Okla-Homa OK!

It’s been years since we’ve been here. A minor league team with balance, a successful won-loss record, the ability to lend bona fide players to the big club and offer a quality proving ground for the kids who represent the future. What in hell is going on around here? 

At the turn of the century, the Hamilton Bulldogs were coached by Walt Kyle and Morey Gare. Among the prospects who went on to NHL careers were Daniel Cleary, Jason Chimera and Dan Lacouture. After that, the Oilers went a little wobbly in the development department, getting into shared rosters and things that have more to do with saving money than developing useful hockey players. The Oakland Seals used to do it, so you can see why the Oilers would want to bring the idea back. I mean, how bad could it be? The Seals aren’t defunct or anything. Right? Am I right? 

New ownership and a total rebuild (not even recycling the hubcaps)  meant that the AHL club would be going through some changes too. Actual money was spent on the roster, bringing in old hands that cost more than $100,000 (Alex Giroux, Martin Gerber, Shawn Belle, Richard Petiot, Brad Moran, Ben Ondrus). Add it to the cost of sending Sheldon Souray on a Hinterland’s who’s who trip and we’re talking about a lot of Rexall playing off broadway.

Let’s say you and I are charged with walking into the office of Mr. Katz today and telling him how he’s benefited from this cash outlay. Is there any evidence? Pardon my language, but there’s a bleeping ton. OKC has a record of 13-7-2, good for 2nd place in the west division and 3rd in the western conference.

Is our children learning?

Teemu Hartikainen (in photo, courtesy this wonderful site) is adjusting well to the AHL game this season. We have some anecdotal evidence that he’s playing the tougher minutes and if true this young man may be NHL ready before the end of this season. Here’s a quick update on each prospect:

  1. L Linus Omark 22gp, 12-11-23 +5: He’s already proven everything and is well on his way to becoming the legend we predicted he’d be (here) during the summer. A recall to the big club could come soon, as Ales Hemsky hasn’t played in a couple of games and the Oilers are coming off a loss last night. He might meet them out east in the next few days (jmo).
  2. R Liam Reddox 22gp, 11-9-20 +10: No longer a prospect but rather a useful tweener, Reddox might be just what the doctor ordered for the big club. A solid penalty killer and energy player, he’s delivering a quality season in OKC. Max effort every night. Check out that crazy +10, he also leads the league in SH goals and is 3rd in shots. Reddox is flat out better than some of the bottom 6F’s in Edmonton. Seriously.
  3. D Shawn Belle 19gp, 2-13-15 -6: He’s been playing the tough minutes with the Barons and was rewarded with the season’s first recall from the farm. Belle performed well and should see more action with the big club later in the year.
  4. D Jeff Petry: 22gp, 4-10-14 -7: This is the blue chip prospect everyone’s watching closely. Petry would fill a major need on the big club (a defender with a wide range of skills who could be used in multiple roles) when he’s ready. I think it’s very good that Oilers management has kept him on the farm and believe they should keep him in OKC for the entire season. However, his most recent work suggests he’s turned a corner; in his last 6 games, Petry is 2-3-5 and +5. Hard to keep him on the farm if buddy can rip that off every week.
  5. R Colin McDonald: 22gp, 11-2-13 +2. Like Reddox, McDonald is no longer a prospect so much as a tweener, or a guy waiting for his NHL opportunity. McDonald is showing some impressive things this season: his 11 goals ties him with Reddox for 7th in AHL goal scoring for the year (they both trail Omark who has 12). He’s playing on a line devoted to creating offense while facing the opposition’s best (the 1line appears to be O’Marra-Omark-Reddox when everyone is healthy but I believe McDonald’s line is facing the toughs). Either way, he’s in the mix for  a recall when Tom Renney tires of the addled 4th line.
  6. C Ryan O’Marra 19gp, 0-12-12 +9. He was having a career year at the pro level when injury struck. The story is here. I mentioned in training camp that O’Marra’s skill set (RH center who can win draws and PK) is a perfect match for the Oilers in terms of need and the song remains the same. I think he might get a long look after the trade deadline if he can return to form after recovering from his injury. An extremely inviting situation for this youing man.
  7. L Teemu Hartikainen 22gp, 7-3-10 -11. Big man has been very effective on the powerplay this season, scoring 5 goals with the man advantage. That’s an enormous number for this time of year, tying him for 4th in the entire league. When a rookie comes into the AHL and ranks in the top 10 in any category it should be taken seriously. If he can do it in the AHL, then he should be able to do it (although not as often) in the NHL. He seems to be getting them from point blank range, so maybe the idea is to stick his big butt in front of the net and block out the sun. Whatever the strategy, it’s working.
  8. D Taylor Chorney 22gp, 0-7-7 +6. If Mr Katz wants an example of what can happen when you bring prospects along responsibly, Chorney’s progress will jump off the page. After seasons of -29 and -20, that +6 stands out in a big way. Chorney is playing 2nd pairing with Alex Plante and is back on track as a prospect. Size is always going to be the issue, and he’s going to have to work like a demon in order to get past the bigger blue prospects, but there’s a heartbeat.
  9. C Chris Vande Velde 21gp, 4-2-6 -7. Started slowly but has improved as the season rolls out. In October VV was 11gp, 1-1-2 -8 but recovered nicely in November (10gp, 3-1-4 +1). Vande Velde is a new pro but is an older prospect so there is some urgency for him to show well (or get passed). Shawn Horcoff was recalled to the NHL on December 4, 2000 after just 24 AHL games. That’s an aggressive timeline but he should be able to impact the game more quickly than some of the other rookie AHL forwards because of age and size. He needs to be better.
  10. D Alex Plante 21gp, 1-5-6 +1. I think he’s close to NHL ready. Plante plays 2nd pairing minutes and has showed he’s willing to drop the gloves in defense of his teammates. His 51 PIMS have him in the league’s top 30 in that department and he’s a much smoother defender than he was when he arrived in pro hockey. The Oilers need a righty at the NHL level right now and Plante is the obvious candidate. 9gp, 1-3-4 +3 in November, one of these times they recall him to the NHL he won’t be coming back.
  11. C Milan Kytnar: 21pg, 1-4-5 -5. A pleasant surprise. I thought Kytnar might get lost in the shuffle and spend the entire season in Stockton, but he’s found a depth role and every game he plays is one step closer to moving up the depth chart. Kytnar has had a meandering career but there might be a player here.
  12. D Johan Motin 18gp, 1-2-3 -1. One of the ways we can track progress for prospects in the AHL is with playing time. Motin has missed a few games this season, and was a healthy scratch (unless I’ve missed something) the night Richard Petiot was hurt. The top 6D that night were Petiot-Taylor, Belle-Petry, Chorney-Plante. I think it’s reasonable to suggest that Motin is not running with the other prospects. 
  13. L Phil Cornet: 14gp, 0-2-2 -1. He’s about where we thought he’d be, having a tough time posting offense in a tough pro league. He has played 4 times in November and posted 1 shot.

Mr. Katz, your money is being spent wisely in Oklahoma City. Those veterans are providing some room and structure for the prospects and the kids are flourishing in some areas and solid in others. Not all of these kids will play in the NHL, and very few will spend 200+ games in the big league. However, there’s some real progress among the baker’s dozen above and (barring injury) two or three will grab hold of an NHL job and keep it for years.

Daniel Cleary, Jason Chimera and Dan Lacouture proved it a decade ago, but someone in Edmonton was busy in the counting room.

  • m_kennedy13

    I was going to come in here kicking and screaming as you made me wait so long for my Sunday morning addiction. Then when it finally comes up, that lovely picture eased all anger.

    Great piece again Lowetide. Thanks.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    i cant believe Reddox wasnt on the fourth line after the camp he had. dude was all over the place and creating tons of forechecking pressure (something this team sorely needs). plus he has just the right amount of skill to be dangerous. but then again, Tambo’s big board on July-whatever-the-hell on the Oil Change episode = Rigid Roster Ideology with no room for flexing because of the jobs guys were handed for being mediocre/poor pros at their roles.

    Paajarvi and Omark need to play a bit together. its too bad the Oilers dont have one more vet center like Horcoff to help solidify a line similar to the Horcoff, Eberle and Hall line for those two.

    Brule, Cogliano, Fraser… id like to see purged from here ASAP but it wont happen. even though Cogliano is bring some “jam” and nice “optics” to the “gong show”

    • Spartacus

      I would love to clone Horcoff and put him in between Paajarvi and Omark. He has really done the job with respect to Hall and Eberle.

      And for the haters, NO! I would not like to clone his salary too (jerks)

  • m_kennedy13

    @ Death Metal Nightmare

    I love Oilers fans. If we were to see Tambo’s “big board” on Oil Change and it looked like this,

    Penner – Horcoff – Hemsky

    Open – Gagner – Open

    Open – Open – Open

    Open – Open – Open

    Whitney – Gilbert

    Smid – Open

    Open – Open



    the reaction would have been insane, yet it seems that’s what fans wanted.

    Why would any team base their starting day roster off of only one impressive camp? Shockingly teams have planned all summer what they want their team to look like, and unless blown away by someone (see Gagner and Cogliano rookie year) most line ups are set before hand.

  • HottScarrison

    THE URGE TO SURGE AND PURGE PROVING DISASTEROUS ? Looking at present lineup and best prospects to make jump to NHL level next season or more leaves us more diminutive and further behind the opposition 3 years from now . Example : Omark , Reddox , Plante and Hartekainen most likely to make the jump to main squad . They will join the Gagner group making a still worse diminutive squad . This years drafts will be just getting their feet wet in 3 years and who knows if they will pan out in that time period . In 3 years what if any good core base will still be here ?

    Defensively and goaltending in 3 years will be what ? Hall may be only at Eberle level in two years with little core base to help him or any newbies get to next level . Seeing as rookies seem to take between 3-5 years to develop it appears we are stuck with a diminutive lineup for a long time . We may not see playoffs for another decade if our draftees take a lot of time to develop and they are still of the diminutive size .

    You can argue otherwise but i see Omark , Reddox and Eberle added to Gagner base and thats a small core by any standards . Not sold on any defensive talent other than Plante, making defense still very weak .

    I don’t see how we are going to be any better 3 years from now, or with a sound core to develop a winning team and draftees that we might get .I,m afraid the develop curve is going to be longer than average because of a small and weak base .

    I don’t see a plan to make us competitive now or down the line in effect , nor a core base that can lead us to the next level in 3-5 years . Hope and hype not proving fruitfull . We need someone who can deliver on their vision with on ice proof , and that we have lacked for a long , long time !

    Nice optimistic article by the way Lowetide. Hate to reign on your parade in this manner .

    • DimebagDave

      I still can’t figure out if you are speaking english or not.

      Hall may only be at Eberle level in 2 years?? Do you actually watch
      any of the games? Hall is catching up to Ebs more and more every game.

    • Spartacus

      Madjam, you and Death Metal Nightmare should exchange contact info. Then you can have game day parties where you cut yourselves and cry about how bad the Oilers are now and how “diminutive” their “core base” will be in 3 years.

      Me, I’d rather just enjoy the brief flashes of brilliance I see almost every game. Like Eberle to Hall for the game-winner the other night. Wasn’t that frickin’ awesome?

      I was at the home-opener for Eberle’s first goal. That was a great moment, and a great hockey game. Those are the kinds of things I’ll remember about this season.

      You think there is zero chance that the Oilers will be a good team in three years? What if you’re wrong? Are you going to apologize to the Oilers “core fan base” for putting us through the misery that is Madjam?

  • m_kennedy13

    @ Madjam

    This is a rebuild, no negativity!

    On the other hand, if you believe that we are a bottom team this year, which many do believe, then we should be in a position to draft either Larsson or Couturier, who are currently 6’2 and 6’4 respectfully. You can likely add one of them to the core.

    It appears that O’Marra, who once was supposed to be a sure fire NHLer, has finally found his game and can hopefully be a bottom six presence. He’s 6’2.

    There is a good chance that Stu has found us another gem in Curtis Hamilton, who despite putting up points in the WHL this season, is also very very sound defensively. If he continues his progress he could be a part of the core and is currently 6’3.

    Paajarvi is already part of the core and is about 6’2 but in need of some filling out.

    Theo Peckham looks to be figuring out the NHL game and is 6’2.

    Ladislav Smid is very much a part of this rebuild and core, he is listed at 6’3.

    You mentioned Plante already, who is also 6’3.

    Horcoff will be here for another 5 years for sure, he is 6’1.

    As a big Penner supporter I hope he is part of our plans going forward. He is 6’4.

    There are 9 guys at 6’1 or more that should hopefully be with the big club in the next 5 years. We shouldn’t be that small going forward.

  • GSC

    I think Steve Tambellini deserves at least some credit for the work he’s done in revamping the farm situation. He brought in what looks like the right kind of AHL vets to augment the prospects on the club, and hired Todd Nelson to run the show on the bench. The results are definitely there this time around. The turnaround compared to last season in Springfield is excellent.

    Even the most staunch Tambi critics have to admit that he’s gotten the job done in OKC…so far, at least.

  • Bucknuck

    Another work of art, LT, love the Ahl updates, you are one of the few that actually knows what is going on down there.
    My only opinion, lets leave everybody down there for the majority of this season. This is a development year, so lets let these prospects cook a long time in the oven, and bring them up for short stints after the TD. No use rushing them now, we’ve come this far with patience, lets see it thru.

  • John Chambers

    Anybody going to check out the ‘Barons when they play in Winnipeg next Friday and Saturday night?

    Weekend in Winnipeg with the junior Oilers. Better than Vegas, New York, and Rio de Janiero all rolled into one.

  • Bucknuck

    Let’s not forget about Pitlick. That kid is starting to look like a real solid option for a 2C position. Maybe even push for a 1C position if he can take a Getzlaf-type development trajectory. He is big, mean and can score.

    You would have to think if Pitlick keep up his recent performances they will have to look a little longer at drafting Larsson instead another forward.

    At this rate MBS might just end up doing Tambo’s job for him the hard way.

  • DimebagDave

    They have got to make upgrades in core base as a result of purge ,and size at same time in order for rebuild to work or be successfull . They have done a terrible job of doing either , and that bothers me far more than draftees that will take time to make us competitive !

    If they continue to make outside additions like they have over last few seasons the results will be corralative to what we look like now several years down the road . We have some hopefulls down the line , but no sure fire ones even though the size is going up . We need trades, etc. to tide us over that can compete at a much better level than we have in place or sightright now . Easy to do at AHL level as compared to NHL level . It’s at the NHL level we are so bad . Remember , this is same group that erroneously thought we didn’t require our own AHL squad to develop our players for several years . Now it’s our lifesaver ? Thats stretching things a bit to far – lets just hope it helps .

    Lets just say we need trades, etc. to fill in all the downgrades we have taken on , and that’s going to entail outside help beyond AHL talent and draftees if rebuild is to be any where near successfull !

    • Scuba Steve

      Wow…. just wow.

      There is so much there, all of it crap, but so much of it makes it kind of impressive in it’s own way.

      This is not the same group who thought we didn’t need our own AHL team, that was an ownership decision purely about money. This is the group that built a successful AHL program in the last 2 years or so.

      I’m not even going to address the rest of the post, because, well….. wow.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Just as a quick reference:
      The Chicago Blackhawks in 2007 had 18 players play 40 games or more. of those 18, 12 were 6’1″ or smaller …. and that team went nowhere.

      The Cup-winning Blackhawks were bigger, with only 12 of 21 players playing 40 games that were 6’1″ or smaller.

      If we look at m_kennedy’s list above, there looks like a few players of size already, and as history shows, there is time to add more size moving forward.

      Hence….. rebuild.

      EDIT: Right now the Oil have 12 players 6’2″ or bigger…..umm not that small of a team comparatively.

  • Jmask5

    Like I have said since the cuts were made I don’t think the Oiler’s opening day roster was the best it could have possibly been. They chose guys based on past success or contract situations.

    Yesterday we saw a guy like Ferrerio get called up and play for the Sharks a Stanley Cup Contending team I might add. Omark mops the floor with this guy in terms of talent yet he can’t make a 29th place team. I think its about time the Oiler right a wrong. The sooner the better. Like before Thursdays game in Toronto. Then I’d be able to see him live.

  • Spartacus

    Great read, LT!!

    After watching every game this year I can safely say that in all the years I have watched the team this is the worst club we’ve put on the ice.

    A couple weeks ago I was saying we may not be as bad as the 93 oilers… but I was wrong. I don’t know if this will be an easy hole for Oilers brass to dig themselves out of now. Our specialty teams are horrifying… and our defensive play is the worst I’ve ever seen in a hockey club.

    I don’t remember how our turn around went in 94-97, however, it did start with Smyth, Arnott and Weight… (Paajarvi, Hall and Eberle). Having Bobo on the point didn’t hurt much either!

    I hope the plan take full effect this summer and we start putting together a more competitive team because our AHL club is for bringing up talent… not the NHL team.

  • DimebagDave

    I knew this rebuild would be really tough on the idiots with the patience levels of a crackhead on welfare day.

    22 games people.

    A quarter season into a rebuild and you big time hockey fans want us to be competing already?

    There should be 2 different nation websites, 1 for those that understand and 1 for those that don’t.

  • Bucknuck

    I think it helps the AHL team when most of the oilers prospects that are old enough are playing there. there doesn’t seem to be as many college boys and prospects playing Europe as in years past.

  • RLH

    LT, Nice call out to A New Ice Age. I’ve been reading Candace’s stuff for a few months now, and like what she does down there. Some good pictures as well. I feel that we have a much closer connection to the AHL this year because of the work being done by the official OKC staff and unofficial (though often more insightful) bloggers.

  • DimebagDave

    LT whats the deal with Alexandre Giroux’s career? The guy has been nothing but fantastic in the AHL. How come he has never gotten a shot at the big club?

  • Spydyr

    Yes, an expansion draft.Lets water the league down even more.What the NHL needs is to lose 4 to 5 teams. Giroux has NHL hands and AHL speed.Then players like most of the Oiler Defense and our 4th line would be where they should be……In the minors