New Coaches Bring Fresh Change to Edmonton

When one looks at the roster of the Edmonton Oilers they will find few changes. It was not from a lack of effort. The team was in the thick of the Dany Heatley Sweepstakes and were involved in plenty of other battles for trades and/or free agency.

But they unfortunately came up short other than replacing goaltender Dwayne Roloson with Khabibulin.

However, this could be a very different looking Oiler squad from the past few years due to one change: Pat Quinn. The new bench boss and a revamped staff has brought about a change in philosophy and with that should help the Oilers change from being a stale, stagnant franchise to maybe one with some potential.

There is plenty of work to be done, but the Oilers feel they have the right people molding the team.

Coaching

Quinn brings a wealth of NHL and international experience to the Oilers and he is one of the NHL’s winningest coaches. Him and associate coach Tom Renney will definitely bring a unique and different look to the team that seem to not get any better after a decade under Craig MacTavish.

Renney will be entrusted to improve the team’s defensive play as they gave up almost 3 goals a game and were 5th worst in shots against. Renney, formerly of the Rangers, did a fine job on Broadway as they becamse a strong defensive team and had a top PK unit.

Quinn will try his best to open things up for the team and let some of their creative players create. Players like Hemsky, Gagner and Cogliano should be afforded more room to operate and be allowed to showcase their skills.

Quinn proved he could be a fine teacher after his excellent work at the WJC. Known as a veterans first coach, adding that to his resume should really help him handle a relatively young Oiler squad.

Lineup:
C: Horcoff, Gagner, Cogliano, Pouliot, Comrie
RW: Hemsky, Nilsson, Pisani, Stortini
LW: O’Sullivan, Penner, Moreau,
D: Vishnovsky, Souray, Grebeshkov, Gilbert, Smid, Staios, Strudwick
G: Khabibulin

Forward

There is a decent amount of skill up front for the Oilers but they do miss a big scorer which is why they were so interested in Heatley. But there is enough talent here to maybe have 7 or possibly 8 20 goal scorers giving them good balance.

Hemsky is their top offensive player. He is a terrific playmaker and is very creative but unfortunately without anyone to bury his good plays, much of what he does goes for not. The Oilers would probably like if he became more selfish and maybe become a scorer rather than a passer.

Gagner has the potential to be a scorer but he is still growing as a player. He didnt have a good sophmore season and will need to rebound. He is only 20 and with Quinn likely to loosen the reigns a bit offensively, Gagner could post some good numbers.

Cogliano, Nilsson and O’Sullivan are 3 more young forwards they are counting on to have their production increase. Cogliano and O’Sullivan are sound two way players and not natural scorers but they definitely could provide depth. Nilsson, the son of the magic man may need to produce some magic to stay in the NHL.

Because the Oilers are not a big team and played quite soft last year, they will need some better play from Horcoff, Moreau, Penner and Pisani. Penner may benefit the most from the coaching change as he was a favorite whipping boy of MacT. If Moreau and Horcoff can stay healthy, they are the kind of leaders the team needs on a nightly basis.

Defence

The Oil have a deep and talented defence that is the team’s biggest strength. Souray and Vishnovsky are big offensive players and the leaders here. Souray brings some physicality too but is more known for his big point shot and leadership ability. Vishnovsky, if healthy, should be a good puck mover and distributor they need to get their transition game going.

Gilbert and Grebeshkov are a fine 2nd pair offering youth, mobility and offensive skill. Both are still learning the finer points defensively but will be counted on the most to score. They may benefit a great deal under Quinn who may want them more to join the rush and be a bigger part of the attack.

Staios and Smid round out the D and give them some grit on the backend. Staios is not the most gifted but he gives 100% and will be a valued leader for this young Oiler team. Smid has struggled and was almost traded but returns hoping to rejuvenate his career under a good teacher in Quinn who was a former NHL blueliner.

Goal

Khabibulin should provide similar quality to the goaltending position for Edmonton as Roloson did. He had a terrific year in leading the young Hawks back to the playoffs after a few so-so campaigns and will be asked to be a big backbone to the team.

He has won before in Tampa and has been part of teams built mainly on young talents in front of him so he should adjust well to his surroundings. He has proven to be a big game goalie and will need to do that on many nights here as the team tries to adjust to Renney’s defensive schemes.

Deslaurier, who did ok in his first NHL test, will be the backup and likely will play quite a few games as Khabibulin is no longer a 70 game goalie. He is big and athletic and will probably be needed for as many as 30 games as Khabibulin has had an injury history and may simply be rested more by Quinn.

Special Teams

The team’s PP was terrible because they didnt have any finish up front. Souray is their only big PP gun and that has to change. Without any outside help, that change has to come from within. Penner will be big here perhaps as his big body will probably be utilized more by Quinn. The team too may be allowed to be more imaginative as that is usually how Quinn prefers to have his teams rather than going with specific assignments offensively. But unless someone up front can find the net, the PP may struggle again.

The PK was terrible and that is where Renney comes in. The Rangers were first on the PK thanks to some of the teachings he gave his former team and he hopes to here to help Edmonton at least improve into the 80% success range. They do not have a true shutdown blueliner and that hurts, but they have speed which is what the Rangers used and that may be what Renney utilizes here to straighten things out.
Depth:
F: Brule, MacIntyre, Paukovich, Jacques, Potulny, Reddox, Stone, Lefebvre, McDonald, Minard
D: Peckham, Nickerson
G: Dubnyk

What’s Left
Payroll: 54.5 mil 3.25
UFA: Corazzini, Spurgeon, Young, Goulet
RFA:

The Oilers do have some big commitments that they are not getting value out of (see Penner, Horcoff so far) and thus do not have much to work with. They have some young players to offer up to get that coveted scorer they seek but the other problem is attracting players to Edmonton. The big tonic though will be winning and if they get off to a good start, maybe the appeal of playing on a good, young, rising club will bring a needed scoring star to Edmonton.

Draft Picks R1/10 M. Paajarvi-Svensson (LW)
R2/40 A. Lander (C)
R3/71 T. Hesketh (D)
R3/82 C. Abney (RW)
R4/99 K. Bigos (D)
R4/101 T. Rajala (RW)
R5/133 O. Roy (G)

A projected top 5 pick, Paajarvi-Svensson did fall to the Oilers at the 10th spot and the hope is he makes the teams that passed him pay. He is a very talented player who’s only mark is a lack of finish. He has great size, speed is not a problem and can beat anyone one on one. If in the next couple of seasons he can find the net more often, the Oilers will have a big steal, perhaps the biggest of the 2009 draft.
Top Prospects:F: Riley Nash, Chris Vande Velde, Ryan O’Marra, Rob Schremp, Linus Omark, Jordan Eberle
D: Taylor Chorney, Jeff Petry, Alex Plante, Cody Wild,
G: Jeff Deslauriers

There are some good, highly skilled pros
pects with the Oil. Eberle was a star at the WJC and is a natural goal scorer. That is exactly what the team needs. While other parts of his game need work, the team hopes he can get good enough in those areas so that he can bring his scoring prowess to the big club sooner than later. Omark is a terrific one on one player who scored one of the prettiest goals last season by anyone.

Chorney is not a big man, but has heart, has grit, has leadership potential and thats what has the Oilers excited. The team needs more heart and soul types to shed that soft label they’ve gotten. He is too a talented player capable of starting and/or joining the rush and being a solid offensive contributor on the backend.

Outlook: The Oilers are young and raw and with a new coach, will probably need some time to adjust. The staff is going to be around a while so immediate success, if not found, will not be the end of the world. The team has lots of potential, but may not be ready to challenge out west just yet. They are a couple of scorers away plus a shutdown defenceman/stronger defensive forwards and grittier forwards would help in a big way. It could be a long year but if progress is made in the development of their youth, it may all be worth it for Edmonton.


7 Responses to New Coaches Bring Fresh Change to Edmonton

  1. leafy says:

    Pat will get them going. Chances are pretty good the Oilers will fill the net.

  2. RossCreek says:

    Some roster moves from Oil City…

    Rob Schremp claimed off waivers by NY Islanders.
    Liam Reddox put on waivers for the purpose of assignment to Springfield (there is some thought that St. Louis may have interest).
    Theo Peckham was assigned to Springfield.
    Lines at practice today…
    Jacques — Horcoff — Hemsky
    O’Sullivan — Comrie — Stone
    Penner — Brule — Cogliano
    Moreau — Gagner — Stortini

    Pisani & Pouliot on IR; Nilsson & MacIntyre spares.
    Looks like opening day roster.
  3. FlamingHomer says:

    Against who? Check out the defense and goalies in their Division. Maybe if they played Colorado 82 times but they don't.

  4. FlamingHomer says:

    I would imagine that since half the team was named in trades that failed to happen they will be pretty motivated. Yes, that is sarcasm.

  5. cam7777 says:

    Well, I'm no Oil fan, but I predict the Wild to be absolutely horrendous this year.  They will be able to score against the lesser teams, with smaller D (ie. Phoenix, Los Angeles, Dallas, Minnie, Colorado, St.Louis, Columbus).  But yea, they will be owned by the Flames and Canucks.

  6. FlamingHomer says:

    I wouldn't underestimate LA, St. Lou and Columbus. If Phoenix can forget about their off-ice issues, they have some good players as well. I'm not sure what a coaching change and adding Havlat is going to do to Minnie but you could be right. Or wrong. Dallas will likely suck as you noted.
    Edmonton is going to have to play a perfect system to be any kind of a threat with the players they have.

  7. leafy says:

    Probably. There's just something about Pat Quinn teams, they always seem to score, ever since he started coaching in 1978.  He's got a pretty solid offensive system.

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