Lowetide has a typically thoughtful response up to my post yesterday and Bob Stauffer discussed it on the radio. Both guys made a similar point with respect to Tyler Pitlick and Curtis Hamilton. I’ll quote from Lowetide; you’ll have to trust me that Stauffer made the same point.
I think the Oilers are icing a more veteran AHL team this season and have changed the way they’re going about their business. We’ll see how things roll next season, but it’s never a good sign when the guy you selected 31st overall in 2010 can’t make your everyday AHL lineup a year later.
I have asked a couple of times about TOI totals for these two and HS numbers. I asked Todd Nelson and others about ice time, and the response has been “8-10″ early and “10-12″ later, so that strikes me as 4line plus they each have about 10HS. But it’s chicken/egg and should not be used as an excuse. I wanted to mention it because if they have 9 and 10 points in 10 minutes then it’s probably reasonable to suggest both would come a little closer to Hartikainen with more minutes. Doesn’t address why they aren’t getting those minutes, though. That’s what the 2nd half will tell us.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tyler Dellow, but my opinion is that it’s much too early to make the call on these players. Added to the new approach from the Oilers organization, I think we’re going to have to wait and see on these players. It is extremely early to be burying them.
So, basically, a new approach means that we throw out all of what history tells us. I should point out that Stauffer makes a point that I agree with – you throw ice time at your kids. He was, in effect, a bit critical of the idea of letting genuine NHL prospects play behind guys like Ryan Keller and I couldn’t agree more. Of course, you might have more losses then and you wouldn’t have the famed winning atmosphere. I’ll take TOI over winning atmosphere for developing hockey players any day.
ANYWAY – I kind of anticipated the Lowetide/Stauffer objection. Let’s look at the list of guys who went on to be 200+ GP and 0.5+ PPG guys despite not hitting at least 0.75 PPG in the AHL in their age 20 season.
That’s it. Morrow doesn’t really belong on the list – I’ve included him because I included everyone who played AHL games but I found the accusations from a few corners (not Lowetide or Stauffer) that I was playing games with numbers laughable – if anything, I bent over backwards not to correct factors that would make the hill look steeper, like the fact that some guys who would have made the NHL at a younger age were pushed back a year by the lockout or that adding the Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets opened the door for a bunch of older guys to make the NHL. Including guys like Morrow makes things look easier than they are too – there’s a guy who had a bad PPG number in the AHL in a tiny sample, because he was effectively an NHLer.
Add to that that all of the guys who are on this list are basically a moth’s fart in China away from falling off. Stoll (0.55), Dubinsky (0.56), Lombardi (0.51), Svatos (0.5) and Callahan (0.54) aren’t really elite offensive performers but you have to draw the line somewhere and they were just on the other side of being there. Pominville, Clowe and Ryder are the guys who really seem to have surprised by turning into offensive players. Clowe (175th pick) and Ryder (216th) just seem to me like classic late bloomers – nobody expected them to turn into players but they did.
That leaves Pominville. Like Pitlick, Hamilton and, less importantly, Ryan Martindale, he’s a late birthday. I don’t really buy that this is a massive deal, although I’d rather have November and December babies having mediocre age twenty seasons than January ones as far as prospect status goes. He’s pretty much the totality of the case that these guys still have a shot of being in the upper echelon of forwards.
Now, as for the argument that the Oilers are developing players differently: I just don’t buy it. I’m from the Hooper X school.
Men need to believe that they’re Marco fucking Polo when it comes to sex – like they’re the only ones who’ve ever explored new territory. And it’s hard not to let them believe it. I let my boys run with it for awhile – feed them some of that “I’ve never done this before…” bullshit, and let ‘em labor under the delusion that they rockin’ my world, until I can’t stand them anymore. Then I hit ‘em with the truth. It’s a sick game. The world would be a better place if people would just accept that there’s nothing new under the sun, and everything you can do with a person has probably been done long before you got there.
That last line; I think it’s true of prospects too. I am reasonably certain that the Oilers did not invent the idea of playing to win at the minor league level. I am sure that this idea has occurred to someone before. It’s not particularly revolutionary. It strikes me as implausible that, out of a group of 66 players, not a single one of them ended up in a similar developmental situation and had his age 20 numbers killed as a result. I thought Pominville might be that guy but his 2002-03 Americans put up 81 points in 80 games; they weren’t a great team holding him back, he just took a little longer.
That, basically, is my response to Lowetide and Stauffer: it seems impossible that not a single guy who went on to be an offensive contributor posted numbers like Hamilton and Pitlick but only because all of those guys were given were opportunity that Hamilton/Pitlick weren’t. It just doesn’t pass the smell test. Hockey’s hockey. The world would be a better place if people would just accept that there’s nothing new under the sun, and everything you can do with a prospect has probably been done by someone long before you started controlling their futures. On that assumption, I feel comfortable saying that the difference between the numbers these guys are putting up and 0.75 PPG seems awfully unlikely to be opportunity.
Lowetide commented on the timing of my saying that these guys aren’t going to be offensive contributors, correctly pointing out that it’s awfully early. The response to that is pretty simple: the data is what it is and it says that you don’t need to wait until they’re 23 or 24 to start saying that certain career paths are almost certainly not going to be the ones that they take. This stuff matters to the evaluation of MacGregor. He needs one more player to be a hit in order to say that he’s been something special with CHL F draft picks between 2008 and 2011. Produce a couple of lower third/fourth line guys and the Oilers have been averageish with the CHL to date. Not terrible, not great. Averagish.
We’re going to talk about other positions and paths to the NHL in the coming days and weeks – the defenceman data is fascinating – but all in all, I think that the case that the Oilers continue to be an average drafting team is a pretty defensible one.