GDB 3.0: RETURN OF THE NUGE

Drawing by Kayleigh Semeniuk.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins makes his season debut tonight hoping to add some colour and competitiveness to a lacklustre Oilers lineup. Dallas Eakins didn’t hesitate in re-uniting Nugent-Hopkins with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Eakins stated earlier this year that he has four lines, not a first, second, third or fourth, but it’s pretty obvious that 4-93-14 is the most talented and dangerous trio.

Tonight it is up to the three of them to prove it.

The Oilers were dominated for 60 minutes in Vancouver. They didn’t match the intensity level of the Canucks, and they made numerous mental mistakes. Sound familiar?

Eventually the players need to realize that the coach can’t make them play harder or smarter. The organization can’t keep blaming the coach for lacklustre efforts. Until this group commits to playing hard every night, they will not be a playoff team. They lost too many battles, made horrible passes and didn’t come close to competing as hard as Vancouver.

I understand this is their third new system in the past three years, but their overall effort shouldn’t be compromised due to learning a new system. I suspect Eakins is realizing that it is easy to say his team will compete every night, but it is much harder to convince them to actually do it.

It is a long season, and average teams will have off nights, but it is painfully obvious the Oilers need to play better. With the return of the Nuge, Eakins switched up his top three lines.

LINEUP

Hall-Nugent-Hopkins-Eberle
Perron-Gordon-Hemsky
Hamilton-Arcobello-Yakupov
Gadzic-Acton-Brown

Ference-J.Schultz
Smid-Petry
N.Schultz-Belov

LaBarbera

Eakins said Hemsky has been his best forward through two games. It is a small sample size, but that is why he is ahead of Yakupov on the depth chart. When your team is struggling I don’t think you put your best forward on the third line, just so you can possibly jumpstart Yakupov. Yakupov will need to earn more icetime.

Eakins mentioned that Smyth was one of five guys who could have been sat, but he chose Smyth because he knew he would handle it like a pro. After practice Smyth admitted it is a tough pill to swallow, but he’ll practice hard and vowed he’d be better when he returns to the lineup.

I’m sure there was more to it than who would handle it better, Smyth hasn’t played great, but I think that was Eakins first subtle message that his young players need to play better. Specifically, Hall, Eberle and Yakupov.

QUICK HITS 

  • Jesse Joensuu didn’t finish Saturday’s game and he wasn’t on the ice at practice yesterday.  His back flared up in Vancouver, and there is no timeline for his return. Backs can be very finicky.
     
  • The Oilers recalled Brandon Davidson yesterday. Ladislav Smid and Andrew Ference didn’t practice, but Eakins said they were just getting maintenance days. One of them likely has a minor tweak, so Davidson was recalled, but he won’t play.
     
  • The Oilers must have slid Jesse Joensuu to the IR, because they have 23 players on the roster with Ryan Hamilton and Davidson up from the farm.
     
  • LaBarbera gets his first start as an Oiler. He has a career record of 59-70-25 with a .909 SV% and 2.83 GAA. He stopped all 12 shots he faced in Vancouver and he just needs to be consistent tonight. Make the routine saves.
     
  • Ryan Smyth had 11:25 of TOI in Vancouver. I think he’ll play between 11-13 minutes when he gets back in the lineup.
     
  • Marty Brodeur will start in goal for the Devils. He hasn’t won a game in Edmonton since December 21st, 2007. He’s only started one game since then, but the Oilers will try to extend the future Hall of Famer’s losing streak to two games in Edmonton.
     
  • The Oilers and Devils are two of the seven NHL teams without a win. Brodeur lost  3-2 to the Islanders in a shoot out in his only start of the season.
     
  • The Oilers have started a season 0-3 three times. In 1980, they lost to Quebec, Colorado and Buffalo before tying the Islanders. In 1992, they lost to Vancouver, Calgary and Vancouver before picking up a tie vs. Toronto. Their franchise worst start came in 1996, when they lost four straight to Detroit, St.Louis, Detroit and Philadelphia, before beating the Devils.
     
  • Will Acton has shown he understands his role and he’s played well. Goading Ryan Kesler into a fight late in the first period was an excellent trade off. Acton isn’t a scrapper, but he and Arcobello are playing like guys who know every game could be their last. Many of the other forwards need to play with the same determination.
     
  • I understand people are sick of losing, but it is a tad early to suggest the season is over. The Oilers started 4-0 in 2010, only to finish last. It is a long season.
     
  • That being said, Saturday was another tough day for Edmonton sports fans. The Eskimos got embarrassed at home, while the Oilers stunk in Vancouver. Neither team showed much desire. I am always amazed at the passion and loyalty of Edmonton fans. Since 2004, you’ve had little to cheer for, outside of one miracle run to the Stanley Cup, yet you still support the teams. It is time the player’s effort level matches your loyalty.
     
  • I think it is time we start talking about this fight. It is becoming a serious issue.

WISHES…

 GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers can’t play worse than they have in the last four periods, and the return of Nugent-Hopkins sparks them to a 5-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall, RNH and Eberle combine for two goals.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Boyd Gordon has never scored a goal in three consecutive NHL games. This is the fourth time he’s scored in back-to-back games, but never this early in a season. Gordon scored in consecutive games on March 16th and 18th, 2007, Dec 30th, 2008 and January 1st, 2009 and then on February 2nd and 4th, 2010. He sets a new goal scoring steak tonight, and he also ties his career-high with a three-game point streak. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR   

 

  • StHenriOilBomb

    Today is my birthday. My mum is visiting from the west coast, and she made us dinner. I was a little bummed to be missing most of the game, it was obviously how things were going to go down.

    I tuned in absentmindedly during the second while we were cleaning up, and got pretty bummed when it went down 3-0.

    My mum looked at me and drunkenly stated that the Oilers would come back and win the game for me for my birthday if I went and sat in my lucky seat.

    My lucky seat is outside on the balcony where I watch in October and March (June would be fun, eh?) It’s windy and cold right now, but I came out here to watch out of random superstition.

    The game continued. You know the script.

    Then after Eberle scores in the shootout, my mom, who likes the shootout, asks, “Why doesn’t the next guy just do the same move”. I replied, “Not likely mum, it doesn’t work like that.”

    geeze. What a day.

    Better than getting Nuge’s return, and better than the 2 points, I had a little giggle of hope for the first time in 7 seasons. That’s a great birthday present.

    Now it’s time to get out of the wind, take an Advil and go to bed.

    SMILE!

    edit: wow. I drank too much.

  • Clyde Frog

    First, let’s appreciate that we probably watched two of the greatest players ever play their last game in Edmonton. We watched greatness in its sunset tonight.

    As for the game – we won a regulation tie in about as ugly a manner as possible. No heart and more turnovers than the pillsbury doughboy in the first two.

    Then for about fifteen minutes the puck bounced the oil’s way, the devils got off their game plan and the oil laid a whupping on arguably the weakest team in the weakest division.

    A glimmer of hope but those first two periods temper ones optimism.

      • Hemmercules

        I think Gord nailed it. Every oiler fan across the country was fuming after the first two periods. They looked slightly better than they did in Vancouver but they were still really bad for most of the game. No shots in the first 12 minutes!!! 2-0 in the first 10 minutes!!!

        Slow starts have killed this team over the last few years. Great win but lots of work to do yet.

        • Rob...

          I think my analogy is fine. So what if he nailed it? Did it need to be said or would it be possible to celebrate the comeback and win for a bit, given a two loss start to the season?

          I do understand I’m saying this about a guy with ‘serious’ in his alias, but the post seemed a bit much. We won the game with our backup goalie in net, also with one top center out and the other playing his first game back after shoulder surgery. How about reveling in that and hoping to build on it.

          • Hemmercules

            Fair enough. I’m just saying that the Oil way too often have to climb out of a third period hole. I was pretty pumped about the win last night and I went to bed happy thats for sure. I/m looking forward to a solid first period effort next game.

            You must know some real jerks for someone to tell a cancer patient not to celebrate when they make a positive step……That analogy hit pretty close to home for me actually.

          • Rob...

            “You must know some real jerks for someone to tell a cancer patient not to celebrate when they make a positive step……That analogy hit pretty close to home for me actually.”

            I can’t remember where, but I read a post stating that about Brandon Davidson, after he beat cancer. Could not believe anyone could be so lacking in empathy and so unwilling to think positively, live in the moment and hope for the best.

  • ubermiguel

    They are just such teasers. Just when you bleakly look forward to another year of games like the one against Vancouver, they pull off one like this and you are reminded of what an electrifying young team they can be. Horrible first two periods, stunning finish!

    And Perron, wow.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Amazing how the game changed when Nuge scored off the PP scramble. Suddenly they stopped squeezing their sticks and trying to make all those crazy cross ice passes. They simplified their game, ramped up their compete level and earned the two points. This will be good for their confidence but this is going to be a process. The schedule ahead is still VERY scary and they are going to get killed if they don’t improve their defensive play. Still, it was a great night. Feel sorry for teh frustrated fans ho left in disgust after the second period.

  • Spydyr

    The comment section tonight. Holy bi-polar batman. I hate the Oilers I love the Oilers.

    I think the bandwagon broke an axel tonight with all the jumping on and off.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Hahah no kidding. I listed my posts from last night in order below. Oohhh good night!

      OMG we suck!

      OMG we suck more!

      You suck Horcoff!

      I hope the next period is less scary than my wife’s.

      OMG we suck a little less.

      OMG we suck even less.

      OMG we don’t suck!

      We got a point! We got a point!

      We don’t suck! We don’t suck!

      Eat sh!t Flames!

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Honestly, they were still turnover city last night.

    Nuge looked quick, and even gritty yesterday.

    Still, much room for improvement. That NJ team wasn’t very good.

  • vetinari

    Apparently, I dropped by for the most exciting part of the game last night. I had to skip the first two periods to get some work done but when I tuned in for the third, they just exploded. It was heartbreaking to see NJ tie it up in the last 30 seconds but I have the feeling that the Oilers believe that they can win any game if it goes down to a shootout. Feels good to finally have a 1 in the wins column.

    On another note, isn’t it finally… FINALLY… great to see some eastern conference teams at Rexall?

  • vetinari

    First off I have to say that I am diehard Oiler fan,since the age of 5.
    In which was their first year of existence in ’79.
    Oiler Nation just has to be a little more patient with our young,maturing team.
    I see the same thing happening as way back in ’79.
    There will be brighter days for our new boys on the bus.
    I am such diehard Oiler’ fan that I not only have 1 Oiler tattoo,but just got another
    new one& maybe a third on the way.
    I just wish that the Oilers could compete& play for a whole 60 Min. of a hockey game. Who know’s what they could do??
    I also hope that our goaltending somehow gets better& start keeping some pucks out of net. Oiler domination to follow!