Here and now, is Ryan Rishaug the best, the most experienced or most accomplished play-by-by man available to take over from Rod Phillips as radio voice of the Edmonton Oilers? Hell no, on all three counts.
So, why do I suspect — without having had anybody with the Oilers or Rishaug himself confirm he has even applied for the job — he might give the best guy, John Bartlett of the Toronto Marlies, a run for his money and the committee filling this plum job something to think about?
Well, considering Rishaug has less than a dozen games of play-calling experience on a resume stacked with sports anchoring work and clips as a make-up pad guy with TSN, he’s pretty good, that’s why.
After listening to some clips of Rishaug doing play-by-play of a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers in Helsinki, I came away surprised how good he was, all things considered.
Is Rishaug as good as Bartlett, rumoured to be the other finalist from a stack of more than 50 candidates? No, not right now. Might he be as good in the not-too-distant future? I think he has a shot to be. That might be enough to get him the job.
It’s a rebuild, after all.
I know good play-by-play when I hear it and what I heard from Rishaug today isn’t bad, factoring in his inexperience. That said, I’ve listened to Bartlett, too, and he’s already very good.
In my estimation, when you take everything into consideration, Bartlett and Rishaug have to be favoured over Regan Bartel of the Kelowna Rockets and veteran Dennis Beyak of Toronto to take over from Phillips — assuming, ahem, they’ve applied.
I’ve already gone on the record more than once as saying the Oilers have to get this right. I’ve also said, here at Oilersnation and on TEAM 1260 with both Bob Stauffer and Jason Gregor, that Patrick LaForge, Allan Watt and everybody else in on this hire had better pick a guy with the chops to sell the brand on the radio.
He also has to be a fit for Stauffer, who is the radio analyst and would have been short-listed for the play-by-play job himself if he wasn’t seen as more valuable in the position he’s already in.
So, am I flip-flopping on any of that? I don’t think so.
For me, "having the chops" for the gig doesn’t necessarily mean having the most experience. It means having the most talent. I know several guys in different careers who’ve done the same job for 20 years or more. That doesn’t always mean they’re really good at it.
I’ve also said I don’t think a coveted job as an NHL play-by-play guy should be a learn-as-you-go experiment — not if you’re talking about somebody with limited upside.
But, if the candidate shows a real flair and aptitude for it, which to my ear Rishaug does, there’s room to at least contemplate letting somebody grow into the role.
Could Rishaug match and maybe surpass the likes of Bartlett and Bartel by the time Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle are sophomores with the Oilers? Would 82 games or so get him there? Based on what I’ve heard, I don’t believe it’s an unreasonable leap of faith to think so. He’s not the sure thing Bartlett is, but . . .
I wonder if LaForge and Watt and the rest are batting that around this weekend with an eye to an announcement next week. Are they looking at Rishaug, who knows the Oilers and is known by them, as favourably as I am now that I’ve listened? I don’t know.
But they should be.
UPDATE: RISHAUG OUT OF THE RUNNING
I’ve just been told — at 6 :30 p.m. — Rishaug didn’t get the play-by-play job, but was told he made it right to the final cut. I still don’t know who will be hired, or if that’s been decided as of right now, but I can tell you I just got off the phone with Dennis Beyak in Kelowna and he has not heard from the Oilers.
The significance of that is this: it’s my understanding the Oilers have been phoning short-listed candidates to tell them if they didn’t get the job. If Beyak was indeed on the short list, then he hasn’t, as of 6:45, been scratched from the list, so take that for what it might (or may not) be worth. My best guess, as I already said, is the other finalists are Bartlett and Bartel.
UPDATE II: HOW SHORT IS THE SHORT LIST?
Either I’m getting bad information, which is entirely possible, or the short list for the job has become something of a moving target.
With Rishaug out, my understanding was that Bartlett, Bartel and Beyak, based on the fact he hadn’t heard from the Oilers (and my assumption he was in the final five), were the final three. Today just before noon, I got a text telling me Rod Pedersen, the voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and somebody mentioned months ago as a candidate, will be interviewing with the Oilers this week.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.