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 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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#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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#4 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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#5 Cowbell_Feva
October 04 2013, 03:59AM
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@Next up, is Connor McJesus.

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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#7 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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#8 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
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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#9 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
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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#10 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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#12 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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#13 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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#15 Tom
October 04 2013, 07:58PM
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k wrote:

It matters not whether Nuge returns Oct 10th or Nov 10th because the Oilers are not close to being a playoff team. They simply have too many holes throughout their lineup.

4 years into the re-build and we have Ryan Smyth on the 1st line, we have named no less than 6 alternate captains and the coach believed there were others that were deserving, that almost had me throwing up in my mouth.

For a team that has played as soft as the Oilers over the past number of years one of their biggest problems is they don’t have an identity, they often play with fear and fold-up quicker than a cheap polyester suit when the going gets tough.

The culture that has existed in that locker room is toxic and as long as some of the core veterans remain I’m afraid that we’ll stay on the periphery despite drafting 1st overall three years running.

Many here at Oiler Nation believe that because they have been able to draft top prospects that other prospects and quality NHL players would be jumping at the opportunity to come aboard. That my friends isn’t going to happen very often, Schultz signed but others will simply move on to other teams.

It’s a little discerning when Jesse Joensuu is the best Oiler forward on opening night. The Oilers will probably finish ahead of the Flames in their division but not by much. MacT simply couldn’t get enough deals done, We are the worst run organization in hockey today, sorry Florida.

You're an idiot.

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#16 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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#17 k
October 04 2013, 01:08PM
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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.

Yup, that Lindy Ruff character is a real over-thinker.

RNH has greater puck possession minutes than Hall per game and has spent less then half the playing time in the NHL.All Hopkins does is make intelligent plays.

Until Hall takes full responsibility and works on protecting the puck he will be this type of player is entire career.

Hall doesn't need anymore enabler's.

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#18 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
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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#20 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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#21 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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#22 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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#24 Scott in Grande Prairie
October 04 2013, 01:09PM
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Hat-tip to you, Robin, along with Jim Matheson.

If I'm not mistaken, both of you suggested that RNH looked like he'd be back earlier than the "mid-to-late-November" timeframe we were hearing/reading from the media down east. I recall a Tweet from Matheson saying that the puck looked like it was firing off of RNH's stick with some extra snap.

It's funny reading the reports from TSN/Sportsnet/other Toronto media today "breaking" this story when you guys definitely had it a day or so into training camp. Kudos.

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#25 geoilersgist
October 04 2013, 02:42PM
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Sweet baby NUGE is coming back

#SQUEEEEE

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#26 Avatarget
October 04 2013, 06:47PM
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How about putting Yakupov together with Nuge. It just seems like a match that was meant to be...Nuge as the setup man and Yak as the trigger man. This is a combo that I think could pay large dividends.

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#27 YFC Prez
October 04 2013, 06:55PM
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@k

In your first paragraph you state that it doesn't matter RNH returns, because the oilers have too many holes. (a symptom of RNH's injury)

Second paragraph you raise concerns about Smyth being on the first line. (another symptom of RNH's injury)

My question is if the symptoms of RNH's injury is too many holes in the lineup and having Ryan Smyth play 1st line minutes how does it not matter when he returns.

You really don't think the oilers will greatly benefit from having the Nuge back?

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#28 Dan 1919
October 04 2013, 09:05PM
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@k

The fact that you mentioned the Flames in your plea for attention and your blatant ignorance of Oilers hockey makes me wonder if you're a Flames fan trolling the blogs.

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#29 David S
October 04 2013, 10:32PM
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k wrote:

You want attention;

There are 7 teams in our division, if the Oilers finish any higher then 6th I will never post again on this site.

If the Oilers however do finish either 6th or 7th in this division you will install a new windshield free of charge, no questions asked.

Never once did I imply that Nuge doesn’t matter, what I actually said is he’s the Oilers best player.

You wanna be a tough guy, put up or shut up.

If you wanna be a tough guy instead of an internet poser, maybe put up something of equal value.

Just sayin'.

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#31 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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#32 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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#34 Dan 1919
October 04 2013, 03:40PM
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rob wrote:

hey Robin,now that RNh is coming back,if you were the coach(I know we all try to be armchair gm/coach)would you scrammble the lines a bit and get jousnuu with hall,gadzik with Rnh and have mabey brown on fouth,i know this seems dumb but I would love to see the oil have some toughness on all the lines?

hemsky-hall-jousnuu eberle-rnh-gadzick perron-gordon-yaks smyth-arcs-brown

Just some toughness through the line up-do you think this would help or hurt?

Unless Hall has a stand-out game positionally speaking against Van tomorrow, he will go back to left wing as the Oilers don't have enough depth there and aren't gaining enough to leave him at centre.

That means when the musical chairs are done, Gazdic, Smyth or Brown will be scratched. As of last game it should be Smyth, but it will likely be Brown or Gazdic.

(Hall, RNH, Hemsky) (Perron, Arco, Ebs) (JJ, Gordon, Yak) (Gazdic/Smyth, Acton, Brown)

Unless they're on a mission to have RNH and Hall as their long term centres. Then Arcobello and Acton are battling for a spot... (Smyth, Hall, Hemsky) (Perron, RNH, Ebs) (JJ, Arco, Yak) (Gaz, Gordon, Brown)

It will be interesting to see what happens with Smyth because if he puts on a dido performance of the opener, it will be hard to justify scratching someone else to keep him dressed as Gazdic and Brown both played an excellent 4th line roll. Based on my guesses, Smyth should hope Hall stays centre.

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#35 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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#36 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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#37 gongshow
October 04 2013, 03:03AM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. 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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#38 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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#39 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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#40 westcoastoil
October 04 2013, 04:20PM
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Dan 1919 wrote:

Unless Hall has a stand-out game positionally speaking against Van tomorrow, he will go back to left wing as the Oilers don't have enough depth there and aren't gaining enough to leave him at centre.

That means when the musical chairs are done, Gazdic, Smyth or Brown will be scratched. As of last game it should be Smyth, but it will likely be Brown or Gazdic.

(Hall, RNH, Hemsky) (Perron, Arco, Ebs) (JJ, Gordon, Yak) (Gazdic/Smyth, Acton, Brown)

Unless they're on a mission to have RNH and Hall as their long term centres. Then Arcobello and Acton are battling for a spot... (Smyth, Hall, Hemsky) (Perron, RNH, Ebs) (JJ, Arco, Yak) (Gaz, Gordon, Brown)

It will be interesting to see what happens with Smyth because if he puts on a dido performance of the opener, it will be hard to justify scratching someone else to keep him dressed as Gazdic and Brown both played an excellent 4th line roll. Based on my guesses, Smyth should hope Hall stays centre.

I like the idea of moving Hall back to LW - the only switch perhaps to the lines above might be to flip Gordon and Arco. That would leave JJ, Arco & Yak the to feast on the soft parade.

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#42 k
October 04 2013, 06:41PM
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It matters not whether Nuge returns Oct 10th or Nov 10th because the Oilers are not close to being a playoff team. They simply have too many holes throughout their lineup.

4 years into the re-build and we have Ryan Smyth on the 1st line, we have named no less than 6 alternate captains and the coach believed there were others that were deserving, that almost had me throwing up in my mouth.

For a team that has played as soft as the Oilers over the past number of years one of their biggest problems is they don’t have an identity, they often play with fear and fold-up quicker than a cheap polyester suit when the going gets tough.

The culture that has existed in that locker room is toxic and as long as some of the core veterans remain I’m afraid that we’ll stay on the periphery despite drafting 1st overall three years running.

Many here at Oiler Nation believe that because they have been able to draft top prospects that other prospects and quality NHL players would be jumping at the opportunity to come aboard. That my friends isn’t going to happen very often, Schultz signed but others will simply move on to other teams.

It’s a little discerning when Jesse Joensuu is the best Oiler forward on opening night. The Oilers will probably finish ahead of the Flames in their division but not by much. MacT simply couldn’t get enough deals done, We are the worst run organization in hockey today, sorry Florida.

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#43 k
October 04 2013, 08:12PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

You want attention so badly that even negative reaction to comments you make -- and they're obviously intended to garner exactly that -- will do?

"It matters not whether Nuge returns Oct 10th or Nov 10th because the Oilers are not close to being a playoff team."

" . . . that almost had me throwing up in my mouth."

" . . . they often play with fear and fold-up quicker than a cheap polyester suit when the going gets tough."

"That my friends isn’t going to happen very often, Schultz signed but others will simply move on to other teams."

Your premise that the return of RNH doesn't matter tells me you are either remarkably clueless or desperately seeking attention. My guess is the latter.

You want attention;

There are 7 teams in our division, if the Oilers finish any higher then 6th I will never post again on this site.

If the Oilers however do finish either 6th or 7th in this division you will install a new windshield free of charge, no questions asked.

Never once did I imply that Nuge doesn’t matter, what I actually said is he’s the Oilers best player.

You wanna be a tough guy, put up or shut up.

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#44 #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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#45 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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#46 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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#47 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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#48 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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#49 ed in edmonton
October 04 2013, 12:58PM
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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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#50 The Last Big Bear
October 04 2013, 09:23PM
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Dan 1919 wrote:

The fact that you mentioned the Flames in your plea for attention and your blatant ignorance of Oilers hockey makes me wonder if you're a Flames fan trolling the blogs.

Hold on, there...

*I'M* a Flames fan trolling these blogs.

^That^ guy is just an idiot.

And as mentioned in previous discussions on the topic, I am also a medical doctor who is at least passingly familiar with shoulder stabilization surgeries. And my prediction was that RNH's shoulder would be ready to start the season, but the player himself would not be. And I believe my prediction stands up well to the facts so far.

Of course RNH returning is crucial for the Oilers. But I still think the Flames and Oilers finish neck-and-neck out of the playoff picture.

There are 25 minutes each game where the Oilers should have a set of 1st pairing defensive studs out there, but they don't because those players are not on the roster. That's not something you can fake, or wave away by talking about 'committees'.

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