JUST FOR FUN

It’s Positive Friday, so let’s drift off into a fantasy world that doesn’t involve another potential lockout involving two sides who can’t find a way to split $3.3 billion in gross revenues. I had to get off twitter because I couldn’t stomach seeing another, "Bettman, Daly and the two Fehr’s have been meeting for an hour," or  "Two hours and they are stillllllllllll meeting."

They are meeting, and the meeting lasted two hours, maybe longer. OMG. What’s next we will find out Shania Twain lip-synched at the Grey Cup in Edmonton?

Okay, I digress, there will be no more mention of the lockout in the next few paragraphs, and instead I will write with the assumption that in 14 days the Oilers, and every other NHL team, will report to training camp on September 21st. That’s a much more positive option for hockey fans.

The Oilers will go through their dreaded medicals on the 21st. Ryan Whitney will post his best results in three years because he actually got to skate in the summer, Theo Peckham’s body fat % will be lower, Shawn Horcoff will still be near the top in VO2 tests, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will weigh in at 184. No one will ask him if he thinks he’s strong enough to handle NHL defenders, but at some point someone will ask the idiotic question of whether he thinks he’ll be able to handle carrying a few extra pounds.

Ales Hemsky’s shoulder will be fine, Taylor Hall’s recovery has gone well and he’s expecting to be ready for opening night, October 13th in Vancouver. The only thing that makes covering medicals remotely exciting for the media or fans is that is signifies a start to another season.

The first on-ice session starts Saturday morning, and 2,000 diehard, extremely excited fans show up at Millenium Place. It is standing room only. Their excitement stems equally from the eternal hope that springs from a new season and how awesome it was that the season started on time.

JJ Hebert, the Oilers media relations guru, is a tad annoyed because after generously giving up his seat to a young fan, he had to go four rows deep and watch practice, but he couldn’t see over anyone. (Annoyed at being vertically challenged, not giving his seat to a kid) The always thoughtful Gene Principe sees this and brings over his camera man’s 18-inch thick camera case, and Hebert is just as excited as the young Oiler fan now that he can see the ice.

Ralph Krueger oversees his first practice as new head coach, and he’s excited to introduce his system and style to the players and fans. Krueger believes in tandems rather than sticking with trios all year, and he trots out some interesting line combinations for the scrimmages.

The best part of training camp is speculating on which combos you’ll see.

Teemu Hartikainen gets a boost of energy skating with RNH and Jordan Eberle.
Magnus Paajarvi skates with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky.
Nail Yakupov, who can’t stop smiling on his first day of training camp, is placed on the left side with Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones.

Once this line combo is tweeted out, instantly fans are tweeting that Krueger’s an idiot for stifling Yakupov by playing him with Horcoff. The fact it is day one of training camp and past history shows that early-training camp combos/trios rarely last through the pre-season is irrelevant. Fans, bloggers and media have waited six months to debate something, so it’s fitting the first "questioning of the coach" revolves around Horcoff.

The NHL is back and Oiler fans are pumped. Wanye awoke from a three-day binder, fueled by Oodle Noodle, beers at the Pint, rants of Eberle’s greatness and how his EI cheque still hasn’t arrived, just in time to type in a SQUEEEEE after reading a tweet that Eberle went top-shelf on Olivier Roy eight minutes into the first scrimmage.

An upstart blogger will be watching from centre ice and trying his best to chart who was on the ice for each goal, and how many scoring chances happened. After a minute he’ll realize it is impossible for one man to chart of all this and he’ll fire out a blog stating how the NHL should have stats guys charting these practices so fans can know who has the best Corsi rating during training camp.

Justin Schultz is paired up with Nick Schultz, showing Krueger has a sense of humour while also striking fear into Kevin Quinn and Jack Michaels. Michaels gets a great idea for "Jack Facts," and starts researching how many defensive pairings in the history of the NHL had the same last name. Between researching that and bemoaning another 0-3 start for the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be in a great mood.

GAME TIME

The Oilers’ preseason starts with a home and away series v. the Winnipeg Jets. Monday September 24th, Devan Dubnyk gets the start at home while Yakupov and J. Schultz put on #64 and #19 for the first time. It’s a preseason game so Jets’ fans are greeted by Oiler fans with smiles and, "Good to have you guys back in Edmonton."

As the preseason winds down Krueger keeps making cuts, and the final few days involve some heavy debate here on the Nation.

Will he keep eight D-men? Who should play with Eberle and RNH?

Will the opening night roster look like this?

Hartikainen/Yakupov-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Hemsky
Smyth-Horcoff-Jones
Petrell-Belanger-Eager

Smid-Petry
Whitney-J.Schultz
N.Schultz-Peckham

Dubnyk
Khabibulin

Sutton, Potter and Hordichuk in pressbox.

Will Magnus Paajarvi make the team, and if so where will he play? Is it better to play him top-line minutes in OKC to start the season rather than on the 3rd line in Edmonton?

Who will be the surprise of the preseason? Who will struggle the most?

Any guesses on a Positive Friday?

My gut and my head tell me the NHL and NHLPA will find some common ground sooner rather than later, and thankfully we won’t have to mention the "L" word on here for much longer.

But until then, I better get back to twitter to see if the Gary, Bill, Steve and Donald are still meeting.

Could you imagine if their meeting is up to three hours?

  • As much as I think we need a physical presence in the top six like Harti, Id rather have him in Petrell’s spot.

    Assuming no more trades or signings take place.

    Hall(Physical presence @ 20?) Rnh Ebs.

    Hemsky Gags Yak(Physical presence @ 18?).

    Smyth Horc Jones.

    Harti Belanger Eager

    Whitney-Petry
    Smid-J.Schultz
    N.Schultz-Sutton

    Potter Peckham Hordi Petrell in box

    Dubnyk starts
    Khabbi posts a .920 sv% all season in 30 games.

    I know that’s 24 players, but I like Harti more than Petrell so there. Throw someone on waivers if you have to.

    I’m confident that the lack of size in the top six will not affect Ebs or Nuge. They are both too smart and too slippery.

    It’s the other four I’m worried about.

  • Jason,

    You forgot to mention that JSBM will continue to tweet hilarious anecdotes and observations from the @OilersNation twitter account thus bringing it to a head to head twitter battle with the people that run the LA Kings account.

    Totally…

  • B S

    Yakupov Horcoff and Jones should be fine, just have Horcoff stay out of the offensive zone. Jones figured out near the end of his time on a line with RNH and Eberle: give the puck to the skilled player and go sit in front of the net. When (if?) N64 turns the puck over Horcoff can cover for him and give it back.

  • My problem with our roster as it currently stands is the bottom six just doesn’t seem like a good compliment for the top 6. We all know that the Oilers have been far too easy to play against in the past. Right now, our fourth line is basically the same as last season. I think that Paajarvi is a capable NHL player but as of right now, I would rather have Teemu in the lineup because he is more of a pest and is not afraid to finish his checks. Either way, I hope that we can have these types of debates for real in the near future.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      J. Schultz won’t be touring lovely downtown OKC anytime soon, future trade or no future trade. He’ll be 2nd pairing before Christmas if not before.

      You may well be right about Potter.

      If it were last year, Fedun may well have made the club, never to look back. I hope you’re right about this year but he’s in tough, especially with what’s coming up through the system over the next 5 years.

      Once the braintrust figures out the 3rd and 4th lines, (size, grit, determination and will,) and once the Klefboms, Marincins, Gernats, Teuberts, Plants, Musils, Simpsons etc. sort themselves out, the Oil will be a force for years. One proviso only: They have to control the cap. If they do, well, maybe it is that we are once again the city of champions.

  • Snowdropper

    *basks in the joy of such a scene*

    Wait! they put Nail with Horcoff??? What the hell is Kruger thinking. He’s a terrible coach. FIRE KRUGER! FIRE TAMBS! blah…blah…blah…

    Ah, fall at Oilersnation is such a glorious time!

  • I’ll be surprised if Hartikainen is in the NHL on opening day. Shocked, in fact.

    Unless he’s waiver eligible I dont know why he wouldnt be playing in OKC right away on their top line.

    Actually, I take that back. Hartikainen COULD be around on opening day, but only because Hall’s shoulder wont be ready yet. At least not at >95% which is what I would need for him to be inserted back in the lineup.

    I will be ultra pissed if Hall plays on opening night and sustains another shoulder injury because he wasnt ready to play yet.

    • B S

      Don’t be so sure. You don’t know what she smells like or how much facial hair she has. There’s still every possibility she is from Winnipeg and just happened to find the only tanning salon in town.

  • Dare to dream, Gregor… dare to dream.

    Seems like a crowded forward corps. I think it will be tough for Pääjärvi to make that team. I hope he has practiced his gritty game over the summer. I’d rather have him than Petrell tho.