January 11, 2012
Lessons learned for Paajarvi
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Magnus Paajarvi is back — his legs free of the dust that had built up in Edmonton and his head clear of the frustration and doubt — following a 10-game refresher course in Oklahoma City.
After one of the most amicable minor-league demotions you’ll ever see (Paajarvi and the Oilers were so thoughtful and understanding when they parted company in early December it made Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s split in Casablanca look bitter by comparison) he’s ready for another shot at prime time.
Play it again, Mag.
“I embraced it,” the 20-year-old winger said of his assignment to the American Hockey League. “At that time it was the best thing for me, to just go down and play a lot and not think too much, just get that rhythm back.
“I didn’t play a lot (with the Oilers), got a couple minutes on the fourth or was in the press box. The situation for me wasn’t good. When you play those small minutes you can’t get going. It was really good for me that I got a lot of minutes.”
And perhaps a renewed hunger.
“You get perspective on things when you go down there,” said Paajarvi, who had a goal and eight assists in 10 games. “It’s not the same, with travel and everything, but you live, you learn. The experience was really good for me.”
That’s what the Oilers are hoping. They have a player here with decent hands and elite level speed, someone who could play a vital role in the future, so they need to be very careful with the cultivation process.
“This kid really got it, he was really good at understanding that (a ticket to Oklahoma City) was a move for his career,” said head coach Tom Renney, adding a lot of struggling players just need to feel the puck on their stick again.
“Maybe you need to hit a home run in a little league park before you swing for the fences at Yankee Stadium. What Magnus has done here is allow himself to grow.”
He’s not exactly jumping into Murderer’s Row upon his return. Paajarvi skated on a rather nondescript line with Eric Belanger and Anton Lander, who have two goals in 78 games between them this year. So expecting him to come out and light an offensive fire might be asking a little much.
Baby steps, first.
“I think I’m at my best when I’m in the top six and get that offence going,” he said. “I think I’m an offensive player. I think that’s why they picked me (10th overall in 2009). That’s where I can do the most damage, but you have to earn it. There’s a lot of forwards here, really good forwards. That just raises the bar.”
It’s not so high, though, given that Edmonton is currently 26th in the NHL, that he can’t make something of his second look.
“I have the confidence that I can be up here in the NHL, that’s not going to be a problem,” he said. “I still feel like I can do a whole lot more on the ice. I felt that before I went down, that I can make plays, I just didn’t. Now I’ve done it (in the AHL), played a lot and that was the main thing.”
How he went from 15 goals last year to zero in 25 games this season remains a mystery that even his fact-finding mission to Oklahoma couldn’t solve.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “You just have to stay on an even keel, work on things and the goals will come.”