It’s July 18, 2014. Leon Draisaitl, not yet an Oiler in fact and less than a month from his draft day, can call the realtor any day now. In faraway Detroit, Anthony Mantha, he of the 57-goal season and 13 months older than Draisaitl, is going to have to work like a dog to make that Detroit team.
Is Edmonton’s planning the right thing to do? No! The Oilers just traded away Sam Gagner, a player who didn’t develop as hoped, and their franchise center has endured significant injuries as he grows up in the world’s best men’s league. The Russian Yakupov has had his issues, too.
- Ken Holland on Anthony Mantha: “If he’s in the lineup it’s because basically we think he’s going to be a top-six forward. I don’t know we’d put him on the fourth line and play him eight minutes. I know Mike Babcock wants to give Mantha some opportunities with Datsyuk, Zetterberg, with our best players. We have eight exhibition games. I know we want him to play 5-6. After we’ve watched him play for three weeks and we get to the end of September or early October, he’s got to take somebody’s job.”
It can be done. Looking at the Detroit depth chart on LW (if we count Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Helm and Weiss as C’s), it looks like Tomas Tatar, Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan, Drew Miller and Joakim Andersson are in the mix. Over on RW, Johan Franzen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Dan Cleary and Luke Glendening are available. God that’s a lot of people.
Can Mantha make it? Sure, and it’s pretty damn obvious why Babcock wants a look: goals! Mantha is going to have to earn it, though. Detroit can easily send him down and those late pre-season games expose even the best of the kids knocking on the door.
MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH
Edmonton’s depth chart is set, we’ll just have to wait and see how things go (Edmonton could add a center like Zack Smith to help with the chores).
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- Leon Draisaitl*
- Boyd Gordon
- Mark Arcobello
- Anton Lander
First callup? Probably Will Acton.
Will Acton via Rob Ferguson
I’m a big believer in elevating players when they have proven themselves, and argued with many when Taylor Hall was the subject of conversation in 2010 summer. This year I’m suggesting caution—remember rookie Jumbo Joe?—and the Oilers would be wise to add a significant road block between now and September. A possible scenario for this team? Edmonton trades for Zack Smith, has the option of running him a 4C of Nuge-Arco-Gordon-Smith for 2014-15 while they ho-ho-hold the payments for Leon.
Right? It makes way too much sense! AND, if Leon arrives in training camp with jet skates and proves himself in pre-season, give him nine games. If he’s rocking it after that, then keep him and use Smith/Arco/Lander as utility forwards—heaven knows there will be injuries and maladies galore.
EDMONTON OILERS 2014-15 (PROJECTED)
|LEFT WING||CENTER||RIGHT WING|
|TAYLOR HALL||RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS||JORDAN EBERLE|
|DAVID PERRON||LEON DRAISAITL *||TEDDY PURCELL|
|BENOIT POULIOT||BOYD GORDON||NAIL YAKUPOV|
|MATT HENDRICKS||MARK ARCOBELLO||TYLER PITLICK*|
|ANTON LANDER||IIRO PAKARINEN*|
|LEFT DEFENSE||RIGHT DEFENSE|
|MARTIN MARINCIN||JEFF PETRY|
|NIKITA NIKITIN||MARK FAYNE|
|ANDREW FERENCE||JUSTIN SCHULTZ|
Craig MacTavish should trade for Zack Smith or similar. Ken Holland would do it, and the Oilers should too. Sam Gagner’s leaving could be an opportunity to change the organizational wisdom about elevating these gifted kids no matter what.
It’s the right thing to do.