The questions surrounding left wing this season are:
Who’s going to be the other LW?
Which line will he play on?
If we can agree that subtracting Ryan Smyth from the depth chart and adding Robert Nilsson and Geoff Sanderson isn’t a winning formula, then the next question is “what can Kevin Lowe do about it?”
He’s running out of time to find the answer. Here’s how the depth chart looks tonight.
Raffi Torres: According to Desjardins he played the second toughest minutes among Oilers forwards last season (Pisani the toughest). He’d be the likely current choice to slot onto the top line, although not close to ideal (he’s getting better but doesn’t come close to being a complete player in the traditional sense of the word, he hasn’t been a PP option and despite quite a lot of NHL experience he apparently has confidence issues). Torres has been able to establish himself with Jarret Stoll on the 2line and it’s been an effective combination (especially when Pisani plays the RW). He’s an unusual player in all areas: not especially awe inspiring without the puck but able to get reasonable outscoring results, not a “sniper” but he’s scored 20 goals twice. His 3-year ppg totals in the NHL show nice growth (.425, .500, .414) considering the train wreck that was the Oiler ship in 06-07. He’s young enough to have another level.
- ES points-per-60mins: 1.94
- PP points-per-60mins: 0.40
- Desjardins Quality of Opposition: 67/676
- Prediction: 25-19-44
Geoff Sanderson: Still has terrific footspeed and he’s a shooter, but even with that resume I can’t see him spending a ton of time with Hemsky (obviously nor can Lowe or he would have declared same when the deal was made). He’s exactly the kind of guy who is made available in every expansion draft: past his prime, still famous enough to attract interest from the fanbase, and extremely likely to deliver lesser results than the previous season. Scored 11 goals against the Soft Parade last season. He isn’t useless but imo there are plenty of NHL teams he couldn’t play for next season.
- ES points-per-60mins: 2.06
- PP points-per-60mins: 2.45
- Desjardins Quality of Opposition: 494/676
- Prediction: 12-20-32
Ethan Moreau: His injury early last season was a complete fluke and he should be fine this year. Moreau has size and grit with some scoring ability, he’s what used to be called a “solid role player.” Ethan is a candidate for Oilers captain this fall and he is likely to spend the season on the 3line. It’s extremely likely he’ll break in another rookie/young player as he has done this many times since the breakup of the last Oilers de facto checking unit (Marchant-Moreau-Grier), and that will impact his offensive numbers. I’ve used his 05-06 season below and there are no Desjardins’ numbers due to the injury. He had 7pk points in 05-06.
- EV points-per-60mins: 1.10
- PP points-per-60mins: 3.85
- Prediction: 10-10-20
Robert Nilsson: The stats below are for 05-06, his rookie NHL season with the Islanders. We can assume he played against the Soft Parade, but even with that his offensive output was decent for a first year player. Nilsson’s biggest problem appears to be lack of size and strength (he’s listed at 5-11, 183) and despite some fine puck skills the Oilers have so many options that are similar in terms of talent that Nilsson has very little margin for error (before they call up the next kid).
- EV points-per-60mins: 1.56
- PP points-per-60mins: 3.37
- Desjardins Quality of Opposition: Unavailable
- Prediction: 11-18-29
One of the things about Nilsson that’s always bugged me is Pierre Mcguire’s draft day rip of Nilsson. Mcguire’s choice was Zach Parise who certainly has had an excellent career, but at least in 05-06 they had comparable rookie seasons:
- Zach Parise (20) at EV: 1.46 points-per-hour
- Robert Nilsson (20) at EV: 1.56 points-per-hour
- Zach Parise (20) on PP: 3.35 points-per-hour
- Robert Nilsson (20) on PP: 3.37 points-per-hour