Well folks, we're at that time of year... The beautiful time where the average Florida fan tries to remember that they have an NHL team and the unhappy Canuck fan starts to think they once again, have a chance at the cup, yes it's a fun, painful and easily over-hyped wonderful time of the year!
On a serious note, the Edmonton Oilers are coming off the most busy yet non-mind blowing off-season ever. Led by new General Manager Craig MacTavish and newly appointed head coach Dallas Eakins. With six or seven roster spots up for grabs especially on the back end, there are many options to explore.
Let's start with Ben Eager, Eager started the season last year on the 4th line with now bought out center Eric Belanger and now departed Finnish winger Lennart Petrell, Eager received a concussion on opening night of the 2013 season while fighting Canucks forward Zack Kassian, Eager missed 11 games and came back to only play in 13 more before being waived to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, Eager recorded 1-1-2 in those 14 games with 25 penalty minutes, 40 hits and 14 shots.Craig MacTavish has said that Eager is at the "show me" stage of his career, MacTavish wants him to be able to bring the physical game he had when they signed him as a free agent in 2011.
Acquired mid-season from the Toronto Maple Leafs, tough guy winger Mike Brown. Brown recorded 1-1-2 in 39 games. In those 39 games he had 123 penalty minutes, 18 shots and 86 hits. Brown impressed a lot of people here in Oil Country, he fought and played hard the entire season and that's what the Oilers have lacked over the years.
Jesse Jonesuu, the Finnish grinder split time between the AHL and NHL in the New York Islanders organization, Jonesuu was a force to be reckoned with, a big hitter who isn't afraid to fight, and maybe best of all... He has skill, he potted 18 goals in the AHL in 2011-2012 making him a prime candidate for the 4th line.
Ryan Jones, you know him and you love him. Jones coming off a tough year where he missed the majority of the 2013 campaign after having surgery on an eye that he took a puck to on a skate during the dreaded (Que the dark music) Lock Out... Jones, fresh off of signing a brand new 1 year deal to stay in Edmonton will have some work to do if he wants to be a name in the line-up every game.
Ryan "Captain Canada" Smyth is the heart and soul of the Oilers organization over the last 14 years even though he left for 3 seasons. Many want Smyth to make this team based on the love they have for him, however unfortunately loving a guy doesn't win games, others think his time as a player is done and that he should consider retiring and taking a different position with in the organization. Smyth elected not to hang em up just yet and is coming back in what he says "better than ever" condition. There is no doubt that he will challenge for a spot on this roster, need I say more...?
Another few positions up for debate is the "6th", "7th" and possibly "8th" defense man spots on the back end. We all know the locks (J.Schultz, N.Schultz, Smid, Petry, Ference.) With the guys left out are new/old acquired Dennis Grebeshkov, newly acquired Philip Larsen, Anton Belov and last but not least the favorites for the '7th" and "8th" spots, Oscar Klefbom and (drum roll please) Corey Potter. The player to fill that '6th" role is, well, up for you to debate. A lot say Grebeshkov others say Belov and no Larsen we're not forgetting about you, you have a good chance as well!
In the net is obvious as Devan Dubnyk being the starter so we won't even bother with that... Jason Labarbera is almost guaranteed to be the back up while the pre-season should be a good opportunity for Richard Bachman to show what he can do in case of injuries, it's a long season ladies and gentleman so buckle up and enjoy the roller coa... er.... ride that the Edmonton Oilers are about to present to you...
Thanks for reading! Follow me on twitter @Liam_Bevan for updates!