TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT

With a 0-2 record and just one (fluke) goal to show for those two games, the Edmonton Oilers need to start finding ways to put the puck in the back of the net when they face the Dallas Stars in Texas tonight. I know, thanks for the insight, tips.

To that end, coach Todd McLellan will change up his lines again against the Stars, notably putting Nail Yakupov alongside Connor McDavid to kickstart an attack that’s produced 55 shots but just that lone goal – an own-goal by St. Louis credited to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – in a 3-1 loss to the Blues and a 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators.

At the same time, Yakupov, still looking to carve out a niche among Oiler forwards as he begins his fourth NHL season, could do himself a world of good in terms of making a positive impression with his new head coach by getting something done alongside McDavid.

Framed in that, what we’ll see tonight is a perfect example of circumstance intersecting with opportunity. From where I sit, I can’t imagine better timing or a better situation for Yakupov to begin to put his up-and-down tenure with the Oilers in the rear-view mirror and gain a foothold.

What will he do with it?

IT MAKES SENSE

Sense

This isn’t about “giving” Yakupov anything, as the more hardcore residents of Yak City have been prone to demand in the past — no matter how well, or poorly, their man has been playing. The cries about Yakupov getting screwed over by this coach and that coach are tired and old, and usually without merit based on his overall play.

This is about putting Yakupov, who has had plenty of jump and has done some diligent work hustling into the corners and retrieving pucks in his first two games, a look beside McDavid because he’s played well and, given their respective styles of play, because they might be a match.

With Jordan Eberle out until November and McLellan still trying to get a feel for his forwards and looking for combinations that work, he’s still using pencil rather than ink as he tries to get things sorted. That won’t change no matter what happens against the Stars tonight, but a good showing, reason suggests, will mean another look when the Blues come calling at Rexall Place Thursday. A little rinse and repeat and maybe Yakupov turns a corner – in terms of his own confidence and with his new coach — here.

Yakupov has been a tough player to fit for his coaches, mainly because he tends to dash and dart all over the ice with less-than-great regard for what wing he’s playing and because his defensive awareness has at times been lacking, as is the case with most young offensive-minded players. Still, I, like many of you, see potential for a fit with McDavid.

FINDING THE MATCH

MatchGame

McDavid is, first and foremost, a guy who likes to carry the puck. He’s a transporter of the rubber who can draw defenders with speed and then either deal the disc or take it to the net if he gets a step on a defender. I wanted to see McDavid with Taylor Hall because they brought a double-dose of giddy-up to the table, but they’re too much alike and didn’t get much done.

Yakupov is a completely different animal. He’s a shooter who seems better suited to a give-and-go situation. He’s not an end-to-end guy because he doesn’t have the top-end speed to flat-out blow by opponents. Get the puck, move it and head to open ice. Get open. Take the shot. This, we know.

On paper – there’s a jinx if ever there was one – Yakupov with McDavid makes sense. Of course, that’ll go out the window in a hurry in Dallas if that doesn’t translate on the ice because going 0-3 in the Oiler graveyard that is Texas with the Blues and then a date in Calgary on deck is no way to start the season.

The way I see it, with Eberle out of the line-up and the equation for at least another 10 games, Yakupov’s greatest window of opportunity as an Oiler begins tonight. What he does with it will go a long, long way in the mind of McLellan as to where he fits, or doesn’t, going forward.

Let’s see what you got, kid.

WHILE I’M AT IT

Megaphone

  • Hall didn’t take the morning skate in Dallas today. Word is he’s ill and his status for tonight will likely be a game time decision. The top two lines at the skate in Hall’s absence had Benoit Pouliot with Nugent-Hopkins and Teddy Purcell and Lauri Korpikoski moving up to play with McDavid and Yakupov. 
  • It looks like Brandon Davidson will draw in on the blue line while Griffin Reinhart will sit for a second straight game. Davidson is a terrific young man and a wonderful story, but I didn’t see anything in Reinhart’s first outing (against St. Louis) that justifies having him take a seat in the press box yet again. 

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

    • Even with Eberle out, Yakupov can do himself a world of good until he returns.

      If Yakupov can put together a 10-game stretch where he’s effective, he could be the guy McLellan goes with beside McDavid while putting Eberle with Hall and RNH on the “top” line.

      • Harry2

        Robin. Who do you think out of Hall, RNH,Yak, LD, and Ebs is most likely to be traded for a dman? You would have to think one of them will be traded, defence is needed so very badly it hurts.

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          for me it’s Yak, but the player who’ll actually get moved if such a trade is made is Ebs. he’ll get you the best return and a team such as Nashville that could spare a Josi, Ekholm, Ellis or Jones is the type of deal we are likely looking at if it ever happens.

  • Oilers fans are all disapointed with th 0-2 start for the season, but winning the McDavid lottery made us collectively forget the magnitude of the mess Chiarelli has to clean up.

    Just an example of how inept was the previous regime: look how good Jeff Petry looks with the Habs. I know he has Carey Price in goal behind him, but come on! He looked so good in the playoffs last year and in the first 3 games of this season, that McDonalds restaurants in the province of Québec have created the “Petry Poutine”. No kidding, check it out. That shows you how stupid it was to “challenge” Petry with a one year contract.

    So yeah, I can see why Chiarelli and McLellan are still evaluating things.

    Oilers win 3-2 tonight. Yak scores.

    • fran huckzky

      While Petry was here he was regularly booed and criticized for being soft and compared to the other US born college dmen Poti and Gilbert who were also considered to soft and went on to have good careers. Check out the many negative Petry comments last year on ON and those commenters are now conspicuous by their silence

      • and @ Greg the hammer:

        While I also believe having Petry right now would have only made the D stronger. I’m also not going to miss him too much. I think we are still seeing him with rose coloured glasses. You say he looked good in the playoffs last year, but his 5 alarm giveaways cost the Habs at least 3 goals by my count, one a game winner. So I have to respectfully disagree he was a huge loss.

        Petry is a decent second pair D man, but certainly not the defensive messiah we now all make him out to be since being traded.

  • I was excited to not see a repeat of the extended training camp that mired last year. Seeing Reinheart on the bench in favor of giving Davidson a shot is disheartening.

    However, since the Oilers haven’t scored, not even on the PP which was promised to be better this year, it’s not a real shock to see McLellan try and get some puck movement happening.

    While it is only two games, which could have gone either way, maybe Nelson should have been kept on?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Since all that has happened over the June, July, August months, I (and many others) certainly could figure out the beginning was gonna be slow out of the gate. Almost half a roster change and full coach staff change will do that.

    That being said, IMO, Eberle being hurt definitely hurts the Oilers, especially when factoring in the not so good play of Purcell right now…and the lack of early chemistry between Hall and McD. Purcell is too slow and his play does not apparently suit either top line right now. Offence plays with him are ending far too fast and are going nowhere… Maybe he is too injured or very likely, just not that good as a lot of media try to insinuate.

    He does not fit McD’s side as a winger and he has not helped out Nuge IMO.

    I wish that Draisaitl comes up and takes Purcell’s spot because he wouldn’t hurt the Oilers right now like Purcell is doing. I even think Andrew Miller provides more speed and better passing than Purcell does.

    I’m not kicking Purcell to the curb but something has to start going right with him… or take him out and see other options.

    IMO, Slepyshev is still learning on the job but there is a future with that kid. I do love that Yak has been trying hrasd and playing better two way than before … he deserves a good shot with McD or even Nuge right now.

    This team can’t wait too long because the ground to make up will be way too much too early in the season…again.

    Anyways, GO Oilers…and beat Dallas (say 4-2) with McD getting his first goal(s)….

  • Reg Dunlop

    Mmmm Pat Benatar. Who cares about hockey?

    Hall sick today. I thought young guys recover from hangovers quickly. Dallas’ offence rolls tonight, 5-1. Oiler fan’s angst reaches Joy Division levels.

  • kawi460

    I think everyone needs to sit back and relax. It’s the 3rd game of the season. Half the team and most of management are new. They need time to develop chemistry and get time to gel together. With the elite skill the goals will come. I’m only worried about some of the strength of the forwards to win battles in the BIG west conference. But with their speed and skill the goals will come.

    It is nice to see some solid goaltending and defence though. That’s a nice change for once.

  • Rob...

    Damnit… I was really looking forward to seeing Yak and Pouliot on that line with McDavid.

    Regardless, Yak plays like a man possessed, and it earns him 2/3rds of a Gordie Howe Hatrick. He gets a goal and also gets protective of Connor after an after-the-whistle scrum. It leads to his first full NHL fight. Yak holds his own, but seems upset with himself for getting into a fight.

    Nuge ends it in OT, 2-1 Oilers.

      • Rob...

        Is that all you’ve got? Try sharing something of value, or at least something funny.

        Yak has shown more pushback after the whistle than most of the players on the top two lines. He has however shown a great reluctance to dropping the gloves. I don’t know the reason, but it’s obviously a big hurdle with him.

  • ubermiguel

    If Yak can’t impress while riding shotgun with McDavid I’m not sure he’ll have much a career. It’s looking like the top end for him is a Samsonov-type; great secondary scorer, will never break the 30-goal mark. Sadly he’s trending more towards the Patrick Stefan range though; his PPG is in Stefan’s range already. I say this with no joy, only sadness. I really want Yak to turn into a great player.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Our lack of offence isn’t really surprising. We have new systems to learn…again and a bunch of new players. St.Louis was also 4th in GA last year while Nashville was 9th, plus Rinne is just awesome.

    Yak looked good on the McDavid line the other night. Great chance for him against the team that allowed the 4th most goals in the league last year.

    Oilers win 4-3 in 3 on 3 ot.

  • Harry2

    McDavid peeved off with line mates being not as good as back in his junior team , and decides to put on his own one man show . Hat trick first period , and another goal and assist in a 5-4 Oilers victory . Hemsky scores twice for Dallas .Someone has to step up and get our club going and Connor seems like one of our best to do so . Hopkins gets the other Oiler goal .

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      this team is long overdue to get off the pot ! now this could be the last year for some of the guys here who have been paid well, but are not doing particularly well. there’s no more excuses about a revolving door for coaches being the problem. it’s now time for the players to put up or shut up or be shipped out !

  • Oil City Roller

    #YakCity is a bust. I’m guessing not even McDavid can figure out what he’s doing out there. Hopefully I’m wrong and they light it up tonight. An absolute must win.

  • Serious Gord

    Yak is being given an opportunity. He needs to grasp it with both hands. For the first time I think the oil management will give him a fair shake if he does well.

    I wish him Godspeed.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Robin, any update on Eberle’s progress? As in, any idea if it’s more in the 4, or the 6 week range? If it’s 4-ish, maybe he gets back against the Flames on Halloween. If it’s 6-ish, probably the Blackhawks on November 18th. I’d just like to know so I can circle a date and write “HOPE” on my calendar.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Although they won’t admit it, I think the new management team believes this year to be a write off. A chance for Coach and GM to find out what what they have on this team. What players respond to competent management?By not buying out NN and sending LD and DN down, to me emphasis is clearly on next year. I think it’s the right choice and another year of misery awaits the Oilers fans as far as wins go. Going to take a little longer to get the MacsTank out.

  • I love to watch Yak play but he needs to find his groove in the first half of the season. We are light on R wing but he needs to step up. Short spurts like the end of last year or his rookie year and a #1 draft will only get you so far. If he can maximize Connor M’s contribution then he is gold.

    Go Yak! I predict a goal or an assist tonight by Yak.