Strong Debut Seasons

Lowetide
January 29 2011 08:32AM

I love old time photos. This one features the great Gordie Howe in the middle, a young Bryan "Bugsy" Watson (who would one day coach our beloved Oilers) on the right and young Ray Cullen on the left. This photo is from 1966-68. One of the best things about following a team is watching the young players develop; Cullen had the better pedigree and was a better offensive prospect but it was Watson who had the longer NHL career. On the current Oilers roster, who are the keepers? The throwaways? The career minor leaguers? It's always been tough to say.
 

According to hockey-reference, 103 young men have made their NHL debuts this season. Last year it was 137, so there are more kids to come as the season rolls along. In terms of playing their first NHL games, here are the Oilers on that list of 103:

  • Taylor Hall 49gp, 16-15-31
  • Magnus Pääjärvi 46gp, 6-13-19
  • Jordan Eberle 37gp, 9-14-23
  • Linus Omark 20gp, 3-6-9
  • Jeff Petry 14gp, 1-2-3

That's a helluva list, it really is. Five kids making their debuts in the same season, 4 of them with enough potential to be at least considered for the top 6 on a contending team and the other looking like a lock for top 4D duty for years to come. Things don't always work out as planned, but you'd have to give this group a solid chance at making it five for five when it comes to establishing themselves as NHL players.

There are no seasons that really compare to this group in recent Oiler history. In the last decade, the best season for the Oilers in terms of NHL debuts were:

  • 02-03 (Ales Hemsky, Jarret Stoll, Fernando Pisani, MA Bergeron, Alexei Semenov all played 200 or more NHL games and Alex Henry got close).
  • 06-07 (Jan Hejda, Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Zack Stortini and some kids who may make that marker like Rob Schremp).
  • 07-08 (Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano plus guys like Theo Peckham and Liam Reddox who may make the 200 game marker in the future).

I think the current group will trump the three seasons mentioned here. The 02-03 group had a very nice variety of skill, grit and checking ability, the 06-07 group had three NHL defensemen and the 07-08 group brought the club two everyday forwards.

The strength of this season's group--and what puts them over the top compared to the three seasons we're discussing currently--is that they all appear to have a wider range of skills than the average rookie. Hall has balls, speed, shooting ability and a brain; Pääjärvi has much the same in lesser doses but also brings a strong defensive aptitude and is a little bigger; Eberle is so smart he could have played for the 70s Habs, plus he has this ridiculous ability to slightly change his shooting angle in close that should garner him buckets of NHL goals; Omark is a buzzsaw, strong on the puck and has sick puck skills and Petry is everything you look for in a defenseman save for the killer instinct physically.

We have to go back into the 1990's for an Oiler debut that rivals the current group.

  • 93-94 (Jason Arnott, Kirk Maltby, Peter White, Boris Mironov, Todd Marchant, Fred Brathwaite)

This was a tremendous group of NHL debuts. Arnott and Marchant are both past 1,100 NHL games now, Mironov was a quality player over an extended period and Maltby found a role and filled it forever. That's 4 very useful NHL players plus a couple of other guys who played over 200 games. Oilers traded for Marchant and Mironov during their debut seasons, something Steve Tambellini might want to explore (picking up a Michael Grabner mid-season could help this team).

I think the 2010-11 group may one day be stronger than the 1993-94 group, but that's a strong list. Any other candidates?

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#51 The Beaker
January 29 2011, 03:12PM
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@Lowetide

I guess the question then is, where can Hall play BEST? I have no doubt he will be awesome at either center or wing depending on how things go. But it's what he will play best at that matters.

Drafting for need is probably just as bad as taking the players you already have and pushing them into spots where they aren't their best just so we can draft BPA....

(hope that made sense)

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#52 spOILER
January 29 2011, 03:22PM
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LA...

Nashville has enough cash problems that there is a *possibility* that they will not want to give him his payday. There is another issue in that would he even want to stay knowing they will never pay to surround him with a contending team.

And if they do deal him it won't be for some abstract market value but for the best offer of players and what Poile likes. So you never know.

LT...

If they don't take one of the 2 or 3 Cs, don't you think they will take Larsson? While RW can use some help, I can't see them taking a W over a possible top pairing D. And I would throw Hamilton and Murphy into that hat too.

Murphy in fact is very intriguing. He might be the most talented player available despite being Smurphy.

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#53 spOILER
January 29 2011, 03:47PM
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The questions I think are important going into the deadline are...

1. Do the Oil cut bait on Brule? If so, what would the return be and who would be interested.

2. Do the Oil try to trade Vandermeer or see if they can sign him for cheap this off-season as a depth guy. He's a rightie and those guys will always have value at the deadline, but they also always have value to one's own team too. Or do both.

3. Would any other team be interested in Foster? Is it worth seeing if he can turn it around? which is a possibility given the strife he went through coming into this year. An off year was almost a sure thing considering his personal life.

4. What do we do with Jones and Fraser? I doubt Fraser can be traded unless there's a team out there with such injury issues that they desperately need a body to fill a bottom C. What would Jones' overpay be this summer? If it is only a Glencrossian 200k, then I might hang onto them, but depends on what kind of interest there is in him. If someone will cough up a 2nd or a quality prospect, you have to do that deal, I think.

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#55 Wes Mantooth
January 29 2011, 04:23PM
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Lowetide wrote:

I think they'll deal Vandermeer for certain. I think the most important questions are:

1. Will the Oilers deal Smid? He's exactly the kind of player who gets terrific value at the deadline. It's easy to forget that Smid is 25 on Tuesday and not that far from free agency.

2. Do they deal one of Hemsky/Penner before pursuing the idea of signing both long term this summer?

3. Will anyone offer value for any and all of Brule, Jones, Jacques, MacIntyre, Jacques, Vandermeer, Stortini, Foster?

I can’t help but noticing that you have Jacques in there twice. Does that mean we get 1 for the price of two Jacques? Maybe then it would be easier to move him!

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#56 DBO
January 29 2011, 04:26PM
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Hark65: you missed the point. Nashville has no money and there has been talk of them being forced to move weber for money reasons. And a top prospect and a solid dman who collectively make a third of what Weber makes along with a pick or another prospect is what a team like Nashville will look for.

The point is to search for teams that will be in tough financially and make a move that takes advantage of that trouble. Florida is in a similar position.

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#58 Wes Mantooth
January 29 2011, 04:32PM
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Lowetide wrote:

lol. Wishful thinking, I guess. Every at bat JF Jacques gets this season is an at bat they could be giving to Hartikainen.

Or Mikhnov. :-)

Couldn’t agree with you more, valuable ice time being wasted. IMO

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#59 Wes Mantooth
January 29 2011, 04:55PM
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@DBO

I just don’t see Nashville trading Weber, just can’t see it, unless it’s for 1st rounder and a top prospect, and who would do that? If you were a GM would you make that trade if your pick is a lottery?

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#60 Shaun Doe
January 29 2011, 05:40PM
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~Strong start for Hall eh? Didn't seem that strong a start against Grabner in the skills comp. Trade him...~

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#61 esa tikkanen
January 30 2011, 12:17AM
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Anybody notice Couturier got 5 points today ahainst Jeremie Blaine's team in the Q?

Puts Couturier at 70 points in 40 games. I know there was a time ten years ago where players in the Q got far more points than in other leagues although that doesn't appear to be case anymore.

If he plays 60 that will be 105 for the season with roughly a 25 percent ppg improvement on last year.

Some critics here and at Lowetide have pejoratively referred to him as another Chris Gratton or Keith Primeau. How about Jason Arnott or Vincent Lecavalier?

Apparently he needs to improve his skating. Maybe Steve Serdachny can help him out?

A big, skilled center who wins faceoffs is what the Oilers need more than any oither position. Fast would be nice but hopefully that comes. Joe Thornton with heart sounds ok to me!

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#62 spOILer
January 30 2011, 01:57AM
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LT said...

Do they deal one of Hemsky/Penner before pursuing the idea of signing both long term this summer?

I'm thinking, perhaps wishfully, that any deal involving either of these two doesn't happen till the summer. At this time of year it will be picks or prospects coming back and we have enough. Teams generally prefer rentals this time of year too.

I think it is expiring contracts that get moved and possibly Brule.

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