OPENING NIGHT LINEUPS AND THE 12-13 OPENER

Chances are one or more of the names in Sunday’s lineup will be with us at the end of the decade. If the hockey Gods bless this northern town a second time maybe there will be four or more names and a Stanley or two before I die. There’s “something in the air” with this group, something–and I think it began in the embers of the frustration and sadness of the Pronger season–that implies greatness. It is not promised, nothing is guaranteed. But it’s there, and it is certainly growing.

A look through our back pages.

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
  • G1: Ty Conklin (Jussi Markkanen)

What a beautiful roster, maybe the last great Oiler team of my lifetime. Notice the strength at center–Marty is #4!!–and the quality at wing (there are 6 good ones and Laraque could keep the pick 4,000 feet from the net for most of a shift just by cycling). Pronger the Great, Staios and Smith plus the dirty Russian, Cory the slow and Chaos incorporated. The G was the weak spot and that was addressed wonderfully by the GM at the time–although pretty damn late in the day.

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
  • G1: Roloson (Markkanen)

The blue is shattered, the decade is ruined. Goaltending is much better year over year and there are some nice forwards on this roster, but the defense was crushed.

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
  • G1: Roloson-Garon

The addition of Penner lends a hand to the top line and Stoll/Torres was always a fun group. The kids start on the 4line but it won’t take long to move up the depth chart. Pitkanen and Souray have been added to the blue and youngster Gilbert joins the group.

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
  • G1: Garon, Roloson, Deslauriers

Garon started and that was news. Important notes include Cole on 1line LW and Pisani at center. The kid line with Gagner and Cogs with Robert Nilsson gets a push and that 4line had some promise. The D pairings looked more experienced and less ragged and Strudwick knocked Smid upstairs to begin the season. Lubomir Visnovsky was so wonderful in an Oiler uniform (pre-Quinn).

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
  • G1: Khabibulin, Deslauriers

The mighty Quinn’s touch is on this roster. Lordy. There are 7 forwards no longer in the league! I don’t know what to say. Lubo on the third pairing. Khabibulin debuts.

hall4

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
  • G1: Khabibulin, Dubnyk

Hall and Ebs side by side with Horcoff, Gagner gets the push to the #1 line. Completely reasonable use of roster assets. The 3line is a kid line and the 4line begins the elevator shaft era at that position. Ryan Whitney leads a developing group of youngsters on the blue, Smid-Gilbert was a recent favorite pairing for me. Its about this time I stop bitching about Smid.

Opening Night 2011

  • L1: Belanger-Smyth-Eberle
  • L2: Nuge-Hall-Hemsky
  • L3: Horcoff-Omark-Paajarvi
  • L4: Lander-Hordichuk-Jones
  • D1: Sutton-Gilbert
  • D2: Barker-Petry
  • D3: Smid-Peckham
  • G1: Dubnyk, Khabibulin

Renney puts Belanger and Smyth on the 1line with Eberle, and then places three gems on the 2line to start the season. Horcoff gets another set of kids, and the 4line is an elevator shaft from me to you. No Whitney means pushing Sutton up the depth chart and Dubnyk begins the season at #1. Cam Barker.

eberle

Opening Night 2012

  • L1: RNH-Hall-Eberle
  • L2: Gagner-Yakupov-Hemsky
  • L3: Horcoff-Smyth-Hartikainen
  • L4: Belanger-Eager-Petrell
  • D1: Smid-Petry
  • D2: Schultz-Schultz
  • D3: Whitney-Fistric
  • G1: Dubnyk, Khabibulin

The ’22 and younger’ group include the top line, Yakupov, Hartikainen, Justin Schultz.  Holy hell ladies, that’s a cluster. On the other hand, its as sad as sad can be that the ‘Ron Low-Stan Weir’ veterans are Horcoff and Smyth. I’m always going to hold that 2006 spring team in my heart, and watching those two warriors fade is a little bit heartbreaking.

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50 Responses to "OPENING NIGHT LINEUPS AND THE 12-13 OPENER"

  1. Chris Hext---formerly EasyOil--- says:

    The first time in a very long time I feel genuine optimism for the season ahead. The team actually looks reasonably solid. It also says a lot that reasonably solid is cause for excitement. 4 days to go!

  2. Chris Hext---formerly EasyOil--- says:

    Oh and from a couple of threads ago:

    Rocknrolla – thanks for the offer! It is nice knowing that there is a good community here on hand in LT’s corner of the Al Gore! I may well end up coming here for advice/assistance.

    LT: don’t you worry about my liver – the girlfriend’s Irish so I’m well prepared!

  3. Halfwise says:

    That first line could use a nickname if they’re going to play together for a while.

    “Hugely”?

  4. Ryan says:

    Well, I’ll be dammed if that doesn’t look like the best lineup the Oilers have had on opening night since the tail end of the glory days.

    On paper, that certainly looks like a legit crew.

    Last year during the unsustainable start, we basically had one scoring line if the 3 gifted ones were kept together. Samwise is no world-beater, but with Hemsky and Yak, that should give him the wingers he needs to produce.

    Without a doubt, this is the most optimistic and excited I felt for the Oil in decades.

  5. Ryan says:

    Tambellini is without a doubt the Rodney dangerfield of GMs.

    You can certainly knock him for style points, but if you allow the ends to justify the means…

  6. knighttown says:

    Boy that 2009 group of defensemen was an underrated group. Gilbert-Grebeshkov, Souray-Staois, Visnovsky-Smid. Looking at that and seeing they finished last overall is kind of shocking. It’s also a sign that nothing should be taken for granted. Saying that, the 09 team had awful forwards, terrible coaching and a freshly signed Nik Khabibulin who was never going to be pushed aside with that contract in hand.

  7. Ryan says:

    Keep in mind, the 2009 roster was a cap team.

    Also, the back end didn’t have anyone remotely representing a complete defender as LT often pointed out. That was also the year of epic injuries, so we had an AHL roster of forwards.

    knighttown:
    Boy that 2009 group of defensemen was an underrated group.Gilbert-Grebeshkov, Souray-Staois, Visnovsky-Smid.Looking at that and seeing they finished last overall is kind of shocking. It’s also a sign that nothing should be taken for granted.Saying that, the 09 team had awful forwards, terrible coaching and a freshly signed Nik Khabibulin who was never going to be pushed aside with that contract in hand.

  8. knighttown says:

    I’m hoping to hell Kreuger doesn’t fall in love with the lines listed above. We always picture a beautiful Tuesday night game, at home against Toronto. Wow! Watch Nuge dance! Look at Hall fly! See Ebs dangle? And Kessel’s line can’t do anything against Smyth, Horc, Paajarvi, Smid and Petry! This lineup is unbeatable!

    The problem is that 41 times a year the above becomes a Saturday night in Vancouver which leads to “Lapierre, Higgins, Hansen, Bieksa and Hamhuis have Nooge line completely locked down!”. “the Sedins have the kids and Schultz hemmed in again”. “Gagner, Yakupov and Hemsky can’t handle the Sedins down low. Another -2 for the rookie.” “Horc and co. get the easy matchup against the Canucks second line and can’t produce anything”. 4-1 loss.

    For all of it’s promise, this team is insanely one dimensional. Sample size may affect it but I think you’ll see some crazy home/road splits. I can’t think of one player who (at this point in his career) is a true asset at both ends of the ice. Maybe Petry. A good opposing coach will make sure Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Gags, Hemsky, Yak, Schultz Jr. and Whitney spend massive time in their own end facing tough minutes while Smid, Horcoff, Smyth, Jones, Paajarvi, Fistric, Hartikainen, Eager and Petrell can take on the softest minutes imaginable and still not be able to truly do any damage.

    Kreuger must forsee this and roll out a completely different roster on the road and try to win games ugly. There will be less 6-3 wins where the kids get 3 points each but they might win a few 2-1.Ice three lines that can go out against anyone.

    Hall-Horcoff-Eberle
    Yakupov-Gagner-Smyth
    Paajarvi-RNH-Hemsky

  9. bookje says:

    The 05/06 group was more about a group of players who all had career years at the same time. Good talent, but not great.

  10. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Wow… what a trip!!

    That series of lineups is like a series of weird flashbacks and mixed emotions.

    It’s shocking to be reminded how high the expectations were for Belanger last year. The first line… wow. How long did that last… I can’t honestly remember.

    I wonder how long this year’s lineup holds… RNH-Hall-Eberle got broken up in OKC and K has placed priority on “pairings”… I don’t know if that means he intends to float the second winger often or not… but I’d like to re-state my excitement to see Gagner-Hall-Hemsky break out occasionally again… loved that line last year!

    knighttown:
    Boy that 2009 group of defensemen was an underrated group.Gilbert-Grebeshkov, Souray-Staois, Visnovsky-Smid.Looking at that and seeing they finished last overall is kind of shocking. It’s also a sign that nothing should be taken for granted.Saying that, the 09 team had awful forwards, terrible coaching and a freshly signed Nik Khabibulin who was never going to be pushed aside with that contract in hand.

    Problem is… Smid and Gilbert c. 2009 aren’t Smid and Gilbert of 2012…. but yeah… in some alternate universe where you can get those players together each in their respective non-injury laden primes… that would definitely be one hell of a D corps!

  11. OilClog says:

    knighttown,

    One dimensional?!?! Sorry but this roster is anything but one dimensional. Least we forget that on any given night a man named Ales could be the very best player on the ice. As it stands right now… The cluster and clog of the Canucks is either injured or hasn’t been playing hockey. If we’re going to talk one dimensional equations.. “oh look, Vancouver is struggling to score again as they’ve have had little to no secondary scoring help allowing the opposition to lock down on the Sedins, yes Ron we’ve saw this in the playoffs too.. If Kesler isn’t going it just makes it to easy for the coach to zero in on these guys”

    Something like that no?

    This team is about to turn the competitive corner, it’s going to be fun to watch.

  12. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    knighttown:
    I’m hoping to hell Kreuger doesn’t fall in love with the lines listed above.We always picture a beautiful Tuesday night game, at home against Toronto.Wow!Watch Nuge dance! Look at Hall fly!See Ebs dangle?And Kessel’s line can’t do anything against Smyth, Horc, Paajarvi, Smid and Petry!This lineup is unbeatable!

    The problem is

    The problem is… Toronto exposed us brutally last year exactly contrary to your imagination…

    http://theleafsnation.com/2012/2/6/grabovski-make-much-glorious-goal

    Of course, Barker is a Nuck now and K is behind the wheel…

    But we are still a young team that is going to make gallingly stupid D-zone mistakes on occasion.

  13. raventalon40 says:

    Romulus Apotheosis:
    Wow… what a trip!!

    That series of lineups is like a series of weird flashbacks and mixed emotions.

    It’s shocking to be reminded how high the expectations were for Belanger last year. The first line… wow. How long did that last… I can’t honestly remember.

    I wonder how long this year’s lineup holds… RNH-Hall-Eberle got broken up in OKC and K has placed priority on “pairings”… I don’t know if that means he intends to float the second winger often or not… but I’d like to re-state my excitement to see Gagner-Hall-Hemsky break out occasionally again… loved that line last year!

    Problem is… Smid and Gilbert c. 2009 aren’t Smid and Gilbert of 2012…. but yeah… in some alternate universe where you can get those players together each in their respective non-injury laden primes… that would definitely be one hell of a D corps!

    From what I remember correctly Smid and Visnovsky were one of the league’s top pairings until Visnovsky went down for the count. I have no clue what their zonestarts were back then, but I remember they had a pretty hot start to that season in terms of +/- and assists for Visnovsky.

  14. raventalon40 says:

    Romulus Apotheosis: The problem is… Toronto exposed us brutally last year exactly contrary to your imagination…

    http://theleafsnation.com/2012/2/6/grabovski-make-much-glorious-goal

    Of course, Barker is a Nuck now and K is behind the wheel…

    But we are still a young team that is going to make gallingly stupid D-zone mistakes on occasion.

    Every time I read that I bust a nut laughing.

  15. bookje says:

    One thing I get from that Leafs Nation article is a reminder of how absolutely bitter Woodguy was some 11 months ago.

  16. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    raventalon40: From what I remember correctly Smid and Visnovsky were one of the league’s top pairings until Visnovsky went down for the count. I have no clue what their zonestarts were back then, but I remember they had a pretty hot start to that season in terms of +/- and assists for Visnovsky.

    I’ll defer to your memory here… My memory of Smid’s development is a haze of wild fluctuations leading slowly toward stable and wildly impressive… I remember the transition happening a little later…

    but as you mention, he probably got a lot of WOWY help having Lubo by his side.

  17. knighttown says:

    OilClog,

    Yes, one dimensional. The TEAM isn’t one dimensional, the players are. I do agree that this team is going to close the gap this year and may be exceptional at home. They should be fantastic on the power play and be solid on the penalty kill and I have them making a run at the playoffs. All I’m saying is that to push that along, the road lineup may have to be different than the “sunshine and lollypops” home lineup.

    On the road Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is going to have to face either the P vs. P studs like Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar and Shea Webber or he might get “lucky” and face the designated checkers like Dave Bolland, Rob Scuderi and Max Lapierre. He likely won’t produce well in either case and probably will get outchanced handily in the P vs. P matchups.

    It’s kind of like a football team double covering someone, leaving someone else open however in this lineup the open man is Horc-Smyth-Hartikainen and they aren’t scaring anyone. If you spread it around the defense can either single cover everyone or double cover RNH and hope someone really good (Eberle maybe) who has been left open doesn’t burn them.

    On the road, strive for balance and win ugly.

  18. dessert1111 says:

    Oh my God those are some brutal opening night rosters. What the hell was Renney thinking last year? I remember being surprised at the deployment even then. And of course Pat Quinn was off his rocker but I would argue he had less to work with than Renney last year even. Confusing decisions.

    This year looks pretty good except that 4th line. An immediate upgrade could be Hartikainen bumped down and Paajarvi brought in for line 3, but I respect a development decision. Jones would help a lot and would presumably knock Petrell out of the lineup, but I think an Eager upgrade would be nice too.

    But thank God the weakness is on line 4 and not the other 3. That is a good thing, for sure.

  19. Ryan says:

    That’s mostly correct.

    Smid looked all world playing with visnovsky albeit chewing up easy minutes.

    When visnovsky got injured, Smid didn’t look like an NHL player that year.

    Remember, visnovsky never pked or played top opposition with Smid that year IIRC.

    Also Souray played all of nine games or something.

    raventalon40: From what I remember correctly Smid and Visnovsky were one of the league’s top pairings until Visnovsky went down for the count. I have no clue what their zonestarts were back then, but I remember they had a pretty hot start to that season in terms of +/- and assists for Visnovsky.

  20. Ryan says:

    knighttown,

    I agree. The way this team is built, hugely will have to thrive in a sedin role for this team to have success. (Top opposition but ++ off zone starts).

  21. russ99 says:

    OilClog:
    knighttown,

    One dimensional?!?! Sorry but this roster is anything but one dimensional. Least we forget that on any given night a man named Ales could be the very best player on the ice. As it stands right now… The cluster and clog of the Canucks is either injured or hasn’t been playing hockey. If we’re going to talk one dimensional equations.. “oh look, Vancouver is struggling to score again as they’ve have had little to no secondary scoring help allowing the opposition to lock down on the Sedins, yes Ron we’ve saw this in the playoffs too.. If Kesler isn’t going it just makes it to easy for the coach to zero in on these guys”

    Something like that no?

    This team is about to turn the competitive corner, it’s going to be fun to watch.

    Gonna be a fun season to watch, but with a Western conference schedule, overall team defense is going to take a hit, even with Schultz the older and Fistric added since last opening day.

    I think things will be better after this summer when we can buyout Horcoff, ditch Eager and Belanger and sign 2-4 tough and good third liners that every playoff team needs, especially those in the tough west.

    As much as I’d love to see the Oiler roll 3 scoring lines with Smyth, Horc and Jones/Hartikainen/Paajarvi, what we have in the bottom 6 now is not going to shut down the oppositions’ top lines.

    Maybe Krueger can get a little more blood from a turnip defensive forward-wise than Renney did, locked to his system, but unless we frequently outscore the opposition (and that could happen if everything clicks) and/or if Dubnyk stands on his head nightly, this is a .500 team.

  22. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    “when we can buyout Horcoff”

    russ99,

    If they’re 100% commited to buying him out they would not wait until this summer and risk injury. The compliance buyout periods end before free agency. With the new interview period they’ll have a good look at all their options before buying out this summer or next or not at all.

  23. hunter1909 says:

    russ99: Maybe Krueger can get a little more blood from a turnip defensive forward-wise than Renney did, locked to his system

    Renney used his “system” like an alcoholic newspaper deliveryman from Montreal goes about his business at 6:30 in the morning in the Via Rail Station: One step at a time.

    Kreuger on the other hand, lives, breathes and dies hockey. He’s been going nuts more than any other human being alive during this lockout, lol.

  24. hunter1909 says:

    Нинтендо⁶⁴: “when we can buyout Horcoff”

    The answer is, probably never. Once his cap hit drops, they’ll be happy to keep him around on the third then fourth lines.

    I’m not known as a Horcoff supporter, but other than his cap hit, and the fact the dolt is captain, I have absolutely nothing against him being on the team as being say, the tenth highest paid forward, to perfectly align with his jersey number.

  25. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    That first line could use a nickname if they’re going to play together for a while.
    “Hugely”?

    Halfwise,

    I like the Cub line or the Fleet line. As in:

    “Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
    Thinker to Ebers to Chance”

  26. raventalon40 says:

    If I’m Tambellini I sign Gomez as an insurance to Horcoff and Belanger. If Belanger falters again or injury strikes, Gomez on a cheapish contract is not a bad investment.

    Plus Gomez will come in with a chip on his shoulder and will make training camp very interesting. Also would increase our ability to roll 4 lines.

  27. "Steve Smith" says:

    hunter1909: The answer is, probably never. Once his cap hit drops,

    Unless I’m very much mistaken, that doesn’t happen until his contract is up, which would be rather too late for a buyout in any event.

    raventalon40:
    If I’m Tambellini I sign Gomez as an insurance to Horcoff and Belanger.

    I don’t know him terribly well, but isn’t Gomez basically the opposite of Belanger and Horcoff, in that he’s a sieve? That seems sort of like buying a unicycle as fire insurance.

  28. Rondo says:

    LT,

    Who would you give up to get Ryan O’Reilly?

    Shouldn’t Edmonton be making an offer sheet for this guy?

  29. Lucinius says:

    Interesting…

    Devils signed Zajac to a 8 year, 46 million dollar contract. Cap hit of 5.75 million, no trade clause for entire contract as well. Guy is 27 years old with a career high of what, 67 points? And Hemsky was insane to get at 5 million (according to some and the mainstream media)!? Guy missed most of last year until the playoffs, as well, due to injury.

    Seems like a big overpay, imo, even with how well he played in the playoffs.

  30. Нинтендо⁶⁴ says:

    “Devils signed Zajac to a 8 year, 46 million dollar contract.”

    Lucinius,

    Big Money. Big Money. Big Money. ….Bankrupt!

  31. bookje says:

    “Steve Smith”: That seems sort of like buying a unicycle as fire insurance.

    Well, This picture makes that just seem like a stupid thing to do.

  32. Rocknrolla says:

    Chris Hext—formerly EasyOil—,

    Sounds good! This may be a nice year to visit!

  33. dessert1111 says:

    hunter1909: The answer is, probably never. Once his cap hit drops, they’ll be happy to keep him around on the third then fourth lines.

    What on earth is a cap hit drop and how do we get one. I guess once his contract runs out and if he’s resigned his cap hit would drop…..presumably. As long as he doesn’t play a good stretch of a dozen games in the playoffs of his contract year, that is.

  34. knighttown says:

    48 million for Travis Zajac? That could be one of the top 5 worst contracts in the NHL.

    For a genius Lou does some stupid shit.

  35. stevezie says:

    knighttown,

    I am struck by how unterrible a lot of those lineups looked. What really submarined us was injuries. I am not saying we were cursed, I am saying that the great and true failing of this team since Pronger has been the appalling lack of contingency plans for when things go wrong.
    If I were an NHL GM, and someday God-willing…, the lesson I would take from the Oilers is you want six top-4 defenceman, and another two who are ready to be effective in the NHL today. Vets who are good in the room and kids you want to give a chance to can slot after that; don’t worry, they’ll get their time.

    “Steve Smith”:
    That seems sort of like buying a unicycle as fire insurance.

    I am stealing this expression.

    In conclusion Zajac must do an awful lot of things you don’t see on the stat sheet to get that deal, like wash Lamoriello and agree to release his grandkids once the papers are signed.

  36. godot10 says:

    Rondo:
    LT,

    Who would you give up to get Ryan O’Reilly?

    Shouldn’t Edmontonbe making an offer sheet for this guy?

    O’Reilly is a good player, but not value for money at the dollars he is asking for. The Oilers have too many elite talents that they are going to have to pay within the next two or three years.

    Over $5 million for a 2nd line centre on a long term contract is too much.

    The Oilers are going to be asking Nuge and Schultz to settle for $6 million in two years, Yak for the same amount in 3 years.

    To solve the problem at 2nd line centre, the OIlers should use the cluster to attract a UFA centre on a better value for money contract and value for term contract than O’Reilly represents.

    The Oilers built it. They will now come, like Justin Schultz came.

  37. godot10 says:

    Re: Zajac

    It took less than a week for a desparate GM to screw up the entire salary scale of the new CBA. Lou, Lou, Lou…why, why, why.

    The Jovanowski contract the genius in Florida handed out is going to cost him both Garrison and Kulikov.

    In a hard cap world, it is value for money that counts.

  38. DeadmanWaking says:

    knighttown: On the road Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is going to have to face either the P vs. P studs like Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar and Shea Webber or he might get “lucky” and face the designated checkers like Dave Bolland, Rob Scuderi and Max Lapierre. He likely won’t produce well in either case and probably will get outchanced handily in the P vs. P matchups.

    Yes, but what’s your point? This team is strangely hollow in the middle: the heart-of-the-career 24-27 year-olds. I see Fistric and Smid plus Petry and Peckham from late 1987. These are on the low side for defensemen. On offense? We have one CVV entering his career wheelhouse. Ganger is the leading edge of our mid-career warhorse cluster, and he’s not even under contract next season.

    Issues lining up PvP? I think so. The flip side is that we have experienced warhorses dedicated (under the K system) to the PK, and two full crews of stuff-it-down-your-throat elite PP talent–an on-ice circumstance where even Shea Weber has his hands full dealing with an 18 year-old wunderkind with Nintendo puck control.

    In the WJC, maybe Nugent was getting outchanced 5v5. But he was also riding a goal and three assists on five PP opportunities early in that game against Russia. I don’t think “outchanced” means what you think it means (i.e. “we’re going to lose”–yes, but only if we ring two off the crossbar in the dying minutes of the 3rd period).

    Normally Chicago would love to trade run-and-gun possessions. Normally Chicago would love to trade special-team sorties. I’m thinking they’ll be rethinking that next time we meet. They’re simply going to have to play a lot tighter 5v5 than they would normally wish. This will be one dance invitation they’ll have to turn down. So we’ll be getting outchanced 5v5, but not out-chanced in the normal sense conveyed by invoking Toews of trading one big chance after another, with more for them than for us. This will be careful Toews taking the small chances he can generate, in exchange for giving up hardly any the other direction (if they learned anything since last year, or noticed our shiny new speedy/quick/heavy/accurate bar-down shooting machine).

    That little bit extra conservatism on trading chances will take a lit bit of chaos out of how they press their attack. Good, we need that. Meanwhile, the highly accelerated Nugent brain has had another year to compute on his defensive obligations when faced with NHL opponents, none of whom can do anything he doesn’t see in practice every day (except win a face-off and carry Weber from corner to post like Sid might do from time to time). Rocket, dangle, juke, thread, snipe. He sees it all in every drill.

    Yes, this is not a strong road team. We’re in bit trouble on the road if the ref. puts away his whistle. Not so much trouble if the ref. bites hard on his whistle, but the opponents rein-in their obstruction, hooks, and physical embellishments.

    Also, you focused on Nugent. Any day this season we might pick up the game summary and read that Hall outplayed Toews on the road PvP all night long. Hall is tracking–if all goes well right down to the stitch work–to become the league’s gold standard PvP minute muncher. He’s already doing it in flashes against the highest qual-comp.

    Finally, I don’t think Nugent’s back-checking is all that bad. His 5v5 numbers are tainted by an anorexic elephant in the room:

    Will Ryan Nugent-Hopkins always be bad at faceoffs? by some guy named Willis.

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the league’s worst face-off man last season, and it wasn’t particularly close. Of the league’s 120 most-used centers, Nugent-Hopkins was ranked 120th, with a 37.5 percent success rate …

    You can’t count his mistakes in the first half of the season against him: that was his first taste of professional hockey. And in the second half, he’s still perfecting his adjustments while dealing with the long season.

    I bet with the game slowed down a bit in the AHL, he had time to master some new tricks on the slow hustle the other way (even a sprint spewing ice chips is slow for that brain). He’s probably been working on how he sees the ice with the play headed the other direction. I suspect he’s developing a mental radar for picking up the lost man by inference from the rest of the play. Overlaid upon his physical view of the ice there’s hockey Jarvis animating neon sprites in his blind spot. (Nugent: How did you solve the icing problem? Big fat chump: Icing problem? Nugent: Might want to look into it.)

    We’re unbalanced after a fashion, but not so unbalance the other team can just show up and paint by numbers. They’ve got things to discuss, game day assignments to bear in mind in the heat of the moment, and a serious concern if they show up flat they fish their mistakes out of their net in bunches on the evening’s highlight reel.

    Or, if the other team’s strength is having an elite shut-down line, that just accentuates trading chances with the special teams. The Canucks are wired to think this is a good game direction. I’m thinking of the scene where Stark jumps the bulky Iron Monger from his blind spot and rips out a wire harness from behind the neck plate: “This looks important!”

    Obadiah Stane: You ripped out my targeting system… Hold still, you little prick!

    To our conference rivals: Good luck with that.

  39. raventalon40 says:

    “Steve Smith”,

    Gomez has a good reputation as a sound defensive player. I mean, he’s a product of the 90′s / early 2000′s Devils after all.

  40. Rondo says:

    godot10,

    I disagree , he is a potential Selke winner. For more

    http://www.hockeyprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1423

  41. commonfan14 says:

    raventalon40: Gomez on a cheapish contract

    Since they will be getting 100% of what’s remaining on their nutty contracts and considering how motivated they should be to prove themselves after having their names publicly dragged through the mud by this process, it’ll be a truly impressive display of shamelessness if Gomez and/or Redden end up signing anywhere for more than the league minimum.

    I look forward to it.

  42. RickDeckard says:

    godot10: O’Reilly is a good player, but not value for money at the dollars he is asking for.The Oilers have too many elite talents that they are going to have to pay within the next two or three years.

    Over $5 million for a 2nd line centre on a long term contract is too much.

    The Oilers are going to be asking Nuge and Schultz to settle for $6 million in two years, Yak for the same amount in 3 years.

    To solve the problem at 2nd line centre, the OIlers should use the cluster to attract a UFA centre on a better value for money contract and value for term contract than O’Reilly represents.

    The Oilers built it.They will now come, like Justin Schultz came.

    Why can’t O’Reilly come if he wants to? How many 50+ point centers that win 50%+ faceoffs, play 2nd unit PK, took the second toughest zone starts and toughest qualcomp are willing to sign for less than $5M? How many are 21 and still improving? He’s a strong possession center, had low SH%s and even if you regress his IPP to his career level he is still a 50 point center.

    This kid is a year younger than Eberle and two younger than Gagner. Considering the (potentially) low cost of acquisition they have to try get him. If the hang up is the cap hit then they should try to encourage Colorado to trade him for picks better than they’d get with an offer sheet.

    Hall-O’Reilly-Hemsky
    Hartikainen-RNH-Eberle
    Paajarvi-Gagner-Yakupov
    Smyth-Horcoff-Belanger

    The impact on the forwards is worth the cost. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it would allow the Oilers to use Gagner as trade bait without decimating their forward corps. A few months of playing soft minutes with Yakupov on his wing would boost his trade value, and with the right package could very well bring back the defenceman we crave.

    Maybe you’re concerned about who the Avs would draft. But here’s the thing: the draft is a craps shoot. A roll of the dice. If the Avs take Hunter Shinkaruk with the Oilers’ pick, is that really so bad? The Oilers don’t need more wingers as much as they need a more talented center.

  43. VOR says:

    A more talented center we may need but O’Reilly is not better than Gagner.

    1. O’Reilly played first line minutes last year which he wouldn’t here. He’d get Gagner’s minutes – that would give him 32 points at EVs and 15 points on the PP if he could keep up the same points per minute as last year (a career best at EVs by miles).

    2. If you take the three corsi measures for both comp and team and average them for centers over 40 games played O’Reilly played the 43rd toughest minutes and Gagner the 72nd toughest. Thing is to do it O’Reilly needed the 27th best team mates in hockey and Gagner the 82nd best.

    3. So each guy gives you 47 points in the same minutes and O’Reilly is reliant on power play time more than Gagner. Time he won’t get here because his job is filled by better players.

    4. Not to mention it doesn’t appear (given the underlying numbers) that O’Reilly would make our PK any better.

    5. Not to mention O’Reilly was still in the KHL last time I checked and shows no signs of coming back to the NHL any time soon unless paid outrageous money (more than Gagner gets).

    6. O’Reilly is a year and 6 months younger and has played two less seasons than Gagner.

    7. O’Reilly is an inch taller and 5 pounds heavier.

    8. O’Reilly was -1 in +/- and Gagner +5.

    So most likely you are talking about replacing a consistent 45+ point center who can hold his own playing with poor team mates against mid range opponents with a center who had two seasons of 26 points and one of 55 while playing more minutes than Gagner each and every year. O’Reilly apparently can saw off with elite level players if paired with elite level players.

  44. Suntory Hanzo says:

    Нинтендо⁶⁴,

    That’s pretty awesome!

  45. digdeepnbleedblue says:

    Cool post!

  46. stevezie says:

    VOR,

    Well it depends on how much stock you put in scouting reports. You make a very compelling numbers argument, and I do love the numbers, but people who watch this kid say he is a fitness freak who has future captain written all over him and will go on to win a handful of Selkes.
    What would you give for a young Brind’amour?

    I expect the case is moot because I doubt the Avs trade him at all, let alone within the division unless his contract demands are pure insanity, and if that’s the case we couldn’t afford him anyway (our big contract spots are taken).
    I wonder if the kid is just trying to get an extra week of salary while playing with his brother instead of going to training camp? I would respect the hell outta that!

  47. Rebilled says:

    The 4th line for the XX-13 season is pretty, prettttay, pretttaaaayyy interesting.

    Get well Jones? Yes, get well Jones. Eager wants to concentrate on bar fights and Belanger is tired from all the lock-out interviews.

  48. murphy says:

    I don’t like the lines, who takes on the hard mins? Nuge? Yak? Harti? none of them are ready.

    Let hall go with gagner and hemsky for head to head, mps brought up to play with smyth and horc for the toughs, yak nuge eberle easy mins, harti on 4th with jones and belanger.

  49. VOR says:

    Stevezie,

    I’ve read the scouting reports – thing is the rhetoric is absurd – they compare O’Reilly to Pavel Datsyuk based on part of 1 year’s play. Guys like Datysuk do more than forecheck. It is called back checking. Well, they also score more than 26 points a season.

    The thing is I think you all have O’Reilly confused with his linemate. Big guy, scores, skates, works like a demon at both ends of the ice. Raw rookie playing the toughs and dominating them. Going to wear the C for a very long time. Hits everything that moves. Until he came along O’Reilly was a poor man’s Andrew Cogliano. Now people are comparing him to Pavel Datysuk – me thinks the wrong guy is getting the press. Landeskog +20, O’Reilly -1.

    To acquire O’Reilly the suggestion is we give up at least a 1st rounder and a 3rd rounder. In the process getting (if we are very lucky) as good a scorer as Gagner and one who might be able to replace Horcoff some day. We also get to pay him more than we pay Gagner. All on the premise that he will be as good without Landeskog as he was with Landeskog.

    O’Reilly doesn’t hit, he doesn’t block shots, he doesn’t fight, and worst of all he loses his man by over committing to the forecheck. Basically a promising player who had a career season playing with what might well turn out to be a generational player.

    (If O’Reilly returns to the NHL this season try watching what happens on line changes in Colorado. You will see Landeskog break off the forecheck and head flat out to the bench. O’Reilly will still be in the O-zone working the puck like a dog with a bone. Once the other team is in possession of the puck O’Reilly will head to the bench. All that saves him is that he is a superb forechecker – one of the greats – in that sense, and that sense alone, the comparison to Datysuk is apt. But Datysuk accomplishes more and never risks giving up a 5 on 4 rush to do it.)

    Maybe O’Reilly turns into Datysuk or Brind’amour, in which case my bad – but more likely five years from now he is Adam Hall or Nate Thompson. That isn’t a knock. Those guys can play D. They just can’t do it and score at the same time.

    Which is why I would think Colorado is a bit reluctant to sign O’Reilly to a Zajac type contract. What is it they have supposed offered him to stay in Russia – $4,000,000 a year? Colorado isn’t going that high and if the Oilers did the fan base would go nuts.

  50. delooper says:

    I think it’s insane to think the Oilers would go for a high-priced questionable player. If the Justin Schultz story hasn’t knocked the sense into your head yet, I don’t know what will. Great players are going to **give** themselves to the Oilers because they **want to be in Edmonton more than anywhere else**. It’ll take a few more blows to the head before people get used to it.

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