After winning their final pre-season game of the year, the Edmonton Oilers made their "final cuts" before the season begins. Although, the cutting was made a little easier thanks to four injuries on the roster.
The Oilers ultimately decided now was not the time for Jordan Eberle, and they returned him to the Regina Pats of the WHL. Eberle, who looked great in Oilers pre-season action and in camp, was held pointless in the games he played. Edmonton is loaded with small-ish forwards, and this likely is what lead to Eberle being sent back to Junior. Without question, he will be a great player for the Oilers in the future.
The Oilers sent Rob Schremp, Kip Brennan, Devan Dubnyk and Taylor Chorney to Springfield of the AHL. In Schremp's case, he will need to clear waivers before he is sent down. The Oilers tried hard to trade him this week, and he no doubt will be picked up on the waiver wire today. Hopefully he is picked up, and he gets a chance to start over with a different NHL team. The New York Islanders, who would have room for him on their roster, is a possible destination for Robbie.
In respect to Chorney, the Oilers liked what he did in camp, but the seven defensive NHL positions were set from the beginning. Dubnyk did not look NHL ready, and Brennan could be considered a project they want to keep around.
The Oilers currently have 23 active players, and four injured, so their roster sits at 27. They will not be required to make more roster moves until the injured players; Ethan Moreau, Fernando Pisani, Theo Peckham and Marc Pouliot, are activated and ready to play. In the case of Moreau, he has a safe roster spot. Peckham will be returned to the AHL, and the Oilers will send Pouliot down in the hopes that they lose him to waivers. The question mark in all of this is Pisani. It has been suggested that Pisani's injury might be long-term, and therefore, it will not create a roster issue for the team. Even if Pisani is ready, there is reason to wonder if the Oilers would keep him up or send him down to the AHL.
With the 23 active players on the roster, the lines have been somewhat set. For the game on Saturday against the Calgary Flames, the Oilers line-up could look like this:
Jacques - Horcoff - Hemsky
Stone - Comrie - O'Sullivan
Penner - Gagner - Cogliano
MacIntyre - Brule - Stortini
Souray - Gilbert
Visnovsky - Grebeshkov
Smid - Staios
Overall, it was an interesting camp for Edmonton. Eberle gave the Oilers management a reason to be excited for the future. The biggest surprise in camp was the play of JF Jacques. I will admit I was not a believer at all coming into the pre-season, but Jacques has shown tremendous potential. Good job, dude: Thanks for proving me wrong. Now go score 30 goals this season and really make me look bad. I dare you.
Ryan Stone was another player that surprised many. He seemed to have great chemistry with Mike Comrie and Patrick O'Sullivan. On the subject of Comrie and O'Sullivan, they were the two best players on the team in the pre-season. Is 30g and 30a from both players too much to hope for this year? Another player who had a great camp was Dustin Penner. Good on you, man! Prove the doubters wrong.
There are some concerns. Denis Grebeshkov looked terrible in the games I saw. Ales Hemsky was invisible most of the pre-season, as was Shawn Horcoff. In some games, the Oilers were pushed around and it is obvious they need to play bigger if they have a chance at making the playoffs. They could be in the top 10 teams for scoring, but the Oilers could easily be in the bottom five for goals against. Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano lost rank in the organization a bit, not because of their play in camp, but thanks to the emergence of Comrie, O'Sullivan and Penner. It is hard to imagine either player finishing with more than 45 points this season if they see third-line ice all season. The Oilers are a long way from being a cup contender, and everyone knows it.
Overall, I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to this season. The Oilers will be battling the Flames and Canucks all season, and could surprise people by making the playoffs, and maybe even winning the Northwest. They also could finish 12th in the Conference, and require a major overhaul next season. This year is going to be fun. Just don't call it predictable.