LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES

Robin Brownlee
March 26 2013 09:49PM

I believe it was Momma Gump who said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." Forrest's mom must have had the Edmonton Oilers in mind when she coined that bit of wisdom.

That about sums up what we saw tonight as the Oilers, coming off a stretch of games that's been spotty at best, waltzed into the Scott Trade Center and beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 to win in the Show Me State for the first time since 2009. Who saw that coming? Not me. I thought Ken Hitchcock's team would chew up Ralph Krueger's bunch and spit them out.

The opportunistic Oilers, backstopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 43 saves for his 46th career shutout – again, who called that one? – not only beat the Blues on the heels of a disjointed effort in Nashville, they hung together and showed plenty of jam when St. Louis finally got revved up and picked up the physical pace.

The Oilers had goaltending, to say the least. The rink was tilted toward the Oilers end all night, but Khabibulin refused to budge. Speaking of stubborn, and every bit as important as the score, the Oilers showed plenty of push-back when the Blues, led by captain David Backes, tried to flex some muscle.

They got virtuoso performances from Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, who looked as good as they have all season reunited with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between them. Feeble attack side, everybody looked engaged. Where was this in Music City or against the Blues at Rexall Place Saturday?

Tough read, this bunch.

THE WAY I SEE IT

. . . There's been absolutely nothing not to like about Khabibulin in relief of Devan Dubnyk this season, but that doesn’t mean I want to see him carrying more of the load in the games that remain. Khabibulin started out last season red-hot, then the wheels came off. At this point in his career, he's best spotted in without being overworked.

What I wouldn’t mind seeing, and I think it's something that GM Steve Tambellini should consider, is re-signing Khabibulin as Dubnyk's back-up for next season. The price has to be right, of course, and I wouldn’t be looking at more than one year, but if Khabibulin can still get the job done as a back-up with limited duty, I'd offer him a contract. That said, between now and then, I'd certainly accept calls from teams looking for a veteran back-up before the trade deadline.

. . . When Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins play together, the Oilers are a better team, period. I understand why it's tempting for Krueger to split them up in the name of a more balanced attack, but if the second and third lines are wanting, then tinker with those units and leave the top line alone.

ONE LAST THING

Jason Gregor has been talking for some time about the Oilers needing to unload one of their young core forwards to change the mix in the top nine. I happen to agree with him on that. The question is, who moves to land a player who brings experience and a different dimension?

Gregor offered a scenario to Jason Strudwick today, asking if he'd be willing to trade Nail Yakupov for New Jersey's David Clarkson, assuming Clarkson was signed to a new contract – he's a pending UFA.

I said I'd do it in a heartbeat, which I would. Not because I don't think Yakupov will turn out to be a very good player, but because I think Clarkson would bring exactly what the Oilers need – grit and skill capable of playing significant minutes – and because if I HAD to part with one of the kids, it would be Yakupov before Hall, Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins.

That, of course, drew a lot of razz from kooks people on Twitter, who seem to think the Oilers can land impact players for spare parts and the rights to Linus Omark. While I blocked them respect their opinions, I'd roll the dice and make that move.

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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#151 Butters
March 27 2013, 12:32PM
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@ Romulus' Apotheosis, Old Soldier

I heard Scott Taylor on the Team this morning. He was saying papa Kane took a trip out to Winnipeg to straighten his kid out a little.

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#152 thebiggestmanintheworld
March 27 2013, 12:36PM
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Signing Khabibulin and trading Yakupov for a signed Clarkson?

Those are two of the worst ideas I have seen in print in some time......

The Oiler way.......

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#153 Reid
March 27 2013, 12:49PM
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I understand the rationale that you need to give value to get value as well as I understand that the current blend of forwards likely isn't the one that makes the Oilers a contender in the short-term but come on... Nail Yakupov for David Clarkson? Let's have some perspective here.

Are you talking about the same David Clarkson that has a career high of 46 points and the same Nail Yakupov who would be on pace for the 46 points in an 82 season as an 18 year old playing limited minutes?

Yes, I know point totals aren't everything and Clarkson brings other intangibles to the table but the such qualities are far more replaceable than the raw talent, game breaker potential that Yakupov has.

If the Oilers trade one of the young, core players it has to be Eberle. His value is higher than Yakupov at the moment, he's significantly older, and he's about to be paid 6 Million a year. Now I know Oiler fans have an emotional attachment to Eberle (and deservingly so considering his contributions to TC) but, if you truly want to add that elusive young power-forward, it is crucial to objectively evaluate your talent and their corresponding value. It is clear that the Eberle is the one to trade, not Yakupov.

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#154 Jason Gregor
March 27 2013, 12:50PM
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@jadeddog

He has 12 goals this year, prorated for 29. He'd be tied for lead in goals on the Oilers. You sure he is still awful.

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#155 Shredder
March 27 2013, 12:59PM
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Will wrote:

On another note, would anyone here trade the make-up (mix of size, skill, goal tending and potential) of our team for the make up of anyone of: The New York Ranger, The Flyers, SanJose, or Tampa Bay?

The point I'm trying to make here is that their doesn't seem to really be a winning formula for a team year to year. Moreover, some teams that should be dominating due to their good 'on paper make-up' don't seem to have what it takes. Then there are teams that shouldn't be winning right now like Ottawa, who are. There isn't a team out there that looks at their roster and says, this team does not need an upgrade at any position. But at some point you have to look at a group and say, we can win with this group if we play a certain way. Though I don't think the Oilers are at that point yet, I think they are really close.

This. All day.

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#156 lolhockey
March 27 2013, 01:02PM
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I love using prorated stats in arguments.

Jason Gregor - "Interesting that you say last year was a fluke when he has 12 goals this year, (prorated to 30 goals in 82 games season) which would be tied for the lead on the Oilers."

If we're going to play with prorated stats, let's use Corey Potter for example. In 33 games last year he had 15 points, prorated to 37 points in 82 games season.

We should've traded him for Columbus' first round pick.

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#157 lolhockey
March 27 2013, 01:07PM
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At the end of the day, there is nothing to suggest that Clarkson is a 25-30 goal scorer other than 1 good year and prorated stats.

If you're suggesting that we try and get him based on the POTENTIAL of him getting 25-30 goals a year than fine, but does it need to involve Yakupov?

I don't find it unreasonable to switch Yak with Hemsky in a potential deal. A little sweetener is required from one side though.

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#158 They're $hittie
March 27 2013, 01:16PM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

He said he doesnt like it when they split them up. The proper context is to say he likes playing with them. They were so brutal to begin the year they didnt deserve to play together.

Sounds pouty, and like there is no one else in his league to play with him.

Good player but I dont see any leadership in him.

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#159 Bucknuck
March 27 2013, 01:29PM
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I think part of the reason for the venom I am reading is that most of the posters have not seen Clarkson play. They look at his stats and they are a little underwhelming. He's about the same size as Gagner, and he's had one and a half good seasons.

On paper he's not that great, although 30 goals in a season is a pretty great stat. He's no assist machine, though.

HOWEVER - The guy is very tenacious to watch. Similar to Cal Clutterbuck except he will fight and he can play on the top three lines for a few years. I don't think I would trade Yakupov for him.

One of the best hitting gritty forwards in the game is Dustin Brown, but you'll never get a guy like him out of LA. He's their captain. Backes is another one. Also the team captain. Iginla is another one. Also their captain. How about Landeskog? Would he fit in this category? Also their captain.

I see a trend.

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#160 Shredder
March 27 2013, 02:00PM
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Team Hall wrote:

Tell me Brownlee did not just say to trade a future superstar for a mucker who will soon be on the downslope?

Are you kidding me?

I want a retraction on this junk. Awful, amateur hour over here. Even K Lowe is smarter than that.

This all day as well. I think Brownlee and Gregor have been hanging out with Oilers management so long that the bad decisions have worn off on them.

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#161 Old Retired Guy
March 27 2013, 02:17PM
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Yak for a signed Clarkson.....sure stirred things up....got a lot of thoughts and comments.

My sense is that we need not worry. Neither Yak or Hall or Ebbs or Nuge or J Schultz will be traded.

Also, chances are that any deal that gets done by next Tuesday will involve players not mentioned here. GM's have an advantage over us in that they get together and talk about wants and needs and creative ways to improve both teams. The Trade pool is deeper than the UFA list that we get focused on in blogs.

Still....it makes for interesting banter....YAK for Clarkson....not going to happen.

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#162 Old Retired Guy
March 27 2013, 02:21PM
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@Old Retired Guy

My prediction is that more players will be going than will be coming to us at the deadline. And, any deal that adds a piece to our roster will be a Surprise to all of us. Hopefully a pleasant one.

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#163 jason
March 27 2013, 02:59PM
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yakapov for clarkson? clarkson isn't that big and i'm pretty sure tambo is the only gm in the league dumb enough to actually make that trade, so please stop filling his head with this crap, it's bad enough tambo and lowe are trying to sink our team, but please guys let's not show them where the iceburgs are.

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#164 poked
March 27 2013, 04:07PM
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I agree with much of the sentiment. I think the reason why the Oilers aren't having an optimal rebuild so far are basically 4:

1. mismatch in styles between W. Conference and Oilers, not enough emphasis put on winning puck battles, they seemingly realized this just recently 2. lack of top end talent in the draft classes they held the top pick in (compared to previous years) 3. poor team composition, weak on C, D, G (part of this is really a result of 2.) 4. and the lack of identity and culture established by Tambo from the beggining

Did an in-depth analysis on those four points, and IMO while Tambo was hit with some stuff that was out of his control, he's also been rather disappointing as a GM.

Here if you want to read it in-depth: http://puckstorming.blogspot.com/2013/03/edmonton-oilers-state-of-rebuild.html

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#165 poked
March 27 2013, 05:32PM
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I dont think you trade Yakupov for Clarkson, but the principle behind it is correct. The Kings traded Patrick O'Sullivan for Justin Williams back in the day (yeah O'Sullivan bombed but at the time he was coming off a 20 goal season)

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#166 EHH Team
March 27 2013, 06:02PM
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poked wrote:

I dont think you trade Yakupov for Clarkson, but the principle behind it is correct. The Kings traded Patrick O'Sullivan for Justin Williams back in the day (yeah O'Sullivan bombed but at the time he was coming off a 20 goal season)

Poor comparison. Nobody ever considered O'Sullivan to be in the league of first overall picks; a small quick top-six forward maybe, but that's all. You have to raise the bar a lot higher than Clarkson to justify trading Yapupov.

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#167 TDSM31
March 27 2013, 06:12PM
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One of the few times I've seen Gregor really get lamebasted on the Nation....but this one is deserved. I just shudder to think what the hockey world would have thought of the Oilers organization if Gary Bettman had announced on draft day that the Oilers had traded their No. 1 overall pick to the New Jersey Devils for David Clarkson.

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#168 poked
March 27 2013, 06:52PM
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@EHH Team

This is precisely what I'm saying though. I made that comparison because it was a rebuilding team trading a young forward with potential who just scored 20 goals, nobody is saying O'Sullivan is Yakupov, obviously they should get something much better than Williams back, but the principle is the same. This is the type of trade that the Oilers should eventually make to address their needs.

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#169 Reagan
March 27 2013, 08:41PM
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Linus Omark for Crosby straight. I Best deal ever! Not f ing likely... Lol

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#170 Serious Gord
March 27 2013, 09:53PM
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TDSM31 wrote:

One of the few times I've seen Gregor really get lamebasted on the Nation....but this one is deserved. I just shudder to think what the hockey world would have thought of the Oilers organization if Gary Bettman had announced on draft day that the Oilers had traded their No. 1 overall pick to the New Jersey Devils for David Clarkson.

Very well put.

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#171 Walter Sobchak
March 27 2013, 11:30PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:
I would like to point out, I to think the Oiler’s need to upgrade size with a little pugnaciousness, some truculence, but, This type of player (Clarkson) is not all that hard to obtain and certainly not worth a first overall pick or a possible franchise player, it far is too costly for a franchise to make these kinds of moves.

Not that hard to obtain, then how come the Oilers haven't got one for years.

Please name the players who can score 25-30 goals who are physical and can actually protect your skilled players, because they are good enough to play on their line.

Wayne Simmonds, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla, Scott Hartnell and who else? Ryan Clowe was, not sure he is anymore. These players aren't easy to acquire.

I'd look at these guys before Clarkson...Brett Connolly - Chris Stewart – Ryane Clowe - Henrik Samuelsson - Brandon Dubinsky - Tyler Bozak – Troy Brouwer – Steve Ott -

You do know that Bozak is a small, skilled forward right, which is what the Oilers have. Brett Connolly hasn't played in the league and you think he's better than a 25-30 goal scorer. Same as Samuelsson. The only one of those who is as good or better than Clarkson is Stewart. I'd look at him, the rest aren't in Clarkson's class.

Ott is a great agitator, but he's an excellent 3rd line guy, not a regular top-six.

I apologize for the late response as I’m working night shift; I also apologize if anybody has mentioned this.

I guess concerns are this, your rewarding some of these players for a limited body of work.

This is the same philosophy the Oilers used to get themselves into a mess, and the same philosophy that got the Islanders into a mess.

Not to mention the Oilers have many, many holes not just top 6, while they need size up front they need size and skill everywhere.

So while you give up skill to get size you now have players who can’t score and you’re now in a repetitive cycle.

While being big is important since 2005, the Bruins were really the only team to have won with the likes of Lucic and Thornton in there line up.

While Lucic would be a terrific player his cap hit is also ridicules.

The other past cup winners used a combination of size, skill, team toughness to win.

My concerns with your players.

Wayne Simmons scored more than 20 once, he also not a top 6 forward.

Nathan Horton (past due date) will be a UFA next year; he is also one concussion away from retiring, this while putting up Yakupov like numbers this year.

Clarkson who is the same size as Tyler Bozak also, has only scored more the 20 once.

No issue with Hartnell, however Iginal is old and not worth Yakupov at this time.

I would much rather try for Evander Kane. I also used Ott as Belanger replacement.

As far as Connolly and Samuelsson, I see both those players being exceptional compliments to the skill the Oilers already have.

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#172 Rocket
March 27 2013, 11:43PM
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Walter "Wes" Sobchak wrote:

"While being big is important since 2005, the Bruins were really the only team to have won with the likes of Lucic and Thornton in there line up.

While Lucic would be a terrific player his cap hit is also ridicules.

The other past cup winners used a combination of size, skill, team toughness to win."

Exactly. Being a big team helps but skill is still much more important. Obviously both would be ideal.

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