by Lisa Brown on 09/27/13 at 12:30 AM ET
Love him or hate him, Ryan Jones is a fan favourite in Edmonton. His community involvement, his passion for the game, and of course his hockey hair have all helped to carve him a place in the hearts of many Edmonton Oiler fans, but the Edmonton Oilers are finally in a position where the team has competition for each and every roster spot. Well, most every roster spot; they will still take anyone who can win a faceoff, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins out of commission. And what this means is that Ryan Jones was the odd man out.
This doesn’t mean that he isn’t an NHLer, it doesn’t mean that he will never play another game as an Oiler, but it does mean that he still hasn’t fully recuperated from his eye injury, and that that jump in his game just isn’t what it used to be. But Jones was a 17/18 goal, third line player that the Oilers could certainly use, should he find his former self by playing in the AHL.
The AHL may not be as challenging offensively, but it will be as much if not more challenging in terms of physical stamina, and physical play. Jones will be relied on to play a physical, checking game while scoring goals in order to get notice from Oilers’ head coach Dallas Eakins and the rest of the organizational coaching staff. And this is not an impossible situation, far from it actually.
Although it shocked many, Jones not being picked up by another NHL team from the waiver wire would have more to do with his salary and the cap situation league wide more so than his pre-season play. While picking a player up for nothing may seem appealing, it may not be feasible with you are already up against the cap ceiling. What this may mean is that Oilers’ GM Craig MacTavish may be receiving a few calls about Jones this weekend, and perhaps even more phone calls once he gets scoring again in the AHL.
While the Oilers can be seen to have a lot of young and skilled players, the team is undoubtedly soft and ‘easy to play against.’ What the team really needs are players who are a little grittier, a little harder to play against and who can at the same time keep up with the young guns as well as gritty players who can play on the bottom six, and still provide team scoring. Ryan Jones was supposed to be a bottom 6 player who could add offence, Ben Eager may be a player who can once in a while be inserted into the top 6 (should he ever be given the opportunity by the new coach), and Steve MacIntyre is still the same bruiser that the team had before. Both times before this.
The Oilers need to get tougher to play against. They can do that by adding bruisers, adding or keeping guys that can skate and score or teaching and training their players to be tougher to play against. The Oilers seem to be tending towards the first option, but perhaps the new coach sees ways of having a bruiser help the players help themselves.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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