Unleashed

93-RNH-21

The Edmonton Oilers had themselves a game against the woeful
Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. Not only did the team score six goals, but
three prominent players who hadn’t been scoring much had strong nights
offensively.

Were strong nights from Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle and Ryan
Nugent-Hopkins a sign of things to come?

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Lucic

27-Lucic-2

  • Scored his first goal in nine games
  • Recorded his first even-strength point in eight games
  • Put up a season-high three assists and four points
  • Now on-pace for a 55-point season, matching last year’s
    production

I was starting to wonder if something was legitimately wrong
with Lucic. Entering the season, a lot of optimists were projecting a return to
the 30-goal/60-point level he last reached back in 2010-11. I didn’t think that
was going to happen, but the early slump this season while riding shotgun for
Connor McDavid came in well below my expectations, too.

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In 5-on-5 situations, Lucic has topped 2.0 points/hour in
five of his last six NHL seasons, which is really healthy offensive production.
Entering last night, he was below 1.0 points/hour, which is basically the
scoring rate of your average 13th forward or a good defenceman.

He’s not back to where he was in past years at 5-on-5, but
last night was a great start. If he continues in this vein it will go a long
way toward keeping the Oilers consistently dangerous offensively.

Eberle

Jordan Eberle

  • Hadn’t scored a goal in 16 of his 17 previous games
  • Picked up his first goal in seven games
  • Tallied his first power play goal in 19 games
  • Now scoring at a higher points/game rate than last year, and
    on pace to top 60 points

Eberle has actually been one of the Oilers most productive
five-on-five players this season. The trouble with him was on the power play,
where he’d been expected to be *the* right-shooting finisher of all those sweet
McDavid passes.

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That hasn’t happened, but Eberle has been a strong power
play scorer pretty much since the moment he stepped into the NHL. He’s going to
figure strongly into the success or failure of the unit the rest of the way.

Nugent-Hopkins

93-RNH-13

  • Scored his first even-strength goal of the season
  • Ended a seven-game goal-scoring drought
  • Has three even-strength points in four games, after putting
    up just five in his previous 17 contests
  • Now on-pace for a 39-point season, which would be his lowest
    point total ever in a healthy year

I’ll admit that I find Nugent-Hopkins maddening, and I’m not
even a fan of the team.

All down the line I’ve been reflexively against the idea
that the Oilers had to trade Nugent-Hopkins because they had McDavid/Leon
Draisaitl, but I really haven’t given enough attention to the way
Nugent-Hopkins generates his points.

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Season EV TOI TOI Rk. 5v5 P/60 PTS Rk. PP TOI TOI Rk. 5v4 P/60 PTS Rk.
2011-12 14.6 4th 1.95 3rd 3.0 2nd 7.24 1st
2012-13 15.6 2nd 1.12 11th 3.0 3rd 5.04 4th
2013-14 16.2 2nd 1.50 5th 3.0 3rd 4.94 1st
2014-15 16.3 3rd 1.92 3rd 2.7 1st 3.69 5th
2015-16 15.5 2nd 1.36 7th 2.6 4th 4.84 3rd
2016-17 13.6 6th 1.54 9th 2.3 5th 3.83 5th

The box above shows Nugent-Hopkins’ ice-time and points/hour
production at evens and on the power play, and then shows where those figures
rank among regular Oilers forwards that year.

Nugent-Hopkins has never been an especially dynamic
even-strength scorer. Lucic, mentioned above, breaks the 2.0 points/hour
barrier as a matter of routine; RNH hasn’t managed to do it even once. If we
include this year, in three of six seasons he’s scored like a top-six forward in
Edmonton but he’s scored like a bottom-six forward in three of six seasons.

He gets away with it because he’s a power play producer. In
four of six seasons he’s been an excellent first unit power play guy for the
Oilers, and in two of those years has been undeniably the team’s most effective
player. But we see his ice-time plummeting over the last two years because even
though he’s a first unit power play playmaker, Edmonton also has Connor McDavid
who is *the* first-unit power play
playmaker.

Last year, RNH got away with it because McDavid missed half
the season. But with McDavid healthy, the coaching staff has relegated him to
the second power play, and he just won’t get the same opportunity to score
there that he has in previous seasons. That’s a big problem for him, because
his track record at evens isn’t great, and his overall point totals are likely
to fall below the level expected of a $6.0 million man.

I really like the player. He’s smart, he’s far more
competitive than he gets credit for—I always laugh when I hear the “soft skill”
label applied to him and wonder what games the guy saying it has been watching—and
he’s useful in all three disciplines. Todd McLellan compared
him to Joe Pavelski
at about this point last season (when the same
criticism we’re seeing now was starting to crop up, largely because he wasn’t
getting power play points) and he’s incredibly valuable as an all-purpose
two-way forward who can slot in wherever he’s needed at 5v5 or special teams.

There is, however, a very real danger that Nugent-Hopkins
ends up in the Shawn Horcoff role in Edmonton: As a useful player with value well
beyond his scoring numbers, but scoring numbers that don’t match up to his
contract. If the coaches can’t find a way to shoehorn him in on the first power
play (and I really don’t see a fit there) he may not have a long-term future
with the Oilers. 


  • DON’T YOU DO THIS TO ME, WILLIS!

    Personally, I’m hoping Nuge’s shooting percentage (currently 4.8%) corrects itself closer to his career average of 10.7%. If Nugey was up at six goals on the year (he has 62 shots so far) then I don’t think he would be taking the same kind of heat. Yeah, yeah I’m a Nuge fanboy I know.

    The beauty of Nuge is that he’s playing against the other team’s top line night in and night out so that McDavid and Draisaitl don’t have to. That said, he needs to be better and I’m sure even he would agree with that.

    • camdog

      It’s alright to admit that Kelly Hrudey might have been right all along about RnH, and maybe you were the one that was a little high, that is high on Nudge 🙂

    • AJ88

      Nuge has held his own against all teams best lines. Why does ON always look to knock a guy down? What are people expecting from Nuge, 80 points playing against the Croby’s, Toews, Tarasenkos, Perry/Getzlafs, even the Sedins, etc. I am glad someone with hockey knowledge (McL) likes him, sure I think Nuge would like to be more offensive but his job up until now was take care of others top lines…RNH = very important team player on the Oilers.

  • R U Kidding Me!

    When this team starts to really gel look out.

    I think we make some noise this season but after another summer with some tinkering I believe we make a real run for it next year.

    • Jay (not J)

      I dunno The 2006 team didn’t look like much before the trade deadline. If Chia can make some tweaks and (dare I say) emulate Lowe a bit, they could be a solid group by April, ready to make more than some noise.

        • Jay (not J)

          That would be pretty awesome to see happen, especially if it happened here. Sure, it’s a high bar, but I’m not going to say that they cant reach it before they demonstrate that they cant.

  • I am Batman

    Eberle goes before Nuge.

    RW’s as scarce as they are are a lot easier to get than quality centres. Not too long ago we didn’t have enough good centres to get by and the team really struggled.

    The Nuge spends a lot of time cleaning the mess of giveaways and messy bounces we don’t have another player like that

    • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

      But the Oil have little depth on RW vs center, especially with Cagulia’s promising first 3 games. This might change if Puljujarvi progresses well through the season, but at his time trading away your best RW doesn’t make sense

  • Osmosis_jones

    If Taylor Hall can be traded, so can Nuge. I am hoping we can figure out a deal with Carolina where Faulk could come back our way. Obviously we would have to offer more than just Nuge or eat some salary, but Faulk is just what the doctor ordered.

  • Hemmercules

    Nuge is one of those examples where points/dollar doesn’t tell the whole story. He plays in all situations, anywhere in the lineup and often agaisnt very tough competition.

    I have said the same about Eberle, they signed those contracts in classic Oilers overpay fashion when nobody wanted to play in Edmonton. Hall is probably the only one of the 3 that isn’t overpaid by a million or so. At his price point I can’t see him here for the duration of his contract.

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      Ever thought that point wise Hall is worth the money but he may be a bit more toxic than what we the observers have? I mean we got rid of Hall and brought in a slower not as productive Lucic, add a defensive defensemen in Larsson, add a couple of defensively liable defensemen in Russell (throw Benning name if you want) and the overall team moral goes up it seems. When a player gets hit more team mates stand up for each other. I dont know how many times Hall got hit and everyone skates away like “oh well” and that attitude is slowly going away from Eberle but you can see it in his play…”oh well”

      Is Hall worth it overall? Yes I will say so but I think theres more to him than we know.

      Hopkins isnt the perfect player, but hes becoming a great #2 center and I personally believe cugglia is going to be ur #3 and as Batman said Eberle is the man out. Drai can play RW on hopkins side.

      In a year or two I would like to see the following as the top 6:

      Lucic/Maroon-McDavid-Pulijarvi

      Lucic/Maroon-Hopkins-Drai

      • Hemmercules

        After 3 NHL games I would venture to say its a little pre mature to be slotting Drake into the long term top 9 going forward. Maybe he gets there.

        I aslo dont understand moving a natural centre with size and skill to the wing. Those types of centers aren’t easy to pick up.

        If they are getting rid of Eberle they better have a pretty good RW in mind to replace him. I dont think pushing rookies up the lineup or changing player positions is the answer.

      • JimmyV1965

        What stat are you using to measure Hall’s toxicity? Unless of course you’re relying on your close personal connection to the dressing room. That’s different then.

        • Sir Dudeinstein

          Stats I use are my two eyes. The way how people tried to defend him at first then people skate aqua when he get in scrums.

          People.hit.him.late maroon came in to defend him first game then it’s meh.
          Same with Hendricks

          The interviews after with players where the tone (not words) was a more of a relief if you want to say. “No light at the end of the tunnel” -Hall- was a prime example how he felt about the team. How disappointed tone he was when the team was going to mcdavid side.

          In terms of stats no…none…but u can see which players truly supports which player on the team last year and the years before that.

    • I’m not a fan of any team.

      Partially it’s just a matter of trying to be objective about things, which is (in my view) a necessity to covering the sport professionally. But that isn’t all of it or even most of it.

      Covering the business side of the 2012 lockout and the Edmonton arena negotiations really knocked the stuffing out of whatever was left of the fan in me. It’s hard to really dig into the financial side of sport and still come cheering for a team; you just see the deep cynicism and the monetary concerns and for me it killed a lot of the sentimental side of the game.

      I’m a fan of the sport – it’s a beautiful game, one I’ve been in love with since I first started playing it. I like individual players and root for things to work out for guys who play the game the right way or overcome adversity. I like smart coaches/managers, and like to see things work out for them, too.

      At the team level, though, there just isn’t any real emotion. It’s nice to see the Oilers doing well; the hockey is better and watching them get killed for 82 games a year got repetitive a long time ago. But I don’t have any emotional stake in the business.

      • Boom or Bust

        All right after reading this explanation I understand why you said what you said. I apologize on my last comment directed at you…however I stand my my Nuge comment!!

      • Jay (not J)

        Thanks.

        Yeah the arena business and the lockouts can suck the life out of anyone’s fandom. The losing got old, but there was something galvanizing about it too ( I really noticed around year 6 or 7). Sort of like throwing good money after bad at a Blackjack table, I guess. But if I didn’t buy the Yakupov jersey, was I admitting I was a fool to buy the Gagner one? What about the Penner and that ugly weird sleeved Nilsson one beneath it? Better to just drop a shoulder and push forward, so I got me a Pouliot.

      • Druds

        I think you are being a bit naive to state the above…This league and all professional leagues are “money” sports. Are you somehow suggesting the Oilers or any professional team are about anything other than money? which basically all entertainment is about in society. The city makes money,the team and players make money and the fans/public pay for it. I have no problems with that,my taxes pay for an art gallery I have never seen and other such things and I have no worries about that either…get over it Willis, Im sorry the reality of Life is too cynical for you.

        Sorry Im not rushing to your defence like those other guys

  • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

    I think your comparison to Horcoff is good insight, but will draw the ire of a large group of the Nugaholics.

    Nuge is a good NHL player but not a “star”.

    His $6M price tag will become an issue as the Oil are forced into some tough cap decisions two years from now.

  • Gravis82

    you carry nuge until his contract is up, and then extend him at a lower dollar amount. Or, by then, perhaps the same dollar amount will be adequate because the market has moved. If nuge is our 2/3 C with leon being your 2C/2RW, then we are in good shape. Just have to 1) make it through the overpaid next few years and 2) resign him to a more representative contract.

  • Osmosis_jones

    In fact I would have preferred Nuge got traded before Hall. Hall is elite, Nuge is not. Too many fan boys value his defensive work but the truth is defensive specialists should win more faceoffs than they lose and they are far easier to obtain through trades and free agency.

    If we could have got Larsson for Nuge that would have been a better deal for us but that’s in the past now so we have to look at other options to get the alpha RHD that we need. Guys like Hanzal, Bonino and Berglund are all available this summer for much less than $6M and would all fit nicely as a 3rd line centre who could move up if necessary.

  • Boom or Bust

    …..your not a fan of our team????? Possibly the dumbest thing you have written…shouldn’t you at least try to make us like you!! Ridiculous….anyways Nuge is a beauty. He bailed out the team on severs occasions. Plays his ass off…id take him over a skilled lazy ass winger any day!!!

  • YEGFan

    People who argue Eberle is overpaid, who do you see as his comparable?

    I look down the list of wingers and 6M for a 26 year old who scores consistently seems about right. Hell, it seems like a good deal when you compare it to the Lucic, Ladd, Eriksson, and Okposo contracts that got handed out this year which carry years that are virtually guaranteed to be overpays for old players.

    Sure, you can cherry pick Tavares, Seguin, and Benn as better deals. I would argue those are massive under pays though, not examples useful for comparison. Any of those three would get over 8M on a new contract.

    Someone please explain to me why 6M is an overpay for Eberle and whether they actually believe he will ever have to sign for less before he’s 32.

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      I think I am more upset that he didnt sign a bridge deal. I mean at the time of the signing he signed the 6 million which looked great but he couldnt keep up his pace. He took a step back and coast on the team. Thats y I think he doesnt deserve the 6 million. If his game progressed till he was 25/26 then sure. But after he signed the 6 million dollar the attitude he brought with it was “I dont have to work for my money anymore”

      Yes he scores an average of 25-28 goals a season but the fact his work ethic is poor. At lease hopkin is trying to play defensively, at lease hall showed emotion when he played. Eberle yawns more than he skates now a days. Eberle tends to glide. When hes on his game and trying he is good and deserving but paying someone to play good one game of 5 to me isnt worth it. Compare to Lucic…Lucic deal is better (sure its lengthy) but he brings more to that room than most people realize. Work ethic isnt shown on most people stats and thats where I believe the eye can outshine statistical numbers.

      • YEGFan

        That’s kind of the exact argument in favour of statistical numbers over effort.

        Career years for Kassian and Pitlick are less than half of what Eberle produces. No matter how hard they hustle, they are less effective. It’s not fair, but that’s life.

        Eberle gets results. He puts up points. Sure Pitlick works hard out there, but the NHL isn’t about participation medals.

    • Hemmercules

      I think it comes down to 2 way game and grit. Many other forwards in the same point range making around the same money play harder and tougher. I like Eberle, I would like him a lot more at 4.5 or 5 mil.

      • Sir Dudeinstein

        I do agree there but we cant count on Eberle to play in the top line. Especially in the pacific. He is too small and gets pushed around too much. you think Eberle can hold the puck against a perry, a carter, a thorton much easier. I mean I think eberle gets knocked off the puck by Johnny geaudreu hit.

    • I am Batman

      It’s not about the money, it’s what the money says about you.

      When Eberle “got paid”, that salary said he was at the top of his class, it said “franchise player “. Afterwards Kane and others signed their deals and made Ebs deal look average.

      Fact of the matter is Eberle is going to retire a millionaire, he might see more money in a year than we will ever see in our lives. So, even to him is not that relevant if they pay him 4 or 6 million (both are a lot of money), it is what the money says and that’s where he has us feeling disappointed: we thought he was a franchise player, he isn’t.

      Now whatever he signs his next deal for , if he signs in Edmonton, we will always feel disappointed.

      We didn’t feel less disappointed with Yakupov because he “only” made 2.5 million, did we? He was a bust and that’s all we as fans care about. End of the day is not even our money.

      • Hemmercules

        Kane makes 10 mil, he’s a 100 point player. Ebs makes 6 mil, he’s a 60 point player. Seems even.

        What is the definition of franchise player anyway??

  • 1. Puljujarvi will be sent down at mid-season — he’s not fully ready yet and needs to score way more. This will ensure Eberle remains on team until it’s time for a McD Pool Party. Pakarainen will be back and Kass and Pitty will move up a line, especially if Pitty continues to do well. Eberle will be traded in a year to make cap room for McDavid’s 8 year $12m/y contract.

    2. Nuge is a shifty player, but he depended on Hall to drive the play. Now he needs to be that driving player and have a trusted winger who can get the puck through the boards. Also having better defensive puck-handlers like Klef and Russell, opens up room for Nuge not having to backcheck as much and to shoot up the ice more.

    3. I’d rather have Nuge than Ebs. Two-way centres who can play in any situation are RARER than small skilled wingers. Nuge’s contract is two years longer than Eb’s.

    • Hemmercules

      1. Relying in Pitlick and Kassian to move up the lineup is a gamble if you ask me. I like both guys but not on the top lines.

      2. Did Hall really play that much with Nuge?? I dont think Nuge has ever really depended on Hall for anything. Nuge can drive but he will never get points like Eberle or Hall being used in all situations.

      3. Agreed

  • OilCan2

    Nuge is right in the right spot right now. Right?

    A team has to have a good mix of players and the centers are a good place to start. Gretzky and Messier were enough to anchor a dynasty up the middle and now we are looking at McD, Nuge, Drai and the Drake.The future is bright.

    I’ll be cheering these guys on while others sift through the number pile to build a sand castle of “I don’t believe this guy is worth that much.”

    • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

      Wilis wrote “an all-purpose two-way forward who can slot in wherever he’s needed at 5v5 or special teams.”.

      So I don’t think anyone is questioning his value as a hockey player, just that some people(including previous Oiler management)may have over estimated his offensive ability. This has resulted in a contract that may become issue.

      • AJ88

        Again, how many points should RNH get playing against the top lines of other teams? 60 – 70, what makes him worth his money? Do you think he should be scoring consistently against St Louis, Chicago, LA, Anaheim top lines. His role has obviously changed over the last few years, I am sure McD and McL appreciate him more than most on this site. If you want more out of him offensively ON, you should be asking the Oilers to match him up against the 3rd and 4th liners of other teams.

  • TKB2677

    I don’t understand all the fans getting on Eberle or Lucic as an example. Yes they both had a bad stretch of games, so did a lot of Oilers.

    Lucic has 6 goals, 14 pts in 21 games, 50 hits. Prorated over a full season, that’s 23 goals, 55 pts, close to 200 hits. When I look at his starts, that’s pretty much what he puts up every year.

    Eberle has 7 goals, 16 pts in 21 games. Prorated over a full season, that’s 27 goals, 62 pts. If you look at his stats, that’s pretty much what he puts up every year.

    Would it be great if they were more consistent? Hell yeah. But if they were, Lucic would be a 35+ goal 60+ point guy and Eberle would be pushing 40 goals. So I don’t get why people get mad at them when they are right on par with what they do every year.

    What did people expect?

  • btrain

    I think its a mistake to limit a player at only 23 years of age to just be as good as he has ever been, like the article seems to be doing. At 23, Pavelski had a 40 point season (18 pp points) and he played all 82 games. RNH is having to redefine his role and adapt to no longer being the best center on the team. He has also been largely playing with others who have also struggled to create offense. He will figure it out and when he does, he will be earning every bit of that contract! I still think he has the potential to be one of the better two way centers in the NHL.

    • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

      I think it is overly optimistic to assume that RNH’s offence will improve,the stats shown above show it’s been flatlining for a while. Most forwards prime years are from 24 to 28, it sees much more likely the RNH we are seeing is what we get.

      Pavelski is an interesting player. He seems to get better with age. His most productive offensive years have occurred after he turned 29. Most players start to drop off at that point in their career.

  • camdog

    I wasn’t happy about the line up the Oilers used to start the season, because I’ve watched enough of the Oilers to know that Eberle has always bumped up RnH’s offensive game and Rnh has always helped Eberle’s defensive game, they have good chemistry together, always have.

    All every one else could say that no other right winger deserved to play with McDavid. Most of the time people get too focused on slotting somebodies skill set based on first, second, third or fourth line players, that’s not the way it works.

  • Ivan Drago

    RNH career ppg is 0.69
    Over 82 games = 56.58

    If he can get 50pts per season i think hes pulling his weight. I dont care how he does it Willis. Pp points and even strength both add up to total at seasons end. Pls come up with a formula as to how many points you EXPECT him to get with his fancy stats, 2nd unit pp, linemates, qualcomp, injuries, luck etc. Does his new role cost him the 7 pts to drop below 50 in a season?

  • oilers1168

    Jordan is a very good NHL player. He has always been gifted with playing on a skill line without any consequences or accountability. After hearing he was working on his shot all summer I assumed he would have a quicker release and a one timer added to his repertoire. Unfortunately we see a slow release with a propensity to do the dirty dingle dangle with the puck to the back of the net. Often we are losing the quick puck movement with him on the ice. Maddening when you see Connor moving quickly making space for Ebs to make a quick shot instead of cradling the puck. I just expected more from him if he is playing with Connor. Moving up to the next level not staying the same average point total. JMHO

  • O.C.

    So long as the contract doesn’t get in the way of what the team requires, everyone can say “ya, it was an overpay, a bit, but not a lot. No harm.” If he continues like Datsyuk did, becoming that ridiculous two way player that was invaluable for decades, and the potential remains for that, why would you think to trade Nuge?

    Look at Pavel’s numbers and the crazy resemblance in figures.

    Then look where he hit the next level… age 27.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    I would caution against trading Nuge at this stage. The team has a winning record, in part because Nuge is helping in ways other than scoring. The team used to be devoid but of good centreman, but now they have an abundance. A luxury. Depth at the position is important. I’m if Nuge goes down, Drai can slot in there. If the team was still basement dwellers, then I would look at trading him, but this team is showing signs of being able to break out of slumps. That’s good. Not necessary to make a big change like that just yet.

    • kiaora

      I agree in that he is helping the team. But you could have written this about Horcoff, he had a big contract, was helping the team (great defensively), but wasn’t playing to that contract (lack of scoring). I think its interesting how we over-value players based on their historical draft status and what we thought they might be, as opposed to what they bring today. I like Nuge but he is not a 6m player, at the moment, he is a $3m player, a defensive 3rdliner. I “think” he is capable of more than that, but he isn’t showing it.

  • Mitch92

    Secondary scoring is a valuable asset and we have two of the best at it in Eberle and RNH. $6.0 million each for that service does on its face appear to be an overpayment but the present management regime can hardly be blamed for what they inherited. I choose to consider this overpayment as secondary goal scoring insurance. CMD can’t score all the goals and the fact that his presence allows two former top line guys to play against secondary defensive assignments while reducing their pressure to score helps to balance the attack. I just wish they had been paired together right from the get go this season. I think the value of their experience playing together adds some stability to a team that is looking to gel.

  • JBear

    Drai is not ready to take the reins for 2C. He looks tired a lot of the time and is probably the worst defensively of all the centres we have. Worse than RNH’s 2nd or 3rd year.

    As for Ebs. I think the Oil were hoping for some great chemistry with McDavid but Ebs isn’t so much a shooter than a dangling goal scorer, and McDavid needs a finisher/shooter more than a dangler. Eberle plays really well with Nuge and I remember when those 2 and Hall would hem-in top lines when they really got their feet moving.