The Oilers were a strong team up the middle each time they played for the Stanley. Homegrown Horcoff-Stoll and Mike Peca were around for the ’06 run and you know the list (99, Messier, Linseman, MacT, etc) from the glory years. The good 90s and 00s teams had the Manhattan Transfer (Weight, Marchant) and the current group is mostly homegrown (Nuge, Gagner, Horcoff, Lander and outsider Belanger).
Can the Oilers build around Nuge-Gagner as 1-2? I think so, but they would need a strong 2-way C (a young Horcoff, Stoll, MacTavish or Marchant is not currently on the horizon) to complement the duo at the top.
The Nuge is going to take care of a lot of his own business when he’s older–hell, he already is–but Samwise is falling year over year.
11-12 Corsi (center)
Sam’s Corsi was the best among last year’s centermen (Eberle’s inclusion is an error). He looks good compared to the group in terms of Corsi and P/60.
12-13 Corsi (center)
Nuge is of course emerging (his offense is gaining a lot of attention, perhaps burying the lead: Nuge is very good at things like getting the puck, recognizing and reacting to plays defensively and grabbing loose pucks).
Sam Gagner is not getting punishing zone starts or qual comp, and his (and Hemsky’s) Corsi Rel is in the ditch. We haven’t seen Dennis King’s scoring chances yet this season, but I suspect we’re going to find the Nuge line is ripping it up while the other forwards–including Gagner’s line–are not at par.
That is a concern.
My own feeling is that they should keep Samwise. I confess to not knowing what the problem is, and do worry about this summer’s contract. However, he’s a wonderfully skilled young player who has (previous to this season) improved in important areas.
I would rather hire a 2-way checking C than trade Sam for him. Warts and all, Sam Gagner contributes to goal scoring and that’s the toughest thing to do in the game.
Second place in the division is a free for all, with four teams within three points of each other. Three of those teams can’t score and the other one can’t stop the puck (Calgary’s 54 goals against is a conference worst).
I’m not big on “must win” games, because that phrase should be saved for seasons like 2005-06. This is a good test of character, that I will say.
I’m not sure if Peckham draws into the lineup or Petrell does, but Ryan Jones is apparently ready to come off the IR by Saturday. That will require a roster move, and I’m hopeful they don’t just take the easy way out and send down Paajarvi. He’s earned the opportunity to play, and giving him the opportunity to build on recent success is a big part of this season. This year is about getting better, but it’s also about finding out what these kids can do, I believe the best plan is for the team to make a decision on one of the D.
I wonder if Krueger will put Peckham up front for a few games? He’s a truculent player, very physical and could drive opposition defensemen to distraction. I hate that kind of move (changing a defenseman to forward) but would rather see Peckham fill the role than Hordichuk.