Bulletproof Hartikainen

Despite a depth chart that appears unkind, despite more one-way contracts than Carter has pills, Teemu Hartikainen has that "look" about him. It’s the same look that thrust Kyle Brodziak from "also in photo" to opening night lineup in 2007 fall. Can the Finn make it?

Oiler fans love the Finns, with good reason. A long line of ridiculous talents from Finland have played for the Oilers, including Jarri Kurri, Esa Tikkanen, Risto Siltanen, Matti Hagman, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Janne Niinimaa, Jussi Markkanen, Joni Pitkanen and many others.

Hartikainen has a chance to join the top end of an exceptional list of Finnish Oilers, and he could push up the timeline by winning an NHL job this fall. In July, right after Steve Tambellini added Ryan Smyth, Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk to a LW depth chart that already boasted Tayler Hall and Magnus Paajarvi, I suggested Hartikainen might have to beat out Linus Omark in order to gain NHL employment opening night 2011:

  • One gets the feeling the Oilers are moving in another direction. That direction is size. That direction will benefit Teemu Hartikainen. In order for Hartikainen to find his way to Edmonton, he’ll need to pass a winger whose skills are duplicated by others on the roster and whose size/toughness will be viewed as a negative. I think Hartikainen stands a very good chance of passing Linus Omark either during training camp or during the season.

I think we’re getting to the point in preseason where we can discuss Hartikainen’s pushing Omark off the roster. I want to be clear about one thing: Linus Omark is a player I’d have on my team all day and he is exactly the kind of player a building team loses for less than 100 cents on the dollar because of things like size bias. Ask Calgary if they’d like to re-think the Martin St. Louis flush; although Omark isn’t St. Louis it is clear that the young Swede is gifted and can make a difference.

THINGS LOOK PRETTY BLEAK

The Oilers depth chart on the wing looks about like this currently:

  1. Hall
  2. Hemsky
  3. Smyth
  4. Eberle
  5. Paajarvi
  6. Omark
  7. Eager
  8. Jones
  9. Hordichuk
  10. Hartikainen
  11. Petrell
  12. Tyrvainen
  13. Hamilton
  14. Pitlick

That’s my list, your list may be different and superior. What we’re really looking for here is how many players Hartikainen needs to jump over in order to make the team. A few points: Coach Renney has suggested Gilbert Brule is going to be a C on this team, and has shown a willingness to play Hartikainen at RW this fall (in what looks like an effort to find a way to get him on the roster). Also, Hordichuk is not a player Hartikainen can replace, their skill sets are not in any way duplicated. Here’s the list of possible wingers the Finn could pass:

  • Ryan Jones: I don’t think Hartikainen can do enough to get past the veteran with a recently signed 2-year deal. Jones can penalty kill and plug in on any line.
  • Ben Eager: Somewhat similar to Hordichuk except more skilled. Eager is a guy who could find himself on the 3line or 4line, or even another line if injuries hit. I don’t think there’s any way for Hartikainen to replace him.
  • Linus Omark: And here we have an undersized skill player and a winger the coach feels could improve his play away from the puck. Man I hate to say it but Omark is in a tough situation on this roster. It doesn’t help that Omark hasn’t done a lot so far this training camp–he could use a big offensive night in the next couple of games.
  • Ales Hemsky: Should the organization decide to trade Hemsky (possibly for help on the blue), the RW depth chart might end up being Eberle, Omark, Jones and Hartikainen. It’s an interesting idea, although any team dealing for Hemsky will want to see him healthy before pulling the trigger.

The other item is injury. Should the Gagner injury be severe enough or the Eager injury drag on or Hemsky’s difficulties prove to be time consuming then Hartikainen is the obvious choice from the group of wingers currently available.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

It’ll come down to coach Renney and how he wants to deploy his wingers. Will Ryan Jones be part of the PK rotation, making him too valuable to deal away? Will Hartikainen continue to impress and force his way onto the roster? Will Linus Omark have one of those magical nights that establishes him as too valuable an offensive player?

Too soon to know, but if I’m a betting man Linus Omark is the odd man out.

 

  • Hemmertime

    I believe put him in OKC until injuries, and keep him there as long as possible. See if Chemistry develops with Lander and they both can come up to replace injured players or at the start of next year.

  • Omark has a lot of hype, a lot of flash, and the ability to bring people out of their seat…without accomplishing a whole lot by the end of the day.

    Before people realize how flawed he is the team should move him out for another defender. There’s only 1 team I can think of that has never had a problem finding and developing defenders but needs someone to excite the fans (and for cheap).

    The Nashville Predators.

    No, I’m not talking about Weber, but I know which GM would find a Linus Omark highlight reel in their mail this week.

  • Peterborough

    Frankly, this odd man out stuff is silly. Omark got 50+ games despite not making the opening day roster. Reddox for 40+ games. Hartikainen is a special player that he can sub in when an offensive player gets injured (last year’s Omark) or when a defensive bottom 6 player gets injured (last year’s Reddox). I don’t know how many games we played last year where at least 1 winger wasn’t injured, but I can guarantee there were not too many. I predict Hartikainen won’t make the roster, but will get 60+ games (and with Eager and Hemsky currently out, one of those games may be opening night too). To put Jones on waivers, or risk Omark leaving, just for Hartikainen to get the extra 15-20 games (just a guess) or so when a winger isn’t injured, is plain silly to me.

    • stevezie

      I like this post so much I’m repeating it. His skills are duplicated so he is a piece we could spare for the right return, but I think it would be crazy to move him just for the sake of “making room”. I hate to say it, but someone is going to get hurt. When that fateful day comes, Hitman Hart will be ready. This organization has a history of looking past training camps to see the big picture (Peckham, and Omark last year are two recent examples) so I would be very surprised and disappointed if Omark is tossed because of a bad pre-season.

  • I could see Hartikainen sticking, but if he does, I wouldn’t push Omark out. I think he’s earned his spot and proven his worth. Small in stature, but not even close to small in battles. He’s very strong on the puck and is good at generating chances with his Swede linemates – Lander, Paajarvi, Gagnarvi, Horcstrom, etc…

    I’d say we can keep him here, but that would come at the cost of Lander and RNH which might not be bad for now anyways. I suspect that the Oilers won’t go that route though with RNH (I think they’ll want him to stay, whether it’s best or not – although so far he’s made a positive impression except for on the harder critics).

    With injuries (Gagner now, recently), we might be able to keep both these guys around and someone like Lander anyways too. But I just wouldn’t keep Hartikainen here at the expense of Omark.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    LT, That Kurri in a Kilt pic is priceless. Good Job. I lived across the hallway from Jari in the SW when I was growing up, and he’s always been my fav Oiler of all time, hence the avatar pic. (Jari’s pic in the HHOF)

  • Omark has proven he belongs and the Oilers should find a way to keep him. His style of play in the offensive zone should draw at least one opposition penalty at least every other shift (that is IF the officials had an ounce of respect for the guy). When Linus is working the corners, side boards or “Gretz’s office” ,most opposing players have to grab, hook or trip him to stop him. 99% of the time, there is no call made.

  • paul wodehouse

    …”an out clause”

    …that is just so like the little sh*t as far as i’m concerned…if he can’t play for the Oilers he’s taking his game and going back to the Homelandia?

    ~so i guess that Sequin for Omark Gagner and Hemsky trade isn’t going to happen then~

  • paul wodehouse

    Ok lowetide, I’m not understanding what your thinking here is.so Heartz has a few good games, let’s get rid of more proven players just so that the unproven can prove themselves? Anyone who follows this team should know that injuries happen often in e-town, I dont see Horcoff, Hemsky, Smyth, Gagner, or Brule playing much more than 65 games a piece, theres gonna be plenty of roster space opening up soon enough..
    Heartz is 21 years old, nothing wrong with sending him up and down a few times like with Omark last season…
    We could just trade Hemsky already..give me back a top four dman for him anyday..he has proven that he is unable to stay healthy in this division, I’m sure theres some teams out east that would love to have him..yeah we are getting rid of a proven veteran, a proven veteran who is unable to stay healthy for more than half a season..

    • Lowetide

      That’s actually the exact opposite of what I’m saying. My point is that Omark–a splendid young talent–is in a bad spot due to size bias and the performance of Hartikainen.

      I’m reading the tea leaves a little and see that the Oilers gave the Finn a nice push last night and he paid them back by being one of the best players on the ice (I’d suggest that Hall had the better day, but we’re splitting hairs).

      I am NOT in favor of flushing Omark. Quite the opposite.

  • Peterborough

    Injuries & Hemsky’s contract status will determine how the roster is filled out. Size is critical but i’m thinking Jones’ roster spot will be very fluid if he’s not consistent with his play. There’s no time for JFJ experiments, the Oilers need performance from the bottom 6 as well as the top 6!

  • I’ve never understood the fascination with Linus Omark. Must be the same crowd attracted to Robbie Schremp and neon lights.

    If the Flyers like Theo Peckham, what does it take to get Andrej Meszaros?

    Meszaros is signed for 3 years at $4million. he’s good for 30+ points and plays physical.

    – Trade Hemsky for a defenseman

    – Draft a defenseman with 1st pick in 2012

    – Sign Ryan Sutter, Coburn, or Carle July 1st…

  • After the trade dealine Omark will be our second line RW, right behind Eberle. I don’t know if I agree, but I am convinced this is what will happen.

    If one’s hand was forced, wouldn’t one flush Jones before one flushed Omark? Petrell can probably do what Jones can, but there’s no way he can do what Omark can.

    Either way I think Omark’s fate depends on Hemsky.

  • Peterborough

    So sick of Omark already, he’s not a baby or a rookie and needs an out clause. If Omark was so good he wouldn’t need out clauses or complain to the media, he is the problem. What a side-show distracting cry-baby, Schremp was never that bad.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    I think that Hartikainen is simply doing too much right now to no make the opening night roster. He is in a similar situation as Omark was last season but I think that he brings more to the table than Omark. We talk all the time about not being too cute and trying to pass the puck into the net. Omark is a perfect example of that and Harski is the kind of guy that this team needs. Of course, if Eager isn’t back in time then that might be an opening but I think that Hordichuk has done enough to deserve that spot if Eager isn’t ready.

  • The Oilers have had it in for Omark from the beginning and they’ve used the media to poison the well against him. These comments are evidence of how easily fans can be persuaded to disbelieve their eyes. Omark has done nothing but work hard since he’s been an Oiler. He was their best player the final 20 games of the season.

    What he has against him is that in addition to having the media against him (look back on the coverage of him, even the compliments are backhanded), he has the refs against him as well. I’ve never seen someone get so few calls when he has the puck or get whistled so quickly when he’s forechecking. The NHL is a little boys club. It seems clear to me that people (not players or teammates–the literati) are talking bad about him in the bars and this is bleeding into everything else. The consequence is that they won’t be able to trade him for anything of value. So either they flush him down the toilet for nothing or they keep him. If they do this I promise you the Oilers will go another 20 years without fielding a good team. So really, the future of everything stands or falls on this.

    But lowetide’s reading of the tealeaves is spot on. The team is looking for an excuse to get rid of him.

  • Kodiak

    I love all of these arguments in favour of Omark, how is first year stats are better than Henrik Sedin’s, how the Oilers are conspiring to make to him look bad to the media, or how he’ll draw a penalty on every second shift. Oh yeah, now I’m convinced he’s a great player!

    The Robbie Schremp fan club is out in force tonight. Now all we need is some links to the YouTube highlights and we’ll know we have our franchise right winger.

    • Kodiak

      Nice argument. What convinces you he’s a bad player? His out clause? He’s sick stickhandling is somehow a bad thing? WTF?

      You and Arch can keep slagging him all you want but neither of you have brought any substance to the table as to why he’s not a legitimate prospect with offensive upside. After three preseason games he’s 1g 2a 3pts and a +2. How is that smoke and mirrors? I think the only smoke and mirrors are your inept reasonings behind not giving the kid a chance.

        • Kodiak

          Now you tell me. I wish I would have known sooner instead of wasting my time trying to explain why I think Gagner is a waste of icetime.

          And picking a third line player as you goat seems like kind of a waste. Shouldn’t you be picking a top 6 forward or top 4 D, someone who has legitimate expectations on them? You know, someone like a 5th year center playing top minutes who is oft injured, struggles to create offence on his own, is weak defensively and arguably in more of a make or break season than Omark?

  • @ Lowetide:

    I don’t like the reasoning, but I can’t disagree, either. The other issue here is that Petrell fills a need (PK) that’s in short supply on the wings.

    Either way, Omark does seem to be in more of a bind than I would have thought 24-48 hours ago.

  • O.C.

    With the quiet room rules, and more time for cobweb clearing, I can see where more people are needed.

    There should also be a reserve forward and D man allowed in the NHLPA NHL agreement. When an injury occurs, a player can dress for him.

  • Kodiak

    This is the head coach that played Khabi over Dubnyk all year and just the other day commented how he was confidant in Khabi’s ability to get the job done? Ok then, if Renney says Gagner is the second coming of Doug Gilmour then I guess it must be so.

    So he outscored Cogliano, Horcoff (who only played 47 games) and Brule. Wow, that’s something to really be proud of and is a sure sign he’s going to take his game to the next level. Doug Gilmour II for sure