An opportunity for Mark Arcobello?

It’s funny what a change in management can do. A year ago, Mark Arcobello got a bunch of breaks but wasn’t allowed to take advantage of them – because no matter how poorly Chris Vande Velde or Ryan Smyth played at centre, he wasn’t going to get a real opportunity to show what he could do. He landed a single NHL game despite a decimated depth chart and guys playing out of position.

Under the new regime, he may find himself on the opening night roster.


After the trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner and Shawn Horcoff, the Oilers employed a variety of players at centre:

  • Eric Belanger: 26 games
  • Ryan Smyth: 18 games
  • Anton Lander: 11 games
  • Chris VandeVelde: 11 games
  • Jerred Smithson: 10 games
  • Mark Arcobello: one game
  • Lennart Petrell: one game

There was a desperate need for centres in Edmonton. Lander got hurt, VandeVelde couldn’t get any traction with the coaches in an extended audition, and Smyth was a fish out of water. Arcobello got just one game.


The Oilers most likely 2013-14 depth chart at centre looks like this:

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  • Sam Gagner
  • Boyd Gordon
  • Anton Lander

Arcobello has three plausible routes to a spot on the opening night roster.

A Ryan Nugent-Hopkins injury. Nugent-Hopkins may be ready to go on opening night, but off-season surgery means he may not be. If he isn’t ready to go, than Sam Gagner becomes the team’s top centre by default, and the team faces some choices: a) bump Gordon into the top-six and Lander into the top-nine, b) shift a player like Taylor Hall to centre, c) add someone via waivers or trade or d) plug in a Mark Arcobello or Andrew Miller on the second line. The latter seems the most likely of these options, and as Arcobello has professional experience he presumably has an edge on Miller.

Win the fourth-line job. This is a more difficult route for Arcobello because not only does he need to compete with Anton Lander and Andrew Miller, but also with Will Acton. Acton, who failed to hit the 20-point mark in the AHL, can’t touch Arcobello scoring-wise but he has familiarity with head coach Dallas Eakins and he could well win recall the way VandeVelde did in 2013 – by being a better fit for a specific role. The Oilers’ fourth-line centre will almost certainly be an integral part of the penalty kill, and Arcobello’s resume in that department is pretty thin.

Win a press box job. Given the Oilers’ depth on defence, it seems likely that the team will carry eight rearguards and 13 forwards. Arcobello adds scoring and versatility (he plays both centre and right wing) but he needs to top a group that includes Mike Brown, Ben Eager, Ryan Hamilton, Toni Rajala and all those centres mentioned earlier. It’s a tall order.

What He Is and It Means

I saw plenty of Arcobello during the NHL lockout, and I like a lot of what he does. He’s reasonably fast, shifty, has good hockey sense and a wealth of offensive ability; he has both a good shot and strong playmaking skills. He also plays a greasy game – he isn’t a sparkplug the way Jordin Tootoo is, but he goes to tough areas and he doesn’t back down from bigger players. The trouble is that he’s not only undersized (5’9”, 165 pounds) but he tended (at least when I watched him) to cheat for offence. Playing with people like Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi against AHL’ers, that’s not a terrible; against NHL’ers it’s liable to be costly.

Because the team seems content to stand pat at centre, he is the best in-house candidate for promotion to a top-six role if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins misses time to start the year. The Oilers’ decision to stand pat is one that could land him in premium minutes; minutes that could serve as the springboard to an NHL career.

Recently around the Nation Network

Rather than criticize the five-year extension Dave Nonis just landed in Toronto, Steve Dangle looks at the general manager’s record and asks commenters to explain what there has earned Nonis his new deal: 

Matthew Lombardi traded to Phoenix for a pick. I liked this deal. Cleared cap room. Hooray. Tim Connolly and Mike Komisarek assigned to the Marlies. Good. Joffrey Lupul locked up to a 5-year contract extension. He battled a lot of injuries, which is worrisome for such a long deal, but Lupul bounces back every time, and has put up some crazy points in this city. Holzer also locked up for another two. Claimed Frazer McLaren off waivers. I would have preferred if Nonis claimed Zach Boychuk or Jussi Jokinen off of waivers, but I won’t nitpick. It’s a waiver-wire pickup. Mike Brown and Dave Steckel traded for picks. Fine. Ryan O’Byrne acquired for a pick. Whatever.

Click the link above to read more. Otherwise, feel free to read some of my recent pieces:

    • Young Oil

      It would have to be a huge overpay, most teams see just how valuable Dubinski is as a player. He is an ideal second line center. That being said, he is worth the huge overpay. He is a perfect fit for the team, and could be the piece of the puzzle that pushes us into the playoffs.

      Kekalainen has gone on record saying he likes small, skilled players with tons of heart, so one would think he’d have interest in Gagner.

      I would suggest Gagner and a 1st for Dubinski, and I honestly don’t even think that would get it done. Dubinski is a hell of a player.

      • Word to the Bird

        Why? Why the F@€K do you want to trade Gagner? My god it’s people like you who give Edmonton fans a bad name. We just signed him to a fresh deal, he had a great season and you still want to send him packing? What more does he need to do? Why don’t we focus on something that actually needs retooling like our bottom 6 or mess of a defensive core?

      • Young Oil

        id do that deal in 3 seconds. Dubinsky is perfect…he is a bit of a nutter too….i could see him losing his mind and pummeling someone who tried to hit the Nuge…all heart this guy.

        weird that kekalainen would say that but heck….lets do the deal quick!

  • 24% body fat


    GAGNER is not getting traded give it up. He needs to be included in your depth charts going forward.

    Arco is a fill in for a second line center he is not a second line center. Trading Gagner and replacing with Arco is a huge hit to any center depth we have.

    Belov was not a reject. He was the best and getting a chance playing in the higher tiered league. Guys making the NHL from the AHL are not AHL rejects.

  • Ducey

    Best thing Mark can do is be a coach’s pet. Do everything that Dallas Eakins asks you to do, which would probably be along the lines of winning draws, playing good D, responsible puck management. If Mark realizes that and executes, everyone will be happy.

  • Ducey

    One of the components to winning is having your players believe in the support from coaches and mgmt. Part of that is giving players who are working like hell to get to the show a chance when they have earned it. It would a great story for him and team if he can seize this opportunity and play well.

  • Ducey

    At this point MacT likely has some trade irons still in the fire. Coburn for Smid/ N.Schultz or maybe something in the works for the big red dog from LA.

    Therefore he has to keep as much cap room open as possible.

    If nothing happens then MacT can see how Arcobello, Nuge, and the rest look at training camp. If need be he can add a center off waivers or sort thru whats left on the UFA pile.

    No rush.

  • Czar

    We need a big center like Steckel to create some competion and NHL options in camp. That way if someone like Arco is on the opening night roster they’ve earned the spot, not because they’re our only option.One of these days we’re going to wake up to the headline “Oilers sign big centerman” but today is not that day. Now where the hell did I put the Baileys?

  • LinkfromHyrule

    We really need a Madjam filter on this site.

    Anyway, someone is going to have to step up in October, that much is for sure. If an internal candidate can do it then great. This situation can represent two things..

    1) it’s a great opportunity for our depth to get a shot in the big leagues

    2) it’s a great opportunity for the other teams to kick the crap out of us

  • John Chambers

    I hope Arco plays his bag off earning a start in camp while RNH rehabs, then pots some points and looks mean doing it.

    We have a one year window we can trade Gagner. If Arco worked out half decently, getting a return for Gags while obtaining a really cost effective 2nd line C would be a godsend.

  • Czar

    “The trouble is that he’s not only undersized (5’9”, 165 pounds) but he tended (at least when I watched him) to cheat for offence. Playing with people like Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi against AHL’ers, that’s not a terrible; against NHL’ers it’s liable to be costly.”

    ^^This is the key point.

    Nothing against Arco, but if you’re that small, your name better be Martin St. Louis or Patrick Kane.

    Arco doesn’t have that kind of skill, so my guess is that MacT is still working on other options.

    I’m curious to see Lander again, with the uptick in his performance at the end of last year, but size and strength are issues there, too.

    I don’t know what Miller and Acton bring, but it would be a pleasant surprise if either could play with success at an NHL level.

    Competition for jobs is great, but if all the applicants fall short of the job description, it’s time to fall back on poaching someone from the competitors’ ranks (over to you, MacT).

  • ubermiguel

    Guys like Arcobello need to be given a legitimate chance. Just because he is small, didn’t limit him from playing in the AHL, nor should it in the NHL.

    I believe the reason more small guys don’t play in the NHL is the perception that small guys can’t succeed in the NHL, so they aren’t given the opportunity.

    Arcobello produced at a similar rate to RNH in the AHL.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    i’d give Arco more than a one game chance to show what he can do….that really pizzed me off that he was never given more of an opportunity last year.

  • ubermiguel

    “Given the Oilers’ depth on defence…”

    The Oilers hardly have depth on defence. Belov and Grebeshkov are KHL rejects, Klefbom hasn’t even played and NHL game, Larsen and Schultz jr. are both very young and inexperienced, etc etc.. Too say the Oilers are ‘deep’ on defence is downright deceiving.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      Belov is a KHL reject? They rejected him? Really? That’s weird because I heard he was their best player. I also hear Dmen take a long time to develop so it seems plausible someone could grow to maturity outside the NHL without being noticed.

      Is he Shea Weber? Probably not. Could he be Nikitin? Maybe.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Arco isn’t an NHL caliber defenceman , especially on the first line . Then again , Snowpants hardly qualifies as one and he’s on the second line . Too bad MacT didn’t pursue my earlier idea of a Sammy for Shea straight up trade , as Nashville could use it to save $ towards the cap .

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      His size is kind of worrying, he makes our other skilled midgets look like giants. Players that small need to be either fast as hell or very, very shifty.