RNH: HELP IS ON THE WAY

Robin Brownlee
October 03 2013 10:31PM

Having spent not one minute in medical school, you can pass off what my eyes are telling me as rank speculation, but I'd be surprised beyond words if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins isn't ready to play when the Edmonton Oilers open a six-game road trip in Toronto Oct. 12.

It's entirely possible, as I suggested today on Twitter, that Nugent-Hopkins and his surgically repaired shoulder will be medically cleared before then and he could see action as early as Monday against New Jersey, although a return Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens at Rexall Place seems a more likely bet.

There hasn’t been one word regarding a definite return date from Nugent-Hopkins, coach Dallas Eakins or Edmonton's medical staff, but after RNH took a skate today that included full contact on the ice – he's been taking controlled contact off the ice for a couple of weeks – it looks from where I sit like fans are about to get some good news.

Am I being too optimistic in pegging RNH's return by the start of the road trip? Maybe, but I don't think so based on similar cases and what I've seen over years watching the Oilers rehab players who are coming back from the same type of shoulder surgery RNH had last April.

SOON ENOUGH . . .

While neither RNH nor Eakins offered up anything concrete today, and a return date could be a moving target based on how the shoulder reacts to stepped up contact, I'm confident No. 93 will be back, as I've written before, closer to Oct. 1 than Nov. 1. The question now is how much closer? Mark me down for Oct. 10.

"We’ve been trying to bring him along slowly but he’s been active in some drills. Maybe not as active," Eakins said today.

"The other thing that happens in practice, too, is that because he’s been a part of our group every day, the other players forget. They don’t think, 'Hey, maybe not so hard on him,' but the guys were competing pretty hard and he was right in the middle of it today.”

If Nugent-Hopkins can stay in "the middle of it" for another week without any pain or swelling, and with Sam Gagner already skating with a full face-shield on to protect his busted jaw, there is reason for optimism – timely, after watching the Oilers cough up a two-goal lead in a 5-4 loss to Winnipeg on opening night.

My guess is you'll get the first half of any news regarding RNH and Gagner by the time the Habs come calling Thursday. Stay tuned.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Fatbob24
October 03 2013, 10:37PM
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Woo-hoo!!! Now all we need is an app to plan the route!

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#2 Jay Gray
October 03 2013, 10:44PM
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I'm gonna wear my Nuge For Mayor shirt for all 79 games he plays this regular season.

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#3 Racki
October 03 2013, 10:46PM
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Good timing to come back. Maybe not so much against Toronto... but from Monday 14th on, there will be quite a few games that I figure probably won't be very physical. At least, I don't think they will. You never know. But Capitals, Pens, Islanders, Sens, Habs, Capitals, Coyotes... should be fairly good couple of weeks for him to ease back in without getting bowled over every shift.

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#4 #ThereGoesTheOilers
October 03 2013, 10:49PM
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There might just be a silver lining on those October storm clouds afterall. Good news.

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#5 Craig1981
October 03 2013, 10:52PM
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Brownlee.

Do you think Hall is getting moved to the Wing or Arcobello gets sent down?

I used to think Arcobello, but Halls giveaways, Smyth's lack of speed, and Arcobello's chances make me think its a tough call

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#6 Klima's Mullet
October 03 2013, 10:57PM
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Hall-Nuge-Yakupov, Perron-Arcobello-Eberle, Joensuu-Gordon-Hemsky, Gazdic/Smyth-Acton-Brown

i hope this is what happens when Nuge returns

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#8 Racki
October 03 2013, 11:03PM
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Agree with RB... turnovers aren't new to Hall's game. I think he cleaned them up pretty well last year. Every player can have bad games. He likely got a bit overconfident as well as tried to do too much. I don't see that as an issue in game #1. Work those kinks out now.

For the most part, Hall looked quite good in the pre-season at center. I think he's his own worst critic, so you can bet he knows he goofed up too much that game and should play a lot better on Saturday (if the Canucks aren't successful in decapitating him early on).

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#9 OIL or NOTHING
October 03 2013, 11:20PM
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My birthday is on Oct.10 and the only thing I'm wishing for is the return of a healthy baby Nuge to the line-up.

His return is my only hope to having bragging rights against my die-hard Habs roomate and die-hard Leafs roomate!

GO NUUUUUGE ! I missed yah man !

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#10 The Oilers Shot Clock
October 03 2013, 11:22PM
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Ease him in. PP time and soft parade his first few games. That alone will take a huge load off the roster.

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#11 Hal
October 04 2013, 12:18AM
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Sounds positive and it is long overdue good news to think about at least.

I'm also happy to see the restructured 4th line and the compete level even with short minutes. Jesse J. has also been a breath of fresh air.

What does concern me is the targeting of Taylor Hall's head by Vancouver and Winnipeg players. When you think about it if one of these goons connects and Hall is out with concussion and the purp gets only 5 games then the other western teams applaud. I know no one will agree with this but the punishment needs to fit the crime.

Legitimate body checks are one thing but targeting key opposition players with strategic head shots is another.

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#12 RJ
October 04 2013, 01:01AM
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I'm not a doctor either, so I don't know what an acceptable recovery time should be. But the team has 42 million reasons to take their time with his recovery. If the team finishes in 9th, and Nuge is healthy for the rest of the season, then aren't they better off long-term by waiting an extra week or two, especially if they play a lot of meaningful games late in the season trying to get in? Is that too practical?

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#13 Quicksilver ballet
October 04 2013, 02:24AM
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Hoping for the best when Hopkins returns. He'll experience a whole new level of competitiveness when he returns to the Oilers lineup. There's a significant difference between his team mates gently rubbing him out of the play in practice, and opposition players trying to take his head off upon his return to the lineup.

God Speed Nuge, head on a swivel.

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#14 Quicksilver ballet
October 04 2013, 02:33AM
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Racki wrote:

Agree with RB... turnovers aren't new to Hall's game. I think he cleaned them up pretty well last year. Every player can have bad games. He likely got a bit overconfident as well as tried to do too much. I don't see that as an issue in game #1. Work those kinks out now.

For the most part, Hall looked quite good in the pre-season at center. I think he's his own worst critic, so you can bet he knows he goofed up too much that game and should play a lot better on Saturday (if the Canucks aren't successful in decapitating him early on).

Nobody turns the puck over more than the Crosbys, Malkins, Datsyuks and the Ovechkins of the hockey world.

Welcome to this exclusive club Taylor Hall.

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#15 gongshow
October 04 2013, 03:03AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Nobody turns the puck over more than the Crosbys, Malkins, Datsyuks and the Ovechkins of the hockey world.

Welcome to this exclusive club Taylor Hall.

Yup.

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#16 Cowbell_Feva
October 04 2013, 03:59AM
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@Quicksilver ballet

Sorry Quicksilver, I don't often see Malkin, Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin flip the puck cross ice and have a rookie defenseman in his first NHL game read it like the cover of a book and then tie the game on the same play. That or stick handle into 3 players from the other team and have it poked off their stick and score on that turnover as well.

They are busy putting puck in net on the opposition, not turning it over! The best players in the game aren't known for turnovers, they are known for scoring and playing a 200 ft. game. Hall has amazing physical skills, but doesn't compare when it comes to thinking the game like the top guys. That is why he gets leveled on a near nightly basis by guys named Andrew Alberts. He's not in that category.

He scored a lot in an abbreviated season last year. Let's not jump to conclusions and add him to the exclusive club just yet.

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#17 seanjohn667
October 04 2013, 05:33AM
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Klima's Mullet wrote:

Hall-Nuge-Yakupov, Perron-Arcobello-Eberle, Joensuu-Gordon-Hemsky, Gazdic/Smyth-Acton-Brown

i hope this is what happens when Nuge returns

I think this is the surest bet to wins. If Hall looks good at C tomorrow and Monday, maybe you leave him there a little longer, but your lineup is probably the strongest.

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#18 seanjohn667
October 04 2013, 05:39AM
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RJ wrote:

I'm not a doctor either, so I don't know what an acceptable recovery time should be. But the team has 42 million reasons to take their time with his recovery. If the team finishes in 9th, and Nuge is healthy for the rest of the season, then aren't they better off long-term by waiting an extra week or two, especially if they play a lot of meaningful games late in the season trying to get in? Is that too practical?

sure it is. but what if he is 100% right now? in two weeks he won't be 110%.

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#19 Ray
October 04 2013, 05:43AM
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@Klima's Mullet

Totally agree! This is exactly the way the line-up should look like!

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#20 nWo4life
October 04 2013, 06:17AM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

Sorry Quicksilver, I don't often see Malkin, Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin flip the puck cross ice and have a rookie defenseman in his first NHL game read it like the cover of a book and then tie the game on the same play. That or stick handle into 3 players from the other team and have it poked off their stick and score on that turnover as well.

They are busy putting puck in net on the opposition, not turning it over! The best players in the game aren't known for turnovers, they are known for scoring and playing a 200 ft. game. Hall has amazing physical skills, but doesn't compare when it comes to thinking the game like the top guys. That is why he gets leveled on a near nightly basis by guys named Andrew Alberts. He's not in that category.

He scored a lot in an abbreviated season last year. Let's not jump to conclusions and add him to the exclusive club just yet.

Agree 100%.

Hall frequently needs to be reminded he isn't playing in the OHL anymore.

If he doesn't learn to think the game better, he will be a plugger by age 28 when his raw physical talent starts to decline. That is if injuries don't get him first.

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#21 Quicksilver ballet
October 04 2013, 07:26AM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

Sorry Quicksilver, I don't often see Malkin, Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin flip the puck cross ice and have a rookie defenseman in his first NHL game read it like the cover of a book and then tie the game on the same play. That or stick handle into 3 players from the other team and have it poked off their stick and score on that turnover as well.

They are busy putting puck in net on the opposition, not turning it over! The best players in the game aren't known for turnovers, they are known for scoring and playing a 200 ft. game. Hall has amazing physical skills, but doesn't compare when it comes to thinking the game like the top guys. That is why he gets leveled on a near nightly basis by guys named Andrew Alberts. He's not in that category.

He scored a lot in an abbreviated season last year. Let's not jump to conclusions and add him to the exclusive club just yet.

You're not following the recently implemented Kool-Aid code Cowbell. 4 pts for Taylor tomorrow. Very Crosby'ish.

Have a good weekend sir.

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#22 Mikey
October 04 2013, 07:33AM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

Sorry Quicksilver, I don't often see Malkin, Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin flip the puck cross ice and have a rookie defenseman in his first NHL game read it like the cover of a book and then tie the game on the same play. That or stick handle into 3 players from the other team and have it poked off their stick and score on that turnover as well.

They are busy putting puck in net on the opposition, not turning it over! The best players in the game aren't known for turnovers, they are known for scoring and playing a 200 ft. game. Hall has amazing physical skills, but doesn't compare when it comes to thinking the game like the top guys. That is why he gets leveled on a near nightly basis by guys named Andrew Alberts. He's not in that category.

He scored a lot in an abbreviated season last year. Let's not jump to conclusions and add him to the exclusive club just yet.

Actually those players do dangle threw 3 players. Ever see Crosby goal from last year where he went threw 3 NYI and scored. What about Datsyk against Nashville?

The difference is those guys succeed at it more often than not. And yes Datsyk often is at the top of giveaways every year, but he is a.so at the top of takeaways every year too.

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#23 oilabroad
October 04 2013, 07:41AM
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RB, what do you do when Gagner gets back and Hall is playing well at center?? Our center depth looks so much better with Hall/Nuge, I think I would prefer to see Gagner moved to the wing... any thoughts?

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#24 OilCanFan
October 04 2013, 07:42AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

If it was up to me, I'd play Hall and RNH at centre until Gagner gets back. Eakins has at least two more games to contemplate what he'll do.

Let's not be too quick to yank Hall out of the middle. He's learning the position and he's going to give away the puck no matter what position he plays because he tries to make plays.

I agree to this as well, Hall is learning and we'll probably have a few more injuries this season so might as well get some depth.

On another note, all those Schneider fans, how about that game last night? Three goals on 21 shots for a .857 SV%.

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#25 spliff
October 04 2013, 07:51AM
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@Cowbell_Feva

"That is why he gets leveled on a near nightly basis by guys named Andrew Alberts."

Hasn't Crosby missed a considerable amount of games the past couple of year because he was getting "leveled" on a regular basis?

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#26 Aitch
October 04 2013, 08:11AM
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@spliff

Yup... both the amount a players gets "leveled" and the amount of turnovers should correspond to how much the player has the puck. The more you have the puck, the more you're likely to a) get hit and b) turn it over because you have to have the puck first for either of these two things to happen.

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#27 Taylor Gang
October 04 2013, 08:20AM
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My god! Everyone get off Hall's back. It was one game! No wonder we get a rep for running people out of town...

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#29 Rob...
October 04 2013, 08:23AM
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At least they're smart enough to not clear him play against the Canucks on Saturday. Those scumbags would do everything in their power to ensure he didn't play another game until February.

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#30 Craig1981
October 04 2013, 08:44AM
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@Robin Brownlee

I'm not sure if that last comment was directed at me, but regardless I totally agree with you that Hall's rewards outweigh his risk. (fans that cheer for a player when his move works and boo him when it doesn't drives me crazy)

But I do also think when playing center you have people on both your left AND right which make turnovers far more possible, which is why I believe Hall is better on the wing.

The question IMO, isn't if Hall is better than Arcobello at center (Its Hall no question). The question is, would you prefer Hall on wing centered with Arcobello or Smyth on wing centered by Hall.

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#31 hockeycrazed
October 04 2013, 08:45AM
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Hall should go back to left when Nuge return to the line up, simply because he is comfortable there, the angle of his shots, the way he skates by his defenders, using the boards to get the puck past the defenders etc. etc. are all natural to him, this is not the time for him or the team to take on an experience this big of a magnitude----albeit the line mates are not familiar with one another yet, if and when the oils have their lines set for a while ( preferably a year or maybe two ) then gradually try him in center from game to game, maybe. We should understand that Hall is there only because Nuge and then Gagner were hurt, it's of necessity, not a permanent solution.

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#32 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
October 04 2013, 09:09AM
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Am I the only one who's concerned that they may be rushing Nuge back? The team needs him, center depth is clearly atrocious, but I'd rather watch the Oilers eat dirt for the entire month of October and then enjoy a fully-rehabbed RNH for the rest of the season then watch Nuge come back a couple games early if he's not 100% (both with his shoulder and conditioning/confidence).

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#33 Craig1981
October 04 2013, 09:27AM
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Mo Playoffs Mo Problems wrote:

Am I the only one who's concerned that they may be rushing Nuge back? The team needs him, center depth is clearly atrocious, but I'd rather watch the Oilers eat dirt for the entire month of October and then enjoy a fully-rehabbed RNH for the rest of the season then watch Nuge come back a couple games early if he's not 100% (both with his shoulder and conditioning/confidence).

I don't believe the Doctors what clear him will place any bearing on the fact the Oilers are down 2 centermen or the the Oiler's organization would risk him being injured after they signed him to a contract like they just did.

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#35 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
October 04 2013, 09:42AM
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@Robin Brownlee @Craig1981

I didn't mean to suggest that I have more invested in RNH's health than the team, I just always get concerned when a team has a glaring hole at a position and a player at said position is coming back from injury.

The player almost always wants to play ASAP, the team wants him back, so they put him back in the lineup as soon as it's acceptable to do so.

I would prefer the scenario of having the player "over-ripe" in their rehab, just as I prefer the scenario of having players "over-ripe" in their development before they join the big club.

In my opinion, this approach is more beneficial to the player's strength, confidence and conditioning...

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#36 Tim in Kelowna
October 04 2013, 09:46AM
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With this injury you have make damn sure it's strong enough to hold up. Even if he is medically cleared to play I would keep him out of the lineup for another week or two. This player is far too important to this team to rush him back, and I hope Gagner's injury isn't a factor in RNH's return date.

The Oilers need to get this right.

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#37 G Money
October 04 2013, 09:47AM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

Sorry Quicksilver, I don't often see Malkin, Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin flip the puck cross ice and have a rookie defenseman in his first NHL game read it like the cover of a book and then tie the game on the same play. That or stick handle into 3 players from the other team and have it poked off their stick and score on that turnover as well.

They are busy putting puck in net on the opposition, not turning it over! The best players in the game aren't known for turnovers, they are known for scoring and playing a 200 ft. game. Hall has amazing physical skills, but doesn't compare when it comes to thinking the game like the top guys. That is why he gets leveled on a near nightly basis by guys named Andrew Alberts. He's not in that category.

He scored a lot in an abbreviated season last year. Let's not jump to conclusions and add him to the exclusive club just yet.

Just so you can argue from actual data rather than conjecture, here are the top 20 forwards for giveaways last season:

Phil Kessel John Tavares Joe Thornton Ilya Kovalchuk Ray Whitney Brad Boyes Martin St Louis Pavel Datsyuk Tyler Bozak Milan Lucic Daniel Alfredsson Martin Erat Anze Kopitar Kyle Okposo Alexander Semin Alex Tanguay Jordan Eberle Mikhail Grabovski David Legwand Brad Marchand

Hall was 33rd on the list. Crosby's giveaways extended to a full season number would have tied him for 8th with Datsyuk.

Carry on.

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#38 Mo Playoffs Mo Problems
October 04 2013, 09:53AM
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@Tim in Kelowna

My sentiments exactly.

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#39 Spydyr
October 04 2013, 09:55AM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

Sorry Quicksilver, I don't often see Malkin, Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin flip the puck cross ice and have a rookie defenseman in his first NHL game read it like the cover of a book and then tie the game on the same play. That or stick handle into 3 players from the other team and have it poked off their stick and score on that turnover as well.

They are busy putting puck in net on the opposition, not turning it over! The best players in the game aren't known for turnovers, they are known for scoring and playing a 200 ft. game. Hall has amazing physical skills, but doesn't compare when it comes to thinking the game like the top guys. That is why he gets leveled on a near nightly basis by guys named Andrew Alberts. He's not in that category.

He scored a lot in an abbreviated season last year. Let's not jump to conclusions and add him to the exclusive club just yet.

Hall still has a lot or junior hockey in his game.He is still learning the pro game.Once he does look out.

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#40 Tfreds77
October 04 2013, 10:01AM
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I'd love to see Hall and RNH as the top 2 centers going forward. Gagner's physical deficiencies could be masked so much better on the wing. Hall can have a greater impact on the game when he learns the center ice position. We would then have our 2 best players in the most important position. Every solid team has 2 great centers (Crosby Malkin, Bergeron Kreicji, Sedin Kesler, Thornton Couture) and this would put the Oilers in that conversation going forward.

I'd like to see the lines look like this.

Joensuu Hall Eberle Gagner RNH Perron Yakupov Gordon Hemsky Smyth/Gazdic Acton Brown

Ference J.Schultz Smid Petry Belov N. Schultz

We would have 3 scoring lines, and when Yak becomes a little more reliable we could move him up the depth chart as we see fit (Joensuu down). Because he's the X factor in the lineup.

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#41 Donnybrook
October 04 2013, 10:22AM
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The reason for Hall's turnover is that he was trying to hard to compensate with playing with only one other player on his line. He threw the puck into the middle where a competent winger would normally have been, but Ryan Smyth was still sucking air trying to get past the face off dot in his own end.

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#42 Quicksilver ballet
October 04 2013, 10:27AM
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Mo Playoffs Mo Problems wrote:

Am I the only one who's concerned that they may be rushing Nuge back? The team needs him, center depth is clearly atrocious, but I'd rather watch the Oilers eat dirt for the entire month of October and then enjoy a fully-rehabbed RNH for the rest of the season then watch Nuge come back a couple games early if he's not 100% (both with his shoulder and conditioning/confidence).

Fear not Brass

With Luke Gazdilla at his side, Ryan will be virtually unbreakable. Fear the beard, or even the dapper moustache. The Oilers have their own version of the Legion of Doom line in Eager/Gazdic/Brown. It matters not whom plays center. Eager would be free to be the finesse player on that line. When he's back from his OKC vacation that is. Relax....i have this all worked out people.

Now if we can just get Eakins to start smashing some sticks over the boards, this out of control temperament would be complete.

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#43 Tom
October 04 2013, 10:54AM
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Donnybrook wrote:

The reason for Hall's turnover is that he was trying to hard to compensate with playing with only one other player on his line. He threw the puck into the middle where a competent winger would normally have been, but Ryan Smyth was still sucking air trying to get past the face off dot in his own end.

Don't just make stuff up. Makes you look stupid. It was a labeled pass and Smyth was actually close to where the puck was going if it had not been picked off.

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#44 Walter Sobchak
October 04 2013, 11:13AM
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Cowbell_Feva wrote:

Sorry Quicksilver, I don't often see Malkin, Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin flip the puck cross ice and have a rookie defenseman in his first NHL game read it like the cover of a book and then tie the game on the same play. That or stick handle into 3 players from the other team and have it poked off their stick and score on that turnover as well.

They are busy putting puck in net on the opposition, not turning it over! The best players in the game aren't known for turnovers, they are known for scoring and playing a 200 ft. game. Hall has amazing physical skills, but doesn't compare when it comes to thinking the game like the top guys. That is why he gets leveled on a near nightly basis by guys named Andrew Alberts. He's not in that category.

He scored a lot in an abbreviated season last year. Let's not jump to conclusions and add him to the exclusive club just yet.

Not to jump in on your conversation and I’m not disagreeing with you, but how much was that Halls fault and how much of that was just a bad goal?

I would prefer that Hall at least try to continue being offensive minded.

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#46 Spydyr
October 04 2013, 12:24PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

As per Oilers Twitter feed: RNH has been medically cleared to play and is expected to be in the line-up against New Jersey Monday.

OH YAH!!!

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#47 csaw84
October 04 2013, 12:49PM
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Mo Playoffs Mo Problems wrote:

@Robin Brownlee @Craig1981

I didn't mean to suggest that I have more invested in RNH's health than the team, I just always get concerned when a team has a glaring hole at a position and a player at said position is coming back from injury.

The player almost always wants to play ASAP, the team wants him back, so they put him back in the lineup as soon as it's acceptable to do so.

I would prefer the scenario of having the player "over-ripe" in their rehab, just as I prefer the scenario of having players "over-ripe" in their development before they join the big club.

In my opinion, this approach is more beneficial to the player's strength, confidence and conditioning...

I'm pretty sure the glaring hole at center will exist as much in March as it does today. Most media types are also commenting that Nuge's shot looks heavier and he is looking really sharp in practice.....maybe he is over-ripe.

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#48 rindog
October 04 2013, 12:55PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

If you find yourself fixating on Hall's turnovers, you're overthinking the situation.

While Hall needs to work on reducing turnovers in his game, just as every player should, those turnovers are a product of puck possession and his attempt to make plays. That should be obvious.

I'll take a player with Hall's point production and ability to create plays and drive the attack who turns it over once in awhile ahead of a safe player who never gives it away but produces nothing any day.

Insert Hemsky's name in this post and that applies to his time in Edmonton...

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#50 ed in edmonton
October 04 2013, 12:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
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cheers
Craig1981 wrote:

I'm not sure if that last comment was directed at me, but regardless I totally agree with you that Hall's rewards outweigh his risk. (fans that cheer for a player when his move works and boo him when it doesn't drives me crazy)

But I do also think when playing center you have people on both your left AND right which make turnovers far more possible, which is why I believe Hall is better on the wing.

The question IMO, isn't if Hall is better than Arcobello at center (Its Hall no question). The question is, would you prefer Hall on wing centered with Arcobello or Smyth on wing centered by Hall.

I have used the analogy of Messier's move to center as a model for the current Hall to center experiment before and continue to see a lot of parallels. Messier was very much a high risk/high reward player his entire time in Edmonton, which only changed later in his career when his skills fell off and the high reward side wasn't there.

To bad a loss due to DD poor play has put Hall under more scrutiny that deserved.

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