Tuesday night Dean and I had a conversation with Springfield Falcons head coach Rob Daum and we discussed a bunch of different current events including the development of some Oilers prospects. One such player was Ryan O'Marra who had been called up to the NHL earlier in the day.
The former 1st round pick made his NHL debut on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators literally minutes after getting off the plane. I contacted O'Marra earlier in the day and he explained to me that his plane was due to land in the nation's capital about 35 minutes before the opening faceoff and that he was going to miss the pregame skate but hoped to still get the chance to play. He did, getting exactly 6:00 of ice time in his first NHL game.
The decision had raised the eyebrows of some people as the theory that the Oilers were "showcasing" him was brought up on the air and message boards. How you showcase a guy who had started to become labeled as a "bust" is anyone's guess but the simple fact is that, contrary to some belief, O'Marra was the best choice for a recall at the time.
The Oilers NHL roster is decimated by injury and illness. The team lacks players who can win a faceoff at the best of time and even more so while Shawn Horcoff is sidelined. The Oilers are also generally pretty small up front. Ryan O'Marra is a 6'2, 208 lbs forward that is the best Springfield center at taking draws. He's not a scorer, a playmaker or a finesse player - but he's exactly what Edmonton was lacking on Tuesday night.
We spoke with Daum and asked him about the recall. He gave us a lot of insight on how the decision of which player is made and also offered a pretty descriptive scenario of his meeting with O'Marra as he told him the news.
"...it was really exciting to see his enthusiasm and the excitement for [O'Marra] of fulfilling a lifelong dream is something he'll never forget and it's exciting when you can deliver that kind of news." said Daum. "You get different reactions from guys depending on the personality of the player. With Ryan it was... he was overwhelmed with the news."Hearing a bit of the behind-the-scenes stuff of the time line from the first call from Edmonton, the Oilers' line of questions as they seek a call-up, Daum's recommendation and then the subsequent call back... is quite interesting to hear.
Daum also went on to explain the growth he's seen in O'Marra over the course of the last few years. The former Islander was hardly a blip on the radar at best over the past two seasons and yet here he was on the ice in a NHL uniform in November. Daum cleared up the reasons why.
"The doubters and the sceptics were pretty accurate based on his play last year," he began, "I was only [in Springfield] for the last 29 games but in that time, Ryan O'Marra was not a factor."Over the course of the summer O'Marra changed up his training, spent some time in Finland and returned to Oiler camp with a new focus and a new attitude.
"...Instead of being negative about his season last year, he used it as a motivator for himself. He came to Edmonton, I know, with a very positive attitude in training camp and had a good camp..."Daum continued to praise O'Marra for his performance in Springfield which has included an acceptance of a set role - that of a shutdown, defensive center.
We also talked to Daum about another player that some Oiler fans had written off long ago. Colin McDonald, drafted as a scoring machine out of New England, had lost his offensive touch during his 4-year NCAA career and had struggled as a pro to find his place. McDonald told us during training camp in Edmonton that having Rob Daum take over the team last year had a major impact on him because the coach had finally given him a job description. This year the former Friar has picked up where he left off and the coach couldn't speak any higher about him that he did to us on Tueday night.
"[McDonald] has been excellent. I thought he was pretty good for us last year doing the things that he did but he's been even better for us this year," said Daum, "His game has taken a real step forward."We had an email come in from Minnesota that asked Daum to comment on the progression of Taylor Chorney from last year. The coach pulled no punches when describing the struggles Chorney went through as a rookie and also talked about how he's gone from the AHL to the NHL in such a short time.
From Chorney we moved to another Springfield defenceman in Cody Wild. Many Oiler fans, especially those who often rely heavily on statistical analysis and mathematical breakdowns, have been questioning the organization's apparent misuse of Wild, especially when compared to Taylor Chorney. I posed the question directly to the coach and asked him to compare the two players and Daum opened his explanation by commenting on stats.
"I think statistics can be extremely misleading and if that's what you're basing a player comparison on... it's one tool that you can use but there's a lot more to a player than his stats good or bad."Daum did oblige the question and went to great lengths to discuss the two defenceman and explained how different the two are compared to the belief of some outsiders.
It was a very informative discussion with the coach that should have some fans rethinking their opinions on some key Oiler prospects. The full with interview with coach Rob Daum is available HERE.
Other guests from Tuesday included NHL Hall of Fame netminder and current owner, GM and head coach of the Quebec Remparts - Patrick Roy. We also spoke with Captain Paul Whalen of the Royal Military College hockey team as we offered a hockey tribute to our Canadian Forces.
You can hear The Pipeline Show live on Tuesday nights from 7-9 PM on the TEAM 1260 in Edmonton or online at www.thepipelineshow.com
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(Photos: Springfield Falcons)