Consistency and Fairness
I was a bit disappointed today to see Jeff Petry assigned to the AHL. Just my opinion, but I thought he's played well enough to deserve regular time in the top 6D for the Oilers, at this point.
That said, I also have no problem understanding the argument that playing 25 min per game in the minors, with significant PP and PK time, does more to develop his long term potential than does 12-14 minutes per game at the NHL level, with little special teams time. I don't know if that is the case, but if it is, it seems like a sensible approach to developing your players.
The problem comes if and when you handle different players differently, because I'm sure players want to feel the organization is being fair, and not playing favorites. If you are looking more towards development than you are to wins, is there just as good an argument for demoting Lander and Paajarvi as there is for Petry? Could both of those players see their long term development assisted by first line PP and PK minutes at the AHL level?
I have a similar position when it comes to the "RNH back to junior" debate. I was of the opinion last year that Hall should probably have been sent back to junior at the 9 game mark, and maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong, who knows? But to me the team has to be consistent, in that if you gave Hall a chance to make the team, provided he can contribute, it's only fair to do the same with Nugent Hopkins. That isn't to say that if the team goals change, the decision can't change; I wouldn't have found it indefensible to have sent Hall back to junior last year, even if he was one of the 12 best forwards, provided you thought development was paramount*, and then keep RNH the following season if the overriding goal that year was to make the playoffs and you were of the opinion that keeping RNH helped you do that.
Obviously there are a lot of different variables in play here, and that makes comparing Petry's situation to that of Lander/Omark/Paajarvi somewhat difficult, but if you were Jeff Petry, might you wonder just why you were sent down and those guys weren't? If the argument is that Petry simply was the 8th best D, well, that's a different story, but I'm not sure that's the argument here.
* And assuming you thought development would have been better served by another season in the OHL.