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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Bob McKenzie tweeted about Bob Green and you can expect an official announcement from the Oilers in the next few days.
No official word from EDM, not sure of exact title, but former Oil King GM Bob Green has been elevated to oversee EDM player development.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 8, 2015
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.
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