The number one reason Todd Nelson should be considered as permanent
coach of the Edmonton Oilers: His impressive (but very short) track
record in the NHL with slumping or slumbering prospects.
On the current
NHL roster, there are several men who were not tracking as
successful prospects but have turned things around, plus a few callups showing well.
Yakupov since January 1: 26GP, 5-8-13 and despite struggling in the
possession numbers at 5×5, Yak City has been visually a different
player. I’m absolutely a believer in advanced stats but the young
Russian seems to be in better spots, is using his considerable skill
more and (to me) is keeping it simpler (and more productive) under
Nelson. Are my eyes lying to me? Could be, it’s happened before.
Certainly Yakupov has seen a slight improvement in his shooting
percentage since the All-Star break which has been an issue all year.
Klefbom since January 1: 25GP, 2-8-10 and an emerging talent. The
Oilers have never had a Calder winner (Rookie of the Year) but he’s
absolutely one of the best rookies in the league this season based on
his top-end performances. Consistency is an issue but that’s true with
all young defenders.
Anton Lander since
January 1: 21GP, 4-6-10. A completely different player, it’s amazing.
The young man is just 23 and was on waivers earlier in the season.
Nelson’s handling of Lander has been expert to my eye and cannot be
overlooked. What is the value of a useful two-way center? If Lander
turns into Marty Reasoner, what is that worth to the organization?
Fraser since January 1: 21GP, 2-4-6. You can see why the Oilers put in a
waiver claim, the young man can score goals (first-shot scorer) but the
foot speed is an issue. Combined with a veteran like Teddy Purcell (who
is also slower), this might not be the ideal team for Fraser to
establish himself as an NHL player.
Marincin since January 1: 12GP, 0-0-0, playing more than 17 minutes a
night and posting a shot possession number of 47.6% despite tough
competition and zone starts (most of his minutes are with Mark Fayne).
Pakarinen since January 1: 12GP, 0-2-2, playing 11:41 a night. This is a
pretty big damn deal, getting a player for nothing. His injury (as with
Lander) obscures the feat but he’s another guy who could help with
depth next season.
Ryan Hamilton since
January 1: 11GP, 1-1-2. He’s a big guy with speed issues but the key
here is Nelson chose him from the group of available AHL players.
Edmonton signed him to a contract for next season and that may suggest
he’s part of the plan.
since January 1: 4GP, 0-1-1. Speedy defender with some skills and some
chaos, Nelson inserted him into the lineup and he’ll get 200 at-bats or
so before the end of the year.
has done fine work with two first-round picks (Klefbom and Yakupov) and
several depth picks, castoffs and also-rans. There’s no proof these men
are flourishing because of the new coach—they might have done the same
thing under Dallas Eakins—but for an organization looking to fill five
or six holes this summer, the developing minor league players are a big
damn deal. The success of Lander and Marincin specifically under the new coach has to count as positive arrows for the new coach.
Todd Nelson has done enough to show he’s worthy of a 2015-16 contract. Hire the man.