Disconnect?

Riley Nash had another good season with Cornell and early word is that the Big Red may be among
the top ranked teams in the NCAA this fall. There are lots of rave reviews and positive comments available on Nash, but recently (since November) there have been fewer coming from the Oilers and Kevin Prendergast.

A November 6, 2008 Ithica Journal article detailed Nash’s progress and also pointed out some concerns from the parent club.

Prendergast: “Given the amount of games that Cornell plays, and there’s not a lot of high-end games on the weekend, there has to be consistency. It’s a mental thing. He’s got to be the best he can be every week. He’s got tremendous hockey sense — it’s one of the reasons we drafted him. But there are things that go with that, and we’ve had a long talk with him about that. You know, it’s his decision. We’ll back him up whatever he decides to do. … We’re not going to interfere with education. If that’s the route he wants to go, we’re prepared to wait. But if he decides to stay at Cornell, we’re going to do everything we can to make him a better hockey player while he’s there.”

In the same article, Nash is quoted as saying “That’s one of the things I don’t want to do, I don’t want to rush out of here and look back and say I gave up a year or two of the best years of my life where I could have been developing more and I could have stepped right in (to the pro game later).”

A month later, the tone seems to have changed a little. Prendergast after Nash was invited (and then cut) from Team Canada’s World Junior team’s camp: “Was I surprised he didn’t make it? Not really. He was a longshot. They’ve got (John) Tavares and (Zach) Boychuk as their top two guys, and could move (Angelo) Esposito. Riley can’t play the wing. Riley had a good second day of camp, but was ordinary in the other ones and you can’t have that at a short camp. Not playing enough games at Cornell hurts him.”

Around the same time, this from Nash: “I’m not going to go just when they (the Oilers) ask me to go. I don’t feel I need to go and bounce around in the minors for a few years. Cornell is a nice place to be.”

There seems to be a disconnect here. KP uses phrases like “not playing enough games at Cornell hurts him” and “there’s not a lot of high end games on the weekend” and they are certainly attention-grabbing. However, the most interesting item comes from Nash: “I don’t feel I need to go and bounce around in the minors for a few years. Cornell is a nice place to be.”

Jeff Petry played 38 games for Michigan State, which is 2 more than Nash played for Cornell. If the level of competition is so poor, then why is Cornell ranked in the top 5 in an (admittedly early) NCAA ranking? I don’t think the disconnect is enough for the Oilers to trade Nash in a fit of pique, but it may mean he’s more available in trade because he’s using that big brain at Cornell.

I wonder what Detroit would do?

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36 Responses to "Disconnect?"

  1. Jonathan Willis says:

    Stop depressing me, LT. Please.

  2. Dennis says:

    We’ll always have the draft!!!

  3. Gord says:

    A team with a collective IQ over 60 would give Nash a weight training / exercise schedule to follow – then tell him to enjoy his final year at Cornell… After that, he can focus on hockey in the AHL.

    Why do the Oilers continue to throw 20 (or 19 or 18) year olds to the wolves?

    What is so wrong with players making the big team at the age of 23 once they have physically & mentally matured?

    Since you asked, Detroit gives their players time to mature… :-)

  4. Smarmy Boss says:

    I’ve had a bad day but Lowetide ain’t gonna bring me down cuz I already know Predergast is terrible.

  5. godot10 says:

    Nash is Horcoff’s replacement. There is no need to rush him.

    Nash has something most other prospect doesn’t have, and that is an option for an education and a career other than hockey.

    If the Oilers want players to leave college, they better fix their farm team.

    Prendergast signed a bunch of veteran turkeys last year for Springfield, and delayed or damaged the development of many players because of it.

  6. DBO says:

    Why the Oil feel the need to try and rush players is beyond me. In a salary cap world, it’s incumbent on the management to get as many years as possibleo out of a player before he’s a UFA, and if a player stays in school they can play 3 to 4 years on someone elses dime, and their pro contract won’t start until they get out of school. That means we actually get a player in his 22 to 25 year ages on their first contract. That puts a player like Nash at his UFA at age 29, while a player like Gagner will be UFA eligible by his 25th birthday. If I’m the oil I start looking for players heading to college (especially in the middle rounds of the draft), so they can develop strength and maturity and allow themselves to be successful players and dominate at the college level before moving either directly into the the NHL lineup or the AHL for a year. it’s called a “development program”. Maybe someone should let the Oil know it’s OK to have 22 year old rookies.

  7. HBomb says:

    What would Detroit do?

    I think they’d fire Kevin Prendergast.

    I like what the Oilers have done in terms of player procurement, but a lot of the shortcomings (namely the farm team debacles of the past few seasons) have to fall at his feet.

    Drafting talented 18 year olds is not going to do you any good if they’re overwhelmed when they hit the AHL developmental stage.

  8. Schitzo says:

    DBO: The entry level deal is reduced in length for older players. Gilbert, for example, was only 2 years. He spent most of 2006-2007 in the AHL, played in the NHL the next year, and got his big payday.

  9. Quinn says:

    If I’m the oil I start looking for players heading to college (especially in the middle rounds of the draft), so they can develop strength and maturity and allow themselves to be successful players.

    I have always thought that the college track was the best one for a guy headed the NHL. Not least because I think a hockey career is too short to not have a fallback option. The other stuff is nice for the team (more strength, maturity and developing off the payroll) but if I am giving advice to the player, college is it.

    Plus, I have a soft spot for college developed players since David Oliver cracked the team along with a few other college guys (whose names escape me). I always loved that speedy, handless player.

  10. R O says:

    @DBO:

    If I recall, UFA age is 7 years in the league or 27 years old, whichever comes first.

  11. Quinn says:

    a few other college guys (whose names escape me).

    Oh, yeah, Horcoff and Comrie. But you can understand why they slipped.

  12. Asiaoil says:

    Prendergast along with much of the Oiler “braintrust” obviously isn’t very sharp – maybe he took too many hit at St Mary’s :)

    Yes Nash would have been so much better off in the debacle that was Springfield this year. Guys like Prendergast just don’t like other people – and especially draft picks – looking at their body of work and recognizing mediocrity when they see it.

    If I was Nash I would stay as far away from the Oilers “system” for as long as possible since development simply isn’t happening in the minors – quite the opposite – guys are rotting on the vine on the Oilers farm team and going backwards.

  13. Brian says:

    I follow NCAA hockey pretty closely (blog), and the Oiler’s aren’t 100% wrong here. Cornell is an Ivy and does play a limited schedule. Comparing Cornell to Michigan State isn’t that fair because State was horrible this year and went nowhere in the playoffs. Ivies play about eight fewer games.

    Also, even though Cornell is rated highly for the upcoming season they play in the ECAC, which is generally regarded as somewhere between the big three conferences (WCHA, CCHA, Hockey East) and the decidedly small Atlantic Hockey.

    I do, however, agree that sitting back and allowing players to develop in the NCAA is generally a good strategy until they start just crushing the level of competition, as Comrie was when he left Michigan as a sophomore. Nash is probably a year away from that.

  14. Jonathan Willis says:

    Let’s all remember that Prendergast and Co. have put a lot of players on the map in a short period of time.

    I think his skills just happen to lie more in drafting than in team building, as the debacle in Springfield showed this season.

    And while we’re at it, is it so farfetched to believe that a kid’s better off developing in the AHL than virtually anywhere else? I think it’s fair comment – with the exception of the occasional AHL freakshow like the one which skated in Springfield last year.

  15. jon k says:

    I agree with Brian’s sentiments. The competition that Nash faces in the ECAC is inferior to the other conferences by at least a step.

    There’s also the argument that Petry is the man in Michigan state, logging in excess of 30 minutes on many nights. He’s simply playing more games, more per game, against better competition.

  16. Garnet says:

    Jonathan, it wouldn’t be difficult to draw up a dazzling team of players who either never played in the AHL or didn’t put in so much as one full season. (Makes sense given there are three alternatives: to reach the NHL directly from college, Europe and junior.) The numbers might be interesting (or might not) but I suspect case-by-case is the way to go. In Nash’s case I doubt we see him in Edmonton before 2011.

    Here’s another, related question: what role do coaches have in team building? Put another way, was Springfield doomed to suck this year?

  17. Smarmy Boss says:

    JW – He may be a better evaluator then developer of talent, but in the Oiler’s Organization he has risen to his level of incompetence.

  18. Guy Flaming says:

    One point Brian made that I think is worth emphasizing…

    “Ivies play about eight fewer games.”8 games might not sound like much but in the NCAA when you only play on the weekend… that’s a MONTH less of game action than in the other conferences.

  19. Guy Flaming says:

    PS: I spoke with Nash two days ago… he’s just leaving Cornell for the summer and hasn’t decided about next year yet.

  20. ian says:

    Winnipeg Jets drafted 18 year old Teemu Selanne in 1988 he joined the club in 1992/3 at the age of 23 directly from Jokerit.
    Just saying.

  21. Master Lok says:

    Reading Brian’s more informed opinion, I think too many posters here are too eager to criticize Prendergast, instead of looking at Prendergast’s argument.

    He’s not saying that players aged 23 are too old to start playing professionally. He’s saying that Cornell may not be the best place to develop Riley Nash.

  22. dstaples says:

    Doesn’t it make sense for Nash to play four years at Cornell, get the full education benefit, develop as a player and a person, then pick the team he most wants to play for, like Blake Wheeler did?

    I suspect Prendergast sees this option and is trying to get Nash on a different track to avoid this possibility. . .

  23. delooper says:

    IMO it’s not really a disconnect. At Cornell you don’t play a lot of games, and you don’t play against the same quality of competition as the high-end college teams. Lots of very popular games against Harvard, for example. And Cornell *is* a pretty nice place to be. I spent 7 years there myself. The agriculture students made it all worthwhile — the veteranarian school is over 80% female and is a lot of fun. Gord, I’m pretty sure Nash is on a weight training program. All their hockey players are. The Cornell hockey program is pretty serious — they just don’t play as many games, and generally against weaker teams than say the big teams in Minnesota and Michigan.

  24. delooper says:

    Does anyone know what classes he’s taking at Cornell? It’s a running joke that the Hotel School is essentially the Cornell men’s ice hockey team. But maybe he’s actually getting a serious education? If so, great. The Oilers could use a Randy Gregg.

  25. Quinn says:

    @delooper
    From the Cornell website
    (Nash) is enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

    The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is the second-largest undergraduate college at Cornell University and the third-largest college of its kind in the United States. It has been ranked in national surveys as the best college of agriculture and related sciences in the country.

    As a former alum, you probably know better what the kids in that faculty are headed towards.
    Or, perhaps he is working on a political career learning to shovel sh!t.

  26. delooper says:

    Well the good thing is he’s not a Hotel School student. But being in the ag school doesn’t help narrow down his studies much, unfortunately.

  27. digger says:

    Doesn’t it make sense for Nash to play four years at Cornell, get the full education benefit, develop as a player and a person, then pick the team he most wants to play for, like Blake Wheeler did?It was my understanding that Wheeler never finished his degree, but instead utilized a loophole where because he spent a year in the USHL after he was drafted, he was able to get that year to count as one of his 4 ‘college’ years, thus he cut and run after his 3rd year at U of M and picked a team that he wanted to go to, even though they couldn’t offer him the same amount of money as Phoenix could due to his draft year falling under the old CBA’s rookie max, which Phoenix could use but others couldn’t.

    Nash could certainly do his full 4 years and hit the open market, but how many kids are going to be willing to wait that long after his draft year to start their pro career? Somebody would sign him I’m sure, but unless he starts shining a damn sight more brightly than he has so far, as a potential 22-23 yr old free agent he’ll already be fighting for the same jobs against younger and shinier prospects on whatever team he potentially chose.

    And where is it written that if he doesn’t get his degree now, he’ll never get the chance to go to school at any time again from now until he lies cold in his grave? Once his playing career’s over, there’s absolutely nothing stopping him from going back to school and finishing his schooling.

  28. rickibear says:

    Most universities with vet schools, The medical doctors are the one who could not earn the right to be a vet.

  29. delooper says:

    DiggerAnd where is it written that if he doesn’t get his degree now, he’ll never get the chance to go to school at any time again from now until he lies cold in his grave? Once his playing career’s over, there’s absolutely nothing stopping him from going back to school and finishing his schooling.It’s not written anywhere, but when you’re being offered a $40k/year education essentially for free, in a laid-back environment where you can play hockey, be the local hero, be surrounded by gorgeous intelligent young women, the idea of playing in the AHL in some dump of a town where you only run into teenage moms that dropped out of school before grade 10 is somehow less appealing. Sure your quality of competition goes up. And your salary goes up. But sometimes that’s not enough of a perk.

  30. speeds says:

    Doesn’t it make sense for Nash to play four years at Cornell, get the full education benefit, develop as a player and a person, then pick the team he most wants to play for, like Blake Wheeler did?I think it makes some sense, if you aren’t good enough to crack the NHL at age 20 or 21 anyways.

    If you are good enough, you may as well be in the NHL making 800K per year, IMO.

  31. digger says:

    I dunno, I would’ve thought the beautiful and intelligent women of Cornell would much prefer to hook up with the doctor/lawyer types, and not the agricultural science guys that may or may not have a hockey career in their future. ;)

  32. delooper says:

    You’re assuming Nash is making decisions entirely based on economics, and that he’s some kind of rational economic agent.

    I kinda wish I had kept me one of them Cornell vet students.

  33. delooper says:

    digger that’s one of the nice things about Cornell — the medical students are off in NYC. So there’s little competition.

  34. digger says:

    delooper:

    LOL, fair enough.

  35. Matt N says:

    This is what I love about this blog. We start out discussing the future of a relatively obscure Oiler prospect and end up with a breakdown between the quality of puck bunnies in the AHL and the Ivy league.

    Mudcrutch should do some kind of graph, with plot points and outliers.

    P.S. – Writing this post has made me realize how much I miss playoff hockey.

  36. Coach pb9617 says:

    We start out discussing the future of a relatively obscure Oiler prospectIf Nash is obscure, then the Oilers are officially screwed.

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