You can't see me, but I am tapping my watch. It isn't September 17 yet; or at least, it isn't where I live, but after tonight's Oilers game I wanted to throw a new blog on to discuss how things are progressing.
Two pre-season games in, and the players are giving Coaches Quinn and Renney plenty to think about. Two players tonight offered food for thought: Jordan Eberle played a strong game and looked NHL-ready, and Steve MacIntyre, who had hardly any ice time, got in a fight in the first period, flattening to the point of injury his opponent Joel Rechlicz. While Pat Quinn was quoted in Wednesday's Edmonton Journal saying he wasn't about to add a fighter to the line-up if he can't play hockey too, it is hard to ignore Big Mac's ability to talk with his fists. The Oilers forward core is small, and having Big Mac riding shotgun is not that much different than the role David Semenko played for the Oilers back in the cup years.
Other game notes included Laddy Smid and Sheldon Souray playing well, Sam Gagner scoring a goal and an assist, and Dustin Penner scoring while flying in off the left wing. Hopefully Dustin is on his way to having a much better season this year. A few players didn't look great: Liam Reddox and Marc Pouliot were noticably out of step. Overall though, it was a good effort for the Oil.
What if Eberle works his way onto the Oilers starting line-up? Forget the money part of the discussion and focus on the players. There has been suggestion that Nilsson could go if Eberle made the team. However, Quinn went on record this week stating that he has been impressed so far with Nilsson's skill level and on-ice ability. I don't get the feeling MacIntyre is going to steal anyone's spot on the roster, but he could be kept with the big club to be used when needed. If Eberle makes the team someone will have to go.
It was mentioned yesterday that the Oilers could send a forward like Fernando Pisani down. Once again, let's just ignore his contract and consider the logistics of this:
O'Sullivan - Horcoff - Hemsky
Penner - Gagner - Comrie
Nilsson - Cogliano - Eberle
Moreau - Brule - Stortini
While Pisani brings two-way ability, is a decent penalty killer, and put up goal scoring numbers one season in the playoffs, it is commonly understood that his seasons are numbered in Edmonton. There is simply too much depth and youth in the organization. He likely is not tradable at $2.5mil per season, especially considering his health history. Sending him down ahead of someone like Brule is possible if Eberle earns a roster spot. It should also be noted that Fernando has played center, and he could end up on the fourth line instead of Brule, who has a two-way deal. Eberle's inclusion could make Brule the odd-man out instead of Pisani.
Another notable player so far this training camp has been Robbie Schremp, who played well in his first pre-season game. Could Schremp beat out Brule or a player like Pisani for the fourth line center spot? On defense, Alex Plante is giving the coaches much to think about, as he looks ready. That being said, the Oilers are deep on D, and it would be next to impossible for Plante to earn a spot unless a deal occurs first. It looks like both Lubo Visnovsky and Theo Peckham will be questionable when the season begins, so the Oil would go with Souray, Grebeshkov, Gilbert, Smid, Souray and Strudwick as their defensive starting six.
The Oilers next pre-season game is Friday against the Florida Panthers. Don't be surprised if the Oilers do a little roster trimming before then.