Battle of Alberta Season Opener/Oilers Preview

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Taylor Hall, drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers, poses for a portrait during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(I find this pic hilarious for some reason)

Gametime: 8:00 pm MST

Where: Rexall Place


Seeing as the Oil are the Flames first opponent of the year, I decided to collapse the pre-game thread and Oilers preview into one article.


Regular season Worst in the league

Playoffs – None

Significant additions – Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle, Kurtis Foster, Jim Vandermeer

Injuries – None.

Key players – Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Ryan Whitney, Shawn Horcoff and whichever goalie is the starter

Cap position Flexible

Predicted finish – 4th/5th in the division

As both interesting and baffling as the Flames off-season was, things were no less odd up North in Shelbyville this summer. The Oilers not only drafted Taylor Hall first overall and decided to go with an agressive rebuild going forward, they also endured an (ongoing) imbroglio with Sheldon Souray. Circus music could be heard faintly in the background when the overaged, overpriced, frequently injured Nikolai Khabibulin got indicted for extreme DUI as well. Add in the unceremonious dumping of toxic assets in Robert Nilssona and Ethan Moreau and you have one of the more drastic and painful team-wide face-lifts in the league this year. 


Excitement around the various prospects in Edmonton is high, but the truth is even quality kids tend to stumble a bit in their first season. Especially when they’re surrounded by other kids. That’s the reason that veterans Hemsky, Penner and Horcoff are listed as "key players" above – the vast majority of the heavy lifting is going to fall on their shoulders and if they can’t skate with a piano tied to their backsides, the Oilers are going to struggle on most nights. Beyond the Halls and Horcoffs of the world, the Oilers bottom-end is littered with just okay checking types (Jones, Fraser) and near useless puglists (Stortini, MacIntyre).

‘Tweeners like Brule and Cogliano could go either way, though they’ll likely sink or swim with the rest of the team.

Word is that Tom Renney is going to pursue a strategy that is more geared to short-term pain and long-term gain. Apparently, early line rushes have the kids and vets liberally sprinkled throughout the line-up, meaning the Oilers will have no real "hard minutes" trio and will probably be rolling lines somewhat indiscrimintely in order to let the kids get as many at-bats as possible. That may work to acclimate them to the league a little bit quicker over time, but in the interim it will mean they’ll be somewhere between bad and awful.


With Souray choking away his bitterness in the AHL, the Oilers have one of the more lackluster back-ends in the division (and conference for that matter). Ryan Whitney will probably pair with Tom Gilbert to form the first pairing, while some combination of Vandermeer, Smid, Foster and Strudwick to fill out the bottom end. Not a lot of bona fide heavy lifters in that group. And it should go without saying that an injury to, say, Gilbert or Whitney causes things to get real ugly, real fast.


With Kahbibulin’s back and legal problems still causing concern, the Oil have once again decided to go with a three-headed monster in net and are currently carrying the crumbling ‘Bulin wall as well as Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk. As mediocre as that collection of puck stoppers is, the Oilers also signed Martin Gerber for further depth (and then, after he spent the pre-season being the best goalie by way of performance, demoted him).

The Oilers crease is therefore both confusing and a collection fo suck. Double whammy.


Edmonton fans will have a lot of reasons to tune in this year. However, an expectation of success isn’t one of them. the club’s depth at every position is suspect and they’ll need at least one (if not all three) of their high powered prospects to step into the league pretty much fully formed if they want to be at least competitive. Injury to a major player at either forward or defence would cause all sorts of issues and the goalie situation must keep Tambo up at night.

Unless the Oilers catch the Colorado percentages train and ride it into a surprise post-season berth, expect to see them in the basement again.

Game Preview

On the Flames side of things, Calgary will be going with a depleted line-up tonight thanks to injuries to Moss, Kotalik, Stajan, Langkow and Pardy (or sarich, depending on where you look). Brendan Morrison will make his Flames debut between Hagman and Bourque while Backlund will be skating with Glencross and (ugh) Jackman.

On the back-end, look for TJ Brodie to skate with Cory Sarich or Adam Pardy on the third pairing. Those two should get some cushy minutes against an Oilers club that doesn’t offer much in the way of resistance beyond their top end. Steve Staios is scheduled to be $2.7M worth of healthy scratch.

Puck drop at 8. Swing by for the in-game discussion this evneing. Also, make sure to visit OilersNation to gloat when the Flames win.

  • here’s my take: staios is either on the trading block (you can’t exactly call him tradebait, can you ?) or will be a healthy scratch for 5-10 games while brent figures out if brodie can cut it in the bigs and/or until pardy returns. hellloooo insurance !!

    i also have to say that if daz has no regard for the fans (and the return of jokinen describes this position, IMO) then i would expect gio to be traded. while it would significantly weaken the current D, i would imagine the return to be significant. this probably won’t happen til xmas, of course, when we know what kind of a team we have (contender/loser).

  • On the first point: I agree. On the second point: nah. I don’t think Sutter does things specifically to rankle the fans. He just considers their input or reaction irrelevant. And when it comes to defensemen, Sutter doesn’t cull herds – he augments them.

    The only Gio will be traded before the end of the year is the team is out of the running and Sutter can’t get his name on another contract before he goes UFA.

  • Anyone else forsee a total sh%t show tonight? The kind of game where the action is fast and furious but the level of play is riducously low?

    Any bets on which flame takes an early run at Hall? My bet would be on Reggie but I did see Gio try and line up a couple guys in pre-season action too…. Thank god for large Hi-Def tv’s.

  • I would suggest the somewhere between bad and awful kids may be sufficient enough to beat the aging and deteriating flames roster. If not now most certainly in the very near future. Calgary will be lucky to finish in 8th and nothing coming up. Heres to the flames staring at our a$$es in the standing for the next 10 years.

  • icedawg_42

    dont you mean when the Coilers are near (but not at) the basement this year? and they’ll get a few years out of these kids before they all bolt for free agency!

    • Greg

      I do think it’s quite possible (and funny) that the next CBA will include contract length limits, just as the Oilers need to start resigning their kids. The kings and isles will have already locked theirs up, and with the dearth of free agents available due to everyone else being on long term grandfathered contracts, the bidding could get quite intense for Hall et al. It would be hilarious to see the oilers go throughout the pain of the past few seasons and be just on the cusp of finally getting good again, only to be the first team torn apart by the market conditions that are likely to exist during the the transition to next second cap-CBA version.

  • everton fc

    Gio won’t be traded. He’s part of the future. And I think they’ll somehow find room for White. Which would be nice.

    Good point on testing Brodie sooner, than later. If he can’t cut it, you have Staois or Sarich. Sarich as a healthy scratch this evening doesn’t bode well for Sarich…

  • Greg

    I’m surprised both Sarich and Staois are healthy scratches tonight. That’s $6M of oops! I’m more surprised Conroy is scratched though. Who the heck else is supposed to check the tough comp tonigh… Oh wait, there is none.

  • Greg

    Because you are one of the hosts this blog it’s easy to be criticized. Overall I agree with your work and applaud the effort put in. I am not one to point fingers or throw stones in a glass house but I did choose to criticize your view of Conroy making the opening day line-up prior to the rash of injuries, in addition to my feeling that Kotalik was not the first option to be dumped as you suggested.

    Waiving Kotalik did two things, proved nobody would take on the salary, and offer motivation in the sense where this was his last chance in the League. So Sutter’s view was… Either go to Europe and stay there or show up to camp in shape and motivated. When I heard he was coming to camp, intuition told me he’d be there in the right frame of mind. Nothing is set in stone because of his injury, but it’s clear that he would have been a solid portion of the bottom half of the line-up with the opportunity to fill in where required on the PP & top 6.

    I appreciate your ability to present transperant analysis and think that your approach should warrant more attention from the media because it opens up a different type of discussion. Adversely, using intuition by reading between the lines does not show up on statistical data and I believe that this is where you can grow to be a really good analyst, a better blogger and a worthy replacement for boomer the bigot on the fan960.

    RANT > > Every time ‘boomer’ is on the radio, his bigotry shows through, he’s judgemental, cranky, whiny and at times unprofessional. What’s worse is it’s awkward to listen to his peers try and walk around the issues and comments he spits out. He turns into an over polite wuss when he’s called on it. Example… his computer is wonky so it’s Mike Richard’s fault, he never heard of Turducken so he thinks it’s stupid it’s one thing after another…. If he is supposed to be the voice of your average man, it’s an insult to Calgarians. The fan has intelligent people onboard with Rob, Richards and Steiner. and I’m sure you could get an offer to replace boomer in a heartbeat by stepping it up!

    6-1 Flames tonight.