IMPACT FROM WITHIN?

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The Edmonton Oilers have been in rebuild mode for years, and while they’ve seen some solid individual progress, the team hasn’t seen any improvement where it matters most: in the standings.

Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz are the young, skilled players this team hopes to build around, but do they have any support players from within the organization who can help this team contend for a playoff spot?

Those five players aren’t experienced or talented enough to lead this team on their own just yet, and if they reach the point where they are, they will need a solid group of complementary players around them.

We’ve examined the the free agent market for the past few weeks, and outside of a few names there isn’t a lot to choose from, so the Oilers will likely have to hope some players within the organization can step up and contribute.

CANDIDATES

Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom are the best bets to be impact players next season.

Klefbom looked more comfortable in every game he played. He only dressed for 17 games, but he rarely looked overmatched physically. He skates well, has good vision and very good hockey sense. He finished the season at 213 pounds, and he very easily could come to camp at 220 next year.

I see him as the best internal candidate to solidify the blueline. If he can stay healthy he could become that minute-eating D-man they desperately need on the left side.

Marincin was solid, but I felt we saw his lack of strength become more of an issue as the season went along. He is a very good passer, skates well has a very good stick and a long reach. I feel he has all the tools to be successful, but he needs to dedicate himself in the off-season. Marincin needs to get stronger. He needs to put some meat on his lanky 6′ 4″ frame. I hope that getting a taste of life in the NHL will inspire him to workout harder and eat better this summer. If he does, he should be a solid defender.

Darnell Nurse is the other D-man who could compete for an NHL job. I still believe he’d be better off going back to junior, playing for Canada at the World Juniors and continue to develop. He is very competitive and he’ll come to camp expecting to make the team. He would need to be better than both Klefbom and Marincin to make the team, and that’s why I believe he’ll play one more season in junior.

Dillon Simpson, Martin Gernat, David Musil, Brandon Davidson and Jordan Oesterle should give OKC a solid young D corps. Simpson and Osterle need at least one year to develop in the AHL. Musil has to improve his footspeed if he ever hopes to play in Edmonton, while Davidson and Gernat should be looking at playing more minutes in the AHL this year.

FORWARDS

Mark Arcobello

Mark Arcobello, Anton Lander and Tyler Pitlick (when he re-signs) will have the best chance to make an impact.

Arcobello had a great start, 10 points in his first 10 games, but finished with 8 in his next 31. He won’t be a point-per-game player, but he has the potential to produce more than 1 point every 4 games. Arcobello’s work ethic and willingness to do anything to earn icetime will get him a long look in training camp. When he was sent back to the AHL, he proved he was too good for that league, scoring 28 points in 15 games. He should come to camp with a lot of confidence, and if he can produce in training camp he could earn a spot in the top-9.

Lander is coming off his best offensive season, but that was at the AHL level. He has struggled to produce in the NHL, and right now he seems more likely to start on the 4th line in a defensive role, rather than higher in the lineup. “I have to get stronger and faster,” Lander told me when he signed a one year contract extension. “I have to prove I can produce in the NHL if I want to stay there,” continued the 2009 2nd round pick. Lander knows what he has to do, but can he accomplish that?

Pitlick is an RFA, but I expect the Oilers to sign him to a one-year deal. Staying healthy has been his biggest hurdle. He scored his first NHL goal in Phoenix, but he got hurt a few shifts later. Every time it looks like he is ready to take the next step in his development, his progress is halted by an injury. He has the size and speed to help this team on the wing, but he needs to stay healthy if he wants to make a contribution.

THE REST…

 Wil Acton and Ryan Hamilton are AHLers who could fill in, but I don’t see them as regular NHL players. The rest of the forward prospects need time to develop. Bogdan Yakimov, Mitch Moroz and Jujhar Khaira will play their first season in the AHL this fall, while Kale Kessy and Travis Ewanyk need to continue to develop and hope that they can be energy guys in the future.

I didn’t include Taylor Fedun, because I have a hunch he will test free agency. I’m curious to see if the Oilers will qualify Curtis Hamilton, or let him walk. He missed half of the season due to surgery, but in his three seasons in the organization he hasn’t made much progress. He did produce more this season, so the Oilers might give him one more year to see if he can produce and develop like they hoped when they took him 48th overall in 2010.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

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The Oilers best prospects are on the blueline, and while that is great, it also means they might get younger at a position they desperately need to improve. Craig MacTavish must sign at least one, and maybe two veterans to help nurture his young blueliners.

The Oilers forward depth should look much better once Yakimov, Khaira, Moroz and Greg Chase mature, but unless Arcobello or Lander take a big step next season, it doesn’t look like the Oilers will get much help from within next season.

ULTIMATE SPORTS FAN PACKAGE…

For the fourth consecutive year we are doing our Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity. On June 7th I am riding in the 190km MS Bike Tour, and I’ve come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan.

How it works is you make a $100 donation and you get 1 entry. If you make a $200 donation you get two entries.

We only take 100 entries and we will raise $10,000 for MS.  The draw is Thursday June 5th, and we’ve already sold 30 on the first day..

This year’s winner will get the following: The final package will be value at over $5,000.00

  1. A pair of tickets to the Oilers home opener in October.
  2. A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
  3. A signed, game used Ryan Nugent-Hopkins stick.
  4. 20 tickets to the Oil Kings opening night game and banner raising night. Also, you will get an Oil King of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. ( Between November 1st and December 15th.)
  5. A pair of Edmonton Rush season tickets.
  6. Two VIP floor seats to MFC 41 on October 3rd. That includes dinner before the fights, and you will also get to watch the prelims at ringside with the MFC broadcast team.
  7. The Nation’s own Jason Strudwick and one of his former NHL friends will play a game with your Men’s League team next season. Struds will bring the beer, a few good stories and some shootout moves.
  8. Four infield passes to the Canadian Derby on Saturday August 16th.
  9. Pizza for a year (1 pizza a week) from Papa Johns Pizza. When you want to watch the big games Papa Johns will ensure you have great pizza.

Keep in mind this sold out in two weeks last year, so if you want a chance to win and help end MS get in the draw today.

You can make your donation here. (click on Donate Now beside my bad picture). Thanks and good luck.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Hey Gregor….you stated that Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, RNH, YAK and Scultz are the young and skilled core that this team hopes to build around……you left out soft…..young , skilled and soft. (WARNING. Lowtide go to your room now….don’t read this)

    The last time the Oil Kings won a Memorial Cup was 1963.

    Included on the Edmonton roster were Pat Quinn and Glen Sather.

    The Niagra Falls Flyers were led by Bill Goldsworthy, Ron Schock, Gary Dornhoefer, Don Awrey, Terry Crisp.

    Here is an excerpt from an article describing game 5 of the series:

    The Flyers stayed alive on May 9 with a 5-2 victory in front of 6,746 fans.
    According to The Canadian Press: “Flyers, showing much more drive than they have in any other game this series, took a physical beating from the hard-hitting and sometimes brutal Oil Kings.”

    More from CP: “The game almost turned into a donnybrook with less than two minutes to go. Greg Pilling of Oil Kings and defenceman Rich Morin of Flyers crashed against the boards and Morin, on the outside, bounced to the ice. As the play moved up to centre and with the referee watching the puck, Pilling brought his stick down across Morin’s head. Morin was taken from the ice on a stretcher and it took five minutes to get play under way again.”

    Earlier in the game, Barber had flattened Harmer at centre ice. Harmer was taken to hospital with what was believed to be a fractured right leg.
    Gardner was excellent again, this time stopping 23 saves. Kirk blocked 19.

    Emms, who came west with 19 players (17 skaters and two goaltenders), said before Game 6 that he had 10 players injured in the first five games, including Harmer and Dornhoefer, both of whom had broken legs.

    The known injured: Rich Morin, 10-stitch cut to the head; Goldsworthy, torn stomach muscles; Crisp, charleyhorse; Glashan, 12-stitch cut to the chin; Hergott, 10-stitch facial cut; Awrey, concussion, forehead contusions, two black eyes; Gardner, mild concussion; and, Maxner, stretched muscles near the rib cage.

    The Oil Kings wrapped it up on May 11, posting a thrilling 4-3 sixth-game victory before more than 6,700 fans.

    The crowd swarmed on to the ice at the final siren and lifted Kirk, Quinn and Bourbonnais on to its collective shoulders.

    • Jason Gregor

      The Oil Kings won in 1966. Because you didn’t remember it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. You can check out the banner that currently hangs in Rexall Place to ensure it happened.

      It was a best of 7 series and Edmonton defeated Oshawa, who had a kid named Bobby Orr, 4 games to 2. Every game was played at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

      Game 1: Edmonton 7-2 Oshawa
      Game 2: Oshawa 7-1 Edmonton
      Game 3: Oshawa 6-2 Edmonton
      Game 4: Edmonton 5-3 Oshawa
      Game 5: Edmonton 7-4 Oshawa
      Game 6: Edmonton 2-1 Oshawa

      P.S I doubt many people believe Hall is soft.

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        1966….right you are…..I should have written ” when the Oil Kings won the Memorial Cup in 1963…”

        That aside though….here is an excerpt from the 1966 series you point to….

        “Six players picked up fighting majors six minutes into the third period, the altercation starting when Harrison crashed into Orr, after which he was immediately confronted by Oshawa’s Bill White. One of the ensuing fights featured Orr, who scored an easy decision over Dave Rochefort.
        Kinasewich was upset and accused the Generals of head-hunting.
        “I like a rough, hard-checking game,” Kinasewich said, “and if they can’t take it, then let them go home.”

        I would agree that most people wouldn’t call Taylor Hall soft…although he does get knocked down easily, falls down a fair bit on his own, and would get his clock cleaned by 2/3rd’s of the players in the NHL ( most of whom admittedly are battle hardened and old man strong) He may be the toughest of a soft group……just because you don’t believe it doesn’t make it so…… You can check out the video of his only NHL fight (the video currently hangs in the Ethernet) to ensure it happened. 😉

    • Reg Dunlop

      Am I missing something? I was too young to remember ’63 Mem cup but I do recall the Oil Kings beating Bobby Orr in ’66. Otherwise, it sounded a lot like some brutal hockey going on. Hopefully the ‘Young Guns’ don’t hear about it or they may have to change their pants, sensitive souls that they are. Oh wait, I forgot, the extra 3 weeks in the gym is certain to man them up significantly.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Scrivens is gonna have to come out guns blazing next season.

    That being said, he really is a joy to watch and I think we have a legitimate goalie here.

  • A-Mc

    I think the Goal Tending is going to be the biggest upgrade going into next season. And make no mistake – it is a BIG upgrade.

    Other additions like continuity of coaching and other small stuff will likely have an impact but nothing major.

    This team drastically needs Yakupov to make a comeback. if he’s going to be the sniper he’s supposed to be, I’m hopeful that he can figure it out next season; we’re going to need more of those clutch goals in the dying seconds of the game. It’s hard to believe how poorly he played this season; he certainly didn’t look like a #1 overall.

    PS: Schultz was already turning a corner by seasons end. he was looking much better in the final section and so i’m fairly optimistic about his progress as well. I think he’ll continue to piece it all together.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Instead of just looking to promote or add from within the Oiler’s system, it is now time to bring in new blood for at least 1 second line center, 2 winger positions (3rd/4th lines) and at least 2 defence positions (2nd/3rd pairing type).

    Thats 5 new guys. The farm system does not have any ready to go. Khaira, Pitlick, Moroz, Chase, Ewanyk, Kelssy, etc need another year of AHL learning froma very good coach named Todd Nelson. Emergency type call-ups for these kids helps to grow/mature but only on short term basis. Minimum full year as AHL players is best.

    Forget the McDavid sweepstakes for a moment cause it is finally time to make the playoffs in 2014-15. Not saying to win each series but it is time to do similar as to what like Colorado has just done this year….get in!!!!

    The Oilers can use either or both of Lander and Arco…but only for the 3rd to 4th line center jobs with Gordon. The Oil need a very decent 2nd line center…PERIOD…Not a fill-in guy that Arco or Lander may be.

    The NHL core type kids are not exactly kids anymore and, along with Perron, it is time to bring in 2 good and tough 3rd line/3line NHL wingers thru UFA or trade.

    With Perron, they are enough as NHL wingers and a top line center on this team already (Hall, Ebs, Yak, Nuge). So add the new blood.

    A guy like Moulson can definitely work as a top 6 winger while Yak still learns from beinbg on the 3rd line…. while two other types like Moss, Legwand, Winnik, etc, are the other type of guys to go after….for 3rd/4th line wingers.

    The Oilers NOT NEED need players full-time like Acton or Hamilton ANYMORE because they are just AHL players only who are emergency needed as per required.

    On defence the Oilers have enough excellent growing youngsters with Petry, Schultz, Marancin and Klefbom so go get guys like Nikitin, Morris, Orpik, Meszarov to help Ference teach/prepare these kids and…. the other excellent futures like Nurse, Gernat Davidson, Simpson.

    Finally…MacT must use what we have to trade “wisely” and do the best with Gagner, some of the prospects, and even he must choose upon who is similar but better or not to stay an Oiler (In this case…Marancin and Gernat are two such same type guys)

    I am not the best guy to give any opinions other than being an Oilers’ fan but this is some of what I would look at doing if a GM type person.

    • Sorensenator

      Yes the optimism is finally starting to die with Oil fans. Every year we all said “this year is gonna be different” and we were continually let down time and time again.

      • Sorensenator

        I think most fans are just hoping this will not be a continuation of cellar results , but most expect so far that it will be . Not much to get excited about on the farm to change that sentiment .

  • beloch

    Key Impact from Within will be the continued development of RNH, Schultz and Yakupov.

    RNH is in his first building (non-rehab) summer since joining the league. He could have an impactful year next year.

    Schultz and Yakupov have their dreaded #2 year now safetly behind them. Both could take significant steps forward this year.

    And both Hall and Eberle are still years away from peaking, both could have 30 goal seasons.
    That will be our Impact from Within.

    Add that to the vastly better goaltending, the emergence of Maricin and Kelfbom and some nice vetern additions from last year and I think people should stop with this surrender in May attitude.

      • Lofty

        While I’m 99% sure you’re right… I wonder what some of these players could do with a good defense?

        It is a 2 way street, a team that spends a substantial amount of time controlling the puck in the offensive end is going to make its D look good, and vise versa.

        If the roster gets better, the coaches get better, the goalie and D gets better and the forwards play a better two way game… The points totals could jump.

        Probably wont happen, but I hold on to hope (and the center ice package.)

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      I hope you’re right about RNH he has a way to go to be an effective 1C.

      I thought Schultz improved throughout the year, but there is still plenty of room for more improvement.

      Agree that Hall still has potential to improve.

      Eberle has turned 24 and is likely very close being as good as he will be. A guy who can score near 30 goals a year is an excellent 22nd pick.

      Yak, to me, is a real wild card.

  • I think my first reaction to this article is that I believe it’s reasonable to think that some of these guys might pan out, but my fear is that the Oilers are counting on it. This line of thinking has never gone well for this franchise.

    • Sorensenator

      Eberle and especially Hall have already “panned out”

      But I agree there are way too many other players that management is hopefully waiting to “pan out’

      • Sure, but Hall and Eberle are not what Gregor is discussing here. He’s talking reinforcements from within the organization, as you referenced with the second part of your comment.

        Essentially what I’m getting at is that good management hopes that Lander, Marincin, and Klefbom all play great next year, but they plan for all 3 to fail.

        Over the last few years Edmonton management has just penciled players like this into the lineup and counted on them living up to expectations with no back up plan at all. It’s flirting with disaster professionally.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Highly unlikely the fans will be happy/satisfied with using multiple fill ins again this season . Certainly they won’t be duped as they have been in the past .

          • They haven’t demonstrated much concern for fan happiness.

            This isn’t just about young players not being ready, this is about pencilling Ryan Whitney in as the #1 defenseman knowing his problems. This is about assuming Khabibulin will come in and dominate for 60+ games.

            This is a team that regularly prepares to have only 6 or 7 NHL defensemen when the rest of the league is aware that you need 8 or 9 who can play minutes without being embarrassed.

            I’m actually hopeful that this sort of thing will end with MacTavish, but until it does I have to remain concerned.

          • james_dean

            @ tigerglass

            You say smart things. If you had a website i would read your script like archeologuy

            If I win the ms draw all that pie and going to all those games with the 7$ beer will bust my jeans and my wallet.

            Have to post “free to single moms” styles.

            Everybody wins if ya know what I mean

          • james_dean

            If you grew up with a struggling single mom you would understand.

            Doing a nice thing and maybe getting a date aint no crime.

            Im not a computer tough guy so I will reserve my comment to your slap.

            Grow up

  • A-Mc

    I don’t think Arco is a good bet for 2nd line centre but it should be noted that his stats regressed primarily because he was placed on the 4th line after Gagner returned. Had Arco remained on the 2nd line, he certainly would have scored more than 8 points in the last 31 games. Would he have outscored Gagner?

    • Do what Weight did?

      Who is pedaling hope? I understood the message as: the oil very likely won’t find help from outside (UFA) so here’s what we’ve got internally. Did I miss a part where the author said that would be enough?

  • Gordie Wayne

    Khaira already made his pro debut at end of last season & looked good. Needs more time obviously. Yakimov played in the KHL as well so that should help his progress.

  • beloch

    Over the last several years Edmonton has defied traditional wisdom by not acquiring veteran forwards to play tough minutes and, instead, throwing their lottery picks, fresh from the draft, out against top competition. How well has that turned out? Yes, some of the kids can score, but how many have developed into consistent two-way players with even barely adequate possession stats?

    Conventional hockey wisdom holds that defenders take longer to mature and establish themselves in the big league. Why not gnore that too? Nurse? Sounds like a perfect fit for the top pair! If the Oilers pick Ekblad, he can debut on the top pair too! What could possibly go wrong?

    • Sorensenator

      Ekblad was the runaway number one defenceman in OHL this year , making first team all star .

      Nurse only made 3rd all star team in comparison . Nurse was only a plus 1 this season on a Sioux team that had most players much above that . In fact , in 60 games plus Nurse ranked about 6-8th on his own team for plus minus (bottom 2). Nurse does not seem to be making solid progress as yet in junior , and who knows for sure he will even next year ? He looked good in camp last year but who knows now ?

      • Ogie Oilthorpe

        This needs to be put into context. Each “All Star Team” in the OHL is actually an ALL STAR LINE. As in, only 3 F 2 D 1G make each “All Star Team”.

        So Nurse making the 3rd “All Star Team” means he was the 5th or 6th best DMAN in the entire OHL. That’s right about what I would expect from a #7 overall pick.

        Similarly, Ekblad could likely go #1 overall and he made the 1st All Star Team.

        When looked at in context, I would say that Nurse making the “3rd All Star Team” is very good news for the Oilers.

  • Gordie Wayne

    Gregor, so after I donate, do I have to send an email somewhere to enter the contest? According to the donate link, you have already raised over $50,000 – Congrats! – so is it too late to get in on the contest?

    Thanks…

    • Jason Gregor

      No need to send an email. We know anyone who make a $100 donation (or $200, etc) from May 23rd until we are sold out is qualified. The site collects all the donations and records the day and time. If you made a donation you will be in the draw. We reply to all those who donate. Good luck and thanks for supporting MS Bike Tour.

  • Edited due to amazingly sensitive people upset at my written tone while pointing out an error. Forgive my painful indiscretion. {To avoid further punishment I will note that this of course does not include the standard correction comments from freeze and kosmo.)

    • Surprising that Tiger isn’t bright enough to see the typo. Of course you are the only one insecure enough to have to point it out. Your act gets old. I feel sorry for you. Thankfully the editor changed it, so negative, simpletons like yourself can figure it out.

      • It was a joke. Serenity now!

        Please explain what my insecurities have to do with this. I understand they are the reason I only change my clothes in the dark and wince every time I hear the word “banana”, but I had no idea they could lead to such shocking misbehavior as mild teasing.

        Also – “typo” does not mean what you think it means.