Yesterday following their tough 2-1 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Oilers assigned forward Cooper Marody to AHL Bakersfield. On Saturday, following a 4-2 Condors victory in Ontario, the Oilers recalled F Jesse Puljujarvi following a four game stint in the minors.
In just four games with the Condors Puljujarvi registered four points, notching a pair of goals and a pair of assists for the club. He played a top-six role on the farm and seemed to gain some much needed confidence under the guidance of Jay Woodcroft.
Puljujarvi didn’t exactly play badly in Edmonton, I thought his two-way game was solid and he knew where to be on the ice. The problem? Puljujarvi lacked any and all confidence offensively and simply couldn’t figure out any kind of way to get the scoring going. Hopefully a strong two weeks in Bakersfield changed that.
I know it isn’t all on Todd McLellan, that would be foolish to assume, but I truly believe that the coaching change is going to help Puljujarvi moving forward. It was quite apparent that McLellan had lost all confidence in Puljujarvi and that he didn’t trust the kid.
McLellan’s career track record doesn’t exactly paint him in a good light when it comes to developing young players, and frankly I don’t think coach and player were a good fit.
I’m not saying success is guaranteed for Puljujarvi as he returns to Edmonton. That said, I think the situation is far better for the player. Against popular belief, Ken Hitchcock has really adapted his style and has been far more willing to allow young players opportunity in the lineup. He gives them chances and is willing to allow mistakes to help them grow.
Puljujarvi has a gift in the sense that he is already a strong defensive hockey player. His issue isn’t positioning and it’s not defensive. The issues with this player are converting chances and getting the offense to show up in the world’s best hockey league.
I know some people think it is far too early to bring JP back, but I disagree with that sentiment. I think he is ready to be an NHL player, he just needs the chance and I think Hitchcock is the right guy for him.
Remember back in the 1990’s, when Hitch took over in Dallas and got a young Jere Lehtinen to emerge as a huge part of some dynamic Dallas teams? Puljujarvi likely won’t have the level of success that Lehtinen did, but is it crazy to assume that Hitch will get him going? I don’t think so.
Puljujarvi is likely to play tomorrow night when the Oilers battle the Kings, and odds are he’ll start on the fourth line. Although I’d like to see him start higher in the lineup, it sure seems like the Oilers have a plan for the player.