66
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

GDB -3.0: Battle on the Blueline (7pm MT, Streaming)

This wasn’t part of the plan. There wasn’t supposed to be a battle for the #6 spot on the Oilers’ blueline, but when Andrej Sekera tore his Achilles tendon on August 13th, a spot in the Oilers top-six opened up. Sekera had surgery the next day, and on August 20th GM Peter Chiarelli signed Jakub Jerabek to a one-year deal. On August 28th, Jason Garrison signed a Professional Try Out (PTO).

And now, with two preseason games remaining, before the Oilers have to declare their final roster, there is a legitimate battle for two, possibly three, blueline positions on the 23-man roster.

Jerabek, Garrison, Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard are competing for a spot on the opening night roster. But whoever gets on the flight to Germany Saturday evening is not guaranteed to stick long-term.

Jerabek had a slow start in preseason, but played better on Tuesday v. Vancouver. He hasn’t looked very comfortable handling the puck, and his foot speed has been noticeably weak. Right now I have him ninth on their depth chart.

Garrison has been steady throughout. He isn’t flashy, but he knows how to defend and where to go. The question surrounding him is how he will look when the speed increases in the regular season. Todd McLellan said this when I asked about Garrison’s speed: “When someone like Connor (McDavid) is coming down on him, then skating could be an issue, but you can say that for most defencemen. He hasn’t been on the ice for many scoring chances against, which tells me he is positioning himself well, he is managing his gaps well. If he understands his liability, he can make up for it with good positioning and he has done that thus far.” The Oilers really struggled defensively last season, and if Garrison continues to play well in his own zone in the final two games, I believe he will sign a contract.

Bear has scored twice, both on the power play, has moved the puck well and has looked better defensively than he did last season. Right now he is better defensively than Bouchard, and he is equally dangerous on the PP.

Bouchard has lived up to the hype of a 10th overall pick. He is very good with the puck. He can make simple passes, but can also thread the needle in tight spaces. He has looked like a rookie in the defensive zone, which is to be expected. They could give him a few games, but the theme of this training camp has been the importance of a good start. Are they willing to risk that he might make a defensive error that costs them a goal in a critical game? They need to win games more than they need to give a young player a taste of the NHL. It will be interesting to see who makes the cut. I could see him getting a few games to start the season, but ultimately I expect he will be in junior. The other factor that can’t be overlooked with Bouchard is the impending Seattle expansion team.

On Tuesday Seattle city council unanimously approved a privately funded $700 million renovation of Key arena, clearing one of the final major hurdles in Seattle’s bid for an expansion team. The main question is: when will they begin play, in 2020/2021 or in 2021/2022? If they begin in 2020, then Bouchard staying in the NHL this season isn’t a factor, but if they wait until 2021, then keeping him this year will have significant implications. Any player who has played three years of NHL or AHL hockey would need to be protected. If the draft is in 2021, then sending Bouchard back to junior this season means he wouldn’t need to be protected in 2021.

LINEUP

Oilers

RNH-McDavid-Rattie
Lucic-Draisaitl-Yamamoto
Rieder-Strome-Puljujarvi
Caggiula-Brodziak-Aberg

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Benning
Garrison-Bear

Koskinen
Montoya

McLellan wants his team ready for opening night next Saturday. All of their top players are going except Cam Talbot, who will play Saturday v. Calgary. The top line has been outstanding thus far, and ideally McLellan would like to see some more production from Draisaitl. It is only two games, so no one should freak out, but offensive guys want to produce in preseason. You want to feel good about your game before the season starts.

Coyotes

Crouse-Keller-Cousins
Grabner-Stepan-Archibald
Burke-Pederson-Garland
Helewka-Klima-Bunting

OEL-Demers
Connauton-Oesterle
Mermis-Mayo

Raanta
Hill

At the time posting, we hadn’t found any up to date lineup information for the Coyotes but we did find the combinations they used a couple of nights ago which should be somewhat similar. When news comes out, we’ll be sure to update the line combinations.

QUICK HITS…

1. Mikko Koskinen will play the entire game. Al Montoya has played 20 minutes in the preseason, and while he is used to not playing for a month and then getting a start, it would be very odd if he is the backup to start the season. The wrinkle is the final preseason game in Germany. It will be played on International-sized ice, so the angles are different for goalies, but they will also be practicing on the same ice for three days so the goalies will have time to adjust. The season opener in Sweden will be played on regulation NHL ice. It is an odd situation, but unless Koskinen completely soils the sheets tonight, I expect he will be the backup in Sweden.

2. But don’t rule out a paper transaction by the Oilers where Koskinen is assigned to Bakersfield before the final roster deadline on Tuesday. Both Koskinen and Montoya will be on the flight, and the Oilers cap hit is the same regardless of who is on the roster, but by sending Koskinen down before the deadline, it prevents them from losing Montoya to waivers while they are in Germany. Then the Oilers could put Montoya on waivers Friday, have him clear, and then recall Koskinen and dress him as the backup on opening night in Sweden. I’m not saying it will happen, but it would protect the Oilers from potentially losing Montoya before the season opener.

3. Drake Caggiula has been battling a sinus infection. “I flew in to Edmonton on August 31st, and I got a cold two days later”, explained Caggiula. “Then it became a sinus infection. It has been hard to breathe. It is really annoying, and it is a bit better now, but I’m still have a lot of gross yellow phlegm. We tried to get in to see a throat, nose and ear specialist, but I won’t be able to see one until we get back from Europe. I’m hoping it improves before then.”

4. Right now Caggiula is in a battle for the fourth left wing spot. Earlier this week, McLellan said he has liked Tobias Rieder better on the left side and he’ll play there tonight. That means Caggiula and Khaira are battling for a fourth line LW spot, for now. Caggiula is aware of the situation. “I have only played in two games and in the early part of camp I was sick and wasn’t around much. You see some patterns (lineup) arise, but things can always change. I want to find ways to contribute more, but regardless of where you play you have to earn your spot and you have to produce if you are on the second line or the fourth line,” Caggiula said.

5. I don’t put too much stock into the opening night roster. Things change quickly. Kailer Yamamoto played very well early in preseason, but didn’t do much on Tuesday. I don’t see him as a lock on the second line RW, especially with Jesse Puljujarvi playing so well. I still think McLellan will keep Puljujarvi with Strome to start the season, but eventually Puljujarvi will be moved up the lineup, especially if Yamamoto struggles. Yamamoto might be better served down the lineup, against easier competition. And I could see Caggiula or Rieder moved to the RW on the third line at some point in October. Yamamoto is not a lock to be here all season. He is only 20 and if he needs time to develop in the AHL then they can send him down. The physical toll of playing against men will be taxing, so there is zero reason to rush him. Skill and smarts are not the issue with Yamamoto. His biggest challenges will be fatigue and having the strength to compete against men every night.

6. Is McLellan is leaning towards 7D/14F or 8D/13F to start the season? “That will come down to injuries, some bumps and bruises and that will depend if we are looking at kids on the backend…we’ll see what happens, let me put it that way. I don’t want to tip my hat, it is not fair to the players,” McLellan said. He stopped himself from answering, which tells me he has a plan, but doesn’t want to share it just yet, which is understandable.

7. With Jerabek struggling as bad as he has, I could see the Oilers going with 14F and 7D. When camp started I thought it would be 13-8, but Jerabek has not looked good enough.

8. I think Garrison will earn a contract, maybe even a two-way deal, as some extra cash protection for the Oilers in case his play slips in the regular season. So that means Pontus Aberg or Alex Chiasson will be the 14th forward. If they sign Garrison it puts them at 47 contracts, assuming Bouchard is sent to junior. Will they use a contract on Chiasson, or would they wait and see how Scottie Upshall looks in a few weeks? The Oilers have more forward depth in the AHL and if they get a few injuries they could call up Cooper Marody or Brad Malone. Kevin Gravel is the only defender who could contribute right now. I wouldn’t sign Chiasson, would you?

9. If Ty Rattie keeps scoring it will only be a matter of time before he gets some looks on the first PP unit. I believe the coaches are giving Milan Lucic an opportunity, but if he struggles early in the season they won’t hesitate to move Rattie in. You give veterans the benefit of the doubt at the start of the season, but if they don’t respond, and others are producing, changes will be made.

10. Ryan McLeod was sent back to junior today. He had an outstanding camp. He opened a lot of eyes, and now he has to follow it up with a dominant season in Mississauga.

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Todd McLellan said his backups need to win some games this season. Koskinen is solid and Oilers win 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ty Rattie scores a goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: I am giving away a pair of tickets to the game during my radio show today. A listener who really wants the tickets will show up to our Live on Location show (you need to listen to find out where we are) with two Big Turks and two Twix. This will earn them a pair of tickets.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • TKB2677

    I believe the top 3 lines are what we will see starting the season. Assuming a move doesn’t happen, I see Khaira and Kassian as the 4th line wingers. I see the 3rd pairing defense to start the year as Russel – Bouchard. Bouchard will get his 9 games, he may or may not stay. Bear will get sent down. I could see Bouchard maybe going back to junior and Bear eventually coming up.

  • Hemmercules

    Streaming only game. Boourns. I wouldn’t mind watching Koskinen put in a full 60 minutes as I have yet to see him play but those streamed games are usually garbage.

    Hopefully Drake is quarantined. Keep that guy away from everyone if he’s that sick. Didn’t half the team get sick early on last season??

      • Opi

        Absolutely, Bouchard may have a future in the league but in no way is ready yet. Jerabek hasn’t shown anything in the pre-season & that is assured to continue in the regular season. Why didn’t Chia get a read D-man … ? OHHHH ya, no cap space …

    • Canoe Ride 27

      Bouchard has earned up to a 9 game look, the likely back to junior. Did you see the pass he hit Connor with who then fed JP? Yah he made mistakes but so has everyone this preseason.
      So opening night, yes. November, probably not.

  • bwar

    What’s the gap between Benning and the two young guns? Benning was not great last year and seems to be more of a third pairing guy. I really hope either Bear or Bouchard can surpass him this season and drop him down the depth chart. Obviously not going to happen day 1 but I’d like to see less Benning by the end of the season.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Ideally Oilers start with Bouchard and send Bear down. If both thrive in their current roles and the Oilers think Bear is ready trade Benning close to the deadline for a need.

      If Bouchard struggles and returns to junior then consider whether Bear gets a recall.

  • bwar

    You guys know if anything special is planned for Aberg’s last game in Edmonton? I’m actually a bit shocked the Oiler’s are giving him a chance to play in a game and prove he’s good enough to make the team. I hope Aberg has a huge game tonight and forces the club to keep him around no matter how much they hate him.

  • Redbird62

    Lots of analysts and bloggers use Naturalstattricks as one of the primary sources for on ice player stats. How reliable is it? I ask because Todd McClellan says that Garrison has not been on for very many scoring chances against, but on Naturalstattrick, Garrison leads the Oilers in high danger scoring chances against with 13 and is second to Jerabek in scoring chances against with 23, but he has played one less game than Jerabek; so per game, he rates the worst of any defenseman left in camp in this regard. Maybe Todd meant that Garrison wasn’t responsible for many scoring chances against even though he was on the ice, or the Oilers own staff rate chances differently than Naturalstattricks.

      • Redbird62

        Even in the Vancouver game Naturalstattrick has Garrison on for the most scoring chances against and high danger chances against among the defenseman. They also have the McDavid line looking the worst for high danger scoring chances against too with 7 against which is really high considering they only had 12-14 corsi events against, so it must be a pretty liberal interpretation for a high danger chance.

  • PhiDelt

    What’s with streaming the games, look at the Jets, every game is shown on TSN. Where we are stuck with a go-pro on a stick to watch the games. Sportsnet = brutal coverage

        • Not available on Bell or Telus, which contradicts what we are told in our market that is is blacked out due to contract restraints. Bush league marketing. I guarantee if there is a Leafs game , it is available everywhere and carried by all 3 providers. Center Ice has already burned me a couple of times first for the cost, and second, half of what they say is available actually isn’t unless you live in Toronto. I refuse to subscribe to someone who advertises “catch all the games”, yet more than half are blacked out, specifically the Oilers and Flames.

          • jesse says yep

            Um, NHL centerice carries every game that isn’t being carried nationally on a Canadian station (except tonight of course as it doesnt look like any tv is covering it, hence no video to source). As an Oiler fan in BC I have had center ice package for over a decade and never missed a game because it was blacked out. TSN and sportsnet will blackout games on their channels but NHL CI never does.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    “We tried to get in to see a throat, nose and ear specialist, but I won’t be able to see one until we get back from Europe.”

    Wait … what? The Oilers don’t have their own ENT on contract?

  • Jason, on point 9 , what indicators drew you to conclude that” if they dont produce changes will be made? I see the exact opposite. Examples
    1)Keeping Lucic on the top two lines and PP time (average Joe could tell it was not working).
    2) Keeping Letestu on the PP (See Average Joe Comment)
    3) Sticking with the L formation penalty kill that A it just doesn’t work, B it was openly mocked on HNIC and on Sportsnet because IT DOES NOT WORK. Again Average Joe could pick up on this. Just curious what leads you to that conclusion?

    • Jason Gregor

      Lucic and Letestu got the blame, but did you notice that when they were taken off the PP it didn’t improve. Lucic is a veteran and the coaches gave him benefit of doubt to start camp. Have him in a good frame of mind, rather than dump on him and just take him off PP to start. If he struggles on PP and Rattie keeps producing they will make a change. Last season there was no player who was producing regularly who wasn’t on the PP. So when they took Lucic and Letestu off the PP it didn’t improve, because I don’t think they were the only problems. The Oilers best players weren’t that good on the PP. They didn’t work hard enough. They were a bit stubborn. The success of the PP will come from the sticks of 97, 93 and 29. Lucic, or whichever other forward is on the PP, is simply a complementary piece. They won’t impact it as much as the three main guys.

      • I wasn’t blaming the players , I was referring to the coach being stubborn, relying too much on veterans that were not producing , but still rolled out the same units, refusing to use the young guys. With a relatively young squad I just think personnel choices were very poor and left together far too long. I think T Mac is a very good coach, but over reliance on veterans could cost him his job. (If the actually ever fire anyone) Had to get 1 dig in.Thanx for your response.

      • nbandito

        If a player is struggling to control the puck you don’t push him on the PP, you let him figure it out at 5 on 5 against lesser competition to regain frame of mind. No player is simply a complementary piece on a PP, everyone has to be able to win the puck.

  • The Future Never Comes

    This is more so a philosophical question, but if we don’t think Bouchard could contribute all 82 games what makes it possible he will contribute only in the first 9 games? The first month is murderers row, we need every player we expect to be contributing from the getgo all 82 games, so they mold together and show the team we’re here trying to win every single game.

    • bwar

      Who’s a clearly better option than Bouchard right now? The defense group looks atrocious right now and I’m not sure we have a better option than Bouchard right now.

      • QuitForRealThisTime

        I have not noticed any atrocious play from the Swedes or the Nurse/Benning duo. In Fact I thought Russel has been fine. Leaving the “experiments” to battle over the final spot. And yes Bouchard so far has not only been the best you could argue that he will see more improvement in his game going forward. Ie Garrison is giving you what Garrison can give you. Not getting better at this point in his career. Bear will also improve but Bouchards ceiling will be higher for sure. If PJ, Rattie and Yamo can perform even close to what they have done so far in the regular season and remove doubt from the RW position I think that will give Chia much options on trading some future assets for another NHL d-man. That is why the beginning of the season is fun. Sadly as Oiler fans the fun usually ends shortly there after.

        • ed from edmonton

          Going into the preseason the Oil had 3 big questions marks. Goaltending, RW and D. That sounds terrible but its true. So far Talbot has been lights out and Rattie, JP and Yamo could noy have done much more. D is a real concern. Today TMac stated that Klef and Larssen need to get up to game speed (or something to that effect). Their presumptive replacement for Sekera, i.e Jerabek ahs not impressed. So it may be down to a PTO or junior for the 6th D. So I would say the OIl D as a group is very questionable at this point. For the OIl to contend for a playoff position PC will need to use the Sekera cap space to bolster the D.

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      I would suspect it has to do with the NHL schedule and games played be higher then he has played in the past. It can be tough as for some, but no for others. As for right now he is outplaying the vets like Jarabek and Garrison Gravel..So how do you not play him to start the season. The thing with the contract stuff and 9 games and 40 games etc he really needs to be good to stay. If he is only marginally better then Bear then is it worth keeping him and burning the contract to keep him? Not likely. At this point i could see the Oil keeping both Bear and Bouchard up. Alternating then in games alongside Russel and see who fairs better before the 9 games are up. Bu I do think one or both need to really impress as I can;t see Chia waning to be very experimental.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Jason Garrison has been consistent in his own zone and very tough along the boards. He also has a decent shot on the PP. Boo and Bear are still a work in progress.

  • Oilers should have an easy time in Arizona, when you consider that Demers is a top pairing defenseman for the Coyotes.

    Not much has been said about Lucic, lately. What stood out to me was a late in the game effort against Van, when he turned to the net and placed a slow shot, right square center in the chest of Nilsson. Slow, labored, and awkward.

    • Redbird62

      Yet he made a really nice play to stickhandle into the middle of the slot, and get a good shot off that Nilsson stopped with his glove and Klefbom scored on the rebound. On Puljujarvi’s first goal in the third, Lucic hustled from in front of the Canuck’s net to clear the zone so that Connor and Jesse could enter and catch the Canucks on the quick transition. If he doesn’t hustle, they either stop at the blue line or are offside. Jim Garrett even pointed that out on the broadcast. Overall his play has been okay in the two games so far (2 points in 2 games) but the line of Lucic/Draisaitl and whoever the RW has been has not looked good, but my eye tells me so far that is more on Drai than Lucic.

  • Redbird62

    I can really understand why Todd might prefer a player with Reider on Draisaitl’s line once the season starts. Leon is a very gifted offensive player, but he still seems to need more work on the defensive side. Not since Taylor Hall was his winger, has Drai spent any time as a center and not had his line be out chanced or out shot (and last year he was outscored too). He gives away the puck more than any other Oiler (and Lucic was second among forwards in that regard last season). Even against the Ducks in the playoffs, while the Drai’s line outscored the opposition, the line was out chanced in most games. While a Leon/Jesse combo or Leon/Kailer combo might be very good offensively, I am not sure either is ready yet to be fully trusted in its own end and Lucic can be okay, but he can’t be the defensive guy on the line. Maybe as the season goes on, and Drai demonstrates that not only can he drive a line, but that he can be consistently reliable in his own end while being the center, does Todd put Jesse or Kailer on the line.

    I fully expect Lucic to start on the left side with Drai. People can complain all they want about earning it. Lucic earned it because he gets the benefit of the doubt for having scored 481 points in his 811 games and he is only half a season removed from when he was performing at that level (on pace for a 54 point season thru 41 games most of it 5 on 5). I am not sure how short his leash will be if he starts out like he finished off, but I expect it will be no where near as long as it was last season.

  • corky

    Hey Gregor, I bet you’re hoping the Canes “Whalers” night is against the Oil. Just seeing those jerseys out there again will turn the clock back bigtime.

  • VK63

    “On Tuesday Seattle city council unanimously approved a privately funded $700 million renovation of Key arena”,

    Dear Ken King in Calgary…. note the words…. “privately funded”.
    Better bang that Olympic gong with a bigger mallet.

  • Van isl Oiler

    Koskinen is who I’ll be watching the most tonight. They need him (or whoever the back up is) to start 20 games this year and win at least ten of them. C’mon Koskinen, need you to have a good game tonight.

  • Serious Gord

    Précis to my comment – small sample size.

    Bear and Jerabek have not impressed at all. Regardless of who starts the season, the biggest hole in team depth is defense and chia needs to fill it ASAP.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Looks like they are trying to force everybody into buying the centre ice package, yet our cable rates remain the same or higher for less of what we actually want to watch.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Agreed. He’s been pretty solid in the crease tonight. I didn’t see the firs goal against, so I can’t commnet on that, but the 2nd goal against wasn’t his fault.

  • Vanhellian

    I love Bear! I hope he arrives this year at some point. Maybe a little AHL time and in later this season. Although i won’t complain if he starts the season on the roster