Expecting to Fly

HF poster Louiss has the Oilers lines from practice today, and it’s a very interesting top 6:


The third line at practice was Gagner-Penner-Pouliot, and I’m hoping they hit the ice as stated tomorrow night. With the Horcoff line showing some jump, and Stoll starting to come around it would be nice to find a home for Penner and then let these lines roll.

The 4th line looks about right based on what we thought might happen in pre-season. Reasoner-Sanderson-Brodziak. The extra forward at practice today was Zach Stortini.

I imagine the tougher minutes will go to Horcoff’s line and then Reasoner’s line, with the Stoll group and the Gagner group expecting to fly against the soft parade.


Defensively, the broken arrow blueline has lost a few men along the trail early (Pitkanen, Souray, Greene) and would seem to be content to rely on Grebeshkov-Gilbert combination in the toughest situations. Steve Staios moves down the depth chart and the Oilers will apparently employ the rest of the gashouse gang (Tarnstrom, Roy, Smid) is some kind of combination to keep the opposition at bay.

Goaltending needs to be better.

So we’re in month two starting tomorrow night, with the Oilers full value for their 5-8 record. Next up:

  1. Nov 2-home to Nashville (W)
  2. Nov 5-away to Minnesota (L)
  3. Nov 7-away to Denver (L)
  4. Nov 10-away to Calgary (L)
  5. Nov 14-away to Vancouver (W)

Is that a reasonable expectation? We could argue over Vancouver but their depth and injury problems mean the Oilers have a strong chance in that game (they’re also horrible at home this season, 1-5. That’s not 25 games but it’s a trend).

If we can agree on that schedule and our expected result, that puts the Oilers at 7-11-0 after 18 games of the schedule and on the way home. I’ve long felt Kevin Lowe needed to make a trade, but with three defenders and two veteran wingers on the sidelines what does he address and when should he do it?

Coach MacTavish sounds like a man completely satisfied with roster and results. I get the feeling he is honestly expecting this roster to take flight any second now. For what it’s worth, I don’t see it.

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26 Responses to "Expecting to Fly"

  1. doritogrande says:

    The Denver Avalanche? Sorry, never heard of them.

    I think we could reasonably match up with the Wild right now, as they’re hurting as bad or worse as we are. They’re currently down Gaborik, Demitra and Backstrom to my knowlege, and that makes them a beatable team in my eyes. Vancouver’s a much bigger problem with Saint Lu ‘twixt the irons.

    If we can hold on until our defense no longer looks like half the Springfield Falcon’s starting lineup, our goaltending will improve dramatically.

    There’s reason for the optimism with the emergence of our young kids. Cogliano and Gagner up front look to me like Stastny and Wolski from Colorado last year and that’s a very nice surprise. Gilbert’s passed with flying colours so far and after some growing pains, it looks like Grebeshkov could fit with us as more than just “that injury replacement guy”.

  2. Lowetide says:

    dorito: I never count a game at Minnesota as a victory. It’s like skating in quick sand in that ridiculous rink.

    Understand they’re injured but imo the VCR game is the better bet to win.

    If they come out of those 5 games with 3 wins then imo the season might have some hope. 8-10-0 after the opening series of games would be a pretty nice number considering the injuries, PP and blueline chaos.

  3. Ribs says:

    That’s a pretty fair assessment of the next 5, LT. The Avs and Nucks games could be flip-flopped if the mood is right.

    Those lines seem kind of scary and I’m guessing they won’t last long. How the heck is Stoll supposed to keep up with those guys!

    I do hope the PPG line lives up to their acronym as it seems like a pretty solid line in theory.

  4. Steve says:

    Excellent use of Neil Young references.

    Also, I’m sure that whatever you said about the Oilers was correct.

  5. Dennis says:

    Beyond 10′s line, there’s really not either line that you could expect to do a good job in tough situations. 19′s played that role for awhile so I guess 8-19-51 haven’t been getting scored on all that much so that’s your second tough min line.

    Of course, we absolutely can’t trust the other two lines for any tough match-up’s.

    BTW, this didn’t make the papers but in yesterday’s scrum, MacT sorta came clean when asked if he’d keep running 37/77 out against the other team’s top line as a shutdown duo. He basically admitted that he doesn’t have a prototypical shutdown pair and said he had faith in the top four, ie he spoke glowingly of 5-24-37-77 and then finished by saying, and we also have Tarnstrom and Roy.

    I mean, yes, he finished with the quote that he thinks they have enough depth to get through the injuries on D but there in the middle, there were some quotes that showed that he hasn’t totally deluded himself.

    In any case, it will be interesting to see how the new lines make out. I liked the chem between 13-16 last game and 13-12 had some nice chem in the preseason. All of a sudden, 78 looked like a fit the other night with 89-27 and I expect the HST line to bounce back because I really wasn’t impressed with them the other night. Maybe I’m the one being delusional in this case but I don’t know why that trokia can’t average at least a goal per game.

  6. cartooncolin says:

    After what occurred at GM Place tonight the Vancouver game HAS to be a W.

  7. td.slvr says:

    Vancouver seems to be on a pretty nasty downward spiral–a win against them is far from out of the question.

  8. ClaytonMagnet says:

    Jesus – gory night Vancouver…

    LT – I’m a bit surprised that you’d hope to see any particular lines roll other than HHT, and even they’re not guaranteed more than a few shifts together. I know that many of the usual commentors here think the MacBlender isn’t a negative, but I disagree. I hope like you that someday soon he lets some line combinations roll for a few games. Without getting too high up on a soapbox here, I firmly believe that chemistry is built when you become familiar with your linemates’ tendencies, and that can’t happen when you have new linemates every shift.

    Anywho – I’m with most fans at this point – I don’t hate our record, and there’s upside to be seen. A few bounces either way, and it could be 2-11, or 7-6. Another point is that, outside of the PHX win, the other 4 wins are against very good teams. At the beginning of the season, most reasonable fans were hoping to see development, and a team that competes. No complaints there. Just wish the PP wasn’t 3 for 20 gazillion.

  9. Lowetide says:

    clayton: I think at some point it makes sense to at least match up 2/3 players on a specific line. MacT has been rolling for some time now (leading into the season and at times this year) with Horc-Hemsky and Stoll-Raffi, but Dustin in the wind hasn’t found a home and Pouliot is still a free agent in terms of chem.

    It seemed to me that Cogliano can play with pretty much anybody and succeed and that Penner does some nice things in the offensive zone. So that line (with Gagner) has a nice mixture plus three guys who can do specific things with the puck. Pouliot’s one above average offensive tool imo is his ability to take and make a pass. Penner and Gagner are a very nice match imo.

    I think (if he plays on that line for more than 3 shifts) Pouliot pops one tonight.

  10. Big T says:

    I like the looks of a Stoll – Cogliano pair as well LT. With Nilsson with them as well they should be able to do some qualiy things with the turnovers in the neutral zone that Stoll hoften creates.


  11. Stuart van says:

    I’d say the Oilers have held up pretty well so far, despite some disappointing performances by the veterans who are supposed to carry this team.

    I’m a big fan of Torres, but I don’t believe he is a first line winger. He’s not consistent or reliable enough. He’s an amazingly effective 3rd line winger, and its too bad the Oiler’s don’t have the depth to play him to his natural capabilities. Unfortunately, the same may be true about Penner. Maybe Burke should offer Torres $4.5 million a year to get back at Lowe.

  12. namflashback says:

    MacT is either:

    1) actively conducting “The Oilers NHL Hockey School” — learn on the job. Hey, everyone else in Alberta is doing it, why not pro hockey players.

    2) on to some sort of innovative matchup situation where you put d-pairs or f-lines out that have no business against their opp, and somehow winning the crapshoot.

    We know how tightly he can manage his match-ups (watching any shift chart from the past). He is so intentionally haphazard right now that I can’t chalk it up to being haphazard.

    While the 10-line got 10 minutes of Zettsuykstrom, some other ragtags got more than they should have. And not just the usual possession types of shifts where the Oilers didn’t have a choice.

    Same with the Calgary game too.

    I hope he has a plan in mind, because it seems suicidal.

  13. Dennis says:

    I think it’s better to talk in terms of a top nine as opposed to top six. You see so many guys still talking in terms of top six forwards but in looking at the ’07 Ducks, would anyone call the Pahlsson line top sixer’s? Probably not, and becuase people are still caught up in checking lines being the third line but look at the TOI after the fact and that will tell you which which is which.

    In that respect, Raffi is no worse than a 2nd line LW, in that he should should play in just about everyone’s top two lines TOI wise, and on the Oilers he’s their best option.

    LT, not sure when you’re gonna talk to Staples, but when you do, for the love of gawd please settle his hash on Nilsson. I just read where he said Nilsson should play 20 games on a checking line where there’s no pressure. What the MSM doesn’t seem to understand is that Nilsson doesn’t care about his own zone enough where he can play on any other line than a soft min line. He can’t be a Brodz who’s not putting up many points, but you can keep him around because he can hold his own in the other role.

    Not sure why more people can’t grasp that concept.

    In positive news, though, Staples gave Hejda some props. Of course, in true Edm MSM fashion, he elected to give Howson props for scooping up the big Czech instead of wondering why in the fuck Lowe didn’t bring him back.

  14. Bruce says:

    “No pressure” on a checking line? That’s absurd.

  15. Oilman says:

    dennis….Staples says Stoll should play 20 games on a checking line…not Nilson.

  16. Oilman says:

    ….and it was to “take the scoring pressure” of 2nd line center off him.

  17. Dennis says:

    Ahh, I thought he said Nilsson should play that role. But, he’s still wrong if he wants to take the scoring pressure off because that’s all Nilsson can do.

    here are the lines for tonight:


    Well, me and MacT just aren’t getting along this year in terms of line combinations. I think I’d switch around 12 and 78 and go 13-89-12 in a pure soft min role and see if the chem 78 had with 16 and 27, in seperate occasions mind you, could translate over a full game. Plus, 78, before this year;), could always hold his own in the GA dept and that would give us more options for tough min play.

    As it is though, I guess, that’s the role of the 19 line and my prediction is MacT rolls with the 10-19 lines and then the third line is 27-16 plus whichever of the kids is going.

  18. Devin says:

    Dennis, who is the “S” in your HST line? Shouldn’t it be HHT? Or is it the Harmonized Sales Tax line (and I just don’t get it?)

  19. gary b says:

    i like the Stoll/Cogliano pairing. i think taking the 2nd line center ‘pressure’ off of Stoll, at least a little, is the best thing for him right now. to expect him to pick right up where he left off pre-concussion, and to shoulder all that he was expected to do start of last season, is a bit crazy. it’s no surprise his start THIS year was a bit… off. his play has picked up more recently, though, with Cogs sharing a bit of the C-man role. and with all these rookies in the lineup, it can’t hurt having two center icemen on the ice at once (for faceoffs and whatnot).

  20. Oilman says:

    dennis….take the scoring pressure off Stoll is what I believe he’s referring to…I don’t think it has anything to do with what Nilson can’t do.

  21. James Mirtle says:

    Purely from a selfish perspective (fantasy hockey, woo), what are we looking at for Penner for production this year? Is he basically a 40-point producer this year?

    What’s the high-water mark?

  22. ClaytonMagnet says:

    IMHO, if Penner went 18-22-40 this year, it’d be a surprise.

  23. Dennis says:

    Yeah, that could be it, OM. I have a feeling that the next mistake Lowe’s about to make is trading away Horcoff and keeping Stoll and signing him to big money.

    Horc plays the tough min for the Oilers while Stoll plays nobodies, and doesn’t exactly take advantage of that role either, and while you might think playing the tough min would be in Horc’s favour, then that obviously didn’t help the cause of Smyth nor did it hinder the cause of Souray.

  24. Big T says:

    I’m a fan of moving Stoll into a ’3rd line’ role not to take the pressure off of the guy, but because I don’t think he’s got the skill set to thrive in a ’2nd line’ role.

    Stoll is far more ‘Michael Peca’ than ‘Michael Nylander’.

    Stoll’s not a guy that produces enough in soft minute situations. I think he could thrive in tough minute situations though – much like he did last season when Smyth and Hemsky were both injured.

    But Lowe and MacT would be stupid to send him out on the PP and rack up the points (yeah, it might happen HAHA) and then pay him accordingly.


  25. Big T says:

    What in the wide world of sports!!!!

    Dennis, get out of my head!!!


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