Could a lockout actually help the Oilers?
The thought of no NHL hockey, especially when they are fighting over billions of dollars, makes everyone’s stomach turn, but the Oilers could be one of the few franchises that benefits from a delayed start of the 2012/2013 season.
The Oilers can only improve after seasons of 30th, 30th and 29th place finishes. They have a lot of young players, and they still have a lot of holes to fill before they are a legitimate contender. The good news is the foundation for the future is firmly in place led by Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Nail Yakupov will likely join that group and the Oilers are hoping that Justin Schultz, Devan Dubnyk, Oskar Klefbom and Magnus Paajarvi will emerge as key pieces as well, but the Oilers aren’t a Cup contender this year and that is why the only positive of a potential lockout is that it could help the overall development of their franchise.
Getting six weeks in the AHL would make J. Schultz’s jump to the NHL from the NCAA much easier. He’s played against 18-21 year-old college kids the past few years, so getting his feet wet in the AHL against men while the rest of the NHL had their feet up would be a huge bonus for the former 2nd round pick.
His hockey sense is NHL-ready, but the speed of the game and reaction time in the NHL is much quicker than NCAA. I don’t think any player on the Oilers would benefit more from an abbreviated lockout than J. Schultz.
KIDS NEED TO PLAY
It is obvious that Eberle can play and produce in the NHL, but if your best scorers are playing rather than just practicing when the season finally does start they will have a head start on the competition. No other team in the league will rely on their young kids to lead them offensively as the Oilers will this coming season.
If Eberle and RNH are down in OKC scoring points and sharpening their game it will only help the Oilers in a shorter season.
Teemu Hartikainen and/or Magnus Paajarvi would likely get to play alongside Eberle and RNH. It would give both a boost of confidence and they could form some chemistry as a trio.
If the Oilers are eventually going to become a contender they will guys like Hartikainen, Paajarvi, Anton Lander and others to become solid, reliable support players. If they get six weeks of practicing and playing with two of the NHL’s brightest young offensive stars it can only help them and it should make the Oilers organization stronger.
WHAT ABOUT HALL?
Hall underwent shoulder surgery in early April with a timeline of six months to recover. He’s feeling good and told me last week that he expects to be ready for opening night, October 13th. Players always expect to be ready, and I’m not saying Hall won’t be ready, but a few extra weeks of rest won’t hurt him.
I’d rather have Hall continue his rehab and strengthen his shoulder than play in OKC. A little extra rest should make his shoulder stronger and hopefully lessen the chance of him re-aggravating it. I’m sure his agent might agree considering Hall will get his NHL salary even if there is a lockout because he is injured.
I’m sure someone will suggest the injury factor, but during the 2004/2005 lockout Jason Spezza, Mike Cammalleri, Eric Staal, Cam Ward and other young NHL stars played, and dominated in the Amercan League. Spezza and Cammalleri both had 100+ points.
Players need to play and it won’t do Eberle, J.Schultz and RNH any good just practicing.
I also wouldn’t worry that Eberle and company would take away icetime from other young players in the AHL. Realistically, which forwards other than Lander, Paajarvi, Hartikainen and Tyler Pitlick do you see in the Oilers future soon? Maybe Hamilton?
On the backend, J.Schultz needs to play and his icetime won’t impact the long-term development of any prospect.
A "WHAT IF" NO ONE WANTS
Let me be clear, a lockout is good for no one, but on the odd chance the NHL and the NHLPA can’t come to an agreement the Oilers should benefit from an abbreviated lockout.
They are still in the development stage of their rebuild, and having their young stars playing is the best option.
Letting Eberle and RNH play with some of the other young players in the organization can only improve the overall depth of the organization.