Comfort Fit

Last week the Oilers announced they had signed former Edmonton Oiler Denis Grebeshkov to a one year deal. It isn’t a huge cap hit at one and a half million dollars. For me, this move makes a lot of sense.

All general managers and coaches tend to bring in people they know and trust to help them have success. This just makes sense to me. Why wouldn’t you want people you can depend on in your organization or playing on the ice?

When MacT was the coach of the Oilers and both Grebby and I were playing for him I always got the sense that MacT trusted Grebby. He and Tom Gilbert ate up quite a few minutes and could both move the puck. Now that MacT wants to make sure the Oilers improve on last season he is bringing in a player he knows very well.

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What he and almost no one knows is what kind of player the Oilers are getting. I think it is impossible to know. You can look at Grebby’s stats the last three years or talk to people who watched him often but I don’t think these are great yardsticks. The KHL is very different from the NHL. The game is played differently. The same goes for Belov. Until I see them both in training camp in six weeks I will reserve judgment on what the expectations should be for them.

When we played together I always thought Grebby was a player that took the game seriously. He was in good shape, never an issue in the dressing room and fairly predictable in what you could expect from him from game to game. The one area I do remember him struggling was making risky passes.

We were in Ottawa to play the Senators. Their big line was Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza. This trio was having a huge year. Huge! They were the reason the Sens were having some success. Before the morning skate, MacT went through the game plan for that night.

His first and most important message was that we had keep the Spezza line off the score sheet. He thought if we kept them quiet we could beat the Sens support players. Very reasonable plan. It was clear to everyone in that room that MacT wanted us to play smart when this line was on the ice and not take risky chances that could result in a turnover and quick break chance for their big guns.

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MacT repeated his strategy moments before we headed out to start the game. I don’t remember the forwards that started for us but the Spezza line started for the Sens and we started the Gilbert/Grebby defence pairing. Our centre won the draw right back to Grebby.

Grebby got the puck and started to skate up the ice. He was nearly at the redline when he started to get forced by the Sens forwards. At this point chipping it forward or getting it deep would have been the safest and best choice. Grebby took a different path.

He is nearly at the red line and decides to throw a cross ice pass all the way over to Gilbert. To say Gilbert was surprised would be an understatement! I don’t think anyone would have predicted that pass. It flies across the middle of the ice, lands ugly and then explodes off the boards. No chance for Gilbert. Good chance for the Sens top line. They go right in and score, barely ten seconds into the game.

Our bench was shocked but I will never forget the look on MacT’s face. It was priceless! Still now I laugh about it.

I am not telling you all this story to make Grebby look bad, I just think it is a really funny story. I really don’t know what we should expect from Grebby this year in an Oiler uniform. I do know that his presence will increase the competition for the five through seven spot.

Training Camp Battles

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Some combination of Ference, Justin Schultz, Petry and Smid will be the top four. After that there is a pile of guys for the last two spots. I expect Nick Schultz to get into all the games. He is the other calming presence on the Oilers blue line along with Ference. That leaves spot number six for Belov, Grebby, Potter, Larsen and Klefbom. Let’s watch camp first before we say who gets to play where.

MacT said he wanted to have more puck movers from the backend. He has swapped out Peckham, Fistric and Whitney for the group fighting for the number six spot above. The new group can move the puck, I am not sure who will be physically battling amongst that group.

Both Smid and Ference will battle. They compete hard with their bodies. When the Oilers play teams that like to crowd the crease to get in the goalies face and someone needs to push back who is going to do that? The game has changed a bit but at some point during the year this group of Blue liners will need someone to step up to protect the flock. Who will be that shepherd?

I put the over/under for fighting majors on the backend of the Oilers next year at two. Thoughts?

  • Micbilly99

    Two? Ference, looking to establish himself with new teammates, could have that many in the first dozen games just to set a tone. Laddy won’t let him have all the fun. I say eight.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      I actually laughed out loud when I saw that was you, RB.

      For one year, I’d take a chance on him.


    • yawto

      Ridiculously awesome. Slow clap. Nation beer seems to effect everyone differently.

      Great read Struds.

      EDIT : Robbed RB. Hallkins, I am with you and when I requoted, it said something entirely different. We both know.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    If Belov is smart, he will recognize that to win that 6th spot he will need to use that size of his to be more physical along with his ability to play the puck. His size is his natural advantage over the others and making sure he’s got a lot of jam in his play will ensure he’s the man for the job. If he plays soft or small, I think it’s down to Grebs.

    Short of a mindblowing pre-season, no way Klefbom makes the team. Not after recovering from that injury, not after being out for so long, and certainly not for making the transition to the North American game.

    Larsen is an unknown for me, but he’s going to have to blow minds to beat out Belov, Grebs, and even a known product in Potter.

    Potter I’m leaving out intentionally, for I really feel that the writing on the wall here is that he goes to OKC. He makes the least amount out of all of them and to be honest Potter was one of the first players that came to mind when MacT made his ‘some players were at best a non-factor on a nightly basis’ comments. He makes the team if he has a really great pre-season and the other three are flat but beyond that I really doubt he makes it.

  • Funny thing is I actually remember that terrible pass from Grebeshkov to Gilbert. Always liked Grebeshkov though.. just a panicked brain-fart. I’m pretty sure all of Oilersland had a meltdown over it too.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m confused……wait, maybe i’m not.

    Last week we learned that the Oilers signed Grabovski, and now, after this clerical error, we’re stuck with Grabeshkov? WTF!

    Damn that auto correct on MacT’s phone, can anything be done about that now? I already ordered my Oilers #84 Grabovski jersey.

    I’ll commit to 6, in that blueliner fight pool, if it’s not taken.

    Speaking of Comfort fit, Smid sucker punching Brownlee over the last pair of fitted pants at Lulu Lemon doesn’t count as 1, right?

  • HI guys,

    I’m going with 12 and 8 in the first 20 games. My thought is lots of new guys on D and they want to play and that’s a way to get noticed.

    In fact, I predict anybody below the top 6 to drop the mitts early and often to show the league they won’t be pushed around. I think MacT and Eakins will demand accountability and toughness.

  • Oil Fan in Ottawa

    I wonder if there is any chance with this depth, and the potential of Ference being highly overrated that Ference slips to the 3rd pairing or 7th defenceman anytime this year or next.

    • nuge2drai

      Oiler Domination To Follow

      There is no chance of this, Ference played top 3 minutes on a team that’s been to two finals in the last three years.

      He will play top 4 all season. I hope Belov suprises everyone and ends up being a beast – top 4 stud.

    • YFC Prez

      Don’t be a Debbie Downer Selma. Ference is probably the most sure thing on the back end right now. I think this year and next are fine. Those last 2 years on that contract are what worry me though.

      I’m hoping Ference is one of those guys that plays well until he is in his late 80’s.

  • Rob...

    I had trouble reading the article past “Until I see them both in training camp in six weeks”. It seems like such a looong time away.

    I’m quite happy that we run deep in bottom pairing talent, and I’m assuming a few of them would be happy to accept the challenge if injury or pure goatitude opens a spot up in the top four.

    I do have to wonder what Belov thinks of the competition that seems to have sprouted up out of nowhere since his signing?

  • 2004Z06

    Ference is a fitness fiend. I am not worried about him in the last two years of his contract. If his minutes drop from 21 to 18 in the last two years that just means Nurse, Kelfbom are moving up the depth chart.

  • Bleak Winter

    It seems that we have no toughness on the back end, Smid tries but scares no one.

    We have no enforcer, no deterrent type player, we should expect more guys hurt in the coming year. Expecting one of the new comers like Belov to be a physical player is not realistic.

  • Bleak Winter

    It’s stuff like that cross-ice pass which has poisoned my memories of Grebeshkov. To me, it seemed like several of those “events” per night.

    Willis and Lowetide seem to love him… stats guys… My first impression about that is there must be no stats that track the relative boneheadedness of giveaways.

    I kept my own stats when Grebs played though. My ThrownObject%, and FistThroughWall/60 was way higher with him on the ice than with any Oiler since maybe Klima!

  • Bleak Winter

    @strudwick, i’m alittle confused, grebs performance in the khl was “so subpar in the khl that he was traded to a non playoff team” (edmonton journal). this statement seem to be confirmed by the fact that as a ufa no one in the khl picked him up. belov on the other hand was great in the khl. you say their performance in this league in not a reliable yard stick to grade these players on, so how exactly are the oilers assessing their play and potential value to the team? it seems to me that we are not getting anywhere near the player in grebs that you played with, but i’ve been wrong plenty of times before. where do you realisticly see them sloted 5,6 and 7? is there alot of potential upside with either of these two players? and are they both ufa at the end of next season? thanks jason, i enjoyed the story.

  • Clyde Frog

    I think everyone is missing the point…

    Greb’s MADE the pass, Gilbert just duffed it…

    Seems like someone forget the sage words “Keep your stick on the ice”…

  • Clyde Frog

    After looking at the guys the Oil now have for training camp coming up…and with reading and/or knowing of all of them…I think this “Committee Defence” is pretty decent…on paper thus far…

    I gotta easily believe that the top four this season (with no trades or pre-season injuries upcoming) are gonna be Petry, Smid, Ference, and J. Schultz. Then I think the Oil make it very interesting by going with Grebeshkov and Belov as the final two. They did not sign Belov for just a yr only to play down on the Barons, and if he does go down there, its because he definitely can’t perform as well as the Oilers first thought – at the NHL level.

    Klefbom gets his intial playing experience on the farm while I believe that either Potter or Larsen become the seventh guy. The loser between these two gets waived and/or traded. if Klefbom wows everyone thru all of training camp…and he can do it too…then I think Belov becomes the 7th guy for sureand both Potter and Larsen may be gonzo or down to the Barons.

    The final guy on this list I will name is N. Schultz and he is the final name because I believe he will be traded between today and training camp. If he stays, someone has to go, but Schultz being traded makes the most sense, either by himself or in a package. I can’t believe the Oilers would waive him but things of stranger tides have occurred in this leaguer before.

    With Eakins as the new boss I am expecting more fireworks and fights coming up too from those such as Ference, Smid, even Petry, then Belov…along with Mikey Brown, Eager (if he is here), and maybe that Joensuu dude..but I still hope nthere is a big very tough/mean other forward trying out for/traded to the team…

  • Clyde Frog

    Why does this team sign players to contracts like this? Grebiskov and Jones for 1.5? I doubt there is any interest from any other nhl team for either of them. Even if there was it wouldnt be anything more than a 2 way deal for league min. Why waste 3 million on these two when 3 could get you a useful piece like Grabo?