DARNELL THE RAMBLER

As an Oilers fan since their inception, I could quote you chapter and verse about quality defenseman. The breathtaking Paul Coffey, the tough and rugged Kevin Lowe, the range of skills belonging to Charlie Huddy, Jason Smith and his physicality, Mount Pronger, the puck skills of Janne Niinimaa, and on it goes. Darnell Nurse offers us a unique opportunity: A throwback defenseman with a modern skill set to match. It is going to be so much fun to watch him these coming years. Question: Is he going to make it, at 20, on a top pairing with Andrej Sekera? Or should the Oilers contemplate a (possibly short-term) trip down the depth chart?

START!

Darnell Nurse has a bright future. If you run the numbers and compare them against the past, some extremely impressive names arrive on your search engine. More than that, some bright minds have looked at it and offered up an interesting way to track things:

  • Brad McPherson: The defenseman that had the best rookie seasons are Pietrangelo,
    Phaneuf, Seabrook and all three of these defenseman have gone on to be
    top pairing defenseman. For Nurse, to continue on the same trajectory
    not only does he need to crack the Oilers roster but he needs to excel.
    An excellent season for Nurse and one that would make me believe he is
    the Oilers future franchise defenseman would be somewhere in the 25+
    point range (15+ non-power play points). If Nurse cannot crack the
    lineup or struggles to put up points, I will need to re-evaluate his
    upside as it may be more similar to that of Marc Staal who is an
    excellent shutdown defenseman but lacks the all-around game to be
    considered a #1 defenseman
    . Source

With the season about one-third complete, Nurse is at 17GP, 1-4-5 (4 EV points). If he remains at this pace over the final 56 games, he should come in at 21 points (17 EV) over 73 games. That is in the range of McPherson’s line in the sand and a very encouraging sign for Nurse and Oilers fans.

DEVELOPMENT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN  A STRAIGHT LINE

Darnell Nurse was sent down before the season started, deemed as unready for the rigors of the NHL despite substantial talent. Most of us felt it was going to be a quick trip to California, including his coach:

  • Gerry Fleming: “He’s going against the other
    team’s top lines every night and there’s some pretty good players in the
    American Hockey League. He’s been strong on the cycle, killing lots of
    plays there … his positioning, gap-control, stick work, all good. He’s
    good in front of our net and he’s played on the power play and the
    penalty-kill. I use him in every situation.”
  • Source

Once recalled, Nurse showed overall and posted some nights that were very good. Here is what I wrote following the game against Pittsburgh:

  • Darnell Nurse had a good night to my eye, although the
    Sprong goal saw him commit to helping Sekera at the exact moment the
    pass came from the corner to the slot on the 1-1 goal. That is to be
    expected with young defensemen, folks. That aside, he was strong and
    battled some of the NHL’s best (went 6-6 in 5:19 against Sidney Crosby;
    6-3 in 4:31 against Malkin) on a night I saw him good. Fast, physical,
    rangy, the fact he’s easily one of the six best available to Todd
    McLellan is a reflection of just how far this team has to go before they
    have the depth to keep a player like this on the farm. Looong way. Souce

He was 22-18 in EV Corsi events that night and enjoyed several strong evenings playing alongside Andrej Sekera on what was and is clearly a tough-minutes pairing.

UPS AND DOWNS

Last night against the Bruins, the Nurse-Sekera pairing had some tough moments and I think it might be time to talk about moving Darnell down the depth chart. He was 8-22 in Corsi events even last night and there was some running around. It does not mean I think he is a poor player, or needs to be sent to Bakersfield, but if we look at the Corsi possession numbers at 5×5 over the entire season he is leaking and has been for awhile:

  1. Brandon Davidson 53.7
  2. Mark Fayne 49.92
  3. Oscar Klefbom 49.68
  4. Eric Gryba 47.91
  5. Andrej Selera 47.77
  6. Darnell Nurse 47.54
  7. Griffin Reinhart 47.09
  8. Justin Schultz 46.73
  9. Andrew Ference 46.03
  10. Source

Nurse was at 50 percent not so long ago, and his pairing has been headed south for awhile. I am tempted to suggest Brandon Davidson as a possible partner for Sekera, but it is also possible Sekera-Fayne, Klefbom-Schultz, Nurse-Davidson is the better plan.

Thoughts?

  • Harry2

    Im in Calgary to see Flamers vs Bruins tonight. Theae probably a less than zero chance BOS loses to the tqo worst teams in the league in back to back games. Should be a good ol fasioned ass whoppin tonight.

  • Zarny

    I have no doubt Nurse will be a top pairing D one day. Only time will tell if he’s Hedman/Pietrangelo or more Phaneuf/Staal.

    He’s not that good yet and might not be that good for another 2-3 years; maybe longer.

    Because the Oiler’s D is still one of the worst in the league I’m sure Darnell will see time on the top pair and that’s fine as long as he isn’t drowning. On nights, weeks or months where he struggles the coaching staff needs to reel him back into to shallow waters.

    Confidence is key. The Oilers lack of depth has resulted in numerous kids being sacrificed before they were ready.

  • MattyFranchise

    Coffey was ragged on early in his career because he was a give-away machine.

    He did turn it around and become well respected. Especially after that Canada Cup game.

    I hate to think of what it would have been like for him if the social media was much like it is today.

    As for Nurse – future Captain!