THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER THING

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I’m not sure if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is playing banged up, if he’s worn down mentally or if he’s simply in the middle of the kind of slump every player goes through from time to time, but it doesn’t take a vast intellect to figure out he’s struggling mightily.

Maybe it’s a combination of all the above – pure speculation on my point because we aren’t hearing anything concrete from media travelling with the Edmonton Oilers – but RNH clearly isn’t himself these days. That was abundantly clear in Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

Held off the score sheet again in a game where the Blues got around to beating the Oilers for fun like they always do with four goals in the third period, Nugent-Hopkins now has just two assists to show for the last 11 games he’s played.

RNH seemed particularly listless against the Blues and finished up 22.2 in the face-off circles to go with his bagels on the sheet. Still no wiz on the dot with percentages of 41.8 this season, 41.0 in 2012-13 and 37.5 in 2011-12, that’s lousy, even for him. He’s just 30.2 overall in his last five games.

Nugent-Hopkins, who has scored 15-29-44 in 65 games, started this 11-game slide by playing a season-high 25:51 against the Boston Bruins back on Feb. 1. He really hasn’t shown much since then.

TURN THE OTHER CHEEK

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The Oilers unwillingness to stand up for each other was on display again last night against the Blues and it really is getting sickening to watch them shrug their shoulders and turn away when a teammate is getting roughed up.

Taylor Hall drew a crowd, as you’d expect, when he directed a puck toward Ryan Miller on a play that was called offside. While Jay Bouwmeester and Vladimir Tarasenko were giving Hall the stinky glove treatment – Hall already had a busted lip from a high stick earlier – the Oilers offered a whole lot of nothing in terms of push-back.

Most notable in that was Justin Schultz, who stood around counting the crowd while Hall took your-mommas from the Blues. In that situation, players don’t have to drop the gloves and start a brawl, but they damn sure better get in the mix and stick their noses in.

It can’t always be Luke Gazdic or Matt Hendricks – how often are they even on the ice when Hall or RNH or Jordan Eberle are on? – wading in. Others, it’s obvious, are hesitant to do it. That’s the book on the Oilers and it’s a book every opponent in the NHL has read cover-to-cover.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . .

Nail Yakupov

. . . I’ve lost track of the number of odd-man rushes Edmonton’s power play has given up this season, but if fans took a drink every time it happened, they’d never make it off the floor. At what point will coach Dallas Eakins stop being stubborn and abandon his 1-3-1 alignment on the PP?

. . . Is it any surprise Nail Yakupov looks totally lost out on the ice right now? Coaches can draw up schemes until they’re blue in the face, but the learning process is cemented by what happens on the ice. Given all the Oiler breakdowns we see from players far more experienced than Yakupov, who is showing him how it’s done?

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

  • Quicksilver ballet

    At this developemental pace, these kids will all be UFA eligible before they even reach their potential.

    The losing culture begins with this management/coaching group. Dallas Eakins doesn’t know how to handle kids with talent. If you can skate, work hard but don’t have much talent, then Dallas Eakins is your coach. Even Lowe and MacTavish were far from elite players themselves. They certainly appear to be out of their element when it comes to bringing kids like this along….. Gretzky could do a better job of coaching some of these kids.

  • james_dean

    @gwc_rocks

    I think the only one to stay should be MacT, he is doing what he can to add to the team – he can only do so much. AT least he’s doing SOMETHING, unlike Tambellini. One thing I WOULD like him to do is admit his biggest mistake (Eakins) and change the ENTIRE coaching staff at the start of the off season.

  • A-Mc

    There are a ton of negative comments surrounding the team that preach about doom and gloom. There are a number of flaws with this team, that is for sure, but let me remind you that since we traded for Scrivens the Oilers are basically .500

    I believe we’re at 19pts in 19 games and apparently Nuge has been a useless Teet for 11 of them!

    We’re not doing so bad!!!

    • dougtheslug

      Out shot, out chanced and outclassed in almost every game. And against elite teams it’s been unbearably bad.

      Counting on Scrivens to continue with his league leading save percentage is unsustainable.

      Everything that glitters isn’t gold. And Oilers record since January is Fool’s Gold if there ever was such a thing.

      • bazmagoo

        There is no getting around the fact that watching the Oilers play against the elite teams is pretty painful. The games we are winning our goaltending stands on their head, completely unsustainable.

        Just hoping there are substantial changes in the summer time at this stage, starting with the assistant coaches getting fired. I’m no where near confident that will happen, considering what MacT has said publically. This is the first off season in a long time where I can honestly say I have zero expectation anything will improve next season, sad.

    • #ThereGoesTheOilers

      The first paragraph of this post sounds just like everything Bob Stauffer tweets.

      It’s pretty hard care about the new paint job on a house if it also happens to be on fire.

      • A-Mc

        Oh really? I Don’t listen to Bob Stauffer but apparently he’s an optimist too?

        Lets be clear: i’m not saying the team is OK as it is. I know the ship is sinking… I merely offer a little silver lining to an otherwise rusted sh!t hole.

        consider it an #OilersPositive

  • Derian Hatcher

    Just my opinions:

    Hey Dallas – that phrase you have in the dressing room “Chop Wood, carry water” only means something to those that have actually done it. Unless you have taken your young players out and hd them chop wood and carry water to illustrate what hard work is, how would they know what hard work is?? They certainly do not display it during games and from a few quotes from former players, one has to wonder if you demand hard work in practices.

    The only place close to playing in the NHL were in my dreams when I was a kid, but I can recall many instances when the minor teams I played on had a pack mentality – mess with one of us and you’ve got us all. Apparently, apart from 20 and 23, no other Oiler is aware of this…how the hell do Semenko, MacT and even six rings watch this over and over without blasting into the dressing room and questioning the manhood of every player who stands around while their “team mate” gets mugged? Unbelievable!

    Finally, I do not think Eakins was a good hire and I think he should be canned. There is a large body of evidence that shows he is in over his head and cannot implement even a basic d-zone plan. I wont even talk about the 1-3-1 PP that he thinks is so awesome. Lastly, I have NEVER heard a coach say so many words in an interview but really say nothing at all…Stop saying “we have to” and start actually doing it…

    There, I feel a little better…until the next Shorthanded 2 on 1.

    OK one more thing… how much sense does it make to stay with Eakins “for a sense of continuity”. ITS NOT WORKING WITH THIS COACH but we should stick with him beacuse we have changed coaches too much in the past. How much sense does this make? I am so sick of Stauffer (the Grand Oiler Apologist) and others trying to sell this line of thinking. If something is not working, lets just stick with it so as to not upset continuity. “But Eakins is learning just like the players” The NHL is not the level where coaches should initially learn their trade. That excuse is weak and narrow. MacT – fire your coach, put it down to a lesson learned and hire someone who has a proven record of successful coaching AT THE NHL LEVEL. The last thing the Oilers needed was a less than NHL experienced coach who somehow was the flavor of the month. OUT.

  • Its getting depressing watching this version of the Oilers. It is clear that if the score gets out of hand as last night, personal pride is not enough for the Oilers. Outside of Smyth, Hendricks, Fraser, and Scrivens I thought the rest of the team basically flushed the game when it went to 4-2.

    I propose the following: Each Oiler player should play for someone in the community. Maybe its a kid at Stroller, a teacher, a police officer, fire fighter, or local military person on deployment. The team should list on the site each game, who the player is playing for and what the goal that player is going to achieve for that person. Perhaps its get a point, play an even game, always play strong on the forecheck. If that goal doesn’t pan out in the player’s opinion, then they continue to play for that person.

    The Oilers are nothing without the support of Edmonton, and in may respects, Edmonton is very largely defined by the Oilers. Maybe something like this will take the focus off whether RNH is hurt, or Yakupov could care less or the team is no longer playing for each other. If its not enough to play for personal pride then maybe playing for the pride of their fans and community will mean more. I would hope that achieving small successes will maybe turn the attitude of both the team and the Edmonton.

    Just a thought…

  • james_dean

    This is a beaten team. While Krueger had his flaws (specifically a d zone breakout strategy that just don’t work in the NHL), he had a strong pk, a competent powerplay, and decent o zone systems. But even more importantly to an underpowered team he had them motivated and positive.

    Eakins seems to use the “beatings will continue until morale improves” method. These players aren’t buying what he selling. Watching this team is embarrassing.

    Lowe, MacT, Howson, and Eakins along with the rest of the coaching staff need to go.

    • A-Mc

      “he had them motivated and positive.”

      Do you recall the last 15 or so games last year?

      A game last April when the Oil were not quite out of the playoffs when they lost 4 -1 at home to the Abottsford Flames would suggest otherwise. Tambo was fired the following Monday.

      I’m certainly not giving Eakins a free pass, but let’s not get too sentimental about Kruger either.

      Of course the common denominator here isn’t the head coaches is it.

  • james_dean

    Having only played hockey till bantam, even then we always stuck up for eachother.

    We had a fight in div c slo pitch last year and benches cleared.

    I dont get it either. Somethings not right

  • Doctor Smashy

    Great article Robin. I have to wonder though, do your points, especially the one about Eakins’ stubbornness on the power play setup, suggest that a new coach is the way to go? I don’t disagree with the suggestion that the coaching carousel should stop but is it possible the wheel has stopped on the weakest of the bunch?

    And I acknowledge by the way that the lack of support shown for their teammates falls squarely at the feet of the players themselves.

  • Jordan1126

    hopkins and the rest of the oilers look lost on both ends of the ice…on defense they are being outhustled, outpositioned and getting beaten up physically.

    On offence it is nothing short of a joke right now. I remember the mac t days when the oilers could cycle the puck the whole shift, outwork guys down low, and find the openings on the point or slot and crash the net….right now there is no plan on offense..if they don’t get a fluke goal or score off of the rush they arent scoring. They don’t have the makeup, heart or desire to be a team that is a threat to play against. they are a pushover, and the final ten games of this season are really going to show how no process has been made this year.

  • BobbyCanuck

    I think Hemsky’s point is the your top players must be you top players. Focussing on 3th and 4th liners can only have a marginal impact. Case in point last night, I think the Oil’s 2nd like was a combined -11.

  • bazmagoo

    Have to disagree with you. I watched the Leafs – LA last night and the Leafs held their own and then some. Toronto plays an exciting brand of hockey and doesn’t get pushed around at all.

  • toprightcorner

    Couldn’t disagree more. If a team is not supportive of each other enough to stick up for them when the going gets rough and tough, how can they have the adversity, balls, determination, or compete to do what it takes to win games in the NHL. Playing a season is a war and each game is a battle, if you don’t stick up for your players it shows you don’t care and those thoughts infect a team like a virus.

    Boston lives by the mantra of nobody pushes us around and they thrive in that atmosphere. LOS, SJS, CHI, PHI, STL and TOR are the teams that show the trait of sticking up for their team mates more than most. The other thing they have in common is that they are all successful teams.