Robert Nilsson: To Trade Or Not To Trade

Robert Nilsson, abandoned for dead by most people following the Oilers (including me) at training camp, has come alive since returning to the lineup from injury, to the point where he’s been one of the Oilers best offensive players over the last dozen or so games. The question is this: does he have a long-term future with this team?

We can’t look at Nilsson’s recent run of brilliance without also looking at his early season stretch of futility. Here are his numbers on the season, split by that lengthy stretch outside the lineup:

  • Before: 12GP – 1G – 3A – 4PTS, -12
  • After: 15GP – 5G – 5A – 10PTS, +2

There’s quite a contrast in those two stats lines. In the first sample, we see a player struggling in both ends of the rink, and in the other we see one of the rare Oilers exceeding expectations. So which is Nilsson?

The simple answer is that he’s both. There’s a similar split we can look at: the difference between 2007-08 and 2008-09. In the first instance he was the best member of the ‘Kid Line’, the only one who could be trusted to some degree defensively, and a guy who could play in a sheltered role and dominate. In the second, he was a borderline NHL’er, drifting in and out of the line-up. This inconsistency has been a Nilsson hallmark since he first broke into the league with the Islanders, showing flashes or disappearing for stretches. When he’s on, he’s a tremendous player: gifted offensively and capable of playing a solid two-way game. When he’s off, he’s something else entirely.

Nilsson’s numbers over his Oilers’ career look like this:

Year GP G A PTS +/- 5v5 PTS/60 5v4 PTS/60 QC Off. ZS Rel. Corsi
07-08 71 10 31 41 8 2.37 2.66 10th 53.6 6.1
08-09 64 9 20 29 1 1.22 4.59 7th 55 3.4
09-10 27 6 8 14 -10 1.72 4.57 10th 47.5 1.4

5v5 PTS/60 is Nilsson’s scoring rate in 5-on-5 situations. Anything over 2.00 is high-end territory, while anything below 1.50 is fairly sad. Nilsson’s been both over the course of his career, and while I fully believe he has the talent to hang out in the high end of that range, I don’t believe he can do it consistently.

5v4 PTS/60 is Nilsson’s scoring rate in 5-on-4 situations. The first number (2007-08) on that list is atrocious, while the latter two are very good. I think that the first number is the aberration, and that the latter two reflect Nilsson’s true range; I’ve thought that since the end of 2007-08, actually, which was why I thought he had room to improve on that effort. Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on his even-strength offence falling away.

Off. ZS shows the percentage of offensive/defensive zone face-offs in the offensive zone. Nilsson has consistently been among the team leaders in this category, and is again this year, although Quinn seems to care less about getting players out in particular zones than MacTavish did. QC is a measure of Quality of Competition, and the number reflects Nilsson’s ranking among regular forwards on his team. It’s a combination of how opposing coaches view his line and who his coach lines him up against, and we can see that Nilsson generally plays against poor players. MacTavish went for that matchup with Nilsson, and in Quinn’s case it seems to be a result of opposing coaches not worrying about Nilsson. From those two statistics (provided by Gabe Desjardins, as with the rest of this stuff) we can see that Nilsson’s been put in a position to succeed during his Oilers career, generally at the expense of guys put in a position to fail (Reasoner/Stoll/Torres in 2007-08 and Horcoff/Brodziak/Moreau last year).

The final number on the list is relative corsi, adjusted for ice-time and strength of team. Corsi is the sum of all shot attempts for and against, and reflects territorial advantage. Nilsson has positive but relatively modest totals here, but when we consider the difficulty of his minutes (lots of offensive zone starts, lots of weak opponents) those totals look vanilla.

It is my opinion that if Nilsson continues on his current run, Steve Tambellini should move him at the trade deadline. The Oilers have an abundance of small forwards, and they have an abundance of forwards who can’t be relied upon to play difficult minutes without a baby-sitter, and some of these guys need to be cleared out. Nilsson certainly has some value to a team short of these guys, but with Cogliano and O’Sullivan already on the roster (I’ve excluded Gagner because he’s significantly ahead of both the previous duo and Nilsson) and with all of Omark, Eberle and Paajarvi-Svensson joining the team in the near future and all meeting one or both of my earlier caveats, there’s no room for him.

In short: let Nilsson get hot a little while longer. Than maximize the return.

    • Totally agree. Nilsson is a flake imo. He's a tease, and that's exactly what this team (and maybe just as importantly, this fanbase) does not need.

      Sell him as high as possible (no, I mean that literally, get some GM high, and then sell him Nilsson, lol).

      Clear some cap space.

  • I really hate to get rid of someone with such high end talent, I've always been a Nilsson backer (yes, even at the start of the year when he was a total dud) but because of the talent coming in, I have to agree with you. I'd rather get rid of a promising Nilsson at the top of his game than a promising POS at the bottom of his game this year.

  • trading Nilsson is a huge concern right now. pfffahahaha. seriously, who needs (add your own emphasis) this guy? no one. hes a dime a dozen douche bag rollerhockey player stuck on the ice. all skill, no balls.

    here or not, they need to get rid of the guys who are heading to the glue factory soon.

  • I would also ship Nilsson out of here, but not until the trade deadline. Hopefully he will stay semi-hot and consistent until then, and a playoff team will overpay to have secondary scoring (i.e. trade us a decent draft pick and/or a promising prospect).

    Is it just me or does it seems as though the good Nilsson seems to arrive right around the time the team is diving and there is no longer any pressure? During the Kid Line emergence of 07-08, the team was way out of it with no pressure and out came Nilsson from under his rock. In 08-09, the Oilers hovered on a playoff spot for most of the year before they tanked. Nilsson was one of the guys who were expected to contribute but was no where to be seem. Now this year, he sucks from the beginning of training camp, and doesn't get going until Hemsky is out, Khabby is hurt, everyone has written him off, and he has zero expectations on him. Suddenly he's arguably our best offensive player…but again there is nothing to play for.

    Not sure what my point is here, but I can't wait to watch him score 2 – 4 more highlight reel goals and hopefully get something decent in return.

  • Even if Nilson became consistent, I'd bank on Eberle or MPS filling the same role with more success. If they both make the team next year, they'll need some protected minutes too. Question: I've suddenly read about two or three articles with Omark being listed as a top prospect with a good chance to make the team next year. How could he ever fit into this team's current roster? Seems to me he's exactly what we don't need.

    • Hemmertime

      Omark put up Markus Naslund #'s in his last year of Swedish Elite league. He has spent most of his career playing against men, not boys at junior level. Hes in his first year in the KHL and is in the top 25 in scoring. 7 points less than Jiri Hudler. Only knock against him is he is small… other than that he seems exactly what we need. A boom or bust prospect.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I said when Hemsky went down that Nilsson would be someone to watch, now that he has brought his value up (even if it's very minimal) maybe we look at moving him just for the sake of moving him and opening up some money for the future.

    • That's exactly it. On a team that was put together properly, he'd be developing talent and could start to become a future Hemsky-like, playmaking talent. I can really see him being successful on another team, unlike Schremp, who will never be legit top 6 talent. On this team, the existing cast will not allow him to develop properly.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        My issue with Nilsson is he has been given chances when there were injuries and when there wasn't injuries. For the most part he just doesn't try and ever once and awhile he realizes it is his last chance to do something.

        As for Schremp 3 points in 4 games, was suprised to see that.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Oh ya and I don't move him because of the above stats. I move him because Nilsson is an inconsistent player that frustrates the heck out of his coaching staff. We also have too many guys like him on the team and in the system.

  • socaldave

    as said many times before – he's a roster spot and not much else. A team full of Nilsson's will never win you a cup, so how could the subtraction of just ONE Nilsson hurt?

  • Oh ya and I don't move him because of the above stats. I move him because Nilsson is an inconsistent player that frustrates the heck out of his coaching staff. We also have too many guys like him on the team and in the system.

    Unless I'm missing something, the above stats are a reflection of his inconsistency.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Those stats are totals for a whole year are they not? They don't exactly show him going into a slump for 15 games and then playing hot 5 games and so forth.

  • Speaking of Rob the God Schremp, 8pts in 21 games. -5. Both of his 2 (two) goals are on the PP.


    Is it too early to call this retribution for everyone that saw Robbie for what he was? Or are you MacT haters still holding your breath for a breakout end of the season?

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      He is doing a lot better then I expected to tell you the truth. I think he had 2 streaks of 3 points in 4 games. Who knows maybe he becomes a 35-40 point player who plays lots of PP? Heck isn't that how Kotalik is making a living?

      • On pace for 30pts with lots of PP time? Not quite in Kotalik range, but neither is Kotalik right now, last time I checked. Also makes him VERY expendable. You'd better get more than 30pts out of a PP regular in a season.

        Kotalik also fills a point role on the PP because of his shot, so I think you value that a little higher than what Robbie brings.

        • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

          Not saying Schremp equals Kotalik right now, but maybe in a year or two he is a similar player minus that shot. That's about Schremp's max potential now.

          • I agree, that's probably the best he could hope for. Either way, glad we don't have to put up with the Schrempaholics anymore, even if they are being reborn as Eberleholics, or Paajarvi-Svenssonaholics, which really rolls off the tongue, IMO.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Schremp is the reason I don't get too excited about draft picks anymore. If MPS were playing in the canada somewhere right now maybe I would get excited as he would be playing NA hockey and has all those skills. But didn't Mikonov have awesome skills but had problems adjusting? Even non-oilers in Tikonov and Filatov had issues getting use to North America hockey.

          • Bucknuck

            I was defending the DFF standpoint. If the only thing we have to get excited about this year is a draft pick then I will get excited about a draft pick. Beggars can't be choosers.

            Eberle was a much better pick than Schremp, though. everything Eberle has done to impress has been since the Oilers picked him. His value is far higher this season than it was last season or his draft year.

            It just goes to show how a draft pick can go either way.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Maybe not exact same player, but both aren't exactly players you count on when it is even strength. Their strength is the PP.

  • Dan the Man

    At the beginning of the year we would have been happy to see him go to another team via waivers or to spend the season in Springfield.

    If he is currently playing somewhat sheltered minutes then it stands to reason that his play will tail off once the quality of competition he is facing gets tougher so I say deal him now.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Even Nilsson's "good days" aren't that good. Getting a reward of bottom end 1st line numbers/high end second line numbers for 15/20/30 games isn't really worth dealing with 4th line numbers with 0 intangibles the rest of the time.

    He's fun to watch (sometimes), but if theirs any kind of return out there for him – move him.

  • Move Nilsson over O'Sullivan? Maybe I'm not paying enough attention and there's this red-hot, outplaying his contract O'Sullivan playing for Edmonton that I'm just stupid and not aware of. Because the POS I watch night after night is a POS. Has been since the day he got here.

    Then there's the rich assumption that our two hottest JUNIOR prospects are going to walk into top 6 positions right out of camp. AND dominate in their first year in the show, enough to outstrip what Pat Quinn has described as one of the best players currently on the team. OK.

    Seriously. Is there no slight possibility that an athlete can improve? I mean, come on. The Robert Nilsson I've seen over the past while deserves the benefit of the doubt. He knows its his last at bat and it appears he's making the most of it. The more he plays the way he's playing right now, the more he'll believe he can continue to do so over the long run. Not to mention that he and Sam sure seem to work together pretty nicely.

    So we're OK with borderline players like Stone and JFJ taking up roster spots, but we're ready to trash one of the truly gifted NHL players we have on this team. Oh man.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Thing is you need guys like Stone and JFJ on your team I am starting to want guys that are better, but them being on the team shouldn't effect Nilsson or POS at all they should be playing different roles. We just don't have enough Stone's and Jacques and have too many Nilsson's and O'Sullivan's.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      The spot that Robert Nilsson fills is not one that needs filling. If you can move him for a good return that fills the spots we've already identified need filling, I don't see a rational argument against it.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      I don't think the "keep who's hot, trade who's cold" theory is that strong.

      When deciding who should be delt vs who they want to build around managment should be looking at the big picture, not just the last 15 games.

      • Its not an issue of hot and cold, rather it seems that POS is simply a bust. Its like stocks. Holding on to sentimental favorites is almost always an epic fail. All I'm saying is that you consider ditching POS over Nilsson. Problem is, as Jonathan has mentioned, he's playing so poorly that he's become pretty much untradeable.

        Welcome to the Edmonton Oilers, where you're more expendable the better you play.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          I would say the sentimental pick would be the guy that's currently hot.

          And that's really my point, just like with a stock you can't let emotion cloud your judgement (fear and greed). Sound business decisions needs to be made with the Oilers roster.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Just like with stocks, the general public tends to make rash, uninformed decisions based on assumed facts and biased outlooks?

            I guess this is why brokers trade, GMs manage, coaches coach and fans blog.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      No, again, you are putting words in everyone's mouthes with the statement that there is a rich assumption that our two hottest junior prospects will "dominate" in their first year. I don't think anyone said they would dominate. You have it in your head though so you can claim how everyone was wrong and you were right.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        Maybe not dominate but be qutie a bit better then what we have. Lots of people are so ready to draft Hall and have Eberle and MPS make the jump next year, what's going to happen when people once again get their hopes up?

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          I think Eberle might already have the quickest hands on the team. All I'm saying is if they are ready then they should make the team. No sending them to the AHL just for the sake of sending them there…Also, I think a number one overall pick stands a very good chance of jumping directly into the NHL…I think that at least the last 9 first overall picks have jumped directly into the NHL.

          I can't speak for everyone else as far as how far they have their hopes up…I do think that Eberle, Svensson, Hall all stand a good chance of being some sort of positive factor sometime during the next 3 yrs.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I agree, but you are the first one that has mention these key words "next 3 yrs".

            The odd guy has said not to trade away next years 1st as there is a good chance that even with those 3 we could be giving up a top 5 or top 10 pick.

  • @ David S:

    I like Nilsson. Not more than Cogliano, though. I also doubt O'Sullivan's all that tradeable right now, certainly not for more than 50 cents on the dollar.

    The team can only hang on to so many of these guys. Tough decisions need to be made, and this is one of the ones I'd make.

    I don't have an issue guessing that one of Omark/Eberle/MPS will earn a spot next year.

  • @ Ogden Brother Jr.:

    I'm a big believer in self-similarity. There are a lot of players like Nilsson out there, the hot/cold types, and it seems like their career takes on the same basic pattern – on and off, on and off.

    That was what I was trying to get at by referencing fractals; just that the same basic patterns we've seen are likely to be the ones we see for the rest of his career.

    It's certainly possible that he'll put it all together and radically alter his career path, but the way I see it the odds are against it. The more likely outcome is that he gets marginally better when he's hot/cold but stays the same kind of player.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I do question why Lowe is the one that talks about this kind of stuff more often then Tambo. I guess they do the group thing with Lowe still have quite a bit of influence.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          I always laugh when people come out with:

          "Lowe wont let Tambo trade…. that's why nothings been done!!!"

          Really? A GM that was arguably too activite wont let his replacement trade?

          Lowe has to be one of the only team presidents that has constant calls for his head.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I still think he talks too much and should leave that sort of talk to the GM. Thing is the Oilers tried to kinda make it known that Tambo was the guy in charge 100%, but then Lowe comes out with an interview like todays and it makes you wonder what is going on.

          • He gets constant calls for his head because he was the GM of the team for 10 years and they were mediocre at best during his reign.

            We were promised a better team once the cap kicked in, and aside from getting into the playoffs on the last day because Vancouver lost (then going on the most magical run in NHL history), the Oilers have not made the playoffs since the cap came into place.

            They have actually gotten worse each year.

            The man who was the architect of this disaster is Kevin Lowe.

            Instead of being fired for his results, he gets kicked upstairs/promoted to President of Hockey Operations.

            10 years of futility and failure is not reason for promotion.

            If Tambo answers to him, he is still involved.

            As a season ticket holder I'm getting really tired of paying all this money for crap and promises of a better future that never comes.

    • Bob Cobb

      Nilsson, POS, Moreau, Pisani and Pouliot are movable, Horcoff and Khabby, no, due to, if you had been paying attention, dollars per year and length of contract. In short we are stuck with both Khabby and Horcoff whether we like it or not.

      On to Nilsson, its the same thing year after year, he'll have flashes of brilliance and disappear, if they can get something for him, a pick at worst, they should do it. That is a far better idea than trading Brule, which was an idea floated around not to long ago.

  • @ Original Ogden Brother:

    Yes and no. I believe that he's a compelling enough player that the Oilers should bring him over and have a look at him.

    With foreign guys I usually look at Desjardins league equivalency numbers, which are based on players who come over from the KHL/SEL/wherever and their performance in the NHL. Here are Omark's:

    07-08: 82GP – 10G – 20A – 30PTS
    08-09: 82GP – 21G – 29A – 50PTS
    09-10: 82GP – 33G – 19A – 52PTS

    That tells me he has a reasonable shot at 40 points over here, and every time I've seen him play I've had the same impression; namely that he could be an NHL player.

    I'm not saying he'll pan out the way Gabe's numbers show him, because there are obviously other factors (adjustemnt to N.A. being one of them). But it's enough for me to think he deserves a look-see.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      You have a link for that guys site? I was wondering about it the other day. How accurate are those numbers once a player comes over?

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Interesting, I've seen those "cross league" projection numbers for CHL/NCAA etc, but never other pro leagues.

      To me he's a smaller Robert Nilsson (and those numbers seem to support that).

  • Of course the problem, as in all stock market transactions, is did you sell the stock right before it really exploded?

    If consistent Nilsson exists, I would be against trading his 2M salary.

  • John K wrote:

    Of course the problem, as in all stock market transactions, is did you sell the stock right before it really exploded?

    If consistent Nilsson exists, I would be against trading his 2M salary.

    Agreed. That's both the question and the answer.

    The fact is that we can't know which is happening; all we have to guide us is past history, which suggests that Nilsson will get hot and then he'll get cold again.

    So we bet against Nilsson staying hot, but it's still a gamble.

    • Jonathan,

      You said:

      "The fact is that we can't know which is happening; all we have to guide us is past history, which suggests that Nilsson will get hot and then he'll get cold again."

      That is true.

      What also may be true is that there has be re-occurring "personal issues" that happen to coincide with his decreased play and view from the PB. Also rumored to be the reason the Isles let him go so cheap. 1st rounders usually have some cache, but he had family ties to the organization and the Oilers have always like reclamation projects.

      If that is true, and the "issues get resolved" then a change in long term performance can be achieved.

      On the outside we don't know if he has done that. I bet the management does though, and that is probably the crux of their decision.

      Helluva player when he's on, no question.

      This team could use more wingers, if they don't have to find 2RW right away, that will remove 1 hole they need to fill for next year.

  • RE: Omark.

    Apparently, I was looking at Gabe's old equivalencies. His most recent set can be found here.

    Correcting Omark's numbers gives us this (all over 82GP):

    • 07-08: 13G – 24A – 37PTS
      08-09: 28G – 39A – 67PTS
      09-10: 30G – 17A – 47PTS
  • As for the accuracy of these numbers, they're based on averages; they give us the most likely translation with similar ice-time.

    It's a guess, an educated guess based on past experience and nothing more. Based on that guess and what I've seen of Omark, I think we could pencil him into the spot Nilsson currently inhabits without too much trouble, and see how it works out.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Thanks. Second question, how much better is Omark defesnively? He may put up 10 more points then Nilsson, but overall is he much better?

  • Dan the Man

    Per Dan Tencer on Twitter:

    Calgary restaurant Osteria de Medici is under investigation by Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission for over-service of alcohol…Investigation surrounds night Oilers were in attendance…could take up to months to complete. Restaurant faces fine or loss of license.