GDB -1: FINAL IMPRESSIONS

The Oilers wrap up the preseason with a tilt against the Dallas/Texas Stars tonight in Oklahoma City. The Oilers currently have 27 players remaining in camp, 23 of them are healthy while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Corey Potter and Denis Grebeshkov will start the season on either the IR or LTIR.

It is the final opportunity to impress head coach Dallas Eakins, and tonight’s lineup will be very close to what we see next Tuesday when the Oilers open their 34th NHL season against the Winnipeg Jets.

Unfortunately, the Oilers will once again face a lineup with half a roster of AHL-destined players. The Stars still have 20 forwards and 10 D-men in camp, and last night vs. the Avalanche the Stars dressed about 95% of their opening-night roster, so tonight the Oilers will faceoff against Luke Gazdic, Lane MacDermid, Travis Morin, Chris Mueller, Brett Ritchie, Colton Sceviour and others. The Stars will dress two forward lines of NHL players, but it likely won’t be their best lines.

Usually the final preseason games involve more NHL-ready lineups, thus allowing the players to fine-tune their skills as well as giving the coaches a better sense of where their team is at. Eakins won’t have that luxury this year.

Eakins mentioned he only worries about how his team plays and I respect that, but if your opponents aren’t NHL caliber, is it possible to get an accurate gauge on your team’s play? It is easier to defend the aforementioned Stars than it would be trying to shut down Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, Valerie Nichuskin and Shawn Horcoff.

The Oilers will see a few of those players tonight, but not all of them.

LINEUPS

Smyth-Hall-Hemsky
Perron-Gordon-Yakupov
Joensuu-Arcobello-Eberle
MacIntyre-Acton-Brown

Belov-J.Schultz
Smid-Petry
N.Schultz-Larsen

Dubnyk

Perron and Joensuu switched spots in practice yesterday and they’ll stay that way tonight. That is interesting considering Perron and Eberle have played very well together. Jordan Eberle leads the NHL in preseason points with 8, while Perron leads the league with 5 preseason goals.

I suspect Eakins is just experimenting. Before leaving Edmonton he said he wanted three balanced scoring lines, and putting Eberle with two guys who played a combined eight NHL games last season seems to contradict that. I’m going to guess he’s just looking at different combinations.

The Oilers know what they have in Andrew Ference so he’ll get the night off.  Belov playing with Justin Schultz tells me he’ll be on the opening night roster, likely in a pairing with Nick Schultz. .

PP UNITS…

The Oilers haven’t spent much time practicing their powerplay, but yesterday they did.

The first unit consisted of Hall,Hemsky and Smyth up front with J.Schultz and Yakupov on the points. Yakupov on the right point was a focal point in the previous games, and I’m sure we’ll see him unleash his one-timer frequently. Smyth replaces Horcoff in front of the net. I understand wanting to use Yakupov’s one-timer, but they should also focus on getting Hall in a good shooting lane. He’s got an excellent snap/wrist shot.

The 2nd unit will be Eberle, Arcobello and Joensuu as forwards with Perron and Belov on the point. Belov has a bomb of a shot, while most of the puck movement should go between Eberle and Perron.

When Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner return, the Oilers PP should get even better.

Texas Dallas lineup:

MacDermid-Eakin-Nichushkin
Garbutt-Fiddler-Ritchie
Roussel-Mueller-Sceviour
Gazdic-Morin-Smith

Connauton-Oleksiak
Dillon-Fortunus
Nemeth-Jokipakka

Ellis
Nilstorp

QUICK HITS

  • The Stars new green jerseys look fantastic. I rarely like a new jersey more than the old one, but these ones look great, especially on TV.
     
  • Nichuskin has looked great in the preseason, and he’ll start the season in Dallas. If he has a good season, I’m sure some will rip the Oilers for taking Darnell Nurse instead of him. Like most draft years, I think you have to wait at least five years to gauge players, and sometimes even longer, especially when comparing a D-man to a forward. It will be a good debate.
     
  • Remind you to watch my fellow Nation writer, Jason Strudwick, this Sunday evening on Battle of the Blades. Struds informed me that his first outfit is, umm, outside his comfort zone. Can’t wait, it will be fun. Break a blade Struds.
     
  • Please do me a favour and sign up for Streakcred. I’m getting sick of Wanye texting me every ten minutes reminding me to add a link in my story. The early bird special is on right now for only $15 a team, and it’s addicting. The best part is that in addition to winning some cool prizes, you will also be helping out The Inner City Children’s Program. Show the world how smart you are, and help kids eat a healthy meat. It’s a win-win. You should sign up here.  

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR  

 

  • toprightcorner

    I love how you included Horcoff as a threat to shut down!!

    I would still prefer Yak to shoot from the circle, he gets his onetimers up pretty fast and he will be head hunting like Niinima used too. Also makes us vulnerable if the other team gets a break out.

    I like the down low approach that they seemed to do more often last year but as long as the produce, I don’t care what they do.

  • It just goes to show the different approaches and evaluation of talent. Kruger had Yakupov relegated to the third line playing with plugs for most of the year and it cost him the Calder B/C of it. Then he had Smyth on the 4th line playing a limited role, yet Eakins has him on the top line with Hemsky and Hall. I know injuries play a part, but man Smyth can still create a lot of havoc in front of net and Eakins has said Smyth is the Oilers best guy down low and along the boards. I have to say Mac T hit the nail on the head by replacing Kruger. I am now embarrassed for supporting Kruger for as long as I did. Learning from losing…what kind of message is that? Watching the Oilers compete to play and not letting up is going to be fun to watch this year!

        • Krueger didn’t even have a pre-season. Furthermore, the only team that iced anything close to an NHL lineup against us was WPG, which we lost.

          Keep drinking the Kool Aid man, but…. well…. you know our top 2 centers are out right?

          This is not the time for a parade.

          P.S. I don’t think “getting left behind by hockey” means what you think it means. Krueger has a job with Team Canada.

  • Ducey

    Gregor,

    I take your point about the NHL lineups, but Erik Cole is a bad example. He stinks. 13pts in 47 games for two teams last year – for $4.5 million a season.

    We get mad at Hemsky – he had 20 pts in 37 games. BTW how do you get mad at a guy whose first name is another term for “beers”?

  • Mikey

    OK, you got me. I signed up for StreakCred. I figured since my alias, Slick Rick, is currently leading the pre-season standings I should probably show up to defend my title.

    As for this game, it can’t come and go fast enough for me. I am ready for real hockey and like you said Gregor, it’s hard to really evaluate anybody against this type of opposition. I will say 4-1 Oilers. Yakupov and Perron with 2 goals each.

  • Two top AHL Super Heavies BIG STEVE MACINTYRE and LUKE GAZDIC (24 years old) set to collide in OKC tonight! Wonger rated them 1-2 last year – never fought each other before! MacIntyre absolutely destroyed-dropped JOEL(THE RECKER) RECHLICZ (Washinton at the moment)in 1 of his only 4 fights in the last 2 years in the AHL MAC also destroyed-dropped tough MATT CLACKSON last year!!! Nobody wants to fight him in the AHL either!!! WONGER RATED RECKER #3! Gadzic rarely loses but will have his hands full with BIG MAC!!!

  • brian_d

    I know balanced lines are the approach, but I don’t like the idea of the Smyth-Hall-Hemsky line. Smyth is just too old to keep up with those guys for a sustained period. On the other hand, I suppose with Hall at LW, our LW depth is compromised to the point where Smyth is pushed into the top 6.

    Everything is a stop-gap until we get Nuge and Gags back. Even if Hall does do well at center.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      That would be the popular opinion amongst most fans. Smytty fans/Dallas Eakins might see it a little differently. Ryan’s finally got a set of forwards to play with and succeed. There aren’t many more capable of coming off the boards with the puck and getting to the front of the net with your stick on the ice. Ryan Smyth can do all this in spades. Feeding the beast that is Taylor Hall may be all that’s required for Ryan to further succeed even beyond this season. I hope it lasts long beyond what most expect it will.

      • Bucknuck

        I’m with you Quick.

        I picked Ryan Smyth as my star, and I expect him to surprise some fans this year, but sustained time on the top line isn’t something I expect to see after RNH comes back.

        I think his work on the boards complements the skilled group pretty well, so I hope he doesn’t end up stuck with fourth line plugs because that would be a waste.

    • Smyth is great there right now. Ironically, the Oilers could use a top line lwer right now. Smyth can fake it a while for now (I think he has fit in quite well so far, to my surprise). When Gagner is back, he can slot in at LW if the Oilers want Hall at C still. Joensuu may be able to fill in. Perron can too, but I’d keep him separated from Hall for depth reasons

      • brian_d

        Fair enough. I think I should have made it clearer that I meant it for the long term, into October and November. Smyth may be looking good right now (and I agree that he is–should have noted that) but I hope that he can keep it up.

        Hoping he proves me wrong!

        • Oh I knew that’s what you meant. What I’m getting at is they should ride that high while they can, then when he inevitably drops off swap in someone else. With any luck a C will be back.. And maybe you are forced to put Hall back at LW.. Or maybe Joensuu can hack it out a while. Who knows. But let it ride while you can