THE WAY I SEE IT: KUDOS FOR OMARK

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.

PUT UP OR SHUT UP

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.

WHILE I’M 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.

  • DieHard

    Omark is smart and very creative. He needs to adjust his game to be more defensive in the NHL. If he can penalty kill, then he can make it with the Oilers. If not, then AHL and beyond.

  • I gotta think that with the news of Omark possibly returning to the NHL (a month ago) and with the announcement his signing coming a few days after Rajala leaving there is more to the picture than most of us think. Rajala (or agent) must have voiced his mindset some time ago, and the Oilers management must have had this plan in the works for sometime – or something like it

  • Jason Gregor

    Yes indeed, reality has called Omark. Personally, I hope the guy can get somewhere this season, either with the Oil or another team via trade. Never been a hater of Omark but I have always thought that he was a wee bit too big on himself. Here is hoping that maturity can take him to the level he needs to be in order to be a NHL player.

  • 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

    Also, I agree with you Robin on the Omark evaluation. Good signing, not great. Omark doesn’t help us win anything (of importance) unless he ups his trade value and helps us secure a more balanced roster.

    • 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…).