A new plan for Oilers development?

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The Oilers’ recent track record of
developing players has not been good. Too often they have rushed players to the
NHL, or in some cases to the American Hockey League. However, their
decision to send Leon Draisaitl back to the Western Hockey League, finally, was
correct and hopefully a sign that the organization is going to be more
patient with their young players moving forward.

The major error the Oilers made in the
past, and during this year’s training camp, was not having enough quality
experienced players at camp so young players had to earn their roster spot, rather
than just be handed one.

That strategy needs to change in 2015 and
beyond.

Draisaitl is going to be a solid NHL
player, but he wasn’t NHL ready last week, or at the beginning of the season, yet
the Oilers decided in the summer he was going to be one of their centres to
start the year. They didn’t sign any veteran centres, instead electing to skate
with two unproven skaters, Draisaitl and Marc Arcobello, among their four
centres.

For the sake of Oilers fans, I hope the
recent trade of Arcobello for veteran Derek Roy, and Draisaitl’s departure to
the WHL, shows the organization is finally realizing you can’t compete, never
mind win, with inexperience spread across your lineup.

The Oilers must continue this line of
thinking during training camp next season and beyond.

Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse — who was excellent
for Canada at the World Junior Championships — and this summer’s first round
pick shouldn’t be guaranteed a roster spot. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are
considered generational players, and both look ready to be difference makers in
the NHL, but no other players in the draft should be looked at as someone
who should make the Oilers roster at 18 years young.

They have to learn from previous mistakes.

They
can’t bring in too many young players at one time. Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson all broke in at the same time. I know
Nilsson had played 53 games with the Islanders, but he was very close to
being a rookie.

Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle were
NHL-ready when they debuted in 2010, but Magnus Paajarvi wasn’t. He
should have been sent to the AHL or stayed another year playing pro in
Europe.

Anton Lander was not ready in 2011. It was
inexcusable to have him in Edmonton for the majority of the season,
before sending him down for the final 14 games in the AHL. Not only was he not ready, but they added another rookie to a group that included Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It was asinine to have that many young players in your top-ten forwards.

Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton were late birthdays, and only played one
year of junior after being drafted, instead of two, like Eberle did.
Neither player was ready for the AHL, and that stunted their development
and led to injuries. When they were healthy they didn’t play. Players don’t develop by not playing. They would have played 20 minutes a game in the WHL and could have went to the AHL the next year stronger and brimming with confidence.

OilersBroken

The Oilers, and many fans, need
to change their thinking in believing sending a player to the AHL is
punishment. It is the exact opposite. The NHL is the best league in the
world, and unless you are an elite player, most are not physically ready
to contribute for their team right as a teenager coming directly from
junior.

Draisaitl should have been sent down after
nine games. The remaining 29 games accomplished very little. Other than
realizing how difficult the NHL is, what exactly did he learn in those
29 games that he hadn’t in the first nine? He needs to play at a quicker
pace, and like every young player he needs to get stronger.

Thankfully,
the Oilers sent him down now. He will light it up in the WHL, gain
confidence, and contrary to popular belief, he will benefit from playing
there and not simply pick up bad habits.

Nurse
looked great in the gold medal game. Awesome. I hope he dominates the
second half of the OHL season and has a long playoff run, but the Oilers
should not plan to have him on their opening night roster next fall.

If
he beats out two established veterans and makes the team, great, but
they should plan for him to start the season in the AHL. Even if he has a
few good preseason games, I’d still send him to OKC to start the
season. Keep him hungry for the NHL, but also let him learn the pro game
in the AHL, which is a very good league, rather than feed him to the
wolves in the NHL.

If — BIG if — the Oilers pick
1st or 2nd, and take McDavid or Eichel, can they really expect to have
either of them, plus Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl as their top
three centres next year? It would be a recipe for losing. You can’t have
that much inexperience in your top-three centres.

I
don’t believe it would be a tragedy if Draisaitl started the season in
the AHL. He won’t stay there, but there is no need to rush him. Ask the
Detroit Red Wings if it hurt Gustav Nyqvist last season. He had played
40 NHL games over the previous two seasons, prior to last year, and they
still sent him to the AHL to start the season.

I
realize cap situation was a part of it, but the point is it didn’t hurt
his development, and he wasn’t upset at the organization. I’ve heard far
too often from people, that the Oilers can’t risk alienating a young
player by sending him to the minors. These players are not that
thin-skinned. They won’t wilt because of a stint in the minors.

Oscar Klefbom finished last year in Edmonton, but he started the season in
the AHL. He was recalled and has played well since, and he has no
ill-will towards the Oilers for sending him down in October.

Martin Marincin is good example of them letting a player keep developing. He
looked okay last year and he has a good stick and moves the puck well,
but he can’t break up the cycle down low and he needs to play harder in
tough areas of the ice. Let him work on those areas of his game and gain
confidence doing it at the AHL level, rather than try to develop in the
NHL.

PRO SCOUTING

If
the Oilers want to eventually improve, they have to handle their young
players better, and that means their pro scouting needs to do a better
job of recognizing players Craig MacTavish should acquire or go after in
free agency. They need to find players who are good enough, so the
Oilers aren’t tempted to rush another youngster into the lineup.

They
don’t need to find elite top-end forwards or defenders — most teams
know who they are — but the Oilers need to find players buried on the
depth charts in good organizations and bring them to Edmonton. Or look
at veterans in free agency, and sign them to one or (at most) two year
deals.

Find experienced players who can contribute
and are hungry to stay in the NHL. Having more of those types of players
will allow the Oilers to properly develop their next crop of young
players.

If they rush Nurse, Draisaitl and this
year’s top pick, the Oilers will be repeating history, and that history
is one that results in losses and high draft picks, not victories and
playoff games.

PARTING SHOT…

Bob McKenzie tweeted about Bob Green and you can expect an official announcement from the Oilers in the next few days.

My source said that same thing and that Green will be in
charge of player development and could oversee all aspects of scouting
in the organization. I can’t confirm if that means he will have final
say over head scout Stu MacGregor on draft day, but he will have a lot
of input in scouting at all levels according to my source.

I like this promotion because Green has a proven resume and track record. He took over the Medicine Hat Tigers when they were terrible and built them into a powerhouse, and then he built the Oil Kings from an expansion team into a WHL champion.

He has proven he knows how to scout and develop talent, and I have no issues promoting someone who has paid their dues and proven they are good at the job they will be promoted to.

Recently by Jason Gregor:     

  • Serious Gord

    I really believe that lack of internal competition has been the team’s biggest problem for a long time. You talk about Hall and Eberle being NHL-ready in 2010, Gregor, but they still should’ve had to work for what they got; Hall shouldn’t have been on the first power play from day 1 for lack of a better option, he should’ve been getting his feet wet playing 10 minutes a night at evens and liking it, and had two solid guys in front of him who had paid their dues that he would have to overcome to get more time. They all should’ve experienced this, from Gagner to Hall to Draisatl; if there’s one thing that’s created a culture of entitlement and complacency among the players in this organization it’s that every one of theso guys was handed prime minutes as teenagers instead of having to properly earn it. Sure Hall had the most talent on the team from day 1, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have had to watch veteran guys go to the net hard and back check like their jobs depended on it and been told “you want some of their ice time? You back check like that, I see you loaf back once more you’re back in Windsor.”

    That’s how you get better. That’s how you create a winning culture. It constantly surprises me that Mactavish, of all people, seems to have forgotten that when he does things like keep Draisatl on the roster.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    I think there needs to be something said about Aaron Ekblad. In his first games, he did not look all that great. After keeping him past the 9 games, he has looked A LOT better. Oilers took another chance, hoping LD could pick up his game, but when you’re the oilers, it never works out.

    • camdog

      That said at the 9 game mark, there wasn’t anybody and I mean anybody that thought keeping LD up with the team was a good idea.

      In a salary cap world you can’t be willing to make these kinds of moves, it looks amateur. Just like the Petry contract, Mact didn’t know what he was doing their as well, it’s just quite frankly bad management.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    katz fill a brief case full of cash and hire craig button from tsn as head of scouting for both pro & am and let him hire his scouts, from across the globe he must know thousands of scouts good & bad

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    MORE BOLD MOVES!

    The mighty Oilers searched the hockey world, all the way from Leduc to St.Albert, from Stony Plain to Sherwood Park, and now they have their man. After an exhaustive, comprehensive search…Bob Green!

    Please MacT and Kim Jong-Lowe, keep the bold moves coming. DEAR LEADERS, WE TRUST YOU!

  • CMG30

    MacT goes into the season with a 1st and 4th line centre. And you know the results

    Stu M- try’s to build a team on wingers and can’t pick quality outside 1st rd unless he does it by mistake.

    Klowe- Smartest man in the room who knows winning.

    Must get heavy lugging around those brains. Smartest people in the room.

    Results = Results worst team in the NHLfor 8 + years

    Named the 2nd worst organization in North American sports in the last 5years. Good thing they didn’t 8 yrs out.

  • CMG30

    ONE MAN’S CEILING IS ANOTHER MAN’S FLOOR

    Minnesota went 2-4-4 and the coach’s head exploded at practice, screaming at the players

    Edmonton fired Eakins and the team has gone 2-4-4. Everyone is happy, happy, HAPPY! Hooray! We’ve turned the corner! Better be careful, we might win too many games!

    The Edmonton Oilers organization is truly pathetic.

  • CMG30

    Just thought this was fitting……….

    We have a roster full of bonafide shooters ,it is the system that dictates who is and isnt a shooter,nothing else.Not the player or his abilitys.

    If the Oilers play the NewAge Hockey System or a variant this year we will see 45 shots per game over 82 games.

    The NewAge System spreads offensive accountability 100% across the board like no other system being played in the NHL today.The offensive shot decisions are ALL system dictated and the shot choices are also SYSTEM dictated,many responsibilitys are removed from the players focus,and his game speed is drasticly improved as is his execution of system requirements.

    If a player like Nail,who I have watched a lot of video on,is allowed to contribute to a system like the NewAge System his speed and instincts will if he works hard enough put him in CONSTANT position systemwise to be releaseing his shot,premier shot positions on a consistant basis.With this system and the Oilers talent it will literally be a matter of who works hardest gets the most goals,the opponent will have virtually nothing to say or do about this outcome,the system is THAT offensive and superior to the “hybrid system”being played by most NHL teams.

    I recognised the finish but we have at least three guys in that league,with a d-man who looks like a sniper as well in Schultz.

    Yakupovs sucess will depend on the system the coach chooses to use him in if he makes the team out of camp as we all seem to expect.

    I created the NewAge Hockey System for the Oilers specificly and presented it to them on-line last year,I read Mr.Kruegers comments related to the type of offense we might see being similar to the PP of the 80s Oilers,welcome to my world,my system is absolutely and completely based off of the Oilers PP execution dureing the 80s,i have converted the core values of that PP to a superior 5 on 5 hyper-offensive system unlike any ever seen before.It is unique ,and it is mine.LA used it last year as did our farm team,the Oilers started to implement it with about 25 games to go and had steady sucess.

    I posted extensively about my system on the Oilers website over a two year period,in an attempt to have it recognised and implemented,I believe I accomplished that,and along the way LA through Jarret Stoll and co. piggybacked the data from the Oilers site and implemented it,and the farm team also implemented my system data effectively,both LA and the farm team attained the expected results,and the Oilers were righting the ship at the end of the year believe it or not,you could feel it.

    Players like Nail work so very hard every time they hit the ice that they need to play in a system that allows this extra effort to be immediatly rewarded and consistantly rewarded,they need a system that rewards extra effort and individual efforts that are aggressive and offensive for 60 complete minutes.A system that drains them of offensive energy,not one that stifles it ,not even for 5 mins of a game.

    If Nail is on the second line consistantly he will push for the team goals lead and walk away with the Calder hands down,possibly by a record margin of points if he stays healthy for 82 games,I believe Sam Gagner is a natural fit with Nails vision and insincts,and because Sam looks to be anchoring the 2nd line their unavoidable chemistry will rear its head through many multiple point games for the two of them,if we see this dynamic for 82 games I peg Yakupov within the NewAge System to score 35 plus goals,if he finds a home on the PP maybe 40—and the 2nd line will propel us into the playoffs with those multi-point games.Remember this is a system specific prediction.If we play a hybrid system like we did most of last year,I say he will be a 20ish goal guy no matter what icetime he gets.i appreciate nails skillset and shot ect. but I still firmly believe that offensive sucess is catalysed by system induced opportunitys—so with an average system he will perform above average for a rookie,with a superior system he will perform above average on the NHL level.

    Just make sure you remember to not blame Sammy for shooting a lot this year with nail on his line if we use the NewAge System,because the shots will be system dictated not dictated by anyones greed.And there should be 45 per game to go around,and i love the math when I see nails conversion ability,he will get four shots per game average,so it should be interesting.

    If we play a hybrid system he will get less shots per game by a large margin,I see Nail useing his onetimer on the PP a lot and getting most of his goals from there which is why i pegged him in the 20s,but in the NewAge System he will be generateing his goals off 5 on 5 situations as well as the PP and he will have a constant stream of system induced shooting opportunitys which is why I pegged him at possibly 40 goals. Yes,he is a finisher,yes he has an invisible release,and yes he can score from absolutely everywhere,and yes he will fit in here and have a lot of great young teachers to help him out,like a third born he will talk-walk-and score goals faster because of his slightly older siblings like Hall-Gagner-Nuge-Ebbs ect.

    But lets remember that he is walking into a room full of high picks with a serious skillset depth—this may be the toughest test he has ever had,and certainly tougher than the fellas before him,he has to compete with the full deck of cards with hemsky-Nuge-Hall-Ebbs-Gagner-Schultz-MPS ect.I dont see there being that much pressure or expectations put on him,we dont exactly need a savior these days with all the young studs we have.

    As with all our players,as the system goes so goes the players statistical seasons.We can already count on one thing,Nail will be ready to put in the hard work needed to be a system asset,and the system wont matter in that regard,the rest is still unwritten history,and anyone who wants to can pick up the pen and start writeing,they just need the desire—I see a lot of that in this young man.

  • Serious Gord

    Jason you say that the oil need to change their ways. You highlight developmnt and Pro scouting.

    Yet you praise the hiring of green which is a perfect example of the BIGGEST thing wrong with the oil – the lack of professional business practices when it comes to hiring and firing people – both players and management.

    Mr. Green might be the greatest scout in hockey history but the way he was hired and the corporate culture that supported it will keep EDM permanent bottom feeders.

    Stop enabling them.

    • Don’t pretend you know anything about “the way he was hired”.

      The man is clearly qualified and promoting qualified individuals from within an organization is exactly how professionals operate.

      Passing over a highly qualified employee, just to ensure an outside hire, is far less “professional”.

      • DoubleDIon

        I am not going to wade into this particular debate about whether or not he is a good hire or not. I would like to zero in on one sentence of your comment……

        “qualified individuals from within an organization is exactly how professionals operate”. I would agree if you were dealing with a professional and successful organization. This is not the Oilers

        The Oilers suck plain and simple. They are the joke of the NHL and have been for some time. Exactly how does one think that promotion through the organization is a good thing? Whatever this organization is doing is not working and our results can confirm this. One could conclude that the best place to look for a suitable candidate would be in a successful organization. If a successful organization wants to promote from within then great. But clearly an organization that is rotten from the core should not be looking within itself. Whatever we are doing is wrong, wrong, wrong.

        LOOK OUTSIDE THE BOX.

        It doesn’t mean you have to choose from outside the box. But at least cast your net far and wide and then make the best hire possible. Once again I questions whether we did all we could to look outside the box.

        • Serious Gord

          Bingo: teams like detroit can promote from within on occasion because they hired properly at the lower levels and those good hires migrate up through he system.

          • Serious Gord

            No he was an eligible candidate who should still have had to compete for the position. And the team has almost nil track record for hiring good people in the first place.

            Just once – just frigging once – would it kill them to do a full search and interview process?

          • Joe Mamma

            As Gregor said, by building two franchises into powerhouses almost single handed. I’m as sick of the lack of diligence by the oilers in their hires as anyone, but Bob Green is a good hire, period. I think you’re letting past failures cloud your view of what is and isn’t a good hire. If there is a more qualified and available candidate out there please enlighten us all who that might be.

          • DoubleDIon

            Lol. Green gets some credit for the Oil kings but he was one of 3 assistant GMs for the tigers. That’s like pretending Scott howson is the architect of the Oilers. Green had very little to do with medicine hats team success. I was a season ticket holder for the tigers.

          • Serious Gord

            I won’t take gregors word for it not will I take oilers management’s. Again if he is as good as you say he is then he would still come out on top in a professional search process and it would shut people like me up. And it would be UNPRECEDENTED.

          • Serious Gord

            I didn’t say pass him over to hire outside the organization.

            I said cast your net far and wide and look at all your options……………….then make the best hire.

          • Serious Gord

            Yes. I do not think they know. and they have proven that that to be the case on the player side so i think it very likely that they are similiarly clueless on the management side.

            And what do reason(S) do you have to oppose a proper search? What reasons do the oil have?

          • I don’t oppose a search, I just don’t think that entails some extensive interview process dome for show. Teams already know who they want for these jobs. If they don’t then they haven’t been doing their jobs.

            If you want to claim that Oilers management can’t make good decisions then that’s fair, but the idea that this is a bad hire because they should have interviewed everyone and their dog for this position is not, nor is it fair to pretend other teams make public interview searches for lower management positions.

      • Serious Gord

        Baloney. There was no search. Otherwise we would have heard about it.

        If green is as qualified as you say he is then he still gets the job.

        The professional way to do things – interviews, decisions made on merit not whk you know, like or are related to ends up with an org that in time becomes the best in the business.

      • There is absolutely no lack of professionalism hiring people outside an organization if the canidate is better suited. What an assinine suggestion that could be so further from reality. This organization does not exactly scream proffessional in any aspect.

        Bob Green may be a good hire, I hope so. However he holds “no” NHL experience, and has scouted esclusively bantam, midget, and junior talent from what I understand. Its an internal hire from a organization whos biggest failing is hiring from within, and rewards their own rather then getting experienced hires from an exhaustive hiring process.

        It is going to take minumum 5 years to see if this is a good hire, and the Oilers hired another “Green” junior hire. Could they afford to do the same thing again?

        An exaustive search might of led to an overhaul of the scouts, how is suppose to transition the Scouting department when he has loyalties and connections to them. If Bob Green has the power to make executive decisions on his own and overhaul this group, I’ll eat crow. This is new lipstick.

        • There is absolutely no lack of professionalism hiring people outside an organization if the canidate is better suited. What an assinine suggestion that could be so further from reality.

          I agree. Now if you could kindly point out where I made such a suggestion…

    • Meh.

      Red Wings hire from within. As do the canucks, penguins, avalanche…. to name a few.

      Sure the old boys club is a problem here, but hiring from within isn’t unheard of. Nor is it anything that prevents teams from being successful.

      • Serious Gord

        The wings hire from both within and without. But the guys who made it the team it is mostly came from without – Babcock and bowman to name two. Internally it takes years to move up the org and there is no guarantee that you get to the top.

        Same goes for Chicago (bowman and quenville) and San jose (Doug Wilson) and now Florida (yzerman).

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Lowe was an arrogant ass as a player that needed broken down and thinks all players need this. He should have his ass kicked for throwing young players into the fire and destroying them. The only thing he did was ride gretskys coat tails and as a coach had pronger fall in his lap, other than that zippo, zilch, nadda, nothing.

  • camdog

    Hopefully the internal audit of the organization has a look here at ON. The longer you watch rebuild x.0 and the amount of squandered chances to retain effective players (glencross, brodziak, Hejda, etc) and move in (the Osullivans, etc, etc, etc) while rushing and harming young players development (gagner to current) the more you realize that bloggers, radio hosts and fans could likely have done a far superior job. I bet you money, a panel of season ticket holders and bloggers voting American Idol style by phone would have put this group to shame. Not even joking.

  • dougtheslug

    In most major league sports markets, fans pay major league dollars to watch professionals ply their trades.

    Only in Edmonton do we pay major league dollars to watch juniors and minor leaguers learn their trades.

  • Rdubb

    Gregor, i do agree that Edmonton must not rush it’s young players, but unfortunately, it’s not only Edmonton. Most other teams bring their top picks to the NHL too, but those other teams have a lot more vets to “hide”/”protect” those rookies…
    Many years ago, and perhaps not all that many when one thinks about it, teams wouldn’t even consider keeping their top draft picks past the 9 game mark. There were one or two a yr at most that stayed in the NHL, but in the past few seasons we have started seeing a trend where as NHL teams are starting to keep top draft picks past the 9 game mark. The NHL has gone from keeping one or two a season to 8-15 a season. What is the reason for this? Perhaps the salary cap has something to do with it, or perhaps a “watered down” NHL has a lot more to do with this than anything else?
    There are teams playing in markets that shouldn’t be there. And what makes me sad is that the NHL is considering expanding again, thus diluting the NHL talent pool even more.
    In my opinion, and perhaps i am in the vast minority on this, but i feel that the NHL product would be that much better off if it were to “cut down” on the number teams. Too many franchises are suffering, they lack the attendance and are really only surviving, if you call it that, because of the huge TV deals. Axe teams like PHX, FLA, and maybe even CAR and then the better players on those teams could join existing rosters, and overall it’d make for a much better product to watch and many of the people who are really not NHL calibre players would be sent down to the AHL. And by doing this, teams with a storied history whom are struggling would have a better product for their fans, thus bringing them back into the arena, teams like NJ, NYI…
    This would also cut down on the number of 18yr olds making the jump straight into the NHL as the talent pool would no longer be watered down.
    Why can’t the NHL thrive with 26 teams, even 27?
    To many owners want that almighty dollar that expansion brings them and don’t look at the long term viability of the NHL and how expansion hurts their teams by watering down the talent pool even further?
    It would also make players fight harder to stay in the league as there would always be a good player trying to make it. This too would also add better hockey being played and thus a better product therefore adding to the NHL’s revenue that they are so worried about…

  • Serious Gord

    I feel Oilers need to address/develop long term defensive personnel as a top priority thru the draft and youth . That is something we lacked over last 8 years . Trying to do it on the marketplace has failed for last 8 years as we have all witnessed . Therefore , I propose a long term solution by forming a young defense that should be stellar for years to come . Nurse , Hanafin (draft if we do not finish in top 2) , Klefbom , Ristolainen ( trade for Yak and one current veteran defenceman like Schultz or perhaps Marincin ) and Nurse . That should produce a solid core and I doubt our other offensive stars need to be trade away . Start this rebuild going in the right direction would certainly pay dividends ! Example only .

  • I remember not so long ago everyone was in a panic because Todd Nelson didn’t get promoted and everyone was upset that a legitimate in-house talent was going to be walk away.

    Now suddenly what appears to be the promotion of a legitimate in house talent occurs and everyone is upset because the Oilers didn’t hold a press conference to announce that they were seeking a new player development guy and would be conducting extensive interviews because they have no idea who is out there that would make a good player development department head.

    Can anyone point to any occasion where an NHL team made a public search to fill a position like that? Do you know why not? Because it doesn’t happen.

    • Serious Gord

      I don’t think hiring Nelson, when they backed up the Brinks truck for Eakins was any sort of consensus opinion. I think a majority of people wanted an experienced bench boss. Some suggested Nelson as for his success taking OKC almost to the Calder Cup Finals, and almost taking out Grand Rapids with a less talented team. People were all over the board on who to hire. I think most felt Nelson would of been a better hire based on a better track record, Eakins had mixed results, a bad powerplay, and good hair. There was alot of support for Jon Cooper as for AHL coaches.

    • Serious Gord

      off thetop of my head:

      MacT started one for coach and then jumped the gun and hired eakins.

      The red wings when they hired babcock

      the MLSE when they hired lywicki and when they hired shanahan

      I’m sure there are dozens if not hundreds of examples.

      • Head coach and upper management. Hardly similar positions. You’ll notice the Leafs made no pre-search announcements when hiring new guys under Shanahan recently.

        To be honest, I don’t recall any searches and extensive interviewing being announced prior to Leiweke or Shanahan being hired either, but I’ll take your word for it since I don’t care enough to look.