Dangle is hockey parlance for razzle dazzle, a player with exceptional stick handling skills.
Oklahoma City Barons forward Linus Omark is a dangler. Two Omark goals are YouTube sensations. But to return to the NHL, Omark must improve his all-around game, specifically the defensive end.
Omark gained attention internationally in March 2009 during Sweden's “friendly” game with Switzerland. In a shoot-out, Omark pulled the puck back, then flipped it over the Swiss goalie.
His fame soared in his NHL debut three years ago with the Edmonton Oilers. In a December 2010 shoot-out win over Tampa Bay, Omark unveiled a spin-o-rama move near the goal crease and slapping the game-winner between Tampa Bay goalie Dan Ellis' legs.
“He certainly has that creativity,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “He has that mindset, but he has the skill set to back it up. He'll do things not a lot of guys can do. He can definitely dangle. He has so many options when a goalie goes down the goalie doesn't know what to do.”
When the Barons host the Texas Stars at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Cox Convention Center, Omark at any moment is capable of providing a memorable highlight.
Now age 26, this is a pivotal season for Omark, who was cut by Edmonton. It was a mild surprise that an NHL team didn't grab him when he was exposed to waivers. As a result, he's back in Oklahoma City where he played in 46 games with the Barons their first two seasons.
“He has to show he can play on both ends of the ice,” Nelson said. “That's true first and foremost for every player, playing away from the puck. You make a mistake here (in the AHL), you get away with it every once in a while. You make a mistake up there (in the NHL), they'll expose you.”
Slightly undersized at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Omark was erratic in 65 games his two seasons with the Oilers. He sometimes was labeled a player who doesn't always play within the system.
Omark, though, has a solid track record. He's been productive in pro leagues in Sweden, Switzerland, the American Hockey League and NHL, although he's off to a slow start just like OKC's offense overall.
NHL fans certainly are familiar with Omark. After he created a buzz his first NHL game, he went on to score a respectable 27 points in 51 games with the Oilers after scoring 31 points in 28 games with the Barons.
But the following season, Omark's stock dropped. He once again was productive with the Barons (16 points in 18 games) but scored only three points in 14 games with the Oilers. He was a healthy scratch many nights late in the season.
Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins witnessed Omark's potential when he scored five goals for the Barons in a win over the Eakins-coached Toronto Marlies. Eakins, though, said others outplayed Omark in training camp.
“He tried to do too much,” Eakins said. “He put it on himself. You can't do that in this league.”
During last year's NHL lockout, Omark, a free agent, headed to Switzerland. Playing for Zug, Omark played on a dynamite line with Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Burnner, who played with Detroit last season but is with New Jersey this season.
After the lockout ended, Omark continued to compile gaudy stats without his NHL linemates. Omark became the first Swede to lead the Swiss pro league in scoring (69 points in 48 games).
A year later, he's back in the AHL trying to prove himself.
“If you're reliable with the puck, that's going to add value to your stock,” Nelson said. “Turnovers are killers. If he can learn to be more consistent and play well away from the puck the other stuff will take care of itself. He can score goals and pile up assists.”