February 02 2014 12:12PM
Mark Arcobello was optioned to the AHL this weekend, and will play for the Barons this afternoon. Arcobello had a very nice first half of the season—mostly subbing in for Sam Gagner—but as the season wore on the undersized center played less often. Can he make it back?
The Arcobello story at the pro level goes back to Stockton of the ECHL. Signed as a college free agent (the Oilers liked the transaction so much they've purchased an ECHL team to make this type of signing part of their procurement operation) he's progressed steadily.
Arcobello's bubble is a reasonable color and although he's technically in the less-sheltered quadrant he's also straddling the shutdown quadrant. I'd be tempted to call his opposition two-way, but the Oilers didn't see him as a 4line option. They currently employ Ryan Smyth (shutdown option) along with Ryan Jones and Matt Hendricks (less sheltered) on their 4line, along with the lone sheltered forward (Luke Gazdic) on the team. The Sledgehammers are available here.
This is his Extra Skater player card. The young man is having a fine year in the NHL, his CF% rel (Corsi for % relative to his teammates) shows he's outperforming Oiler average—and makes the decision curious based on math.
WHY DID THEY DO IT?
Once Sam Gagner returned (too soon) Arcobello sat for a time, and then got some brief action on the 4line. The Oilers under Dallas Eakins like to run a "heavy" 4th line and Ryan Smyth has been playing center there for some time. The club also uses Luke Gazdic and Matt Hendricks and Ryan Jones and Jesse Joensuu on those lines, and most of those forwards are more might than skill. Arcobello could probably center an effective line with Smyth and Jones, but the Oilers are going in another direction—small forwards have been losing this battle forever.
IS IT A GOOD IDEA?
This is ordinarily where I say "no" but there's a specific reason I'm changing my answer to "probably" and that reason is Luke Gazdic. The 4line enforcer is a typical Corsi performer for that player-type, but does offer a unique set of skills if he can put it all together. A heavy winger with speed and an edge can create havoc in the offensive zone (look at the Oilers against pretty much any Pacific division team). That has value.
- Jonathan Willis: I’ve made no secret that I don’t think much of Luke Gazdic but if he could string together a few games like the one he had against Tampa Bay I would need to re-think that. It wasn’t just the goal, which was a nice deflection, and it wasn’t drawing a penalty from Eric Brewer (who for some reason wanted to take Gazdic’s head off). For me, the highlight was a nice scoring chance in the second period off a takeaway; we’ve seen precious few signs that Gazdic can be hard on the puck and that was exactly the kind of thing a guy with his combination of size and speed should be doing.
If Gazdic can make and take a pass, be responsible, draw penalties instead of create them, and score a few times a year? Yes, I think there's a use for him. It has to be said, though: this is a long shot.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Mark Arcobello may have a future in Edmonton—although headed for free agency the Oilers have plenty of time to sign him and he showed he can play in the NHL. Still, times are changing and it's likely Edmonton is heading in another direction.
Arcobello probably lost his NHL job before he got it. In the moments after Zach Kassian robbed Sam Gagner of the ability to chew, GM Craig MacTavish and coach Dallas Eakins clearly began a roster makeover at the bottom end. Arcobello's competition for top 6 playing time (small forwards) made it impossible for the new template to include a smaller player in the bottom 6.
This is your future Edmonton: more Gazdic, less Arco. Are you ready?
(Arcobello photo with Barons courtesy Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved)