Falcons 08-09 D (Reasonable Expectations Reviewed)

This is Theo Peckham. If we were going to vote on which Springfield Falcon is most likely to spend over 50 games in the NHL next season it would be Wreckum. There will most certainly be growing pains, but his development curve since being drafted suggests he’ll be counted on sooner than many of the young blue who’ve come down the pipeline in the last decade.

Peckham is 21 years old, has played 16 games in the show and during those games he’s established himself with the fanbase as a tough defender and a willing combatant. His skill set fits nicely with the current blue and he looks like a strong candidate for a depth job this fall with the Oilers. He’s certainly the brightest star among this D group.

DEFENSE
  • Mathieu Roy: Fall ’08 Reasonable expectations: With the one-way deal and being waiver eligible, we should expect a full season with the big club, even if there’s a bunch of healthy scratches thrown in. Injuries will also be a factor for Roy. ACTUAL: Roy didn’t spend one minute in the show, effectively playing his two-year, one-way contract entirely in the minors. He had a reasonably healthy (50gp, 2-15-17, 120pims) season in the AHL but wasn’t as good as hoped in terms of performance. Roys’ -20 (2nd worst on the blue) added to the downer. He played middle-to-soft opposition (source: Willis) and this season would have to be described as disappointing.
  • Josef Hrabal: Fall ’08 Reasonable Expectations: He should be smoother and better able to handle AHL competition from the starting gate (among those who haven’t seen AHL action before) and would have to be considered a possibility for recall. ACTUAL: He was injured at TC and I think we have to view his season through that lens. Hrabal played 2nd pairing opposition in the 17 games he played (all of this info is from Jonathan’s two sites, search for “qualcomp”). Hrabal also played in the ECHL and for Modo (SEL) but was -5 in 6 games in the European league. I think he’s still a prospect but the mystery of one year ago has been replaced by something resembling indifference.
  • Theo Peckham: Fall ’08 Reasonable Expectations: More prominent role in the AHL with a better plus minus number and perhaps some powerplay time. ACTUAL: He beat holy hell out of the expectations and did it well playing the AHL vaunt. His -7 ranked second amongst Falcons regulars on defense and was a massive improvement from the -14 he posted (2nd worst on the team) in 07-08. The kid has been able to develop nicely while staying in the lineup. Defensemen get all kinds of horrible injuries playing in the AHL (it’s a pretty big league and there are some vicious people who need that paycheque) and the kid has negotiated the rapids nicely.
  • Sebastien Bisaillon: Fall ’08 Reasonable Expectations: If he stays healthy he could post 40+ points in the AHL which would make him the next Marc-Andre Bergeron. Some NHL time is also possible. ACTUAL: One of the things that we can conclude from this past season is that many prospects performed below expectations, but the organization may have been part of the problem. Bisaillon had some arrows headed in the right direction going into the season, but many HS’s and trips to Stockton (and more HS’s) have cast doubt on him as a prospect. He may also have lost a step after that horrible injury last season. He played the softest opposition during his AHL time.
  • Taylor Chorney: Fall ’08 Reasonable Expectations: A full, healthy season in the AHL, with a plus minus in the middle of the D pack and enough offense to justify his draft number. ACTUAL: It was a bad season for a pretty talented kid. Chorney’s -29 was the worst on the club, but he did play top pairing opposition for most of the year. Why they played him so long against the toughs seems crazy, even with injuries to some of the veterans. Is there any historical precedent for this? When an organization plays their top prospect against the oppostion and he fails miserably, the logical response would be to spot this player against the soft parade and perhaps use him as a powerplay specialist. I see no evidence this was done, and cannot think of a past example of this being done with future success for said prospect. It was a crazy experiment and someone in the organization deserves to be fired for it.
  • Bryan Young: Fall ’08 Reasonable Expectations: Top 4D in Springfield and perhaps a cup of coffee in the NHL. ACTUAL: Played some of the softest opposition this past season and did his usual struggle early/improve late routine in the plus minus department. The fact that he didn’t play in the top 4D this season is pretty damning, although we can’t fault him for something the organization decided on.
  • Cody Wild: Fall ’08 Reasonable Expectations: A healthy season (that goes for all these rookies) and learning how to make defensive decisions at a higher speed. ACTUAL: Played 2nd pairing toughness (59gp, 4-14-18) while joining the crowd (-14) in double digit negatives at EVs. He’s probably a little better player than Chorney at this point, but that’s a guess. Wild was also HS’d in Springfield and spent some time in the ECHL, but I’m going to suggest that was an organizational error. He was certainly among the 6 best (healthy) D in Springfield this season.
  • Jordan Bendfeld: Fall ’08 Reasonable Expectations: A full season in the ECHL with a possible callup to the AHL. ACTUAL: He was injured, playing only 17 games. I still think the Oilers should have done a “draft and follow” instead of taking Bendfeld (who could have been signed as a free agent after the draft). Wasted opportunity, he looks like a guy who’ll have a career in the minors as long as he wants to fight the other team’s big guy.
  • Mike Gabinet: Fall ’08 Reasonable Expectations: Crash Davis. ACTUAL: Incredibly, Gabinet played only 45 games in the AHL this past season. He was one of the more veteran players on the squad and as such should have had a more prominent role (or the organization should have had a better option). He played against soft opposition and had a -13 in 45gp so a good guess might be the Oilers should have signed a better man.
  • Robbie Bina: Not listed in the original post, Bina split time between Springfield and Stockton this past season. He played against softer opposition and was -18 in slightly less than half a season. Not ready for broadway, and he’s a stretch for off broadway too.
  • Ryan Constant: Enforcer type who played the year in Stockton and had nice numbers in a cup of coffee with Springfield.
  • Jake Taylor: I really want to say that Taylor’s injury had a tremendous impact on the season but may be overstating it. Still, a veteran like Taylor (had he been healthy all year) with a young bull like Peckham is a nice pairing and then maybe Bryan Young, Mike Gabinet and Cody Wild could have combined for some reasonable 2nd pairing. Either way, he was hurt for all but 28 games and it left the kids exposed.

This is a hard season to evaluate because the Falcons were so bloody young. The AHL is a tough league to survive, and the Oilers (imo) probably lost one year of development with these young defenders. Taylor Chorney may have been a much better player in the spring if the Oilers had decided to bring him along more slowly. They had injuries, but the club was also too thin (read:cheap) in terms of experience.

That’s an organizational flaw.

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