Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fresh Oil spilleth over: cautious optimism from training camp 2007

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:

Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky
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?

Other notes/predictions:

- 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...


mike w said...

Of course I just read on Black Dog's site that MacT wants 8 D-men, so... uh, Roy?

Chris! said...

We've got to do something about the logjam at the blueline. The lineup you have here is reasonable, but no way should Gilbert play in the AHL this year and the pressbox is a waste of Tarnstrom.

This has been a remarkable pre-season. So many guys getting close to becoming impact NHLers. Brodziak, Cogliano and Nilsson have all earned an opening night spot. Pouliot and Jacques have been nothing special, but MAP may still squeak into the lineup because sending him down AGAIN would pretty much be closing the book on his time with the Oilers.

I imagine the Oilers will do what most everyone is saying with Gagner, ie. give him nine games and send him back to London, which seems like the right move to me. Unless he's 3-3-6 after that nine. How do you send that packing?

Simply no space for Stortini right now. Who do you take out?

In conclusion, I think your lineup's good, but with Greene plus a forward (Pouliot?) traded for a right winger and Tarnstrom in for Grebs.

Stortini called back up from Springfield once Gagner returns to the Knights.

Does that make sense logistically? I lost track.

Also, that's the first I've ever heard of Ralph Intranuovo.

James Mirtle said...

Yeap, do what the Pens did with Staal last year: Give Gagner a chance to prove he deserves to stay, and if he falls short, no biggy — back to junior without burning a year of his free agency availability.

Andy Grabia said...

Dead on, James. That's exactly what they should do. The key is enough time to make a difference. I wonder how much ice-time Staal got during those games? Anyone know? One of us must know the exact time.

Black Dog said...

I think Tarnstrom likely is in while Grebeshkov is in the PB.

Its either Jacques or Stortini but with 8 D and if Gagner is in the mix, then what?

We'll see Gilbert back before long I would think.

And Mike don't forget Trukhno who looked terrific, Schremp who did ok considering he is coming off an injury plus Almtorp who looks to be a useful player.

Could it be that the Oilers actually have a plethora of promisng and pleasing puck prospects?

I think so!

Black Dog said...

I don't think Staal was getting huge minutes, Andy. My charts show that he was getting 7:35 total, 2:12 of that on the PK ...

Ah, who am I kidding?

I think he was centring the third/fourth line, playing some PK.

Nothing spectacular. He wasn't playing with Crosby.

Steve said...

My sole Ralph Intranuovo memory is somebody on TV talking about how, while Steve Kelly was "fast", Intranuovo was "quick". I think he meant it as a compliment.

mike w said...

Keep in mind that this is my shot at the opening night roster, which could change a game later.

That and history tells us that we haven't necessarily seen the last of Trukhno, Schremp or Almtorp as they can be easily called up later in the season (like say, when Gagner heads down so we don't waste 1 of 7 restricted years in 2007 if he doesn't look like a breakout player).

Mostly-sure on this Fun fact: I remember reading that Ralph Intranuovo had one of the fitness records from training camp (I believe it may have been the VO2 max). For those that don't remember him, he was a speedy but undersized winger somewhat in the mold of Tony Salmelainen.

Black Dog said...

Remember last year - wasn't Mikhnov on the roster?

Intranuovo played for the Soo for Ted Nolan - won a Memorial Cup I believe.

garnet said...

Wait, someone made a mold of Tony Salmelainen?

Steve said...

For those that don't remember him, he was a speedy but undersized winger somewhat in the mold of Tony Salmelainen.

Not speedy - quick.

Cam Fraser said...

It's a crime that Greene will start over Gilbert at this point. It seems like every game he's played in he's scored in. A quick check of the stats shows 3 games, 2 goals. How do you send him down?

The dollar at par and the Oilers' revenues says they don't have to coach like a GM anymore. If Gagner and Cogliano fit with Hemsky, play Penner on the second line. If Gilbert and Roy outplay Grebs and Greene, play them instead.

Pipe dreams, I know.

Jonathan said...

Good lineup, but I'd say the smart money (and recent history) is on Stortini beating out Jacques, and possibly Pouliot, for the press box seat.

Anonymous said...

Regardless who we pick, I think this team has a reasonable shot to make the playoffs. And since every team in the NW is better than us on paper, I wonder if it's absurd to think that the entire NW could make the playoffs. (With ANA, SJS and DET rounding out the 8).


Anonymous said...

I think this team has a reasonable shot to make the playoffs

That still seems like bit of a stretch.

Jonathan said...

Too bad Vladimir Vujtek didn't turn out like [|Vladimir Vorobiev]. A goal per game average in an Edmonton uniform- sign him and play him with Torres and Stoll!

voxel said...

Talk of playoffs is premature. This team definitely is a huge improvement from last season's last 20 games, but looking at the schedule of the first 20 games... it's nasty. If we can be over .500 in the first twenty we should be okay.

PunjabiOil said...
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