December 20 2011 10:45AM
Last Friday Magnus Paajarvi was sent down to OKC in the American Hockey League. After a solid rookie campaign last year in Edmonton, Paajarvi struggled mightily this season with only three assists in 25 games. I've been pushing for the 10th overall pick in 2009 to go down to OKC since early November, likely to the point it sounded like nagging, but I didn't see any negative in sending him down. Those who opposed a trip to the AHL worried that he might become bitter towards the organization, or that it would somehow signal that he was going to be a bust.
After talking with Paajarvi yesterday it is clear no one should worry about his mental state. He sounded excited to be playing more, determined to develop his game and in agreement with the decision to send him down.
I've always liked chatting with Paajarvi. He was always upbeat, has a dry sense of humour and always gave you an honest answer, but yesterday he really impressed me with his attitude and thoughts on playing in the AHL.
When I asked him about what was said in the conversation with Tom Renney and Steve Tambellini regarding his demotion he gave an excellent self-evaluating answer.
"They called me in for a meeting in the morning and just wanted to talk to me about going down, what to do and what was going on. It was a really good meeting. I kind of had the feeling for it, and I don't disagree with it at all. Of course I want to stay up in Edmonton and play a lot, and do all those things, but the situation that I had wasn't really the best for me, and they thought that too. The best for me is to play a lot and really develop.
"I think it is good for me just to get the rhythm back, and just to get some time on the ice and be tired after the games. That's what I want to do and that's what I want to be in the future for Edmonton; to play a lot and be a big impact. If you look a couple years ahead I think this is the best for me."
I think we forget this is still a game, and regardless how much money players make or even how old they are, they ultimately just want to play and have fun. I doubt it is fun when you don't play much or feel like you aren't contributing, and then it becomes a battle to try and maintain some confidence. Paajarvi agreed that he needs a boost of confidence and he already felt it in his first two games over the weekend.
"You have to have confidence, because that's when you play your best hockey. You don't think too much, you just do everything and it you go so much more freedom out of that. I have to be smart here. Sure I could have been on the 4th line or in the pressbox for the whole year, but I don't think that would do anything good for me compared to coming down here, play a lot of minutes and really develop. I had more chances in my two games here than I had in the all 25 in Edmonton (laughs), and it feels good to get those chances.
"As you said, there has been so many guys that have done that and then went on to be very good in the NHL, and that's what I'm aiming for. I want to be really, really good in the NHL and I feel I can do that and I have the confidence to do that. If it takes me playing in the AHL to do that then I want to do that for sure."
As the interview went on I become more and more impressed with his maturity and how he looked at the situation. His answers were genuine and you could sense that the two games had given him a huge boost of energy and excitement.
"There is a lot of things I need to work on and be better at, but the most important thing is to play. After that I can start to look at specific things, but I think playing time is the number one thing to help me develop."
He also didn't seem concerned or worried about how long he would be playing in OKC.
"They didn't give me a time line at all (about returning to Edmonton). Anything can happen, there could be an injury in warmup in Edmonton today, or there could be no injuries for a lot of weeks. I could be playing well, or not so well down here. There are so many situations I can't think about them, so I just need to go out and do my best here. It is all up to me, and I'm going to do everything in my power to get back up there."
Paajarvi didn't score a goal in either game, but he had five shots and played lots EV and on the PP. He did score the shootout winner in his first game on Saturday, and admitted that the travel to Charlotte on Sunday was tiring. They play in Charlotte again tonight and after having two days in the same town and some rest, I'll bet he picks up his first career AHL point tonight.
The fact Paajarvi recognizes that a stint in the AHL should only make him better is a great sign. A major part of player development is having the player buy into it. Management can put him in a good situation, but much of the development will come from the player's inner drive. It sounds like Paajarvi is willing to do whatever it takes to become an impact player in Edmonton and that should excite management and the fans.
You can listen to the entire interview at www.jasongregor.com (just click this link it will take you directly to it).
We are nearing the end of our "Helping Others" campaign. We have three days left and the final few packages should pique your interest.
Today is our VIP package.
- Pair of seats in Dr. Brent Saik's suite on Thursday February 23rd v. the Philadelphia Flyers. Claude Giroux and the orangemen invade Rexall. The tickets include all your food and beverages and he and I will host you. His suite is on the main concourse, just inside the blueline. It also includes a chauffeur from Budget Car and Truck Rental.
- VIP season tickets for the MFC. Mark Pavelich has donated a pair of VIP front row seats to all three MFC cards in Edmonton: Friday January 27th, then Friday May 4th and on Friday October 26th. You will have limo service to and from each event. You will get loads of MFC merchandise and for one fight you and your guest will get to be cornermen. You will get to sit right in the corner and see and hear everything the fighter and his corner discuss. A great package for MMA fans.
- Pair of gold seats to see Deep Purple on Feb 21st courtesy of Northlands. Great seats.
To bid you can call 780.426.8326 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bidding starts at 2 p.m and ends at 5:45 MST. Today we are helping out Operation Friendship Seniors Centre. We are helping make Christmas more special for seniors who are alone.
Thanks in advance for you bids. So far we've raised almost $37,000. I'm optimistic the final three items will get us to $50,000.00. It's been very heartwarming seeing so many of you help out.