Of course it stinks that the Edmonton Oilers will start the 2013-14 season without Sam Gagner, who has a broken jaw after a stupid and dangerous play by Zack Kassian of the Vancouver Canucks Saturday. This we know.
Gagner lost several teeth and had his jaw broken in two places after Kassian missed him with an attempted hit along the boards and then whipped his stick around at head-level, catching the Oiler centre in the mouth.
Gagner could be out for a month – possibly longer if he needs surgery to have his jaw wired shut. We don’t know for sure yet because there’s been no definitive word from the Oilers, who skated at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park today.
With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also expected to miss the start of the season while he recovers from shoulder surgery, first-year coach Dallas Eakins has next-to-no depth down the middle as the Oilers prepare to face the Winnipeg Jets in their season opener Oct. 1.
After Taylor Hall, making the switch to pivot with RNH out, the men in the middle as of now are Boyd Gordon and two more from the mix of Mark Arcobello, Anton Lander and Will Acton – unless GM Craig MacTavish picks up the phone and makes a deal.
While it’s understandable if fans lament the timing of the injury or bicker about the need for more toughness in the line-up – there is merit in the argument but dressing a hammer against the Canucks wouldn’t have prevented the knucklehead play by Kassian – that isn’t going to heal Gagner’s busted jaw. The Oilers can moan or suck it up. Hall, for one, will go with the latter.
"I feel bad for him, but we’re going to have make up for it," Hall said. "It looks like I’m going to be playing a bit more centre than I had originally planned. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. I mean, not everything is going to go according to plan and this is one of those things."
"Whatever you have to do to help this team win," said Gordon, who will be pressed into duty as the second-line centre. "If I’ve got to move up, or whatever the case, sometimes when you lose one of your better players, I think it brings everybody together and makes everybody bear down a little bit more and focus on what they have to do to help the team win."
Until we have a more definitive time frame on Gagner, there’s no way of knowing if MacTavish will come into play, as in looking outside the organization for help. Most likely, the cavalry will have to ride to the rescue from within, for better or worse – more Hall, Gordon and the rest.
Yes, it stinks. Carry on.
The Oilers trimmed their roster to 33 today (20 forwards, 11 defensemen and two goaltenders).
Assigned to Oklahoma City of the AHL were: Richard Bachman, Brad Hunt, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, Ryan Martindale, Andrew Miller and Ty Rimmer. Jujhar Khaira was returned to Everett of the WHL.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.