The Oilers placed their physical enforcer Steve MacIntyre on waivers this morning.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins said that the move was because MacIntyre, who has been out of the lineup due to a knee injury suffered in the team's final pre-season game against Dallas, needed to play somewhere and it wasn't going to be Edmonton at this time.
"Mac's been out for a long time and we needed to play," said Eakins. "Where we're at right now as a team, with a full lineup, there's not a place for him to play here right now. You run the risk of losing a guy like that on waivers and I'm always torn on these."
While Eakins said it wasn't necessarily a choice of one player over another, the move was also clearly made easier to make due to the play of rookie Luke Gazdic. The former Dallas Stars prospect was claimed off of waivers at the start of the season and has shown improvement on his forecheck and in the energy he brings when he steps onto the ice.
Gazdic has also served well in the role originally expected to be filled by MacIntryre. He has become the deterrent to opponent mischief that the team needs.
"I think it's important right now for our group," said Eakins. "I know there's a lot of people out there who think that has nothing to do with the game. They've never stood on the bench and see how it ignites your bench. I think it's important for all of our players to stand up for each other. It shows that you care."
Gazdic's fight card this season has filled up with big, veteran heavyweights and seasoned fighters like Chris Thorburn, Brian McGrattan, Jared Boll, Jay Rosehill and Brandon Prust.
"I think I've just been trying to play my game to the fullest since I've been here," said Gazdic. "I've been trying to keep it simple and just do everything that the coach has asked. I've been trying to be a good teammate on and off the ice. They've made some decisions to let a couple of guys go now and I can't control that. All I'm controlling is the way I play and the way I carry myself at the rink everyday. I've just been trying to be a good teammate since I've been here."
While the Oilers move to waive MacIntyre shows trust in Gazdic, the young fourth-line forward is not letting that make him feel too comfortable with his spot on the team.
"Obviously, it gives me more of a sense of comfortability. I'm never going to settle down and get too comfortable. Everyday, I am still treating it as a tryout. You never know what can happen in this game and obviously, it's a bit like a business. One day you could be here and the next day you're gone. I'm just trying to keep my head on a level playing field here and trying to bring a good attitude to the rink everyday and work."