No Centre Ice again this year means I'm not catching many Oilers games (I've missed both Canucks and the Sharks games so far), and the ones that have been on have all been west of me so by the time they end, I'm pretty bagged. By the time I feel up to writing about them, those damn Albertans like Grabia and Lowetide have already gone and written everything I was going to, and more besides.
Nevertheless, here is my attempt at the season so far.
Like MacTavish (I do listen to all the edmontonoilers.com podcasts, and if you don't you ought to), I've been disappointed with the even strength play, although there hasn't been as much of it as there ought to be. Too many stupid penalties. Lots of lazy hooking and interference calls, not enough 2 minutes for being big. At least they're not taking retaliation penalties.
I was a bit worried about Joffrey Lupul, but so far he seems to be settling in. He's not as physical as most of us would like, but unless they're named Moreau or Smith, I doubt anybody is anyway. He floats sometimes, but so did Brett Hull and he made a nice career out of it. He's shown at least a willingness to sometimes go hard into traffic, even if he's not great at it, and he has shown hustle on the backcheck - while he still needs a map to find his own end sometimes, at least he's not a total centre ice suck. If he keeps working at it, the goals will come, there's too much talent around him for them not to.
Sykora's settling in nicely as well - I was worried he'd be a Czech Samsonov, the way some people who'd seen him more were talking, but I don't suppose that Stanley Cup came to him by accident. (Not that Sammy was bad, mind you. But for a guy with a shot as good as his, you'd have liked to have seen him use it more often. Him and Hemsky on the power play together could be unbearable.)
The blueline's holding up so far, but too many shots against. Are they blocking as many shots as they used to, or otherwise preventing them with solid positional play? Pronger's disappearance sure isn't helping in that department. They'll sink or swim, and if the former, Lowe's certainly got the moxie and the chips to make a trade. He'll need to find a partner though.
Roloson is 2006 Cup Run Roli, not Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Backup, which is great news considering the previous and the first paragraphs. Obviously his knee is 100%, which is great news for the Oilers and bad news bears for the Western Conference. He's already won them more games this season than Conkkanen were able to all last year.
Tjarnqvist seems to have quickly found his niche - Lowe's pulled another quality defenceman out of another team's discard pile. I don't know if Roloson is better than Fernandez, but if wins count, he is - Minny's got to be shaking their collective heads right now, that's two in a row.
The rest of the guys... well, Horcoff is playing well, but he's not the world-beater he showed himself to be last season, and Hemsky still needs to shoot more. Smyth is Smyth, showing leadership and class all the way. The rest of the forwards are doing ok, and it looks like Markkanen's able to step in enough to at least give Roloson a break. What more could an Oilers fan ask for? Cut down on the penalties and the shots against (better backchecking by the forwards?) and they'll be fine. Keep going the way they have been, and they'd better hope Roloson can keep it up, or it'll be a long season.