Sunday, September 28, 2014

Time For Pitlick To Claim A Roster Spot

The moment Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish decided to bring Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell on board for the upcoming 2014-15 campaign, Tyler Pitlick had to have been wondering if he had missed his opportunity to stick with the team that drafted him back in 2010. 

After being given the opportunity to make his NHL debut in 2013-14 and showing signs of being a guy who could possibly contribute something to the team in a bottom six role, the numbers game may have finally caught up to the former thirty-first overall pick. 

With the Oilers roster being as young as it currently is and the organization seemingly in the midst of what has become a never ending vortex of losing, waiting for Pitlick to find his way has clearly been moved to the backburner. As of this moment, there is a maximum of two and possibly only one spot available on the wing and the former Medicine Hat Tiger could be in real tough to find his way onto the opening night roster. 

The group of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, David Perron, Pouliot, Nail Yakupov, Purcell and Matt Hendricks are locks and Luke Gazdic will probably be given a shot at claiming one of the remaining spots when he is back to full health. One would guess Dallas Eakins will carry seven defencemen and five centres to start the year, though if they decide to keep a kid like Darnell Nurse around for a nine game audition, he could have eight blueliners start the season in Edmonton. 

Which leave the likes of Jesse Joensuu, Steve Pinizzotto and Pitlick to battle for that final spot or two. Despite putting together what was less than a memorable campaign during his first year in Orange and Blue, the big Finn found himself on a line with Hendricks and Boyd Gordon to start camp and that should not be ignored. 

Some believe the club will just bury Joensuu in the AHL or farm him out to a club overseas before the year starts but considering how much money Daryl Katz has had to cough up over the last number of years to both coaches and players who no longer have anything to do with the organization, something tells me he will be in no rush to throw another $1 million away unless he absolutely has to do it. 

Could a potential Hendricks-Gordon-Pitlick combination work in a third/fourth line role? In my mind it would. While he has yet to show at the pro level, the American winger has the necessary tools to chip in offensively, to go with a good set of wheels and a willingness to throw his weight around when called upon. Sounds like a no-brainer of a decision but unfortunately there are a couple of red flags when it come Mr.Pitlick. 

One is his inability to stay healthy and the other is his tendency to be absolutely invisible on far too many occasions. Whether you are fan of a guy like Gazdic or not, at least for the time being, he has role on this team but it likely will not be on a nightly basis. Which brings us to the question, who would you rather have in the lineup as your fourth line winger when Gazdic isn’t dressed? 

While the choices may be limited, it will come down to one of Joensuu, Pinizzotto, Pitlick or a guy like Anton Lander, who will probably start the season as the fifth centre. From a talent level and overall game standpoint, the answer is obvious but it is up to the guy who currently wears the No. 68 on his back to prove it to this coaching staff. 

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