Long Lost Lander

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Twenty-two games into 2013-14, Anton Lander remains stuck at one assist.

I can’t help thinking that’s going to kill his Oilers career, and possibly his NHL ambitions.

AHL Anton

Anton Lander3

Believe it or not, Anton Lander is an elite AHL player, or at least he played one this season.

For a while, he was taking on tough assignments on a line with Linus Omark, and seemed to defer to Omark offensively. Lander produced in the role and outplayed top AHL lines, but as long as Omark was on the unit it was fair to wonder whether Lander could carry the offence at the AHL level.

Omark was gone by Christmas, and a weird thing happened: No matter who Lander played with, he kept producing. Since January, sans Omark, Lander has 33 points in 25 games in the AHL. He didn’t fluke his way into those points; believe it or not he can both make passes and finish them. He was the offensive centerpiece of a frequently fluctuating top line that kept producing regardless of who was on the wings.

It looked like the final step in Lander’s evolution. He’s a high character guy, someone who says and does the right things and was chosen as Oklahoma’s captain this year despite occasionally uncertain English. He makes smart decisions with the puck and plays a low-risk game. The only real question was whether he could score enough to hang around in the majors, and in the minors it looked like he’d cleared that hurdle.

As one person employed by the parent club told me, “We have to give him a chance.”

NHL Lander

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Lander isn’t a top-six guy in the NHL, and he doesn’t have to be. All he had to do was score enough to stick around, to show that he wasn’t a younger version of the ‘Belanger Triangle’, where offence goes to die.

He didn’t get a real shot earlier this year, but Lord knows he’s been given an opportunity on this latest call-up. He’s averaging a hair under 17 minutes per game, getting power play time, and getting shifts with people like Jordan Eberle and David Perron.

He hasn’t looked bad, for the most part. He’s been a nice piece of the penalty kill, and he’s not a guy who gets embarrassed five-on-five, unless he’s taking a faceoff against Joe Thornton (sidepoint: the NHL highlight package on that goal is a fantastic example of the things that SportsNet misses when it skips faceoffs, something the network does over and over again).

But he can’t score, and he’s not a good enough player to get by on zero offence at the NHL level.

There are five games left in the season. There’s no downside to leaving Lander in a feature role (and precious few alternatives anyway), and so he probably has exactly that long to show something. 

He’d better.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Quicksilver ballet

    So many pencilled in to be that 3rd line center next season, Gags,Lander,Archobello. A little confusing since the Oilers already have a Boyd Gordon. Maybe they should deal with that 1st or 2nd LC issue before we scramble our noodles fixing the 3rd LC issue. RNH has struggled mightily in that current vacant spot. Guess he’ll just have to do in the meantime/since no one else appears capable.

  • Alsker

    Personally if Gordon ends up our 2nd LC so be it(though as 4C would be a serious step forward) so be it. Providing Yakimov,Yakipov and Chase/Khaira are the 3rd. Yakimov seems def respomsible but offensively aware, Yakcity is Yakcity and Chase/Khaira can protect both of them. So if Lander, Arco, Gags(pls be gone by training camp) have to fight it out for 4C, so be it. What we have seen doesn’t work, so, turn the page and move on to what we have NOT seen.

  • Alsker

    How flaky is MacT ?
    The huge props he gave Gagner identifying him as a player to build around
    The attempt to sign Clarkson
    The Cory Schneider offer when DD was coming off a .922 season
    Smid ?
    He has been saved from his own folly a few times already.

    • #ThereGoesTheOilers

      Flaky? Apparently acquiring Schneider would have been a pretty good thing, in case you haven’t been watching this season.

      And as for Gagner, he is a character guy, and I don’t think anyone could have predicted a season THIS bad.

        • Stack Pad Save

          Gagner has been complete trash now that Hall is off his line. Gagner is by far the most out of place player in the Oilers top 6. I would even take Lander in the top 6 over Gagner. At least Lander can continue the cycle and play some D.

          Gagner has been good recently, pffft. Check out this link:

          http://www.nhl.com/ice/player.htm?id=8474040&season=20132014&view=log

          Gagner in the last 10 games as been minus 9 (yes -9), he has had 2 goals and 1 assist. That is a sparkling ppg of 0.3. He has been atrocious in the last 10 games like he was in the previous 50 odd games he has played this season. The guy is a goat, an anchor to whatever line he is on and needs to go.

          Watch how often the play dies in the offensive zone on Gagner’s stick. He can’t cycle, he can’t forcheck and he doesn’t backcheck. What good is he? He is the exact opposite of what you want from a 2nd line center.

          • '68 Fire Chicken

            Its not just Gagner. Plays die on Nuges stick as well this year. The whole team fails at possession hockey. The problem is the age of this team. They don’t slow the play down at all, they panic, get frustrated, and give up. Too young.

            Even if we tried to play the possession game we get knocked off pucks easy due to size. This teams built so poorly…. At least its centers and dmen in the top 5 this year. We are a rookie team from management,players, and coaching. This is going to get ugly…

          • Quicksilver ballet

            2nd player within one year to fall flat on their face with a big contract in their pocket.

            Dubnyk (3.75) and now Gagner (4.8). Gagner is just another 9.6 million dollar boat anchor that has negative value to this hockey club. This management group is incompetent.

          • Harry2

            Welcome all you Mac T lovers to reality. He is as dumb as everyone else in the organization.

            Why, because he was hired by the worst Hockey Manager in the league. 6 rings.

          • Randaman

            Thank-you. I was starting to think we had all lost perspective. I like Sam, don’t get me wrong here but the fit has outgrown the waist line so to speak. Time to cut bait and move on. Plain and simply the numbers are poor based on anybody who has been on his line failing miserably!

    • Harry2

      Mac T is about as smart as everyone in the organization.

      This is the reason we suck.

      Fire them all.

      By the way. Cancelled my gold Tier 1 tickets. Won’t renew as long as Lowe et al are around. Guaranteed not to win, so thought I would save some $$$.

  • '68 Fire Chicken

    Why does every player with one good season in OKC have to be thrown to the wolves at the NHL level? Play him at 4C and on one of the PK units, let him adapt to the speed of the NHL, and have him learn and earn his way further up the lineup. If he never figures out how to score, then fine, at least you can develop a competent checking center for the fourth line and PK.

  • '68 Fire Chicken

    This team desperately needs some guys from OKC to step up and earn some spots in the show. As much as we want Mactavish to shake up the roster, any trades he makes will only open up another hole. We need some cheap value contracts to produce for us in depth roles.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    this article about lander stinks. once again its the oilers system that holds guys back like him. he is and will be an nhl’er. hes not an omark. dont expect good offensive numbers while hes trying to make the team as a winger!! hes a natural centerman but is showing he can be very versatile. so willis u throw him to the wolves because of his lack of offence? he should not and will not go anywhere next season. the only place he should go is back to center. he is so much better than last yr. improving all the time in okc. most of oilers players needed more time in minors to develop but were forced into nhl roles and has delayed the whole learning curve process. do it right for a change with this guy…..please!!!!

  • "Frank the dog"

    Lander is an example in the difference in coaching quality between OKC and EDM, in the most negative way.
    The OKC coaching team brings out the best in their young prospects.

    The Oil Assistants are the only constants left in our years of suck. Everything else has changed, and those two grind the life out of every gem they are given.

    It’s not Lander’s fault, it’s not even Eakins, this one’s on Bucky’s lengthy and proven incompetence in this role.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Wasn’t too long ago. All the ever present hype surrounding these kids coming across the pond. Many felt Lander was the future captain of this Oiler hockey club.

    Not with this organization. Run Anton, run as fast and as far away from this team as possible. Don’t give up on an NHL career just yet. Things will be different when you’re in an organization that is actually committed to winning.

    • Harry2

      A buddy of mine who used to live in EDM tild me that Hall was hated in the city and he was a massive drunk and.hes been baned from 6 different night clubs and blah blah blah blah. Naturally Im thinking hes just trying to get me going but is there any truth to his BS?

    • So so so true.

      So the guy has 1 point… yeah that does suck. However, he’s 22? He so damn young. Why do we always put some much pressure on young players?

      I think we need to turn the oilers organization into an AHL team for crying out loud. Just because a guy isn’t competing as a high level in their early 20s doesn’t mean we should write them off.

      God this article was pathetic.

      • BLAKPOO

        You know, I don’t disagree with you. Lander could turn out to be a quality NHLer.

        Problem is, this is the Oilers. Given the terrible recent history of this team, and the fact that bringing in quality UFAs is next to impossible, we tend to hoard.

        You could look back through the years and lose count of players that were well past their usefulness that we held on to for too long. We always wait until we’re “super-sure”, then we end up trading once valuable pieces for late round picks and chaff.

        Not only do your assets lose their value, you cause a logjam in the minors that restricts other potential break-out players from emerging.

        Imagine how much better a return we could have had for Omark if we traded him after his first tantrum? Or if we actually traded Whitney at the start of the year?

        Lander may move on from here and do well. Good for him. As an organization though it’s important to keep the pipes flowing. He’s getting a golden opportunity to prove himself, and he’s had ample time in the past as well. If he’s not “clicking” with this team as it is, no sense keeping him around. He’s not a player you build around, so best to move him while he still has value.

        • Harry2

          You make some good points, but how much “value” could they get for a player who can’t crack the 29th place team’s line-up?

          One of the reasons for the Oil’s current problem has been an almost uncanny ability to mis-evaluate player’s abilities. Keeping Pouliot over Brodziak, JF Jaques rather than Chimera, thinking O’Sullivan and Nillson could be NHL players.

          I’m glad to see the GM for most of these decisions was required to account for his actions. What ever happened to that guy?

          It’s interesting to contrast the expectations of the hated Canucks organization with the Oil. Yesterday Gillis said he could quite possibly be fired for missing the playoffs for one year and hiring Torts. Meanwhile the Oil management think they are doing a fine job.

          • Harry2

            Thats not at all what Gillis was saying. Hes pissed that ownership is meddling too much. Ownership hired Torts and Gillis was saying to let him run the team or hes gone. Get a clue man!

          • BLAKPOO

            Every team, at some point, is going to make a wrong decision about a player. It’s natural. It’s not always the scouting or management’s error.. maybe the player was playing poorly and the reality check of getting dealt or busted back down sparks them to bigger things? I’m sure it’s different for each player.

            Point is, Lander – and Arco for that matter – are AHL offensive standouts. Whether or not they mesh well with a disorganized 29th place Oilers team could either be considered a detriment or a bonus. No one will argue that Paajarvi would have been better off here, because he wouldn’t have. He’s twice the player today as he was when he left, but he would never have reached that level playing here. Some players are just not meant to be on some teams.