Like I did last year, I am going to do a series of posts discussing the team and how I think they will do in the coming year. Reading musts is Lowetide and his breakdown of each player, and big props to Behind the Net and Capgeek for all of my stats/salary info.
This is the year. Things are starting to look up, and this will be the year that the team finally makes the turn and starts for the finish line. A new GM is in, replacing the useless one (ah, remember the optimism when he was hired!). A new coach is in (not that the old one was the issue).
This is the year that they no longer are the laughing stock of the league.
Lets start with the forwards:
I think we are looking at our most complete forward grouping yet. Hall took the step last year I believe becoming an elite forward in this league, and hopefully the Nuge gets healthy and takes a good step as well.
Again, much like every year, it’s the bottom 6 that are going to determine what this team does. A better bottom 6 can allow Eakins to line match (and oh man do I hope he line matches!) and allow us to get the top 6 out against cherry opposition. Another plus this year is I think the forward depth is looking good as well.
Anyways, here are the forwards (putting them in current training camp lines, obviously will change):
Jones/One of the call-ups/Brown/Eager
Arcobello/Joensuu/Lander/Hamilton/Pitlick (closest to being the first call-ups I’d think)
Obviously on the Nuge’s return, he’d slot in #1 or #2 and Hall would move back to Lw unless he kills it.
I think that top line can go power vs. power against any line, but only if Smyth’s legs haven’t abandoned him completely. Even then, he has the smarts/experience to keep up to a certain extent. If the legs are gone, then on the Nuge’s return I’m guessing Hall moves left, Nuge takes the #1 center and Smyth moves down to the 4th line.
The second line looks pretty sweet. I’m excited to see Perron here, even though I don’t think he’s the greatest in his own zone. I’d think that if Eakins is smart, he’ll throw this line and the 3rd line out against weaker competition and have them feast. I think Gagner is also going to be the man this year.
Third line is kind of a crap-shoot. I think Gordon is crazy good defending, but he’ll have to be with Omark and Yakupov as linemates. Should be pretty creative in the offensive zone though. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you see Eager up here on the left and Omark moved down to the 4th line or AHL.
Fourth line is still a bit of a mess. Jones on the 4th line is where he belongs, Eager and Brown can compete for the facepuncher role (with the assumed heavyweight that Bobby Mac was talking about the Oilers trying to get (can also assume Moroz or Abney might fill that role)). Fourth line center is wide open for any of the bubble kids, and I assume that should any injuries occur (when they do I mean) there are forwards that can easily slide up and complete for a short period of time.
As for the bubble kids, I’d have to assume that this is the last chance for Arcobello, Lander, Hamilton and Pitlick to impress the GM before being castoff or traded.
Firepower – This team should score. A lot. I think we’ll see career years from Hall, Eberle and Gagner. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nuge has a very good year as well as Hemsky (I know, I know, but no one will convince me otherwise).
Experience – Finally there won’t be any rookies in the opening day roster. This team will have been through the grind, and know what needs to be done. I think this is a very important part of the turn around that we can expect for this team.
Depth – I wasn’t sure if this should be a strength or a weakness. In the end I settled with strength just based on the fact that we have 5/6 players that are essentially replacement level, and should be able to hold their own for short periods of time. So long as we don’t see one of those legendarily bad injury seasons I think they should be able to hold up under just general season wear.
Bottom 3 – I think the bottom 3 don’t need to be protected as much as previous years (Jones and Eager should be able to carry anyone else on that line), but in a perfect world I’d like to see that line improved. It very well could be the case that the line is improved from within (one of the bubble players) but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mac T is looking to improve the depth still.
Much like last year, for the most part I am pretty happy with this forward group. Outside of some 4th line depth, I don’t think this forward corps needs much.
I thought the team would make the playoffs last year. Hahahahahaha. Fuck, Oiler fan optimism is a bitch. But really, for sure this year. Hope springs eternal etc etc.