The Oilers desperately lack forwards that can play in the NHL. It's been this way for the last two seasons. They have a top line that can dominate and at times have had a bottom line that can hang. The devil has been in the middle six players on the roster. Without a line worthy of playing second minutes, or matching against the tough minutes when necessary on the road, the Oilers have left their next generation and their never was generation exposed to regular beatings by the real men of the Western Conference. Even worse is that the Oilers have been unable to ice a line that can handle third minutes. Is there anyone on this team capable?
#22 / Left Wing / Edmonton Oilers
Apr 29, 1985
|2009 - Jean-Francois Jacques||34||2||5||7||-13||69||0||0||0||0||33||6.1|
J.F. Jacques has some issues with his hands. In an email the other day, a colleague said that he thinks Jacques has hooks under his gloves instead of hands. His career stat line? 94 NHL games, 3 goals, 5 assists and that's probably generous as far as shots and scoring chances go. It's a shame that Jacques struggles with puck handling, passing, receiving passes, and shooting because he's a physical specimen. He's a big guy and has above-average skating ability, probably outstanding for someone of his size. He's physical, 12th in the league in hits and 5th in hits per game, he's willing to drop the gloves and he's been given praise by multiple coaches, most recently Pat Quinn. Unfortunately, Jacques is not ready for NHL minutes right now. He's bleeding scoring chances (10/13), Corsi (13/13), relative Corsi (13/13), and EV +/- (13/13). Of course, Pat Quinn has done him no favors by pinning him to Horcoff's hip and tossing him out against the toughest competition on the team (3/13).
Can Jacques handle bottom six competition? It would be nice to find out. Quinn would do the Oilers a favor by moving Jacques down to the fourth line for the last forty games and coming to a conclusion about the high-end of Jacques' abilities. He's only making $525,000 and is a restricted free agent, but meat hook hands and a bunch of hits don't translate into big free agency dollars. He'll likely sign for something similar next year and if Quinn finds out he can hold his own against fourth line minutes, Jacques might make a very good 13th or 14th forward next year.
#78 / Center / Edmonton Oilers
May 22, 1985
Stats not available due to injury.
The above sentence says it all about Marc Pouliot's career. As Lowetide will tell you, there was likely a very good two-way center in that body at one time, but injuries have sent his career into a storm drain somewhere near Hamilton. His medical file must be enormous: concussion, mono, concussion, pubis whatever, and each one occurs when the kid gets the wheels turning in the midst of an opportunity.
He's been on the verge of handling himself well in the NHL, and he's actually done some nice things with Gagner, and he's not the anchor, and he can win some faceoffs - something no other Oiler can do. In limited time in the NHL, he's been better than your average Oiler on the penalty kill and the power play.
Pouliot is making $825,000 this year and is restricted next year. A contract at or below that level and a run of good health and Marc Pouliot is the one non-bonafide that the Oilers should be comfortable with in a second-tough minutes role with appropriate veteran help. That means that the Oilers franchise has to give in and finally bring in veteran help. If he were to slide onto the fourth line and be of use on the penalty kill and in faceoff situations, I think the Oilers could get value out of him and his contract.
#85 / Left Wing / Edmonton Oilers
Jan 27, 1986
|2009 - Liam Reddox||9||0||2||2||-2||4||0||0||0||0||11||0.0|
Liam Reddox is a lightning rod for criticism and for no good reason. Reddox has pushed himself into a 14th forward role through sheer determination and hard work. Drafted #112 overall in 2004, he made it to the show last season by understanding the nature of the game: be in position, get the puck out, get the puck deep, keep the puck deep. For that reason, Craig MacTavish relied on him last season. For THAT reason, fans began to turn on Reddox. MacTavish's "misuse" of Reddox was the final evidence that MacTavish needed to go. Never mind that Reddox spent all of twenty-nine minutes on the first line.
Reddox is what he is - a hard worker, a smart player, a guy that will get the puck in deep and given the chance keep it deep. He's feisty and tries to take the body when possible, even when outsized. He's going to give you penalty kill time and pop in the occasional goal. On the whole, Reddox is a player that "gets" it.
On his callup this year, Reddox showed exactly that. He was making the simple plays that Quinn was begging for all year and he was playing Quinn's game. His Corsi and chances numbers reflected that. Through six games he had 18 chances for, 24 chances against - outchanced by one per game, the relative ranking on the Oilers would have been somewhere around 7/14 at the time. His Corsi was no great shakes, but he wasn't getting blown away. Then came the hit, pictured above. In the three games after Clarke MacArthur put a brutally dirty hit on Reddox, Reddox fell apart. Reddox and his linemates had 1 chance for and 17 chances against. His Corsi value in those three games was -39. Even after he was sent to the AHL, his game suffered. It's a good bet that Reddox was hurt more than he let on.
Where does that leave Reddox? Probably in the same position - 14th forward. The Oilers don't have anyone coming in that's ready (except maybe Linus Omark) and have a bunch of kids that are going to need time in the AHL before they are ready to move by Reddox on the depth chart.
After reviewing the bonafides and the fourth liners, the bottom six potential players leave a forward corps that look like this:
Top three: Hemsky, Horcoff, Penner
Bottom three: Pouliot, Stone, Stortini
Healthy scratches: Potulny, Jacques
Is there enough left to review to create a middle six that can compete in the NHL?