RUNNING LINES

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

  1. Top 4 defender (signed Andrew Ference)
  2. Sign Sam Gagner to a multi-year deal that has begins with a number in the 4′s  (3 years, $4.8M cap hit)
  3. Get Paajarvi signed and then find a role that suits him (it was David Perron)
  4. NHL goalie (LaBarbera was a nice option)
  5. Find a 2line L who can complement Gagner-Yakupov (it was Perron)
  6. Find a 3line R (It was Hemsky)
  7. Find a 3line C (Gordon an ideal fit)
  8. Find a 4line C (Acton external, Lander external options)
  9. Deal Hemsky for immediate help (best trades sometimes are the ones you don’t make)
  10. Deal Horcoff or slot him into the 3line job for which he is actually ideal. (Set him free)
  11. Decide on Lander/Belanger or other for 13F. (lots of options now)
  12. Better blue depth (MacT has done this with Belov and Larsen, plus Klefbom/Fedun/Marincin)
  13. AHL #1/NHL #3 goalie (Bachman is the solution)
  14. 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.:)

 

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41 Responses to "RUNNING LINES"

  1. junglerot says:

    On Oilers main site Ryan Jones is listed as LW on Gagner line. Great coverage, look forward to the videos.

  2. Jordan says:

    I really like the idea of playing Gordon Perron Yakupov.

    I also really like the idea of playing RNH Hall Hemsky

    Which leaves Gagner ??? Eberle. Is ??? a Smyth? Jonessu? Hamilton? Double-shifted Hall (if he can get his endurance up????)

    That would give the team 3 lines with a lot of firepower AND some semblance of defensive accumen. I <3 goals!

    I'm really liking what I'm hearing about Acton – maybe he can take the job from Lander? Him and Smyth and Jones make for a reasonable 4th. Maybe better than league average?

    I really wish we had gotten a chance to see Belov out there…. this Foreign service strike just hit home. Somebody tun on the batsignal! Tell Batman: The conservative government is getting in the way of his hockey team's re-birth!

  3. Benhur says:

    I would really like to see Hemsky try out for centre. What’s your thoughts?
    Thanks for you post it’s interesting to hear the results…and I am disappointed with Hemsky’s performance. You think he would have something to prove and he did mention wanting to take a leadership role????

  4. OilClog says:

    I’m can’t buy into day 2′s training camp wind sprints meaning much more then wind sprints, remembering when I was victim of windsprints.. I’d say for Hall it will go like this.. Hall will match Smyth by the 3rd day, pass him by the 5th. Hemsky will match by the 5th and pass between day 8-10, lets not forget the broken foot that was suffer in Hemmers case..

    I’m ok with players coming in at 80-90% of the skating ability when camp begins, if they were spending their time on other fundamentals of the game throughout the summer. By the end of camp their endurance on the blades, will be ready for a long season. Like injuries, burn out must be avoided.

  5. BlacqueJacque says:

    OilClog,

    You’re right, and I should consider data that we don’t have access to – like VO2Max results (that apparently Eakins cares very much for.) In my other posts I made it a point to note that the two guys who probably disappointed most in fitness (Hemsky and Hall) were also two of the most effective in drills – though Hemsky still appeared to be sucking wind at the end of his drills.

  6. Gret99zky says:

    I want the team in the playoffs but I don’t think it will be this year. Because:

    -RNH will not be available and it may lead to a slow start and the team having to climb uphill all season.
    -the moves made are not a huge upgrade over last years squad especially in the area of size and toughness.
    -the new division/playoff format may take a season to figure out.
    -not enough NHL depth to survive the injuries when they come.

    The two wildcards in my book are Eakins’ system and Dubie’s play.

  7. MrDooman says:

    You didn’t mention Grebeshkov, why do you hate him?
    (under better blue depth)

  8. bookje says:

    LT, I would appreciate you posting my summary of camp as well, as I suspect it will resonate with most readers.

    Day 1 Summary: I have no idea what happened at camp today because I had to be at my stupid job.

    I’ll post my Day Two summary tomorrow after work.

  9. Lowetide says:

    bookje: GREAT analysis!

  10. B S says:

    Great work Blacquejacque.

    If I recall correctly from last year at TC (because you brought it up) Yak was a little behind on some of the more complex drills, but he had the fastest, most accurate shot even then. Crazy good. You know the crates they carry the pucks out in, when he was cleaning up (he, schultzy, Paajarvi, and Harti were the last off the ice) he was shooting the pucks through the handles of those crates (no, not lifting it on his stick and placing it through, shooting it) from 5-10 feet away. He got it in the crate 9/10 times.

  11. Downright Fierce says:

    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.

    That may be the funniest thing I’ve read all year.

    Oh and great vids BJ. Great to see the Omark board work that you mentioned, always liked that about his game. I agree that he needs to buy-in defensively, but I kinda like when he gives some lip. Getting under the skin of opponents will win you points in my dressing room any damn day of the week. I was at the TBL “Spin-o-ramagate” game and despite the thrill of it all, my favourite part still might be watching MSL, Ellis et al squirm over it on TSN.

  12. BlacqueJacque says:

    B S,

    I was saying that because there wasn’t a training camp last year to my knowledge :)

    Mostly I brought up Yak and his understanding of the drills because he executed them like anyone else, and didn’t look as confused on the ice as he did last season, especially early on.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if next season we’re having a controversy over who the first line right wing is.

  13. TheOtherJohn says:

    Bookje

    Wanted to thank you for the time, effort and the video’s that went into today’s report

    BJ
    Thanks…..seriously

  14. BlacqueJacque says:

    Downright Fierce,

    You can see the entire Omark sequence here. I was recalling it incorrectly – he didn’t keep the puck – but he was everywhere it went afterwards. Several good touches.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=U4cjWhfZym0#t=91

    TheOtherJohn,

    You’re welcome, your thanks and everyone else’s really make it worth the effort.

  15. bookje says:

    For any of you who didn’t read the earlier thread todayBJ posted loads of stuff throughout the day – well worth reading!

  16. B S says:

    BlacqueJacque,

    Last year (technically this year, if that’s what you meant) TC was 3 days, with the Joey Moss cup on the 3rd day. I went to the 3rd day only.

    I think Ebs will be the 1st line right wing, but only on the technicality that he plays with RNH. It’ll probably come down to which line plays with Hall the most though.

  17. stevezie says:

    The Ference parts were the best news of the day for me. If he can skate like the young while thinking like the old- well at least we can put fears of fading away for another year.

  18. fifthcartel says:

    I would like to see Omark in there in some capacity, but my bet is he gets waived and picked up by a team in need of some offense. I think R. Hamilton might have a chance with the Marlies factor, and the whole ‘plays physical but not stupid’ part of his game.

  19. BlacqueJacque says:

    bookje,

    Bookje, in case you missed it in the other thread, no, I didn’t have video of the on-ice fitness test, but here’s a drawing of what it looked like from my perspective at the end of the ice (I may be off on the exact position of the finishing line.)

    http://i.imgur.com/7mGDLpG.png

  20. Young Oil says:

    Thanks for the posts BJ! It was great to be updated throughout the day.

    Omark looked decent in the video you posted, but I was actually very impressed with Marincin (#80) from 3:05-3:55. People keep saying he isn’t strong enough, but he looked very good on the boards, even if he was checking smaller opposition in a bad position to keep the puck. Very excited to see how he progresses in the next couple of years. Between him, Klefbom, Nurse, Schultz and Petry, we are going to have a very good top 4 in a few years.

  21. BlacqueJacque says:

    Marincin was definitely better than expected. Very low-drama player. Really grew up in OKC IMO. I didn’t comment on him as much because like a good defenceman, he wasn’t that noticeable unless you were looking at him. He’s strong, significantly stronger than Gernat or even Nurse, he’s quick enough, he reacts well. Another year of seasoning and he’ll be good to go, IMO.

  22. Young Oil says:

    BlacqueJacque:
    Marincin was definitely better than expected.Very low-drama player.Really grew up in OKC IMO.I didn’t comment on him as much because like a good defenceman, he wasn’t that noticeable unless you were looking at him.He’s strong, significantly stronger than Gernat or even Nurse, he’s quick enough, he reacts well.Another year of seasoning and he’ll be good to go, IMO.

    That’s good to hear! I always tend to think that in a lot of cases, the best defencemen are the ones you don’t notice. Hopefully the cap will go up ~$5M a year, and we’ll be able to keep all of our good young defencemen (and forwards).

  23. striatic says:

    fifthcartel: I would like to see Omark in there in some capacity,

    Skate Sharpener? Waterboy?

  24. B S says:

    BlacqueJacque,

    As far as I can tell Marincin should be the first callup from OKC. He’s been our best defensive prospect since J. Schultz graduated to the bigs.

  25. Henry says:

    BlacqueJacque,

    You’re commentary today was spectacular. Those of us 2500 miles away really appreciate your effort to report and the quality of the writing.

  26. dawgtoy says:

    BlacqueJacque:
    bookje,

    Bookje, in case you missed it in the other thread, no, I didn’t have video of the on-ice fitness test, but here’s a drawing of what it looked like from my perspective at the end of the ice (I may be off on the exact position of the finishing line.)

    http://i.imgur.com/7mGDLpG.png

    You nailed it, that’s exactly correct.

  27. TeeVee says:

    BJ

    Thanks very much for the updates and videos. Your commentary made it very enjoyable and I appreciated your analysis of each player.

  28. Dead Cat Bounce says:

    Awesome work BJ.

    Thanks.

  29. Nostradumbass says:

    I predicted earlier that Hemsky and Eakins were going to mix like oil and water and I stand by it

    Eakins seems to be a coach who doesn’t think good enough is “good enough” and wants a standard of fitness that sets the Oilers above other teams

    Whether this is an effective strategy or not remains to be seen but count on ego’s being hurt early

  30. jp says:

    Thanks Blaquejaque, great info. Did you get any fruit and veggies for your work?

  31. "Steve Smith" says:

    Nostradumbass,

    Remember that GDT where you were talking about how useless Hemsky was, and he scored a beautiful goal *right after* you posted? That was awesome.

    On an unrelated note, is this Matheson satirizing himself? It’s quite spectacular:

    1. “The idea for Hall at centre came from Eakins over the summer…” And everybody else who has been discussing Taylor Hall’s NHL prospects since he was about twelve.
    2. “Who plays with Justin Schultz on the top defensive pairing?” A guy who was not one of the best two defencemen on the Oilers’ inferior 2012-2013 blue line is anointed to the top pairing on the superior 2013-2014 one.
    3. “Look for Eakins to experiment but keep coming back to putting Andrew Ference with Justin Schultz. Ference has won a Stanley Cup and has further experience in two other Cup finals.” For the same reason, I think Eakins should pair Randy Gregg with Schultz.
    4. “Who’s Jesse Joensuu?” From Matty, I almost get the sense that this isn’t a rhetorical question.

    …and so on.

  32. Nostradumbass says:

    “Steve Smith”: Nostradumbass, Remember that GDT where you were talking about how useless Hemsky was, and he scored a beautiful goal *right after* you posted? That was awesome.

    I believe that was the opener last year. Crow does admittedly taste better when served with an Oiler goal

  33. cabbiesmacker says:

    This teams fortunes rest 100% on if the 4 kids + Perron can pull the rest along in their jet stream.

    Hall is the teams #1 C now? I thought this team only had one legit top 6 C and his wing is on the mend.Gordon at 2C liking says a ton about Gagner.

    And that blue? Thats about as ugly as it gets. Ference showing best says a whole ton.

    Bottom 6 is putrid.

    If RNH, Hall, Eberle, and Yak can all pot 80 pts, Perron account for 70, and Dubes post a .940 Sp maybe this might be a playoff team.

    They still have to play the games but I’m giving MacT advance epic fail marks before they even leave the starting gate.

  34. Evilas says:

    BJ – did you see what happened to Klefbom, heard he got a puck to the head…..

    He’s like a Lamborghini that keeps getting caught in hailstorms….

    I wasn’t sure if he’d survive Penticton without injury. He’s gonna be a heartbreaker as LT surmised last season and/or season before…

    I think I know who I would stand next to in a thunderstorm on a bald-ass hill.

  35. Maggie the Monkey says:

    http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/09/12/edmonton-oilers-d-man-andrew-ference-an-elite-athlete-whose-love-of-community-is-anything-but/

    As I posted in this blog:

    It’s great to read about a player’s strong sociopolitical opinions. The bleaching of young athletes’ social consciences by the profit machines of professional sports has been a slow, sad erosion over the years, IMO. While taking an extreme stance like Mohammed Ali did would be asking too much, it’s a shame that more athletes don’t express their positions like Carlos Delgado did when he decided to stop standing for the singing of “God Bless America” in opposition to the American military invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Regardless of whether or not I agree with such positions, I strongly believe that in order for for athletes to be considered leaders in their usually adopted communities they have to do more than show up to golfing fundraisers and offer up empty sound-bites. For what it’s worth (which is absolutely nothing), my vote goes to Andrew Ference to be the next Captain.

  36. Hammers says:

    Don’t you wonder WHY so many wondered if McT could handle the job ?? We are on our way yet again.

  37. Bruce McCurdy says:

    Add my voice to the chorus singing the praises of BlacqueJacque, who did fantastic work today filling in those of us who had other commitments. Outstanding.

  38. wheatnoil says:

    Thanks for all your work yesterday BlacqueJacque! Really interesting information there!

  39. theres oil in virginia says:

    Wow! I miss a day and BlaqueJacque goes from the outhouse to the penthouse! Great job, man! The report above was excellent. I love the nicknames for the 2 Schultzes. Maybe there’s hope for Schultzo after all.

    You’ve just gotta stay off the sauce! (No, don’t do that.)

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