come back up once RNH is sent back.

            94/10/83
            4/89/14
            91/8/23
            28/67/55

            Pressbox: Hordichuk & either Lander or Harti.

            Long term, Harti TRUMPS 67, 28, 55, and Hordichuk. Again, my opinion.

          • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

            I’m thinking more long term. I’m betting he’ll be more valuable to the Oil in the next couple of years than the guys I mentioned above.

            Valuable could be contract amount, playing time, etc. Not points amount necessarily.

            Interested?

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Ah, ya he’ll likely be more valuable then the others long term… that’s not saying a whole bunch though as the others aren’t really that valuable.

            Still pretty hard to make that call after 12 games.

          • Jason Gregor

            Paajarvi,Jones, and Eager. Eager is not washed up and Jones is coming off his best season. Please tell me which of these guys are washed up veterans.

            Hartikainen looked decent late in the year on a 30th place team. The fact he had some size is what impressed most people.

            He likely will get more seasoning in the AHL. He isn’t better than Eager, the only guy he might push is Omark…

            Hordichuk will play 40 some games. I don’t want Hartikainen playing ever 2nd game. He can still develop in the AHL playing every night.

  • I agree with your lineup although I don’t like Gagner playing with Hall and Eberle. But I like Smyth playing with RNH. I suggest switching Hemsky and Eberle so the lines are

    Taylor Hall- Sam Gagner-Ales Hemsky
    Ryan Smyth- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle
    Magnus Paajarvi-Shawn Horcoff-Linus Omark
    Ryan Jones- Eric Belanger-Ben Eager
    Lennart Petrell-Gilbert Brule-Darcy Hordichuk

    Although I don’t like spliting up Eberle and Hall I think having Smyth and Eberle to help out defensively would be good.

    Whitney-Petry
    Gilbert-Smid
    Peckham-Barker
    Sutton-Chorney

    Your defense is what I would like to see but all signs point to Petry getting sent to the AHL because of Chorney’s contract. Unless he has an amazing camp I see him being sent down.