Steve Tambellini has effectively trimmed the forwards and is ready for July 1. Ethan Moreau, Patrick O’Sullivan and Robert Nilsson were placed on waivers earlier today, and the team didn’t qualify Marc Pouliot and Ryan Potulny on Monday. The depth chart has changed tremendously up front, and looked a little thin on the blue before things got rolling. The goaltending situation is also fluid, with the team trying to figure out how to offload a young G when their veteran is on the docket later in the summer.
The forwards have a nice group of candidates for the top 6 slots, and then a distinct lack of qualified laborers for the bottom 6.
Center: Sam Gagner should be able to continue his progression toward the #1 job, and one hopes Renney “saw him good” on the powerplay and when he played with Dustin Penner. Shawn Horcoff may or may not be on the top line, but if healthy (and even if he isn’t) #10 will be facing the tough minutes this fall. Colin Fraser offers the team a wider range of skills than was available here last season and could be a key component for faceoffs and penalty-kill. Andrew Cogliano has survived the first purge, but I suspect the club may be shopping him for a right-handed, physical center who can play against tougher opposition and come out even or better. Ryan O’Marra was qualified and he brings that physical element that is this year’s main ingredient; don’t be surprised if he breaks camp with the big club. Chris Vande Velde is a new pro, but there’s all kinds of opportunity here and if he comes to camp and plays a physical style (watch Slap Shot kid!) there’s an outside chance of making this team (as listed here).
- Needs at C: Gagner to improve, and Cogliano’s light to go on.
Left Wing: Dustin Penner was the team MVP last season and at this point should be considered a central part of the future. Taylor Hall is the new Hockey Jesus in our town, and aside from looking like Chipper Jones (circa 1993) he looks destined for a similar rookie season. Ryan Jones is an all-out hustle player-type with 95 games of NHL experience; he can play either wing and if the team doesn’t acquire a veteran for the Fraser line he’ll be the one. Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson will get a long look and could make the big club (possibly on a Kid Line with Andrew Cogliano and Jordan Eberle–thanks to Dean Belanger for the suggestion at lunch today). Linus Omark caught a huge break today with Nilsson and O’Sullivan hitting the bricks, but will still need to outplay someone to make the big club. He has terrific skills and NHLE’s suggest he’s about Robert Nilsson as an offensive player. Jean-Francois Jacques could play with the big club this season as a 13-14F, but he’ll probably head down to Okla City for some conditioning every few weeks. Liam Reddox is a similar player to Jones, so has to be considered a solid option for callup in case of injury/ineffectiveness. Teemu Hartikainen is extremely likely to start in the minors, but a strong training camp may mean he gets called up before some 1st rounders during the season.
- Help at LW: They could use a more experienced, qualified and physical Ryan Jones for the 3line.
Right Wing: Ales Hemsky is an outstanding offensive player, pure reaction and ad-lib. The club would do well to marry him to Horcoff once again, and have the duo attack the tougher opponents throughout the season. This will leave the soft parade to the kids. Gilbert Brule had an impressive scoring season and the club needs him to improve and to sign him to a value contract. It’ll be a huge part of Steve Tambellini’s summer. Zack Stortini remains an effective depth winger, although he may be promoted onto the 3line on nights when Renney wants to run the kids (instead of the thugs) on the 4line. Jordan Eberle might get a look at center (Hall, too) but is more likely to get his first major league at-bats on a protected kid line. Colin McDonald has not been signed, but I’ll list him here because he has some of the same skills Pisani brought to the big leagues and the team can still sign him. Ryan Stone is also a free agent to be, but the Oilers still have a couple of days to sign him so I’ll include him on our depth chart.
- Help at RW: The club needs a replacement for Pisani on the 3line.
So, what the team needs (in a nutshell) is a replacement for the 2006 Raffi Torres (or just Raffi Torres) at left wing; and a replacement for the 2006 Fernando Pisani on right wing. And if they acquired Derek Boogaard that would be fine by me. They could also use a more effective 3line C (pushing Fraser to the 4line).
Tomorrow: the Blue and the Black.