ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE

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Anton Lander can post crooked numbers in the AHL, where he’s a quality player at evens, on the power play and penalty kill. In the NHL, he has gained some traction as a defensive forward and PK man, but there’s not much offense when Lander plays in the NHL. Is he a tweener? Or is there an NHL player developing in Oklahoma City?

matheson lander

In training camp this season, the Edmonton Oilers seemed committed to sending a message to the troops: Follow the instructions, train hard, arrive in shape and good things will happen. Edmonton kept Brad Hunt, Will Acton and others, while demoting men like Martin Marincin and Anton Lander.

Circumstantial evidence to be sure, but you could make a strong case that a strange group of decisions clouded the end of Oilers’ training camp this season. Edmonton is currently carrying four centers, one of whom (Leon Draisaitl) does not have the complete confidence of head coach Dallas Eakins based on a steady reduction in playing time.

Enter Anton Lander. Right?

LANDER CAN’T PLAY NHL HOCKEY!

I’m fairly certain that isn’t true, but will readily admit Anton has had the chances to show well. The best defense of his lack of offense I can muster: He was elevated to the NHL much too early and now seems to have some kind of mental block about scoring in the bigs. Here are Anton Lander’s most frequent linemates during his NHL career and their Corsi for % (5×5) together:

  • Lennart Petrell (39.1% in 221 minutes)
  • Ben Eager (41% in 199 minutes)
  • Ryan Jones (42.5% in 171 minutes)
  • Magnus Paajarvi (55.2 in 112 minutes)

These are not HHOF names (notice the numbers with Paajarvi, though) and the results are predictable when we factor in most of Lander’s NHL career came when he was unready.

Last season the Oilers did give Lander some time with good players, and the numbers were slightly better:

  • David Perron (42.7% in 99 minutes)
  • Luke Gazdic (38.5% in 56 minutes)
  • Sam Gagner (46.5% in 56 minutes)
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (52% in 53 minutes)

But he didn’t piss a drop offensively. And that’s a big issue. If I’m the guy trying to find you playing time, and last season you were gifted with 100 even strength minutes alongside David Perron without getting a point? Well, here’s your hat what’s your hurry. 

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LANDER CAN PLAY AHL HOCKEY!

  • Dallas Eakins:“If (Lander) is going to play here, he has to be able to play
    centre, he has to play left-wing and he has to play right-wing. He has
    to be able to step in on the power play and kill penalties. He has to be
    able to wear a bunch of different hats.”

Anton Lander can play the AHL game like ringing a bell. He’s definitely scoring at a greater pace and last season showed well at evens and on the power play:

  • Lander EV in 13-14: 43, 8-14-22 .511
  • Lander PP in 13-14: 43, 10-16-26 .605

The problem is that the production here—which represented a career high for Lander—isn’t outstanding compared to other players in similar situations. Here’s Roman Horak, same team, same season:

  • Horak EV in 13-14: 53, 14-15-29 .547
  • Horak PP in 13-14: 53, 7-12-19 .358

So the kind of offense Anton Lander is delivering in the AHL doesn’t make him special. Put another way, the job he’s going to take in the NHL isn’t the Leon Draisaitl gig, it’s the Boyd Gordon slot. So, in a real way, Anton Lander brought the wrong musket to this year’s fight.

For fun, here are the Lander splits so far this year:

  • Lander EV in 14-15: 13, 3-3-6
  • Lander PP in 14-15: 13, 1-6-7
  • Lander PK in 14-15: 13, 0-0-0

And again we see the problem: Lander’s AHL numbers are padded by power-play time and he’s not going to get a lot of it (despite Eakins quote above) in the NHL. Anton Lander is, for all intents and purposes, a square peg in a round hole for these Edmonton Oilers. 

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THEY NEVER LIKED HIM!

  • MacT: “Much
    like Chicago’s got where they have three lines of offensive guys and a
    fourth line that can play against anybody. That’s what we’d really like
    to do. We need (Anton) Lander to step up and (Mark) Arcobello, or add a
    free-agent forward or two who can compete for those jobs. Maybe somebody
    who could come in and be a good fit with Yak (Nail Yakupov on the third
    line). We have the first line (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle). If we
    can draft a guy at centre who can play, then we’d have that guy, Perron
    and Sam or some form of that.”

Lander was signed to a one-way deal and given a chance in the fall, but he didn’t win that opportunity. Mark Arcobello won the day based on better offensive ability and (probably) equal play away from the puck. Lesser skills like agitator (Lander can do that a little) couldn’t make up the difference and that’s all she wrote. 

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NOT FAIR!

People remember things like playing 100 minutes with David Perron and not scoring. People like the coach who gave you that time ESPECIALLY remember those things. I’m cheering for Anton Lander because he’s an Oiler and I’m a fan, and it was a nice story about him being a leader as a teenager and the kind of man you want on your side.

He hasn’t shown the ability to do anything offensively in the NHL, and he’s not special (not really) in the AHL. When the time comes for a replacement on that 4line, or a checking line emerges as the 3line, I think Anton Lander will be in the group of players who get a look.

There is little evidence he can step in for Leon Draisaitl and be a raging success. Very little evidence.

(Anton Lander photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)

  • Gret99zky

    Real easy guy to cheer for… seems us oil fans cheer for the underdog to much sometimes and it clouds reality.

    Unfortunately our reality isn’t as cloudy as managements, and the higher you go the cloudier it seems to be!!

  • camdog

    It wasn’t long ago where we could read stories of MPS, Lander and Omark and their probabilities of being a very productive Swedish break through in Edmonton.

  • camdog

    Give up on Lander. Too soft, too slow.

    Trade for Drew Stafford. He’s a UFA next season so can likely be had for pick(s). With his connection to the Oilers there would be a good chance of resigning him.

    He’s a RW but takes draws quite often, and has the speed and size to play Centre. Great hockey IQ and competes.

    2 points against the Leafs last night, and usually destroys the Oilers when he plays them.

    • PerryK

      I think that you have been reading Matheson too much!

      Stafford has never played C! Why would you want to convert him?

      Definitely, you are right about needing a C. There are several good C’s available (cheap and short term). Get one MacT!

    • camdog

      Lander is not the swiftest skater out there for sure but he definitely is not soft! I’ve seen him take big hits to make plays & he’s not shy of the corners. Center is his position though & I agree with you LT he hasn’t played with quality talent that will complement what he brings to the table. I would love to see him get a 15 to 20 game stint with wingers like Pakarinen & Perron (or swifter version of Perron) & I think you would have a quality third line with players who would generate 30 pts in a season. I still like Lander & when he’s gone I think he will produce. Helluva leader as well! I see another Brodziak situation happening here.

  • Gret99zky

    Based on the Edmonton experience, he’s not an NHL player. And, the Oil actually went about developing him the right way. I’d like to see him go somewhere and become an NHL player but I don’t think it will happen.

  • camdog

    Speaking of player development, when we talk about “being patient” with Justin Schultz, we have to understand and realize a big part of the problem with this team is who’s developing our players and and getting the most of them

    Case in point both JS and TJ Brodie, both exactly 24 years old and yes TJ with 60 more games under his belt at the NHL level and only 7 more total points in his NHL career vs. JS but, learning how to play sound, defensive hockey… Not even close.

    TJ is +/- is +74 over the span of 200+ games while our boy is -44 and yes with 60 less games, but definitely not trending in the right direction this season already.

    So let’s not blame altogether these talented players but the clowns assuming they know how to develop them into NHL dependable ones.

    • camdog

      In respect to Lander, MPS and Omark. We can go back too each of their rookies seasons or AHL seasons and say the exact same thing about them today. I’m sure Lowetide’s articles well back this up.

      Now is this the organisations fault or the players, I can’t comment, but it is a noticeable trend with many prospects that come through this organisation.

  • D-Unit

    I’m beginning to enjoy watching the Oilers play ………now that I have come to the realization that under Eakins we will never win consistently.

    I know that I come across like a ,”broken record” when it comes to Eakins , but expecting him to develop any player is pure fiction. His sole claim to fame is developing Khadri………but I suspect many people told him long ago to get in shape.

    Fitness is one metric and I will give Eakins credit for that……..but the ability to develop players is not supported by evidence. I would contend that most players have regressed under his watch and there is much evidence to support this.

    Eakins is the perfect coach for us to aspire to Connor McDavid and may get us this player. Now that I can watch the games without the pressure to win…….I enjoy them more.

    Thanks Dalllas!

    • D-Unit

      “Fitness is one metric and I will give Eakins credit for that……”

      This is pretty much a given for any NHL coach or player. So I don’t understand why Eakins deserves credit for it. I seem to remember his “fitness” speach being along the lines of using it to compete and never be tired so fitness doesn’t become an issue.

      The Oilers prove over and over again they cannot compete for an entire game, so I cannot say they are fit enough for certain. If they are not playing at 100% for a whole game, the players may be trying to conserve energy for another time in the game. Fitness issue? I do not know.

      • Craig1981

        I do think that all the players on the Oilers Roster give it their all……..on most nights. Fitness in my opinion has never been the issue, although I do appreciate players becoming more fit……..this can only help the player.

        I believe that our biggest problem ( root cause) has to be player selection. Too many holes still in the roster and management has to own that. Player utilization such as NN over MM……..coaching has to own that.

        In either case this not a player issue as so many suggest but the thinking behind assembling a team that can compete.

        Whomever is developing the master strategy for the Oilers need to spend a lot of time looking in the mirror!

  • D-Unit

    So, on a team with several non NHL and marginal NHL players, why do I care about trying to get another guy who is not what we need on the NHL roster.

    We need legitimate NHL players. We currently need NHL C options. Already have Leon and Arcobello in 2 of 4 spots who shouldn’t be. Lander would just be another guy who would be a C that shouldn’t be.

    As a fan, I wish we could have a properly constructed competetive team, and not have to worry or hear about the “maybe he will work” options so much. If the Oil had a real core of NHL players, they wouldn’t be trying to fill positions of need with “maybes”.

    • D-Unit

      And almost af full year of that was on a fourth line when he was what, 19? Has he been anywhere close to what he ahould be producing absolutely not, but I think writing him off completely isn’t the answer either. When injuries inevitably plague our forwards this year I would like to see Lander get the call and move Drasaitl to the wing for a bit.

      Give Drasaitl an easier time adapting to the NHL. Eakins is essentially playing him like a winger anyway.

      • D-Unit

        The Oilers are at a point where writing things off completely is what needs to be done. Lander could be a starting point, then follow with Lowe, MacT, Eakins, Howson, a handful of Scouts, pro and amateur, a bunch of other players.

        Other players to write off would be Jultz….

          • D-Unit

            On that topic, J.S. Is over paid, and will be again an RFA. I believe he has to be qualified at even to what he makes now, but I am guessing will want somewhere North of 4 million plus some term on his next contract. Nothing he has done has shown me he will be worth more than he is making now.

            On making him a winger, he is not defensively responsible enough to play the wing.

      • Spydyr

        One day, hopefully soon ,fans like you and Lowetide and much more importantly the Oilers will have to make decisions on player like Lander.You can only assess players for so long.What does he bring? Does he bring size,speed,above average skill, some grit.No, to all of the above.He has never scored at the NHL level the best you can hope for is he does not get scored against.You can pick players like him up on the waiver wire.

        If Lander, Acro and a nineteen year old rookie are the best the Oilers have to offer for centre at the NHL level outside Nuge and Gordon.After this long losing.Well,it shows where the problem really lies,doesn’t it?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Arco arrived. Took the opportunity and ran with it. He leapt over Lander and the rest is history. By all accounts Lander is a likeable player with the right attitude but seems to lack that killer instinct it takes to push through to the next level.

  • Serious Gord

    In the last eight years have the oil drafted a player that wasn’t a number one who has equalled or exceeded expectations while playing for the oil?

      • Serious Gord

        Let’s just say the court is still out on him as he has yet to even play 80+ games.

        But I would seem that an entire generation or so of picks have all been busts.

        The reasons are manifold certainly, but it certainly isn’t a fluke. This kind of epic awfulness is due to incompetence not chance.

    • Spurzey

      Agreed . . .lots of discussion on a 4th line player who could be replaced in any future waiver wire (if we were ever to use such a thing ….which is intended to help poorer performing teams).

      Move along people . . move along.

  • Serious Gord

    I’m not an Eakins fan, not a fan of MacT as the GM, Lowe is an idiot and the Oilers would have won those 5 cups with or without him as a player.

    I see a lot of people blaming Chabot as goalie coach, they may be right but my opinion on that matter is the goalies aren’t good enough, the last 8 are all career backup goalies.

    Anton Lander is good enough to play in the AHL but not good enough to be an NHL player, happens to a lot of players.

    The Oilers roster of players aren’t good enough, the defence is horrendous, the majority of the forwards aren’t good enough and when out together don’t make a good ‘team’.

    Management, fans and media need to realize that it don’t matter who the coaching staff is, who the current scouts are, as long as this group of players keeps putting in the sweater it wil be more of the same sadly.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    the whole 2009 draft was a bust for us, not just Lander and his inability to contribute at the NHL level, but Paajarvi was and is a bust, and the rest of the draft was a wash. and even though we managed to get Perron for Magnus, ending up with practically nothing from that draft has really hurt us.

  • Serious Gord

    Living in Calgary I saw a lot of Roman Horak. He actually had spurts when he showed quite well for the Flames as a reliable two way center. I was surprised with Edmontons needs up the middle that he couldn’t find a fit. Any update on his play overseas? Did the Oilers let a good one get away or is he another tweener?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I have one sentence to say regarding Anton Lander: what would Detroit do
    ..would they rush him, and place him.as the answer or put undo pressure on him….. He is 23!, 23 and a captain in the AHL and dominating.

  • Serious Gord

    Relax on Lander, quality individual, captain of your farm team, can play all three forward position, could easily be a call up for 10-15 NHL games.This is an important piece for a NHL team.

  • D-Unit

    Is it somewhere on the ON contracts with their writers that someone must right a blog at least once very two months suggesting that Lander is an NHL player, despite 3+ years of contrary evidence?

  • OttawaOiler

    A guy who’s turned out to be not as good as initially thought, who kills it at the AHL level, but looks like he can’t make it at the NHL level? Justin Schultz…?