LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES

I believe it was Momma Gump who said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get." Forrest’s mom must have had the Edmonton Oilers in mind when she coined that bit of wisdom.

That about sums up what we saw tonight as the Oilers, coming off a stretch of games that’s been spotty at best, waltzed into the Scott Trade Center and beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 to win in the Show Me State for the first time since 2009. Who saw that coming? Not me. I thought Ken Hitchcock’s team would chew up Ralph Krueger’s bunch and spit them out.

The opportunistic Oilers, backstopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 43 saves for his 46th career shutout – again, who called that one? – not only beat the Blues on the heels of a disjointed effort in Nashville, they hung together and showed plenty of jam when St. Louis finally got revved up and picked up the physical pace.

The Oilers had goaltending, to say the least. The rink was tilted toward the Oilers end all night, but Khabibulin refused to budge. Speaking of stubborn, and every bit as important as the score, the Oilers showed plenty of push-back when the Blues, led by captain David Backes, tried to flex some muscle.

They got virtuoso performances from Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, who looked as good as they have all season reunited with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between them. Feeble attack side, everybody looked engaged. Where was this in Music City or against the Blues at Rexall Place Saturday?

Tough read, this bunch.

THE WAY I SEE IT

. . . There’s been absolutely nothing not to like about Khabibulin in relief of Devan Dubnyk this season, but that doesn’t mean I want to see him carrying more of the load in the games that remain. Khabibulin started out last season red-hot, then the wheels came off. At this point in his career, he’s best spotted in without being overworked.

What I wouldn’t mind seeing, and I think it’s something that GM Steve Tambellini should consider, is re-signing Khabibulin as Dubnyk’s back-up for next season. The price has to be right, of course, and I wouldn’t be looking at more than one year, but if Khabibulin can still get the job done as a back-up with limited duty, I’d offer him a contract. That said, between now and then, I’d certainly accept calls from teams looking for a veteran back-up before the trade deadline.

. . . When Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins play together, the Oilers are a better team, period. I understand why it’s tempting for Krueger to split them up in the name of a more balanced attack, but if the second and third lines are wanting, then tinker with those units and leave the top line alone.

ONE LAST THING

Jason Gregor has been talking for some time about the Oilers needing to unload one of their young core forwards to change the mix in the top nine. I happen to agree with him on that. The question is, who moves to land a player who brings experience and a different dimension?

Gregor offered a scenario to Jason Strudwick today, asking if he’d be willing to trade Nail Yakupov for New Jersey’s David Clarkson, assuming Clarkson was signed to a new contract – he’s a pending UFA.

I said I’d do it in a heartbeat, which I would. Not because I don’t think Yakupov will turn out to be a very good player, but because I think Clarkson would bring exactly what the Oilers need – grit and skill capable of playing significant minutes – and because if I HAD to part with one of the kids, it would be Yakupov before Hall, Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins.

That, of course, drew a lot of razz from kooks people on Twitter, who seem to think the Oilers can land impact players for spare parts and the rights to Linus Omark. While I blocked them respect their opinions, I’d roll the dice and make that move.

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

  • Old Soldier

    I wouldnt touch Evander Kane with a 10 ft pole, hasnt this team had enough history with questionable players in the locker room, despite his talent.

    I have a question

    A little off topic, but if the Oilers continue to struggle, they will likely have a chance to grab a very very good center, Mackinnon, Barkov, Monahan or Nichushkin. One or more of these players may be NHL ready now. If they are, do we move a center, and if so Gagner or RNH.

    On the surface I know it sounds silly, but Gagner has turned into a solid #2 center. RNH has incredible potential, but would get you a lot on the market. Definitely possibly a Clarkson or Foligno(Buf).

    If you knew you were going to get Mackinnon for example, who would you move?

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      I don’t know about that trade (Kane for Eberle) because I think it’s a fantasy to think Kane would be traded…

      But there’s no reason to dump on Kane. He’s a great young player who wants to win and adds some flash. Not sure when we decided these were bad things… seems like a lot of empty talk to fill the airwaves with narrative storylines to me.

      also, if we get either Mackinnon or Barkov that is not a good enough reason to unload our already depleted centre depth… nor is it a good reason to trade valuable young talent for less valuable older talent.

  • Having guys give a crap every single game is sadly, a rarity in this new NHL. Yakupov is one of those few….I would never trade that kid. Yak City saw Eberle get crushed and next shift Yakky Boy goes out and throws a huge hit to answer! Kid is unreal! He’s a goal scorer first, and he’s never going to be amazing in the defensive zone, but he’s an extremely coachable kid.

  • 24% body fat

    @Old Soldier
    Centers can learn to play wing imho, they might not need to move anyone. Nice option to have though.

    Your RNH for Clarkson or Foligno trade proposal might tick off the nation even more than the Yak for Clarkson trade idea has.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    @ Romulus’ Apotheosis, Old Soldier

    I heard Scott Taylor on the Team this morning. He was saying papa Kane took a trip out to Winnipeg to straighten his kid out a little.

  • 24% body fat

    I understand the rationale that you need to give value to get value as well as I understand that the current blend of forwards likely isn’t the one that makes the Oilers a contender in the short-term but come on… Nail Yakupov for David Clarkson? Let’s have some perspective here.

    Are you talking about the same David Clarkson that has a career high of 46 points and the same Nail Yakupov who would be on pace for the 46 points in an 82 season as an 18 year old playing limited minutes?

    Yes, I know point totals aren’t everything and Clarkson brings other intangibles to the table but the such qualities are far more replaceable than the raw talent, game breaker potential that Yakupov has.

    If the Oilers trade one of the young, core players it has to be Eberle. His value is higher than Yakupov at the moment, he’s significantly older, and he’s about to be paid 6 Million a year. Now I know Oiler fans have an emotional attachment to Eberle (and deservingly so considering his contributions to TC) but, if you truly want to add that elusive young power-forward, it is crucial to objectively evaluate your talent and their corresponding value. It is clear that the Eberle is the one to trade, not Yakupov.

  • Bucknuck

    On another note, would anyone here trade the make-up (mix of size, skill, goal tending and potential) of our team for the make up of anyone of: The New York Ranger, The Flyers, SanJose, or Tampa Bay?

    The point I’m trying to make here is that their doesn’t seem to really be a winning formula for a team year to year. Moreover, some teams that should be dominating due to their good ‘on paper make-up’ don’t seem to have what it takes. Then there are teams that shouldn’t be winning right now like Ottawa, who are. There isn’t a team out there that looks at their roster and says, this team does not need an upgrade at any position. But at some point you have to look at a group and say, we can win with this group if we play a certain way. Though I don’t think the Oilers are at that point yet, I think they are really close.

  • 24% body fat

    I love using prorated stats in arguments.

    Jason Gregor – “Interesting that you say last year was a fluke when he has 12 goals this year, (prorated to 30 goals in 82 games season) which would be tied for the lead on the Oilers.”

    If we’re going to play with prorated stats, let’s use Corey Potter for example. In 33 games last year he had 15 points, prorated to 37 points in 82 games season.

    We should’ve traded him for Columbus’ first round pick.

  • 24% body fat

    At the end of the day, there is nothing to suggest that Clarkson is a 25-30 goal scorer other than 1 good year and prorated stats.

    If you’re suggesting that we try and get him based on the POTENTIAL of him getting 25-30 goals a year than fine, but does it need to involve Yakupov?

    I don’t find it unreasonable to switch Yak with Hemsky in a potential deal. A little sweetener is required from one side though.

  • 24% body fat

    The Oilers are a team of the future, not the present. You might make the Clarkson trade if the Oilers are on the verge of winning now, they aren’t, so trading present value; Clarkson for future value; Yakupov makes no sense.

  • Bucknuck

    I think part of the reason for the venom I am reading is that most of the posters have not seen Clarkson play. They look at his stats and they are a little underwhelming. He’s about the same size as Gagner, and he’s had one and a half good seasons.

    On paper he’s not that great, although 30 goals in a season is a pretty great stat. He’s no assist machine, though.

    HOWEVER – The guy is very tenacious to watch. Similar to Cal Clutterbuck except he will fight and he can play on the top three lines for a few years. I don’t think I would trade Yakupov for him.

    One of the best hitting gritty forwards in the game is Dustin Brown, but you’ll never get a guy like him out of LA. He’s their captain. Backes is another one. Also the team captain. Iginla is another one. Also their captain. How about Landeskog? Would he fit in this category? Also their captain.

    I see a trend.

  • Bucknuck

    Yak for a signed Clarkson…..sure stirred things up….got a lot of thoughts and comments.

    My sense is that we need not worry. Neither Yak or Hall or Ebbs or Nuge or J Schultz will be traded.

    Also, chances are that any deal that gets done by next Tuesday will involve players not mentioned here. GM’s have an advantage over us in that they get together and talk about wants and needs and creative ways to improve both teams. The Trade pool is deeper than the UFA list that we get focused on in blogs.

    Still….it makes for interesting banter….YAK for Clarkson….not going to happen.

    • Bucknuck

      My prediction is that more players will be going than will be coming to us at the deadline. And, any deal that adds a piece to our roster will be a Surprise to all of us. Hopefully a pleasant one.

  • Bucknuck

    yakapov for clarkson? clarkson isn’t that big and i’m pretty sure tambo is the only gm in the league dumb enough to actually make that trade, so please stop filling his head with this crap, it’s bad enough tambo and lowe are trying to sink our team, but please guys let’s not show them where the iceburgs are.

  • Bucknuck

    I agree with much of the sentiment. I think the reason why the Oilers aren’t having an optimal rebuild so far are basically 4:

    1. mismatch in styles between W. Conference and Oilers, not enough emphasis put on winning puck battles, they seemingly realized this just recently
    2. lack of top end talent in the draft classes they held the top pick in (compared to previous years)
    3. poor team composition, weak on C, D, G (part of this is really a result of 2.)
    4. and the lack of identity and culture established by Tambo from the beggining

    Did an in-depth analysis on those four points, and IMO while Tambo was hit with some stuff that was out of his control, he’s also been rather disappointing as a GM.

    Here if you want to read it in-depth: http://puckstorming.blogspot.com/2013/03/edmonton-oilers-state-of-rebuild.html

  • Bucknuck

    I dont think you trade Yakupov for Clarkson, but the principle behind it is correct. The Kings traded Patrick O’Sullivan for Justin Williams back in the day (yeah O’Sullivan bombed but at the time he was coming off a 20 goal season)

    • Bucknuck

      Poor comparison. Nobody ever considered O’Sullivan to be in the league of first overall picks; a small quick top-six forward maybe, but that’s all. You have to raise the bar a lot higher than Clarkson to justify trading Yapupov.

      • Bucknuck

        This is precisely what I’m saying though. I made that comparison because it was a rebuilding team trading a young forward with potential who just scored 20 goals, nobody is saying O’Sullivan is Yakupov, obviously they should get something much better than Williams back, but the principle is the same. This is the type of trade that the Oilers should eventually make to address their needs.

  • Bucknuck

    One of the few times I’ve seen Gregor really get lamebasted on the Nation….but this one is deserved. I just shudder to think what the hockey world would have thought of the Oilers organization if Gary Bettman had announced on draft day that the Oilers had traded their No. 1 overall pick to the New Jersey Devils for David Clarkson.

  • Rocket

    Walter “Wes” Sobchak wrote:

    “While being big is important since 2005, the Bruins were really the only team to have won with the likes of Lucic and Thornton in there line up.

    While Lucic would be a terrific player his cap hit is also ridicules.

    The other past cup winners used a combination of size, skill, team toughness to win.”

    Exactly. Being a big team helps but skill is still much more important. Obviously both would be ideal.