IS LUKE GAZDIC A PART OF THE FUTURE?

Luke Gazdic is a young, effective enforcer. The role may be heading toward extinction but the Edmonton Oilers still employ one. Will Gazdic be here in a year?

Later this month, Luke Gazdic turns 26. His role on the Oilers is as an enforcer and he has shown some ability to win puck battles in the offensive zone. He’s not exceptional at passing or taking a pass but his speed and the battle give him a few tools to work with when game action occurs.

The Oilers used Gazdic last season in the least stressful moments possible:

oilers vollman fs 14-15

As you can see, Gazdic wasn’t close to a tough zone start (only three forwards were a year ago) and he’s almost off the chart in terms of ease of opposition. Edmonton wanted Gazdic for the nuclear deterrent and he filled that role well (I haven’t read much negative about him as a fighter, and it’s a damn tough job. The Lucic video above is an example).

MCLELLAN’S JOHN SCOTT USAGE

In San Jose, Todd McLellan employed John Scott in the identical manner to Gazdic’s season:

sharks vollman fs 14-15

It’s basically the same slot McLellan used Mike Brown for in the 2013-14 season, so we have some ammo on McLellan’s deployment of the player type.

BRUINS ENFORCER

bruins vollman 14-15

Just for fun, thought I’d see where Lucic runs and as you can see he is very much part of the heart of the game—Edmonton doesn’t have this player.

WILL EDMONTON KEEP AN ENFORCER?

When Todd McLellan was quoted on this subject earlier in the month, a lot of people concluded this spelled the end of the line for Gazdic, but I took it as possibly meaning the team would add a forward like Curtis Glencross or Chris Stewart—a player who could be part of the important minutes of the game. Based on Todd McLellan’s recent past, there’s a role for a six-minute enforcer and that role in Edmonton belongs to Luke Gazdic.

I think he’ll be on the roster opening night. Agree?

  • NJ

    It is my opinion only that the Oil will have a completely different identity this year. Specific roles. A team. It’s not gonna be the rough and rough Charelli bruins. It’s likely (hopefully) “take a penalty” and we will destroy you on the PP. I think based on the world championships that McClellan will have every ticking and filling roles they are suited for but they will be a team. The additions of Sekara and Letestu will help, some new blood. Plus, there will not be a player who won’t stand up for McDavid.

    There is room for Gazdic this year. I don’t think Lucic is signed for next year yet and would suggest there’s a home for him here should he be willing.

  • The Soup Fascist

    ” My Goon vs Your Goon” is just a side show to the real hockey game in todays NHL ! Didn’t see any of these banana’s in the playoffs.

    If for example Clutterbuck is running around taking cheap shots at the players, Gadzic will not step in… he only wants to fight the teams other tough guy.. period… that is all he does.. Waste of time.

    Besides what good is Gadzic, when he’s on the bench while players are taking shots a McDavid etc.

    • FlamesRule

      I guess Oiler “Al” isn’t in fact Al Hamilton, judging from that comment.
      Al here’s an idea. Why don’t you tweet Eberle and Hall and ask them if the like having Luke in the lineup. I suspect they might write a few paragraphs and guaranteed iit would be lip service. There may no be many goons left but make no mistake about the stuff that goes on out on the ice. We don’t hear it for a reason. It is a violent game being played out there, and there are those that pay little heed and respect to their opponents health and welfare. Matt Cook is a fine example (seems to have changed his MO in the last few years and good on him). It was either that or someone would end his career early for him.
      All those years Hemsky was here and taking punishment he never should have taken if we had anyone to stand up for him. When Souray came in and played it helped. Ales deserves credit for that too… He kept playing his game and took it.
      But they CANNOT take the chance of someone taking runs at McDavid with no threat of an ensuing beat down. And I can say with absolute confidence they won’t let it happen.(Smarter than the old boys club these gents are). There’s a big reason they went out and got Gryba. He’ll take a guys head off, and God bless him.
      Here we go Oilers here we go

    • petrklimashelmet

      We need someone who can skate,play and plays mean to play with Hall and McDavid.Act as their bodygaurd. Hendricks is our best option as of right now. Pouliot-Nuge-Eberle should stay together.That’s my opinion anyways. GO OIL!!

  • bradleypi

    I would rather see gazdic in the lineup before klinkhammer. But I’m a huge gazdic fan and I’m not a proponent of the you need points from your fourth line. As long as the 4th line is creating energy and wreaking havoc I’m happy. I love the idea of a korpikoski-letestu-gazdic 4th line. You can rotate klinkhammer in and out depending on who needs a rest

  • Reg Dunlop

    Anyone suggesting that the present Oiler line-up will come to the defence of McDavid is just wishing. Anyone suggesting that the presence of Gazdik or Gryba on the bench will deter cheap shots on Conner is just hoping. Just like most citizens here I like a good hockey scrap(from a safe distance) but it won’t change the fact that McDavid, or Hall or whoever just had the taste cross-checked out of his mouth. The only solution seems to be a culture change combined with some personnel changes. Nurse is a GREAT way to start. Go oil, flames suck and swallow.

  • srelio

    I’m baffled by the attitude that the oilers don’t really need a tough guy like Gadzic right now. After the beating the team and its young stars have taken over the last several years to still have a take-him-or-leave-him attitude is insane. Sure it would be great to have experienced grit throughout the lineup and not need an enforcer, but lacking that, which the oilers are, a guy like Gadzic is that much more crucial to provide protection. Having McD lacing em up this year compounds the need even further. I’d rather have Gadzic start on the wing with McD and Hall, have them score 20 less points and have 10 less wins, but have a healthy and happy McD at the end of his first season. Need some insulation for the rookie!

  • CaptainLander

    If McLellan had room for one face-puncher on his Sharks roster (over multiple seasons), I think the Oilers will be fine with a similar situation.

    John Scott scored more goals in his season (3) with the Sharks under McLellan than in 7 years of his NHL career prior (2). That’s a 1053% increase over his yearly average. 😛 It doesn’t mean much, it’s just funny to hear.

    With McDavid breaking his hand in a fight last season, I’ve got time for a specialist who McDavid could depend on for having his back. 97 has heart and would do it himself, but he’s also smart, and wants to win. Look, team toughness is great, but sometimes your opponents cross the line.

    Gazdic taking 6 minutes a night when he dresses won’t cost the Oilers the playoffs. Injuries to McDavid because he felt compelled to take matters into his own hands, will.

  • RaimoSummanenLives!

    If he has the speed, and we have the coaching, give him more responsibility and increase his quality of competition and more d zone starts. he’s young enough to grow with this team and capable of playing the game. Certainly useful to have his presence in a game rather than in the pressbox. Give him a chance and see what he can do. Might be a pleasant surprise. he’ll only get better with experience.

  • RaimoSummanenLives!

    Well written piece.

    Let’s hope we see Luke in that new third jersey on the starting line with McDavid and Eberle. Throw Sekera and Gryba on D. Talbot in goal.

    Todd’s pack quote is accurate. One will not make a big deal but the pack together is more effective. Todd will come out close to what Lowetide said for the fourth line.

    I remember one year Semenko started the season on left wing with Gretz and Kuri. He (DS27) posted career personal annual records before Christmas!

    Someone do the math: Is it 97 days to the home opener?

  • JackB

    Maybe, if a Calgary goon takes liberties with McDavid, RNH, Hall or Eberle, we send Gadzic (or Gryba) out to beat the crap out of one of their best players?? (To hell with the “heavy weight code”) (Watch out Johnny Hockey)

    That only has to happen once . . . then maybe the other team might think twice?? For the whole rest of the season??

    And maybe the other western teams with goons (SJS) will hear about it . . and think twice??

    I mean, why go beat up the goon who took the liberties? Just do the same to their top players!!

    And make sure Gadzic warns their bench (during the warm-up) that that is exactly what he will do.

    Just a thought.

  • Oilers4ever

    Considering how Hall knocked out Clutterbuck with a hit… I dunno. Don’t see the need for Gaz myself but that’s just my opinion. Can’t Klink fight?

  • JackB

    If the best 6 D play this year, regardless of their contract status, or “veteran status”, could we see: Sekera / Fayne / Klefbom / Greyba / Reinhart / Nurse ?? (EDIT – OOPS! Forgot about Schultz. So maybe it will still be hard for both Reinhart and Nurse to both start the year)

    With Ference or Nikitin as the 7th D ??

    I wonder if Chiarelli (in the new buy-out window) intends on buying out Ference, then waiving Nikitin to the AHL ??

    That would make Davidson our 7th D, unless he picks up one more D in free agency ?? I wouldn’t mind seeing that happen, and picking up Jan Hejda on a one (or maximum two) year deal. It was suggested (by Scott Cullen, I think, on Lowdown w/Lowtide) that we sign Hejda, and he could take the “hard minutes” (penalty killing/shot blocking etc) to shelter the young D from the heaviest minutes.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Gazdic has been on the team (more accurately the bench) and while he was there, the Oilers looked like a bunch of soft wussies to me.

    I’m a die-hard Oiler fan, but the instances where Roszival cross-checks young Dr.Drai into the end boards and nobody even thought to get in and at least look like they had each others backs is embarrassing. Even Roszival turned around expecting to get lambasted and was shocked that nothing happened. They got shellacked on the scoreboard and looked spineless in the same game.

    How about Pouliot getting quadrupil-teamed at the end of the game in St.Louis. I don’t expect Hall and Eberle to jump in and drop the gloves with Backes but at least attempt to look like you are a team. Watching them literally scurry away from scrums has got to stop. Watch any playoff team and they have each others backs. Line 1 to 4.

    My point being…having Gazdic is ok for the few times he will fight other heavyweights. Outside of that, his role is almost useless, because he isn’t going to jump the boards and ransack another teams star players.

    Edmonton’s star players need to be able to have at least SOME pushback. You don’t have to drop the gloves, but at least show some spine. Chiarelli has started the culture shift, but some total team toughness needs to be shown sooner than later.

  • srelio

    It doesnt matter who you put McDavid with, he will be targeted. If hes gonna make it in the nhl he’ll have to learn to protect and stand up for himself. If the oilers are going anywhere they have to learn to protect and stand up for each other. Playing an enforcer with mcdavid wont make any difference except in the number of points that line will get.

  • JackB

    @Cowbell_Feva

    I can’t disagree with what you say:
    “Edmonton’s star players need to be able to have at least SOME pushback. You don’t have to drop the gloves, but at least show some spine. Chiarelli has started the culture shift, but some total team toughness needs to be shown sooner than later.”

    But what do you suggest? Sit the young stars if they fail to back-up their teammates? (We certainly can’t just trade away our young stars if they don’t get tougher?) (Can we?)

    Let’s hope Chiarelli and McLellan are successful, and instill a little of the “hard-on-the-puck” attitude Chiarelli spoke about. And a little “push-back”.

    In the meantime, I’d sure like to keep Gadzic and Gryba around!!

  • JackB

    Further to the last two posts, I had the opinion that the trading of Martin Marincin (and Travis Ewanyk) to get Gryba was not a good trade. Marincin certainly has a lot more upside potential than Gryba. And he was a proven defenseman.

    But now I think maybe that could have been a message to the whole team? The coaches asked Marincin to work out, develop some more strength in the off-season, and he never did . . . so . . . GONZO!

    Maybe Chiarelli wanted to show the whole team “we don’t care who you are, or how good you are, if you don’t play the way we ask you to . . . you could be gone too . . . ” ??

    Who knows ??

    You and I aren’t GM’s (thank god . . . we’d for sure screw it up) And for years we’ve been begging for a change in management (and coaching) and just 3 month’s ago we were ECSTATIC about the changes made.

    Guess we just have to trust them . . . and hope “they are who we thought they were”

    (AND, IF MICHEAL FERLAND TAKES A CHEAP SHOT AT CONNOR MCDAVID . . . THEN DAMMN-IT . . . SEND GADZIC OUT TO CRUSH Johnny Gaudreau)

  • Oilerz4life

    Love Gazdic, but honestly can’t see a longterm place for him anymore.

    If you can see a place for Gazdic long term on the Oilers, Gazdic props.

    If you can’t see a long term role, Gazdic trash its.

    It would be interesting to see a poll for how many Nationers see the enforcer on the Oilers long term.

    P.S. Sorry Gaz, please don’t beat me senseless in a dark alley. Always much love for Gazdic, heart and soul Oiler.

    • JackB

      I remember when we picked up Gadzic on waivers. The night (or two) before we picked him up, he scored a pretty good goal against us. He can score, and I remember some of the radio guys saying “at least now we have an enforcer who can play” . . . as opposed to the lovable McIntyre . . . who could hardly skate good enough to catch the guy he wanted to hit.

      Love them both!

  • SSB1963

    Come on guys, cut back on the testosterone a bit. I think Gadzik will make the team and will start the games in which TM thinks he needs him to ride the range. Yes, he played a bit better in those final days under Nelson, but he is very limited.

    My concern is that the last two players designated as generational were significantly damaged by concussions. Lindros’s career was literally ended way too early by them and Crosby’s double concussions put him out for a long time and while he is still one of the best players in the world he is not quite what he once was, sadly. So the threat is real. McSaviour is no scrapper, but he will be much bigger than Gretz, probably 205 or 210 in a few years. Connor is going to have to be sure to keep his head up, the way Nuge does, which is why he never takes a really nasty hit. In addition the league is still not nearly hard enough on head hits.

  • Gazdic is the type of player that this team needs. And I’m not talking about 5 minutes a game either. He is young, tough, can skate, can take punishment in front of the opponents net, goes into the corners and digs pucks out, plays a fearless game.

    He is the exact kind of player that needs to be on the ice with McDavid as much as possible. I’d even go so far as to suggest that Gazdic could be a 40 point guy next season if playing with the right along side McDavid and Hall. He would be a deterrent for all of the league goofs who would take runs at star players.

    Gazdic is a Semenko as McDavid is to Gretzky.

  • JackB

    Don’t know why I keep posting!! At my age, I should be in bed!! But I keep thinking about our team (and shudder about the thought of us having to play in the Pacific Division)

    DAMMN-IT … I HATE YOU NEELY !!

    First you trade Hamilton to Calgary, even though our offer was better (BUT OF COURSE YOU WOULD NEVER TRADE to the G.M. you fired, would you?)

    Then you traded Lucic to the Kings. I am sure that Chiarelli would have known Lucic was going to be traded . . . and probably made an offer on him too.

    You gut the heart out of your team . . . AND THEN YOU TRADE to our rivals !! (I wouldn’t be surprised if you did that out of spite to Chiarelli. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you were the one who ordered Chiarelli to trade Sequin – we saw the clip of Chiarelli’s call from someone . . . and saw him saying “F**K” “It’s done!” “He’s gone!” . . . He did not look happy, and he probably told you so, and maybe that’s one of the reasons you fired him as soon as Boston missed the play-offs? You only missed the play-offs by 2 points! By one game!)

    BUT YOU NOT ONLY FIRE HIM . . . THEN, WITHIN THREE MONTHS, YOU TRADE HAMILTON and LUCIC to Calgary and Los Angeles ??? I hate you . . . and hope Boston gets the crap beat out of them next year !!

    There . . . I’ve got that off my chest . . . did my little ranting . . . and now I can go to bed !!

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Every single time I think of Dougie Hamilton playing for the Flames I think the same exact thing! It was the single most 1-sided trade I can remember in a LOT of years following the game – given to our rivals just 1 hour before we were to draft Connor McDavid. It would be awfully coincidental, if not done in spite!

      Even TSN were bugging Calgary about how they were truly our rivals trying to upstage our draft celebration… That’s alright – I have a feeling the last laugh will be ours. We have McDavid… and Griffin Reinhart and Cam Talbot from the same round of picks in the draft!! 🙂

  • Cowbell_Feva

    @JackB

    I would start with having MacLellan tell the guys in the room that they are embarrassing the entire organization when they run and tuck their tails between their legs. An NHL coach will have a much better approach than what I just suggested, but I would give them some time to figure out how to play with some sort of an edge, eventually.

    As far as asking if we can’t trade all of our young stud players. Not all of them no. But if the team looks like it has the last few years, something has to give. We can’t play in the Western Conference like a bunch of nancies and expect to win very much. If that means moving someone for size,skill,or grit, then it may have to happen.

    For far too long other teams have literally had no fear of Rexall place and would push around our team in our own building. Pretty hard to win games when your intimidated, and for large portions I watched an intimidated team. (side note: Watching Bieksa take liberties on Hall and call him a p*ssy on live TV made my blood boil on more than one occasion)

    A good example I have is Yakupov. He was not drafted as a banger or crasher. He lit up the OHL. He obviously has offensive abilities, but yet he stirs the pot with subtle cross-checks and laid some of the best hits that any Oiler forward threw all year (yes, I know that isn’t saying much). When a scrum does break out, he at least stands his ground. Him just standing there says a lot more than putting your head down and leaving your teammates outnumbered. Point being, Yakupov can still score goals and get his nose dirty occasionally. Again, I don’t expect Nuge, McDavid, Eberle or Hall to drop the gloves and become goons. Rather show the will to win battles, even after the whistle blows and guys are trying to intimidate you. A simple face wash or stick back to a guy that just stuck you goes a long ways.

    I like what Chia has done getting Korpikosky and Gryba to add some grit. Nurse will definitely help once he’s around, so I think we’re trending in the right direction. If some of the stars can add a little fire to their belly, this team will be dangerous!!

  • camdog

    If Gazdic can work on his foot speed in the off season, he could be a wrecking ball out there.

    To effectively use Gazdic you need to actually play him with the better players once and awhile, you can’t just throw him out there after something bad happened and expect the problem to go away. It might only be 2-3 shifts a game with a McDavid or RnH, but that’s all it would take.

  • CaptainLander

    Having Gazdic on the bench in fine by me but the days of the “Deterrent” are gone. The Clutterbucks of the world do not stop taking runs because an enforcer is on the bench.

    The Oilers best way to avoid the cheap shots in the have the leagues top power player. Coaches are out to win not goon up a game anymore. The other teams goons will be on the bench in the Oil are leading due to a couple PP goals.

  • The Soup Fascist

    One of the reasons I hope Greg Chase develops quickly. He will not drop the mitts but would have absolutely no problems cheap shotting a star on the other team if McDavid takes abuse.

    Chase may have to watch where the line is sometimes but seems to have the innate ability to drive people crazy. The Oilers have not had a true pest who can play since the days of Tik. Not saying Chase will be that good but I think he will be able to play a regular shift and be a Schmidt disturber enough to keep the other teams best players distracted.

    Couple years away though.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    with Western teams still having their goons like McGrattan for the Ducks, Lucic for the Kings, John Scott signing with the Yotes this year, yup, i think we had better keep Gazdic around!

  • petrklimashelmet

    I think that we have overlooked Brandon Davidson in this discussion. Tough to say with Nurse and Reinhart pushing for a spot, but it sounds very likely that he will be the 6-7th defenseman. He earned it last season and he throws big hits and fights.

    That would give us Matt Hendricks, Eric Gryba and Brandon Davidson as regulars in the lineup. By adding Gazdic when we need him, that gives us up to 4 guys who will drop the mitts without hesitation.

    Side note: Klinkhammer is not a fighter and I don’t expect him to crack the line-up with Korpikoski and Draisaitl fighting for the 3rd spot on the left wing and Matt Hendricks the 4th LW.