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.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#101 Ed in Edmonton
November 04 2013, 08:36AM
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Bringing back Omark is one of the purest examples of shuffling deck chairs one could think of. With Hall and Perron injured and Yak playing at a Junior level, left wing is a disaster. But then again Jones, Hamilton try to supply some grit the Oil badly need. Surely no on can seriously consider Omark to be part of the solution.

The Oil brain trust (if they have one)must also realize that they are in next year territory and need to make moved base on this. At the same time, their base is starting to give up, so they need to do something to improve the team now. Seems like a no win situation.

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#102 tileguy
November 04 2013, 09:19AM
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Talk about dying on the vine, Omark playing the Eakins system will just frustrate and he'll be on a plane back to Europe before December. Keep him in the minors where perhaps he can be part of a package.

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#103 Sidney Frosby
November 04 2013, 09:25AM
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We need size....Why not get one of the Filingo brothers or both! throw in Dubinsky also.

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#104 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 10:14AM
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6 ring circus wrote:

On a side note, the Eskimos have fired Kavis Reed,let's just hope the Oiler's and Eskimo's make the right changes, so that Edmonton sports fans can once again be proud of their sports teams.

Ed Hervey should of gone with him. It is the same as the Oilers going through a coach a year but Lowe keeps his job. Then forces assistant coaches on the new coach, it is a laughable disgrace.

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#105 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 10:26AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

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

The same way they "kind of" been out of the playoffs for seven going on eight years. Obviously what they have player wise is not working? No?

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#106 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 04 2013, 10:29AM
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Spydyr wrote:

The same way they "kind of" been out of the playoffs for seven going on eight years. Obviously what they have player wise is not working? No?

Good god no!

Find anyone who's said that, or put the straw man back in the closet.

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#107 oilerjed
November 04 2013, 10:39AM
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Plus I would have like to be in the oilers dressing room after Saturdays game. Did anyone else notice a visibly Pissed Eakins taking off his jacket and loosening his tye as he was leaving the bench. Looked like he was in the mood to pummel someone.

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#108 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 04 2013, 10:44AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Jonathan Willis

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."

Pretty sure that is what Jonathan Willis is saying that above. A team of small players like the Oilers can win in the NHL. You know the comment you suggested it more more than "kind of" stupid to suggest a team with all small players cannot compete and win.

Ah! Here's the problem.

Thanks for clarifying.

Re-read his comments, or anyone else's for that matter, and find someone saying:

"Obviously [over the last 8 years] what they have player wise is […] working."

When you come up short (you will)… you'll be left scratching your head. Keep scratching until to sort why you aren't engaging JW's actual point.

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#109 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 11:09AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Ah! Here's the problem.

Thanks for clarifying.

Re-read his comments, or anyone else's for that matter, and find someone saying:

"Obviously [over the last 8 years] what they have player wise is […] working."

When you come up short (you will)… you'll be left scratching your head. Keep scratching until to sort why you aren't engaging JW's actual point.

Re-Read the comments. I did engage JW's actual post. Are you always so pompous?

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#110 RMGS
November 04 2013, 11:22AM
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Given the Oilers practice lines today, Coach Eakins may be a reader of Jonathan Willis' work.

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle Smyth-Gagner-Yakupov Jones-Gordon-Arcobello

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#111 Will
November 04 2013, 11:55AM
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Yep, you know the situation is getting straight up apocalyptic when we start talking about needing to bring back Omark.

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#112 bwar
November 04 2013, 04:28PM
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Why would we make a change when we can just watch it all burn to the ground as is?

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#113 Oiler Al
November 04 2013, 04:52AM
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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

Get these guys back in to Oilers jerseys, cant do much worse that whats happening right now!

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#114 ubermiguel
November 04 2013, 09:02AM
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vetinari wrote:

No use complaining about having nothing but "small, skilled" players if you can't change the mix, and frankly, in a salary cap world, the bulk of your roster changes are going to come in either the summer or at the trade deadline. Well, summer has come and gone and all we really added was some much needed peskiness with Perron but nothing else. That only leaves the trade deadline as the last major chance to try and change our roster in a real, meaningful way.

However, there is more than one way to win in the modern NHL but we seem to be stuck in NHL94 mode-- try and bludgeon your opponents into submission. Eakins either has to adapt his system to the type of players that he has available to him (yes-- soft, skilled and fast) or else have MacT overpay and acquire three or four players that can play Eakins system.

If we have to move to a more "European" puck possession system that works from the perimeter, then do it if it will win games. Just stop trying the same thing over and over again-- the players aren't sold on it and all it is doing is destroying morale.

You are onto something here regarding the Swarm. Look at the parts you have and build a system to fit them. Although playing defense in not limited by size, and there seems to be a lack of that.

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#115 Lochenzo
November 04 2013, 09:11AM
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I think Dallas Eakins nailed it. Fear of losing is in their heads. I don't know the personalities in the locker room, but if the Oilers ever needed a locker room prankster, now is the time. Just something to loosen things up.

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#116 2004Z06
November 04 2013, 09:23AM
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Andrew wrote:

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...

So did you sign the petition?

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#117 Smokey
November 04 2013, 09:34AM
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Smokey wrote:

Since we are a lock to be outta of playoff unless we pull a "Dodgers Win The Pennant" miracle on ice, Omark needs to brought up. Fans need to get one more round outta Omark and a second to Nashville for Shea Weber joke.

We need Omark's 60 foot game on the PP. I'd play him fourth line and both PP units to get resuscitate the offense. Playing him with Gagner and Yakupov is risk reward. But who cares, its all about entertainment. I'd unleash the hounds and play firewalls hockey like in 2008 when the kid line played 20 games of beautiful hockey.

Heck put him on the penalty kill, it can't be worse then now.

I got spellchecked bad there, Holy Smokes

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#118 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 10:36AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Good god no!

Find anyone who's said that, or put the straw man back in the closet.

Jonathan Willis

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."

Pretty sure that is what Jonathan Willis is saying that above. A team of small players like the Oilers can win in the NHL. You know the comment you suggested it more more than "kind of" stupid to suggest a team with all small players cannot compete and win.

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#119 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 04 2013, 11:20AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Re-Read the comments. I did engage JW's actual post. Are you always so pompous?

Didn't mean to be pompous. Sorry, genuinely.

But, you are talking past him and ignoring his actual argument. This is simply the case.

Actual argument: small, skilled players are not an impediment to winning. Good players are not a hindrance to winning.

Unrelated argument no one is making: "Obviously [over the last 8 years] what they have player wise is […] working."

Saying "good, even if small, even if plentiful, players are GOOD for any team"

is a radically different proposition than saying anything like

"the Oilers are a good team"

Or, simply put:

Saying: "The reason the Oilers are bad has nothing to do with the idea that teams can't win with too many small, skilled wingers"

does not equal

Saying: "the Oilers as constructed are a good team"

Without condescension, until you sort out the different lines of argument here, this conversation won't be productive. You are simply having a different conversation than the one JW started.

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#120 **
November 04 2013, 11:24AM
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After the last game I don't think any new combination could give a worse result. I agree with Wills. Time to shake the tree and see what falls.

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#121 pelhem grenville
November 04 2013, 08:22AM
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Bryan in SK wrote:

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.

...pour it all out on the Blades and Green Riders B in SK...

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#122 jack
November 04 2013, 06:48PM
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Naky wrote:

@jack

So what you're saying is that he'd fit right in with the current bunch, except that he'd actually manage to score. Still sounds like an upgrade to me. If nothing else on a team with confidence issues, it might be interesting to see a player with no shortage of it do his best to make it rub off on the rest.

Hell, we're all actually wondering if it wouldn't be a good thing to have priests exorcise the dressing room or whatever the heck it is that Gregor was yammering on about in that article a week or so ago. Is Omark really that much of an 'out there' thing these days?

yah scoring on the farm is the same as scoring in the NHL cmon man

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#123 kdunbar
November 05 2013, 02:04AM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Spyders list should have read

"Young Small Skilled" players.....

The key variable being "Young"

There's a good chance that the Oilers rebuild will serve as model for how NOT to rebuild.

Too many young players added to the roster in too short a period of time.

We often forget the number of vets that the glory years had in 79, 80, 81 etc...

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