We begin the discussion of the 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers this evening by having a look at center ice. There’s plenty of murmurs from the broadcast rights holder about Shawn Horcoff delaying the future, so with that nugget we can start to piece together the thinking of Edmonton’s brain trust as we bleed out on another season.
- #1 Center: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I think we’re beginning to see the Nuge as a player: more complete than we might have thought on first blush, but perhaps not the elite offensive player those PP numbers suggested during his rookie season. The Nuge can be #1C on my team any time, and if there’s one thing this year’s tough (and long) minutes are showing it’s that the kid is going to be able to help push the river against very good competition.
- #2 Center: Sam Gagner. I think there’s a chance Samwise is pricing himself off the team as we speak. The Oilers have always seen him (imo) as a part of the future, but up until now Gagner could reasonably fit into that second line role in terms of playing time and cap dollars. Now? His agent is going to do his job and if Gagner is anywhere near a point per game he’s looking at a big raise. $3.2M this season and a point per game? He’s going to cost a lot, folks.
- #3 Center: Shawn Horcoff. It never occurred to me that the Oilers might buy him out, but reading the tea leaves today I’m thinking this may already be in the works. I’m at a loss to explain it, and the reasons given are vague and not well formed. So, maybe I’m wrong. If the Oilers do buy him out without getting someone to help this young group it will be stunning in its short sightedness. Stunning.
- #4 Center: Eric Belanger. Signed to one more year, and based on that rookie pass into the Oilers slot last night I can’t see anyone wanting him at the deadline. He’s improved from last season, but is also limited offensively and unable to handle the workload since Horcoff went down (and who can blame him?). Like most of the Oiler veterans, he is fading and could spend much of next season in the pressbox.
- #5 Center: Anton Lander. I suspect the Oilers see him as a big part of next year’s club, and if that Nordic line can play as they did in short spurts this season then maybe there’s a future there. However, Lander won’t need waivers a year from now so sending him out is an option and there’s absolutely no reason to rely on him next year. His offense did not come with him to North America.
- WILD CARD: Taylor Hall. As we get into the wingers, one of the main questions for 13-14 surrounds RW (Hemsky, Eberle, Yakupov) versus LW (Hall, Hartikainen, Paajarvi, Smyth). If Hall moves to C–and I think that’s probably the plan if Horcoff is leaving–then will the Oilers spend their lottery selection on a LW (say Drouin, Nichushkin or Mantha)? It makes a certain amount of sense, especially if they can lose consistently enough to get into Drouin territory.
POSSIBLE C DEPTH CHART 13-14
- Taylor Hall-tough minutes and pushing the river
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-tough minutes and calming the waters
- Anton Lander-lesser minutes Nordic line possible
- Eric Belanger-penalty killing and bit part as he rides off into the sunset
It’s over, folks. When a Roman Hamrlik is available for money and the organization passes on the opportunity, and the broadcast rights holder is hinting than Shawn Horcoff is blocking the future, it’s over. It’s over, it’s over, it’s over.