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.

  • v4ance

    Not to derail the conversation but have to wonder if Jim Nill was a bigger part of Detroit’s success than we realized.

    Detroit’s made a ton of missteps in the past 14 months which really contrasts what Dallas has been able to achieve in the same time frame. In the past, Detroit wouldn’t have struck out signing UFA duds like Legwand and Weiss and they wouldn’t have been totally shut out signing key players or undervalued bargains like they were this offseason.

  • gr8one

    for those down about Draisiatl getting the Gagner treatment just remember Gagner did have his highest point total of 49 as a rookie. Also do you really believe that where he played as an 18 year old made a difference to his lack of defensive awareness 5 years later.

    • "Frank the dog"

      I’s suggest the fact that he had an inexperienced, incompetent Assistant Coach for the entire duration of his stay here was a major factor in his lack of development and the lack of development of every other offensive player on the team. The ones that progressed did so in spits of that coach not because of him, and Gags and Yak’s lack of progress are two of the most glaring examples of his failures as a coach.

      I loved his grit and his can-do attitude as a player in the face of his lack of high end skill, but that did not translate into a coach who could work well with “enigmatic” players.

      It will be interesting to see whether Gags and Yak both have breakout years this year, and I’m pretty sure the Oil will become a fun team to play for, and a tougher one to play against.

  • "Frank the dog"

    I suspect we might see:
    •L1: Hall-Nuge-Eberle

    •L2: Perron-Arcobello-Purcell

    •L3: Pouliot-Draisaitl-Yakupov

    •L4: Hendricks-Gordon-Pitlick

    •D1: Nikitin-Fayne

    •D2: Marincin-Schultz

    •D3: Ference-Petry

    •G1: Scrivens (Fasth)

    L3 would put give Yak a 1st round Center, on a line they would give the soft minutes to.

    L2 a safer line that could score. Based on the fact that both Yak and Drai would need soft minutes in order not to be overwhelmed.

  • v4ance

    I’d love to see Perron and Dr. Drai have a go together. Draisaitl playing with two triggermen (and a nice puck possession guy in Perron) in soft minutes could be fun to watch. The L2 below is one I could see handling tough(er) opposition decently too.

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

  • Craig1981

    Loved seeing the opening rosters. 2009 rivals the Sabers this year. Jacques on the first line, Stotrini on any line! 6 of the forwards said goodbye to NHL hockey before 30.

    Arco and Pitlick might be the only players this year that aren’t NHL quality players……and they both might be (I’m a fan of both of them)

  • I think Lander and Horak will get a shot, maybe even starting off on that 4th wing spot. I know the org likes Pitlick, but he hasn’t shown that he can be healthy and sustain his play.

    Plus having the extra C depth is going to be necessary with the group they have there.

  • v4ance

    I hate the fact that we’re openly considering trading our best defenceman now that we have prospects almost ready for the big club. If we should take one lesson from the past, it’s that filling the self-created hole in the roster with an “almost” ready rookie leads to self-induced pain and suffering.

    I was hoping MacT would follow through on his desire to institute a “Detroit style” career progression but if we trade Petry before Klefbom, Nurse and Marincin are fully ready, we’ll show that we’ve learned nothing.

    It’s bad enough that Draisaitl is going into this same grinder that we threw Gagner into from his first year. Hall survived and RNH survived but not every hot prospect can hit the ground running.

    • D

      There’s a big difference between the best defenceman for the Oilers in 2013-4 and being a legitimate top pairing defenceman. If he makes a difference on the trade market and helps bring in a center that can push Nuge then he’s of much more value there than on the ice.

    • D

      Well one thing to point out is that those 3 guys you mentioned were all undersized and underdeveloped physically.

      Leon is 215 and it isn’t fat. He will be above the NHL average weight by a decent chunk so I don’t think it will be the end of the world if he ends up in the lineup.

      Would like to see a 2nd line center added but it has to be right fit or else it won’t be worth the assets to get that kind of player.

    • Dan 1919

      Please don’t say Petry is the best defencemen. He is solid as far as skating and passing goes, but defensively he is still far behind where he should be at this point… And the Oiler’s need dmen who are good at defense right now to help out with the lack of defensive forwards on the team.

      Being so weak defensively, trading Petry really wouldn’t be a big loss, maybe wouldn’t even be a noticeable loss with the guys coming up.

      I put him in the same category as Gagner… everyone likes to blame the Oilers for their poor development but once these guys hit 25-26 in the NHL they really need to have figured out the 2 way game themselves… And if they haven’t, they shouldn’t be surprised to then become one of those players that teams always seem to trade.