We’re at a point in the season where we can safely begin looking forward to summer activities. The procurement of players to help win hockey games in 2014-15 has to be on the mind of management. One internal option for the Oilers this off-season: bringing back the Finn! Harski’s winter in the land of Dr. Zhivago could end with a one-way ticket to good old our town. Is he better than Joensuu? Ryan Jones? Can he win a job over Tyler Pitlick?.
UFA SCORING (KHL)
Hartikainen is second on his team in scoring, and is getting a ton of playing time (16:28 a night on average). Most of it comes at even strength (he has just two power play goals on the season).
WHY DID THEY SEND HIM AWAY?
When Craig MacTavish took over, he talked about third and fourth liners being (and I quote): "in today’s NHL, even marginally, you have to be a threat to score." The club called him up, he didn’t piss a drop at even strength, and then he was sent down to games before the end of the season.
- Ralph Krueger (as Harski was sent down with two games left): "He’s trying to figure out what a gritty, strong power forward does and what’s connected to that. What’s important for him is to continue to manage the puck in all three zones."
Apparently, he wanted a one-way deal and the Oilers were happy with a two-way, meaning Hartikainen might have either been lost on waivers or returned to the Barons. Instead, he found another job, and the Oilers let him walk to the KHL while retaining his rights. They signed Jesse Joensuu, Ryan Jones and others to take cover off the 3 and 4 lines
- Neal Livingtson: "You take the pieces of Hartikainen’s game, throw in the human element, realize he has the rest of his life before him, and suddenly you understand why he’d choose to play KHL hockey. Not because he gave up on the Oilers, didn’t work hard, or even prove he had things that people want – it’s because he lives life by his standards. Rather than allow his NHL club to throw him to the waiver wire in the upcoming season, he’ll choose his own path. At least for now. That’s admirable, and chances are, you’d do the same thing."
MacT’s first item of business after being hired as GM was to call Hartikainen and Anton Lander up from the Barons. He didn’t get anything done, but for the time he was in the NHL overall, Hartikainen did:
- play about 78 minutes with the man advantage and manufactured 2-3-5. That’s 3.85/60—not outstanding, but maybe he can be the guy who stands in front of the net (no one seems able this season).
IS HE BETTER THAN JOENSSU, PITLICK AND JONES?
Here are the numbers for each player at 5×5 during their Oiler careers:
- Ryan Jones 32-20-52 in 2506 ev minutes (1.24 points per 60/evens)
- Tyler Pitlick 1-0-1 in 29.17 ev minutes (2.06 points per 60/evens)
- Jesse Joensuu 1-0-1 in 252.22 ev minutes (0.24 points per 60/evens)
- Teemu Hartikainen 4-4-8 in 595 ev minutes (0.81 points per 60/evens)
News flash: NONE of this is good, but the only guy we can be sure of is Jones. Based on linemates, minutes and opportunity, Jones has done okay by the Oilers as a depth 5×5 player. That’s probably one of the reasons MacTavish signed him over Hartikainen last season—he had better numbers, and was more proven.
One year later? I think Joensuu is the man with a target on his back, despite the two-year deal signed in the summer.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Hartikainen played about 50 minutes for the Oilers after the callup, didn’t score, and was sent down with two games to play. I said at the time it wasn’t enough of a sample size, and Hartikainen has shown well in the KHL. Edmonton is going to be adding a lot of players over the summer in an effort to get better, I think they might want to have another look at big Hartikainen. Judging any player on 50 minutes of sample size is not a good idea, and Hartikainen is now a mature hockey player. Jesse Joensuu was signed instead, and hasn’t been better.
Edmonton can flush all of these guys and give the job to Pitlick, or they can bring back Hartikainen and see if a season in the KHL has helped him "figure out what a gritty, strong power forward does and what’s connected to that."