The Edmonton Oilers played their last preseason game on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning the axe fell. The team announced that they had waived a number of players, demoted some others and by the end of it all a pretty clear picture of the final roster had emerged.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 5, 2014
There are some good decisions here, some questionable decisions and at least one very, very bad choice. Let’s take them by position.
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Taylor Hall||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Jordan Eberle|
|Benoit Pouliot||Leon Draisaitl||Nail Yakupov|
|David Perron||Mark Arcobello||Teddy Purcell|
|Matt Hendricks||Boyd Gordon||Jesse Joensuu|
|Luke Gazdic (IR?)||Will Acton|
Two of these lines are basically the way they were in pencil coming into the preseason. The top trio seems certain to start the season together, giving the Oilers their No. 1 line, while the fourth line duo of Matt Hendricks/Boyd Gordon has been talked about all summer. There was one spot open on their wing, and in a fair battle in training camp Jesse Joensuu outplayed Tyler Pitlick and Steve Pinizzotto. All three guys were very good, which makes the choice harder, but Joensuu was the best of the lot.
General manager Craig MacTavish has talked a lot about the way Chicago uses their forwards, and I think that’s what we will see out of Edmonton: a top power line, a bottom defensive zone unit, and a mix-and-match middle-six. I don’t see much separation between lines two and three, really; Draisaitl has a little more game offensively than Arcobello but Arcobello is a far more complete player. Initially, I think we’ll see lines oriented to those players skillsets – Yakupov and Draisaitl may run wild offensively but Arcobello and Perron will be asked to take tougher minutes.
As for the spare forwards, Luke Gazdic gets the designated enforcer spot, and the Oilers obviously felt they needed a centre in the other one and that Will Acton outplayed Anton Lander. In my view, the team should have kept Tyler Pitlick as the spare forward; if injury hit they could simply bump Matt Hendricks to the middle for a game or two. I don’t feel too strongly about Acton staying – he’s a better player than he gets credit for, and really worked on his offensive game five-on-five in Oklahoma City last year – but to me it made more sense to keep Pitlick.
There is some risk in waiving Pitlick, Lander and Pinizzotto, but there are plenty of similar players on the wire today; I imagine Detroit feels the same way about Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan and Kevin Porter as the Oilers do about their trio. Edmonton might lose a player or two, but it’s also a decent bet all three clear.
Defence and Goaltending
|Left Defence||Right Defence||Goaltending|
|Oscar Klefbom||Justin Schultz||Ben Scrivens|
|Andrew Ference||Mark Fayne||Viktor Fasth|
|Darnell Nurse||Jeff Petry|
|Nikita Nikitin (IR?)||Brad Hunt|
Let’s start with the worst decision the Oilers made today: demoting Martin Marincin.
This was an indefensible move. Last year, Marincin walked on to the team and was the club’s best left-shooting defenceman. He had a slow start to camp, playing his offside, but was extremely good in his final two games despite playing on his offside on a pairing with Keith “Millstone” Aulie. He’s probably a better player today than any of the healthy left-shooting defencemen on the team.
Yes, he doesn’t need waivers and yes he’ll probably be back soon and no, he shouldn’t be rotting in the pressbox but all of that misses the point. The Edmonton Oilers are trying to win games right now. Marincin helps them do that more than Ference, likely more than Nurse and certainly more than Oscar Klefbom, who was gifted a spot alongside Justin Schultz that he looked out of his depth in throughout training camp. I like Klefbom a lot, I think he is a decent player today and will be a legitimately good one in the future, but right now if Anze Kopitar is on the ice without question I want Marincin facing him at the blue line or battling him in front of the net more than I want any of the guys who actually made the team on the left side.
This was, in short, a terrible decision.
The rest is all pretty sensible. Darnell Nurse stays for his nine-game trial in Edmonton, no surprise. Brad Hunt gets the pressbox job; he outplayed Aulie in camp and brings the ability to play either the left or right side of the ice as well as a shot from the point that nobody else on the team can match. The club’s decision to waive Aulie and keep Hunt was a brave one in some ways – Dallas Eakins passed on the guy he knew with a one-way contract in favour of a guy on a two-way deal with whom he had no history but who put in a pretty decent showing in camp.
Scrivens and Fasth, of course, have been carved in stone as the team’s goaltending duo since some point last season.
Barring further moves – a trade is possible, so is a waiver claim – this is the group the Oilers will take into the season. Is it good enough for the club to take a step forward?
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