March 05 2012 10:11AM
The Edmonton Oilers announced the recall of Linus Omark from the American Hockey League's Oklahoma City Barons this morning.
It's a recall that has been a long time in coming. Omark started the season with the Oilers but found himself demoted to the minors early in the year. Over the heart of the season he should have been one of the Oilers' top options down on the farm, but instead he found himself on injured reserve with a broken ankle.
It was a devastating injury in a lot of ways. A broken ankle isn't the kind of injury a player just shrugs off at the best times, but it was doubly disappointing for Omark, costing him a chance to prove himself at the NHL level during a contract year. Not only that, but the financial cost was huge too - six weeks on an AHL rather than an NHL paycheck works out to almost $200,000 in salary.
Yet, the news from the Oilers organization is that rather than getting dispirited, Omark took advantage of his forced time off to work out and keep himself in peak physical condition. Senior Director of Player Development Billy Moores put it this way to Cult of Hockey's Bruce McCurdy:
He’s worked very hard during that injury time to get himself in real good condition and get stronger, so that’s real valuable. Credit to him for using that time properly. Now he’s got an opportunity to play with us tonight and in Abbotsford and get going. There’s still lots of hockey to be played.
The catalyst for Omark's recall would appear to be a shoulder injury to Taylor Hall - in the Oilers game against Dallas, Hall went hard into the boards in the offensive zone and braced himself with his left arm. While he finished the game, it was clear he was in some discomfort at the time.
As Jim Matheson points out, the timing of this recall may present some difficulties to Omark. The Barons played road games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so tonight's game against the Ducks will be Omark's fourth contest in four days - and with the Oilers playing back-to-back games there's a real chance he plays five games in five nights. Given that there's a real and noticeable impact on teams playing two games in two nights, Omark almost certainly won't be at his best.
Whatever the timing and whatever the reasons for the recall, this was something the Oilers needed to do. Omark is a restricted free agent at season's end, and is very much at a crossroads with the organization. This is what I wrote in my piece on Omark less than a week ago:
We know that Omark’s a very good player below the NHL; he’s shown that time and again. For a player with his age and experience, all that remains to be seen is whether he’s a fit in the majors, and that question will only be answered with major-league experience. Unless the Oilers have already made a decision, now’s the time to find out.
There's a strong possibility that Omark stays with the team for the rest of the season. The Oilers are only permitted four recalls after the trade deadline, so there's an incentive to keep Omark up.