Nilsson making bad choices?

In your last 22 games you’ve scored a measly two goals and four assists, your head coach benched you, publicly chastised your play and then sent you to the press box and you respond by skipping an optional practice. Not a good move, Robert Nilsson.

Only two games removed from the press box, Nilsson made a stupid decision and didn’t take part in practice this morning. Technically he didn’t have too skate, but an optional practice is optional for guys like Hemsky, Souray, Roloson, not for an underachieving 23-year-old.

That’s like when your girlfriend tells you it’s your choice if you want to come to her parents’ house for dinner or stay home and watch the game. Sure it’s technically your option, but you know that going to the ‘rents is your only real option if you hope to have any sort of scoring for the next few weeks. Sometimes you choose the game, but you do so knowing the consequences are chores, groveling and a few quality nights with the palm sisters.

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You could chalk it up to a rookie mistake, but Nilsson isn’t a rookie, and he knows better. To me this is a clear case of Nilsson trying to show the coach he isn’t happy. He isn’t injured or nursing a nagging ailment, he simply didn’t put on the blades. The problem for Nilsson is he hasn’t been showing up on game nights often enough to be a no-show for an optional skate.

What makes this stranger is that Nilsson is always one of the last guys off the ice after practice. He — along with Smid, Brodziak, Gagner, Cogliano, Pouliot and Gilbert — normally play games after practice that sometimes last 30 minutes. This is completely out of character for Nilsson, so it makes you wonder if he was trying to send a message to his coach.

It’s hard to defend Nilsson in this situation. He gets benched for a game but comes back and gets to play with Gagner and Cole on the supposed second line. Is he that fed up with his coach? Does he want out of Edmonton? Is he happy with his game? It can’t be the latter, so I’m guessing it’s one of the former.

We will have to wait until tomorrow to find out the answers, since Nilsson wasn’t available, but the only way Nilsson doesn’t find himself back in MacTavish’s doghouse is he starts scoring, and scoring fast. You wonder if this is the beginning of the end for Nilsson, or just another bump in the long road to becoming a professional?

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  • Fiveandagame

    If I were Nilsson and my coach publicly humiliated me in the Media for not having enough competitiveness and questioned my character, I'd be pissed.

    Nilsson had a good game last night drawing three penalties, he also looked like he was afraid to screw up, afraid to hold onto the puck for a fear of turning it over and being benched. He played a safe boring Reddox style game, was hard on the puck and drew penalties.

    Now if after the game he got a "good game" I am sure he is at the optional skate today. If he gets a you need to carry the puck more and attack the blue line with speed, or any other criticism, I would have a big F U to MacT too.

    I don't know if anything was said in the room or on the bench. But that is a big single finger salute to the coach.

    If MacT thinks players walking on egg shells is the way to motivate them in to playing a solid game with confidence and charisma, he is sadly mistaken. It may work for a guy whose job it is to chase down guys like a terrier, but when your skill set is creativity and offense, it's hard to do that when you're afraid one wrong move and you're back in the press box.

    I hope he scores a hat trick next game.

  • Trade him. He is easily less valuable than either Cogliano or Gagner on any given night on any given line. His defensive awareness and skating speed may be better than Gagner's – but for how much longer?

    Kent Nilsson's mini magic son or not, even Steve Tambellini was asked about whether he had taken the job with the Islanders, he answered that his first task would've been to trade his son Jeff.

  • David S

    "Send a message to the coach?"

    You guys might want to listen to the off-day presser over at the Oilers site before you start roasting MacT over how he's handling Nilsson.

    Seems there was an "after-game practice" that caused the problem. MacT knows all about young celebrity athletes who make buttwads of cash and those after game "practices" because he had more than a few of them himself in his day with a pretty rowdy crew. I know because I ran into those guys more than once. Some of them could definitely be called "bag skates" too.

    From what I saw in that presser MacT was pretty fair, all things considered. He came across as a disappointed father who knows how good his son could be if he just gets his act together. And by the sound of it, the team is committed to helping him do just that. The level of professionalism demanded by today's game and the money involved is so high there's not as much room for fun as some of these guys want to have. Just ask Raffi.

    Jason, I'm a bit confused that you didn't tell the rest of the story this time. You're usually quite insightful.

  • zig

    i'm 100% with david staples, here.

    this blog entry is so riddled with speculation that its almost as bad as some of the garbage spewed by eklund.

    having said that, i think we all agree you're above this crap, greggor.

  • Colin

    I wonder, if Nilsson is traded will he end up like an Arnott? One of the whipping boys that wasn't performing while he was here but becomes one that got away? I see potential with him. Am I only imagining that there seems to be too many of these types of players leaving town? If so what is the cause?

  • Jeremy

    Thanks for the clarification S. because sometimes I thought you were Staples, and other times not so much.
    And on a further note, is it just me or does that picture make Robert look just like Micheal Jackson in the "Thriller" video?

  • Jason Gregor

    @ zig:
    Zig,

    Grow the hell up. I don't talk high school trash. He had no reason to miss or MacTavish would have said so after practice. MacTavish's comments were very clear that this was Nilsson's decision and had he was completely healthy.

  • Jason Gregor

    @ David S:
    David,

    What do you think is the rest of the story. You interpreted what MacTavish said incorrectly. He said that Nilsson had an after practice workout, and that he wasn't on the ice today. Clearly you are unaware that after most games guys have a workout. They ride the bike, or some lift weights. Depends on the player and when their next game is etc.

    What part of the story didn't I report?? Please fill me in, before you accuse me of not reporting both sides of the story. The fact is Nilsson wasn't at an optional practice only a few games removed from being a healthy scratch. It was a stupid decision, plain and simple. So do fill me on what supposedly you think happened.

    Never once did MacTavish talk about an after game party. You are the one who is spreading false facts, not I. Get it straight before you pipe off next time.

  • Jason Gregor

    zig wrote:

    i’m 100% with david staples, here.
    this blog entry is so riddled with speculation that its almost as bad as some of the garbage spewed by eklund.
    having said that, i think we all agree you’re above this crap, greggor.

    What is the speculation here??? The reasons why Nilsson didn't show up at practice? Well since he his healthy, there is no legitimate excuse to miss practice. If there was MacTavish would have said it right away. When guys miss practice the coach is asked what is up. Sometimes guys have visa issues to clear up, or they are banged up. When it is legit the coach says so. The problem with you is you think you actually know what happened when it is painfully clear you have no idea.

    I don't spread rumours. I'm closer to the team than you and I see what happens. My opinion is that Nilsson isn't happy. That doesn't mean that he wants out, but he can't pout and not play well, because he will be benched. The only recourse a player has sometimes is to do what he did. Like I wrote, technically he did nothing wrong because it was an OPTIONAL practice, but it was a boneheaded decision. If you disagree fine, but don't throw out uneducated accusations.

  • zig

    Haha David S no longer seems like a reputable source to base my second comment on… seeing how it isn't david staples 😛

    All i'm saying, Greggor, is it seems based on this one blog that you're not asking the question "Is Nilsson making bad choices?" , its more a statement of you saying, Nilsson is making bad choices. That's fine, you're entitled to that belief, but really I think the fact that he skipped one optional practice really means little and you're blowing it way out of proportion. Even MacT said in his presser (throw that word around and you might get promoted), he doesn't take it personally.

    Are you really going to speculate on a guy's overall motive based on skipping out ONE optional practice when you don't even know the details?

    P.S. In this case, the fact that you're around the team means pretty much nothing since, once again, neither of us know the reasons behind his skipping the optional skate.

    Don't take it personally…

  • Ender the Dragon

    While I agree that missing the skate has very bad optics, I might be inclined to get a comment from Nilsson before I threw him under the bus. He might have a very good reason; his lady putting on her walking boots, his dog died, whatever. If it was personal, MacT would probably have left it to the player to comment or not, and as well he should.

    I'm not saying this whole thing isn't exactly what Gregor sees, but I think we should hear Nilsson out before assuming the worst.

  • Clarkenstein

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    zig wrote:
    i’m 100% with david staples, here.
    this blog entry is so riddled with speculation that its almost as bad as some of the garbage spewed by eklund.
    having said that, i think we all agree you’re above this crap, greggor.
    What is the speculation here??? The reasons why Nilsson didn’t show up at practice? Well since he his healthy, there is no legitimate excuse to miss practice. If there was MacTavish would have said it right away. When guys miss practice the coach is asked what is up. Sometimes guys have visa issues to clear up, or they are banged up. When it is legit the coach says so. The problem with you is you think you actually know what happened when it is painfully clear you have no idea.
    I don’t spread rumours. I’m closer to the team than you and I see what happens. My opinion is that Nilsson isn’t happy. That doesn’t mean that he wants out, but he can’t pout and not play well, because he will be benched. The only recourse a player has sometimes is to do what he did. Like I wrote, technically he did nothing wrong because it was an OPTIONAL practice, but it was a boneheaded decision. If you disagree fine, but don’t throw out uneducated accusations.

    Zig… who give a rat's ass if you're "closer to the team"! In otherwords, another "hanger on"… who's bitch are you? Because a friend doesn't go on blog sites and mouth off. Gregor is 100% right in questioning Nilsson's thinking here. An optional practice is a coach's way of telling the older players to take the day off for playing a good game and spend time with your kids during this time of year. If there were "other reasons" MacT would have known about it and not admonished him to the press. The bottom line here is:
    A) Just another reminder that KLowe got "dick all" for Ryan Smith and
    B) Nilsson will be floating in the Swedish league within a couple years.

  • Cam

    @ Jason Gregor:
    Some people play better when they are pissed off. I remember once in a while someone would lay a dirty hit or something on Raffi and he would get a light in his eyes and be a force all night long. I wonder what happens when Nilsson wakes up?

  • Dennis Castro

    Bottom line is: Yes it was Optional, but when your playing like Nilson has thus far this year after signing a brand new contract in the off season you get your ass out there and work your way out of the slump.
    While Gagner and Cole were all over the ice against Nashville and seem to be playing with a lot more jump of late, I barely even noticed Nilson.
    All I wonder now is if instead of signing Nilson, Lowe should have given Glencross the 2 mill he wanted and the Oil would still have what was, last year, the best 4th line in hockey.

  • Cam

    Dennis Castro wrote:

    Bottom line is: Yes it was Optional, but when your playing like Nilson has thus far this year after signing a brand new contract in the off season you get your ass out there and work your way out of the slump.
    While Gagner and Cole were all over the ice against Nashville and seem to be playing with a lot more jump of late, I barely even noticed Nilson.
    All I wonder now is if instead of signing Nilson, Lowe should have given Glencross the 2 mill he wanted and the Oil would still have what was, last year, the best 4th line in hockey.

    Hind site is twenty twenty. After last season, if someone would have suggested that any portion of the kid line shouldn't be signed they would have been dragged into the street and kicked a lot.

  • Jason Gregor

    zig wrote:

    Haha David S no longer seems like a reputable source to base my second comment on… seeing how it isn’t david staples
    All i’m saying, Greggor, is it seems based on this one blog that you’re not asking the question “Is Nilsson making bad choices?” , its more a statement of you saying, Nilsson is making bad choices. That’s fine, you’re entitled to that belief, but really I think the fact that he skipped one optional practice really means little and you’re blowing it way out of proportion. Even MacT said in his presser (throw that word around and you might get promoted), he doesn’t take it personally.
    Are you really going to speculate on a guy’s overall motive based on skipping out ONE optional practice when you don’t even know the details?
    P.S. In this case, the fact that you’re around the team means pretty much nothing since, once again, neither of us know the reasons behind his skipping the optional skate.
    Don’t take it personally…

    Once again you missed the point. He doesn't have a legitimate excuse or the coach would have said it. You think if something was wrong he wouldn't have told some player in the room or someone in the organization? Of course he would have.

    He hasn't been lighting it up, and skipping an optional, unless he has one hell of a good reason today, was wrong. That was the point. Plain and simple.

  • Deep Oil

    Missing an optional practise (slow hockey day eh?) is a concern but shouldn't hog the Ched airwaves for over an hour – missed most of Gregor's show…if this is an issue – this really falls more on Captain Moreau for not babysitting the room – if this is what it appears to be then Bobbie is disrespecting the Captain – in Pittsburgh optional practises are not optional as per Captain Crosby (re: CBC Hotstove)- if you check Bobbie's birth certificate – he was born in Calgary – so a psuedo Canadian – but I do not see a WHL kid from the prairies taking a powder – Bobbie is soft SWEDE with a Stockholm junior history… but you don't get paid for practise – you get paid to play – so Bobbie put up or shut up – I could care less if you follow the Iverson mantra of practise – JUST DO IT – prove MacT and the media wrong – as the fans could care less – just produce.

  • Braden

    Hey Gregor: How would you feel if someone at work made mistakes all the time without repercussion and then the one time you made a mistake you got grilled?

    I would pissed off too and it's hard to blame Nilsson.

    Moreau takes 12342 penalties (mostly slashing and hooking) and he's out playing the next shift.

    Gagner turns the puck over time after time, a few of them leading to goals against and losses yet he Gagner never sees the PB.

    There's no consistency with the coaches methods and its hard to blame Nilsson for being pissed about it.

  • Dennis Castro

    @ Cam:
    I am not saying dont resign him, and I realize that Lowe didn't want to risk losing Nilsson, the only NHL ready player from the Smyth deal with NYI. All I am saying is Lowe maybe should have stepped back, offered Nilsson a contract like he was offering Glencross, which I believe was in the 1yr, 1.5 mill dollar range, waited to see if Nilsson continued to progress and renogotiated a longer term contract later on in the season.

  • Deep Oil

    @ Dennis Castro: Lowe is salary scared given the dollars he handed out starting with Rollie (proving him right over time this season), Penner (up and down – pass the fries), Pisani(wtf???), Hemmer (long term certainty), Horcoff (smoke and mirror 2nd line) – bottom line is when you trade a Smyth who is a Free Agent months later can you really expect ANYTHING back but some draft picks and sloppy seconds that have been passed over in the bargain basket – case in point – Lowe had his back against the wall and forked over a 1st rounder for Rollie – no leftovers – so any players that move in the trade deadline are usually salary drops and K Mart specials (DEEP DISCOUNT)… the league needs to be creative and allow teams to trade or buy cap and create more of a MARKETING opportunity – how many trades has the NHL seen this year – zippo…. all because GM's like LOWE have spent right to the cap and the others that are below the cap cannot afford to move up due to budget – the only team that managed their cap was Vancouver playing runner up to the Rangers when they couldn't pull the trigger – so your dance partner is not the not you choose – it chooses you – hence – three way deals.