Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins are close to finalizing their roster, and it is certainly a different roster than we would have seen under Tambellini-Krueger. Gone are Shawn Horcoff, Nikolai Khabibulin, Magnus Paajarvi, Mark Fistric, Ryan Whitney and others. The new look Oilers are skilled at the top end, snarly at the bottom end and unproven in the middle.
- MacT: “We had a lot of guys that the best they were going to be in any given game was a non-factor.”
That was MacT in April, talking about the holes in the roster and what he planned to do about improving things. If you take a look at the 2012-13 bottom 6F, it’s easy to see what he was talking about:
5X5/60 (BOTTOM 6F) 2012-13
- Ryan Jones 1.38
- Lennart Petrell 1.36
- Shawn Horcoff 1.34
- Ryan Smyth 1.23
- Eric Belanger 0.66
- Mike Brown 0.42
- Teemu Hartikainen nil
The two men still standing from that list are Ryan Smyth (who has enjoyed a rebirth during TC) and Mike Brown (whose role on the team has more to do with enforcement/agitation than outscoring). The interesting thing for me is that the new group of bottom 6F’s is going to be much more skilled–and the names of the men in the bottom 6F’s are going to take some getting used to for fans.
As a for instance, let’s have a look at this potential opening night lineup (forwards only)
- Acton-R Hamilton-M Brown
The bottom 6F’s include a recent #1 overall, an extreme own-zone faceoff man, a big Finn with skill, and a player in Ryan Hamilton who scored 30 goals in 56 AHL games last season. There’s a lot more skill in the three and four lines this fall than there was a season ago, and the goal scoring rate for last year’s group above (16 goals in 48 games, or .33 goals per game) should be exceeded by the Yakupov alone!
The contrast becomes even more exceptional when Nuge and Gagner return:
- Acton-Joensuu-R Hamilton
That’s a helluva top 9, with a nice slot for Yakupov (who’ll be a hammer on the PP) although he could play up and down right side and be at home. I think the Oilers improvement this season will come from increased depth, but mostly from the kids maturing and pushing things forward. The fact that we’re not doing any ‘all hope is lost’ hand wringing after the Gagner assault suggests times are better.
Can that bottom 6F score at better than a .33/game rate?
A note about Dallas Eakins. He probably spent some of his currency this week in getting Ryan Hamilton and Will Acton on the roster. I like it, shows the courage of his convictions. I’m not at all certain either player is a long term solution, but the bet’s been made and if they do Edmonton has a couple of inexpensive options who can help win hockey games. It also points out a nice “start as you mean to go” attitude about this Oilers management group, who have rewarded this summer’s hires with opportunity. Not all of these men (Belov, Larsen, Grebeshkov, Acton, Hamilton, Joensuu) are going to have long careers in Edmonton, but they are solid bets. If they work out, the club is richer for it. If not, re-set next season.
Steve Tambellini had a hard time breaking up with players. I sense the MacT-Eakins duo will be slightly more aggressive.
A lot of talk on the Al Gore today about Ryan Jones. Seems to me that this is the one day we shouldn’t be dancing or saying I told you so, and I’m pleased this blog and the rest of the Oilogopshere had the same reaction to today’s news. I’ve made no secret over the years about my feeling toward Jones hockey ability, but would never wish a job loss or release on anyone. It happened, we have our opinions and we move on. However, we also take the time to wish Ryan Jones all the best, and hope he finds a new hockey home soon. He was truly loved by Oilers fans, and had tremendous success in an Oiler uniform. Ryan Jones was an NHL hockey player, and he may be again.