GDB -2: PLAYERS WILL DECIDE WHO MAKES THE TEAM

Prior to yesterday’s 2-1 victory over the Jets, Dallas Eakins stated the players will decide who makes this team, based on how they play. He admitted the final cuts will be difficult, but in most cases the players will play their way off, or on, the team.

In certain cases a veteran on a one-way deal might get the benefit of the doubt over a young player on a two-way contract, but the majority of the players who are here next week will have earned their spot.

I’d say 16 of the final 23 roster spots are locks, while the rest look pretty clear.

Forwards (9):

Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, David Perron, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth, Boyd Gordon, Jesse Joensuu and Steve MacIntyre.

Joensuu’s play in the preseason has guaranteed he’ll start the season here, but he’ll need to continue his strong play when the games count to stay a regular in the lineup. By adding MacIntyre the Oilers told the league they were sick of teams taking liberties with their players, if he isn’t in the opening night lineup, then claiming him on waivers was pointless.

D-men (5):

Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference, Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid and Nick Schultz.

Goalies (2):

Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera

That leaves seven roster spots, four for opening night and three extra skaters.

The battle for the seven remaining spots, won’t be as suspenseful as some thought a few weeks ago.

Three forward positions: two centres and one winger.

Marc Arcobello benefits from Sam Gagner’s injury and unless the Oiles make a waiver claim on a centre, he’ll be in the opening lineup. Neither he, nor Anton Lander has played exceptionally well thus far, but he’s been the best of the two. He’ll need to play better than he has to be a factor in the regular season. 

Will Acton played well last night, and he’s done more than Lander, but it’s almost like he will win the 4th line job by default. Acton will need to play much better to remain in the lineup when Gagner returns.

Acton and Arcobello’s biggest challenge will come from the waiver wire. If a veteran centre is exposed, I think Craig MacTavish will seriously consider claiming him.

Lander hasn’t had a strong camp. He hasn’t stood out in any game and I think he’s destined for OKC. I doubt any Oiler fan thought the Oilers would enter the season with a weaker centre depth than they did last year, but today that’s how it looks.

Mike Brown, Ryan Jones, Ben Eager, Ryan Hamilton and Tyler Pitlick are battling for the 12th forward spot on opening night.

Pitlick has played well his last two games, but you have to consider the opposition when grading him. The lineups he played against weren’t NHL caliber, and that is a factor. He’ll need to be incredible tonight to be here next week. I’d rather see him play top-line minutes in the AHL than be the 12th, 13th or 14th forward.

Brown has been the most consistent of the remaining four. He isn’t going to bring much offence, but he knows his role and he’ll crash and bang every shift.

Jones started well, but he’s been average the past week. Eakins said he’s been happy with Jones intensity, but he’d like to see him produce some more points.

Eager had a good game in Vancouver, but he didn’t do much last night. Eakins likes his speed, while his size and ability to play physical will get him another game. He needs to make an impression or he will be in the pressbox on opening night.

Hamilton started well, but hasn’t done much the past few games. I think his two-way deal will have him starting the season in the AHL.

My guess is Brown, Jones and Eager make the final roster, and who is the 12th forward will depend on the next two games.

D-MEN

Denis Grebeshkov is out with a groin injury, so that means Anton Belov, Philip Larsen and Darnell Nurse will battle for sixth spot. Belov has looked good, although he’ll need to move the puck quicker. It will take him a few more games to get accustomed to the speed of the NHL. Everything happens faster on the smaller ice than it does in the KHL, but he’s a smart player and he’s got the potential to become a solid NHL D-man.

Nurse was great in Vancouver, and okay at home. Unless he plays incredible tonight and Friday, if he’s dressed, I think the Oilers will let him continue to develop in junior. Fedun only has one year of pro experience, he needs more seasoning.

Larsen has been up and down thus far. He struggled in Calgary, was great in Winnipeg and he was solid again last night. He moves the puck very well, and I think the next two games will decide if he or Belov will start against the Winnipeg Jets on opening night.

LINEUP

Smyth-Hall-Hemsky
Perron-Arcobello-Eberle
Jones-Lander-Pitlick
Eager-Acton-Hamilton

The Rangers aren’t dressing many of their skilled forwards, but they are dressing three guys who can fight: Aaron Asham, Derrick Dorsett and Mike Haley.

If the Oilers are serious about wanting to protect their players, then they should dress Eager and Steve MacIntyre. MacIntyre arrives in Edmonton this afternoon, and you know he’ll be pumped to play. In all my years covering the NHL I’ve never met a player who was more excited an appreciative to be in the NHL. MacIntyre knows his limitations and I still remember talking to him after his first NHL game. He almost cried he was so overwhelmed, especially because his father got the chance to watch him live. I know MacIntyre would love to dress tonight.

If the Oilers, and specifically Eakins, are serious about protecting their stars and being more aggressive, then tonight is the game they need to dress both Eager and MacIntyre.

Nurse-J.Schultz
Fedun-Petry
Belov-Larsen

Belov and Larsen are in a great battle for the 6th spot, and tonight’s play will impact who starts next Tuesday and who is in the pressbox.

LaBarbera will start in goal.

RANGERS LINEUP

Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello
Kreider-Miller-Asham
Hrivik-Lindberg-Kristo
Haley-Moore-Dorsett

McDonagh-Girardi
Staal-Allen
Johnson-Hughes

Talbot
Biron

QUICK HITS

  • Eakins said the 94-4-83 line has been his best line thus far and he has no intention of breaking them up. He’d like to have a scoring threat on his top-three lines, and that’s why we will likely see Jesse Joensuu-Boyd Gordon-Nail Yakupov as the 3rd line on opening night. All of those who wrote of Ryan Smyth, might need to retract their obituary.
     
  • Linus Omark was put on waivers today, and if he isn’t claimed he’ll fly with the team to OKC tomorrow. The Oilers will spend three days in OKC. Eakins feels the team needs some time outside of Edmonton to bond and get focused for the season.
     
  • Omark didn’t so much in preseason, and according to Eakins he tried to do too much on his own. Not in a selfish way, but Eakins suggested Omark needed to use his teammates more.
     
  • Final thought… David Clarkson gets a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench. He didn’t throw a punch when he entered the melee and basically played peacemaker, but he received a ten-game suspension. Meanwhile Zack Kassian broke Sam Gagner’s jaw with a careless and gutless slash, but he only got five games.

    I don’t have an issue with the NHL having a set suspension for leaving the bench. You do the crime, you do the time. But is it possible they could look at implementing similar minimums for stick infractions. If you slash a guy in the face it is 10 games. The end result shouldn’t matter. If you chicken wing/elbow a guy in the head it is an automatic five-game suspension.

    I know the end result is different, and some slashes or elbows are worse than others, but if Clarkson had thrown five punches he’d still be sitting out ten games. He threw none, yet he’s out 10 games.

    Why not just set a guaranteed suspension for other infractions?

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR  

  • pkam

    Larsen – not physical enough . Same for Fedun . Grebs-to many mistakes . Smid lacks offence . Belov has both , But Nurse has even more with his great skating and active stick with clubs biggest wingspan . He’s physical and will only get better and tougher throughout season . We are better off with him than without him in line up – bottom line . It’ll take a bad game or injury for him to drop out of contention now , and it’s not looking like that’s going to happen . I like the options it affords team if Nurse pulls in .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I am very interested to see how Eakins uses SMac. Really, by his own description, he doesn’t want SMac on his team. He wants guys who can play as much ice time as he requires. SMac by definition and execution is a 5 min or less a night, enforcer type. He cannot Skate. Shoot. Score. In fact he can’t hit anyone because he can’t catch them… (Under normal circumstances).

    So, that leaves only 2 options. Eakins recants and gives him an “unearned” roster spot based on his thug abilities. Or…

    SMac loses 30+ lbs, trims down, faster, harder and a guy who can not only fight, but crush bodies and forecheck. I would suggest that 30lbs is a LOT of weight to lose, but based on Eakins own statement on what he’s looking for from players AND team, isn’t this the only way SMac fits in? Unless you can throw him in front of the net on the PP or some other ridiculous thought, someone tell me how and why this works and fits.

    Yes. I like the thought of someone who can beat the snot out of the headhunters, but I would think SMac as a fighting coach for Ben Eager might be a better solution than putting a gorilla on the ice. That is all.

  • Jason Gregor

    Bobby Mac says Snowpants will be out for 2 months at least..

    “Doctors who performed surgery on EDM F Sam Gagner’s broken jaw believe he will be out of lineup for two months.”

        • Joy S. Lee

          That’s an interesting assumption. I know, it’s based on the idea that he won’t be able to build the momentum necessary to have a good year, and that’s a viable consideration, but you might also say he’ll be perfectly fresh for the playoff run. I guess it’ll all really depend on Sam, won’t it? I’ll make an assumption of my own, too: I’ll bet he can’t wait to get back in the lineup.

          • oilerjed

            Whoa, first we need to make the playoffs. Thats a pretty big assumtion.

            Youre right its all on sam, but he has been injured to start the season before, and never really got going. Different injuries for sure.

            And yea of course he can’t wait to get back in the line up. But that has nothing to do with how well he will play.

            Don’t get me wrong. I would love nothing more than for Gagner to play awesome.

  • Romanus

    I found this quote very interesting. Eakins seems to like Hemsky and Smyth.

    “That’s been our best line (camp). Taylor and Hemsky have great speed that covers Smytty off (37 years old),” Eakins said. “For me, there’s not a better guy on the wall (Smyth) or a better guy going to the net and Taylor and Hemsky can cycle and know Smytty will be there.”

    I sure do miss Horcoff right now.

  • Romanus

    The NHL is NOT serious about stick infractions, or head injuries delivered from targeting the head.

    If the league wanted to stop this sort of thing…….make the punishment fit the crime. That being your penalty/suspension should be directly linked to the injured player and how long he suffers from the injury.

    Anything less will accomplish absolutely nothing.

  • Wait a sec, Derek Dorsett…. how many people have forgotten about him already? Shouldn’t MacIntyre be in the lineup to flex his muscle for that reason alone? I know it’s been a couple years, but that might be your first example of why MacIntyre was brought in, and a way of spreading the Semenko-esque reputation around the league.

    • Justino

      Nurse put a nice headlock on Dorsett and he did not seem to want to challenge him . Nurse had a bad first period , but was much stronger in 2nd and 3rd . Belov coming off as a pleasant surprise . Arcobello finally showed something this game – excellent first period . Petry played well this game . Overall we are playing much better as a team effort so far , but 3rd period offensive wows are concerning . Not to many players interested in challenging Nurse – must be his reputation from Junior ranks .

      • Quicksilver ballet

        What could’ve been had Darnell dropped the gloves and cleaned his clock, what could have been…would have been one more con on the sending him back list.

        Have to think Dorsett left him alone out of respect. Maybe felt it was a little early to unleash the Cracken on the kid.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        I’d like to see Nurse stay, but at the expense of Oilers current upcoming season, it is better long term to send him back. The Oilers need to doom him to 2 more yrs of playing with boys so to not created even more of a bottleneck on the finances. So much tied up in the future of this team there’s not near enough left for NHL caliber depth players. Under Lowes watch, they’ve had very little success at developing their own.

        Far from having 4 NHL caliber centers down the middle till Christmas. MacT mentioned this evening they’re just going to ride this out with players from within the organization. NHL caliber or not, they’ll be passed off as Oilers/NHL’ers for most of this year. No need to keep Nurse here for that, since MacTavish isn’t committed to winning yet. One more year of hockey that doesn’t matter certainly appears to be on Craigs agenda.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    That being said, watch MacTavish go out tomorrow and offer sheet the Rangers Stephan.

    That would sure light a fire under an already agitated Glen Sather. Rangers would be in tough to match a 3 yr, 12 million dollar sheet.

    Stir the pot strawman (Craig MacTavish).

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I actually agree with Quicksilver…with a weak Defense and pathetic help up the middle, this is going to be another long season in Etown. No reason to have Nurse here to suffer with it. No matter what I would have sent him down to dominate the OHL, grow into his frame and help Canada bring Gold back home from Malmo this Xmas.

    I think some people are looking a little bit too hard into some meaningless pre-season games, when (as Gregor has mentioned) the other teams are quite weak. Nurse has looked good, and is by a land slide their best Defensive prospect, but there is no reason to stunt his development in the bigs, especially once the men start to come to town that have actual NHL experience.

    I think Belov and Larssen looked better than I expected they would, which is a nice surprise. Again, it is still early. A few regular season games in could change that outlook drastically.

    Oilers, just beat the piss outta the Flames and Canucks…I wish like hell you could make the playoffs, but it would take the stars to align in many facets for it to happen, so just beat the Nucks and Flames.

  • DSF

    I am going to read between the lines here DSF.

    I bet your thinking Vancouver is tough for breaking Gags jaw and throwing a conclusion type elbow at our franchise player in Hall. That’s not tough, its illegal and the fact Kassian dissed Mac shows he does not give a sh!t he hurt Gags.

    Lets me be the first to apologize if that’s not your train of thought but either-way expect a good clean ass kicking as a result and don’t like Vancouvers odds !

  • I hope they send SMAC on a mission first game against Van. Nothing sends a clearer message then having the stretcher brought out for Kassian after his reckless play hurts one of our top players.

    I don’t think SMAC needs to play in order to be effective. Having him dressed sitting at the end of the bench with a very clear mandate that nothing is tolerated will be noticed and remembered.

    Every dirty hit, cheap stick, or knee is met with a vicious beating on the offending party. His job should not be to fight the other team’s heavyweight unless it was the heavyweight that stepped out of line. The “code” is fine in staged fights, but the enforcers job should be to protect his teammates against all enemies. He should not give a dirty player the option to fight. He should attack, and keep beating him until the refs pull him off.

  • oilerjed

    You must be bored this afternoon. Your arguments are making no relevent points about the suspensions. What the player makes is besides the point when determining a suspension. The point is that a player who broke a rule that carried an automatic suspension gets 10 games while not actually inflicting any damage to anybody.
    On the other hand you have a player that semi intentionally swung his stick at anothers head and broke his jaw in two places and got 5 games. Pre season games should not count.
    How many games did McSorely get? If you try and say that Kassian didnt intentionally swing his stick to hit Gags, then the question is how didnt he expect to hit gags or anyone else skating by. 6’long stick and another 3′ of arm. That is a 9′ kill zone in which he is swinging his stick with full strength. IMO If the NHL is giving 10 games for leaving the bench, the severity of other suspensions should start from that point. If it is more violent more then 10 games and vice versa.

  • I have ignored the troll too long but here is the difference. There was no way that Kassian was going to play all 3 remaining preseason games. On top of it, preseason is meaningless so who cares how many preseason games someone missed? The onlything that REALLY matters is one misses 5 regular season games and the other misses 10. I’m sure Clarkson would throw in the remaining Toronto preseason games onto his suspension as most vets don’t want to play preseason games anyway.

  • Kassian will still be on suspension for that game, so unless he dies of boredom in the press box, he will not be leaving the game on a stretcher.

    What we should do is run the other team’s skill, what I think happens is that we do. The Sedins, just like our Hall’s and Eberle’s, get run every single game.

  • pkam

    That is funny right there! I liked how Hall did that (the knee) as I am old school. Alas the times are a changing. I think the league needs to hand out more serious punishment if they want to truly stop the stoopid injuries. And yes, the Kassian was stoopid. It will be interesting to see how Shanahan works this year