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STAUFFER STUFF: Three storylines

by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers

Three storylines emerged over the last week and none should come as a surprise for those of you who follow the team closely.


Left to Right: Kelly Buchberger, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Andrew Ference and Dallas Eakins

Saturday night at a team function at Edmonton Oilers Owner Daryl Katz’s house, Andrew Ference was named team captain.

In the second week of July on “Oilers Now” we discussed if the recently-signed Ference was a viable option to replace the traded Shawn Horcoff as captain of the Edmonton Oilers.

The theory was if the Philadelphia Flyers acquired then-Oilers captain Jason Smith in the summer of 2007 and named him captain, why couldn’t the Oilers do the same by bringing in a veteran leader from a good Boston Bruins team and make Ference the captain.

There was defensible arguments supporting having Ference as a captain or Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle and, once he signed a three-year deal, Sam Gagner as well.

In late August an Oilers blogger suggested that the decision had already been made and that Gagner would be the captain. Again, Gagner certainly merited consideration to be the captain. But, to suggest that Head Coach Dallas Eakins (who we were told repeatedly by Oilers GM Craig MacTavish would be making the decision) had already made up his mind without ever seeing his players interact with each other in the dressing room and on ice was premature.

As the Oilers main camp opened in the middle of September, Ference made an appearance on “Oilers Now” and discussed for lack of a better term a philosophical kinship with Eakins during the recruiting process that occurred prior to the opening day of Free Agency on July 5th.

It was clear during that conversation with Ference and also from Eakins’ comments about Ference that the two were on the same wavelength.

In the end it was not a surprise that Ference was named the captain.

By doing so it also allows the Oilers' younger core of talented players like Hall, Eberle, Gagner, Justin Schultz, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov to grow organically into the inevitable roles of leaders down the road.


Will Acton

As far back as the second week of June, the name Will Acton was being mentioned as a possibility as a fourth-line centre for the Edmonton Oilers. This was PRIOR to the hiring of his father Keith as an Oilers Assistant Coach.

Acton is not the sexiest name out there and his offensive numbers in the AHL are underwhelming at best. But once the Oilers named Dallas Eakins as a Head Coach, logic dictated that maybe one or two of his players who grew with the Toronto Marlies may get a shot in Edmonton.

Eakins knew exactly what Acton could do and kept him in a fourth-line checking/energy/PK role throughout pre-season. After a couple of indifferent performances against Vancouver in exhibition games Acton got engaged against Winnipeg and elevated in the final couple of pre-season tilts.

Down in Oklahoma City it can be argued that Acton was the Oilers best forward, which by the way is not a ringing endorsement for how the rest of the team played on Friday night.

Basically Acton beat out Anton Lander - especially once Mark Arcobello was propelled in the number two centre spot when Sam Gagner had his jaw broken.

Lander remains a player with bigger upside then Acton but needs to restore his confidence playing every night in OKC as at-minimum a second line centre.

The Oilers need to stick with Lander and really develop both he and Jujhar Khaira in particular amongst their young forward prospects due to the importance of having organizational depth down the middle.

At the 2011 Penticton Young Stars Tournament, Lander looked like a stone-cold lock to be a third line NHL centre by now.

It has not happened. But playing 16-18 minutes a night in OKC now instead of 8-10 minutes a night in Edmonton is better long term for Lander. And I have a strong feeling that Acton will be fine with those 8-10 minutes a night here at this time.


Luke Gazdic (photo by Steven Christy / OKC Barons)

Throughout the course of the summer Oilers GM Craig MacTavish repeatedly made mention of the fact that the team needed to add some “meat” to the line-up.

MacTavish was true to his words, first claiming heavyweight Steve MacIntyre and then claiming Luke Gazdic Sunday.

It is my belief that the Oilers would have claimed Gazdic even if MacIntyre hadn’t suffered a lower-body injury, ironically running Gazdic Friday night in OKC.

At 33 years old MacIntyre is what he is…a limited super-heavyweight.

At 24, Gazdic has a chance to play as a regular fourth line winger providing the Oilers with functional toughness.

I do not see Gazdic as a short term solution here. He has definite opportunity to secure long-term full-time NHL employment with the Edmonton Oilers.

Bob Stauffer is Radio Analyst of the Oilers Broadcasts on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” Monday thru Friday Noon to 2:00PM on 630 CHED. You can follow him on Twitter at @Bob_Stauffer

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