THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER THING

CrazyTrain

The Edmonton Oilers have gone from losing games they probably should have won to winning games they probably should have lost in treating the faithful to a roller-coaster ride on the way to a 4-4-1 record as the Nashville Predators come calling Wednesday.

What was angst and consternation after a 0-4-1 stumble out of the blocks thanks to defensive lapses and bad goaltending looks somewhat brighter today after a 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens and a four-game run against the weak-sister Eastern Conference.

The Oilers are about where I thought they’d be after nine games. I just didn’t see them getting to where they’re at by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Canadiens. In the end, it doesn’t matter how – underlying numbers suggest the Oilers often played better during the 0-4-1 stretch and haven’t been as good top to bottom during the four wins — just how many. Results.

No matter what happens to close out this seven game homestand against Nashville and the Vancouver Canucks (Saturday), the Oilers will hit the road in considerably better shape than it looked like they would four games ago when it was threatening to get ugly earlier than last season.

Crazy train, this team.  

THE CULT OF YAK

Oiler fans are a passionate mob. That’s a good thing, but I’ve got to admit I’m often puzzled and dumbfounded by the venom they direct at members of the media when it comes to Nail Yakupov. The latest episode of Leave-Yak-Alone unfolded Monday when Mark Spector of Sportsnet asked Yakupov about his defensive play for an item he wrote here.

Yakupov went off just a little and let it be known he was tired of answering questions about his defensive play. Fair enough. What I don’t get, with the pre-amble and questions Spector asked in context, is the reaction by fans to this event and, for that matter, anything deemed criticism of Yakupov.

There are two common themes. The first is that media types are singling Yakupov out for criticism, picking on him, while others escape the same scrutiny. We want to “run him out of town.” The second is that Yakupov gets a rougher ride because members of the media don’t like Russians.


NO AGENDA

NoAgenda

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I know first-hand that if I question or criticize Yakupov, I don’t get arguments based on the merit of what I’ve written about him. What I used to get is, “What about Sam Gagner?” Now, I get, “What about Jordan Eberle? He sucks right now.” Without fail.

The implication is Yakupov wasn’t/isn’t getting the exact same treatment as Gagner and Eberle or pick-a-name. News flash: players on NHL teams are not treated the same. Generally speaking, proven veterans get more slack than rookies and younger players who have not yet proven themselves. You don’t have to like it, but that’s the way it works.

As for “you guys don’t like Russians,” I’d suggest Spector was trying to get insight into the jarring contrast between Yakupov’s obvious offensive gifts and the holes in his defensive game – Yak has improved to the point where he’s gone from atrocious to merely not good enough – rather fixating on his birth certificate. Likewise, any reservations I have about Yakupov have nothing to do with where he was born.   

I’m on the record multiple times this season as saying I want to see Yakupov put into a position to succeed, so I’m not going to re-visit that ground. We don’t yet know what Yakupov will be as a finished product. Here and now, I’d rather have Alex Galchenyuk, featured in the Spector piece that got the venom flowing again yesterday. I think Galchenyuk is the better player now and will be the better player long-term. Oh, and he’s a U.S. citizen of Russian heritage.

BY THE NUMBERS

Numbers

  • Whether it’s talk around the water cooler, letters to the editor (remember those?) at the local newspaper or the comments section at websites like this one, history shows fans would rather piss, moan and vent about defeat and failure than discuss wins and success.
  • It’s not surprising, then, that’s reflected in the comments section of the GDB Wrap-ups we’ve been doing after Oiler games this season. The comment count after the Oilers went 0-4-1 to start the season: 229, 192, 186, 254 and 132. The count after these last four wins: 88, 111, 95 and 149 (as of noon today).
  • Here’s a news bulletin – teams that get great goaltending win more games. Ben Scrivens is 4-0-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .940 SV% in his last 4 starts. He had a 4.11 GAA and was .857 in losing his first three starts.

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

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    What I heard was Spector looking for a juicy quote by fishing with the same old and obviously irritating question. It seemed like he was hoping to get on Nail’s nerves so he could get some dirt. That is crappy reporting and that is the beef I had with it.

    The question doesn’t even have much relevance anymore, he’s playing better defensively. End of that story for now. Even if you want to ask him about his defense, there are much better ways.

    I lost my respect for Spector long ago and this stuff just confirms it. He is a negative cloud, a %$% disturber and a hack (in my books).

      • ATL Oiler

        A couple of observations: There is- no need- to defend yourself for another reporters work. Comment size is down after wins due to the haters staying in the closet. Lastly; if your going to moderate replies why not block the haters as you just proved they skew this site? Jeff falls- into the same category off Fresh Mess and my buddy Serious Gord which continue to ruin OilerNation. Just my two cents and keep up the good work ..

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    But wait Bucky, remember that we should trade Eberle because he isn’t our leading scorer and doesn’t run guys through the boards every night.

    • Bucknuck

      Heh heh. I see what you did there.

      I have to say that the Yak hit on the MTL d-man last night was pretty spectacular. I love seeing that.

      I understand why people love him. He’s going to be a great 2nd line winger in this league

      • Zarny

        Wait until Yak gets a real #2/1 center to play with. The thing is we have no idea what Yak’s ceiling is right now. However, with Ebs on the team, he has some stiff competition for the #1 right winger job. Does that mean he is only a 2nd line right wing? Maybe, maybe not, but until he starts outplaying Ebs and putting up better numbers, he will be our #2 RW.

        Anyway, that is why even thinking about trading him is asinine. We would never get fair value for what he may become. It is just too risky. Will yak become a superstar in this league. Who knows, he has all the tools.

        I also would trade Yak for Galchenyuk, straight across or even throw in a 3rd rounder + Yak. But there is no way Montreal would entertain that.

  • JBear

    Robin, in the real world we tend to hold “the proven veterans” more accountable and hold “the newer arrivals” less accountable since we expect them to learn on the job. What is it about pro sports and for that matter sports in general that allows this to happen. I find it very annoying when veterans are making the mistakes but not owning up to it or worse seeing little change in the own opportunities. I use to scowl at Horcoff when he went on about the growing pains of a young team and how rookie mistakes were the cause for limited success. His mistakes in the defensive zone were a non issue even though the expectation was that he would lead by example.

    So why exactly are the “vets” with all the experience and the big contracts given the benefit of the doubt (Ference, Petry and Gilbert are the exceptions in Edmonton). Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • I have some issues with the division of teams into vets and rookies or unproven players as well, particularly when it completely clouds competence and gets outwardly overbearing — things you see when you travel with the team — but it’s common.

      Trusted vets tend to get more slack from coaches over time while new players have yet to earn that consideration. I understand it to a point, but a little slack can turn into free reign in a hurry if a coach lets it get away from him.

  • Bucknuck

    I like Nail he is a very exciting young player to watch play and so is Galchenyuk but he plays for Montreal so I don’t really care and I am happy that we drafted Yakupov.

    As for Eberle he will be fine and deserves his ice time and place on the first unit even if his play has not been up to his usual standards lately I give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Mark Spector is a journalist doing his thing, can’t see any fault with that so I will continue to read his articles and watch his interviews it’s hockey after all.

    I am grateful for this blog and for the writers who contribute to it and whoever created it, we have a voice now when there used to be a time when you didn’t.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Brownlee. I have a feeling your dumbfounded because your a media member and biased. You understand why Spector kept dogging Nail. For a juicy storyline. He’s obviously been working on his defensive game. Pretty sure fans get annoyed at the lack of situational awareness some media members have. But hey people are talking about it so that was the point right. My view is probably construed since I have never been a Spector fan.

      • Bucknuck

        LOL. Don’t you understand? It’s a plot by the corporate media elite to keep Yaky Baby down! Just like that big meanie Darren Dreger, another eastern media hack who just hates poor ol’ Edmonton.

        and..and..and, the rest of them are just RACIST(lol) against russians.

        …I mean, Mel Brooks couldn’t write this stuff.

  • OilersDynasty

    “The Edmonton Oilers have gone from losing games they probably should have won to winning games they probably should have lost…”

    Have you been watching the games Brownlee? I could tell you right now that our record could be 7-2-0 instead of the 4-4-1 it is now. The first game against Calgary could have gone our way. Our collapse in the 3rd period derailed that. Same goes for the second game against Vancouver. We had a 4-2 lead and squandered that. The Kings and Coyotes games were terrible. The fifth game against Vancouver, we lost 2-0 but again, could’ve been our’s for the taking. We didn’t capitalize. We’ve done a lot better than you might think.

  • Yak like he said has answered that question enough times. spector is a seasoned veteran reporter that people remember on his previous remarks on Yak and his on going work and when you put that together it looks like a bully reporter vs a young player trying to find his way. I am glad Spec was boooed and ridiculed for his handling on Yak. JMHO

  • camdog

    Sportsnet writers all used to troll. It was always about getting the internet hit. Spector was really good at trolling in the old Sportsnet forum boards. On Team 1260 he was a good listen. His radio/TV personality isn’t the same as his Sportsnet personality.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    If Shultz was Russian I guarantee an article would have been written about his poor defensive game….

    Surprised everyone focuses on Yak- leave the kid alone.

  • Paq Twinn

    Personally my only problem with Spec is that Yak declined comment and explained why, only to be prodded further on the subject. Where is the respect, or journalistic abilty to come up with/be prepared with another question? Asking anything is fine, but respect a decline to comment. Be better. That is all.

  • Mangiant

    Not that I believe anyone gives a crap what spector says, but if his negativity makes Yak less appealing as a trade to other teams and he stays, I’m happy.

  • Zarny

    Yakupov is not treated unfairly. He isn’t singled out. He isn’t being picked on.

    Mr. Brownlee is 100% correct that not every player is treated exactly the same. That applies to the Bantam, Midget, Junior, the KHL, the AHL, the NHL…you get the picture. This isn’t kindergarten.

    Gagner, Hall, Eberle, Schultz and to a lesser extent Nuge have all had their defensive games extensively critiqued.

    Jason Spezza, Mike Green, Alexander Ovechkin…all have received similar treatment throughout their careers. Ovechkin wins the Rocket Richard trophy and still gets nothing but articles criticizing his 200 ft game.

    The thing that many fans who b*tch and moan that Yakupov is treated unfairly don’t seem to grasp is that Yakupov’s defensive game was especially atrocious. He made Hall, Gagner and Eberle look like Selke candidates by comparison.

    The NHL isn’t beer league hockey where you just get to score goals and play offense. Your feelings mean diddly squat. You are entitled to nothing. Fair treatment is right up there with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

    Yakupov has made big strides this year. He and the coaching staff (including Eakins) should be given credit where credit is due. His 200 ft game still isn’t good but he is no longer completely lost without the puck. He’s learning to use his linemates and play a pro-style game.

    However, if Yakupov wants to quit hearing about his defensive game then he can continue to get better. Otherwise, he can prepare himself for a career full of criticism just like every other talented offensive player in the league that gets the same criticism.

    And considering players like Crosby, Stamkos, Tavares, Kane etc are all more offensively gifted than Yakupov and play a responsible 200 ft game Yakupov and his fans have absolutely nothing to stand on.

  • TrueOilFan

    It’s funny that you show the stats that are evidenced on twitter on a nightly basis. It’s comical really how many so-called fans only emerge when the going gets tough and are nowhere to be found when things are looking bright. I think it’s natural for people to want to vent, I do it myself regularly but wouldn’t a real fan want to show at least a tiny inkling of acknowledgement when credit is due? I’m not saying that all fans who disappear when there’s nothing to vent about aren’t true to the team but I don’t think it would hurt too much to at least say, “Hey, nice job Oilers.” I guess it’s only human to react loudly to negative things than it is to pat someone on the back. Just my thoughts, go Oilers! Ps. Eakins you’re starting to make me look stupid but I’m okay with that. (As long as you can keep it up)

  • Paq Twinn

    Do people here really take Sector seriously? I always ignore him when he speaks; he’s obviously just trying to be controversial.

    As for Yak, I’ve never really understood the scrutiny. He was a kid with offensive skill who needed to learn defense. Now he’s accepted that challenge and he’s playing well. The offense will come – it’s just a matter of time. He’s still young, still learning.

  • Rdubb

    I cannot believe some people actually have the gaul to tell any accredited reporter that he or she is biased against a certain nationality, many of those that do do that are the type of people who are just looking for something to whine and complain about.
    Why is Eberle getting blamed because Yak couldn’t play one single ioda of defence last season and although he has worked very hard at it this off season still lacks that same desire as he does for his offense. All one has to do is look @ all the best scoring forwards in the NHL and you can see that they are all good in the d-zone, and there are numerous examples to choose from, such as the best hockey player in the world, Sid, to a guy who is a perennial assist leader in Thorton, Giroux, Parise, to guys of yesteryear like the current GM of TB, Yzerman, Shannahan, Messier, Oates, ect…all of the above where or are consistantly in the top 10 in scoring, is that a coincedence? I think NOT!!!
    As yak learns to be more responsible in his own zone, as well as taking care of the puck in not only the neautral, but in the offensive zone, his playing time will increase.
    As for Galenychuk, i was one of the people calling into the Team 1260, & or texting, that i wanted and was in favor of the Oilers taking him first instead of Yak. Why? Becasue he filled a need, which was a C, not to mention that he missed an entire season except for a few games, and when he returned, he got points right off the bat. He showed that he could skate, score, pass & play as a team even after missing so much time. His all around play was much better than Yaks although Yak was slightly better offensivly, but Galeynchuk’s upside was much higher in my opinion, and still is.
    Just think how different the Oilers would look if they’d had drafted Galenychuk instead of Nail…
    And final thought, even though i am not a Spector fan, not even close to being one, i feel like he had the right to ask what he did, and if Yak is tired about being asked about his d-zone play, SHORE IT UP!!! Don’t players who don’t score for weeks on end or in the first 2 weeks of the seasons get asked “what’s the matter”, or “when are you going to score”, or, “are you going to change something in your game to help you get a goal”?
    It is okay to be a Yak fan, but stop blaming others for his short comings and get on realistic train and see that the coaching staff and management would be THRILLED if he were to succeed…
    Just a thought

  • Rob...

    “What I used to get is, “What about Sam Gagner?” Now, I get, “What about Jordan Eberle? He sucks right now.” Without fail.”

    With all due respect, when the ugliest girl in the room leaves the room you are still left with an ugliest girl in the room. Eberle was not as bad at the back-check as Gagner but is far from committed to it. With Yakupov’s improvement he has become at least average at helping out his D and Eberle isn’t looking any better.

  • Sean17

    How come I call Spector a clown and my comment gets blanked out but loads of Cheers – yet other people call him various other things and no problem. Guess I need to use $5 words. LOL.

    Imagine you’re an Oilers player and Ryan Rishaug and Spector are interviewing you. Rishaug looks put together, probably has played some hockey while Spector is a nerdy dude, who has never played any sports and has a smug look and tone to his questioning… Who are you going to develop a rapport with?

  • Spiel

    The further we get from the 2012 draft, the more it is looking like the Oil miscalculated on Yak. At the time, the spin by the Oilers and media in Edmonton was that although Yak was another winger and smaller sized forward, he was clearly the best player available. Well 2012 is looking like a draft that had a lot depth. Yak may end up being the best available when all is said and done, but the difference is not as great as advertised.

    For instance, players that other teams would almost certainly not trade for Yak and were drafted after him:

    Murray – 2nd overall

    Galchenyuk – 3rd overall

    Rielly – 5th overall

    Lindholm – 6th overall

    Trouba – 9th overall

    Hertl – 17th overall

    Maatta – 22nd overall

    Pearson – 30th overall

    2012 is looking like the draft where the Oilers should have traded down and gone for multiple assets. Lots of good d-men in that first round and some useful wingers.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    I love it when Canadians claim that no prejudice exists anywhere in the country.

    We should ask Yak himself if he’s been made to feel different, unwelcomed, judged or prejudged. Yak has been treated differently since arriving in Edmonton. Ignoring it perpetuates it.

    As a Canadian that experiences prejudice on a nearly daily basis, I’d put my money on Yak agreeing with me. He’s a gifted offensive player that isn’t given a great chance to produce (don’t tell me about his zone starts when he’s playing with mediocre centres). He’s not much worse in his own zone than half the team. His only true knock is not being careful enough with the puck in the neutral zone. There are a few players on this team far more guilty of this than Yak. You don’t ‘like’ the argument, Brownlee, but it’s true.

    His defensive play has improved drastically this year. If you’re so concerned with us talking about success, Brownlee, let’s pay attention to Yak’s improvements rather than his precise current rate of production. He’s trending well upward. He has been all year.

    • JBear

      I don’t think Yak has been treated differently than the other kids and most people portrayed him as Ovechkin Junior and got excited.

      People started to sour a bit after seeing him play and maybe with the issues coming from his agent. When Yak was drafted I saw a Datsyuk type player who back checked and scored goals (mind you this was his Junior highlights for the draft hype). He comes in and struggles. His skating or speed isn’t the greatest, his D play is non-existent, and then his agent chimes in.

      For the record, I’m excited about the New New Yak City. He’s a lot faster with better skating and he’s really trying on his defensive play. I’m really impressed.

    • Spiel

      I don’t believe that Canadians claim no prejudice exists in Canada. Of course it does.

      I also don’t believe the Oiler’s are handling Yak different due to a prejudice. He is different. He’s a number one draft pick with different expectations. He’s also from another country, had to learn a different language and had to adapt to Canada in many ways I can’t imagine. I don’t for one second believe he’s getting questionable zone starts because he’s Russian. We also don’t know what coaches have asked of him and how he’s handling those requests.

      I’m a Yak fan. I’m sure he’s going to be a valuable contributor once he adapts to what he needs to in order to work within a team concept of an NHL team. I think he’s making wonderful progress.

    • You make some good points and I think they’ve been touched on at this site and in the MSM even if you think they’ve been ignored.

      Yakupov has worked on his game and it shows. He’s more aware defensively than in the past. A work in progress, but at least there is progress. He’s come in looking for a clean slate this season and he’s said and done all the right things to back that up.

      As far as the prejudice you mention, I don’t think anybody has suggested it doesn’t exist anywhere in the country. It exists everywhere, subtle and otherwise. As I’ve said, though, I don’t believe that plays into the Spector-Yakupov situation that sparked the item I wrote.

  • Really? Really? You blocked me over that? I am reporting abuse by Robin Brownlee. Bullying tactics are inappropriate. You cannot threaten people who disagree with you. I will not back down here, or else this site is a joke, which I disagree with. If you are upset that I suggested you were being immature, you have proven my point. Completely inexcusable by a writer to block dissenting opinions, showing a complete lack of respect for others. You just lost a fan Robin, and I suspect your followers are dwindling because of these things. Please, I challenge you to find an inappropriate comment within my writing, aside from the fact that it opposed your viewpoint. Truly a shameful display. Prove me wrong, re-post what I wrote and let others decide if you have any decency. Or ask the other OilersNation writers, and I bet they would have a hard time finding issues with my comments. This is censorship, and before you rant about how it is disrespectful of me, remember that this was provoked, and there is absolutely no one else on this site who would remove my comments. Gregor takes it and dishes it out. You dish it out, and cry foul rather than take it. Do the right thing and apologize for blocking someone who had the audacity to disagree with you. Acknowledge that people can disagree with you…

      • Then where did the posts go?

        And, wow, something must be lost in translation if you call that a tantrum. Trying to undermine another with comments like this is why your credibility has been in question in the first place. I suggested you were acting immaturely and you blocked it, but you can claim I am having a “tantrum”? Hello, pot…

        Also, my comments were about the Oilers and Yakupov, and you can thank yourself for diverting the topic at hand to the stroking of egos.

        • “Really? Really? You blocked me over that? I am reporting abuse by Robin Brownlee. Bullying tactics are inappropriate. You cannot threaten people who disagree with you. I will not back down here, or else this site is a joke, which I disagree with . . .”

          If you want to discuss the Oilers and hockey in general here, you’re more than welcome. If you’re going to stray off into more essays and lectures directed at me, you know where that road leads. It’s up to you.

  • Zarny

    Spare everyone the “Yak is a different kind of horse” drivel.

    He’s not. He certainly doesn’t compare to the real thoroughbreds of the league like Crosby, Stamkos, Tavares, Giroux etc and every one of them plays a responsible 200 ft game.

    So I’m afraid Yakupov has no excuses. If the best players in the game do it so can Yak. He’s not special and he’s not different.