Back in 2010, the Oilers were touting the skills of their next big center, Anton Lander. He was a Swedish player, and the buzz from across the pond was deafening. When he made his way to Edmonton in 2011, he got ice time almost immediately, playing 56 games in his first season. He didn’t light up the scoresheet, but he was admired for his penalty killing abilities and toughness. Alas, it was his first year, and he had many bright ones ahead. Didn’t he?
Four years later, we are still wondering about him. In hindsight, one almost wonders if the Oilers shouldn’t have just let him play out his training and development with the big club. The team did little to improve in the standings, and chances are the team could’ve had him in a place where he could be centering the third line by now. (I doubt he will ever rise above that role.) Perhaps it would’ve made signings like Eric Belanger unnecessary and in free agency the Oilers could’ve sought a better player.
If this is the case, why is he still in the conversation? Almost every critic places Mark Arcobello above him on the depth chart. Yes, he has scored a great pace in the AHL, no doubt about it, but I can find you 10 Alexander Giroux’s for every guy who makes the giant leap to NHL employment over the long term. Giroux was a prolific AHL scorer who many NHL teams tried to find a role for, but he never stuck. He even had a cup of coffee in Edmonton, after getting signed in the expansion year for the Barons–he still holds the club record for points with 78. However, his foot speed held him back.
Lander is another case like this. Lander will need to make his place on the club HOME this year. He needs to be strong, physical and fast coming out of camp. He will need to be confident, easy and strong. That’s asking an awful lot of him. But, it is proverbial poop or get off the pot time. Arcobello is ready to steal the job he had handed to him on a silver platter four years ago, so it’s time to be ready.