The Point is Moot!

It’s fun to ponder which of the Oilers rookies had the best season, and to ask which of them will have the better career. A better question might be "can these kids help the Oilers win the Stanley in the next decade?"

If we take each rookie (just the ones who qualify as rookies, let’s not get ahead of ourselves with small sample sizes) and ask the question, it becomes clear just how many holes have/may have been filled during this long, dreary (and unending, apparently) winter.

  1. Will the Oilers be able to count on Taylor Hall to deliver quality on the top line? No need to shake the big 8-ball on this question, Hall showed flashes of elite-level talent during the season and delivered 22 goals in a shortened year. It’s best not to project too far into the future, but a reasonable progression year over year has Hall north of 30 goals in 11-12. And he’s still a teenager.
  2. Will the Oilers be able to count on Jordan Eberle as a 2-way player on a quality team? Of all the 10-11 rookies, Eberle showed beyond expectations. Smart player, quick hands and a hard worker. I think he might end up playing center, but even if Eberle doesn’t change position he has all of the skills required to be a complete player.
  3. Can Magnus Pääjärvi find an effective role in the top 9? The 8-ball doesn’t come back completely convinced about his offense, but the young man is much better without the puck than what you expect from a rookie. It didn’t show up as much in the stats as we’d like (he appears to have been playing in some bad puck luck when on the Gagner-Omark line) but Pääjärvi’s natural instincts have him leaving the zone early and playing middle linebacker at the slightest hint of trouble. If his offense doesn’t come (MP wasn’t among the top flight offensive rookies like the two men above) the Oilers will have a quality checker with size and an idea about defense. That’s a useful player.
  4. Can Linus Omark play in the top 6F? Omark’s season is a little bit of a riddle, as he has some mixed up math in his resume. By eye he’s remarkable with the puck, tough to knock it away from and capable of stickhandling in a phone booth. However, he’s generally out of position and on the wrong side of the puck when it’s turned over, so I’d guess he’ll be a one dimensional offensive player who can quarterback the powerplay. You can’t have too many of these guys, but if he can stay in the league and learn on the job Omark might end up being an integral part of a contending team. He’s certainly talented enough to survive, but because of size bias he’ll need a little luck to stay. Teams often flush these player types as soon as they slump, and everyone slumps.
  5. Can Jeff Petry play a prominent role on a championship team? Petry has an exceptional skill set: size, mobility, intelligence, quality head-man passing ability and he can help on the powerplay. I don’t think Petry will play the heart of his career as an Oiler. Why? Oiler fans aren’t fond of "finesse defensemen" and sooner or later he’s going to pass up an opportunity to make a hit or make a coverage error that looks obvious on television. Fans turn on these guys, we have decades of proof in this regard. Want to know Petry’s future in Edmonton? Ask Tom Gilbert. I don’t think he’ll be here when the team is contending for the Stanley. Too bad, I think he’s an exceptional talent.
  6. Can Devan Dubnyk backstop a championship team? As with all of these questions, we’re not going to know the answer for awhile. However, Dubnyk’s rookie season was good. Really good. He went 12-13-8 on a horrible team, and his GAA (2.71) towers over Super Bowl Sunday’s. His .916SP ranked third among rookies and in a tie for 18th among all qualifying goalers in the NHL. If he can build on that impressive season–winning 12 games for the Sisters of the Poor orphanage team–Devan Dubnyk is going to have a career.

Next season won’t be as plentiful for Oiler rookies. Teemu Hartikainen would appear to be a strong candidate and a couple of defensemen (Plante, Teubert) may also qualify. No worries, as this year’s crop has quality and quantity. If the fans can get out of their own way re:Petry, maybe there’s even a defenseman in the group.

  • Reality Check to the head

    @ The Real Scuba Steve

    We have trouble signing proven free agents at the best of times, what makes you think that will change after back to back 30th place finishes? Putting any hope into big signings is a mistake, at least until the promise this team is showing starts to show on the ice.

    Also, when (not if) the team leaves rexall to their new digs, players may be more interested in coming here.

    Edmonton may have to try and take chances on signing underachieving players or players that have potential to have a breakout year (basically flyers).

    Just some thoughts.

  • knee deep in it

    @ LT – I think the difference between Petry and other finesse guys (Gilbert, Poti, heck even Brewer was considered too soft by many, etc.) that the team has had recently is that he can hold his own defensively. He might not be physical, but he uses his stick effectively and skates well enough to make up for some mistakes. They just need to pair him with a banger (Peckham or Spazz-lite/Smid) to compensate for that.

    What impresses me the most about Petry is his patience and awareness with the puck. Even in his first game up with the big boys you could see that he was a step above any of the other d-men on the team with his poise with the puck. He has that ability to both move it up quickly or hold onto it until the last second to allow the forwards to create separation for a pass. It was actually very funny watching a rookie in his first game make the right play with the puck while Foster (3 cough ups where he chose the wrong outlet/dumped it into the neutral zone WHILE his forwards were changing), Gilbert (Mr. Hesitation – I stopped counting at 3 hesitations that made him miss a winger wide with speed in the netural zone before stopping to count), and the other d-men bumbled around with the puck.

    FWIW, I think the issue with Gilbert is that his game has plateaued offensively. He showed more offensive promise in his first two seasons, but has not delivered on that. Part of it is the lack of talent the team has down the middle (this hampers all of the d-men on d-zone coverage) and on the blue line. This is the biggest issue on the team – Whitney is not a top 10 d-man in the NHL, but look how much better he made everyone look when partnered with them. That speaks volumes about how bad the Oilers defence really is.

  • admiralmark

    The problem with the relationship with Gilbert and the fans is that he has been playing on a 30th place team, playing in a role above his skillset(slightly), and surrounded by other D-men playing in roles above their skillset.

    Once this team starts winning and we start injecting a bonafide 1st pairing D-man and 2nd pairing d-men to compliment Gilbert and Petry… These two players can thrive…and fans will see the light. Well thats best case scenario… but possible. Its up to Tambi to make it happen before its too late.

  • Maestro8

    I thought Petry had a pretty good rookie season.To my eye he plays quite a bit more physical then it might seem.(I think he was the guy who flattened Tootoo with a nice open ice hit)He still makes rookie mistakes but I like the “lack of panic” in his own end.My guess would be if he continues to develop he will be here long after Omark is gone.

  • Maestro8

    LT good read/analysis.

    However, I don’t get how the fans should have any say on what we should do with our players. Especially in the case of Petry. Yes he might be a “finesse defensemen”, but I think there is a role for that on this team. The Oilers can’t have all hardnose, stay at home defensemen. They need a good mix. And if Petry is putting up points and making smart offensive and defensive decisions then, not just the fans, but the important people (Renney, ST) will appreciate what he offers and keep him around. In the end, it shouldn’t matter what we all think as long as he is doing what the coaches want and is progressing! And comparing Gilbert to Petry is not really fair either. Gilbert has gotten it from the fans because, not that he is considered a “finesse defensemen” but because he can be soft defensively and doesn’t always make the best decisions defensively with his coverage. Those are 2 huge holes in his game, and that is why the fans give it to him. But again, does it really matter what we think, not if Renney is happy. Leave the rough stuff, stay at home defense to Vandermeer, Peckham and Smid, and I’d take Petry’s offense potential and ride it!

    • Yeah, I hope Petry settles into a role more quickly and easily than Gilbert has. Part of why Gilbert gets dumped on is he’s been playing top pair mins due to injuries, and also the past several years we’ve had other non-gritty types like Grebs, Vis, and Chorney adding to the kleenex-like texture of our D. If Smid stays, Peckham develops, Marincin with a mean streak comes along, and one of Teubert or Plante makes it eventually, Petry’s finesse game will be a necessary element in a balanced unit.

  • I’d guess he’ll be a one dimensional offensive player who can quarterback the powerplay. You can’t have too many of these guys

    Really? I thought a good team maxed out at 1 or 2.

    Gotta play the other side of the puck in the NHL. Omark is smart enough to get it, but does he want to?

    • knee deep in it

      1 or 2? Who was the last cup winner that had any?

      The closest I could see was Cory Stillman and even he went through three organization and 10 years of playing before he clued in enough to help a winning team.

      Even then he was cut loose is fairly short order after each of the cup wins which is a statement in iteself of how the team may have valued his contribution to the run.

      I can’t see Omark fitting into any cup plans on this squad, maybe somewhere else way down the line he will get his chance.

    • Reality Check to the head

      That’s the way I read it at first as well, but I think LT means “You shouldn’t have too many of these guys” , or “You can’t have too many guys like this if you want to win”

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I agree with your take on Petry, said the same thing 4 -6 months ago when everyone had him penciled in above Gilbert for next year.

    I’ll be suprised if he’s here for the 2015 season.

  • 5cups7years

    I dont get the hate on Paajarvi’s offense. 34 points in a rookie season is nothing to bark at, especially for a forward who is good defensively.
    I belive alot of you ON writers pegged him to score around this level as well.