Mr. Unpopular

Draisaitl, Leon

Leon Draisaitl should be returned to Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League this season.

This is not a popular idea among Edmonton Oilers media and fans, but I believe he should not be in the Oilers lineup next season.

The past two drafts the Oilers have drafted exactly the guys I would have if I had been in charge. Draisaitl and Nurse are the types of players the Oilers are missing in the system and on the big team. They are big and can move well on the ice. I want to be clear that I like the Draisaitl draft choice before I explain why he should not be on the team for the upcoming season.

Let me make my case.

No. 1: Line mates

64-Yakupov-2

Who would be the perfect two wingers for Draisaitl if he were to play in the NHL next year? I have heard many Oiler fans and members of the media suggest that he could play with wingers that would protect him while he learns the game? WOW! That is a unique statement.

How exactly does a winger protect his centre? He could help him by taking the draws. He could always be the first man back in the D zone to support the D down low in the corners and the front of the net. So what does that leave exactly for the “protected” centre to do? There is only one answer to that question…. BE A WINGER!

It doesn’t work like that. There are times in a game where a winger will take draws and be the first man back in the D zone. A winger will even end up in the middle on the attacking rush; but not every shift, game in and game out.

Draisaitl cannot be protected by linemates on every shift and in every situation.

I do think that there could be great chemistry between Leon and Yak. Leon is a big guy that can hold on to the puck below the goal line while Yak finds a quiet spot in the slot. Everyone is watching Leon, Yak gets lost in the shuffle and a quick pass to Yak. BOOM. Goal. Think Getzlaf and Perry.

That is in the future. Not this upcoming year. The thought of having Yak and Leon on the same line at this point in their NHL development should make Dallas Eakins very uncomfortable. They are not ready for it and the rest of the NHL would be ready for them. Two or three years from now I hope that is a great duo that can support Nuge’s line with goals. That time is not now.

No. 2: Center Depth

93-RNH-8

Nuge, Gordon, Arcobello and Lander. Throw Leon into this group and we are looking at the top five centres most likely to start the season with the Oilers. Of the four outside of Leon which ones will play the other team’s top lines?

Nuge is trending in the right direction. I saw a lot of two-way awareness out of him last season. He was often in the right place but would lose the battle because he was outmuscled. I think a full summer of working out will be huge for him. He will start to win his fair share of those one-on-one battles that lead to goals for and against.

At this point in his development he is not a player that can carve up those hard minutes against top competition on a nightly basis. He needs a little of experience and strength to get to that place. He will play many of those minutes this season but I don’t see him as a guy that shelters Leon this upcoming year.

27-Gordon-2

Gordon was good for the Oilers last year. I always liked his game but as I wrote last season a championship team will have Gordon as their fourth line centre. That is the depth required to win. He can take those defensive zone draws all night for Leon but at what cost? Leon’s ice time will be less especially on the road. Gordon’s ice time will go up.

Arco and Lander are wild cards. Can these two hold down NHL spots this year? These are not legit NHL guys yet so they aren’t protecting anyone. They are working on their own games and can’t carry a rookie’s harder ice time for a season.

No. 3: Coaching

Dallas Eakins 13

The Oilers have changed some of their coaching staff. The overall plan will be the same with Eakins at the helm for year two but the delivery may change with Ramsey in the mix. This is a team bringing in many new players into the lineup and trying to refine the play of many already in the lineup.

There are so many things for this coaching staff to work on…implementing a system…finding and creating chemistry between new and old players… fine tuning the power play…defensive zone play, etc. They are going to be very busy. Will there be time to spend with a young second line centre to guide him through his first NHL season in a challenging conference?

No. 4: Confidence

Defensive mess

In my experience confidence is the most important part of a young, highly skilled player’s development that must be protected and nurtured. Confidence takes time to build and can be lost in one bad game. I see Leon as a big part of what the Oilers hope to be in the future. His growth as a player needs to have the firm backing of confidence. Can it be guaranteed that his confidence will not suffer in his first NHL season with the three points I have listed above?

I am willing to be Mr. Unpopular when it comes to Leon. I see no real rush to get him into the NHL this season. Another year of junior, world juniors, WHL playoff and world championship would serve him just fine. Another year to get stronger and more mature as a player. I have yet to see the hockey player that is ruined because of an extra year in junior.

That being said I think he will be in the Oilers’ lineup this season due to the lack of other options. He is a very skilled and smart player, so he will make some incredible plays that will make you jump out of your seats; skilled players always do. But is it the best for his complete game long term? I don’t think so.

Keep this in mind: just because Leon is the best option for the Oilers at the second line centre position doesn’t mean it is the best option for him and the organization moving forward.

  • LinkfromHyrule

    I think if Draisaitl impresses in camp he deserves a nine game tryout..Scheifele had two seasons in a row where he got sent down after some games and he’s doing fine.
    Also remember Draisaitl has already said that he’s not playin junior next season..so that leaves overseas..probably khl..khl is known to give few minutes to 19 year olds..likely would get less minutes there than in the Oilers top nine..so Sir Jason, if that happens you wont just be Mr.Unpopular to Oilers media and fans but you will be a Nerd…NERD!

    Just because Gagner hasnt become a prolific high scoring center like we hoped..doesnt mean an extra year of junior wouldve made a difference…we can say that all we want but there aint no proof of such a thing. Each player is different..every situation is different..18 year old hockey kids are much more mature and wiser than even 10 yrs ago.

  • Serious Gord

    Jason:

    “Keep this in mind: just because Leon is the best option for the Oilers at the second line centre position…”

    And who is responsible for the oil being in this disastrous predicament?

    If you really want to be unpopular and prove that you have courage to take an unpopular position, name the people who you think are to blame for putting draisaitl and the team in this precarious position.

    • Let’s play along. I’ll point the finger at Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish — hell, let’s throw in Steve Tambellini because he hasn’t been gone that long, and the pro scouting staff. They’re to blame. They haven’t done a good enough job building this team. Not even close.

      There, you have it. Feel better? Does that ease the bitterness that drips from every single comment you post here no matter what angle a writer takes?

      I grow weary of it.

      • Serious Gord

        Glad to see a sports media figure put his ass on the line in this market robin, you are one of the very few.

        I’m not bitter. Not at all. There’s nothing to be bitter about.

        I believe in holding people to account – that that is the only way any organization progresses. And once the management of this team actually, are then this team and it’s supporters – of which I am one – can move on to better levels of management and – hopefully – success.

        It can take years of opposition to bring down inept or corrupt (or both) management. Look at Chicago and bill wirtz. Or the liberals in Ottawa. Or the wall in Berlin. (Or as you are a car guy – the later years of Henry ford and again the later years of his grandson of the same name) In all cases it was unrelenting pressure and rejection of the status quo by citizens and supporters of those citizens of those respective ‘nations’ that ultimately broke through and caused change.

        Detente is for losers.

        • a lg dubl dubl

          Great, but the point is that the article had nothing to do with why the Oilers are in this situation, or who is to blame. Thus your comment was superfluous.

          And to be fair, I think literally anyone with half a brain who has covered the Oilers over the last decade has, at one point or another: (a) dissected the team’s coaching, development, management, ownership, (b) assigned blame/accountability, (c) acknowledged that Rome wasn’t built in a week, (d) and that MacT, while imperfect, has done a fairly decent job so far of cleaning up the mess, a task that is still to be completed; finally, concluding that (e) the big holes that MacT has yet to definitively address are in #2/3 C and in top pairing D. He may still get lucky in some of these spots, but they are not smart bets.

          While I cannot state for certain, I am pretty sure Strudwick has not held back in his open criticism of the team and its previous woes. Certainly, though, the points I have listed have been covered by many people aside from Robin Brownlee – definitely by Cult of Hockey in Edmonton Journal, Dellow, Lowetide, Gregor and others at OilersNation. Of the mainstream, Sportsnet/Sun/Journal have all had a go at honest reflection as to why the Oilers have sucked for a decade. Let’s also not forget April 15, 2013, when MacKinnon did an excellent job of taking Lowe to task.

          So, with all do respect to Brownlee, his comments were not an epiphany or the first admission of accountability by any Oilers media coverage, whether it be mainstream or blog. If you think that way, I don’t really know what to say other than you must be living in a cave.

          But the bottom line is that the Oilers are in the best position in many years as far as putting the pieces together again. So when Struds wants to talk about what could be an important decision going forward, and rather than beating a dead horse about what could have been changed 8 years ago, forgive us for thinking this is a far more productive use of time.

          And for the record, Monahan has less potential but thrived against points 1, 2, 4, so writing off Leon before even giving him a chance when he could be the answer to the #2C as early as next year is rather closed-minded. If he can truly handle the #2C duty early, then great. What I fear is the very realistic scenario where he is not really cutting it but is kept on the roster because he is still the “best option available” (see Jason’s point #2), which has been the problem with so many past Oilers draft picks who have been rushed along.

          • Exactly

            The idea that Strudwick needs to name Lowe or MacTavish or anybody else to prove he has the courage to question management is ridiculous. Lots of people in the media have taken some pretty good runs at coaching and management these past several years.

            To hammer on it and hammer on it and hammer on it time after time no matter the subject of what’s written serves no purpose.

          • Serious Gord

            Robin:

            Name one journo in this city who has called for the firing of Lowe on something other than a blog – save perhaps yourself. Compare that to the way torts was run out by the New York media.

            They were unrelenting as were the media in Chicago with wirtz. Do you think the journos in Montreal would be as tepid and compliant as they are in EDM if the Canadiens had the worst eight year record in the league and yet still had the same management? *

            To not hammer away on the impediments to success is folly – particularly if they are at the executive level. You will note that I rarely point to any of tambellini’s record and others who are now gone because they are – gone.

            The saw that you and others refrain that ‘lowes going nowhere – so stop calling for his removal’ is ridiculous. If this season goes off the rails he will very likely be gone. And if that happens it will be because of the institutional memory of all of his screw-ups of the past.

            As for my criticism of Jason for not being explicit about the reasons for the predicament of having to play a rookie on second/third line offense – what is the point of pointing at elephant tracks and not saying that there is one in our presence? That draisaitl is even being contemplated as a top four centre is a massive failing on the part of management.

            I don’t think Jason’s opinion is going to make him unpopular at all. Except with oilers management. That being the case, I think he should go into the root of the problem. You do not. Were this another franchise in another – more demanding – market I think he and you would be in the minority.

            Yes it may be tiresome. Fighting the tyranny of wirtz was tiresome and many hawks fans went to their graves railing against him. Others simply stopped going to games or watching them on TV (to the point they they weren’t on TV) But were it not for them his son would not have been compelled to issue an apology for his dad’s (mis)conduct and then proceed to make radical changes to the team – changes that ultimately led to two cups (and counting).

            * – I find it very notable that since MLSE gained Rogers and TSN/globe and mail as owners and the hiring of many torstar and sun sports journos at Rogers and TSN that the level of criticism of the leafs has plummeted – granted upper management has been gutted twice since the lost season – and they have the second worst record since that lost season (if memory serves…)

          • Serious Gord

            OMG you get worked up..remember..relax, breath..chill. It’s only a game why all this whining?? If it makes you that miserable there’s other teams, other sports..other things to do in this world.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Another year of development is good for everyone. However, if he makes the team, he deserves to be on the team.

    Strudwick, I like your radio show. Using your analogy, you should not be on the air in a large market like edmonton. If that was the case, it would be unfair to you and a loss for listeners.

    If L.D. Earns the spot. Play him.

    • PutzStew

      Uhmmm. Edmonton is the junior market. It is above smaller ones like Red Deer, Kelowna, lethbridge, etc, but below Toronto, Vancouver and even Calgary, not to mention the national level.

    • Serious Gord

      Wholly inappropriate analogy.

      A radio analyst doesn’t have to deal with bigger players and body checks and the callers in big markets don’t talk any faster than those in smaller ones. The risk of failure – being defeated by better competition is indeed higher, but the consequences are nowhere near as severe. And the effects are far less likely to be long lasting.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Hasn’t Leon already closed the book on Prince Albert? When he signed his entry level deal a couple weeks ago. It contained other options if he didn’t make the Oilers this season. So he doesn’t have to go back to PA.

    Truly wonderful the mind of a former pro athlete is. He may not yet know how beneficial fact finding may be.

  • Sounds wise. Will be tough but is likely the right thing to do… I like the 9 game idea, I’d spread them over the first 15 or so games.

    The Oilers should use their wing strength to help the Centre issue. i.e. have our best winger (Hall) help carry a line:

    Eberle Nuge Yakupov
    Hall Arco Perron
    Pouliot Gordon Purcell
    Henricks Lander Pitlick/Gazdic

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    I wrote a blog about this and still stand by it. The Oilers should have their WHL owned team (Oil Kings) trade for Leon Draisaitl. If they really want to develop this player why not have him playing in your own back yard under the teams watchful eye. Simple solution.

    The Raiders are a terrible franchise that hasn’t developed anyone substantial in years. The current coach, Cory Clouston, has lost his dressing room (he tends to lose it wherever he goes). If I were the Oilers I wouldn’t want him in Prince Albert.

    • ubermiguel

      Time to put that vertical integration to good use! More time with Clouston might actually stunt Leon’s development. I trust Hamilton way more with my young proespects.

      Struds seems to actually have a very popular opinion. The problem is the Oilers have so few NHL centres right now, we’re basically going to have to hurt this season’s results and burn another year of the Fab 5’s contracts to develop Leon.

      @raine, link to the blog post? I’d love to read it.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’d start him in that 2nd line center spot. Put him where you really need him (in a position to succeed) rather than try and protect him. Put him between Perron and Yakupov for a 9 game stint. If he’s in over his head, send him back. Soft 3rd line minutes is a waste of the year.

    He appears to be of this mindset with the commitment shown since he was drafted. Maybe Nail is a year smarter and they won’t be all fodder for the new mathletes they’ve hired. The Oilers do have one of the easier schedules out of the gate. See if the kid can play at this level. It’s unlikely the Oilers know what they really have in him anyways. He needs to succeed as a 2nd line center here or go back, there’s no middle ground. The Oilers have 3 third line centers (Gordon/Arcobello/Lander) in their lineup already.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    You’re right. Leon is exactly where Darnell Nurse was last summer. He should play a couple seasons in the KHL and then come over much better prepared.

    In reality though. He’s a forward, and Eakins will be told to give him sheltered minutes in the NHL. Where Champagne prices and a beer product on the ice is the standard. Management has so few options but to keep him here as part of the next chapter as this continued hope saga drags on.

  • I agree.
    Back to jail town.
    Better coaching with Clouston and Manson and ALL the ice time he could possibly handle.
    Ride the bus young man, where else can you enjoy 20 straight hours of snowbanks like PA to PG?
    Its got character building written all over it!!

    :))

  • hallsyoilerforever5

    Even with Struddy wanting Draisaitl back to the raiders, the C depth still doesn’t look good regardless. RNH, Arco, Lander, and Gordon looks terrible.