When we last left the 4line discussion, we’d identified the suspects and wondered how the team could get improved play from the same group. Perhaps an addition from the farm? Or a change in philosophy?

The first look at the 4line is here. We identified the players and their minutes, and agreed it was a little surprising that the management seemed to be making every effort to bring the players back (specifically Petrell). Let’s review last season’s group and what the bring to the dance:

  • Eric Belanger: Best faceoff man on the club, he brought with him a reputation as a 2-way player. Although he was far from delivering on same, veterans often play better in year two with their new team. Oilers may be hoping this happens with Belanger.
  • Lennart Petrell: Big Finn offers some size and is a hitter. Petrell also played some PK and is an aggressive forechecker.
  • Anton Lander: One of the players who is generally regarded as a big part of the future, Lander was overmatched and outchanced despite playing most of the season on the big club. Among the things we might list as reasons for coach Renney’s dismissal, surely Lander’s presence deep into the season is one of them.
  • Ben Eager: Tough winger brought in to bring sandpaper to the everyday lineup, and as with Belanger the results were found wanting. His performance may have been impacted by a training camp hit from Kirill Tulupov that slowed him. Oilers have stated they want to be physical, Eager has the size (and speed) to be intimidating when he chooses to do it.
  • Darcy Hordichuk: Re-signed with the Oilers and plans on having a greater impact. Hordichuk: "I think that you don’t have to be an idiot out there, or be a donkey but as the season goes on and guys are starting to get run a little more you have to kind of draw the line somewhere early in the season so that guys know this is what you’re up against if it happens. If that means taking a suspension then I’m willing to do that.”
  • Magnus Paajarvi: Used up and down the lineup when he was in town, Paajarvi was the lone member of last season’s group whose overall performance was north on .500 on the chance clock. 


It is possible that Taylor Hall will be unready at the start of the season (although I’d never count him out), so the top 6F might need another winger. Nuge-Gagner should be the C’s, and the 4 wingers should be Hall, Eberle, Yakupov and Hemsky when all hands are on deck.

Teemu Hartikainen–not listed above–would appear to be the obvious candidate for the role until Taylor Hall gets back, and I think he might end up being a key player for the 4th line too. Once Hall is healthy, the Oilers might be able to run the following top 9F:

  • Gagner-Hall-Hemsky
  • Nuge-Yakupov-Eberle
  • Horcoff-Smyth-Jones

Which means that Hartikainen can join the group above for 4line duty. Beyond Hartikainen, the minor league roster does in fact have some candidates but I’m not certain any of them will make a push for NHL duty this season.The most promising is Tyler Pitlick but he’s a year way. Pitlick has size, speed and can hit. We’re not certain how much offense he’ll bring, but Pitlick has many of the elements Oilers fans (and apparently management) feel the team is missing. He won’t be an enforcer, and is unlikely to be a disturber as an NHL player. However, he’s big and physical with speed. What should make the difference for Pitlick over a player like Eager is his ability to take and make a pass. If he can do that at speed, Pitlick is going to have a career far beyond the 4line.


I was listening to Jason Strudwick on the Team 1260 morning show on the trip into work this morning. Jason is a bright guy and a former NHL player, so when he’s talking it is a good idea for fans like me to listen. Strudwick (and host Will Fraser) were discussing Colin Fraser and his success in LA.

Strudwick talked about the role Fraser played down the stretch after coach Sutter clearly defined his role. That takes teamwork–a coach with the vision to put someone in a spot where they can succeed, along with a player willing to buy in–and the result can be outstanding even in the middle of an NHL season.


Perhaps that is one reason why coach Krueger and the Oilers signed Lennart Petrell and Darcy Hordichuk, and appear to be returning Eric Belanger, Ben Eager and possibly Magnus Paajarvi. Maybe a clearly defined role will make that line roll.


At the very least this is a chance for us to see what the Oilers are going to do in an area that offers tremendous opportunity for growth. Will they:

  1. Make Paajarvi a bigger part of the 4line
  2. Use Hartikainen as part of the energy/size line
  3. Run Belanger, Eager, Hordichuk and Petrell out there again in the hopes that dropping Lander from the mix is the solution?
  4. Does Ralph Krueger–as referenced by Mr. Strudwick today–change the equation and ask the same men to provide energy, forechecking and grit without spending hours in the sin bin?

Much of what we’re sitting around waiting for with this team is the maturation of the kids. When Hall, Ebs, Nuge and Yak start going rocknrolla there’s going to be more hell than a little bit. One of the things I’m hoping for this fall is some clarity and accountability for that 4th line.

I’m a fan of effective 4lines, that Jim Dowd trio that played here a dozen years ago was sublime. Let’s hope one of Ralph Krueger’s first chores is to find three guys who can rip it up on the 4line every night.  

  • I suppose I don’t mind guys like Belanger getting a second chance this year. He is after all supposed to have more than he showed. *Tries real hard not to roll eyes*

    I hope the difference is Krueger gets the green light to make changes if said players aren’t working out. My guess is Renney probably wanted to change things up (he’s not THAT stupid after all), but his marching orders probably had “development”, “first draft pick”, “taking one for the team” and “generous severance package” circled in red felt marker.

      • I don’t care about his last 8 years. He was a train wreck LAST year. He might, MIGHT get better this year. Fernando was a pretty decent player in his day but no way in h3ll would I want him on our team now. Athletes have a limited shelf life. Once they go downhill it’s up to them to prove their worth or move on.

        Here’s the tell. What do you think we’d get in a trade for Belanger?


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

          Yet you keep insinuating that he was done coming into this past year.

          That said, I’d bet he’s still in the upper half of 4th line centers league wide.

          • You may be right. If he stays on the fourth line and helps out on PK FO’s, then fine. It’s the abusive minutes on the PP and sewering the third line that makes me sick. I hope we’re seen the end of that crap.

  • Cervantes

    Best fourth line of the last few years was Stortini Glencross Brodziak, hands down. I think mixing MPS and Harski around Belanger at centre might recreate some of that, but we have too many parts and not enough polish. Krueger needs to clearly define what he wants from his fourth line. If they’re hitters and bangers, then you run Eager and Petrell all year. If you want an actual threat that will outmatch other fourth lines, you run Harski and MPS. But just throwing one of each in the mix with the occasional Hordy will just lead to the same mess as last year. Krueger needs to define, and then Tambo needs to move the spare parts out and clear up some room.

  • yawto

    Forwards not very encouraging for the start of the season.

    Is Gagner good enough to be a 2nd line centre? We’ll know soon enough. And, realistically, if he isn’t, what then? And what about Hemsky, riding an expensive two-year contract extension? Trade bait? Another big question mark as to the expectation of his performance, most of which is in the past.

    Will Horcoff-Smyth-Jones measure up as the 3rd line? Horcoff’s play has really deteriorated. Ditto for Smyth in the second half of last season. Can Jones carry this line by himself? This line doesn’t appear to have the attributes for forechecking: speed, toughness.

    And the 4th line. Scary choices: Belanger, Eager, Petrell, Hordichuk. We can only hope that some of the OKC players can step up to replace these unperforming veterans.

    This is a squad of forwards that is out of balance. Outstanding rookies, yes. Poorly performing veterans, yes. Tough to play against forwards, no. Too many passengers, yes.

    • Gagner’s stats show that he is a capable 2nd line center. What really matters is what role you want that line to have. Right now Edmonton’s top two lines can score but thats about it. There is no physical presence, they don’t make any teams go “oh sh*t them again”. There is no intimidation in the top6 to make teams go “oh damn this is going to be a long night”. That is why I don’t think Gager is a fit for this team anymore unless they fill in around him with physical players. Its all about balance and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing a line of Gagner-Hemsky-Harti.

      Also whats the work on Kirill Tulupov?? I mean if you want a sh*t distruber in the line up this guy seems to be a logical choice so where is he in he development? For as little as he played in OKC his numbers look comparable to Plante and Chorney.

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

          Can’t score a goal if you can’t hold onto the puck and are on your a$$ the whole time. There is a mental side to things as well and they are going to need it if they plan on doing well in the playoffs.

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

            Big difference between holding onto the puck and being physical.

            That said, you are trying to divide and prioritize between ways you can score or stop the other teams from scoring. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it.

  • yawto

    Belanger , Hordichuk and Eager, are seasoned veterans, set in their ways.. not sure you will see a lot of change in their play.

    If Kruger can make hockey players out of those three guys, god knows what he can accomplish with talented guys on the team.

    Tambelini [ I am still sleeping] did nothing with making changes to the veteran side of the team [ other than dropping Barker, who may still show up on the roster].

    Hartekinen, Lader and Pajarrvi are still newbies, and should be given another year to see how they develop. Petral.. who knows?

  • PutzStew

    Hey Lowetide,

    I agree with your take on Belanger and the one thing I hope Kruger does is give some diffined roles to the bottom six. That has clearly been something that has been missing the past could seasons (Jones made comment about it a year ago).

    I do have to ask though….why do you keep putting Hemsky with Hall and Gagner? He killed them last year and has never shown any chemistry with either player. Why would you not put Hemsky with RNH since he was the only guy, on the top six last year, that was able to get Hemsky going?

    Personally I hope Hemsky is gone come training camp but I’ve been saying that for 3 years. I also hope Horcoff gets deported and Smyth runs off to a colony for mullet worshipers, but the chances of any of that happening is as good as Edmonton picking up a top 2 dman so it’s not gonna happen.

    • Travis Dakin

      I do have to ask though….why do you keep putting Hemsky with Hall and Gagner? He killed them last year and has never shown any chemistry with either player. Why would you not put Hemsky with RNH since he was the only guy, on the top six last year, that was able to get Hemsky going?

      Personally I hope Hemsky is gone come training camp but I’ve been saying that for 3 years.

      Why is this guy throwing down like that? Why is he trying to hurt me? Why are there so many mentally challenged Oilers fans?

    • Travis Dakin

      I just wanted to “quote” this again so people could see that there are “fans” out there that HOPE good hockey players aren’t on the team next year. People like this guy are why men like Steve Tambellini have jobs.

      Ales Hemsky?!?!?! Trade that useless bum!

      Lennart Petrell?!?!? Why can’t we lock that guy up until he’s 43?

      Give me 23 Toby Petersons and I’ll give you a Cup!!

      PutzStew…… You’re a PUTZ!!!!!!

      • Hi Travis, if Hemsky has trade value I would move him as well. Here are several reasons why I think it would be a good idea.

        Hemsky has had to do too much his entire career because of having to play with poor players on a poor team. Now even with good players he hangs on to the puck too long.

        His creativity may make him hard to defend against but it also makes it hard to develop chemistry with him

        Both Hemsky and Yak are obviously top 6 players. When Hemsky moved over to LW he was not good, so they are talking about moving Yak. Yak prefers RW and has played the majority of his career as a RW. His shot from the off wing is probably his greatest weapon and we are going to take it away before he has played a single NHL game.

        We need more grit. More players that can play hockey and bring the physical side. Hemsky likely has the biggest value of players outside of the young guys that would not leave a huge hole by being traded.(Gagner)

  • yawto

    There are reasons Eager and Belanger have been let go by many teams.

    Attitude and hockey sense and not buying into their role are things that have been written.

    Hordichuk on the other hand knows his role seems to have good attitude and draws more penalties than he takes.Look for him to get a little more time.

    As to Hall he played in the Windsor Alumni game last weekend so he must be progressing.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Lets see…

    @DSF what exactly is a donkey in this context?

    I have not seen this film but I am guessing the archie slap refers to the dude getting the hairy side in the clip. We could use a few 4th liners that could mete out such punishment. Sadly, it seems Eager may not be up to it so I repeat my call to develop such talents in-house. Gather 6 bottom forwards in OKC and let them loose on the AHL. I bet this mayhem will be warmly received by ice-hockey fans there. A pipeline to Edmonton for large men who can skate and intimidate must be built. We have lots of small skill to do the finishing, now lets develop some cheap guys to do the spade work.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Also, who is the chicken under ‘seriously,what does it really mean’? Yummy. There are lots of fat girls but very few thin, fine ones. I can always count on LT to provide; thanks for this.

    DSF Does this qualify as a donkey comment?

    • book¡e

      Here is some learning for you.

      Right click the picture and click save as – you will see that the picture is called ‘rocknrolla’.

      From there you search ‘rocknrolla’ on Google.

      From there you see that rocknrolla is a movie and if you look a little, you will see that she is Thandie Newton.


      You can install a program called ‘TinEye’ and do image searches.

  • book¡e

    ToP 3 mOvie of all time (along with snatch and lock stock and 2 smoking barrels)
    Hall’s quote” don’t hurt me uncle arch (doughty) I’m only little”
    I’d enjoy the Katz version where he rents the entire golf course just to beat someone’ he finds useless’s legs to pulp with his putter.(Quinn)
    That and the Kiril tulopov scene where never quits and runs down the track to take out some other team showboat with a 2×4 or golf club. Great movie…

  • WeridAl

    LT your jumping to conclusions that Ryan Smyth will be playing on the 3rd line. Ryan Smyth has lost too much speed to play on that line. Your better off playing Magnus Paajarvi with Horcoff and Jones/Hartikainen. I love Ryan Smyth, but he’s burnt out the last 2yrs half way through each season. Play Smyth on the 4th line with PP and PK time thrown in.

  • Rocknrolla

    My 58 yr old British immigrant mother thinks that Hemsky is a bum and that we should get rid of him for beans

    Seriously, you are not a very bright person if you think he doesn’t have value.

    If, repeat IF, you trade Hemsky, it had better be to address a serious weakness on the team.

  • I dont think we will see Hall at Center and if we do he will be out with a concussion within 20 games,he is to determined to avoid stretching himself out down the middle and THAT is the only thing worse that stretching yourself out along the boards ha ha ha,it would be career suicide to put him there this year,more seasoning is required.

    Our 4th line needs to function exactly as our first line does in every way,period.

    We need so see system continuity,and on that note dont look forward to seeing much of the 4th line as we should be rolling four lines of offense,and this means we will likely see a player or two in the top six{maybe an offensive d-man} double shifted for the first time in many years here,with the 4th line sitting most nights.I think we will dress four and roll with basiclly three offensive lines.I dont think we will see a shutdown roll from anyone and our 4th line will be expected to generate system goals wether they are Darcy Hordichuck or Bellanger,no more defensive mindset,our lines will all play the same system the same way—-we dont let other teams force us to change or adjust to them—we force them to adjust to us from the first second of the game till the last second of it.

    Lander is NHL ready and he needs to be able to add his pestyness to our lineup,he needled under a lot of opposition players when he played and it was noticable,we need that from a skilled guy like him.I am afraid if we put him in our top six he would cause us issues because he would be able to stick there easily,in fact he can play defensively at high speed better than most and transition as well as any of our current top 6 from defense to offense.

    I think if Hall is not ready,Jones will take his spot to start the year.

    If we see the NewAge System which spreads offensive responsibility equally played here all our guys will have better years,Eager looks like a goal scorer who needs to anchor our fourth line,players who we heard had excellent shots as they came in to the league can show them now because in the NewAge System there are no set plays and EVERYONE has the same shot accountability and system responsibility to score goals for 60mins.

    I would like to see our fourth line sitting most games and when they hit the ice it should be with a defined offensive intent,we need goals from every unit that hits the ice,and we never want men out there without that 100% focus,ever.

    I LOVE to see Hordichuck score goals,and is BEAUTIFUL in a wiggy kind of way to see Smid score goals,he looks so natural,seriously his decision makeing is top notch he knows when to commit to the shot and he really goes 100% when he pulls the trigger.How about MPS already,he can score hat tricks with his size and skill,if a team cant contain his speed he SHOULD dominate them for 60mins.

    Personally haveing been in non pro coaching situations ,i cant believe that I dont see tactical changes throughout every game,where guys like Hall or Gagner are on the 1st to the 4th line for 60mins as the system dictates to expose opponents weaknesses.A championship team is really built from the 4th line up,so it is when you can afford to send down quality players and still execute an effective system that winning becomes habit.

    How can a team of coaches tell me that there were no opportunitys to expose opposition weakness by shuffeling men dureing the game??Its impossible for it to not happen if someone is driveing the bus,so whats up???

    Taylor Halls speed can expose anyone in the NHL,so tell me he shouldnt be tossed in that position from time to time??Same with all the kids.

    Tell me Nuge shouldnt be double shifted,or Gagner also??You better believe they should be,Eager is another example with his compact size and speed,he should be all over the map as soon as we see where he can blast over weaker smaller slower d-men,and we need to put him there ASAP dureing games.

    I mean as far as i am concerned the 1 to 4 line issue is kinda silly as it only applies if you play a fractured system{usually defensive based or concerned},if you play a system with continuity as a core value then you never think in terms of tactics that require specificlly manned lines of players with different roles,on a winning team the roles are all system dependant and identical for everyone. If we play the NewAge System this year we will see this type of system committment and personality,everyone will have the same system responsibilitys and their positional mindset will be altered in a big way.

    As I said,we shouldnt be seeing much of the 4th line and then it will be to score goals like everyone else,and whatever happens in that system action,fights or whatever must be catalysed by attempts to score goals,even if it means strting your fight in their zone after an offensive rush instead of reacting in your own zone,all these details are important.

    What changes could I make to our 4th line when my system doesnt even think in terms of lines??Anyone can play any situation at any time as we are all playing a system with continuity as a core value,we are all system sensitive and we read and react to the system in real-time we dont have preconcieved notions as to what should happen on the ice we dont have those distracting set play mentalitys,and as such we can all play up and down the situational dynamics.

    Each NHL game should be a study in itself,82 micro-managed projects,each considered as its own entity,never consiered as part of the 82 game whole picture.

    This means every game we have matched teams player for player as per their line ups ,and our system intent remains the same for 82 gms,consistant.But this means we HAVE to see different guys all over the place dureing the year,it is imperative that we see this,like it is imperative that we see doubleshifting when we spot weakness,ASAP.How can we not see this type of movement on a pro sports team at this level??

    Goal scoreing is just like fighting it can be done by specialists once or twice in a game as dictated by the opponent or it can be done by committee and we can dictate terms of play to the opposition for 60mins in their faces,domination by comittee.Its a NewAge System core value to approach everything by committee,every aspect of the game,no individual windows of opportunity exist,its a six man approach every shift.Our 4th line should look like our 1st line for 82 gms.