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.

  • Joe Mamma

    Maybe we could put in an order to the Dirty Little SOB Frenchman factory. “Yes, we’d like to order 2 more David Perrons please. Oh really, you make them in center and defenceman varieties as well? In that case, make that 5.”

  • Oilerz4life

    Arco took Gagners spot at center in the line-up at practice, which is listed right on the Oilers web-site. Don’t really need at a Rishaug tweet to figure that one out.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    If the Oilers were a horse, they would have shot it a long time ago. You look at the Phoenix roster and are amazed by the record. Then you see the commitment and effort. Even Ribiero for crying out loud. What is wrong with the individual makeup of this group.

    • Joe Mamma

      They have a far better blue line, but coaching plays a huge part in their success as well. Tippett is a very good coach, at this point Eakins is not. Maybe he will become one, but it does not look like it will happen here……

  • Spydyr

    Gagner should be the only forward to sit tonight. Why they rushed him back instead of letting Arcobello try to develop is still a mystery to me. I have never been a big Gagner fan and think his contract was a huge mistake (try to trade him now), but he is playing worse than ever before right now. With the team not going anywhere, why not put him back on the IR until he is fully healthy and see if any of the other options can make it? This season is already done.

    On the back end, Petry has regressed and a game in the pressbox to observe would not be a bad thing. Yet another reason why they need to dump the assistants in charge of developing d-men. Huddy has done a good job of it wherever he went – maybe MacT can convince him to come back?

  • Baresnake

    Jonathan

    Would you be able to explain Hall’s “rough season”?

    I am expecting a bunch of data to follow, but I just would like an idea of what you meant when you typed that???

    • Phuryous George

      I know you were asking JW, but IMO, Hall’s rough season has to do with putting pucks on net. He is still using his speed and gaining the zone, but doing nothing when he gets there, holding on to the puck too long.

      Hall had a lot of success early on in the NHL by bearing down on defencemen and using them to screen a shot. Now he tries to do too much with it, like toe drags etc…

      He just needs to run up the wing, cut inside and let it go on net. Even if the goalie holds it, a Ozone faceoff is better than a turnover on a bad pass or toe drag.

      ughhh…. the toe drags on this team.

  • Alsker

    Well if history has taught us anything, Arco out 94 to center(if Gordon unable to go), Gadzic in for Jonesuu(maybe Yak) and maybe altering d pairings. Yup that would about do it. Of course Gags, one of the chosen ones and Petry should enjoy the popcorn and the view from above but I’ll believe that when i see it.

  • Baresnake

    Sit Gagner, that fourth goal, aka the dagger, was due to his lack of coverage in the slot. Had that been Yakupov, the media would’ve jumped all over it.