Ask Matty: Oilers could use big centre Boone
Edmonton brass unlikely to part with its top talent to get Blue Jackets draft pick
Canada's Brett Connolly, left, and Boone Jenner celebrate Connolly's goal against Finland during the third period of play at the 2012 IIHF U20 World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton, Dec. 26, 2011.
Photograph by: REUTERS/Todd Korol, edmontonjournal.com
Q: What would it take for the Edmonton Oilers to get Boone Jenner from the Columbus Blue Jackets? He’s six-foot-two, 200 pounds, loves to hit and is putting up points in the Ontario Hockey League. He’s 10th in points and fifth in goals with 35 in 47 games.
A: You have your head in the right place. He is what the Oilers could use: a big centre, who plays with an edge and has pretty nice hands. On Canada’s world junior team, they saw him as their best faceoff guy because he was dwarfed by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Strome in the middle. I don’t see the Blue Jackets moving Jenner, a second-round draft pick in 2012. He would be a nice complement to Ryan Johansen, another large centre. Johansen, who had a fine game for the Blue Jackets against the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday night in a call-up situation from the American Hockey League, is a regular. The Jackets need scoring, but the Oilers are not moving Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall or Nail Yakupov. Ales Hemsky? Maybe, but do they want a $5-million a season player?
Q: Who do you think will be the top rookie this season, bearing in mind it’s a short season? Would your choice be any different over 82 games, not 48?
A: In the lockout season of 1994-95, which also had a 48-game schedule, Peter Forsberg won the Calder Trophy for the Quebec Nordiques, with Washington Capitals goalie Jim Carey second. We all know what Forsberg did (885 points in 708 regular-season games and 171 points in 151 playoff contests for the Colorado Avalanche. He’ll likely be in the Hockey Hall of Fame some day. To use a music business shot, Carey was a one-hit wonder. He played 172 games and was gone from the league in 1998-99. This year’s race is absolutely wide open. The list includes Cory Conacher, the mighty mite with the Tampa Bay Lightning; Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers; Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens; Minnesota Wild defenceman Jonas Brodin; Oilers forward Nail Yakupov and fellow Russian Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues. Right now, the biggest buzz is for the five-foot-seven Conacher and Galchenyuk, who played with Yakupov on the Sarnia Sting OHL team.
Q: Do you think winger Ben Eager is going to find some form of consistency this season? If he does, the Oilers could have enough toughness to compete.
A: Eager is a wild card in the Oilers deck. When he played in Chicago, head coach Joel Quenneville held out carrots for Eager. He would give him some gravy time with stars Jonathan Toews or Patrick Sharp, especially if the opposition was trying to take liberties. The Blackhawks players did not want to lose him after their Stanley Cup run in 2010, but they had to dump salary and he went to Atlanta along with Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien. He’s one of those characters who needs to be rewarded for playing with an edge. Last season, he averaged 8-1/2 minutes of ice time a game. His ice time has gone up significantly in the last three weeks —going from playing 6-1/2 minutes a game to 12-1/2. If he’s abrasive and rides herd for the big guns, he will continue to get minutes. The only caveat is that he’s had injury concerns, including two concussions over the past season.
Q: The NHL should adopt an old World Hockey Association rule whereby teams playing a man short can’t ice the puck until they cross their own blue-line. It makes for more scoring chances for the attacking team.
A: It would be an ideal situation for putting pressure on the penalty killers if the NHL decided that teams couldn’t shoot the puck down the ice until they got to their own blue-line. It would make for tired penalty killers and hungrier attacking players. There would be more power-play goals. (Note: Darryl used to work in the WHA as an official and knows his stuff.)
Q: Should the Oilers begin the process of hiring a new general manager? After four coaches, three No. 1 draft picks and the feeling that they will once again miss the playoffs, is a leadership change in order?
(Robert Thompson, Chicago)
A: Hockey’s a results-driven business which makes Oilers GM Steve Tambellini somewhat susceptible to being replaced. He signed a new contract after last season, and nobody has said anything about the length of the contract. If the Oilers miss the playoffs by only a few points this season, I don’t know there should be a call for anybody’s head. If they are one of the bottom-three teams in the league in points, the fans have every right to scream for changes. This is a rebuild the Oilers are on and the Western Conference is very tight points-wise, but they have to show some progress.
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