LEARN FROM LANDER

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Moving forward, Craig MacTavish and the Oilers have to ensure they don’t develop players in the same fashion that they did Anton Lander. Lander is a perfect example of being put in the NHL too quickly. I think Lander will still be a solid NHL player, but his growth was rushed and that has delayed his development.

I’m amazed at how many fans and some pundits are writing off Lander. Comments like, “He didn’t score in 60 games. He has no offence,” flood my inbox every time I bring up Lander. The best is when people compare him to Detroit’s younger players and how he doesn’t match up.

You are correct in saying he doesn’t compare, because their paths to the NHL are vastly different.

Lander played 56 games as a 20-year-old rookie and he averaged 10:36/game. He was essentially a 4th line player averaging 8:53 of ES TOI/game and 1:36/game on the PK. How would anyone expect him to produce offensively playing in that role?

He was eventually sent down to OKC in late February and played 14 regular season and 14 playoff games. Last season, he started in the AHL due to the lockout, played 4 NHL games early in the year, was sent back to OKC and then recalled for the final 7 NHL games before going back down for the playoffs.

He never had a consistent, defined role until this past season in OKC. He was named captain and started the season very well. During two lengthy stints in OKC he produced 18 goals and 52 points in 46 games.

He was recalled to the Oilers and played eleven between December 5th and January 2nd. He played 10 minutes or less 6 times, before being sent back to OKC. He was recalled again and played 15 games between March 14th and April 12th. These 15 games were the first time he was given consistent minutes. He averaged 16:26 over the final 15 games. He only produced one point.

I don’t see him as a second line centre, but I do wonder how much further along in his development he’d be if he had spent his first two seasons in the AHL?

DO IT LIKE DETROIT

The Red Wings do a phenomenal job of developing players, especially European born players. They draft them in the later rounds, then let them play a few more years in Europe or in the American League, or both, before bringing them to the NHL.

Pavel Datsyuk turned 20 one month after being drafted in the 6th round. He played three more years in Russia before making his NHL debut at 23. He started on the 3rd line and tallied 35 points as a rookie, 53 his second season and 68 in his third. Then the lockout hit and when he returned to the NHL, at 27 years of age, he became a superstar.

Henrik Zetterberg was drafted in the 7th round in 1999, but he didn’t make his NHL debut until 2002 when he was 22. He had 43 and 44 points his first two seasons, and then after the lockout, at the age of 25, he blossomed into a 85-point player.

Johan Franzen was drafted in the 3rd round in 2004 when he was 24 years old. He scored 16 points as a 25 year old rookie in 2005/2006 and he didn’t register his first 50-point season until he was 28. He’s not a superstar, but he is a solid complementary player.

Niklas Kronwall was the 29th pick in 2000. He spent three more years in Sweden before coming to the AHL. He got injured his first season in North America and played 25 AHL games and 20 NHL games. He spent the following season in the AHL and at the age of 24 became a regular NHL defenceman. He was a 3rd pairing guy his first year, a 2nd pairing guy the next two and is now a very good top pairing defender.

Gustav Nyqvist was a 4th round selection in 2008. He played the next three seasons in NCAA before racking up 58 points in 56 games with Grand Rapids in the AHL in 2011/2012. He did get into 18 NHL games that year, but last season he also split his time between the AHL (60 points in 58 games) and the NHL (6 points in 22 games). He started this season in the AHL, 21 points in 15 games, before the Red Wings found some cap space and recalled him. Nyqvist is 24 and he’s played 137 AHL games and 97 NHL games.

Tomas Tatar was a 2nd round pick in 2009. He was a late birthday so he was almost 19 when he was drafted. From 2009/2010 to 2012/2013 he played 265 games in the AHL and scored 196 points. He did play 9 games in the NHL in 2010/2011, but wasn’t back in the show until last season. Tatar became a regular NHLer just prior to turning 23.

Darren Helm was a 5th round pick in 2005. He spent the next two seasons in the WHL with Medicine Hat, then spent two years in Grand Rapids in the AHL. He became an NHL regular in 2009/2010 three months shy of his 23rd birthday. In the spring of 2008 Helm played 18 playoff games, won a Stanley Cup, but started the next season in the minors. He wasn’t recalled until late in the year, got into some playoff action again and then made the team in training camp. The Wings don’t guarantee spots to their young kids. They keep them hungry and make them earn it.

Jakub Kindl was a the 19th overall pick in 2005. He played two more seasons in the OHL, then three with Grand Rapids in the AHL. In 2010 and 2011 he was with the Red Wings but dressed for 48 and 55 games due to injury and being a healthy scratch. He became an every-game player at 25 years old. He isn’t an elite player, he’s a #5, but he’s a solid contributor.

Jonathan Ericsson was the 291st pick in 2002. He spent four more seasons in Sweden before debuting in the AHL in 2006. He played 2 1/2 seasons in the AHL, before he was recalled late in the 2008/2009 season, dressed for 19 regular season games and 22 more in the playoffs. He was a solid #5 D-men, playing 18:43/game in their run to the Cup. He was a solid #5 D-man for his first three NHL seasons, until last year, at the age of 28, he became a top-pair guy playing 22 minutes a night. Detroit never felt the need to rush him or give him more than 17-18 minutes a night. He matured, gained confidence and is now a solid NHL defender.

Justin Abdelkader was a 2nd round pick in 2005. He spent three more seasons in the NCAA and then 1 1/2 season in the AHL. He played 12:18/game (11th most amongst Det forwards) during his first full NHL season, 2010/2011, and strangely enough played the exact same amount, 12:18/game, in his second year. For the past two seasons he’s been a solid 3rd line centre. 

Even Nicklas Lidstrom never debuted in the NHL until he was 21 back in 1991/1992, two years after he was drafted as a 19 year old. Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula and many others are prime examples of how to develop young skill. The Wings don’t rush their young players. Whether you are an offensive star, a checker or a D-man the Wings don’t hand young players icetime or a spot in the lineup. They let their kids develop their skills, and most importantly their confidence at lower levels, and the entire time they keep those kids yearning for a spot in the NHL.

The Oilers have delayed Lander’s development because they rushed him into the league too early, and didn’t allow him to develop his offensive confidence. This past year was the first year he did, and he put up very good AHL numbers.

Writing Lander off as someone with no offensive potential is ridiculous. I don’t see him as a top-six forward, but he has the potential to be an excellent 4th line centre, and likely a solid 3rd liner. The issue for the Oilers is he’d be best served to play one more year, or at least another half season, in the AHL, but he needs to clear waivers.

He might clear, many teams send “on the cusp” players to the AHL every year, and many aren’t claimed because they have a few players similar in their organization, but he could just as easily be grabbed by another team.

The Oilers don’t have much centre depth so they likely can’t expose him to waivers, but they need to learn from this, and ensure that they don’t rush their next group of prospects.

QUICK HITS…

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  • Lander needs to improve his speed. He isn’t ready to play 16+ minutes a
    night, but if he wants to contribute next year as a 4th or 3rd line
    player he needs to get quicker.

  • I would send Darnell Nurse back to junior next fall. He is too young to go to the AHL, and I don’t see any reason to rush him into the NHL. Alex Pietrangelo spent two years in junior after being drafted 4th overall, and he didn’t hurt him. The Oilers need to be patient.
  • It is interesting to note the Wings haven’t had much success drafting CHL players. Since 1995, the only CHL players to play 100+ games for the Wings are Jiri Fischer (305 games, injury cut short his career), Derek Meech (144 games), Kyle Quincey (375 and counting), and Helm. They prefer Europeans or NCAA players likely because they can play against men in Europe and develop, or come out of college at 21 or 22 and not need to be finished their ELC and be waiver eligible at 21 or 22 like Lander and Tyler Pitlick.
  • Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, Mitch Moroz and Jujhar Khaira will all be 20 next season. The first two will either play in Russia for another season or come over to the AHL, while the two WHLers can get their feet wet in the AHL. I’d keep all of them in the AHL for at least two seasons, and the only way they get recalled is on an injury basis. Let them learn the pro game.
  • I’d have no problem if Oscar Klefbom and/or Martin Marincin started in the AHL next year. There is nothing wrong with being patient with young players.
  • Tough loss at home for OKC last night. They led 2-0 midway through the 2nd period, before losing 3-2 in OT. They have to win game two at home to have any hopes of winning the best of five series, because the final three games are on the road.

THANK YOU

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A big THANK YOU to Page the Cleaner for offering to dry clean all the suits and shirts that were donated to The Gregor Foundation. It was a very generous offer and we appreciate it.

Also, thanks to Matt and the gentlemen from Pi Kappa Alpha, Lambda Epsilon Chapter at the U of A. Those young gents emailed me and wanted to help. They collected 21 suits, 25 dress shirts and 5 pairs of dress shoes. It is great to see young Edmontonians offering to help out. Thanks guys.

And THANK YOU to all of you who donated suits, shirts, ties or shoes. They are still rolling in, which is awesome (you can click link above to see drop off spots) and once I have a final tally I will let you know. It warms my heart to see so many people willing to help those in need.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Spydyr

    We hear about this Detroit model and how it should be followed but have we actually ever heard it from Oiler management? Because even if they said it they sure don’t actually follow it. I wonder how much Lander playing up his first year had to do with the Oilers a) Once again rushing a prospect i.e. Paajaarvi and b) Wanting Lander to play with his buddy Paajarvi? It was a fragile time after some high level UFA players were persued and failed.

  • John Chambers

    I don’t think there’s any proof that the Oilers delayed Lander’s development.

    But there’s definitive proof that they chose to develop him in the NHL, while he could have been in Sweden or the AHL learning to play better.

    If you really want a freaky parallel for Lander, compare him to Gordon.

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=107124

    http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=50642

    The similarities are surreal.

  • John Chambers

    I agree in principle but the Wings have also had veteran, hall of fame players on the roster for the past 20 years. And have been a team of choice for free agents. Historically, they have had few roster spots available year to year. You could argue that this is because of their development strategy but the Oilers of the past 20 years have been at a severe disadvantage in terms of opening day rosters – poor drafting, poor free agents, poor decisions. The end result being we need to bring more youth through the system in an accelerated fashion. Hopefully this changes in the next 5 years with a sensible GM but it won’t happen over night. There are too many holes to fill.

    • Jason Gregor

      Oilers have a choice not to force feed Marincin and Klefbom. They could bring in a veteran or two to allow them more seasoning.

      The Wings haven’t signed major free agents every year since lockout, but their philosophy hasn’t changed. They don’t rush players and since they never have they always have a steady stream coming in. Oilers need to start that thinking now so in three, four and five years they have 22 and 23 year olds ready to step in.

      • John Chambers

        Oilers are definitely rushing Klefbom a bit, but Marincin has had over a season in the AHL. He could probably stand to use more, but given the limited options in free agency and the unlikeliness of winning a trade from our bad trading position, it’s not like we have too much to offer back.

        Also, Klefbom looks more physically ready for the game than Marincin, though he’s less likely to make the right decisions at this point.

        • Jason Gregor

          I like Klefbom more than Marincin. I felt in his last 15 games Marincin struggled, which is understandable, while Klefbom got better. Both could be good, but I think Klefbom has higher ceiling.

          Limited options in free agency, are still better than rushing a kid, IMO. Marincin has to get stronger this summer. He needs to be dedicated to working out and putting on some muscle and if he does that then he’d be much more prepared for a full NHL season. If he doesn’t, I think he will struggle as the season goes along.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I wonder about this.

            I think Marincin has a higher ceiling, but also more of a boom/bust potential.

            Marincin has shown more offensive potential than Klefbom IMO and looks like if he makes it (so far tracking well, but you’ll need at least 200 NHL games on both to know), he’ll make it with more tools and weapons than Klefbom.

            That said, Klefbom certainly looks like he has a better shot (injuries permitting) to be a regular NHLer.

            Both, actually look really damn good so far. Very impressive debuts.

          • vetinari

            Jason,

            I agree that Marincin tailed off and again, agree with you about him getting some size throughout the summer. That said, I still think he’s a better option than a Nick Schultz-type of plug that we’ll get in free agency. Then we’d likely be stuck with that plug a year or two longer than we’d like, either because we overpaid (this is unrestricted free agency, after all) or because coach-loves-vets syndrome.

            Other than Markov and maybe Niskanen, there are no top-pairing defencemen available in free agency. We don’t need any more 4/5/6/7 d-men either, so signing another Ference wouldn’t really help. I don’t see Markov leaving Montreal, certainly not for Edmonton (climate, travel, western conference, loser team). Niskanen might be tempted but there will also be 25 other teams seriously bidding for his services.

            So if the choice is really Marincin and Klefbom over the next Nick Schultz and Mark Fistric, I’ll take Marincin and Klefbom. Neither is going to get ruined by playing in the NHL, just tired and worn down and learn by exposure what it takes to compete every single night.

            Also, the Oilers have to send Justin Schultz down to the third pairing and feature him on the power play. Kid can’t play a lick of defence.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Excellent article.

    Just wondering: you seem to presume they qualify Lander. There’s been some suggestion (I don’t mean by “insiders” here, just idle chatter) that Lander will only accept a 1-way deal and the Oilers will want to qualify him at the minimum:

    http://www.capgeek.com/qualifying-offer-calculator/?player_id=2010

    (he doesn’t have to be offered a 1-way).

    Do you have any read on how the situation is going to go?

    • Jason Gregor

      Thanks for typo. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t qualify him. They have little depth at centre in the organization and he is only 22. Nelson loves him and Scott saw him most of year in OKC. Of course the player wants the best contract, but he’s not in the best situation to negotiate.

      Scott knows him very well, and he will be heavily involved in the negotiations. I think we will see a one-year deal, and I see it being a one-way deal around similar money to Arcobello ($600,000). Or if it is a two-way deal then make his minor league money around $250,000.

      I do wonder if the Oilers would look at two-year deal that pays him one-way in 2nd year and $1million. Show faith that they believe he will develop, plus Lander gets a 2nd year guaranteed.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        agreed. Lander’s got no leverage.

        I know he was scouted in OKC around the deadline. But, there’s no way someone offer sheets him and I could only see an unsigned Lander thrown in as a sweeter for a much bigger trade.

        I think the concern is more that he bolts for Europe, like Rajala and Hartikainen.

        I sure hope he stays.

        It’s a really good point about Scott too. First thing I thought of after he got hired was: this is good for Lander.

        I like the diversity of options you offer for contracts. I hope they get something done.

  • John Chambers

    Nice write- up, Gregor.

    I hope the Oilers are successful in filling in Defense and depth positions on the roster through free agency to keep developing players out of the pro lineup.

    Tyler Pitlick is another guy who IMO should spend an entire season down in the A.

  • Spydyr

    People that say follow the Detroit model have to realize:

    1)Detroit has one of the best owners in the NHL Edmonton does not.

    2)Detroit has one of the best POHO in the NHL Edmonton does not.

    3)Detroit has one of the best GM’s in the NHL Edmonton does not.

    4)Detroit has one of the best coaches in the NHL Edmonton does not.

    5)Detroit has some of the best assistant coaches in the NHL Edmonton does not.

    6)Detroit has some of the best scouts both pro and amateur in the NHL Edmonton does not.

    7)Detroit does not rush players to the NHL Edmonton does.

    Other than that the organizations are spitting images of each other.

    • S cottV

      Some people are just gonna bash.
      Yes, follow Detroit. If we have been for the past 10 years then your post would read:

      People that say follow the Detroit model have to realize:

      1)Detroit has one of the best owners in the NHL just like Edmonton

      2)Detroit has one of the best POHO in the NHL just like Edmonton

      3)Detroit has one of the best GM’s in the NHL just like Edmonton

      4)Detroit has one of the best coaches in the NHL just like Edmonton

      5)Detroit has some of the best assistant coaches in the NHL just like Edmonton

      6)Detroit has some of the best scouts both pro and amateur in the NHL just like Edmonton

      7)Detroit does not rush players to the NHL just like Edmonton

      the organizations are spitting images of each other.

    • S cottV

      I agree 100% brother. The very odd thing is that you have quite a few trashes…..hmmmm paid shills sent out by the Soviet Oilers yet again. Stay classy Oilers.

      • Do what Weight did?

        I love this statement: anybody who disagrees with me must be paid to do so. Could it be that people are trashing because these statements go so far beyond the facts that they are ridiculous? Maybe we’re trashing because there’s nothing new to say. Or maybe, some Oiler fans see this a little differently? I’m not saying “I love Kevin Lowe” differently, but more “there have been mistakes, but also some (admittedly not enough) good moves, and maybe there’s some hope”.

        Even if I didn’t have a different opinion, I’d trash your comment for the arrogance

      • Spydyr

        Some people can’t handle the truth.

        Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

        • djc

          Some people are overly obsessed about how many trashes and likes their comments receive. I hope you have more going for you in life than worrying about how your comments on a blog are received.

          • Spydyr

            It was in response to He Who Knows .He was wondering why the post received so many trashes.

            This site is a time passer for me.Some people play games such as candy crush or angry birds I prefer intelligent discussion about something I have followed my entire life,hockey.

            Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

            This is entertainment not life.

    • I’m a little tired of hearing about the Detroit model. They are still in the hangover period from being able to spend more money than anyone else. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Lidstrom before he retired were all products of the golden age of spending, and their “development strategy” has come from the luxury of years of stacked teams and a “winning culture” being attractive to free agents. Not to mention the ability to lure and keep a coach like Mike Babcock.

      In the cap era, you would expect these advantages to slowly start disappearing, and the Wings to fall back into the pack, which is exactly what’s happening. If their system is so superior, why are they suddenly average? In 5 years they’ll have exactly the same problems as the other 29 teams in the league.

    • Jason Gregor

      You are 100% correct. I am surprised, well not, actually to see this comment trashed.

      Detroit has the best organization in the league. Edmonton the worst. As long as their are dreamers in this city that think Lowe and Mac T can fix this without voicing to the media like Vancouver did, we are as they say, doomed.

      Edmonton under Lowe has done everything wrong. We need a change. The reason Canadian NHL teams are failing is this reliance on old NHLer’s to run the team. Take a look at the stats. Last 8 years, all cups won by non ex-NHL Gm’s. Consistently, the Non NHL GM’s outperform.

      Until Lowe leaves, count on the bottom of the league and and status quo.

      This post is 100% correct

  • vetinari

    For several years now Oiler management have preached patience and, for the most part, fans have accepted this mantra. Now, as we approach the key development segment of the re-build, fans are getting very impatient just when patience is needed most.

    I want the Oilers to turn the corner and be a successful, winning team as much as anyone. However, my hope is not that they build a team to make the playoffs but rather build a team to contend for the Stanley Cup. This will take continued patience.

    Has the re-build gone as we expected? Not really. Is it still on track? Definitely. Do we have the talent to compete for the Cup? Not yet. Is it achievable Yes, most definitely. Will I cheer for the Oilers? Of course. Can MacT deliver a Cup contending team? Yes, I believe he can. He is both intelligent and driven to succeed.

    So please, have patience for a little while longer, continue to support the team and realize that not one of the players want to fail. They too are driven and want to get to the playoffs and contend for the Cup. Too often fans start brandishing their verbal knives out of frustration.

    With the talent currently in the system and a decent 2014 draft and off-season, we should see strides made in the coming season.

    • 24% body fat

      Gagner may not have progressed but I am not sure if that is because what was expected of him and how bad the team was or if he was rushed.

      He achieved what he needed to achieve in the CHL and was fine in his first two years. Gagners lack of progress is because the team has been terrible and management has not supplied a winning culture (yes I hate that saying) and or nhl players for the like of Hemsky, Gagner, Penner, etc.

      The team was competitive in his rookie year and he did his part. What was asked of him and hemksy (a further to cogliano and nilsson) by management is what hurt him. also with 5 coaches in 7 years doesnt help.

      Wait until he gets traded to the east where they dont play defense and the average size is much smaller, he will put up the points and learn to be more effective defensively.

      • Gagner and Penner were great together. The perfect compliments to each other’s strengths. Then the team decided they needed magic beans more than a big power forward who could score 30. I mean who needs those guys, right?

        Greatest Tank Battles indeed.