Pile of Hrabal

Josef Hrabal had a bizarre season. Signed by the Oilers in May of 2008 (they would have lost his rights had he remained unsigned) to a 2-way deal, it was pretty obvious that he would have to prove himself in Springfield to move up the depth chart.

He interested me for a few reasons: Desjardins’ NHL equivalencies always liked him, he played in very good leagues from an early age (and continues to do so) and the Oilers seem to have a way with defenders.

In 2007-08, Hrabal played in the RSL for Cherepovets Severstal. The club scored 10 fewer goals than they allowed and Hrabal looked good when compared to the other defenders:

  1. Alexander Shinin (23) 56gp, 9-8-17 +2 28pims
  2. Josef Hrabal (22) 56gp, 3-10-13 +10 73pims
  3. Petr Caslava (28) 54gp, 2-8-10 +5 69pims
  4. Yuri Aleksandrov (19) 45gp, 5-5-10 -2 32pims
  5. Mikhail Kuklev (25) 56gp, 1-6-7 -8 57pims
  6. Dmitru Krasotkin (36) 44gp, 3-1-4 -6 14pims
  7. Stanislav Egorshev (20) 21gp, 2-1-3 -1 8pims

So, entering this season he’s 22 years old, coming off a good season in a quality league and things are looking up because the big club has signed him to a deal. Early in training camp with the Oilers, Hrabal was injured. It was reported in early October that he’d suffered a rotator cuff injury that could sideline him for as much as 6 months. Later that month he played for the Springfield Falcons, so the initial injury reports were clearly incorrect. Having said that, he never did get it back, to the point where he was sent to the ECHL for a time and then later in the season refused demotion and ended up in Sweden.

Quoting Jonathan Willis in his excellent article on him, we get an idea about his season: Things have gone badly. Hrabal suffered shoulder injury in training camp that sidelined him for the early part of the season. When he was healthy, Hrabal found himself in Stockton, and didn’t get an AHL opportunity until nearly the end of October. Hrabal was one of very few defensemen to keep his head above water at even strength (although he wasn’t contributing much offensively) while playing second-pairing opposition. Despite the fact that the Falcons’ defence is a bit of a trainwreck, Hrabal was dispatched to the ECHL on three separate occasions, where he excelled (four points in eight games, +2). The third time Hrabal was assigned to the ECHL, he refused to report and has since signed on to play with Modo of Sweden’s Eliteserien for the remainder of the year. Modo features three former NHL defensemen in Matthias Timander, Hans Jonsson and Pierre Hedin, as well as highly touted prospect Victor Hedman.

He failed badly with MoDo. In 6 SEL games he was 0-1-1 -5. Hedman was the best D on the team with a +17 and no player on the roster was bleeding at Hrabal’s rate. Kevin Prendergast said in February that Hrabal would be back in the fall for TC and I suspect he never did fully recover from injury. He’s in no-man’s land as a prospect right now and an NHL career looks like a distant bell.

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8 Responses to "Pile of Hrabal"

  1. Coach pb9617 says:

    He got the exact same treatment as Wild after performing about the same. It’s bizarre.

  2. Jonathan Willis says:

    Ouch. I had no idea that Hrabal’s performance in Sweden was so bad.

  3. Quinn says:

    I worry for the confidence of a player like Hrabal. Is there any way back from a season like this (at his age)?

    On the other hand, it would be helpful if there were some sort of clear explanation about why personnel decisions were being made the way they were in Springfield this year. A general mea culpa is just not good enough.

  4. Lowetide says:

    I think the Oilers have to completely re-think their minor league situation. When Detroit tells these European kids they’re starting in the AHL it’s a little different because there’s some history.

    Detroit’s formula (and success) gives them way more credibility than a team like Edmonton. How do you build that kind of reputation? One player at a time, and one cannot imagine that players like Mikhnov, Rita and Hrabal are spreading a positive word about the Oilers.

  5. bookie says:

    I would guess that Katz sees a top notch farm system as a must (although given Klowe’s long term lack of attention to the farm – I wonder if he does – perhaps it was a situation of circumstance?).

    If Katz does believe that, then I think we can expect the Roadrunners to emerge somewhere with a top notch set up.

    Lowe did pay something like $100,000 a year to keep the RRunner rights so maybe he does see it as important, but just was unable to deal with it in the past. With KatzCash around now, it should not be a problem.

  6. jon k says:

    The market for minor league hockey is not viable at all right now. Teams in the ECHL are going under fast right now and there are a few teams in the AHL struggling badly to stay afloat.

    Even if it was a good climate, I doubt Katz would put the money in to resurrect the Roadrunner franchise anyway. He didn’t get rich throwing around huge amounts of money at ventures that have no prospect of return on the investment.

    I just can’t see the tens of millions of dollars it would cost to run their own franchise being worth it. The money is better spent elsewhere, such as hiring three or four more European scouts.

  7. bookie says:

    Perhaps, but really we are not really talking about 10′s of millions here, the biggest losses would likely ever be would be around $1.5 million a year and that would be if things went particularly sour.

    I did some digging and found a March 20 post by D Barnes about it here.

    I think its totally viable its one of those costs that a team can absorb that does not fall under salary cap money. Along with it, you can have outstanding training facilities to groom your young up and coming players. If Katz has not backed away from being serious about turning the Oilers into a winner, this would be one of his best investments. Some amount of money loss is reasonable if it improves your players.

  8. bookie says:

    Also, the article suggests $350,000 a year just to hold onto the franchise. It would not make sense to hold onto it if you were not thinking about starting up again.

    One point I should have made clear in my last post was that ‘return on investment’ is organizational focused meaning that the RRunners can lose money if the Oilers are a better team for it and make money.

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