Now that we are a third of the way through the season, I'd like to share my thoughts on the play of our esteemed Edmonton Oiler forwards.
Dustin Penner: At what point do we accept that his play so far this year is sustainable. By all accounts, he looks like a new player. His shot totals are up, he's carrying the puck a lot more and he's among the team leaders in Corsi. I don't quite understand how a few lost pounds, some extra minutes on the PK and a new coach brought about this transformation, but I'm happy that my team is reaping the benefits.
Ales Hemsky: I absolutely find the criticism of #83 that I've been reading of late to be utterly baseless. In particular, the idea that 83 is 'underperforming' is laughable. Here's a guy who faces the oppositions best and comes out on top. That's a rare breed in the NHL, and he will be missed.
Sam Gagner: I'm seeing a lot of progress in his game. This is the strongest he has ever been on his skates and he's starting to win his share of battles down low. He needs to develop this aspect of his game, as he does not have the speed nor the shiftiness to be a difference maker without being hard on the puck. I am quite happy with how he is developing, he's proving that he's one of those guys that wants to get better and is willing to work for it.
Gilbert Brule: I'm afraid that a lot of his success so far this year is smoke and mirrors. His shooting percentage is up to 20%, and he's been picking up points in more than his share of the offense when he's on the ice. It's not all bad though, I see a lot to like in his game. While I don't think he's going to consistently hit 60-70 points in the NHL, I still believe that he can be a useful player. He hits, he skates hard, can make a pass and has a plus shot. It looks to me like he can become an outscoring 3rd line winger or tear it up in a second line soft minute role.
Patrick O'Sullivan: I'm actually a big fan of his. I think he's relatively hard on the puck, possesses some shiftiness and can win his share of battles. He hasn't had much luck so far, with the goaltending behind him posting a .888 save percentage. I think he's a useful top 6 forward that can help the PK and the PP.
Shawn Horcoff: Also having some pretty terrible luck so far this year. He's injured and when he's on the ice our goalies have put up a .872 save percentage. I think it's best for everyone if he opts for surgery and sits the rest of season out. It will certainly help improve our draft position
Andrew Cogliano: So far the hockey Gods have been kind to Andrew. His goaltenders have posted a .952 save percentage while he's been on the ice. This helps to mask the fact that he's been pretty bad so far this year. Part of that has to do with who he's out there lining up with, but I think it's pretty clear that 89 is gaining some clearance.
Dink Dumbshit: Dumbshit has been posting a lot better results lately, having found his place on a line with 13 and 16. Dink's frequent offensive zone penalties however have got to stop. He's also pretty lucky to be in the black of GF/GA, considering that when he's on the ice we manage 25 shots per 60 minutes while giving up 37.
Ryan Potulny: One of the few Oilers that knows his way around the high slot, 16 has done quite well since his call up from Springfield. He most certainly is a bonafide NHL player, and I look forward to watching him play for us for the next few years. This is the kind of cheap bottom-sixer that we need to be competitive.
Jean-Francois Jacques: I'm getting pretty tired of watching JFJ. I love how he hits, but he is such a liability in so many ways when he's on the ice. He makes ill-advised back passes, doesn't win as many battles as he should and despite his plus size does not do a particularly good job getting the puck out of his own zone when its tossed around to his wing. I definitely would like to see him gone after this year. This is exactly the kind of shiny object (he can hit, excellent) that helps your team lose games. He's the opposite of a guy who 'executes'.
Ryan O'Marra: I think there are a lot of things to like about this kid. As long as he's willing to accept a defensive minded 4th line role this year let's see what he's got. It looks like he's gained some traction on his NHL career and perhaps a change of mindset was all he needed to become an effective player.
Colin McDonald: I saw him good in preaseason game last year. If he can bring some size to the 4th line and be hard on the puck I'm all for him being on this team long term. Since this year is all about getting a high draft pick, let's see if McDonald and O'Marra can make up 2/3rds of an NHL 4th line.
Zach Stortini: Love the guy. MacT had it right when he said that Zach is the kind of player that does everything you ask of him. His fighting is down this year but he still gets the puck deep, throws big hits and is not hurting his team defensively. Zach is an excellent energy/4th line NHL forward.
Liam Reddox: Lots of try, not so great results. If only Liam had some size to go along with his game, I think he could really cut a nice role for himself as an NHL energy forward. However, as it stands he's a call up fill in guy, and will probably remain as such for the foreseeable future.
Mike Comrie: The offense fell off after he picked up the flu/mono. I like him in a limited role (soft minutes, 2nd unit PP). He did have a nice nack for creating offense.
Robert Nilsson: With the Hemsky injury ol' Rowbert now has a chance to help us improve our draft position. I say play him a lot Quinn, it will only help us pile up the losses.