It's Past Time to Recall Linus Omark

Jonathan Willis
November 03 2013 07:59PM

There is a one-line argument against recalling Linus Omark. It goes like this: he’s a small winger whose primary ability lies in the offensive zone, and the Oilers are a team in need of big wingers who play a solid defensive game.

It doesn’t matter. It’s past time to bring him up.

The Left Wing Depth Chart

Let’s have a gander at the Oilers’ left wing depth chart from last night’s 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

On the top line we have Ryan Jones. Jones is an NHL everyman – he can score a bit, hit a bit, kill penalties, and while he isn’t big he isn’t small either. He’s a very good fourth-liner, by which I mean he’s the kind of player who excels in a fourth line role and can step into the top-nine once injuries start hitting.

Nail Yakupov, a natural right wing, played on the second line with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. I like Yakupov a lot as a player, and despite a slow start I’m not particularly worried that he’s the next Patrik Stefan. Initially, I thought playing him at left wing made a lot of sense – he’s a left-handed shot after all, and the team had and has a need at the position. These days, I subscribe to the idea that the best place for Yakupov to find his game is where he’s found it in the past and where he feels most comfortable: on right wing. I also subscribe to the notion that the Oilers need a productive Yakupov at right wing more than they need an unproductive Yakupov at left wing.

A 28-year-old minor-league journeyman fresh off injury filled the third line left wing spot last night. I know that Ryan Hamilton has a history with Dallas Eakins, and more importantly still I know he’s 6’2” tall and weighs 219 pounds. Those virtues do not suffice to explain why a guy with no history of being an NHL player and coming off a long time on injured reserve to boot is getting a top-nine job.

Finally, fourth on the left wing depth chart is Luke Gazdic. The Oilers get out-shot by a ridiculous rate with Gazdic on the ice; but fortunately for him his plus/minus doesn’t reflect that reality because the goalies have turned aside all 37 shots they’ve seen with him on the ice. That doesn’t change the fact that Gazdic is on the ice to hit and to fight rather than because of his ability to score or prevent goals. The argument about whether that sort of role player is an effective part of an NHL team is for another day; suffice to say for now that he isn’t a credible option above line four.

Meanwhile, in the minors

I understand that Linus Omark is a flawed player. I get why, on a healthy Oilers roster, he isn’t a fit – and by that I mean not only do I grasp the argument, I agree with it.

But when the situation changes, things must be reassessed. We have already seen the most cogent argument in favour of Omark right now – the Oilers’ emaciated left wing group. But there’s more. Omark currently leads the Barons with 12 points in 12 games, and he’s producing under some difficult circumstances.

Last night, for example, Omark played on Oklahoma’s top line with C.J. Stretch (an ECHL find last year) and first-year professional Andrew Miller. He typically played against either one or the other of the Chicago Wolves top-two lines – both of which were loaded to the gills with players with NHL experience. The Barons got scoring from all over, but won the game mostly because Omark was able to drive his line to 20-7 shots/missed shots advantage at even-strength.

Omark’s own scoring has been hit-and-miss – a four-point game here, a four-goal game there – but the constant is that his line has generated scoring chances.

Omark is not going to play the heavy game the Oilers would love to see from their next call-up, but then Luke Gazdic and Ben Eager (or, for that matter, Kale Kessy) will and arguing for anyone in that group to get a promotion is crazy. Overall play counts for something, too, and it’s something the Oilers have lacked that Omark can give them.

What I’d “Like” To See

It seems obvious that the Oilers’ forward lineup is going to be a mess until such time as the injury brigade gets back. Taylor Hall and David Perron and Ryan Smyth, not Linus Omark, are the solution to the Oilers’ left wing problems. Until those players return, the Oilers’ lines are going to be ugly.

In the meantime, though, I think the best deployment of personnel probably looks something like this (ordered by quality of competition):

1. Ales Hemsky – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle. The Oilers don’t really have a power-vs.-power line; Taylor Hall or David Perron is needed to give them one. Of the bad available choices, though, Ales Hemsky seems like the best fit. He’s had the power-vs.-power job before, he’s a veteran guy, and he actually looked pretty good when Tom Renney spotted him here back in 2011-12.

2. Ryan Jones – Boyd Gordon – Mark Arcobello. The Oilers’ don’t really have the pieces for a strong defensive “third” line either. Gordon is a fit as that line’s centre, Arcobello gives the line a second faceoff man, and while Jones isn’t an ideal fit he’s been okay in previous incarnations of this line (the Smyth – Horcoff – Jones trio doing a nice job at points).

3. Linus Omark – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov. I know. This is an all-offence line, geared toward offensive zone starts and deployed against the other team’s bottom-six. It gives Yakupov a chance to play offensive minutes at his natural position, Gagner a chance to ease back into the lineup and both of them a third player in Omark who can help drive offensive results.

The comments section may disagree, and honestly I’m not wild about it myself: there’s no combination of forwards that I particularly like right now for the Oilers. But what I do think is that regardless of how the lines are arranged, Linus Omark stands a better chance of getting the job done in the top nine than a couple of players the Oilers currently have there and a far better chance than any of the potential fourth-line promotions.

Even if it’s something as simple as sticking Omark in the Jones’ slot on the top line, bumping Jones down to the Gordon line and sending Hamilton to Oklahoma on a conditioning stint, I think the Oilers are better off with the guy who is driving results in Oklahoma than they are with the current crop of candidates.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 David Staples
November 03 2013, 08:23PM
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How about Arcobello at centre, Gagner on the wing, at least until Gagner has enough wind to actually, you know, backcheck?

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#2 Lowetide
November 03 2013, 08:23PM
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The Omark decision is beyond curious. Excellent article, Jon.

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#3 vetinari
November 03 2013, 08:02PM
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Release.... The Kraken!

(or failing that, call up Omark -- why should he miss out on the fun?)

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#4 Cameron
November 03 2013, 08:51PM
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I love it when Omark is once again a topic on ON. He really has an army of closet followers and as I have said before, gets more reaction than DSF on this site. I think that Linus however, has been "Sourayed" and therefore unlikely to be looked at.

Does anyone actually think he could make this team any worse?

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#6 Jordan1126
November 03 2013, 08:25PM
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Would rather just see EFFORT and HEART before we worry about line combos.

Without that it really doesn't matter does it. They can draw sticks for lines for all I care but until they show that they care, they won't win. Period.

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#7 Stack Pad Save
November 03 2013, 08:11PM
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But Willis, your using logic to dictate your lines. You tried to remove bias from forming your decision. Expecting anyone within the Oilers organization to do the same would be ludicrous.

I am to the point where I don't care if the Oilers suck more. I think the Oilers should fail for the next 2 years and get McDavid personally. If we can watch the last 2 games, and still find time to blog about the Oilers we can stomach the wait for McDavid.

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#8 bulldog12
November 03 2013, 08:23PM
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Omarks down fall is his defensive game How could it possibly be any worse than the rest of these stooges Maybe Omark will show a little desperation enthusiasm heart that could rub off on the rest of them What would it hurt to give him a shot what's one more loss

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#9 canucknnv
November 03 2013, 08:51PM
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The Oilers management don't have enough karma and goodwill in their accounts to be dicks to a player just for the sake of being dicks.

If they had no intentions of using him for the last few years and especially now, release the poor kid and quit burning a contract on the 50 man for nothing.

Dicks.

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#11 oilers1168
November 03 2013, 08:55PM
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Arco in a short time has convinced me he is a better center on a small sample so lets have him there with Yak and Linus.

Linus has matured and deserves an opportunity even if it is to show case him for a trade or a packaged trade.

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#12 Andrew
November 04 2013, 06:01AM
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There seems to have come a change in the atmosphere in Oiler-ville. Omark schmo-mark.

Something is broken in Middle Earth. The real culprit here is the owner. He hires mostly buddies to run a multi-million dollar hockey business that they have neither the expertise nor the training to do. He started with keeping 'he of the SIX rings'. He started as coach and had no head coaching experience to speak of. When the shine wore off that he got bumped up to GM. IMO a firing via promotion. Again no experience at the pro level. Now he's taken arguably the second biggest chair in the organization with, wait for it ...no experience as president of hockey ops.

We wonder why the organization is busted?

Then a while back we find out the Oil mandarins have put us in classes. That's about the most brain dead thing they could have ever said. 'He of the SIX rings' will NEVER hear the end of that gem.

The unease with Katz started to get really ugly with the arena debate and that's when I started to get concerned.

The organizational arrogance starts at the top. No surprise with that one.

I know this is blasphemous but I would almost rather see the team go elsewhere to someone who has a clue and gives a crap than see this group of Oiler cronies embarrass me any further and that's the truth...

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#13 David S
November 03 2013, 08:42PM
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Linus Omark – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov

*Suddenly feels gonch tightening*

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#14 Oilcan
November 03 2013, 08:18PM
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Would rather see: gagner-RNH-eberle, jones-Gordan-hemsky, omark-arco-yakupov

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#15 Fisher
November 03 2013, 08:26PM
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Or better yet, showcase the hell out of Linus. We're not gonna make the playoffs this year, and he's not resigning. Why not put him into a position to possibly do something, hope like hell he catches fire, then hope a trade market for him pops up, trade him to a team starving for offence, (hopefully in a package deal) and pick up a D man.

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#16 Bryan in SK
November 03 2013, 09:22PM
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I've had a headache since the puck dropped last night. Yet, I can't believe I'm sitting here at my computer reading Oilers blogs again! Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

I wish I could be cured from this disease.

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#17 Racki
November 03 2013, 08:24PM
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That line 3 will likely be good for a line change while the puck is heading towards the defensive zone. And I'm with David on the suggestion to put Arco back at C.. it was working better with him there.

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#18 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
November 03 2013, 09:01PM
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Arco is dying on the wing

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#19 Craig1981
November 03 2013, 08:34PM
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I feel like it won't hurt. Eakins said that they have lost confidence. Bring in a few players that have it right now. Send down the ones that don't.

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#20 canucknnv
November 03 2013, 08:56PM
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@Jordan1126

I'm sure Katz would love to spend Omarks 600k on the 37 head coaches still on the payroll.

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#22 Sandra
November 03 2013, 08:41PM
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David Staples wrote:

How about Arcobello at centre, Gagner on the wing, at least until Gagner has enough wind to actually, you know, backcheck?

Agreed! I question some of the decisions Eakins makes.

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#23 Dog Train
November 03 2013, 09:09PM
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This organization is too proud to call up Omark. I would be in favour of calling him up but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if another injured forward leads to Andrew Miller getting called up. It's ridiculous, management talks about Omark needing to work on his defensive game (not saying he doesn't) while guys like Gagner get a bunch of minutes because they were high draft picks. Results matter, except for the Oilers apparently.

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#24 Zarny
November 03 2013, 09:38PM
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Recalling Omark could be a good move.

No, he isn't the answer long term; but short term he could provide a spark and some excitement.

And whether it's this week, Christmas, the trade deadline or the draft MacT will have to execute some bold moves. That requires currency. You gotta give something to get something.

If Omark can establish himself as an NHL player you can package him in a deal or trade someone higher on the depth chart.

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#25 Ari Gold
November 03 2013, 10:14PM
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Should the Oilers bring him up. Yes.

In the grand scheme of things that is this season: will it matter? No.

Does this organization deserve fans like us? No.

Linus Omark is like taking a Tums to appease your gastric tumour. You need surgery, cut the damn thing out.

Did Calgary beat the defending SC champs in Chicago? Yes.

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#26 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 06:58AM
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Ales Hemsky – small , skill player

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – small , skill player

Jordan Eberle – small , skill player

Mark Arcobello – small , skill player

Linus Omark – small , skill player

Sam Gagner – small , skill player

Nail Yakupov – small , skill player

Do you see a pattern here. I certainly do, it adds up to eight straight years out of the playoffs.

Why can't "the braintrust"?

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#27 D
November 03 2013, 08:19PM
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JW, what is this "driving results" term all about? As a fan of the Oilers, I've never heard of this.

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#28 R U Kidding Me!
November 03 2013, 08:17PM
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Linus Omark, our savior!

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#29 oilers2k10
November 03 2013, 10:42PM
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David Staples wrote:

How about Arcobello at centre, Gagner on the wing, at least until Gagner has enough wind to actually, you know, backcheck?

I'm confused myself why the coach would put a guy who has been good at both ends of the ice and can win his share of faceoffs on the wing in favour of an NHL veteran that consistently struggles at the center position..

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#30 Jordan1126
November 03 2013, 08:47PM
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David S wrote:

Linus Omark – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov

*Suddenly feels gonch tightening*

If your anything like the oilers then you don't have to worry about the gonch tightening because chances are you were "unprepared" and forgot to put some on.

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#31 Jordan1126
November 03 2013, 08:52PM
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canucknnv wrote:

The Oilers management don't have enough karma and goodwill in their accounts to be dicks to a player just for the sake of being dicks.

If they had no intentions of using him for the last few years and especially now, release the poor kid and quit burning a contract on the 50 man for nothing.

Dicks.

They can't let him go. They need someone to play piano for Charlie browns christmas next month

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#32 Loweblows
November 04 2013, 07:11AM
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Longtime, diehard fan here but is obvious KLowe has a job for life. In my twisted masochistic mind Knowing the season is lost the only joy I will get now is watching the Oilers get hammered into the ice evry night. Honestly I hope they lose every game. I dont care about this team anymore.

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#33 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
November 03 2013, 08:54PM
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1 or 2 pts on this next trip should keep 30th within striking distance.

Short term pain, long term gain. Stay the course!

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#34 ThatGuy109
November 03 2013, 11:48PM
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@jack

Real stats are hard:

http://theahl.com/stats/player.php?id=3737

While -8 isn't exactly stellar, it's not -50

Justin Schultz -10
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -10
Ales Hemsky -11
Nail Yakupov -12

Present company isn't exactly doing much better so it's worth a shot. Maybe he'll spark something, maybe he won't. You'll at least know what you have in the guy.

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#35 Death Metal Nightmare
November 03 2013, 08:33PM
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this organization is getting excessively annoying with how they hand out jobs and who they give opportunities.

they see mediocre players as leaders and develop hilarious biases towards players that arent that good. they throw other players under the bus.

the "wise" in their ivory tower of hockey knowledge and "experienced winning as players" really are looking like a steaming pile of feces.

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#36 Rob Gilgan
November 03 2013, 10:08PM
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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Linus Omark is a wizard. Building a team ‘the NHL way’ doesn’t seem to be producing the desired result. Let him go dazzle and inspire. Can’t hurt at this point - and I’ll actually watch a game if he’s in the lineup. And after last night, that’s not something that’s likely to happen very often.

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#38 VK63
November 03 2013, 10:57PM
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David Staples wrote:

How about Arcobello at centre, Gagner on the wing, at least until Gagner has enough wind to actually, you know, backcheck?

Are you sure 89s back checking issue is "wind" related.

If so... theres a lot of oilers with wind issues.

Well I guess only the ones with a vowel in their name.

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#39 vetinari
November 04 2013, 10:17AM
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I think that part of the reason why everyone is so p!ssed-off at management and the team is because we expected Yakupov's draft year to be "rock bottom" of the rebuild and we would start to climb 3-4 positions in the standings each year until we became a playoff team.

Last year, under Krueger (and without a training camp), we did show a modest improvement in the standings. This year, we found a way to erase our previous modest gains, dynamite the rock floor and sink to a new level of incompetence.

And I have to say that this year's Flames reminds me of the spunky teams that we used to ice in the late '90s and early '00s-- a blue collar team with no quit that relished being the underdogs and proving people wrong.

After we cleared out the Jason Smith's, the Fernando Pisani's and the Ethan Moreau's, we forgot to replace them with players that had drive, pride and attitude.

It seems that with our current team, if the goals don't come easy within the first 10 minutes of a game, they give up and coast for the last 50 minutes, hoping to get out of the arena alive and unnoticed.

I've said it before and I'll say it again-- we don't need an enforcer to scare the other team-- we need one that will scare our players into playing like they give a damn, every shift.

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#40 D
November 03 2013, 11:13PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Man, look at the list of players that congratulate him after that goal:

  • Jean-Francois Jacques
  • Magnus Paajarvi
  • Ryan O'Marra
  • Gilbert Brule
  • Nikolai Khabibulin
  • Ryan Whitney
  • Theo Peckham

Oilers management's idea of a Stanley Cup championship roster right there.

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#41 Loweblows
November 04 2013, 06:55AM
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I see a team that is lost and defeated the moment the game starts. I dont see the Oil getting even 1point on this road trip. It really must be hard to be a writer on this site. I am sure you could pull out an article from 7 years ago, change a few names and it would still apply.

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#42 BIngBong
November 04 2013, 07:17AM
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Sorry if this has been mentioned in previous comments, but from listening to Ference and Smid after the Detroit game, it really sounds like there's another split in the locker room - between vets and kids - yet again. Horcoff (and maybe even Moreau?) dealt with this, and couldn't fix it. It sounds like it's still happening. It sounds like the kids (Hall, Eberle, Petry, etc.) refuse to listen to what needs to be done, and refuse to change their game for the better. THhey're the go-to guys - the guys who bring the skill - but until they're willing to change their game we'll never win. Horcoff tried telling them this, Smyth has tried, and now Ference will have a shot.

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#44 Jordan1126
November 03 2013, 08:30PM
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@Fisher

It's too bad he doesn't have top six size or bottom six grit. Just like the majority of our players. Nobody is going to give up a solid 1-2 D man for Linus plus. There is no market for this kid. He can't even crack our ahl version of the oilers. Who would want him

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#45 DSF
November 03 2013, 08:47PM
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David S wrote:

Linus Omark – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov

*Suddenly feels gonch tightening*

Stamkos is already smiling.

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#46 Clayton Abernathy
November 03 2013, 09:28PM
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Have things gone that bad for Oiler fans that they actually think Linus Omark is the team saviour? WOW.

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#47 DSF
November 03 2013, 09:29PM
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Clayton Abernathy wrote:

Have things gone that bad for Oiler fans that they actually think Linus Omark is the team saviour? WOW.

Yes.

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#48 Oiler Al
November 03 2013, 09:29PM
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Thinking outside the box a bit, but seeing has how the forward depth is short and depleted, Why not bring up a Dman from OKC and see how Schultz Jr. would do playing forward/. Worked for Burns in San Jose. {unless Schultz is injured still..)

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#49 @Oilanderp
November 04 2013, 01:36AM
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Give him a shot. My God in Hell, wtf does it take? Jeebus give him a shot, and a good one! Also can he play defense/goalie?

P.S. Does he sell drugs? These ones aren't working. What a horrible time to give a 1 pt/game call up a chance!

P.P.S. Or we can put Jones on the top line. *coughs in a need help sort of way*

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#50 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 04 2013, 08:22AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Also, out of curiosity again, is it this pattern:

  • Pavel Datsyuk - small, skill player
  • Henrik Zetterberg - small, skill player
  • Daniel Alfredsson - small, skill player
  • Daniel Cleary - small, skill player
  • Tomas Tatar - small, skill player
  • Stephen Weiss - small, skill player
  • Gustav Nyquist - small, skill player

Now, before we get into the 'Jonathan, you fanboy, Zetterberg's way better than Eberle!' comments, let me say this: I'm not saying Edmonton's guys are as good as Detroit's, and I'm not ignoring the Franzens and Bertuzzis in Detroit's lineup.

What I am saying is that harping on a team for having good players who happen to be little is kind of stupid.

Your use of "kind of" is far too generous.

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