The first general manager in Kansas City Royals history was Cedric Tallis, who believed in finding 10-year solutions to positions of need. It’s all over his expansion draft in 1968, and in the trades that followed. Example: The second player drafted, third baseman Joe Foy, was dispatched after one season to the New York Mets (of course) in exchange for a 10-year solution: Amos Otis.
The Oilers are doing pretty well in the NHL version of 10-year solutions this season. Ethan Bear and Kailer Yamamoto look like they could be multi-year fixes, with Tyler Benson and Evan Bouchard on the way.
All of this progress has obscured some useful players who could be shorter term solutions. You can’t find 10-year solutions to every problem in one summer or winter. What about those mid-20’s AHL players? How can they help?
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of The Athletic, less than two coffees a month offer here.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: ‘Hey, Sparky, can you do that?’: How the Oilers’ AHL video coach got his start as the Islanders’ mascot.
- New Eric Duhatschek: ‘He’s special’: The people who know him best tell the story of how Leon Draisaitl took the NHL by storm
- New Pierre Lebrun: Where all 31 teams stand one month before the trade deadline
- Lowetide: What do Connor McDavid’s best lines tell us about his optimal linemates?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: I was an AHL coach for a day: Here’s what I learned
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis: Oilers player poll: From the serious to the silly, the players weigh in on best dressed, most superstitious and more
- Thomas Drance: Inside how ‘Okanagan boy’ Ken Holland helped bring back the Penticton Young Stars tournament
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers minor-league defenceman Brandon Manning suspended five games for racial slur
- Jonathan Willis: An updated list of which Oilers are most likely to be traded in 2019-20
- Lowetide: Kailer Yamamoto gives Oilers a midseason spark, one of the best in team history
- Lowetide: With the Oilers’ minor-league goaltending not good enough, Ilya Konovalov might be the answer
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan show the upward trend of Ken Holland’s offseason moves for the Oilers
- Lowetide: Post-Christmas performance spike has Evan Bouchard pushing for an NHL job with the Oilers
- Lowetide: Central Scouting’s midseason list offers Oilers some strong draft options
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers’ road forward — and perhaps to a Stanley Cup — requires trusting the kids on defence
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers make a smart two-year bet on Caleb Jones, who has done nothing but improve
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: 3 things from the latest Oilers win: A lacrosse goal, Mike Smith’s resurgence and Connor McDavid’s new linemate
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: A defiant Zack Kassian issues his latest salvo against Matthew Tkachuk: ‘He messed with the wrong guy’
- Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s deployment of Oilers defencemen indicates Kris Russell is vulnerable to trade
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers Notebook: Jujhar Khaira’s future, Caleb Jones’ adaptation to NHL speed
- Lowetide: Projecting William Lagesson’s future with the Edmonton Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Kailer Yamamoto has impressed the Oilers and especially star linemate Leon Draisaitl
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: 10 bold predictions for the Edmonton Oilers in 2020
- Jonathan Willis: Inside a coach’s impact: How Dave Tippett gets the most out of the Oilers’ players
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Deciding what to do with Darnell Nurse, Mike Smith, Tyler Benson and Evan Bouchard
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s targets for his first trade deadline with the Oilers.
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s trade deadline options for the Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Zack Kassian’s breakout performance presents Oilers GM Ken Holland with a familiar dilemma
- Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects list, winter 2019
In terms of immediate recalls, many are clamoring for Tyler Benson to be the next man on a plane, but Markus Granlund is performing like a man who would like to see the NHL again soon.
The players I’m talking about today are men like Joe Gambardella, Josh Currie, Colby Cave, Brad Malone, Keegan Lowe (although the Oilers are flush with blue so Lowe’s path is blocked multiple times).
It has to be a difficult road for these men, waiting for the opportunity and hoping the coach sees their skill set as being useful compared to the rest of the crowd. Patrick Russell is this year’s winner among this group, and it’s easy to see why coach Dave Tippett likes him. Works hard in every second of every shift, formidable on the forecheck, pucks deep, makes progress through the neutral zone exactly as difficult as dragging the river.
I’ve always maintained that the NHL has about 150 players in the minors each season who could play in the bigs but are waiting for that lucky opportunity. The NHL at any time employs about 715 players, add another 60 for IR (that’s a guess) and then throw in 25 more for those unusual Puljujarvi situations.
The back portion of those 800 men, say the final 150, are somewhat interchangeable with 150 guys in the AHL who are pushing hard for that recall. Wives at home, maybe with babies, doing everything they can to support their fella and his goal of making the bigs. The entire situation is equal parts majestic, tragic and compelling.
These are the men I’ve always found to be the most interesting. If I ever had the ear of any of them, I’d say you pursue that dream as long as you can, because what comes after just isn’t the same. There’s no sin in being one of the 1,000 best hockey players in North America, and maybe luck will shine on you tomorrow.
Joe Gambardella. Josh Currie. Patrick Russell. Those stories are the ones that speak to me. That’s why Patrick Russell matters, because he’s the current example of a very important player in the game of hockey: The replacement level support player.
Some people call them jags (just a guy) but I never do. I’ve always cheered for them. Del Hall. Marc Habscheid. Mark Arcobello. Patrick Russell. Their lives, their stories, are perhaps even more compelling than this weekend’s All-Stars. They have a lot in common with the rest of the population. I love their stories.
In the next few weeks, Patrick Russell will jump over the boards and play in an NHL game. Music! I guarantee Russell will value that shift more than someone like Sam Gagner could ever value a single 30 seconds. I’ll cheer like hell for Russell, for his wife and for his family. That’s the story. I’ve been watching these players since Larry Mavety and cheer for every one.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
Friday! Weekend on the way, we kickstart things on TSN1260 at 10 this morning. Steve Lansky from BigMouthSports talks All-Star weekend and the McDavid story, Matt Iwanyk rails against the baseball hall of fame, and I’ll tell you some stories. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!