Hall, Paajarvi, Eberle and the Big League

With all the focus on Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, and of course Taylor Hall at this year’s training camp, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about whether it might be a good thing for one (or more) of start the season in Oklahoma City.

It’s an idea I felt compelled to write about after reading Lowetide’s critique of the Toronto Maple Leafs handling of Nazem Kadri over at his other site. I’ll quote that article in part:

I think Kadri will be a good player. He’s gritty, clearly has skill and could develop into a quality 2-way player. But not with Toronto. They get so damn impatient with these kids. It’s pretty fricking strange that they can’t figure it out, but there it is in all its glory. In the next 5 years, we’ll see Kadri struggle, get sent down and sent away for less than 100 cents on the dollar. Look at Luke Schenn, failing down the depth chart and perhaps one summer from being flushed. Rask, Steen, Colaiacovo, Boyes and on it goes.

That kind of criticism is something easily applied to the Oilers of the past few years. Sam Gagner was bumped into the NHL immediately after being drafted – despite being at the very tail end of his draft class age wise – and it isn’t clear that there have been any benefits to that course; instead, he’s burned his way through his entire entry level deal learning things he might have learned in a lower league. Andrew Cogliano’s another example; if trades would just go through he’d be well on his way to a Mike Sillinger-style career. Greene, Brodziak, Chorney, Smid and on it goes.

The logic here doesn’t seem all that complex either, if this is a rebuilding year. The Oilers are unlikely to contend seriously for a playoff spot this season, so why waste a year of a guy’s entry level contract when he can be learning backchecking/the North American game/playing against men in the AHL (or in Hall’s case, thanks to self-serving rules that only harm development, in the OHL)?

Of the Big Three, Paajarvi seems like the logical candidate to start the year in the minors.

Jordan Eberle’s old enough that his entry-level deal won’t slide forward another year, so the Oilers are going to burn that year if he plays in the NHL or AHL. Additionally, he has fared well in 20 AHL games so far, and as the oldest of the three is likely the one most physically ready for the NHL grind. Meanwhile, Taylor Hall is a first overall pick and doesn’t have the option of spending time in the AHL; it wouldn’t bother me to see him back in junior but the optics would probably make that impossible.

Paajarvi, though, has never played in North America before. He’s young enough that his entry-level deal could slide forward a year, giving the Oilers another season of cheap play provided he spent all (or nearly all) of the season in the minors.

Of course, I expect all three to be on the roster come opening night. Steve Tambellini’s made it very clear that he feels there are enough forwards on the team right now, and as it stands there really isn’t much competition for those spots, and what competition there is either showed up to camp out of shape or is busy playing preseason games on a line with Steve MacIntyre. Toss in the fact that the preseason performance of the Big three has fans at least as excited as the O’Sullivan/Comrie duo did last year, and sending down a guy like Paajarvi seems crazy.

Maybe it is. Maybe all three players legitimately deserve a spot on the NHL roster and it is so clear that it would be a waste of time to try and bring in other forwards to compete for spots. Then again, when it comes to the rookies and the NHL, maybe we’re too preoccupied with whether or not they can that we don’t stop to think if they should.

  • O.C.

    I think we should wait a few more pre-season games before we judge these kids. I have been impressed with all three. Eberle to me showed more grit and determination then Hall or MPS so far. Hes played tough minutes against the best line in Western Conference, and played postionally sound and took a couple hits. That says as much to me a MPS highlight filled night. Give him a chance to display his offensive skill in the next few games. I would bet next game well see the crafty skill in the neutral zone, the nifty work along the wall, the pin point passing, and the ability to find the open ice.
    I also dont get the send Hall back to junior. What does he possibly have to show there. When every scout says he is the most NHL ready player in Junior hockey, I have a little more faith what a scout says then some armchair GM’S that have watched 3 pre-season games and WJH tourney. Hes not going to turn into the next Rico Fata, and even if he has a Joe Thorton start (which I highly doubt) players now are more then ever able to make the jump to NHL since the improvement of coaching, player development in junior hockey.
    I also think also when the time comes for this team to be competitive they will be able to fill the odd hole with free agents. Players will play where they know they will have success and there will be talent around them. Edmonton I believe will once become a destination for the odd free agent.
    Lastly why are so many people down on this city. I think the world of Edmonton. Where else can you show up with carload of junk, a 100 bucks, and dreams, and in ten years you have anything you want in life. I think that when Edmontons start to be proud of this city that people who are not from here will take notice. I think we Edmontonians only have ourselves to blame when we trash our own town. I love this place…Sorry for the rant…

  • O.C.

    Why is Paajarvi’s name always the one brought up to spend some time or more in the minors for seasoning before playing in the NHL? And at the same time I always hear his name brought up being the player that is MOST NHL READY of the three?

    • Jamie B.

      Because Eberle playing in the minors would still take a year off his contract and Hall can’t go down. So, if they’re doing it for non-playing reasons as most of the people making this argument would be, Paajarvi’s the only one who fits.