The Oilers made what will likely end up being their final cuts earlier today, sending two players directly to Oklahoma City - Linus Omark and Chris Vande Velde - and placing another six on waivers - Ryan O'Marra, Liam Reddox, Ben Ondrus, Alexandre Giroux, Shawn Belle, and Richard Petiot - with the same purpose in mind. The Oilers' roster now stands at 24, but with J-F Jacques likely to start the year on injured reserve, this should be it for cuts. You'll notice that there isn't a single goaltender on the list. Tom Renney had been consistent throughout camp about wanting to start the season with two goalies, and yet here we are with three goalies on the roster heading into the regular season. Good grief. It would be one thing if Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk had both shown well as professionals. But guess what, they haven't. Neither guy looks like he'll be average let alone elite. Given the goaltending market over the last several seasons, there's really no point in clinging to these guys. Like I said yesterday, the time to make a decision on these guys came and went a long time ago. It seems crazy to me that they still can't pull the trigger. Then again, the team did get a quality minor-league player (who ended up being a quality NHL player when he was healthy enough to play), a middling draft pick, and an AHL goalie the last time they had three goalies. Maybe Tambellini thinks he can do it again. I don't think he will, but hey, I've been wrong before. After the jump, we'll take a look at the significant battles and who emerged victorious.
Theo Peckham def. Richard Petiot and Shawn Belle - This was the result I expected at the start of camp, and despite some decent play from Petiot and Belle, Peckham ended up coming out on top. Belle's injury no doubt hurt his chances, but Petiot played and played well. Some folks were convinced it was well enough to win a job, and I'd imagine Petiot thought so too. That he didn't get it might be called "politics" but I think it has more to do with familiarity. I've never been impressed by Peckham, but the coaches seemed like they found his play late last season encouraging, and that kind of positive history is a big advantage. That said, is Peckham the best choice? In Petiot's exit interview, he mentioned the coaches asking him to be "a little more physical" which I found pretty surprising since Petiot is in fact a somewhat physical player. He may not be as physical as Peckham I suppose, but he also doesn't puts himself out of position to make hits nearly as often. Based on ability alone, I think it's a tough call, but given the age of each player, I think the Oilers made the right one.
Talent Requirement def. Alexandre Giroux, Chris Vande Velde, Ryan O'Marra, and Ben Ondrus - Alexandre Giroux talked a lot about not scoring goals costing him a job. That's true to some extent, but I think the that the big problem for him is that the same things that cause him to have trouble scoring in the NHL also cost him all over the ice. He's not quick enough on his feet, and not quick enough in making decisions. He's just not that good. A one-way contract may have helped his chances slightly since there's no money to be saved in sending him down, but it sure seemed like he was slated for the AHL from the start. Chris Vande Velde is better than the other two schleps, a legitimate prospect. But let's face it, the Oilers didn't want another rookie starting the year. Maybe he can earn an extended call-up later in the year (although I'd bet against it). For the other two guys: just not that good.
Indecision and Ryan Jones def. Liam Reddox - Liam Reddox is a bit of a different story from the guys mentioned above. He doesn't have an interview up on the Oilers' site, and I'm thinking that might be a lesson he learned from watching Bambi: if you don't have anything nice to say... you know the rest. He's the only guy I picked to make the team when camp began that's on his way to the minors today, and I feel bad for the guy because he played well. That said, I'm happy the Oilers kept Jones because I think he could be a pretty good player. He's got some jam, he's pretty quick, he's scored at lower levels, and he's got a proven ability to draw penalties. No qualms there for sure. What really killed Reddox was management's indecision on the goalie front. JDDDD has his spot. Then again, it's hard to complain too much if you're Reddox. After all, the only reason he had a shot at a job is because the Oilers decided not to sign a veteran or two in the off-season.
"Politics" and Hype def. Linus Omark - The guy never played with "top nine guys" through camp and in last night's game he played 12:36, besting only Ondrus, MacIntyre, and O'Marra. Before last night's game, it was clear that he wasn't going to be playing with the Oilers to start the year. When your coach says, "Flashes are great, but you've got to be a complete player when you're out there for forty second shifts," you know you're getting cut no matter what. That said, his exit interview is pretty awesome. He talked about the North American camp having more "politics" than he was accustomed to, which is pretty damning when you consider he played last year in the not-every-team-paid-its-players KHL. When he was asked if he was given a fair opportunity to play in an offensive role, he said, "I don't want to discuss that, but I want to play a lot, so that's what I'm going to say," or if I were to paraphrase, "No." When he was asked it the Oilers' organization is the best place for him right now, he said, "Ehhhhhhmmmm. No comment." Definitely two sentences. I don't blame him for feeling that way. On the one hand, it's understandable that the three wunderkinds get special treatment, but it sure would be galling to hear the coach tell you that you need to be a complete player to make the team and then watch an overwhelmed Taylor Hall skate off with your job. One of the best reasons Tyler gave for sending Hall back to junior was the opportunity cost to other players in the organization. Linus Omark - who's almost certainly more ready than Hall for the NHL at the present time - getting no chance to play with offensive players in camp, and being forced to start the year in the AHL is a prime example.
What About Waivers - We'll know tomorrow if the six who needed to clear are in fact on their way to Oklahoma City. If they do in fact make it, none of the six would need to clear re-entry waivers on the way back up. But the Oilers aren't the only team with players on waivers today, and there's at least one player that I'd be very pleased to see the Oilers claim: Matt Pelech. Pelech was put on waivers by the Flames earlier today, and I think he could be a pretty good player. Not only that, but claiming him puts a dent in a division rival's depth. He was drafted 26th overall in 2005, and he's a big man at 6'5'' and 216 lbs. He's a defensive blueliner, and led the Abbotsford Heat defenders in +/- one year ago (min. 40 games, he was +7), and also played in five games with the Flames. If they wanted him, how could they clear a spot? Well, there are a couple of ways, but the Oilers seem unwilling to do either. Steve MacIntyre and Jason Strudwick are here to stay, but they'd be my options for demotion. The other is, of course, the goalie. If the Oilers were in fact willing to make a call, it would be great to use the extra spot on a young defender like Pelech for at least the first month of the season.