In an interview with Brad Bartko last night, Oilers GM Craig MacTavish suggested that while he was still “open for business” and that he was “reasonably comfortable that we’ve made some progress and reasonably comfortable with the depth of our line-up.”
We know strictly speaking that the Oilers are not in fact “done” as they have RFA Sam Gagner to sign and Taylor Fedun is still waiting on a contract for 2013-14 (at this point one wonders if the Oilers are mulling over re-signing Fedun or staying the course–there’s a lot of young blue headed to OKC with tremendous potential).
If MacT speaks the truth, there is good and bad news this morning. The good news is that Ales Hemsky is staying, and that’s a very good sign. I don’t think the Oilers will get full value for him (he’s coming off an ineffective season by his own standards) and have always felt keeping 83 made more sense than sending him away. How then do we make sense of the lineup? Well, if we’re doing a depth chart it might go like this:
- Taylor Hall: Whatever line he’s on, that’s the 1line. An outstanding player in his early 20′s, this team will go as far as he’s able to take them.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: The injury and tough season may have faded our own memories of his ability to an extent, but when healthy he’s an exceptional player in all three zones. And he’s also just a kid.
- Jordan Eberle: A fine winger who in many ways proved more this past season than during his career year. A big part of the Oilers future, and part of a stunning RW depth chart.
- Nail Yakupov: Yak City is going to fire 40 a year when he finds the range with that Tsar cannon of his, and he should take a big step forward this season.
- Sam Gagner: The contract will get done, and 89 will be on the 2line and 2PP posting crooked numbers. The wealth of wingers who can take a pass on this club suggests he’ll have an excellent season.
- David Perron: The jewel of the offseason, a veteran addition who should score 25 a year with this kind of support and passing ability. Perron has some grit and offers coach Eakins some versatility.
- Ales Hemsky: At this point–due to age and injury–he represents the end of the offensive portion of the batting order. The beauty of Hemsky is that it gives the Oilers a legit offensive threat on three different lines, although he will probably have as much impact slotting in for injury/slump among the top 6 as anything he can do on a modified 3line.
- Boyd Gordon: He is not an ideal choice for Hemsky’s center, but is a perfect fit for the roster. I’m not certain how Eakins will use Gordon (obviously own zone faceoffs, PK) as a de facto ‘checking line’ seems impossible at this point in time. A valuable player no matter his linemates.
- Ryan Jones: A great opportunity for Jones this season, as they need the offense and badly need responsible defensive play. Jones actual responsibilities (I expect he’ll be the LW on a Gordon-Hemsky trio) are not that great. Early exits verboten.
- Ryan Smyth: I think he has more to show than we saw last season, and he could surprise by grabbing that 3line job I’ve given to Jones–at least for a time. Smyth fades with too much work but can be effective for stretches even at this age.
- Jesse Joensuu: He’s my pick to grab the 3line L job from Jones, and when we get around to RE that’ll be my projection (unless something else happens). He is not well known to us, but his resume suggests a strong fit with this roster (he’s a big forward with grit).
- Anton Lander: The one Oiler prospect who appears to be a lock for the opening night lineup, Lander’s PK skills and agitating nature appear to be enough to land him the 4line C job.
- Mike Brown: Enforcer who should play 40-50 games. I’m thrilled we haven’t heard a word about this position, hopefully he’ll play here a decade getting 3 minutes a night.
The final roster spot could go to an extra defenseman, or to one of Ryan Hamilton, Mark Arcobello or a free agent signing (I think they’ll want to add a guy who can play a physical style, score a little and maybe penalty kill). There’s also the possibility of a trade despite MacT’s words to the contrary last night.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
I don’t think they’re done. Jeff Krushell will host the show this week, I’m on holidays and plan to do all kinds of important work–or drink beer. Hmm. I’ll let you know how it turns out.