ROOKIE POST GAME THOUGHTS AND PAT QUINN’S THOUGHTS ON HIS ROLE WITH THE ORGANIZATION

CALGARY, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 15: Head coach Pat Quinn of the Edmonton Oilers yells from the bench in the third period against the Calgary Flames in NHL preseason action on September 15, 2009 at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

A win is a win, right Oiler fans? Last year the Canucks beat up by the OIlers for fun, so while a win in a rookie-only tournament won’t remain in the record books, it did remind fans of the Copper and Blue what it feels like to celebrate a win. The Oiler rookies won 4-1, and the least talked about member of the TMJ  trio opened a few eyes and mouths.

Magnus Paajarvi led the way with a pair of goals, and was dangerous all night. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall started slow, but  combined on a nice two-on-one that Eberle buried in the back of the net. But the best player on the ice wasn’t from TMJ, it was soon-to-be Medicine Hat Tiger, Tyler Pitlick.

Pitlick, the 31st pick in the 2010 draft, showed why he was projected to be a first rounder in June. Pitlick was strong on the puck, used his size to control the puck and the play and was rewarded with an empty net goal along with an assist. Pitlick needs at least one year, and maybe two, in the WHL after playing in the NCAA last year, but he was really impressive tonight.

I wanted to focus in on a few players and here’s what I saw.

PITLICK: Isn’t afraid to hit. Had a big hit behind the net that led to a good scoring chance early. He uses his size wisely, especially when shielding the puck. He has very good offensive instincts, and he and Paajarvi found some chemistry early. Looking forward to watching him at Rexall this year; when the Tigers play the Oil Kings.

PAAJARVI: Has great speed, and good instincts. There has been lots of talk about him getting used to the size of the ice in the NHL, but the area between the dots is the same on any ice, and he looked very comfortable in that area. I look forward to seeing him against men, and how he will react and battle, but he is clearly ready for that challenge.

HARTIKAINEN: Not a great skater, but he saved a goal in the first period with a great back check. He likes contact and was involved a lot tonight. The Oilers don’t have many 3rd line grinders in the organization and with some improved skating he could be an asset.

VANDE VELDE: I was disappointed that he didn’t make more of an impact. He was the oldest Oiler on the ice, and while he wasn’t horrible he didn’t do much. VV will be a 3rd line centre if he ever makes the NHL, so I didn’t expect him dominate offensively, but I didn’t see him do a lot with the puck. Only one game, but he will need to be better next game.

MARINCIN: He needs to grow into his frame. He competes really hard, but he still a bit awkward on his skates during collisions. He has a very good stick, but needs to work on his shot. I suspect we will see a big improvement after a season in the WHL.

While I wanted to focus on those five specifically, I did notice a few other things during the game.

  • Eberle has loads of patience with the puck. He is clearly thinks the game differently than most of the other rookies, and he wasn’t afraid to try different moves with the puck. He and Hall fed off each other well, but I’m not sold they will be linemates during the regular season.
     
  • Nolan Toigo is a gritty D-man, and the only non-drafted Oiler on the ice made and impact. If he gets an invite to camp, or even a contract, he’ll probably be in the ECHL to start, but he played well. If he could improve his first pass, he’d be much better.
     
  • Milan Kytnar was barely visible playing with Hall and Eberle. He doesn’t have the same offensive instincts as those two and he will need to become a solid two-way player if he ever hopes to play in Edmonton.
  • Jeremie Blain loves to be physical, but he needs to improve his first step. Very young guy, but his work ethic and grit will get him a look, at least in the AHL, down the road.
     
  • I expected TMJ to be some of the best players on the ice and they were, but Canuck fans had to be disappointed in Jordan Schroeder. He was the only first rounder they dressed, and I was shocked at how invisible he was tonight. It is only one game, but he should stand out in a game like this.
     
  • Hall still has a tendancy to put himself in bad situations on the ice, but I noticed in the 3rd period he started to shield himself a bit better. It will be a process with him, but he looked like he was starting to realize he needs to alter how he positions himself and what route he takes going into plays. He also needs to watch his shift length. 
     
  • You know the song, Fire Burning On The Dance Floor by Sean Kingston.They played it over the sound system in the 3rd period and some idiot actually pulled the fire alarm a few seconds later. Gotta love the BC bud. Funny thing was not one fan even attempted to get out of their seat.

PAT QUINN SPEAKS

Quinn spoke for the first time since he was fired and given another role in the organization. When he was relieved of his coaching duties he wasn’t happy about it. He made it clear that it was never his plan to only coach for one season, but this evening Quinn seemed ready to tackle his new role with a team-first attitude.

What exactly is his role you ask?

"It’s yet to be defined," said Quinn. " I guess advisor is a loose sort of term I suppose in a lot of ways, but I’m well suited to help in a lot of areas, except trainers; although I’ve carried some bags too though (laughs). I can help with the coaching staffs certainly, some scouting if they wish and also some special assignment sort of things. It will be more defined as we work through it."

Quinn admitted it took him some time to get over the disappointment of being relieved of his coaching duties, but he has started the process of moving forward.

"My career has been just a wonderful journey through the game. The game is great in so many ways, and when you are part of it on an every day basis as the coach you are more alive than perhaps some of the other jobs that are in the game, and even outside of the game for that matter. Based on the timing I was preparing to come back and coach, but as we all know now, that plan changed, and maybe it is time for me to make a little change in how I view myself. I’ve made a commitment (to the team) now I want to make a contribution."

It isn’t perfectly clear what areas Quinn will be contributing to, but it is clear that Tom Renney wants to lean on Quinn for advice. "I think he has a good book on coaches in the league, their tendancies for example from a technical perspective. I thought Pat brought a lot of really neat things to our team last year, in terms of how he thinks the game and how he likes to teach it. I will certainly utilize that from him. I’m grateful for the fact that he takes my calls, and as corny as it sounds we have a good relationship and are good friends and that will always be the case," said Renney.

Renney has a lot of respect for Quinn and this is the second time Renney has succeeded him as head coach in the NHL, so expect Quinn to do some advance scouting for the Oilers. He also hinted he would be working with Todd Nelson in OKC at times as well. Quinn looked healthy and seemed genuinely happy to be back in a hockey rink. He cares about the game and doesn’t want to be a negative influence around the team. The biggest thing the team, and the coaches specifically, will miss about not having Quinn around is his sense of humour. Renney openly admitted he doesn’t possess the one-liners of Quinn and the coaches might need to improve in that area.

WHO SAW THIS COMING

From the department of shock and surprise, Canucks GM, Mike Gillis told a media scrum that he will meet with Roberto Luongo tomorrow to discuss his captaincy. Gillis said he wants to discuss it with Luongo, but after listening to Gillis he seems convinced it will be better for his goalie and the team if someone else wears the "C".

It was an asinine idea to begin with, and while Gillis has to make sure he doesn’t hurt his star goalie’s feelings he better slap the "C" on Henrik Sedin and move on. Luongo doesn’t need the added pressure of wearing the "C" on his helmet and the Canucks need him to be focused come playoff time.  

    • Chris.

      I’m excited about Tyler Pitlick… rightly or wrongly: he really reminds me of Jarret Stoll. Both are right shooting centermen with size; both possess a great shot; and both were drafted with intangibles in mind like leadership skills, and faceoff ability… One thing they don’t have in common though, is that as 18 year olds, Pitlick recieved higher prospect grades, and is a better skater than Stoll was at that age.

      Jarret Stoll was drafted by the Flames in 2000 at 46th overall, but the Flames, (ha-ha) failed to sign him and Stoll re-entered the draft in 2002 as a 19 year old where the Oilers selected him 36th overall. Pitlick was born in November of 1991, consequently, he is a bit older than most of his draft class… and was only a year younger than Stoll when he was re-drafted 31st overall.

      I know that no two players are the same, and it’s tricky to predict how a guy will develop; but in the spirit of the new optimism: I don’t think that it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that Tyler Pitlick will emerge as a reliable third line center with a higher overall ceiling than Stoll.

  • Adam D

    I think it would be hilarious for the C to be given to one of the twins while the other was left as the clear second banana, but I’ve always been under the impression Kesler was a likely pick.

  • As much as I hate to admit it, I’m really looking forward to seeing Paajarvi. I don’t think Oil fan knows quite what they have with this guy.

    Thoughts on Abney… NHL enforcer in his future, or more of a longshot, in your opinion?

    I know its just 1 game, but do you have an NHL comparable for Pitlick? Trying to think of the comparable I heard/read the other day (maybe it was here).

    Is Nolan Toigo the son of Pat Quinn’s business partner (Ron Toigo) with the Vancouver Giants?

    • OilerPunch

      Nolan Toigo is Ron’s nephew.

      That was a good game if only because it gives some hope for the future of this franchise. Plus it adds credibility to my avatar!

    • Jason Gregor

      I think Abney is a long ways from being an NHL enforcer. He is willing, and has improved his skating, but I think he would be more of a long shot than a sure thing right now.

      Nolan Toigo is Ron’s nephew not his son.

  • Slapshot

    I am looking forward to watching Paajarvi,Eberle and Hall play at Rexall,as a Oilers fan our future is starting to look good,all the best to Quinn in whatever duties the Oilers have him doing.

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    Great blog Jason. I was watching Plante tonight didn’t look out of place at all but is he still a little slower with his footspeed? I was impressed by him but like you said Its only the first game. I love to see pitlick between Hall and Eberle.

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    Great analysis of a great game Gregor but what about the goalie?
    I thought Olivier Roy played outstanding and could have been the difference maker in this one.

    • Jason Gregor

      Olivier Roy played very well except for the weak goal. He is very athletic and showed great quickness. I thought he was out of a position, angle wise, a few times and that will kill him when he plays NHL players. I wonder if he’ll get a half game in the preseason this year?

      He did play well and the most important thing he did was gain the confidence of the players in front of him. Doesn’t matter what game or level you play, if players trust and believe in their goalie they play better.

  • Gilmore Tuttle

    I doubt that Quinn will be an active part of the coaching staff by December. It doesn’t sound like they have a role for him other than cashing his paycheck. Too bad for the guy, he has been around for a long time.

  • I thought Harvy’s(MPS)skating is better than a lot of NHL player’s,and I’m surprised you didn’t mention Plante’s mean streak.all in all,I can’t wait till 3 years from now.

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    are you thinking that in three years there will be alot of teams putting in RFA’s on these guys. I’m thinking the way Tambolini is doing these contracts lately, He is thinking about the same thing.

    • Jason Gregor

      Not at all. No one has put in an offer to Bobby Ryan or any of the other RFAs, not sure why it would be different in three years. I really don’t think you should worry about that now. Enjoy watching the kids grow, and don’t fret about them leaving to an RFA offer.

      Bobby Ryan had two 30 goal seasons and didn’t get an offer from another team. And considering the Oilers shouldn’t be in cap trouble then, I don’t think it really matters.

  • OilerPunch

    It’ll be interesting to see how the Oilers handle Pitlick – I’d be surprised if he spends two seasons in the WHL as he’ll be AHL eligible next season.

    Well, he’s AHL eligible now, since he was drafted out of the NCAA, but it there has been no real talk of sending him to the AHL, and a lot of talk about him playing in the WHL.

    • Jason Gregor

      He is going to Medicine Hat for sure this year. Next year will depend on how he progresses this year. Two years in the WHL didn’t hurt Eberle so I’m not if they will rush him, but having that option is enticing.

      Taylor Hall, Ryan Martindale and Curtis Hamilton could all play in the AHL next year, because of their birthdate…after Sept 15, 1991.

  • Cru Jones

    That was a fire alarm? I thought an equipment truck was backing up.

    Roy is going to impress people, that is when he’s not letting softies in.

    Hall takes long shifts. Too long.

    @Gregor: I was the ugly grey yaris tailgating you from the ktown bridge in. Thought I recognized those glasses. Thanks for being lead car.

    • Jason Gregor

      It was a unique/lame fire alarm…DING….DING….DING…

      Hall does need to shorten in his shifts, and I suspect he will be reminded of that.

      I had the black Volvo in front of me as the lead car…ha..The speed limit seemed to change every mile on the highway between Kelowna and Penticton..

  • Cru Jones

    I was at the game this afternoon and agree with Gregor’s comments. In addition, I thought Roy looked pretty solid, Motin seemed to struggle at times with his reads, Abney looked very slow, Plante has a nice gritty angle to his game.

    If tonight was any indication, MPS could be the rookie with the biggest impact this year.

  • PabstBR55

    I can’t wait to tank it this year and have 4, count ’em, 4 rock solid prospects under 21 in the depth chart.

    Check it. I can’t wait to trade Penner mid-season for a stud of a prospect, draft another high-calibre player, and have 5, count ’em 5 thoroughbreds in the stable.

    And have Pitlick turn into something special and …

  • Cru Jones

    Taylor Hall is a gem in it’s rawest of forms…uncut straight outta the diamond mine. He looks like a St. Bernard puppy (the pick of the litter) growing into his young uncomfortable body, but on skates and just aiming to please…not unlike the way I remember Mark Messier in say 1980?…if he gains twenty pounds in the next year and stays as heavy on his blades as he looks now at such a young age he’ll be able to bull(moose) his way into any part of the ice and be safe as Mess ever was…sure he’s going to make as many mistakes as #11 along the way,gawd knows a few of us witnessed enough of them…he needs to get a mean streak of some kind to go with the quiet demeanor he projects off the ice…those (way) too long shifts is just an indicator that he has an ego and if he’s that self absorbed on the ice now and Renney gets a leash on him he’ll be just fine sooner rather than later. He IS and WILL be a Leader…ok, one game is not enough to say many of these things about this one young man but to get further out on this limb I’m on and say …Hall and Eberle COULD be a Mess & Andy type combo one day but with a surgical acuity rather than the cocky brashness of those glory days.There’s chemistry in what little I saw in this short showcase of nuthin’ but rookies…did Hall keep looking for Eberle whenever he seemed to get the puck close in? I hope too that THall is some day seen steaming down his off wing looking to snap shot the far side of the net to prove my theory…he’s a beauty no question.

    BTW does anyone know what a “Strba” is ?… it’s #4’s middle given name …could it be Strba rhymes with Bubba ? and we have a nick for the kid?

  • After listening to the game on CHED, I think I can get used to Jack Micheals. Bob & him sounded like they complimented each other. I was impressed.

    Roy sounded like he played a solid game with the exception of the goal. Paajarvi sounded like a beast.

    Maybe Pat Quinn will get MacT’s gig on TSN? He could still do his “consulting” while adding some flavour to the hockey broadcasts.

  • Jason Gregor

    They should give Pat the team spokespersons job. Have him look after all post game interviews and evaluation pieces. Most colourful member of the managment team by far.

  • wyseguy

    I was at the game last night and to be honest, I didn’t notice Pitlick much. In my mind, Roy was the player of the game. I agree with Gregors comment on Eberle’s patience. Him and Hall have no panic at all when they stick handle in traffic. On Eberle’s goal, I thought he should have one timed it, but he let the goalie move over, pulled it back and sniped a spot in the top corner about the size of my fist. For a guy who’s slow and small, that kid’s a player.

    I thought Toigo was brutal, he turned over the puck about 4 times in his own zone and was awful trying to get the puck out of the zone. I think they should walk away from him. On the D I was impressed with Plante, he’s a big boy. Davidson also looked really good on D, never heard of this guy.

  • bdiddy78

    @ Jason Gregor

    Great column. I am glad to hear that Pitlick performed well. I thought that when we drafted him it was like getting a bonus first rounder. I’m also very pleased to read that Pat Quinn is excited about his new role and that he is looking forward to helping the organization out in any way he can.

    But I need to call you out on something. In the article you refer to the TMJ trio. I assume you mean Taylor/Magnus/Jordan. I like it. I have been referring to them as “the rookies” but I think TMJ is much better. It is more economical and much wittier. Kind of like the term “Horpensky”, commonly used by Lowetide readers.

    This is where my issue with you stems from. Two or three months ago, I heard you deliver a rant on your radio show saying, basically, that the kind of people who would come up with or use the term Horpensky were nerds that were a little too pleased with their own intelligence. You also inferred that these were the same kind of people that you enjoyed making life miserable for back in your school days.

    This really pissed me off. Where the hell do you get off? You yourself trade on using your wit and intelligence and I can see now that you, also, are fond of witty shorthand, as I would expect someone in your business to be. Is it because you don’t care for Lowetide’s or his readers’ points of view? Because you don’t like math? Because you are jealous of people that are more intelligent or educated than yourself?

    Help me out here. I like your work in general. I read almost all of your posts on this site and I listen to your show when I am in the car when it’s on. I started reading blogs a few years ago when I discovered Lowetide and now I read several of them regularly and derive much enjoyment from them. When Lowetide moved to ON, I followed him and I now enjoy all of the writers that blog for the Nation, including yourself.

    You see, I was bullied when I was younger because I was different. I was exceptionally bright in school so my teachers loved me. I was freakishly good at math. I preferred reading a book to going outside and playing with other kids. I was awkward socially. I look back now and do not regret that I was different or that I had to endure constant teasing and beatings. It made me stronger and motivated me to become a better person.

    I am no longer friends with any of the people that bullied me but I don’t hate them. They were just kids. I respect everyone’s point of view regardless of their intelligence or education. I don’t care that you didn’t go to university because you are good at what you do.

    Please respond to this so I don’t have to lose respect for you as a human being.

  • bdiddy78

    I guess I didn’t make myself clear enough in my previous post. I like and respect Jason Gregor and I was merely pointing out the hypocrisy of criticizing “Horpensky” when it was quite similar to “TMJ”. And when I originally heard the radio rant, I did not get the impression that Mr. Gregor was regretful of his behaviour in high school or whenever. I did, in fact, do things that I now regret when I was younger but I do not look back on them with pride now. I am capable of criticizing myself and using it to grow as a person.

    And I didn’t think that speaking up at the time would make any difference whatsoever. Judging by the responses of other readers and Gregor’s lack of a response, my original assumption was correct. God forbid anyone should ever point out a flaw in somebody they like in the hopes they could be better.