Weekend recap: Marincin to Minors


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Recently by Jason Gregor: 

    • Sevenseven

      I hope Draisaitl is getting a 9 game audition as well. If the kid is not good enough don’t burn a year of ELC. Let him round out his game in junior. Maybe give a bit of conditioning stint in OKC next year and then look to bring him up.

      We don’t have the quality to make the playoffs so why rush player development. Follow Button’s philosophy with all our prospects. I like that Yakimov was assigned to AHL. He looks to be legit prospects and some seasoning in the AHL will only increase his confidence and make him more NHL ready!

      Isles made some nice deals with Leddy and Boychuk, hope Oil can find a 3rd line center.

      • Jason Gregor

        What does Draisaitl have to proove on a terrible PA team. We don’t have enough center depth to not keep him, and this not burning a year of entry level would make sense if you were at the beggining of a rebuild. This team needs to fill hole and now.

        Also if your needing a center, the Oilers put themself in precarious position to stick him in PA and weaken your leverage and half to overpay for a center more then we do now.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      IMHO Nurse is being rewarded for a good training camp with the team investing 9 games worth of NHL time. When the smoke all clears I suspect Marincin is back sooner rather than later and Hunt probably the odd man out. Nice to finally have some options vs the shotgun approach previously, the more time we are able to play our roster potentials in the AHL the better, wish we could afford to send back Draisatl to junior as well but we have no depth at center yet.

      • The Ever Disappointed Oil Faithful

        100% Agree, I even think if Leon shows he’s unable to hang with the big boys then he will be sent down as well and they would call up Yakimov or put in Arco.

    • I like the balance of this article. The world is not going to end because Marincin plays a few games in OKC. Nor is it going to end because Nurse is given a potentially 9 game extension of training camp. Hunt will have the chance to show his wares as the 2PP QB while Nikitin heals.

      The overriding message which I think is being sent is that the Oilers are looking beyond the first 10 games of the season and have now given themselves some options if one of their D plays poorly or gets injured. It is a good thing that they can call on Marincin when needed.

    • Armchair_Gm

      Completely agree with Button, nurse hasn’t been dominate theres a world of difference between yeah this kid can play to yeah this kid can dominate. He has a chance at being something elite, why rush him?……or Draisatl for that matter. This team isn’t making the playoffs so why burn their first year of elc.

    • Zarny

      Super sad not to see Boychuck in an Oilers uniform. Maybe they can get him next year in free agency if Petry decides on a trade at the deadline. He brings experience, leadership, skill, and chemistry with Ference. He doesn’t put up huge numbers but does play top line minutes on the right side. This should be the guy that comes in and helps mentor all the left side D kids.

      A second pairing of Boychuck and Nurse next year would be amazing.

      Button’s comments are valid, but completely separate themselves from how teams build today, what their needs are, and how the game is sold. I agree that Nurse can still learn in junior, and that it takes an exceptional 18 year old to have success, and that not just drafting but developing is key for a team success, but there are exceptional 18 and 19 year olds. In terms of maturity, Nurse and Drai are very impressive on that front. Drai talks like a vet, and Nurse just has such a clear focus and drive to achieve.

      • Jason Gregor

        How teams build today?

        Subban didn’t play at 19, neither did Weber, Pietrangelo, Keith and many others. I’d say they are building for today.

        Boychuk is going to get Orpik money as a UFA. You want to pay him $5.5 million or more to be a 2nd line Dman.

        And if Boychuk is your 2nd pair D-man, who is the first?

        • Zarny

          I think my comments skewed more towards forwards, and likely the article was talking more about defense. So maybe it’s not a fair argument to make on my half. But, and I could be wrong, teams today seem like they are favoring mobile defenders with good puck moving skills.

          I know there has been a lot written about the death of the defensive defenceman (on a side note, spell check needs to decide how to spell defenceman.)

          Teams are also generally getting a lot younger than from Button’s days. I mean now people talk about 30 year olds as past their prime.

          Also, Button’s specific comments seem to be a bit arbitrary in what they are based on:

          Younger players do not have the resilience.

          Younger players will be overwhelmed by the quality of NHL players.

          Younger players are going to be tested at every turn, with older guys trying to “break them”.

          These are the three specific things Button says young players can’t overcome, and therefore will be detriments to their development.

          However, there is nothing concrete out there that says young players can’t be resilient, can’t compete against the competition, and can’t weather the storm to develop properly.

          Now by and large I agree with Button and think Nurse should go back to junior. However, the kid does and has demonstrated a maturity level, drive, focus, and work ethic, that not only sets him apart from most 18, 19 year olds, but would also give him the mental skills necessary to overcome some of Button’s proposed obstacles.

          Players like off the top of my head, Doughty, Headman, and recently Murray, Jones, and Ekblad all made the jump (though in Murray’s case not right away) pretty much out of the draft. And of course the jury is still out on Ekblad, and Headman took a while, and Doughty was not dominant his first year, I think these are examples of young players who were not hampered by Button’s pitfalls for young players.

          Good points on Boychuck, though I see more upside than Orpik. I suppose my D lines would look like this:

          Nikitin Fayne

          Nurse Boychuck

          Klefbom Shultz

          • Jason Gregor

            Murray was 20…late birthday had him drafted a year later than Nurse…

            So Doughty is the only guy who made big impact on his team right away, so why risk it? Hedman took three years before he was impactful guy on blueline.

            • Jason Gregor

              Well, again I could and likely am wrong as Button was an NHL GM and I’m just some guy procrastinating at work, but the article says nothing about being impactful. It is about development, and the proper way for these young guys to develop. Button clearly thinks development is going to be hampered because of reasons we already discussed, and I am saying there are exceptions to the rule, and believe Nurse is one of those exceptions.

              I am not expecting Nurse to come in and be a stud D man right away. But I would contend it’s a risk either way. No one has a crystal ball, so saying just because they are young their development will be hampered is a bit of a generalization. Either way to me is a risk. You’re saying why risk it. I’m saying what if it was worth the risk. Even though, I’m not saying that because I agree he should go back to junior.

              But, if he doesn’t get sent back, I’m not going to believe Nurse no longer has a future.

              Do you think Ekblad or Jones should have gone back to junior? Of the three who is the best NHL defenceman right now? An obvious way to go would be Jones, Ekblad, Nurse, but the honest answer is no one knows. And just because he’s not a top pairing minute muncher out of the gate does not mean he will not be impactful. Nurse has potential to be a better L side D for Edmonton than at least one of the current candidates. So team that is a positive impact.

              Anyway, sorry for the long ranty responses. I guess my main point was that Button seemed a bit out of touch in terms of generalizing all young players entering the league.

        • RyanCoke

          There is a chance johnny wants to play at home with his family and will accept less money to be close to home and to be on the team he grew up cheering for.

        • Zarny

          JG, the flaw in your research is three of four D you mention aren’t first rounders.

          Please revisit your research. If you look at top ten drafted defensemen you’ll find that more than half the time these D are playing in bigs at D+0 or D+1, within one season of draft.

          Button is blowing smoke.

    • The Ever Disappointed Oil Faithful

      The NHL is a man’s league, I agree with Button. Nurse has a lot left to learn in junior.He got snubbed form the WJC last year, let him go back and be a force on Canada’s blueline. Let him captain the Greyhound and become the leader the Oiler’s backend needs (Schultz can put up points but is he quality leader material?).

      I would much prefer Draisaitl in the Dub this year, if only to have that one year of maturity before he is tossed into the mix of Getzlaf, Kopitar, Thornton, and Brown. I do however cede that he is built like a man and has exceptional hockey sense and has Henrik Sedin passing potential, he earned his roster spot. It is just sad that the spot was his to lose in the first place.

    • A-Mc

      I just want the season to start already!

      I wish all the youngsters luck, but ultimately i just want the oilers to win! What ever needs to happen to get atleast a .500 record this season, I’m good with.


    • Sevenseven

      Its to bad Ference has a NMC or else they could have sent him down and kept Marincin “On Merit”. If Nurse, klefbom and Nikitin look great, all of a sudden Ference is number 7 and sitting in that pressbox.

          • Zarny

            Ethan Moreau was captain, and was heavily involved in the community. In fact, he won an NHL award for his off ice charitable work.

            Yet he was placed on waivers for the purpose of being bought out. Columbus picked him up.

            Ference has been passed by Marincin, and Klefbom, (and is behind Nikitin). Next year, Nurse will also have blown by him.

            You keep your spot on the team by being good at hockey, and Ference is probably our fifth best left-handed D. They should try and move him at the deadline, and failing that, buy him out in the summer.

    • oilerjed

      My hopes is that Nurse is here to get a couple of paydays so he can enjoy his last year in Junior and Draisaitl is only here until MacT pulls the trigger on a move to get a 2c. You have 9 games Mac and the clock is ticking.

    • Zarny

      “WOODGUY” post copied from Lowetide. Says it all.

      What we can clearly see here is that outside of the 1st game where the Oilers stacked their home team and the Flames stacked their Home team Marincin completely dominated Klefbom. I mean annihilated him. If we go so far as to take the 1st game for both of them away then the separation between the players is even greater.

      Klefbom is a -6 in games where the Oilers were a +10 and Marincin is a +21 in games where the Oilers were a +8. We’re talking about a big swing here. And if we go back into last year’s date then the facts present themselves pretty clearly.

      The Oilers sent the wrong man down.

      But, hey hold on here. Corsi isn’t the be all and end all of statistics. There are more things going on here.

      It’s true. There are.

      Marincin played mostly with Keith Aulie and on his off-side while Klefbom skated with far superior players. Despite the millstone around his neck Martin Marincin managed to completely outplay Klefbom by fancy stats AND more traditional ones too.

      You see, after Justin Schultz, Marincin had the next highest points by a defender in the Oilers’ preseason. He had 2 assists which tied him with Brad Hunt for that 2nd spot on the scoring list. Oscar Klefbom? 0 points.

      But it’s not just about points. Sometimes you are pushing the attack but the bounces just don’t go your way. Klefbom played 4 games and we shouldn’t be too worried if a Defenseman goes 4 games without a point if they’re contributing to the attack and it just isn’t going their way.

      No, it’s not the points that concern me, it’s the fact that in 4 games played Klefbom managed just 5 shots on goal.

      Marincin? Martin Marincin generated 17 shots in 6 games as per the Oilers themselves. It’s actually the highest number of shots by any player in the Oilers organization during preseason. Not just by a defenseman either. The highest number of shots, period.

    • Jason Gregor

      I think Acton got the job based on merit. He fought, put up points including a goal off a nice feed from Lander, and was gritty in the corners. Just what we needed.

    • Zarny

      Good article with some sage advice.

      Elliotte Friedman has commented it’s time to end the silly notion that starting the season in the AHL is a failure and he’s absolutely correct. The AHL is arguably the 2nd best league in the world. Nothing about playing in the AHL is a failure. Full stop.

      A lot of lip service is given to how good the Red Wing’s organization has been over the last 20+ years. The tune seems to change when it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. One key to Detroit’s success is when they recall players they are NHL ready no ifs, ands or buts. That’s because of how long their prospects play in the AHL.

      Button and Gregor are bang on with their advice for Nurse and other young players. Some comment as if Nurse completely dominated the OHL last year. Ummm no…he wasn’t a captain. He wasn’t one of Canada’s top 8 D at the World Jr’s.

      Comparing Nurse to Drew Doughty is beyond ridiculous. Drew Doughty had 74 PT as a 16-17 y/o. Nurse isn’t that kind of prospect and it’s not even close. If PK Subban and Shea Weber can play 2 additional years of Junior then so can Nurse. He’s a very good prospect but he’s not Chris Pronger.

    • Jason Gregor

      We are going on 2 years(yes, two years now Tams2) waiting for Mact. to obtain a decent center . Last year it was Hall to start things off . Since we rid ourselves of Gagner with no replacement we have been stuck with AHL’ers of little value trying to get better results – not going to happen again this year either . Draisaitl does not change that even if he goes beyond 9 games . That is the biggest disappointment so far this season . Maybe club has decided this is not a year to bother being competitive once again , or our GM is vastly overrated .Optimism at a minimum with current center dilemmas .

    • Numenius

      Marincin may turn the best defensive Dman the Oilers have drafted, well ever. (Coffey is a hall of famer but mostly for his offensive abilities). When was the last time a 21 year old rookie broke onto a team and quickly established himself as the shutdown dman. I know if was only the Oilers and the bar was pretty low, but still impressive.

      So why did they send him to OKC? It doesn’t have much to do with performance and I speculate this is a “sending a message” move. As others have mentioned, maybe similar to the Messier demotion in his rookie year. Maybe he showed up in camp in less than desired shape and he was a good as sent down after the fitness testing. I expect Marincin will be back within a few weeks.

      • Numenius

        This could be a message move. It could be a Mac T likes K bom more. It could be an Eakins reward for Nurse. Or, it could be that Eakins and Mac T value the size Nurse and K bom bring over Marincin. I’m sure newly hired Dellows is telling Mac T and Eakins why they are morons in a much louder and educated voice than any of us could.

        However, if we set aside the conspiracy theories for a second, then maybe Eakins really does believe K bom’s size and conditioning will make him a better defender than Marincin. He’s the only one who had the size to break up the LA cycle in the abysmal second last game of the year last season.

    • Numenius

      I don’t get the Joensuu hate. His play dropped off last year after a serious back injury. Pitlick’s play, on the other hand, never really got started. Joensuu has at least demonstrated the possibility of bringing offence, something Pitlick hasn’t managed to accomplish at the AHL level.

      Pitlick is a prospect, he’s a year or more away from contributing to an NHL roster. Go to the farm and do what Lander did last year, then we can talk about being deserving of a spot.

      JJ outscored practically the whole team in pre season. He might not keep it up in the regular season, but the odds are better for him than they are for Pitlick of Pinzotto.

    • Numenius

      On the Darnell Nurse situation, I have to agree with Craig Button, (not because he revealed something so unknown to most hockey loving people), but because I think there is a defenceman on the Oilers that can properly mentor him.

      I also agree with the fact playing on the Canadian world junior team would be an excellent way for him to develop………with players his own age. This short but impactful tournament has launched many- a -player directly inot the NHL. If he can dominate at that tournament, I think the general concenuse will be he is damn good and ready for the NHL.

      I would have sent him back now and had MM play in his place. The talking hair doll, told him to buld up, so he did……..and now he is out of shape??

      Bring back the donuts…….just not the Honey Crullers.

    • Do what Weight did?

      If the Silver Fox wanted to trade a defensive prospect for a Centre, would he be best to showcase that young D prospect in the NHL to start the season? Could the Oil be trying to hilight the value of Klefbomb with the intention of moving him and holding on to Marincin?

    • Serious Gord

      Nothing is going to hinder or derail Darnell Nurse, his development will be continuous and in a straight line regardless of where he plays this season. This guy was drafted last season and has done all that was asked of him up to this point so I say let him play. Darnell is an athlete and shows great mental and physical attributes plus you have to like his edge just what the doctor ordered for this team no pun intended. I like Craig Button but he has not suffered like an Oiler fan has and if the kid helps us win I say keep him.

    • Zarny

      Sorry JG but it seems we have a double standard in your article and with Oilers coaches.

      Nurse has a good camp but gets rewarded. Klefbom??? Ah not so much but gets rewarded. I think Marcinin outplayed hime especially in final two games.

      Acton? The only reason I see is he’s versatile so he stays? But the guys who played well in camp and maybe “earned” a spot like Nurse did “oh well” sorry Pitlick and Panz your not versatile.

      And finally, and most importantly, is this question “Which players will win us our first 10 games”. We play 5 games against the East ( 5 against the West) in our first 10 and if we don’t want a repeat of the horrendous 2013-14 we need to win thos East games – So which roster does this for you? the inexperienced 19 year old on the backend about to schooled by the Sedins? The journeyman AHL guy who played the preseason like a journeyman AHL guy?

      Not a good consistent message to a team that is trying to bond together but rather may start trying driving a huge wedge through the a delicate locker room.

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      The greatest fear I have, is not because the Oil didn’t get their 2nd C man; It’s not because they didn’t get the right pairings on D; It’s not deciding which goalie will emerge as No.1. It’s the players themselves!!! ‘ The elite 23 ‘ so to speak!! Listening to them talking with the press, scared the hell out of me! Them saying how they thought the players that were brought in would solve the problems they had last /last few seasons! Not true!!! The real problem lies within the whole group of players, not understanding what they have to do to be successful in the NHL!!! They seemed to think that ‘Knowing the problem’ is solving the problem, WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
      Working to correct the bad habit IS! And by watching them played their last Pre-season game tells me that they’re still far from rectifying their woes! Fayne, Nikitin, Pouliot and Purcell are good players in their own rights, But, they’re not the answer to the Oil’s prayer, success hinges on whether the whole team buys into playing an fundamentally sound game, consistently !!! And, their ATTACKS has to be in unisons, not individually, in other words, coaching staff has to earn their keeps by implementing some pre-designed plans of attack, and have the team practice on it, it might sound lame for some, but ultimately, it will work, it always does!!!