So there I was, laying in my bathtub at 1am, trying to think about what to write in today’s blog. Much of my best thinking is done in the tub; back in the day I studied for many a college exam while enjoying warm Satsuma bubbles as they squished in between my toes. My notebook, slightly soggy, carried the only words that came to mind: Quinn Renney.
There are many Oiler fans waiting to see what Quinn and Renney will bring to the team. To be honest, I am not sure exactly what it means. What I knew about MacT was that he was a player’s coach who tried to motivate his squad by challenging them. He wasn’t the type to stand there and have a tirade; he was more of a smooth-talking quotable guy who tried to encourage players to self-motivate. He had favorites, he had whipping boys, he hated lazy play, and he didn’t let contract size or past experiences of players get in the way of his decision making. Former Oilers like Mike Peca and Erik Cole say that they liked playing for MacTavish; I found these comments strange considering both Peca and Cole were demoted and line shuffled during their time in Edmonton. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the mention the infamous MacT line blender – Every player seemingly got to play on every line at least once during a game.
And what do I know about Pat Quinn? He’s a former hockey player, a lawyer, and someone who has a history of going to clubs and turning them around. Quinn is known for being more of a direct motivator than MacT – Someone willing to give it to his players if he feels they need it. History shows he likes balanced teams; teams that can skate, score, fight and back check. He also has been fired a few times for not seeing things the way management does; although it could be suggested that considering the history between Quinn and Steve Tambellini, there shouldn’t be any philosophical differences.
What do I know about Tom Renney? He is a coach with a reputation as being a teacher, especially effective with younger players. Also, he is a tactician. Quinn could be described as being the Brawn, and Renney could be described as being the Brain. But what does this all really mean for the Oilers?
The answers really won’t be known until after training camp. What I could see happening, especially considering the Oilers inability to add a Top 6 forward, is a youth movement whereas the fate of the team is shifted to the young core that Edmonton is developing.
Based on the players they have on roster, and my belief that a youth movement is afoot, the following are possible line combinations:
Penner – Gagner – Hemsky
O’Sullivan – Cogliano – Eberle
Moreau – Horcoff – Pisani
Stortini – Brule – Schremp
Souray – Visnovsky
Grebeshkov – Gilbert
Staios – Smid
Obviously, the first surprise here is the inclusion of Jordan Eberle on the second line. The Oilers need a sniper, and Eberle knows how to score. Another noticeable change is the exclusion of Robert Nilsson. Eberle has a better attitude and work ethic, and Nilsson is a play maker, not a scorer. Hopefully the Oilers can move Nilsson, but if not, lose him to waivers. Also not included are JF Jacques and Pouliot, who do not belong in the NHL.
This line designation moves Horcoff out of the role of being a top scorer, which he is not, and to the role of being the primary shut-down center. Horcs is one of the league’s better face-off men, and a decent two-way forward. Gagner and Cogliano are both more naturally gifted than Horcoff when it comes to scoring goals. The energy line, with Storini, Brule and Schremp, has the potential to contribute offensively. Both Stortini and Brule can hit, and Schremp has been working out like a madman this off-season so he can finally make the club.
In respect to the power play, the first unit could be Penner on the screen, with Hemsky and Gagner passing from the half-wall, and Visnovsky and Souray as triggermen. The second unit could be more positional, with Schremp being the play-maker, Eberle, Cogliano or O’Sullivan being triggermen from the top of the circle. Cogliano has never really been given a chance to be a power-play regular, so it would be interesting to see what he could do. The question is, which of O’Sullivan, Schremp or Eberle would be better to play the wings on the unit? Gilbert and Grebeshkov would play the blue line.
In terms of the PK, two-man forward units could include combinations of Hemsky, Penner, Horcoff, Moreau, Pisani, Brule and Cogliano. All three defensive units would cycle, with Staois/Smid being the first unit defensively.
There is still all of August and most of September available for the Oilers to make a few moves to alleviate the log-jam at the forward positions, and to bring in a legitimate Top 3 player. Much of the Oilers need to add offense will depend on their willingness to give Eberle and Schremp consistent ice time, and for both players to solidly deliver.