Is there some reason Anton Lander hasn’t been recalled?

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At what point is the Edmonton Oilers depth chart weak enough at centre to justify the recall of Anton Lander? For the majority of Friday’s game, the club iced a lineup with two natural centres and two converted wingers in the middle – is that bad enough to make bringing up a pivot palatable or is it necessary for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to get hurt before the team looks to recall a centre from the farm?

We Love You, We Love You Not

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When it comes to development, the best NHL organizations can churn useful players out of nothing while the worst ones can turn useful players into nothing. There really isn’t much question as to which end of the spectrum the Oilers belong.

We’re getting to a point where it’s hard not to see a pattern in the Oilers’ approach to their prospects. For players picked relatively early, the first years are generally great; Edmonton simply can’t wait to get them into the lineup or at least into the AHL. It’s why Sam Gagner was elevated to the majors at age 18; it’s why the heart of the 2010 Draft was promoted to the AHL as soon as it was permitted. The Oilers are firm believers in the baptism-by-fire approach to development.

But the enthusiasm of those early years eventually gives way to anger and disappointment as the players fail to live up to expectations. Gagner, rushed into the NHL before he was prepared for a spot, stagnated and never devoted the attention to detail that might have been drilled into him at a lower level. His draft pedigree and obvious offensive acumen bought him time that other players weren’t afforded, but eventually the team soured on him and flipped him for another middling contract. It’s a story that Leon Draisaitl should probably acquaint himself with.

It’s a story that also covers Anton Lander’s experience. Early on the team couldn’t get enough of his polished defensive game and obvious character; it’s why he ended up centering the Oilers’ fourth line in his first season in North America. He played 56 games in a wasted developmental year and took ages to recover his offensive game in the AHL; those 56 games still represent the majority of his NHL career.

The team seems to have soured on him. They kept Will Acton over him out of training camp in consecutive years and now even as the team’s awful centre depth chart crumbles under injury and the rigors of an NHL season, Lander stays on the farm where he’s scoring at a near point-per-game pace and carrying the defensive load the way he has for ages.

Win-Win-Win!

The Oilers as currently constituted should represent a perfect opportunity for Anton Lander.

For one thing, the team is well out of the playoffs and likely to stay that way. Judging by the comments coming from the general manager (“based on the asking price, we’re not in a position to pay the asset ask for a positional bias”) the team isn’t interested in making a trade to halt the slump. Judging by the club’s reluctance to claim Kyle Chipchura off the waiver wire, it isn’t interested in adding free pieces in a band-aid move, either. That makes the rest of the year essentially an exercise in development for the hockey team and an exercise in teeth-gnashing for the fans.

And opportunities abound on the current roster. Let’s say that the Oilers have completely written Lander off as an offensive presence. No problem: This season’s game plan called for an all-defence “fourth” line that took defensive zone draw after defensive zone draw. At the moment, Boyd Gordon’s injury has wiped that plan from the board, but why not try sticking Lander in that slot? Nobody has ever questioned his defensive game, and if it works it frees up Gordon to centre one of the team’s other lines.

On the other hand, if the Oilers haven’t completely written Lander off offensively, now’s the time to give him a try. Leon Draisaitl and Mark Arcobello aren’t exactly winning plaudits for their work this season; neither is scoring and Draisaitl’s defence was so bad on Friday that Dallas Eakins benched him for the second and replaced him at centre with converted winger Tyler Pitlick. Even if the organization is so blindly stubborn on Draisaitl that they insist on playing him down the middle, there’s no reason not to play Lander at centre given that in Gordon’s absence the team only has three healthy pivots.

The worst-case scenario in all of this is that Lander fails to show much at centre. If that happens, the Oilers will be losing hockey games (just as they are right now) and they’ll have given Lander an honest shot down the middle. In the best-case scenario, Lander shows enough to be a No. 4/No. 5 centre for the team next season, possibly freeing up Gordon for other use and providing Edmonton with a cheap forward option and one less slot to fill in the offseason.

There is literally no downside to recalling Lander. The Oilers have three healthy centres and one of them is playing so badly that he can’t hold down a job. If Lander doesn’t work out, the Oilers will be no worse off; if he does work out they won’t be flushing a useful player for nothing this summer.

The Waiting Game

Instead, we wait. We wait while the Oilers keep feeding Draisaitl minutes regardless of results, we wait while they abandon the idea of a useful fourth line, we wait while wingers like Matt Hendricks and Tyler Pitlick are tried at centre. We wait while Lander continues to excel in a key role on the farm while being paid NHL dollars to do so.

But this isn’t a new thing. If there’s one thing that anyone still watching this team knows how to do, it’s wait.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • The Last Big Bear

    Is there some reason Anton Lander hasn’t been recalled?

    Because he has 94 career NHL games, and TWO F******* GOALS.

    It’s not rocket science.

    He is not an NHL calibre player.

  • The Last Big Bear

    In a word? Incompetence.

    I’ve removed all emotion as it pertains to the Oilers and the management decisions being made. We have incompetent people pulling the strings and it shows on the ice. Until Lowe and MacT are removed more incompetence is what we’ll be getting in Oilerland.

  • The Last Big Bear

    A year and a half into the Eakins experience so far. We have saw some huge losing streaks. We have watched our power play get worse and worse. We can’t score. We watch our rookie get slammed into the boards from behind with no reponse from the team or the coach.

    Through all of this have you seen any emotion out of Eakins? No.

    Wait. Oh yeah the one time Hall slammed the water bottle down and Eakins got his hair wet. Eakins was really pissed off that night.

    I think that says enough in itself.

  • The Last Big Bear

    A year and a half into the Eakins experience so far. We have saw some huge losing streaks. We have watched our power play get worse and worse. We can’t score. We watch our rookie get slammed into the boards from behind with no reponse from the team or the coach.

    Through all of this have you seen any emotion out of Eakins? No.

    Wait. Oh yeah the one time Hall slammed the water bottle down and Eakins got his hair wet. Eakins was really pissed off that night.

    I think that says enough in itself.

  • The Last Big Bear

    A year and a half into the Eakins experience so far. We have saw some huge losing streaks. We have watched our power play get worse and worse. We can’t score. We watch our rookie get slammed into the boards from behind with no reponse from the team or the coach.

    Through all of this have you seen any emotion out of Eakins? No.

    Wait. Oh yeah the one time Hall slammed the water bottle down and Eakins got his hair wet. Eakins was really pissed off that night.

    I think that says enough in itself.

    • The Last Big Bear

      The Rangers looked more than good vs the Canucks.
      Glen Sather is on the trip.He used to be cook,bottle washer, coach, GM for the Oilers. At that time the Oilers had a minimum management structure. Hire Mr. Sather. He has credibility and a record. If the Oilers get McDavid, Sather would be best suited. Best wishes in Fantasy Coaches. The Oilers are already Fantasy in so many ways.Not much
      Reality!

  • The Last Big Bear

    The organization and the team are a flipping joke. How much pride does it take to do nothing to tank a season for a possible player. We have heard this before with Hall, Eberle, nugent Hopkins and Yakupov… It is time to trade this so called nucleus of failure for some projects players in this league.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Just in case MacT is paying attention to the topic, Lander had 3 assists tonight in the Baron’s victory over Grand Rapids. That brings him up to a point per game.

    No chance he will be called up. The Oiler’s team chemistry must not be messed with at this crucial point of the tank battle.

  • I was at the OKC Barons game last night. Down 2 goals early on to the Griffins, the Barons lead By ANTON LANDER (He had 3 assists) came back and won…
    Could Anton help the Oilers? Ummm, yes. Sounds crazy, but I believe Jason Williams could help also…could it HURT?

  • YFC Prez

    I don’t know why everyone is getting all riled up about the loosing streak. This is a text book tank job. The oilers are literally loosing games on purpose so they can draft mcdavid, it has to be the case cause of how obvious it seems to be.

    It’s absolutely embarrassing to be an oilers fan right now and I don’t know how they are going to dig themselves out of this hole with the management they have. The one thing that this management team has done correctly is assemble a team capable of loosing.

    I’m not watching oil hockey anymore because I am so disgusted with how arrogant and ignorant the management and the owner have been this season. MacT literally tanked this year so he could get mcdavid. In what universe does a gm tell the fans in a press conference that the coach is going no where when he has won only a handful of games over the last two years.

    This is the grossest horror movie I have ever watched, The oil are a joke and I’m absolutely embarrassed I have cheered for them my whole life.

  • YFC Prez

    JW, I didnt realize you write from your moms basement and are not allowed into games.

    You must really have done something bad to not be allowed into games.

    Either way, you are doing a better job of analyzing the oilers than the old media is sitting in the pressbox eating donuts.

  • YFC Prez

    I think it’s time to take the ” ex” out of your handle. You’re not fooling anyone. You comment on here daily yet claim to no longer be a fan. If you really moved on you’d have actually moved on.

    The oilers are like that cheating ex girlfriend who you claim to be over and have happily moved on with your life. Yet when no ones looking you check every new Facebook update because you just can’t delete her, text her every time you get home from drinking at 3 am , and can’t seem to give back that favourite sweater of hers that still has a small hint of her perfume on it. Instead you hold onto it with the glimmer of hope that she will call you for it just so you can hear her voice one more time. But of course you will act like a d!ck and pretend she is the last thing on your mind.

    I think you just need to cave and take her back( the oilers that is). You’re not fooling anyone, you’re still hung up no matter how badly you were treated. No matter how much you say it’s over , we all know it’s not.

  • Lumley

    Hey Ex oiler fan. You’re here everyday bitching and moaning and being what they call a troll. Why not just leave. I actually understand why you don’t, you find humor in pretending you’re an ex fan, and people tell you to go away, like I just did. But you find humor in it, you sit at your keyboard and you laugh and laugh at your posts, thinking things like, this’ll show those fans, I’ll keep telling them how bad the team is, tell them I’m a Habs fan now. I find it quite sad that human beings like you find humor in things like this. Your life must be so sad. I wish you good luck.