I like the look of the lines that Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney ran at practice today, and not just because they included Taylor Hall, who is poised to return to action against the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday after missing seven games with an injured left shoulder.

While the Oilers still have a decision to make on Magnus Paajarvi, seeing as the team is obviously hesitant to send him to the AHL to get some playing time, if Renney rolls out the same trios against the Coyotes, we’ll see three lines with some offensive capability.

Noteworthy, aside from the fact Paajarvi skated as an extra, is that Ryan Smyth was bumped to the third line, Sam Gagner stays in the top six and Ales Hemsky moves back into the top six after playing on the third line late in Saturday’s 3-0 loss in Calgary.


Here’s a look at the lines Renney rolled with at Millennium Place with the boxcars for each player in parenthesis:

GAGNER (3-9-12) RNH (13-19-32) EBERLE (11-20-31)

With Hall ready to return, Gagner could have been the odd man out seeing as he’s been moved all over the place so far this season, but it makes sense to reward his improved play of late by keeping him here. Busting Gagner to the third line would have been an unfair kick in the pills.

HALL (7-11-18) HORCOFF (7-13-20) HEMSKY (3-8-11)

Despite the suggestions by some readers I’m among those who’d like to run Hemsky out of town, I’m with Renney when it comes to keeping him in the top six. If you aren’t going to play Hemsky with linemates who’ll him get going, then you’re sending the wrong message. Hall will open ice for him.

SMYTH (12-14-26) BELANGER (1-8-9) JONES (9-6-15)

Smyth won’t be thrilled to be bumped into a third-line role, but I don’t have any problem with lines that will result in his 5-on-5 ice time being slightly reduced, seeing as he might be a little gassed already. Between Smyth and Jones, there’s going to be a lot of Oiler backside in the faces of opposing goaltenders.

EAGER (2-1-3) LANDER (1-2-3) PETRELL (2-3-5)

This group could change if the Oilers continue to dither on what to do with Paajarvi. It won’t do Paajarvi any good in terms of finding his offensive game to play here, but I’m wondering if he’ll spot in here.


The Oilers kept Nikolai Khabibulin off the ice again today and they’re calling it a "maintenance day." That makes it two "maintenance" days in row for Khabibulin on the heels of a day off for everybody. Hmm.

Given Khabibulin’s birth certificate and propensity for breaking down in recent seasons, getting him some rest makes sense, but I’m not altogether convinced No. 35 hasn’t tweaked something (groin) already. I have no inside info on that, it’s just hunch. Doesn’t smell right. We’ll take another sniff when the puck drops in Phoenix.


— Defenseman Corey Potter is also close to a return, but he’ll have to pass Renney’s fitness test before he gets back into action. My guess is it’s more likely we’ll see Potter Saturday in San Jose or next Monday against the Detroit Red Wings than Thursday.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Would the Penguins have any interest in Hemsky?

    With Crosby out they could take on Hemsky’s contract, and if it doesn’t work out he’s gone in July.

    I’d still like to see Taylor Hall at C2 with Paajarvi and Hemsky.

      • I’d like to salvage Paajarvi’s season in the NHL. His numbers and play don’t warrant a “top 6” position, but what is that on the Oilers?

        89 93 14 18 mins

        94 10 28 16 mins

        91 4 83 16 mins

        Paajarvi needs to be with skilled players for a few games, not just a few shifts before sending him to OKC. And I want Taylor Hall off the boards as much as possible coming off a shoulder injury. This is an opportunity to develop and ignite secondary scoring.

        Sacrificing development to make the playoffs 2 years into a rebuild seems wrong.

      • melancholyculkin

        Well he’s one of the few Oiler forwards who has a positive on-ice shot differential, his Corsi numbers are positive and he was breaking even in scoring chance differential last I checked. He’s not struggling to play NHL hockey, he’s struggling to score – and those are two different things.

        Paajarvi will be fine. I’m probably in the minority here, but I think Magnus will end up having a better career than Eberle. I know I’d much rather have him on the 4th line than Eager.

        As an aside, you don’t happen to know what Renney’s conditioning test entails do you? I’ve grown a little weary of Oilers coming back ahead of schedule and then not all being healthy. Case in point, Ryan Whitney.

        The playoffs aren’t happening this year. I’d keep Hall out another week just to be safe.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Hall and Potter coming back should definitely bolster the PP and hopefully Smytty logging fewer 5×5 minutes can help out the PK. Good news in Oilerland because it’s pretty clear that we need our special teams clicking again to win.

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    I like these lines quite a bit. The Hall – Horcoff – Hemsky line seemed like it was threatening before Hall got hurt.
    It seems like these lines could work both home and away. Maybe some stability will be a real benefit for everyone.

    I feel for Magnus. Everyone seems to agree that he obviously has the tools but things aren’t clicking. It might be all the pressure, something like “the watched pot never boils” which time in OKC could help, but I fear that he has a timidity to him and wonder if that is something that can be overcome. Certainly not a lost cause, but he knows as well as anyone what he needs to do and seems unwilling. I remember watching a game and the commentator said Gunnar Svenson was in the crowd. One second later Magnus tried an inspired little cut-back-wrap-around-short-side-stuff that went in off Belanger. Maybe they need to bring his dad to all the games.

    Thanks for the article, Robin.

  • I would just like to hear what you guys think about Hall’s comments yesterday.

    I don’t think I have to state the obvious (I’m no doctor), but it can’t be good when a 19 kid says how his shoulder will never be 100%. A 2-4 prognosis with no surgery (or will there be?) and it will NEVER be 100%? Am I way off base?

    • ColeRoll

      It’s just the way the body works. When you injure your shoulder, it’s permanently weaker. Surgery is intended to bring it back to 100%, however it has pitfalls. The surgery essentially “tightens” it up. It will be stronger than before the surgery, but you lose range of motion, because the surgeon is trying to prevent things from moving around and breaking. So even though his shoulder may never be 100%, surgery would only make things worse at this stage. Not until it’s a chronic issue (or he does some severe damage to it) should surgery be considered.

      • OilFan

        Maybe I missed it, but it was a shoulder separation no? That should heal 100% with time, especially a low grade separation (which it must be if he can play this soon). The thing about separations is after a point they are strong enough but are often tender and don’t “feel right”. Most athletes resume participation at this point as it is strong but it can feel be tender and any athlete who has come back from any kind of injury knows you find yourself babying things until you are 1000% confident in them.

        Now if I did indeed miss something and this was a dislocation or a labrum tear or something, then there is reason to worry, those things never get to 100% without surgical intervention.

  • Orange-n-Blue

    Also, would Hemsky work in Washington? Maybe they would be willing to take a one year gamble to get their situation figured out? Maybe either he or Ovi could switch wings? I wouldn’t mind trying to get Karl Alzner

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I really hope Hall won’t need surgery but if that’s the case, he should go under the knife sooner rather than later just because it sure as hell won’t get any better before the off season and the other teams will be gunning for him even more so now.

  • Sending Paajarvi to the minors so he can play is not sacrificing development, it’s putting it first and foremost.

    You want him here so you’re talking yourself into scenarios that justify it. He needs to play and that’s not happening now. As of today, there is no way he belongs ahead of any of the wingers ahead of him on the lines Renney ran today.

  • Puritania

    Getting Letang or Alzner would involve sending over a lot more than Hemmer.

    But hot damn wouldn’t it be great to get either of those guys without dealing one of the big three?

  • Puritania

    Double post, so I’ll just say if we keep eating sh*t we might get the D-man we need in Ryan Murray. THEN THATS IT OK? WE GOOD NOW BOYS, NO MORE HIGH PICKS PLZ, MEANINGFUL HOCKEY WOULD BE SUMTHIN’

    • I think that’s the route I would definitely go!
      Murray is going to be an amazing NHL player! bank it! The next player I’d take is Dumba. hopefully Murray is around when the Oilers pick.

      @ Moneypuck

      I cant see the Caps GM giving those picks up at all! I can see him moving a D-man though. however like I posted before I cant see the Oilers trading Hemsky till the dead line and any GM in the league is going to ask for a physical! which Hemsky wont pass.

  • oilredemption

    I think oilers should spot paajarvi with ebs and rnh. Triple H then gagner smyth and Jones because if the two hottest oilers can’t spark paajarvi then its off to the minors and it gives a bit more size on that line instead of using gagner. Makes sense really what better way to find someone’s game than light minutes with top producers

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Great Article Brownlee.

    Random question for you… What does Renney do with Hordy and MP when he’s running these lines? do they sit out the practice or take the odd shift on the 4th? What happens to the spare parts?

    As far as OKC… I think MP belongs there now. But I’m also curious why the NHL insists on sending fresh off injury players straight back to the NHL. Don’t contracts allow for conditioning stints in the AHL? I thought they did, but I’ve never seen this tool used. Curious because in baseball it is almost unheard of for an injured player not to play in AAA for a few games before a full return. The only downside I can think of is that some knucklehead in the A will try to make a name for himself by taking out Crosby or whatever (obviously this isn’t an issue in baseball). any thoughts?

    I like that 3rd line. so much flow! belanger will feel the pressure to grow out his hair now!

    Seriously though, I think Smyth could use a TOI break and I like the idea of forcing the issue with Hemsky. Put him in a place to succeed and prove his critics wrong.

    • book¡e

      I think its simply a matter of the culture that has evolved in the game despite the irrationality of it. I think there are three key factors that have prevented this from being adopted.

      1. Players continue to see any trip to the minors as a negative thing.

      2. GMs are reluctant to see their NHL players hurt in AHL games (despite the logic of them being in better condition when they face the faster, meaner, bigger NHL players).

      3. NHL teams want recovering or recently recovered players around their own training and medical staff (this actually seems to be a logical concern).

      With that said, I suspect that some GM will start using the practice of making use of the AHL for conditioning and in 5-10 years it will be commonplace – just like visors.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If 83 is a fit in Washington i’d got after one of those first rounders the Caps have. 83 and 6 to Wash in exchange for that first pick they received from the Avalanche for Varlamov. With only a month left in the season maybe you take back a salary dump to make it work money wise.

  • Just a random thought for a trade.

    To Edmonton: Semin
    To Washington: Hemsky

    To high talent RW with 1 year left on the contracts and both underachieving.

    I know Semin is a streaky player and doesn’t show up all the time but I would love to see him play here when he is “on”.

  • melancholyculkin

    Most young prospects can play with the puck, but cannot play without it. They are defensively unreliable.

    Paajarvi is the exact opposite. He is defensively reliable, but is finding it difficult to find his offensive bearing against NHL defenders.

    One is NOT going to learn how to score against NHL defenders by playing against inferior defenders in the AHL. It is NOT going to help or build confidence.

    It is just screaming at the player that you don’t like defensive reliability. Go done. Cheat for offence. Goals and assists are all that matters.

    The Oilers and Renney have never given Paajarvi a defined role. He’s defensively responsible. Build a player out of that. Play him on the 4th line giving him 8 minutes of EV, and teach him to PK. Build on what he does well.

    There is no need to send him to the AHL.

    What Paajarvi needs is Mike Keenan and the Oli Jokinen treatment. Three organizations and 4 or 5 coaches couldn’t crack that puzzle that was Oli Jokinen. Keenan figured him out in 30 days. He played him till he dropped. Basically challenged his manhood. Keenan was going to make or break jokinen.

    There is a lot of stuff that Paajarvi does really well. There is a lot of material for a smart coach and organization to work with. Renney’s apparent cluelessness with what to do and how to use Paajarvi does not inspire confidence in the coaching staff.

    • stevezie

      I disagree. PRV is faster and bigger than most people. A trip to the A might remind him of this. He hasn’t had offensive success in so long I think he’s forgotten how to achieve it.

    • PRV has size and speed but is for all intents and purposes a fraidy cat. The kids a snow blower, until he grows a set of nards and uses his physical tools with some measure of grit he shall be a “could have been”.

      Hes a swede….. its kinda the way they are wired….mostly.

        • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

          Maybe some of the posters here have a Don Cherry shrine in their bedrooms. It’ll certainly explain some of the “ignorant yet arrogant” comments here. If you have Cherry as your hockey god, you’re a few decades behind.

          Seriously, Cherry is a bigot. He’s been masking that for years by tugging at our hearts strings when he pumps up Canadian players.

  • Lofty

    Would an organization like Detroit leave a player to flounder in the NHL rather than sending him down to the minors?

    No, they would send him down and only call him up when they truly believe he is the organizations best option. We have to remember that the odds of all 4 “kids” (Hall, Ebs, MPS and RNH) turning out to be solid to great NHL players is very low. Im not giving up on MPS but he’s a professional hockey player and all oiler players need to be treated as such. If your not the clubs best option you will not be on the NHL roster, next man up. The best organizations in NHL do not endow roster positions to players, they make them earn them.

    • Lofty

      Paajarvi isn’t floundering. He just isn’t putting up points. Hemsky and Belanger (and Eager) aren’t putting up points at anywhere near their normal rates, and nobody is talking about sending them to the minors.

      I’m sure AHL defensemen would work wonders for Hemsky and Belanger too.

      If one looks at chance differential, plus/minus, Corsi, some of the advanced stats, for Paajarvi, he is doing far better than most of the bottom forwards on the Oilers roster.

      He’s not causing the Oilers goals against, and he is better than Petrell, Lander, Hordichuk, and Eager.

      Give him regular time on the 4th line till he gets a little puck luck, and teach him and make him PK.

      The Oilers don’t need him to be an offensive dynamo. They have that in Hall and Eberle (and Hartikainen). Paajarvi can be the Oiler’s Dennis Rodman, or Dave Hunter, or Bob Bourne, or Bob Gainey.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      You know? If you actually ‘know’ something the rest of us don’t, please share. Or are you one of those people that just likes to guess things so you can say ‘I called it’ 6 months later? That sh#t’s annoying, please don’t be that guy.

      I’m just happy to see Taylor will be back in the lineup. We need his energy!

    • French Toast Mafia

      Is this Eklund with a different name? The classic “I know” or “Sources say”.

      I know that the oilers are gunna trade hemsky, peckham, khabby, and hordi for weber and suter….

      More to follow

  • French Toast Mafia

    HALL (7-11-18) HORCOFF (7-13-20) HEMSKY (3-8-11)

    Despite the suggestions by some readers I’m among those who’d like to run Hemsky out of town, I’m with Renney when it comes to keeping him in the top six. If you aren’t going to play Hemsky with linemates who’ll him get going, then you’re sending the wrong message. Hall will open ice for him.

    I agree – that’s a great decision. Defensively responsible with Horcs and the trigger man Hall – if this doesn’t get Ales going then what line combo could? I hope he’s up for the challenge as this line could create a LOT of problems for Coyotes!