Bullets and Bad Guys

There has been much worry of late over NHL teams taking liberties with the Oilers best forwards. Ales Hemsky, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner have all suffered from cheap shots, late hits, borderline head shots and general poor conduct on the part of the opposition.

Oilers management rolls out Steve MacIntyre in these cases, and of course the other side throws their pawn in this game over the boards too. The fact is that the Edmonton Oilers don’t have much physical presence when the skilled men are on the ice. The Oilers need a Lucic or Kassian, but finding him is the problem. 

The Edmonton Oilers need a grumbly forward in the worst way. I don’t mean another Steve MacIntyre and I don’t mean another Ethan Moreau (who spent his final 82 games in Edmonton taking atrocious penalties and playing "opposite George" with the media). I mean a guy who can go out and play 15 minutes on a line with Hall, Hemsky, Gagner, Eberle and the other skilled men of the Oilers. Milan Lucic. Zack Kassian.

Currently, the Oilers have two forwards strong enough and mean enough to intimidate. Men who can grab a PIM sneezing but they can’t put the puck in the ocean. Here they are:

  • Zack Stortini 52PIMS, 0 goals
  • Steve MacIntyre 38PIMS, 0 goals

That’s pretty much it. Dustin Penner is big and skilled but rarely impacts the game in a "John Ferguson" fashion. Gilbert Brule is a spunky player, but lacks the size to be able to intimidate or settle scores. No sir. The Edmonton Oilers don’t have an enforcer type who can play with the offensive forwards (as John Ferguson played alongside Jean Beliveau or as Lucic does for the Boston skill line).

If we take the PIM/goals template and lay it over the Oilers prospect list, does anyone emerge as impressive in both categories? Depends on your definition of the word "impressive."

  1. Taylor Hall 56PIMS/40 goals (final year of junior)
  2. Teemu Hartikainen 23PIMS/11 goals (in half an AHL season)
  3. Tyler Pitlick 25PIMS/16 goals (in half WHL season)
  4. Curtis Hamilton 6PIMS/15 goals (in half WHL season)

Hall looks like the most likely guy to emerge as his own enforcer. I think we can see that now, the kid is getting frustrated by the chops and hacks, and sooner or later he’s going to do something about it. As predictable as the weather. Hartikainen is an interesting sort in that he does have size, but the physical game (the type we’re talking about here) is likely beyond what he’ll be able to deliver.

Same goes for Pitlick and Hamilton; I should mention Hamilton’s PIM totals are down this season, possibly because of previous injuries derailing his career. It’s a consideration moving forward, although he’s been very capable physically in all of the games I’ve seen him play.

So despite the wonderful drafting of Stu (Magnificent Bastard) MacGregor the Oilers don’t have a talent with both skill and size married to a mean streak. Unless Cameron Abney takes one giant step forward, the need for a physical forward who is a mean, mean man will be near the top of the draft shopping list this summer (along with a long tall C and a complete D).

There are none I can see at the top of the draft. What about another physical player ala Taylor Hall? Someone who may eventually be able to create his own room (like the Sedins).

Enter the Angel Gabriel.

As quickly as Sean Couturier, Adam Larsson and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have failed to separate from the crowd, the crowd has started to arrive on their doorstep. Among these young men is a Swedish winger who plays in the OHL. Gabriel Landeskog. Here is his scoring line in the OHL along with his Desjardins’ NHL equivalency.

  • Actual: 32gp, 25-20-45
  • Desjardins NHLE: 82gp, 19-16-35

The NHLE explanation is here. It works like mad. Example: Taylor Hall was projected to score 17-29-46 by the NHLE, and currently he’s onl track to score 24-22-46 this season with the Oilers. Gabriel (Desjardins) does this all the time. I have proof here and here. Landeskog’s NHLE is about what Jeff Skinner’s looked like at the end of last season.

Here’s a scouting report on this player from Kyle Woodlief of Redline Report. It was first published here at one of the best sites on the internet. Kirk Luedeke has been writing about hockey and prospects for a long time, and those with excellent memories may recall his name as one of John Short’s contacts when his show ruled the Edmonton airwaves.

Anyway, if you follow the draft bookmark that page. It’s outstanding.

Woodlief: I just love everything that I’m seeing out of Landeskog in Kitchener this year. He’s a big kid who really likes to bang and get physical. I mean, he’s one of the more physical Swedes you’ll ever see. He plays a North American style. And, he’s got the mix of size and skill that goes along with that physical toughness and aggression. He’s a guy who, from the circles in buries his chances.

He’s got a really good scoring touch and he’s very unselfish with the puck. He’s a good playmaker; I think he’s an underrated playmaker, and there’s not very many weak areas of his game. He’s a solid two-way player, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s physical, he drives the net hard. He scores key goals. I don’t think he’s got quite as high a skill level as– I’ve already said I don’t see a Steve Stamkos or Matt Duchene in this crop– I don’t see him having quite the puck skills they have and the vision and creativity they have, but everything else is there. He’s a guy who can probably play in the NHL next year.

Landeskog isn’t going to be the modern John Ferguson, but he might be another Taylor Hall in that he can handle himself in the rough areas. More and more, it looks like the Oilers skilled players are going it alone. There just aren’t that many Milan Lucic’s and Zack Kassian’s in the draft pool these days, and we’ve seen what happens when the organization forces a J-F Jacques to the top line.

  • forestscooter

    what are the chances the Oilers take a shot at trying to acquire Scott Hartnell. He fits that mold of a gritty top 6 forward. Hartnell is aggressive and sticks up for his teammates in Philly. Also after this season Philly is going to have to let go of one of their big contracts because they’re going to be right against the cap and they’ll have to sign multiple players to have a full roster.

    It is really tough to find these guys though. There are only a handful of these types in the league.

  • Craig1981

    Its really to bad the Milan Lucic was drafted with an Oilers draft pick we traded away. I agree, you need a player that is on the ice when a cheapshot occures, not a guy that plays 3-8 minutes a game. The only one that will fight Big Mac is the other teams 4 minute a game goon and what does that prove.


  • Jerk Store

    @ just sayin’

    Thanks. I kind of realized that the pic was not of the actual Dirty Dozen film when he was sitting on a horse instead of a Sherman Tank. Just going with the Lee Marvin reference, but anyone aware of either film is OK in my books.

  • Shaun Doe

    What are the odds that the Oilers could actually trade for a kid like Kassian. If thats the mold we want to fill, why not go out and get the original. I realize that he is a good prospect but he has failed to crack their line up two training camps running now and I heard there were some rumblings of dissapointment with that result. Not sure what their demands would be but our cupboard is pretty full of tempting prospects.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @ LT

    I think you missed a name that would likely be the easiest to aquaire (compared to Lucic/Kasian anyways)

    Hartnell is big, aggressive, can chip in 20 – 25 goals and at 28 would still be relavant when we are (hopefully) ready to compete. With 56 million already on the books for next year with only 9 forwards and one goalie signed, he may just be available.

  • Shaun Doe

    The notion that a team should draft for need is too stupid to consider. This is a no brainer decision. Need can be addressed many ways, quality cannot.

    If Landeskog is the best player available (and he is) he should be at the top of the list.

  • Shaun Doe

    LT, interesting insights.
    I would argue on one point. If you have the #1,2,3 overall picks, do you burn it up on getting a “tough” player that can score a little, or do you take the BPA? I would argue the latter. In the second round you can take your chances on a Curtis Hamilton, but in the high first round, you take the BFA (best forward available). imo.

    • Lowetide

      Always bpa. I think a month ago the question was “Couturier or Larsson?” but now I think it’s pretty much wide open.

      So if all things are equal and you can take:

      1. A potential #1 C with size who might be a little shy of elite offensively.
      2. A potential top pairing defender who might be a little below elite across the board.
      3. A potential PF who isn’t going to score 50 but might score 30 consistently.

      Who IS the BPA? I think we might have an old fashioned horse race.

  • Ducey

    Ducey, we can’t simply be punting people because of size – unless you are following the Calgary model…and Gagner? Seriously? He is 21! Remember, the Sedin Sisters were drafted 11 years ago. They came into their own after 5 years, and really developed after 7.

    I totally agree. I think Gagner will be a fine player. My problem is that you cannot have a top 9 full of smaller guys. You need to be able to impose your will on the another team.

    Gagner with two skilled, tough wingers could be fine. Eberle with a strong C and someone who can play and stick up for him would be fine too. I can even live with Cogs as a winger on a third line with some grit and size.

    Brule initates plenty, actually. I’d also contend that Hemsky isn’t shy about physical contact and that Eberle will be fine. And Omark looks like he’ll be able to win battles, Gagner can win them too.

    Yes, LT, these guys can survive but none of them will actually turn the tide in the physical department. Teams know they are not going to face any kind of physical challenge here. This team is simply too easy to play against.

    • BarryS

      Hint, the lack of the rough tough players seeming to be coming up should be a clue. The lack of rough tough big men coming up should br a clue. Rough tough players are a dying breed because the kinds of places which breed rough tough players are dead or dying.

      There are fewer actual “farm” kids, (Corporate farms) fewer mining town kids, fewer “lower” class kids (in the former meaning of the term) needing to really fight to get ahead. The kids in hockey now are from “well to do” families as reconned in the “old days” and have been raised to civilized.

      When I was a kid in the fifties and early sixties there were schoolyard fights every recess and lunch, nowadays a kid touching a kid gets suspended forever.

      How many fighters, rough players in the whole WCHL this year, two? three? Those days are over or soon to be. Get over it. Rough tough hockey is dying out, faster rather than slower.

      Seems to me the same three or four names of “tough” players we need are always coming up. Can it be because they are the only ones in the whole league?

      Being realistic, the hard teams to play against are now the most skilled teams, not the tough teams. Even Vancouver is making their jerk players play less jerk-like. See many facewashes or late hits from Vancouver yesterday?

      • BarryS

        Great point BarryS! Perhaps we should change the name of our needs from rough tough to big and physically able to impose will. My coach used to always say “you don’t have to put the guy through the glass just get in his way”. Problem is when you try and get in a guys way and you end up on your rear like Hemsky did to Tanor Glass last night you got a problem. Or Detroit’s second goal on Tuesday, Cogs tried to get in the way of Tuzzi but ended up caught in the net like an Alaskan king crab on the deadliest catch and all Tuzzi had to do was stick his hip out a little.

        Oil management need to face facts, HOPE is not going to take us anywhere!! Some signifcant changes need to be made to our existing roster.

        • BarryS

          Not denying the need for changes, but only saying size isn’t everything. Hits depend as much on physics as anything, rather than just size differences. Little guys knock down big guys nearly as ofter as the other way around. Especially those few who actually know how to hit. And seeing how many guys seem to fall down for no apparent reason lately? True, little guys can get as many head shots on big guys. Hitting is, like it or not, being slowly, or rapidly, depending on your point of view, being enforced out of the game. To many multi-million dollar heads at stake, to be cynical, or perhaps realistic. The value of life is changing for the better. No point ending your life rocking and slobbering in the corner as a result of sports injuries. Who can blame players in all sports from actually wanting to enjoy the fruits of their labours in their later lives.

    • BarryS

      Hardly think 50 minutes in 40 games denotes toughness, especially seeing as how refs give so many invisible penalties now. Two minutes for frowning at another player seems the norm now.

  • Jerk Store

    With all due respect to Hartnall the guy I would target is Jeff Carter. IF he was available. It would cost plenty but I think he is a big center (I have no idea what his face off % is). Philly does have cap issues but what that means is you have to give up young cheap talent to make it happen.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Ya I’d go for Carter first as well, but seeing as how they *just* gave him a looonngg term extension I’m thinking they aren’t planning on trading him.

  • OK. Detroit plays the Canucks tonight. As far as I remember, they (Detroit) aren’t a huge hulking “tough” team either. I’d be willing to bet the Canucks aren’t going to be cheap-shotting Detroit tonight, or at least not nearly to the degree they were doing to us last night. Go ahead and watch if you think I’m wrong.

    Why? Because Detroit’s PP will make them pay. In a game where two teams are equally matched, maybe the difference is an untimely penalty. You don’t rough up or cheap shot your opponent if you think it’ll cost you the game.

    So here’s the deal. It doesn’t really matter how “tough” we are. In fact, the whole issue is a red herring to a large extent. In fact, if I were Steve Tambellini, I’d be overjoyed if people thought our major problem was lack of “grit” or “sandpaper” or whatever the heck you want to call it because it takes the emphasis away from the truth of the matter.

    That truth is, we probably have 5-6 players who wouldn’t merit a roster spot on any other NHL team. Think about it. How many of our guys right now would make Vancouver’s roster?

    This team was purposely built to acquire another lottery draft pick. Until we change course and put together a roster with the REAL intent to be competitive, strong teams will run our show because its the easiest way to win against us. And even if they get a penalty, well as we’ve seen it really isn’t a big deal.

    • BarryS

      Quite true.

      Like most people, many of the bloggers here are still fighting yesterday’s wars. Look at the new players coming up and they will show how the game is going. The challenge is to get the right players for two or three years from now when many of the dinosaurs currently in the league go extinct. I think we are seeing the early eighties in the league again, when a whole batch of former “stars” read the writing on the wall and slip into the night. The difference being, they have a great deal more resources and won’t need go work for beer companies etc to make a living after retirement.

  • Jerk Store

    Sorry I missed that signing. You are right 11 yrs / 58 million isn’t a contract that is dealt very often.
    That is the type of player we could use though. Problem is 29 other teams are in the same boat. Couturier did not look great at WJHC but he is a big center putting up good numbers in the Q. McNeil in PA is a big talented kid but he is mid to late first. Not sure a local kid in this market is the way to go anyway. Nugent Hopkins is the real deal but he is average size at best. Take the best player available, sure. But who the hell is that? Stu (TMB) has a little more homework to do this year. Will be an interesting draft. Expect a few deals involving picks Draft day.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Edmontonians shell out 60+ million dollars a season for tickets to watch this debacle. Is bumping that up to 70 million per and moving into a new building going to make Tambellini and Lowe suddenly smarter?

  • Chris.

    I watched a documentary on Movie Central about the Broad Street Bullies recently. The Flyers were a marginal team that floundered in the standings and lacked an identity (sound familiar?)… The turnaround that put the franchise on the contoversial road to two Stanley’s can be pinpointed to the arrival of (not Clark) David The Hammer Schultz. He inspired everyone to play more asserively, protected the skill guys, set records for penalty minutes; all while taking a regular shift and even posting a 20 goal season. I completely agree with Lowetide: The Oilers need a Hammer who can play!

  • Seriously....Gord?

    I am a big fan of Simmonds. He does a lot of things that the Oilers could use and he’d be a great start to our third line.

    I would really hope he gets lost in the shuffle in LA but what kind of picks would you be willing to give up for him if you did offer him a sheet?

  • misfit

    Upshall, Torres, and Glencross are UFAs. Clowe and Clarkson have big contracts on teams in need of cap space. Why address this (or any) need at the draft?

    That said, Landeskog has a lot more than size and physicality going for him. He’ll be a hell of a player to land for a lot of reasons.

  • ClosetGM

    I thoroughly agree with you that the oilers are in desperate need of a tough big forward with good skill. I also agree that they are tough to find and kassian would be awesome in an oilers uniform. That being said did we take a serious run and Byfuglien this guy would have been gold for us everyone knew that he needed to be traded and it wouldnt take much to get him. We have the cap room he is young and has proved himself to be on of the toughest guys to move in front of the net. He went one on one with pronger in the playoffs and came out smiling. We can sit here and say we need this and we need that why did we not take a serious run a byfuglien. Seems like a no brainer to me.

  • ClosetGM

    Lucic is a guy that makes $4 mil against the cap. He is 90th in the league in scoring and his whole tough guy schtick doesn’t do any good on the score sheet. Bs would love to find a fast, skilled forward to take Lucic’s place on the top 2 lines?? Bs have a bunch of grinders but no skilled guys ….. Any ideas??