- Sep 12, 2011
- Posted By: Rob Soria
- 0 comments
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I just wanted to let everyone know I have offically moved my blog Oil Drop to:
I find the new site a lot more user friendly for both myself and the reader. I've moved all my blogs to date over and they are much easier to access on the blogspot site. Let me know what you think of the change. Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you that have been regulars at Oil Drop these last two months. Hope you like the new digs!!!
It was nice to finally get a chance to watch hockey again...that involved the Edmonton Oilers silks. While Edmonton's 7-2 victory over Vancouver did not tells us much, as the Canucks "Young Stars" were awful, I am always up for an Edmonton drubbing of Vancouver.
In what turned out to be a very one sided game, the Oiler youngsters simply imposed their will on the Vancouver prospects. What really stood out from an Oilers perspective, was the shear size of the team and the fact that they dominated the physical side of the game...if not the fisticuffs. It is clear that finishing out of the playoffs the last five seasons, has allowed the organization to fill its cupboards with an abundance of quality prospects and fans are starting to see signs of what the future may hold. While first overall selection Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looked very good at times last night, a trio of players stood out: Anton Lander, Curtis Hamilton and David Musil.
Lander, much like Magnus Paajarvi at last years tournament, seems to be ahead of the curve. He will need time to get accustomed to playing the game in North America but in a showcase like this, his time in the Swedish Elite League is very evident. That being the case, he was a hound on the puck all night long and showed that he may just have a nice set of hands in tight on his first goal of the night. Positionally he was strong most of the night and he followed the play on the back check in his own zone very well, while battling hard down low. It's only one game but the young Swede seems to be as advertised...if there was any doubt.
As for Curtis Hamilton, he was a bull all night long. The kid seemed to have a nose for the net and was generating something whenever he was on the ice. I can't remember many shifts that I did not notice the number 70 doing something positive out on the ice. He plays with a lot of energy and that bodes well for his future as an Oiler.
That brings us to David Musil and I felt he was the best of the lot. He was calm, cool and collected all night long on the backend and the kid can move the puck. He made very quick tape to tape passes and rarely made the wrong decision last night. He's an imposing figure out on the ice and when he fills out that 6'3" frame, he might just end up being the steal of the 2011 draft for the Edmonton Oilers.
Another guy who I felt was good, was Olivier Roy. While he wasn't tested much by the Canucks, when he was, he looked solid. I have never been the biggest Roy supporter. Whenever I have seen him play, he seems to get rattled easy and starts doubting his ability. While not uncommon with young goalies, it has happened far too often for my liking with the native of Quebec. Last nights performance was a step in the right direction and hopefully Roy uses it as a spring board to a good season.
On last thing, was it just me or does Craig MacTavish behind a Vancouver Canucks bench not seem wrong? I know many an Oiler fan had their fill of coach MacTavish but I hope to god he gets an NHL gig at some point this season. I really want no part of the Oilers battling the Canucks in a year or two from now with MacTavish being their bench boss. The guy bleeds Oilers orange and blue...once an Edmonton Oiler always an Edmonton Oiler.
Next Game: Tuesday, Sept.13 vs Winnipeg Jets 8:30 pm
When people talk about the 1981-82 Edmonton Oilers, it usually surrounds one of two things. Wayne Gretzky and his staggering 212 point / 92 goal campaign, which included his historical march to 50 goals in 39 games, or the teams poor performance in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings...most notably the famous collapse in Game # 3 that will forever be known as the "Miracle on Manchester". While no one could or wold debate the magnitude of those two moments and their place in the history of the game, especially Gretzky's season, there was another franchise changing moment that occurred during the 1981 -82 season. In a season that was filled with many highs and one very low moment for the young Edmonton Oilers, a key ingredient to the clubs future success arrived in town, a young netminder from Spruce Grove named Grant Fuhr.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Oilers selected Fuhr with the eighth overall pick at the 1981 Entry draft. It was well known, at the time, that the New York Rangers were very high on the Victoria Cougars standout goalie and they were set to select ninth in the draft. The Oilers were coming off a stunning upset in the 1981 playoffs, in which they swept the Montreal Canadiens and were backstopped by young rookie netminder Andy Moog. Couple Moog's performance against the Habs with the fact that he was all of 21 years of age and most thought the club had their goalie of the future in house...head scout Barry Fraser thought otherwise. In his and the scouting staffs mind, selecting Grant Fuhr was a slam dunk. They had him as the number one rated prospect and were thrilled that he was still available at the number eight spot. He was coming off a season in which he was 48 - 9 - 1 with a 2.78 GAA in Victoria and he won the Del Wilson Trophy as the best netminder in the WHL. The Cougars were not only the best team in the league that season but they also went on to win the WHL championship, where Grant started laying the ground work of being a big game goalie.
The Oilers had three goalies in their 1981 camp, Fuhr, Moog and veteran Ron Low battling for two spots. The club decided to have all three start the season with the team and Moog started four of the first six games while Fuhr and Low started one each. Fuhr lost his NHL debut 4-2 to the Winnipeg Jets Oct. 14th...he did not lose a game again until January 16th! He went 23 straight games without a loss and ended up compiling a stunning 28 - 5 - 14 record and a 3.31 GAA which was fifth in the entire league. The four goalies ahead of him, were the tandems in Montreal and Long Island, who were clearly the two best defensive clubs in the league. Only Billy Smith had a better goals against average then Fuhr for goalies who appeared in at least 40 games. Pretty impressive for a 19 year old rookie playing with, what was later reveled, as a chronic shoulder dislocation for most of the season and on a team that played fire wagon hockey, albeit scoring an incredible 417 goals that season, that left their own end as an after thought. Fuhr made the NHL All Star game as the starting goalie for the Campbell Conference and was the second team All Star at seasons end. He was second in voting for the Vezina behind Billy Smith but some how did not win the Calder Trophy that season as the rookie of the year. Voters decided to give the nod to Dale Hawerchuk and his impressive 103 point season with the Jets...in my opinion, the Oilers rookie campaign was even better.
Fuhr wound up being the perfect temperament for the job and was a flashy netminder, which fit in perfectly with the high flying Oilers image. Be it as a rookie or later in his career, as the best goaltender in the world, all that mattered to Fuhr was winning. Winning 10-9 or 2-1 the result was the same in the his mind. All season long, he allowed the club to play and more importantly, develop their wide open style without fear of leaving their goalie to fend for himself. The young Spruce Grove native was a wall time and time again and right from the start showed the ability to make the big save when his team needed it. Be it making saves in the first to keep them in games or late in the third to preserve a victory, he was able to get the job done. Also, take into account that no goalie had ever played the game, with the style he used. He was a hybrid butterfly/stand up goalie but his reflexes are what set him apart from every other goalie. He had the best glove hand in the league by a country mile but his ability to recover for second and third shots was unmatched. He made acrobatic saves look routine that other goalies of that era would only dream of. The first moment he hit the NHL ice, you realized he was a shot stopper...not a shot blocker.
The Edmonton Oilers not only wanted to win the Stanley Cup but they wanted to do it playing a free flowing attractive style of hockey. Yes, they would have to learn to shore up their own end before bringing Edmonton that Cup in 1984 but none of that would have been possible without the right goalie. Grant Fuhr's 1981-82 season was and still remains one of the greatest rookie performances in recent memory and a very special moment in this franchises illustrious history. The Oilers already had the best player in the game in Wayne Gretzky but by deciding to select Grant Fuhr in 1981, they would soon be blessed with also having the best netminder in the world.
Heading into the 2011-2012 campaign you could pretty much jot down the Edmonton Oilers starting six blueliners. Barring a pre-season trade or injury, it looks like the six will be:
- Ryan Whitney
- Cam Barker
- Tom Gilbert
- Ladislav Smid
- Theo Peckham
- Andy Sutton
Outside of Tom Gilbert, they all have had health concerns at times during their careers and even Gilbert started to show signs of a wonky back last season. Be it because they are somewhat injury prone or just bad luck, injuries always seem to creep into the equation. That being the case, it would come as no surprise to see the number seven and eight D men on the Oilers depth chart getting into a number of games this season. The battle for that number seven spot will likely come down to Taylor Chorney and Jeff Petry.
In Jeff Petry, you have a player that, for some time, was the lone prospect on the backend in the organization. Notice the word "was" because that is no longer the case. With the addition of many defencemen via trade and entry draft, Edmonton's pool of young prospects on the blueline have improved drastically. While they still seem to be missing that true number one defenceman in their prospect cupboard, they definitely are starting to stock pile quality talent on the backend. Petry does seem destined to be part of the rebuild but does having him in the seven hole for the coming season make sense? The plan was supposed to be for Petry to play all of last season in Oklahoma and let his game develop further in the AHL but that did not occur. With all the injuries the Oilers endured, Petry ended up playing 35 games with the big club and 41 with the Barons. At times he looked very good, while on other occasions he looked in way over his head. With the signings and trades the organization made to bulk up the blueline for the coming season, I feel the plan is for Petry to start the season with the Barons. He should get monster minutes in all situations and quarterback the power play for Oklahoma. He will get that opportunity to work on his game and hopefully make it very difficult for the club to not make room for him in their top six.
Taylor Chorney is in a somewhat different situation when it comes to his career. He too was once considered a good prospect on the backend. Drafted back in 2005 with the 36th pick overall, Chorney has never lived up to the billing that was thrust upon him by the organization and fans alike. He has never developed into a player that will put points up on the board nor has he turned himself into that solid stay at home guy that all teams need to be a competitive club. Instead, he has found a home somewhere in between and in today's NHL that typically makes you a depth guy at best. To his credit, after a disastrous debut in 2009 -2010 with the Oilers, he looked like a completely different player in the 12 games he saw action in last season. In his rookie campaign, he was -21 in 42 games and looked to be in so over his head that many, including myself, wondered if this kid should ever see NHL ice again. Then you consider how bad and dysfunctional that club was and you have to cut Chorney some slack. While still having issues with his defensive zone coverage and adjusting to the speed and physical aspect of the game at this level, Chorney looked a lot more comfortable in his skin in his second go round. He was successful at slowing the game down and made the right decision out on the ice more often then not. I can not see Chorney turning into anything more then a depth NHL defenceman at any point in his career but is that not exactly what this club is looking for? Have someone fill that seven spot and be a good team guy...sounds like a perfect fit for Taylor Chorney.
As an organization, the Edmonton Oilers must ensure that Jeff Petry is allowed time to develop his game during the coming season, wherever that might be. While I do think Petry will be part of the Oilers future, it would not surprise me at all if the young man is used as a chip in a package to land a top flight defender in the near future. There is no benefit in having him sit in the press box in Edmonton when he could be playing a ton down on the farm and they have a guy like Taylor Chorney to fill that role. In all honesty, if an injury occurs, Petry could still be that number seven guy on the depth chart...he would just be doing it as a member of the Oklahoma City Barons instead of the Edmonton Oilers.
It is not very difficult to support the point of view that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should make the Edmonton Oilers roster this season. While others, could make just as strong a case to return this summers first overall pick back to Red Deer for one more year of junior hockey. Would an extra year in junior hockey do the Burnaby native harm? Absolutely not but if the kid displays throughout training camp that he belongs in the NHL, it would be almost impossible for the Oilers brass to not allow Nugent-Hopkins to start his pro career on October 9th against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I see the kid coming to camp and making all this talk about him going back to junior a non factor...that is until he hits his first speed bump and all the critics start coming out of the woodwork questioning why he wasn't sent back to junior when they had the chance. Make no mistake, Nugent-Hopkins will have his struggles but having the likes of Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger in the fold to help the rookie centre with those speed bumps, will make his transition into the NHL a whole lot smoother. Be it taking on those tough minutes late in games or against the elite teams in the league, the two veteran centres will take a load of pressure of Nugent-Hopkins and allow him to concentrate on what he does best...putting points on the board.
If he makes this club, it has to be as a top six forward/power play specialist. Look for the youngster to play in between sophomore Jordan Eberle and fan favourite Ryan Smyth. Playing with Eberle will give last seasons Red Deer Rebels leading scorer a trigger man to set up shop with and both should relish playing with one another. Smyth helps shelter both youngsters 5-on-5 while providing a presence down low in the corners and in front of the oppositions net. The trio have the potential to be a solid second line and should allow Nugent-Hopkins to put up his fair share of points.
An area Nugent-Hopkins should make an instant contribution on is the power play. If he came to the Oilers a year or two ago, this would not have been the case but it is now. The big advantage he has coming to the Oilers this season is the fact that they are loaded with skill upfront. Playing on a power play with the likes of Taylor Hall, Ales Hemsky, Linus Omark, Smyth, Sam Gagner, Eberle, Ryan Whitney and Cam Barker will make the adjustment to an NHL power play feel seamless for the 18 year old. Watching Nugent-Hopkins with the Rebels, he seemed to think the game at a different level and that is something you can't teach. You either have it as a player or you do not and most players fall in the latter category. That being said, many players who put up monster seasons in junior never come close to matching those numbers in the NHL...I do not expect Nugent-Hopkins to fall into that category. Look for him to start the year on the Oilers second unit with the man advantage but by seasons end, do not be surprised if he has made a home on the top unit.
I know many fans and critics feel an extra year in junior would help Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but if the kid is ready to play, he should play. Having a player develop the shortcomings in their game while they are on an NHL roster is usually not the best way to go about things but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins does not come across as your run-of-the-mill 18 year old rookie.
2011-2012 Prediction: 13 G - 40 A - 53 Pts