A TINKER’S DAM

In his last 82 AHL games (entering tonight), Anton Lander is 82, 21-21-42—decent offense for a player with a reputation of being a solid checking center. The Oilers have changed General Managers since Lander was drafted, and that can impact prospects and their future with the team that drafted them. Is Lander part of the MacTavish/Eakins vision?

Since 2010, the Oklahoma City Barons have employed a few forwards with varying degrees of offensive ability and many more who could be described as ‘two-way’ or ‘checking’ types :

  1. Linus Omark 65, 30-35-65 (1 point per game)
  2. Toni Rajala 46, 17-28-45 (.98 points per game)
  3. Mark Arcobello 173, 50-83-133 (.77 points per game)
  4. Teemu Hartikainen 164, 45-66-111 (.68 points per game)
  5. Magnus Paajarvi 72, 11-34-45 (.63 points per game)
  6. Ryan Hamilton 427, 131-106-237 (.55 points per game)
  7. Phil Cornet 173, 46-48-94 (.54 points per game)
  8. Roman Horak 79, 19-20-39 (.49 points per game)
  9. Anton Lander 75, 17-20-37 (.49 points per game)
  10. Chris VandeVelde 207, 31-36-67 (.32 points per game)
  11. Ryan Martindale 61, 7-12-19 (.31 points per game)
  12. Tyler Pitlick 113, 11-25-36 (.32 points per game)
  13. Antti Tyrvainen 87, 9-15-24 (.28 points per game)
  14. Tanner House 129, 16-18-34 (.26 points per game)
  15. Will Acton 124, 15-20-35 (.25 points per game)
  16. Curtis Hamilton 104, 10-10-20 (.192 points per game)

Now, for our purposes, Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander are rarely going to be applying for the same jobs. This is similar to the Oilers discussions we used to have about Rob Schremp and Marc Pouliot—Schremp was going to make the NHL as a ‘Mike Comrie-type’ and Pouliot was going to make it as a ‘Guy Carbonneau-type’ and although neither did make it they could never have been mistaken for each other.

Anton Lander’s competition is Will Acton today and Roman Horak tomorrow. (Acton’s numbers included above, although he was never a Baron).

THE ROMAN EMPIRE?

Roman Horak doesn’t have the draft pedigree of Anton Lander (Horak was a 5th rounder, Lander 40th overall) but the change in GM’s has a strange impact on things: Horak was acquired by new man Craig MacTavish, Lander was drafted by the previous regime in Edmonton.

It makes a difference. Although the two players are very similar and boast skills that will make them candidates for the same job (Will Acton’s), Lander’s advantage (if he had one) as a team draft has been reduced greatly.

WHAT CAN LANDER DO?

Actually, he’s doing it as we speak. Lander scored 2 goals last night and he has 2 more tonight, giving him a season total with OKC of 14, 7-5-12. Lander’s advantage over Acton is offense, as is Horak’s, and both players are very likely better NHL bets than Acton. The question: how much does the organization value them?

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The boxcars suggest both Anton Lander and Roman Horak are better long term options for 4line center than Will Acton, but that doesn’t mean a thing until opportunity knocks. When it does, it’s anyone guess as to which player gets the call. In a strange twist of fate, the current management is probably more attached to Horak than Lander.

Those NHL games Lander played (and which he was unready for) may have cost him his best chance at an NHL career.

(All photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)

  • Jay Gray

    Lander has never really done it for me. Watching him, there is nothing that stands out in his game screaming that we need to have this guy on the big club full time. Has his moments, but they are few and far in between.

    • DSF

      Letting Lander and Horak develop in the A is the wise course right now. As for Arco, should he be playing ahead of Acton? Yes, I think most everybody agrees that he should. But of the four games where Acton has been ahead of Arco on the depth chart, the Oilers have won three times. So no, this is not one of the reasons we are where we are.

      We fret a little too much over who the eleventh or twelfth forward is. Just sayin…

  • Jay Gray

    It would be nice to see him make it on the fourth line at some point this year. I believe he brings as much as Acton to the table, with more offensive upside. Nothing flashy, but a desire to keep getting better and actually doing that can’t hurt the dressing room. You think maybe another Kyle Brodziak in the making LT? We wait.

    • Lowetide

      I think Brodziak showed more offense, that’s probably going tobe Lander’s problem. If he can find a way to score 10 goals a year imo he can win a job as 4line C.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    One ripple in the future 4C job (which could always go to an external applicant), is that of all the conceivable internal options (Lander, Arco, Acton, Horak, Miller, Pitlick), only Acton is under contract for next year.

    http://www.capgeek.com/oilers/

    It’s far too early in the season to get a sense of who gets offered an extension and to what end (a guy like Miller, for example, could easily get an AHL contract out of the Oilers, if he can’t find a 2 way elsewhere and the team needs a spare offensive C).

    My guess is a couple of these guys get let go.

    [edit] I should mention Kharia is under contract the next 2 years but I simply can’t conceive of him playing in the NHL next year. He’ll probably be in OKC for both of those years and certainly the first.

  • OilClog

    Acton playing is all Eakins doing, he’s older and it allows Lander to gain more confidence and a complete game. That’s a plus, Arco sitting in the sky.. That’s criminal.

  • Lowetide

    Given these two fourth line options, I’d go with B, “size” be-damned.

    A = Acton, Gadzic, Joensuu

    B = Lander, Jones, Joensuu

    Obviously I’m not cut out to be an NHL GM.

  • TCG

    A couple of positives about Lander:

    1. He’s been steadily increasing his production at the AHL level. (No doubt in my mind that he was hampered by being rushed into NHL too early)

    2. Being named Captain of the OKC Barons speaks volumes about his leadership, dedication, and motivation. (Even if he’s only a 4C in the NHL, having another person who’s a leader in the dressing room is a bonus)

  • Numenius

    If Horak has more of a mean streak and fights occasionally, that might put him a step ahead of Lander in McT’s books. Given that their offence is the same, I’m fine with that.

    I bet that’s why Acton stays in over Arco as well, though in that case, Acton’s lack of offence makes it more difficult to justify.

      • DSF

        Perhaps, but, as usual, my judgement is bang on.

        The chances that any of the players on that list will get a 200 game game NHL career is exceedingly small and spending time, effort and money trying to develop them is ridiculous.

        You can find a plethora of better players on the waiver wire and in free agency all the time.

        For example, Vancouver has Chris Higgins, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, Ryan Stanton, Chris Tanev, Tim Sestito and Jeremy Welsh playing regular minutes in their lineup.

        They cost virtually nothing to acquire and develop.

        Last time I looked, the Canucks were just a tad better than the Oilers.

          • DSF

            I think MacTavish WILL cut bait with a lot of these “going nowhere” prospects. As LT mentions quite often, MacT doesn’t really have a connection to a lot of these players. However, there is only so much he can do in one off-season.

            But again, I want to emphasize that every organization has these types of prospects. The Oilers are certainly at the bottom end, but the situation is not hopeless. I believe (and respect that you don’t) that Lander, Horak, and Pitlick can be at least semi-effective bottom 6 players in the not too distant future. Heck, maybe Hartikainen comes back and takes a step forward as well. It’s not an exact science, so it’s far too early to write some of these guys off.

            I also believe MacTavish will be more open to finding useful NHL players by means other than drafting. Belov is a good example.

          • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

            Possibly. But I think the best way to build a team that is good year after year is to develop your own draft picks. This way you get players who can contribute at 23 and 24, and you get to hold on to them for longer. Doesn’t that make sense?

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            The question though is why? or rather when?

            There is no urgency to abandon players in the midst of their ELCs. In fact, barring Abney-like abject failure, it is straight up crazy to walk away from prospects so early. esp. when there is no compelling reason to do so.

            Those 3 contracts aren’t keeping the Oilers from being successful. Far from it. They still belong in the “possible good with zero downside” pile.

            This is an absurd way to frame a debate about prospects and their management.

          • DSF

            Those prospects ARE keeping the Oilers from being successful.

            They have zero prospects and distract the organization from finding and developing better players.

            The compelling reason to walk away from them is pretty obvious if they have zero chance of being NHL players since they take roster spots, time and money away from easily accessible better players.

            Suggesting otherwise is absurd.

          • DSF

            Isn’t that what the AHL is for? Developing draft picks in the hopes that they become complimentary NHL players? Now I agree that the Oilers don’t exactly have a sterling drafting record, but I don’t see the big problem here. They have their top end talent.

            Meanwhile, Lander and Horak look like fairly good bets to be third or fourth line centers at some point in their careers. Pitlick (if he can get healthy) is a good bet to be a third or fourth line banger and energy guy. And in a couple years, the dead weight will have been replaced by more promising prospects like Greg Chase, Juhjar Khaira, and Bogdan Yakimov.

            And just for the record, I’m pretty sure every organization has prospects who will never carve out NHL careers for themselves. It’s just the way it works.

          • DSF

            Yes, to a point that is true.

            But I disagree that Lander and Horak are good bets to be 3rd or 4th line centres at some point.

            Lander would likely have zero NHL games on his resume if he was in a good NHL organization and Horak was just cut loose by a dreadful NHL team that has terrible depth at centre.

            And, yes, you can hang your hat on the next bunch of stiffs being different but normally they are aren’t.

            And, yes, there are plenty of organizations that have failed prospects in their systems but they usually cut bait and don’t wait years and years to see if they have anything.

            The Oilers would be far better off looking at the free agent market and waiver wire to populate the bottom 6 forwards unless they have a players they are absolutely sure is going to make it.

            I can’t think of even one.

            Can you?

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Let’s ignore Lander and Horak then.

            Which teams “cut bait” on prospects (outside of a trade) prior to the expiration of ELCs?

            How many of those listed above have the Oilers “cut bait” on? (I count 6 plus an honorable mention)

            Which of these players listed above are the Oilers “waiting years to see if they have anything?” (I count 2: Omark and Arco. Neither cost anything and both have proved useful in a very limited capacity). Is that number abnormal? I highly doubt it.

            No team operates on an either/or situation with regards to free agency/draft. The whole structure of modern hockey management is designed to facilitate both in parallel. There is no need to cut bait early on players before you know what they are in order to secure free agents.

          • DSF

            Lander

            Horak

            Pitlick

            Hamilton

            Omark

            __________________

            Hartikainen – done

            Paajarvi – done

            Cornet – done

            Van De Velde – done

            Tyravianen – done

            House – done

            That’s a huge pile of dung and doesn’t even include the failed goaltending and defensive prospects.

            Good teams get a grip on their prospect base, assess their chances and move on.

            There are always better options than hanging on to a bunch of stiffs.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            But now you are completley contradicting yourself and making no sense at all.

            Your first list includes 4 players (I assume you mean Curtis and not Ryan) still on their ELCs. No team cuts bait on ELC prospects during the term of the contract. that’s absurd.

            Omark is the only one there. He’s a unique situation to say the least.

            Your other list is a series of drafted and undrafted players who the Oilers cut bait on (though they maintain the NHL rights to 2), i.e., what you’ve been claiming the Oilers don’t do with their prospects.

            You are quite mixed up.

            Good teams get a grip on their prospect base, assess their chances and move on.

            Yes. but not in the middle of their ELCs (barring trades).

            There are always better options than hanging on to a bunch of stiffs.

            make this argument in the Summer if/when MacT does this. right now you aren’t making any sense.

          • DSF

            The “list” was prepared by LT.

            It’s chock a block with crap and spending more than a couple of minutes wishing and hoping there is an NHL player in there is a huge waste or organizational time and resources.

            If that doesn’t make sense to you, I can’t help you.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Find the part of this sentence:

            Since 2010, the Oklahoma City Barons have employed a few forwards with varying degrees of offensive ability and many more who could be described as ‘two-way’ or ‘checking’ types

            that is on the hunt for NHL players in the near future.

            I’m pretty sure if you read the article, you’d be in a better spot to haggle with it.

            At any rate, which teams have a habit of abandoning prospects in the midst of their ELCs again?

  • camdog

    “The boxcars suggest both Anton Lander and Roman Horak are better long term options for 4line center than Will Acton, but that doesn’t mean a thing until opportunity knocks.”

    What do the box scores say Boyd Gordon will be in 3 years? By the time these kids are ready to perform they may need to be able to play 3rd line center.

    I might be the only one but I don’t understand why JW, you and everybody else is making so much noise over who’s been on the 4 th line over the last 3 games, when we’ve easily won all 3 games? I think it’s time for us to stop micro analyzing whom Eakins wants sitting on his bench for 50-55 minutes a night. Playing 4th line minutes is not easy, it’s not the same as playing regular minutes. You can sit for 10 minutes at a time and then you are expected to perform. Many of the Oilers skilled forwards wouldn’t even be able to do this. You can talk box scores and analytics all you want, but that doesn’t equate to real life 4th line nhl minutes.

  • bwar

    Why are we talking about Acton and Lander. Have you guys not heard of Bogdan Yakimov? He has the sweetest name out of all the Oilers prospects and he is like 6’5 aka the largest human being on the planet. Get him over here. Yakimov to Yakupov good goal come hug.

  • 719

    Just a thought by why not a 4th line next year of

    Horak (LW) – Lander (c) – Pitlick (rw)

    Some guys with some grit who are trying to win an NHL job, also very inexpensive. Putting young talent on the 4th line works for the Ducks. Horak and Lander positions are interchangeable.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    There must be days LT that make it disheartening to go to the effort of posting an item only to have the thread hijacked by the same source of negative drool. Since it’s unlikely to stop hopefully those who enjoy your posts will learn to simply ignore the noise rather than feed it. I applaud you.

    If Lander spends the full year in the A and is solidly kicking it by the end of the season, then the Oilers may have a player from the Detroit “over ripe tree” who can be counted on next year as someone who could cut it as a 4th liner, but hopefully has competition to overcome.

    • DSF

      Detroit’s “over ripe tree” includes the following:

      Daniel Alfresson – drafted by OTT

      Stephen Weiss – drafted by FLA

      Todd Bertuzzi – drafted by NYI

      Dan Cleary – drafted by CHI

      Drew Miller – drafted by ANA

      Mikael Samuelsson – drafted by SJS

      Luke Glendenning – undrafted FA

      Patrick Eaves – drafted by OTT

      Danny DeKeyser – undrafted UFA

      Brian Lashoff – undrafted UFA

      While the Wings are a model of drafting and developing they are not a model of hanging on to failed draft picks.

  • DSF

    Dear newbies, before engaging in a “discussion” with DSF, try using the search box on the right side of the screen and typing in “idiot DSF”.

    What you’ll see is a post by Gregor (one of the bloggers on this board) that perfectly describes DSF’s modus operandi. It starts out like, “Those who debate with DSF are just as idiotic as him. He says stupid stuff to get a reaction, and you respond.”

    Try it. Enjoy. Thanks.

  • DSF

    DSF may or may not be a woman but sure debates like one.

    Those of you are married think of the discussions you have had with your wife when she flips off topic and comes back with reams of information about something totally irrelevant to what you started the debate on.

    You walk away shaking your head and wondering how it all got so off track.

  • DSF

    By my eye, Lander beat acton in camp. I would think you would give young guys who have paid their dues a chance to make the big club and get accustomed to the league before becoming a contender. Horak definitely muddies the waters, but they could both be 3liners with one playing out of position, or best case scenario, we end up with two third liners. I hope we move gagner and draft a better 2c who can handle a little defensive responsibility. Then our centre would look pretty good.

  • camdog

    I’ve always looked at Lander as a tweener. I am glad as hell he is doing everything in his power to convince me otherwise.

    Rajala still hurts. What’s he doing so far. A good article would be on the one that got away. Then again that could be a series of articals or mini series.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    It just amazes me, that the oilers have promoted Kevin Lowe to president of hockey operations.

    Kevin Lowe was a great hockey player but as a general manager for the last 8 years he has not build a winning team.

    Most GMs would have been fired but now, I think the oilers need to look at their management team and determine that the management are the ones responsible for the team outcome, and over the last 8 years the results are very disappointing.

    Time to look at management not the players and coaching.