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INBOX: On D and Development

by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers
Every Monday, Oilers radio colour analyst and Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer answers questions submitted by fans about the team.
  1. We often see Justin Schultz getting caught low on a rush, and he does display a great amount of offensive prowess, but unfortunately it results in odd man rushes from the opposing team if a forward fails to recognize a d-man out of position. Would it be worth it to try Schultz on the wing for a game or two? — Sean in Lethbridge    

 
Sean,

This is a question that I get asked a lot so there are many people that think the same way that you do.

To me, Justin Schultz is a defenceman who is struggling a bit to find his game.

Last fall, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon (a former NHL defeceman himself), who helped build the Chicago Blackhawks into a Stanley Cup Champion, said on “Oilers Now” that you don’t really know what you have with an NHL defenceman until he has played 300 games in the NHL. Schultz heads into Tuesday’s game vs. San Jose having played 148 NHL games.

At times this season, Schultz has appeared to try to make plays that weren’t there and gotten out of position as a result. It’s all part of the maturation process I think with a D-Man that still possesses big upside.
 
  • Bob what has happened to the Oilers depth at forward through the draft? For years now it seems to me we should have been drafting big kids who were not ready to play when drafted, but with 3-5 years of seasoning should be ready to go. — Blaine from Edmonton
      Blaine,
     
    No question the Oilers organization's inability to draft AND develop support forwards has undermined the rebuild process.

    Anton Lander was a second round pick in 2009, he performs well at the AHL level but has yet to prove that he can play in a full-time role in the NHL.

    The Oilers took three late-born forwards (‘91’s) in the 2010 draft in the 2nd and 3rd round (Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton and Ryan Martindale) and none have panned out yet as full-time NHL players.

    In Lander’s case I think he was rushed too quickly at the NHL level and lost his offensive confidence. After playing two seasons with Timra in the SEL, Lander started his North American pro career in the NHL. Hindsight would suggest that he may have been better off starting in the AHL. Lander does have 71 points in 67 games over the last two seasons in the AHL and has developed into a strong two-way centre at that level. He might be ready for another look shortly.

    In the case of Pitlick, Hamilton and Martindale all three had stellar seasons in Major Junior in 2010-11, but then stagnated and in some cases dealt with injuries in their first year as a pro.
    A strong argument could have been made that all three should have been returned to Junior for the 2011-12 season even if they would’ve been 20-year olds.

    Pitlick and Hamilton had dealt with injuries in Junior and lost parts of the season before.

    The L.A. Kings returned sniper Tyler Toffoli to Martindale’s junior team in Ottawa after he scored 57 goals on Martindale’s line in 2010-11. Edmonton, meanwhile, had Martindale turn pro.

    The farm team in OKC at that time seemed to have a lot of focus on winning and not enough emphasis on player development in my opinion. Pitlick, Hamilton and Martindale certainly did not see significant meaningful minutes as rookies and basically lost a year in their development.

    Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson has admitted on “Oilers Now” that more “guidance” has been given in terms of who plays from the Oilers current management team of Craig MacTavish and Scott Howson than during the Steve Tambellini regime.

    Pitlick, Lander and Hamilton all remain in the organization and still have a chance to become full-time Oilers; and Oilers prospects Mitch Moroz (2nd round, ’12), Jujhar Khaira (3rd round, ’12) and Bogdan Yakimov (3rd round, ’13) are key, bigger forwards that need to be developed for the future.
  • Bob Stauffer is Colour Analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and Hosts “Oilers Now” each day Noon to 2:00 PM Monday thru Friday on 630 CHED and you can follow him on Twitter at @Bob_Stauffer
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