Much of the discussion so far this off-season surrounds the sheer number of small forwards up front for the Oilers. If we agree Hemsky doesn’t belong in the conversation because he can handle himself and plays a grittier-than-expected style, then the conversation becomes how to insert the three smaller skill F’s named Sam Gagner, Patrick O’Sullivan and Andrew Cogliano.
Some of the obvious solutions include playing Cogliano on a 3line with Moreau and Pisani, but he’s so poor at faceoffs one expects coach Quinn will move him to LW. Let’s use this as a depth chart (starting point):
- C: Horcoff, Gagner, Brodziak, Pouliot
- L: Penner, Cogliano, Moreau, Reddox, Jacques
- R: Hemsky, O’Sullivan, Pisani, Stortini, Nilsson
I think we’ve pretty much universally agreed that Nilsson isn’t likely to return, so he’s listed as 5th on RW. The top line here looks fine, Quinn might want to tinker (and it was mentioned in the previous thread that splitting Horcoff and Hemsky might be a plan) with it but 2 of the three are extremely like to make up the top line.
After that, we’ve got a brand new Kid Line (O’Sullivan replacing Nilsson) and then a 3line that looks reasonable if everyone is healthy (I’d have little worry about a second line of Brodziak-Moreau-Pisani handling the 2nd toughest EV minutes). The 4line has all kinds of candidates among the leftovers and if Jacques can come through well maybe there’s something there.
I think this summer comes down to this: Tambellini’s put himself in a position where grit, size and a mean streak need to be added to the forward group. Whether it be a Chris Neil or an Ales Kotalik (who brings size), I just can’t see all of Andrew, Patrick and Sam starting the season in the top 9.
As an aside, we get this from Jim Matheson in today’s EJ: The Wild have targetted four teams — the Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and the Flyers — to try and trade backup goalie Josh Harding, who had a 2.21 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 19 games in 2008-09.The 2002 second-round draft pick played for Rob Daum when he coached the Wild’s AHL farm club in Houston, should they need a scouting report.The Wild will try to get a second-line forward back for Harding, who turns 25 on June 18.
Minnesota is likely to lose Gaborik this summer, and although Patrick O’Sullivan can’t replace him he does have talent. He’s averaging 17-29-46 per 82 NHL games played and is miles from peak value, and he averages an impressive 227 shots per 82 NHL games. I’d say there’s at least the idea of a trade (O’Sullivan for Harding) in there and the two teams have traded in the past (the Oil got their last goalie from Minny).
In many ways, O’Sullivan represents the best of the small, skill forwards for this next season. He’s played in the NHL a lot (207 games), he’s a shooter and can play more than one position. However, the GM has stated the priority and those skills are not supplied by these smaller forwards. How can the Edmonton Oilers add size, grit and a mean streak with all of Hemsky, O’Sullivan, Gagner and Cogliano in the top 9?