Fall is in the air, in a few hours it’ll be the Eskimos and Stamps in the Labor Day classic and the two dailies have the “will the kid make it?” articles this morning (this time it’s Jordan Eberle, in the recent past we’ve seen the same type of article at this time of year about Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Rob Schremp, Jani Rita, etc). It’s a fun time of year, a chance to see kids you’ve only read about and to watch the youngsters who didn’t make it a year ago and compare their progress to our own collective memory.
Here are 12 things I’m wondering:
- Dubnyk versus Deslauriers: Not much has been made about this potential battle, but if the big western kid performs well in training camp then this could be an issue. Dubnyk played only 20 minutes in pre-season a year ago (without allowing a goal) and JDD had a 92.1 SP in 2 contests. If we can agree that a new coach can sometimes see things a different way then this battle has the potential to be very interesting at TC.
- Will they find room for Peckham? This young man brings some strong assets to every game. A willing fighter and a physical player, he’s also learning his position at pace. Last season the Oilers had a look in 3 pre-season games (-3, 10pims) and he should get at least that many this fall. It’ll be very difficult for him to make the big club without injury or trade but he could force the issue.
- What to do about LW: Not so long ago this was a position of extreme strength for this organization, but Smyth and Torres and even Glencross are long gone. It seems as though the Oilers have all kinds of candidates, from incumbents Dustin Penner, Patrick O’Sullivan, Ethan Moreau and Robert Nilsson to possible transplanted centers like Andrew Cogliano and Jordan Eberle. Liam Reddox never gets a lot of mention but seems to rise through the depth chart annually and JF Jacques appears healthy and should fit Quinn’s 4line template.
- Who will win the 1line LW job? My money is on Penner, the club has had success with that line in the past and despite some warts the guy can do some things. We know Cogliano will get a look, Nilsson might get a shot and Eberle might get a game if he shows well. I also wouldn’t discount Moreau here or even Fernando Pisani. This is a new coach and if they’re going to run power v. power then a responsible LWer is vital.
- Will Pat Quinn hire Steve MacIntyre? He can’t play a lot of minutes but his is a defined role. Quinn doesn’t roll 4 lines all of the time so a specialty player like this can be slotted onto the roster but will they risk waivers on some of these forwards in order to keep him?
- Is Stortini the insurance for a Pisani injury? Currently the Oilers are Hemsky, Nilsson, Pisani and Stortini on RW with people like O’Sullivan and Penner also available. Should Pisani get hurt (and this is certainly possible) then the Oilers are going to need a tough minutes RW (Pisani led the club in that category a year ago). The current candidates for the slot appear to be Dustin Penner and Zack Stortini.
- How good can this PP be? One of MacT’s real weaknesses was the powerplay. I think the new coaching staff has a plethora of quality talent and should be able to run two solid units. However, Pat Quinn didn’t really do that in his last season in Toronto, he run the first unit ragged. In 2005-06, Kaberle and McCabe played 7.5 minutes a night on the powerplay and forward TOI totals included Allison (5.5), Sundin (5.5), Tucker (5.0) and Lindros (4.5).
- Will Gagner step forward? If this is to be Sam Gagner’s team (and he’s got the talent) then at some point he’s going to begin stealing ice from Horcoff and eventually swap wingers with #10. Will we see signs he’s maturing at TC?
- Can Cogliano be a 25-goal man? We’re at a point now where Cogliano needs to show us what he is: a Todd Marchant checker who can pop 15-goals a year or a fleet winger who can score 25. If he can score 25, this team is in good shape.
- What about center ice? They must have a plan. After Horcoff and Gagner, the Oilers can try Penner, Pisani, O’Sullivan among the more proven men and Pouliot, Brule, Schremp, Cogliano from the less established group up front. I think we need to conclude that the Oilers don’t believe losing faceoffs is as harmful as math suggests, otherwise this would have been addressed over the summer. How they traded Kyle Brodziak and brought nothing back is addled.
- Will they make a trade before opening night? I’m hoping so, we’ll see. I also think we should watch the waiver wire closely, maybe they believe someone good will shake loose from the tree.
- Who will be the surprise TC invite? Nothing so far, no Anson Carter or Esa Tikkanen. I thought Jussi Markkanen might be invited after he played in that London tournament but he’s probably already under contract.