EARLY RETURNS: USE PENCIL

As long as the off-seasons have been around here the last seven years and first impressions carrying the weight they tend to do, it’s easy to understand how Saturday’s split squad games against the Calgary Flames have fans of the Edmonton Oilers talking today.

So it goes after half of Edmonton’s training camp roster coughed up a 5-2 lead to the Flames on the way to a 6-5 shootout loss at Rexall Place, while the other half edged the Flames 3-2 down the road in Calgary as the Oilers kicked off their pre-season schedule against NHL competition, sort of.

How did Taylor Hall look at centre? Pretty good, actually, especially on the dot. Might Finn Jesse Joensuu be the big forward the Oilers are looking add to the mix? He looked like it Saturday. How much of an upgrade will David Perron be over Magnus Paajarvi in the top nine? What about Darnell Nurse and Andrew Ference on the back end and Linus Omark and . . .

We got a peek at all of them against the Flames, as did head coach Dallas Eakins and GM Craig MacTavish, but while the impressions made have been duly noted, it’s best, as always, not to make the leap to anything resembling conclusions. Small sample size, as the stats guy like to say.

That should be obvious enough, but even after having seen 25 or so NHL pre-seasons with a notepad in hand, I still find myself prematurely making that leap from time to time. “Hey, that Joensuu kid is exactly what the Oilers need on the wing . . .” or “Wow, if I was Eakins I’d play Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins one-two at centre all season . . .”

As you scratch out your line-ups today, use pencil.

BY MY EYES

Like you, I came way from Saturday’s games with my own impressions. I wonder how they stack up against yours, and those of Eakins and MacTavish, who watched the game at Rexall Place from the press box.

. . . Hall was front and centre, if you’ll pardon the play on words, at pivot against the Flames. Most notable, he went 11-6 (65 per cent) in the face-off circles, which isn’t insignificant given how bad the Oilers have been on the dot in recent seasons. Credited with a goal that never went in. The challenge for Hall as he fills in for Nugent-Hopkins will be throttling back his urge to lead the rush and use his wingers.

. . . Joensuu, who had a goal and an assist and five shots against the Flames, looks like he can be a handful around the net, a forward capable of leaning on opposing defensemen. Might he be eventually be an upgrade on Ryan Jones?

. . . Speaking of Jones, he looked pretty good in Cowtown on a line with Boyd Gordon and Perron. Jones, coming off a season in which he struggled mightily after eye surgery, scored on a deflection. He’s got to re-establish himself in the top-nine. A good first step. Perron also had a goal, a short-side softie.

. . . Nurse looked at home alongside Ference after feeling his way through shifts at times during the rookie tournament. Nurse moves very well for a gangly kid and it’s probably no coincidence he looked more settled with the steady Ference riding shotgun.

. . . Omark remains dangerous at both ends of the ice. Nobody questions his creativity on the attack and doggedness on the puck for a smaller player, but he was a culprit on two Calgary goals.

Again, use pencil. Next up, Winnipeg.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . .

Looked like the same old Denis Grebeshkov to me, and while I’ve said we shouldn’t read too much into one game, his performance against Calgary has me hoping somebody will step up and contest a spot in the third pairing.

It would help if Oscar Klefbom wasn’t out with a mild concussion and if Anton Belov can get his visa paperwork issues sorted out. Still no definitive word when Klefbom will be ready to go and Belov will arrive. Soon, I hope.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Okay, fair enough.

    Swap Musil for another d-prospect, that we will agree can, and will play…then, would you make a deal for MacLaren?

    (Even still I have a feeling that Musil the younger will have a career very similar to pops. Both solid, stay-at-home types…neither knock your socks off skill-wise, but reliable d-men. The old adage: if you don’t notice him then that’s a good thing…blah, blah, blah…)

  • O.C.

    Hard to believe that a point was made about who is better of the 18 yr old forward v d man after one preseason game. Who knows what bums either played? Each is a different position, and ummm… they are 18.

    Food for thought:

    IF you land a fixture on defense, like a Peterangelo (sp?), Pronger, or Dowdey etc, then that guy will play the tough 35 m in every game in the playoffs. IE twice the ice time and effectiveness of your forward.

    Same applies with a goalie. If you develop a Johnathon Quick, and he makes just one save every other game that 24 other league starters won’t make, then that’s like adding a 41 goal scorer to your line up.

    Comparing Nurse to a forward, especially now, isn’t worth discussing.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    RB – If you don’t mind I’d like to make a trade suggestion to you, to see what you think.

    I think the Oilers need one more (very) tough guy who can play as well – which is very hard to find. I say we trade for the best young one in the league.

    At the risk of hearing ALL of the following…I will submit it to you anyway:

    1. you’re giving up too much!
    2. You’d never get him for that – take off your Oiler glasses!

    and the always lovable (and my personal favourite)

    3. This isn’t NHL-’10,’11,’12,’13,’14…!

    I think we should offer David Musil to acquire Frazier MacLaren from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Why? They’ve got toughness in spades, already. They NEED defensive defencemen, and a young one with his entire NHL career in front of him would be pretty appealing I would think. (He is rather slow for a sure-fire NHL’er though, so he would seem to be just the right price, to me.) Frazier MacLaren did a nice job not only as the toughest new fighter in the game today, but also was able to score goals with surprising skill to go along with his imposing size and strength. With David Musil being yet another left-handed shot, I think we could afford to use this draft asset to acquire something else we badly need, in order to be comptetive now!

    P.S. The Oilers have never won anything without some of – if not the best tough guys in the league, to compliment their amazing skill players…keeping them safe enough to actually be healthy, and score for us!

    Thoughts…?

  • RomZ

    Darren Dreger โ€@DarrenDreger 18m
    After lengthy Visa delay due to Cdn Foreign Service strike, Anton Belov has been cleared and landed in Edmonton last night.

    He probably doesn’t play until this weekend maybe?

  • Craig1981

    I also would have taken Nichushkin ahead of Nurse, but Nurse looks like he will end up being a gamer so I can’t complain too much.

    I note for the record that the posters advocating for Nurse to stay with the Oil instead of going to the OHL have some sort of hockey learning disability. I’ sorry if hat is inflammatory but it’s true. The guy played second pairing in the CHL last year and he isn’t physically mature yet. Rushing him would be the height of stupidity. Defensemen take time. Keep your panties on.

  • DSF

    One issue woth keeping nurse with the big team is that in time the oil will have to negotiate and sign a second contract.

    If they start the clock ticking now the team will be negotiaiting wioth nurse after being bled dry by all of the other stars before him.

    This is a big reason why Detroit is in the habit of holding back/staging players entries into their first NHL contracts…

  • Craig1981

    DSF

    Why dont you look at how Carolinas theory of never drafting dmen first round is going. Pretty weak if you.ask me. For years people were saying we dont need forwards lets take a dman during this rebuild (Larson, Murray). So now we take a 6’4″ dman with huge upside and a solid head on his shoulders and suprise suprise you whine like a spoiled brat about it. Which in itself is disturbing considering (as Ballet would say) youve been drinking the Canucks koolaid for 40+ years

    • DSF

      Carolina is hardly a paragon of virtue.

      Nurse is at least 3 years away from being an impact defence man.

      I’d wager the Russian makes a big impact this season.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Nurse vs Nishukin will be a topic for years DSF but after their entry level contract Nurse will not be using the KHL for leverage but the big russian might.

      • DSF

        Good for him. I thought you were more educated about hockey than that DSF. Your basing a huge year by Nicushkin on one preseason game? Weak! Just like people calling Nurse a bust after on rookie tournament game. And now after one preseason game theyre saying he should be top pair alongside Ference.

        Last I checked edm needs a big dman more than they need a top six forward. And what better one than Nurse. And what makes you so sure that hes three years away? A big junior year along with some physical gains and he could very well be in edm next year.

        Try again

      • DSF

        id wager that on the Oilers he would not get the ice time / chances to rip it up “this season”…throw Nurse to Carolina, Colorado, Calgary etc.. HE PLAYS THIS SEASON!!!

        the big russian kid is special dont get me wrong, but we absolutely needed good BIG dmen…

        at the moment were very rich on the wings!

        at the end of the day it came down to (what we needed) not the BEST player available…

        that being said, Nurse will be a force on our backend in 2-3 words…>FORSURE!

  • Old School G

    No “official” word from the Oilers, but my understanding is there’s a “good chance” Tony T’s eyes were not deceiving him at YEG tonight. We’ll know for sure in the morning.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I suspect Omark’s comeback is little more than a wet dream held together with hockey tape. I think the Oilers management know full what he knows. The question is how much has he learned after his return from Europe?

    Maybe he should have his future with the Oil written in invisible ink. IMO Omark has missed his opportunity and younger, more complete players are vying for his spot.

    Just sayin’.

  • Old School G

    Chris Pronger played for the Hartford Whalers when he was 18. I’ve heard Nurse constantly compared to Pronger, Chris Pronger was a tall rangy D man much like Nurse. If Darnell Nurse looked good out there with Ference why not keep him up with the big club and see how he competes, I don’t see much of a down side to this.

    • Old School G

      only he establishes himself as the player were all expecting him to be…then hes off his entry deal we have to throw him tons of money….

      let him grow…

      it will save us money and when he makes the jump he will be…..READY!

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    Watched both games at the same time. Thinking back in time I cant remember ever doing that before. I’ll get on the Omark topic right of the bat and say that it was very disappointing to see him reaching for a puck as it goes into the Oilers net. I know that he has the talent to produce 15 to 20 tap in goals for the team. His vision is some of the best I’ve ever seen.Because of his new deal ,if it doesn’t work with the Oil he’ll find his way onto a NHL roster.

    Seeing Ference passing it to Nurse as he rushed into the Calgary zone gave me hope of finally finding that young top 2 Dman.

    Mr. Joensuu looked like a better Zack Kassian.

        • RexLibris

          So Belov had to come to Edmonton via Caracas, then?

          That or Stephen Harper orchestrated a foreign service worker’s strike to spite all NHL teams but the Leafs. Heard that Grabovski was still in Russia as well and Komarov left T.O. to go back to the Moscow Dynamo.

          Harper: “If Grabo doesn’t play for the Leafs, he doesn’t play for ANYONE!”

    • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

      Thanks Robin, only have internet photos to go by, and a massive Russian Olympic team hockey bag to go by. I will apologize in advance if mistaken.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        about 1 month ago I said Joensuu will take ryan jones and Smyths jobs forsure…….&&& I got tons of trashes ๐Ÿ™‚

        Aaannnd……..now we wait for Belov to prove me right once again!

        I believe I said by Halloween he will be top 4 pairing!!! if Not on 1st line ๐Ÿ˜‰

        He hits, he mucks it up, hes BIG and boy oh boy does he have a bomb from the point (Like Me) ๐Ÿ™‚

        • DSF

          No.

          I would have taken the Russian.

          Drafting a D in the top 10, unless he is a slam dunk 1st pairing D who can step in right away, is just dumb.

          You’re just as likely to find a Nurse later in the draft.

          • Admiral Ackbar

            Have you noticed many Top pairing D-men that have been able to step in immediately and make a difference?

            The only name I’ve found that fits this category is Drew Doughty. Pronger, Neidermayer, Lidstrom, Weber, Karlsson: they all took several years to develop in to the players they currently are. Though I don’t think Nurse will ever be this good, great D-men rarely make an ‘immediate’ impact like you said.

            As for calling the Russian’s showing in his first preseason game a case and point for yourself, that’s small sample size, champ.

            I know you love attention DSF, but this is just weak, at best. Quality D-men almost never make an immediate impact. Nurse wouldn’t have been available in the next round. There’s a reason you’re playing GM from your couch rather than the Canuck’s front-office. Though you’d likely fair no worse than those clowns in Van.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            weren’t you the guy forever engrained in hfboards folklore for saying the Oilers should take Fowler over Hall?

            edit: yup

            It’ll be a tough call.

            But I think I would take Fowler just based on how seldom that kind of player becomes available.

          • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

            BRO FIST โœŠ! Slow Clap for Cable Guy ?. ?. ?.

            For the insight into DSFs character …….and showing us one more time why DSF stands for DOLLAP of SMILING FECES….?. (And yes I used my thesaurus to look up dollap)

          • Ya,

            I would have taken the Russian too.

            IIRC I think after the Oilers passed on the big LW Russian, I believe we both said that we would have taken Horvat instead of Nurse as well.

            I think that’s what has people confused…At any rate I would have taken Horvat instead of Nurse.

            Whatโ€™s done is done though; Iโ€™m throwing full support at Nurse even though it will take some time before we see anything resembling a NHL player.

            still….Could have used that center or big LW.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Well your opinions change by the minute so…. there’s that.

            I would have (past tense) taken the Russian. Have said as much for months. I still would today. You would have taken Horvat.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    While already having the size and strength of a physically developed NHL player, it’s hard to understand how sending Nurse back to play with a bunch of kids will help his game. He would be fine learning on the fly/riding shotgun with Ference. You’d think a guy with zero chance of making the hockey club (the popular media opinion) this year would’ve been cut like the rest of the roster fillers (Roy/Chase types) sent home today.

    Wonder where Darnell will fall short this training camp. Will it be his fitness level, him needing to grow into a more physically desirable size, or his inability to adapt to the umpteenth system being passed off as NHL entertainment these days?

    He appears every bit as ready as the Klefbom/Grebeshov/Larssen candidate types. 26th, 30th, 30th,29th and 24th….must say, Eakins could use all the help he can get.

    • DSF

      Good take on Nurse , as I have him pencilled in s top six for now . The ones that are bashing you are probably the same types that wanted Hall , Hopkins , Gagner and Yakupov to be sent back to Juniors or in their first years . If he betters the on ice product and production , then we should be using him this year not coddling him . Early yet , but he seems to be adapting well so far .

    • DSF

      Because it’s not good for his development. Simple as that.

      Btw, when the oilers are contenders, I don’t wanna see you jumping on the bandwagon. Your daily drivel bans you from a seat when the fun starts.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Were we watching the same game?

      I thought he looked great, but lacking specifically in strength, and experience.

      Sending him back to the OHL to get stronger, and play big minutes/all situations sounds like the perfect scenario.

      Didn’t everyone say he improved leaps and bounds last year? And this was with two top offensive Dmen ahead of him on the depth chart?

      I can’t see any chance he starts the season with the Oil.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      Nurse has a lot of attributes that lead me to believe the Oilers stole him where they got him. That’s an early take, but he strikes me as an impressive prospect and young man. That said, a couple things . . .

      Nurse doesn’t already have the size and strength of a physically developed NHL player. He’s a lanky, rangy guy but he has yet to fill out. He’s certainly not as filled out or strong now as he will be at age 20 or 21.

      As for keeping him beyond the first cuts, that’s a longstanding convention with a lot of teams. Most first-rounders like Nurse get more time so they can see and experience as much about being in an NHL environment as they can. Doesn’t hurt — no need to rush him back to junior to dominate a bunch of kids, right?

      Oh, and you’re as jaded as they come.

      • Old School G

        I wonder why twinkle toews ballet never responds to well thoight out responses such as this one. Instead he trolls sites and picks his victims with a cowardly cunning only a school yard bully can have.

        Weak effort tonight ballet.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

          There’s only one question mark in his statement, and that was more or less a statement he wanted to make. There’s was little effort made by Brownlee that demanded a response.

          This trolling thing you speak of. Is that not exactly what you’re doing now, with your name calling an all?(not intended to solicit a response from you, faux question)

          Try again, old weird Harrold.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        [Oh, and you’re as jaded as they come.]

        Thanks RB.

        Been working on my consistency in recent months. The bigs could be only one hangnail away for me.

    • DSF

      Hey Quick,

      Good to see you’re in midseason form despite it only being the first week of preseason…. Wah wah wah, ” 26th, 30th, 30th,29th and 24″. I’m really glad you take the time to log on and add such insight and value to the discussions. The site needs more regular contibutions from vast intellects such as yours. Thank you for doggedly pointing out the shortcomings we’re all already aware of and steadfastly opposing any optimism we fans are entitled to have. You are a shining example to the rest of us sheep who are too slow to understand that we should give up cheering for our beloved Oilers. We appreciate your constant vigilance on our behalf.

      Cheers,

      BL Legend

      • Quicksilver ballet

        What part of this is fiction, in your world that is?

        26th, 30th, 30th, 29th and 24th aren’t just fictional numbers I created to incite this taffy pull.

        C’mon BLL, you can come up with something more inflammatory than that. Lets get this baby to page 4 by midnight, make an argument how Klefbom and his 67 gms played since 2010, is more prepared than Darnell. We all have to work tomorrow.

        • Mike Modano's Dog

          Quick,

          I never asserted that any of what you said was untrue or a fiction. I was merely taking the time to point out that you need need to show a liitle repect for the rest of the message board participants who want to have an intelligent conversation about Oilers 2013 preseason results. Again, as you would realize I stated above if you took the time out of your busy schedule of cutting and pasting ” 26th, 30th, 30th,29th and 24″, many of us are woefully aware of the issues the team is trying to overcome. All I was trying insinuate was that your 100s of other posts including the year end results are quite unnecessary and only serve to detract from constructive discussion. I’m sure if I was looking to be inflammatory I could try to bully other posters into an internet shouting match and resort to childish name calling. However, as a person who is trying to advocate thought provoking communication I will end my participation in tonight’s discussions with a plea on from a dedicated Oilers fan. Please stop polluting the message board with repetitive drivel and try to engage the rest of us Oilers supporters in an inteligent discussion.

          Thank you,

          BL Legend

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I try not to conform with the rest of the yes types on here BLL. Every topic deserves an alternate theory viewpoint..

            Your response comes across like a ball busted husband. Did your wife help you with this?

            Three attempts for a quarter BLL, you can do better than that…how is Klefbom (and his 8 pts since 2010) more prepared than Nurse?

          • Craig1981

            Alternative view point is one thing. Brownlee has constantly had posts of negativity over the last few year. I hated his articles to start with till I realized he was quite often right and based his comments on thoughts that were well thought out from years of following hockey. Your comments are based on hate and your conclusions formed first. You have skip facts and fill the comment with comments that have zero support. Bring up a defensive dman’s point production is meanless. And suggesting you put nurse on the 1rst pair with ference is ridicules.

  • A-Mc

    Ive always liked Omark, and i think he has a few really useful skills (boardwork and keep away being 2). I hope he earns more respect. I cant help but think that if the player didnt have the name linus Omark, then he would be looked at positively.

    • The problem Omark will have is proving to the Oilers, or any other NHL team for that matter, that there’s much room for him to grow and improve because he’s not a young kid.

      What you see now is probably largely what you’re going to get.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        That’s enough to play on my team any day.

        Not enough for a lot of others, but enough for me.

        Omark’s new look see is going to depend on which directive carries more weight:

        “puck possession” or “toughness”

        • DSF

          Omark’s look-see is going to depend on him being better than he was the first time out.

          It’s fine to appreciate Omark’s offensive instincts and the parts of his game that make him intriguing, but you’re giving him a free pass if you’re suggesting he’s just fine as he is and if he doesn’t make the grade it’s because “toughness” carries more weight.

          I can’t say without a doubt Omark isn’t an NHL player. I just don’t get how, with such a limited track record, you can say without a doubt he is.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I think the first time out he showed very well for a young player. I think he should have stayed with the team.

            I can also think of a number of forwards who have passed through the NHL lineup during and since his time that I would easily slot him above.

            Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he’s a top 6 lock or anything outlandish.

            But down the roster all players are going to have some rough spots in their game. I don’t think his rough spots are so great as to keep him out of an NHL lineup (given opportunity and a clean slate).

            And, I’m happy to heap some doubt on his NHL future. I don’t know if he can hack it long term. But I’ve seen enough to say I would give him a great shot and that I prefer him over some of the other options.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Joensuu played well as did Nurse (I think we just might have something special with him!), as did Platzer and Marco Roy. Olivier Roy sucked and it pisses me off that the Oilers have chosen not to take a goalie the last couple of drafts because our goaltending depth sucks! Omark seemed to work hard enough, but didn’t impress me, neither did Martindale…big, slow and didn’t do much. Grebs was just the Grebs I remember…good offensively, some great passes but got schooled defensively a few times and looked a little lost.

  • What a great start for Hall at C. He looked good out there. Joensuu also really surprised me. I hope he keeps it up. I thought Marc Olivier Roy had a good first showing too. The look on his face when his line scored was priceless. I think he (along with most) though the goal was his.

    It was good to see Acton make some use of Brown on the PK too. If he’s going to be in the lineup, gotta find ways to make use of him. He did it some in Toronto.

    Olivier Roy is a long ways from NHL action, it would seem.