The current 4th line guy, Anton Lander- With yesterday’s signing of Sam Gagner, the Oilers currently have three proven NHL centres under contract, along with RNH and Gordon, for the 2013-14 NHL season. It has been largely speculated that Anton Lander would be the guy to slot in the middle on the fourth line. The question for fans is whether or not Lander looks like a fourth line centre on a playoff team. Even though he has 67 NHL games to his credit over two seasons, no one could make the argument that he is a proven NHL player. Is he the right guy or should the Oilers make a move for a more proven commodity?
I mentioned a few posts ago how I thought it would be prudent for Mactavish to put in a couple of calls to the 604 area code and look at the possibility of securing both Manny Malhotra and Gilbert Brule. I stand by this statement as I believe the Oilers need:
- someone to help Gordon with the heavy minutes and faceoffs (Malhotra)
- someone to help out on the top two lines while RNH recovers from injury at the start of the season
Lander has not shown he can do either and it would be a huge gamble to start the season with an injured RNH and an unproven Lander. The Oilers lost much needed points due to their lack of depth of real NHL centres last season. This coming season, if the roster stands as it is now, the team would be just a vulnerable. I don”t believe either Will Acton or Mark Arcobello are at the level required to fill in for any length of time at the NHL level. I also believe, that while he may still develop, Lander is out of his depth- even on the fourth line.
The reason why I doubt Anton Lander is not because of his offense (or lack thereof). He has never been a high-end offensive player at any level, whether it has been in Europe of the AHL. However, to be an effective NHL fourth line pivot, the player is not looked on to provide offense- so evaluating fourth line based on scoring would be misplaced. Generally, a fourth line centre is looked upon to provide energy, play good defense, add physical play, and win faceoffs. Is it reasonable to assume Lander will provide these attributes?
Lander played 56 games for the Oilers during the 2011-12 season. He won 43.3% of 344 draws. During the 2012-13 season, Lander got into 11 games and managed 49.1% in 55 attempts in the faceoff circle. So he is far from a faceoff ace. In addition, in his 67 total NHL games he has only had 14 penalty minutes levied against him. This does not suggest a very physical player which isn’t surprising when you consider that Lander isn’t very imposing at 6′ and 194 lbs.
As far as advanced stats go (from behindthenet.ca) , his numbers here aren’t very impressive either. Lander started 52.2 % of his NHL shifts during the 2011-12 season in the offensive zone. Sheltering a young player like Lander isn’t surprising. However, in relation to his teammates, there were more pucks being fired at the Oilers net than the oppositions when Lander was on the ice (-11.3). To be fair, his Corsi Rel number did improve to 5.3 during a limited sample size (11 games) last season.
It is not that I don’t like Lander, it is just he hasn’t shown anything yet in his professional career to suggest he is ready for full time NHL employment on the fourth line. He isn’t big, he doesn’t play physical, and he isn’t proficient in faceoffs. It is possible may still develop, but if he is indeed the team’s fourth line centre it is likely the Oilers are in for a bumpy ride.
**Listening to Bon Stauffer and Oilers Now as I type this and he just said he expects Will Acton to be the team’s fourth line centre and for the Lander to start the season in OKC. While I like this idea better, I don’t think Acton is the guy on a playoff team either- however, I haven’t seen enough of him to know.
Until next time,