Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Perhaps It Doesn't Matter Or Does It?

Two more games in the preseason and very little left to decide, it seems.

Seven defencemen will make the team. Theo Peckham has had a good enough camp that Dean Millard says that someone in the organization told him that Peckham's push has impressed enough to become a factor. Fact is though that Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Staios, Souray and Visnovsky are the top five and Strudwick was brought in to be the number seven. Smid was the only wildcard and he has had a good camp, by all accounts. Unless they are going to move him for a veteran then he is a given and considering his age, his upside and the fact that Grebs is RFA next summer, it would make very little sense for the Oilers to move him. A poor season and he will get moved, just like Greene did. A good year and he will probably get a nice longterm deal.

Peckham and Chorney have had nice camps and will play big minutes in Springfield and that is great.

In the net the talk is still three goalies. Its dumb as far as I am concerned but fact is the Oilers are caught a little bit here. Roli is the best bet if you want a guy who is going to help win you games but JDD's time has come. Is JDD the real deal? Likely not but sending him down risks giving him away for nothing or taking away minutes from Dubnyk. On the other hand send away Roli, Garon pulls his groin and there's the year.

And of course the goalie situation impacts the forwards which also includes the biggest logjam. There are two or maybe even three spots left and the following players remain in the mix - Pouliot, Schremp, Brule, Spurgeon, Trukhno, Potulny and the real longshot, Lefebvre.

With it looking like Brodziak will get the first look between Penner and Pisani that leaves a spot between Moreau and Stortini plus one or two guys to sit in the pressbox.

Potulny has really shown nothing and is not playing tonight which leads me to believe he is heading down or getting dumped. Or they may keep him as the designated sitter rather then a guy they want to get minutes in Springfield.

Do you see Schremp centring Moreau and Stortini? I don't. I think he is heading down and will be up for a shot if one of the top six guys goes down (although Penner would likely get that shot and Moreau get the bump to the Pisani line, so maybe it will take two to go down?). He is playing tonight - he needs to make an impression.

Trukhno has established himself as part of this team's future and Spurgeon may have too (Spurgeon is playing with Moreau tonight - a tell?) with a terrific camp. I think they both may be going to Springfield to get some big minutes although Spurgeon starting the season would be a terrific tale.

I'm thinking it susses out as follows:

Pouliot as the twelfth man. He has had a decent camp and he has experience as an NHLer. I can't see the Oilers waiving him. Is he a flawed player? Yes. But at this point he is a better man for the bottom six role then any of the guys he is competing with. Twelve of the first fifteen games are on the road. Do you want your fourth line centre to be guy who has a track record of being at the very least, a tough guy to score against, or do you want Brule who got beaten up by weak opposition? I think this early schedule works in Pouliot's favour.

Brule as number thirteen - he has had a nice camp and his speed and aggression will fit nicely on the fourth line.

If they go with fourteen forwards its Potulny or Lefebvre (seriously) as the man to sit in the PB longer term. Potulny's career is hanging by a thread here and Lefevbre has a specific role and is just happy to be here. Ireland says they brought in Ogletorp in for Springfield muscle - I am thinking he may be replacing Lefevbre in that role.

The wildcard? Spurgeon.


doritogrande said...


I think Brule's done enough to make this team, but like you said he's going to need sheltering, and that's the 2-line. MacT can say he won't split the kids up until the cows come home but they've got no grit on that line and I've come to notice it's really missing from their collective game. Brule brings everything Cogliano does to the table, plus he'll throw himself around like a damn kamikazi to create even more space for Row-bert and Samwise to do their thang.

Cogliano's being touted as the next Marchant, but with hands. That's fine with me, let him learn the trade now rather than later while we're still a couple years away from contending. He can still use his hands with Cole and Pisani on his line too, by the way. Preseason's been a tell that Cole just doesn't jive with Horsky yet, and given that he's probably going to be gone by the trade deadline why bother trying to force the chemistry that isn't there. Stick the other big body back with the top guys and let Cole do the mucking where it'll matter.

As for the defense, Visnovsky hasn't impressed me at all, and in fact I'm missing Pitkanen a lot right now. He did make the same mistakes Lubo's making now, but he had the 6'4" frame to move bodies in front of the net and handle his ass at evens. Smid has opened my eyes to his play during TC, or maybe it's that the Gilbert/Grebeshkov pairing has so thoroughly shat the bed that anything looks better than those two. I can't see them handling tough minutes right now and that's a damn shame because we were really counting on these two. This forces Staios-Souray and Lubo-Ladi to take the top assignments and that's a time bomb waiting to go off at the expense of Matty Garon. My unprofessional conclusion is that Staios and Smid are going to get hung out to dry by their partners at least twice per period.

Black Dog said...

dg - take a deep breath and repeat after me "Its preseason"


MacT was right to point out that guys have to be ready after last night but the fact that he gave the weekend off to everyone shows what he thinks.

Just try not to get hurt. That's the main thing.

These games matter to the guys trying to earn a contract or win a job - nobody else.

I actually PVR'd a game last week - watched it for about five minutes and shut it off. Its terrible hockey. Its preseason.

So come in off of the ledge and tell me - how did Schremp look? Spurgeon? Lefevbre?

That's all that matters.

doritogrande said...

Yeah, it's preseason, but at what point do we start to worry that our lines from last year that had so much chemistry together haven't got it anymore. The kids have seemed all flash-no substance to me and need a Brule-type out there with them. Cole is NOT a good mix with Horcoff and Hemsky, for whatever reason. It just doesn't look productive. Penner was the better fit. Preseason isn't just about giving the bubble guys a long look, it's also about buliding chemistry within the team, and that's something this TC seems to be missing.

Schremp got passed by Brule, Spurgeon, possibly even Trukhno on the depth chart for recall IMO.

Spurgeon looked like a Patrick Thoresen type. No quit in his game.

Lefevbre should have fought yesterday. It would have done a bit more for his rep. He actually looked pretty good cycling the puck and managed to get open in the slot a couple times. His shot is a definite weakness, but he's got average speed.

Black Dog said...

yeah but dg we all know that once its for real if the lines don't gel MacT will start moving things around - right now is exactly the time to see if Cole can develop chemistry with Horcoff and Hemsky.

And the kids were fine for a couple of months last year - I'm not willing to throw them out the window after a couple of meaningless preseason tilts

Season starts in just over ten days - they'll suss things out by the end of this weekend and they will be ready when it starts for real. Blueskying huh? ;) Maybe.

Schremp has had his chance and has not done the job.

Brule, I agree, has earned a spot.

Spurgeon remains the wildcard.

doritogrande said...

The wildcard's been demoted. Along with Potulny. Lefebvre's been released from his PTC. Leaves 4 players fighting for seemingly two spots. Schremp, Pouliot, Brule, MacIntyre.

I think it's Pouliot and MacIntyre based on need now, unless Brule does something impressive against Calgary.

Black Dog said...

Hah, I saw that - curse of death, eh?

I think your man Brule is in - Ireland said MacIntyre was earmarked for Springfield. I thought Lefevbre had a shot (poor deluded old man I am) - MacIntyre is 28, right? I cannot see them keeping him. I really can't.

And three goalies, I guess?

Anonymous said...

I'm a little dismayed at the lack of concern over Edmonton's heartless and lackluster play this preseason. I will admit that it is only preseason, but for a team with the past couple terrible seasons there doesnt seem to be much progress. I'm thinkin that the team has bought into this strange theory that they are somehow gonna compete for the Div without actually improving DRastically. Vancouver seems to understand that its gonna be a dogfight this year, and it preppin bigime already with there gamestyle and play.
I cant see the Oil flickin a switch and going from crappy to dominant with the start of the real season. I also think that the goaltending and defence is even weaker than previously thought. How long of a leash is MacT gonna get this year?
PS. EVEN though its preseason, i'm really seeing some good things in the Nucks already. And Raymond is lookin incredible, being compared to Gaborik (speedwise) tonight was very positive to hear for us goal-starved Nuck fans.
PPS. So with the season comin on, whats the feeling. Who wins the Div, who is last? Etc...

Black Dog said...

Billy - I think that expectations are high and that if the team does poorly that MacT may be in trouble

I have no concern about the preseason whatsoever. Good for the Canucks but basically the Oilers played four in four with a whack of scrubs. Then they took a weekend off and got waxed once.

Calgary got hammered last night with a lot of their regular guys. If I were a Flames fan I would not be concerned.

Still a week and a half until the season starts.

As for the NW I think its going to come down to which team stays healthiest and that any team could finish first and any could finish fifth.

Both the Canucks and Flames have had some youngsters looking good in camp. They need those kids to perform or I think that these two teams will fall off. The Avs scare me but their goaltending looks iffy to me. The Wild look weaker but they always come through.

I like the Oilers for a playoff spot if they stay healthy. I think the goaltending and D are good enough. Not great. But good enough.

Doogie2K said...

@Billy: It's statistically provable that preseason and regular season are two different beasts, and that one has no bearing on the other, for a variety of reasons. You may recall that Pittsburgh was kind of shit in the preseason last year, while Atlanta was awesome.