A couple of months ago, I wrote about a report circulating out of Russia that had Anton Lander signing with AK Bars as soon as the NHL season was over. This morning, that transaction became official.
My initial reaction to this news is that we should have all seen it coming and shame on you if you didn’t. Okay, so maybe that was a little bit harsh. I’m sorry. Anyway, it had to be frustrating for Lander to be god-like at the AHL level, but unable to get much of anything going in the NHL. It’s like landing a date with Miranda Kerr, having it go reasonably well, thinking you’re going score, and then she lets you know that her boyfriend is the guy that invented Snapchat and that you should use the new filters. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be so close yet so so far.
In February, friend of the Nation, Uffe Bodin interviewed Lander about the frustration that was mounting with the constant yoyoing between Bakersfield and Edmonton. Lander struggled to describe how he felt about the season, what exactly happened to get him to that point, and where he fit in with the organization. If nothing else, Bodin’s interview showed that Lander likely already knew that his time with the Oilers was over. That tenure officially ended with his signing a contract with AK Bars in the KHL, a move that seems to be the worst kept secret of Lander’s career.
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around this one: Lander is one of the guys that I’ve been following since he was drafted back in 2009. I remember reading reports that this kid was captain material, played with grit, and had a decent pair of hands so I took a vested interest in how he was doing. A future captain with hands? After surviving through the Moreau days I have to admit that I was into that idea.
While it’s not surprising that Lander took off for greener pastures, it is surprising how it happened. I mean, the guy could put up points at will in the AHL but he scored like Stortini for the Oilers. I know there are countless guys that have experienced the same troubles getting to the next level but it still makes you scratch your head, ya know? Actually, Lander kind of reminds me of another guy that used to play in the organization – Alexandre Giroux. That dude had 97 and 100 point seasons in the AHL but could only muster 12 NHL points. I can’t imagine how frustrating that must be.
At the end of the day, losing Lander probably won’t mean much in the short or long term but it’s still unfortunate that a guy that’s been developing for eight years is now gone for nothing. I don’t blame Lander for wanting to cash in on some bigger contracts in the KHL, though. The dream to play professional sports has a finite timeline and it makes sense to want to make the most of the opportunity while you still can.
To Anton, I understand why you made the move and I’ll miss you now that you’re gone. Your pirate facial hair and ability to win draws did not go unnoticed around these parts, and we’re going to have to up our game in those departments without you. All the best in Russia and I hope you make many rubles. Adieu.
LANDER’S CAREER WITH THE OILERS
|2011-12||Oklahoma City Barons||AHL||14||1||4||5||10||-1||14||2||2||4||4|
|2012-13||Oklahoma City Barons||AHL||47||9||11||20||22||-1||8||5||3||8||4|
|2013-14||Oklahoma City Barons||AHL||46||18||34||52||30||7||3||1||1||2||0|
|2014-15||Oklahoma City Barons||AHL||29||9||22||31||20||8||—||—||—||—||—|