Update: The Oilers placed three players on waivers Monday - Dean Arsene, Ryan Potulny and Chris Minard. The difficult cuts have begun in Edmonton.
The Oilers on Sunday lost to the New York Islanders, but after five games in six nights, the loss is fairly understandable. Highlights for Edmonton included yet another goal from Patrick O' Sullivan, and continued offensive brilliance from Jordan Eberle. Everytime he touched the puck, the Oilers had a chance to make something happen. Commentators during the game suggested that Jordan has been the best forward on the Oilers in the pre-season so far, and I'd have a hard time disagreeing.
There should be more cuts and player moves coming in the next couple of days. Edmonton's next game is on Wednesday against the Calgary Flames, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the roster is down to 37 or so by then. If I had to rank the players, in terms of who is in and who's on the bubble, it would look something like this:
In: Forwards (10) - Mike Comrie, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson, Ethan Moreau, Zack Stortini
Most Likely Earning Spots (3) - JF Jacques, Jordan Eberle, Fernando Pisani
Dark Horse (1) - Ryan Stone
Likely Out (10) - Gilbert Brule, Milan Kytnar, Steve MacIntyre, Chris Minard, Ryan O'Marra, Ryan Potulny, Tony Rajala, Liam Reddox, Robbie Schremp, Marc Pouliot
It is a little impossible at this point to suggest line combinations. While it could be suggested that the four centers would be Horcoff, Gagner, Comrie and Cogliano, that would place Cogs on the fourth line, and he's better than four line ice. It is more likely that Fernando Pisani would center the fourth, and either Gagner or Comrie would end being moved to the wing.
It has also been noticed that O'Sullivan and Comrie have plenty of chemistry. Could a O'Sullivan - Gagner - Comrie line be in the works? And if so, who does that leave Horcoff and Hemsky playing with? Perhaps Dustin Penner. If that is the case, the first two lines would be set. The third line? Perhaps Nilsson - Cogliano - Eberle, and the fourth would be Moreau - Pisani - Stortini. A decent line-up; a bit small, but definitely fast with offensive potential on all lines.
The defense for Edmonton has been set for some time, as has the goaltending combination. How the Oilers will do this season is anyone's guess, but it's fair to say they will be a strong team offensively.
In other NHL news, I've been getting quite the laugh out of watching Toronto-based media talk about the Leafs chances this season. According to the masses, the Leafs will make the playoffs, and challenge for the cup. Give me a break.
Kessel was a good addition, however he is injured and who knows how long it will take him to get into game shape. While the defense on the team has improved, the Monster is also going to be recovering to start the season, and he'll be a rookie when he does start playing. Anything can happen with rookies. The forwards on TO are young, and there is some potential, but this is far from an established group. There is NO WAY the Leafs will make the playoffs this year, and in saying that, I am not insulting them. Just being realistic. The media and fans are not helping the cause by placing so many expectations on such a young team.
How about that Theo Fleury in Calgary? A goal and an assist in his last game, and the crowd is crazy for him. This could be a very special year for the Flames, as they have all the potential to challenge for the Stanley Cup. They definitely have a defensive core that leads the league, they have some offensive depth, and Kipper can stand on his head if he's on his game. Calgary has to be considered a lock to win the Northwest this season, and I seriously can't see how they can't be considered a favorite to win the NHL Western Conference. Detriot definitely will dip this year, and San Jose is a bit of a wild card. Where the Oil fit in this is a dogfight with the 'Nucks for second in the division.