The Oilers officially signed Anton Lander to a three-year entry level deal yesterday, and I think it was the first step of what will be a changing of the guard down the middle of the Oilers lineup over the next few years. Lander will get a chance to make the team out of training camp, but I won’t be surprised if he plays at least 40 games in the AHL before making the jump. Lander has the makings of a solid 3rd line centre, who will add some offence, and with the likelihood the Oilers will take Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in June the Oilers middlemen will take on a different look in the near future.
Lander turned 20 this past Sunday, and while his offensive numbers in Timra won’t blow you away at first glance, 11 goals and 26 points in 49 games, the Oilers love his competitive fire. During an interview on Oilers Lunch on the TEAM 1260 on Thursday Lander’s desire oozed through the airwaves.
"I’m really pissed off that we missed the playoffs," he said when asked about missing the playoffs for the first time in his pro career. Lander didn’t shy away from critiquing himself either when Bob Stauffer asked him about his WJH tournament.
"I’m not happy with my performance in that tournament. I feel I could do more for a team, but I’ve learned a lot and I would never say no to taking a penalty shot. I like that situation where you can be the hero or the loser. Maybe next time it can be a good result." (In case you don’t remember Lander hit the crossbar v. Russia and Sweden lost, then Russia went on to beat Canada in gold medal game.)
Lander was an assistant captain in Timra, which says a lot about his leadership skills considering he was the youngest player on the team. Lander described his own game like this, "I’m a two-way player who works hard in my defensive play, and then I go on offence and do my best. The big thing for me is that I want to win every single battle on the ice, even it is on the boards or in the middle of the ice. I want to win and bring a good situation for my team."
Those words must have been music to the ears of Steve Tambellini and Tom Renney. Hell, it was refreshing for me to hear that, and I’m sure many Oiler fans got excited hearing a player openly admit how important it is for him to compete and battle on every play.
For the past few seasons one of the biggest criticisms of the Oilers was their lack of size, and while that is a concern, I think their inability, or unwillingness, to compete on every shift was more of a concern. The only reason fans liked Liam Reddox was because he did give you his best effort every time he stepped on the ice, unfortunately he didn’t produce much. Lander is more talented, and unlike some of the current Oiler forwards he will battle for every puck.
WHO FITS IN?
Of course it is no slam dunk that Lander will make the Oilers out of training camp, but with him and possibly Nugent-Hopkins in the fold, the Oilers would have too many centres come September. Andrew Cogliano has been shopped the past two summers, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him on the block again, but the bigger question is whether Steve Tambellini would part with Sam Gagner. I really liked how hard Cogliano competed every night, and I wouldn’t be opposed to re-signing him for $1 million again.
Gagner is still young, and entering his 5th season there are many unanswered questions about the direction of his career path.
Can he become a 65-point player?
Will his footspeed ever improve enough to make him dangerous off the rush?
Can he improve in the faceoff dot?
What is his value on the trade market?
Is it too early to trade him?
Tambellini won’t find all the answers this summer, but I suspect he will field some calls about Gagner’s availability, and I bet he will try to gauge the interest level in the former 6th overall pick in 2007.
There is no need to make a quick decision on Gagner, because the Oilers don’t need to have either Lander or Nugent-Hopkins on the opening night roster, but if they feel they can compete then there likely isn’t room for all three of them long-term.
Would Gagner and the 19th pick get you near the top five in the draft? Would that be too much to give up for just a prospect, even if he’s a high-end prospect? I’d argue it might be straight up, but if you get a 2nd rounder in return I’d really consider it.
- Please tell me that the rest of the Predators/Canucks series will be better. Game one was uneventful.
- Marc Crawford returned to CBC last night, and instantly he was getting ripped on blogs and twitter. He might be the most hated analyst/guest on TV amongst the fans, which is saying a lot considering the venom some of those guys receive. **cough, cough, Glenn Healy, cough, cough**. I don’t mind Crawford, and I’m curious what it is about Crawford that annoys so many of you?
- I thought Ryan Whitney was pretty good in his TSN debut yesterday. I didn’t mind Colby Armstrong either, but was surprised at how uncomfortable Jamie Mclennan looked. Mclennan is one of the funniest players I’ve ever talked to over the years. He is a great story teller, and his teammates loved him, but he was surprisingly reserved. I’d like to see him get another shot in the future.
- I was laughing how the Montreal media were suggesting that Scott Gomez might not be back in Montreal next season. Who in their right mind would trade for him and his $7.35 million cap hit for the next three seasons? Gomez was brutal this year, and I credit him for admitting it, but Montreal is dreaming if they think he is going anywhere in the next three years.
- Some people thought the Bruins gave up too much ( 2nd rounder) to get Chris Kelly at the deadline. Kelly’s three goal performance in the first round might have saved Peter Chiarelli’s job. Had the Bruins lost to the Habs, head coach Claude Julien and the entire coaching staff would have been axed, and Chiarelli would have been on thin ice. Kelly’s offensive output likely saved Chiarelli’s job.
- Andrew Ference is a good Edmonton boy, but he acted like an idiot twice in the Montreal series. Pretending he didn’t flip the bird to the Montreal fans was embarrassing and immature, and then delivering an unnecesary shoulder to the head of Jeff Halpern in game seven made him look even worse. Ference ripped his own teammate, Danile Paille, late in the year for his hit to the head of Raymond Sawada, but two months later he dished out an equally stupid shoulder. No one likes a hypocrite.
- Nick Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne have been applauded, and rightfully so, for playing so well as 40-year-olds, but I’m more impressed by Randy Couture’s athletic performance at 48 years young. MMA is an individual sport and Couture is consistently fighting guys 10-25 years his junior. I’ve seen a lot of different athletes come into town as guest speakers or as headliners and they come in, take their money, don’t talk to anyone and leave. When Couture was here he made every person he met feel special, and I hope he goes out with a bang. Like Lidstrom and Selanne, Couture is a true gentleman, and I hope he ends his career with a victory on Saturday night.