One of the things I got a kick out of Thursday night was the TSN panel. During the second intermission Darren Dreger was talking about which Oilers were most likely to be traded. During his discussion he listed Sam Gagner as a 2nd or 3rd line center. After Gagner’s 5 point third period Dreger changed his opinion, saying Gagner is at worst a 2nd line center. I agree that with legitimate top 6 wingers Gagner would be a great 2nd line center. He has the will, the effort, some fantastic skill, and he’s still only 22. I would prefer that the Oilers keep him, but would accept him being traded for a top pairing d-man who is signed long term (i.e. I really hope they don’t trade him for Ryan Suter, only to see Suter leave via free agency this summer). Hopefully Gagner can continue to light it up for the rest of the season, but even if not, he gave us a night to remember for a long time, with the only 8-point NHL game by anyone in his lifetime.
The other thing that caught my attention from the panel Thursday night was Aaron Ward’s comments on Cam Barker.
He said that a member of the Minnesota Wild told him that Barker was a player to watch. He further stated that he thinks Cam Barker is part of the solution in Edmonton. And of course they showed some clips (well 2) of some good plays he made in the game. At first I was sceptical; I mean this is Cam Barker, the slow footed, overpaid d-man who was bought out last summer that we’re talking about. But then I remembered hearing somewhere that during his time away from the game due to his most recent injury he worked out extensively and lost some weight. He is still fairly young (only 25), especially for a defenseman, and if he can improve his foot speed and defensive game he may be a decent player. I’m one that doesn’t buy the draft pedigree argument, but I still think he is a possible player. I’m still not convinced mind you, but if he can stay healthy the rest of the season, then I hope the Oilers play him lots to find out what kind of player he is (similar to Dubnyk). If he could become a legitimate top 4 player that would be huge for the Oilers.
Speaking of playing unproven players lots, I thought I would share my thoughts on Grants wins vs high draft pick poll. I would rather have wins, and that is what I voted for in the poll, but that doesn’t necessarily fully explain my opinion. While I always hope the Oilers win every game, at this point in the ‘rebuild’ I would rather see player development. Preferably we can have both, but of the two I pick the latter. For example I hope the Oilers play Dubnyk a lot over the remainder of the season, even if he struggles and Khabby plays great. Sure we may lose a few more games (though I don’t think playing Dubnyk over Khabby will have that effect), but we will have a better idea of whether Dubnyk can be our number one goalie going forward.
As we approach the trade deadline we all know there will be changes. It now appears certain that Hemsky is gone, which would leave us with only 4 top six forwards (Hall, Eberle, Gags, and RNH) in my opinion. Unless someone is brought in via trade, a call up will be in order to replace Hemmer. I personally think Paajarvi should stay in OKC but I don’t know who should get the call, maybe Hartikainen, maybe Cornet, or Keller, or maybe even Pitlick or Hamilton. Whoever it is I hope he plays with two of our top four, and gets significant PP time.
To me it seems like every year at this time we see a parade of players come up from the AHL to audition for spots for next year. Some only stay for a game or two, others stay for weeks, but we get a good look at a number of players. I hope this happens again this year. Yes this will likely negatively affect the win column, but I think it is more important for the Oilers to get a look at what they have then win games.
On the back end I think Sutton is also gone, which is fine by me. Yes we need depth and Sutton has played great, but due to his suspension history, combined with his age and ufa status, I think we should trade him by the deadline. I would like to see Petry, Barker, and Potter to continue to get big minutes, and with Whitney back and Gilbert coming back soon (we hope) we have too many d-men, and I would rather see Sutton traded than Peckham.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I prefer finding out what we have over wins, but wins over a high draft pick. Hopefully that make sense to you; it does to me, but I realize my brain is a little warped at times…