NO FIXED ADDRESS: WHY THE WAIT ON RN-H?

If being the Edmonton Oilers best forward through seven games this season isn’t enough to keep Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the NHL beyond his next two games, I’m not sure what is.

So why, then, hasn’t coach Tom Renney given Nugent-Hopkins the tap on the shoulder and told him to find a place in Edmonton? What, exactly, am I missing? While I cannot and do not claim to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, I don’t get it. Do you?

I remain perplexed even after listening to Renney answer questions today about the status of Nugent-Hopkins, who leads the Oilers in scoring with 5-2-7 after a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over the New York Rangers Saturday at Rexall Place.

While Renney has other decisions to make with his forward lines and is trying to fit all the pieces together, I can’t for the life of me comprehend why any of the questions moving forward should involve Nugent-Hopkins, based on what the kid has shown.

Somebody explain.

MULLING IT OVER

First, we had GM Steve Tambellini stressing from almost the moment the Oilers selected him first overall last June that it shouldn’t be construed as a failure if Nugent-Hopkins didn’t play the season with the Oilers. How many times did you hear Tambellini say it?

Now, we’ve got Renney saying all the right things about what he’s seen from Nugent-Hopkins, yet he’s obviously not convinced enough to tell the kid to find himself a place in town.

"I don’t think that we’ve really identified an internal time-line," Renney told reporters today. "We talk about all our players every day and he’s certainly one of the ones we talk about a lot.

"I can tell you that’s it’s all favourable, you know? The kid’s doing a good job. At the end of the day, and I’ve said many, many times, it’ll be the body of work we’ll look at.

"There are other players who are involved in this process, too, that we have to make decisions, so it’s not just about him. It’s about a number of other players we have to pay attention to in terms of whether or not they’re part of the line-up."

SAY WHAT?

What other players? Linus Omark? Sam Gagner? Who? What do they have to do with the buzz Nugent-Hopkins and linemates Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have created as a line?

And as far as the "body of work" Renney refers to, what does he mean by that? Considering Renney and Oilers management had seen enough of Hall’s body of work last season to tell him he wasn’t going anywhere after four games — Hall had one assist at the time — that doesn’t wash.

I haven’t had the chance to ask anybody in management, Tambellini or president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, in recent days if they’re sold on keeping Nugent-Hopkins yet.

If they aren’t, I’d certainly be interested in hearing what more they need to see. If they are convinced that The Nuge is a keeper and should never darken the door of the Red Deer Rebels again, I’d like to know how they are taking Renney’s reluctance to commit.

Is there a disconnect with the coach?

WHAT ABOUT POTTER?

Cam Barker got most of the ink when it came to free agent signings Tambellini made to bolster his blue line. Through seven games, Corey Potter and his bargain-basement $525,000 deal has provided most of the results.

Potter, 27, selected 122nd overall by the Rangers in 2003, was an afterthought when he signed with the Oilers this summer. He isn’t one any more. So, is Potter a classic case of a late-bloomer the Oilers should be looking at as a fixture on a the blue line for the next year or two or is he a flash in the pan?

After asking around this summer, I had an inkling Potter might turn out to be a dark horse in the blue line sweepstakes a couple of weeks after he signed with the Oilers. On July 17, I wrote:

"One wildcard will be former Michigan State product and free agent Corey Potter, who signed a one-year, two-way deal July 1. Renney knows Potter, 27, from his days with the New York Rangers. He likes him a lot."

That said, I wasn’t sure Potter could or would do enough as an outsider to displace Jeff Petry or Taylor Chorney. He’s obviously managed that, so the question remains: have the Oilers seen enough early to offer Potter a one-year deal at, say, $700,000 or two years at $1.6 million or so?

I’m guessing stats guys will it’s too early to know, but Potter strikes me as a guy who has found the right circumstances and looks poised to make the most of it this season. If he does, he’ll cost more than $700,000 a season in a new contract next summer.

While it doesn’t hurt that the Oilers could save some money if they move on Potter now, that’s not a good enough reason to do it. That Potter looks like he might be the kind of defenseman they hoped Barker was — a guy who can play top-4 minutes and get something done on the power play — is good enough reason. It’s worth considering.

AND . . .

— Those who scoff Nikolai Khabibulin’s .969 saves-percentage through his first four games isn’t sustainable are selling him short. Of course it isn’t sustainable. So what?

While I count myself among those who doubted Khabibulin could rebound from a 2010-11 campaign in which he had a pitiful .890 saves percentage, he has so far SIUTBOHC. He has been outstanding with the minutes he’s been given and deserves credit.

Will it last? Not like this. Again, so what? If he comes in at something around .910 when this season is in the books, that would represent a pretty decent comeback season, no?

— Tom Gilbert is the poster boy for an Edmonton blue line that was much-maligned (deservedly so) going into the season. He’s been much better than I expected. Now, if Barker would get something done.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • justDOit

    If they send down RNH then all this talk about wanting to try for a playoff spot is hot air. No way in heck does a team pushing for a playoff spot send down a kid that’s been in on 50% of the goals, now that’s the definition of insanity. He’s solid in his own end fantastic in the offencive zone, not much else he can do, he’s not Horc or Belanger in the dots but thank god those to aren’t him everywhere else.

  • Dutchscooter

    Barker looks like he’s skating in cement most of the time out there…..and that’s on pretty decent ice. What happens when he plays on the slush pond in Dallas?

    Maybe I just accidently turn on the slo-mo on my PVR every time the camera pans to him on the ice. That must be it…..

    • Crash

      I guess Barker is the newest whipping boy…not sure what people thought…Can’t see at this point how anyone on this defense corp should be getting ripped at all…what more do people want? Shots against are wayyyyy down, goals against are wayyyy down.

      I’ve noticed on several occasions Barker being the lone d-man defending an odd man rush because his partner was caught up ice….is Barker flasy?…no he isn’t. Are there any mistakes that anyone has noticed that stand out….I’m thinking a big resounding NO is the answer to that.

      Barker defends well, does he crush people? No he doesn’t but he uses his body very effectively to separate opponents from the puck, he is rarely out of position, he rarely gives the puck away. So he’s not flasy…big freakin deal. Don’t remember many if any players blowing by him which is surprising given how so many contend he’s so slow.

      It amazes me how this place (ON) has to constantly be ripping on someone…there always seem to be lots of people making bold statements in here….oh the defense is horrible, omg, Calgary signed Hannan, how did that loser Tambellini miss that one? Gagner sucks, Omark sucks, Horcoff sucks, Tambellini sucks, Khabby sucks, we should have bought him out and signed all world Martin Gerber based on his 2 stellar games last year. Trade Hemsky for magic beans….and on and on it goes.

      Everyone has it figured out, right? Oilers are a lottery team, media says so, so many fans say so, they have no chance this year, right?

      Everyone has it all figured out, don’t they? Any chance we can just sit back and watch to see how guys are going to do before we brand them as being useless?

      It looks to me that this team is starting to come together and could be a very good team sooner rather than later…despite what all of the experts in here are saying before and now.

      End Rant…

    • Wanye gets no money on BOHICA because the trademark belongs to the Jim Rome Show. SIUTBOHC, on the other hand, puts royalties directly into Wanye’s greasy little mitts, thus helping fund plans for an ON clubhouse/massage parlour adjacent to the new downtown arena.

  • O.C.

    The one thing I wrestle with…

    …is there a concern that a no name with no chance in junior runs the first overall, or is it that there is a concern that a bigger man who is the next Avery will do it at the pro level…

    … I think the professional code is a little safer.

  • book¡e

    I wonder if Tambelowkatzallini decided before the season that the best choice for the team and the player was to send RNH down and if they made somewhat of a predetermined decision to send him down regardless of what he did in the 9 games. Kind of a ‘we need to make this decision now because in a few weeks we will be all giddy about the kid and not want to send him down’ thing.

  • Mitch

    Brownlee I’m with you I’m tired about hearing about players DNA, body of work, 200×85 when you put RNH and Taylor Hall with a winger it don’t have to even be Eberle there is a very high posibility that goals will be scored. RNH stays Renney can just dam well give us the positive news.

    Omark is a gonner, slow, small and don’t finish at this level.

    Kudos to Khabby I was one who thought he lost his game forever.

    Potter looks like the Oilers best Dman as Whitney gets himself into game shape. Cam Barker is much like Gilbert with a edge.

    One last thought RNH leads this team in scoring, yes he is that dynamic I say 65-70 points but Hall must be on his wing for this to happen.

  • Slapshot

    As a long suffering season seat holder. I dare the Oilers to send the Nuge back to Red Deer,there would be such a fan backlash that K lowe,Tambo and Renney would have to find new jobs,they would never be allowed back into Rexall.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    What’s the scoop on Barker. This guy has looked real tentative on the ice. What made this guy the 3rd overall pick behind Ovechkin and Malkin? What did Tambo et.al. see in this guy to sign him to not that a small one year deal?

  • Slapshot

    My question is how does Lowe say he would be really surprised if RNH gets sent down? Do they not talk up there, would everyone involved in management and coaching not discuss this??

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    No way they send RNH down. He’s too good in all three zones.

    Barker looks like he’s playing hide and seek with his confidence and he’s losing. Watching him with the puck on the breakout is painful. He hangs on too long. It looks like he doesn’t want to make a mistake so he’s looking for the perfect pass. Barker or Baker, he looks more Baked than anything. I’m still hopeful he finds his confidence. It can only help the team.

  • Spydyr

    If the great one says your NHL ready. I’m pretty sure your NHL ready. If RNH goes back fans will be not be happy.No one outside the team even knows if they told him yet.They very well may have.They told Hall after 4 games last year and that never came out till this year.It is obvious the Oil need to trade excess forwards for a top 4 defencemen. Why show your hand early?

  • Crash

    I don’t get the angst over whether RNH has been told he is staying or not. It’s their team and therefore their decision when they will make the anouncement on RNH’s status with the team.

    If I were making the call I would want to see how RNH/Lander/Omark ‘et al’ do against the best of the west and the best of the east this week plus a Colorado team off to a fast start. That’s three games in four nights. If he can play against those teams and do well then I think that would really go a long way to answering the question should he stay or go. I think that will be a very good test of his ability to bear up under that load.

    I don’t think that RNH’s point output is the only basis for a decision. Can he continue to deal with the physical pressure these two teams (Van & Wash) are sure to put him under. Renney has given him soft minutes this year and that may have given the womewhat false impression that he is truly ready for prime time. That may be the ultimate test and I wouldn’t make up my mind until that bridge is crossed.

  • Talbot17

    The Oil’s forward roster is much more crowded than a year ago and that is likley contributing to the delay in confirming RNH. Until they announce, whomever is the 14th or 15th forward (Omark Pettrel ??) is still in the mix and hopefully plays like it. The earlier announcemnet last year for Hall may have also been to bolster his confidence after posting a goose egg in 4 games.

    Let’s not go ga ga over Potter, this is only a handful of games. If after 40 things are still lloking rosey, then start talking about next year. Has there really been that big a difference between Barker and Potter? Is Potter receiving the benefit of no expectation and anything positive is a bonus, whilst Barker will alkways be the #3 pick and if he in anything less than a star he will be looked on as a bust?

    • Barker hasn’t been awful. He just hasn’t come in and made a big impression the way you might expect he would seeing as he’s trying to jump-start his career.

      His draft status does tend to change the way people view him — I find myself looking for something he does, anything, that would warrant him being taken third overall. So far, don’t see it.

      Still, he could settle in and become a reliable, if unspectactular, second or third pairing guy. That would be considered a success seeing as he’s struggled so badly the past two years.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Slightly off-topic:

        I’m wondering if we have a tendency to hold high draft status against sub-optimal players in a way that is not reciprocated concerning optimal players of low draft status.

        That’s a jumble (can’t seem to find the words to make it clearer). Let me try to be clearer.

        My sense is that players who fail to meet expectations (Barker, Fallon, Bonsignore off the top of my head) carry a huge albatross around their head in terms of how people think about them and whether they make a team. It sticks to them throughout their career – “failure.”

        I guess the reverse animates my question. I rarely think about how late Zetterberg was drafted (only LTs recent articles even brought it back to mind). My impression of him as a player isn’t tied to his late draft status in the same way that my impression of Barker is to his early draft status.

        Recently, I looked at Smyth’s draft year:

        http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/draft/nhl1994e.html

        I was shocked to see how many late picks made it over 200 nhl games (LTs marker for success).

        So, do we tether players to their early draft status in a way that we don’t to their late draft status? I know I do. Is that problematic? If we adjusted our expectations of players as the play will we get more out of them and also curb our outrage/frustration with performance?

  • Talbot17

    Mind games with an 18 year old. Cripes I think Renny needs to give his own head a shake. What does he see that 9/10 people don’t? Yes you are the head coach. Yes you have the power to control a young mans future. But really its time to give RNH his due and tell the kid he’s here to stay.

    Cam Barker. The wizard of Oz would grant him confidence. Looks solid but also looks like he is holding back afraid to make a mistake.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      i might still be on the good stuff, but am i reading a michael post with PARAGRAPHS?

      next thing you know Archaeologuy will be leading the petition to get Omark into the allstar game

      • Not after last night I wont. I spent 3 hours wrestling with a Besta Burs and two chairs from IKEA. I hold Linus Omark personally responsible for that Swedish death trap.

        Also, I hold him responsible for putting the nice side of the desk facing outwards in the box and the huge scratch that occured when the cheap cardboard ripped open in the back of the truck.

        Why would the good side face out? What kind of @ss-hat does that? I hope he stays in the PB for the rest of the season because of that fiasco.

  • There cant be any reason the Coach would want to send him down. I can see why management would have some reasons, but not the coach. He must have already been told, because it doesnt make sense.

    The lack of intellect comment is a little funny. I have to admit that to me the logic behind taking out a productive player to see how your team does without him isnt very strong. I mean, I wouldnt take out parts of my car’s engine to see how valuable they are to it. Especially when the goal is to actually drive somewhere that day.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    There are some very good reasons to send RNH back, and none of them have to do with the player.

    CnB has an article up on the subject:
    http://www.coppernblue.com/2011/10/25/2511072/why-ryan-nugent-hopkins-should-go-back-to-red-deer

    Unless you are delusional enough to beleive this is a playoff team, you should want this kid back in Red Deer. Not because there isn’t a chance he could be good this year, but because it won’t materially change the team’s fortunes this year, and because if his ELC pops to early the Oilers will not be able to afford the supporting cast necessary to win a Cup in a couple of years.

    Winning some games this year would be nice. Winning a Cup 2 or 3 years from now would be a whole lot nicer. We need to stop with the instant gratification culture and start seeing the bigger picture. Save more, wrack up less debt and stop demanding your hockey team burn ELC years on a team that can’t win the big prize.

    Thus endeth the rant…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    This silence tells me they were leaning towards sending him back. The plan may have been to let the ship burn on the high seas and harvest yet another lottery pick. Hopkins has made this decision for them and they may now be in meetings re-jigging their goals for this season.

    They’re probably writing the official Oilers position on this issue on the palm of their hands as we speak.