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30 Teams in 30 Days: Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers have started the previous few NHL seasons with question marks at one position or another. From pre-Roloson question marks in goal to post-Pronger question marks on defense, the Oilers have yet to enter a post-lockout season with what would call a balanced team. That may all change this year as they appear to be solid, if unspectacular at all positions. Beset by a number of key injuries last year (Souray, Moreau, Horcoff, Garon, Torres) the Oilers struggled through the first half and nearly snuck into the playoffs (88 points, 9th in the conference) with a strong finish (and exceptional shoot-out stats) to the season, led by their young stars. These same young players are expected to put the Oilers back into the playoffs this year, and new owner Darryl Katz will provide management with the financial wherewithal to do so. The days of trading stars for prospects are over in Oil Country.

Forwards

The Oilers saw a good deal of turnover at forward over the summer, shipping out Jarret Stoll and Raffi Torres while losing Curtis Glencross to free agency. Marty (Little Sakic) Reasoner also signed with Atlanta. Erik Cole is the only newcomer guaranteed of a spot, as Gilbert Brule (acquired for Raffi Torres) is likely headed to Springfield of the AHL. The Oilers should be able to employ two balanced scoring lines, a competent checking line and a high energy 4th line. The big question mark is where everyone is going to play. Erik Cole and Dustin Penner could both see time on the top line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, but whomever loses that battle might find himself on the 3rd line, as Coach Craig MacTavish may be reluctant to break up the Kid Line of Robert Nilsson, Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano.

If Penner is moved to the 3rd line, watch for his numbers to suffer. Marc Pouliot will be given what is likely his last chance to prove he is an everyday NHL’er. If not, Rob Schremp and Ryan Potulny will be more than happy to take his place. Former OHL’er Liam Reddox may also get a long look at camp, and he fits well into the pest mold a la Daniel Carcillo. Watch for an end of camp trade if the Oilers feel any of their prospects (Pouliot, Schremp et al) could get them a fair return.

Zach Stortini is the de facto enforcer in the lineup, and while he is a willing combatant, he is really no more than a middle weight and should be employed as a 4th line pest. The Oilers have invited a number of tough guys to camp, so don’t be surprised if one of them gets a few call ups when Minnesota or Calgary come to town to play the smallish Oilers.

Defense

The Oilers marquee addition over the summer was Lubomir Visnovsky, picked up from the Kings for Jarret Stoll and Matt (Ring it Around the Boards) Greene. He will be looked upon to reduce the Oilers 2nd-worst in the conference goals against total, as will a supposedly healthy Sheldon Souray, who will most likely be paired with Visnovsky. Tom Gilbert and Steve Staios seem to be tabbed for the 2nd pairing minutes, and Gilbert will be counted on to build upon his successful rookie season. Staios, though nearing the twilight of his career, can still be a steady defender and played some very good hockey for Canada at the World Championships last spring. Dennis Grebeshkov and Ladislav Smid round out the top 6, though Grebeshkov made huge strides last year and could easily find himself as the 3rd or 4th defenseman by the end of the season. He is on a one year deal, however, and may be interested in bolting for the KHL. Jason Strudwick and the oft-injured Mathieu Roy figure to be the leading contenders for the 7th defenseman spot, and rookie Theo Peckham is thought to be very close. In fact, his improvement over the last year made Matt Greene expendable. The Oilers also have considerable depth of prospects on the back end, so a trade is certainly possible, especially if injuries cripple the Oilers as they did last year.

Goaltending

Mathieu Garon enters this season as the starter, after stealing the job from Dwayne Roloson midway through last season. Garon was solid for the Oilers and spectacular in the shootout, allowing only 2 goals on 32 attempts. The career backup will be counted on to give the Oilers a chance to win night in and night out. Dwayne Roloson will be the backup this year, and proved he still has something left in the tank when he nearly took the Oilers to the playoffs after Garon went down. A fierce competitor, Roloson may find himself back as the starter should Garon falter, or could find himself traded (hello, LA!) if Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers can prove he is ready to the backup. In either event, look for Edmonton to start the season with three goalies on the roster because of Deslauriers contract situation.

Prediction:

Ceiling:

If the Oilers can avoid one of their prolonged losing skids and keep everyone healthy, 3rd in the Western Conference by way of a first place finish in the Northwest.

Floor:

If the injury bug and sophomore jinx hits, 10th in the West.

The Jets are scheduled to return to the ice for practice tomorrow after taking today off.

The Moose will play the first ever school day game. @ICdave will join @danielthefink on the broadcast.

We will have plenty of news on https://illegalcurve.com/

A new month is almost here and with it brings 16 more chances to win authentic Jets merchandise (and potentially tickets to a Jets game).

But you need to enter to win.

https://gleam.io/qLWqv/illegal-curve-hockey-giveaway-contest-dec

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