An injury to Nikita Nikitin and the relatively poor play of No. 7 defender Keith Aulie in the two games since Nikitin went down have created an opportunity on the Edmonton blue line. On Thursday, the Oilers announced that Martin Marincin would be the player benefiting from that opportunity.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 5, 2015
We’ve talked about this possibility a lot over the last month or so, and there seem to be two main schools of thought on the merits of recalling Marincin:
- This is very much a good thing. Marincin has shown he can play and play well at the NHL level and keeping him in the minors when the Oilers blue line is so weak was always ridiculous.
- This is very much a bad thing. We’ve seen the benefits of leaving Anton Lander in the minors to work on his game; Marincin struggled earlier in the year and leaving him down in OKC was and is in the best interests of the Oilers.
The Clock & the Coach
The simple fact is that every prospect is on the clock. From the time a player is drafted, he has a finite amount of time to show an NHL team that he’s worth signing. Once signed, that player has a finite amount of time to break into the majors.
The clock on Marincin is running perilously close to zero.
It’s true that Lander spent extra time in the minors and now seems to be benefiting from it, but that statement comes with a couple of caveats. First, in order to buy that time, the Oilers had to expose Lander to waivers and to the other 29 NHL teams; if one of them had been more sold on the player or in more need of depth down the middle we’d be talking about how unfortunate it was that the Oilers let a useful player walk for nothing. Second, Lander is playing centre under a head coach he knows and trusts and who knows and trusts him; it’s possible that the extra half-season in the minors made all the difference but it’s also possible that the key change was bringing in a coach who from long experience knows how to get the most out of the player.
Both points are extremely relevant in Marincin’s case.
I’ve written before about how even in Detroit players tend to make the jump to the majors after about 200 professional games; that’s because 200 games roughly corresponds to 2-1/2 years of professional experience and most players have three seasons of waiver exemption. Bringing a player up at that point affords an NHL team the chance to give him a half-season cameo before deciding whether he deserves a spot on the opening night roster the next year or if it’s better to just expose that individual to waivers. Unless I’m reading the CBA wrong (it’s a long book and I am emphatically not a lawyer), Marincin will need to clear waivers to go down to the farm next year and unlike Lander he doesn’t have a long track record of NHL failure to discourage teams from claiming him. Bringing him up now and seeing what he has makes deciding his role on next year’s roster much easier.
That Todd Nelson is behind the bench should certainly ease the transition, too. Marincin will be playing under the coach who for most of the last three years has helped him make the transition to professional hockey. It’s a big advantage for Nelson; he’s been a constant behind the bench for many of these players even as the coaching position was a revolving door at the NHL level.
To me, recalling Marincin is an entirely sensible move; the Oilers need to make important decisions on him in the near future and if he’s going to be a significant player for the team he’s at the age and experience level where he needs to show he can hold down an NHL job. It’ll be interesting to see both how he’s used (Lowetide’s Allan Mitchell had an interesting piece today on that) and how he performs in whatever role he’s assigned.
This is an incredibly important time in his professional career.
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