October 13, 2010 // 10:45am ET
Riding the 'Big Three'
By Marsha Boyd, TheFourthPeriod.com

EDMONTON, AB -- With training camp over, the roster set and the 2010-11 season underway, the Edmonton Oilers start the new campaign with hope.

Hope has not been seen in these parts since June 2006 when the Oilers lost Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup final. The Oilers did not make the playoffs in the subsequent four years and dropped to last place last year.

However, there is hope in Oil Country. Their names are Jordan Eberle, Magnus Pääjärvi and Taylor Hall.

Along with Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Dustin Penner, Edmonton's Top-6 has the city energized and anticipating a much-improved team.
 

This rebuild will not happen overnight. There will be growing pains and slumps. After four years of dreadful hockey, fans are ready to ride this wave of exhilaration and watch this young team develop into something special.

With the conclusion of training camp, there were few surprises when it came to roster selection. The 'Big Three' were all but guaranteed a roster spot before camp even started, but each earned their spot.

Pääjärvi and Eberle especially seem ready for the NHL with Hall a step behind as he played more tentative and indecisively. However, all three made this team on merit. They deserved to be on the ice on opening night.

There has been talk in the Oilogosphere that Hall and Pääjärvi should not have started in Edmonton as to save their entry-level contract and not waste a year. While contracts do play a factor in roster selection, as we saw at training camp with several other players, a player should never be held back when he appears NHL ready.

Hall did not have as great a training camp and pre-season as Eberle and Pääjärvi did, but both of those players have played against men (Paajarvi in the Swedish Elite League and Eberle with two stints in the AHL) so they should appear ahead of Hall.

But to hold a player back simply to save starting his entry level deal is silly and dangerous. It will not save you money nor help the team to win later.

As I mentioned before, contract status has come into play. Liam Reddox worked his butt off and had a very good camp. However, he is on a two-way deal, and as an even more important factor, he lacks in size. Reddox was waived, went unclaimed and his roster spot was given to Ryan Jones, who is bigger, stronger and a typical fourth liner who will use his physical play to help out a small Oilers team.

The other spot up for grabs was the sixth/seventh defenseman. Three players vied for this spot but it was claimed by Theo Peckham, an Oilers draftee who plays with a more physical edge than Richard Petiot or Shawn Belle. It was a tight race, but the deciding factor was that Peckham is more physical and might have been claimed on waivers if sent down. Petiot especially played quite well but is more of a puck-moving defenseman and the Oilers needed some crust on their bottom pairing.

Several other players made a name for themselves during camp. The Oilers finally have some depth in their organization and fans look forward to some call-ups such as Linus Omark, who had some parting words for the Oilers. He claimed politics were at play and he is partially right. He came into camp when the 'Big Three' were all but assured a spot on the team.

Omark is another small, skilled player and the Oilers have an abundance; and there were only so many spots open on the roster. He needs to play Top-6 minutes, not time on a grinding line. Omark was one of the last cuts and it's understandable that he would be upset. Let's hope this will be a motivating factor and he rips up the AHL. His contract does not have an out this year so he will play either in Oklahoma or as a call-up for the Oilers. Next year he has an out to return to Europe if he does not make the Oilers.

Oil Notes

Sheldon Souray was told to stay home and not show up to camp. Souray and his agent wanted it in writing and while he waited, he showed up in Edmonton and claimed he was ready for camp. He knew all along that he would not be welcome and displayed the very reason why the Oilers do not want him around the young players, even if it would have aided in a trade.

Souray proved to be a toxic and no one wanted him around the kids. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has been working the phones for months and so far a trade has been unsuccessful. Souray was assigned/loaned to the Hershey Bears of the AHL, an affiliate for the Washington Capitals. He will either play the entire year in Hershey, be called up on re-entry waivers or traded.

To carry three goalies or not to carry three goalies?

That is the question! It appears that the Oilers decided to move forward with all three goalies to start the season.

I suspect Tambellini is overvaluing his two back-up goalies, Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk, and they would clear waivers without a problem. The Oilers started with three goalies last year for the same reason. They could still be placed on waivers but will likely rotate as backup to Nikolai Khabibulin.

If anyone gets waived or traded, all signs point to Deslauriers. When? No one knows, not even management.

Khabibulin is the team's No.1. He is coming off a shortened season that saw him play only 18 games and undergo surgery for a herniated disk.

The new captain for the Edmonton Oilers is Shawn Horcoff, the 13th in franchise history. Lucky #13! After his worst season as an Oiler and with a big fat contract in his hand, Horcoff needs to return to form (and I believe he will), put up some points but also kill penalties and win faceoffs.

Marsha Boyd covers the Edmonton Oilers for TheFourthPeriod.com
 



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