The Positive Take: Chris Minard

Stanley Cup Finals - Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings - Game Seven

In a year where there’s been a shortage of feel-good stories about the Oilers, it’s been very difficult to find positives in the performance of the players, the coaches or the management group.

At first glance, Chris Minard, who was recalled by the Oilers yesterday, isn’t an exception to that pattern. He’s been hurt for most of the year, and struggled after coming back from injury. He’s coming up to replace the disappointing (and now injured) Patrick O’Sullivan. Not much there to feel good about.

But there is one thing worth mentioning amid the doom and gloom: not only is Minard a pretty good player, but his results in Springfield have been exceptional.

Last year, even amid the disaster that was the Springfield Falcons, certain players stood out in a positive way. Minor league veteran Ryan Potulny was one of them, and he laid the groundwork for his eventual elevation to an NHL job there, scoring 38 goals under pretty trying circumstances (the next best Falcon, Gilbert Brule, managed 13 goals in limited action).

Chris Minard’s injury-shortened season hasn’t been exactly the same, but it’s been very impressive in its own way, and I hope the Oilers choose to re-sign the pending unrestricted free agent.

Plus/minus is an imperfect metric, but it does tell us something about players. The Falcons, as one might expect, are loaded with minuses, but Minard has been an exception. No regular has a better number than his impressive plus-3 rating with the ailing Falcons.

At first glance, Minard’s scoring totals (15 goals and 10 assists in 31 games) aren’t overly compelling; he’s scoring a lot but he’s not even a point-per-game player. But that’s only at first glance, and if we take his injury into account we see a somewhat different player:

  • Pre-Injury: 11GP – 9G – 4A – 13PTS, +6
  • Post-Injury (Jan. 22 – Feb. 20): 15GP – 2G – 4A – 6PTS, -6
  • Post-Injury (Since Feb. 20): 5GP – 4G – 2A – 6PTS, +3

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that coming back from injury had an effect on Minard’s play, and while I have my doubts he can keep scoring at a 65-goal pace even in the AHL (13 goals in 16 games, leaving out that month) I do think it’s pretty clear that he’s a difference maker in the American Hockey League, even on a team as poor as the Springfield Falcons.

Now, the O’Sullivan injury is giving Minard an NHL chance. This is a key point in his career; to date the 6’1”, 200lb winger has been unable to stick in the big leagues, playing just 35 NHL games, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Oilers are a team that has spots to fill. A left-winger with good size and goal-scoring ability could do enough now to earn another contract; he might even be able to impress the coaches to such a degree that they pencil him in for a spot in the lineup next year. It’s an opportunity I hope Minard takes advantage of. He’s already 28 years old, and he’s taken the long road to the NHL, going undrafted, clawing his way up through the ECHL ranks, and proving himself (for years) at the AHL level. He’s running out of time, and this might be the best chance he has to take the leap to the next level.

There’s no reason he can’t do it. He’s been a very good AHL player for years, and his results this season have been exceptional. He’s in a perfect position to prove he deserves a longer look.

  • Karth

    oh, and on another note- I wont be able to go to the game on Mar 19th versus Detoit- i have two tickets (season passes will give you 15% off all merchandise bought at OIlers store) for that game if anybody wants it. Its section 235 row 38 seats 15 & 16. selling for face value ( 40 per ticket), send email to karthsaha@gmail.com.

  • Karth

    Thank you JW. It is a very refreshing article. Good take on the break down of his stats, going pre/post/ post post, is an interesting way to look at it. Good read! Go Oilers Go! 🙂

    s. i am a season ticket holder and am renewing(sp)

  • Serves me right for being positive 😉

    More important than anything else – age, size, speed, style, whatever – is the ability to play good hockey.

    I don't think Chris Minard needs to elevate his game to be a useful fourth line guy; if he keeps scoring at the rate he has when healthy in the AHL, he's already an NHL fourth liner, albeit one who has been playing in the AHL.

    The same scenario happens in reverse a lot, based on age – Jacques for instance is an AHL player on an NHL roster because the management/coaching staff felt his physical edge was important.

    I haven't seen Minard play a lot, but I've been impressed when I have; he's not a punishing player but he doesn't really back down either (from the games I've seen), plus he knows what to do in all three zones. I'm not going to be adamant about that scouting report because I haven't seen him enough (and I've never focused on him) to have a firm impression.

  • Ender

    Look, we all know there's no shot at us making the Stanley Cup playoffs this season; we've known that for sure since November.

    Here's a novel concept, though; can we play for the Calder? Surely we're fielding enough AHL players; why shouldn't we qualify?

    Edmonton: City of Champions (with a little creative tweaking)

  • Dan the Man

    It would be a nice story if Minard has some success but personally I've seen enough AHL hockey this year and am hoping for a few solid NHLers next year.

  • Look up Minard's stats on HockeyDB.com and holy, moley, has this guy ever bounced around before coming to the NHL. And, depending on whether you're a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty guy, Minard is either a late-bloomer, offensively, or a plugger who's only managed to average more than a point-a-game three times in his career – once in the OHL, once in the ECHL and once in the AHL. And his low penalty-minute totals do not exactly suggest "power forward."

    That said, it's hard to be overly critical of this call-up (or Jonathan's take on things). Minard is worth a look for the rest of the year.

    One more thing: I imagine that cracking Pittsburgh's forward lines has been pretty tough the past couple of years, so I'm prepared to cut him some slack on the fact he's only had 35 games in the bigs.

    • That's excactly the point. It has been tough to crack Pittsburgh's line up the last couple of years, cause they have some talented hockey players. But Minard comes over to our beloved copper n blue and rolls right in and probably on the 2nd or 3rd line.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I'm not sure it is fair to say that it's hard to crack Pittsburgh's lineup. They have lacked wingers on that club for a long time and finally added Guerin and now Ponikarovsky to help Crosby and Malkin out. If Minard was even remotely close to being a goal scorer, he'd been given a chance with Crosby.

  • Petr's Jofa

    Ahh. More refreshing debates about 4th line energy players. Will we ever tire of such a gloriuos topic? We need stars folks! We have 12 4th line pluggers in NHL jerseys already. We need a bonifide true superstar. Fill in plugs around him. I am not sitting here making any suggestions on how we get one. I know it is tougher than it looks. But let's face some cold hard facts here. The crop of forwards that we have right now would battle to see limited ice time on any other team in the NHL. So what we don't need are more feel good stories regarding guys "that have clawed there way through the ECHL and AHL ranks, to maybe get a shot at a big club" the reason they are clawing and riding the bus everywhere is becasue they are low calibre hockey players. Plain and Simple. Get us some talent, that's all we want. We love the team but the names on the backs of the jerseys right now are a collection of stiffs.

      • Karth

        I agree about accepting it but not liking it. Just very frustrating to read the quotes of some so called hockey guys and listen to them blow smoke about coaching changes and different systems, blah blah blah. Does not matter. the forwards that we have on the ice on a nightly basis would not succeed under any coach or any sytem. Why? Cause' they aint that good! Book it

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Not to knock the guy but he and Arsene were brought in for depth in the AHL, there is a reason at 28 he only has 35 games. He has put up good numbers for quite some time but his foot speed and lack of strength are questioned at the NHL level. Maybe he shocks us but I doubt it.

  • Or maybe he's just a very good AHL player. At his age, why hasn't he been able to elevate his game to be a consistent NHL player? More likely his natural ability is just tapped out at the AHL level. If the guy is 22, then maybe you have a point. At 28, I'd be more interested in the reason he CAN do it.

    • AHL players – the league is full of them —> salary cap and 30 teams (too many!)

      P. O'Sullivan – 65GP 10-21-31 (2,925,000)
      A. Cogliano – 66 5-10-15 (1,133,333)
      R. Potulny – 49 14–9-23 ($595,000)

      Should AC and POS be in AHL? Who knows. This Minard (550,000 cap hit)guy probably comes up and outscores some of these guys. I like seeing some of these guys get a chance for a game or 2 or 3 right now, can't hurt the top pick pursuit.

      (cap hits from capgeek.com)

  • VMR

    You're right, Jon, this guy seems to be the kind of player the Oilers should be focused on, filling in around young guys.

    Only one question — is he a checker or a scorer?

    Will his game have enough edge and physical play and defensive awareness to merit a long NHL stay?

    The jury is still out on a similar guy, Potulny, on this issue, though he has certainly shown some good signs.