The biggest concerns for Edmonton Oilers fans this fall? How much time do you have? It’s the depth at center, the top pairing, the goaltending, the power play, the faceoff circle and the left coast.
THREE EFFECTIVE SCORING LINES
The Oilers have a great, rocking line of $6 million dollar men in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. I’ve projected them to score 87 goals this season. That’s the “G-A-G plus 5″ line should it happen, and it would be a nice step up from 74 a year ago from the trio.
I think most of us believe the club could cobble together a quality 2line from the group of remaining skill wingers (David Perron, Teddy Purcell, Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov), but the worry is the pivot on the line. If we’re honest, the ‘safe’ selection is Mark Arcobello—he filled the role well one year ago when Sam Gagner was drinking meat through a straw—and it’s conceivable Perron, Arco and Teddy Purcell could compete against reasonably difficult opposition.
The third line? Well, Benoit Pouliot was effective in the role as recently as the SCF, and Nail Yakupov led all rookies in scoring just two years ago. I’m not certain any of us sees Leon and Nail on the same line in the NHL as soon as October, but a soft ZS diet might deliver reasonable results. That gets us to the 4line, which is Boyd Gordon, Matt Hendricks and one of Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, et cetera, et cetera.
How do I feel about this? Craig MacTavish should have paid Mikhail Grabovski whatever he was asking.
I had a chat with Rob Vollman on Friday, and we spoke at length about the Oilers defense. Rob believes the ideal shutdown pairing for Edmonton this winter is Mark Fayne with Jeff Petry. Severe zone starts, toughest comp, heavy minutes at evens and penalty kill. It makes sense artistically—they are absolutely the best defenders on the team—but two righties on the same pairing is more rare than a unicorn. In fact, since everyone else is a lefty, my guess is we never see the duo back out of the driveway together.
I think it’s a fabulous idea. You may say “bad idea, two RD never play together, it goes against the grain’ and my reaction is ‘so does being down by three goals entering the third period’ so choose your poison.
Which brings us to the best partner for Justin Schultz. Let’s begin with the WOWYs.
JUSTIN SCHULTZ 5X5 WOWY 2013-14
|PLAYER||CORSI FOR 5X5%
I’ve ranked them by their 5×5 CF%, and as you can see the two veterans Schultz played with rank at the very bottom of the list. Schultz actually played fairly well with Marincin, Belov and Grebeshkov, and one wonders if Marincin may end up playing with Schultz this year. Darnell Nurse or Oscar Klefbom may eventually fill that role, but for now we’ve seen evidence (the OKC season and this very small sample size in 2013-14) to at least put them together during preseason.
If the Oilers use Marincin for Justin Schultz, then we’re left with:
- Andrew Ference—Jeff Petry
- Nikita Nikitin—Mark Fayne
Hmmmm. I’m liking this Fayne-Petry combo more and more. I do expect we’ll see Ference with Justin Schultz again, but if Dallas Eakins can move Schultz to a different spot in the sledgehammer it could work.
VOLLMAN SLEDGEHAMMER (COMPLETE 2013-14)
Eakins will need (and I discussed this with Vollman last week as well) to put Schultz in the ‘soft parade’ zone whenever possible. The soft parade zone is populated by only Luke Gazdic here, Schultz is a little inside the “shutdown” corridor and that’s the worst place for him. Because Schultz will be playing with skill it may not be possible to get him over to the soft parade, but if Petry-Fayne were up in the Gordon region it would give the coach more freedom to use Schultz in the best possible way.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
It’s September! Lowdown hits the air on TSN 1260 at 10 this morning. We begin with Scott Burnside from ESPN at 10:05, talking about the Schultz contract and the remaining RFA’s. Next up: Andrew Bucholtz from 55-yard Line to talk CFL weekend and NFL cuts that may impact the Canadian league. At 11, Jonathan Willis will pop in and we’ll take about the Oilers in 2014-15 and where they might land. At 11:25-ish, Rob Soria pops in to talk US Open tennis.
@Lowetide_ or 10-1260 text. Kids are back in school, drive carefully!