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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.]



  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • oilersseasonticketholdersince99

    On and on it goes everone else is to blame but Mac T and Management,how much longer are we going to watch this bad movie? I am embaressed by Mac t how he throws these guys under the bus, how do you think the boys in the room feel? This coach has lost this team, the only reason they play is because they have pride in themselves not the moron behind the bench.lets all forget about signing any free agents if we continue to have Mac T as a coach do you think players want to come to a team where they are blasted in public.what goes on behind closed doors if this how he acts in public? A coachs job is to motivate,teach and be a leader this guy is none of the above 8 years is long enough,the sooner he leaves the better for the team,the fans and oilers nation!!!

  • ramped up

    I think you would find if you polled the nhl in confidence, few players would come here because of Mac-t. Especially now that the team is floundering and has played with very little heart

  • ramped up

    K-lo and Tambellini PLEASE MAKE A MOVE SOON!! if nothing else send a message to the Nation that you are as serious as you say you are…WHERE ARE YOU DARYL KATZ!!!

  • topshelf

    ramped up wrote:

    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

    So being slow (Staois) and taking bad penalties (Moreau) is what they do because they are mad at having to lead the young guys?

  • The blame belongs to Kevin Lowe 50%. The other 50% of the blame belongs to Moreau, Horcoff and Staios. I don't blame MacT at all. It is not his fault his 3 leaders are not being leaders. If these people were 18 years old then I could see blaming MacT. But these people are not kids. In fact, they have kids of their own. They should take responsibility for their actions instead of trying to pass it on. Be a man and buck up. You three guys suck and you blame the coach. I just don't get it. I guess we need Bergeron back so we have a whipping boy around here.

  • oilerdago

    Actually I think there's enough blame to go around to everyone. Lowe put together a team that has holes (can't win face offs hurts the pk), a lot youth (still) and that his coach has not yet adapted to (in terms of the type of game he's used to coaching).

    MacT has stuggled with a team that is not like what he's used to (heart and soul) and he's hurt himself by skating guys off their natural positon (Cole). And is line juggling has left lot's scratching.

    And I think Smokin Ray is right about the vet leaders – there job his to find a way to pull it together and instead this team goes out, gets hit in the mouth early and can't pull it together again until it's too late to win games.

    They've got to change something, but it's anyone's guess as to what will happen. Hopefully, they don't way until the season is flushed before they finally make a move.

  • Andy the Oiler Fan

    This is just another perfect example of a coach not knowing how to deal with almost every situation that comes up. I agree with Zamboni driver. How many young players has Mac-T developed in his time here. Quite frankly Nilsson was behind the 8 ball before he even got here, his style of game just doesn't fit in with the MacTavish philosophy. Craig MacTavish couldn't nuture young talent if his life depended on it, all you have to do is look at his track record.


  • Clarkenstein

    This team has 5 veteran players. I would say Moreau, Staios, Horcoff, Souray and Roloson could arguably be called the leaders of the team. This could truly be the weakest leadership group in the history of the team. Shayne Corson might have been involved in a bad bunch but this group inspires nobody. Other players, fans, media and probably management are left with a feeling that there is nobody in the room that they could look at and feel that confidence that good leadership inspires. I could go thru each one of them on an individual basis but everyone knows the weaknesses each of them possesses.
    But, once again, this woeful group did not put themselves together. It has happened under the tutelage of one Mr. K. Lowe. And for the umpteenth time I suggest that:
    Kevin. Lowe. Must. Go.

  • RobinB

    @ oilersseasonticketholdersince99:

    "I am embaressed by Mac t how he throws these guys under the bus, how do you think the boys in the room feel? This coach has lost this team, the only reason they play is because they have pride in themselves not the moron behind the bench . . . "

    Sorry, you don't know the first thing about the situation in the dressing room.
    How many times to you think the coaching staff went over the weakenesses in Dustin Penner's game with the player before anything was said in public? How many times do you think Nilsson has been told to pull his head out of his ass and show consistency and effort? Plenty of times on both counts, I assure you.

    And MacT has not lost the room. How do you know that? I've talked to several players in the last week — on and off the record — about that very issue and I'm told that's not the case.

    MacTavish is not without blame here, and there's a long checklist of moves he's made I don't understand, but blanket statements like yours don't hold up under scrutiny when you talk to players. And no, it's not a case of what else are they going to say? There are some very candid discussions off the record, and that's not the message I'm getting.

  • West Coast Oil

    Lets compare the Oilers to two teams we know well.

    The Canucks – Many thought the Canucks would be struggling and hugging the bottom of the standings but they play and compete strong. The team is filled with a bunch of players who were considered underachievers on other teams and no names yet they win more than they lose. Why? This team was built by the gm to fit the strengths of the coaching staff. Players who would buy into the coaches system and perform to his needs.

    The Blackhawks – Young fast team, lots of potential talent but needed proper nurturing to get it out. Management realised early that the man they had behind the bench was a good coach but not the best for the team they built so as soon as a great coach who fit their needs came available they grabbed him. The results speak for themselves as the Blackhawks have improved by leaps and bounds this year!

    The Oilers – Polar opposite of each team above. Built a fast talented young team that does not fit the strengths of the existing coaching staff yet too thick to realise it and hire someone more suitable. Imagine people say MacT tries to put square pegs into round holes.. I think KLowe has done a pretty good job of trying that same approach!