Paajarvi Should Have Been Held Back A Year

This fall, some argued that the Oilers were making a mistake inserting all three of their blue-chip forward prospects into the line-up at the same time. The player I suggested should have been given another year of seasoning at a lower professional level was Magnus Paajarvi, and given what we’ve seen so far this season I think that would have been the correct decision.

It’s not that Paajarvi’s been a bad player. He hasn’t, particularly given his age and role on the roster. With Hall (and Eberle, prior to injury) playing so well, it sometimes seems Paajarvi doesn’t get his due. He’s still a player I think we can regard as a difference maker somewhere down the road.

The problem is that the Oilers are burning a year of Paajarvi’s entry-level contract while he isn’t a difference maker to give him limited NHL minutes, when they could be saving that year for when he’s a better player and giving him virtually unlimited minutes in the SEL or AHL. From a cap management and development perspective, that strikes me as flawed thinking.

This is particularly true when there are plenty of other options available. Let’s compare Paajarvi’s performance to that of two other forwards, one currently on the Oilers’ roster and one who the team bought out last year. For ease of comparison, we’ll adjust games played to Paajarvi’s 47.

Player GP G A PTS
Paajarvi, 2010-11 47 6 13 19
Omark, 2010-11 47 7 14 21
Nilsson, 2009-10 47 9 13 22

Given that this was always going to be a burned season anyway, the difference in performance between Paajarvi and a player like Robert Nilsson or Linus Omark is a trivial thing, but the fact is the Oilers could have got comparable play from either option.

In either case, there would have been tangible benefits:

  • Paajarvi could play a much larger role on a lower-level professional team
  • Paajarvi’s ELC would slide forward another year, keeping him at a lower pay threshold for one additional season and delaying his UFA eligibility by an additional season
  • (If Omark) The Oilers would have had a better opportunity to evaluate Omark at the NHL level over an entire seaso
  • (If Nilsson) The Oilers would have saved the money used in his buyout, as well as avoided the six-figure cap penalty for 2011-12

It’s not the end of the world that the Oilers chose to bring Paajarvi into the NHL this year, and I don’t doubt it will be valuable experience for him. It just doesn’t strike me as the best option.

  • Wax Man Riley


    …Naslund had 11 pts in 71 games his first year

    …But Sundin had 59 pts in 80 games.

    Unfortunately Nilson is a pretty good comparison. Except that we now know he has little drive.

  • I didn’t expect this to be a popular viewpoint, so I’m not surprised by the general reaction. A few minor points I’d like to make:

    1. Jordan Eberle got 20 AHL games and and four seasons of Major Jr. before making the jump to the team this year. In his last year of junior he scored 50 goals and 106 points in 57 games after a very strong training camp. I’d argue that keeping him in the WHL/AHL in 2009-10 helped him develop his all-round game, and is part of the reason he is the player that he is today.

    2. On the other hand, Sam Gagner got stuck in the NHL at 18 and though he put up points early on he was clearly out of his depth. Did that NHL time help or hinder his development? How does his development path compare to that of Logan Couture (an inferior player)?

    3. The comparison wasn’t to the career potential of Omark/Nilsson; rather, to their hypothetical production this season.

    4. This article was not intended to bash Paajarvi in any way whatsoever. He’s a fine player and one that I think will be critical down the road.

    5. The decision to keep Paajarvi out of the NHL would have been made, not during training camp, but during the summer – just like the Oilers made that decision on Omark to the minors and Jones over Reddox in the summer. People act like TC is a legitimate contest, but the reality is the outcomes are largely predetermined – because player careers are a better indicator of performance than two weeks of preseason games and skating drills are.

    Thanks to everyone for commenting, though.

    • The bulk of your argument seems to be – “Eberle is turning out like this and Gagner is turning out like that.”

      I’m not actually in disagreement with your conclusion – though I don’t really know what the purpose of saying it now might be – but you yourself have shown many times that pointing out specific examples that happen to support your argument doesn’t prove much.

      There are examples out there of almost every possible development path. There are high picks that played in the minors and developed beautifully. There are also high picks who played in the minors and never developed at all.

      I don’t see how pointing to a guy who developed well a certain way is in any way proof that another will do the same.

      Again…I tend to agree with your conclusion, but you need to provide more of an argument than that to assert anything.

    • Bucknuck

      Do you really think another year of Junior would have been better for Gagner than the second line centre minutes and coaching of the NHL? That surprises me. I don’t think his career path has hurt his development. I think his size and the fact that other teams have a lot of video on him has limited his statistics a bit, but I think a player learns more in the NHL as long as he is getting the opportunity to play.

      I am not convinced that Eberle learned more playing another year of Junior than he would have being part of the Oilers squad, but I think that being removed from the poisonous room last year was a benefit so I am glad he played where he played. It was also probably good for his confidence to excel in Regina. I don’t think Gagner needed any more confidence than he had coming in.

    • 24% body fat

      Is Couture that much better or is he just on a team with some much depth that he does not always see the best defensemen and have a lot of top level talent to mentor him.

      I know he is not playing with thornton. but remember cheecho, and to some extent setoguchi. are these top level picks or players who look better in san jose.

      Not saying couture isnt the real deal but it still early.

      We all remember how excited we were to se Sam in his second year. Were we not thinking 60 points.

      And yes I have watched Couture play. He does make a lot of plays on his own.

  • Suntory Hanzo

    Question: Why do so many people think that the POG line’s success so far is because of putting PRV and Omark together. Couldn’t and shouldn’t some of the accolades point to Gags as being pert of the success, not just a guy that is riding coat-tails?

    Second: And slightly off topic, but someone mentioned Detroit. We all wish we could have their players, but I think calling their GM picks as genius is off the mark. If Holmstrom, Datsuk, Zetter, Lidstrom and other were so good, why weren’t they taken sooner..even by Detroit. Drafting is skill, but also luck. A chunk of those players turned out to be wicked good, and drafted super late after selecting useless guys that haven’t played or had any impact.

  • The only problem I have with this argument is the “it would keep an extra year on his ELC” part.
    I understand that it’s a good idea to plan for the future, and in the salary cap era staying one or two steps ahead of the game is obviously ideal.

    But, to me it feels like a moot point. For one no one has any idea what the new CBA is going to look like. Who knows, maybe in 3 years time the cap will be $75 million. It’s highly unlikely but you never know.
    And whenever this argument is brought up I just feel like everyone is looking at it from a stance that all the young players are going to be making/demanding 8+ million dollar salaries and that the Oilers will have absolutely no cap room, they’re going to have to jettison all the good players and we’ll be stuck with a team full of Jacques and Strudwicks, etc, etc. None of us have any idea what the Oilers cap situation is going to look like, how these players are going to develop in terms of how much money they’re going to warrant when the time comes, what the roster is going to look like, how competitive the Oilers will be, and so on.

    I just think that “we should keep this guy in the minors so 3 years from now we’ll have an extra 3 million in potential cap space to work with” isn’t nearly as sound as “let’s see if this kid can keep pace on the big team, and if he does then we’ll keep him up”. Even though this year was always going to be a wash, you might as well start building chemistry with the young guys and getting them used to the NHL game as soon as possible.

    Not playing someone because you could potentially run into cap space problems 3 years down the road is akin to needing a new computer to get more work done, but holding off because a better one is going to come out in 5 years. That’s the way I feel anyway.

    But I agree with JW on pretty much everything else. I thought PRV could have used at least a few games in OKC by the first week of December.


  • Wax Man Riley

    I think Eberle gained a lot of experience from his time in the AHL and his year in junior.

    He was able to get better positionally and tune his skills before making the jump.

    He was also able to completely dominate at a level before moving on. That does a lot for confidence, and confidence does a lot for a player’s game.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Omark has the confidence, but not the fine tuning. a year in the AHL would help, and his games there did help. Now, I don’t see any way he goes back there. He put up good points and now has to develop here.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I am picking up what you’re putting down LT. I too was one who suggested that MP should spend the year in the AHL to adapt, in fact I wanted Eberle down there all year too. I mean, why not? Not like we were going to win a cup with them in the lineup, and this would give them more development time whilst saving us a year of contract.
    Conversely, since this is a “development year”, and wins dont matter, why not develop these kids whilst the heat isnt on, so that next year they are pros.

  • Wax Man Riley

    At this point, the only place PRV can go is NHL. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

    Even if some time in the AHL would still benefit him, the only way he goes is if he loses his D game, and nobody thinks that will happen.

    Now if we could just get him to fill out sooner….

  • Wax Man Riley

    Gagner is a bust. Trade him.

    Wow, what is Horcoff doing to live up to that contract?

    Lowebellini needs to be fired! Take a little longer to make a decision already.

  • Milli

    You know, I had totally disaggreed earlier, but you did just make some good points. I don’t think he benifits from a full season in the A, but, maybe like Omark, he would have benifited with 20 or 30 games.
    Side note, Did anyone catch Hall’s comments about Windor. Something to the effect of the core arrived as 16 year old and build into 2 memorial cup champs….like what he feels is happening in Edmonton! This guy will be crazy good, because he wants it so bad, and the god given talent dosn’t hurt either.

    • Wax Man Riley

      I agree. I wasn’t sure about drafting a winger last year, but after seeing him play 2 games, it was the best decision.

      He is so good already even though he is so raw. Other than his talent, which is undeniable, the thing that sets him apart is the fact that he wants to do something every time he is on the ice. EVERY TIME! He looks disappointed when he has to come off.

  • Bucknuck

    I like the fact that the year Khabibulins contract is up is also the same year that they need to resign Hall, Pajaarvi, Eberle, and Whitney. Not bad timing there. Lose a 3.75 cap hit just when you need to sign some of the up and coming kids and our best defenseman.

    Waxman, the way you spark debate gives me a headache. I don’t want to defend Gagner anymore today, and I certainly don’t want another Horcoff debate. I am glad you sent the disclaimer that you weren’t serious in the post.

    Now firing of Lowebellini? Lowe has been a bonehead enough times to lose his job, but he has also admitted his mistakes, which makes me think he won’t make the same ones, which makes me want to keep him instead of breaking in a new guy. I am still pretty happy about his work putting together the spare parts to make a run at the finals in 2006. I have a feeling that he would plug the holes that need filling a lot better than Tambellini. I don’t trust Tambellini to evaluate weaknesses and fill them with the personnel we need. So if he was gone I would not be sad.

  • Winnie Cooper

    Q. Should Paajarvi have been in the NHL this season, right from the get-go?

    A. No diggity, no doubt. (In my humble opinion.)

    I would have picked him for my star except that Eberle had me at hello when I saw the 08/09 World Jrs. And at the risk of being ostracised for my noob-ocity, that was the same year I started following the Oilers.

  • I wish the Oil had a center who realized how fast and how open this kid is when possession changes. Hes gone like hes shot out of a cannon and inevitably has to wait for some puck hog smurf to get to the blue line where he waits.

    A wee exercise in speculation for those who follow the dub. Anyone think RNH would tune into this PRV kids speed?

    One advantage that may have been gained from a tour in OKC would be the opportunity to beat dmen wide and gain some confidence. I dont think PRV realizes how easily he could blow by these guys, maybe in OKC he would prove it to himself.

    Young kid, foreign country, bunch of mouth breather media types, “pucks” begging for it. A bit overwhelming Im sure. The change in the kids game as soon as brass balls omark arrived was noticeable. Hes been good and getting better. Im fine with the decision to keep him up here… and yes Im a season seat holder.

    Now that fn Jacques guy….. Ive about had it with funding his paycheck!!

  • JW,

    Eberle was left in Jrs. for another year because he was under-sized and his skating needed work. Not be cause he couldn’t pass, shoot, or think at an NHL level.

    He grew a bit, put on some muscle and his skating improved. Good move.

    But MPS already has world class wheels and is 6’2″ or so.

    The areas he needed work in is adjusting to a new country, city, league and team.

    So he is exactly where he is supposed to be.

  • JW,

    Eberle was left in Jrs. for another year because he was under-sized and his skating needed work. Not be cause he couldn’t pass, shoot, or think at an NHL level.

    He grew a bit, put on some muscle and his skating improved. Good move.

    But MPS already has world class wheels and is 6’2″ or so.

    The areas he needed work in is adjusting to a new country, city, league and team.

    So he is exactly where he is supposed to be.

  • Peter Griffin

    I feel that Paajarvi is best suited to learn the ropes here, this year. So if we kept him in the SEL or AHL he would be a more dominant player but he would not be getting used to NHL talent or NHL speed. I would still have an adjustment period like he has had this year but he would be a year behinf Hall and Eberle for seasoning.

    Let’s compare Stamkos and Paajarvi for ONLY A MINUTE. (They are not in the same league Yet)

    Would Stamkos been better suited for a year of seasoning in the AHL because he only had 23G 23A 46P in 79GP and Paajarvi is on his way to 10G 22A 32P in 80GP (projected by TSN)

    Stamkos had similar TOI but a minute more of PP time than Paajarvi in his rookie season, look that the quality of the PP units. (Paajarvi might get an extra 5 points if he had more PP time)

    Paajarvi and the rest of the youth can spend this year getting better under NO PRESSURE to succeed.