Greetings from Dominican and Oilers talk
I've been very busy lately and haven't had much time to post a blog. I'm currently working in the Caribbean trying to fix a mess at the Barrick gold mine. It's a different world down here, one get's used to expecting the unexpected the longer you stay. There is also a thing called Dominican time, which basically means do not expect anything to happen very quickly. 6 months of work could very well develop into 12 months.
As you would assume, hockey has been one of the furthest things from my mind; 30 degrees Celsius with 100% humidity isn't exactly hockey kind of weather. However, the past couple of days with news that Nugent-Hopkins may lace it up for the World Juniors and what sounds like progress between the NHLPA and NHL has me back to thinking puck.
I'd be ecstatic to come home for Christmas and watch two of the Oilers first overalls face off against one another. Yakupov and Nugent-Hopkins will be a special treat for an Oilers fan. We will finally get to see RNH dawn the Canadian jersey, as he rightfully should, and for Oilers fans seeing Russia potentially taking gold won't be as heartbreaking as in the past (don't get me wrong, it'll still hurt).
It's extremely rare for such prolific players to be available for these games, in fact the last time two first overall picks played in this tournament was back in 1994. The '94 NHL lockout paved the way for Canada's dominance with high picks Ed Jovanovski, Wade Redden, Jason Allison, Marty Murray and Darcy Tucker to lead the way and claim gold. If the NHL remains in lockout expect one of the most memorable World Juniors in history.
I know many are following the NHL lockout closely and have their fingers crossed hoping for a deal to be struck. There are rumours that the league has their sites set for a boxing day start. This would allow the league to play a season somewhere between 48 to 56 games. As much as I'd like to see it happen there's a small part of me hoping for the league to start once the World Junior Hockey Championship is a wrap.
If and when the league does kick-start, expect some changes made to the Oilers roster. Hold off on those #64 Yakupov jersey's folks, an amnesty clause is bound to be introduced which may offer the Oilers the ability to buy out Shawn Horcoff's contract. Additionally, Khabibulin re-injured his groin and given his age and contract status I wouldn't expect to see him back. Same goes for Sutton who sustained a knee injury over the summer which is being considered career ending.
The Oilers will be looking to fill a void in net, either by acquisition or promotion. Denis has been more hot than cold during his time in OKC which could very well mean he is called up as Dubnyk's relief. Once Horcoff is let go a centre man will be on the wish list as well.
Some have argued that Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins is a fine example of a 1 and 2 combo but there are also those that believe size is an issue. I'm not sure where Tambellini and Lowe stand on that subject, but with Stauffer hinting at a "wow" trade I can't help to think this could be it.
What about Hall at centre? I don't think it's happening. The question came up during a media scrum with Todd Nelson and he said there were no plans of moving Hall to that position, not even for a looksy. I don't think Hall at centre ice is a smart move as it doesn't favour his game. A Taylor Hall blazing down the boards and beating opponents with sheer speed won't happen at centre, it shouldn't even be up for discussion.
The lockout does bring it's positives to an Oilers team. Some aging players will be ousted and fresh legs will be called up from the Oklahoma Barons. The Oilers could actually make a legitimate run for the playoffs. However, we'll need a new goalie to properly support Dubnyk, a new centre, and another defenseman. Basically the same needs as previous season, tell us something you didn't already know … eh?
PS: I see Edmonton is getting dumped on, call me when it's spring. You'll find me here:
Image: Valley in province of Cotui, Dominican Republic