Friday, January 20, 2012

Who or What is an Evan Oberg?

“1/19/2012” – Tampa Bay Lightning recall D Evan Oberg from Norfolk of the American Hockey League”

To most it was hardly a transaction of much notice.  Most likely it appeared on the page in the sports section that is crammed with scores from high school basketball games and the leader board from the first round of the PGA’s Humana Challenge. To Lightning fans, however, it was another link in the chain that is the legend of Evan Oberg.

Who is Evan Oberg?  If the Lightning are to be believed he is a 23-year old defenseman who stands 6’ and weighs 191lbs.  He was supposedly acquired on December 5th that sent fan favorite Jimmy Wright to the Florida Panthers.  Allegedly, he’s played in 13 games with Tampa’s minor league affiliate in Norfolk.  According to the Admiral’s records this Evan Oberg person has played in 13 games and scored 2 goals.

Since the 5th of December his name has appeared on the transaction page 11 times.  That’s right, in a little over a month this Oberg character has been recalled 6 times for the Lightning. By my records he’s spent 19 days on the Lightning roster.  If my calculations are correct he’s traveled more than 8,000 miles back and forth from Norfolk on these recalls.  I imagine, if he exists, that he has a ready bag packed in his apartment and has his own express security line at the Norfolk International Airport.
The only known photo of "Evan Oberg". Couldn't that just be Dana Tyrell is a different jersey? Hard to tell. - Original photo by Bruce Bennet/Getty Images. Crappy blur effect done in

For all of that trouble he’s seen exactly zero minutes of ice time with the big club.  And that makes me wonder if he even exists. Could he be hockey's Sidd Finch? His name is an anagram for "Never A Bog".  What is a bog? Is it short for "Being on Gameday"?  What does it all mean? Of course, I wouldn’t put it past Steve Yzerman to have created a false identity for roster purposes.  I’m not sure what advantage this would give him, but then again I’m not as smart as he is.   I’m sure it’s part of some master plan.

Why has poor Mr. Oberg been subjected to such a rigorous schedule? Nagging injuries.  Not to him, although I’m sure he suffers from the minor aches and cricks in the neck that all business travelers suffer from, but to various members of the Lightning’s blue line.  The latest victim to require Oberg’s back up services – Marc Andre Bergeron who is dealing with some back issues.
Throughout the year only Brett Clark and Eric Brewer have played in all 45 games. Injuries have cost Pavel Kubina, Victor Hedman and Matt Gilroy all to miss games.  Hedman is still out indefinately with his concussion.  That doesn't even take into consideration Mattias Ohlund being out all season with bad knees.  The injuries on the blue line are part of the reason the Lightning have struggled to gel as a defensive unit and are giving up 65 goals a game so far this season.

MAB is day-to-day (aren’t we all) and will be a game time decision for Friday’s game in Dallas.  This means that Oberg will probably get to watch another NHL game from the press box.  If he’s not going to play, why shuttle him back and forth like an inter-office memo?

Simply put, because they can.  I’m a little hazy on this, but from my understanding, since he’s on a two-way deal with the Lightning he can be recalled and reassigned as many times as they want without having to go through the waiver process. That allows the Lightning to shuttle him back and forth without risking losing him to another team.

Also, he’s got enough talent to play in the NHL (4 games with Vancouver) but he’s not vital enough to the future of the Lightning that missing action will stunt his growth. The Lightning have some prospects playing on the blue line in Norfolk such as Radko Gudas and Richard Petiot that you would think could benefit from NHL experience.  The problem is, as Oberg’s zero minutes of game time attests, is that they won’t play unless it’s an emergency.  In the meantime they would miss valuable minutes in Norfolk, a team that is actually fighting for a divisional lead (currently 4 points behind Hershey for the top spot in the AHL’s Eastern Conference).

What’s in it for Oberg?  Well money, of course. Because he has a two-way contract, it means he gets one salary when he’s on a NHL roster and another when he’s on a minor league roster.  According to Capgeek, his AHL salary is $65,000.  His NHL salary - $875,000.  So everyday he’s on the NHL roster he gets a pro-rated portion of that $875,000.  Not bad work, eh? That doesn’t even include his meal money when they’re on the road (which can be around $90 a day).

He also gets to practice with the big club and soak in the knowledge that comes with traveling and playing with veterans.  That can be important in helping him take the next step in his career.  Who knows, what he learns this year could be the difference between him making the club next year or spending another year in the minors.

Then there is also that remote chance that Coach Boucher calls his number during the morning skate and he gets to play a NHL game again.  Of course, that’s if he actually exists.

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