Saturday, July 05, 2008

Room For A Thoresen?



Lowetide looks at the Oilers' depth chart as well as opening night lineups from 2005 to this season (projected, of course).

The Oilers have a far more balanced team going into camp then they have in either of the past two summers. Lowetide notes the games played on the back end as a sign of this. There are veterans sprinkled throughout the lineup and of course the kids all have another season under their belt. Lowe has done a fine job. He has upgraded the team and has left plenty of room to take care of free agents next summer - Horcoff, Cole, Garon and Grebeshkov, assuming he decides to sign some or all of them.

I like this team going forward - I think that a playoff spot should be expected. The Oilers have improved and in my estimation every team in the division has taken a step backwards. Lets take a quick look at the Oilers.

Goal - Garon and Roloson - Roloson is the man they would have traded if they had landed Hossa or Jagr, I think, but with the room to keep him now I think that they will do so. Ride Garon as hard as they can to see if he has the goods but keep Roli who can provide decent goaltending on most nights he's in there. Better choice then DesLauriers, at least if they figure to take a shot at the playoffs.

D - Visnovsky, Souray, Staios, Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Smid, Roy - ideally they would bring a veteran, lets call him Jason Smith, because we all know that this group is going to lose at least one member for an extended period time and odds are someone else will go down as well. Having Smith as injury insurance makes sense. Having Smid as the seventh man does not. Kid needs to play and it looks like he will be in the third pair with a veteran, where he should have been all along. There is talk of waiving Roy but to me having Hrabel or Peckham sitting in the pressbox makes no sense at all. Give them twenty minutes a game plus in Springfield. This is Roy's ceiling and that is fine.

F - Cole, Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner, Penner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Pisani, Moreau, Brodziak, Pouliot, Stortini, Potulny, Schremp - up front is where I could see a move. Ideally they would bring in Owen Nolan although I am not sure how they convince him to bide his time playing fourth line minutes while he waits for someone to get hurt. Maybe some of that Rexall money?? Anyways, Moreau insurance would not hurt. One more vet would be nice. Marty Gelinas is another guy I like.

I have Potulny on the list because he has to clear waivers, I believe. Shremp is on the bubble once again, mostly because if Cogliano or Penner or Cole is on the Pisani line its likely they get the bump up to a scoring line before Schremp would get the call. Unless MacT can somehow spot him on the fourth line. Maybe its possible?

So, after all of that here is the question of the day. As this team gets better we're going to see a lot more lineups like 2005 - that is, no surprises, no rookies out of the blue.

In 2006 we had Jan Hejda, although with that D it wasn't too much of a surprise that he would get his shot. Certainly nobody expected what he ended up bringing. Yeah, I'm still pissed off about that. I would label him as a surprise though (I remember a lot of folks figured him to be a longshot at best) although not as big as Patrick Thoresen. Kid came out of nowhere, well Norway, and put in a nice year and a half as a fourth line energy guy before he was claimed last season. Poor bugger has my hands.

Last season there were a lot of open spots and a number of surprises as Gilbert passed Smid by and Cogliano, Brodziak and Gagner all stuck. Seems funny now but going into camp it figured that Gagner was on his way back to London, Cogliano and Gilbert to Springfield for seasoning and Brodziak was a guy who had disappeared off the radar the year before.

So with a team that has more experience and plenty of spots already filled is there anyone who might come out of nowhere and grab a spot? I think the backend is pretty well set. Hrabel and Peckham might show better then Roy in camp but sitting them in the pressbox makes no sense.

Up front however there are possibilities. To me Pouliot and Stortini seem like the locks on the fourth line but based on Pouliot's past two camps and the fact that Stortini still strikes me as a marginal player at best (sorry Bruce) I wonder if we might see someone pop up there.

Lots of possibilities but I'm thinking Ryan O'Marra. Big body who can skate and who was humbled last season. I think he might come into camp ready and with a chip on his shoulder. If he catches MacT's attention early he might find himself a spot.

Best if he does because I think next spot there are not going to be a lot of job openings on this team.

Who do you like to surprise?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I also think that O'Marra will be a pleasant surprise. He was given the industrial strength version of the Captain America tough-love. (tough in demotion but better climate, rink, and twice the attendance in Stockton)

Going forward, I think that decisions have to be made this year on the young goalies. Can JDD step up to serviceable NHL backup from AHL workhorse (not thoroughbred)? Can DD become an AHL stud? This means they have to get the at-bats (TM LT). JDD has to stay up to give DD the work in the AHL. Its possible that Roli is only going to see action if Garon gets hurt. Otherwise, he's in the PB.

Doogie2K said...

In 2006 we had Jan Hejda, although with that D it wasn't too much of a surprise that he would get his shot. Certainly nobody expected what he ended up bringing.

The only thing I didn't expect was him waiting 40+ games to get a real shot. I swear, I saw more in one preseason game, camped 50 rows above the Flames' net, than MacTavish did that entire training camp. Utterly baffling.

David S said...

With the amount of skill we're amassing, I've gotta believe that many opposing teams' pre-game chalk talks will include a list of our guys who they'll want to smash up pretty bad.

While you may think Zack's a marginal player (Bruce will no doubt chip in here), he's one of the very few we have right now who will at least try to make those guys pay. He doesn't always win, but he's not afraid to stand up when it counts and that's alot more than most of our roster.

I dearly would have loved to see Laraque back in the lineup, because guys like him are an overlooked commodity I think this team still needs to address.

Black Dog said...

doogie - I think in retrospect we can all agree that that year was throwing Smid and Greene to the wolves to fast forward their development - Lowe's failure to pick up a veteran or two at any point, MacT's ignoring Hejda until he had no choice - it was a weird year, a mixture of poor decisions, politics and throwing kids ot the wolves

david - I know Bruce will chip in here too - I agree that Stortini has value and I think he is useful - I think he is going to have a career - but imo he's Patrick Thoresen, I like both guys but they are not going to be much more then fourth liners

Thoresen had a spot until Brodziak and Glencross came along and did what he could do but also scored some goals

I think Zach will have a spot until someone comes along who can do what he does but also can add a little more offence, PK etc

I don't hate the guy - actually I've always been pulling for him. Lots of heart. At this point he is still a fringe guy though.

I would love a tough veteran or two and Laraque would have helped.

weird though how the Wings get away without that type of player in their lineup, huh?

namflashback said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
namflashback said...

bd,

the Wings get away without it because they are in your end of the ice. And they scored on their last two consecutive power plays. And they had three SH chances on your last power play. And the last time your energy line got on the ice, Babcock rolled out Z and Datsyuk and they dispossessed your tough guy and 5 wings flew up ice and proceeded to bombard your goalie.

Black Dog said...

Carolina too though nfb, iirc, the year they won

Really the killer PP is the jist of it. You smoke a few teams when they try and run you out of the rink and I think soon enough they get the idea that staying out of the box might be the best policy.

Nobody coming up through the ranks that might take that role that I can see right now anyways.

Jonathan said...

Well, there are quite a few forwards who could surprise, so I barely know where to start. O'Marra is a good bet, and I honestly believe that Schremp or Potulny could find themselves in a scoring role by the halfway point of the season. I want to say Stephane Goulet to surprise, because I've always been a fan of the guy, but the odds are simply not in my favour.

I'm going to go with Liam Reddox. He's small, but he certainly has one ally on the coaching staff in Buchberger (who called him the Ryan Smyth of the AHL or somesuch) and he is by all accounts a well-rounded player, which we know plays well with MacT and Co.

Black Dog said...

Do you think that the fact that Reddox is twelve years old might work against him though?

I think he and Omark are pencilled in as two thirds of the top line on their peewee team though. ;)

A lot of nice looking youngsters and we haven't touched on Brule or Trukhno either.

Reddox is a guy who might earn a shot as well. I think that while losing Glencross hurts I believe the Oilers saw what having a fast aggressive fourth line could bring to the table. Reddox is a guy who would fit into that sort of mindset pretty well I think.

Anonymous said...

I've been on vacation, and am just catchin up with all the changes over the last week. At first look, the Oilers have built up a decent crop of forwards. A playoff spot could be definetely in the works, I think that if Gagner has a good year, and Penner progresses then its done.
I noticed Lowe rippin Burke on TSN's site. What do you think of your GM now? Personally, I dont understand how he still has a job, even though Burke is a total ass, he is dead right about Lowe. Kevin is runnin his team on whims, and most of them are massive gambles which have not paid off. 3 out of 8 years in the playoffs is inexcusable...

Bruce said...

While you may think Zack's a marginal player (Bruce will no doubt chip in here), he's one of the very few we have right now who will at least try to make those guys pay. He doesn't always win, but he's not afraid to stand up when it counts and that's alot more than most of our roster.

No doubt. It's no secret I'm a Stortini fan; I like Zack's head, and I like his heart. He certainly does stand up for his mates -- among others he has fought Boogaard, Regehr, and Lapointe, three guys who took liberties with Hemsky. Whereas Laraque, for all his pugilistic prowess, wasn't one to respond to what actually happened in the game, but was content to take on the designated tough guy, especially if he asked Big Georges politely enough.

Last season Zack made huge strides with his skating, with the defensive side of the game, and eventually in the O-zone where he was learning to play the simple game and take his big body, and the puck, to the net. His discipline was such that he could be trusted to not take stupid penalties, and his line could be trusted to not allow odd-man rushes. He has proven to be highly coachable, and his work ethic is outstanding.

I honestly thought in the second half of last year that Stortini was a more effective hockey player than Laraque was at any time during his prolonged stint in Edmonton. He's young, he's smart, he's hungry, and he's already proven that he's capable of confounding those who would write him off. There's no reason to think he has stopped learning, and while I'm sure he'll always have his crude edges, I'm equally sure there's always room for a little crude on the Oil.

Knamely Lacked said...

I agree with Ryan O'marra possibly being a surprise at training camp—mostly due to the role he is likely to play in the NHL.

I also think a guy like Bryan Lerg could surprise a few of us, but with the skill up front he is definitely a long shot.

Black Dog said...

k.l. - yeah that's why I pick O'Marra, can't see any of the Schremps or Lergs getting a shot until someone goes down

Bruce - what took you so long? ;) Hey, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't bet against the kid and he has become a useful player for this team. If he continues to improve nobody is dislodging him from that spot.

anon - I don't mind Lowe's moves this summer. Prelockout I give him a pass - I think they have built up a nice set of prospects and back then he did what he could within the EIG budget.

2005/2006 - everything he touched was golden

Last two summers I was a harsh critic of the guy and I was not happy when he got extended. The return for Pronger, the Souray deal, the loss of a nice piece in Hejda, the creation of two teams that were sorely lacking - the guy had a bad two years.

But to me it looks like he may come out on top. He has retooled this team in two years and they have a lot of nice talent. I just think the last two years of suckage could have been avoided in some part.

PDO said...

There are three things I want Zach to work on before I ever consider giving him a $1,000,000 contract if I'm Kevin Lowe.

#1) I want him doing a lot more training in the area of fisticuffs. For him to be as fully effective, he has to actually be more than a punching bag.

#2) His first step still needs a lot of work... remember, he wants to be an agitator who can drop them more than a nuclear detterent such as Laraque.

#3) On that note, he may as well start shooting pucks with Pisani after practice.

He will have to fight tooth and nail for everything he ever gets, so he may as well diversify himself as much as he can...

Bruce said...

PDO: That's fair, those are all identifiable weaknesses that absolutely need further improvement. I also think it's fair to say Zack made some progress in all three areas this past season:
1) the hugfests stopped around Christmas and Zack was actively trying to throw 'em, albeit in an unorthodox manner;
2) the outstanding line of 20-46-51 succeeded by making life miserable for the other teams right in their own end, and Stortini was winning more than his share of races to the puck on the dump-ins;
3) out of the blue came an occasional rocket, such as the 25-foot wrister he roofed behind Manny Legace that opened the scoring in the Blues' last visit or the bomb that was tipped in by Brodziak (?) for the game-winner in Phoenix late in the season; problem is such stories are anecdotal, and few. He needs to be firing more pucks on net and getting that goal total up somewhere near double digits.

He will have to fight tooth and nail for everything he ever gets, so he may as well diversify himself as much as he can...

Ain't that the truth. One of the reasons I have a soft spot for the bug guy is that he's such a fucking underdog. I don't see him diversifying into special teams work anytime soon, but there is much that can be done 5 v 5. He made huge strides last year in such areas as defensive awareness and positioning, making few giveaways or errors, playing the body consistently without running around on the wrong side of the puck, nearly completely avoiding stupid penalties while drawing more than a few the other way, bulling to the net with the puck, and so on. He probably had the farthest way to come of any Oiler, and is still very much a work in progress, but there's not too many guys of his draft number pushing 100 NHL games at 22.

I remain very optimistic about this player and am anxious to see contract issues resolved in a reasonable manner.

Anonymous said...

bruce

Over the last season, you have convinced me that your man-crush on Storts is justified. However, I think the Strudwick signing puts him and his agent on notice. The team is running out of room for players that do not have to clear waivers. He could negotiate his way to Springfield for a year.

Anyone know who his agent is?

Looks like the only loose end from the plans that have been talked about publicly is Deslaurier. When this shakes out, we'll see if we have room for another skater in the PB.

Black Dog said...

anon - good point about JDD - can't see them dumping Roli though, they have the space so may as well keep him - better to have him then the kid if they want to make the playoffs

bad timing for JDD really

Anonymous said...

Pat,

Are we going for it this year now? Is Roli gonna hang 'em up or will he take backup money next season? If he did find Garon, he could be a goalie scout/coach. Something that the org needs. He did go deep in the playoffs wearing the jersey, so that makes him management material.

What's the difference between 15-20 games of JDD or 15-20 games of Roli (assuming MacT figures out how to spell the #1 guy correctly - wtf?) If JDD gets sent down, he's in Dubnyk's way. If not, we need a career 'tweener in Springfield. JDD's contract will show how much confidence they have in him taking it to the next level.

Goal is in better shape than it has been but its still a mess.

Black Dog said...

anon - yeah, good point, and I'm always one for giving the kids a chance to prove what they can do because I don't think the Oilers' window opens until next season anyways.

Hence Pouliot over a veteran pickup on the third line.

So JDD should get his shot really. Sending him down makes no sense.