WHAT ABOUT LANDER?

The Oilers drafted Anton Lander 40th overall in 2009, and he spent the next two season playing for Timra in the SEL before making his NHL debut this past October. Lander has played 29 games and during the 10:43 TOI/game he’s tallied one goal (shorthanded) and three points, is -2 and is 40.9% in the dot.

Not bad numbers, but if the Oilers are serious about the future they need to make a decision quickly regarding what is best for his development.

Yesterday I wrote  how excited Magnus Paajarvi was to be playing lots of minutes in the AHL, and he realized the imporantace of developing his game, and I feel the Oilers have two easy choices to make regarding Lander.

Move him up to the 3rd line and play him 13-15 minutes a game or send him to OKC where he can play even more minutes, and replace him with Ryan O’Marra.

If the Oilers are serious about developing and winning, then wouldn’t Lander in OKC and O’Marra up here make sense? Look at Lander’s numbers; is he making that much of an impact on the outcome of most games? It’s not a knock on him, but he’s a 4th line guy right now, and I doubt very few 4th line centres change the outcome of many games.

In three games this year O’Marra tallied one assist was an even player (+/-) and was 71.4% in the dot. I know he wouldn’t be that dominant over 29 games in the dot, but he can kill penalties and win some draws, while Lander plays 17-18 minutes a night in the AHL.

I understand that they want to have kids: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins playing meaningful and intense games down the stretch, but they have to look at the big picture as well. Many believe Lander will be a solid 3rd liner in the future, and maybe even a low-end 2nd line centre, and if that is the case then he needs to be playing in all situations in the AHL.

He hasn’t been able to work on his offensive game at all this year in his role. He’s been pretty decent as a checker, but if they want him to be a two-way player then he has to play in some offensive situations, and right now that will only happen in OKC.

WHAT ABOUT THE 3RD LINE?

The other option would be to move him to the 3rd line in place of the struggling Eric Belanger. I’ve talked about this for weeks, and today at practice the Oilers had Lander on the third line with Sam Gagner and Ryan Jones. If the Oilers are committed to playing him there for an extended period then that’s the only reason he should still be here.

I’m stunned at how many people feel that developing your game and earning your keep in the AHL is somehow a major a slap in the face to young players. Numerous players spent a year, two or even three before becoming a regular in the best league in the world.

At times I sense the Oilers even feel a bit of trepidation about sending young players who are on cusp of making the team down to the minors. I don’t understand why Lander wasn’t there from the start of the year. Sure, he played okay, but would he be that much better than O’Marra. Maybe O’Marra is the big, strong 4th line centre who can win draws this team will need moving forward?

He might not be, but considering how high they are on Lander, then why didn’t they look at the big picture and have him develop in OKC? Too often this organization sends mixed messages. They want to win to gain experience for their young players, and also to reward their incredibly loyal fans, but has Lander really helped in achieving the former?

If Tom Renney is going to use him in a 3rd line role for an extended period of time moving forward, then I can understand why they keep him here, but if it is only a short stint, they should make the right long-term decision and exchange Lander with O’Marra and see what they have in both players.

It is easy to keep top-end players like RNH, Hall and Eberle in the NHL, and they be the key pieces moving forward, but the development of their complimentary and role players is vital if they plan on being a consistent contending team.

DAY 14

It seems music and tattoos go hand-in-hand and for day 14 of "Helping Others" we’ve come up an awesome 
Rock N’ Roll package.

Today up for auction for the Christmas Bureau will be:

  • $2,500 in tattoo work at Atomic Zombie. The GCs are in $100 denominations so you can use them between friends or family. AZ has been voted the top Tattoo place in Edmonton for the 2nd straight year in See Magazine.
     
  • $1,000 gift card at Long and McQuade. An incredible music store.
     
  • And an awesome 2 days (16 hours) of studio recording time at The AUDIO Department including an Engineer and an assistant. And you can use any of their equipment. Unreal.

A huge thank you to Kerry at the Audio Department for the studio and for generously donating the gift card and some of the GCs at Atomic Zombie.

To bid you can call 780.426.8326 or email gregor@theteam1260.com. Bidding starts at 2 p.m and ends at 5:45 MST with 100% of the money going to the Christmas Bureau.

Over 60,000 people need help from the Christmas Bureau so if you can’t bid on this package, but you want help you can donate here or you can make a quick donation on your phone. Just text: "Christmas" to 45678  for a $10 donation or "Hamper" to 45678 for $5.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    @Gregor

    Great article as usual.

    I asked this before, but I’m still curious. How did O’Marra hop Brule on the depth chart?

    Is that the settled opinion? Just curious, because I haven’t heard much from the team or the media about Brule and I’m wondering if they’ve basically given up on him or if he is legitimately still on the radar but below O’Marra?

    I was surprised earlier when O’Marra got the call up over Brule and I’m just wondering how I missed the discussion that placed O’Marra in the clear over Brule… it still seems debatable to me.

    ps. Any chance Pitlick gets a cup of coffee this year? I imagine he gets a spin next year and that barring some beautiful catastrophe of injuries he stays down this year, but I’m curious where the team/media place him right now.

  • Talbot17

    Gregor, while I agreee you are clearly getting ahead of yourself – took long enough to send Magnus down,dont forsee them sending Lander anytime soon. If they give him more then a game on our 3rd line to let him ‘gel’ a bit with Jones and Gagner or whoever lines up with him, I think he will be very effective here.

  • Stocc

    Gregor,

    I agree with the development piece, but it is very obvious O’Marra skates at a less than AHL level. Why have better players playing in the AHL than the NHL? We haven’t succeeded in more than 6 weeks playing the veterans like Belanger, it’s once again time to put development over trying to patch a competitive team together.

    It is time to start cheering for a lottery pick VS. hoping to get 9th overall.

    • Jason Gregor

      O’Marra did not look out of place at all. Not sure why you felt he looked lost out there, because he didn’t.

      He isn’t a great skater, but that is one element of his game. He is physical, solid in dot and has become much better at competeting hard every shift. He isn’t the answer long term, but the dip from him to Lander likely wouldn’t impact the outcomes of games. That is the point.

  • Stocc

    Great article JG, once again picking up on an issue we hadnt thought of.
    I agree. I was at a game when Omarra was up against the Wild, and he looked intense when he went into that dot, and he won most of the ones I saw against some good players.
    Give him a shot, he’s big, can chip in a bit of offense, and has a few pro years under his belt.

  • OilFan

    Has anyone noticed that Lander has dropped about 15 – 20 LBS since training camp? His face is thinner than in camp and I am wondering if the rigors of the NHL are too much for his young frame right now.

  • Stocc

    Lander deserves some additional time on the third or perhaps on the second line, as a part of his development.

    Jason you are not alone in wondering what the plan is for Lander. He has more potential than Horcoff and is not developing on the fourth line so moving him up makes sense.

    I feel that he has grasped the North Amreican game rather quickly and since we have not had any luck with any of our other centers, I say play him and fast track his development in either league.

  • Oilerbill

    Agreed! I think this is especially true for players coming from the SEL and even the NCAA. First the NA game is different in many ways second the NHL schedule is a marathon with a 5 mile sprint at the end if you go anywhere in the playoffs. I don’t think many Europeans are prepared for it. Not when you are used to playing between 40-60 games a season.

  • OilFan

    Sorry I can’t bid at this time but I made my cell phone donation for 10$. I didn’t get a text back or anything, how do I know it went through ?

    I like Gagner Lander and Jones but who is playing center ? If Lander takes the draws what message will that send to Gagner ?

    edit: I did get a reply

  • Dan the Man

    Glad to hear that Renney is finally going to give Lander a shot on the 3rd line, hopefully he can put up some points with Gagner and Jones.

    Bruce McCurdy mentioned at Lowetides site that he would like to see Paajarvi-Lander-Hartikainen (once healthy)as a 1st line in OKC and I have to admit that I really like that idea. They would have the potential to dominate at the AHL level.