RE 10-11: Ryan O’Marra

I believe the Edmonton Oilers see a hockey player in Ryan O’Marra. I also believe they see him as a possible solution for that 3line center job we fret over every summer.

The only question is ‘when does he grab the mantle?’ Math suggests never, and any performance-based eyeball would probably have a long term answer but the people charged with running the team clearly like him.

How do I know this? I can read the ‘summer transactions’ list and the verbal from management people has been tracking in a positive direction for some time. O’Marra is the latest example of a math sinkhole making the grade based on ‘saw him good’ scouting. It’ll be fun to see how this one ends.

Just for kicks, lets list all of the transactions this summer that impact the center position (or could impact it):

  • April 5: Oilers sign Chris Vande Velde to an entry level contract.
  • June 23: Oilers acquire Colin Fraser from Chicago.
  • June 26: Oilers trade Riley Nash to Carolina.
  • June 26: Oilers select Tyler Pitlick and Ryan Martindale at the entry draft.
  • June 28: Oilers do not submit qualifying offers to Marc Pouliot and Ryan Potulny.
  • June 28: Oilers submit qualifying offers to Sam Gagner, Gilbert Brule, Andrew Cogliano, Ryan O’Marra.
  • July 7: Oilers sign Brad Moran.
  • July 16: Oilers sign O’Marra to a 1-year, $700,000 contract (2-way).

The Oilers (after picking up Fraser for the Brodziak role) looked at the bubble centers, decided to keep O’Marra, sign Moran turn Vande Velde pro and cut loose Pouliot, Nash and Potulny. Of the three men signed to fly between Okla City and the Alberta capital, I believe O’Marra is the most likely to get the phonecall.

  • Boxcars: 72gp, 12-6-18 (all numbers AHL)
  • Shots: 108
  • Plus Minus: -19
  • Shorthanded goals: 2
  1. What do these numbers tell us? Save a short stint in the NHL (3gp, 0-1-1) the numbers suggest we’re not looking at a lot of offense. The Desjardins equivalency for the season above is 82gp, 6-3-9. He was used in an extreme defensive role (from what we’re told) and his NHL stint looked good to the eye. He picked up a point, won 7 of 12 faceoffs and survived his 30 shifts. This was also his best season at the minor league level, by a mile. The seeds of the improvement were sewn by the now unemployed Rob Daum. You can read some things here about Daum and O’Marra.
  2. How could these numbers be better? Well, there could be more of them. More goals, more points….I’m not going to complain about the plus minus (!!!!) because that club was pure horse hockey. His -19 is superior to regulars Colin McDonald (-25, often his linemate) and Colton Fretter (-32) and added to his role (he was a checker) we can some to grips with that -19. Why? The Falcons were outscored 139-200 at even strength (-61). If O’Marra did play the minor league vaunt then his number isn’t as bad as it appears.
  3. Why does the team like him? Math isn’t his friend but he received a contract when other more experienced options were sent away. We have a few choices: management sees something in him that math cannot explain, management felt it was time to move along with the Potulny’s and Pouliot’s and give this new kid a chance, or management isn’t very good at predicting who is going to have a better career.
  4. Seriously. If you were going to make a case for him, what would it be? He has good size (6.02, 207), he signed an Oiler friendly contract, he plays with a bit of an edge and if he makes it O’Marra will make Kevin Prendergast look bad. I kid. Sort of. If you want the truth, I think the Oilers always liked O’Marra and feel he’s done what was asked of him. So, they’re going to give him a chance to win that checking job.
  5. Where will he play? If the Oilers go Gagner, Brule, Horcoff, Fraser at center O’Marra might be one of the first checking options if something happens to Horcoff or Fraser. That’s how I’ve projected him here, a callup who maybe does some nice work on the PK and grabs another few weeks of work after his recall.
  6. But you don’t really believe he’ll make it. I don’t. Nothing personal, but he’s pretty overrated by the organization. Their need for grit and size brought them JFJ and Ryan Stone a year ago, and this year it brings them Steve MacIntyre and Ryan O’Marra. When they signed O’Marra I wrote “I don’t have any idea why the Oilers cut loose Pouliot and Nilsson and kept O’Marra, save for the fact they wanted a fresh start, bigger players with grit and that O’Marra has indeed shown some improvement. He does not appear to be the same calibre player as the two first round picks who were sent away, but it looks like O’Marra will get a chance to prove us wrong.”
  7. How gritty is he? I think that’s a big reason he’s on the roster. O’Marra was famous years ago for a single play and maybe that play lingers in the minds of the men who make the decisions in Edmonton. It’s not a ridiculous suggestion.
  8. How important is he to the organization? He was part of the Smyth trade so the previous administration would have liked a capable player. However, that era is gone now and we’re on to a new group pulling the strings. O’Marra gets his chance and if he fails he’ll be gone.
Prediction for 2010-11: 24gp, 1-3-4
Checking center may get his chance

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