Opening Night Lineups (and Projecting 11-12)

The Edmonton Oilers have not enjoyed roster consistency over the last several seasons. The pace is mind boggling, and the Oilers have sent away men who are now productive in other towns.

Some of that is famous (or infamous) but some of it comes from a losing organization trying to jump start the future.

So far this summer, the Oilers have resisted the urge to purge yesterday’s prospects. It’s an important decision, as at some point the Oilers kids will need to stand and deliver.

Since the fanbase has suffered the growing pains, it might be nice to see these young men mature with the Oilers.

Opening Night Fall 2005
  • L1: Horcoff-Smyth-Dvorak
  • L2: Peca-Torres-Hemsky
  • L3: Stoll-Moreau-Pisani
  • L4: Reasoner-Harvey-Laraque
  • D1: Pronger-Staios
  • D2: Ulanov-Smith
  • D3: Cross-Bergeron

Important things to note here are just how many two-way veterans are in the lineup up front. Dvorak might not look sexy in the top 6 but he did some nice things. This was a nice group, with goaltending the main problem (and it was addressed at the deadline).

Opening Night Fall 2006

  • L1: Horcoff-Smyth-Lupul
  • L2: Sykora-Torres-Hemsky
  • L3: Stoll-Moreau-Pisani
  • L4: Reasoner-Thoresen-Winchester
  • D1: Tjarnqvist-Smith
  • D2: Smid-Staios
  • D3: Bergeron-Greene

Important notes here include Smid’s role on the team despite being 20 years old and having no NHL experience, the hugely significant change on the 1line and the fact that Stoll-Moreau-Pisani was together two opening nights in a row.

Opening Night Fall 2007

  • L1: Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky
  • L2: Stoll-Torres-Nilsson
  • L3: Reasoner-Sanderson-Brodziak
  • L4: Cogliano-Jacques-Gagner
  • D1: Pitkanen-Staios
  • D2: Souray-Greene
  • D3: Tarnstrom-Gilbert

Important notes here include the promise of that 2line, how much Brodziak had impressed during TC to earn that elevated role, the fact that Jacques kept getting chances. I also come back to that 2line. It started with promise, faded, resulted in Stortini being placed on that line (with some incredible on-ice reaction from Stoll and Torres) and may or may not have contributed to Stoll and Torres leaving town.

Opening Night 2008

  • L1: Horcoff-Cole-Hemsky
  • L2: Gagner-Cogliano-Nilsson
  • L3: Pisani-Moreau-Penner
  • L4: Brodziak-Pouliot-Stortini
  • D1: Visnovsky-Souray
  • D2: Grebeskhov-Gilbert
  • D3: Strudwick-Staios

Garon started and that was news. Important notes include Cole on 1line LW and Pisani at center. The kid line started the season together and the 4line once again featured Pouliot out of position. The D pairings looked more experienced and less ragged and Strudwick knocked Smid upstairs to begin the season.

Opening Night 2009

  • L1: Horcoff-Jacques-Hemsky
  • L2: Cogliano-Penner-Brule
  • L3: Comrie-O’Sullivan-Stone
  • L4: Gagner-Moreau-Stortini
  • D1: Grebeshkov-Gilbert
  • D2: Souray-Staios
  • D3: Visnovsky-Smid

We see Pat Quinn’s touch on this lineup, with a physical player on every line and the captain on the 4line with Gagner. Comrie never did establish himself but the Oilers felt he could still impact the offense with those quick hands. The blueline–and this wasn’t long ago–looked deep and had some quality men.

Opening Night 2010

  • L1: Gagner-Penner-Hemsky
  • L2: Horcoff-Hall-Eberle
  • L3: Cogliano-Paajarvi-Brule
  • L4: Fraser-Jones-MacIntyre
  • D1: Whitney-Foster
  • D2: Smid-Gilbert
  • D3: Peckham-Vandermeer

Renney is now coach and puts his best young center with two solid veteran wingers; his veteran center with two gifted kids and Cogliano breaks in a rookie too. On the blue, the two new hires line up in important spots and Peckham gets his first opening night opportunity.

Opening Night 2011 (Projected)

  • Gagner-Smyth-Hemsky
  • RNH-Hall-Eberle
  • Horcoff-Paajarvi-Omark
  • Belanger-Eager-Jones
  • Whitney-Barker
  • Smid-Gilbert
  • Peckham-Sutton

I think the kid makes the opening night lineup and lines up with Hall/Eberle. Gagner–as he did last year–gets the best wingers and the offensive responsibility. Horcoff mentors another young duo and Belanger gives the team very nice depth at center. On the blue, Barker gets the Foster role and Smid-Gilbert may be playing tougher minutes than they did a year ago. My choice for starter is Dubnyk and the name of his backup is out in the ether.

It’s still a lottery team, but that forward group has some promise and if the Oilers can luck into a defender and add another goaler they could finish outside the lottery.

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