Can Anton Lander save his NHL career?

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Anton Lander has many fine qualities as an NHL centre. At his best, he’s an excellent two-way forward, chipping in offensively and taking care of business in his own end of the rink. He kills penalties, he wins faceoffs and both his youth (believe it or not, he’s only 24) and his price-point are items in his favour.

But none of that’s going to matter unless he can generate something more than zilch offensively, which is all that he’s managed this season.

Missing Mr. Nelson

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No player benefited more than Lander when the Edmonton Oilers promoted Todd Nelson to their head coaching job. No player suffered more in Nelson’s absence. Lander’s offensive numbers are night and day under that coach:

  • 2011-14 (Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins): 94 games, 2 goals, 8 points (0.09 points/game)
  • 2014-15 (Todd Nelson): 37 games, 6 goals, 20 points (0.54 points/game)
  • 2015-16 (Todd McLellan): 48 games, 0 goals, 2 points (0.04 points/game)

Lander has played 180 games in the majors now. In the 143 he played under non-Nelson coaches, he’s managed 10 points. In the 37 games he played under Nelson, he put up 20 points.

It would be tempting to dismiss that as a hot streak, except that Lander’s AHL numbers show he’s a guy with legitimate offensive ability. He had 31 points in 29 AHL games before his recall in 2014-15. When I was in Oklahoma in 2013-14 he had 52 points in 46 games, and did it while consistently playing top opponents and more often than not starting shifts in the defensive zone.

This is a player with real ability. Oilers fans saw for half a season a player who could really help Edmonton in a third-line centre role. For whatever reason, Lander since hasn’t been able to even come close to what he managed that season.

Ticking Clock

Clock

Lander has another year after this one on his contract, but given his modest $988,000 cap hit there’s a real chance that he’s waived out of training camp next season if he can’t show something this year; he’d be cached in the minors at a modest $38,000 penalty to the Oilers and at that point would need to work his way back. His best chance of returning in even a fourth-line or 13th forward role is to find some offence over Edmonton’s final 32 games.

Right now, it appears that Lander has played his way out of the Oilers’ starting rotation, but that won’t be forever. Teddy Purcell seems a likely trade candidate at the deadline and when he goes the logical play is to move Matt Hendricks to the wing and bring Lander back in as fourth-line centre. Other players may be dealt, too, and if not there are always injuries to think of.

However his opportunity comes, he needs to chip in some offence. He’s 0-for-42 on shots this year and at times has been almost comically unable to finish off plays.

If he can do that, Edmonton has room for him. His salary is modest; he’s only being paid as a fourth-line forward. A fourth-line forward with a 54.5 percent faceoff win rate, surprisingly good on-ice shot metrics (at least away from Lauri Korpikoski) and ability on the penalty kill is always going to be able to find NHL work if he can chip in even the smallest amount of offence.

So far, Lander hasn’t been able to do that. His NHL career may depend on him turning a corner down the stretch.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Craig1981

    I would like to see him moved to 4thor 3rd line wing, which would give the the Oilers options when a center goes down, bit also not cripple the 3rd line having a center who can’t produce.

  • Jordan88

    McDavid
    Nuge
    Draisaitil
    Khaira

    There are your 4 centers that can play. Any one of those guys I believe can play any line any day and not question it.

    I had Anton’s back when people said 3 years ago he was a bum, then he came in SUITBOHC playing a defensive sound came and chipping in a few points.

    I see none of this from him and with how the depth chart looks… the only reason he is up here is due to injury. He should have been sent down months ago.

  • Spydyr

    Going forward and to accommodate defense help all players on the 4th line and the 2 in the press box need to be making less than 1 million per year.

    Hendy, and Korpi make more than that. I like Hendy but he should be moved at deadline while he is worth something – 34 years old and not part of plan moving forward, Korpi – just cut him.

    Chai got rid of Gordon for that reason.

  • Ready to Win

    Correct me if I am remembering this wrong but didn’t Nelson put Lander on a line with Taylor Hall? That would go a long way to explaining why he was hot under Nelson.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    With McDavid in the lineup the Oilers are a playoff team.

    We would have had 5 more wins with him in the lineup.

    Especially considering how many One goal games we have lost.

    Teams will have trouble matching up against 3 Scoring Lines:

    Pouliot McDavid Yakupov

    Purcell Draisaitl Hall

    Kassian Hopkins Eberle

    Hendricks Letestu Khaira

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    It’s says something when the teams number one centre goes down with an injury and they move a winger into your centre position.

    I’m no pro hockey analyst but that can’t be a good thing.

  • What a waste of time even talking about this guy. He has had his chance in the NHL, time to move on. This guy is playing worse by each game he is on the ice.

    Not sure who was pumping hot air out of Europe in 2009, but both top Oiler picks are NHL busts.. Lander and Pajarvvi.[picked in 1st and 2nsd rds.]

    Lets stop comparing him to Gordon, who cares… if he makes $3mil. and can only do face offs.

    PS,, Hendricks can play center on the 4th line.

  • Speed Junky

    Lander’s play is dreadful. Who pays $225 to buy a ticket to watch him play? No one that’s who. No one can play effectively with him him. He is a career killer for anyone forced to play on his line. You think Davidson is expendable and Lander is a fit with value? Yeesh. Give me a break.

  • Anton CP

    Funny how different coaches give different players confidence while some can’t unlock there value . LT says it takes 5 years and I for one don’t disagree. I’m hoping Lander wakes up with another team, like maybe Detroit . New GM and coach but same old Oilers . What I saw last year with Nelson as his coach then when he played for Sweden was a Player . I’m not seeing any hope of a 3 line O team with Lander and Letestu and Hendricks as a 4th line that kill penalties and add that last detention we need . This team just keeps disappointing some of us fans.

  • TKB2677

    Lander and Letestu have between 37% and 34% offensive zone starts i.e. they start in the D most of the time and both play about 10 mins per game. Lander’s and Letestu’s relative Corsi (C of player – C of team when not on ice) is -5 and -10, respectively = Lander is better. Lander’s and Letestu’s +- is -10 and -12, respectively = Lander is better. Lander’s and Letestu’s Faceoff win % is 54.5% and 51.8%, respectively = Lander is better.

    Lander is 24 years old and is still learning and should be moving up the performance curve. Letestu is 30 years old and has nowhere to go but down. Lander costs $987K vs. Letestu’s $1,800K per season. The only reason to keep Letestu over Lander is Letestu we are locked into a contract with Letestu to 2018.

    Lander has proven in the past he can score so I believe his numbers will improve. Letestu is the one that should go.

    • TKB2677

      I’m curious. When has Lander proven he can score? He’s got 8 goals and 30 points in 180 games. Take the 6 goals and 20 points he scored last year in 38 games and he’s got 2 goals and 10 points in 142 games. Where’s the proof he can score?

      If you look at Letestu numbers, he’s scored more than 10 goals every single year of his career where he as played significant time. Last year in 54 games, he had 7 goals which is career low but he missed 28 games with a goin injury. In 50 games this year, he’s got 7 goals. So unless he gets hurt, he’s probably going to score more than 10 again. That to me is what any team would love to have in their 4th line center.

  • TKB2677

    Get rid of Lander. I had high hopes for the guy but he’s a blackhole offensively. People can use the Boyd Gordon example to try and justify his existence as Gordon gives you nothing offensively. That’s fine if you have a really good 3rd line center and all your 4th line center does is give your other 3 lines a breather, play a little PK time and win the odd faceoff. But the Oilers have Letestu who don’t get me wrong is a good 4th line center but at best an average 3rd line center. So to be successful, one of them as to go as you can’t have both. I personally would keep Letestu because he can do all the things Lander can do plus he does have an added dimension of some offense. It’s a huge boost to the team if you get a few goals from the 4th line.

    Lander isn’t big, isn’t physical, isn’t overly tough to play against, isn’t tough, you wouldn’t call him an energy guy, brings zero offense, isn’t the greatest skater, doesn’t really forecheck. For me, a good 4th line player needs to check off a lot of what I said especially if he brings zero offense. Being able to win some faceoffs and have a cheap contract isn’t enough for me when you lack so much of what I consider to be requirements for a good 4th liner. Lander has turned into the new Lenard Petrell. Petrell lacked many of the things Lander does. He did kill penalties and block shots like Lander does. Petrell had some size but never used it and he was a winger, not a center. But regardless, they are almost the same player. If you have a Petrell on your lower lines, you are probably not a good team and as soon as the Oilers got rid of him, he was back in Europe because he had too many limitations to his game.

    • TKB2677

      When Lander was playing good last year, he was a border line pest.

      Maybe when he’s pestering, he’s more into the game. Either way, if he’s not scoring he needs to be contributing some other way. Get in peoples faces Anton!

  • TKB2677

    I am going to be less hard on the guy and try to be positive. At 24 Lander has made himself some good cash playing a game he loves and I am sure being drafted and playing in the NHL is a dream come true. What would be best for him is head back home, play in the swedish elite league, meet a hot blonde swede babe, have some kids and play some puck as long as he can. The career is done in the NHL. Congrats for fulfilling your dream and getting a real good shot but time to move on. And for the Oilers this is what they need too. The organization has got to move on from potential or draft pedigree or what a player may become, Shultz, Lander, Pitlick, Yak, Reihardt and more. Sometimes you gotta just move on.

    I dumped a girl this one time who had the hottest most perfect bod of all time but the bed-fun just wasn’t there. It was brutal like Landers scoring. It was tough because the potential and the excitement, she was red hot, but you gotta just move on even if it hurts a little. Bye bye Kim, oh wait I mean Anton.