The Oilers finalized their roster yesterday, and Martin Marincin’s demotion to OKC was the biggest surprise, but not a complete shocker from where I sit.
Marincin will be a fine NHL player, and because he starts the season in the AHL doesn’t mean the Oilers have lost faith in him, it means they actually have some depth on the blueline. Finally.
Was sending Marincin down the right move? What about keeping Nurse? Or how Eakins used the preseason games to get his forwards ready for the season. We discuss all that and more in the weekend recap.
I felt from the start of training camp that one of Marincin or Oscar Klefbom was going to start the season in OKC. It made no sense to keep both, and have one in the pressbox every night. They are still young, and both need to play. However, I’m a bit surprised that the Oilers elected to keep Darnell Nurse ahead of Marincin.
I don’t see Nurse staying in Edmonton all season, and it is debatable how much, if any, playing nine NHL games before going back to junior this season will impact his overall career. Nurse played well, but if Nikita Nikitin was healthy would he be here? I doubt it, so why delay the inevitable?
It won’t hurt having Nurse here, but Marincin’s play improved during in his final preseason games and I think his overall game, today, is more mature than Nurse’s. I believe Nurse will be the best D-man in the future, and obviously the Oilers wanted to give him a taste of regular season games, but I don’t see any reason to rush him into the NHL.
Keeping Nurse and demoting Marincin could have been a dual message. They want Marincin to play hungrier, because early in camp he played like a veteran who thought he had a guaranteed spot in the lineup. You shouldn’t be doing that when you’ve only played 44 NHL games, and they wanted to reward Nurse. The good news about having depth is that you can take guys out of the lineup or send them down, and not worry that the drop off from player A to player B is that drastic. It will be nice when the Oilers have the same depth at centre.
I expect Marincin to be back in Edmonton sooner than later, and when he returns he will play well.
TSN scout and draft analyst and former NHL GM, Craig Button joins me every Friday on my show. I love how passionate Button is about hockey. He loves it. He’s been around the game a long time. He’s had success and failure, like most NHL people, and I asked him about developing young players. Drafting is the first step, but developing players is the key ingredient to building a winner.
Gregor: What is the most common mistake teams make when it comes to developing players?
Craig Button: Well I think that the biggest
mistake they make is putting the players into positions that they are not
anywhere near ready to handle.
When you’re drafted in the NHL you have the
talent and skills that have been recognized and teams feel that you can develop
them and eventually help your team be successful. Obviously the guys in the
first round have more talent on draft day than the other players, but just
because you’re a first round draft pick doesn’t mean you can go and compete
successfully in the NHL, and you know, competing successfully also means being
able to maintain your confidence.
I mean, this is a man’s league. This is the
league that takes no prisoners and is unforgiving and so you need to have
resilience even when you are 21 and 22. And at 18 or 19 years of age, when you
are not having success, when your team isn’t having success, you get
overwhelmed. Now that’s a real challenge.
So how do you avoid that? I’ll tell you
real simple, don’t put eighteen and nineteen year old kids in the league! The
majority of them aren’t ready.
Gregor: What about Darnell Nurse?
Button: He should go back to junior. He
needs to be a captain; he needs to be a leader, go play in the World Juniors
tournament — what’s wrong with all of those experiences? All of those
experiences are positive for development.
He’s not ready to play in the NHL, he’s not
ready to play in the Pacific Division against the quality of player that’s in
there, he’ll be overwhelmed and he’s not going to develop. I don’t care. People
tell me that he is too big for the Ontario Hockey League. Really? I haven’t
seen him absolutely dominate every game in the Ontario Hockey League.
Let him go back, let him mature
emotionally, let him mature as a leader, let him get bigger and stronger which
is going to occur, and let him go through that being the dominant guy. There is
nothing wrong with that.
Do you think there is any significant benefit in playing those nine games and
then going back to junior?
Button: I guess it all depends. I’m not
going to say unequivocally no, but I’m certainly not going to say yes.
It comes down to a case of why are you
delaying what’s going to be happening anyway? Why are you doing it? I mean it’s not like the Oilers don’t have
defencemen in the organization. And maybe not as good a potential as Darnell
Nurse, but if Darnell Nurse is going to go back to Sault Saint Marie, get him
back there. Get him started, get him playing there, [and] get him settled into
that situation. I think that’s the best thing and I understand it’s really hard to replace a NHL defenceman, if
he gets injured, so teams want to keep players like Nurse around, because once
they go to junior they are gone for the year, but again, and I emphasize it,
this is a man’s league, it’s not a boy’s league.
Gregor. You mentioned earlier that you don’t like
the statement “they have nothing left to learn in junior.” Why is that such an
inaccurate statement in your eyes?
Button: Well, I don’t know why it gets made
in the first place. I watched Paul Kariya dominate college hockey and he was ready
to leave college hockey. I tell players
that if they are thinking about leaving school and what not, especially younger
players, I said you haven’t dominated in college, what do you think you’re
going to turn pro and dominate? You haven’t dominated in junior and now you’re
going to turn pro and dominate? Give your head a shake.
Part of maturity is working through
frustration. If a young man is going to be frustrated by going back to junior
that’s fine, that’s part of the maturing process too. That’s part of
understanding what it takes to play in a man’s league, in a demanding league,
in a league that’s unforgiving and you know when you’re being tested.
People need to understand that if a young
player comes into the league, Darnell Nurse is going to be tested at every turn
because I’ll tell you what: the older players, the experienced players, the
players that have been in the league, if they can break this kid at a young
age, they’re going to do it because it’s going to make their life a whole lot
easier. It will make their careers a whole lot easier.
So why do you want to put a kid in there
that’s not ready for that? The downside is too great, the downside is too
It won’t surprise anyone that I’m in complete agreement with Button. I researched the past 15 years and noticed how many of the NHL’s current top D-men played junior at 19 or even 20. Nurse will eventually go back to junior, and I believe the rewards will out weigh the risks of staying in the NHL.
- Steve Pinizzotto, Anton Lander, Keith Aulie and Tyler Pitlick cleared waivers today and they will report to OKC. I would have kept Pinizzotto over Jesse Joensuu, and I won’t be surprised if he is recalled once Joensuu’s play tapers off.
- I’m likely in the minority, but I think Lander can still become an
effective NHL player. Another year of solid play in the AHL will help
him, but he’ll need to have a great year for the Oilers to sign him, and
likely he’ll need to play some NHL games and be productive. If Pitlick can stay healthy, I see him finding a regular spot in Edmonton at some point this season.
- Keeping Wil Acton doesn’t look great because his father is the assistant coach, but I don’t believe that played a factor at all. Eakins said they like him as a penalty killer, but he was quick to point out Acton will be the 13th forward. Will he develop more in the AHL than Lander or Pitlick? Probably not, so that could be a factor in his staying here to start the season. Either way, I’m not going to get to worked up over the 13th forward.
- I’m more concerned with how Eakins handled his forwards in the preseason. I thought he was wise to split the final four games between his obvious two goaltenders. He needed them to be sharp and prepared to start the season. However, his strategy regarding forwards might hinder the offence early on. It seemed he was more focused on competition and opportunity for players who weren’t going to be here.
- I liked the Islanders moves over the weekend. They added two NHL D-men for draft picks and mid-tier prospects. Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy solidify their backend and it makes the Islanders a legitimate playoff contender in the east. It also allows them the freedom to send Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock down to the AHL to learn the pro game. Garth Snow has made some head-scratching moves over the years, but these two trades were quite good.
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