If you thought the off-season was long, then this week might kill most Oiler fans. The Oilers don’t open their season until Sunday, they will be the last team to play a regular season game, with the Jets opening their season a few hours earlier.
The only positive is that it gives Ryan Whitney more time to get healthy. Whitney was on the ice this morning wearing a regular jersey and he was paired with Tom Gilbert. He didn’t wince when he pivoted, which is the motion that causes him the most discomfort, but I won’t know until after practice if he thinks he might be ready for Sunday.
The Oilers only had six D-men on the ice this morning. Andy Sutton, Gilbert’s regular partner, didn’t skate and that is likely why Whitney was so involved in practice. Ladislav Smid is out with a separated shoulder, Taylor Chorney has a wonky knee and Taylor Fedun is still in a Minnesota hospital.
Ben Eager was on the ice this morning, but he was wearing a baby blue jersey and didn’t take part in all the drills. He looked good wheeling by few D-men during one-on-one drills, and when I spoke to hinm last he was certain he’d be cleared for contact later this week.
- I was pleasantly surprised that the Oilers sent Gilbert Brule to OKC yesterday. Based on his play in preseason he deserved the demotion, but that isn’t always the case in the NHL. Numerous teams will keep guys on one-way deals over a newcomer who has a two-way deal. Brule is a good guy, who has much more important issues in his life to deal with other than getting demoted, but the Oilers had to send him down.
They’ve had too many "wildcard" players the past few seasons. Players that they couldn’t rely on game-to-game. Brule wasn’t the only one, and I’m curious to see if they continue getting rid of other "wildcards" in the coming season.
- Even though Lennart Petrell was my surprise pick to make the roster, I’m not certain how much of an impact, if any, he has this year. He needs to do more than just be a solid penalty killer for three minutes a game, and I’m not sure Renney has him pencilled in as one of his top-four PK forwards at this time. Horcoff, Smyth, Paajarvi, Belanger and Eberle might all still be ahead of him.
- I still think that Anton Lander is here until Sam Gagner is healthy. I have no doubt Lander will be a solid player in the future, I just think he’d be better served playing 1st or 2nd line minutes in the AHL than 4th line minutes in Edmonton. The most encouraging part of Lander’s game is his desire and work ethic. He also thinks the game very well, but his best attribute is his competitive drive. In the past few seasons, the Oilers have had too many guys who didn’t match the intensity level of the opposition. Lander won’t be one of those guys once he becomes a regular NHLer.