The Oilers are 3-5-2 in their last ten, and only Vancouver (2-5-3) and Carolino (2-4-4), who defeated the Oilers, had eight points or less in the same stretch. The Oilers are coming off a bad performance versus the Toronto Maple Leafs two days ago, and head coach Todd McLellan simply wants a better effort.
He was quick to defend Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in his press conference this morning, but also accurately stated RNH had a tough road trip.
“I think he’s a real valuable player to our team. It is not Nuge’s fault he is 5’10, he can’t change that. He
uses what he has, night in and night out. He had a tough trip, but the sun came up today for all of us,” said McLellan about his young 22-year-old centre.
Many Oilers had a rough trip, so RNH is not alone, but when your best centre struggles it is more difficult to win, especially when the Oilers don’t have enough scoring depth to compensate for the inevitable slump that most players go through.
McLellan had much more to say about RNH.
“Nuge is the guy that’s been moved around. He’s lost his
linemantes. He’s been moved around to different power plays. Am I
defending Nuge? Absolutely, because I believe in him one-hundred
“When you look at him on the road trip and the production from that line it wasn’t where we need it to be. Nuge and Ebs were -8, with a couple empty netters, and I might have added to the storm (trade talk) with my comments post game.”
Reid Wilkins asked McLellan if RNH reminds him of any players he’s coached previously.
“Joe Pavelski, because he is small and competitive and he understands the game. Joe didn’t develop in the USHL until he was 19. Nuge is only 22. Has he had a tough stretch, absolutely, but is it all on his five-foot ten shoulders..Some of it is, but not all of it,” said McLellan.
I found it interesting listening to McLellan bring up Nuge’s size, especially because he was accurate about his actual size. He’s bang on it isn’t his fault — none of us can change our height and he will only be able to add so much muscle — but it also makes it more difficult for him to shut down bigger centres. That is just the reality of being a top centre.
Pavelski has played wing more often in San Jose than Nuge has in Edmonton, and I wonder if when McDavid is healthy RNH will get a stint on the wing with McDavid or Draisaitl. It does not mean RNH is ineffective or a bad player. It might help him, because he won’t fatigue as much not having to battle down low as often, and when your team is always losing, good coaches look at every opportunity to improve.
Let’s make one thing clear: RNH is not the reason the Edmonton Oilers are in 30th place. The entire team needs to be better, and RNH is one of them. He gets more attention because he plays a lot of minutes and has more opportunities to impact the game.
I have no doubt he will play better, but as McLellan pointed out, there is nothing wrong with stating he struggled. No one is more frustrated with his play on the road trip than RNH, and I’m sure he will play better. But he needs help, and Jordan Eberle, who also admitted he’s struggled, needs to play better too. He needs to create more and take some pressure off RNH, especially with RNH losing another linemate to injury.
Benoit Pouliot is out, so Iiro Pakarinen will move up and play with RNH and Purcell. Pakarinen is a north-south player, and in his limited minutes he’s been tenacious on the puck. His style of play should help RNH create some turnovers and hopefully lead to a few more shots on goal and possession time in the offensive zone.
Mark Letestu will be a game time decision, and with Rob Klinkhammer skating in his place on the third line, the Oilers might have to dress seven D-men again. Klinkhammer is on the IR and they would have to activate him and place someone else on IR to get him in the lineup, but I don’t believe he is ready to play yet.
- Mclellan was all about patience since he’s only been coaching this team for 25 games. “Patience is one thing, accepting below normal standards is a another, and we don’t want to do the second.”
Bingo. It is true this group is still relatively young, and coaches can accept mistakes when players are trying and working hard, but he will need to decipher which players are not giving the effort necessary moving forward.
- Anders Nilsson has taken the starter’s job from Cam Talbot. I don’t know anyone who thought that was a realistic option five months ago. The landscape in professional sports can change quickly sometimes, and when an opportunity presents itself, some players, coaches or managers seize the moment better than others. I wonder if Nilsson will be the starter at the end of the season?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Bruins road trip up through Western Canada gives the team an opportunity to gather much-needed points. Thankfully, the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames are riding the bottom of the standings in the Pacific Division and the league. The Bruins (who are still a top five offensive power house) should be able to hammer home the goals against two teams that have a combined -45 goal differential. The Vancouver Canucks have played more consistent hockey then the other two teams, and they should be the B’s toughest challenge while out west.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: I put the Oilers and Bruins logos on the floor of my house this morning and decided whichever one my almost two-year-old son picked up, I’d go with them as the winner. He grabbed the Bruins one, held on to it for a moment and then tossed it away and walked over to his toy cars. Bruins in a low scoring affair, 2-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Before the game starts Baggedmilk will tweet out another ten tweets about why it is dumb to trade RNH. His fingers are raw from typing so many, and they will be bleeding by puck drop.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In his post game presser RNH thanks Baggedmilk for his support. “I’ve always enjoyed reading his articles. They are insightful and I like his sense of humour.”
***Baggedmilk fell asleep in the second period because the game was so boring, and when he awoke he realized the press conference was only a dream. A tear rolls down his cheek as he watches the final two minutes of the game.**
Day Two: Month of Giving
A CHEF’s dinner courtesy of Von’s Steakhouse and Oyster Bar. It will be a five-course blind tasting dinner with wine pairings. It also include any other beverages you like.
You and three friends will dine with Eskimos GM Ed Hervey, quarterback Mike Reilly, Eskimos Wall of Honour inductee, current head coach of the U of A Golden Bears Chris Morris and a special guest. I‘ll also be there, but mainly to fill up your wine glasses.
Thanks in advance and thank you to Glenn for his generous bid yesterday. All of today’s proceeds go to Santas Anonymous.
NOMINATE YOUR HOME ICE HERO!
Celebrate the volunteer, parent, coach or organizer who keeps the game going and asks for nothing in return.
Nominate your Home Ice Hero and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero.
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