You’d think this day would produce a lull in Oilerville. I could write a ‘tracers’ article about some scandalous activity performed by Sam Pollock that ruined the competitive balance of the first dozen years of expansion. You could read it, think to yourself “boy, that guy sure can hold a grudge” and we could spend the day discussing all manner of things. Alas, these are the Edmonton Oilers and there’s always something going on.
If the Oilers hit the ice today featuring Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same line, I expect this blog will blow up. There’s a sense, three games in, that this team needs the big man in the middle to make things go. If that is the case, allow me to suggest lines and pairings that this blog would prefer.
- Patrick Maroon—Connor McDavid—Jesse Puljujarvi
- Milan Lucic—Leon Draisaitl—Anton Slepyshev
- Jussi Jokinen—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Zack Kassian
- Drake Caggiula—Mark Letestu—Ryan Strome
- Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson
- Yohann Auvitu—Kris Russell
- Darnell Nurse—Matt Benning
- Cam Talbot (Laurent Brossoit)
I left out Kailer Yamamoto, Jujhar Khaira, Iiro Pakarinen and Chris Kelly up front, Eric Gryba on the back end. Zero chance this is the lineup in practice today, I am very much looking forward to the lines and pairings this morning.
- Glen Sather, fall 1983: “Sammy Pollock used to say all jobs are open in Montreal but who was he kidding? Nobody was going to take Larry Robinson’s job or Guy Lafleur’s. In our camp I refuse to tell the players that. But I’d love it if somebody took a job away from a returning player. If that happened, that would make our team stronger.”
Raimo Summanen scored five points in two games, Pat Conacher hung around all year, but Sather didn’t have anyone who could take a job away from a veteran fall 1983. If you look at the Oilers roster as it stands here today, and identify what would be needed to make it hum right away, it becomes clear just how far from balance this team is right now. Adding to the worry is the great unknown that will be Andrej Sekera on his return. Will he be 100 percent? His injury has a history of lingering and having an impact that lasts one calendar year.
What the Oilers need badly is for Jesse Puljujarvi, Matt Benning and Anton Slepysev to emerge as substantial talents in feature roles. Life doesn’t work like that however, and we are back to the dilemma of summer: How can you find a way to put Leon Draisaitl at 1R and 2C? Answer: You can’t.
The best answer I can find is a Jesse Puljujarvi recall. Puljujarvi, along with Anton Slepyshev on the 2line with Lucic and Leon, are the best available options (Caggiula is not a superior offensive player to either man, Yamamoto is more talented offensively but probably needs another year) at this time. I’ve suggested a Josh Leivo acquisition and still think there are players on the scrap heap who can help. Edmonton may want to go that route in the coming days. For now, I believe the big Finn, warts and all, should be recalled. Today.
- Steve Ewen, Vancouver Province: Giants general manager Glen Hanlon had told Sportsnet 650 on Sept. 22 that he expected Benson, the team captain currently rehabbing from off-season sports hernia surgery, would return to the squad during their upcoming six-game Eastern Conference road trip, which starts Friday with a visit to the Swift Current Broncos. On Monday, Hanlon directed questions regarding Benson to the Edmonton Oilers, who used a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to nab the 6-foot, 190-pound forward. The Oilers signed Benson, an Edmonton native, to a three-year, entry-level deal last December. Source
This sounds like one of two things: Either Benson’s recovery is snail slow, or the Oilers are applying some pressure on the Giants to get their man traded somewhere. This is a vital season for Benson, so he’s going to have to play when ready. The Oilers liked Benson from the start, but it has to be a bitter pill to see Connor McDavid’s former linemate Alex DeBrincat doing so well in the NHL at this time. We wish the best for young Benson, while also acknowledging precious development time has already slipped away.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
At 10 this morning, a full boat of great guests from across the sports world. TSN1260, scheduled to appear:
- Darcy McLeod, Because Oilers. Lines and pairings, JP and Kailer, is there an easy fix to the blue?
- Sean Fleming, Canadian National (Soccer) staff coach. A massive day in World Cup qualifying, we’ll try to comprehend just what happened while Sean explains it.
- Derek Taylor, TSN. The CFL season is finally starting to make sense but there’s another wild weekend straight ahead.
- Keegan Matheson, mlb reporter. BoSox looking for a new manager, Nats-Cubs Game Four, Jays summer.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!