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  

  • I used to get slammed at the notion of dressing a feared enforcer for the Oilers! Now after the Kassian and Weise incidents people are praising the the return of SMac. Van has been one of those teams who has constantly taken runs at the Oilers over the years. It always seemed the Oil were the bigger team and walk away. Whether it be Bieksa running the kids or Kesler snd Burrows doing their best dives. I hate Vancouver with passion, gutless and arrogant team. I hope SMac goes out and delivers a bone shattering check to one of the Sedins just to show we aint effing around anymore.

  • CaptainLander

    It looks like Eakins might be trying some lines that he is considering for opening night. I can’t see Ryan Hamilton making the lineup and Pitlick’s odds are still long at best. If nothing else, Pitlick has put himself back on the map as a legitimate prospect this season. Hopefully he can find his offense in the AHL.

    I’ll say 4-2 Oilers. Goals by Perron, Smyth, Arcobello and Larsen.

    • pkam

      Not if they have to rule on intent. Go to canucks army and read all the posts about it being an accident. I’m biased but there was real intent to slash, maybe just not to the mouth. (or was there?)

      • Rob...

        Pay them no mind. They’re the same people who think Bieksa is a clean player. They also think that we are comparing Gagner to Sedin, instead of us wanting the Oilers targeting skilled players in retaliation for the Canucks targeting skilled players.

        I think that the ocean air rots their brain.

      • That was no accident by any means. The only problem (excuse) was the hight differential between the two men. The suspension should have been longer as it was no where near what anyone would consider it a “hockey play”

  • Simpsonite

    You are all assuming that Kassian was going to be playing all those pre-season games…which I doubt. Suspensions are about pay cheques (with a q) whether we agree or not. Kassian got 5. Clarkson got 10. Pre-season is a wash. Hell Clarkson, before the suspension may have only played one of those pre-season games anyway.

  • Simpsonite

    @ Jason Gregor

    Sorry about the premature post, hit enter way too quickly.

    Real question is: although I understand what you’re saying about dressing Mac because of Asham, Dorsett and Hainsey, who do you take out to put him in?

    Every guy in the bottom 6 is fighting for a job right now and only have 1-2 games left to be showcased. That’s a tough call to remove one of those guys to put in someone who will not find a partner in any of the opposing players.

    • I agree with Jason, with the lineup they are dressing it has the potential to turn into a war. I ensure I am dressing both Eager and SMAC.

      I don’t worry about him finding a partner. If someone makes a dirty play you make an example out of them. You don’t ask them to fight.

      Pull Smyth, so we can save some energy for regular season and bump everyone up one spot.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Preseason isn’t very important, compared to the Reg. season. It may be more important to that guy who wanted to elbow Hall in the head, but not for Kassian, not based off of Kassian’s play btw, but simply because of his draft pedigree, and what Gillis gave up for him.

  • CaptainLander

    I think I have seen enough of Belov, he is on my team. Moves the puck very well and is already the second best choice to play on the PP behind J. Schultz. Also like Larsson’s play but if I have to pick I take Belov. Size does matter. In fact I don’t have an issue keeping both in the starting roster.

    Ference J. Schultz
    Smid Petry
    Larsson Belov
    N.Schultz

    On a side not there is so much concern about the Oil center position that it has been a while since there has been mention about the Oiler’s defensive issues. Must be things have improved there. Was this not the Oilers biggest issue coming into the off season?

  • I liked the Omark signing, although I did not think he was what this team needed. With all of Ebs, Yak, and Hemsky being far more efficient on the right and Hall moving from the left side to centre I thought it would give omark a chance to play with real skill.

    I think the benefit to this was to build trade value and have a legit scoring threat. They could have given him another game, but with the mantra that the players will decide……he did not earn or win a spot on this team.

    I was also a huge Smyth fan prior to that last year and a half and a Jones booster prior to his eye injury. I would not have either of them on my opening night roster either.

  • Alsker

    Belov and Larsen are both playing better than Nick Schultz, who was particularly woeful last night. Thanks to John Chambers for the first literary allusion I’ve seen on Oilers Nation.
    And it is 5 games for Kassian, as missing exhibition games is meaningless.

  • “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?”

    It might not have the impact you imagine…

    Take Keith’s suspension for slashing Carter in the mouth; he got one game despite all sorts of factors that pointed to a longer suspension being reasonable. If the league was given the choice of suspending for five games or none at all, which route do you think it would have taken?

    Jumping off the bench is a really easy event to distinguish, and hence suspend objectively for. Slashing and the like, not so much.

    With all of that said, I think “mandatory minimums” are the right way to go, but are likely to be detrimental unless the league actually puts a professional disciplinary apparatus in place first.

  • bazmagoo

    Love the fact that Eakins wants 3 scoring lines and one energy line, that’s how you win in today’s NHL in my opinion. Full team defence combined with full team offence is the only way to put it together.

  • Dorsett was Halls nemesis that knocked him out a couple of years ago? Smack will play. I don’t think anything will stop him from suiting up tonight. His adrenaline level will massive. I expect to see him deliver some crushing body checks tonight. Your right about not taking it anymore.

    Listening to Struds on Lowetides show today and he spoke to the lack of opponents for Smack. Honestly if Smack does not fight a single fight this season is exactly what the team wants. If he doesn’t drop the gloves that tells me he is doing his job. Tells me the other team is aware of the deal and that players on the Oilers like Hall,RNH and the rest will get the space and respect to play the game at the highest level. If Smack is fighting that tells me that the other team is doing stuff that needs corrected in a severe manner.

    Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War with 2 words. “Star Wars”. The Russians so feared the possibility of a space based Nuclear attack that they capitulated and ever since the threat of Nuclear War has waned.

    The Oilers added their own “Star Wars” threat in Steve MacIntyre. He is a weapon a mass destruction. I for one feeling better knowing that our primary assets will have a guy at the end of the bench who is the answer to the question. Who’s your daddy?

    Love Rob Browns comment on the post game show on Ched last night. When asked about enforcers. No Sir MR.Probert we have no problem. Right answer. Especially to that guy.

      • pkam

        You beat me to the correction on this one. Kudos.

        Star Wars was the media’s nickname for Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative, which was definitely designed to shoot down incoming nukes, not destroy Moscow, Leningrad or Alderaan with the sophisticated heat beam known as a “laser.”

        Reagan ended with the nickname Ronnie Ray-gun because of the SDI.

        Another fun Cold War technology fact: The cruise missiles that are regularly used by the U.S. to deliver big explosives to low-level targets over long stretches of land … were first field-tested in … (drum-roll please)… the Peace Country in Alberta.

        Specifically, the Peace River and Fairview areas, because the terrain was thought to be quite similar to much of Russia (barren farmland in the winter with moderate tree cover).

      • Your right. Thanks for the correction. The funny thing is that it wasn’t apparently even being built. It was in the concept stage. The Russians were aware though of the Stealth Bombers and fighters that the US had developed. They had no answer.

        I see the Oilers acquisition of Smack more as a deterrent than as an actual enforcer. His minutes will be limited. His effect will be on the ice with the skill players. Guys like Hall etal will hopefully not have to deal with the opposing teams pukes. I have no issue with Smack ragdolling a couple of pukes to ensure the message is clear and consice.I want to see less of our stars on the IR and more of our stars with their arms in the air after scoring goals. Smack’s greatest asset is his ability to make others feel safe.

        • oilfan in yyc

          I agree, I hope he can be a deterrent, I think for him to be effective though he may have to drop some of his principles and beat up some guys under his weight category, only taking on other heavyweights won’t do the job.

  • oilerjed

    If Nurse continues to shine , I think you have him and Belov in top 2- six . J.Schultz and Ference a lock . Figure the rest for yourselves . Trade a brewing ?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      madjam, lay off the crack. You give Nurse some time in the OHL. That’s how all the top defenders of the league developed into what they are today. Pietro, Subban, Weber, Karlsson…

  • Eakins says he doesn’t look at the opponent’s lineup. So he doesn’t know they have 3 fighters. That will be hard to believe once the regular season starts.

    I’ll say Larsen has the edge on Belov for opening night. Belov still has adjustments to make. It might be better for Belov to play top pairing minutes in the AHL for a month so he can get really comfortable.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    What a load of fluff..

    It’ll be the guy who has the one way deal over the guy with the two way deal that has the upper hand on said roster spot. Same crap material for the media types year after year. Eakins will be told who’s staying and who’s going.

    • Alsker

      Everyone keeps saying it and hoping it aint so, but, odds are you are probably correct. Im still keeping a glimmer of hope that Eakins keeps to his guns afterall there are more than a few opportunities NHL/AHL out there for him. If hes going to be railroaded into something he doesnt like than heres hoping hes got the stones to tell 6 rings and co. where to go and how to get there.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Agreed.

      For example, I bet Jones will find himself on this team come opening night, despite not doing much to be there. And I actually l like Jones…….but he hasn’t showed me much yet.

    • Jason Gregor

      He is in the lineup…he was listed in my lineup. I wrote

      Fedun only has one year of pro experience, he needs more seasoning.

      I just don’t think he’s ready yet…We can disagree on it…

      • My mistake. You would know better than I would (re: Fedun) which is why I asked. I’ve played with Fedun and liked everything about him… Somehow I missed that in your article. I’d love to see him make it considering what he’s been through, however he now needs to make the team based on his own efforts and merit, not past accolades (or an excellent recovery).

        • Jason Gregor

          Hard not to pull for him after what he’s been through, but he also only has one year of pro experience. He’s still young, and if he continues to grow his game he’ll be in mix next year and likely one of the first call ups this year.

  • John Chambers

    Those top-2 lines for tonight’s games are likely our top-2 lines for the season opener.

    That means a 3rd line that likely looks like:
    Joensuu – Gordon – Yakupov

    I can live with a 4th line of
    Eager – Acton – Hamilton

    It’s not great, but we’ll beat on boats against the current.

  • DSF

    Omark put on waivers breaks my heart. He played on Zetterberg/Brunner caliber in the Swiss league but yet the Oil wouldn’t give him more than 3 games to prove it. I think it’ll be a big mistake if he’s claimed, and all he needed was some time to adjust. What a terrible injustice.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 !