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.