Imitating Ken Holland

Jonathan Willis
September 30 2010 12:28AM

NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 22:  Jim Nill (L) and Ken Holland (R) of the Detroit Red Wings share a laugh during the 2003 NHL Entry Draft at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on June 22, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images/NHLI)

Aside from the Lou Lamoriello diehards, most people would agree that the best general manager in the NHL over the last decade or so is Ken Holland of the Detroit Red Wings. And while every year broadcasters, fans, and even NHL teams talk about adopting the model of the latest Stanley Cup winner, there’s been a persistent desire to emulate the Red Wings because of their success.

Fortunately for us, Red Wings G.M. Ken Holland has explained time and again different facets of his strategy, seemingly unafraid that people are going to start taking his advice to heart. And much of what he says is relevant for this year’s edition of the Oilers.

Amid the misery of the last four seasons, fans and broadcasters alike have clamored for the Oilers to imitate the Red Wings’ success. It’s even reached the front office; when John MacKinnon compared the Oilers’ brain-trust to that in Detroit, Steve Tambellini agreed with him. Of course, his biggest signing to date ignores the Red Wings patented ‘build a team, skimp on goalies’ strategy, but that’s a digression for another day.

Instead, I wanted to focus on some comments Ken Holland made in an interview with the website Hockey’s Future, comments that are directly relevant to this season’s Oilers.

On Introducing Prospects To The NHL…

I think we like skills, we don't draft projects. Also, because we have a good team, we don't have to rush anybody, we let the players develop at their own pace. We can afford to be patient with the prospects. We believe it is better to let the players develop correctly, to complete their junior level and eventually play in the AHL or with their European team before playing with the Red Wings. For example, [Henrik] Zetterberg was a very good hockey player, he was 5'10 and only 165 lbs and then grew up a little bit. He was the Rookie of the year in the Swedish League. We left him there one more year, he won the MVP Award there and played at the Olympics.”

Tyler Dellow talked about the Red Wings’ patience in his oft-criticized post on Hall and Paajarvi-Svensson the other day, and in rebuttal Jason Gregor correctly pointed out that because Detroit hasn’t had the luxury of top-10 draft picks. It was a good point, but I think a direct comparison can be made between Zetterberg and Paajarvi-Svensson despite the difference in draft pedigree.

In the summer of 2001, Holland had a choice to make on the soon to be 21-year old Zetterberg. The Swedish prospect was coming off a season that had won him Rookie of the Year honours in the SEL, and in which he had scored 46 points in 47 games. He was far and away the best player on his SEL team – the next leading scorer had just 30 points in 50 games, and while the team was a collective minus-20, Zetterberg was a very respectable minus-2. Despite that, Holland made the decision to leave Zetterberg in the SEL for another season (Zetterberg went on to win player of the year honours and compete in the Olympics, so it’s difficult to argue he wasn’t NHL-ready at that point in time).

It’s worth noting that Zetterberg’s achievements at that point in his career in the SEL are well beyond those of Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, impressive though they are. It’s also worth noting that Zetterberg was a year and a half older than Paajarvi-Svensson when Holland made the decision to leave him in the SEL, for developmental purposes. Given the choice Holland made with Zetterberg, does anyone here really believe that as Oilers’ G.M. he would have cleared off a roster spot for Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson on this year’s team?

I’ve seen the poll on the sidebar, and I realize the course of action I’m pointing too is deeply unpopular among readers of the Nation. But looking at the choices and statements Holland has made, I firmly believe he would have left Paajarvi-Svensson in the SEL for another season, both for development purposes and to stretch the value gained from his entry-level contract. Speaking of which…

On Stretching A Dollar

"In the new world of hockey, you have to rely on the draft and to develop your players. Everybody is now able to spend money on four, five or six players, the rest of the team you either get them out of the draft or you need to find cheap players that nobody else wants. We got some guys that way, like Daniel Cleary, for example.

Holland here points to the value of entry-level contracts in a salary cap world, but his second point – on “cheap players that nobody else wants” – is the one I really want to point to.

By virtue of their last place finish, the Oilers have waiver priority, meaning that they get first pick of any players waived during NHL training camps. Scott Reynolds pointed to this the other day, and suggested it afforded the Oilers a good opportunity to pick up some quality players that couldn’t make deeper lineups.

Again, Holland has never had the advantage of waiver priority, but it’s hard to imagine him not taking advantage of it – especially if he were at the helm of a team as relatively weak as the Oilers. Does it make more sense to keep a guy like Liam Reddox or Jason Strudwick on the roster over some of the players that may yet become available? Obviously, it depends on the list, but I’m hoping that Oilers management is keeping their minds open to the possibility of dropping one of their guys if an attractive reclamation project comes along.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#101 chartleys
September 30 2010, 02:26PM
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@GSC

Fair enough GSC.

I just can't believe how volatile and, in some cases, personal people have taken this suggestion.

I for one think it is a valid, argueable, position. It appears JW does as well. My issue is these weasels still haven't given me much faith they are interested in much more than covering their asses. Sometime last winter they decided they were a last place team (past the point where it was obvious). Since 2006, in an effort to cover their asses they've been whale hunting, pushing players back onto the ice resulting in reccurrent and longer lasting injuries (see Horcoff skating around, unable to take draws AFTER Khab and Hemmer were done for the year, ie not all on Lowe, concussed players being cleared, etc) and generally doing a poor job of acting in the best long term interest of the club.

Now, again in what I believe is in their best interest they are pissing hope into the kool-aid in order to keep the ticket buying fan base in check. They did not really piece together this roster with much, if any real competition for these guys. What they signed were a whole bunch of minor league support (which is what our young guys should be).

The issues against longer development track go out of their way to ignore, what I believe, is actually some pretty strong evidence for it when possible.

Bobby Ryan spent years down there in part due to cap management and it looks like a solid move. The most succesful draft class of the modern era (2003) all spent another year, honing their craft, growing into their bodies, and developing outside the NHL due to the lockout.

I would not be suprised in a bizarro universe if it was found that for every success story out their in this one, there is an overwhelming amount more if badly managed teams did not throw the kids into the deep end. What willis is saying is this is somewhat supported by what I think is a key component of the 'Detroit' model. The fact that they have a way higher success rate with picks than most franchises is because they don't rush them. I think a better, less talked about version is that of Buffalo. I'm, right or wrong, of the opinion that the teams with better development tracks are the guys who seem to bring more talent into the league, and it's development more than scouting that is the long-term competitive difference here.

Yes, no matter how piss poor the Oil's development is, it is probably hard to screw up a guy like Hall...but, the key things people are debating is:

1. A full season in the CHL, followed by the end of the AHL season, plus the World Juniors, plus the AHL playoffs - is likely not going to hurt Hall's development and in fact could help.

2. A full season in the AHL for MPS to adapt his game to North American style along with the much more demanding schedule is likely not going to hurt MPS's development and in fact could help it.

3. Having the MPS's, Halls etc under contract through the undebateably peek years of players careers is more important than selling hope.

And my personal one:

Cup winning defenses do not grow on trees. We are still a year or two out on possibly rounding the corner with some of our defensive prospects. Add to that picking up blue-chip defensive in the open market is not cheap leads me to the belief offsetting the start clock on our front end is probably the best move, long term.

What is unfortunate is these guys rigged the game where these guys appear to be the best players available by default.

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#102 Dan the Man
September 30 2010, 02:33PM
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dawgbone wrote:

No, you called him a hypocrite.

You said that if the Oilers management did do what he's suggesting, he'd be calling them out for doing it.

And this team has missed the playoffs 4 years in a row and finished 30th last year. There's lots of flaws to find with this club and plenty of room to question their decision making.

And the UFA part assumes he has a breakout year right at the end of his deal. What if he has it at 23? The Oilers could use 4 years of RFA as leverage instead of 3 on his next contract. I'm kind of hoping he's going to be an impact player before he's 25/26.

I stated the UFA part as a possibility not as a certainty. As in it's entirely possible that Paajarvi has a better year as a 26 year than as a 25 year old.

Feel free to defend Dellow all you want but keep in mind that stating an opinion on a Blog is a LOT different than having to actually make these decisions for real.

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#103 Chickenplucker
September 30 2010, 02:46PM
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@chartleys

I agree we are lacking in the defensive prospect category and this is one of the reasons I don't agree with Dellow's arguement.

Even if we delay the ELCs of our present day rookies we will still have pay them a year later. If we finish near the bottom again and have another relatively high draft pick we will have to pay them as well. All the good players will get their money.

I can't recall who mentioned it but team dynamics also has a role in building championship teams. Part of Detroit's success was getting a hometown discount on some contracts.

Not playing the rookies because it might be of a benefit to us (contract-wise) in the future does not establish a precedent for positive team dynamics in the future

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#104 Eric Johnson
September 30 2010, 02:47PM
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dawgbone wrote:

This list of decent players still available in September is a lot smaller than the one in July.

I don't think his argument is about filling the roster (which is easy), but instead giving these kids legitimate competition in camp.

Who cares about decent when the thinking is to tank the season for anothertop five pick. The idea Sending the kids away was to put off coming into the NHL when we wouldn't be contending. So spending on quality ufa players in july also goes against that thinking.

Filling out the roster is all it would be as the next year the kids would be taking their place.

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#105 Chickenplucker
September 30 2010, 02:49PM
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Has anyone read a pundit yet that says Hall would be better served with another year in junior?

How would this help Hall's development compared to playing in the NHL. All it is doing is saving a year on his ELC that might not be of any benefit to the OIl in the future

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#106 Mr DeBakey
September 30 2010, 02:56PM
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"Of course Dellow disagrees with Oiler management, that's his M.O. and will continue to be for God knows how long..." - Reply #6 GSC September 30 2010, 01:56AM

At least until they stop drafting in the top-10 every damn June is my guess.

Its simple point that Mudcrutch is making, the current CBA shortened the length of time Teams have control of their draftees.

He's suggesting a way to maximize that 7 year window: - keep control of players past age 25 - have players on ELCs while in their twenties rather than their teens.

Its obviously not going to happen here and, because of marketing considerations, its not likely to happen anywhere.

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#107 Chris.
September 30 2010, 03:35PM
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oilbaron wrote:

can you honestly say that other players like cogliano, gagner and even hemsky have outplayed any of the top three this far into the pre-season? the point totals, compete level's and excitement alone that the kids are bringing in far outways the effort i am seeing from other players on this team. i think they are earning roster spots.

Good luck or good management?

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#108 mc79hockey
September 30 2010, 04:28PM
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Two points:

1. If GSC could stop casually suggesting that I just like to piss on management and that I'd be arguing the opposite point if the Oilers announced that they were sending Hall and MPS down regardless, I'd appreciate it. I've been an absolute Nazi about extracting value out of high picks for a long time. This is from October 8, 2007, in a thing I did with D***** trading comments. This is what I had to say about Gagner:

Tyler: I still think the smart play is to send him down. When all’s said and done, it’s unlikely that he’s a fifty point guy or anything this year and it’s exceedingly unlikely that the season will turn on his performance. It’s even less likely that he’s going to make the EIG any money. Give him his nine games and then send him to London. The Oilers will be better for it down the road. It’s the kind of thing a team with a plan does, one that’s not just reacting to everything that happens.

You could literally just replace London with Windsor and EIG with Rexall and it's exactly what I think about Hall.

Arguing your opponent's motive is just a bad way to go about defending your case, for what it's worth. Beat it on the merits.

2. The whole idea "second guessing" thing is a pretty lame critique too. It's not second guessing if you say it before it happens. The vast majority of people wanted Gagner to stay in 2007-08 because of how good he looked. Cogliano led the team in pre-season scoring. My opinion's out there and I've made the basis of it pretty clear. It's a pretty inarguable point (the Oilers would be better fixed for cap room in 2013-14 if they sent these guys down) so this is really just shooting fish in a barrel.

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#109 Buke
September 30 2010, 04:40PM
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Good article Jonathan. A point of note however is to read Holland's comments carefully:

"I think we like skills, we don't draft projects. Also, because we have a good team, we don't have to rush anybody, we let the players develop at their own pace."

Key words here are "because we have a good team". This is a luxury that the Oilers simply do not have. I think we are on our way but we are still a longs ways away from that standard.

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#110 mike
September 30 2010, 04:48PM
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"I've been an absolute Nazi about extracting value out of high picks for a long time"

mudcrutch,

There's a lot of room between "the best development year for him is elsewhere" AND "I take 2013 with that contract not 2010, so sorry". Pointing out bad development choices (where contract value was also wasted) does not advance your "simple proposition" that you take the 3 best years the letter of the contract permits. You also do not advance your case by arguing from reverse authority. Boneheads excluding your reasonable propositions does not advance your tenuous propositions.

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#111 Word
September 30 2010, 05:08PM
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Paajarvi played 3 seasons in SEL, whereas Zetterberg only played 2 (please correct me if I'm wrong), which means that the Oilers will be outdoing Ken Holland's patience. We should have demanded that Paajarvi play last year!

You like cherries? How about them cherries.

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#112 Word
September 30 2010, 05:09PM
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* (not including Zetterberg's season in SEL during the lockout, which was after he had already played with the Wings)

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#113 GSC
September 30 2010, 05:21PM
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mc79hockey wrote:

Two points:

1. If GSC could stop casually suggesting that I just like to piss on management and that I'd be arguing the opposite point if the Oilers announced that they were sending Hall and MPS down regardless, I'd appreciate it. I've been an absolute Nazi about extracting value out of high picks for a long time. This is from October 8, 2007, in a thing I did with D***** trading comments. This is what I had to say about Gagner:

Tyler: I still think the smart play is to send him down. When all’s said and done, it’s unlikely that he’s a fifty point guy or anything this year and it’s exceedingly unlikely that the season will turn on his performance. It’s even less likely that he’s going to make the EIG any money. Give him his nine games and then send him to London. The Oilers will be better for it down the road. It’s the kind of thing a team with a plan does, one that’s not just reacting to everything that happens.

You could literally just replace London with Windsor and EIG with Rexall and it's exactly what I think about Hall.

Arguing your opponent's motive is just a bad way to go about defending your case, for what it's worth. Beat it on the merits.

2. The whole idea "second guessing" thing is a pretty lame critique too. It's not second guessing if you say it before it happens. The vast majority of people wanted Gagner to stay in 2007-08 because of how good he looked. Cogliano led the team in pre-season scoring. My opinion's out there and I've made the basis of it pretty clear. It's a pretty inarguable point (the Oilers would be better fixed for cap room in 2013-14 if they sent these guys down) so this is really just shooting fish in a barrel.

I never once said that you'd be arguing the opposite should Hall and/or MPS be sent down.

Not once.

Whether you like it or not, you don't have a say in what the Oilers do. Feel free to whine about it ad nauseum, however. Let us know how far it gets you.

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#114 Tyler
September 30 2010, 05:32PM
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You said:

Of course Dellow disagrees with Oiler management, that's his M.O. and will continue to be for God knows how long...

If that's my MO, and they sent them down, wouldn't you expect me to criticize them for it? Otherwise, how is that my M.O.? My M.O. would have to be something different like "Dellow sometimes disagrees with Oilers management and has had a good run of late of disagreeing with them at the time when they've done stupid things." That's not such a bad M.O.

Whether you like it or not, you don't have a say in what the Oilers do. Feel free to whine about it ad nauseum, however. Tell us how far it gets you.

I'm not at all sure how saying that the Oilers should or shouldn't do something is whining that they haven't yet placed me in charge.

With that said, so far this week my advocacy of this has had Steve Tambellini asked about this twice, even if he hasn't answered. The issue has become a topic of media discussion.

More generally, chunks of the local and national media what I have to say and, on occasion, it informs their reporting and (presumably) the questions that they ask NHL types. You'd have a hard time finding someone as unconnected as me who is able to get his hockey ideas floated in a local or national forum more frequently. I can live with that.

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#115 Wäx Män Riley
September 30 2010, 05:48PM
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In all honesty, this talk of burning a year of The Regulators' (young guns) contracts is neither here nor there. Detroit is a waaaayy different team than what we have in Edmonton. Why don't we not bring the kids up at all, leave them in the minor league system so we don't have to pay them at all? Lets not sign them and save the money. Why not get rid of the team altogether?

Because it is ridiculous thats why. The kids will have to play eventually and have to mature at an NHL level no matter when they play their first year. Two of the 3 have proven to be NHL ready (the jury is out on Hall), and when and if all 3 or 4 become super stars, deal with it then. Try to keep the core together and build with capable role players. There is talk about Chicago being blown up, but in reality, they have kept their core of good young stars together and are able to fill the gaps with the plethora of decent budget role players. Same thing is happening in Pittsburgh...Comrie at league minimum? There are still veterans and options for role players on waivers and free agency.

The best thing for this team is for the future core to play together, get to know and care about each other as a team, learn and lose together, and most importantly grow together and build chemistry. When the contracts are up, give deals based on performance, stagger amount of time signed for future negotiations when we know what we have in these players, and fill gaps with capable role players.

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#116 GSC
September 30 2010, 05:59PM
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Tyler wrote:

You said:

Of course Dellow disagrees with Oiler management, that's his M.O. and will continue to be for God knows how long...

If that's my MO, and they sent them down, wouldn't you expect me to criticize them for it? Otherwise, how is that my M.O.? My M.O. would have to be something different like "Dellow sometimes disagrees with Oilers management and has had a good run of late of disagreeing with them at the time when they've done stupid things." That's not such a bad M.O.

Whether you like it or not, you don't have a say in what the Oilers do. Feel free to whine about it ad nauseum, however. Tell us how far it gets you.

I'm not at all sure how saying that the Oilers should or shouldn't do something is whining that they haven't yet placed me in charge.

With that said, so far this week my advocacy of this has had Steve Tambellini asked about this twice, even if he hasn't answered. The issue has become a topic of media discussion.

More generally, chunks of the local and national media what I have to say and, on occasion, it informs their reporting and (presumably) the questions that they ask NHL types. You'd have a hard time finding someone as unconnected as me who is able to get his hockey ideas floated in a local or national forum more frequently. I can live with that.

Well bully for you.

Maybe you can take Rick Olczyk's job, seeing as you're a practicing lawyer and all. You could take your grievances directly to the source, no internet medium necessary.

Actually, that's not a half bad idea...

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#117 mike
September 30 2010, 06:14PM
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"Actually, that's not a half bad idea..."

They probably could use a contract nazi, calculating the cap hit implications of everything as long as you'd mind being totally ignored when a fwd really is ready for top 9. Steve could profitably retain a legal brain. In a jar on his desk.

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#118 Robin Brownlee
September 30 2010, 06:33PM
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@Tyler

Your arrogance is staggering.

Your "advocacy" had Tambellini asked about it twice? You've referred to this a couple of times, including a remark that Stauffer and I might be in trouble with the Oilers PR department for passing on a question asked by a blogger.

None of us, in a rare season when the Oilers actually have some young prospects to decide on in terms of ELCs, would have thought about the issue without your prompting? None of us in the MSM -- including the many who don't know who the hell you are or what you've written -- haven't discussed and debated it while sitting in the rink watching practice? Nobody would have asked about it?

Now that the team has finally staggered far enough into oblivion to figure out a full and proper rebuild has to be done, how that's carried out is newsworthy and being widely discussed on its own merits -- even by the dim-witted MSM types you have so much contempt for. The issue was not born because you decided to write about it. Arguments on what contracts should be kicked in and when is not an original thought that started with you.

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the issue, and many have been made. I don't think you're right about Hall and Paajarvi under the circumstances, but I don't have a problem with you making your case.

But taking ownership of this issue like it's your intellectual property, like this wasn't a hot-button topic before you wrote about it? That's the height of arrogance, even from somebody who has set the bar as high as you have.

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#119 Tyler
September 30 2010, 06:59PM
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Robin,

If you're telling me that guys in the media were debating whether or not the Oilers should send Hall and MPS down in order to use their cap hit better before this week, I've got no reason to disbelieve you. I see a difference between that and a general debate about whether they're good enough to make the team, which I have seen discussed.

I had assumed otherwise because of the intro to your piece:

It's been suggested by some people the Edmonton Oilers rebuilding plans would be best served by returning Taylor Hall to Windsor and Magnus Paajarvi to Sweden regardless of whether they earn a roster spot outright based on their play during pre-season. The argument is playing Hall and Paajarvi now burns a year of their entry level contracts during a season in which the Oilers won't contend. The team would be better off long-term, the logic goes, to wait and have the first year of their three-year entry level deals kick in for 2011-12.

In addition, Stauffer prefaced his question to Rishaug with an explicit reference to what I wrote. Gregor did the same in his post on this site. Who were you referring to with "some people"?

In short, I wrote it, it became a hot topic and a bunch of the media people writing/talking about it referenced me. That's why I made that assumption. If you're telling me that's wrong and it was just that nobody had got around to asking or writing about it, so be it.

Given that your back's up a little about this having already been a hot button issue, I went and took a look at what you've said about whether Hall or MPS should make the team:

Sept. 19:

-- When I stare into my trusty old peanut butter jar, which helps me predict future events (although it seems old Skippy f*cked me on Jeff Deslauriers), I don't see Hall outscoring Paajarvi by 20 points, either. I see Paajarvi neck-and-neck with Hall, both in the 45-50 point range. Back on Aug. 2, Skippy pegged Hall at 23-28-51 in a guesstimate I made in response to Lowetide's reasonable expectations item listing Hall at 40 points.

Sept. 17:

Cross off the guys who haven't been re-signed or have been traded and add in rookies Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle along with acquisitions through free agency and trades. Duh.

Sept. 15:

If you look at the depth chart going into camp, Renney still needs that guy. Why not see if Hall can be him? It's not like the experiment, even if it fails, is going to cost Hall a roster spot. He'll be here when the puck drops against the Calgary Flames Oct. 7. What's the downside?

Sept. 7:

So, while saying Gagner could (will) start the season as Renney's top centre is no revelation, I'm guessing the make-up of the first three lines Stauffer suggested might be. -- The way Stauffer sees it, 19-year-old Swedish rookie Magnus Paajarvi, taken 10th overall in the 2009 Entry Draft, slots in on the first line alongside Gagner as his left winger, with Ales Hemsky on the right wing. -- Hall, who played both left wing and centre with the Windsor Spitfires before the Oilers ran to the podium and called his name in Los Angeles this summer, will line up as the left winger on the second line with Shawn Horcoff at centre and Jordan Eberle on the right side.

I went back to the start of September and didn't find anything else. If you've said something about this in print before, I've missed it.

Now, truth be told, I don't pay quite as close attention to the MSM that I once did. You're probably the only one I read with any degree of regularity for news, so it's entirely possible that I missed something. If someone was writing about this beforehand, by all means, point it out to me.

That's not to say you guys weren't talking about it, of course. Heck of a coincidence I guess. Sorry for the faulty assumption.

Cheers, Tyler

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#120 Tyler
September 30 2010, 07:03PM
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You've referred to this a couple of times, including a remark that Stauffer and I might be in trouble with the Oilers PR department for passing on a question asked by a blogger.

That was a joke. I've read on occasion that they're a bit touchy about the blogger issue. Although now that I think about it, directly and indirectly, respectively, they're both of your bosses now, aren't they?

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#121 Mr Debakey
September 30 2010, 07:10PM
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"But taking ownership of this issue like it's your intellectual property, like this wasn't a hot-button topic before you wrote about it?"

Brownlee: “It's been suggested by some people the Edmonton Oilers rebuilding plans would be best served by returning Taylor Hall to Windsor and Magnus Paajarvi to Sweden regardless of whether they earn a roster spot outright based on their play during pre-season."

Gregor: “I had tried to go to his site this morning and read the article in it's entirety but kept getting an error message saying that the bandwidth for the site had been exceeded. I guess writing a bunch of inaccurate statements”

Stauffer: “There’s a couple of thought processes out there that maybe the Oilers shouldn’t, you know, because of the way the new CBA works and entry level contracts, fast track players like Taylor Hall and look at the option of returning a Taylor Hall to junior.”

Who is referenced?: ..."some people" ..."his site" ..."a couple of thought processes"

I mean, really, who? Maybe even When? and Where?

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#122 mike
September 30 2010, 07:16PM
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"I see a difference between that and a general debate about whether they're good enough to make the team, which I have seen discussed."

Good. It's also different than whether they and the team would profit from 15 minutes a night in the NHL this year.

They might discuss it at the rink, but Gregor certainly publicized your modest proposal (sit Magnus '10 'cuz Magnus 13 is better).

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#123 Bob Loblaw
September 30 2010, 08:37PM
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Good lord... am I the only one who's noticed that the life has been sucked out of this place? It takes a special person to take a legion of excited Oiler fans and completely deflate the balloon.

And for THAT, dear Tyler, I will give you full credit. Well earned!

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#124 OilBaron
September 30 2010, 09:05PM
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@Robin Brownlee

The premise of the Hall and Paajarvi demotion is flawed from the start. Assuming that their play is strong enough to be on the roster they make the team and they "burn" a year of their ELC when the Oilers aren't a competative team. But, the contention is that the next season the team is a contender.

The reality of the situation is that whatever year they start their contracts the year after is no guarentee to be a playoff contender. Basically, either way the contract year starts it is on a bad team.

What you can't make up for is developmental years. This year or next year, the first year is the steepest year of the learning curve.

Where this theory is fatally flawed is not in the start of the contract, but the end of it. The extra year is a comment on the players UFA years. The whole point of the comment is the retention at the end, being fearful of free agency and nothing to do with the players development.

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#125 Butters
September 30 2010, 09:30PM
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First off, awesome article. Kudos to JW for igniting this much passion and debate.

My two cents, for what it's worth. If the the young guns make the team, they should play. The Gagner arguement is moot. According to hockey db they ONLY player in his entire draft year with more points is Patrick Kane. So quit using Gagner as an example-especially you people who can't spell Gagner.

Also, what benefit is it to the player if he makes the team but the Oilers don't keep him in the NHL because they don't want to burn a year of eligibility. I am sure Taylor Hall won't mind another year riding the buses in JR if it serves the Oilers, some day, maybe.

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#126 Darren
September 30 2010, 09:31PM
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"I still think the smart play is to send him down. When all’s said and done, it’s unlikely that he’s a fifty point guy or anything this year and it’s exceedingly unlikely that the season will turn on his performance."

Funny you quote this Tyler, as Gagner turned out to be a 49 point guy and the season did turn on his performance.

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#127 Newalgier
September 30 2010, 09:43PM
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I disagree with Tyler and agree with Lowetide: play 'em if they're ready, and only if they are ready. The future is too uncertain in regards to the CBA and individual performance (and I realize that this argument cuts both ways).

But nobody, and nobody, talked about this issue until MC79 brought it up. Mr. Brownlee, you really need to face the fact that your audience has become smarter and I suggest that you move with them... keep up, as it were. I'm not surprised that passion and intelligence made for better and more imaginative copy than years spent in arenas drinking crappy coffee, watching practice.

I'm also not surprised that this annoys you (I read some annoyance in your post). But I frankly demand more interesting copy from you. And unlike in the old days of real newspapers with admen, editors, vanity publishers and expense accounts, you have nowhere to hide.

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#128 RossCreekNation
September 30 2010, 09:47PM
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@Tyler

I get your logic, but I'm not so sure it should be applied to this particular case.

I mean, were you saying this same thing in regards to Stamkos? Doughty? I'm honestly asking. In hindsight, it may have been smarter for Tampa, but then again, Stamkos likely doesn't pot 50+ last year (in what would've been his rookie seasn). Would he still have struggled in his rookie season to the same degree? There's no way to know for sure? Were you saying this for Tavares, Hedman or Duchene?

I would agree with your logic in the case of a Nino Niederreiter or a Erik Gudbaranson, for instance... guys that weren't among the top tier of prospects.

Do you think the Bruins should be sending Seguin back? Jeff Skinner in Carolina?

I think if you wrote about things in a more broad sense, it may come across better. I'm not even an Oiler fan, yet I admit, I feel as though you have an axe to grind with Steve Tambellini (and Kevin Lowe) specifically. Maybe you do...I dunno.

The Oilers were patient with Jordan Eberle. They let Paajarvi play an extra year in Sweden (he more than likely needed it).

My biggest argument against your suggestion, is what does sending these 2 down do to them. Does this piss them off? Does it make them hold a grudge against the team to the point that they seek an offer sheet after their ELC? How would they feel about the (potential) $4M+ that they would end up missing out on by signing their 2nd contract a year later? Does it somehow stunt Hall's development... give him bad habits because he can pwn everybody? Does the fanbase accept it? Does it even matter?

There's no way to know for sure.

It's one thing if they simply aren't ready to play & the team gives them a spot. But if they earn it through camp, you gotta give them a shot, no? If they're struggling at any time throughout the first 40 games, you can send them down. Sure, they burn a year of their contract, but at least they could still save a year until UFA kicks in.

As it stands, is it not the Oilers responsibility to ice the best squad they can (I realize they could have signed other FA's in the summer, but at this point, Hall & Paajarvi are among the top 12 forwards in the organization). It just seems a bit like you're suggesting that they "throw" the season to get another top 5 pick, and then throw the squadron together boys on the bus style next fall. And what about next fall... would you then suggest that the supposed top 5 pick that they get next June is kept out of the lineup for these same reasons all over again? Just curious...

Hockey is a sport AND a business. I get that. But this theory of yours (at least in this particular case) feels a little too much like a cold-hearted business practice. Something a lawyer might do... (lol). But maybe that's just me.

Respectfully,
the other Tyler

p.s. Maybe you should've been GM in Phoenix a couple years ago... your advice would have been well taken in regards to Kyle Turris & company.

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#129 Tyler
September 30 2010, 09:49PM
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Funny you quote this Tyler, as Gagner turned out to be a 49 point guy and the season did turn on his performance.

Yeah, he had a pretty good year pointswise. Everything came up aces for him though - almost everything directed at the net when he was on the ice went in. He almost got to 50. Predictably, the gods haven't been so forgiving since, although I think he's been a much better player.

I'm not sure that you can say the season turned on his performance though. The Oilers didn't make the playoffs, even with an awful lot of things going right - all the SO wins and the kids having absolutely everything go in the net.

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#130 Butters
September 30 2010, 10:08PM
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@RossCreekNation

"Does this piss them off? Does it make them hold a grudge against the team to the point that they seek an offer sheet after their ELC? How would they feel about the (potential) $4M+ that they would end up missing out on by signing their 2nd contract a year later?"

I agree RC. I might add that this might create some ill will from future prospects as well. Sandbagging next season won't do much good if either Larsson or Nugent-Hopkins don't bother to stand up when the Oilers call his name.

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#131 Tyler
September 30 2010, 10:18PM
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RCN -

I mean, were you saying this same thing in regards to Stamkos? Doughty? I'm honestly asking...Were you saying this for Tavares, Hedman or Duchene?

I would have been, if I'd commented on it. I think I may have said it with respect to Colorado, who, playoff appearance notwithstanding, were a bad team.

Outside of really rare circumstances, I don't think it really ever makes sense to stick an 18 year old in the NHL. The vast majority of teams who end up with an 18 year old who you can make a case for being in the NHL are terrible teams that are going nowhere. The player isn't going to make a difference with his play. Another year of getting bigger and stronger can only help him transition to the NHL more quickly.

Do you think the Bruins should be sending Seguin back? Jeff Skinner in Carolina?

Yes, although I see a possible caveat on Seguin. Boston has a team that's got a window to compete in the next few years. In their case, I can see some value in introducing him to the NHL because they might be able to get some use out of a cheap contract to make a run if he's able to add something on the PP and against the softs at evens in a year or two.

I think if you wrote about things in a more broad sense, it may come across better. I'm not even an Oiler fan, yet I admit, I feel as though you have an axe to grind with Steve Tambellini (and Kevin Lowe) specifically. Maybe you do...I dunno.

I can understand how it seems that way. I've kind of bagged on Lowe since 2006 and on Tambo since shortly after he got hired. I don't know what else to say other than I don't trash them for things I thought were sensible at the time (that doesn't seem fair to me) and I would think it's hard to defend the practices of the team with the worst record in the NHL over the last four years. To take Horcoff as an example, I've defended Lowe a bit on that because the contract was not that far away from the market when it was signed and shortly after it was signed, the American economy exploded, leading to a flat salary cap - presumably, they expected it to keep rising.

The case that they've been the worst management in the NHL is pretty solid empirically though.

I have also praised them for some of their decisions over the past few years - I thought bringing in Garon was a great move, as was resisting the temptation to sign him to be the starter going forward. I like what they did with Eberle last year because it would have been easy to bow to the temptation to elevate Canada's junior star to the NHL. There just hasn't been enough good decision making.

They let Paajarvi play an extra year in Sweden (he more than likely needed it).

Sure. And I'm as excited by Paajarvi as much as anyone but he was third in scoring on the team that finished eighth in the SEL last year. That doesn't exactly scream "Too good for any level but the NHL." I can't see why we wouldn't expect him to learn playing in OKC, particularly given that he needs to adapt to the smaller ice.

Does this piss them off? Does it make them hold a grudge against the team to the point that they seek an offer sheet after their ELC? Does it somehow stunt Hall's development... give him bad habits because he can pwn everybody? Does the fanbase accept it? Does it even matter?

Well, like I've said in a lot of other places, part of life is not always getting what you want. Those guys can't, in my view, say that they have nothing left to learn in junior hockey. It's easy to dream up scenarios where they're pissed with the Oilers and refuse to re-sign after their ELC's but then, as Oilers fans know, guys can demand out of Edmonton for all sorts of reasons.

One thing's for sure - players demand to leave elite teams a lot less frequently. The Oilers' chances of putting together a really strong team by the end of their ELC's is enhanced if they hold off a year.

As far as the fanbase goes, the organization has Eberle to showcase this year. He's a pretty big prospect in his own right. There's no need to dump all the prospects into the NHL at once.

It's one thing if they simply aren't ready to play & the team gives them a spot. But if they earn it through camp, you gotta give them a shot, no? If they're struggling at any time throughout the first 40 games, you can send them down. Sure, they burn a year of their contract, but at least they could still save a year until UFA kicks in.

I'm not really big on the idea of guys earning things through camp, to be honest. Take JDD and DD, for example. The Oilers have been following their play for 6 and 8 years respectively. They've seen them both in extended NHL stretches. Barring something truly extraordinary, are they really going to learn anything in the tiny sample of training camp, playing games against AHLy rosters?

With Hall, I think you can legitimately ask whether he's shown enough that you'd expect him to make it as a top six forward on merit. He's not going to dethrone Penner as the number 1 LW this year. I think the consensus is he hasn't been as good as Paajarvi.

The whole idea of "earning" a spot seems a bit fuzzy to me, just because people have track records that extend beyond training camp. We know that teenagers invariably struggle in the NHL as well. As far as that second LW spot goes, would the Oilers be better off turning Cogliano loose in it this year? Would Hall do more with it? I don't think it's as cut and dry as people say.

As it stands, is it not the Oilers responsibility to ice the best squad they can...

I don't think that this is the case. Teams frequently fail to ice the best squad that they can, whether to develop someone or for other reasons. The Oilers' resposnsibility, to the extent that they have one, is to do what's best for the Oilers. As a consumer of Oilers experiences, I would hope that's defined as doing whatever makes them more likely to win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime.

And what about next fall... would you then suggest that the supposed top 5 pick that they get next June is kept out of the lineup for these same reasons all over again?

Yep.

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#132 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
September 30 2010, 10:24PM
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Butters wrote:

"Does this piss them off? Does it make them hold a grudge against the team to the point that they seek an offer sheet after their ELC? How would they feel about the (potential) $4M+ that they would end up missing out on by signing their 2nd contract a year later?"

I agree RC. I might add that this might create some ill will from future prospects as well. Sandbagging next season won't do much good if either Larsson or Nugent-Hopkins don't bother to stand up when the Oilers call his name.

Lots of fear in Oil country. Theirs lots of team that have been lotto bad (roughly) for a long time.... so bad that you could consider them to be "sandbagging". I don't remember any of the top picks (save Lindros way back when) refusing to play.

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#133 Eric Johnson
September 30 2010, 11:16PM
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@Tyler

Name the last #1 pick to not play in the NHL after his draft year.

Your problem with this whole argument is optics.

You have none.

You have an opinion based on reported events, statistics and speculation.

If GM's made decisions with your level of information and interaction with the actual people involved I could see such a proposition being worthy.

But to suggest, send the kids down, "part of life is not always getting what you want". You have a lot to learn about people, egos, and the heart of winners.

You have an ability to grind an argument to halt by clouding the overall concept with continual justifications of your point.

OILBARON said: "Where this theory is fatally flawed is not in the start of the contract, but the end of it. The extra year is a comment on the players UFA years. The whole point of the comment is the retention at the end, being fearful of free agency and nothing to do with the players development."

What has HALL got left to prove in the OHL? What good does another year on European ice save MPS.

Those are better questions. What is best for the players education and well being and long term success. Those are the more important questions. Not the dollars.

But from your optics those are the most quantifiable things aren't they?

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#134 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
September 30 2010, 11:24PM
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@Eric Johnson

"Those are better questions. What is best for the players education and well being and long term success. Those are the more important questions. Not the dollars."

It was brought up before, but what we should be worried about is whats best for the team, not the player.

And no, those aren't always one and the same.

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#135 Eric Johnson
September 30 2010, 11:30PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

"Those are better questions. What is best for the players education and well being and long term success. Those are the more important questions. Not the dollars."

It was brought up before, but what we should be worried about is whats best for the team, not the player.

And no, those aren't always one and the same.

The better the player the more valuable the asset.

Do right by the player, do right by the team.

If we cant sign all three because they are all eleite players when they hit RFA/UFA status.

That is one hell of an enviable problem.

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#136 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
September 30 2010, 11:34PM
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Eric Johnson wrote:

The better the player the more valuable the asset.

Do right by the player, do right by the team.

If we cant sign all three because they are all eleite players when they hit RFA/UFA status.

That is one hell of an enviable problem.

Not really. It's an avoidable problem.

Everyone might have envied Chicago 6 months ago, but I doubt anyone does now.

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#137 Wanyes bastard child
September 30 2010, 11:39PM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

But are we not all agreed that right now whats best for the team is playing Hall and Magnus PI?

As stated before, what are our better options? We didn't pick up any free agents or UFA signings to improve the team in order for us to send them to inferior leagues for another year. Would you rather us play the best team we have or ice another AHL line up like we did last year?

Yes injurys and H1N1/flu/mono kicked our ass last year but from where im sitting we have nothing but positive arrows to look forward to this year.

So how is whats best for the player in this situation whats also not best for the team? Sure we may suck balls this year but its a learning curve, the kids learn and gel together and next year we look like a real team. Who knows, maybe everything clicks together early and we look like a team this year and push for a spot in the playoffs.

After all this, all I know is one thing...

GO OILERS!!!!

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#138 Robin Brownlee
October 01 2010, 12:05AM
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@Newalgier

Nobody talked about this issue? You know this how? Have you been anywhere near Rexall Place at morning skates, in the studio, listening in on phone calls between reporters? I must have missed you.

Did anybody write it top-to-bottom? I don't know because I haven't looked it up. Did I write it? No.

Then again, I've talked and debated with others about what I think the Oilers 23-man roster will look like to start the season. Likewise, where I think the Oilers might finish in the standings. I haven't written either piece yet.

The issue of Hall and Paajarvi is an important one, and remains so. Timeliness is everything and only one person can be first, so give your man credit for that if you want to, but give the "nobody else" and the "keep up" talk a rest.

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#139 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 01 2010, 08:28AM
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@ Wanyes Bastard Child

"But are we not all agreed that right now whats best for the team is playing Hall and Magnus PI?"

I'll repeat my first post on the subject (paraphrased):

Fans wanting to play all the rookies now is selfish and short sighted.

I haven't actually decided which side of the "play them now" vs have 1-2 of them in a developmental league (including for future contract reasons), however I do know it should have at least have been apart of the discussion (amoungst management).

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#140 Lochenzo
October 01 2010, 10:15AM
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Stamkos and Doughty sure look good. A team has to evaluate what is the best learning environment for a player. For some, it's a return to junior, or playing lots of minutes in the minors. For a few, playing in the NHL is the best option. Anybody remember Ryan Smyth playing with MacT and Bucky during his rookie year. He turned out ok too.

I think the 3 kids can play at the NHL level this year. What might be the greatest challenge is the pressure. While the team will lean on Hemsky and Penner, the fans' eyes are firmly fixed on Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi. I feel that it might be easier for them if they were together to handle it together.

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#141 fuck off
October 01 2010, 01:59PM
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@ Jonathan Willis

I took a while to read this and even though I'm not often a big fan of your posts I must say that this is excellent and thought provoking. Also a great counter argument towards the anti-sentiment surrounding the concept of sending MPS to OKC.

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