I've followed a lot of training camps over the years, and as with any fresh start one is naively hopeful that prospects, hidden gems and otherwise fringe players somehow find a new level to their game to start the season. Of course, this has led to a lot of delusion, like a desperate, unshakable belief that Ralph Intranuovo or Vladimir Vujtek would become top line wingers leading their team out of bottom-dwelling misery.
Normally when the head coach talks about a few younger guys "stepping into bigger roles" on the team, it usually means that the team stinks. And while that may still be true for the Oilers, I have to admit that 2007 stands out as the first time that the Oilers have had five or six guys exceed all expectations. Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Brodziak, Sam Gagner and Tom Gilbert have played well enough to earn a spot on the team. This doesn't include dudes like Patrick Thoresen, J.F. Jacques and Marc Pouliot.
With four more cuts today (Tim Sestito, Jonas Almtorp, Devan Dubnyk, and Ben Simon) joining Robbie Schremp (remember him?) and others, the real tough decisions will come in the next week. This is the way I see opening night shaping up:
Torres - Stoll - Nilsson
Moreau - Reasoner - Brodziak
Sanderson - Cogliano - Thoresen
Staios - Pitkanen
Souray - Greene
Smid - Grebeshkov
Not listed on IR: Fernando Pisani
In the press box: Pouliot, Jacques, Tarnstrom, Gagner?
- Anson Carter doesn't make the team (training camp is a tough time to get injured, but hey)
- Tom Gilbert has a two-way contract, which is unfair since he's played better than Matt Greene
- has Jacques played well enough to stay on the team? What about Stortini?
- another question is whether Gagner should be sent back to Junior, which kind of seems unlikely, but you never know...