Expect the Unexpected Healthy Scratch

TSN’s Ryan Rishaug tweets that we should expect head coach Dallas Eakins to make significant change to Edmonton’s line-up against Colorado, with the potential for some surprising healthy scratches. Who might they be?

The Replacements

As it stands, the Oilers don’t have many options because most of the team’s spares are injured. Leaving goaltenders out of the mix, here’s the list of players on the roster that didn’t play last night:

If all Eakins has is Gazdic, his options are minimal. If Larsen and/or Gordon is ready to return, that list of choices gets a lot longer.

Gazdic

If Eakins wants to scratch a winger, who might he choose?

First off: not David Perron.

Of the big names, both Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are plausible choices. Hall has had a rough season but played reasonably well last night; Eberle’s had a better year but his defensive deficiencies popped up again against Phoenix. Either would be a huge surprise and fall into the “message sending” category of roster moves. Another option is Ales Hemsky, though that wouldn’t be as big of a shakeup and it’s far from clear he deserves it.

The rest of the options wouldn’t really count as surprises. Ryan Smyth has been a scratch before and is on the fourth line. Nail Yakupov has been a scratch before but his game seems to be coming around, however slowly. Ryan Jones has been a frequent scratch but again it’s unclear he deserves to be now. Jesse Joensuu richly deserves a night off, but that’s as unsurprising as it gets.

Gordon

If Boyd Gordon is ready to go, Eakins has some choices. Will Acton’s a fringe NHL player and an easy scratch; Mark Arcobello’s better but has also been a regular scratch for Eakins. Neither would be a surprise. At the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be a bizarre scratch.

But Sam Gagner? No other player on the roster better meets at the centre of “veteran regular who would be a surprising scratch” and “deeply deserving of a night off.” Gagner is always controversial, and deeply unpopular at this exact moment in time thanks to last night’s game. If Gordon’s ready to go, Arcobello could take Gagner’s second line spot and Gagner could find himself sitting out a game.

Larsen

Every defenceman on the team is a plausible choice here. Jeff Petry is the team’s best defenceman but made big mistakes last night and has been error-prone of late. Andrew Ference, his regular partner on the top pairing, hasn’t really looked like a top-four defender in Edmonton. Anton Belov has largely been good but has been wildly inconsistent from game-to-game and looked really bad against Phoenix.

Justin Schultz is the guy I’d target, though, because for all of his talent he seems incapable of switching to any mode other than ‘cheat for offence.’ It’s not just simple mistakes, it’s his whole approach to the game.

Denis Grebeshkov would be a deeply unsurprising scratch, while Nick Schultz has been scratched before but after playing much better the last while doesn’t deserve that treatment now.

The Last Word

Eakins comment about resetting a player? They were in answer to a question about Jeff Petry.

  • Shaun

    Eakin’s was late for practice today. I wonder if he was getting his pee pee smacked. If so it is somewhat overdue. He has sucked any confidence this group ever did have right out of the room. I also hope he was told to dump his AHL non-hackers from the line-up. Eakin’s is a rookie and it shows. I don’t like his odds of surviving to next season.

  • SRELIOFAN

    It’s been a long time coming for message sending. This is the kind of thing that Eakins talked about before the season. At times injuries have prevented him from making the scratches but even then, he hasn’t taken the opportunity to really get any of the key veterans’ attention.

    Bottom line, with where we are in the standings, nobody should ever truly feel comfortable.

  • GVBlackhawk

    Hopefully, Eakins is “resetting” Petry: On the second goal against Phoenix Petry was standing in front of the net, but somehow he let a soft pass from the boards go right through him for an easy goal.

    That’s almost impossible for Dubnyk to read because ten out of ten first line d-men would have easily broken up that pass.

    On the Yandle goal, basically a two on two entry (though Doan wasn’t moving much) with two Oilers trailing (who should be applying some back side pressure, but…) Petry, from a bad soft gap, takes a wild charge forward to Yandle’s supposed entry lane, while crossing his feet with two hands on his stick–which sets his hips into the lane he is charging into, thereby, immobilizing him temporarily–giving Yandle a free lane the other way and eliminating himself as a defenseman.

    His crazy charge forward also basically eliminated his D-partner from the play… and Yandle has a free lane to rip a laser past Dubs (but: for many fans Dubs is the “problem”).

    There was so much wrong at a fundamental level with Petry’s play against Yandle that to me it points to a coaching issue: if he just stays in his lane, with one hand on his stick, and a tighter gap, and allows for some back side pressure and his partner to contain his own lane then Yandle has absolutely NOTHING. This is basic fundamental junior-level defensive hockey. For him to rush into a supposed lane while crossing his feet with two hands on his stick is ridiculous!

    A) it’s either not being coached; or B) it’s being coached and certain players are not being held accountable to basic hockey plays