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.

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“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.”

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.

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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.

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.

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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. 

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS


  • 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

    • BobbyCanuck

      Players who give a damn. Sorely lacking on this squad and has for years. I am in the camp that firmly believes Dallas should never have been hired, but through all these coaches a couple of things stay consistent. Fly Byes and Toe Drags. All of these coaches told the players when you have an opportunity to make a hit please don’t? Keep trying that toe drag thing, they are bound to go in eventually?
      Like anybody who comes to this shipwreck I believe Dallas is doomed no matter what he does.This team has no heart,pulse , or give a s*it factor.Perhaps in your time left here if a player chooses a fly by instead of making a hit or tries a toe drag that never works ,staple their ass to the pine regardless of name, draft pedigree or contract value. Lets face it, doesn’t really matter who is on the ice, this is a vastly inferior squad with little exception.

  • Serious Gorg

    Who’s the guy that fills up the Gatorade bottles? Yeah, that guy. I’d rather have that guy lace up skates and take up a roster spot than Will Acton. So Iiro can stay in my book.

  • 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

  • Serious Gorg

    For the most part Eakins et al have done a decent job with the deployment decisions on the forwards. So hopefully Gadzic does not replace Pakarinen anytime soon?

    What they are doing to the D is a completely different story. I was holding out hope that they would see the light. But the repeating thread with their D has made it clear they just cannot properly assess what makes an effective D man and how to maximize their abilities.

    • 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.

  • 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

    Just to be clear… After an offseason of pleading for a center due to our depth on the wings and empty hole down the middle, and only getting 2 more wingers, were suppose to be happy about another rookie winger?

    Don’t get me wrong, the kid looked alot better than what we have in a position that’s supposed to be our strength. Just not sure that’s a good thing…

  • 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?

  • Ever the Optimist

    Hmmmm imagine a guy that hits, shoots and isnt afraid is good for the oilers …… I may even have read this a time or two thousand over the last few years here.

    Me I am hoping he does well if for no other reason than to underline how important that role is on each and every line. It always seemed to me the best lines had a guy who could pass, a shooter and a guy for net front and corner work.

  • 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.

  • Coppperhead

    I really like what I’ve seen from Pakirainen but why rush him? Unless the Oilers make a move there’s no need to have him up here playing 7-10 minutes a night when he could be playing 18 down in OKC.

    Top 6 wingers – Hall, Eberle, Pouliot, Yakupov, Purcell, Perron. Does he really replace one of those guys?

  • Coppperhead

    To early to tell what this guy will bring to the game. Hasn’t even played an hour of hockey as an NHL,er . Check him out after 10 games or so and see what we have.

    Being an upgrade on Acton is no reason to plan any parades and, don’t tell MacT, he might pull out his standard $ 6 million contract.

  • Lumley

    Very pleased with the sustained effort level last night. The Oilers were full value for the win and dominated in terms of time of possession, shots on goal and their D played a sound game. That is as it should be when playing the lowest team on the NHL totem pole.

    I am seeing the Oilers D starting to gradually come together. This is encouraging but I feel that if training camp had been better managed we might be further ahead. I cannot understand how a team like the Oilers can virtually waste TC when it is such a critical time for teams to begin the process of establishing chemistry and then waste 10-12 games during the season trying to determine lines and pairings. The Oilers certainly had a long enough off season to give them time to prepare for training camp.

    • Serious Gord

      They were playing against the Sabres. A team so weak on offense that they are on track to shatter the season record for least goals scored.

      I take zero comfort from how the oil played against them – that they dominated should have been the expectation.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Any suggestions to trade Eberle, will get you trashes, and severe castigation.

    Eberle is the only top 6 player we have whose skill set is duplicated by other top 6 ers.

    He is the only player we have that would actually get us fair value in any trade, aside from Hall, and lets not even entertain the thought of trading Hall.

    If they want someone to fill the role of a power winger or high end D Man, they will have to trade Eberle. Any team with an over abundance of toughness and a lack of finesse would be interested in Ebs.

    Trash = I don’t care if we ever make the playoffs…McDavid!

    Props = Please do something, I do not want 2040 to roll around, with my grandkds on my lap, telling them about the time Oilers used to make the play-offs on a regular basis

    • 24% body fat

      props and trashed!

      most likely because anything we do wont make us better anyways, but there is a 1 in 1,000,000 chance Connor will and a 1 in 3,000,000 chance jack will.

      • Randaman

        @ Lumley

        “@Jason

        This is my first comment here and is a reply.

        The Oilers scored a powerplay goal yesterday you dumbass.

        You poked the Pony first,you hippocrite.

        You called him a Numb-Bass,and that was personal.

        Then tried to spin it.

        Shame…..

  • Darth Oiler

    If he shows well enough over the next couple of weeks. The organization might have the confidence to trade from a position of strength to shore up some weak spots. For example say perron petry and gernat and a 3rd for schen schen and a first

  • Harry2

    Perspective : Good to see us win , and players and coaches relish in a victory for a short time . Small consolation being as it was against Buffalo however , so not excited about the win like they were . Tomorrow back to reality ,and certainly hope they play much better in next two games against some reasonable opposition in Rangers and Predators . Hard to fathom and believe how poorly we look going into 9th year of rebuild . Last bit of reasonable optimism goes back to shortened year under Tams and Kreuger no less . Ahhh , those were the days when we thought we might be improving finally . Six rings stepped in and did a 360 , hired new people , and now we are back to stage one again in only two years . That’s the price we pay for having mild success in a shortened season I guess .

  • Andresito

    I didnt get a chance to watch the game. But judging by the highlights Buffalo had ALOT of quality chances. Almost surprising since Buffalo is probably as bad as a team has been in more than a decade. Does anyone else think Edm should make a BOLD move and change a few core members for a veteran centre/top dman?? Insane to think that this team will compete for a playoff spot.

  • Rdubb

    With everything that JW said above, i just cannot understand why Iiro isn’t getting a few more minutes per night. Your telling me that he cannot take 5 more shifts a night to push him over the 10 min mark? as the article says, he brings stuff that only one other line brings, and that is our so-called 4th line.
    He isn’t a defensive liablity, he’ll hit opposing players, plus he’ll shoot the puck when he is supposed to.
    Seriously, in a game like the one last night, there is no reason why he couldn’t have been given way more minutes, the Oil where dominating one the shot clock, plus i do believe that they had a big margin in puck control. so when they were down by a goal, why not play a guiy who is better than a ppg in OKC in his first 7 North American games. it is my opinion that is the reason why he was called up, so why not use him? see what he can do, give him a chance, let the kid play!!!
    I liked Purcell when he played with TB, but i just don’t see him being able to play with RNH & Eberle, so why not give Iiro a go at it, especially in the 3rd period against BUF, come on, it isn’t like the Oilers were playing PIT, SJ, ANA or LA…
    Give the kid some ice time, it must be terribly hard to get into the flow with your only getting 2 or 3 shifts a period…@ least toss him out on the PP, its not like that is clicking, and he could go get the pucks in the corners for the boyz…
    Eakins, let the kid PLAY…6:30 a game, you can’t see what he can fully bring in that tiny amount of time

  • Harry2

    I find myself wanting the Oilers to lose just to see the fallout. That is what I have been reduced to under this current management team.

    STOP BUYING TICKETS ALREADY!!!!

  • Andresito

    His skating seems a tiny bit laboured to me but he clearly makes up for that with drive. He seems like the kind of guy who could get under other players skin by playing hard all over the ice…. If that’s the case, keep him around!

  • Andresito

    Iiro the hero has balls and hits, not to mention he forechecks. Eberle, Schultz and Teddy bear won’t touch anybody. Sandpaper, heart and testicular fortitude is much needed on this team. Surround Hall, Nuge and Yak with those type of players and rid of the softies. Wait, that won’t happen because idiots run this organization. Sigh…

  • Andresito

    I never complain about a win……….in fact if we can win the next three there is no reason we cannot launch into the positive side of the ledger.

    If Iiro can be the next Tikannen, I say it’s time for Stu to get a promotion…….the kid looks solid and refuses to give up on any play.

    I do not know how others feel but watching the fourt line play effective hockey has been a real treat. We need another line like this.

  • Spydyr

    I wish we knew if we have a real player here, because it might be time for a trade(bold move)

    We can’t keep Iiro on the team to munch popcorn, might as well send him back to OKC if that was the case, but if there is really a big hard gritty fast skating player with hands here it is time for a trade.

    I see no points again from the first line, and all that powerplay time.

    I would like to see a little experiment done, Arcobello 6pts +2 goes to the first line, RNH 8pts -4 moves to the second line. Lets see if we can figure out one of the major flaws of this rebuild, ie Eberle or RNH and make a trade while their value is high.

    My gut feeling is Eberle will wither up and die on the vine with no Hall or Rnh. His value is high, lets see what we can get on the open market for him, plus a prospect or two and keep Iiro up on the big team.