STRENGTH DOWN THE MIDDLE

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.

PARTING SHOTS

  • 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.
  • Fair enough, I’m not going to try and convince anyone that Lecavalier has a good contract because he doesn’t. My thought process was along the lines of any fair “possible” trade for Horcoff. Given that you would essentially have to trade bad contract for bad contract, because of Vinny’s contract length and cost I can’t think of another trade for Horcoff where we get the best player straight up. Lastly, I would not do this deal independent of the Spezza deal I daydreamed up, as having them together as 1 and 2 would be ideal as this also allows the Oilers to take a productive approach with their other young centers (Gagner included).

    Again, I stress that this scenario was thought up as a possible trade for Horcoff, is he useless to the Oilers? No, I was just thinking of what possible return (if any) he could get. Any other suggestions are welcome.

    • Without doing any research my first thought would be that Horcoff would make a far superior 3rd line center as the years progress than Lecavalier. What is Lecavalier like without the puck? I don’t know.

    • Jason Gregor

      His owner has given him ability to spend to the cap, and actually over it with Savard on LTIR and had they lost out again, especially in first round to an inferior opponent he would have been on the hot seat. Why do you even mention him in the same sentance as Lamoriello. What has he proven or won?

      • Rob...

        Very true about the Lou comparison Jason. I guess I was thinking about how lucky he’s been in some cases. He’s been able to be a contender while acquiring picks no team in that position should be able to do. That luck alone should buy him a year more.

  • Tank

    the other day I thought I read we would lose his rights if we didn’t sign him before the draft any truth to that and if so whats the difference between him and Omark

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      Hockeybuzz?? Really??

      But if it’s true; remember what the young Oilers of the 80’s were doing? Nothing abnormal here. Let’s just hope they don’t get into too much trouble.

      EDIT: Okay, ON is starting to become really gay. There’s been so many comment edits and deletes lately. JDP had a link to a hockeybuzz blog talking about some of the young Oilers and their partying. No one likes and takes hockeybuzz seriously. And this site isn’t mainstream and isn’t PG. Why delete the link? ON is really starting to lose it’s appeal.

    • Dan the Man

      Feel free to dislike Principe, you’re welcome to your opinion (I happen to think he’s good at what he does) but I hope you at least understand that his role on hockey broadcasts is very different from Healy’s.

      • Dan the Man

        Come on, Geno… the pun crazy clown, he is funny sure, border line annoying. Does his job, but sportsnet is not even in the same continent in regards to hockey with CBC. I don’t mind Healy, doesn’t talk much,which I respect( nothing worse then a color guy beating a dead horse -Pierre)But he knows what he is talking about…

  • ubermiguel

    I refuse to watch Tsn. Pierre and Gord Miller biggest clowns on TV, along with the analysts who beat every story line down to a pulp. No thank you

    I don’t watch Vancouver but i hear good ol Jimmy Hughson has been quite the bias. Ron Mclean and grapes, Bob cole

    As for Cogs, i would mind seeing him at wing, he can’t win a faceoff, but seems to be the only one willing to compete no matter what the circumstance. I respect that.

    Would love to see a second pick in the top 5. A Couturier Hopkins combo would be a win in my books

  • db7db7db7

    Paul Gaustad 6’5″ 212 lbs 81GP 12G 19A 31P 101PIM 59.8FO%
    2011-12 $2,500,000

    Trade away Gags and Cogs. Trade for Gaustad.
    He would be considered ELITE 3rd liner. Assign Fraser to OKC to groom Lander and Pitlick.
    Draft Couturier. Start him on the big club.

    There, Center position fixed…
    1C=Couturier
    2C=Horc
    3C=Gaustad
    4C=VV

  • db7db7db7

    @ubermiguel: Your definition of MMA is outdated. What you say might have been true 10 years ago. It is no longer true of the sport today.

    Today, MMA (besides the reality television series) is well regulated and almost fight card is built to excite the fans because there are a lot of different styles of fighters.

  • JDP

    JS…ok… well illustrated w/ youtube but if MMA is Apples and my hockey is Oranges?
    …i’ll take the Orange Grove

    MMA = gratuitous violence offered up to quench the blood thirst of young testosterone junkies that thrill for controlled thuggery in a cage only to be emulated in the streets and witnessed by the young and more impressionable of our society…if this so-called sport was created & fostered by ancient influences, I know for sure nothing good came from the Roman empires’ powerful and ultra violent history other than aqueducts and group sex…IMO

    • Rob...

      The first two UFC’s were phenomenal and showcased a level of respect and sportsmanship I have yet to see surpassed in sports. With that said, I think MMA has devolved into well refined pit-fighting, where there is still some respect and sportsmanship, but it has eroded greatly. This is a generalization, as there are many individual competitors who are still class acts… though they are still pit-fighters.

      By the way, your comment about the Roman empire is so silly that I’m surprised that it wasn’t encapsulated in tildes.

    • Nothing good from the Roman Empire except Aqueducts and Group sex?

      What about Roads, public health and sanitation, complex plumbing like heated and running water in private homes, a model of government that is emulated around the world, the basis of the modern calendar, almost every holiday is an appropriation of a Roman holiday by Christianity, construction techniques that have stood the test of time, military tactics that revolutionized warfare, and a tradition of invention that produced tools and practices more complex than those that came for centuries after the Empire collapsed?

      To the point that MMA has ancient roots, it’s true, but it’s not with the Romans. It goes further back into the Greek world (and likely even further back). MMA is closely modeled after one of the earliest Olympic combat sports where athletes would fight with fewer restrictions than boxing, which was also an ancient sport.

  • sofarsogood

    Very few NHLers, if any are in the same shape as george. could you imagine hemsky with the same commitment. That commitment alone tells you something about MMA.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    @Archaeologuy…i guess i missed a few of those you mentioned in your much appreciated history lesson on the contributions of the Roman Empire but i still like group sex more than aqueducts…tildes notwithstanding

    the point was still that IMO i liken MMA and it’s phenomenon to human cock fighting…Dana White IS a genius no doubt about it but really, to each his own, right gentlemen?

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Maybe enough about body parts can we?… my video’s on hold along with and thanks for HBOs’Rome… i wanted to ask about the vicious rumor i heard about Lander and how he wasn’t saying “the right things”back in Sweden awhile back pointing to his maybe not signing …being somehow unhappy about having to sign a contract ‘or else’…or else he goes back on the draft market i was led to believe…true? untrue? is there an agent being an idiot for his client?

    Gregor refers to Lander as having the
    “makings of a solid 3rd line centre”…that translates into something less than what i thought was coming so i’d be happy to know he’s gonna be the 2C real soon with RNH between 4 &14…Ten could be the energy3C yes?

    i’m really glad he signed …i as much as wrote him off cuz time was ticking down and IMO our GM could easily f*@kup planning a one car funeral. In Stu We Trust

  • Rob...

    i love a good truck pull!!!…i’m sure i heard a faint chant PEKKA PEKKA PEKKA erupting from the cheap seats as the Preds bus left the sally port of Rogers Arena after the game … so now that the NHL has banned any touching of the glass of the visitors penalty box by those goofy green guys and they haven’t yet found your bag ‘o fans dangling from the High Level bridge…who do we face next?

    preds just eleven wins away from the silverware

  • Rob...

    Too bad Couture got KO’D on the last fight! Canucks suck, I hope Nashville stones a wall at them and shuts em down! Can you imagine the arrogance if they win a cup there?

    Can’t wait for draft day!

  • Peterborough

    Would be silly to move either cogs or Gagner until after this year RNH should spend a year down in the WHL again and Lander can wait to be a callup to one of our for sure gonna happen injuries.

    PS good call on Couture Gregor he sure went out with a bang. Like completely shut off, I like Randy but its clear he has absolutely no biz being there anymore.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Saying that MMA is a sport is like saying the cowboy poetry is Shakespeare. I’m right, and I appreciate all of the supportive comments.

    Can we please talk about hockey now?