I know it's only pre-season and all, but after last night's game, I need to do some whining.
Denis Grebeshkov flat-out stunk last night. He wasn't physical, he didn't move the puck well, his defensive zone coverage was suspect, and he appears to be allergic to shooting. I also seem to remember him coughing it up a few times, leading to Lightning chances to score. He didn't play like a $3mil+ player; he played like a defenseman from the minors with a bad attitude.
The Oilers were lucky to earn the regulation tie last night. They were physically dominated the entire game. You don't realize how undersized the Oilers forwards are until you see them going against a team like the Lightning. But that being said, Martin St. Louis, who is about two inches taller than a dwarf, played effectively all evening, and scored one of the nicest goals I've ever seen. Pat Quinn should sit the troops down today and make them watch video of this guy play.
The result last night was reasonable considering who wasn't in the line-up. Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Patrick O'Sullivan, Mike Comrie and Sheldon Souray all didn't dress. Andrew Cogliano looked decent on the left side with Sam Gagner, and Robert Nilsson was the best Oiler on the ice. Tom Gilbert also had a decent game for Edmonton. Gilbert Brule was given a fair amount of ice time, and some time on the power play, and he looked okay, but not great. The Lightning dressed a vetern line-up and the Oilers, after a brutal first period, held their own.
Jordan Eberle played on Thursday and did not look out of place on the Oilers. That being said, with the log jam of small forwards currently on the team, and the fact he went pointless through the pre-season, it is starting to look more likely that he will end up back in Junior this season. He should survive cut down day today or tomorrow, and may even see a few NHL games before being sent back.
With it being Friday, and with final cuts quickly approaching, it is fair to assume there will be roster moves made today. Who stays and who goes? I believe the Oilers roster will be 27 or less by Sunday, so here's my predictions for the 27 who will still be here.
Forwards(15): Mike Comrie, Patrick O'Sullivan, Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Shawn Horcoff, Ethan Moreau, Ales Hemsky, JF Jacques, Zack Stortini, Gilbert Brule, Ryan Stone, Jordan Eberle, Robert Nilsson, Steve MacIntyre
Defenseman(8): Sheldon Souray, Lubomir Visnovsky. Ladislav Smid, Taylor Chorney, Denis Grebeshkov, Tom Gilbert, Jason Strudwick, Steve Staios
Goaltenders(2): Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeff DesLauriers
Injured(3): Theo Peckham, Toni Rajala, Fernando Pisani
Sent to Springfield, On Waivers or Released(5): Kip Brennan, Rob Schremp, Marc Pouliot, Devan Dubnyk, Liam Reddox
The difficult decision will come when the Oilers need to make a decision between Stone, MacIntyre, Pisani, Eberle and Brule. Brule can be sent down without needing to clear waivers, and that will be taken into consideration. He is decent in the face-off circle, but for someone who played big in Junior, he gets pushed around often in the NHL. Eberle can be returned easily to Junior. MacIntyre will likely be on the roster, but will only play in Oil games when an enforcer is needed (see Calgary Flames games). The wild card in all of this is Pisani's health situation, as that could explain his lackluster play in the pre-season. Considering his health history, it's hard to say how bad his current situation is though. For the sake of discussion, I am not including him on the roster for now.
After last night, my opening night roster prediction looks like this:
Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky
Jacques - Comrie - O'Sullivan
Cogliano - Gagner - Nilsson
Moreau - Brule - Stortini
Extras - MacIntyre, Stone
Souray - Gilbert
Visnovsky - Grebeshkov
Smid - Souray
Extra - Strudwick