These are certainly interesting days in the world of the Edmonton Oilers. With the NHL Trade Deadline a week away and Todd McLellan’s crew buried in the Western Conference basement, the organization has decided to start the yearly routine of shifting players back and forth between the big club and their AHL affiliate. While the decision to recall Nikita Nikitin prior to Saturday’s tilt with the Colorado Avalanche was nothing more than a last-ditch effort to convince teams across the league there was some gas left in the veteran rearguard’s tank, the call-up of defenceman Jordan Oesterle is the move that should interest fans across Oilers Nation.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 21, 2016
With the losses continuing to pile up and the Oilers struggles on the backend a seemingly never-ending issue, it appears as though the American blueliner will be handed an opportunity to prove he belongs in the “show”. While the 23-year old is enjoying a heck of a season with the Bakersfield Condors, this could end up being his one real shot at making an impression on the organization he signed with as a free-agent back in 2014.
Unearthing Another Diamond In the Rough
Despite adding a legitimate top four defenceman in Andrej Sekera and the surprising Brandon Davidson to what had arguably been the league’s worst blue line over the last number of seasons, this year’s edition hasn’t faired much better. As per usual, the group’s inability to effectively defend in their own end of the rink and transition the puck up ice has killed this team. While one can argue if Oesterle would really help this blue line with the former, there is little doubt that he would certainly lend a hand with the latter.
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On a team like the Oilers, adding another smallish/non-physical defenceman is far from ideal but when he happens to skate like the wind and move the puck like this kid does, in my mind, giving him a shot is a no-brainer. Considering we are talking about a player who has put up 22-points in 39 games with the Condors and all but one of them have come at even-strength, perhaps we should be asking why wasn’t he given look-see sooner. With that said, the fact Edmonton has already dressed six defencemen who are 25 years of age or younger probably played a large part in that decision.
Auditioning Musil/Oesterle is a waste of time…I mean, look at what became of Brandon Davidson! Bum!
— Vaughn Woodruff (@conkanen) February 18, 2016
Yes, the fact Oesterle is not an overly big man plays a part in how McLellan could use him, especially with a guy like Justin Schultz already on the roster. However, unlike the former second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, the Michigan native is not a complete and utter train wreck in the defensive zone. In fact, he actually plays a fairly steady game and stays away from the ugly the blunder that tends to cost teams games. In other words, he is the anti-Schultz.
Opportunity, Opportunity, Opportunity
With no firm date on the potential return of Oscar Klefbom, Eric Gryba on injured reserve with a wonky knee and Schultz not likely to be in Edmonton past next Monday’s Trade Deadline, the opportunity for Oesterle to impress is there for the taking. If he can come in and play a steady all-around game and get the puck up ice to the likes of Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall, my guess is this head coach will find a way to put him in the lineup as much as possible over the Oilers final 22 games.
Speed translates. Oesterle should be getting a look in EDM. He's having a nice game tonight. #Condors
— Vaughn Woodruff (@conkanen) February 20, 2016
Ironically enough, yesterday’s call-up falls on the one year anniversary of Oesterle’s NHL debut and the start of what was a six-game stint under Todd Nelson in Edmonton. While he might be able to draw from his experience with the Oilers during his brief cup of coffee during the 2014-15 campaign, this is not exactly the best of situations for a rookie defenceman to step into. After all, when it comes to sport, the “baptism by fire” approach is rarely the way to go.
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Unfortunately, this is the hand the kid was dealt. Having said that, if the Western Michigan graduate can come in and prove to this coaching staff that he can deal with adversity while still making the most out of an opportunity, people will take notice. In the world of Jordan Oesterle, that is all that really matters and the Edmonton Oilers are hoping he makes the most of his opportunity.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.