OPENING NIGHTS, THEN AND NOW

draisaitl capture

The Edmonton Oilers are predictable when it comes to their roster spots—so predictable that we can surround the opening night lineup with very little trouble. It’s been years since an actual surprise emerged and won a job during the pre-season, and it’s extremely unlikely to happen this season.

Opening Night Fall 2005

  • L1: Smyth-Horcoff-Dvorak
  • L2: Torres-Peca-Hemsky
  • L3: Moreau-Stoll-Pisani
  • L4: Harvey-Reasoner-Laraque
  • D1: Pronger-Staios
  • D2: Ulanov-Smith
  • D3: Cross-Bergeron
  • G1: Ty Conklin (Jussi Markkanen)

No rookies on the team, in fact the leading rookie that season in games played was Matt Greene (27GP, 0-2-2) which sounds incredible in modern times. Mike Morrison, not technically a rookie by NHL standards, had the greater impact. He played 21 games for Edmonton in 2005-06 and won 10 of them.

horcoff66

Opening Night Fall 2006

  • L1: Smyth-Horcoff-Lupul
  • L2: Torres-Sykora-Hemsky
  • L3: Moreau-Stoll-Pisani
  • L4: Thoresen-Reasoner-Winchester
  • D1: Tjarnqvist-Smith
  • D2: Smid-Staios
  • D3: Bergeron-Greene
  • G1: Roloson (Markkanen)

The beginning of the ‘rookie era’ of Edmonton Oilers seasons. The defense is ruined, and we see youngsters Smid, Bergeron and Greene playing significant minutes before they’ve had time to develop as NHL players. The summer signings of Mark Fayne and (sign and trade) Nikita Nikitin are designed to avoid this depth chart.

Opening Night Fall 2007

  • L1: Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky
  • L2: Torres-Stoll-Nilsson
  • L3: Sanderson-Reasoner-Brodziak
  • L4: Jacques-Cogliano-Gagner
  • D1: Pitkanen-Staios
  • D2: Souray-Greene
  • D3: Tarnstrom-Gilbert
  • G1: Roloson-Garon

Tom Gilbert is a youngster here, and Kyle Brodziak jumps on to the third line to start the season. Look at that center depth! Edmonton would kill for it today.

Opening Night 2008

  • L1: Cole-Horcoff-Hemsky
  • L2: Cogliano-Gagner-Nilsson
  • L3: Moreau-Pisani-Penner
  • L4: Pouliot-Brodziak-Stortini
  • D1: Visnovsky-Souray
  • D2: Grebeskhov-Gilbert
  • D3: Strudwick-Staios
  • G1: Garon, Roloson, Deslauriers

This team eschewed the kids in prominent places to start this season, but they’re still wildly out of balance. Pisani is a center, none of the 2line shaves and they don’t trust Penner. 

jacques

Opening Night 2009

  • L1: Jacques-Horcoff-Hemsky
  • L2: Penner-Cogliano-Brule
  • L3: O’Sullivan-Comrie-Stone
  • L4: Moreau-Gagner-Stortini
  • D1: Grebeshkov-Gilbert
  • D2: Souray-Staios
  • D3: Visnovsky-Smid
  • G1: Khabibulin, Deslauriers

Last season pre-Hall, this was Pat Quinn trolling us. A hood on every line and Lubo in the grease. Good Christ, they should have fired him when they saw the lineup.

Opening Night 2010

  • L1: Penner-Gagner-Hemsky
  • L2: Hall-Horcoff-Eberle
  • L3: Paajarvi-Cogliano-Brule
  • L4: Jones-Fraser-MacIntyre
  • D1: Whitney-Foster
  • D2: Smid-Gilbert
  • D3: Peckham-Vandermeer
  • G1: Khabibulin, Dubnyk

Renney made sense, he just did. Hall and Eberle with the best hand available, Gagner gets the best wingers to try and make hay. Too much youth, too little experience and that lineup would eventually get us Nuge.

Opening Night 2011

  • L1: Smyth-Belanger-Eberle
  • L2: Hall-Nuge-Hemsky
  • L3: Omark-Horcoff-Paajarvi
  • L4: Hordichuk-Lander-Jones
  • D1: Sutton-Gilbert
  • D2: Barker-Petry
  • D3: Smid-Peckham
  • G1: Dubnyk, Khabibulin

Oy. Tom Renney is now a juggler playing a banjo, lordy he should have sued. Hahahaa. Haahahaa. Man. That’s comedy. 

yak celly

Opening Night 2012

  • L1: Hall-RNH-Eberle
  • L2: Yakupov-Gagner-Hemsky
  • L3: Smyth-Horocff-Hartikainen
  • L4: Eager-Belanger-Petrell
  • D1: Smid-Petry
  • D2: Schultz-Schultz
  • D3: Whitney-Fistric
  • G1: Dubnyk, Khabibulin

This is Ralph now. There are some nice things here — it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if there was less chaos. Either way, we didn’t see Ralph for 50 games but he was as close to Sparky Anderson as we’ll see in modern time. He found the positives in everyone, and unlocked some talent.

Opening Night 2013

  • L1: Smyth-Hall-Hemsky
  • L2: Perron-Arcobello-Eberle
  • L3: Joensuu-Gordon-Yakupov
  • L4: Gazdic-Acton-Mike Brown
  • D1: Smid-Petry
  • D2: Nick Schultz-Belov
  • D3: Ference-Justin Schultz 
  • G1:Devan Dubnyk (Jason LaBarbera)

Dallas Eakins shuffled Hall to center because of baby Nuge, and he gave No. 4 two veteran wingers. Young Arco got a key role and two quality wingers—we could see that line this fall, too. Gordon got the Russian and Joensuu, and the 4line came together very late.

Opening Night 2014 (Projected)

  • L1: Hall-Nuge-Eberle
  • L2: Perron-Arcobello–Yakupov
  • L3: Pouliot-Draisaitl-Purcell
  • L4: Hendricks-Gordon-Pitlick
  • D1: Nikitin-Fayne
  • D2: Marincin-Schultz
  • D3: Ference-Petry
  • G1: Scrivens (Fasth)

That’s my guess. I can see Nurse pushing, Klefbom too, and of course injuries can impact. If all of Marincin, Nurse and Klefbom show well in pre-season and early in the year, you may see Jeff Petry in a new town before the ho-ho-hold they payments ads hit radio and television.

I’d love to see your opening night lineup for 2014.

  • YakCity1039

    I dont understand this at all… Why are we now making compitent management/coaching/personel moves when the prize is finally worth the tenure? Every year we have been awful and made poor choices to put ourselves in the basement and collect our due. Next years draft has legit super stars in it and we are going to field a solid 20th place team and miss out on all of them? We cant even be good at sucking…

    • v4ance

      There is still the very very real chance the Oilers can screw ourselves back into the basement.. One injured centreman, a Ben Scrivens that cant make 60 saves a night, a Taylor Hall slump and we are right back in the lottery position. When it comes to sucking no one does it like the Oilers.
      We are turning into cleveland. and until a modern day wayne gretzky is born in Edmonton grows up and we somehow get the lottery pick in his draft year the Oilers are going nowhere

  • YakCity1039

    Armchair GM: With O’Reilly resigned the only center that might help at this stage is either in KHL or LeCavalier who probably will not come here . Therefore , it’s either use both Arco and Landers and hope Draisaitl can make the grade . Hence , if Yakimov looks the equal of Arco or Landers he draws in .

    Hall , Draisaitl , Purcell

    Perron , Hopkins , Eberle

    Pouliot , Yakimov , Yakupov

    Khaira , Hendriks , Gordon

    Defence with Nurse : Nikitin ,Nurse : Schultz and Fayne : Petry and Ference . Extra : Aulie . Might as well play the future now and entertain the fans in the process . Beats the heck out of being bored with default injections as in previous failed years .

  • Joy S. Lee

    O’Reilly signed a 2 year deal. He’s not going anywhere for now. MacKinnon can continue to develop on wing and maybe move to centre when he is ready.

    Man, looking at those previous opening night lineups, I had more confidence in a couple of those lineups (on paper) to make the playoffs than I do today. Everybody on this 2014 team needs to carry their weight and Hall and Scrivens need all-star calibre years to get us into the top 8. Plausible.

  • Joy S. Lee

    This is about the lineup, and Ive been reading the articles and comments for weeks now, and…

    I am surprised that people do not realize just how good – and far along – Oscar Klefbom is. Virtually everyone has him demoted to the farm team to continue learning… but he IS good enough for the NHL now, just to let you know. (I will get plenty of trashes for that comment, but that is where we strongly disagree.)

    By year-end, I predict Oscar Klefbom will be in our top two NHL pairing. Yes, that good. Considering everyone has him on the farm, that seems like a long way to go. I am intrigued to see if I am correct, against all of you who think you are. Only time will tell, and he would have to stay healthy, obviously… it is going to be fun hearing everyone eat their words on this one, and for me, if I have to, then I will revert to the wait til next year fallback option, hehe.

    • Light, Sweet, Crude

      Just not too sure what you’re basing this on. He doesn’t bring a lot of offense for a top pairing guy. I thought last year towards the end he could use his size well to break up cycles then make a quick pass to get the puck out of the zone, but to say he’s top line material might be a stretch. Or it might be accurate. To my eye there are no top line players on the D core.

      Klefbom will be fighting for a spot against Marincin and Nurse. Marincin showed great on a line with Petry last year and that might be tough for the coach to give up a guy he knows can work, especially if he added some weight to his frame. Nure, by the sounds of it put on about 15 lbs since the beginning of last year and is now over 200. Still not as big as Klefbom, but that kid brings a lot more to the table. He has a higher offensive upside, and is mean out there. So at the end of the day, I just don’t see how a bigger Nick Schultz is going to grab that spot. But, I bet he makes first call up. What he does with his time will be up to him. Right now they have him playing his off side down on OKC, so that might make him more valuable as a call up option.

    • bwar

      Klefboms quick ticket to stay with the Oilers is if Petry gets traded, Klef is in. You are correct about concerns for injuries. At the end he might be a better player than Marincin, but I think the latter is a lot sturdier.

      • Britts94

        Unless Petry get’s traded for Boychuck. They are both UFA’s at the end of the year, and it would help Boston relieve about 300 thou in cap space. Considering they are only 800 thou in the hole, I could see this working for both sides.

        Losing Petry would be tough as he’s the type of puck moving defenceman that the new NHL is tilting towards. And if he decides to have an ‘on’ night, he can really lay the body. Petry is also younger, but has been asked to punch above his weight for years now, and that has hurt his numbers and development. Boychuck just turned 30, so he’s a bit older and likely has less of a ceiling, but his season to season numbers are all pretty solid. Plus, having a vet on the right side to pair with all our left shooting prospects coming up would be really advantageous. Oh, and Boychuck brings the size and pain, plus has good chemistry with our captain.

        Nikitin Fayne (likely playing above their heads, but at least they have the size to compete)

        Ferrence Boychuck (shut down pair extraordinaire)

        Klefbom Schultz (having this pair not play above their heads could make a solid bottom pair duo).

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    Fun article, thanks LT.

    Barring a much welcome addition at C, the most logical line-up I can muster looks like:

    Hall-Nuge-Ebs
    Perron-Arco-Yak
    Poulliot-Draisaitl*-Purcell
    Hendricks-Gordon-Lander

    Nikitin-Petry
    Fayne-Schultz
    Ferrence-Marincin

    Hasek in his prime
    Srivens
    Fasth

    *Vet C addition.

    • geeker99

      You have both Fayne and Marincin playing their off sides. Petry, Schultz, Fayne are all right shots, and Marincin, Nikitin, Ferrence are all left, though it sounds like Nikitin might be better on his off wing.

      For the Purpose of balance, I also would not hate seeing Poulliot-Arco-Yak. I think Arco and Poulliot would be able to cover some of the defensive lapses from Yak. Then Perron-Draisaitl-Purcell could really be a smoking soft minutes line that eats weaker competition. Plus Perron is underrated defensively and with possession. The problem was he played with Yak and Gagner last year who were both terrible in this regard. These two lines both have 1 pure goal scorer, one playmaking centre, and one big bodied vet with good possession numbers.

      I absolutely hate the idea proposed on low tide today that sees Poulliot play on the Gordon Hendricks line. That would make a great shut down line, but at the risk of sacrificing the balance of the other two. I’d much rather see Mac T go get a free agent to help that line. I really wanted Booth, but he signed in Toronto for a year for zero money. Hendricks and Booth would have been one of the better fore-checking lines in the NHL.

  • Britts94

    I know we keep saying we need that big 2C but I think they are planning and have planned on giving Arco a shot. All the coaches seem to have nothing but good things to say to him, he did well in that role last year, and it seems to me the only reason he got demoted was to give Gags a shot to up his trade value (Which didnt happen). I dont think unless something comes cheap the oilers will move heaven and earth to grab another 2C before at least giving Arco a good look in this role. Remember he was putting ROY numbers last season when he started at 2C. I like the guy lets see what hes got.

    • Joy S. Lee

      I actually think this comment deserves more cheers than that. Jus sayin.. Arco could actually win a face off, (unlike gags) finish checks, and was fairly responsible in his own end. Aaand, he was putting some heat on Mackinnon for the Calder. Lol. For a short amount of time, but that still says something. With that said, I think he at least deserves a shot. If he fails, then, maybe hit the panick button, and go free agent shopping?

  • Joy S. Lee

    Have we considered pursuing Derick Brassard? He could definitely fill a void at center and theres Benoit Pouliot for atleast some former chemistry
    Thoughts?