So, I guess you can say I’ve been meaning to write a post similar to this one for quite some time but apparently, until now that haven’t happen (duh). With so much talk recently on my fellow Swede, Linus Omark, it felt like now would be a good time to finally get at it.
As I suppose many of you know by now Linus Omark wore the babyblue (I’d like to refer it to skyblue but never mind) jersey and was put on the 5th (!) line skating with IR-players Ben Eager and Sam Gagner. According to Dan Tencer it had to do with the play of Omark last game, bad giveaways and the fact Renney wanted to see a different couple of lines. In reality the so called “a couple of different lines” were Jones in, Omark out on the 3rd wing (and sure, Petrell on the 4th). Another part of reality is that Omark got registered with 1 GvA vs. Penguins. And while I’m not saying Omarks game is flawless I’m saying the situation he’s been put in isn’t exactly fair.
Omark have frequently been mentioned as a possible trade bait for the Oilers which in a way is understandable. Other than his offensive qualities he’s also on a “contract year”, comes with an OK salary cap and the depth of wingers in the Oilers organization is far deeper then the depth on the blue. But before we dig deeper on where Omark is today let’s go back a bit..
So, how do you guys know Omark, say before he got known to you as the guy who spoke his mind on getting sent down to OKC Barons, “politics” ‘n all? I think it’s a fair assumption by me, that if we were to sum most of your experience and thoughts of Omark with one word, it would have to be “YouTube”. And with YouTube there rings a familiar bell to many of you, a bell called “Schremp”. A failed Oilers project that goes back a couple of years. Obviously, as a Swede who’ve sen Omark play for more than a year there is a little bit more to it than that.
To kick things of, Omark isn’t a big name in Sweden because of YouTube. If we’re going back a year and more so in time he’s big in Sweden because of he’s Team Sweden’s top scorer over the last two seasons he played there. He’s one of only two players 21 or younger who has scored more than one point per game throughout the SEL regular season and playoffs. He’s one of only two players 21 or younger who has finished #1 in SEL and playoff scoring. He scored 10 points in his first World Championships. And as Copper & Blue Derek Zona established, “Omark’s proven himself to be a top 10 scorer in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best leagues in the world”. And while speaking of _how_ big he is in Sweden well, obviously these kind of things are hard to give a fair overview of.. But lets put it this way. If we’re going to compare him to one of the Swedes Oiler-fans are familiar with today, Magnus Pääjärvi the two don’t (compare), at all.. Why’s that you say - surely it has something to do with the fact Pääjärvi have his spot on the Oilers roster locked up in a safe box up in Tambs office while the position of Omark is all but that? While that might be true you probably couldn’t be further from the truth. Back in Sweden Omark is a big name, no not just a big name. Step it up a notch or three and you might get there. If I had to rank his name, brand or trademark it would obviously be behind the likes of Lidström, Zetterberg, Lundqvist, Holmström, Alfredsson and Sedin (times two) but probably and most likely ahead of Bäckström, Eriksson, Franzen, Samuelsson, Murray, Enström, Berglund and all the other ‘ssons (you get the hang of it). If I had to put a number on Omark he would end up in a top-10 list of the most known and talked about (active) Swedish players. Pääjärvi? Not so much.. Obviously people deep into “the business of hockey” would probably rank Omark on a “best active Swedish players”-list in a different way. Still, I bet you. While 2 or 3 out of 20 out of the “somewhat interested of sports”-group might know of Nicklas Bäckström and/or Loui Eriksson, and 1 out of 20 know what Magnus Pääjärvi and Anton Lander do when they are at work - probably 19 out of 20 know of Linus Omark. Obviously these are just numbers that pop into my head and not based on a university research other then the fact I have only 1 friend who knows who Pääjärvi and Lander are but pretty much everyone I know have an idea of whom that Omark dude is, even if they happen to hate sports. Obviously, these numbers doesn’t compute as good on Swedish people that are similar to myself (have an enormous interest in hockey and NHL).
To make things clear here. I’m not saying “player X is de facto superior to player Y” (as in “player Omark is de facto superior to player MPS”) but there are reasons as to why Omark so happen to be highly recognized by the Swedish audience and why there have been basically no word on MPS during the summer but there have been a bunch of Omark-interviews. Omark is a star back in Sweden while MPS simply put isn’t.
What strikes me the most have been comments, given by coach Renney, such as “we want to give every player every possible chance to succeed” (not a direct quote but if you’re an Oiler fan you should recognize it and you’ve most definitely heard it before). We’ve seen it with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Pääjärvi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins through both training camps and through last season. Question is, what ever happen to Linus Omark? Where was his chance? The best chance I can come up with is his time with Gagner and MPS last season. Then again, I’m not sure that was a real chance to succeed. Gagner isn’t a sniper/scorer. He’s more of a play maker, somewhat similar to Omark in that sense. I love MPS and what he brings to the game. But MPS have never been considered a “real” scorer either and while I believe MPS will score a lot of goals in his career that is probably not the role MPS does best. MPS will most definitely become a great 2-way player. A reliable player that you can use in most situations; PK, point on the PP, score the odd goal (and so on). But I just cannot think of why they haven’t even tested playing Omark with a sniper. Omark is great at finding almost impossible passing lanes but have yet to play with anyone able to find these spots or be on the receiving end.
Why didn’t we get see Omark play one (1!) game paired with Eberle (or perhaps even Hall)? Omark played all-through this years training camp with non-scorers, again. Personally, I’d love to see Omark with Eberle (Hall might be slightly too much north/south). I’d also love to see MPS with Smyth. This should make sense to most of you. Not only is Omark a neutral LW and MPS played a whole lot on RW in Timrå (and most of the highlight plays we’ve seen so far from MPS have actually come from the right side). Omark with Eberle would make for a great 2nd pairing scoring line. Smyth and MPS could pretty much do everything but I’d use it to play the tough minutes against the other teams top-line. Why haven’t we seen this yet? Not even a shift during training camp, not even in practice. I don’t get it.
By the looks of if Omark won’t be playing tomorrow vs. Minnesota Wild, he’ll act as a healthy scratch. I’m totally fine with him, or any other player, being a healthy scratch if he (or whoever) deserve it of if he’s been outplayed by someone else. For tomorrow, there is absolutely nothing that should put Omark in the press-box. Nothing.
When I reacted on Omark wearing the skyblue jersey yesterday I got replies such as “Omark ups his game when he plays pissed of” and while that might be true to some extent, there is no reason to put your relationship with a player at risk time and time again. Even if you would become a better person, player or whatever short-term I do believe you’d like to feel good about yourself too once in awhile. I got a very strong feeling Omark doesn’t feel the management believe in him. And sadly, there are strong indications that that is indeed the case here.
I truly believe and hope there is room for Omark on the Oilers roster not only now but also for the future. I hope that they wish him to be a part of the Oilers family they so often refer the “new” Oilers to. Should the Oilers decide to demote Omark further, to the OKC Barons, there is, as most of you are aware of I’m sure, a clause in his contract that give him the option of returning to Sweden. Omark wants to stay in North America earning his chance to continue playing in the NHL. But if doesn’t feel wanted by the Oilers, wanted by his family - I’m afraid Omark might be lost. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
To get back at the Zona comment, “Omark’s proven himself to be a top 10 scorer in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best leagues in the world”, sure thing. So far he’s not been able to reach the same standard in the NHL. But I very much doubt anyone could say he’s been given every chance to succeed to do so, not even close. And that’s why he’s been struggling (if you call 27 points in 51 games in his rookie season, with limited playing time struggling).
Disclaimer: No. I’m not saying this because I too am a Swede. Truth to be told. I couldn’t care less of nationality when it comes to the Oilers. I’m also fully aware of what Omark lacks in his defensive play, his size and as said - he is far from a player without flaws.