Fernando will be missed

BOB STAUFFER

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

The unfortunate news surrounding Fernando Pisani's battle with ulcerative colitis will have several ramifications for the upcoming season for the Edmonton Oilers.

It is unlikely that the hard-working overachiever will see action in the first quarter of the season.

Though we are not talking about a top- line star here, the fact is Pisani has been one of head coach Craig MacTavish's most reliable players as evidenced by a respectful plus/minus rating of -1 in 2006-07 despite playing significant hard minutes.

Oilers General Manger Kevin Lowe has gone on record as saying that he does not envision the Oilers signing one of the still available unrestricted free agents still on the market as a short term solution.

My take is that Oilers will be shooting for bigger game.

Here's the deal.

The team is still unsure how long Pisani could be out for, but if he does not take to any medication in the near future, surgery is likely inevitable, at which case the Edmonton native could end up missing the season.

Kyle Brodziak is probably the player that has the best chance to fill Pisani's role in the short term. He too is an overachiever who is defensively reliable and can chip in a little offensively.

Brodziak is in better shape now then he was a year ago at this time, which will increase his chances.

Robert Nilsson has nothing left to prove at the American Hockey League level, and will be given an audition most likely on the Oilers second line with Raffi Torres and Jarret Stoll.

Nilsson should also see a fair amount of time on the powerplay.

Two variables will come into play for Nilsson at the start, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner.

Gagner has showed poise beyond his years in the Canada-Russia Junior Summit Series, and he has defensive awareness.

Cogliano has already won two World Junior Gold Medals.

A strong camp by either Gagner or Cogliano could muddy the waters for full-blown Nilsson audition.

If the Oilers struggle offensively in the first quarter of the season to score goals, or if Nilsson can't take the next step you can bet that the Lowe will be looking to deal from a position of strength (defence) to address need (offence).

The Oilers feel they have nine NHL defencemen: Sheldon Souray, Joni Pitkanen, Steve Staios, Matt Greene, Dick Tarnstrom, Ladislav Smid, Denis Grebeskhov, Mathieu Roy and Tom Gilbert.

By the 20-game mark we should have some questions answered on Pitkanen and Grebeskhov in particular.

It is my guess that Pitkanen is the player that intrigues other NHL GM's the most. He, along with at least one other roster player, would be the cost of trading for a young top six forward that can score.

If the Oilers can't get a player of that ilk, let's say a Mike Cammalleri-type, I foresee Dick Tarnstrom and not Steve Staios maybe being in a play for a veteran scorer in the last year of a contract.

To me the Oilers still need "Steady Steve's" experience and guile around, and with the addition of Souray and Pitkanen; Tarnstrom could be expendable.

STEP IT UP ALEX

After the NHL draft, I hammered the Oilers for passing on Russian star forward Alex Cherepanov and selecting Alex Plante out of the Calgary Hitmen.

Well, the early returns are in and Cherepanov is starting to make me look like a donkey.

The Oilers need scorers, and Cherepanov was dynamic at the World Juniors but his act at the Canada-Russia Summit Series has been embarrassing.

After being a no-show early he slewfoots Brandon Sutter, and then gets run in retaliation and proceeds to pull the chute on the tourney.

It's still too early to decide who if they Oilers were wrong on passing on the Russian, but his recent actions lend credence to the Oilers decision.

So too does happenings around other Russian players like Alexandr Svitov who walked while still under contract with Scott Howson's Columbus Blue Jackets and Andrei Taratukhin who bailed on the Calgary Flames; with both players returning to Mother Russia.


Videos

Photos