Linus Omark: What it will take to make the Oilers?

As most every Oilers fan knows by now, Linus Omark has returned to the fold on a one-year, two-way contract that will pay him $600,000 in the majors. What will it take for him to earn those big league dollars?

The Competition

The Oilers have pretty reasonable depth on the wings, and so Omark is facing an uphill battle to land an NHL job. Guaranteed locks for the roster include Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, David Perron, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Jones. That’s six of the eight-to-10 (depending on the exact roster configuration) jobs available.

Of the two-to-four spots left, three players have one-way contracts: Ryan Smyth, Jesse Joensuu and Mike Brown. Ben Eager also has a one-way contract, but given that he cleared waivers and was sent down to Oklahoma City last season he’s in a similar position to Omark and isn’t guaranteed an NHL job. Add in Mark Arcobello (who can play right wing and centre), AHL veteran Ryan Hamilton (who was coached by Dallas Eakins last season) and Omark and there are seven viable candidates for at most four jobs.

I’d likely rank their odds of breaking camp on wing with the Oilers this way:

  • Jesse Joensuu
  • Ryan Smyth
  • Mike Brown
  • Ben Eager
  • Linus Omark
  • Ryan Hamilton
  • Mark Arcobello (who has a better chance at centre)

Other Factors

There are three other key factors that might increase or decrease Omark’s chances of making the team.

1. Injury. The big one here is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If he isn’t ready to go out of training camp and Taylor Hall slots in at centre, all of a sudden there’s space for another left wing – potentially even in the top-six. Any injury will help the wingers on the bubble, but the possibility of landing a skill job out of training camp is high on the list of things that could help Omark’s career (though naturally the Oilers are better off with Nugent-Hopkins in the top-six than Omark.

2. Defence. The Oilers have 10 defencemen with a strong case to make the team, and the assumption I’ve been making for most of the summer is that they’ll send Oscar Klefbom to the farm and waive or trade one of Corey Potter and Philip Larsen, leaving them with eight defencemen on the NHL roster. The team may well decide that its worthwhile to run with only seven defencemen – perhaps sending out both Potter and Larsen, possibly trading a guy like Nick Schultz – and if they make that decision life gets a little easier for the bubble forwards.

3. Centre. Last year the Oilers failed to address their injury issues at centre; consequently Ryan Smyth spent a big chunk of the year gamely trying to keep his head above water at the pivot position. Given that performance – and the fact that the group of candidates for the fourth line pivot job isn’t especially compelling – Edmonton might opt to keep five centres on the roster, with two of Anton Lander, Will Acton, Mark Arcobello and Andrew Miller making the opening night roster. It would add insurance against the kind of problems the team had last year, and allow the Oilers to alternate centres for different looks on their fourth line. Plus, with it being easier to move from centre to wing than the other way around, having at least one of the spare forwards play centre makes a certain amount of sense.

What Needs To Happen

That Omark is here in North America, rather than making more money back in Europe, makes his goal clear: he wants to be an NHL player. After the signing was announced, Omark talked in the Swedish press about making it difficult to send him to the minors; on Bob Stauffer’s show he also talked about working his backside off if he did find himself in Oklahoma City. Looking at the Oilers’ current roster, it’s hard not to think there’s a good chance Omark gets sent down out of camp (whether he clears waivers being another wrinkle) but there will be injuries over the course of the year (there always are) and if he’s the best forward on the Barons he’s going to get a shot at some point.

Recently around the Nation Network

At NHL Numbers, Travis Yost looks at how team performances changed over the course of last season, comparing their first-half Fenwick Close (a fancy term for shots and missed shots plus/minus with the score within one goal) to their second-half results. He talks about every team in the league – the Oilers results are interesting – but also points out that strong playoff performances by Detroit and San Jose were more predictable with this data:

So, by now I think it’s been exhausted how great the Detroit Red Wings were coming down the stretch. San Jose, to a lesser extent, too. Interesting thing about that San Jose/Vancouver first-round match-up I alluded to earlier: by a 48-game Fenwick Close sample, you were talking about two teams just 0.5% apart. But, by splitting the sample in half and focusing on the twenty-four most recent games, you had an San Jose team 3.0% better than Vancouver. There’s a lot of other reasons why the Canucks lost that series beyond a simple possession/scoring chance proxy, but boy, looking at it from this perspective should’ve raised a series of red flags.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

  • Why didnt MacT bring in David Steckle?! Clearly he is the type of center the Oil need right now. There still seems to be all this talk about moving Hall to center because Nuge may not be ready to go come Oct 1st.No offense to all the other centers in the system, but to me, it seems the Oilers really need a proven nhl center. One that can kill penalties, win faceoffs, throw the body, and stand up for his teammates. One of our small centers on the fourth line just doesn’t make sense. C’mon MacT we have the cap space!

  • Thumby

    IMHO …….Linus was not brought over here to make the Big Team. He was brought over to showcase his skills at the AHL level so some NHL team takes notice and signs him .

    The Oilers are doing him a favor and hoping to get a second round draft choice out of the deal. In this scenario both parties win.

  • Ranked in order of “Who’s the best ice hockey player?”:

    Page 1: Linus Omark

    Page 2: Jesse Joensuu

    Ryan Smyth

    Mike Brown

    Ben Eager

    Ryan Hamilton

    Mark Arcobello (who has a better chance at centre)

  • I’m a big Omark fan, don’t care so much for his funky shootout fanatics but I love the way he battles on the boards and he actually does back check pretty good at times. His positioning is a little off sometimes though.
    If he was given the same ice time that Hemsky gets I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up similar numbers.

    I wanna read what all these Omark doubters (Especially Gregor and everyone except for Me and Willis) have to write when Hemsky gets dealt and Omark not only makes the team but puts up Hemsky type numbers.

  • What it’ll take for Omark to make the Oilers this year will be a team commitment to three scoring lines.

    Unfortunately Lowetide will be in the hospital for the first six weeks of the season recovering from a nervous breakdown if they do that.

  • nuge2drai

    JW – what are your thoughts on this scenario: if you look at Omark’s situation from an opportunity cost standpoint. We already know that Omark’s trade value is at or near zero. But what if you could keep him and trade another asset.

    Lets just say that you could plug Omark into the top 6 and move Eberle to fill one of the glaring needs (top 6 C or top pairing D man). Now, you’ve opened up about $5.5 million in cap space AND filled another need. Obviously Omark doesn’t provide the same value to the roster as Ebs, but is the step down small enough that it is more than offset by the addition of the step up from Gagner to Center X or Petry to Dman Y?

    Before Rajala was cut loose, I was also thinking along the same lines with him.

    • I think if you can trade Eberle for a true number one defenceman who isn’t too old you have to look at making the deal, because from a position of team need the blue line needs help and even if everything goes right Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom are years from fixing the problem. Naturally, it depends on the specifics but that’s moving from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness.

      But I don’t think that trade’s out there. I also think if it’s made it had more to do with Hemsky than Omark.

  • nuge2drai

    Omark off the left half board on the PP passing to Yakupov on the Right circle. Money. All day long. That one timer will be money with Omark passing to Yak. Hemsky has failed on the PP left half board. Omark has shown the ability to make that play. You put Yak and JS on the right side firing the puck it will be a lethal PP. With Hall and Ebs down low.

    The use of RNH on the right half board will bring a lethal double dose to the PP. Hemsky on the left wing down low has shown a penchant for burying the puck. He is best when he is left to attack rather than when he asked to initiate the attack.

    Omark has the skill and the will. He should be the 13 forward at minimum. You need to balance the needs of the team not only out of training camp but during the year. Omark can push the 3rd line and fourth line players just by being there. Heck his skill alone makes a case for him being the 11-12 th forward.

    Omark and Gagner. The 2 most hated>loved players ever. If there ever was a debate the vote would be split as to who the fans hate/love the most. As the Oilers turn…

    • Thumby

      I agree with most of your post.
      Eberle is obviously a much much better player, but Omark has a ton of potential in the top six..If I had to move one of the five or six young stars it would be Eberle. Very one dimensional player.

  • Omark signed at 600k will guarantee him best possible chance to be claimed, if he doesnt make the team!

    Heard some rumors that Eakins pushed for this sign, maybee he remembered when Omark made 5 goals in regular and 1 in ot against Marlins.

    Anyway, its never wrong with competition at the camp!

  • John Chambers

    Nice write-up.

    My guess is that Omark gets a spot in the top-6, probably on Gagner’s wing, while Hall plays C to start the season. Then he gets dealt for a 3rd rounder in November and his unspectacular legacy here is over.

    • John Chambers

      This is where the debate will begin and end. Hemsky at 5 million vs Omark at 600K. The first 20 games will be huge for both. That is how long I think RNH will miss at the beginning of the season. It will huge if both perform well. Options for Eakins and MacT at that point.

      I put my money on Omark to start the season lined up on the left side in between Gagner and Yak. Hall at center with Perron and Ebs.Hemksy with Smyth and Lander. Boyd with ??.

    • DieHard

      Why all that trouble to catch a 3rd rounder?
      If he makes the camp in our crowded roster,then its possible that we lose assets to make room for him.

      I think Hemsky would be the one who gets traded at deadline for a pick, if Omark shows that he can fill out at least 70% of Hemskys shoes. Thats a cheap replacer in a team loaded with offensive talent.

      Next year, we need to resign Rnh and probably improve our team with a couple of other players in needded areas.

      Hemsky is gone either way, he isnt worth the risk even at 3 million, to many ? about his health and and as said before,we are loaded with young offensive talent.

      I think Omark defently would sign a team friendly contract with the Oilers when he hits Ufa next summer. Why would he chase a couple of bucks more in a new team, if he has his career going with the Oilers.

      But it will be hard For Omark to survive the camp, he must be atleast a step better then some of his rivals, to be worth sacrifizing assets.

      A funny camp though to visit, i had bought tickets in a hurry if i had lived in the nearby area!

  • We’re talking about Omark right?

    The same guy who couldn’t make a 30-30-29th place team?

    ~Ya, I expect him to be right in the mix of the top six, for sure bottom six~

    If this guy makes the team what does that say about the Oilers depth?.

  • DieHard

    Hockey is so close I can taste it! I sobered* up over the summer cause I know this is gonna be a wild ride this season.

    Digs Pre-Training camp rant:

    Toni Rajala. This is a funny one. Most everyone had this cat ranked as the go to forward prospect, or one of the them, because statistically he posted positive numbers. Can’t blame them. Now he’s not even a part of the org. I guess size DOES matter. More-so weight. Rajala is 160 pounds and that’s probably soaking wet with a parka on. Kids petite. Yup, I used the word petite on a hockey sight.

    Also, this is the second time he’s come over to N. America for a year and then split. Sketchy anyone?

    And, yes, I am going to say it: Pitlick is a better prospect. The stats aren’t there, but the kid’s got the tools in the tool box.

    Omark is back. I like it! Cash money mutha (explicit)!!! Does he make the team? Doesn’t matter. He’s got skill and he’s competing for a spot. Depth, baby! I would also suggest that Omark is a cheaper Hemsky and doubt that we will ever see both on the team at the same time.

    However, training camp will write the 2013-14 script. And it should. You just never know who and what may work. I salivate at possible line combos!!!

    I believe Hall should be the captain. And, IMO, the rumours of Gagner being named captain is a bunch of BS. The coach hasn’t seen them skate and more importantly he hasn’t seen the players interact with themselves in the locker room. You ever drive a car blindfolded? Same sh*t.

    I wonder if this is a bet on the roulette table.

    If it were me running the show (thank gawd it isn’t!) I would wait until Xmas. Lets see who grabs the reigns when the sh*t hits the fan.

    Size. It is an issue! Que: That’s what she said. I kid. In my not so humble opinion I believe hockey is a game of varying skill sets and when those varying skill sets come together it’s like a painting by that Picadillo dude. Money in the bank, baby! A hot tub full of Budweiser girls! A cold beer on a hot day! You get it…

    Be interesting to see who the coach chooses for the 23 man roster. Eager has an opportunity to reestablish himself here. I think he does.

    The greatest acquisition of the off season is the hiring of the new coach. Will he be great? Who the (explicit) knows! But, Krueger was a bad coach. Bad like the host of ‘Amazing Race Canada’. He was essentially worse then Renney. Didn’t think that was even possible. Wow! Watching games the last two (yes, you can say seven) seasons left me wanting. It wont take much for Eakins to be better.

    Just my word, yo.

    I suppose this post is too long for the nation. My sincere apologies** as I’ve noticed others being chastised for writing too much… on a public forum… in the comments section…


    **Ok, it’s not sincere….

  • nuge2drai

    How are we supposed to get better bringing back a lot of players that were all part of the problem of last few years (reverting backwards ) ? MacT. has not done a lot of what he had hoped to do going into this season .

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    I’ve always been a big Omark fan. He’s strong on the boards, and he makes plays happen. I remember in his rookie season when he made a play where instead of a regular dumpin, he shot the puck on net, split the D, got his own rebound and scored.

    There’s a good chance Omarks an even better(stronger, smarter) player than when we saw him last.

    Hope this isn’t a flames/fleury camp type outcome… Hate to see Omark earn a spot and get put on waivers.

    Imagine Omark puts up 55 points with the flames at 600k and Hemsky puts up 35 at 5 mil. We do not need another Glencross, and do not need to add young talent to our rival teams.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Check out the sick Linus Omark PPA YouTube:

    For a Rookie, supreme confidence shown on this play by Omark.

    Imagine Yakupov and Omark on the PP, the second unit would become the first awfully quick IMO.

    Omark will be a more rounded, stronger, mature, confident player, especially coming from a league he lead in scoring last year.

    • nuge2drai

      Furthermore theres no way Omark clears waivers. I think CM has a trade in the works that involves Hemsky or another winger otherwise why would he risk losing Omark for nothing just like Rajala. Bottom line is that CM isnt done by any means in my opinion.

  • nuge2drai

    If Omark becomes productive and makes Hemsky redundant , how does a 2 for the price of 1 “Czech mate” deal involving Hemsky and Smid for Pietro or Weber sound . Very tempting .