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2010 Oilers' Training Camp & Preseason Roundtable

Commons photo from Indonesian Information Ministry via <a href=""></a> Public Domain.
Commons photo from Indonesian Information Ministry via Public Domain.

The Blogger Roundtable returns to The Copper & Blue, andthis time it's better than ever.  I found some especially insightful answers from some of the best bloggers in the Oilogosphere.  Our lineup includes: The best storyteller anywhere in the sporting world (seriously, I'd put him up against Paul Zimmerman and Marino Parascenzo any time), and Tom Berenger look-alike Pat of Black Dog Hates Skunks; Our resident physio...something something Doogie2k, AKA Jason Robertson of Robertson's Rants at Puck Podcast; Shepso and B.C.B come to us via Bringing Back The Glory, where they spin Philosophy and Sport together like the Ancient Greeks wanted us to.  Last but not least is one of the newest entrants to the Oilogosphere and already one of the most interesting - doritogrande, who works on the Oilers' prospect pipeline at Bubbling Under

Copper & Blue:  Let's start with the bad and end with the good.  So, uh, about that goalie situation...if you were Steve Tambellini would you try to get out of the contract?  What happens if Nikolai Khabibulin can't pass the camp physical?

B.C.B.:  The trouble is if Tambellini does attempt to void the Boozin’ Wall’s contract then he gives credence to Souray’s complaints.  Right now for the sake of the management’s reputation they have to stand by their convicted man.  But for the sake of the Oilers’ and the NHL’s reputation they have to hope that the NHL suspends Khabi for at least some games. This way it looks like Khabi is going to get some punishment (treatment and a minor suspension) and it is not the Oilers giving it.  It doesn’t matter if Khabi can’t pass the physical or not because he is going to get a condition stint in the triple A no matter what.  Khabi will not start the year on the Oilers roster: on the LTIR, in prison, on suspension, or in the AHL.

Doogie2k:  Would I try to get out of the contract? Absolutely. Look, it's not like this team has a very good reputation among free agents as it is: how many player polls have we seen over the last few years that have listed Edmonton among their least favourite trade/free agency destinations? So forget that argument; you've got to come back to getting value for your money, and Khabibulin has not put up numbers commensurate with his salary in five of the last six seasons. I'd definitely cut him loose.

If he fails the camp physical, I don't know the entire range of options available to the team, but depending on why he failed, it seems like the thing to do would be to either put him on LTIR(back) or suspend him (weight). I'm not sure if the Oilers have any other real courses of action; I haven't read the CBA in great detail.

doritogrande:  That's a tough one. I grew up watching the Bulin wall develop in Winnipeg and I gotta say I'll always be cheering for him. On the other hand I don't want to take primo developmental minutes away from Deslauriers and Dubnyk either, especially this year. I'd try andget out of the contract in a manner that would benefit both parties, like a three year paid vacation in Khabibulin's homeland. It matters not if he passes or fails the camp physical, because we wouldn't be saving money on his cap hit as he signed his contract when he was over 35 (or so I'm led to believe). In a perfect world, Khabibulin isn't playing for the Oilers this year, allowing us to get another year of evaluating Deslauriers and Dubnykbefore we have to make a decision on which of the two we run with long-term. The acquisition of Martin Gerber was to provide goalie depth in Oklahoma, he shouldn't see NHL time this year barring injury.

Pat:  If I were Tambellini and I had a legal out I would go for it. Some say that such a move would give the org. a black eye and affect FA signings in the future. I call BS on that. Plenty of clubs play hardball (New Jersey comes to mind) and have no problem signing free agents. Here's an idea. Put a winning club on the ice. Then you will see free agents come.

I don't know the ramifications if he flunks the physical. If that means they can cut him loose I would say go for it but I presume its not that easy.

Shepso:  I would not try and get out of the contract. The PA is in a particularly surly mood right now given the impending end of the current CBA and the Devils vs. Kovalchuk fiasco-the last thing a GM should do right now is try to weasel out of that one, especially when he still has to weasel out of the Souray situation somehow.  Now, if Khabbycan’t play, well, the team is more eff’d up then I think any of us want to think it is. However, it’s a free pass to send him to OKC to get tuned up andstart the year with DD and Darth Gerber. We also send JDD down to back up Khabby, as his 1.05 mil cap hit would likely scare off anybody from scooping him on waivers, and then he starts when ‘Bulin inevitably has to go to tent city. After his jail time is served, it’s another reason to keep Khabby on the farm for reconditioning while hopefully one of either DD or Gerber has become established as a goalie that does not suck.

My primary concern with the ‘Bulin crisis is the issue of visas. I’ve been trying to follow the ‘sphere’s legal expert, Tyler Dellow, on this andspoken to an immigration lawyer friend of mine about it, and the only answer is that there is no cut and dry easy answer. It’s a very discretionary thing, so his ability to enter Canada is still also suspect. Of course given that he is in the appeals process, he can still do what ever he wants until he goes back to court. It’s a mess. Go Gerber? 

Contemplating his next beatdown. Photo by Resolute via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License

Copper & Blue:  Tom Renney has been quoted as saying that he wants Steve MacIntyre to play more than three minutes per night.  Colton Orrwas always a leading minute-getter among goons under Tom Renney, should we be worried about this?

B.C.B.:  Yes, but I do not think SMac will be playing that many minutes for Renney.  Against certain teams (Philly, Calgary, NYR, etc . . . teams with legit heavyweights), I am sure SMac will dress.  I can’t see Renney playing SMac that many minutes after the first one or two games of SMac being out of position.  Well not if he is going to line match or play the four line as a pseudo-defensive grouping.  Plus once JFJ gets back from his conditioning stint in OKC (and maybe Strudies in the Press Box), I just don’t see roster space for all of Zorg, Jones, SMac, JFJ, and Strudwick . . . either JFJ or SMac(most likely both) will see at least one waiver wire trip.

Doogie2k:  Lord help us. My feelings on goons with exactly one plus skill (i.e. face-punching) are well-documented at this point: they have no value in the modern NHL, where the instigator rule, third-man-in rule, and many others prevent them from performing the roles still ascribed to them by traditionalist thinking. While this makes me sad in a certain way, because I quite enjoy the face-punching at times, especially when it's a certain Flamesdefenceman with a penchant for uncalled boarding penalties, it's better for the game if your players can fight andplay hockey. I'd rather have Stortini anchoring the fourth line and another kid (Omark, Harski) or an AHL vet (Giroux, Moran) on the NHL roster, than have Steve MacIntyredoing a whole lot of nothing for us, in the grand tradition of a lot of recent Flames goobers (Brian MacGrattan, anyone?).

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, yes, worry very much.

doritogrande:  Absolutely not. Renney will clue in pretty quick that Steve MacIntyre is nowhere close to the hockey player that Colton Orr is. I don't trust MacIntyre with three minutes per night in the AHL. Again, this is time that could be better spent on another young prospect getting ice time and an NHL roster spot. Someone like Linus Omark, who doesn't really have much else to prove in the minor circuit after years spent in the Swedish and Russian elite leagues. I believe that by the end of training camp, we'll have heard the end of this silly rumour.

Pat:  No. MacIntyre is so awful that Renney is going to realize pretty quickly that he is not an option. I predict a similar situation to last year, they'll cut him loose by Christmas.

Shepso:  Renney is a teacher as much as he is a coach, something that we clearly could not say about the (once) mighty Quinn last season. This makes me think Orr learned a thing or two from Renneywhen he was in NYC. However, we all know the truth; Colton Orr is a terrible hockey player, but at least when one looks at his tale of the tape, he appears to be less of a nuclear deterrent then the Smactruck is. The other sideof the Orr coin is that he happens to be a mighty durable player, playing in all 82 games for both Renney/Torts Rangers in 08/09 and last year’s laughs, where he scored a career high of 4 goals-not bad for a goon. It’s more than JFJ has scored in his career. That said, I don’t really see a place for Steve MacIntyreon this hockey team, at all, period. I’m not too concerned with Renney’s words, only because I think that despite the one way contract and his reputation for being a really nice guy, he’s in tough to make the club out of camp, particularly if one or two of the AHLvets really shine during the TC. This club, as has been discussed at great length all summer needs to think about its future, so developing players in a positive and limited risk environment would be the only reason I can see Smacsticking around-as a sort of off stage monster if you will. His role would be to hopefully prevent the Reghers of the world from running over our kids and killing our Hemskys. It’s an established concept, but I don’t think it fits the mold of "harder to play against" that 3.0 had in mind when he made that statement.

Bottom line, I don’t think he makes the team, despite what his presence could bring to the table. So, no, we should not be worried about this.


Copper & Blue:  Which one remaining UFA would you like to see sign with the Oilers?

Competent Defense Needed.Photo by Horge via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License

B.C.B.:  I am going to go with a defenseman for one of two reasons: one is that the Oilers are seriously lacking a defenseman that has experience playing in the top four of a decent to good team.  Foster. Peckham, Vandeermer, and Strudwickwill not cut it (but we should be able to assemble a service bottom pair / press box from that).  I would go with Mike Mottau, because he and Andreas Lilja are the only two veterans left on the market that I would feel comfortable on my second pairing (and Mottau is younger and has played two healthy season in a row). By traditional stats, Mottau had 18 pts in 79 games which is not bad.  Since he was averaging 22:15 TOI/G with 1:47 SH TOI/G, andhe did with the second toughest, out of six, QualComp while having the fourth best QualTeam as a Devil.  Better than most of the folks populating the Oilers' stable of rearguards.

Actually the other reason why I think we should pick up Mottau—and you got to think he would take a $500 000 to $700 000 contract right now—is that a forward will be easier to pick up on waivers.  The Oilers would be stupid to not pick up a waiver wire traveler this year, since they have first chance at everyone till the season starts.  Pick up a veteran winger for the PK or a young talent that is trying to be squeezed through by another team would be good for the overall depth of the team.

If this means using up two of the three remaining contract spaces and sending down one of Eberle or Paajarvi, then that is fine. Having two more veterans on the big club will help the kids learn better then having all three of the divinities in Oiler silks.  Winning more then occasionally (in both the AHL and NHL) sets up competition, responsibility, and allows the rookies to be put into positions to succeed.

Doogie2k:  I don't spend a lot of time on ToI or BtN, so I really don't know who the secret Corsi superstars are who could help this team defensively. Former Oiler Miroslav Satan looks like a decent second-line veteran scoring option, to push the kids a little further down the lineup and make life easier. Barring that, Jose Theodore, whatever his faults, would probably still be the best goalie in the organization, and at this point in the year, you have to imagine he'd come dirt-cheap. Comes down to how much the Oilers want to win hockey games, really.

doritogrande:  I would rather we go witha player from already within the organization, because UFAs are usually older and declining instead of working towards their prime. If I had to pick a player, it'd be a veteran winger to PK and generally be an ass to play against. Someone like Scott Walker. In picking Walker, I decided to waive traditional thought that this team needs a veteran center to be productive. My reasoning behind this is that we've got a plethora of young centers with bottom-6 potential that I'd rather develop, guys like Colin Fraser, Andrew Cogliano and Chris Vande Velde are the ones I'd rather see getting that opportunity. Though if we're developing young centers, we'd better surround them with veteran wingers or they're going to get killed. Walker's become more of a checker since his 25-goal seasons have left him, but perhaps even more importantly he won't let his teammates be pushed around. That's a role that's going to be essential going forward as we're developing a score of youngsters that don't know how to handle NHL-type pests yet.

Pat:  Jesus are there any left? Um lets see. I've always been a big fan of Darcy Tucker ... yeah right, that fucker can burn in hell. Actually all kidding aside there aren't many players left. Paul Ranger intrigues me but I think he must have some serious issues, he looked promising and nobody will touch him now. I've always liked Jay McKee. He'd be a step up from the rest of our 5/6 guys. Really though I would go out and pick up Patrick Thoresen. Buddy's motor never stopped running. He was a plus player in 2006/2007, a plus player! Can you imagine. And he never stopped working. Sure he's just a role player but he is a useful one andhe has a great attitude and work ethic. Give him a one way deal for 700 per for a couple of years. You wouldn't regret it for a minute.

Shepso:  Truth be told, there are three and any of them would do. My first choice would be Robert Lang. Yes, seriously, Robert Lang. B.C.B., my comrade over at bringingbacktheglory has been plugging Lang for a while now and I am starting to see why. He’s a skilled player who can PK and win more draws then most Oilers currently on the roster (not saying much, but it’s in andaround the 48-49% range for his career…). Lang is perhaps now at the Adam Oates as Oiler stage of his career; he could be a useful teacher for said little things like winning draws and helping the PK. Cogs could learn a lot from Robert Lang.

The second choice is Old Grey Beard himself, Owen Nolan. He loves the game, is a great leader and can be used in almost any situation except faceoffs, but would be a hell of a player to have in the dressing room, on the bench andin dealing withspecial teams. You need a grinder, he can grind, an injury replacement for a top six role, Nolan can still produce, andthe guy oozes leadership. This young team could really use that, particularly Taylor Hall, given that when Nolan was in his prime, he was a premier power forward with 9 25+ goal seasons and twice breaking 40. Not a bad mentor if you ask me.

The last player is another cagey vet, Jay McKee. I feel like he’s been around forever, andseeing him in something other than a Sabres jersey has always been a little weird to me, but he is kind of like a younger (though still old) version of Steve Staios. He is a fearless shot blocking machine, a former 1st rd pick, former member of the sabres leadership core andthat steady #4 d-man the team really needs. Keep him with Smid and watch Smid’s defensive game skyrocket. He’s not a PP guy by any stretch but he’s a monster on the PK and that is exactly what the younger Oilers need to learn how to do better.


Copper & Blue:  Are there any reasons, besides the kids and rubbernecking, that general NHL fans should watch Edmonton games this year?

B.C.B.:  Cause you are not watching the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Doogie2k:  There are other reasons to watch the Oilers this year?

In all seriousness, there's always the chance the 2007 cluster all take the next step, the 2010 cluster doesn't get slaughtered, and one of the young goalies channels Dominik Hasek Craig Anderson and we go on a Colorado-esque run. That'd be a reason to watch, no doubt. Beyond that, I got nothing: the kids are thedraw for NHL fans, just as Kane and Toews were the draw for the 'Hawks three years ago.

doritogrande:  Edmonton used to be known as a team that always gave their best effort and would never lay down and die. They were always a tough draw, and a team that you didn't want to have to play when a win was needed to keep playoff hopes alive. They played exciting, fast-action hockey that was enjoyable to even the casual hockey fan. These days that's not really the story as the Oilers have become more and more like a pushover, score a few quick ones andyou know you can coast through the rest of the game. Were I a fan of another hockey team I don't think I'd stick aroundfor the second half of the CBC double-header if I wasn't a fan of Edmonton's opponent, and that's because Edmonton no longer plays entertaining hockey. And with Renney's focus on systems play this year, hard-matching lines and all that crap, I don't see it changing at all this year. This won't be a year for entertaining or exciting hockey from the Oilers, though fans of the Vancouver Canucks might enjoy its familiarity.

Pat:  Um, free pizza when the Oilers give up six or more a game? No, not at all.

Shepso:  Not really, but I’ll attempt to outline why both choices Derek didn’t want answered are basically the only reasons to bother tuning in. The 1st and clearly obvious answer is to see what the crop of super rookies (and perhaps Omark) can do. They’ll suck, but they might be a lot of fun to watch.

The 2nd choice is rubbernecking. I’m going to go out on a limb and try to approach this is from a more academic and psychological level.  For whatever the reason, and I don’t want to get too far into the world of deconstruction right now, people seem to love watching disasters. Why else would tsunamis and wars be televised? Why else would disaster and deathtourism be growing at a remarkable rate? After spending some time in Europe this spring (thanks to thoseof you that read my travel columns here by the way…) I was astonished by the sheer number of museums that focused on the Holocaust. As a Jew, it was really disturbing to me, not only because of the reminders of the harsh realities my people faced in the old country only a few generations ago, but because an entire industry had been created around capitalizing upon this death. Almost every tourist map made sure to mention the Jewish quarters in every city and on andon. A whole tourist industry focuses on this death, not purely for preserving the memory but finding a way to make a business out of it. This is a hockey site, so I won’t get too personal on this rant, as this concept I’m discussing is also an upcoming academic project I am working on this year…my point is this: people seem to be fascinated by death and despair-as such, NHL fans outside of Edmonton will likely watch the team suffer this year because for whatever the reasons, it is entertaining to watch disaster and suffering. Quite frankly, the Oilers have so many problems it is a little bit like seeing a train wreck in super slow motion.

I however will watch them for a 3rd reason - I’m a sucker for the defense of lost causes and I have loved the Oilers for my whole life. Who cares if they suck? They’re my team and that is all that matters.


Copper & Blue:  Is there a chance this team isn't in the lottery drawing next spring?

The Edmonton Oilers select...LANDESKOG.Photo by Tabercil via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License

B.C.B.:  Yes. If all of these things happen in this order:

1)     The Oilers get two veterans—PKing forward and a top 4 defensive rearguard on their depth chart.
2)     Hemsky and Penner both have healthy, productive seasons.
3)     Devan Dubnyk establishes himself as a starter, or any of the four vagabonds accomplish this. I am talking 50 games and a 0.910 Sav %, minimum.
4)     One of Hall or Paajarvi has a Calder Cup winning season, and the other or Eberle gives him a run for his money.
5)     Smid comes into his own this season and starts reminding us of Volchenkov.
6)     Everybody else plays to the level of Lowetide's reasonable expectations.

So it is not happening.

Doogie2k:  See my previous answer. Even without everything breaking right, though, I think this roster can certainly finishin the 20-25 range, outside the lottery, but outsideany realistic hope of the playoffs. This is, of course, the worst-case scenario, but one that certainly seems plausible, with a few things going right (say, injuries subsiding and the young vets stepping up) and a few things going wrong (Lord love a duck, the goaltending).

doritogrande:  Yes. Goaltending will be key to the fortunes of the Oilers this year. If Khabibulin comes back fully recovered, or if one of the two young goalies learn what it takes to stop more pucks than the opposing goalie night in and night out, there's a chance we're fighting for a playoff spot come March. Coach Renney's line matching strategy will be able to get the kids out against soft opposition, while matching Horcoff and the foot soldiers against the real competition. I believe that our offense won't be the problem in the upcoming season. We just don't know about our goaltending. If it's shite, we're lottery bound.

Pat:  Always a chance but they will need everything to go right and probably a few teams to absolutely have disastrous seasons - injuries, bad luck, all of that stuff - to not be in the lottery. Inexperience, poor D andpoor goaltending is a bad combination. They are going to get filled on lots of nights.

Shepso:  Yeah, there’s a chance. If Khabby doesn’t go to jail and can play 55 games with a s.p. of about .919, Gagner improves to both 55% on the dot and 55-60 points, Hall, MP and Eberle become the second coming of the boys on the bus, Smid turns the corner defensively, Hemsky stays healthy for all 82 games, Penner doesn’t regress in terms of boxcars, Horcoff reverts to Horcoff circa 2007 pre injury and Whitney becomes the player the Pens drafted with a lottery pick.

I figure if 2/3 of my list happens, particularly the Khabby point (Or DD just plays that well…) then there’s a shot this team is not a lottery team. Otherwise, let’s tank again and pull a Pittsburgh.


Copper & Blue:  Alright, now on to the good.  One of the Kids or the Hall will win the Calder - which one?

B.C.B.:  Whoever plays the most on Hemsky’s line and/or on the powerplay.  This would exclude Eberle, I would think, because he plays right wing—plus I think he will play in a similar position, on the PP, as Hemksy, becoming a distributor of the puck at the half wall.   Overall, Eberle will not get top line mates at even strength or on the man advantage, since they will be feed to Hemsky as number one RWer.

It leaves open either Hall or Paajarvi as the LW on the Oilers’ most talented offensive player’s line. I really think Penner will be the LW with Gagner and I don’t see Gagner and Hemsky playing together if it is not on the power play. It all depends on if a forward can play the point on the first powerplay unit, and who grabs that top LW spot to play with Hemsky. Unless one of Hall or Paajarvi play themselves on to the top line and have more the special teams play they can handle, I don’t think either one of them will even complete for the Calder. I don’t really know who would win the Calder of the Oilers’ rookies, but I would not bet on Eberle to win it.

His professional experience makes him the Roundtable favorite for the Calder. Photo by Krm500 via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License

Doogie2k:  Every year, the Calder is awarded on reputation before the season starts, and at least half the time lately, it's the second or third guy you'd think of who actually does it. Remember how John Tavares was a mortal lock for the Calder last year? Tyler Myers proceeded to eat his lunch over the course of the year. Similarly, while the obvious choice is someone like Hall or Eberle, by reputation, I would not be surprised in the least to see Pääjärvi take home the crown. He's got speed to burn like few others entering the League, he's played against men for a couple of years already, and he's a converted defenceman, suggesting he's got some two-way game to him. If he can put up 50 points and stay near the front of rookie scoring, his other assets could push him over the top.

doritogrande:  I'll go with Hall, as he's in the best position to succeed offensively. He's coming into the season as the de-facto #2 LW on the team, and unlike Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle, he's staying in the NHL for the year. With Paajarvi behind Dustin Pennerand Hall for the LW spots, and Eberle behind Ales Hemsky and fighting it out with Gilbert Brulefor the #2 RW spot, they're not as likely to get the best offensive linemates this year. Paajarvi and Eberle are going to be great players in this league, but Hall has the spotlight on him from both management and from the fans. He'll get every opportunity to succeed so that the Oilers can market him to promote the organization.

Pat:  Probably the most ready is the guy who won't get a push, Omark. Heck he might not even make the club. But if he were given primo icetime and linemates he'd do some serious damage. Seriously, as LT would say. But he's not one of the big three so I say Paajarvi. He's the most ready of the big three, imo. He has experience playing against men and he has that great speed. I say he separates himself from the others.

Shepso:  I think Paajarvi is the most NHL ready of the kids and will have stretches of dominance this season. He will be a treat to watch. My personal choice is that Paajarvi wins it, but he won’t. I’m not even sure an Oiler will, to be honest, and if it is an Oiler, it will be Eberle, not Taylor Hall. That would be too predictable. Something tells me either Kadri or Subban will, just because they play for the Leafs and Habs respectively. Yes, my cynicism is at maximum levels today.


Copper & Blue:  Over the next five years, who is going to be the most important young Oiler:  Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, or next year's first-round pick?  Tyler Pitlick or Teemu Hartikainen are also acceptable answers.

B.C.B.:  Whoever gets traded for a defenseman.  Almost as important on the organization choose the most important player and holding on to them is for the Brass to identify which player is not going to turn out and trade them for a useful part.  We have a lot of young forwards andnot all of them are going to be around for the next cup run, so one of them will eventually be traded to fill up a weakness (which looks not to be a forward, but a lack of a stud on the blue line).  The most important of theseyoung players is whomever they choose to trade in the next five years, and making sure they trade the right player.

The old man in the kids's club in Edmonton. Photo by Dan4th Nicholas via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License

Doogie2k:  Pitlick or Hartikainen? It's like Derek wrote this question or something.

I think it's got to be Sam Gagner. He's already got three years of NHL experience, he looks ready to take the next step by both eye and number, and because he's around their age, he's going to be relied on to teach some of his hard-earned lessons to the ones who follow him. Will he be the best player, full stop, of that handful in 2015? Hard to say; in five years, you'd like to think he'll be the undisputed 1C, playing PvP and putting up good numbers. But the most important? Absolutely: he may very well be the captain of the team by that point.

doritogrande:  The most important young Oiler is definitely going to be next year's first rounder, and he's going to go a long way to securing the Oilersfranchise for the next decade. We've got some great young prospects and players in the system in Gagner, Eberle and Paajarvi, but they're not the elite-level player that Hall is. In order to be successful long-term Hall is going to need a running-mate, either with him on the top line or stabilizing the blueline. That's where next year's pick comes into play, andour position in the standings is so vital. If we as fans allow management another year's grace (read: sucking), we'll be rewarded long-term with another lottery pick. And boy, are there some nice things in that lottery right now. Sean Couturier and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are both elite-level centers, Couturier for his Lemieux-like size and Nugent-Hopkins for his offensive wizardry, while Adam Larsson may be better than fellow Swedish uber-defensive prospect Victor Hedman. It's immensely important for our franchise that the 2011 entry draft contains a lottery pick for the Stu MacGregorto play with, because the talent level this year is said to drop off severely after the first four or five names. Another year of a mediocre finish (not too good, but not too bad either) won't work.

Pat:  Oh jeez, that's tough. I think Hall and Paajarvi are going to be good NHL players so I am going to have to say either Eberle or Gagner andI guess come down with Eberle. I think Gagneris on his way to being quality which means they have three guys to build around. If Eberle is a player too then we're really cooking and I think that he is the one whose game is still a question mark when it comes to the pros. I think he's going to be fine but he's neither big nor fast so there's a possibility he fails. If he succeeds then things become a lot better for the Oilers.

Shepso:  I have a feeling that Pitlick is going to be a seriously good player in the next 5 years, perhaps even the most complete, Doug Weight like player the team has drafted in a long time (yes I know we didn’t draft Dougie…) but my gut tells me that Anton Lander will be the captain or at least an assistant of the Oiler club that goes on its next major playoff run. One more year of SEL andhe will be on our side of the ocean, doing what he does andgetting a little better every year. Those two along with Gagner are the 1, 2 and 3 Cs of our next trip to glory. You heard it here first. Note: the batting order of these 3 Cs is up to you…I’m just predicting that they will be the top 3Cs for what I hope to be a long time.


Copper & Blue:  Which stat, traditional or underlying, from which player is going to surprise everyone (in a good way) this season?

B.C.B.:  I think the player which is going to produce the most pleasantly surprising stat is Zack Stortini.  Why? ‘Cause Zorg is going to have a big year.  I have no real rationale other then he has nowhere to go but up (since he has been mostly treading water since he has gotten here), and he works hard on his game.   Plus Coach Renney is know for relying on his fourthliners to do some defensive duty while in working in the Madison Square Gardens.

Hey Mambo, Mambo Cogliano. Photo by Dan4th Nicholas via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License

He needs to be able to either learn to kill penalties or learn to eat up defensive end draws, in a similar (but hopefully better) way to a Kelly Buchburger.  He might have to fill in for a couple shifts to protect a kid from a particular nasty defensemen in front of the net, and he can skate well enough to do that once and a while.  I would guess that Zorg will actually have enough PK minutes to do advance stats next year or that his Zone Start numbers will reflect that he takes is on the ice for defensive zone draws then offensive zone draws.

Doogie2k:  Call me an optimist, but I suspect we may see a big leap out of Andrew Cogliano, more so than most are expecting, now that he's accepted responsibility for playing more of a two-way game. He may only put up 12-15 goals instead of 20ish because of it, but I'm looking for big gains in face-off percentage, Corsi, Chances, and ZoneShift. He's a smart kid, andfast as the wind: if he dedicates himself to playing well without the puck, I think he can turn himself into a proper 3C.

doritogrande:  I'm not a stats guy, because mathnever was my friend (I don't get his manners, his humour, or his cooking). But I'll single out Ladislav Smid's +/- and GA/60 as being a surprise this year. Many said that Smid benefittedfrom playing alongside Lubomir Visnovsky, andhis defensive numbers had been influenced by playing witha very skilled partner. Rather than see a regression this year, I think we'll find that Smid's finally going to become the defensive defenseman he has the potential to be. It's been a slow learning process for Smid, but all the years of experience started to show dividends last season. I expect he's still got some learning to do, but for the most part we'll finally see our shutdown defender emerge, and it'll show itself in his defensive stats.

Pat:  Hmmm. I'm going to say Paajarvi's total points and overall underlying numbers are going to surprise. Hedging a bit again, I know, but really I think this kid is a lot better than we know and I think he is ready right now. People are excited about Hall and Eberle but I think he is the best of the three right now and he will prove it this season.

Shepso:  Cogliano’s faceoff % and Dubnyk's EV SP% Not much more I can say about that one.

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