Well Done Yak, Well Done

Nail Yakupov

Since March 13th’s game against the Blues, as a group the Oilers have been much more engaged. Twice the Blues surrounded Taylor Hall and there were none of his Oiler teammates to be found. In my last entry I detailed the reasons this is unacceptable on any closely knit team.

The night after the Blues, the Oilers went into Detroit. Detroit is not a team close to the Blues physically but there was one chance for the Oilers to prove they had learned a lesson the night before.

Again Hall was involved in the play. He was skating up the ice and got involved with Justin Abdelkader. The two were going at it and Hall took a good run at Adelkader. Not surprisingly it was Oilers’ team captain, Andrew Ference, who quickly skated in to his young teammate’s aid. He is a veteran and understands the importance of supporting his teammates between (and after) the whistles.

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Sunday it was Matt Hendricks who stirred the emotional pot on the ice. He had a huge hit behind the net on ‘Canes dman Brett Bellemore. Clean hit but a hard one. The type of hit D hate. It doesn’t hurt but it looks big.

Bellemore’s partner Ron Hainsey came back to Hendricks to support his team mate. Their gloves came off quickly. Bellemore also got involved with his hitter and it was two Canes versus Hendricks.

The play was moving away from that area. It took a moment for the players on the ice to notice what was going on. Yakupov was visibly looking in another direction. Once his head rotated in that direction of the two vs. one he DID NOT HESITATE. He went flying in there like Jimmy SuperFly Snuka and took down a Cane.

I LOVED IT.

He did not think, he simply reacted. ‘One of my teammates is in trouble and I am going to go in there to help out.’ Perfect. That is the response you expect from a team that is playing hard for each other. A team that supports one another.

This issue is not a small detail for a hockey team. Show me a team that does not stand up for each other and I will show you an unsuccessful team.

So the question is what happened since the Blues game to bring on this very clear reaction?

Dallas Eakins 12

I have no doubt there was a discussion. It may have been head coach Eakins, one of the assistants or the older players. I suggest it would have been some combination of the three.

They would have said that you never want a teammate to feel he is on an island, on or off the ice. If he doesn’t feel like he is getting support within the dressing room or on the ice why is he going to help you when you need it? They would have said it is very dangerous to team unity.

What Yak did sunday was not overlooked by me. Well done.

The Hendricks Jolt

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Matt Hendricks has been exactly what I had hoped he could be for the Edmonton Oilers. He has brought life to this team both on and off the ice, something that has been lacking.

He has proven to be a player that is connected emotionally to the games. His style of play drags his teammates into the game. They get charged up by his hits and chirping. It is contagious.

Then you have a situation described above against the Canes. The players realize that it is OK to get a little dirty. Everyone will live.

Since his arrival the Oilers’ record is nine wins, seven losses and four overtime losses. There is no doubt that Scrivens has had a bigger impact but that doesn’t minimize the Hendricks contribution.

He plays all-out every night. He finishes every hit. Some may be a little late or in the grey area of the rule book. His teammates don’t mind but I know the opponents do. Great. The opposing team needs to feel uncomfortable.

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He and Gordon have a nice little chemistry going. They are similar players that play the game in straight lines. They are good at cycling in the offensive zone. The two of them and whoever is with them have had many good games working the puck low and generating momentum for the next line. Something that makes life easier for the top two lines of the Oilers. After a good shift in the offensive zone the ice feels like it is tilted in the Oilers favour.

I liked it when Perron was the other winger on the line. He adds scoring ability to the line. He can also play an aggressive, solid defensively style of game that compliments the line. In my opinion that line could play against any line and hold their own.

A third line of Gordon, Hendricks and whoever is a line that a team making the playoffs is happy with. A fourth line of the same is ultimately how Stanley Cup winners look. That is the challenge for MacT.

  • oilerjed

    Yak is slowly becoming the player you thought he was at the draft.His scoring will come as the team stabilizes its zone play.Look at the other night in St Louis.He was picking up minuss for being on the ice. Twice RNH lost his man and twice Yak paid for it on the minus side.

    Yaks overall play has improved nicely. The scoresheet is not the only place where you can have an impact.That play proved as much.Showing up for your teammates is huge.It is in my opinion a major plus for Yak.Like the night he and Gazdic went after the Dallas players.

    I want Hall in the penalty box a little more towards the end of this season. I want Hall to throw a few more elbows and get a few more facewash penalties. He needs to start pushing back more to establish more respect in the league.Ditto for EBS and RNH.

    Matt Hendricks has done everything that he has been asked to do since arriving to Edmonton. Many of the pundits blasted him as bum because of his 4 year contract . Well that sure as cow poop was a load that did not stick to the wall. He has played with intensity and sureness. What more can you ask of the guy.

    Add Pitlick to that line next year and it should be a solid line.

    What has Gazdic done except become the enforcer that we need.

    Smyth is the hard question. He has done it all and looked good this year with reduced minutes.10 goals playing 4th line minutes an the occasional PP. If its me I resign him for next season. At a lower price.Say 1.2 million.

    Matt Hendricks is a glue guy.He may be Krazy Glue. But I’ll take 6 of him in my bottom 6 everyday of the week.

    Bring on the Preds

  • mesa

    the thing i love about Matt hendricks is he not playing for a new contact to pump his value.unlike Bryan Bickel last year .everybody was in love with his game and people want to throw money on him.i take hendricks over him anytime.

  • NsxZero

    Why is everyone advocating for Gordon and Hendricks to be on our fourth line? Don’t we want a third line that can match up against top competition and shut them down by winning the draw, then grinding the other team on the forcheck and cycle? Isn’t that what a third line does?

  • Serious Gord

    The manic depressive behavior on this site is something to behold.

    Are they playing better of late? Yes.

    But could they play any worse than they were?

    Since the Olympics they are 4-5, and 5 of the teams they played are not in the top sixteen. Thus they are miles away from contending for a playoff spot next year if this is as good as they can be.

    And is yak playing better. Well he better shouldn’t he? He’s 20, not 35. That he and the rest of the youth wing of the team have on balance regressed this year is reason for very serious concern. They could soon become the lost generation if they don’t start playing to their prodigious potential.

    I’m being neither manic nor depressive – just realistic. This team should be doing far better than it is – yet it isn’t. And the cause(s) of that failure needs to be addressed.

    • Rob...

      I haven’t seen anyone planning a parade route. I also see a lot of posts suggesting many of the young Oilers need to take notice of what Yak did.

      On a slightly related note, if you are or were married, I would love to have been a fly on the wall the first time you were asked ‘Honey, does this dress make me look fat?’. I have no doubt you would have knocked that answer out of the park.

          • Serious Gord

            Being mindless fans – gleeful one minute – suicidal the next makes it easy for management to ignore us. Consistent firm critiques and a determination hold those who fail to account and recognize those who excell both on the ice and in management is how we as fans can cause beneficial change.

            My post above is one of many in that vein.

      • Rob...

        When my wife asked me that I said “They must have given her the wrong size at the store,it should be a seven not a 3.” After 16 years of marriage its now “Your overflowing with sexy.”

        Its like that guy pushing that rock up the hill in greek mythology.He gets to the top and its rolls all the way down back to the start again.But in the case of our “young” players that rock is defense.There are nights like last night against Carolina and there are 3rd periods like we had against St Louis.

        The scoring is down on the team but the GF are also way down. Scrivens and VF are a large part of that turnaround. But the players are focused on playing defense. The balance will come next year when out overall team defence improves and the thinking about defense becomes less thinking and more inate. Once that happens the team will be less like Keystone cops and more like Oilers ala 1984.

        TIME AND PATIENCE

    • chuckcouples

      If your GM for a day Gord please tell me how you would change this team in the off season.

      Where are the solutions? Your good at pointing out the problems we all can see and recognize. Yet I fail to see where you offer solutions that are in this realm of reality.

      On Bob’s show today he offered up a solution that you may find to your liking.

      Take a minute and tell us what you think.Not what you feel.

  • Greasy Goal

    Just read Lowetides article regarding douchebag-level comments made by Dreger and that ultimate hanger-on Matheson. The integrity level of Dregers bombastic characterizations of Yakupov is what I would expect from eastern media who have no respect for any Oiler player. But Mathesons below the belt comments are shocking.

    Why are these self-appointed high foreheads not getting on RNH and Justin Shultz who both are horrible on offence an D and play with no balls whatsoever. Yak doesn’t need me defending him but he is a 20 yr old kid playing hockey in the best league in the world. He is playing for a coaching staff that is inept in the extreme and have mind-effed just about every young player on the team.

    Matty needs to take that big smoking turd out of his mouth so he can see past the haze.

  • Greasy Goal

    K, Jason, but would you not agree that ideally Hendricks should be on the 4th line on an above average team? And Gordon should be replicated on the 4th, rather than making Smytty play out of position?