2014 LMHF Report - Preseason Game #4



NEW YORK Rangers 3

My comments tonight should be read with the knowledge that I didn't see most of the second period. A friend happened to be in a suite this evening so we stopped by for snacks and refreshments. Got to get me one of those things...though I think paying the $29 for warm potato chips (which ARE delicious, but COME ON) would be a little crazy after a while.

Seeing the roster that was posted before the game I thought that despite the fact that we had a decent enough preseason squad put together, the team would get kicked around pretty good tonight. The Rangers didn't ice that squad though so it was a much different contest.

It was a tad easier to follow tonight's game than the last because some of the familiar combinations were back. I think at this point because of injuries and such we are locked in to seeing the top two lines from tonight's group in the season opener. I've been disappointed that Eakins hasn't wanted to try Yakupov in Smyth's spot but at least he has a plan and when those guys are on the ice they don't get beat. They don't produce like the would if they had another dynamic force instead of an aging one, but they do just fine against good opponents.

The second line has morphed out of necessity, but despite the fact that Arcobello is certainly not the second best Oilers center I suspect he stays in place as well. This is far from ideal, but Kassian had other plans so I guess we're stuck with this. I'm really hoping that some interesting players come across the waiver wire and we're not too loaded up with lunkheads at the bottom of the roster to pick up a useful player.

I'm not happy with the way the bottom six is shaping up. While there is improved depth and competition, it is mostly a group of 12-14 slot forwards rather than say, 8-11 slot forwards. I'm hoping that due to the new coach mainly there will be no loyalty to past sacred cows and changes will come quickly and decisively. You can easily replace most of a bottom six with interchangeable parts if your squad isn't one of the top five in the league. The first test of if there is indeed a new sheriff in town is whether Ryan Jones is cut loose.

I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to our D. While we lack a dominating force at the Pronger, or even Pitkanen/Visnovsky level, we have a solid group that could very well all rank as top 4 type defencemen if they perform well. Belov is a very pleasant surprise and as I've noted previously the only thing I really bemoan is that we couldn't get Ranger for free as well. Think about it - we just sent the first round draft pick who fired a no-look pass for a beautiful assist back to his junior team - that is progress compared to where this team has been. I look forward to seeing how this group shakes out.

In net I am not convinced these will be the two goalies at the end of the season. More on that ahead.

- Pretty hit and miss effort. There were some good saves and some times when he looked really shaky. I'm getting the impression that he's just not that comfortable yet. Maybe he settles in and maybe he doesn't. I'm really hoping that this is finally our lucky day and that they've found a legit goaltending prospect in Ty Rimmer. I only saw him for the one game, but it wouldn't shock me if he first lights up OKC and then makes his way to Edmonton for a time (assuming contract details are worked out). Just looked like he had 'it' whereas I haven't seen any of that from the designated backup yet.

- Another really strong game. So far in the progression of the 3 games I've seen, he has expanded his repertoire and comfort level during each and you'd have to think he's just going to get stronger and more in tune with his teammates. Strong passes, good positioning, blockng plays and hitting. I like that a lot. He's also got a reputation for going a little crazy from time to time and he nearly jumped in to bail out a teammate in the third period. I suspect there's some mean there to be exploited once he knows where the line is.

- Had what I'd classify as a typical Petry game. Some great and some not so much. Hope he's tuned up and ready to get the intensity level high this season. I'd say you have to make a very important call with him this year and either he is an anchor for years or you deal him while his value is on the upswing. Either situation can be a winner for the team.

- Pretty blah game which unfortunately for him will likely leave him out of the conversation. There's a lot of flash at the bottom of the Oilers blue line and that's just not his game. He's also not so far ahead defensively of the other players in the discussion that it vaults him ahead in any special way. I suspect he's headed down to be a surprising rock on the OKC D and will be called up by the Oilers during the year.

J. Schultz
- A quiet game interlaced with some really nice plays. Very well done on his assist in terms of waiting in position for the play to develop and then executing. Defensively he was okay. Will be very interesting to see how he is deployed as you didn't really get any sense of that during the preseason and there is depth on the blue line that we didn't have last year. Perhaps we mostly roll 3 pairs?

- Tonight's game ends a great run at camp for a guy who I had very little expectation of going in. Really liked the read and the play he made for his assist. That showed a lot of confidence and skill for a guy in his position. Certainly not shy about joining the rush despite not exactly being known as an offensive juggernaught. I truly hope he dominates the OHL but cannot find a place on the Oilers until 2 camps from now because our D is that good. I doubt that will happen but a guy can hope. The muscle mass gain begins NOW!

- I get why people like this guy. He can certainly motor around the ice and once again made some beautiful passes but didn't manage an assist somehow. It is very interesting that not very long ago we would have really needed this kind of defenceman and now he's useful but we have redundancies in place. I suspect he'll make the team and perform fairly well, but be moved on during the season because someone from OKC will have emerged and stolen his spot due to a more complete skill set (Marincin isn't as far away as a lot of people thought, for instance). We shall see and I hope he's strong enough defensively to make a positive difference.

- Again good but had some struggles with the puck for whatever reason. Lovely tip. Everything suggests that as the pace rises and the intensity of real games comes, he'll be more than ready. He looks more comfortable (in a good way) than I've seen him despite the position change and he should start the season really strong.

- Looking very ready and fitting in well with Hall and Smyth. The patience he showed on and after the PP that led to Hall's goal was just perfect and he made an excellent read to get Schultz that puck. I wonder if he'll try going low more often now. Hall at C seems to suit Hemsky well in terms of the flow of the play up the ice which is something I wasn't sure would happen. These guys could be pretty excellent together all year if both hang in there.

- I'm beginning to wonder if he did indeed take on the fitness challenge during the offseason. I'm not saying this is his proper place because it certainly is not, but he is not holding these guys up and the team MAY be able to survive until some of the injured return even with Smyth in his current role. He'll probably be worn out and done by the time that happens but at least he's using all the tools in the box for now.

- Looks better than I've ever seen him. Suspect this is because he's completely healthy. Another really strong night with Perron capped by the goal in the third where he was in the exact right spot despite a defenseman being in on the rush. He's going to tear it up this year.

- Fits right in with this hockey team while providing something a little different than what they have. Again tonight I saw him going back at the opposition when they took liberties as well as instigating on his own. We need a guy like that who plays just a bit on edge but wanders around tipping pucks into the net and lazering shots. They picked the right guy (much as I think they actually needed David Backes but we all know that isn't happening). Really wonder who centers this pair...maybe it doesn't even matter.

- I will give him that he had a pretty good offensive game. He shows some nice sparks and with the state of the Oilers C depth right now I suspect it was enough to make the team. The thing is that he is also making mistakes, including bad passes and getting caught out of position, against non-NHL rosters. He will be exposed once the real games come along and I hope the wingers are able to carry him. Needs to add a lot of things to his game, the most important one being cosistency, in order to have any shot at a permanent NHL job.

- He wasn't that bad tonight, which seems to be a step up for him. I wonder if I have too high of expectations for him. I see a guy who has a bunch of skill and a large frame. That should get you pretty far in the NHL. While his goal was a bounce of the post and Biron's legs, it was still good to see him put a strong effort on net and get the job done. I'm sure his confidence is absolutely in the junker at this point. He had a much better camp that I thought he would and may very well make the team based on what we've heard from Eakins. I'm not sure how long that lasts, but good for him. There's a lot to work with there despite the 10-cent head.

- Faded from his performance last night into one of the guys blending into the background again. Too bad for him as I suspect if he'd strung together even two of those games he would've made it because he's got higher potential and is more likely to convert a chance than a Hamilton, Acton or others. That may be by the wayside now. This year he will either get back on a true prospect track or begin the path that ends for most with a career in Europe, making lots of tax-free coin and living an interesting life, but coming short of your dream.

- Pretty invisible tonight for me. Again I see he won a bunch of faceoffs and maybe that's enough for him to stay but I hope the same hope I did with Arcobello in terms of our ability to replace him. Nothing about him suggests to me that he has long term NHL potential.

- Really tailed off the past two after a strong effort. Just not noticable tonight. Even if you're not running around crazy or lighting up the offensive zone you have to do something to be noticed and he just didn't. If he was being judged as Omark was he'd be gone but he isn't so who knows.

- Another really weak performance. In addition to the bad decisions he's been making with the puck for a couple games this preseason and generally iffy positioning, he was getting himself caught cheating again including on the PK. He won't have that ace to play this year if Eakins remains committed to playing his top guys on the PK. The competition is better now and Ryan Jones may well have played himself off this team due to his totally lacklustre performances including in tonight's game.

- I think I expect a lot more from Anton than he will be able to provide. I still see the guy who was fairly skilled for Sweden's junior team and a good leader etc. That he cannot separate himself at this level of play means that he's wandered off the path. He was another guy who just blended into the background tonight. If he's not winning faceoffs, not killing penalties and not an ace in the defensive zone...what is he?

One more game until the final decision are made. Should be fun! Really hoping to see a couple additions in the coming days that aren't lunkheads. We need centers who can play. There are a number out there and likely some teams waiving useful players due to cap issues. Perhaps the solution will make itself obvious.


2014 LMHF Report - Preseason Game #3




It was actually quite difficult to follow the game tonight. Between the fact that none of the on-ice Oilers combos were recognizable and also that the game itself was kind of disjointed and unexciting there just wasn't a whole lot to sink your teeth into.

This is more of the type of lineup I would expect in a preseason. Lots of guys competing for spots on the squad. It is good to see this many guys who are fighting for an NHL job. They aren't as good as I'd like to see for the most part, but at least the competition is there.

When it comes to the Jets, we certainly didn't see a lot. The only really noticeable guy was Kane and he really wasn't doing anything special. Their goaltender was really nothing to write home about either.

For most of the night each team's D was keeping everything to the outside and there were not a lot of quality shots. I'm guessing this was mainly a function of the forward lineups but it is harder to see a good defenseman playing a solid game unless he does it Pronger-style.

I'm definitely not used to the Jets in these newer colors. Even though it has been a long time, I keep looking for the royal blue rather than the navy. I'm sure that will change but it is funny the things that stick with you. Kind of like how the Oilers orange actually stands out less than the previous generation of white on dark numbers.

SO let's get to the individual players which are what we're really interested in at this point.


- Very good night for Devan. He wasn't tested like crazy, but looked poised, ready and well-positioned throughout the entire game. I'm not sure what exactly it is but he just looks more sure of himself this year. Whether that is because of another year of experience, being given the #1 tag or a combination of things I don't know, but there's just a different vibe coming from him. Make no mistake, that goal was an ugly one that would have went wide if he hadn't got it with the knob of his stick, but I wouldn't count it as a mistake under pressure goal. There was a weird one immediately after that which also almost went in but he really settled in subsequently. Strong game.

- He makes this team in the top 6. No doubt. Tonight was filled with steady plays, strong passes, good decisions and excellent positioning. This is two games in a row where he made it look pretty easy as a veteran NHLer would. I can't wait to see what he looks like after 20 games. We could have a real gem here. If we'd have been able to snag Paul Ranger as well, we might have gotten 2 top-4 defensemen for nothing. Oh well. Funny note of the night - Belov didn't know what to do with the hat when he was named a star at the game. He just kind of waved it around and went back down the tunnel. Bit of a language barrier there I guess. Hahaha.

- He looked like a vet who is simply out there getting ready for the reason. There's nothing really wrong with that I suppose but it doesn't give us a lot to work with. He is usually in the right place though I have noticed between this game and one on TV that he doesn't seem to play the man very well in front of the net. He gets caught away from the man and can't close the gap fast enough. I hope we're not counting on him to be a superstar shutdown guy.

- Looked a little off to me in that he got beat a couple times and took a pretty weak penalty. I really have no problem with a vet having a game like this. Maybe a touch off the pace especially on the WPG goal as he reached with his stick rather than getting in front of the man as he usually would.

- I get that the guy is talented. Tonight he moved around the ice pretty quickly and you can certainly see his puck talent in the offensive zone. I kept asking though if he was better than Brad Hunt (who can't make this team) was and I don't think he is in the offensive zone. His reads are good but not great. He made several strong passes across the zone, but didn't really get the puck to the net effectively aside from one slapper and contributed very little elsewhere. It will really come down to what kind of lineup Eakins wants. He has options.

- Ho-hum boring kind of game. Not a stand-out performance like last night but if that was the norm he'd already be in the league. Didn't see a lot of negatives from him but also didn't see any really strong passes, hits or reads. He probably needs more spark in his game if he wants to displace Larsen/Grebeshkov because those guys have been in the NHL before.

- I honestly saw him twice. That means he didn't do anything amazing but also didn't have serious mistakes. I don't recall him getting beat wide, which was a problem for him later. I'll be interested to see who he is paired with.

- Bloody invisible. I remember a hit a one good forecheck. Aside from that he really struggled. If there's a guy who is playing his way out of a previously guaranteed spot, it is him. Eakins likely doesn't have the loyalty that Jones would have gotten from another coach and so the guy can't be coasting. Games like tonight prove to me that he really has forgotten why he was originally brought in. He can't drift around the ice waiting for something to happen because he isn't that type of player. He needs to be out there busting it and he simply isn't. If camp is all that's being judged, he'd be cut.

- Another goal for him tonight which is nice to see. I didn't catch a lot of flashy details but he did seem to be in the right places on the ice. The one thing I struggle with is that because we've been so bad for a number of years, judging the marginal players by eye has become more difficult. We've gotten used to a lower standard. Thing is, given that Sam Gagner looks like a horror movie actor at this point, this guy might make the opening night squad.

- After last night's stronger performance you'd expect the guy might get rolling. That wasn't the case and I was fairly disappointed at the lack of jump in his game tonight.

- Well at this point I'm betting this guy makes the team and I'm not really complaining. A world-beater he is not, but he's a big guy who can skate some, take a pass and seems to have a bit of a nose for the net. I liked his goal as a textbook example of how and why you drive the net. He hits from a strong skating position and seemed to chose his spots well. He needs to work on positioning some but that can come with coaching. Ideally he'd be on the 4th line but I'm guessing he'll start on the third. Worth giving him a chance though I would like to see if he can keep up against a more NHL ready roster. We shall see.

- I went in expecting not to like his game because his story has been quite frustrating and I was wondering why everyone's still bothering to talk about him. The game on TV the other night did nothing to change this for me but I try not to form my picture from how the game looks there because you can't see the flow of the play. I don't know how much better he was tonight but the guy put together a pretty solid game. He made sure to finish his check more than any other player on the ice, got the puck to the net, got over his freezing with the puck problem and ended up with an assist for his trouble. If he could actually keep that game up I suspect he'd make the team out of nowhere because he is more talented than most of the other options but he just doesn't have a track record. We'll have to see if he keeps going, but I was impressed.

- Quiet but decent game I'd say. Made a couple nice plays in the offensive zone which is an important thing to see. Didn't catch him breaking up a lot of plays or hitting anyone like his competition was. The only reason he's in the conversation is the position he plays.

- He was the strongest of the marginal C's in the offensive zone tonight. There's no doubt he's reasonably talented. The thing I can't get past in his game which was on display again tonight was that he doesn't try to get to the slot and makes plays from the outside. You have to be truly elite to make plays from there at the NHL level and he is not. The guy needs to shift more of his game to the middle of the ice. It was good that he got the shots he did and he's a better PP player than most, but if anything Omark is the guy you need as a PP extra. Again, this is a guy who is only in the conversation because of his position.

- Same old. Ran around laying mediocre hits. I did like some of his forechecking and the fact that he got under Kane's skin some. Thing is, if you want toughness that does something, you want the Pitlick and Joensuu types, not this guy.

- I don't get it. This is a huge opportunity for him and he's doing nothing. Eager throws in a nifty stickhandle and some good skating every now and again, but where are the hits? Where is the getting in people's faces? Where is his positioning in the offensive zone? It is really unfortunate that any game he had appears to be gone, because it would be great if the guy found the ability to be a useful player again. I don't see how he will.

- Looked kind of lost tonight. There were some strong rushes on the boards but that was about it. He is rushing the shot on the 5-on-3 a bit. Trying to do this means you have to beat the goalie clean rather than having him moving around a bunch or screened. Not many NHL goalies get beaten this way with any regularity. Really liked that Eakins had him PKing. There is potential there because of his high skill level, high speed and willingness to work very hard.

- Didn't do much of anything. It almost seemed like he was concentrating really hard on positioning and taking his man. I agree that he needs to learn that but games like this are not the time. He needs to be out there being a dynamic offensive guy. We didn't see much of that. Part of the issues was that the line as a whole didn't work out very well but that can't be an excuse when you're trying to make a team. Hope he plays again tomorrow because one bad night shouldn't doom his chances. He should switch to C!

- Honestly he did his normal job just fine but looked totally lost combined with Yakupov and Omark. This was a little strange to me because he didn't seem to have this issue in his last game but it was certainly the case tonight. Doesn't worry me. I'd class him with Ference in terms of what a preseason game looks like to him.

Pretty boring game really, but I love getting a win whenever.


2014 LMHF Report - Preseason Game #2




Well, here we are one game later than expected but back in the same old comfortable place and thankfully with a positive result.

The night didn't get off to the greatest start. I'm glad it didn't turn out to be an omen. First, while I know the Oilers and Northlands aren't exactly on friendly terms at the moment, it is rather ludicrous that the parking lot wasn't ready for hockey season. The exit off of 112 ave was closed. If it is the City's fault then I could see it and maybe it is, but someone should be pulling those strings properly. Then Jason LaBarbera had his name spelled wrong for his first game at Rexall in an Oilers uniform. Yikes. Luckily, the night got better from there.

When it comes to preseason games, there are a few different things going on for me. It is really weird to have to consult a roster to make sure I can track the players. It means I don't watch as instinctually as I usually do and sometimes it is harder to follow the play. When you watch a lot of games and the same players for a good bit of time, you pick up things and I don't really track any of them by number. It is by skating stride, stick position, helmet, whatever. Something else anyway. I'm usually paying more attention to new guys and bubble players of course because that is where the battles are being waged. This camp and preseason appears to be different than most in that we're seeing the coach run lines of vets out there pretty regularly and they've been carrying the play. I suppose having support players play a support role makes a lot sense as well.

This game rolled out as many games do - not an exceptional amount of rust but certainly some in spots. A number of guys had more struggles with the puck than you'd normally expect but that isn't exactly abnormal. I'll need some more time to study it but it was clear that the Oilers are playing a new system. Being able to see the whole ice surface gave an interesting look into how they were attacking in the offensive zone and how they were defending specifically. I liked a lot of what they did when they really got focused on the forecheck. It was very difficult for the Canucks to stop them.

As for the goals:

Gagner's goal came not long after he'd missed another great chance generated by his linemates. After Yakupov made a really strong play to keep the puck in and get it to Eberle, Jordan walked in slowly off the side as he tends to do and made a quick pass low to Perron. It was a nice little read which allowed Perron the time to make a tiny move and force a pass through to the wide open Gagner. He'd usually finish with more authority than he did, but no problem.

Perron's goal came after a brilliant PK shift by Hall and Hemsky had pushed the Canucks back on their heels. Perron led the charge in continuing this momentum, getting the puck on a rush and finding Fedun, who had made a great little read and joined the rush. The puck went towards the net and eventually wound up on Perron's stick as he headed toward the net. No mistake.

Smyth's goal was set up by another solid offensive read by Fedun. While Hemsky delayed and surveyed the options from the wing, Fedun got his attention and snuck in as a lane opened up through the middle. Hemsky put it on his tape and Smyth went to the net. Fedun again put it toward the net and Smyth, despite making a gimme look about as tough as he possibly could, shoveled it in.

Yakupov's goal was a long time coming. He'd been firing all night - maybe a little too much actually - and hadn't been rewarded. He got himself to exactly the right place again, which is something a lot of people will begin to notice a lot more often about his game, and got ready. Ryan Hamilton got the work started in the corner, Khaira made a nice move behind the net to set up a pass to Yakupov who tapped it in. Beauty.

Acton made no mistake after being sent in alone by Hemsky, who bounced the puck off a Canuck stick and got his own pass back. It was headed to Ryan Smyth originally but certainly worked out for the best.


- Oh boy...not a good start to his Oilers career. It started with the previously mentioned name screw-up, then he lets in that Santorelli shot which he had a clear look at and went right through him. After that he didn't allow another goal but was REALLY shaky and seemed to be intimidated by the Canucks players getting to the crease. A big guy like him needs to stand in there and make saves while dishing out some blockers if necessary. I'm hoping tonight was just nerves or rust, because if not then the backup job should go to...

- I knew absolutely nothing about this guy coming into tonight. I had never seen him play a minute. From the very start of his night, he was positionally solid, confident in the net and ahead of the play to make saves look easy. He got tested a number of times and passed all of them except 1) forgetting that he couldn't handle the puck in the corner in the NHL and 2) the Canucks second goal, which while it was not a bad goal, could have been avoided with better rebound control. Petry and Nurse were pretty ugly on that shift though.

- Some good things and some iffy things. You can certainly tell that he's stronger and has been working hard on his shooting. Petry got a hard slapper away a lot faster than I've seen him able to in the past. If this keeps up it makes him a much more effective player in the opposition's zone. He was also better in the corners and positionally for most of the game. He still made a few passes to absolutely nobody and skated past the play a couple times, but for the most part he was excellent.

- He's a really interesting defenseman and a ton of why was on display tonight. I really enjoyed seeing him go back at the Canucks players who were trying to take liberties with him. A stick here...elbow there...it is a necessary part of being an imposing defenseman in the NHL and despite the fact that he's still got 50lbs to gain before doing that full-time, he wasn't scared of the Canucks goon squad. That's impressive. He was also pretty solid with the puck and can certainly skate. He needs to work on positioning for sure as well as some of his offensive instincts based on what we saw tonight. While I like where he is, I'd also like to see him go back to junior after tonight so that he can get focused on being a dominant player in the OHL and start gaining a bunch of muscle mass rather than trying to keep up with the NHLers at this point.

- Like many of you I was quite intrigued to see what we'd get from Belov tonight. It is important to keep in mind that his performance tonight is in less than ideal circumstances due to visa troubles. He wasn't adequately prepared and yet, he looked very smooth and relaxed on the blue line. I was expecting some panic and saw none. In the first he had two shots in a row blocked by forwards who I imagine were closer than he is used to. He adjusted immediately and didn't have that problem again. Defensively he was solid and made the game look pretty simple. He skated and passed very well, seemingly never having to rush anywhere on the ice. He reminded me of Joni Pitkanen without the top-gear speed and the beauty flip pass. We could really use a guy like this if his performance tonight is an indication of the starting line. He didn't even get to show off much of his offensive skill tonight because other players were given a focus in that area.

- Make no mistake, Denis had an ugly first period. Also make no mistake, I like Grebeshkov a lot as a hockey player, always have. He came back pretty strong in the second period including a gorgeous pass to send Hemsky in alone on Lack. I'm still trying to figure out if there was a hook or what on that play because Hemsky never misses chances like that. The pass was just stunning. In the third he was just okay. There were a number of rather ugly giveaways tonight including a backhand pass in the first that made absolutely no sense. Here's the thing: If he's willing to put in 20 games in the AHL and get settled back into playing in NA for this organization, I bet he'd be really useful the rest of the way. I don't know if he's willing to do that or if the team is thinking this way, but that is the route I'd go. There's still genius there.

- He's an interesting player. Someone I was reading compared him to Bergeron and I certainly get it. Tonight he was aggressive, quick and confident in the offensive zone. He can definitely play in the other team's zone. He does struggle in his own zone and lacks the physicality that Bergeron brought to the table. I see a lot of positive things and you all know I love an offensive defenseman, but on a team with so many guys who can contribute in that way, he isn't on an elite level and therefore can't quite compete. Hopefully he'll tear it up in OKC.

- Did a great job covering for Hunt when it was necessary. I've noted some of his offensive plays above. The most impressive part of his game is his decision-making. He's just an overall well-balanced dman but he pinches at the right time, goes to the corner at the right time, passive at the right time and aggressive at the right time. You've got all day for guys like that because they make things really easy on the rest of the team. He's come a long way and he's almost there. Will certainly play some NHL games this year.

- I have a hard time watching a line like this. I don't like the way Jones or Brown play the game and have never seen Acton play. I know there will be those who liked Brown's game tonight. He did draw a penalty and fought Wiese (though not very well) after he'd been running around. Credit to him for that but it changed nothing as the rest of the game and the Gagner hit clearly illustrate. The issue with Brown is that no one's actually scared of him. His hits looked better than they were because he's running around...no one was rattled. A player of marginal impact like this needs to play a solid game to go with the other stuff. He can't. There was a sequence in the first period where he turned the puck over in the offensive zone, got it back off a lucky bounce, then immediately lost it again and the Canucks were headed the other way. It was so ugly. Acton's game was pretty blah for me. Nothing really stood out despite trying to watch him. When it comes to guys like this, I'm usually looking for things that suggest to me they have the same things that guys like Kyle Brodziak, Jason Chimera and the like had. Something that elevates them above the other 500 or so guys who could get a look from an NHL team. I don't see it but this was only one game to be fair. Jones had a shift in the third period where he made the same pass to absolutely no one twice in a row...I'm not sure whether this drove me more nuts than the fact that people cheered or not. He also took two totally unnecessary penalties. There was less cheating in his game and he did do some solid forechecking for sure, but if there is a true blank slate then he is probably getting passed in these games.

- A curious combination. You almost get the idea that Yakupov asked the coach to play and got plopped on a line he wouldn't otherwise be with but who knows. Nail was his usual self, firing all kinds of shots, ringing a post in the second period, speeding by pretty much everyone and dishing out some hits and trash talk for good measure. His goal was noted above and he certainly could have had more. Looked pretty good on the powerplay which is no surprise. Khaira was a guy I was very interested in. During the warmup I noticed that he appeared to have a lot of skill with the puck and is certainly already larger than a lot of his teammates. The one thing I've heard about this guy from a bunch of people is that he's mean on the ice and we didn't see that tonight. He seemed almost too focused on playing the positional game. While he did connect on a couple really solid his that knocked guys down, I was looking to see him get in Canuck faces and maybe cause some trouble. He didn't really do that. We'll have to see if he has that edge to his game. At least he's already a better hitter than a couple of the guys the Oilers currently designate that role to, while having much more offensive potential and a bigger frame. More than anything else he looked like a player who is probably about 2 camps from making the team. Hamilton is an interesting player. He looks to be in better position than some of the guys vying for a spot on this team. I'd chalk that up to being a vet and maybe knowing more of what Eakins wants. He can play a heavier game if tonight is an indication but certainly isn't a big-time hitter. His skating leaves much to be desired from a technical perspective and if anything holds him back that will probably be it. Worth another look, but I honestly hope we're too good for him to make the squad.

- I like this line a lot. They did have some issues figuring each other out at times and looked a little off, but then it would click and the opposition was just dead in the water. Eberle appears to be healthy and relaxed based on tonight's game, which is all he needs to be a force of nature out there. He ran the play a bunch of times tonight and looked really solid. The only thing I'll dog him for is not finishing that chance in the first in a way that wouldn't have allowed the idiot refs (who were bloody awful for most of the game - it took me all of 6 minutes to get completely pissed at them) to take it away from him. Got to make that cleaner. He controlled the puck, skated and passed well. He was the main reason that this line could easily have had 3 more goals. Perron is going to be a revelation for a lot of Oilers fans. In addition to being able to keep up with the skill of this team based on tonight's adventure, he gets in there and hits people, plays really calmly with the puck and is very versatile. I wouldn't put him on the point during the powerplay, but it will be criminal if he doesn't PK. The guy makes it look easy in terms of pressuring the opposition. Loved watching that. Gagner was a little off his game early on but was settling in nicely when Kassian went moron on him. I hope he's okay - especially because we're already a C short.

- #s 83 and 4 drive this bus for sure and they were both quite strong all night but both also struggled some with the puck. Hall had trouble pulling the trigger and Hemsky was a little rusty in close battle situations but most of the plays still got made. When they get going they play a real flow game that moves all over the ice and ends up in the offensive zone with a chance. It is a pleasure to watch. With Hemsky I'd say the mistakes were rust...for Hall I'd guess either a new stick or concentrating a little too much on learning to play C. If anything I actually like that he can roam around a lot more to find passing angles as this kind of thing works really well for him. These two were dynamite on the PK. Absolutely scary for the other team to be dealing with. Smyth certainly looked to be giving an effort out there, but he just can't keep up. I'd like to see him in a more appropriate role with Yakupov joining this line instead, but who knows what Eakins' plan is.

Certainly a fun game to watch with lots to learn and much to still be discovered. The beginning of another adventure. I'm already having much more positive thoughts about this one. Liked hearing that Eakins sought out a unique viewing angle for tonight's game to make sure he was seeing things at a certain speed. This guy is going to be very fun to follow as he tries to implement his ideas in the NHL.

Glad to be back writing guys. Here's to a great year.


Advisory - No Report Tonight - Sept. 14

Hi all, my apologies for not compiling a year-end report. I got working on it and it just didn't come along fast enough to be relevant.

Normally I'd be very pumped for tonight and on my way to the game. Sadly I am working (boo!) in Jasper (yay!) and will miss the game tonight. Looking forward to the next game in a week though.