NHL, Oilers not YouTube

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:36 PM ET

Linus Omark is will only get so many breakaways in the NHL. Only so many shootout attempts.

So you can take that YouTube stuff and throw it on the Internet, where it belongs.

It’s what he does the rest of the time, in the corners, in the neutral zone, without the puck, in concert with his linemates — basically all the stuff that got him sent to the minors in the first place — that will determine how long he stays in Edmonton.

“That’s why he’s in the system, that’s why he started the season where he did,” said head coach Tom Renney, who’ll be adding Omark and Ryan O’Marra to his lineup card in the absence of injured veterans Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. “We have to make sure he understands 200x85 away from the puck.

“We’ve done our research and talked to Todd (Oklahoma Barons coach Nelson), and he is working the defensive side of his game down there. He understands it better. We’re willing to roll the dice and take a chance on that because of what he supplies us offensively.”

Omark’s impending arrival is creating quite a buzz around Edmonton, but as Rob Schremp proved in the past, there’s more to playing in the NHL than web hits. Whether or not Omark, listed at five-foot-10, 175, can be the same guy in the big leagues that he was in Europe and the AHL remains to be seen.

It took a bigger, faster, stronger Taylor Hall almost two months to find his stride, so expecting highlight-reel stuff from Omark in his first few games out of the box might be asking a little much.

The Oilers will settle for a hard-working guy who isn’t dangerous at both ends of the ice.

“I don’t know if the stuff he could do prior to now can happen,” said Renney. “It’s pretty exciting, but we’ll be realistic with that. He has to step on this ice with a team that’s maybe doing things a little differently, certainly at a different pace, against different opponents.

“We’ll allow this to emerge as it will. I’m not going to suggest we have a lot of time to figure this out, but we have some time to see how he can perform at this level.”

Not that they want to turn him into a third- or fourth-line role player. He’s an elite talent and they want him to use that talent. But as a lot of young stars discover, fitting those gifts into a team structure is hard.

“We want to encourage creativity,” said Renney. “I’ve said 100 times that the toughest thing to defend in the game is someone else’s imagination with the puck. We’re not going to stifle that, but we’re certainly going to stress the fact that we don’t turn pucks over. If we do it’s damaging to the team and we can’t have that. Be creative, do your thing, but play the team game.”

Renney hasn’t decided where he’ll slot the 23-year-old, who has 13 goals and 13 assists in 26 games with the Barons, in the lineup, only that it’ll be somewhere in the top nine and he will be seeing power-play time.

As for Omark’s exit interview, in which he seethed about getting cut and blamed it on politics, not ability, there are no grudges here.

“Not at all,” said Renney. “As long as you go down there and play, perform hard and be a good teammate. give yourself up to coaching there. That’s the big thing, that guys understand that this is all part of a process.

“I’m good with a guy who’s a little bitter, P’d off that he didn’t get his chance right away. Now he has to make sure he does a good job for us.”

Follow me at Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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