May 20 2012 08:05AM
One area the new head coach of the Oilers can help himself is in the deployment of Swedes and Finns. While the Canadian kids won the day early in the rebuild, there is an abundance of untapped potential in the group we'll call the Nordics. Do they match up well for the roles available?
There are only so many seats still available for this edition of the Boys on the Bus. If we assume the Oilers will draft Nail Yakupov next month, it's getting mighty crowded for the skill slots among the forwards. Hall, Eberle, The Nuge, Nail, Sam and Hemmer makes 6, and we're still waiting for the first Swede or Finn.
The Oilers have a nice group of kids from those two countries, but under the Renney regime they were blocked or got passed like a house on the side of the road. I'm in no way suggesting the coaching staff was anti-Euro, it's just the way the cookie crumbled. Paajarvi was beaten to the NHL jobs available on the wing by an older player (Eberle) and a #1 overall selection (Hall) as a rookie and he still posted some solid crooked numbers.
This past season, Edmonton acquired Ryan Smyth and along with Ryan Jones, Ben Eager and pleasant surprise Lennart Petrell blocked the way for Paajarvi and Finn Teemu Hartikainen.
GETTING MIGHTY CROWDED
The jobs on the wing that should be available this fall are the role players, the checkers, the penalty killers, the worker bees. That role would seem to suit Hartikainen, and certainly Lander's skill set dovetails nicely into that scenario. However, Magnus Paajarvi--despite having an abundance of skill and lightning speed that should be a huge asset on the forecheck, would appear to be a "tweener" on this roster: not skilled enough to beat out the projected top line wingers, and perhaps not ideal for the gritty, "let 'em know you're there" roster spots the new coach will no doubt want for his bottom 6.
I think the coaching change means a new lease on life for all the forwards who did not perform as expected this past season. That includes Eager, Paajarvi and the rest but a player like Paajarvi will need to arrive at training camp as a man on a mission. That goes for Lander and Hartikainen too.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It's too early to say these kids are at a crossroads--all three could play in OKC another year and hone their skills with an eye to making it fall 2013. However, the opportunities are dwindling and with each passing acquisition the window of opportunity closes a little.