Iiro Pakarinen & Winning an NHL Job

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Good enough simply isn’t good enough for a young prospect trying to earn a spot in the NHL. The rules are a little different for high picks, who have enough cachet to survive simply surviving, but for the majority of players trying to force their way into an NHL job it’s necessary to steal it from someone else and that typically requires more than passable play.

We’re still in early days, but Iiro Pakarinen looks like a player who might be able to deliver that.

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First Two Games

Two games into his NHL career, Pakarinen has played a little under 14 minutes of total ice time. He’s been credited with three hits, which is actually a little on the low side; I recorded five in my notes against Boston alone and I wasn’t particularly tracking them. He’s fired the puck on net six times in that span. He also scored his first career goal.

After Friday’s game Pakarinen talked about how excited he was to score his first goal, how he was a little nervous in his first game but felt better against the Sabres, but he also mentioned that even when the Oilers were trailing he was extremely confident that Edmonton would get the win. Asked why, he offered a little insight into what points he prioritizes in a hockey game.

“We got a lot of pucks [on net and] our forecheck going on out there,” Pakarinen said. “I think that’s the thing: When you’ve got a lot of pucks to the net and a few hits and the forecheck going, that’s the thing when you’ve got your game going on.”

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Are those clichés? Absolutely. But they’ve also been the foundations of Pakarinen’s game in the early going in Edmonton. He puts pucks on net. He gets in on the forecheck. He lands hits. It’s simple, but those are qualities the Oilers don’t always bring.

If he keeps doing those things, it’s going to be difficult to send him back to the minors when Taylor Hall gets back.

The Direct Competition

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The Oilers have a pretty clearly defined top-12 forward group. Will Acton sat for ages in between games because there was nobody obvious to scratch; the top six wingers are all proven NHL veterans or Nail Yakupov, there aren’t any other credible options at centre and the “fourth” line of Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon and Jesse Joensuu has played so brilliantly it is tough to split it up.

The injury to Hall created an opening, and Dallas Eakins has shown his preferred method of handling it. Pakarinen is playing 6:45 per game despite being dressed on a scoring line; the coaching staff has done that mostly by double-shifting Yakupov in places. It’s a reasonable strategy, and it’s probably what we’ll see from the coach as long as there’s a big drop-off between the top five scoring line wingers and the sixth.

If the Oilers decide to keep Luke Gazdic and play him at times, it’s easy to imagine the coach using him the same way, spotting him for five minutes per night on a scoring line. That frees up the fourth line to keep doing their important defensive zone work, while at the same time limiting how much impact he has on the team’s offensive ability.

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The question is whether it’s better to go with Gazdic or with someone like Pakarinen. Pakarinen hasn’t been a drain on his line when he’s on the ice; he has a clue in the defensive zone and his willingness to shoot the puck is extremely welcome. There’s a massive gap between the two players in that department: while it only took Pakarinen 13 minutes to fire his first six shots it took Gazdic 13 games last season.

At some point in the very near future Edmonton is going to need to decide whether it prefers to have a heavyweight on the roster or a guy like Pakarinen who just might be able to positively impact the game in other areas.

And that’s why Pakarinen can’t just play well in this stint if he’s going to win a job; he has to be very good to convinced Edmonton to give up their enforcer security blanket. If he’s just passable, it becomes much easier to keep Gazdic for fear that somewhere along the line he’ll be needed, particularly since Pakarinen doesn’t need to clear waivers to go back to the minors. 

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RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS


  • Zarny

    Seriously, just build the team with more Finns (the Swede Fasth can stay, he doesn’t flop around like scrivens the goldfish and has those based nordic goalie instincts)

    trade eberle for Valtteri Flippula

    Anahaim can have Schultz back. We Don’t want him. J. Schultz and Poilout to the ducks for Sami Vatanen

    Yakupov to the penguins Olli Matta

    crosby gets a winger and we get a solid dman

    • Spydyr

      this team right here is now a playoff team

      I’m sure Dr. Drai can play wing.

      Nuge 1c
      Flip 2c
      Arc/Drai 3c
      Boyds 4c

      Olli Matta and Sami Vatanen playing strong 2 way defense

      problems all solved

  • Zarny

    Valtteri Flipps is legit one of the best 2C’s in the game on playoff teams.

    Eberle would have trouble making it on as a 3RW on any playoff team.

    Flipps makes 200% more impact on any game where you have seen them play against each other

    Edmonton has a love affair for a small player who isn’t physical and tries and fails like 98% of his backhand shots.

    It’s time to put this relationship to an end and salvage it for a legitimate player

    • Zarny

      Even if MacT went to Stevey Y and asked

      “Yo Steve, Ebs for Flipps? What do you think?

      Yzerman would laugh his butt off and ask MacT

      “ARE YOU HIGH?”

      MacT would reply “No… just very… very drunk”

      Look at what happened when traded them gagner for Teddy P. THEY FLIPPED HIM FOR A DRAFT PICK AND BJ CROMBEEN LOL.

      THIS IS A PLAYER WHO ONCE SCORED 8 points in a night.

      There is NO chance in hell Steve Y would trade Flipps for Eberle. It just wouldn’t happen

      and you dumb rednecks in edmonton think eberle is the greatest hockey player in the world. You NEED a reality check.

      • Randaman

        But Eberle does great commercials and his best friend is Hall!

        I would bet dollars to doughnuts that if Eberle gets traded, Hall demands a trade 3 minutes later.

        MacT doesn’t have the balls to make this team better and most fans are right behind him.

        Don’t trade anybody, just fire Eakins and hire Blysma, that will fix everything!

        Wake up people…

        • Spydyr

          I don’t know about you but I don’t trust Mac-T to win a trade.

          He left/was fired here as coach.None of the other 29 teams thought him worthy of an NHL coaching job for years.

          So in typical Oiler fashion they hire him back and give him a promotion to a position he has no experience in and is most likely not deserving.

          People here still wonder why this has been going on so long.

          The only fix is from the top.

          You cannot expect the same people who created this crap show to fix it.

          As you say “wake up people.”

          • Zarny

            MacT’s resume as a coach is irrelevant in terms of his ability to negotiate with other GM’s. Completely different skill sets.

            Not to mention, who do you think won the Perron trade? I believe that was executed by MacT.

            In fact, to date I don’t think you can cite an example of MacT being fleeced in a trade.

            If anything, with MacT setting a world record for talking Holmgren’s ear off at the draft and the numerous trade rumors that never come to fruition the bigger concern is MacT being too conservative to pull the trigger on a good deal.

            There is zero evidence to suggest MacT can’t be “trusted” on any deal he actually executes.

          • Randaman

            As usual you cherry pick the one thing he got right. The only reason that happened was because of the cap crunch in St Louis and you know it.

            Tell us something we don’t already know for once

          • Zarny

            The one thing he got right?

            By all means then…tell everyone about all those deals MacT didn’t get right.

            Were mid to late round picks too much for Fasth or Scrivens? Perhaps you feel he got too little value for Gagner. Or was it LaBarbera he shipped out at a discount lol?

            How about for once you say something that isn’t complete drivel.

          • Spydyr

            We get you are a Mac-T fan.Your evidence is talk and rumors.Hearsay.

            My evidence is the teams record and the promotion of a coach no one wanted to GM with no experience.He shot his big mouth off about Horcoff and Hemsky and we are all still waiting for his “bold” move.

            I have very little faith in the Oilers “Braintrust” doing much of anything right.Their past record backs that statement.

          • Zarny

            I wouldn’t describe myself as a MacT “fan”. He’s had some hits and some misses. In general, I think the moves he has made have been relatively good but more indicative of a contender not a bottom 5 team.

            My point was simply that when he’s actually made a trade he’s done ok. I don’t think it’s a valid concern that if he traded a marquee player he’d get fleeced.

            I think the bigger concern are trades he’s too conservative to make. You’re right in terms of a “bold” move all we have so far are rumors and speculation. I don’t agree with relying on Draisaitl and Arcobello instead of acquiring a legit 2C. I don’t agree with clinging to every draft pick and prospect especially when there is a logjam and duplication at left D but holes pretty much everywhere else.

            I don’t agree with the general approach of doing as little as possible while they continually wait for prospects to develop. I think another slow start is an indictment of the wait and see approach. And if wins continue to be elusive the indictment becomes stronger and the blame lies with MacT.

          • Zarny

            I’m with Zarny. All the MacT haters miss the point that he’s dealing from a position of relative weakness, in that for a trade to be made the other GM has to agree. The Oilers problems are well documented and the other GM’s in the league are well aware. The posters who castigate Mac for not getting a “first pairing D” or a “number one center” are inherently assuming the other GM’s who have those assets are stupid.

            I think Mac is well aware of the problems on this team – even the ones regarding the gutless play of many Oilers… but solving the problem is going to take time. A trade made out of panic would only make things worse. I think that’s the reason for a few of his gambles, he was losing little but hoping for a win.

            Now, if he does absolutely nothing, then he has to get the accountability, but I think it’s more he’s waiting for the opportunities and not just doing something stupid. I’m not a “fan” of his either, but recognize the environment.

  • Ever the Optimist

    Management needs to get their heads out of the sand. Given his resume and reputation how was he not in the lineup sooner?

    He better stick as so far he has been more valuable than Joensuu or Hendricks. Great call by Dallas sitting him for the third periods and double shifting the top lines… worked great in Boston (not really), lucky it worked out tonight.

    Because its the Oilers though they’ll send him down, and then call him back up once they’re officially eliminated from the playoffs. Then he’ll play well for the rest of the year, next season he’ll start in the minors.

    Complaints aside, Iiro is rad. Great at establishing position using his body. They need this kind of player to fill out the roster and other players can learn from him

  • Coppperhead

    This Oilers team has the talent and big bodies but it’s playing like an AHL team because of the idiot coach.

    Oilers playing the worst team in NHL and barely beat Sabres 3-2, they were actually behind and could have lost the game.

    If Oilers play in AHL now they might not make playoffs there let only compete in NHL level.

    Bring in an experience NHL coach and goal tending coach too please.

    When’s the last time Oilers scored a power play goal?

      • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

        The last 12 games Oilers scored only 3 power play goals, you can’t win games that way.

        With Tom Renny and Ralph Kreuger, Oilers were among top 5 in PP and good in PK.

        Why don’t you stick your head up your ass Lumley?

        Don’t call me name here, I was asking when they last scored a PP goal. I missed the game stats last night because they lost leading 2-1 in the third.

        You dumbass. Say that to my face I grip your freaking head off you retard monkey.

        • Coppperhead

          You’re so angry.
          Maybe you should check out all the stats before you ask such a simple question. Re. The powerplay goal.

          Did Kreuger and Renney play on the powerplay? Did they kill penalties as well?

          They sure did lose leading 2-1 in the 3rd, that’s rather irrelevant seeing as the first goal the Oilers scored was a power play goal, that was in the first period.

          Quit being so angry and uttering threats, it’s not nice and you may get in trouble.

          • Randaman

            Spin-job by Lumley.

            @Jason…..let it go like water off a Ducks arse. You were provoked and reacted.

            The points about Kruegers excellent management of the Special Teams and how important those areas are in todays NHL STAND SOLID,I am with Jason there.

          • Serious Gorg

            I don’t think Jason was mad because he got called a “dumbass”.
            I think he was embarrassed because he forgot to check the box score before making a statement. He then lashed out by threatening to jimmy someone’s head from their shoulders..

            Nice try, but no.

    • Zarny

      I’ll take “what are the Detroit Red Wings for $200, Alex”

      You don’t need a designated fighter when you have a group pack mentality. Most of Detroit consists of softer playing Swedes & Europeans. They ALWAYS stand up for eachother and don’t need someone else to do their dirty work. They do it them selves when called upon.

  • Randaman

    Draisaitl for Soderberg. Yak and Khaira for Hanzal. Schultz+ for Green.

    Poaching future UFAs.

    Fire Eakins, hire Bylsma and make Nelson associate. Ramsay and Rocky are up to Bylsma. Replace Chabot with Khabibulin or any other former NHL goalie who was actually successful for some period in their career.

  • Ever the Optimist

    “the top six wingers are all proven NHL veterans or Nail Yakupov”

    Nice little dig at yak Willis. Do you mean proven like eberle who is invisible without his cash cow Buddy Hall to play with? Or proven like every other top 6 winger in the league that gets top 6 minutes and top 6 linemates to play with?