I had a bit of writers block today, and couldn’t think of a topic to write about. I have a series of articles I have in mind, but I want to make sure I can do it before I start investing time into it. Naturally, my response was to ask Twitter what they wanted to read about, and while some of the responses were great, I’d like to spend more time doing the work on them.
Bruce McCurdy of Cult of Hockey brought up an interesting thought, however. There was a group of players from the 2011/12 Marlies roster that followed Dallas Eakins to the Edmonton Oilers. How did that work out? Here are your “Marlies west” power rankings.
1. Ben Scrivens
Throughout the season, it became really obvious that the Oilers’ biggest struggle to win came from between the pipes. Devan Dubnyk went from “amazingly average” to “amazingly impersonating Andrew Raycroft in 2007”. Ilya Bryzgalov was slightly below the curve. Jason Labarbera chased himself out of the league, and they almost had to look to Richard Bachman as a saviour.
You’d think with this considered, the first piece of Marlies West would have been the Alberta native starting goaltender who put up 0.920+ numbers for you over 100 AHL games, but they were too slow to pick him up – he was acquired by the Los Angeles Kings in the trade that sent Jonathan Bernier to the Leafs.
However, the emergence of Martin Jones made Scrivens expendable, and his homecoming began. While he took a bit of a decline from his absurdly good 0.931 save percentage in his 19 games with Los Angeles, his 0.916 was an above average result and one would give Edmonton more than 30 fewer goals against if it was to be the team’s season average.
Scrivens is expected to split time with Viktor Fasth next year, and was rewarded with a 2-year, $4.6 Million extension for his efforts.
2. Mark Fraser
The Oilers acquired Fraser from the Leafs midway through the season, in hopes that this year’s Leafs were just a “bad fit” for him, and in need of defence on the cheap. The acquisition cost nothing to them in terms of roster pieces; Teemu Hartikainen was in the KHL, and Cameron Abney was in the ECHL. What they got was a player who put up bad and below team average possession numbers (43.1%, -0.7 team relative), but was still involved in getting the puck to the net more than he was in Toronto (41.4, -3.3).
This came despite fewer offensive zone starts in Edmonton (41.4, below Oilers average vs 42.0, above Leafs average), and a marginally better quality of competition (28.0 TOI% vs 27.5). Maybe there was truth to the “Franger is the worst thing ever” theory, but in the end, these improvements still left him pretty lackluster in terms of controlling the play. He didn’t help much offensively either, putting up one goal and zero assists in 23 games played. He did get into three fights though, and had a sweet haircut, so I guess that was worth his year before he likely hits free agency.
As an aside, Fraser was actually at Wednesday’s Marlies practice to say some hellos while he was in town. Was a bit of a random appearance, but all power to him, I guess.
3. Will Acton
Acton not only followed Eakins, but his father Keith, who made the jump from “dude who looks like a burglar watching his son at Ricoh Coliseum” back to “NHL assistant coach”. Acton had been used as a shutdown forward by the Marlies over the prior two years, making significant strides from when they first signed him.
The Oilers tried to get that out of him, but he ended up as the team’s worst regular possession forward other than Luke Gadzic, having a CF% of 36.7 over 30 games, despite starting in the offensive zone just slightly below average. If you’re wondering how he managed to get 30 games out of this rile, shooting at 16.7% and getting 0.922 goaltending while you’re on the ice certainly helps to make you look good.
Acton was sent down in December and didn’t rejoin the team until April 1st. If I were a betting man, I’d say he finishes his contract in Oklahoma City next year.
4. Ryan Hamilton
Well, he was the captain of the team, so you’d imagine that he’d be the one who makes the biggest impact with the OIlers, no? Especially when his goals per game numbers were on an upward curve, it only makes sense that some quality time with his usual coach would be time to shine for him.
The result wasn’t so pretty. Hamilton suffered a knee injury after playing less than seven minutes into his first game with Edmonton, and had a less than stellar performance in his return game, a 5-0 loss to Detroit a month later. He was sent down to Oklahoma City, where his AHL numbers took a noticeable drop until he suffered a major shoulder injury in February that required surgery.
Basically, he’s right back to where he was before Toronto; off the radar, and with a broken body. One hopes he can make one more push for the big time, but in the mean time, he was the biggest dud of the group.
Ben Scrivens was a good land by the Oilers, but ultimately, he’s the only one of these three to have confirmed his abilities without coming straight from Toronto. No matter how you feel about Dallas Eakins as an NHL coach to date, it’s undeniable that Edmonton has to be a better team next year, and perhaps the “old boys club” approach is one that he needs to avoid when asking for players next year. Which obviously means they’re going to randomly acquire Korbinian Holzer on draft day.