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.