The Edmonton Oilers may not add to their current group of forwards for the coming season based on GM Craig MacTavish’s words in his latest interview. If true, the bottom 6F look slightly better in some areas and the same or worse in others. How will coach Dallas Eakins get around it? Increased minutes for his top 6F, reliance on the wisdom of the pro scouting department, a winger from his AHL team and perhaps a Baron or two when things get tight.

TIME ON ICE 2012-13

The Oilers under Ralph Krueger employed a 4line rotation that saw Nail Yakupov (12:04) and Eric Belanger (10:47) get about the same even strength time on ice. More stark, the Hall-Nuge-Eberle line played about 15.5 minutes at even strength, about 2 full minutes less than league leaders like Steven Stamkos and Ilya Kovalchuk. Edmonton could easily push their 1line (and their 2line) during games and rotate the bottom 6F’s less often. 

Why would they do that? Because in today’s NHL any game that can offer points in the standings is vital, and because the Oilers have a massive gap between their 1line and their third and fourth lines.

How would they do that? There are designated times during each game where a television timeout allows the coach to re-set his lines. Coach Ralph Krueger often passed on the opportunity, I think that’s one area where the new coach can have an immediate impact.

Other strategies to gain the edge? Offensive zone starts for the best available forwards and monster own zone faceoffs for Boyd Gordon (he’s used to it–and good at it!) feeds into an area of strength for the hockey club.

Anything else? The really curious item for me last season was the PP TOI for the top guns. Hall, Nuge and Ebs averaged just 3 minutes a night, while 23 NHL forwards averaged 3.5 minutes per night or more with the man advantage. 

There are 25 NHL players who averaged more than 20 minutes a night on ice a year ago, 35 two years ago. The Oiler leader this past season was Sam Gagner at 19:24, with Hall–the best player on the team–averaging only 18.5 minutes a night. Increasing that number by 90 seconds or two minutes for Hall’s line–with a similar increase for the 2line–should give Edmonton more firepower and make them less reliant on the bottom 6 forwards. 

If the Oilers can move some of those depth minutes to the front line of forwards, the results–shot differential, goals for and against–should head in a better direction. The keys are the Hall line, the Gagner line being much better than a year ago, and Boyd Gordon.


If the pro scouts (on both sides of the pond) got it right, Jesse Joensuu may end up being a hidden gem from the free agent frenzy. Signed to a 2-year contract with the Oilers, he’s a physical player with skill and some ability


The Hockey News offers an excellent thumbnail sketch on all NHL players and prospects and is a good starting point. Joensuu is exactly the type of player Edmonton used to acquire during the Sather era–a 2nd round pick who struggled with an NHL team not known for succesful talent development– and hopefully Craig MacTavish inherited it from his old GM/coach.


The Oilers acquired two of Eakins Marlies (Ryan Hamilton and Will Acton) and those two players along with some of the AHL Barons (Anton Lander, Mark Arcobello, Martin Marincin, Taylor Fedun along with recently signed Richard Bachman, Brad Hunt) provide some needed depth. The blueline is especially strong.

I think the Oilers will probably add some training camp invites or late summer ufa additions (guys like C’s Marty Reasoner, David Steckel, Jerred Smithson, along with wingers like Brandon Yip, Chuck Kobasew, Peter Mueller) depending on cost and availability. The club up front is pretty exposed currently if they lose someone to injury and MacT will want to cover up the holes as best as he can before September and training camp.


Photo Credit: -J. Nilsson Photography
Model: Daniela Marin

It has been less than a perfect summer so far, but the improvements in the roster are up the middle–G, D and C–along with added skill and experience in David Perron. A guess at opening night lineups might look like this (C-L-R):

  • Nuge-Hall-Eberle (Arcobello likely slotted in for injured Nuge)
  • Gagner-Perron-Yakupov
  • Gordon-Jones-Hemsky
  • Lander-Smyth-Jonessu
  • Smid-Petry
  • Ference-J Schultz
  • N Schultz-Belov/Larsen
  • Dubnyk/LaBarbera

Those top 2 lines need to play a larger portion of the game, that 3rd line has to be getting most of the available own zone starts, and the 4th line needs to be effective when called upon. The Oilers remain a rebuilding team in transition, but the summer moves have been reasonable and should improve the team next season.

If coach Eakins can grab 4 minutes in total time from the bottom 6 forwards and hand it to the top 6 forwards, the Oilers may be able to move up the standings enough to make the trade deadline meaningful.

A veteran left winger for that 3rd line wouldn’t go amiss either.

  • toprightcorner

    Even though MacT says he is happy with the forward line up they currently have doesn’t mean they won’t make changes if an improvement can be made. I think (and hope) that they are focusing their efforts on the back end to get a top two dman as IMO that is probably their biggest need.

    I don’t think Gagner’s signing effects them going after that piece of the puzzle cause they need it and if signing Gagner prevents them from adding a top 2 dman, then maybe that signing is not the best decision.

    As far as minutes played even though many of players averaging 20+ min per game played in the KHL last year, they have a pretty lax schedule playing 2 games a week on average. Hall and Ebs played a ton of minutes in the AHL, taking buses and getting all the media attention that I don’t know if they could have effectively taken on much more ice time. With such a condensed schedule, a balance between fatigue and productive minutes is tough to find.

    With Hall, Ebs and Nuge play minimal PK minutes, 20-21 minutes would be a good number to strive for. I think the third line is where some of the minuted need to come from and they need to be productive minutes, not strictly scoring wise but impacting the game positively.

    I am not certain about Joensuu. I like his size, forechecking ability but he has a total of 11 seconds of NHL experience in killing penalties and only 4th line minutes. I don’t see how this makes him a candidate for 3rd line minutes where most people spot him with Hemsky not in the lineup.

    I also think it would be a HUGE mistake if Lander started the season with the big club, he is no where ready to make any sort of positive contribution as a 4th line center. His scoring chances for and against are dismal at best. I would much rather have Smithson cause at least he can win faceoffs.

    I believe MacT will add another depth forward and possibly two. One if a signing and probably one in a trade for Hemsky.

  • OilClog

    If Hall all by himself continues to excel, no one else improves in the slightest of margin, the Oilers are improved from last year.

    You can’t have two lines, expecting to go far in the playoffs. But, you can do plenty of damage if your top two lines are killing it during the regular season. I believe the Oilers will be slaughtered in the 1st round of the playoffs.

    The bottom 6 may not score much as it stands, imo they’re better defensively with the addition of Gordon and the defense, they won’t be giving up as many goals on a whole.

    • oliveoilers

      If someone with magic qualities said to me “the Oilers will make the play-offs, but be slaughtered in the first round next season, I can make that happen”, well then. I’d be all over it. Let’s not forget what Eakins is supposed to bring to the table! New coach, new skipper, new GM. Just give ’em their yard of rope….

  • O.C.

    Where on this planet does it say that your third line centre has to be a scorer?

    Look at the stats for highly rated playoff teams third and fourth line centres like:


  • **

    If the Oilers find a way to stand their ground until the trade deadline, with the roster as it is right now, a lot of interesting possibilities will open up for Mac Tavish to reinforce the team. The key is that the team stays in the playoff race until then, which might actually be possible if other teams chip in and help:

    Calgary will most likely be a joke thanks to Feaster boy genius;

    Vancouver will be in disarray and worn out by playing all 3 california teams so often (so will the Oilers, but without the soap opera that is going to become the Canucks dressing room);

    All 3 California teams are probably going to dominate, so that leaves one spot left in the new conference, to be fought out between the coyotes and the Oilers. The coyotes didn’t get any top end talent so I see a good chance of leaping ahead of them.

  • oliveoilers

    I’ve read the suggestion before of putting Yakupov on the first line with Hall and Nuge, therefore dropping Ebs to the 2nd line with Gags and Perron.
    What would be the advantages/disadvantages of doing this?

    DSF, I expect you to enlighten us all with the disadvantages.
    Lowetide, might you enlighten us all with the advantages?

    Wayne, this is hypothetical, please don’t release the hounds of Wayne manor on me for dropping your beloved squeeeee
    Ebs to second line duties.

    • Lowetide

      I’d probably try putting Nuge on the 2line with Perron and Yakupov before moving Eberle down. The 1line is a killer, it’s like an ace in the hole, and gagner has some chem with them.

      Nuge is the better C and maybe he can make the difference on that 2line. That’s the play here.

      • Lowetide

        I’d like to move Gagner for Shawn Matthias and a 2nd round pick at this point.

        Then you run Perron Matthias Yak as your second line.

        Offer sheet clifford with the newly acquired

        • GVBlackhawk

          You can only use an offer sheet with your own draft picks. So, the Oilers would have to get the 2nd rounder back from St.Louis in order to use an offer sheet on another player (providing the compensation was a 2nd round pick).

        • toprightcorner


          Before you consider him as a 2nd line centre, take a closer look at his stats over the last few years and you will quickly change your mind.

          44% on the dot? Was 4th in total face offs taken and barely beat out Weiss who only played 17 games. He’s a 4th liner at best. Never plays tough minutes and does not know how to use his size. Who cares if your 6’4″ and 220 lbs if you average less than a hit a game and 25 pims a season. His career high is 24 points. only part time on 2nd PP unit and same as PK unit. none of that adds up to a 2nd line centre or a 3rd line centre.

  • oliveoilers

    INDEPENDEN ANALYSIS OF OUR TEAM BY PROFESSIONAL ANALISTS . SEE WHERE YOU THINK WE FIT IN OVERALL AND DIVISIONAL . Most odds makers have us tied for 8th-13 th overall and 4-5 th in our division . Keep in mind these people know how to make money from your guesses and not seldom wrong . Here’s some samplings of major sites .

    NSA: Oilers tied with Rangers @20-1 . OTT. 28-1 . Oddsharks :the same. Divisional odds have Ana.25-1,Pho.50-1,Cal.100-1 behind us . L.A.14-1 ,Van.16-1 ,S.Jose 18-1 ahead of us .

    Vegas insider : Tied for 13th overall . Has Ana. @20-1 and us @ 30-1 . Same as betvega and rest in line with former two .

    Sportsbook : Tied for 8th overall Once again Oilers @ 20-1 and Ana. falls back to 25-1. Looks like Oilers are on the rise by the odds makers .

    • toprightcorner

      So did these so called “professional analysts” pick Montreal to be 2nd in the east? How about Toronto 5th, I am sure they all had the Islanders making the playoffs and the Flyers missing and NJ going from the cup Final to missing the playoffs Tampa Bay 28th in the league? Did they have Anaheim 2nd in the west and LA 5th? What about Nashville 27th?

      • toprightcorner

        I don’t think your familiar with what i’m giving you info for . These are betting sites . They are professionals . You don’t agree then put your money down and maybe make some . Personally , I am surprised/encouraged Oilers are favored to be in top ten overall by so many of the odds makers . That should be encouraging for Oiler fans . Usually we have been in the bottom quarter or worse . I don’t set the odds , professionals do . Take advantage of it if you feel that smart . The odds are relevant , and independent evaluation of how they forsee us .

        • toprightcorner

          There are additional factors that go into determining odds in professional books than simply the state of the team.

          The numbers you are quoting have more to do with the history of bets placed and will change wildly based on future betting.

          Unless your formula for a winning team includes inducing fans to bet on said team, Vegas odds are next to meaningless.

          • toprightcorner

            I’m very familiar with the fluctuations , the casino circuit , and don’t want to impress upon others to gamble . I certainly don’t find them meaningless when I might make a bet or two . I don’t mind “yanking the chains of others ” that call for others to put up or shut up . I’m not naïve when it comes to casino life on land or sea , but still do not / have not ever bet on line for personal reasons . Budget your limits and entertainment dollars responsibly , last words of advice .

          • CaptainLander

            All true about what goes in to setting the line, but I would just add that I have my stubs from the last 2 years, one of which is 60-1 and one of which is 50-1. The fact it is apparently 20-1 this year is not due solely to the fanbase, otherwise it would have been near that in past years.

        • toprightcorner

          True to a point. The odds are also designed to minimize risk for the house, so adjust based on where bets are coming in. Because they have a lot of history on these types of bets, they are adjusted at the outset. Because the oilers have a large, rabid, young, and rich fan base they receive proportionally more bets than most other teams with similar odds. As such, the odds often suggest a better prediction for the oilers finish than actual, because the house doesn’t need to give long odds out to drive in bets.

          In short, oilers fans are making that bet anyway, why give up more than you have too.

  • Lowetide

    Lowetide, some wishful thinking here on your part. You have holes everywhere.

    Yes, the Gagner line could be better, but only without Gagner, otherwise the extra TOI won’t produce what you are projecting. Will MacT sign Grabovski for 2nd line C? This would be bold. The 3rd line doesn ‘t stand a chance, it’s basically Gordon at C and two wingers with defensive liabilities. And other than Smyth the 4th line should be playing in the AHL, not the NHL.

    But this is only my opinion, which doesn’t count as only wins count. Any projections on wins? 96 points usually guarantee a playoff slot.

    • Lowetide

      DonDon: The Oilers have holes in the bottom 6, don’t think that’s a secret. Things like getting the Hall or Gagner line offensive zone faceoffs more often, and re-setting the lines after the television timeout may seem small, but this team every edge is important.

      I can’t see any real argument that they have the horses at the bottom of the lineup–that’s not wishful thinking, that’s reality.

  • toprightcorner

    There is no reason to have Hemsky written in the line up. Just like with Horc. MacT has said he will be gone, and has a deal in his back pocket that is do-able but could be better. He wants to see if anything else shakes out before he pulls the trigger.
    Hemsky left town after this past season with NO intention of coming back, other than road games.
    I would expect a 3rd line winger to come back. Since that is what the Oil need we should be very happy with that return.
    Just wait for it.

  • PutzStew

    @ Lowtide Sorry. Way to many Comments to go through them all so if this has been brought up I’m Sorry.

    As it stands Right now, Edmonton has 1 NHL caliber Center that is signed (Gagner) and Healthy (RNH). Even if they do get Gagner signed, they don’t have a complete line up. How is this a team that is suppose to come close to competing next year?

    I’m actually starting to wonder if the Summer of MacT will be worst the the SUmmer of Steve. At least Steve iced a full line up. I also think MacT’s brashness may have pissed of a few other GM’s and they might be trying to teach him a lesson.

    • Lowetide

      They have 3/4’s of a very good group at C (Nuge, Gagner, Gordon) and a 4th they clearly like or they would have replaced him. Nuge’s injury is an issue for sure, I think MacT would like to add a C for Hemsky but that’s not available right now.

      I do think we might see a Smithson or Reasoner added later in the summer.

      • Lowetide I reaaly think that the Oilers are in need of Marty Reasoner. Here is my thought. Marty “is” a MacT guy. He would not be required to produce points. His previous experience as an Oiler has “proven” that he is a capable and reliable PK and defensive specialist. The knock may the same as Ryan Smyths. His footspeed may have decreased. If your fourth line is Reasoner,Smyth, and Brown I would be pleased. I need Lander to be a 20 minute a night guy in OKC this year. I think Acton as our 13th forward is fine. He has the same skills as reasoned with “no” NHL experience. I think his skills will translate in a role that sees him substitute on the fourth line during the season.

        If Arcobello is the 12th forward we gain speed and skill. But then we give up size and experience in Reasoner. I believe that Reasoners experience will be beneficial in the early part of the season as the team seeks to adjust to a new system. I think we need to stop thinking in terms of what this team will look like in 2 years but how it will need to look in the first 40 games this year.

        I see the first part of the season as a real challenge for this team as they seek chemistry and overcome the challenge of a new system and coaching.
        Experience in the bottom six needs to balance that youth and exuberance in the top 6.

  • toprightcorner

    Gordon by all accounts is an excellent signing. It would be great if Joensuu and Belov were + players that help drive wins. Only trouble is the pro-scouting group’s greatest “win” since Pronger was likely claiming Jones off waivers, and until they prove otherwise I have no faith they can find a real player.

  • toprightcorner

    Chri$t, if this is pretty much all that MacT is going to do until the trade deadline(!) then we are in for a very long year

    3 and 4 lines are mostly elite AHLers (and DSF is right – there are lots more players – better than what the oil have in the books – to be had). And that means if all goes well the team will still have difficulty making the playoffs.

    And that is if all goes well – iow no one gets hurt or has some kind of career setback.

    What if hemsky is out for a big chunk of the season? How about the reckless Hall? Or the crash bang Ference? Or dubnyk loses his touch or gets mauled and is hurt for an extended period?

    And where are the tough guys who are going to play more than 6-8 minutes a game to prevent that? Is it possible that we have the lightest and shortest 1 and 2 lines in the league?

    And taking all that into account ….

    This team while it has huge flaws in its starting roster has even worse problems with depth – and experience in its depth.

    One last point: how pathetic is it that we still have Smyth on the team? Someone should have changed the locks to the dressing room months ago.

  • Benny Botts


    I am a die hard oiler fan through and through. Love this team to death. But…I hate to be negative, that line up does not look good enough to compete in their new division.

    You have to think MacT knows this, I think you are very accurate in saying there will be some additions to training camp and hopefully can add some much needed size, grit and depth in their bottom 6.

  • CaptainLander

    A lot of concern for what Mac T has done so far. A little early for panic in my books. The bottom 6 is likely going to be much easier to complete then it was for the D and top 6. There are plenty of big, angry 4th line player out there to be had. None that will wow you but serviceable player.

    I like the look of the top 2 lines and d-core (still missing a number 1 D but still feel better about it then I did last year. More depth)

    Bottom six will fill out between now and October. I still think Hemmer gets moved for a good third line player but there is no rush for Mac T to get this done.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    I’d give MacT a B+.

    In order of priority as I rank them

    1). David Perron. (Bold yes……but not shock and awe)
    2) Dallas Eakins. (Also Bold)
    3). Boyd Gordon.
    4) Andrew Ferrence
    5) Belov
    6) LaBarberra, Jonessu, Larsen, Acton. (Misc depth)
    7) Nurse, Roy, Shlepychev, Yakimov and others add greatly to depth of prospect talent

    All of this without messing with the Fab Five…..

    Bonus of sorts…..moving Horcs contract without retaining salary and backfilling the 3C position with Gordon.

    Dumping the deadwood Plante, Teubert, Petrel, Belanger, Peckham, etc

    Not a top grade, zero shock and awe, not sufficient to make us a contender, but enough to create interest in this years training camp and gives us hope to win on any given night and be entertained when we’re at the games.

    Also, if I’m not mistaken, along with realignment, we get every team in the league through our barn this year……we saw NO ONE from the east last year.

    All in all things are looking up… card says “works hard, but shows room for improvement”…….B+

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Lowtide…..I can’t remember who you said you’d put the C on…?

    I don’t know anything about their presence in the room….but I can’t see giving it to Gagner since you’d eventually have to take it away to give it Hall……so unless your going to let Smitty wear it for a year to allow Hall one more year of maturity….then I say be BOLD give the C to Hall now…Alternate A’s for another year…..

    As for line combos….I think advance stats should play a role…I’m not certain…..but I think that means Nuge and Ebbs should play together?
    …….for this year……

    Gagner centres Hall and Yak on the top line….
    Nuge centres Perron and Eberle on line two…..

    Also…..I’d like to see J Schultz paired with Ference to start the season.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Despite the arrival of Perron I still think we should sign Grabovski. I’m a Gagner fan but I’ve sat around tables before making staffing decisions, and there is an old saying that applies here as well – “if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer”.

    We have been asking the question about Sammy for years it seems, and I think we all know the answer but, as happens around the table from time to time, there are a lot of vested interests, or the guy in question is a great guy, or people still see potential, etc., etc. Sam has been a good Oiler butis he worth $5MM+ for 5+ years? If we have to ask the question…

    Grabo on the other hand is likely available for cheaper than that and for less years. Or, you let Sammy get his arbitration award (1 year deal), sign Grabo and then trade Sam once we’re sure Nuge is healthy.

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      I see you know the odds. Were those tickets for Oilers ? Grabovski might be worth going after as a hedge against Gagner’s arbitration and possible leaving one way or another . I think the closer it gets to arbitration the more likely he could be traded .

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        They were indeed on the Oil – I go down to vegas for an NFL trip every September, and every September I blow $100 on an Oilers cup bet. It got real exciting in my house in the Spring/Summer of 2006…

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    trading for Perron improves the team on paper. but will it really help? it improves the top 6, did the top 6 need improving? it doesn’t address needs and actually weakens the bottom 6. if that’s the best deal Mact could make for a pretty good asset in Paajarvi.. well, I’m not booking holidays for playoffs games next April.