25 Apr

Often compared but always with hesitation

I would just like to air a little frustration this morning about expectations.

Expectations in this town have crushed several young players who have worn Oiler Blue until it wore them out and they washed out of this fishbowl market and into some other place. The history of heaping unfounded expectation is strong here and I have been as guilty as any other.

I recall arguing that Cogliano’s 18% shooting was just his normal because he did it two years in a row. I remember thinking that Rob Schremp’s passing ability would help the Oilers’ woeful Power play. I remember all these things and so much more, but it was the club and the media too.

The Oilers couldnt even wait one year for Lupul to develop into the scorer he became for Toronto. Jason Arnott was flushed out of town. The Oil expected Brewer to be more than he was. Same goes for Penner. Hey, he’s got a big body. Why arent you Milan Lucic yet?

I would like to think we’ve learned our lesson a bit but then again there’s Klefbom coming to the big club next year and the hype has already started. Here is an extremely young man who has effectively missed an entire year of development and extremely smart people like Jim Matheson are saying some crazy things already. The kid hasnt played a game as a pro in North America and will be almost a year removed from his last game when training camp starts, but sure lets just say he’s a top pairing Defenseman.

But therein lies the Rub and the source of my frustration. The caution that wasnt given to kids like Lupul and is not being given to Klefbom is being diverted to players like Hall, Yakupov, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It seems as if the MSM are afraid to compare any of these players to another good player in the league.

Listen to the radio, listen to the players that RNH gets compared to. It’s a short list that almost begins and ends with Pavel Datsyuk, but the pundit will always end with “but not Datsyuk because thats an unfair comparison.”

Is it? Really?

When Nuge was 17 he was getting compared to Wayne “Greatest Player to Ever Play Hockey” Gretzky. It was OK then but now that he’s 20 we cant compare him to Datsyuk?


Here’s the way it is. Those three 1st Overall picks represent the cream of he crop for their age groups. They are supposed to be dynamic. They are supposed to be great, not good, GREAT players.

In these cases it IS ok to compare them to the league’s current best players. It’s OK to say that RNH should be Pavel Datsyuk one day! It’s OK because RNH is a special talent. If he CANT be as good as Datsyuk we will say that we made a mistake picking him.

It’s a lot of pressure, but that’s what happens when you get selected 1st in the NHL entry draft. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ought to be compared to the best players in the league, Oscar Klefbom should not. The strange dance that people are playing with expectations needs to get an immediate adjustment.


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