Edmonton Oilers GM Craig Mactavish has reshaped his lineup adding a few forwards and twenty seven depth defensemen. I thought it would be fun to break down the forward lines as an optimistic Oilers fan and a pessimistic Oilers fan who is in the dumps after watching his favorite team miss the playoffs for the last several seasons.
Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle
Optimist- Hall is a year older and hopefully will have added 5-10 more pounds of muscle. He should take another step forward in developing into one the leagues premier power forwards. Nugent-Hopkins will have a repaired shoulder, will be a year stronger and smarter. He should take a step forward and be ready to compete as a first line center. I personally feel he will be the best of all the kids here in Oilerville. Eberle’s hand is healed and he too will be stronger and ready for another step forward in his development. I can see this line dominating some nights and being one of the better first-lines in the entire league.
Pessimist- How is this line any better than last year? The Western Conference is full of big, tough, rugged first lines and the line of 4-93-14 couldn’t do it last year so what makes you think they’re going to be able do it this year? Maybe it isn’t the right fit having all three young skilled players as the first line… Who is going to retrieve pucks in the offensive zone? Who is going to finish check? Who is going to battle in front of the net?
David Perron, Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov
Optimist- Perron comes over to The Oilers and is a legit second line winger who is known as being highly skilled with a touch of grit. Gagner had a very good year last year and should take yet another step forward this season. Yakupov has his rookie year under his belt, leading all rookies in goals last season and should take a step forward with increased responsibilities and ice time. All three forwards are smaller but play with fire, passion, and hopefully enough grit and skill to be a good second line option for Coach Eakins.
Pessimist- All three players are small and will get their show run on a nightly basis by the bigger stronger competition. They will be unable to keep the puck out of their own end and are unable to create any sustained pressure in the offensive zone due to their lack of size. Again, how is the second line any better than last years inept second line? Too small and too soft. Eakins might be forced to change the look of this line.
Ryan Jones, Boyd Gordon, Ales Hemsky
Optimistic- Jones is coming off a serious eye injury and will be jacked to get going. He will be looking to get back to his previous season form where he was an effective third liner chipping in almost 20 goals and being a very good abrasive, pesky player. Gordon has the size that the Oilers need and can kill penalties, check and play physically. Hemsky will have something to prove and playing against softer competition could be very beneficial for him. Hemsky could light the lantern having himself a great year proving his critics wrong yet again. This third line checking line could be fun to watch and might have just the right amount of offensive flair to bury a few pucks against the opposition’s first and best line.
Pessimist- Do you really call this a third line? How is Hemsky supposed to shut down other teams best lines? Do you really think he’s going to look to his centerman and say, “Wow I can’t wait to play with that guy!” Jones will continue to struggle after a disappointing 2012-2013 season that found him in and out of the lineup. Gordon won’t be able to fill all the roles that Horcoff filled and is a poorer version of ex-captain Horcoff. Hemsky will hate his new third line role and will struggle throughout the year. The opponents first line will eat up the Oilers third line on a nightly basis.
Mike Brown, Anton Lander, Ryan Smyth
Optimistic- Brown will play his role to a tee and will create energy every shift out, banging, crashing and fighting any willing combatant. After spending nearly the entire 2012-2013 season developing in the A.H.L. Lander is ready to be an every day N.H.L. player and will prove to be a solid fourth liner. Smyth will use his experience and competitiveness to be a useful fourth liner. He can chip in offensively when needed.
Pessimistic- Brown takes way too many penalties and can’t be relied upon to play nightly for an 82 games season. Lander will prove that he’s not quite ready to be an every day player and will become a liability ever shift out. Smyth will lose yet another step and his body will break down. He can’t keep up anymore and the Oilers fourth line will be one of the worst in the league.
The Edmonton Oilers may have a few new faces but are they really any better? Only time will tell what the future holds in Oilerville so keep your fingers crossed that the optimism holds true more often than not.
Keep the Faith!!
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