AT RANDOM

Steady

Quiet and reliable is about as sexy and attention-grabbing as driving a minivan, so it’s no surprise to me a lot of fans of the Edmonton Oilers, if not the vast majority, were looking right past Griffin Reinhart and fixing their gaze on Darnell Nurse when training camp began.

Fact is – at least until recently, when coach Todd McLellan began showing his cards at camp – Reinhart has drawn a lot of “meh” from fans and pundits since GM Peter Chiarelli acquired the former fourth overall pick from 2012 from the New York Islanders.

The former captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings is an OK but not great skater. He’s big, but he isn’t particularly physical in the sense that he seldom blows anybody up with an open ice hit or strikes fear into opponents that he’ll go off on them. Reinhart didn’t produce a lot of points as a junior. At his best, he plays a smart, efficient, quiet game.

Nurse, meanwhile, is Reinhart’s polar opposite. He’s a beautiful skater. He jumps in and out of the play, sometimes wisely, sometimes not. He’s big and tough and mean. He plays with an edge all the time. Like a sleek high-performance car, the way he roars around draws a lot of eyeballs. Nurse grabs your attention, good or bad, and doesn’t let go. Upside, people say. Upside.

Makes all the sense in the world to me because I tend to lean that way, too, but there’s something to be said about a guy like Reinhart who doesn’t slam your senses like the sound of horsepower and the smell of burning rubber, but who’ll grow on you if a quiet and reliable ride that’ll get you where you want to go is your thing. Practical.

POINT A TO POINT B

A to B

A year from now, quite possibly less depending on how things play out, the Oilers will have room for Reinhart and Nurse on their blue line. I doubt it’ll shake out that way when McLellan and Chiarelli decide who stays and who goes in coming weeks. It’ll be one or the other. I cast my vote for Reinhart back on August 28. That’s here.

Reinhart made a strong case for himself in a 3-2 win over an AHL version of the Winnipeg Jets at Rexall Place on Wednesday, providing a steady and expectedly unspectacular performance that didn’t go unnoticed by McLellan, who used a baseball analogy to describe what he’d seen.

“He didn’t seem like he’s trying to get up there and trying to hit the home run all the time,” said McLellan, who had Reinhart alongside Eric Gryba in a pairing we could see when the regular season begins. “He’s happy with singles. I thought he was good. Very poised.”

In the long term, the more dynamic Nurse might reach that higher upside people talk about and prove to be a better NHL defenseman, a top-four banger and a leader, than Reinhart. Emphasis on might. In the here and now, it looks to me Reinhart is further along and more NHL ready, as he should be having been drafted a year earlier.

The difference in style we can see now. We’ll have to wait awhile longer to see what Reinhart and Nurse provide in the way of substance while playing together on Edmonton’s blue line. From where I sit, there’s plenty of room and lots of need in the long term for what both of them bring.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Megaphone

  • I’m not the least bit convinced Justin Schultz has somehow morphed into the aggressive, take-charge guy we saw last night against the Jets because that simply isn’t his nature. What I will give him credit for is jumping outside his comfort zone and into the fray like he did after partner Oscar Klefbom took a big hit.

    Schultz isn’t going to become a big banger and that’s OK, but as long as he commits to being engaged and playing with as much purpose in his own zone as he does in his forays up the ice, it’s a step in the right direction. Whatever his motivation – he’s playing for a contract – more of what we saw Wednesday is positive sign. More, please.

  • So far, Cam Talbot has been only OK.

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

        • Dan 1919

          Did you ever watch a game when Dubnyk was in net, he’d let a soft goal in every single game, just like he did to Minnesota during the playoffs… I don’t care what your save% is, that wears on a team heavily after a while.

          Dubnyk was better than Scrivens and his backup, but at the end of the day Dubnyk isn’t and wasn’t the solution… Get over him, he’s gone and not coming back.

          • Dan 1919

            Average doesn’t let in a complete flubber once a night, sorry bud you’re not going to convince me on this one. Average plays a decent game but can never really make that big save to steal games for his team… A big difference from startin every game at 1-0 because you know at someone point dubnyk will let a complete stinker in.

          • pkam

            Of course I did watch Dubnyk played. He did let in a softie once in a while but not as frequent as fans here made it to be. I believe it was about one every 5-6 games. Perhaps slightly higher than league average, but he did more saves to bring his SV% back to league average. And he did that behind the worst defense in the league.

            In fact, I think I watch more softies from Mike Smith when he was in Tampa and Brian Elliot when he was in Ottawa.

        • pkam

          No, that was the lock out year and fans complained about not being tough enough to play against, Sam Gagner, not having a bottom six, and if I remember having zero D. I mean, Nick Schultz was like, our best D man that year. NICK SCHULTZ!

          In fact everyone was stoked about Dubnyk’s .914 heading into the following year saying finally, we’re getting league average goal tending.

          Cue Dubnyk meltdown.

          • pkam

            Perhaps you and I are the few odd ones who didn’t complain about Dubnyk at that time. What I remember is “Dubnyk is at best a backup, but more like an AHL goalie.”

          • For Pete's Sake!

            Yeah, that’s what a lot of people here thought of him because of all the softies he had a habit of letting in.

            Worst of all, McT seemed to think the same thing and said as much with his “show me” comments about Dubie before the meltdown year.

            Those comments and “The Swarm” are what did Dubie in when he lost whatever confidence he had left.

            I’m glad he’s recovered from that massacre and has proven himself to be a very capable NHL goaltender.

          • freelancer

            Every Fall I look at the team the previous year, look at the new upgrades, then blow those upgrades wildly out of proportion justifying why the Oilers will make the playoffs.

            That year, Dubnyk came in, I believe to relieve an oft injured Habby. The Oilers were not really in the hunt, so Dubnyk ended up getting a lit of games down the stretch when it didn’t matter. In true Oilers fashion he played very well. I remember that summer saying it wouldn’t be a stretch for him to play 20 more games over a full year and give the team at least a chance to win every night.

            Considering the year Schultz and Yak had, things were really looking up. Also that was the year Gagner tied a Gretzky record against the Hawks no less.

            Going into the summer, a new GM (FINALLY!) a new coach, talk of bold moves, bringing in Boyd Godron, David freakin Perron, a real actual NHL defender in Andrew Ference, the best KHL defender in Belov, and a competent back up in Labarbra. Really the only question was how could the Oilers not make the playoffs.

            But, Nuge was recovering from surgery and might not be back in time, but that’s okay. Everyone wanted to see Hall at centre for a little bit anyway. Oh, they also drafted Nurse that year.

            Then the season started and Gagner took a stick to the face. Suddenly the centre depth was Hall, Gordon, Arcobello, and Will Acton.

            Eakins swarm system was an unmitigated disaster. Both Schultz and Dubnyk had complete meltdowns. Yak confusingly got ‘challenged’ by getting put on the third and fourth line. Everything that went wrong was instantly exasperated by Eakins essentially undoing everything good Krueger did. No Power Play, no PK, no defence, no goal, and hope was lost once again.

            So while I certainly don’t miss Dubnyk, I don’t miss him because he began giving the team well below .900, not because of the soft ones he let in now and again.

          • pkam

            I remember too. Everyone was trashing Tambo and praising MacT. And I also remember the Oilers were doing very good in the preseason, and fans were so excited about Eakins.

            Then half a season later, MacT was no better than Tambo and Eakins was the worst HC we had. How fast can opinions change in ON.

  • TKB2677

    I don’t think any fan, or coach, or GM of the Oilers is ever going to be dissapointed with okay goal tending.

    Seriously the team has just been asking for league average goal tending since Roloson.

    A lot of people have worked out the goal differential below .900 and league average .914 would get the team. It’s not insignificant.

    • bradleypi

      Wow. So if talbot allows a softie every night but plays “okay” and the oilers get off to a slow start then you are perfectly fine with that? I suppose you think the oilers are gonna score 3 every night? It’s not gonna happen. This is still a young team and they are gonna need better than ok goaltending to climb the ladder in the Pacific. Ask the Canadiens if they’d be alright with “okay” goaltending……

      • Wanyes bastard child

        Ask the Avalanche how they’re doing relying on a stellar goalie for success.

        What is everyone melting down about? Talbot has played one and a half pre season games, and his save percentage during that time is like .938.

        No, officially I do not care one bit if he lets in one ‘softie’ every night if his save percentage at the end of the year is .938.

        Like not in the least. Hell if he lets in two softies a night but keeps that percentage up, I’ll be crazy happy with the goalie.

        Not so much the defence that as that would tell me waaaaay too many shots are getting to the net.

        But getting back to the fact he’s only played One and a half games. The first goal against last night was %100 the D and specifically Nurse’s fault, a bad clear attempt, lead to all five Oilers chasing the puck in their own end, also resulting in Nurse screening his own goalie.

        Game one, GAME ONE, maybe he had a bit of rust coming off. But the D in front of him sadly was much more poor compared to what got sent down. I say sadly cause that should have been the good D, and the one in Calgary should have been the struggling D.

        Once again, if Talbot gives us league average tending, even letting in a softie now and again, that is still a huge goal differential compared to last year.

      • CMG30

        Considering that the Oil got league worst goaltending for the past 2 years, OK goaltending is a major step up. I certainly don’t expect Talbot to be the next Price.

        I wasn’t able to watch the jets game last night but my understanding was that the only goal that got by him was when he was screened by Nurse. No shot is a softie when the goalie is screened.

        Finally, it’s still preseason. Everybody is knocking the rust off and this includes the goalies. It took Talbot half a dozen games when Lunquist went down to really get his feet under him.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    McLellan last night said they needed “apples and oranges” to their game. And that they can’t have “8 apples” playing for them. I’m thinking Nurse might be that orange to Reinhart for example. Still doubt we see Nurse in opening night line up though. Who do you think he’s talking about when he says Orange?

    • freelancer

      McLellan said team played poorly in “situational play “. Apples was probably for the green apples or perhaps crab apples I suppose that played poorly . The orange was for the one ripe Orange or Irishman in the group I suppose . In a nutshell I have no idea , and felt he should have used a donut instead – one honey glazed that was exceptional and 8 that played like cream puffs .

    • freelancer

      Disagree on that. Schultz, Sekera, Klefbom to a point are all puck moving d who generate offense. Nurse falls into that category too. What they need is a guy like Reinhart who is more responsible in his own end and can be that steady presence.

        • freelancer

          If we’re going to continue using this analogy I think it would go like this.
          Sekera-Fayne (Apple-Orange)
          Klefbom-Schultz (Apple-Apple)
          Reinhart-Gryba (Orange-Orange)

          Look I’m getting hungry so all I’ll say is I think McLellan was just saying that the team needs multiple skill sets. All your D can’t be offensive guys or just defensive guys, you need a balance.

          • pkam

            One can argue Sekera and Klefbom are orange (they can be either). But nobody will think Fayne, Gryba and Reinhart are apple. So shouldn’t we get more apple than orange to make it more balanced?

            And if you are getting hungry, wouldn’t you rather have donuts than orange or apple. Look like McLellan is not any better than Eakins when it comes to the choice of food. Donut and croissant will be more attractive than apple and orange.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Now the long off season is over it nice to critique an actual game even if it is only preseason . Views will vary widely I suspect . Talbot with a .938 save % is doing what we hoped for so far , not costing a game but giving us the chance to win it . Defence showing improvement from last season to date . Team showing /leaning toward better support of one another and commitment to team game . Still look a little on soft side , but some improvement shown by many . Our biggest problems from last season are showing the biggest improvements so far , defence and goaltending . Hopkins looks like he is going to have a fine season as McDavid probably will as well . 4th line looks better . Unsure of Lander and Yakupov as yet .

  • Teeeb

    What amuses me is that you guys always complained about Shultz getting to much ice time but yet when an top tier nhl coach comes in he still plays 25 minutes a night. Yes I know Sekera wasn’t playing but Shultz is an nhl defenseman and he is proving he can handle the minutes.

    • Dan 1919

      Shultz was a force in the AHL, no one ever disputed that… Hate to burst your bubble here, last night was training camp against AHL players, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Mclellan is playing him often and trying to get him off to a running start for the season.

      So no, Mclellan didn’t come in and play him 25minutes a night in the NHL, sorry. Hopefully Shultz keeps it up though and he does end up earning 25min a night IN AN NHL GAME.

  • freelancer

    I know there are a few people who want to hit the panic button on Talbot. To those I say relax. Goaltending is a different beast and there is no substitute during the summer for actual game pucks coming at you.

    So far Talbot has done a decent job of stopping pucks, being in position and limiting rebounds. As he plays more games that should improve.

    If the season starts and he looks shakes we can talk then.

    • For Pete's Sake!

      The paranoia is pretty understandable considering the goalie meltdowns we’ve witnessed here the last couple of years, i.e. “The Dubie Disaster, The Scrivens Slaughter and The Fasth Fall to Nowhere.”

      On the other hand, Talbot is on a new team with new defensemen in front of him and a new coach and it’s going to take him some time to adjust his game.

      That’s just going to take awhile but that’s exactly what training camp is all about. I think he’ll be fine.

  • JackB

    Nurse is not ready yet. He screened Talbot on a goal last night (when there wasn’t a Jet player within 20 feet of him or the front of the net). And the puck went in off his skate.

    That’s where we want our forwards to be . . . in front of the opposition’s net . . . but IN THEIR END, not ours.

    Reinhart definitely outplayed Nurse last night.

    Nurse will eventually be a MUCH better D-man than Reinhart . . . but not now.

    He needs to develop in the AHL. And he needs to be developed properly because he is a VERY IMPORTANT ASSET to our club.

    BUT HE IS NOT READY YET !

  • freelancer

    Watching the OilKings win the WHL Cup a few years back, I was at every single playoff game at Rexall, Reinhart stuck out in a good way.

    He was bigger than most guys and whenever he retreated to behind the net with the puck ,you had all the confidence in the world that the Oil Kings were gonna get the puck out of their zone and further. I liked this trade from day one and still like it.

  • Dan 1919

    “I’m not the least bit convinced Justin Schultz has somehow morphed into the aggressive, take-charge guy we saw last night against the Jets because that simply isn’t his nature. What I will give him credit for is jumping outside his comfort zone and into the fray like he did after partner Oscar Klefbom took a big hit.”

    I think you’re exaggerating his game a bit last night. I didn’t see anything that wasn’t sustainable long term from Shultz. He had a good game, and unfortunately he’s one of those guys that if he’s not having a good game, he’s having a game that’s probably hurting the team.

    Not only is Shultz capable of sustaining that game, that’s the type of game he’ll have to sustain if he wants to be a long term fixture in Edmonton… It’s not like he laid 5 smashing hits and got in a fight, he just played a solid game.

  • Dan 1919

    That one cannon one-timer from the point is definitely not Cam Talbot’s fault. Nurse could not possibly be screening him more if he tried. Got to know where you are in the shooting lanes but how deep as well…Nurse is 5ft further towards the hashmarks a little higher…Talbot probably saves that

  • pkam

    I’like take both Rienhart and Nurse, hate to be putting them up against each other.

    For Nurse, to gain confidence, comfort and calm a little, he needs an NHL mentor. In the AHL they will look to him as leadre and mentor. He has had that role already, been there.

    His NHL learning curve will be sharp but I think he’s up to it. What’s best for Nurse is to stay with the big team, watch and learn. Unfortunate that depth of line up and perhaps business decisions may prevent this.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    To all those people who are trying to say Nurse is going to be so much better Reinhart. What makes you think that? Just as RB says, Nurse is flashy but so what. Reinhart thinks the game incredibly well and NHL defense is more of a chess match than a horse race. I think they will both end up being top end NHL d-men. But there’s no telling who is going to be “better”. People have to stop with thinking they know how players will turn out after a few preseason games.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Wow, i don’t get it. I watched the TSN feed last night. I thought Reinhart was ok, as was Gryba, but together I thought they struggled.

    I counted three or four times that they got hemmed in by the Winnepeg forcheck and both tried to unload the puck backwards to the other around the net until a winger came back and bailed them out.

    Watching the game a few of us commented on the lack of forward direction when they had the puck on their sticks — (both Gryba and Rienhart).

    They were effective at breaking up the cycle, but to be fair there wasn’t much of one.

    I actually came away from the game disappointed in the Gryba Reinhart pairing, hoping that they would split those two going forward.

    Gryba in particular wasn’t overly effective, taking a rather dumb penalty in front of his own net. Would like to see either play with a better / more skilled D-man.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Reuben I liked his decisiveness with plays with the puck to his Dman With Scrivens playing the puck like he does in that Jets game we lose 5-3 easy.