When reality hits, it can produce equal but opposite reactions, and that’s what we’ve seen these past two weeks with the departure of Toni Rajala to Europe and the signing of Linus Omark to a one-year, two-way deal by the Edmonton Oilers today.

Rajala, who had one year remaining on his contract with the Oilers, was looking at a return to Oklahoma City the AHL, where he would have made a relatively modest $50,000. With no immediate chance he’d crack Edmonton’s roster (or get a one-way contract) that didn’t stack up very well with the kind of money Rajala could earn in Europe. Reality check. He opted for the money.

The unquestionably talented Omark, who just tore it up in the Swiss Elite League, returns to the fold here because his exploits across the pond didn’t generate the kind of interest – next-to-none — he and his agent hoped it would in having the Oilers move him along to another team.

Omark could’ve made more money returning to Switzerland this season than the $100,000 he’ll get in the AHL with this one-year deal, but this past season was a lesson that lighting it up over there wasn’t going to do much to further his desire to play in the NHL. Reality check. Omark has opted for opportunity (and the chance to shove it to his critics) .

I say good for Omark. How refreshing.


Last week, when the 22-year-old Rajala and the Oilers mutually agreed to part ways, I wrote: "I don’t understand all the fuss over Rajala, just as I didn’t understand the brief uproar from a vocal minority about Omark when he went home after failing to do enough to secure a spot on Edmonton’s NHL roster. Why didn’t the Oilers at least trade Omark for some assets in return? Well, maybe because there wasn’t much interest by any of the other 29 NHL teams. Let’s start there."

I’m not nearly as ga-ga about Omark as some people out there are. I don’t get torqued up one way or another about things like "controversial" spin-o-rama moves in shootouts, but I give Omark credit for swallowing a heaping helping of humble pie – and, make no mistake, that’s what the lack of interest and indifference about him from the other 29 NHL GMs was – and being willing to come back and raise his stock by taking this two-way deal.

With just 65 NHL games (and 30 points) on his resume, Omark, for all his offensive flash and crowd-pleasing moves, hasn’t done nearly enough to earn a one-way deal from the Oilers or anybody else, even he thought otherwise. When GM Craig MacTavish told us earlier this off-season he’d had no action on Omark, he wasn’t kidding.

So, here we are. Omark returns with a chance to make $600,000 on top in the unlikely event he sticks with the Oilers and $100,000 on the farm. Omark is saying all the right things in interviews he’s granted so far. Will he prove the doubters wrong? I don’t know, and I have my doubts, but good on him for coming back to take a swing at it.


. . . I don’t see Omark as a fit with the Oilers in the long-term, given the make-up of their top six forwards now, and I’m not so sure we’ll see him with Boyd Gordon and Ales Hemsky on a third line, as has been speculated. I don’t see Hemsky as a fit (at least a happy one) on the third line, either.

. . . While MacTavish is willing to entertain at least a brief encore by Omark and will obviously be in on shaping the roster, a lot of what happens as camp and pre-season unfolds will depend on what new coach Dallas Eakins sees. I know a lot of fans, and with justification, expect MacT (and Kevin Lowe) to have their fingerprints on every decision, but I don’t think for a second Eakins has signed on to be a puppet or a yes-man.

. . . Why is it some people still doubt that Devan Dubnyk is a bonafide NHL starter? I don’t get it. Has he proven he’s in the upper tier of NHL starters? No. Will he? I don’t know. I’m tempted, however, to tear out what little hair I still have when people question whether he’s a legit No. 1. Check his numbers. Figure out where those numbers put him in the pecking order of 30 starters. Now, project what those numbers might be if actually gets to play behind a defense that is NHL caliber from one through six. Hmm.

. . . In the Radio Ga-Ga department, Oiler president Patrick Laforge let it slip today that 630 CHED play-by-play man Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer, analyst and host of Oilers Now, have had their contracts extended. I’m guessing their deals are for between two and four years.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • For the sum of a lousy $100,000 MacT has introduced something into the team this fall that hasn’t been there in a long time – desperation. Omark will bust his guts to make the big team and pull up his immediate competition no matter if he succeeds or not.

    I too have to give a ton of credit to Linus. He wants to make the NHL so much he’s prepared to give up hundreds of thousands of dollars. He’ll come in hungry, ready to do whatever it takes to crack the lineup. Nothing but respect for that guy. You gotta love a good underdog story.

    Just watch the crowd go nuts for him this fall.

    • northof51

      I’m very much a supporter of Dubnyk, but even Corey Crawford has people questioning his starting abilities. I think that perception just dogs some goalies no matter what they do to silence the critics. Just as some goalies have been over-rated for years (MA Fleury comes to mind…).

  • Haters are going to hate. If any cares to recall, Omark has always been a gamer. All of the linemates he had 2 season ago are gone. Belanger, Petrell and Hordichuk. Taylor Hall couldn’t put up pionts with those dredges. Then they sent him to the AHL, and he tares it up. Until a dirty hit causes a leg injury. He hits the gym building his upper body, and firing a thousand shots a day. Comes back after 6 weeks and goes on a scoring frenzy, is recalled by the Oilers and Renney doesn’t play him. When he does its with the Hordichuk and Eager.

    • Rocknrolla

      Also some forget how potent he was at possession.

      He was a demon with the puck on the boards. Very hard to knock off the puck. With line mates who can get to scoring positions he should do well with the cycle.

      I think the right line mates will be key for him and with Eakins blank slate policy, I see him doing well and pushing Perron.

      He’s gotta work on defending and giveaways, but desperation will help his effort.

      Never mind our PP2 just got a boost. Other teams PK is going to hate us:

      PP1–Yak, nuge, hall, Ebs, Jultz

      PP2—Hemmer, Omark, Perron, belov, gags

      These guys will score a lot of PP

  • Comes here, gets cut when he was clearly one of the best players in pre-season, busts his butt in OKC, gets called up, shows oilers fans that he has more jam in along the boards than some 6’5″ slugs, proceeds to put up 27pts in 51 gms despite playing anywhere from the fourth line to the 2nd line… Only to get sent down. Many members of the team 1260 continue to talk about how there isn’t room for the type of player that he is.

    Suffers a horribly timed injury when his next call-up opportunity arises.
    Makes an ill informed decision and goes and tears up the swiss league.
    Realizes that means nothing and decides to sacrifice $ in exchange for pursuing his dream.

    He is a workhorse, with skill and determination who plays much bigger than his size would dictate.

    Can’t believe how much 5 inches of height has cost this guy.

    I’m not saying he’s better than ebs,hall,nuge,nail,perron,gags,orhemmer… in fact I’d say he is probably a notch below hemmer perron and gags, but no one knows for sure.

    A total of 65 games is not a large enough sample size to really say how well his game translates to the NHL.

    Personally if he agreed to just play 7-8 mins a night on the fourth line and put up 20 pts over 82 games and kept his plus/minus at a respectable level, I’d be fine with that.

    Gregor always says that there’s no way you can win with nothing but skill because it’s never been done. Well, that’s not really a fair statement since it’s almost impossible to put together 12 forwards who could all put up 50+ pts with 15 mins or more of ice time.

    Buffalo ran four scoring lines in 2006 and they won the presidents’ trophy. They were crushed in the playoffs, but it had more to do with dressing 4 ahl defensemen than it did with having small forwards.

    Try dressing 12 JF Jacques, or 12 Macyntires and see how well it works.

    There’s no question that skill/speed with size is better than without size, but if ever you have to eliminate one of those three factors, it will always be size.

    Will a team ever win the cup with 12 forwards that are all skilled forwards? doubtful since there is almost never even a team in the league that is built that way. It’s also expensive to employ 12 players like that. If every team could have all their forwards be as good as say Datsyuk … I’m sure they’d be fine with having the smallest team in the league. (no, i’m not comparing omark to datsyuk, i’m just saying that the oilers are better with omark in the bottom six than they are with eager or brown.)

    • Rocket

      Yeah it seems like lately Gregor has been really buying into the whole “you have to be big to win” narrative that grips most traditional media personalities.

      Gregor strikes me as a pretty smart guy but it’s almost like he is trying to ignore any advanced stats that contradict his arguments.

      Maybe Gregor has been listening to Spector a lot lately. He should stop that.

      To be clear, I think size is definitely an asset, but not necessarily at the expense of skill. Omark is not a long term solution, but as a stop-gap third liner, I think he can fit in.