Every summer I make a list of “things to do” for the GM and then watch it not happen. A strange thing happened this summer: stuff got done!
MACT’S SUMMER LIST
Top 4 defender(signed Andrew Ference) Sign Sam Gagner to a multi-year deal that has begins with a number in the 4′s(3 years, $4.8M cap hit) Get Paajarvi signed and then find a role that suits him(it was David Perron) NHL goalie(LaBarbera was a nice option) Find a 2line L who can complement Gagner-Yakupov(it was Perron) Find a 3line R(It was Hemsky)
Find a 3line C(Gordon an ideal fit) Find a 4line C(Acton external, Lander external options) Deal Hemsky for immediate help(best trades sometimes are the ones you don’t make) Deal Horcoff or slot him into the 3line job for which he is actually ideal.(Set him free) Decide on Lander/Belanger or other for 13F. (lots of options now) Better blue depth(MacT has done this with Belov and Larsen, plus Klefbom/Fedun/Marincin) AHL #1/NHL #3 goalie(Bachman is the solution) Sign Paul Ranger(signed every Marlie but Ranger)
I believe that’s a good summer. Out are Whitney, Horcoff and others and in are Ference, Gordon and a fairly long list of options. I think this team makes the playoffs, mostly because the impact kids are a year older.
POSSIBLE OPENING NIGHT LINEUP
- L1: Nuge-Hall-Eberle
- L2: Gagner-Perron-Yakupov
- L3: Gordon-Joensuu-Hemsky
- L4: Acton-Smyth-Jones
- D1: Smid-Petry
- D2: A Ference-J Schultz
- D3: Grebeshkov-Belov
- G1: Devan Dubnyk
Would you be satisfied with that group? Who would you like to see in the lineup that doesn’t appear? Who would you take out?
BLACQUE JACQUES OILERS REPORT
OK, so, final impressions from today. I didn’t post anything for the fourth and final group because I was taking videos of the drills so you guys can get an idea of what was going on. Unfortunately my phone died so it has to charge up a bit before I can upload.
The last group was (of the big names) Yak, Perron, Gordon, Omark, Grebeshkov, and I have to throw Cam Abney in there. I don’t know if he’ll ever have an NHL career, but he will have a hockey career of some kind. Not that slow, better at pivoting than I’d expect from a big guy, and pretty puck aware. He’s not just some goon. If he continues to develop he might be challenge for a Ben Eager/Jesse Joensuu role.
Anyway, Yakupov was probably the best forward I saw on the ice today. It’s really a three-way tie between him, Eberle, and Hall, and if anything I’d say Hall was trailing the other two by a hair. Yakupov’s shots were on target, hard, accurate, and the few times they missed, the rebound off the boards was so hard it didn’t say behind the line but bounced far enough forward that it would be in decent rebound scoring position. I obviously didn’t attend training camp last year, but Yakupov understood the drills, his assignments, and the rotations and executed them as perfectly as anyone. I might make fun of hockey players and their intellect from time to time, but pretty much every player understood some fairly complicated drills after a brief explanation from Eakins. Eberle was back to 2011 form with his hands, putting the puck where he wanted it and scoring twice on Labarbera, and generally did his whole disappearing magic trick where he’s gone, he’s gone, you don’t even miss him and oh shit he’s got the puck, he’s deking and it’s in the net.
After those three, the next-best forward to my eye was Perron, followed by Hemsky and then maybe Gordon, Omark, or Gagner. Perron has a good shot, very nice backhand and in general is a very solid offensive player. Omark has lost a step since we last saw him, but lost none of the ability to be elusive in tight areas and come away with the puck against much bigger opposition. In one of the videos I’ll upload, you guys will see what I mean. He starts with the puck near the corner, no one around him, and then the drill seems to be to hold onto the puck for a scoring chance. Two defenders come at him and he walks away with it – nobody else did so. Whether he buys into defensive coverage and learns to keep his mouth shut, is something else, but I think he’s got a chance at a roster spot. Smytty just can’t be counted on to play 3rd line minutes for very long, IMO. Once he gets tired, he *stays* tired and takes much longer to recover.
I think we might actually have three scoring lines whether Eakins believes in a checking line or not. Right now the pairings on the offense were ???-Gagner-Eberle, Smyth-Hall-Hemsky, and Perron-Gordon-Yak. Yeah, right-shooting Perron on the left side and left-shooting Yak on the right side. Shut up, I don’t care how it looks, it worked.
Grebeshkov has lost none of his chaos. Like Omark, he’s lost a step, but hasn’t lost what made him into the Denis Grebeshkov we all know and love. At one point he bailed at high speed, landed on his ass and nearly bowled over an Oiler by the bench. At another, he nailed either Abney or Bitker in the chest with a slapper from the point during a drill when one of those two giants was screening net. Then he almost canned Steve Smith with a backhand puck to the nuts.
Andrew Ference is our #1 defenceman if my eyes today are to be believed. Unbelievable fitness results, terrific anticipation and quick decisions. Schultzy (y for younger) looked in better shape than last year, but not necessarily better defensively. Schultzo (o for older) was another player in great shape and did a solid job of being invisible – just the way I like my defensive defencemen.
Marincin is further along than I thought he would be. Big steps were taken in the AHL last year. Gernat has a long way to go yet, another year or two in the A. When I watch him, I understand why players risk suspensions and fines and their long-term health by using steroids. Another 15-20lbs on his frame would make a big difference and all he’d be left with is learning to be more cautious defensively, and he’d be a legitimate NHL defender earning millions as opposed to a prospect earning a couple hundred thousand. As it is, he’s not strong enough.
Of the prospects, obviously Marincin is worth noting, but I want to comment on how much I liked Marco Roy. Really looked like he’d already played some pro hockey in the AHL. I think we’ve got a player.
***FITNESS AND EAKINS***
As far as fitness goes, Eakins is either right where he wants to be or exactly where he doesn’t want to be. Because if he wants to make an example, he can pick on Hemsky, Hall, and Gordon in that order. Hemsky is what, 7 years younger than Smyth, and by the third or fourth run he was getting beat by him. Hall was getting beat the run after that. Gordon was the worst of his group. Andrew Ference walked away from the Hall/Hemsky/Smyth group like nobody’s business. So you’ve got two very old men – one who lost his speed 15 years ago when he met Bryan Marchment, the other who has been playing 20-25 minutes a night for 10 years – beating your top young gun and your 5 million dollar man who’s always had questions about his effort. I honestly would not want to be Hall, Hemsky, or Gordon right now because it’s going to be ugly. Hell, I wouldn’t want to be Eakins – because after saying all that, are you going to staple your best player and likely #1 centre to the bench, along with your projected 3rd line centre and one of your best wingers?
In Hall’s defense, I can say that he was handling the drills better than Hemsky, who was breathing hard at the end of them all. Omark was only a little better than Hemsky in that regard, but Omark didn’t get embarrassed by Ryan Smyth in 6 foot races. I still think there’s a chance that Hall’s high-effort stride with its bad glide played a role in his poor results, but I may be making excuses for Moose Redux. If I was to guess, I’d say it’s Hemmer who is going to see his minutes cut.
I missed the Eberle/Gagner group’s fitness testing – it either happened before I arrived, or while I was watching the Perron/Gordon/Yak group’s drills – so I don’t know how Ebs and Gagner did.
Anyway, phone should be charged enough to where I can start uploading.
Thank you all for the compliments who enjoyed my updates, and apologies to anyone who was hoping to talk about Eakins rather than read some random fan’s quick impressions of isolated events from practice drills.