Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oilers Cut Five More, Celebrate with Loss

So in the last post I talked about how Ryan Potulny, Dean Arsene and Chris Minard would be disappointed to be sent out before some of the guys who they were ostensibly ahead of on the depth chart. While I'm sure the cut still stung (although in Arsene's case, he did get some nice comments from the coach), it turns out five other guys who didn't need to clear waivers were also sent out: Jake Taylor (AHL contract), Alex Plante (Entry-level contract), Ryan O'Marra (Entry-level contract), Bryan Young (AHL contract) and Milan Kytnar (Entrey-level contract).

I'm sure Plante, Taylor and Young feel good to have oulasted Motin and Wild since it means they've got a head start on regular work in the AHL though the competition for those spots will continue all year long. O'Marra too feel good to have outlasted some of the other forwards that were sent to Springfield earlier. This is a huge year for O'Marra as he's playing for his next pro contract. Kytnar is an interesting case. I thought he looked okay but not great in the games he played and he can definitely feel good about how many games he played before leaving but the length of his stay may have been somewhat predetermined by the fact the Oilers had a game in Saskatoon where Kytnar will be playing this season. Which is odd. The real difference makers are in the NHL by age 20. He won't even be in the AHL. Thus, he's probably just not that good. If he ever makes it, it will be in the "Kyle Brodziak" mold and, to be frank, there are a lot more Kyle Brodziak busts than Kyle Brodziak success stories. Here's hoping he does but I'm sure not going to start expecting it.

Now, the real story is who's still here. For the most part, the forwards that have stuck around are pretty predictable. Of the guys battling it out for spots 11-14 we still have Marc Pouliot, Robert Nilsson, J.F. Jacques, Gilbert Brule, Ryan Stone, Liam Reddox, Rob Schremp, Jordan Eberle, Kip Brennan, Steve MacIntyre and, as far as I know, Toni Rajala (who won't be making the team and is currently injured). Thsi is a pretty amazing accomplishment for Kip Brennan and is probably also encouraging to a guy like Steve MacIntyre since the presence of another puncher suggests his role is still under consideration.

On defence we can be generous and say that there is one spot up for grabs and that Jason Strudwick, Taylor Chorney and the injured Theo Peckham are still hanging around. On the one hand, this seems to be a major accomplishment for Taylor Chorney. In fairness he's played well in camp but his rookie season in the AHL was just plain bad. I've got to hope that, unless Chorney has improved substantially, the Oilers weren't blowing sunshine up Dean Arsene's butt when they told him that, "they don't worry about age or where a player was drafted. They said, 'If you're the best and we need somebody, you're going to get the chance.'" I suspect that either a) they're lying or b) Dean Arsene is taking what they said a bit far but I wish I could believe otherwise. If Gilbert Brule is cut, I'll believe (a bit more).

In goal, I'm a bit confused. I guess we'll say that there's a spot open for the backup goalie position but in reality we're likely to see all three of Khabibulin, Deslauriers and "Other" at some point this season. Right now "Other" is Dubnyk and he's fighting to keep it that way. Very likely, it's something he's going to be proving in the AHL rather than through the next week of camp, though performing well here would surely help his cause. Then there's the curious case of Aaron Sorochan and Kurtis Mucha. So far as I know the Oilers haven't officially said anything about either of them but Sorochan looks to have been in Springfield since the first day of the AHL camp which began on September 19th. Mucha isn't in Springfield and the Oilers are advertising their training camp roster at 34 so they do need one more guy. Thus, I must conclude that Mucha is still with the Oilers. That's a pretty darn impressive showing. From one of a slew of goalies in rookie camp, to main camp, to being one of the last four goalies left in main camp. At this point I think it's clear that the Oilers like him. I believe he's already passed through the draft three times and so isn't eligible for selection there but is eligible to play another year in the WHL. I could see the Oilers signing him and sending him back to junior for another season.

As for tonight's game, I thought that there were a number of veteran Oilers who could have been better (Khabibulin, Horcoff, Hemsky, Moreau, Souray, Strudwick...) but, let's be honest, this time of year is for getting back into playing the game for these players. Sure, I'd love to see them in top form but it's really not such a big deal if they aren't so long as the players and coaches are working together to learn the systems and correct the mistakes.

Now, for the tweeners at forward for whom these games are actually significant:

Kip Brennan: He had a fight and he's probably in worse shape after tonight and it's not because of the fight. Jacques killed him tonight. Not only can Jacques get guys like Regehr to fight him (instead of some other useless heavy), he can also play hockey better. Taking penalties never helps either (although the refs didn't do him any favours).

Gilbert Brule: More of the same in his third game of the preseason. He knows he's supposed to hit and sacrifices positioning to do it. He doesn't pick his spots. As I said a few days ago, it's like watching a player who's moved up from a non-hitting league and he's intent to get his licks in. I think he should be cut.

Jordan Eberle: Did not play. I think he should be sent down regardless of how he plays from here on out. Now, he has played well but... in spite of the hype "the sniper" has zero points and two shots on goal in three games against scrubs. Any talk of him being the Oilers best forward is crazy-talk.

J.F. Jacques: A big night. He really took advantage of being put with capable players who weren't on their game. I wouldn't go so far as to say he looked like he belonged on the top line, but he certainly did everything that he needs to do to make the team. A goal, a couple of big hits and a fight too. He's now had a couple of games like that and, I think, will survive regardless of how he plays from here on out.

Steve MacIntyre: Did not play. I feel bad for him but I think he's probably done for. He, like Brennan, just isn't good enough at hockey.

Robert Nilsson: I thought he was pretty decent tonight. Made a good read to pick up a point on the Oilers first goal and managed to stay out of the box on a night when that was a major challenge. He helped his cause but maybe not enough.

Marc Pouliot: Did not play but previous positive comments from the coach suggest he's doing fine.

Liam Reddox: Did not play. I liked his play in the second of his two games but he'd better hope that he plays tomorrow. Three minor penalties in two games also looks pretty ugly. He needs to stay out of the box.

Rob Schremp: Did not play and all of the other guys now have more than Schremp's two games but if he plays tomorrow he's back to par. If not, he's toast.

Ryan Stone: He managed to get a fourth game with Comrie and O'Sullivan which is certainly a positive. Although Quinn has mentioned him in the past, he wasn't one of the two "big" guys singled out after this game. I think this was the line's weakest game and part of that was on Stone. The little hooking penalty in the second was cheesy but it's not helping. Looked competent (well, as competent as one looks) killing the 5v3. Not a helpful night, but he didn't play badly either.

Interesting note from tonight: Ethan Moreau was bad. -2, one on a missed backcheck, and his 10:41 in ice time (only 5:49 at EV) bests only Brennan (I assume, Brennan isn't listed at nhl.com). I need to assume that's a bit of a wake up call similar to Pisani's sudden lack of ice time after a giveaway in his first game. Now, just like with Pisani, Moreau has shown enough in this league for enough time that there's no way that the man is getting cut for a rookie but I do think Quinn is sending a bit of a message.

5 comments:

Black Dog said...

Good stuff Scott.

Sounds like Jacques has clinched it. It was his spot to lose and he has done well by the sounds of it.

Good for him.

As for the rest well we'll see the lineup for tonight, I would bet on Stone and Nilsson and Brule all being in there, the jury is out on all of them still, imo.

Stone PKs, huh? That helps him.

Bob Arctor said...

Mucha is head back to Portland. link

Scott Reynolds said...

BD, The only one of your predicted men not in the preview lineup on the Oilers site is Stone. Lots of the bubble boys getting in though. These games must feel huge for these guys. I mean, they're play in the next week could mean a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars and a lot of these guys aren't millionaires (yet). I'd be going crazy.

Thanks Bob. The last time the Oilers announced their roster number it was at 34 so I'm not sure if Mucha is actually sent down or not. I guess we'll know on Friday if he's playing in Portland.

Black Dog said...

Yep Stone is the only one out. I think Jacques has it made.

Maybe Stone too.

Yeah for these guys it must be tough. I think the next couple of weeks will be a serious wakeup call for a few guys. What does Nilsson think if he gets cut? What if Schremp or Brule not only get cut (a given for the former) but pass through waivers how much of a kick in the head is that?

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