In the midst of the draft and Craig MacTavish's free agency work, one of his overlooked moves was his acquisition of Philip Larsen in the Shawn Horcoff deal. (Read Ryan Batty's take here.) I went to Brandon Worley, the man behind Defending Big D, for a breakdown of the young defenseman:
Philip Larsen, drafted in the 5th round in 2008, became the top defensive prospect for the Dallas Stars pretty much by default. He immediately showed more skill and potential than most mid-round defensive picks and after the trade of Ivan Vishnevsky, Larsen became the lone shining beacon of hope for a team completely devoid of decent defensive prospects in the developmental system.
This scenario sounds familiar.
Larsen made the surprising jump to the NHL in 2011-2012, initially gaining a roster spot because of injuries but performing well enough to keep it once the roster was full again. He showed a surprising physical resilience and showed some promise offensively -- he's got a decent first pass out of the zone and a booming shot from the point. Many felt he was on the rise and was a promising young player for the organization...
Excellent, the Oilers lack players of this nature in the system.
but he significantly regressed the very next season.
Darn. Too bad he wasn't playing in Minnesota's system where regression doesn't exist.
Perhaps it was the defensive system, perhaps it was the younger blueline overall, but Larsen struggled overall for much of the season. He struggled against the forecheck and that smart first pass became tentative, and his shots from distance were less accurate and less frequent.
This also sounds familiar.
What was apparent is that he's just not as physically stout as he perhaps need to be in the NHL. His confidence suffered and he was knocked off the puck more often than not, and with the Stars seeing Brenden Dillon, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Kevin Connauton and Cameron Gaunce start to climb up the ladder -- Larsen became expendable.
Larsen goes from an organization where he was pushed by up-and-coming blueliners to one where the only competition will be Oscar Klefbom. He has a season to turn things around before he's pushed again.
He's a quiet and unassuming player, but he's also one of the nicest and most gracious players you'll talk to. The fans loved him for that and for many it was tough to see him go; we hope that the 2013 season merely a blip and he continues to build on the promise he showed two seasons ago.
I look forward to seeing him try to resuscitate his game. If Craig MacTavish is able to obtain another defender, Larsen would be able to spend time with Justin Schultz on a soft-minutes bottom pairing, a perfect situation for a struggling defender.