Is the Future Too Small?

There have been times over the last 20 years when the Edmonton Oilers were so interested in sending size over the boards that small items like skill were overlooked. Without saying the names, I think most Oiler fans could list off several of these player types without much trouble. The group of players we’re likely to see emerge as Oilers in the next two seasons reflect the club’s new mission statement: hockey players who may or may not have size on their side but can play the game. Skill>size.
Who are these men?

In looking at the Oilers depth chart up front, it’s interesting to see just how many of the “big men” on the pro roster have been added recently:
  • Ben Eager 6.02, 235
  • Ryan O’Marra 6.02, 220
  • Josh Green 6.03, 218
  • Teemu Hartikainen 6.01, 215
  • Darcy Hordichuk 6.01, 211
  • Shawn Horcoff 6.01, 208
  • Curtis Hamilton 6.02, 206
Two things ring true: That forward group isn’t as big as the group one year ago, and with the trading of Dustin Penner the skill lines don’t have a big man. Here’s last year’s beef:
  • Steve MacIntyre 6.05, 250
  • Dustin Penner 6.04, 220
  • JF Jacques 6.04, 220
  • Zack Stortini 6.04, 215

It’s fairly easy to match last year’s wingers with this year’s replacements–Ryan Smyth (6.02, 192) is smaller than Dustin Penner and Darcy Hordichuk is smaller than Steve MacIntyre. Ben Eager is larger than JF Jacques but the general feel of the roster is smaller.

Furthermore, if we list the 10 players likely to be Oiler forwards for most of the next decade, we get a list of smaller, more skilled men:

  1. Teemu Hartikainen 6.01, 215
  2. Curtis Hamilton 6.02, 206
  3. Magnus Paajarvi 6.03, 200
  4. Tyler Pitlick 6.02, 195
  5. Taylor Hall 6.01, 194
  6. Anton Lander 6.0, 194
  7. Jordan Eberle 6.0, 185
  8. Sam Gagner 5.11, 191
  9. Linus Omark 5.10, 174
  10. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 6.01, 171

I think the Oilers are at a very interesting point in their history right now. Two possible options:

  1. The Oilers make the right call on each of these forwards, choosing wisely and allowing the best of them to form a cluster that ascends the standings and goes deep in search of Stanley each spring.
  2. They may lose one or more of the quality forwards during that time when each of them struggles to find their way.

Deciding on which player to deal–and when–is a combination of skill, luck and the thunder of the Gods. If it goes right, the GM in your town sends away 10 cents and gets back two dollars. If your GM is dumb, hasn’t been living right or luck bites it could end up costing you forever.

There are two other items we can discuss around this issue:

  1. Will the Oilers pursue another Penner? I don’t see any 6.04, 220 skill forwards on the current roster. I’m not saying they require one (Hall has an edge to his game and Hartikainen plus Pitlick can do some things in this area) but the Oilers may have a different view.
  2. Will the Oilers offload Hemsky or deal one of the kids (most likely Omark, which could be death if he turns into the player we think he could be) for help elsewhere?

Dangerous time for Steve Tambellini.

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