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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#51 Cowbell_Feva
October 05 2013, 04:12AM
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I think people mis-understood me. I think Taylor Hall is an unbelievable talent. I was just giving a few examples of bad turnovers in Game1. I am not a Dubnyk fan, so yes he should have stopped a lot of the pucks that tickled twine. Thats another story.

All I was saying, is that Hall doesn't seemt to see the ice the same way the elite NHL stars do. I rarely ever see Crosby or Datsyuk of Ovie get levelled. Hall sees as much snow as Hartnell. He's gifted physically. He produces when healthy. I am just worried that he won't be able to have a long career if he continues to get belted around game in game out.

As for Crosby....he got blind sided in the outdoor games a few years back then took a puck in the chops....hardly not having your head up.

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#52 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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#53 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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#54 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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#55 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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#56 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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#57 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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#58 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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#59 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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#60 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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#61 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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#62 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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#63 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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#64 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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#66 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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#68 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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#69 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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#70 csaw84
October 04 2013, 05:49PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Indications that RNH was progressing well ahead of schedule have been there for a long time -- since he was seen firing the puck with a lot of mustard on it several weeks ago. Jim Matheson of the Journal commented on it at the time, as did I.

Follow that up with bits and pieces and reports from guys like Bob Stauffer and Jason Gregor, who are at the rink all the time and have watched the recovery first-hand, and the timetable of RNH's return wasn't all that difficult to call.

Yeah, although I stated it poorly in response to brassmaster, that was what I was implying. It certainly doesnt seem like the Oilers are 'rushing' him in to fill a positional hole. All reports from the likes of yourself, Gregor, Stauffer, etc. have pointed to an early arrival based on RNH's progress rather than the Oilers rushing him.

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#72 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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#73 Dan 1919
October 04 2013, 09:25PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

With winger Ryan Hamilton being recalled today you have to think that Taylor Hall will stay at centre.

My guess is that puts Arcobello in the press box or back in OKC. Will Acton seems better suited to be a fourth-line centre behind Hall, RNH and Boyd Gordon than Arcobello does.

If Arco is scratched on the account of RNH returning, that doesn't affect LW R.Hamilton. Is he just being brought up as a pre-caution incase someone gets injured in warm ups or are there changes coming to the LW (or even RW)?

I think Acton serves as a better 4th liner too.

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#74 Dan 1919
October 04 2013, 09:29PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

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'.

Please continue Doctor.

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#75 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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#76 Reagan
October 05 2013, 07:19AM
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Watch the Oilers roll him out tonight!

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#77 Thumby
October 05 2013, 09:04AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

David: How can we be sure "k" is an internet poser?

While "k" chooses not to attach his real name (or a legit email address or website) to what he says here, he might not be an internet poser or an insecure little dude craving attention, as I suggested. Maybe he's just shy or he's a really important person who doesn't want to reveal his identity.

For all we know, "k" might walk through the front door of my glass shop any day now -- I'm easy to find with my address being listed and all that -- and say, "I'm k. You wanna be a tough guy? Put up or shut up." Oh my.

Boy, wouldn't we feel stupid if that happened?

What??!! Brownlee owns an auto glass shop? What rock have I been living under?

My wife's Odyssey has a windshield that looks like a giant spider's web...I better go see RB ASAP!

Robin - what is your shop called and where is it? I will support the Nation in any fashion possible (as long as it benefits me too!)

;D

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#79 Reinman
October 05 2013, 10:50AM
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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 think you just drop Smyth to the 4th line when RNH returns. SO you get Hall-RNH-Hemsky, JJ-Arco-Ebs, Perron-Gordon-Yak, Smyth-Acton-Brown

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#80 Reinman
October 05 2013, 10:59AM
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Don W wrote:

When Nuge comes back Arcobello will sit and Hall will keep playing centre until Gagner is back. I would like to see Perron with Hall and Hemsky and Smyth with Nuge and Ebs. I think it would be a better fit.

Arco was one of the few non minus players in the first game, and he got a point. I don't think it is fair to ship him off just yet. Put Hall back on the wing drop Smyth to the 4th line. If you give a player a chance, then play him until he plays himself out of that position. I don't think it is fair to any player to sit him when he comes in and plays well. It is very discouraging. Hell if he plays well enough, maybe when both centers come back, maybe there would be a place on the left wing for him.

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#81 Reinman
October 05 2013, 11:08AM
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k wrote:

Nuge is their best player and make no mistake about that. But he isn’t going to make them a contender because he had surgery on his shoulder. It’s the lack of depth that allows for a Ryan Smyth to be awarded 1st line minutes.

I spoke out often against Smyth returning to the Oilers three years ago, the experiment has been a disaster on all levels.

If you’re a prospect or a quality NHL’er would you sign with the Oilers? Most wouldn’t/don’t – have you ever wondered why not

Just to state the obvious. Smyth is playing top line for 2 reasons.

1. Eakins want 3 balanced scoring lines, which is something I support. Come playoff time, you want to be able to roll 4 lines.

2. Injuries - You are aware we are without 2 centers, and Hall who is our best LW, is playing center. Also Perron would be playing on that line if Eakins wanted to load up the top line, but he does not want to do that.

I agree the Oilers could use 1 more quality LW, but they don't have it. Maybe JJ can fill that spot when everyone is healthy. I don't like that -2 in the first game, but then again, it was only one game, and he did score.

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#82 Thumby
October 05 2013, 01:19PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Real deal automotive franchise, Bub. Been open for over a year now. If you're serious, it's Crackmasters Southwest. Look me up and feel free to call or stop by any time.

I've had many Nation members come to me and they all get a discount. They'll also be getting Nation stickers and other swag once I get my supply from Nation head office. The only condition is you provide your real name for the receipt.

Aha! So you are the one saying "Show us your crack!"...LOL...makes total sense now!

Now I guess I'll be one dropping the wife's van off...

Also - I've done work for Mike J your marketing manager...always good to deal with your customers!

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#84 Thumby
October 05 2013, 04:26PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Sorry, Thumby, you're thinking of Glassmasters, not Crackmasters. I've never asked anybody to show me their crack.

LOL - honest mistake!

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