TC 2013: THE EDGE OF (OPENING) NIGHT

For the first time in ages, the Oilers have some real depth on the blueline. I’m also pleased with the wings and the goaltenders, with only center lacking the kind of depth we can assume will be required for the long winter ahead. Craig MacTavish didn’t get everything done this summer, but  he certainly moved the organization forward during June and July.

New coach Dallas Eakins has a nice group to choose from, here’s my guess at the opening 23:

  1. G Devan Dubnyk: Earned  the starting job and earned the playing time, now must prove himself to a new management group that has expressed both confidence and the belief there’s more here. Interesting winter for Dubnyk, he could cash an enormous contract next summer if he can backstop this group to the second season. 
  2. G Jason LaBarbera: I think he’s miscast as a spot starter, predicted a 30 game season for him in the RE series and that feels right. LaBarbera has some nice things in his resume and despite his age it’s possible he’s entering the busy period of his career now.
  3. D Justin Schultz: He’s going to play a helluva lot again this season, the young man has some kind of offensive chops. I think coach Eakins would be wise to ride him on the nights he’s on, but spell him when the wheels fall off (they always do for young blue, it’s a tough damn position to play). Terrific PP quarterback, mobile bugger whose position should read ‘rover’ but they took it out of the game miles ago.
  4. D Jeff Petry: A strong season for this defender will mean a big contract in summer, he’s poised for a big payday. I really like his range of skills and the fact there’s a lot of try even when things are going badly. A helluva player.
  5. D Ladislav Smid: When I was a kid, they called them “glue guys” (don’t ask me why) and Smid is hella-important on the current roster because he’ll be the defensive conscience on one of the top 2 pairings. PK man, shot blocker, the only thing left to bitch about is sorties to nowhere, but I’m pleased he’s still an Oiler.
  6. D Andrew Ference: He’s in the Jason Smith role now, heart on his sleeve defender who leaves it all out on the ice. Recent comments on this blog about him suggest many haven’t spent an extended period of games watching him. Calm feet, intelligent player, backs down from no one. If you’re going to beat down Andrew Ference, you better pack a lunch because it’s going to take you all day.
  7. D Anton Belov: The Russian invasion continues, this gentleman fresh from Siberia with some attitude and an idea about how to play the game. I think his offense got a lot of push, and mention of him defensively implies some gaps and holes. I always wonder when these descriptions discuss defensive issues–most Russian blue is about positioning and not trying to hit you into the Matrix. I think he may be a better defensive player than has been suggested.
  8. D Nick Schultz: This is a guy who might be on a slow boat to China if not for the CBA. Runs completely out of step with the MacT defensive mission statement (puck movers baby, Tom Gilbert>Nick Schultz) but he has value. The Oilers will send him away for a 2 or a 3 the first chance they get, but until then he’ll play top 6 minutes and help the PK. NEVER TRADE FOR A DEFENSEMAN LIKE THIS WHO CAN SEE 1,000 CAREER GAMES AHEAD. They’ve slowed, all those sorties, blocked shots and scrums.
  9. D Denis Grebeshkov: I believe the Oilers will carry 8D until they can offload Schultz the elder for a draft pick, and that means the Russians might have to share playing time.  Grebeshkov may not bring enough to training camp to win the day, but I think MacT has something very specific in mind here: he believes Grebs personality, experience and character will be a strong and positive influence on Yakupov. It gives the Russian an enormous edge on the others trying for this spot.
  10. D Corey Potter: I don’t know how much he’ll play–not much before the club deals Schultz the elder certainly–but I’m pretty sure he’s a better player than Phillip Larsen. Larsen has the edge in one way: MacT dealt for him. However, I think management has always liked Potter because he serves as a perfect example of what happens when you follow the rules.
  11. C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: I believe he makes the opening night roster. The word we got early was the surgical invasion was less than Hall’s, and that suggests recovery will be sooner. The Oilers could surprise us, but if there were bad news we’d have it by now–the club wouldn’t want a  long term problem to be an issue surrounding the positive that marks the beginning of training camp.
  12. C Sam Gagner: Safely in the fold, I think he’ll flourish this year–remember he’s the most likely center to have Yakupov and that kid is ready to explode. Perron could be his other partner, and once they develop chem this could be a wild ride. The 2nd line will be better this season at evens–I’ve lit many, many candles.
  13. C Boyd Gordon: Perfect fit center for this team. He’ll play huge PK minutes and zone starts, work at the quarry long days and then slay dragons each evening. I bet he’s looking forward to it!
  14. C Anton Lander: My pick before Acton, Miller, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, McGuinn, Clark and Hillman. That showing in the spring was a small sample size, but I think he found his range for the first time in North America.
  15. L Taylor Hall: We’re past Out of Our Heads, December’s Children and Between the Buttons and heading for the open road of Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. The role of Ed Sullivan is played by Lindy Ruff this time.
  16. L David Perron: As fans, we assume certain things–for instance, we’re all counting on David Perron to come here, score 20, make few defensive errors and adjust quickly to his linemates. It doesn’t always happen like that, but this is a talented player with a great opportunity.
  17. L Ryan Smyth: I’m betting Smyth has some more in the tank, and that he’ll arrive ready for his final training camp. The club badly needs a rock solid performance from him.
  18. L Jesse Joensuu: HUGE winger who performed well when healthy and absolutely has a chance to impact his new team. If he can play a physical role while also keeping up with skill, well he could be here awhile. A terrific bet from MacT.
  19. R Jordan Eberle: Big brain, great hands. I get absolutely noxious emails about Eberle, people really think I don’t like him at all. Please understand: Jordan Eberle is one of the great value draft picks in the team’s history, certainly one of the best since Barry Fraser discovered tequila. I heart Eberle!
  20. R Nail Yakupov: Even now, barely 40 games into his NHL career, you can see it. He’s all emotion–that goal against LAK will live in infamy–and his shot will one day break iron. My GOD what would we have done if they’d taken someone else?
  21. R Ales Hemsky: Spent most of his time as the Oilers Jagger, now he’s Ian Stewart, barely gets his name on the liner notes. Hemsky is currently a sleeping giant. If they can resist trading his ass I bet he rewards them in a big way.
  22. R Ryan Jones: A little bit forgotten, but that could change with a solid TC and pre-season performance. Jones had a tough year and had to wait for a contract–my guess is he’s going to be a very determined player.
  23. R Mike Brown: One roster spot for an enforcer, and I think they choose Brown. He’s a nice fit for this team, who can use him on nights when dinosaurs exist, and sit happily when he isn’t needed. Edmonton’s other enforcer? The powerplay goal.

Tomorrow: The hopefuls and the also-rans.

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38 Responses to "TC 2013: THE EDGE OF (OPENING) NIGHT"

  1. D says:

    I think this team can do some damage. Time to drop the puck on this season already.

  2. Racki says:

    Damn, you are a writing machine. The EJ should dump those hacks and hire you on. lol

    I will say that I have no clue what you said re: Taylor Hall.. but I agree anyways, just cause I’m sure you make sense! :P

    God this season can’t start soon enough.. I’m almost contemplating a trip to Penticton..

  3. Manitoba Oilers says:

    Omark?

  4. Lowetide says:

    Manitoba Oilers:
    Omark?

    No. He’s in the “hopefuls and also-rans” bookend post tomorrow.

  5. 106 and 106 says:

    Racki,

    Musical slang goes over my head, but the lighting of candles has me laughing.

    LT man, I love the way you write. This blog is the best – and if your posting Gold during the dog days of August….Lordy

    how much quality is coming out of the second season?

    We wait.

  6. justDOit says:

    As much as I crave the start of the season, I still can’t shake the feeling of seventh bitten, eighth shy. But it’s GOT to be better this season, right? RIGHT!?

    Now where’s that box of red…

  7. Lowetide says:

    For those wondering about the Stones reference, they were basically a singles band (they all were) until about 1965 or so, and then started putting together albums that had themes and were meant to be more than greatest hits collections.

    From “Beggar’s Banquet” through “Exile” I’d say the best rock and roll ever created came from the Stones. It was magic, and I neglected to include Get Yer Ya Ya’s out, which was the best live album ever.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bzbvBgSPAs

  8. theres oil in virginia says:

    Racki:
    I will say that I have no clue what you said re: Taylor Hall.. but I agree anyways, just cause I’m sure you make sense!

    This one’s up my alley:
    The Rolling Stones put out a bunch of albums in their early days (Out of Our Heads, December’s Children and Between the Buttons), and frankly they weren’t really all that good, but there were some good songs on there (Heart of Stone, etc), but boy did they hit their stride with Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. Those albums could be considered the pinnacle of rock and roll, and they were certainly The Stones’ best. If Taylor Hall breaks out like that, look out NHL!

  9. theres oil in virginia says:

    You beat me to it LT! You were already a “hockey knowledge god” in my eyes, now you’re showin’ these youngins that you know a thing or two about rock and roll, too! Awesome.

  10. Lowetide says:

    OIV: Exactly. The other thing is Mick Taylor. Brian Jones died (it’s a long story) and Mick Taylor drew in and played the best guitar probably ever, although those Allman boys and Neil Young are with him on my list. Mick Taylor on a country song here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTjni_t3MgY

    Jesus.

  11. theres oil in virginia says:

    Lowetide,

    Wow. That’s a great version of that song. Thanks.

    Right around the time Jones died is when the band got to another level. (Apparently, Keith Richards says they got that edginess from being hounded by the law.)

    That Mick Taylor guy’s a pretty alright, kinda not-too-shabby guitarist. (I’m practicing understatements.)

  12. theres oil in virginia says:

    Alright, I’ve got one for you, since you mentioned Neil Young above:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLZJMot6G0E

    I love how Beck’s kids are around and on stage in that video.

  13. hunter1909 says:

    Hemsky’s Brian Jones, because Taylor Hall’s Jagger, and Yakupov is Keith Richards.

    Rolling Stones were nowhere near Ed Sullivan, since they went with The Red Skelton Show.

    Back to your Dad’s record collection.

  14. striatic says:

    i’ve read some rumours of Dubnyk losing 3 inches off the top of each pad, 6 inches in total off his 5-Hole coverage.

    hope this doesn’t throw off his game too much.

  15. Lowetide says:

    hunter1909:
    Hemsky’s Brian Jones, because Taylor Hall’s Jagger, and Yakupov is Keith Richards.

    Rolling Stones were nowhere near Ed Sullivan, since they went with The Red Skelton Show.

    Back to your Dad’s record collection.

    Stones on Ed Sullivan (4 times)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7JEGcWGbKE

  16. Woodguy says:

    All this talk about guitar players got me thinking about this 5 minutes of blues heaven.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnlwxS-36AU

  17. Suntory Hanzo says:

    Lowetide:
    For those wondering about the Stones reference, they were basically a singles band (they all were) until about 1965 or so, and then started putting together albums that had themes and were meant to be more than greatest hits collections.

    From “Beggar’s Banquet” through “Exile” I’d say the best rock and roll ever created came from the Stones. It was magic, and I neglected to include Get Yer Ya Ya’s out, which was the best live album ever.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bzbvBgSPAs

    One might also note, theat the early albums were almost all cover tunes. Sometimes ony have a few originals on the LP. I wonder if they ever really thanked the Beatles properly for I Wanna Be Your Man?

  18. Suntory Hanzo says:

    And this: a rice Krispies Commercial for Stones fans that haven’t seen it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZBmhEMFdl0

  19. Lowetide says:

    Marc Olivier Roy is having a nice pre-season

    http://theqmjhl.ca/roster/gameByGame/id/7412/ls_season/174

    9 shots and 3 goals in 2 games. Nice.

  20. Dead Cat Bounce says:

    Woodguy:
    All this talk about guitar players got me thinking about this 5 minutes of blues heaven.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnlwxS-36AU

    http://youtu.be/F4OXrmxDp44

    Jeebus,

  21. dawgtoy says:

    Gotta get me a copy of the Hockey News.
    @JoshRimerHockey: The Hockey News Yearbook says in the West, the Kings, Sharks, Canucks, Ducks, Oilers, Blackhawks, Blues and Wild Make the playoffs.
    @JoshRimerHockey: The Hockey News Yearbook also predicts that the Penguins, NYR, Flyers, Bruins, Red Wings, Senators, Canadiens & Leafs all make the playoffs

  22. Ivan says:

    theres oil in virginia,

    OIV, that vid, along with a wee pint and another insightful post from the Master? A fine start to the evening.

  23. Racki says:

    dawgtoy:
    Gotta get me a copy of the Hockey News.
    @JoshRimerHockey: The Hockey News Yearbook says in the West, the Kings, Sharks, Canucks, Ducks, Oilers, Blackhawks, Blues and Wild Make the playoffs.
    @JoshRimerHockey: The Hockey News Yearbook also predicts that the Penguins, NYR, Flyers, Bruins, Red Wings, Senators, Canadiens & Leafs all make the playoffs

    I seem to recall that one of the big hockey peeps said the Oilers would explode last year too.. I think it was the Hockey News wasn’t it? I don’t really get excited over that stuff anymore.. but I will say that this is the first time in 7 years of saying “THIS IS THE YEAR!” that I really mean it! :P

  24. 719 says:

    For the 3rd line I like

    Lander – Omark-Hemsky

    Yes I know I know, but Lander has more offense than Gordon, and him and Omark have had some chemistry before (Tre Kroner line anyone?). Throw Hemsky on that line and you have a legitimate 3rd line scoring option!

    4th line I think

    Gordon-Smyth-Jones with Joensuu filling in for Smyth or Jones as needed.

    Brown to the minors where he punches away some 20 year old kid’s dreams…

  25. theres oil in virginia says:

    Suntory Hanzo:
    I wonder if they ever really thanked the Beatles properly for I Wanna Be Your Man?

    Ever seen The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus? If not, it’s worth a look, there’s some great stuff on there: Jethro Tull – A Song for Jeffrey, the best version of Corrina I’ve ever heard (Taj Mahal), and a bunch more. Anyway, to the point: there’s a brief exchange between Jagger and John Lennon just prior to the latter’s performance (with Eric Clapton and Keith Richards and more) where the phrase “I wanna hold your man” is used by Lennon in a friendly-mocking fashion toward Jagger. The whole conversation seems loaded with “insider exchanges” between the two, but I take that one to refer to your question’s topic.

  26. dawgtoy says:

    Racki,

    FYI they picked our Oil to finish 13th.

  27. FastOil says:

    They’ll finish 7th – LaBarbera posts a .935 as he takes over from DD to run the season out. Eberle shoots 29.75% and scores 50.

  28. SinceTheWHADays says:

    For an Old Oiler fan this blog is Gold. Allen Mitchell you’re the Wayne Gretzky of bloggers, (were as Cloutier is the MAB of bloggers) and all the regular posters are like the supporting cast from the glory days. Thanks a million to y’all for the great stuff all summer and here’s to cheering on our team for another season. GOILERS!!!

  29. dawgtoy says:

    SinceTheWHADays,

    Completely agree!

  30. cc says:

    LT. Can you be a little more clear here…

    D Nick Schultz: This is a guy who might be on a slow boat to China if not for the CBA. Runs completely out of step with the MacT defensive mission statement (puck movers baby, Tom Gilbert>Nick Schultz) but he has value.

    Are you suggesting Schultz is not a puck mover? And how is he completely out of step with MacT defensive mission? Other then posting what others have said and you’ve read, please help me understand your thinking here.

    The older had to cover the sins of the younger during his first season, left high and dry on numerous 2 on 1′s. I stop here and hear you out.

  31. Lowetide says:

    CC: He had a tough job no doubt, and the numbers (shot diff) tell us he was effective in that tough job (playing 2nd pairing with a flat out rookie). I think the problem for him comes with the hiring of Ference, meaning Edmonton has three expensive D on the left side making legit $:

    1. Smid
    2. Ference
    3. N Schultz

    That’s my list, you may slot them another way. Anyway, the Oilers have Klefbom knocking on the door and Schultz is expensive AND a free agent next summer. Plus he has a lot of miles on him.

    In regard to being a puck mover, that really isn’t his game. He’s mobile, that’s for sure, but I don’t think the headman pass is a strength and I don’t recall a lot of sorties.He’s a throwback, if he gets the puck past center he’ll rip it in, if he has to make a decision in his own zone it’s going to be safe and less creative.

    That’s a good thing. The Oilers are aiming a little higher with MacT in terms of quality. The want the mobile (Schultz has it) along with the quick decision (Schultz has it) married to the quality outlet pass or carry (I don’t see that).

    You can say the same thing about Smid and Ference, and you’d be right. I just think they’re ahead of him in the organization’s estimation.

  32. cc says:

    Fair enough. His price tag is an issue for sure. I just feel we haven’t been given a chance to see how Nick plays in a offensive system. I noted before that 10 years in the defensive dessert of Minnesota hasn’t given us a real opportunity to see his offensive up-side, exhibited in his junior days.

  33. Lowetide says:

    cc:
    Fair enough.His price tag is an issue for sure.I just feel we haven’t been given a chance to see how Nick plays in a offensive system.I noted before that 10 years in the defensive dessert of Minnesota hasn’t given us a real opportunity to see his offensive up-side, exhibited in his junior days.

    Oh yeah, agreed. I think the system (and I’m not trying to be anti-Ralph Krueger here) that asked the D to engage required better reads from the forwards and it exposed both Schultz’s on that pairing. But yes, I think he’s certainly a player of value and the Oilers shouldn’t deal him for a load of hay.

  34. Reg Dunlop says:

    So, Anton Lander is your pick ahead of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young? What about Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves? See Deja vu for the uninitiated.

    Hemsky in the role of Ian Stewart? Very fitting in that he will achieve fame in his new digs after being traded, like Ian did with Zeppelin (Boogie with Stew from Physical Graffiti).

    Thank Buddha there are only 4 more sleeps until rookie camp.

  35. Spydyr says:

    Lowetide,

    Lowetide: Oh yeah, agreed. I think the system (and I’m not trying to be anti-Ralph Krueger here) that asked the D to engage required better reads from the forwards and it exposed both Schultz’s on that pairing. But yes, I think he’s certainly a player of value and the Oilers shouldn’t deal him for a load of hay.

    By load of hay do you mean someone like Tom Gilbert who can’t find a team to sign with and is not even ranked in the top 25 unrestricted free agents.there is no doubt the Oilers won that deal.

  36. Lowetide says:

    Spydyr:
    Lowetide,

    By load of hay do you mean someone like Tom Gilbert who can’t find a team to sign with and is not even ranked in the top 25 unrestricted free agents.there is no doubt the Oilers won that deal.

    Is this the USA Today list you’re following? :-)

  37. Spydyr says:

    Sorry,cannot remember what list I read it on.It was a month or so ago.He was also brought out of his last contract by the Wild.Sure you know that just forgot to mention it before.

    I’m sure someone picks him up either before camp or early in the season.Just no where close to the money he was making.As with all players I hope he has success but IMO he would be best served as a bottom pairing defenceman on a quality team then a second pairing guy on a lousy team.He is just to soft to handle the better players in the league.

  38. Lowetide says:

    Spydyr:
    Sorry,cannot remember what list I read it on.It was a month or so ago.He was also brought out of his last contract by the Wild.Sure you know that just forgot to mention it before.

    I’m sure someone picks him up either before camp or early in the season.Just no where close to the money he was making.As with all players I hope he has success but IMO he would be best served as a bottom pairing defenceman on a quality team then a second pairingguy on a lousy team.He is just to soft to handle the better players in the league.

    Meh. Gilbert’s fine, they just ran out of money. I’d love to see the Oilers pick him up, but they have too many D already.

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