Doug Sauter, Ralph Krueger, Full Circle

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

There are moments in life where things feel as if they have come full circle. I’ve had moments like this throughout my 30 years of existence. Both personally and professionally we’ve all experienced a situation or two where the wheel of fortune spins wildly back to where it began. The Edmonton Oilers have had a couple in recent days. It began with the Crag MacTavish hiring. To work a couple of rungs above the general manager that “relieved you of your duties” is a 360 degree moment. The other happened yesterday morning, but in a slightly broader stroke.

Read More

Oilers Name New Coach, Nelson Contract Next?

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.

No surprises Wednesday morning when the Oilers named Ralph Krueger as the new head coach of their hockey squad. What was a surprise is how long it took to make the announcement, and how Todd Nelson seemingly doesn’t fit into the NHL equation — at least for now.

Following two successful years as the bench boss for the Oklahoma City Barons including a Western Conference Finals appearance, it appeared that Nelson was one of three likely candidates for the position. Without any major league head coaching jobs on his resume it was highly unlikely that he’d take over a young team in the midst of a rebuild/retool of a wrecked Oilers team. The future is in the youthfulness of its forwards and coaching needed a heavy dose of veteran attention in the locker room, off the ice, and on game day. Thus Krueger is the proven leader. Better than Renney? Patiently wait for evaluation. But the due diligence with which the Oilers handled Nelson proves his worth within the organization. So much so that the Oilers will likely keep him on the farm in the near future.

Read More

Oilers Qualified – No Taylor, Hunter, Milan

The inevitability of the qualifying offer seems to have come quickly. Nonetheless, it’s here and it has a few surprises and a few heartbreaks for Barons/Oilers fans alike.

The seven qualifying offers were extended to the following players:

Sam Gagner, Devan Dubnyk, Jeff Petry, Theo Peckham, Alex Plante, Chris Vande Velde, Linus Omark

Not offered:

Cam Barker, Taylor Chorney, Hunter Tremblay, Milan Kytnar

Good to see a few Barons on the top of that list including graduates Linus Omark and Jeff Petry. Alex Plante and Chris VandeVelde are coming off solid pro years, where they improved, and also showed their value in a deep playoff run. Their potential destination is not set in stone just yet, but it does demonstrate that successes often garnishes some payback.

Barker and Kytnar were inevitable, and to some extent so was Taylor Chorney who played within the Blues organization after hitting the waiver wire, but ended back within the confines of the Oilers graces.

The real black eye for OKC Barons fans is that Hunter Tremblay wasn’t extended an offer. Tremblay is a dynamite player, but a late bloomer. Five years of OHL hockey and four years of AUS play eventual left him undrafted. The Oilers picked him up last offseason and he delivered. His age and size might be two disadvantages for Hunter when it comes to NHL potentiality, but the “kid” turned a rookie pro season in OKC into 16 goals, 15 assists, a slew of short-handed goals, great kill skills, and a eight game playoff series with four goals and two assists. A late injury kept him out of the playoffs after only eight games, and it certainly bruised the ego of the team slightly. In other words — he was missed.

It will be interesting to see where these players land as free agency and trade season heats up. Stay tuned.

Oilers Dev Camp Features Familiar Barons

The 2012 NHL Draft has come and gone. The Oilers again earned the prize pony in the draft, retained very little following, and thus soldier on. Another week and another prospect type event begins. The 2012 Oilers Development Camp begins June 27th and runs through July 2nd. It’s a time for Oilers in-house scouts as well as fans to take an up-close look at players in the offseason.

For a few who ran deep into their junior, collegiate, or AHL playoffs their time off grows shot. Truthfully the dev camps or prospect camps are nothing more than busy work for most. But when a youngster gets a chance at hustling for the head honchos, it quickly becomes worth their effort.

Read More

The NHL Draft & Why It Matters In OKC

It’s the middle of June. The hockey world is celebrating with the LA Kings as they have won their first ever Stanley Cup. In a few weeks the season-long NHL awards will be handed out (in a two hour show that shouldn’t even be), and then the 2012-2013 season begins all over again. Indeed, the next season of pro hockey begins well before October arrives.

The NHL Draft is a time where young kids earn their colors. Colors that they may or may not wear in the immediate future. However, for a moment they don a pro sweater, smile, exchange hand shakes and pleasantries as only they have dreamed of doing since they slipped into their first pair of Bauers. It’s also an important time for middle-aged men to argue over which teenager has better heart, determination, grit, natural skill and promise — and thus whom deserves a spot on a future NHL roster or at least a trial run.

Read More

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? The RFA’s & UFA’s

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

There are nine UFA/RFA players in the Oilers pipeline that played the majority of the 2011-12 season in Oklahoma City that are up for contract negotiations this summer. The group is nothing short of interesting. From former prospects to minor league dynamos to semi-interesting trade pieces — there’s a story that goes with each one. And although some have more infamous stories than others, the narrative will either continue on with the Oilers or begin afresh elsewhere.

Picking up contracts for players destined for your farm team is sticky business, obviously necessary, but sticky nonetheless. Over the last two seasons, the Oilers have manipulated a pretty solid farm team into a winner. While nurturing prospects, they’ve also managed to add some back-end stability with less prospecty, more AHL dominate, and slightly more seasoned players. Alex Giroux, Martin Gerber, Ryan Keller, Josh Green, and Yann Danis were brought in to make the Oilers minor league affiliate better — and it worked. Two seasons and two playoff berths later, will the Oilers/Barons continue this trend?

Read More

7 Guaranteed Home Dates In 2012-13

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.

Each offseason the American Hockey League releases 6 or 7 dates for each team which are for the purposes of being called “guaranteed” home dates. The idea behind revealing these dates has always been a mild head scratcher for me, but the league continues to insist that it better prepares each team organization for specific promotions on those nights. And perhaps if you’re planning a road trip, or a visit to an AHL destination the guarantee of seeing your team on home ice at a given time might be worth while.

Read More

The Ringwald, Lord, & Yeo Of It All

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography.

The postseason for minor league hockey teams is always fraught with tough decisions. Dealing with a good dose of AHL only players, incoming prospects, and eventually late arrivals via Edmonton training camp is a process fraught with mystery. Last week the ECHL teams unleashed their “protected list”. Here is how the league and its player agreement define this moment.

Teams are allowed to protect as many players as they wish provided the players protected meet the guidelines as defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association which state that teams shall retain the rights to each player that:

1. Signed a Standard Players Contract in 2011-12 with the Member, and has not been traded or released, OR

2. Signed a Standard Players Contract in 2011-12, and was recalled to the NHL/AHL or IIHF team, and has not been traded or released, OR

3. Had received a Qualifying Offer last summer for the current season, DID NOT sign an SPC, and has not been traded or released, OR

4. Has been suspended by the Member or League, and has not been traded or released, OR

5. Signed a Standard Players Contract on or after the first day of the 2011-12 regular season, then subsequently signed an NHL/AHL contract, and has not been traded or released, OR

6. Has executed the ECHL Retirement Form, and has not been traded or released

Protected lists may exceed 20 players.

The ECHL also announced that teams must complete all Future Consideration trades by 3 p.m. ET on June 13 and that teams must submit their Season-Ending Roster by 3 p.m. ET on June 15.

Season-ending rosters may include up to 20 players and cannot include any players who did not sign an ECHL contract in 2011-12.

Read More