Actual NHL Players

This is Bob Nystrom. A strong, violent winger in the Western League, he didn’t have NHL speed but the Islanders took him anyway. After a cup of coffee at the end of his rookie pro season, Nystrom found himself taking an unusual step on his journey to the National Hockey League.

To quote famous powerskater Laura Stamm: "Just before the summer of 1973 Bill Torrey, the New York Islanders GM, phoned me. He asked if I could teach a promising rookie by the name of Bob Nystrom. Bob had a lot of promise, but his only hope to make the Islanders roster was to improve his speed. After watching him I felt that by improving his skating technique he could be faster. In those days professional hockey players did not have female instructors. To spare Bob any embarrassment, we kept our training sessions to ourselves. We worked from 6 – 7am, five days a week, for eight weeks. Bob didn’t miss a day."

There are all kinds of stories involving the Islanders of that era and their pursuit of hockey players. The club traded for Bob Bourne 6 weeks after not getting him in the draft, sending away two NHL calibre defensemen because they felt he could play.

Last fall, Pat Quinn married qualified "pairs" with hopefuls and also-rans in an effort to improve the overall depth. That’s why JF Jacques ended up with Horcoff and Hemsky, and why Brule and Penner ended up together last fall (an astute move that appears to be taking hold again this fall).

Jason Gregor mentioned in the article below that he feels the top 3 lines might break down thusly come opening night:

  • Horcoff-Hall-Eberle
  • Gagner-Paarjavi-Hemsky
  • Cogliano-Penner-Brule

I agree with Jason, this might be the rotation opening night. There’s no "tough minutes" line in that group and it is a very unusual use of the top 3 players on the roster (Penner, Hemsky, Horcoff), but it makes sense in one important way: the men and boys Renney is adding to the top 9 are just like Bob Nystrom and Bob Bourne 35 years ago: they’re good bets to become NHL players.

I think Renney sees a future 2-way winger in Eberle, and placing him with Horcoff could be a year long tutorial. He also sees some chemistry between MPS and Hemsky, with Gagner the best option at C for what will be a high octane offensive line. The Penner-Brule pairing repeats itself here and gives Cogliano a real shot at playing with skill.

Lets not kid ourselves. They are going to be many nights when these lines spend long minutes without the puck and bottled up in their own end. Having said that, these are the 9 best forwards (and 9 best futures) available on the roster at this time and we shouldn’t be surprised that they end up playing together. Colin Fraser, Ryan Jones, Zack Stortini, Liam Reddox and others remain to fill out the 10-14F spots in the next 10 days.  

Now, if they can get Teemu Hartikainen to Laura Stamm next summer, maybe there’ll be a few more options available to the coach for 11-12.

    • That’s what I’ve been thinking too.

      Probably better for Omark’s confidence and development to be the go to offensive guy for the Barons and the first offensive call-up for the Oilers than spending a few minutes a night with grinders/a number of nights off in the press box.

  • EasyOil

    LT, you thinking Omark starts in the minors and gets a call up? Sounds like the kid is busting a gut to get on the team, even if he is showboating somewhat.

    It seems almost inevitable that one or two of the kids (probably not the big 3, but maybe Omark or Cogs, even as a throw-in on a trade) will be traded at some point in the year, which is a shame as I personally have enjoyed watching all of them progress!

    I also thought Hartikainen was reported to have vastly improved his skating, was it that bad to begin with that it is still not NHL calibre?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ya, great article! Nystrom turned out to be one of the best grinders ever and could score points too. i do like the looks of those 3 lines though. good point about SMac, Bar Q, with him and Zach and JFJ and Jones and Fraser all needing spots, guess a couple of them will sit off and on.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    Fist! Who says shoring your kid off to school in the morning doesn’t pay off?

    Excellent article LT.

    Speaking of improved skating, a lot of people mention Big Mac as someone who has improved leaps and bounds. Could there be a hockey player in there somewhere?

    • Bar Qu

      Deeply buried hockey player. Like Journey to the Centre of the Earth deep.

      The SMac signing continues to leave my head shaking. On this roster there is just no space to have him there. None.

      • Ryan14

        Ask Hemsky, Hall, MS, Eberle, Horcoff, Cogiano, Omark, how they feel having a guy in the lineup who will be able to protect them when other teams send out their goons to scare our young, small players.

        Is it any coincidence that the year the Oilers get rid of their goon they reach record setting man games lost to injury numbers?

        • Ducey

          Yes, it is a coincidence. Would SMac have prevented Iginla from dumping Souray in the end boards, or dmen from rubbing out Hemsky on the boards, or Smid’s neck finally falling apart, or Peckham getting run over while trying to hit a SJ dman, or Bulin’s back, etc, etc.

          Do you think Boogard is going to stop doing what he does because he might have to fight someone his own size? He is going to do what he does because he will be unemployed if he doesn’t.

          SMac won’t really help “protect” the skill players. Matt Cooke et al are going to still take cheap shots and they are not going to be worried about SMac as they will be justified in turtling if he comes calling. In fact, SMac is likely to do the most for guys like Peckham, Stortini, Vandermeer who won’t have to fight out of their weight class.

          SMac can help this team, but preventing injuries won’t be part of it.

        • Kodiak

          Ah, yes it was coincidence. With Big Mac in the lineup 2 years ago we still had ridiculous amounts of injuries.
          Generally, it isn’t the other teams goons inducing injuries, it’s the Matt Cooke, Alex Burrows, Cal Clutterbucks that are involved. They won’t fight Big Mac and he is too slow to catch other teams top players to punish them.
          Goon fighting goon is fun and all, but it has nothing to do with preventing injuries to star players.

      • R.A. Slapshotzky

        Are you serious? I think he’ll dress a few important games when needed, and play maybe 2-3 min a night when he does. When he’s there players won’t take as many liberties.
        All he’s gotta do is grin at them from the bench, just ask Semenko about the grin.

        Oiler’s can’t afford not to protect the kids at all costs, in any way possible. Reddox or whoever will fill Smac’s spot most nights, but when you have players like Boogey man, or Matt Cooke… why would you take any chances?

      • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

        It just seems funny that the man with the highest IQ in the world, Tom Renney, seems to think he has a place and apparently wanted him. I’m sure there’s more to him than what he brings on the ice. Heck, Jason Studwick is making more than Mike Comrie this year because of his intangibles. Plus, Big Mac can flat-out murderize people.