It’s Go Time

This is Donny Murdoch. He was one of very many wingers who auditioned for the job as "Gretzky to…" before Slats found Kurri. I think we’re entering the period of time when the Edmonton Oilers will attempt to find strong matches for Eberle, RNH and Hall. The three kids have chemistry, but as time rolls along the coaching staff will need to find two useful scoring lines to send over the boards every night. That’s the challenge for Tom Renney.

The Oilers were busy at the 1980 deadline:

The Wayne Gretzky line at that time was Brett Callighen (L) and Blair MacDonald. Murdoch impressed early but wasn’t the answer long term. In that 79-80 season alone, the Oilers auditioned wingers Murdoch, Bobby Schmautz, Cam Connor, Don Ashby, Bill Flett, Wayne Bianchin, Dan Newman, Kari Makkonen and others.

The regular wingers (Callighen-MacDonald, Hunter-Lumley, Semenko, Messier played some on the wing–mostly with Stan Weir) saw a steady stream of hopefuls during the early months of the NHL Oilers.

WAITING FOR THE CALL

The Oilers current roster has some holes on the wings and finding in-house solutions is always the better way. Most of the options are cap friendly and these final 11 games should give us a clue about how the organization feels about the candidates.

Edmonton’s "established" wingers–those either signed for the next two seasons or likely to land contracts that keep them here for 24 or more months–include Hall-Eberle, Smyth-Hemsky and Eager. Ryan Jones is signed through end of 2013, and we should at least ponder the idea that the club will sign him to another contract after next summer. 

WHAT DOES THAT LEAVE?

For the wingers auditioning over the final 11 games, the opportunities include "taking Ryan Smyth’s minutes on the 2 skill lines" or "we need a 4th for Hall, Ebs and Hemmer" plus the depth minutes that will wind up in the hands of Eager, Jones and possibly Petrell next season.

WHICH PLAYERS CAN REACH FOR THE SKY?

Magnus Paajarvi is in OKC and unlikely to return, so the players of interest over these final games are Teemu Hartikainen and Linus Omark. Both are making south of $900,000 a year, with Paajarvi signed through next summer and Omark an RFA.

The best way to gauge these players down the stretch is by the numbers. How many games, how much time on ice, what are they doing with those minutes and which players are they skating alongside. Taylor Hall’s injury makes things even more interesting, as a healthy scratch at this point is difficult to justify with the club having fewer options. Hall’s concussion, Eager’s virus, Hordichuk’s baby…..if these men can’t get past the 7th defensemen then we have a really good idea about what the organization thinks of them.

Hartikainen was credited with 7 hits, one shot, +1, an assist and played with skilled men on Friday night, including Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle. This was somewhat "luck of the draw" as Taylor Hall’s injury meant coach Renney was forced to ad lib, but credit where due as the Finn took advantage of the opportunity.

Linus Omark’s last game was the win over Columbus and he too did some damage. A goal (EN), +1. 2 shots on net and some PP time.The Oilers told us a little about their opinion of him when they dressed an extra defenseman against Calgary instead of giving him another start. That’s a tell. Tonight is another opportunity for both players.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Timing is everything. Teemu Hartikainen has an enormous opportunity here. 2am, last call and the prettiest girl is still in the room.. It’s go time.

  • DieHard

    What frustrates me is that players are not always put into a situation to succeed when they are called up. Who knows what the organization is thinking. There has been substantial evidence over the last few years that, at times, they have not been thinking at all. And, that’s what scares me the most.

  • I had that Don Murdoch card.

    As the story goes, Murdoch could line up tin cans on the cross bar of the net, then line up pucks on the center line, then pick them off one by one.

    Unfortunately for him, as the story goes, he was as adept in snorting various things off of various things too, which led to him leaving the Oilers when he starting taking his cousin, Mark Messier out with him at night.

    Harski is one of the things this team is lacking, which is why he’ll be here next year and Omark will probably be gone.

    I’m a little bitter at the situation because I think Harski is already a better player in all situations than cheat-for-offense-worse-than-Hall Jones, and think he should have been here all year.

    Jones has proved to be a decent PK option, but past that he’s been meh imo.

    Regardless of how often Renney has said “3 scoring lines” during camp and pre-season, he’s avoided icing them like the plague.

  • ItsTheBGB

    “2am, last call and the prettiest girl is still in the room.. It’s go time.”

    That is golden.

    Anyway, if the coach decided he liked Harski and played him a ton we could have an effective power forward for next year. Harski could become incredibly valuable. Two bull dogs on the top 2 LW positions next year? Have fun.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      I just hope that the prettiest girl in the room at 2am is not the same one you rejected numerous times before saddling up to the bar at 10pm.

  • DieHard

    I think they’re looking at Omark as a lost cause 4th round pick (no big deal) verses some other team’s potential top 6. If they let him go this summer, another team will grab him quickly and laugh.

    • RexLibris

      That rumour is interesting. I don’t know how much value I’ll put in it, but if the Howson steps to the podium and calls Forsberg’s name then the next person to the podium will likely be John McConnell announcing that he is firing Scott Howson.

      I understand the concern about drafting another small forward, but Yakupov would be a tremendous talent and if he were available at the 2nd slot the Oilers would be crazy not to take him. At the very least they would be best served to trade down a spot or two if they were more comfortable with Grigorenko or Murray.

      From what I have read Yakupov can play either wing and his inclusion into this group would mean that the Oilers could move one or both of Hemsky or Paajarvi to acquire another 1st round pick and some defensive help if that was a route they wanted to take.

      My biggest concern might be that between Yakupov and Hall, were they to play opposite wings, there would never be enough pucks to go around for the two of them.

      I also wouldn’t say that any of the Oiler forwads are injury prone. Eberle’s injury was a freak accident and he recovered well. RNH had a minor shoulder issue and has recovered quite quickly. Hall’s injuries this year have been mostly accidents (skate to the skull, slip before a big hit) and he has always, in junior and thus far in the NHL, bounced back well. In Yakupov’s case he was the victim of an illegal hit to the head, that’s not something that can be blamed on him. His medical records will be closely scrutinized by scouts and doctors, but there is nothing to say that a concussion in junior will have lasting consequences in his NHL career.

      Were the Oilers to have Yakupov available at the second overall draft position I would be very excited if they selected him. But as always, I defer to whatever Stu MacGregor believes is best at that point.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Oilers simply need to get bigger up front, especially at Center, or get a stud on the backend.

        I’m still thinking we are getting Grigorenko or Murray.

        On Forsberg, a lot of scouts are high on him. There’s been alot of comparisons to Landeskog. Anyhow, nothing would surprise me with Howson and CBJ.

      • Perry and Ryan coexist in Anaheim at times and Yakupov has good playmaking ability so he’s equal part scorer and passer. Putting him with Hall and Gagner would give them an extra dimension in terms of physicality and he plays the game hard (hits/drives hard to the net), which Hemsky does not. That’s only if that rumour is true though and I’d be shocked if it is.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “2am, last call and the prettiest girl is still in the room.. It’s go time.”

    Of course, at 2am the lights come on and the prettiest girl in the room might turn into a lemon… it’s happened before, of course lemonade is always refreshing at the end of the night.

    I hope Omark gets a proper look this last stretch. I don’t want any mis-givings about his probable soon end with the oilers.

  • Lexi

    I get the feeling Forsberg is getting overrated because of Landeskog. I think Landeskog might be a completely unique type of player and personality. I look at Forsberg’s stats and play in the WJC and he does not even
    project as good as Paarjarvi, except he has more PIM.

    If Yakupov is available the Oilers have to take him unless they get a “godfather” offer, as long as he is healthy. I hope whoever else they take is the “best player” available. The Oilers should have infinite reourses and contacts to determine the best WHL dman, and Stu’s evaluation of Grigerenko, might be the most important of his career.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    @Smokey….we still need more scoring, IMO, and i would be happy to get a big, strapping center like Grigorenko, or a top end d-man like Murray. the Jackets would have to trade down to #3 or there abouts if they don’t want to draft a Russian, and get an extra pick or player.

  • Semenko and Troy

    Last week on Satellite Radio, Stu was asked if the Oiler’s would be drafting based on need. He answered definitively that it would be BPA, no matter where the team finished in the draft order.

    He then went on to give the standard line that the player would be evaluated at training camp and a decision then made on whether he stays or gets sent back to Junior.

  • To me it only makes sense to draft a big center! We already know Gagner can play the wing. The likely fits are Grigorenko or Galchenyuk,

    Galchenyuk a center is American and can also play the wing; I also feel he’s the sleeper in this years draft although the hockey news has him as high as 6th.

    If CBJ passes on Yakupov I can’t see the Oilers passing on him, he’s just too dynamic and an elite level player equal to or better then Hall. Although small at 5’10, Yakupov can and does hit. The concussion shouldn’t be a huge factor in the Oilers decision to take him.

    I still would not take a defense man unless I got a another pick in the top ten.