It's Past Time to Recall Linus Omark

Jonathan Willis
November 03 2013 07:59PM

There is a one-line argument against recalling Linus Omark. It goes like this: he’s a small winger whose primary ability lies in the offensive zone, and the Oilers are a team in need of big wingers who play a solid defensive game.

It doesn’t matter. It’s past time to bring him up.

The Left Wing Depth Chart

Let’s have a gander at the Oilers’ left wing depth chart from last night’s 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

On the top line we have Ryan Jones. Jones is an NHL everyman – he can score a bit, hit a bit, kill penalties, and while he isn’t big he isn’t small either. He’s a very good fourth-liner, by which I mean he’s the kind of player who excels in a fourth line role and can step into the top-nine once injuries start hitting.

Nail Yakupov, a natural right wing, played on the second line with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. I like Yakupov a lot as a player, and despite a slow start I’m not particularly worried that he’s the next Patrik Stefan. Initially, I thought playing him at left wing made a lot of sense – he’s a left-handed shot after all, and the team had and has a need at the position. These days, I subscribe to the idea that the best place for Yakupov to find his game is where he’s found it in the past and where he feels most comfortable: on right wing. I also subscribe to the notion that the Oilers need a productive Yakupov at right wing more than they need an unproductive Yakupov at left wing.

A 28-year-old minor-league journeyman fresh off injury filled the third line left wing spot last night. I know that Ryan Hamilton has a history with Dallas Eakins, and more importantly still I know he’s 6’2” tall and weighs 219 pounds. Those virtues do not suffice to explain why a guy with no history of being an NHL player and coming off a long time on injured reserve to boot is getting a top-nine job.

Finally, fourth on the left wing depth chart is Luke Gazdic. The Oilers get out-shot by a ridiculous rate with Gazdic on the ice; but fortunately for him his plus/minus doesn’t reflect that reality because the goalies have turned aside all 37 shots they’ve seen with him on the ice. That doesn’t change the fact that Gazdic is on the ice to hit and to fight rather than because of his ability to score or prevent goals. The argument about whether that sort of role player is an effective part of an NHL team is for another day; suffice to say for now that he isn’t a credible option above line four.

Meanwhile, in the minors

I understand that Linus Omark is a flawed player. I get why, on a healthy Oilers roster, he isn’t a fit – and by that I mean not only do I grasp the argument, I agree with it.

But when the situation changes, things must be reassessed. We have already seen the most cogent argument in favour of Omark right now – the Oilers’ emaciated left wing group. But there’s more. Omark currently leads the Barons with 12 points in 12 games, and he’s producing under some difficult circumstances.

Last night, for example, Omark played on Oklahoma’s top line with C.J. Stretch (an ECHL find last year) and first-year professional Andrew Miller. He typically played against either one or the other of the Chicago Wolves top-two lines – both of which were loaded to the gills with players with NHL experience. The Barons got scoring from all over, but won the game mostly because Omark was able to drive his line to 20-7 shots/missed shots advantage at even-strength.

Omark’s own scoring has been hit-and-miss – a four-point game here, a four-goal game there – but the constant is that his line has generated scoring chances.

Omark is not going to play the heavy game the Oilers would love to see from their next call-up, but then Luke Gazdic and Ben Eager (or, for that matter, Kale Kessy) will and arguing for anyone in that group to get a promotion is crazy. Overall play counts for something, too, and it’s something the Oilers have lacked that Omark can give them.

What I’d “Like” To See

It seems obvious that the Oilers’ forward lineup is going to be a mess until such time as the injury brigade gets back. Taylor Hall and David Perron and Ryan Smyth, not Linus Omark, are the solution to the Oilers’ left wing problems. Until those players return, the Oilers’ lines are going to be ugly.

In the meantime, though, I think the best deployment of personnel probably looks something like this (ordered by quality of competition):

1. Ales Hemsky – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle. The Oilers don’t really have a power-vs.-power line; Taylor Hall or David Perron is needed to give them one. Of the bad available choices, though, Ales Hemsky seems like the best fit. He’s had the power-vs.-power job before, he’s a veteran guy, and he actually looked pretty good when Tom Renney spotted him here back in 2011-12.

2. Ryan Jones – Boyd Gordon – Mark Arcobello. The Oilers’ don’t really have the pieces for a strong defensive “third” line either. Gordon is a fit as that line’s centre, Arcobello gives the line a second faceoff man, and while Jones isn’t an ideal fit he’s been okay in previous incarnations of this line (the Smyth – Horcoff – Jones trio doing a nice job at points).

3. Linus Omark – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov. I know. This is an all-offence line, geared toward offensive zone starts and deployed against the other team’s bottom-six. It gives Yakupov a chance to play offensive minutes at his natural position, Gagner a chance to ease back into the lineup and both of them a third player in Omark who can help drive offensive results.

The comments section may disagree, and honestly I’m not wild about it myself: there’s no combination of forwards that I particularly like right now for the Oilers. But what I do think is that regardless of how the lines are arranged, Linus Omark stands a better chance of getting the job done in the top nine than a couple of players the Oilers currently have there and a far better chance than any of the potential fourth-line promotions.

Even if it’s something as simple as sticking Omark in the Jones’ slot on the top line, bumping Jones down to the Gordon line and sending Hamilton to Oklahoma on a conditioning stint, I think the Oilers are better off with the guy who is driving results in Oklahoma than they are with the current crop of candidates.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 vetinari
November 04 2013, 10:17AM
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I think that part of the reason why everyone is so p!ssed-off at management and the team is because we expected Yakupov's draft year to be "rock bottom" of the rebuild and we would start to climb 3-4 positions in the standings each year until we became a playoff team.

Last year, under Krueger (and without a training camp), we did show a modest improvement in the standings. This year, we found a way to erase our previous modest gains, dynamite the rock floor and sink to a new level of incompetence.

And I have to say that this year's Flames reminds me of the spunky teams that we used to ice in the late '90s and early '00s-- a blue collar team with no quit that relished being the underdogs and proving people wrong.

After we cleared out the Jason Smith's, the Fernando Pisani's and the Ethan Moreau's, we forgot to replace them with players that had drive, pride and attitude.

It seems that with our current team, if the goals don't come easy within the first 10 minutes of a game, they give up and coast for the last 50 minutes, hoping to get out of the arena alive and unnoticed.

I've said it before and I'll say it again-- we don't need an enforcer to scare the other team-- we need one that will scare our players into playing like they give a damn, every shift.

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#102 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 10:26AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Your use of "kind of" is far too generous.

The same way they "kind of" been out of the playoffs for seven going on eight years. Obviously what they have player wise is not working? No?

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#103 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 04 2013, 10:29AM
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Spydyr wrote:

The same way they "kind of" been out of the playoffs for seven going on eight years. Obviously what they have player wise is not working? No?

Good god no!

Find anyone who's said that, or put the straw man back in the closet.

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#104 oilerjed
November 04 2013, 10:34AM
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There is suddenly alot of talk of rifts in the locker room. IMO that is reading more into Smid and Ference's quotes then is there. Seems more like the young guys are just not getting the point quick enough more then a Socs and Greaser sort of thing. On at least three goals VS Det when they show the endzone replay you can count at least 3 forwards coasting through the neutral zone.

DE has not had much to work with this year due to injury, but his decisions on player usage and line combos has definetly been suspect. Not advocating for a coaching change but I am advocating for a change of coaching. A NHL coach should be able to make adjsutments to team play on the fly when things clearly are not working. DE has shown himself to be uber relcutant to try anything different in the face of failure. Do the players need to buy, ABSOLUTELY. Does the coach need to recognize a failure of a system, ABSOLUTELY.

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#105 admiralmark
November 04 2013, 10:36AM
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I ask this... with Hall inj'd who on the current Oiler lineup competes as hard as Omark does/did? And if you only brought him back to trade him for something.. then SHOWCASE him for F$#*K sakes!!

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#106 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 10:36AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Good god no!

Find anyone who's said that, or put the straw man back in the closet.

Jonathan Willis

Also, out of curiosity again, is it this pattern:

Pavel Datsyuk - small, skill player Henrik Zetterberg - small, skill player Daniel Alfredsson - small, skill player Daniel Cleary - small, skill player Tomas Tatar - small, skill player Stephen Weiss - small, skill player Gustav Nyquist - small, skill player Now, before we get into the 'Jonathan, you fanboy, Zetterberg's way better than Eberle!' comments, let me say this: I'm not saying Edmonton's guys are as good as Detroit's, and I'm not ignoring the Franzens and Bertuzzis in Detroit's lineup.

What I am saying is that harping on a team for having good players who happen to be little is kind of stupid."

Pretty sure that is what Jonathan Willis is saying that above. A team of small players like the Oilers can win in the NHL. You know the comment you suggested it more more than "kind of" stupid to suggest a team with all small players cannot compete and win.

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#107 oilerjed
November 04 2013, 10:39AM
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Plus I would have like to be in the oilers dressing room after Saturdays game. Did anyone else notice a visibly Pissed Eakins taking off his jacket and loosening his tye as he was leaving the bench. Looked like he was in the mood to pummel someone.

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#108 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 04 2013, 10:44AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Jonathan Willis

Also, out of curiosity again, is it this pattern:

Pavel Datsyuk - small, skill player Henrik Zetterberg - small, skill player Daniel Alfredsson - small, skill player Daniel Cleary - small, skill player Tomas Tatar - small, skill player Stephen Weiss - small, skill player Gustav Nyquist - small, skill player Now, before we get into the 'Jonathan, you fanboy, Zetterberg's way better than Eberle!' comments, let me say this: I'm not saying Edmonton's guys are as good as Detroit's, and I'm not ignoring the Franzens and Bertuzzis in Detroit's lineup.

What I am saying is that harping on a team for having good players who happen to be little is kind of stupid."

Pretty sure that is what Jonathan Willis is saying that above. A team of small players like the Oilers can win in the NHL. You know the comment you suggested it more more than "kind of" stupid to suggest a team with all small players cannot compete and win.

Ah! Here's the problem.

Thanks for clarifying.

Re-read his comments, or anyone else's for that matter, and find someone saying:

"Obviously [over the last 8 years] what they have player wise is […] working."

When you come up short (you will)… you'll be left scratching your head. Keep scratching until to sort why you aren't engaging JW's actual point.

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#109 nunyour
November 04 2013, 10:46AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Ales Hemsky – small , skill player

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – small , skill player

Jordan Eberle – small , skill player

Mark Arcobello – small , skill player

Linus Omark – small , skill player

Sam Gagner – small , skill player

Nail Yakupov – small , skill player

Do you see a pattern here. I certainly do, it adds up to eight straight years out of the playoffs.

Why can't "the braintrust"?

Totally agree,but they would kick ass on battle of the blades.

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#111 S cottV
November 04 2013, 11:07AM
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Looks like Eakins has backed off on the swarm defensive system, which is good news. The bad part - it is one of the big reasons for the hole that the Oilers find themselves in. Further - a rookie Coach had to back off his much hyped system, further eroding player confidence in him. The killer in the Red Wing game was an awful shift by Petry. A top 2 d man or any d man cannot take an "all in" chance on a bouncing puck with an opposition forward behind him. Then - Eakins leaves him out (a bad decision in hindsight) and Petry throws a tentative lame duck ugly pass up the middle creating an immediate and dangerous counter attack. Back checking forwards add to the gaffe by looking at the puck and not picking up the Red Wing trailer. A bad start was the last thing this depleted and demoralized group needed but at least it had nothing to do with continuance of the swarm. If the losing continues - what the heck is MacT going to do with his Coach? Get behind the bench and provide hands on mentoring? Ugly spot to be in, that just seems to keep getting uglier...

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#112 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 11:09AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

Ah! Here's the problem.

Thanks for clarifying.

Re-read his comments, or anyone else's for that matter, and find someone saying:

"Obviously [over the last 8 years] what they have player wise is […] working."

When you come up short (you will)… you'll be left scratching your head. Keep scratching until to sort why you aren't engaging JW's actual point.

Re-Read the comments. I did engage JW's actual post. Are you always so pompous?

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#113 Spydyr
November 04 2013, 11:09AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

A team with a bunch of small players can win in the NHL. Look at Detroit. That was absolutely the point of the comment I made.

The Oilers are not that team, for reasons that go way beyond having five or six guys of below-average height.

Where you go wrong is in thinking that because the Oilers haven't won with a bunch of small players, nobody can.

One team out of thirty is an anomaly.

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#114 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 04 2013, 11:20AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Re-Read the comments. I did engage JW's actual post. Are you always so pompous?

Didn't mean to be pompous. Sorry, genuinely.

But, you are talking past him and ignoring his actual argument. This is simply the case.

Actual argument: small, skilled players are not an impediment to winning. Good players are not a hindrance to winning.

Unrelated argument no one is making: "Obviously [over the last 8 years] what they have player wise is […] working."

Saying "good, even if small, even if plentiful, players are GOOD for any team"

is a radically different proposition than saying anything like

"the Oilers are a good team"

Or, simply put:

Saying: "The reason the Oilers are bad has nothing to do with the idea that teams can't win with too many small, skilled wingers"

does not equal

Saying: "the Oilers as constructed are a good team"

Without condescension, until you sort out the different lines of argument here, this conversation won't be productive. You are simply having a different conversation than the one JW started.

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#115 RMGS
November 04 2013, 11:22AM
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Given the Oilers practice lines today, Coach Eakins may be a reader of Jonathan Willis' work.

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle Smyth-Gagner-Yakupov Jones-Gordon-Arcobello

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#116 **
November 04 2013, 11:24AM
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After the last game I don't think any new combination could give a worse result. I agree with Wills. Time to shake the tree and see what falls.

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#117 TigerUnderGlass
November 04 2013, 11:31AM
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Spydyr wrote:

One team out of thirty is an anomaly.

The Red Wings having one good season would be an anomaly. The Red Wings being consistently good for many years is not.

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#118 Will
November 04 2013, 11:55AM
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Yep, you know the situation is getting straight up apocalyptic when we start talking about needing to bring back Omark.

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#119 Spaceman Spiff
November 04 2013, 04:15PM
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The Oilers have painted themselves into a corner with Omark. How do you call up a guy that you didn’t want to keep and weren’t planning to do anything more with than hopefully convince someone to take him off your hands at the trade deadline or draft?

The Oilers’ adventures with Omark – or his with the Oilers – is actually pretty interesting.

He had a reputation before he arrived and when he got here, he arrived with a flourish. For a little while, he looked like a poor-man’s Sedin – decent at cycling on the boards and talented in-close and on the half-boards on the power play. He was a quirky teammate – kinda weird (remember the Swedish video of him sitting on the toilet at the party?) and probably a bit selfish, although not petulant.

He’s skilled, but probably not top-six-skilled on most teams. He had a great year last year in Europe, but had no takers for him (or presumably no takers for him at MacT’s asking price). So he gets re-signed by the Oilers ... for some reason ... either to score or sell tickets in OKC, or to help develop some trade value for him at the NHL level. Now, he’s having a decent-to-great year in the AHL and the NHL team is floundering on the ice, all while suffering with depth/injury problems at the very position he plays. He was never in the plans, realistically, for the parent club but a funny thing happened on the way to a 3-10 record.

Before you put me in the certain percentage of the Oiler fandom that had an infatuation with Robbie Schremp a few years ago, it’s really not the same situation at all.

This isn’t the spin-o-rama shootout Omark of three years ago we’re talking about. If Omark was on any other NHL system right now, he’d be an automatic call-up if the parent team was as bad/injured as the Oilers are. This should be a no-brainer. But like many things this year, the Oilers are screwing that up, too.

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#120 bwar
November 04 2013, 04:28PM
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Why would we make a change when we can just watch it all burn to the ground as is?

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#121 jack
November 04 2013, 06:48PM
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Naky wrote:

@jack

So what you're saying is that he'd fit right in with the current bunch, except that he'd actually manage to score. Still sounds like an upgrade to me. If nothing else on a team with confidence issues, it might be interesting to see a player with no shortage of it do his best to make it rub off on the rest.

Hell, we're all actually wondering if it wouldn't be a good thing to have priests exorcise the dressing room or whatever the heck it is that Gregor was yammering on about in that article a week or so ago. Is Omark really that much of an 'out there' thing these days?

yah scoring on the farm is the same as scoring in the NHL cmon man

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#122 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
November 04 2013, 09:22PM
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Spyders list should have read

"Young Small Skilled" players.....

The key variable being "Young"

There's a good chance that the Oilers rebuild will serve as model for how NOT to rebuild.

Too many young players added to the roster in too short a period of time.

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#123 kdunbar
November 05 2013, 02:04AM
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Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

Spyders list should have read

"Young Small Skilled" players.....

The key variable being "Young"

There's a good chance that the Oilers rebuild will serve as model for how NOT to rebuild.

Too many young players added to the roster in too short a period of time.

We often forget the number of vets that the glory years had in 79, 80, 81 etc...

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