GDB -3: OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

Marc Arcobello and Anton Lander received a wonderful opportunity yesterday morning, when it was announced Sam Gagner is out at least a month with a broken jaw. Had Gagner not been injured, neither one of them would have been playing on the top-three lines, and unless Craig MacTavish picks up a veteran off the waiver wire before next Tuesday, one of Lander or Arcobello will be in the Oilers top-nine on opening night against the Jets.

Boyd Gordon was going to be the 3rd line centre, and it looks like he’ll get a chance to play with scoring wingers.

Taylor Hall has played with Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth throughout camp, and they will likely start the season together. So that leaves Jordan Eberle, David Perron, Nail Yakupov and one of Ryan Hamilton, Linus Omark, Tyler Pitlick, Jesse Joensuu and Ryan Jones to play the wings with Boyd Gordon and Arcobello/Lander.

It is not ideal to start the season with your first (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and second (Gagner) line centres in the pressbox, but that’s life in Edmonton.

In a best case scenario Gagner will only be out a month, which means he’d miss ten regular season games, and return on October 24th vs. the Capitals. Nugent-Hopkins is shooting for the final week of October, but the Oilers will not rush him, so he might be able to return on Sunday October 27th vs. the Kings, which means he’d miss 12 games. Again, that is if everything goes well for both, and maybe one of them returns a bit sooner, but that seems unlikely.

Gagner will have surgery tomorrow, and he’s going to have a few plates inserted into his jaw. If is mouth needs to be wired shut his recovery will be longer, so we won’t know if he’ll be out a month or longer until tomorrow or Wednesday.

OPTIONS

What should Craig MacTavish do?

He can go with what he has and hope that Gordon, Arcobello/Lander can fill the void for the short term.

He can look at the waiver wire and grab a serviceable veteran, if one becomes available.

Look at a trade.

Making a trade from an obvious position of weakness isn’t ideal. No team is going to trade him a legit top-six centre, unless he’s willing to part with one of Eberle, Perron or Yakupov, and I doubt that happens. We rarely see trades in October, mainly because teams want to see what they have.

The waiver wire might be MacTavish’s best bet if he is looking for someone with NHL experience.

Some teams have gotten very lucky with waiver wire pickups over the years, and most centres would love the opportunity to come to Edmonton and play with Eberle, Perron, Hemsky or Yakupov.

There is no guarantee someone more proven than Lander or Arcobello becomes available via waivers, so Dallas Eakins will use the next three games to figure out who deserves the best opportunity of their young career, Arcobello or Lander.

It is clear that Arcobello is ranked higher than Lander today after listening to Eakins. he’ll have three games to show he’s capable of filling the second or third line centre slot for the short time.

It looks like Gordon is going to get an opportunity to play with skilled forwards, and he’ll centre Yakupov and Omark tonight.

LINEUP

Omark-Gordon-Yakupov
Joensuu-Arcobello-Pitlick
Jones-Lander-Hamilton
Eager-Acton-Brown

Ference-Belov
Smid-Larsen
N.Schultz-Fedun

Dubnyk
LaBarbera

RETURN OF THE SMAC….

The Oilers claimed Steve MacIntyre on waivers and he’ll be back in Edmonton for the third time. There is no doubt MacIntyre can fight and intimidate, when he’s on the ice, but if they only play him four minutes a game I’m not sure how impactful he can be.

I will say this; however, I had four different Oilers walk up to me with a huge smile on their face saying MacIntyre is coming back. There is no doubt the players respect his toughness, but unless the rest of the Oilers players are willing to play team tough, and that doesn’t mean just fighting, then MacIntyre will have a hard time policing every player on every team. 

Those who believe having a heavyweight on the bench will stop Zack Kassian from making a dumb play, are just as off-base as those who use Chicago and Detroit as examples of not needing one. The Hawks and Wings are great teams, the Oilers aren’t, and until the Oilers start winning they won’t get any respect, and teams won’t be fearful of their powerplay, because the majority of the game is still played 5-on-5, and the Oilers don’t scare anyone at even strength; at least not yet.

The Oilers need more team toughness, not one guy who plays four minutes a night, if they want to properly protect themselves. You can’t expect Mike Brown, Ben Eager or Steve MacIntyre to police the opposition, because they don’t play regularly enough.

The Oilers need to be more assertive, or MacTavish has to go find some players who have an edge, but also possess the skill to play in the top-nine or top-four. Until that happens, I believe teams will continue to take liberties with the Oilers unless more players decide to show they are willing to stand up for themselves, or have more of a pack mentality. You can’t look the other way when one of your teammates is being harassed. It doesn’t mean all the Oilers skilled players need to become fighters; they just need to have more players willing to defend one another.

Did Phil Kessel take one punch from John Scott last night? Nope, his teammates came flying in before any serious damage occurred. We all know Scott/Kessel situations are rare, but when all four of his teammates didn’t hesitate and come to his rescue, that saved Kessel from a beating, and none of them got injured.

QUICK HITS

  •  Zack Kassian will likely be suspended for at least five games, because the NHL asked, although he didn’t go, for an in-person hearing and that usually means a minimum five game suspension. There is no doubt it was a careless play, but I don’t buy for a second that he did it because the Oilers don’t have a heavyweight. Teams that have heavyweights still suffer injuries. Kassian made a dumb decision in the heat of the moment.

    Hockey is a violent game, and when you have guys skating 30 miles an hour, with blades on their feet, sticks in their hands and body contact is allowed, bad decisions will happen. We need to stop being surprised when a player makes a dumb, split-second decision. We all do it in real life, and often in situations that don’t involve competition.

    How many of us have had road rage recently? You freaked, likely over a simple thing, and then started cursing and ofter threatening the person. We all know it is against the law, but that doesn’t go through our mind when we are freaking out. We know it is illegal to text and drive, yet most of us still do it.

    Hockey fans and pundits need to stop being shocked or surprised when a player makes a bad or careless decision. Usually they are split-second decisions, and even though the risk of suspension or possible retribution from a tough guy looms overhead, that doesn’t go through a player’s mind milliseconds before he hits a player.
     

  • The most positive news for Oiler fans coming from the MacIntyre news, and Gagner injury is that Hall is going to play even more minutes according to head coach Dallas Eakins. If Hall is on the ice 21-22 minutes a night, that means the Oilers have a much better shot of winning more games.
     
  • Despite all that I understand why the Oilers got MacIntyre, and I think it was necessary. We all know the Oilers have been pushed around for years, and if having MacIntyre on the bench makes every player even a bit more confident it will be worth it. The key is using him in certain situations to initiate physical play, rather than just respond when the opposition takes liberties on the Oilers. Reacting after the fact isn’t going to change anything.
     
  • Anton Belov looked very good in his first game on Saturday. He made some excellent passes out of the zone, and looked solid defensively. It was only one game, but I thought he made a very good first impression.
     
  • Ryan Jones needs to play with more tenacity and competitiveness. Eakins has preached "compete" and Jones, Acton, Lander, Omark and Joensuu all need to show more of it, if they want to be here when the season starts. 

 

 RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR  

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “Omark-Gordon-Yakupov

    Joensuu-Arcobello-Pitlick

    Jones-Lander-Hamilton

    Eager-Acton-Brown”

    That’s one hell of a preseason lineup! This is the “show me!” lineup.

    Grabs some rings boys, your hockey future is on the line!

    “Hall is going to play even more minutes according to head coach Dallas Eakins.”

    Do you have any sense of whether this “Hall at C” experiment is closer to full-time switch? Or, is it still way too early?

    “Anton Belov looked very good”

    Agreed. I am very curious to see how he responds to more TOI, responsibility and a vet D partner he doesn’t have to worry about.

    “Ryan Jones needs to play with more tenacity and competitiveness.”

    Spector seems to think he might get waived:

    ” Follow

    Mark Spector
    ‏@SportsnetSpec
    MacIntyre comes on to Oilers NHL roster. We predict Ryan Jones will be off it, sooner than later.”

    any thoughts?

    • It’s like Hartikianen last year Rom, if he’s not going to bring some tenacity, be hard on the puck and actually start hitting guys…..ya, then I think he’s replaceable.

      While I agree with you on S-Mac the team has to get tougher to play against, Jones looks like he’s floating out there.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Harti is off to the races already this season in the KHL.

        http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/09/23/hartikainen-and-yakimov-leading-the-way-for-overseas-oiles/

        I think he would have been an upgrade on all of Jones, Eager, Brown, SMac, Hamilton, Acton and a draw with Omark and Joensuu.

        The problem with Jones is that he isn’t good enough to play top 6 minutes, but his style of play was never enough for those looking for meat in the bottom of the line up. He just doesn’t play that way.

        His job is the same as Omark’s. They are there to create offence in the bottom of the lineup and fill in as needed for injury up roster. Right now, both aren’t doing that very well.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          I don’t think Hartski is anywhere close to an upgrade on Jones. I’m not a fan of Jones and hated the signing. No point having Omark in the conversation. Joensuu is world better in terms of skating and seems in this small sample a better scorer and has a physical dimension that Hartski never showed. Hartski showed no ability at the NHL to score, and in the KHL with a handful of stars, NHL neverwillbe’s, and long past their best before date former NHL’er his numbers are fairly impressive so far. He is better then tweeners you mentioned.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I think with all these bubble players there is going to be debate. They aren’t that far apart from one another.

            I think if Harti were here, he’d be in the mix and showing pretty well.

            He was brutal in the NHL last year on the score sheet. But he showed well in the AHL and has continued to show well in the K. Those are the world’s two best leagues after the NHL.

            One problem with Harti, Omark, Hamilton, Joensuu, etc. is the small and uneven sample sizes. Makes evaluation difficult.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I wish Teemu was here, don’t get me wrong. Our bottom six would look a lot better with him rather then say Hamilton or Acton, or Eager. However he seems like he is player who was given 50 games to show if he could hit or score. He did neither. I don’t know how good his penalty killing is, and he is not needed on the PP.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Agreed.

            He blew it last year when the opportunity was there. And, he didn’t want to ride the buses anymore for pennies, which is entirely understandable.

            If we are lucky he grows into a really good player and comes back in two years time* like a freebie.

            *There may be an opt-out clause. A lot of these Euro contracts let players opt-out at some point if an NHL offer comes around. Maybe Gregor knows.

  • French Toast Mafia

    I was listening to Stauffer today and I like the idea of having SMac in against some of the bigger teams. It would be nice for guys like Eager or Brown to be able to take runs at everyone on the Canucks just like they do to the Oilers. I hate watching guys like Kassian and Beiska try and kill Hall every shift. I hope to see Eager, Brown, and Joensue doing the exact same thing with SMac as the insurance on the bench. Tom Sestito isn’t going to be doing anything against SMac

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Speaking of over-rated Kassian, Before you beak off brother- you
    are a thriving success wow.. You can’t even contribute playing with
    the Sedin Sisters. Payback is going to hurt at some point , when the Oil
    are smacking the Nucks and the game is out of hand , SMAC is going to
    remember and introduce himself to you. Trust me Zac – He is not
    Ben Eager.

    On another note – is the game on TV tonight at all ?

  • Spydyr

    We need more decent help/depth at center even with Gagner back . Hopfully MacT. acquires one or more on waivers . Have to blame our lineup for last game for getting us run so badly . A little better forsight might have prevented some of it . Functional toughness is expensive and not easily obtainable as Mact. sadly found out .

    History has taught us our farmboys have done little to get us positive results over the last several years – we need more and better than that if we hope to get results required to be a contender . Maybe they’ll show us more this time , but I have yet to see it from any of them so far . I think Smithson was probably better than the ones presently trying to fill in , and he wasn’t much either but could handle the physical and defensive side of things . Unfortunate we let Horcoff get away in retrospect .

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    Maybe one of the stats guys can help me with this one.

    Do you think SMac’s shooting percentage will ever return to his 2008-2009 numbers (33.3%) or do you think his career average (14.3%) is more indicative of his level of ability?

    Admittedly, we’re talking about a very small sample size (91 NHL games), so maybe we shouldn’t be drawing any conclusions.

    On a serious note, 74 of those were with the Oilers. This post made me very sad very quickly.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Good pick-up and I agree on the philosophy of bringing in a deterrent.

    Would it have stopped the Kassian play? Who knows, but that’s not the point.

    The point is that Eakins has stated over and over again that he wants more scrums and 5 on 5 gguys going in to defend each other. Yet, the make up of our team is small and skilled. So saying what to do and doing what he says is against reality.

    A big team like Boston can play team tough because they have big guys sprinkled throughout the line up. The Oilers simply don’t have those guys.

    So if a line is undersized and getting run out of the building, well the next shift Jones, Brown and Big Mac comes out to push around the other teams skilled line up or to pound out their heavy weights.

    This is a job that you can;t ask Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Perron etc to do and I don;t know why the heck you’d even want them to.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oilers player need to learn/find ways to defend themselves. Not the point of being Phil Kessel and slashing the other teams, but find ways to bite back. Perron did a good job of this last game when he cheap shot Wiese with a punch to the face.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Stauffer reports that Big Mac is coming in much leaner. If that means he’s quicker than in the past then he could be valuable on the forecheck (somewhere I think the Oilers have struggled in the past few seasons).

    I like this move because Eakins is the head coach. He will demand a lot from Mac, and if he can manage to compete at a satisfactory level and keep his game as simple as possible then this will work out nicely.

  • Craig1981

    I noticed that Perron took one of the draws on the PP and won. He definitely has the defensive acumen to play centre. Maybe that’s bandaid #2 and ask Yak to start the year on the left side. Not ideal because you’re asking so many guys to play away from their strength, but might be servicable.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Glad you didn’t bury the lede!

    The big story today, isn’t SMac… but the crippling C depth for the team.

    It will be interesting to watch and see if MacT has something up his sleeve. He sounded content to stand pat with his depth. If that’s the case, we’re in trouble.

    There are some options out there. Sub-optimal… but “any port in a storm”

  • Craig1981

    Gregor, do you think the MacIntyre pickup, will mean the Oilers will be more likely to carry 2 reserve forwards and 1 dman instead of the opposite as people thought before?

    • Jason Gregor

      Good question. Initial reaction is yes, but if they planned on playing one or both of Eager and Brown and having a C as the 13th forward, maybe they just slot MacIntyre ahead of one of 13 or 55 and expose that guy to waivers.

      The issue is Belov to me. He has a two-way deal, so could go down and they keep 7 D, but if he plays well and they want to play him, are the willing to only keep seven and expose Grebeshkov or Larsen to waivers?

      I see them going 14 and 7…and putting Belov in minors or one of Grebs or Larsen on **cough***IR***cough***

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        I think Belov is a player and will make the team as a six or seven. If they exposed Grebby or Larson to waivers, Grebby is a sure thing to pass. No one wants that trainwreck for 1.5. Larson I think would get picked up.

        However the one variable you haven’t mentioned in Nurse. One game he was outstanding, the second he was mediocre but was tested physically and the third game should tell us if he earns 9 more games.

  • Spydyr

    Deterrent players don’t need to skate well. They go over the board for maybe 3-5 minutes a game, and it sure as hell isn’t score.

    As far as Centre goes, I say you keep Gordon on the #3 line like you planned. I know it’s a different level of league, but Arcobello had good chemistry with Eberle when they played together in OKC last year. See if they can do it again at the NHL level and adjust as needed from there.

    • Jason Gregor

      I’m pretty sure they aren’t and you are incorrect. All five forward lines were on the ice, and every player was available in the room…Hemsky talking has no reflection on him playing.

  • Stud Muffin

    If Big Mac plays 3 minutes a night, and someone else gets double shifted (i.e. Hall), then I’m fine with that. The last time he played didn’t he go right after Clutterbuck (might be wrong), after one of the young guns took a hit. If all he does is lineup against John Scott or George Parros, then we don’t need him. But, if he pulls a John Scott and goes after Phil Kessel or Kassian or Clutterbuck regardless of if they oblige him, then that is a “nuclear deterrent” for the opposition.

      • O.C.

        I know he wasn’t here for the Hall-Clutterbuck incident last year, Staubitz does sound familiar though. I know the other player turtled and Mac just let him have it anyway. If the Oilers can’t obtain a fridge who can skate (Clarkson), then a guaranteed ass kicking will just have to do. I agree with Brin McGratton earlier when he suggested there no longer was a code. If Ott, Clutterbuck, Kaleta, etc. take runs at your players whether or not they oblige, a heavyweight can be effective if he sets them straight anyways. I think teams will gladly kill of on instigator in that scenario.

  • Kessel got punked. Scott wasn’t going to rag doll him.. he was toying with him and Kessel and (incredibly) Clarkson fell for it hook, line and sinker.

    As for smac. I guess I look forward to a McGratton vs Smac tilt and the 38 seconds of staged anticipation that it will generate.

    Smac is locked to the code. he doesn’t jump skilled guys, couldn’t catch them if he tried and exists solely to square off against the other dancing bear on the ice.

    However.

    He is a huge beauty in the room. The young lads love him to bits… and watching Louie Debrusk and the other hunting buddies strutting around like peacocks is amusing to be sure.

    Welcome back big dog! May Eakins find something in your on ice play that the many others could not.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    MacIntyre doesn’t even need icetime to be effective. Send him over the boards 2 or 3 times a season to send a nucleur type message when required. Let him go Clarkson on a few occasions. Nothing wrong with having that loaded shotgun seated on the bench. 0:00 icetime per evening won’t allow teams to take advantage of his Dave Andreychuk type foot speed. Since the NHL is closing the doors on violence, maybe it’s time to explore other retaliatory methods. What’s the difference. 40 games in the press box, or 40 games suspended during the coming season. Send a message for basically chump change for Katz.

    Rather odd he may cost his hunting buddy Ryan Jones his spot on the roster. Jonesy has fallen way short of his commitment to be more physical/intense when extended for another year by MacTavish two months ago.

  • Spydyr

    “I had four different Oilers walk up to me with a huge smile on their face saying MacIntyre is coming back.”

    Enough said , end of argument. Hockey players all appreciate someone having their back.

    • Craig1981

      I think a lot of the Oilersnation’s arguments has extremists trying to argue their extremes (no fighting in hockey OR having a fighter will stop teams from bodychecking your top lines)

      IMO its a grey area that is worth the debate. How important is having a player that can only fight, how often should you dress him, do you need a middleweight, should top players drop the gloves, and so on….. those arguments will never end (and are an interesting read when someone puts thought into their opinions)

  • james_dean

    I am a bit depressed by this injury, Arcobello and Lander have been pretty near invisible this camp and Hamilton has been ok but as a third/fourth line centre not second line. I am thinking we need to get someone as we cannot afford to start the season with 10 losses in a row or something like that.

    Also I was sad to see the defenceman Hunt get sent down as that guy was awesome for the two games I watched…small but showed a lot of grit and had some offence as well.