LOUD NOISES 6: SHAPES OF THINGS TO COME

The Edmonton Oilers open auditions for “big guy with skill” got some good news last night from both Rexall and Calgary, and for Oiler fans it could mean two new faces in the crowd. The key item is finding guys who can actually play–take and make a pass, not let the play “die on their stick” to borrow from the MacT phrasebook, and to be a factor in the hockey portion of each game.

Long time Oiler fans will remember this player–the big guy who can play with skill–is basically a unicorn in Oiler lore. Unlike the center problem (solved, really, the day they took RNH), the big, tough 2-way winger who can take and make a pass (I envision a young Ryan Smyth, the Oilers often appear to envision Ivan Drago on skates) gets the lower draft picks and the Coke Machine bio and then we end up with threads like this one.

IT’S A TRAP!

It’s fun to go back over the years and look at what Oiler coaching staffs tried to do in order to fill the role:

  • 2008-09: MacT always had size on his teams but they were also hockey players. The 08-09 list included Dustin Penner (17-20-37), Ethan Moreau (14-12-26) and Erik Cole (16-11-27 before he was traded). MacT also used guys in secondary roles (Stortini an example) who had size.
  • 2009-10: Pat Quinn’s opening night lineup suggested big men were the most important item for the club. His 1line had Horcoff and Hemsky with JF Jacques, Penner with Brule and Cogliano, Ryan Stone with Mike Comrie and Patrick O’Sullivan and Moreau and Stortini with slow Schremp.
  • 2010-11: Tom Renney did what I would have done–he basically ignored it. Tom Renney’s Oiler teams make a lot of sense compared to Quinn’s, but I think a lot of that had to do with Renney saying “we’re not going to worry about what we don’t have, we’re going to worry about getting the most out of what we do have” and so he had size on the 4line and Penner played a high profile role, but beyond that he rode the kids, Horcoff and Hemsky.
  • 2011-12: Tambellini went out and got Ben Eager in the off-season, but Renney never got to use him really. Renney’s second season was a little different–he added Nuge and lost Paajarvi and Omark, but I think year one’s mission statement still applied–go with the best players, we don’t have big men with skill so we’re going to play smaller men with skill in their place.

2012-13 OPENING NIGHT WITH KRUEGER

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

The audition for Krueger was twofold–they tried to get Hartikainen in a good spot for success, but they also had a veteran 4line that boasted Eager and he is a guy who remains in the mix for this season.

So, since MacT left as coach, the guys coming in auditioned (by my count) JF Jacques, Ryan Stone, Eager and Hartikainen, with a total of zero of them working out. Is that fair? Remember, we’re looking for a guy to establish himself here, to become Penner without the offer sheet (and of course the coach has to be able to go through a day without fantasizing about killing him) and to play with skill.

WHY BOTHER?

Well, a big man who can pass and take a pass, go to the tough areas, and add to the group is useful. Quoting Tom Benjamin:

  • It is very difficult to score off an offensive zone cycle without getting a player to the front of the net. That is a hockey truism that is not a myth.

I agree with that, but it’s also true (and Benjamin lays it out beautifully here) it has to work in order to have sustain and NHL teams spend gobs of time and money trying to get these damn things to mesh. The Oilers have had no sustain in this area save Penner (and Smyth before him) to the point where a haggard Smyth may still be the best remaining option.

WHO DID WELL LAST NIGHT?

  • Jesse Joensuu: a goal, an assist and 5 shots on goal–good things all for a guy on a 2-year, one way deal with the big club. 16:22 last night and I think you could make a case he was the best forward on the ice.
  • Ryan Hamilton: an assist, 18:59 on ice and from all reports he did fine (skating may be an issue, but that’s the case with everyone in this group of Oilers this fall).
  • Ryan Smyth: scored a Smytty goal, skated hard, worked like a bugger. I love Ryan Smyth.

WHO HAS THE INSIDE TRACK?

Joensuu to my eye. He was strong on the puck, his goal was the kind of tally Edmonton will need in addition to the beauties, and he can take and make a pass. I’m not saying Joensuu is going to play on the top 6F, but he’s going to get a roster spot if he keeps playing like this and sooner or later someone is going to suggest him as a PP option for blocking out the sun in front of the net.

This isn’t over.

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28 Responses to "LOUD NOISES 6: SHAPES OF THINGS TO COME"

  1. fuzzy muppet says:

    nice to hear that YO JO did well. I could only see the in Calgary game, but from what I saw, Perron is going to be fabulous. He was weaving in and out of traffic with the puck all evening.

    Place 57, 89, and Yak city together and they will be soft-comp killers.

  2. Manitoba Oilers says:

    Perrons goal last night was such a snipe

  3. Gret99zky says:

    I agree about Joensuu having the inside track right now. Played exactly the role they needed him to.

    Eakins said when he was hired that his team would compete as hard in the last minute as they do in the first. He has some work to do.

  4. TheOtherJohn says:

    If Hamilton is having skating issues during first exhibition game it’s gonna get markedly worst as the games speed up. How was Musil’s footspeed? He has same issue. Hope JJ can make it. We do need some size.

  5. GATO BANDIDO says:

    I admit I’m skeptical about Joensuu and in my mind I have him as 13F (with Omark at 3LW). But I’d love to proven wrong.

  6. Ducey says:

    Interesting to speculate on who will be cut.

    After the obvious top 6 (wonder kids and Perron), you have Hemsky, Gordon and Smyth (not necessarily in top 9 but on the team).

    That leaves 3 spots and one in the pressbox (assuming they keep 8 D) for:

    Joensuu, Omark, Hamilton, Lander, Acton, Eager, Brown.

    One of those guys will get a stay of execution until Nuge is ready, but still, who gets cut?

    I’d say that Lander will get farmed (he is still on his ELC). That leaves Acton as the 4C. Brown got 3+ minutes of PK last night and would be the tough guy. Hamilton has some skill, can PK and the coach loves him. Joensuu has some nice things going for him.

    The guys ultimately cut (barring other injury) would therefore be Eager and Omark. Of couse “barring injury” is an important caveat with Hemsky around.

  7. Gret99zky says:

    I’m thinking Omark is going to have to make a better defensive impression if he wants to make the 23 man roster.
    His passing looked great in the O zone during the PP and he looked good with Yak but out of position in the D zone and getting caught in no mans land may cost him a spot.

  8. BlacqueJacque says:

    Pretty much echoed my thoughts.

    I also loved Yak’s response in the post-game to losing. Something like “I know this is preseason, but we should have won that game”. Looked disappointed.

    I expect Hall will have a more disciplined game next time around. I doubt the coaches will even have to say anything.

    I looked up that Kanzig kid. 6’7 241 and he’s 18, doesn’t turn 19 until February. Crikee, he’s going to cripple some kids in junior. They’re going to need to start introducing weight classes in hockey if these giants keep showing up.

    I also think early reports on MacT’s trading down at the draft are promising. Platzer looked pretty good.

  9. Ribs says:

    fuzzy muppet: Place 57, 89, and Yak city together and they will be soft-comp killers.

    Apparently Gagner is the team’s number one center right now, so no softies for him until Nuge is one hundred percent.

  10. Lowetide says:

    Ribs: Apparently Gagner is the team’s number one center right now, so no softies for him until Nuge is one hundred percent.

    Hall’s probably #1, no?

  11. Ducey says:

    Oh, and I forgot Jones. Probably means Omark, Eager and Hamilton are ultimately cut.

  12. oilgreg says:

    I was at the game last night (the Edmonton version), and IMO Joensuu was the best forward on the ice. This is not to say he is a better player than Hall or Yak City, but for this game he was the one that shone.

    However, I was disappointed to not see some aggressiveness after he was face-planted on a low hip-check by Wideman. I think that if he had made Wideman accountable on this play, then Smyth would have been much less likely to be sucker-punched by this same guy later in the game.

    I can’t see Messier, Lucic, Dustin Brown, Clarkson or other power forwards skating away from “a Wideman” after receiving a hit like that, and if Joensuu is going to create space for himself and others, he can’t either.

  13. BlacqueJacque says:

    Lowetide,

    You think? I don’t know if I’d do that. I’d rather put the established centre out, but, I mean, we still have the rest of the preseason to see how Hall does at pivot.

    Man, I feel hung over and I didn’t even drink. Too much excitement last night.

  14. Ribs says:

    Lowetide: Hall’s probably #1, no?

    Well, he did play 50 games or so back in junior. I suppose he’s ready to be the number one. Hah.

    Trouble ahead.

  15. Lowetide says:

    Ribs: Well, he did play 50 games or so back in junior. I suppose he’s ready to be the number one. Hah.

    Trouble ahead.

    I think we’ll find out sometime this week about Nuge, and suspect we’ll be hearing good things.

  16. OilClog says:

    I think Wideman was just showing the Oilers brass, he can be their tough guy.. No? Lol

  17. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    “(and of course the coach has to be able to go through a day without fantasizing about killing him)”

    Not sure that goes away, regardless the player.

    If the peanut gallery is any indication, even sublime players like Hall make the canaille thirst for blood.

    Of course, Eakins answer on Omark the other inspires all kinds of confidence in this regard.

    ——-
    any reason why Curtis Hamilton didn’t dress yesterday? I realized this morning I didn’t notice him… healthy scratch or is he on the pile of banged up kids too?

    ——
    I think Joensuu is on the team. The question is how many games does he dress for and for which line.

    Omark is showing well. He’s auditioning for 30 coaches right now and I’m sure his agent is sending tapes of that beard all over.

    I’m near ready to say he plays in the NHL this year, maybe even within the first month of the season. If not for the Oil, for someone else.

    ——
    I think Roy (the G) is showing us that the G position is under attack and the defences aren’t close to being set up. I think we should look for a lot of Euro, college and over-age players swinging through the system in the next couple of years.

  18. Ribs says:

    Oilers tweet….

    Edmonton Oilers ‏@EdmontonOilers 11m
    #Oilers assign Ben Betker, Ty Bilcke, Greg Chase, Jackson Houck, Reid Petryk, Kyle Platzer & Marco Roy to their major junior clubs.

  19. VanOil says:

    Was not impressed being treated like a third class fan last night, out of market.

    I am impressed with the reports on the big Finn, Soumi.

    As Chip Kelly is about to rever-up I will leave you with this gem from yesterday’s Oregon Ducks commentary where they still play Chip Kelly style; “This is like the Jetsons playing the Flinstones”

    I hope to feel that way about the Oilers again one day.

  20. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Looks like hemsky already back on the ice.

    “24 hour flu”? sounds like

    https://twitter.com/EdmontonOilers/statuses/379281244812369920

    Left last night w/ illness –> RT @Bob_Stauffer A good sign for the @EdmontonOilers this morning as Ales Hemsky is on the ice at practice

  21. oilswell says:

    Didn’t see all of the games and watching two at once, so I got some exceptionally unreliable saw-him-good/bad!

    Hall looked frustrated at being in the wrong position on the ice, possibly in the wrong position on the lineup card. Took responsibilities seriously though and, honestly, I don’t know if there’s another player on the team I want with the most responsibilities.

    Joensuu and Hamilton both with puck skills and straightaway speeds better than I expected, agility about what I hoped for. There’s chance is there, particularly if either can reliably PK, and it seemed to me like a few more paragraphs were written last night on the story that ends with Omark being claimed on waivers. He seemed content to Laraque it in both ends of the ice.

    Grebeshkov still with some bat and a huge hole in the glove; not sure he’ll stick but I’m really rooting for Steve Smith because the Oilers will need him big time this fall. Belov seemed invisible, which in this case is not what we should want in a defenseman, but we should probably give him a pass. Or a visa. Which somehow Grebeshkov could acquire in time with less time.

    Systems play and defense under a new coach and system looked as awful as you would expect on the first of the preseason’s games with squads diluted to half the talent.

    There were no facepuncher cards in what I watched. I was under the impression that preseason is contracted to deliver a tilt-per-period minimum experience.

  22. Ribs says:

    oilswell: Belov seemed invisible, which in this case is not what we should want in a defenseman, but we should probably give him a pass. Or a visa.

    Like a damned ninja, that guy. ;) I’m thinking you meant someone else? I don’t think he’s showed up yet.

  23. Hammers says:

    Ducey:
    Interesting to speculate on who will be cut.

    After the obvious top 6 (wonder kids and Perron), you have Hemsky, Gordon and Smyth (not necessarily in top 9 but on the team).

    That leaves 3 spots and one in the pressbox (assuming they keep 8 D) for:

    Joensuu, Omark, Hamilton, Lander, Acton, Eager, Brown.

    One of those guys will get a stay of execution until Nuge is ready, but still, who gets cut?

    I’d say that Lander will get farmed (he is still on his ELC).That leaves Acton as the 4C.Brown got 3+ minutes of PK last night and would be the tough guy.Hamilton has some skill, can PK and the coach loves him.Joensuu has some nice things going for him.

    The guys ultimately cut (barring other injury) would therefore be Eager and Omark.Of couse“barring injury” is an important caveat with Hemsky around.

    See you added Jones who stays , but I’m not so sure they keep 8″D” as in fact #8 could be on IR .The other point is that Eakins must decide Lander or Acton ( 1 can go down and Acton wouldn’t get picked up anyway so a coaches decision . Joensuu vs Hamilton , Brown & Eager for size toughness ,. My gut is Brown & Joensuu both stay. RNH will be ready at least by 10/15 . Keep Omark as skill guy .

  24. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Ribs: Like a damned ninja, that guy. I’m thinking you meant someone else? I don’t think he’s showed up yet.

    I think that was what the “get him a visa” comment was about ;)

  25. striatic says:

    so i guess the major battles are ..

    Lander vs. Acton vs. Arcobello

    Eager vs. Hamilton vs. Omark

    Potter vs. Fedun vs. Larsen

    Marincin vs. Belov vs. Grebeshkov – pick 2 or add Potter

    what is interesting is that in each category except the last you have the following sequence.

    incumbent, challenger with similar skill set, challenger with less defensive and more offensive pedigree.

    Omark if he doesn’t improve rapidly, is on the outs. I’m curious about Arcobello though. so maybe the idea is that he plays top 6 F to start the season if Hall struggles at C. what i wonder is, say he continues to play well. is he a real candidate for the 4C role?

  26. Ribs says:

    Romulus Apotheosis: I think that was what the “get him a visa” comment was about

    Ah, over my head. got it. :)

  27. justDOit says:

    BlacqueJacque:

    I looked up that Kanzig kid.6’7 241 and he’s 18, doesn’t turn 19 until February.Crikee, he’s going to cripple some kids in junior.They’re going to need to start introducing weight classes in hockey if these giants keep showing up.

    And they just keep on coming.

    http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/2012/10/23/peewee_hockey_player_faces_challenges_being_taller_than_most_nhlers.html

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