Reinforcements, such as they are, are on the way and that’s good news for the Edmonton Oilers.
Sam Gagner and Corey Potter both on IR have re-joined @EdmontonOilers at Sensplex in Kanata. Grebeshkov as u know re-called earlier today
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) October 18, 2013
There is, of course, a difference between practicing with the team and playing in the games. Denis Grebeshkov is game-ready; he was able to shake off the rust down on the farm and at some point shortly should draw into the lineup.
Jim Matheson wrote an update on Potter’s situation a week ago; given where he slots in on the depth chart and the severity of the injury I wonder if he is sent down on a conditioning stint before he gets a chance to get back in the lineup. Gagner, meanwhile, sounded eager to get on the ice in a Joanne Ireland piece yesterday; there seems little doubt that he’ll slot in at the NHL level as soon as he possibly can.
The Oilers have a bit of a conundrum up front when Gagner is ready to go (assuming no injuries in the meantime). Mark Arcobello has been too good to come out of the lineup entirely, but with Gagner back it’s hard to see where he fits in the top-nine. If and when everybody’s healthy, I wonder if the forward lineup doesn’t look something like this:
- Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
- David Perron – Boyd Gordon – Ales Hemsky
- Jesse Joensuu – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov
- Ryan Smyth – Mark Arcobello – Ryan Jones
- Spares: Will Acton, Luke Gazdic
The coach has shown a preference for a crash-and-bang fourth line, and the lineup above excludes both Steve MacIntyre and Mike Brown. I just don’t see a way to demote Arcobello given his play, and it seems a waste to stick him on a line with Will Acton and Mike Brown. With that said, this is all likely moot; Joensuu is hurt and there are bound to be more injuries before long.
Defensively, Denis Grebeshkov slotting in immediately makes a certain amount of sense. That is not so much a case of Grebeshkov being unbelievably good during preseason or his conditioning assignment, but more a situation where there are two or three guys in the current group that could use a night off.
My choice for healthy scratch would be Nick Schultz, who has been bizarrely used this season – I get the idea behind a shutdown pairing, but sticking a guy with limited puck skills with Andrew Ference (forcing him to be the primary passer) and worse Ladislav Smid makes no sense to me. I’m also open to arguments that Justin Schultz and Anton Belov could use a night in the pressbox; really the trouble is that there is no shortage of candidates for a night off.
Assuming Nick Schultz was the scratch, something like this might be the way to go:
- Andrew Ference – Jeff Petry
- Ladislav Smid – Justin Schultz
- Denis Grebeshkov – Anton Belov
- Spare: Nick Schultz
The idea there is to put the two best defencemen on the team in the early going together (Petry, to my eye, has been far and away the best blueliner on the team) and throw them to the wolves – quality opposition, lots of defensive zone work, etc. That leaves the team’s most pure defensive defenceman on a pairing with their most pure offensive defenceman; the idea there being that Smid’s near-total inability to move the puck can be compensated for by Schultz’s sublime skills in that area, while Schultz’s laissez faire approach to defence can be covered by Smid’s complete focus on that side of the game.
Regardless, once Grebeshkov and Gagner get back Edmonton will have some options they have not had the last little while.