Bringing in some new boys

I love the movie Slap Shot. I don’t think a better hockey movie has been or will be made ever again. There are many great scenes but one of my favorites is when the manager Joe McGrath comes into the room looking for the Hanson brothers and asks, "Where are the new boys?"

Classic! As my career got towards the end I loved saying that when young guys would get called up, especially when it was their first NHL game. They were nervous as hell and here was this veteran cracking jokes from Slap Shot! They didn’t know what to do.

Bob Green & Junior Hockey

This week the Edmonton Oilers announced that Edmonton Oil Kings general manager Bob Green was leaving that post to become the director of amateur free agent scouting for the Oilers. I think this is a nice addition for the Oilers and a loss for the Oil Kings. He has been the team’s only manager. The team had good success with a lot of talented players and high picks rolling through the organization.

Bob leaves an Oil Kings team in good shape right now. The issue with major junior hockey is always how cyclical it is. Some of last year’s team is graduating because of age, some will move on as twenty year olds to the AHL and one or two may stay in the NHL this year. It will be a challenge to stay on top for the Kings in my opinion – next season even more so.

I am saying this from experience. I was lucky enough to be a part of two Memorial Cup championships with the Kamloops Blazers. After the second one, our head coach Don Hay left the team as well as many of the important players. Guys like Shane Doan, Darcy Tucker, Ryan Huska, Tyson Nash, and even I were not easy to replace.

This graduation thinned out the lineup but with guys like Jarome Iginla still around the team was still pretty strong and made it to the final. The next year though was rough. All the top players from the Memorial Cup year left and the team was nine games under five hundred. The dynasty was over.

The challenge for the Oil Kings is to replenish those players that graduate quickly with new players. Bob Green was a big part of that so the Kings have their work cut out for them.

Bob Green also has some challenges ahead with his new role with the Oilers. He role is being describe as being able to find "late bloomers" in really any league around the world. His focus will be the CHL and NCAA but I expect he will leave no stone unturned.

When it comes to junior hockey in Canada I think that Green is very much like England was in its hay day. The sun never sets on the empire of contacts that Green has around the CHL. He will be able to use those contacts to sort through the players that are not drafted.

Undrafted Talent

There are cases of many good free agent signings both from the CHL and the NCAA. Dan Girardi , the stud defenceman for the New York Rangers jumps to mind when CHL free agents is discussed. Here is a guy that was solid in junior, and signed with the Rangers after a good junior career. He started in the ECHL in 05-06 and was in the NHL by 06-07.

Wow! How did so many teams miss this guy? Guys like Girardi may not be the sexiest of pickups but how good would a guy like him look in an Oilers uniform patrolling the blueline next to Justin Schultz?

I think Green will have some success convincing CHL or NCAA free agents that Edmonton is a good spot for them if the player is a defenceman or goalie. I do not think that the top tier of CHL or NCAA forward free agents will look at the Oilers the same way.

These CHL and NCAA free agents will be looking for the same thing when choosing a team. OPPORTUNITY!!! They will pour through all the teams with their agents, looking for a team in need of a player with their skill set. If I am a top scorer with lots of skill from either league and I get to the Oiler,s will I think to myself "There is lots of opportunity for me in Edmonton"?

No, they will not say that. The Oilers are deep with talented players on their top two lines that are young and learning the game. Why would a twenty year old from the Ontario Hockey League look at the situation and think to himself "Yeah, I could beat one of them out?" Be pretty tough to talk yourself into that.

It would seem crazy that agents and forwards with good skill could shy away from the Oilers when you look at the teams record the last number of years. The free agent forwards are more often than not thinking about getting into the NHL before they are thinking that the Oilers could be poised to do something special with all this talent. I go back to the word, opportunity. They want a chance to play in the NHL not watch from the AHL while their NHL team has success.

Bob Green will no doubt be able to identify good talent that the Oilers could use. Selling the Oilers to these players will be part of his job. Getting a goalie to believe he could play in Edmonton will not be super hard. Convincing defencemen that there is opportunity with the Oilers shouldn’t be super hard either. There are some good prospects in the pipeline but they are still prospects, not NHL d-men. It will be tough to sell talented, late blooming forwards on the Oilers in my opinion. All the best prospects the Oilers have are already playing on the top two lines!

Recently by Jason Strudwick

  • ubermiguel

    Interesting take. What are the chances an amateur free-agent coming out of the NCAA or CHL is actually aiming for a Top 6 forward spot on an NHL club? These guys will likely slot in the bottom 6…and they sure have an opportunity with the Oilers in the bottom 6. Realistic expectations here; isn’t a successful signing by Bob going to be a high-end OKC player or a servicable NHL player?

  • ubermiguel

    I would say that the Oilers have a logjam of defencemen in the pipeline now as opposed to forwards. Klefbom, Nurse, Marincin, Fedun, Gernat, Simpson, Musil.

    But it’s definitely understandable that any undrafted free agent would be hard pressed to find a top 6 role or PP time within this current roster.

    • ubermiguel

      Yeah, NCAA & CHL won’t meet our defence needs (top pairing NHL guy). We’re a little short on goalie prospects too; if Bob find s a couple of those that’ll be a win for him too.

      • ubermiguel

        If you mean the NCAA and CHL undrafted prospects are unlikely to produce a top pairing defenceman, that is very true. But our defence needs are not just top pairing guys.

        Developing players with potential can yield solid NHLers, and also open many trade opportunities that Oilers have lacked in the recent past.

  • vetinari

    Good addition to the staff, and great idea to pay more attention to the college players. More and more USA players coming into the system.

    In a way this will create signing to roster competition with McGregor.

    MacT, now fix the pro scouting department, and update it to 2013 standards.

  • RexLibris

    Hey Jason,

    Your point about finding players for the Oilers relative to their offensive depth is interesting.

    I thought the same thing until I began to think about the Red Wings from a few years ago. They had a stack of offensive talent but always seemed to find one or two guys who’d sign on so they could play a year or two with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, etc. Then they’d parlay that performance into a big free-agent contract and the Red Wings would go find another young player to repeat the process.

    The Oilers are likely going to be looking for one or two forward roster spots over the course of the next five years as guys like Hemsky leave. That top-six rotation could be filled by a Damien Brunner-type player who sees a double benefit in playing on what we all hope will be a strong team and also give them the chance to boost their NHL stats.

    Agreed with Green’s list of CHL contacts, and I also wonder if Frank Musil’s new job coaching may also lend itself to some unofficial pro scouting overseas for Green.

    BTW, awesome video. Loved it.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Nice take on the addition of Green. Always good to scrounge around the new breed of hockey players, you know, the American born college types like Ned Braden.

    The oil must have led hockey in former players from Slap Shot. I think Jack Carlson, Steve Carlson and Louie Levasseur. Someone out there correct me if I am wrong.

  • Bishai in the Benches

    Did anyone proof read this…? I’m tired of choppy sentences. Struds knows hockey as well as anyone out there, and he has great story telling ability, but he needs a scribe.. Someone to write down what he’s saying so that it’s actually possible to read without that little voice in your head sounding like an idiot.