The Edmonton Oilers cut ties with a pretty talented hockey player this morning, I’d call it an unforced error. The sun will come up tomorrow, but I would suggest that it’s generally a poor idea to throw away 21-year old wingers who score at a point-per-game clip in the AHL–no matter their size.

DARCY REGIER, BUFFALO: "I think if you miss the playoffs three years in a row, and blow everything up, you’re more likely to miss the playoffs seven years in a row."

As an Oiler fan, I can tell you missing the playoffs seven or eight years in a row is far more painful than missing three years in succession. Today’s transaction–sending young Toni Rajala away, as he seeks his fortune–may well be a wise one. Despite an impressive AHL season (age 21) the organization is clearly focused on adding size to the pro ranks. Like Linus Omark before him, Rajala appears to be a pair of brown shoes in a world of tuxedo’s (to borrow a line from the Johnny Carson show) and his next stop (KHL?) will bring him money and fame.

I’m not so much interested in Toni Rajala the world traveler as I was Rajala the Oilers prospect. My interest in him, and all of the Oiler prospects, is how he and they fit into the Oilers success story. If flushing Rajala for nothing gets this team one more inch closer to Stanley, sign me up I’m in love.

In another portion of that old article, there’s a great quote from Regier, about team building, about success, about Stanley.

  • Regier: "I once asked Al Arbour what’s the secret to building a team? He said no secret, it’s not complicated. Get good players."

That’s pretty much it. We talk about big players, small players, fast players, but really what we’re talking about is good players. Good NHL players. Todd Marchant was 5 foot nothing, good player. Give me some of that. Frank Mahovlich was a giant for his time, people used to rip him because he never looked like he was in a hurry–in fact, he looked for all the world as though the wind blew him into scoring position, he looked, wait for it–lucky!

Good players.


  • Stu MacGregor (about MacT): "Every GM sees things a little bit differently, and he works a little bit from a coaching standpoint in that guys have to be able to think, players have to be able to figure out what the coach is showing and teaching."

We don’t know the reason Toni Rajala was cut loose today, it could have been any number of things and honestly in the great scheme of things I hope he has a happy career and plays in the NHL if that’s his dream.

For the Oilers, my wish is this: get more good players. Al Arbour was right. Then and now.

(Barons photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved).

  • Reg Dunlop

    Hmmm personal floatation devices…

    I agree, if this TR thing moves the oil a little closer to Stanley I am also on board but I don’t see how it does so.

    I saw Frank Mahovlich play an old-timer’s game at J.P. arena 30 years ago. Play is in one end and the Big M is doing figure eights at the other end. You could almost hear him muttering something about Punch Imlach.

  • Klima's Mullet

    Gif tastic LT…do you think Mac T is drawing a line in the sand and going bigger at the AHL level? I read your blog today and that line up is huge. Hopefully some of them can play

    • Lowetide

      Well, I think he might be saying “look we need big guys throughout the organization and I don’t plan on keeping Rajala. So let him go and try a bigger player on a skill line” which is what the AHL is for, to develop talent.

      If Im Ryan Martindale, this is a good day. Ryan Hamilton ditto.

      • If I’m Martindale or Hamilton I’m thinking that being good enough isn’t going to be good enough anymore. Frankly I’m glad to see that we’re at the point where you’ll have to be a cracking good player to bust through. It was getting pretty tiring seeing bubble boys and longshots get at-bats in the big league simply because we didn’t have actual NHL ready talent. Enough developing and more winning please.

        I’ve said it before but Oilers fans are so conditioned to losing that they forget that development happens in the AHL, not the third line here in Edmonton.

        Rajala wasn’t good enough (for his size) to make the leap. He would have had to force the coaching staff to give him a shot by being exceptional. Simple fact is he wasn’t. It happens all the time in pro sport.

  • John Chambers

    Trading a player who is trending positively before you get a chance to see what you got is frustrating. Secondly, its not like this team has a plethora of skilled forwards ready to make the jump to the NHL.

    Frankly don’t think MacT is any better the Tambo. Off-season been confusing. I’d almost take predictable Steve over over confident Craig after today. I hope this is not a Satan, Whitney type unforced blunder.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I also recall Frank leading the Birmingham Bulls into Edmonton, with Bad News Bilodeau, Frank Never Beaton, Dave Hanson and Steve Durbano. They didn’t let them have pucks during the pre-game skate, either because they chopped them to pieces or they might shoot them at the fans(if they could raise the puck).

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Pat Riggin, Ricky Vaive, Rob Ramage……. was Mike Gartner on that ream as well?

      78 through 90, the most entertaining era of hockey in my books. Do you remember that (NHL vs WHA) Washington Capitals coming to town for an exhibition game? Randy Holt had Steve Carlson laying on his back behind Mio/Dryden while Holt pounded his head into the ice. Rage rider Randy Holt, those were the days…

  • Being a ppg player in the AHL means next to nothing, but being a ppg player at 21 in the ahl means something.

    Especially when you look at Vollman’s numbers(as per previous LT posts).
    Rajala had a good chance of producing offensively at the nhl level. On a team that had almost zero scoring from its bottom six, i’d say there was room for him.

    I keep hearing: “The oilers don’t need another small skilled forward.”… how about you just remove small from that sentence. Teams always need another skilled forward. As long as the skill spans the full 200ft I could care less about their size. If they keep the puck out of their own net, and can put it in the other net, than that’s what will get the oilers the w’s.

    Rajala wasn’t going to start for the Oilers this year, but he may have seen 1-3 games in the event of injury and maybe he could have made the most of that opportunity. Oh well, if he wanted out, he wanted out.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      I agree with what you’re saying, with one caveat.

      I don’t mind the Oilers having some small, skilled players. I like them, myself. Hell, I’ve been one…

      But that said, you have to admit what you have. IF you have a team full of them then you need an equal response of toughness to keep those players safe…in proportion to how small those smaller players are, and how many you have. If you have a lot, the smaller or more more injury-prone they are then the tougher your team will need to be to protect them. In order for those small, skilled players to actually make a difference they have to be kept upright – first and foremost…and healthy enough to have the career they are capable of having. If not, I believe you’re doing a disservice not only to the player’s health, but to the team’s ability to compete, as well. If they’re hurt, how can they help? They can’t.

      Hall has played 3 years in the league now, RNH, two years…If you look at the amount of time they’ve been injured already, and the seriousness of those injuries, by games played – it’s so far out of whack with the average career I worry. (The definition of crazy being to continue doing the same thing you have done before but expecting a different result!)

      The Broad Street Bullies – were initially a small skilled team. They got bullied out of contention, hurt, intimidated, and relinquished to also-rans by lesser teams . Then they finally said, never again! I never knew that until recently…but no matter what you think of their tactics you cannot argue with the fact of how that changed the fortunes of their team, and in my opionion, how much bigger I believe it allowed Bobby Clarke to play!

      I will now be likely called a Neanderthal or something to that effect. That’s fine with me. I admit I want more fighting in the game again… But I’m not saying you need a return to that level necessarily, either. What you do need, if you’re going to compete, is enough toughness to keep the other teams from pushing your players around (read: injure) and defeating them before the series even begin.

      Right now that is something the Oilers don’t have. Asking one good middleweight fighter, whom I like in Mike Brown, is unrealistic. It’s not fair to him (who right now will have to take on 6’7 260+ sized players). But it’s also not fair to the small players who bravely give everything they’ve got for this team. I’m afraid that ultimately it’s our players who will pay the price for management’s ignorance. With their health, their careers..and will continue to pay that price unless they are given a fighting chance. That’s why they have weight classes…to make it a fair fight.

      I think it’s cruel to put the Oilers’ players in that position anymore. Personally…and I really can’t stand what the Oilers have done recently, well really under K-Lowe’s time, and I feel strongly they will have to get rid of MacT, K-Lowe and all. And for those of you who think we shouldn’t because you’re fond of them (which I respect), keep in mind that although you can’t see it now – our beloved players WILL WANT OUT if we continue to NOT support them, and NOT keep them safe.

      In other words, it’s K-Lowe and his terrible crew, or Hall and the kids who can be superstars in this league and lead our team to multiple Stanley Cups…as well as future stars, too.

      Just my two cents, but I can’t see it playing out any other way…and I pray we don’t lose those players, our hope for the future – for the ignorance of one stubborn former player. My opinion of Kevin Lowe is a player who was tough enough against the players he was called to fight against most of the time. I respected him as a player; him and MacT were players who earned all of my respect. But I think he is fool-hardy, now. Even then he may have felt the same but I believe he thinks all you have to do is be as tough as he was to have ‘enough toughness’. That is perfectly fine to feel that way as the player, healthy even. But as a general manager you have to step back from your painting enough to see the bigger picture. He is being head-strong and fool-hardy. He sees himself as the end all and be all of what the Oilers need in many ways. WHAT HE FORGETS IS THAT HE HAD SEMENKO, MCSORELY, MCCLELLAND (and others) LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER – PROTECTING HIM THAT WHOLE TIME. He forgets how they brought him down a weight class or two, and did all of the heavy lifting. When he added to that team toughness he definitely helped – and I’ve no doubt of that…but that is the definition of a team, and they each have a role to play.

      But if K-Lowe the GM, as the person responsible for the whole of the team, their safety and their ability to compete cannot see this then he has to go. The sooner the better, for this organization…as he has proved for how many years now that he cannot see that clearly, and if I may say so, stubbornly.

      Sorry for the rant, but it’s been bottled up for some time now, and I picture a lot of Titanic deck chairs being moved about – and I just can’t get excited about it anymore!

  • TayLordBalls

    Tambo was the luckiest GM ever – Calgary would do good to get him for his skill at getting 3 x #1 draft picks.

    MacT, however, is a clear thinker – good on him for cutting ties with the smaller players as they simply take up a coaches time and a roster spot for a real potential Oiler.

  • Lets wait and see. Maybe MacT has a trade in his pocket and needed to move a contract. Rajala wanted to go make more money so he accomodated him. If it’s not the case, then it’s a horrible move.

    Get good players. Great idea!

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Get Good Players . Yea but that will take another 3 years . Obviously the only trades made are give quality to get so there is no upeard movement . We have a BIG AHL team but are they good players . Lean more to NO than yes

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    I would say players like Hartikainen & Rajala took a look at the Oilers depth chart & where they fit in & said ‘no thank you, don’t want to wait’! I would guess they went to Oilers management, expressed these sentiments!

  • 719

    Just another questionable move by MacTavish, in a summer of questionable moves.

    Trade Horcoff when we need veterans and centre depth. The return for Horcoff was not anything the Oilers were lacking.

    Trade assets for a skilled top six forward, when we had one in Hemsky. Who is now a 5 million dollar third liner. Grabovski could have been had for only money.

    Trade away Paajarvi, a point producing third liner, just what the team is missing now.

    Signed Labarbara over Khuobodin. Made no sense, Labarbara won’t push Dubnyk for the starter position.

    Signed Grebeshkov for 1.5 million, Fistric was out there and eventually signed for 900K.

    Resign Jones to 1.5 million contract, they should take a page from the Canucks book and do what they did with Alberts. Let him sweat out being a UFA then sign him to a 750K when he has no other options.

    I did like the signings of Godon, Ferrence, Jonesuu and Belov. I also like the move to bring in Eakins, so summer was not a total loss, just don’t think MacT is the saviour we all are hoping for. Maybe I am just too cynical.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      At least Mac-T got rid of horcoff’s salary, and opened up room for younger players who can come in and play with this lineup for much cheaper. I don’t think he thinks Grabovski would jive well with the oilers, and I’d probably take Perron on most any day.

      Because of Mac-T’s moves, there is a lot more competition to make the team this year than there was in the recent past, and I would guess that adding Bob Green is only going to help increase that competition.

      Sounds like Green is going to be recruiting players who are really gonna push the current roster and that’s why they let go of Rajala (too small to vie for a spot on their current roster)

    • magisterrex

      Some of your points I’ll comment.

      Horcoff and his contract gone. Good riddance. Cap albatross gone was a miracle, and we got a return. I simply don’t think there is a argument for keeping this player. Money saved could of been used on better center replacement, but MacT signed Jones, Garbagekov,

      Hemsky contract not wanted, can’t do nothing bout that. Grabbo would of been fine.

      Labarbera / Kuboudin. Easy choice on LB. 29 some games played for KB for a 27 year old tender who’s got inflated stats playing in Boston. LB actually has track record, KB has a fan club. KB won’t push Dubby either. No track record to show he would.

      MPS. Got better player. Filled second line hole. Just paid a bit too much, but a minor overpay.

      Jones. I agree on signing for too much. MacT could of signed better free agents with better track record, talent, and ability for less money at the same period. He overpaid on Jones. and Fistric. Fair point on money. But two vastly different talents. Wish they kept Fistric. Outside of one bad play, his underlying numbers were surprising, he wanted to be in Edmonton, and the Oilers have no one of his ilk. GK I don’t mind signing but why 1.5m and removing any ability to make bottom 6 better for player who is probably a depth player.

      Ference. Too many years, too much money. Was he a top 4 defenceman on Boston, or merely benefited from a good system. I am interested if we will chewing this signing to threads by January.

  • 719

    I don’t understand this move from an asset management point of view. If you’re willing to give up Rajala for nothing, that’s insane. If you don’t see him making the team ever, that’s fine. But move him for a pick or package him and someone on the team, Hemmer, Shultz Sr. etc. and get something you are looking for. Letting a point per game 21 year old walk in just flat out silly.

    Also, don’t bother drafting anyone not up to your size quotient in the future. If they will never have a chance to crack the bigs, based on size, regardless of production in the system, its clearly a wasted pick. I think we can already formulate next years draft list accordingly.

    I wonder what MacT’s size quotient is? 5’10 165 is too small. Does 5’10 185 get a look? 5’11 175?

  • ideally, MacT would have prefered trading Rajaha, and I’m sure he tried.

    but, I’m completely with management on this move. They have to start developing players that have a better chance of really contributing in the NHL. Make room for the Pitlicks and Hamiltons. 5’8″, 160lb dangling Euros are a dime a dozen. for every Zetterberg there are 100 Afinigenovs.


  • Quicksilver ballet

    Just imagine the mess we’d be in if Stu, The Magnificent Bastard hadn’t taken over 5 yrs ago….

    Grapes was onto something when he said, clubs would be better off drafting Canadian kids over Euro longshots.

  • magisterrex

    When New Jersey cuts ties with Kovalchuk it’s Lou looking out for the best interests of the player. When Edmonton does something similar, fans claim MacT mishandled an asset. What a bizarre blogger fan base we have.

    • magisterrex

      Hemsky is part of the problem……..not a part of the solution. He is a highly skilled player who needs ice time to play his “end to end”, puck hog style of game.

      Having him playing on the third line only hamper that lines ability to play defensive hockey. If his attitude is that the player will adjust to a new role, fine but he has only ever played a one dimensional style of game.

      Time for him to go to the light.