Tweener

Anton Lander will get to continue his quest to be more than a Tweener in the NHL now that he has been called up again. We remain hopeful that he can turn AHL success into the beginnings of an NHL career, but we’ve seen this story play out before. 

TWEEN

When I speak of a Tween or Tweener I, of course, am speaking about that awkward and unpleasant existence between two different phases of life. We’ve all been through that growing up where we were no longer little kids but yet we still didn’t get all the privileges or perks of being older. The frustration of that phase in life is palpable. For Hockey players there can be no worse fate than being labelled a Tweener. Good enough to excel in the American Hockey League, but not able to translate that to the NHL. 

To be a point per game or very close to it in a professional league is a major accomplishment. The AHL is a very competitive league, the 2nd best in North America and perhaps as high as the 3rd best in the World. It is certainly as close as you can be to NHL action while still being able to enjoy a proper hamburger or electrical plug-in. And the Oilers have had a few AHL successes in their past that gave their fans hope. Unfortunately, sometimes all those AHL points don’t make the trip up to the big leagues when the player is called up for NHL action. 

JF JACQUES

He had everything the Oilers needed in a prospect: Size. I jest, but only a little. JF was a stretch puck for the 2nd round but he had NHL size (6’3″ 230lb) and played a gritty game (123PIM in 67 games in his Draft year). His Offense grew in the QMJHL in the 2 years post Draft that he played there and to his credit he maintained a fair amount of it during his Rookie campaign with the Hamilton Bulldogs. His stat line must have had the Oilers drooling about his potential as a Power Forward. He went 65GP, 24-20-44, 131 PIMs in the AHL. He was scoring goals and playing a rough game. 

But this wouldn’t be the Oilers if we were talking about successfully developing Power Forwards. All that physical potential and AHL success was all for nothing. In the NHL his stat line was atrocious. In comparison to his AHL Stats it’s almost too painful to even post, but here it is. 

AHL 315GP, 89-98-187, 456 PIMs

NHL 167GP, 9-8-17, 197 PIMs

Woof. 

ROBBIE SCHREMP

Probably one of the most famous Oiler Tweeners from Christmas Past was Rob Schremp. The man who invented that NHL staple “Rob Schremp Hockey” may have actually gotten a bad rap. For all his troubles, his NHL totals suggest that at least his Offense was probably NHL calibre. His problem from the beginning wasn’t the attitude it was reported that he had, it was his skating. He just wasn’t fast enough in the NHL. With deft passing and some creativity you can hide that while on the attack, when the puck is going the other way that deficiency is sure to be exposed. 

Could he have been handled better? Probably. Could he have helped the Oilers anyway? Maybe for a short time. Either way he found employment in the NHL for a relatively short time before making a career in Europe. His best AHL season was 78GP, 23-53-76 in 2007-2008. Here are the career totals in the AHL and the NHL. 

AHL 217GP, 47-125-172, 150 PIMs

NHL 114GP, 20-34-54, 26 PIMs

LINUS OMARK

No discussion of Tweener Oilers is complete without Linus Omark. YouTube sensation, Spin-o-Rama aficionado, child shoe size wearer, Linus Omark came into the NHL with hype. He came exactly as advertised, but the only thing that was advertised were his impressive shootout skills and that’s all he brought. Against lesser skilled and slightly slower AHL competition he was obviously dominant. Against NHLers he never had the room to create Offense at the same level despite an obvious determination in the attacking end of the ice.

Like Robbie Schremp before him, Omark had some staunch supporters that still believe he didn’t get an air shake in the league. From my perspective he had long auditions with the two worst teams in the NHL and couldn’t make it happen. Here are the splits 

AHL 75GP, 34-42-76, 77 PIMs

NHL 79GP, 8-24-32, 40 PIMs

ANTON LANDER

Drafted high in the 2nd Round with Stu MacGregor doubling down on Swedish youngsters Paajarvi and Lander the team looks like it had done a great job. The one thing that the prospecterati talked about the most with young Lander was his Leadership. He had it in spades. They STILL talk about his leadership. It’s about the one thing I DONT question about Lander. I would have lived with less leadership and more natural playmaking or smoother skating, but those weren’t the cards he was dealt. He had earned his way onto a Men’s team in the Swedish Elite League when he was highschool aged and there was a maturity to his game. 

The Oilers left him in the SEL for 2 seasons post Draft and then when he came over they gave him a baptism by fire in the NHL that looking back upon was a terrible, terrible idea. He struggled, looked broken, and was eventually sent down. I wonder how different we would look upon his career had he not first been played completely out of his depth for almost an entire season. Thankfully he found his Offense in the AHL (slightly better than a point per game in the last 2 seasons), but every time he was called back up the production stayed in Oklahoma. 

AHL 133GP, 36-68-104, 104 PIMs

NHL 94GP, 2-6-8, 18 PIMs

WHY DID THEY FAIL?

Yoda Fail

There are lots of reasons why each of them has/had failed to be more than Tweeners. How they got there individually is going to be more complicated but the quick version is that they really just remained one-dimensional as players. JF Jacques had NHL size and everything beyond that was questionable. Rob Schremp had his passing game figured out after Junior and all but coasted on that. Linus Omark was dynamic with the puck but might never have practiced a day in his life what to do without it. Anton Lander came into the league with an awareness of what to do in his own zone, but until he spent some time in the AHL it didn’t look like he knew what to do when he left it. 

If Lander succeeds at becoming an NHL player it will be because he too, those Leadership qualities and own-zone awareness that came to him naturally and added something more. His 8 points in almost 100 NHL games says the Offense just wasnt there. 

Here’s hoping the coach that coaxed out better than point per game performances from him in the AHL the past two years can work that same magic with him in the NHL. 

  • Good article….

    Specfic to this edition of the Oilers, Lander at $600k might be a bargin on the fourth line.

    I love Gordon, but he is playing “fourth” line centre being paid $3M. I have not done the research but I think we have the highest paid “fourth” line centre in the league.

    • Romanus

      Call the line numbers what you want. He’s currently our 2nd center, and actually gives an honest effort. Also currently out scoring who most people think are 2 and 3.

      • R U Kidding Me!

        I like Gordon, he works hard, plays tough minutes, and wins at the dot.

        But he is not a 2C, after 28 games he has 8 points about the same as Leon.

        116 scoring center in the league = 3c or 4c

        • Serious Gord

          A really good 4c or bottom rung 3c. Where he plays in the oil is irrelevant as the oil arent the average team in terms of centre depth. They are the worst. And at 3mill he’s an overpay.

  • OilersDynasty

    The difference with Schremp/Omark and Lander is that the formers were considered offensive dynamo’s whereas the latter was known more for his leadership and defensive abilities with some offensive prowess.

    • dougtheslug

      Discovered this interesting article in the International New York Times:

      http://nyti.ms/1rB7xkl

      Shows what fair-minded people think of “tanking”. I liked the way they equate it to the match-fixing scandals plaguing international soccer. And I also liked some suggested remedies such as reducing shares of league revenues for teams missing the playoffs.

      It’s time to stop calling it “tanking” and call it what it is: it’s Cheating with a capital C, and it’s an embarrassment to the team, the league, and most of all, to the City of Edmonton and all Oiler fans.

      And sorry for straying off topic. But all this tanking talk is starting to irritate this grumpy old fan.

  • Lyxdeslic

    I know all the criticism with Lander is that his production just hasn’t translated to the NHL, but personally I continue to be optimistic about his future. To be a 23 year old captain and a point per game player in a top 2/3 league in the world is pretty impressive. Not to mention he still isn’t the greatest English speaker. If Lander hadn’t already had a 94 game NHL audition I think that fans would be much more excited for this call up. I hope he does well, not just because the Oilers need a dependable center but because I think he deserves it.

  • Romanus

    Tyler Seguin will play for the STARS against the Oiler Stars.Last year Seguin had “only” 37 goals plus 47 assists in 80 games.This year after 30 games,he has 23 goals and 16 assists. The Oiler’s top stars totally are having trouble problems to keep up with Tyler. Dallas did OK. Something just might be wrong in Edmonton! The GOAL JUDGES should be questioned for not allowing enough Oiler GOALS?

  • CaptainLander

    Very much off topic comment, but where are all the Oil fans posting about how at least there is “one real hockey team in Alberta”, I have been saying there are indeed no real hockey team…ah crap.

    Of course I am really pulling for Lander, seems like a good kid and as a European to continue to pay his dues in the AHL rather then head back he really seems committed to making the NHL. always like his attitude.

  • Zarny

    He needs to believe he belongs. A couple of quality veteran wingers would probably help too.

    Lots of players aren’t ready until they are 23-24 but the clock is ticking. Even if you ignore his first couple of call ups 1 pt in 27 games last year just doesn’t cut it considering Pinizzotto has 3 pt in 15 games this year.

    I’m pulling for the kid. Zero prospects beyond 1st overalls is pretty self-explanatory.

  • Serious Gord

    If Lander succeeds this time around a lot of credit will go to coach Nelson and deservedly so. Maybe there is some hope with this team yet and things are slowly moving in a positive direction. Sometimes hope is all we have.

  • Batfink

    Matt: ” From my perspective he had long auditions with the two worst teams in the NHL and couldn’t make it happen.”

    Right there ya lost me bud. I think that there probably is a difference being introduced into the NHL by Chicago or Detroit than the two worst teams.

  • Sammy p

    For an inside look at the hockey life of a “tweener”” I would highly recommend
    “The Journeyman”by Sean Pronger,older brother of Chris.

    Great read,dealing with the ups and downs of a “tweener” told with anecdotal,self deprecating humour.

  • Batfink

    Are they show casing Lander for a trade , or part of a bigger one ? Perhaps he stays up if he can do better than Draisaitl or Arco ? Better option to keep Lander up and send Draisaitl back to junior before 40th game ? Then again , it may be Nelson’s influence on MacT . ?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Would it be to soon to say lander might be Horcoff 2.0?

    If Anton can do well in the dot and play sound defensively imo he’d be a better option than Arcobello. Lander could use Gordon as a great teacher before Gordon gets traded at the deadline or this off season.

    I don’t expect lander to put the points up but I do expect him to play “big” and do well in the face offs.

    • If Landner could provide what Horcoff did 10 to 5 years ago that would be a huge lift for the Oil. They would have fairly legit 1/2 centers and Gordon a reasonable 3/4 guy. Arco as a 4th line center is not that outlandish. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much in Lander’s play to suggest his top end is near what Horcoff’s was.

  • Spydyr

    If Lander doubles his previous NHL pace offensively he is still pretty low on scoring.

    Just yet another AHL player on the Oilers this season.

    Nothing to see here move along.

  • Spydyr

    In the past, under Eakins, he was always brought up to play roles that were perdominantly defensive……….mostly on the third and fourth lines.

    Then he was declared a bust because he did not put up any points. Go figure!

    WIth Nelson we can expect a more straight forward approach to coaching…….which in my opinion will produce positive results with the players. The last two games under Nelson have the team looking like a team, now if they can string some wins together this should reinforce just how bad a coach Eakins was!

  • Spydyr

    People need to stop focusing on his offensive numbers so much.

    Nobody really gives a crap if Gordon scores 4 or 10 goals a year or not, his role is different.

    Same with Lander.

    He does need to improve the boxcars, but if this kid can come in, and settle down the bottom six(which I think he can), that’s a win.

    Let him worry about being solid in his own end, and getting used to some tough er matchups before we ride him out of town because he isn’t scoring.

    No one on this team is scoring, and it shouldn’t be on Lander to change that.

    • Spydyr

      So your 3-4 centers don’t score your #2c is an AHL player in Acro.That sure puts a lot on Nuge to produce all the scoring at centre and carry the team.

      You must be part of “The Braintrust”.