Well, nobody’s going to say Anton Lander didn’t get a fair crack at the NHL. He had six shots, four hits and won 69 percent of his faceoffs in his latest one-game call-up, so naturally the Edmonton Oilers – loaded to the gills with centres who do all that stuff – shipped him off to the farm moments after the end of that game.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 22, 2014
But Jon, He Was Minus-2!
Yes, he certainly was. Let’s have a look at that.
Part of being an NHL defenceman, as I understand it, is winning one-on-one battles in front of the net for loose pucks. Lander skated into the zone just ahead of Shawn Horcoff, put himself in great defensive position as both he and Horcoff skated on net, followed him behind and then handed him off to Brad Hunt in front. Hunt, having just given up his minor-leaguer number and now wearing No. 24, loses that one-on-one battle for the rebound, but it isn’t Hunt heading back down to the farm; it’s Lander.
Okay, what about the other minus?
HA! Look at Lander float into the zone last! Sure, it’s a little weird he’s on against Tyler Seguin, and yes there are four Oilers below the hashmarks and yeah, Nail Yakupov is clueless in his own end of the rink, but why wasn’t Lander there earlier?
What do you mean look at the two second mark of that clip?
Let’s briefly recap the situation:
- Lander’s play included six shots, four hits, and a 9-for-13 run in the faceoff circle. Two of those shots were from the scoring chance area; a third was a redirect at point blank range because Lander went to the net and got his stick on a shot. These are all good things.
- The Oilers only have four centres, and only two of them are bona fide NHL’ers. All year, Mark Arcobello and Leon Draisaitl have been gifted a spot on the NHL roster. Arcobello just had his best offensive outing of the year in the very first game of the year where a poor performance might have resulted in a healthy scratch.
- Oklahoma City doesn’t play until Saturday; there is absolutely no pressing commitment to get another player down to the minors to dress for the Barons.
In short: he played pretty well, he plays a position where the Oilers are desperately short of decent options and even shorter on competition and there’s absolutely no hurry to get him down to the minors (if that were even a consideration). Even the coach is a fan.
“I thought he played well,” Todd Nelson said when asked about Lander after the game. “As you mentioned he put some pucks on the net, he was pretty good in the faceoff dot and I thought he felt pretty comfortable out there tonight.”
Presumably there’s a reason that the Oilers dumped Lander back down to the farm within a half hour of Sunday’s loss. Maybe there’s a waiver thing, or some salary cap consideration that isn’t immediately apparent. One hopes that an explanation comes in the next day or two, because from the outside looking in it is nothing short of baffling.