The Nelson factor

Todd Nelson has only been behind the bench for two games, so it’s too early to say if he will make a difference long term or not, but his presence has made one noticeable difference.

Justin Schultz has made offensive plays with the puck during the past two games. Schultz’ play in OT that resulted in a spectacular save from Devan Dubnyk was the type of play he made in his first two seasons. We haven’t seen much of that over the past six weeks.

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I recognize that Schultz’ defensive play still needs a lot of work. I doubt he will ever been considered a defensive stalwart, but if he can regain his offensive confidence at least he will be able to contribute something.

Schultz had great success under Nelson, albeit in the AHL, but confidence is a strange thing. How many of us feel better about ourselves when we head out on the town wearing our favourite shirt, or in Struds’ case, his favourite sweater? We all do. Simple things can impact our confidence.

In sports confidence is everything. If you don’t have it, your chances of success are virtually non-existent.

Schultz has to improve many areas of his game, but creating offence is his best asset and if that aspect re-emerges under Nelson it will give the Oilers a chance to at least compete in games.

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They scored three goals last night. That is a large improvement, considering they’ve only scored three goals one other time in their previous 14 games.

Nelson has a reputation of building player’s confidence and getting them to play for him. It is very early, but it seems his place behind the bench has given Schultz a boost to make plays with the puck again.


  • Leon Draisaitl played 9:42 last night. He has one goal in his last 25 games. He has seven points in 33 games. With every game it becomes more obvious that what is best for his development is to send him back to junior. I don’t understand what they are waiting for, but I hope that after watching from behind the bench Craig MacTavish realizes it is best to have him in junior. Prince Albert will trade him. They already dealt Josh Morrissey to Kelowna. The Oilers could help facilitate a trade. It has happened before.

    I want to make it very clear I’m not down on Draisaitl. I believe he has tremendous upside. His offensive vision and creativity is world class. His size will give him more opportunities to control the play as he matures and gets stronger. He is very dedicated. I have no doubt he will improve his skating this off season. He worked very hard this past summer, and I bet he’ll work even harder now that he has seen how fast the NHL is. But it is obvious he should not be here.

    The risk of him losing his confidence far outweighs the reward of him scoring 20 points as a rookie. Kevin Lowe, Bob Nicholson and MacTavish need to realize this. Make the right decision for the player and the long term growth of the organization.

  • Speaking of finding confidence, Nail Yakupov needs some. He has one point in his last 17 games. I really like Yak. I like that he has a bit of an edge to his game. He has a good heart. In the summer he signed a jersey for Travis Ewanyk’s mom for her school lunch program. Earlier this week when I spoke to him about it and we came up with the idea that he would meet the winning bidder in the hopes of raising more cash. We did and he will meet them next week. Things like that show me he cares, but right now he has to find a comfort level on the ice.

    I’d argue that one of Nelson’s toughest assignments will be trying to ignite Yakupov’s game. He needs to shoot the puck more and get into shooting lanes. They need to hit the reset button with Yakupov and he needs to work his way out of his slump. Over the final 49 games I will be watching him closely to see if his play with and without the puck improves. Both he and the Oilers desperately need to see that.

  • The Junior Chambers of Commerce Holiday Hamper goes tomorrow. They are currently need $3,300 to reach their goal to feed over 900 families. They are looking for $20 or $30 donations today. If you want to help out you can donate here.


We raised an incredible $10,500 yesterday. Thank you to Dave Rocan for his incredible bid and to Vivo Ristorante, Blue Sky Limos and Pro AM Sports for their donations. Awesome.


  • A pub party for 10 at The Druid Irish Pub and ten $50 GCs to be used for your next visit. The staff will ensure you have a great night out. Food and
    bevvies included. Trust me, only bid on this if you have a fun group of
    friends. They will treat you very well at the Druid.


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Courtesy of Michael Anthony Jewellers this Pandora bracelet is a beautiful blend of Murano Glass Golden Ochre, along with
fancy golden pave bead set.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out the Christmas Bureau.

Recently by Jason Gregor:     

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  • Craig1981

    Why Draisaitl is not going to World Juniors perplexes the hell out of me.

    Long term it helps him, gives the Oil one year more before he hits UFA, and will only help the Oil get a top 3 pick………why the heck can’t management see it…..this season is lost….weeks ago

    • I agree.

      Pick up any free agent center. Or bring someone up from OKC. The big picture for the rest of this season won’t be affected. It might even help. Give one of our other centers some of these o-zone starts.

      It seems to me that most teams that shelter centers do it by putting them on the wing. I’m not saying Draisaitl shouldn’t be in junior but if he’s staying, make room for him on the wing. If there is no room for him on the wing, put back in junior.

    • llong33

      Because… the Oilers seem to think that the NHL is a developmental league, along with being smarter then the average bear. Apparently Juniors/Europe is not good at developing young players *sarcasm*

  • Calling up Lander and sending Drais back to junior seems like a no brainer. Should we be surprised with this management group not making this change??

    On another note, Hall seems to have lost his way and has become uninterested. He has totally lost his drive which is quite concerning. Is he injured?

    • 24% body fat

      I haven’t really watched any games this year. Me and my scotch got comfy and watched last night. Hall got my attention almost immediately. He was bad. The play died pretty well every time he handled the puck. I still think he’s a fantastic hockey player. I think he’s trying to do too much (plus SJ were all over him whenever he did handle the puck).

      IMO the Oilers are a terrible passing team. Both giving and receiving passes. I think they were schooled yesterday with a couple of the Sharks goals.

      I expect this is one of the many things they can focus on improving through the rest of the season.

  • 24% body fat

    still dont understand why Yakupov was being broken down and taught defense. Le we drafted him.

    Why not teach the veterans defense first, and lead by example.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Yes Hall is injured, playing with a knee brace.

    Drives me crazy! Why risk Hall getting a career ending injury, or re injuring his knee?

    Why? Cause we are playing meaningful games, and with out Hall we not make the play-off cut?

    Let him rest, the season is gone anyways

      • Maybe Hall truly was a major issue amongst the players? Maybe he stuck up for Eakins so much because he was Eakins’ “pet” player..

        Maybe the last couple games see the oilers playing the game with a totally different level of energy, because MacT and Nelson are running the room now.

        Maybe Hall lost his feeling of entitlement in the group, and while everyone else gets a burst of energy from it, he is playing depressed because of it.

        A lot of Maybes, but going off of the Farrence comments, something wasn’t right in the room before Eakins got fired.

    • MorningOwl

      Yes, playing with a knee brace courtesy of Ryan Garbutt, who , if we recall, only got 2 GAMES.

      Then proceeded to get suspended for ONLY three more games, for slew-footing Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

      Does this guy have photo’s of someone’s wife or something???

  • LibrarianMike

    The Nelson Factor – well it’s actually the Nelson/MacT Factor so far.

    There was lots on twitter about the apparent increase in communications on the bench. MacT yelling at the refs. This is a good thing.

    Everyone knows teams generally pick it up for a little while after a coaching change. Maybe this is an exception and things will continue to get better as the year goes on.

    After the Eakins experience I’m not on board with bringing in another inexperienced NHL coach. I hope MacTavish is also considering this and it’s a good part of the reason he’s on the bench right now. Not writing off Nelson but not committing to him yet.

    That would learning from past mistakes. I’m sure MacT is capable of that.

  • 24% body fat

    All these deployment issues (ice time, sent to AHL, junior, whatever the case) – I can’t help but wonder if there are unwritten, verbal agreements b/w the team and the agents that are influencing the decisions.

  • BobbyCanuck

    It’s interesting with Drai and the World Juniors. Friedman mentioned in this 30 Thoughts that some teams take the heat for the junior aged players when they do not necessarily want to go. I don’t have the source but I remember reading somewhere that Drai mentioned he didn’t exactly enjoy it last year. So perhaps that is a part of it.

    Either way however, I fully agree with this article. Drai shouldn’t be in the NHL right now but will someday be a stud, his physical talents and vision are fun to watch.

  • tileguy

    Joe Thornton had a horrible rookie year offensively (7 points in 55 games) and he was coming off a 122 point year in juniors. I still think Drisaitl should be in junior and playing for Germany but I still dont think this is a complete lost year. Like you said earlier he now knows how fast the nhl is and what he needs to work on. He will be bigger, stronger and better next year

  • Leon

    No one knows anything. Everyone says that they should fire Eakins, when they do, they say he was a scape goat. They say they should send Leon down to juniors, and then someone says there is nothing more to learn in Junior, so Leon stays, then everyone is asking why he isn’t in Juniors. lol

    No one here is an NHL GM and there is a reason for it. It is funny to read everyone contradicting themselves like there is a difference to be made. Everyone would have made the same picks and the same moves as MacT. You just don’t want to admit it..

    Go Oil

  • llong33

    Minus 2 brain farts last night, the Oilers played a gritty game, and nothing pumps me up more when they crash the net and get the greasy goals! I don’t care about pretty passing or dekes…..NHL teams are getting much better at defending that anyways, so why do what most of the other teams do in the NHL? Shoot, shoot again, jump on fat rebound, get a Sherwood in the face, SCORE, and roar into evolutionary gamesmanship!

    I love the Nuge got physical, crashed the net and scored a juicy rebound. No goalie in the world is going to stop that!

    So I liked what I saw….again minus the 2 brain farts.

    It’s a start.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    Concerning Draisaitl, I have two areas I would like to see him work on.

    (1) His quickness. He simply has to improve this aspect of his skating if he is to realize his full potential in the NHL. His speed is okay but his lack of quickness hurts him.
    (2) He has a big strong body but he doesn’t use it effectively. He has to learn how to make body checks. I don’t mean bone crushers, I mean simply taking the body. This will have an effect over the course of a game on his opposite numbers and will work to his advantage.

  • LibrarianMike

    Hey JG,

    Nelson hasn’t even got to coach 1 game yet. Mac-T is clearly calling the shots.

    I am shocked that reasonably acute sports journalists such as yourself are not raising more of an issue with the apparent Mac-t/Nelson tandem.

    The players need 1 voice from 1 head coach. Teams need 1 leader. This isn’t rocket science, how can we not see what a circus this currently is?

    • pkam

      I think MacT has made it very clear in the press conference. He will be the head coach for a little while and Nelson will take over after that. So what is the problem? MacT shouldn’t step in as the head coach for a little while when Nelson is acting like s head coach in training?

      • LibrarianMike

        Ok I’m glad you cleared that up. Now are we 100% sure that the players understand this? Clearly judging by the title of this column and others the media is clueless so I wouldn’t be surprised if the players are just as confused

        • pkam

          If any player is confused, shouldn’t he find out by asking any one of the coaches?

          As long as the coaches and the players know what is going on, does it matter if the media or outsider is confused?

          • BC BOY

            Your naivety is inspiring. I will go with you on this one and just hope and pray that although Nelson is drawing on the boards while Mac-T is telling them what line they’re on they clearly know who to listen to.

            Perhaps I am being too critical of this issue, I mean its not like they’ve had 6 different coaching philosophies in the last 6 years or anything…. wait a minute

          • pkam

            Your example is similar to the head coach let his assistant coach bring up the board and at the same time tells the players what line they’re on. This shouldn’t happen.

            If MacT let Nelson bring up the board, he should keep his mouth shut. If he disagrees with Nelson, then takes the board from Nelson.

            Just make sure there is only one voice at a time.

      • llong33

        Also to be even more clear I am fine with Mac-T being the ‘head coach’ for now, but there needs to be clear delineation so that the players know who the top dog is. From what I can tell this is far from the case

    • Jason Gregor

      MacT talks to Nelson often and Nelson talks often to the players. I think Nelson is doing more than you suggest.

      I do agree the transition period is something I’ve never seen.

      No doubt it is odd and I have mentioned that. It is just another “Oilers decision” that contradicts logic. Sadly that has become the norm rather than the exception.

      • offshoreoil

        Thanks for replying to me!

        I agree Nelson is clearly doing most of the work, but how can you do your job when your boss is right next to you at all times… AND running the forward lines.

        I was a manager at a previously tanking company where we increased our sales by over 300% in my tenure. My boss called me everyday and micromanaged me to the point where he was upset that I would cut him off to take customer calls. Eventually I quit because he couldn’t leave me do my job. I’ve heard the business is tanking again.

        I see shades of the sames issues happening everywhere in the Oilers organization. You are correct it is very illogical and sad

      • MorningOwl

        my guess:
        MacT isnt mentoring the new coach as much as he is evaluating the bench and the locker room. thats wby he is on the bench. kicking butt and taking names (he thinks)

  • Tikkanese

    The Oilers don’t even need to call up a Center. They could play Gordon as the 3C(he already is by TOI anyways) and Hendricks as the 4C. Call up Puckaryenen to play the wing. Heaven forbid the Oilers have two centers with winning FO% though.

  • Lots of comments on Leon going to WJH or back to juniors … I don’t see how he is going to develop faster with either of these options.

    Go to WJH –

    He is going to play for the weakest team in the tournament they are going to be 0-4, not one of his team mates is going to play any significant role in the NHL… ever. This option vs. playing in the NHL does not seem like as good of development choice.

    Go to juniors –

    PA is in 17 place in a 22 team league. The PA roster is brutal, who is Leon going to play with to get better. Will 30 games in PA at 20 minutes night REALLY be better than 30 games in the NHL at 12 minutes a night? Will PA’s trainers and coaching be that much better than the Oilers. I don’t see the PA Raiders are a better option for Leon to develop in.

    Move Leon to the 3rd line LW –

    this is the best option for Leon to stay in the NHL and work on his game. Bring up Lander and move Leon to LW, develops Leon and answers questions on Lander

    • If the Oilers send Leon back to Jr. he won’t spend a second in PA.

      The Raiders will trade him to a contender as stock up on youth and draft picks.

      Same with Lazar if he gets sent back to Jr. after the WJHC – the EOK would be best served trading him and replenishing (and trading Jarry to do the same.)

      • Fair enough if they trade his rights, but let see what is the situation he is going into,

        My main points was,

        Playing 5 games U20 Germany team or playing 30 games on U20 club team that is in 17 out 22 place…. sounds worse than playing professional hockey from a development point of view.

    • It’s not about developing “faster”. Its about developing a strong defensive conscience while building offensive confidence.

      Moving Leon to the wing is not a terrible idea. Though its not going to do Leon much good to be playing with bangers.

  • BC BOY

    I wonder where this team would be if they didn’t have Eakins as a coach the last season and a bit. It seems like he found a way to suck the offensive creativity out of the key players. I’m not saying they would be amazing but maybe they could of been in the hunt for a playoff spot.

  • offshoreoil

    I just kinda compared the whole trailer park boys thing about nelson and mactavish looking like ricky and conky that some ppl brought up side by side…the resemblance is eerily creepy..but if nelson is as laid back as everyone says he is he will have a drink in his hand soon enough.. coaching this team anyway …and we already know mactavish is a puppet

  • Zarny


    A lot of maybes indeed.

    IF there was a sudden change with Hall or the team over the last 2 games your litany of “maybes” might have some merit.

    Alas that isn’t the case. Hall hasn’t scored in 11 games; 9 of which he was the “pet” player of the coach by your theory.

    The rest of team hasn’t looked any better since MacT and Nelson stepped behind the bench.

    Blows a hole right through your “theory”.

    • Jason Gregor

      You seriously think the team hasn’t looked any better in the last two games? If that’s the case, then you are by far the minority in that regard.

      As for Hall, I think he has looked worse the last couple games, and has been progressively worse since before the last two games. If I were to make an argument to back all my “what ifs” I would say that the writing has been on the wall for the last few weeks.

      • Zarny

        Looked better than what?

        When they lost to Ana 4 games ago or got pounded 7-1 by Chi? Of course.

        Have the last 2 games been their best 2 all year? No. At least they beat the Sharks on Dec 9th. They got out-shot 26-6 in the 2nd period against Arz. On the winning goal, the puck is at Arz’s blueline with 5-6 seconds left…stationary. They’ve looked as good or better in some of their losses.

        New coach, big change, a few guys who were likely in the doghouse get a bit more sleep for a few days. You might even see the 1 out 498 toe-drags that work. Same team. Same flaws.

        As for Hall, everything you surmised is the equivalent of throwing dung at the wall.

        He’s been progressively worse? Geez, I wonder why? Couldn’t be that this season is his worst nightmare. Mounting pressure. More fingers pointing. Coach is fired. “Uncoachable”. “The Ovechkin of the West”. Now he’s getting traded and gets asked about it all everyday, multiple times a day.

        On a bum knee. Nah, couldn’t be that.

        He was Eakins “pet” player? Sure…sort of like Crosby, Stamkos, Seguin etc are their coaches pet player. Hall’s the best player on the team. He’d be my pet player as a coach too.

        They’ve won 1 game in the last what…17? The writing has been on the wall indeed.

        • Zarny

          I didn’t use the words “what if” over and over because I can’t put together more than one sentence without repeating myself.

          I am allowed to form any theory I want, and that is one I hammered out based off the ridiculously small amount of info we get from this team.

          The captain has already said that “some” in the room are moping around with attitude issues. I saw a bit of a difference in the oilers compete level against the yotes, and a HUGE difference against the sharks.

          That could simply be a flash of random performance that we have seen in the past, but the entire play had a very different feel about it.

          I never posted anything as Gospel, so chill out on trying to make it sound that way. I put forth a theory, and if you don’t like it… well I will leave it at that.

  • MorningOwl

    MacT and Klowe have to go. However, the team sucks. its not the coach… its the lack of skill. its missing pieces. yes it would be nice for everyone to get a little bounce from the coaching change, but these guys are not skilled enough. period. Oilers are missing the Hudlers, Glencross’ and Raymonds to mentor the young. waiting for the season to end to can Lowe and Tavish is stupidity of the usual kind for the Oil. why cleanup now when you can wait, and taint next year as well?

  • Zarny

    Nelson is a good coach, I can see the Oilers playing better. They scored 3 goals last game, each time they scored the players were smiling and happy.

    Last 7 games Eakins coach they scored 2 goals or less in 7 straight games.

    Oilers will win some games, they are mixing and testing players from OKC to see where they fit. If they have the future in NHL.

    Maybe some trades down the stretch.

    Win about 20 games to get 60 plus points for top top 3 picks in June. If they get a good center that would be great (McDavid).

    I like the future now, Go Nelson GO!

    • TheBirdOfAnger

      If the Oilers dont interview all available candidates in the offseason, and just hire Nelson, then thats an embarassment. The last thing this team needs is a non NHL experienced coach, Didnt the Dallas Eakins mess mean anything, Keep Nelson as assisant, but thats it. A team scoring 3 goals does not make Nelson a good coach, he may be but the oilers need a true nhl coach.

  • Zarny

    “In sports confidence is everything. If you don’t have it, your chances of success are virtually non-existent.”

    What? Uhh, no. (You do this too much Gregor; these wild generalizations.)

    You need insanely good vision, excellent muscular structure, above average fast-twitch fibres, good intelligence, a determined work ethic, etc, etc, etc.

    “Confidence”, like “luck”, is a partially mythic byproduct of the above attributes and numerous other real factors. I don’t know the guy but Wayne Gretzky doesn’t strike me as a very confident person. He seems shy and modest. How’d that what out for him? I don’t know Eric Lindros either but he sure seems confident to me. He get into the HHOF yet? Sure, two hand-picked examples but the above writer (for the thousandth time) cheated in the same way.

    • Zarny


      Realizing your certain distain for the author and what you believe are his broad sweeping generalizations you failed to understand that confidence in neuroscience is fundamental in the decision making process. Unlike luck which you stated is a byproduct of hard work, random selection and various other factors, confidence is born from neurons within the cingulate cortex thought to be responsible for complex decision making. Luck as you put it is more a hope or affect that is projected on a person or event most often looked at in a post tense looking back as 20/20 for example.