ONE GREAT MINOR LEAGUE TEAM

Perhaps it has been so long we’ve forgotten, but it is worth remembering this: a good minor league organization is very valuable to an NHL team’s future.

The 2001-02 Hamilton Bulldogs are long forgotten, but they shouldn’t be; that team graduated a ton of talent to the big leagues and much of the talent produced came well below the first round picks.

  • Coach Claude Julien guided the team to a 37-30-13 record and a deep playoff run. He would get his NHL chance and has delivered.
  • Leading scorer Jason Chimera (5th rd pick) has cleared 650 NHL games and 100 goals.
  • Fernando Pisani (8th rd pick) scored 102 NHL goals–regular season and playoffs combined–and one of them is an all-time goal deep in the heart of the Stanley cup finals.
  • Marc-Andre Bergeron (undrafted) was a minor league free agent signing who made all the experts look foolish by enjoying a solid NHL career.
  • Ty Conklin (undrafted) was a much sought after free agent and has had an NHL career of note.
  • Jussi Markkanen (5th rd pick) was a Finn Oiler, the absolute top drawer. He also played in net for the most important game since 1990.

That’s a pretty nice haul for one minor league club. The fun part is looking at the failures. I’ve always stopped short of saying “if your first round pick has to play in the AHL for a year that probably means he’s not good enough” but logic and common sense suggest otherwise. It might be a rule that works for the Oilers, however. Consider the failures–1st rounders Michael Henrich (1998) and Jani Rita (1999), along with Chris Hajt (2nd rd pick, 1996), Alex Henry (3rd rd pick, 1998), and Alexei Semenov (2nd rd pick, 1999).

The 11-12 OKC Barons are a different group. I don’t really see (from here, any maybe that’ll change just like it did in 2002) many from the current depth of the draft or minor league free agency who will be the next Chimera, Pisani or Bergeron.

Teemu Hartikainen fits that description but I don’t see any other. If forced to guess about which players would pass 200 NHL games, I’d go Magnus Paajarvi (1st rder), Colten Teubert (1st rder), Anton Lander (2nd rder), Tyler Pitlick (2nd rder) and then the depth guy we can identify in Teemu Hartikainen (6th rder).

That team from 10 years ago saw the 5th and 8th rders along with two undrafted guys make the grade. Interesting. I guess that’s why they play the games.

I count the Oilers best all-time farm team as the 81-82 Wichita WInd. They didn’t win the Calder Cup (by 92-93 the Cape Breton Oilers would win the coveted Calder) but it was a fine team and delivered a bounty to the NHL team. Here’s a list of NHLers the Wichita Wind 81-82 team graduted to the world’s best hockey league:

  • Andy Moog, who had a couple of cups of coffee before and during 81-82 but established himself as a quality NHL prospect during this season. The Oilers would eventually deal Moog, but he was certainly one of the finest goaltenders of his era.
  • Charlie Huddy, who would be a strong contributor to the best Oiler teams in history and play in over 1,000 NHL games. Huddy was not drafted, rather he was signed by the Oilers and spent parts of three seasons in the minors before graduating to the show. His development should serve as a strong reminder that good defensemen often take some time to develop. A splendid player.
  • Walt Poddubny, who would flourish in the NHL. He played 468 games and scored 184 goals, 116 of those in a stunning three season run from 86-89.
  • John Blum, who would play 250 NHL games (most with Boston) was signed by the organization from Michigan (NCAA) after his graduation from college.
  • Don Jackson, who rescued his career in Wichita and performed well for the Oilers during the first portion of the Stanley runs (dealt Oct 86). He was a solid role player for the Oilers during those years.
  • Tom Roulston, who played 195 NHL games (and 47 goals) for the Oilers just before they started bagging Stanley’s every spring.

And there were a few cups of coffee, including Ray Cote who old timers like me will remember.

The last lockout team was exceptional too, with Jarret Stoll, Raffi Torres and Kyle Brodziak. The OKC Barons 12-13 lockout team? The Oilers have enough young talent to morph the past, if Hall, Eberle and the band want to play the smaller stadiums.

NATION RADIO

  • Derek Zona, who will defend Magnus Paajarvi against the slings and arrows of non-believers; tell us about an enormous 30-team project underway at NHL Numbers and walk us through the Copper and Blue’s Top 25 under 25.
  • Corey Pronman, who is quicky becoming a prospect guru through the power of his brain and the internet.
  • Guy Flaming  is the co-host of the best prospects show on the planet. We’ll talk Hlinka, Oil Kings and 2013 draft.
  • Jonathan Willis will drop by and we’ll talk Oilers and how they might solve their blue and goalie woes; the lockout and how the stats guys and girls are going to tackle next season.
  • Corey Graham, pbp man for the Edmonton Oil Kings on Team 1260. No matter what happens with the CBA, the Oil Kings roll and very soon. We’ll set the stage with Corey today.

Love to have you tune in, Team 1260 at noon today. Your questions and comments are the best, so please email nationradio@theteam1260.com or leave the message below in the comments thread. I always check twitter as well–tweet to @ItsNationRadio and Lowetide_ to get in touch.

 

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17 Responses to "ONE GREAT MINOR LEAGUE TEAM"

  1. Ducey says:

    The 11-12 OKC Barons are a different group. I don’t really see (from here, any maybe that’ll change just like it did in 2002) many from the current depth of the draft or minor league free agency who will be the next Chimera, Pisani or Bergeron.

    Teemu Hartikainen fits that description but I don’t see any other. If forced to guess about which players would pass 200 NHL games, I’d go Magnus Paajarvi (1st rder), Colten Teubert (1st rder), Anton Lander (2nd rder), Tyler Pitlick (2nd rder) and then the depth guy we can identify in Teemu Hartikainen (6th rder).

    I’d add Curtis Hamilton. And of course Petry and Marincin technically played for the Barons last year.

  2. Ducey says:

    Oh, and as everything always comes back to Pisani (or MacT) for you, how about the fact that the guy who looks most similar to St. Fernando is Ryan Jones.

    The had similar amatuer careers, both did fairly well in the AHL and have similar NHL boxcars. Jones’ defense improved last year and if he can take another step forward this year, your prayers will have been answered!

  3. Lowetide says:

    RE: Jones. On the other hand, he exits the zone early and often, suspect the ‘Nilsson germ’ might impact his playing time with the new coach.

  4. VOR says:

    I’d like to add two long shots who could make the NHL.

    The first is Chris VandeVelde. I’d give him an outside shot because he is big, fast, wins faceoffs, and has a physical edge. He’d only need his defense to be slightly better to be a long term fourth line energy guy somewhere in the NHL.

    The other is Antii Tyrvainen. He has the defense to play NHL hockey and is a puck hound. On top of which Tyrvainen is a born agitator. He is an obnoxious pinball of chaos and even in a shortened season in the AHL you could see he is a headhunter.

    Sometimes it is a very specific skill set that produces long stay NHL players (think Adam Hall and Jordin Tootoo). Hall flashed offense early and Tootoo came alive last year but essentially they are specialists.

  5. Lowetide says:

    VOR: I too believe VV could surprise. He’s not an offensive ripper, but has size and could fill a 4line role inexpensively. That’ll come into play when the kids get paid.

  6. Bushed says:

    Lowetide:

    Yours is my favorite hockey column, and I find myself agreeing with you at least 85% of the time, but “Ty Conklin” and “talent” in the same sentence still doesn’t work for me.

    Maybe I’m still bitter about the Hurricanes series, but I’m convinced that if Markannen was dressed, we win the game and the series and the 6th cup. It’s one of a few MacT decisions that still perplex me…

  7. Lowetide says:

    Bushed:
    Lowetide:

    Yours is my favorite hockey column, and I find myself agreeing with you at least 85% of the time, but “Ty Conklin” and “talent” in the same sentence still doesn’t work for me.

    Maybe I’m still bitter about the Hurricanes series, but I’m convinced that if Markannen was dressed, we win the game and the series and the 6th cup. It’s one a few MacT decisions that still perplex me…

    Oh me too. I would back over him if I could, but he did have a career and in the interests of a fair look back I included him. But yes, I remain suicidal because of him and doubt it will ever change. DO SOMETHING is what I was yelling.

  8. Lowetide says:

    Well done, gents. I don’t know that I disagree with a thing, and love the MacT stuff!

  9. stevezie says:

    Lowetide: I would back over [Conklin] if I could

    The phrase “lol” get’s thrown around a lot these days, mostly disingenuously I’m sorry to say. Not this time. I laughed out loud.

  10. Cactus says:

    Lowetide,

    If you get a chance, could you pose to Jonathan the question that’s been on these boards in the past week: is (or was) there a reasonable and not overly expensive way for the Oilers to upgrade their defence this offseason? Some people maintain that Tambellini should have done more while others (like myself) have defended him on the grounds that we want no part in $5M plus for guys like Wideman or trades like Foligno for Methot.

    Thanks in advance.

  11. danny says:

    My fav fight in Oilers history is back in the late 90′s when EDM played Buffalo twice in the same week.

    Rob Ray ran around in game 1, made a dirty hit or something (maybe on weight) and then intentionally got himself ejected for a misconduct so he didnt have to fight Laraque.

    After the game BG said he is going to hurt Ray when they play next… which was out of character for the big guy, but exciting to see as an Oilers fan. Ray responded with lots of ‘not afraid’ chatter through the week as media buzz built up the fight. Finally gameday came and this is what happened.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YoFX53LxBI

    I think Ray missed the rest of the season after this fight.

  12. Adam Dyck says:

    LT, one thought that’s been rolling around my head is this: Katz owns four sports teams, three of which are absolutely dominant in their sport/league, and one of which has been dismal.

    The Capitals won their league (though are now on hiatus for the season), the Oil Kings similarly won the WHL title, and the Barons rode to the Conference Finals in a very tough league. The Oilers, on the other hand, have been terrible throughout his ownership, despite being the crowning jewel of Katz Sports.

    Do we assume then that Katz is simply unable to manage a team in such a high-tier league? That he’s blinded by admiration for Lowe’s glory days and thus refuses to make necessary changes he would otherwise make? Or do we maybe think there’s more going on that we don’t see?

  13. Cactus says:

    Thanks for the question LT. Agree with Willis on Roszival, but based on our discussion last thread, Hannan doesn’t do too much to improve things – he’s not a clear enough step up on the bottom end.

  14. blackdog says:

    Thanks LT, very kind.

    Have been really busy but wanted to chime in on Pitlick, read the conversation on him the other day. Saw him twice this year. I know a lot of folks expected more but they brought him and Hamilton along very slowly. The first game I saw, just after Christmas, they were both in the bottom six, got spot duty. They looked fine, Pitlick the better of the two. He’s a smart smart player, fast, defensively aware and wins more than his share of puck battles despite being a little slight still.

    I then saw him in the playoffs and he was getting better icetime, top six minutes, PP time. All of the little things? He does them well. He was a dangerous player. I would bet that he has a very good year if he stays healthy and I think he has a career for sure.

  15. hunter1909 says:

    Oilers wretched fans, long accustomed to EIG’s judicious cost cutting measures mostly don’t understand farm team politics.

    Pajaarvi, Gagner Lander all thrown to the wolves. Wasn’t MPS Peter Forsberg’s favourite player, when he wasn’t getting his ass handed to him by the management, who, to be fair, are collecting a decent AHL team for everyone to look forward.

    Maybe they switch teams – Oilers for Phoenix – then Eberle+co off to that new Markham arena. As for Edmonton, everyone’s told to be grateful to still have NHL hockey after the lockout.

    And I’ll wake up a stats freak.

  16. Oil On Whyte's Weekend Link Extravaganza - Oil On Whyte - An Edmonton Oilers Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More says:

    [...] One Great Minor League Team: Lowetide stresses the importance of a healthy farm. [...]

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