This summer, the wildly optimistic Oilers fan had something to celebrate. A new NHL GM who talked a great deal about boldly moving forward, winning games, growing the next gen of Edmonton player, and honoring the commitment to prospect development. In some regards I understand that Craig MacTavish pigeonholed himself into a spot where he looked bad if the team hovered around last place, but a few days worth of interesting moves continue to have me wonder what really has changed.
The movement of Tyler Bunz, Kale Kessy, Austin Fyten, and to a much lesser extent, Erick Lizon, point to a bit of a problem for Oilers followers. The short version is that the Oklahoma City Barons has more than enough vets (seven to be exact), which is not an entirely awful thing, the problem is that it is loaded with players with very little future inside the Edmonton Oilers organization.
Traditionally AHL teams keep vets to help “backstop” otherwise young cores. They help give guidance, sometimes goal scoring, but always a bit of career prospective. Right now those vets on the Barons are Steve MacIntyre, Denis Grebeshkov, Ben Eager, Matthew Ford, Derek Nesbitt, Ryan Hamilton, Linus Omark. Not a bad minor league core, but what’s the point? MacIntyre and Eager are stashed in the minors in OKC not to help improve morale of overall prospective for the youngsters, they just have no where to go. Thus this necessitated the leave of Kessy and Fyten to lower leagues.
Both Kessy and Fyten were having pretty solid seasons in bottom line situations. Kessy, for one, played the agitator role pretty well. Fyten was good for several scoring chances per game, and in twelve played actually ended a +3 which is tied for the team high in that particular stat line (Brad Hunt the other). I just don’t like moving those two players out when they do have potential in the organization they are currently playing.
The thought is “because of all the vets, those younger players need more TOI”. True. But in a watered down league or less-than-AHL where the stepping stones get further apart? That doesn’t add up. In the short term cycle of player development maybe this can slightly help players get their sea legs even if they had already found a bit of a niche.
Don’t forget about Tyler Bunz, because the Oilers “needed” a solid goaltender, Jason LaBarbera is now the number two G on the farm with eventually Richard Bachman being thrown into the mix with recent acquisition Laurent Broissoit. Bunz never got a fair shake, and that’s bothersome. Indeed his play dictated his placement, but c’mon, give him a stretch longer than two games to give us a well-rounded view on his game.
In the end, I keep asking myself ‘Is it really worth it?’ – relegating players, even in a short term, because “these guys have no other place to go”. I’m not sure that it is, but I’m hopeful that we see them again. You should be hopeful too.