So what happens when Sam comes back? Even though the Edmonton Oilers are mired in a tough stretch to start the 2013-14 NHL season, there have been a few bright spots on the roster. The most prominent being the play of unheralded centre Mark Arcobello. The primary fear entering the season were the injuries to both of the team’s top two pivots, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, and the organization’ s paper-thin depth to replace them. Arcobello has not only filled in admirably, he leads the team’s centres in scoring and is the second best face-off man behind free agent acquisition Boyd Gordon.
Gagner is planning on coming back ahead of schedule, so what do the Oilers do when he reappears?
One of the fears of many Oilers’ fans prior to the start of training camp was Sam Gagner’s 5’11’ frame. The irony is that with his injury an even smaller player took his place in the form of Arcobello, who stands at a tiny 5’8″ and 166lbs. However, size hasn’t been a deterrent with Arcobello and he has not looked out of place; he has provided a solid presence on the top two scoring lines and posted positive possession numbers.
Can the Oilers send Arcobello back to OKC and expect him to clear waivers?
The answer to that question is ‘no’. He has shown enough to start the season that it is more than likely a team would put in a claim. The better bet would be to either send Will Acton to the press box or to the farm and use Boyd Gordon in his customary 3rd/4th line role. To those who will argue, “but Gordon’s our leading goal scorer!”- it should be pointed out that Gordon’s shooting percentage is an unsustainable 36.4% and he has never scored more than 8 goals in a season. It is very unlikely he will lead the team for long. Will Acton has been good on the dot winning 54.8% of his draws, but he has been bleeding chances to the other team and the ice has a definite tilt towards the Oilers goal when he is on the ice. It would be better for a team which endeavors to play a puck possession game to move Acton out.
A lineup with Gagner could be envisioned as such:
Hall – RNH – Eberle
Perron – Gagner – Yakupov
Smyth- Arcobello – Hemsky
Joensuu – Gordon – Brown/Gazdic/Jones
( insert your own variations)
The point is the Oilers could roll three skill lines and one dedicated and effective checking line; a checking line that doesn’t have to concede a grossly uneven number of chances to the other team.
Combine that with some semi-competent goaltending and the season may not be over yet.
Until next time,