THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER THING

The Edmonton Oilers would be foolish not to look at all available coaching candidates between now and next season, but if Todd Nelson can keep the team collecting points at the rate they have in his first 18 games solo behind the bench, he at least deserves to be in the conversation.

With their 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, the Oilers rebounded from a particularly feeble effort in a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs to improve to 8-8-2 under Nelson with 28 games remaining. Granted, the bar was set low by Dallas Eakins in terms of results and Nelson has benefitted from some roster additions, but he’s so far made a case for consideration.

If the Oilers can continue at or near a .500 clip in points percentage, Nelson will finish with a better percentage than Eakins, Ralph Krueger, Tom Renney and Pat Quinn. The team last played .500 or better under now-GM Craig MacTavish in 2008-09 (.518). That’s not the be-all and end-all because this team isn’t good enough in terms of player personnel to be a contender no matter who is coaching, but it’s not to be dismissed.

Nelson will have been behind the bench for 46 games when the season ends, just two short of Krueger’s 48-game stint. Krueger went 19-22-7 for .469 in 2012-13 and did at least a passable job considering the roster he had to work with before MacTavish sacked him via Skype.

MacTavish saw fit, mistakenly, to dismiss Krueger to bring in Eakins, who had zippity-do-da on his resume as an NHL head coach. If a big fish like Mike Babcock or Dan Bylsma is available, it won’t matter what Nelson does because you have to bring in somebody like that if you can, but that’s a big “if.” Nelson has done a nice job so far.

THE MEASURE

Ruler

For me, the measure of Nelson won’t come down to just wins and points the rest of the way, although they obviously matter. The way I see it, Nelson can make a compelling case if he can turn around some of the players who were regressing and languishing under Eakins.

In that regard, we’ve seen some decent results through 18 games – that doesn’t necessarily mean Nelson gets all or even most of the credit for that because there’s a lot more at play than a coaching change, but, again, it’s a consideration when assessing the job he’s doing.

I’ve liked what we’ve seen from Jordan Eberle of late. He had two assists against the Devils and now has scored 9-6-15 under Nelson after struggling mightily at times and collecting 6-14-20 in the previous 36 games. Much of Eberle’s resurgence can be attributed to the fact he’s not fighting nagging bump and bruises as he was earlier, but not all of it.

Nail Yakupov, who got the winning goal against the Devils, has looked more energized under Nelson. He’s still not producing enough, but he’s engaged in games and seems to have regained a measure of the confidence that was lost under Eakins. Likewise, Justin Schultz has been less of an adventure on the blue line. Still not nearly good enough over a long enough period of time, but there have been fewer WTF moments in recent weeks.

While Nelson has had the benefit of additions like Derek Roy and Rob Klinkhammer, he’s also been without Taylor Hall and Benoit Pouliot for chunks of his brief tenure. Again, it’s too early to suggest Nelson is the man for the job next season and the roster has to be bolstered considerably for any coach to have success, but it’s a start.

More of the same in the remaining games will, and should, put Nelson in contention for the job.

THE GAME GOES ON

LongestGame

  • Just another mention of the World’s Longest Hockey game hosted by Brent Saik at Saiker’s Acres in Sherwood Park as participants are into the fifth day of a 10-day marathon that will see them play 250 hours to raise money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

    As of this 11 p.m. Monday, the game has raised $338,395.00 toward a goal of $1 million that will go to the purchase of a PET-MR machine for the Cross Cancer Institute. These next few days are a real grind for the 40 players involved, so if you get the chance to make it out to the game to cheer them on, it’ll provide a real boost for the participants.

    Saiker’s Acres is located at 52269 Range Road 220 in Sherwood Park. If you would like to make a donation on-line, you can do that here. You can also make donations at the game. You don’t even have to rough it outside as was the case at previous versions of the event. That new 7,700-square foot clubhouse Saik built will keep you from the elements if you want to pack up the family and have a look-see.

    Jason Gregor is doing his show out there Tuesday on TSN 1260 starting at 2 p.m. and he’ll have an update on the fund-raising efforts.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Soapbox

. . . Interesting stat from the win over the Devils regarding Yakupov, who notched his sixth of this season, the winner, in New Jersey. Yakupov had 17 goals in 48 games in his rookie season. The goal he scored against the Devils gives him 17 goals in 117 games since then.

Yakupov had a shooting percentage of 21.0 as a rookie in 2012-13, including a stretch that saw him score six goals on 13 shots in the team’s final three games. His shooting percentage dropped to 9.0 last season and he sits at 5.4 so far this season.

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

  • CaptainLander

    Hall out 4-6…McEichle mania!

    Leaf nation is just the best, actual post “this guy needs out of Edmonton, I could very well see him traded here for something like Lupul and a 3rd. Make it happen Nonis!”

    Hall for Lupul and a 3rd. Brilliant!

    That post made my day.

  • Burnward

    On what basis can we convince guys like Mike Babcock to come to the Oilers and clean up the mess created by previous coaches and management?

    How do you convince ( money ain’t gonna do it) a coach with his winning record, that the Oilers are on the verge of something great, and he should come here and be a part of it??

    The reason the Oilers brand is so tarnished, is loyalty only extends to upper management, and the hockey world knows this. Perhaps we should show Todd Nelson some respect for the fine work he has done, and extend his contract for at least a year……….just maybe he is the real deal?

    If the balance of the year show progress, he should be extended and rewarded for his hard work.

  • McClelland

    Is Joey Moss going to coach? I bet Nelson is keeping an eye on the want ads. I see the Oilers have recalled Bachman. Scrivens has been hamstringed. Stopped too many and even his giveaways weren’t enough for him not to be sidelined. Hall is out for six weeks. What is next in the Oil Tank? My bet is the skate sharpener will need a part that will take 8 weeks to come in.

  • tealyn

    Keeping the present coach or interviewing for a new person should not be difficult. Do both. Before making the final decision the Oilers should consult with Balzac Billie to help. Billie,on Groundhog Day
    was cleaver enough to predict 6 more weeks of winter for the Oilers. Management was thrilled to find out the Oiler winter of 2015 would end. Thankyou BILLIE!

  • tealyn

    No matter what we are in a mess in Oilerland. The odds of winning the lottery are so far out of reach that some team in the 25 to just missed the playoffs part of the standings is going to win and the whole league except one team will groan.

    • tealyn

      Winning the lottery is so far out of reach?

      Hall is out 4-6 weeks and Scrivens tweaked a hamstring and will be out long enough that Richard Bachman has been recalled from OKC. And they’re going to get shelled by the Islanders.

      They’ve got a pretty good shot of finishing 29th.

      • Serious Gord

        Carolina is 6 points ahead of the oil with two games at hand and play mostly eastern teams the rest of the year. AZ is 8 points ahead.

        They are a lock at 29th or worst already.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        They’ve got a pretty good shot of finishing 29th.

        ——————————————————————————————————–

        Lets not close the book on 30th so soon, please.

        Don’t stop…….believing!

    • paul wodehouse

      …as of today I understand via the new way of the lottery puts the sabres at a 20% chance of pick#1 … oilers are at a 13.5% chance of picking first…Carolina 11.5%
      Coyotes 9.5% and the Sens and CBus are 8.5% chance in the lottery…that team that JUST missed the playoffs at #14 have a 1% chance of winning McDavid…

      …maybe not really “so far out of reach”

  • paul wodehouse

    I think the Oilers would be prudent to be Big Whale Hunting, because it would show they were hiring the best candidate. The Oilers should be in the mix to hire Babcock. The Nicholson, Lowe connection to Hockey Canada and Babcock can’t be ignored. I think if you land McEichel, I could see there being some attractiveness for an experienced coach. Might have to get Babcock drunk first before he signs.

    However Nelson deserves the gig, and it could not happen to a more deserving coach. Team plays for him, and they have a system and powerplay. Players are developing and there is a an aura of competence and confidence.

  • paul wodehouse

    As long as this core is together, the team will not make the post season,no matter who is coaching them. I would like to see them move Eberle now that he is hot and not wait until he cools off and they cannot get decent value for him. The Oilers need a big and young right side defenceman. I would love to see them trade Ebbs for maybe a Tyler Myers. That would be a good equill value trade for both sides. Myers – Klefbom, Nurse – Fayne, Marincin – ( anybody but Jultz ) And the another asset for a real starting goalie.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Todd Nelson has not made the Oilers a good team, but he’s made a terrible team play better, and look like they occasionally give a damn. No matter who they draft, this team is still a long way from a playoff spot. I don’t see any coach bridging that gap by himself, so why not concentrate on actual development instead of trying to pretend they’re something they’re not?

    Give Nelson some time to continue to teach these guys how to play the game the right way. If they evolve to the point where they surpass what he can teach them, then, fine, aggressively pursue some bigger names. But, at this point, they seem to be moving in the right direction. Baby steps, but the right direction.

    • Burnward

      Baby Steps??? we been watching the “baby”learn to walk for quite sometime now. Maybe its time to hide the
      “teat” cut the cord, loose the training wheels,dump the sippy cup Enough?? Ok we get it. Too bad Brass is not ready for the baby to run and flourish yet,In time In Time .

      • Gerald R. Ford

        No, we haven’t. We’ve been watching it soil its diaper, repeatedly, as it flops around, disoriented, in its cradle. I’m happy for ANY progress at this point.

        This team, maybe, is going to finish with around 65 points. And that is SOLELY because of their improved play under Nelson. Eakins was, at one point, on pace for the high 40s. No coach in the universe is going to get this team into the playoffs any time soon. Nelson is making a positive contribution. Might as well use the next few years to, you know, have a plan.

        Or whatevs…

  • paul wodehouse

    …if Pitt’s pick ends up 22nd overall any team could have our number two or 3 whichever, if we don’t pick 1st overall AGAIN and get Louie DeBrusk’s son Jake…does this years draft depth end at Noah Hanifin?

    EDIT: forgot Eberle

  • Alsker

    Based on MacT’s comments regarding our defense is set for next season I almost want them to pass on Nelson. He doesn’t deserve to be the scapegoat 2016 for this management group. If Mact/kim Jong Lowe make the proper moves than yes, please, a full season of Todd Nelson might actually be what this team/fans need.

  • WTF2

    You know I am beginning to think MacLosers twisted strategy is to retain Todd for another season and then try to hire the star coach du jour to coincide with the opening of the new arena in 2016. You think?

  • Burnward

    Geez, a team made up of a small handful of NHL’ers, a whole lot of AHL’ers, and a bunch of NHL rejects.

    Then you want to judge a rookie coach after less than half a season, having to work with this poor excuse for an NHL team.

    To me it looks like Nelson is sitting duck, and yet another scape goat for MacT, Klown, and Katz.

    PS.. What ever became of that SHAM, disguised as a ” forensic audit” Surely by now Katz, with those Bono eye wads, has had time to read it.

  • Kevwan

    The Edmonton Oilers would be foolish not to look at all available coaching candidates between now and next season, but if Todd Nelson can keep the team collecting points at the rate they have in his first 18 games solo behind the bench, he a̶t̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶s̶t̶ deserves t̶o̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶v̶e̶r̶s̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ the job.

    There I fixed it.

  • paul wodehouse

    I know it’s just a hockey buzz rumour,but if the Oilers trade Eberle for Krug,I will become a flames fan.whats wrong with Eberle,Marancin and Pitts 1st for Tyler Myers? Mac T’s comments about the D for next year made me want to puke.the Oilers have the worst management group in the history of pro sports.

  • paul wodehouse

    Many people keep comparing Kruger as the measuring stick to Nellie. I for one do not buy it. IMO Kruger had far more experience on the team and they looked far more able to do something. I do feel that Sacking Kruger was a mistake as do 99% of Oiler fans. At the same time to see young men who did well in OKC come up and fail, Fail, Fail seemed to be the logical outcome pre Todd getting his shot. Seems to me that Todd has taken a bunch of players who had lost all love of the game and injected them with a large can or RedBull Hockey love. Watching #10 score that goal and Eberle’s sudden life. To be even remotely competitive with players from the waver wire or raw rookies in their first game etc it really amazing. I for one am willing to Give Todd a hard look at the end of the season.