So, Sam Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs didn’t manage to do a single pull-up at the 2014 NHL combine in Toronto. Not even one.
That’s somewhat alarming because there’s probably a half-dozen media guys who cover the Edmonton Oilers who could manage at least one, especially if you suspended a doughnut or side of poutine over the bar. None of them are getting any closer to the NHL than they are now sitting up in the press box. Let’s face it, managing one lousy pull-up is setting the bar low.
After all, it’s not like Bennett didn’t know what the fitness testing regimen at the combine would be. It’s not like he was rushed into testing still fatigued by a long run in the playoffs, as members of the Edmonton Oil Kings were. And, being one of the lighter players tested at 178 pounds, you’d think he’d have managed to hoist himself over the bar at least once, no?
“I was definitely disappointed with myself,” Bennett said. “I was wanting to do the best I can in every test. But, I guess, ultimately games aren’t won or lost if you can do a pull-up in the gym.”
ONE PIECE OF THE PUZZLE
Bennett is right, of course. Upper body strength, which he is clearly lacking at this point in his physical development, is just one piece of the puzzle. In all, invitees were tested in 13 areas. Nothing we saw in testing will do much to separate – positively or negatively – Bennett from Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart or Leon Draisaitl, all candidates to become Oilers.
That said, there’s no way not being able to do at least one pull-up is a positive in Bennett’s favor. What it indicates more than anything is it’s clear Bennett needs to get in the gym and get stronger and bigger. Not so he can win pull-up contests, but so that he can better compete in the NHL and hold up to the rigors of an 82-game schedule.
None of the testing done in Toronto measures hockey IQ, competitiveness and skill, qualities Bennett has in spades. Most hockey fans in Edmonton, every NHL city for that matter, will take those attributes over being the combine pull-up champ – that honor, by the way, went to Josh Ho-sang, a forward with the Windsor Spitfires, who managed 13.
Bottom line, Bennett could have put to rest some of the concerns about his lack of size by acing the testing, but I don’t see his admittedly feeble pull-up total affecting his ranking. As an aside, many of the top-ranked prospects for the 2014 draft were conspicuous by their absence in the top-10 results of each category at the combine. You can find those results here.
SAY IT AIN’T SO
R.J Umberger wants out of Columbus and a large segment of Oiler fans want Sam Gagner gone, but that doesn’t make for a match in terms of a trade between the Blue Jackets and Edmonton from where I sit.
While I agree that Gagner doesn’t fit as a No. 2 centre behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, given that both are on the smallish side, it makes no sense to me to send Gagner away when his value is at an all-time low. I’d much rather wait to see if he can bounce back from a horrid season that started with broken jaw and went downhill from there.
That holds especially true if we’re talking about moving him for Umberger, who wants out of Ohio, according to connected Columbus Dispatch beat man Aaron Portzline. Umberger has a no-trade clause until June 15, which he could waive if he really wants out badly enough. After that date, he can submit a list of 10 teams he won’t accept a trade to.
Umberger, 32, fits Edmonton needs in that he’s a big centre at six-foot-two and 220 pounds. He’s reached the 50-point mark three times in his NHL career. In terms of money, Umberger has three years left at $4.6 million, so he’s essentially a wash with Gagner. Those are the hooks.
NO MORE RETREADS
The problem is Umberger is a player in decline, as his offensive totals from his career-high of 57 points in 2010-11 indicate. Gagner doesn’t turn 25 until August. The Oilers would be trading away a player whose best years might still be ahead of him for a player whose best years are behind him.
My guess is Edmonton would be at or near the top of the list of the 10 teams on Umberger’s list after June 15, so the buzz created by the original Portzline item will likely end right there – unless he’s absolutely desperate to get out of Columbus and away from coach Todd Richards.
While I’m fine with moving Gagner along given the mix of the top six forwards here, doing so right now for a worn-out Umberger makes no sense to me.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.