What Do the Training Camp Lines Tell Us?

Tomorrow, the Edmonton Oilers will open Rexall Place to the fans who can witness the first scrimmage sessions of training camp for the year. The Oilers have put some interesting combinations together to start camp off, and while we can't hold too much weight on the lineups, one might be able to tell a few things from the combinations, since they were the first to be thought of by the coaching staff.

Here is how the lines shape up to start off the Oilers training camp, and for many team tryouts...


O’Sullivan- Horcoff -Hemsky
Reddox -Potulny -Fretter
Stone – Schremp – Linglet
Brennan – Comrie – Bates
Souray – Visnovsky
Aresene – Taylor
Wild – Bendfeld

Team B

Penner – Gagner – Eberle
Jacques – Pouliot – Stortini
Trukhno – O’Marra – McDonald
Emmerson – Lerg – MacMurchy
Grebeshkov – Gilbert
Chorney – Plante
Nickerson – Young

Team C

Moreau – Cogliano – Pisani
Nilsson – Brule – Minard
Cornet – Paukovich – MacIntyre
Czuy – Kytnar – Lazo
Smid – Staios
Motin – Strudwick
Prout – Dudas

So if we're going to examine these combinations with far more detail than we probably should, here is what I take these line match-ups to mean.

O'Sullivan is going to get a good look at the 1st line LW. The Oilers must feel he's going to submit a boat load of shots on net, (or at least are hoping to) so putting him with Hemsky, coaches must hope a little spark of chemistry ignites.

Penner and Gagner is a combination that showed real signs of life over the last two years and perhaps the Oilers want to see if they can recreate some magic on the same line. Eberle is an odd choice here, but maybe the Oilers want to give him a good hard look right off the bat with some higher level NHL'ers before they write him off as a non-factor this year.

Souray and Visnovsky are paired together, which is not a huge surprise, but an interesting combo when you think about the powerplay. When they often put these two together last season, it was a bit too much shooting on the same side and wasn't all that effective. Gilbert and Grebeshov and Smid and Staois means the Oilers are looking to see if the same pairings from last year are going to be how they start the season and it won't surprise me one bit.

Brule and Nilsson kind of look like they are in nowhere's land, so it'll be interesting to see if this line-ups means anything in terms of where they sit on the team, but Pouliot with Jacques and Stortini sounds like the type of fourth line many expected the Oilers to start with.

Comrie is slated way down, but that could be his officially signing after these line-ups were made or what we stated when we started this article... that it's quite likely these lines don't mean a thing and we really just kind of like to read into things. After all they have Cogliano slated to play 3rd line centre between Moreau and Pisani, and we know how badly we hope that doesn't happen in order for Cogs to have a big year.


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Heatley Finally Traded

Sources tell TSN, Dany Heatley has been traded to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second round pick. This ends what seemed to be a never ending storyline involving Dany Heatley.

It's no surprise that San Jose winds up as the final destination for Heatley and Ottawa has landed an impressive forward in Michalek along with a player who is either a) going to be immediately moved to another destination (perhaps Edmonton) or b) will step up from his previous two seasons and find a welcome change in Ottawa.

For everyone involved this is probably a huge blessing. The Senators, while for the most part remaining professional about it, were not at all thrilled with the prospect of a returning Heatley. Heatley had no desire to go back, although he would have, and The Oilers having officially pulled their offer, were never really considered out of play should the Senators have made a call, so at the very least Edmonton fans have closure.

San Jose has now obtained one of the hottest one-two punches in Heatley/Thornton and if Heatley doesn't get 50 goals with Joe Thornton feeding him saucers all year, Shark fans should be shocked.

Considering how weak a position the Senators were in, this is not a bad trade for them. Michalek was signed to a nice number long term, should get the Senators 30 goals playing along side Jason Spezza and convinced San Jose to give up on young potential for a LW sniper everyone knows is one of the best goal scorers in the NHL, who also but carries some interesting baggage.

Cheechoo is the interesting piece here as Ottawa never really expressed much interest. They'll etiher give Cheechoo a chance to rebound, or a possible trade is already in the works to move Cheechoo to another destination. In either case, Cheechoo has a chance to be the sleeper surprise in this trade and make it a win/loss deal for the Senators.


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Not Too Many Small Forwards

The signing of Mike Comrie doesn't give the Oilers too many small forwards. At least not any more than they already had. Kevin Lowe went on record saying that the Comrie signing wouldn't be in addition to, but instead of a current NHL ready forward on the roster.

"Pat Quinn and his coaching staff are salivating at the thought of having 19 or 20 forwards and having to pick out a roster of 13 or 14." he goes on to add, that "One of the criticisms of the Mike Comrie signing is that we've added another small player, but in all likelyhood, if Mike does well and plays a part in the team this season, he will be replacing a smaller type player."

Interesting. We kind of knew that Comrie coming in meant someone going out, but who will that someone be? My guess, is that we'll have to wait at least two weeks or so and into camp and pre-season before we find out. That is unless of course a viable trade option presents itself.

Making a Case For Each Small Forward

O'Sullivan - He's yet to prove anything as an Oiler and despite what he did in LA, could be on shaky ground if he doesn't get off to a faster start. The Oilers see big things for him, hoping he'll be one of the main goal scoring contributors based simply on how frequently he likes to shoot the puck. He's versatile being able to play any forward spot. He's slated for top 6 forward minutes, but that spot is literally his to lose.

Nilsson - For most fans, he is the odd man out. I'm not sure that the Oilers totally agree as he's shown a lot of jazz this summer adding a ton of muscle (reminiscent of Smid last year) and is ready to play more physical knowing he has a lot to prove. His skill set is still considered amongst the best on the team, it's just his consistency that is in question. If Quinn and Renney see something in Nilsson's game to start things off, he may not be gone.

Cogliano - If given the minutes (and the Oilers want to), they expect as many as 30 goals from Cogliano this season. Scoring 18 on the third line last year and with very limited special teams time, that jump is not at all out of the question. The problem for Cogs is his flexibility. He's not wanting to play anything but centre, but is willing to - there's a big difference there. If he doesn't mesh on the wing, his spot could be in trouble and he has value around the league and may not be a good fit with the puzzle pieces on the Oilers roster.

Gagner - I can't imagine the Oilers looking or considering a move involving Sam Gagner, but stranger things have happened. Should an offer exist too good to pass up, anything is possible. It is very likely however that should Gagner have a strong start (which for the most part has been his downfall), he'll be slotted as the 1st line centre for much of the season.

Comrie - The odds are slim, but it's still possible he doesn't make this team. The Oilers signing Comrie at this price is almost a no risk move. Should Quinn and Renney simply not see what they need to out of Comrie, the Oilers could cut him lose or move him down our out. It makes little sense to do so after signing him mere days before, and I feel he's a lock because if he wasn't they'd have offered a tryout, not a contract, but Comrie still needs to prove something to stay here. By no means, will he get a free pass.

He does offer the most experience of the smaller forwards and has been that prolific scorer the Oilers need in the past. But what that means is only that his odds of not sticking are smaller and his leash longer; but Comrie has to play well and show the coaches where he slots into the lineup.

One thing is for certain and proves Kevin Lowe as accurate in that Quinn has choices. In fact a lot of them. He can put a line-up together of the players that show the most effort, and while the Oilers didn't address that need in a personelle change, healthy competition will and should go a long way to improving the effort of forwards looking to stay employed.


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Is Heatley Actually Still a Possibility?

The simple answer is yes. The complex answer is, there are a lot of things that have to happen first before Heatley or the Ottawa Senators come back and ask Edmonton to re-table their offer.

The rumored Heatley to San Jose trade is not accurate. Possible, but not accurate. Marleau has confirmed he has not been asked nor intends to waive his no trade clause. His plan is to stay
in San Jose and he was the Sharks piece that was to be moving in this three way deal between Ottawa, San Jose and LA. So too, all three GM's have denied the rumor, which means they're working together to keep it secret, or it simply isn't a correct rumor.

As a result, Heatley is expected to report to training camp on Saturday for the Senators. Thus enter in from left field the snag. While unlikely, Edmonton could find itself back in the fold if there are players in Ottawa that are steamed about Heatley's return. The professional thing to do would be to forgive or not forgive, but stay focused on hockey. Some may not be able to do so and if that's true, Heatley may find it far too uncomfortable to stay put. This goes too for the coaching staff who doesn't want to go down the Emery distraction type road again.

Edmonton, while not officially still holding an offer on the table, would field and take a call from Bryan Murray if Heatley had a change of heart. How can Edmonton not? They wanted Heatley, they waited and when they finally left, it wasn't out of anger, but public relations and timing that they felt a Heatley deal just wasn't going to happen and they needed to focus their attentions elsewhere.

Heatley solves a lot of problems for Edmonton. Sure it creates some new ones and the Oilers would have an interesting dichotomy between players and fans (ie. Comrie and Heatley on the Oilers can go either way in fans eyes), but the lines are a lot more solidified and the players involved in the earlier rumors are expendable in terms of the Oilers depth chart.

I write this knowing, that just as easily as it is to say Edmonton may have a part of future conversations with the Senators, other suitors of different variables from the San Jose side are just as viable an option. I don't know that I necessarily want to see the Oilers back in the fold, even if it were to happen; but long ago we said how complicated it would be for San Jose to get a deal done. We're now starting to really see it, as there just isn't any time before the NHL starts and there simply won't be a whole pile of new options open up for Heatley.


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Why the Next Few Days Will be the Busiest of the Summer in the NHL

On Thursday, in just a mere few hours, it became one of the busiest days in NHL rumors throughout the summer. From Comrie signing with the Oilers to Heatley headed to San Jose, to a Kessel contract RFA offer and Sundin to Vancouver, all of a sudden, we have plenty to talk about.

Here is what to expect over the next few days:


Despite the rumors, the Heatley trade is still 50/50 at best. It looks like the front runner in a deal is what is now being rumored as a three-way between Ottawa, LA and San Jose, but there are many problems or hurdles if you will, that if this rumor is true need to be addressed. Marleau would need to waive his no trade to go to LA (possible but he hasn't waived yet if even asked to which has been denied by Wilson at every turn). Secondly Ottawa would need to feel good about Frolov and Stoll knowing Frolov is a rental. Finally, all three GM's would need to stop saying things like the following...

"It's simply not true," Murray told ESPN.com Thursday night . "I've had conversations with teams today but still I'm not close to a deal [involving Heatley]."

Lombardi told ESPN.com via text message: "It is complete bull."

"It is an absolute fabrication," Wilson told ESPN.com via text message Thursday night.

Doesn't sound much to me like this trade is happening. I still expect a rocky road back to Ottawa for Heatley.


Kessel will be moved from Boston --it's only a matter of time. He's stopped negotiating with the Bruins and Toronto is miles ahead of other teams in having the tools to maneuver here now that Burke has picked up his extra bargaining chip in the form of a 2nd round draft pick next year. Don't expect an offer sheet, but do expect that Burke will squeeze every inch out of his bluffing hand. He'll poker face his way through Boston's cap space issues and make Chiarelli pay for not giving him a viable trade option for Kessel that is better than what he'd give up by extending an RFA offer for a player at around $4 million. There are a few interested teams in Kessel which is the only real bargaining chip Boston has, but if I had to guess, Kessel will be in Toronto by the start of October.
He's officially an Oiler, which means some of the current Oilers will officially be on there way out. Players like Nilsson, Pouliot, Brule and even to a lesser extent Cogliano have only weeks of the training camp to show they are going to rebound from last years mess, or they'll all be considered trade bait or moveable. Players like Schremp can start packing his bags as he'll be moved quickly if an even remotely acceptable offer from the Flyers comes to Tambellini and players like Eberle, (even though he's played exceptionally thus far) are in tighter to make the team.
Expect Tambellini to look around the league for opportunities to make a 2 or 3 for 1 type trade for some bottom six toughness. We've been wanting it, but now it looks as though it has to happen.
He's been officially reinstated by the NHL and looking for an invitation to an NHL camp. Expect a team with much needed help in publicity to be the one to invite Fleury if anyone does. These teams include Nashville, Phoenix, Tampa, Atlanta or the Islanders. The Oilers will not be one of those teams.
Look for Sundin to be a Canuck by early October. The deal is proposed at around $2 million so that Gillis has less work to do to move the additional salary needed to get the Canucks back under the cap. Expect a few players on the blueline namely Kevin Bieksa or Willie Mitchell to be shopped in order to make room. Rumors out of left field are that Minnesota might have interest, but to Sundin likely not much of an option as he's looking at Vancouver at not much else.
Anton Babchuk
Should be moved by Monday and likely to Columbus, who've been trying to land a puck moving defenceman all summer.
I have a feeling this might be just the beginning as we're starting to get too close to the season to let many questions go unanswered .


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Oilers Officially Sign Comrie

Well we've touched on it to death, so there isn't much left to say other than that the rumor is now official. Comrie is an Edmonton Oiler and for $1.125 million.

This is huge for Edmonton in terms of what's going to happen from this point on. Where will Comrie play in the line-up? Will Edmonton move bodies to compensate for his arrival?

Let the discussion and speculation begin., but I believe the Oilers better today than yesterday and at this price, it's a no risk moves for the Oilers.


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Phil Kessel, the Future? by Justin Lepper

Oilers Insider Note: This articles timing makes perfect sense with the new buzz of Kessel and Toronto heating up. Edmonton has real interest and I find it interesting to see what teams are willing to move for a player who will miss the first two months of the season. We also want to welcome Justin to the Oilers Insider group of posters.

There has been non-stop speculation that Phil Kessel will be traded this off-season. Steve Tambellini has been trying to land a premier offensive forward throughout the duration of his tenure as Oilers GM, so obviously there are going to be rumors. Phil Kessel is coming off a season where he put 60 pts up in 70 games, including 36 goals. All of this sounds enticing, but is it really worth what the Oilers would have to pay?

Based on what I can see, it appears as though the Bruins are going to have to either A) Trade salaries out to make room for Kessel or B) Trade Kessel himself for little to no salary coming back. The Bruins have no where near the cap space to sign the kind of deal Kessel is looking for, and moving salary out with no salary coming back is extremely difficult to do. This is where problems on the Oilers side come in. The Oilers, I believe have just over $1 million in cap space left. Phil is apparently asking in the 4.5 to 5 million per year range, so the Oilers would need to make cap space to afford his salary and the Bruins will almost certainly require Andrew Cogliano and either a prospect or a pick to compensate for the loss of their sniper, which is a hefty toll. On top of that, Edmonton would still need to bury salary in the minors or find some other way to move it out, costing them NHL quality players.

The upside to pulling the trigger on a deal like this, is that Kessel is a proven sniper. 36 goals by a 21 year old is a nice number, Cogliano for instance scored 18 at age 22, so it is certainly an improvement. Kessel at a +23 last season is not known as a shutdown guy by any stretch of the imagination, but doesn't seem to abandon his own zone altogether. The biggest benefit would be that Ales Hemsky would finally have the triggerman he has long desired. Hemsky's passes are a work of art and watching an elite scorer like Kessel beam them would generate a ton of excitement amongst fans and put a little fear into opponents.

The downside of aquiring Kessel is that you have to lose most likely Andrew Cogliano plus at least a pick or prospect. You then have to clean out an NHL calibre player or two to make room for Kessel's salary demands. The Oilers cannot afford to lose NHL caliber players, with such a soft lineup who doesn't score enough and bringing up youngsters not ready for the show is never a good idea (ala New York Islanders, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey). Not too mention that while Phil plays sound positionaly, he is NOT a physical player, with only had 6 hits all last year. SIX. Not good for a team that many consider is already too soft.

Weighing both sides, would you pull the trigger on the Kessel deal? It would look something like this:

To Edmonton: Phil Kessel

To Boston: Andrew Cogliano and either a first round pick (or two) or a prospect such as Riley Nash or possibly Jordan Eberle

The price WILL be steep. Signing him to an offer sheet practically deals and entire draft (1st, 2nd and 3rd rounders or possibly multiple 1st's depending on salary).

The lineup would then have to look something similiar to this

Kessel - Horcoff - Hemsky
O'Sullivan - Gagner - Eberle
Penner - Brule - Pisani
Moreau - Pouliot - Stortini

A total team salary cap hit of 53.75 Million Est. this roster leaves the team with just over 3 million in cap space, enough for trade deadline aquisitions
or a signing of a Manny Malhotra type checking line player.

How much damage would this team do? How would a Jordan Eberle do as teenager forced into the lineup? And what would your lineup be compared to mine? Discuss.


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Eberle Already a Step Ahead

Jordan Eberle is already thought of differently than the other rookies at camp. While a scrimmage at Millenium Place took place in Sherwood Park with the rookie camp Wednesday, one name missing from the rink was Jordan Eberle.

Where was Eberle? Golfing and bonding with the rest of the pro roster and coaches at an allumni golf tournament. One doesn't have to look far to realize, while a rookie and maybe not an Oiler just yet, Eberle is steps ahead of being classified in the same light as the rest of the squad that skated lengths and drills Wednesday morning.

Eberle when asked was the first to admit that if you take a look at the Oilers depth chart, there aren't a lot of opportunities to make spaces for him this year, and those chances got even slimmer with the suggestion of Comrie's imminent signing, but maybe, just maybe Eberle on the team this year isn't so much a stretch anymore.

Should he be undeniably what the Oilers would like to add to the roster, it could fuel even more fire to the question of who would you trade if you could to add team toughness -- an area the Oilers lack and Eberle nor Comrie won't address.


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Breaking Down Where Comrie Will Play.

It is being reported by Robin Brownlee over at oilersnation.com, that the Edmonton Oilers are mere days away from publicly announcing the signing of one Mike Comrie. The rumors have been circulating for about a week or two, but based on a 15 minute conversation Brownlee had with Mike Comrie, Brownlee is convinced he knows all he needs to, that this is as good as done.

While Mike Comrie is a good player and has more NHL experience than most of the similarly small forwards on the Oilers roster ie. Nilsson, Cogliano, Gagner, O'Sullivan and others who may have a chance to crack the NHL this year, where he plays on this roster is anyones guess. Here are a few possible scenarios:

Option 1


The Upside

The first line has some proven NHL experience on it. Granted, Comrie is a stretch on the first line thanks to his last couple years of offensive production, but he's more offensively wired than anything else and his two-way and defensive style isn't exactly why the Oilers would be adding him. Keeping him close to Horcoff does for Comrie what is does for Hemsky -- gives an offensive skilled forward a chance to think more offensively with a defensively smart Horcoff on the line. Comrie can bounce back from his 27 points in 63 games of last season and is/was the only 30 goal scorer the Oilers would have, so it makes sense to put him in a position to contribute offensively and make him a real bargain at $1.3 million per year.

The Downside

Putting Comrie on the first line moves Penner, O'Sullivan or Cogliano (all potential 1st line LW) down the depth chart. It means both of the first two lines are extremely small in terms of size and physical play, so they can expect to be pushed around a lot.

Option 2


The Upside

Your first line played well last year when kept together and the numbers have shown that when Penner, Horcs and Hemmer find chemistry, they can be very hard to play against, providing very good offensive numbers for each other. The second line is smaller, but more well rounded. I can't back it up, but I have a feeling Comrie and Gagner would click and are very interchangeable. I think Gagner gets significantly better at faceoffs this year and both players have a tendency to think pass first which works great for O'Sullivan who likes to shoot. The other option for me would be switching Nilsson and Comrie, just to get the passing ability of Nilsson on the same line as the shoot happy O'Sullivan.

The Downside

The lines are still small size wise and your second line as is looks weak to win important faceoffs and battles for the puck. Sure both Comrie and Gagner are the type of players who will fight just enough to let players know they're willing to drop em if need be, but overall their game is not physical and they'll absolutely need to out skill whatever line they are up against.

Option 3


The Upside

While I think this is the weakest combination of the many possibles out there, but can see it as one that is given a look by the coaching staff. This third line is more physical and solves some of the glaring holes the Oilers had going into camp like a bigger and tougher bottom six. In fact the bottom six is terrific in terms of what they can contribute if they play the body along with be as offensively talented as we know they can be.

The Downside

The top six is small, weak and for the most part unproven. I think if O'Sullivan gets off to a good start, one similar to his point totals in LA, he's got a chance to pot 35 goals with Comrie and Hemsky as his feeders all year. That said, we've seen how inconsistent the "kid" line can be. Sure they're all a year further along and when they played well when lined together in the past were the reason the Oilers almost snuck into the playoffs in 2007, but that's a big if.

All in all, there are a lot more combinations out there and the above mentioned are just a few making the rounds in discussion. What do you suggest?

I for one think, that if Brownlee is correct and this signing is announced, that action is coming in terms of adding size. This is just too many smaller forwards on one team and a real opening to exit out a couple of smaller players, picks or prospects to land a more gritty style forward. Sure an argument can be made, that this is the same type of team that took Buffalo deep into the playoffs a few years back, only to get hampered by injuries down the stretch; but that more proves my point than anything.

This team will get beat on, night in and out physically and Stortini, Moreau, MacIntyre, Staois and Souray can only fight so many times without taking bad penalties before it hurts the team and the core of the lineup. The Oilers needs at least one forward who can help offensively, but is more about taking the body and freeing up space.

I'm not against Comrie, I just hope it leads to other action before opening night.


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Robert Nilsson To Let His Actions Do the Talking

Robert Nilsson is in an interesting position. After last years lackluster performance, he was written off by fans, he was benched by MacTavish and for the most part, the blogging world of the NHL considered him a mistake in terms of contracts by the Edmonton Oilers.

His response? Put on 15 pounds of muscle, change his summer off-ice routine and show, not say that he's going to be without a shadow of concern from the new coaches, one of the standouts of the many similar style forwards currently on the Oilers roster. If his actions so far this summer suggest anything, I agree, that Nilsson has the potential to impress the most.

So far, Robert Nilsson hasn't said much. We know his skill-set is second only to maybe Ales Hemsky on the current roster. He has the ability to make amazing plays, is perhaps the best passer on the team and for all the critics quick to lay it on thick, Nilsson hasn't been as awful as some want us to think. His plus-minus was above sea level at plus -1. His special teams and shootout performance was better than respectable and he's still very raw in terms of NHL experience.

With all that said, Nilsson already knows what he showed last year isn't enough and a clean slate with new coaching and management gives him an opportunity to really prove and improve. So too, in getting ready for what Nilsson hopes will be a bounce back year, his responses to specific questions about where he sits with the Oilers this season, have shown me he's prepared and not going to be easily rattled.

When asked about his concern that the Oilers may be looking at Comrie, his response was something to the effect, it wasn't about being concerned or that he tried to think about where Comrie would fit, but admitted Comrie is an excellent player and would really help this team.

When asked about the surplus of similarly small forwards, he fully admited there was a number of players whose style of play might be similar, so he effectively diverted attention from it, by adding muscle mass and letting his summer training hint that he's ready to play a bit more of a physical role in terms of his on ice performance.

I made a predicition a while back that Nilsson would be someone to watch for in the Oilers near future. I suggested that a trade, a demotion or a bounce back performance might be on the horizon. I'm inclined to lean towards the latter of the three. If I had to select even just three of the forwards who should improve over last years performance, I'm inclined to make sure Nilsson is on my list.

I'm sure I'm going to be challenged on this opinion, but I'm ready to back it up and truly do feel that while we're quick to call the Ryan Smyth trade a gigantic failure, I'm not so quick to write off on the key components in that deal just yet..


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Blair Betts Not an Option for the Oil Unless By Trade

Blair Betts is a name that popped up a lot in posts, blogs and comments around the Oilers team this year. The reason being, Edmonton fans feel much less secure about their strength at the third line center position than apparently the Oilers do.

Well, we can rule out Betts as an option.

Betts has been invited and accepted a tryout at the Philadelphia Flyers training camp this year. While the Oilers opt for young, unproven rookies and kids who have never played an NHL game to crack the line-up or show Oilers management something the team seems to be missing, Edmonton has now let another player who could have been signed on a two-way, league minimum contract slip through as another team not named Edmonton takes advantage of a surplus of veteran players in the UFA market.

At 6'3" and 210 pounds Betts is the type of player the Oilers claimed they'd be looking to add if they couldn't find internally, the heart to compete and play better than the team showed at the end of last season. Are we to believe the Oilers internal search provided evidence that letting someone with Betts skill-set (faceoffs, size, grit and whatever else you can start to list as missing from the 2009 version of the Oilers) go to another camp, yet alone a team that might not need him as much as the Oilers seem to, was a good idea?

Furthermore, we can express the same sentiment about a variety of players who could have received invites but haven't. This years camp of 58 players include an assortment of talent that will never see the light of day in the NHL this year or maybe ever.

I'm all for the experience gained by letting young raw talent play at a higher level, but isn't the point of camp to get to know your team, possible players and what options might be best to start the year? I can't imagine having not invited at least two of any of the many available UFA talents looking for a contract. To me this is a glaring missed opportunity that the Oilers haven't taken full advantage of.

I suppose when all is said and done, if the Oilers regret not inviting Betts, there is another option. The Flyers have shown interest in Rob Schremp. Perhaps a deal there is available, and to the Flyers, Betts may be just an additional but expendable piece. It's a long shot and if Betts wasn't invited for free, I'm not sure why the Oilers would pay for him, but stranger things have happened.


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Despite Eberle's Play, He'll Need to Be Better Than Good

Jordan Eberle, by all accounts is saying the right things and playing the right way to give coaches and management of the Edmonton Oilers a real hard time deciding where this rookie will spend this coming season. If you ask him, he's ready to start immediately. "I feel that way," said the 19-year-old centre, Edmonton's first pick, 22nd overall, in 2008. "Even in the NHL exhibition game last year, I felt like I was capable of playing at this level."Eberle has exceeded expectations in every step of his game thus far. By all accounts, he's doing everything right. Getting stronger, faster, adding to his already impressive display of skill...but it won't be enough.

Eberle's problem isn't Eberle. It's Nilsson, Cogliano, O'Sullivan, Gagner and a host of other forwards who bring a lot of the same skills; and there simply isn't room for all of them on the Oilers. Eberle could easily make it all the way to the end of training camp before being sent back to Regina and the WHL and if he is, as he puts it, "It's a win-win situation." "I'd like to be playing here, to make that step, but if I go back to the WHL, it's not such a bad scenario either. We'd be trying to win a Memorial Cup and the(2010) world juniors are in Saskatoon."

Eberle scored 74 points in 61 games with the Pats last season, but to Oiler fans is mostly remembered as the kid to score one of the most dramatic goals in World Junior Championship history. I'm sure many of them know too, that particular team, was coached by Pat Quinn.

There is good news for Oiler fans hoping to catch a glimpse of what will be a fixture for the Copper and Blue for years to come. His age means he's stuck not being able to play a full year in the AHL. This means that he's either WHL or NHL to start the year and if he's just too good to ignore, fans may see him a bit sooner than expected and possibly at the expense of a player that to this point for the Oilers has underachieved.

This could be a real motivator for those 2nd and 3rd year guys sitting pretty thinking a spot is guaranteed for them. They should know by now, with new coaching; nothing is a certainty.


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Oilers Should Bring in a Faceoff Coach

So if the Oilers aren't going to sign anyone and they aren't going to trade anyone, what happens? Well unless they can figure out a way to increase the production of guys like Cogliano, Pouliot, Brule, Gagner, O'Sullivan or any one of our 8 or 9 natural centres on this team in the faceoff circle, the Oilers are facing a real problem.

Since this seems to be more realistic and frankly kind of a scary thought, how do you solve a problem like this? To me it's simple. There is an excess of players on the UFA market that can't seem to find a place to play. Furthermore, there are a number of players whom over the past couple of years have retired and left the game as a player, but might want to introduce themselves to the world of coaching in the NHL.

Since there is no salary cap on coaching, and likely enough room in the Oilers press box to add one more seat, why not hire a faceoff coach?

The Oilers current and past who have developed the best faceoff %'s have done so under the guidance of player(s) whom while not the leading in offensive statistics on your team, showed their leadership and skill in other areas.

Horcoff and Jarret Stoll would be the first to admit that their faceoff skills vastly improved when Adam Oates joined the team. They got even better when Peca came aboard. Being around faceoff greatness, just trickled down and became contageous. Why couldn't this work for Cogliano, Pouliot or Gagner?

The answer is it could and if the Oilers don't find that faceoff guy to help out Shawn Horcoff it should. Should Peca not find a place to play, or Oates want back in, they'd make great coaches. Or how about a Yannic Perreault? There are other players out there that could share their skills, workouts, knowledge and secrets about an area where the Oilers could use it most.

I would guess too, that a move like this might help fans breathe a little easier knowing the players on the Oilers roster that need to get better will have the right tools to do so.


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What if the Oilers Had a Players Only Garage Sale?

I've been pondering something. Everytime I read an article on one of the many Oiler blogs related to our team deficiencies or our duplicate player skill set, I think to myself...'would these same writers feel better if the Oilers just had a huge garage sale and moved the players they can't trade to the minors?'

If you take a second to think about it, we know it's doable. If Tambellini can't move players for draft picks, deep pockets Katz could take a number of the contracts currently on the team and bury them. Funds are not an issue, the team in Springfield sure could use the help and current star NHL'ers in an AHL affiliate market would sell more tickets, which might recoup some (not all) of the cost. Sure he runs the risk of waviers coming back up, but if you're doing this move to those players, you better not care if you can get them back or not.
Here is where I'm going with this. There a number of talented and role playing NHL UFA's still on the market. Malhotra, Neidermayer, Comrie, Betts, Skyora, Robert Lang, Christian Backman, Peca, Bergeron... just to name a few that at this point will cost far less than some of the players the Oilers employ, but fans seem to want to shake. Nilsson, Pisani, Staois, Moreau, Pouliot,... come to mind in the many posts and articles I've read.
In the end, salary cap wise it's likely cheaper to go after some of these UFA's. You gain experience, skill set in certain areas, size and grit and some real motivation as a number of these guys simply want to prove they deserve a spot on an NHL team . But here is my question for readers? Is a line-up like the one below better than the potential of our current group?


Obviously other combinations are available. Compare that lineup to what we have. You get a less expensive but older group. They provide experience, grit and a sandpaper quality the current roster doesn't.
What we miss out on, is the potential. We know what the potential is for this veteran UFA group. They've reached their peak. The Edmonton Oilers as is other the other hand, have not. We think we do, but have no idea what a Robert Nilsson under the right guidance and with the right motivation is capable of? 60 - 65 points? Or Cogliano in the right position in the line-up. 30 goals?
It's an interesting debate and I'm sure one that would take a number of twists and turns if people could start putting their dream line-ups together out of the peices still on the market. I for one don't know what I'd do in the role of Oilers management.

What I do know, is that there are a lot of good leftovers on the market right now, many of whom will not have a place to play this year. Next year it will only get worse (or better if you're a team who needs cheap but valued labour).


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