In late April, Craig MacTavish held a press conference and laid out the plan for spring and summer. Role players, blueliners and powerforwards were on the agenda and there was a sense that things would get done under the new regime. The word ‘bold’ was mentioned a time or two. Did MacT do what he said he’d do? 


(Boyd Gordon)

Perhaps the most sensational quote the April day from the new GM was on the subject of role players:

  • MacT: "We had a lot of guys that the best they were going to be in any given game was a non-factor."

When MacT made those comments, I’m certain some of the players we would describe as ‘role players’ from the 2012-13 club (Ryan Jones, Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff, Jarred Smithson, Lennart Petrell, Eric Belanger, Mike Brown, Teemu Hartikainen, Anton Lander) knew they wouldn’t be coming back for another tour with the club. 

Among the question marks, Edmonton has retained Ryan Smyth, Mike Brown and Anton Lander, and re-signed Ryan Jones, with the others being sent away (the Oilers retain the rights to Hartikainen, we’ll see if he’s welcomed back down the line).

More interesting for me is what the new regime did to strengthen the role playing group for 2012-13:

  • Signed ‘perfect fit’ centerman Boyd Gordon to anchor the 3rd line, to fill the Horcoff role
  • Signed big forward Jesse Joensuu, who reads like a more experienced Hartikainen
  • Signed Ryan Jones to fill the Ryan Jones role
  • Signed Andrew Miller to give the team options for 4line C
  • Signed Ryan Hamilton for the physical, enforcer role
  • Signed Will Acton as a safety net center, the new VandeVelde
  • Retained Ales Hemsky, who may play a secondary role on the team
  • Retained Ben Eager, who may play the physical, enforcer role

What do we take from this? There are two ways to change a roster

  1. sweeping changes in player style and role. This might mean adding a 4th line with three guys over 6.05, 230, as an extreme example. 
  2. To keep the same roles, but turn over the players who fill those specific roles. 

In this case, the feel of this coming season’s 3 and 4 lines looks very similar in style , but there are going to be new faces. 


It’s my belief that the Oilers will have a roster of 13F, 8D and 2G (normally it’s 14, 7, 2) and as we get ready for training camp my picks for the positions look like this:

  • #7 Ales Hemsky: Ready to step into a feature role, very likely to be in one opening night if Nuge is unready for the start of the season. However, with everyone healthy, he’s a secondary player. 
  • #8 Boyd Gordon: A key member of the group, zone start hell awaits him. 
  • #9 Ryan Smyth: For me, he’s the likely candidate for 3line checking role and PK work. 
  • #10 Ryan Jones: Should Smyth falter, or more offense be required, Jones is ready to step in on that 3line. If Hemsky is playing top 6F, Jones is extremely likely to be on the third line. 
  • #11 Jesse Joensuu: Big forward is going to have a terrific chance to push both Smyth and Jones. I’m not certain he’s a better actual player than Teemu Hartikainen, but he has the contract for 2013-14. 
  • #12 Anton Lander: I remain somewhat surprised at Lander’s lack of competition–either I’m badly misreading the Acton role on this team or MacT sees a lot of himself in Lander. The smart bet (imo) is improving depth at center and forcing Lander to the minors where he’d be a solid first callup option. 
  • #13 Mike Brown: I think he played his role well, certainly well enough to make the club and definitely well enough to play most nights. 

This would put Ryan Hamilton, Will Acton, Ben Eager, Andrew Miller and others on the outside looking in. 


I think the Oilers are going to ride their top two lines far more this coming season–Taylor Hall ranked 67th overall among NHL forwards in TOI per game while finishing 9th in scoring–but those 3 and 4 line minutes are going to be important. Keeping the puck out of the net will be job one, and for men like Boyd Gordon, Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky that means defensive zone starts and getting the puck out of the zone. 

For Hemsky, that represents a major change in role. 

    • Lowetide

      I think they’ll use the 4line much less this season, and also believe the more mobile defense will help. Gordon is a key player imo, and if Smyth or Jonesuu can help on that line then there’s some hope.

      As always, I remain hopeful a Danniel Winnik will appear.

  • Mumbai Max

    Not sure my thoughts on hemsky on a third line. One the one hand he plays a possession game and could be key in causing take aways. On the other side you look at his turnovers and wonder how he will adapt his game with his new linemates (gordon and I’m saying jones)

  • Ducey

    •Signed Ryan Jones to fill the Ryan Jones role

    Wow! Perfect Fit!

    •Signed Ryan Hamilton for the physical, enforcer role

    I get the physical part, but he is not an enforcer, nor do I think he was signed to be one. He had two AHL fights 2 years ago and one last year. He did have 30 goals and 48 pts in 56 games last year and averaged 2 shots a game.

    He is to be a checker who can chip in some points and play physcial.

  • Ducey

    I think MacT has a good rapport with Hemsky and MacT needs to make sure Hemmer brings the right frame of mind to camp. There is no shortage of motivations for Hemsky to have a good year. It’s an Olympic year and I’m sure Hemsky would like to make sure he’s on the Sochi roster. It’s also a contract year for Hemsky. And as we saw from the market this year, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of teams willing to pay him $5 mill at this point.

    Be airtight 5-on-5, and maybe Hemmer will have a chance of lighting things up playing against 3rd pairing Dmen. If Eakins continues to trot out four forwards on the PP, Hemmer will get additional chances to add some points.

  • Ducey

    Who will Hemshy’s line mates be? One guy with grit and one guy with speed. He has never had an tough man to protect him somewhat. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Eager has a bounce back year and plays on that line, speed and toughness. I guess we can only dream. Please please please, no 84 with 83.

  • Mumbai Max

    Who will Hemshy’s line mates be? One guy with grit and one guy with speed. He has never had an tough man to protect him somewhat. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Eager has a bounce back year and plays on that line, speed and toughness. I guess we can only dream. Please please please, no 84 with 83.

  • Ducey

    I don’t think Mact did enough to deepen this roster period. I think his biggest blunders involved being too public regarding Hemmer and Horc. The other fowl-up was over the top promises of bold moves. This had the predictable affect of overheating fan expectations putting unneeded pressure on himself and once again disappointing fans. There is mo way the Oil can hope to move forward with only two lines. That makes the other teams forechecking tasks mich lighter.

    MBA candidates should have more on the ball than that. I truly hope Mact has more game than he has shown so far. So we wait.

    • OilClog

      any chance you could switch teams? MacT didn’t need to say a word to anyone that Horc, and Hemsky were available. EVERYONE KNEW! he just confirmed it.

      I don’t think anyone is losing sleep over the lack of “bold moves” the MacT era in months has already accomplished more then the Tambi reign of terror did in years.

      Believe it or not but about 80% of the league, has holes on their rosters.. Edmonton is much improved IMO, and their top two lines are going to be a very difficult task for any team to deal with.

      Hall was 9th in scoring while ranking near 70th for forward TOI.. what will happen when he’s in the top 10 for TOI?

      MBA candidates have several balls theyre on, this candidate also is the GM of a NHL team, that was a coach for a decade, he knows exactly what needs to happen. MacT isn’t done adjusting this roster by a long shot, so how about instead of complaining because the lack of the “BOLD MOVE” you sit back for a moment and look at all the positive right direction moves that have been taking place.. For me, being a life long Oiler fan, these positive moves that MacT has been doing is pretty damn “BOLD” imo. Or we could go back to what the last 15yrs have been like..

      Good Grief

  • Rocket

    This is what Bleacher Report says about overpaid players, which included Hemsky:

    “2013-14 Salary: $5.5 million
    Salary Comparables: Bobby Ryan, Jeff Carter, Jamie Benn

    “Why We Think He’s Overpaid: $5.5 million is above-average top-six forward money, and Ales Hemsky just isn’t one at this stage of his career. He’s seven years removed from his career-best season, which was 2005 when he scored 77 points.

    “That also happened to be Hemsky’s rookie year, and he has been fighting inconsistency and injuries ever since then. He’s four years removed from posting even respectable numbers…”

    We can deduce other NHL teams weren’t interested in a trade for Hemsky due to the combination of excessive salary and underperformance. He is a solo player. Yet, he is listed as a probable 3rd line winger for the Oilers’ 2013-14 squad!

    It seems bold never showed up for MacT while patience did. Bright future ahead, when? Very disappointing.

      • Rocket

        Cap hit is 5m per year but the salary structure for the two year deal is yr1-4.5, yr2-5.5, so the AAS is 5m. But 2005-06 was not his rookie year so I do agree that Bleacher Report is very misinformed and not that reputable. Also his last 2 seasons have not been very good but previous to that he’d been a near ppg player even in limited time from 06-07 to 10-11, a span of five years.

    • OilClog

      The Bleacher Report has no credibility.

      Salary $5M.

      He had his highest point total in 05/06, but he had a higher ppg total in 07/08 (7 fewer games).

      His rookie year was 02/03 (not 05/06).

      In 10/11, he put up 0.89 ppg. although injuries cut season short, 41 point in a season, let alone 47 games is still respectable.

  • Leef O'Golin

    Unless Lander takes a big step forward I don’t see how the bottom two lines are any different from last year. Gordon *may be an improvement over Horcoff, but Smytty (God love him) is another year older. Unless MacT makes another move to address those lines Eakins is under significant pressure to get more out of ’em… while the pro scouts continue to draw paychecks.

  • Spydyr

    Not enough mean not enough size in the bottom six.

    Still need at least one more center and at least one more top four defenseman.

    If the season starts with this lineup it will be year eight outside the big dance in the spring.

    • I had to jump in this.

      This is not an unreasonable observation, as LT referred to he would even like to see a ” Winik” somewhere, I hole heartily agree with that.

      The centre position has to scare people, is this not the exact same position the Oilers were in last year? 2 centres and no help?

      We all know the Oilers need a 1-2 defensmen, not sure why some pretend its not a need and this roster is fine?

      10 of 14 on the road with a limited bottom 6, no NHL centre depth and 4 defensmen whom never played in the NHL scares me.

      Is the team better? I think so but Spydr is not really wrong here.

      • OilClog

        While this is true, everyone under the sun seems to be forgetting the talent the Oilers have already.. and how when you have amazing talent in #1 picks that are paying off.. everyone else on the team suddenly gets better! WOW! what an amazing concept.

        Oilers “need” 1 #1 D from what everyone says.. the rest of the D group.. is actually sitting very good now.

        Smid Petry – Solid
        Ferrence Jultz – Solid
        Belov/Grebs/Nultz/Potter/Larsen.. Solid.

        There is no Pronger sure, but again.. only about what 6-8 teams have a true #1 D.

        MACT ISNT DONE! GAWD! How many more moves out of left park does the man need to make for people to finally zip it about him being “done” he’ll never be done until he resigns, retires, or is fired.

        As soon as camps start, there will be invitations to probably 2-3 C’s..

        Freaking panic at the disco around here

        • DieHard

          Very true. He has more to do. He knows that. There is no movement left regarding what he has to sell until some other GM’s are ready to deal. He’s letting them know he’s ready to go to camp with what he has. They will have to come to him now. It is there turn. He’s possibly got an extra D or two and a top 6 right winger.

          • OilClog

            Agreed, I haven’t found anything wrong with MacT’s open approach, about being open for business. It’s refreshing knowing that change can now happen at any given point, because our new GM is in the game, rather then sitting on the Mall Pony having himself a lollipop.

        • Also @ Diehard

          While I agree with both your statements one thing is true here though.

          MacTavish has gone on record as saying this is the team that start training camp.

          While he may do something before season starts, you have to take his word on the later.

          Basically what I’m saying is, this IS the team, until such a time as MacTavish makes a move this is what we talk about, wishful thinking gets us Weber, reality is the Oilers are at the cap with little wiggle room and the roster RIGHT now is set.

          If he does something good, , but don’t be surprised if nothing happens.

          • OilClog

            Ok.. So can we find a middle..

            “MacT is done all moves, until his next move, which may be “BOLD”, but then again, it may not!, but have no fear, this is the team, until the next move, “BOLD” or not”

    • oilerjed

      they can start the season with lineup, but if it isn’t improved by Xmas, they will be too far back to have much hope by trade deadline.

      that 3rd is brutal. there is no way, NO WAY, Smyttie should be on the 3rd line and playing more then 8 minutes. And Hemsky could work on the 3rd if he really committed himself, but I fear he’ll be tripping over his lip too much.

  • DieHard

    Time for some of the second round picks to do something,i have huge question marks on the scouting staff.I don’t think we have a second pick playing on the team?

  • Ducey

    Actually Hemmer / Gordon /Smyth could surprise all of us . I don’t see Ryan fading into the sunset more like going out with a bang . As for Hemmer he has potentially a 4 year contract looming at his age and that just may get him back to 60+ points for say 75 games (Both Us & elsewhere) Maybe wishfull thinking but I have seen similar situations over the years . Gordon by all accounts is similar to Horc 5 years ago so we wait .

  • DieHard

    I wouldn’t exactly label Eager and Hamilton as
    enforcers! Hamilton play a bit tough but seldom drops them and Eager’s role with the Oilers has been misguided, to point to call him an NHL fraud. LOts of speed, going nowehere fast.

    Even with all the amazing talent in the top six, there’s not enough in the other six.

    They will not make the playoffs this year, with the roster as it sits.

  • Rocket

    Hey I know this is out of no where but there’s a cool series of articles about faceoff draws over at (sorry no link) that Oiler fans might dig.

    We’re all talking about role players so I thought it might be interesting. Especially since the centre depth is such a hot topic around here.

  • OilClog

    Let’s just wait til Jan. 2014 and we’ll see where the Oilers are in the standings. I hope I’m wrong but I remain uncovinced the Oil management has done enough in the bottom six. If there are no players added to the bortom six I predict 27th-30th place at the midway point in the schedule. All Mact has done is sign mostly unproven pros. Come to think of it most have failed to prove they can play at the NHL level.

    Some trolls need to dilute the KoolAid martinis. Lets see how the Oil do before foaming at the mouth. Failing that…mange-mois.

  • oilerjed

    Keep the good articles coming LT, only one more month until we get to see how this plays out.
    This creepy JG pic has kind of ruined it for me, I’m gonna go back to the shower shot from the other day to relive the magic.