Over at Oilers Nation today, Jonathan Willis read the roll call for the poor performances by the Edmonton prospects this fall. As someone who had to plough through it for the top 20 prospects series, I’m glad someone else feels my pain. Jonathan mentioned something during the comments section that tweaked my memory and I thought we could roll it around in our minds awhile.
The article is here. The pertinent comment is here:
- Jonathan Willis: At this point, though, I can’t think of a single guy in the system who I like as a potential third-liner. I’ve got higher hopes for Khaira; other depth guys don’t look like they have the ceiling. Maybe Rieder though size has always been an issue; for Moroz, Pitlick, Hamilton, and Lander I just don’t see the offence.
I’m a big fan of Jonathan, and am certain he doesn’t need me to remind him of small sample sizes–which I do believe can be used in the Rieder conversation–but his point in regard to the others is well taken. We’re about 750 at-bats (or should be) into the AHL careers of Lander, Hamilton and Pitlick, with little indication of an NHL player emerging from those three 2nd round selections. I would argue TOI and their slot in the lineup, but even with that the poor totals of these players is cause for concern.
The quote took me all the way back–and don’t ask me why–to the Kevin McClelland trade. I guess maybe because it was the first time in my Oiler fan experience (at least at the NHL level) where a guy I liked was shipped out of town for a mucker. For those who don’t recall, the story is well covered here.
I liked Tom Roulston, cheered for him as I did for Gregg Sheppard before him and Marc Pouliot after, with a fan’s endless faith.
The part of the quote that got me thinking about McClelland was “at this point though, I can’t think of a single guy in the system who I like as a potential third liner.”
And it hit me.
I believe a case can be made that many third liners–checkers–begin life on one team as possible solutions higher up the batting order. And in many, many cases in this fan’s experience the best third liners come from outside the organization and emerge with their new team in a new role. Recent Oiler examples might include but would not be limited to Marty Reasoner, Ethan Moreau and Todd Marchant, and ancient Oiler examples would be Dave Hunter, Dave Lumley, Craig MacTavish and Kevin McClelland.
As with many things that rattle around in my brain, I believe its genius. Often, it is not. I’ll leave it to you to decide. However, when we’re projected these players forward, I do believe it is important to remember that “re-set” in hockey terms often means a player is found unsuitable for his current role and then sent away, where he either adjusts his skills (Reasoner) or finds a willing coach (Kyle Brodziak) born in the same century who understands what that player is capable of and overlooks the problems.
I don’t know that any of Lander, Pitlick or Hamilton will fail, I’m still pretty strong on both Pitlick and Lander. However, I do think the clock is ticking on both, and next season will be the final year of their entry level deals. Hockey has a funny way of working things out, one man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure. I think we’ll see something happen with Linus Omark’s rights sometime soon, and still have a light on for Marc Pouliot.
Call me crazy, but a lot of castaways were in every Oiler Stanley Cup photo and that’s for sure. You could look it up.