End of Bobby?

We don’t know for sure that Friday marked the beginning of the end of Robert Nilsson’s days as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, but it sure sounded like it to listen to coach Craig MacTavish.

Now, maybe I’m reading between the lines too much, or maybe it was just the frustration of watching Nilsson float again before grabbing some pine in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place, but it sounded like MacT is done with the Little Magic Man.

You tell me.

“No competitiveness,” MacTavish said in his post game comments when asked about benching Nilsson in the third period.

“We try and coddle the competitiveness out of him, but he just didn’t have any again tonight. I’ve had enough and seen enough of it.”

Damning words

Might MacTavish be more restrained if asked about Nilsson when the team returns to the ice for practice Sunday? Possibly. But if MacTavish really has “had enough and seen enough of it,” what does that mean? A stint in the press box. Another demotion to the fourth line? A ticket to Springfield?

Having met Nilsson at the 2003 Entry Draft, where the New York Islanders selected him 15th overall, and having watched his progress — or lack of same — with some interest because he’s the son of former Oiler Kent (Magic Man) Nilsson and somebody I thought Edmonton might select, I’d suggest skipping the preliminary stuff and get to brass tacks.

If I was GM Steve Tambellini, I’d be looking to trade Robert Nilsson while he’s still got a semblance of marketability — albeit greatly diminished — because of the flair and offensive talent he possesses and teases you with.

The problem is, Nilsson only puts that talent on display, and does it within the framework of a game plan, when he  feels like it. That doesn’t happen nearly enough. That isn’t good enough. At 23, Nilsson should know that, but apparently he hasn’t figured it out yet.

Doesn’t get it

With 4-6-10 and a -8 rating through 27 games, Nilsson hasn’t even been the least productive member of the now-dismantled Kid Line. That distinction falls to Sam Gagner, while Andrew Cogliano has easily been the best of the trio.

As much as he’s struggled, though, Gagner is 19 and in his second season. Cogliano is 21 and also a sophomore. Nilsson turns 24 on January 10 and he’s been demoted, chided and traded once already for disappearing for long stretches and being inconsistent.

Sitting Nilsson isn’t the answer. Neither is cutting his minutes and putting him on the fourth line. What will more time in the press box accomplish?

Even before Nilsson’s latest slacking, I talked about a need to weed out some of the Oilers small forwards and use one or two of their skilled little guys as bargaining chips.

It’s as much about an overlap in skills as it is about lack of size, but I don’t see room for Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Gilbert Brule, Rob Schremp and Jordan Eberle in MacTavish’s top-nine forwards over the next two or three seasons. Do you?

What’s next?

At this point, I’d rather see what Brule and Schremp can do and offer up Nilsson and whatever else it takes to land a veteran forward who can kill penalties and win face-offs or a shutdown defenceman. Given MacTavish’s lament about the lack of a one-shot scorer after the Anaheim loss, maybe there’s a team willing to part with one and gamble on Nilsson’s upside as part of a package.

“We don’t shoot the puck hard enough collectively,” MacTavish said after his outfit made Jonas Hiller look like Georges Vezina.

“We can put ourselves in position to score but we need a lot of shots to score. With the exception of Sheldon (Souray), there aren’t a lot of guys who are first-shot scorers. We need a lot of looks. That’s been real obvious.”

Whether it’s a defensive forward, a triggerman with a nose for the net or a shutdown blueliner, I doubt I’d get much of an argument from MacTavish that Tambellini should pick up the phone and kick some tires.

It’s time.

  • JRocks247

    I agree that one of the Hobbits needs to go. Send Cole, and whatever else is needed for Horton. Then trade BobbyNils and parts for a bonafide checking, hitting, faceoff winnning 3rd liner. PRESTO! We have size on the 2nd line and 2 faceoff winners in our top three lines with Brodziak (whos not bad either) manning the fourth.

  • Deno

    While I don't necessarily disagree with MacT's assessement it seems as though he has lost all control of this hockey club. No one on the team really seems to compete on a consistent basis anymore, not just Nilson. Considering that this inconsistency is so prevalent I agree with many of the fellow sufferring Oiler fans in that MacT should be let go. Unfortunately it appears as though their is literally no accountability as it relates to our coaching staff and their decisions. Hence a change remains unlikely.

  • ramped up

    @ Fiveandagame:
    The only problem I see with the "Penner tactic" is that in a short time the players will look at Craig and feel if they have a bad night or go on a scoreless drought for a few games they will get called out. The players have no control of the Mac-blender and if they can't get comfortable with who they are playing with then how can they get any chemistry…as for leadership, how would you like to be Moreau or Staios and look at a bunch of over payed rugrats and have to try and lead them forward…kids in their teens don't think like those in their 20's or 30's

  • Jay

    Here's an idea. Let him play hockey. Let him play his game. Next to nobody finds success in MacT's system and I really don't care to watch another talented player leave here because they "can't play", "are "inconsistent", or aren't "competing". Just like Jarret Stoll, Petr Sykora, Joffrey Lupul, Jason Chimera, Matt Greene, … The problem is behind the bench and upstairs. This team plays a system and style that is out of date with modern hockey, infact may never have had an era in hockey. They do everything to get one shot usually with no screen because they are all in the corner cycling, or the Oilers shooter tutor has a whole in it's middle and not at the corners? And weak shooting. Worse yet they do nothing to sustain pressure. No creativity here, with creative players? They never rush, they don't support the puck by design, and are passive by design. Or why does the 4th line get so much offensive zone faceoffs? And why can't MacT send a message to Huddy to get the best pairings out with the best two lines? Or he just doesn't know better. How do you become consistent when you're line is never consistent and your role is largely unidentified? How do you get consistent without being comfortable with your linemates?

    Want to talk about non-competative or soft players? Look no further than Horcoff, Staios, or Pisani. Or players who handicap their team by their actions stupid or inept in Moreau or Staios. Again, the change needs to be behind the bench first. There's enough talent their to be a lot better than we are. That's the problem for MacT, too much talent again, he doesn't know how to use it or how to handle it.

  • Fiveandagame

    I think the problem with Bobby is endemic on this Oiler team. Under achieving players is common place in that locker room outside of a few stand outs.

    When and if Nilsson picks up his game he can dominate. There were many games this year where he seemed like the only guy going on his line. This about face of MacT's bumping him up to playing with Hemsky (on paper) to a public lambasting is odd.

    I wonder if he's just using the "penner" tactic and publicly calling him out. It worked on Penner who is also 25 and was grossly under competing and who also would disappear for games at a time.

    On the other side, I think Gagner and Cole worked well together on a line. Both of those players like to great their offense down low. I think both had a fantastic game last night.

    But Nilsson is not the reason or solution to the Oilers current woes. The leadership in the dressing room and on that bench has to seriously be taken into question.

  • ramped up

    Mac-t is doing no more than standing on the soap box and making it sound like Nilsson and every other oiler at some point or another is the reason he can't get this ship steered the right way. We've likely all had that boss that will blame anyone else than himself for lack of production either be through lack of management or the inability to motivate his workers. This is all it is, who's next…Pouliot,Grebs,the list goes on. I'm not saying that all would be solved but it can't hurt to have a different perspective for the players to look at…Sorry Craig you have to go!!

  • Ender the Dragon

    I picked Nilsson as my goat at the beginning of the season. To see him wearing a different jersey next week would not surprise me in the least, and if we can get a bag of pucks for him, so much the better.

  • chromance

    I think Mac-T needs to go! he doesnt know how to
    handle talent nor does he know how to handle goaltending.
    OH and by the way, he doesnt even know how to handle the lines switching them up every single game!! supposely this
    is the best oiler team Mac-T has coached? He certainly isnt showing that he's the best coach for this Oiler team.

  • me

    You have hit the nail on the head.

    He reminds me somewhat (not the style but the attitude) of Andrei Kovalenko. Great talent but you saw it every ten games or so.

  • max fisher

    i loved this guy, marvelled at his offensive flair….but theres something about his game that just doesn't sit right. I don't know what we could get for him but your bang on with the too many of the same player assesment.

  • Zamboni Driver

    While I agree with the coach's opinion of the player wholeheartedly, being that brutal in the media is another in a litany of moronic moves by this idiot.

    Chew the guy out behind closed doors, fire his Dad, whatever….but if you want to MOVE the guy (and they probably do, and definitely SHOULD)….then shut the hell up about it! "He got his bell rung." or "We just wanted to shake things up a little and unfortunately 'Roh-bert' drew the short straw'.

    Now, what exactly are they going to get for the guy? [not that they could get much to begin with.]