SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers coach drops hints

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

If there were no existing contracts and none of these players had any history in Edmonton, you get the feeling Pat Quinn's final roster would look a little different from the one he's going to end up with.

Based strictly on what he's seen, or hasn't seen, from some of his veteran forwards through two weeks of training camp and eight preseason games, the head coach still has some serious concerns heading into cutdown day.

"Three of the four coaches are really new to this group, so in a two-week assessment period, and with some of the injuries, I think there are tons of questions yet," said Quinn, who isn't getting as many answers as he was hoping for.

"Some of them haven't competed as well as you think is necessary to become the kind of team that's going to be a playoff team, so you wait for that to happen, but in the meantime you've got a bunch of selections to make.

"If you're a veteran, or one who's spent two or three years here and hasn't shown anything to the coaching staff, then we're guessing. We're going off past reports."

SEVERAL CUTS

After cutting Rob Schremp, Jordan Eberle and Kip Brennan last night, the Oilers are down to 17 forwards for 14 spots, with several newcomers pushing hard for spots.

If it was as simple as the best guys win, Quinn hinted that some of last year's players might not be this year's players.

"I'm watching how they play, do they compete?," he said. "I know some of them have skill, I watch them in the morning, but some guys are really morning glories. They can dance and do all the pretty stuff in the morning skate, but when the other team comes in and you drop the puck, it changes."

In this day and age, however, cutting a veteran means moving a contract, and that takes place at the management level -- coaches are almost bystanders in the selection process. As much as Quinn would like to believe his eyes and not his ears, his hands might be tied.

"The selection does involve management, they have the last call all the time," he said, admitting "there's not a solid agreement on the 14 forwards."

Fernando Pisani and Marc Pouliot, coming off sub-par years, are on the limp while Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson haven't stood out like everyone had hoped, but there are reputations, upsides and contracts to consider.

"Some guys are going to get their job that way," said Quinn. "Some guys are going to get their jobs because of what they've done in the past, that's always the case on any team you're ever with. We intend to make them better, or help them become better as a coaching staff. And sometimes you can't make them better, they are what they are."

The Oilers' past should hardly be cause for any sort of job security (just ask Craig MacTavish). Players who've missed the post-season three times in a row are getting a break because they've been here for a while doesn't seem like the greatest plan moving forward, but that's hockey.

All of which leaves guys like Ryan Stone and Gilbert Brule on the bubble. Based on nothing but the last two weeks, they've been better than half a dozen veterans. Worked harder, played hungrier.

WANTS CRUSTY PLAYERS

"(Stone) plays with a little crust and we've got five or six guys who have no crust," said Quinn. "That's an area of their game they have to get better at. We're looking for that balance. We're not going to be 14 creampuffs because we won't be able to win anything. We have to have some bite in our game someplace and he's one of the guys who's brought that."

Enough of it to displace a veteran or two?

"Those are not going to be easy decisions for our management to make," said Quinn.

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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